29 September 2007

Jesus loves me this I know...

When I was in fourth grade, once a week I would go to Carol Reimer's house after school for a flannel presentation of the stories of Jesus. Two missionaries would come and tell us about Jesus and at the end, before the graham crackers with chocolate icing and punch were served, they would ask, "Who would like to invite Jesus into their hearts and go to heaven after they die?" They would have this very picture of Jesus and the lamb on the flannel board. Who wouldn't want to spend their time with this guy after they die? Loving, caring, gentle, a firm understanding of animal husbandry. He looked like one of us.

His costume was different. When I was in sixth grade my costume was white t-shirt, Levi's button up fly, black Converse sneakers, surfer hair. He was more historical so his costume would be different. We didn't have much of a concept of a different time, a different culture, a different people group. I just thought he was like me only older. God sent his son, who was white and middle-class, to take care of my middle-class sin on the cross. The flannel presentation showed Jesus, with very pale skin, reddish brown hair and blue eyes, walking on the water, healing a blind man, talking to Zacheus (who was a wee little man...), asleep in the boat, feeding the five thousand with fish and bread, etc. It was like one of us doing these things. Local boy make good.

Then in 1967, there was the six day Israeli war, that Walter Cronkite was covering on the six o'clock news, that showed these young Israeli men that did not look like Jesus but looked more like Mexicans, farm workers, gardeners, etc. (And please understand I am writing this as the eighth grader of 1967, not the 53 year old) Jesus wasn't white, middle class, he was Israeli.I felt a bit lied to. That began me thinking a bit about who did I ask into my heart? A Palestinian or someone in the neighborhood I could trust. Did they use that picture because I would not have allowed a darker skinned person in my heart let alone into the Reimer's living room?

I realized I had accepted more than Jesus into my heart but a kind of racism and segregational attitude with this image. If we paint Jesus to be like us aren't we also saying he isn't like them. He is our savior not theirs. They need to accept the white Jesus, the american Jesus, not the darker skinned, darker eyed one. That is missing the point completely for the reason God sent His son to a small group of people who were oppressed and marginalized to set them free not set them apart.

I began to reject the entire package. I didn't loose faith, I lost trust. Who did I accept in my heart? What else did I accept that carried a subliminal message. An air-brushed image. A sanitized, odorless, fresh as a daisy smelling Jesus. Where is the reality in that. Can a savior from another time and culture be relevant to a white middle class kid raised in the San Joaquin Valley during the sixties? It wasn't until the mid-seventies that I began to understand who I invited in. He made my life a bit messy as He rearranged my heart, my thinking, my life. He still is. He began to turn over tables that I thought were a part of my sanctuary and began to define it as a life of prayer, conversation and response in faithfulness.

I see why God tells us not to make any graven images. We fashion them to look more like us instead of Him. That has a huge affect on our faith. Our stories need to come from our cultures but about a Savior who is not from our culture but understands our culture and time and delivers us to His. The Kingdom is not american, or even just white, it is "red, and yellow, black and white" (and may I include brown), "we are precious in His sight..."

27 September 2007

Just doing some thinking, for once...

After a while, it is time to reevaluate this road and check out a new path...

To some, "Sorry."

To others, "Thanks."

17 September 2007

Love God...

I think about loving God and I do love God. But I am not sure what that is suppose to look like.

I think about worshipping God and I don't know what that is suppose to look like either. Is it something that I am suppose to do with music and what kind of music is best? Should the worship music be the kind of music I like or what God likes? After all we are worshipping the Creator. So if we don't like the kind of music that is being played, do we quit worshipping God? And is it really worship if I seem to like the song better if it makes me feel good? Isn't worship suppose to make God feel good instead of me?

A lot of the songs we sing tend to be about how God makes me feel instead of what is true about God. In worship, I will ask people to pray out loud and speak of the goodness or what are the attributes of God. And most times people don't pray anything. If they do pray it becomes about thanking Him for what He gave them. The weather, the friends, etc.

I wonder what will worship be like in 2035? Will the songs we sing today be like Kumbaya and How Great Thou Art? Will Carmen still be singing? Will TBN have a cheesy show with Mac Powell of Third Day as host? Will his songs be boring to high schoolers? (It may already be.)

Is worship culturally influenced? Is the raising of one's hands a cultural thing or is it true worship? I think I am in a time of silent worship. I listen in worship now instead of sing. I agree with words of the songs instead of singing the words without thinking about them. I don't clap, it hurts my hands. Is that bad?

I started crossing myself as a sign of reverence and worship. I kneel in private prayers as a sign of respect and honor to God. I spend not enough time listening for The Voice to speak.

I am asking The Worshipped what and how is the best way for ME to worship Him. I don't think I want to be responsible for how we should worship. I did that for too long and heard too many people say hurtful things about how I led worship. Isn't that strange that people would say terrible things about a worship leader's way of leading people into worship. But then I also had some people who told me they liked it when I led worship. Then is that really worship? Is there a style to truth? Doesn't a worship leader just lead people in acknowledging the truth?

(Please excuse the masculine pronouns, but it makes it easier to write.)

16 September 2007

The struggle...

Lately, I find myself on the other side of myself.

I am reading scriptures, mainly Matthew's gospel, and it is quite disturbing my harmony with myself. First Jesus tells us to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Then he goes on and tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He also tells us to love our enemy.

I am not doing well at this.

First off, I think I am barely loving God with my soul, I think about Him a bit and am in awe of Him, and my passion for Him is low. I do not really think that I am doing what my PR is telling everyone.

No, I have not fallen, back-sliden, been disappointed, matured, become cynical, etc. I just don't think I love Him fully, like He commands. I get wrapped up in the program of Him but not in the totality of Him.

I think part of it has to do with loving my neighbor. I don't know my neighbors. I don't like the neighbor to the east who calls me and complains if we temporarily park a car on to her property, which is a vacant field, during a party for my father or family gatherings. We are both on an acre, there is plenty of room for someone to park a foot or so onto her property. My other neighbor is probably getting another divorce. The one across the street doesn't return the wave when we cross paths. The rest are renters who come and go and sometimes in the middle of the night. It isn't that I don't love them, I don't know them. Neighbors don't sit on front porches anymore so it is rare that we even see each other.

I am not loving my enemies very well either. I really enjoyed seeing the bombs drop on Baghdad that first night. The revenge for 9/11 seemed to fill my heart and found some fascination in that action. Retribution seems strong at first but leaves a bitter after taste. Once I start to learn about the people who have a heart, soul, and mind it is hard to want revenge. I have been reading a lot more on who the "enemy" is. I think it may be us.

I want to love God, my neighbor, my enemies. I really do. But when I start to, I feel the current against me more and more. To love God goes against the world culture, to love my neighbor goes against my heart culture, and loving my enemy seems to go against my church culture.

If I say I follow Jesus, then I need to begin to follow Him upstream, against the tide...

13 September 2007

Time & Space begins...

We will begin again for Time & Space (a worship service), this Sunday, September 16, 2007 at 6:00pm at Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, in Oakhurst, CA.

06 September 2007

Walnut Creek...

I have been asked again to speak at the Open Door at Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church. I look forward to hanging out with Jer Swigart and these annual friends this Sunday.

Looking up...

Lately I have found when I walk I look at the ground. I am usually thinking and not paying too much attention to what is going on around me. I pass by people and beauty without thinking too much about it.

Today I resolved to start looking around more in all directions and let the most beautiful scenery influence my day and thoughts...