22 March 2008

Commerce and the cross...

My old school chum Mas Masumoto is a farmer and a writer, living on his farm in Del Rey, California, just outside of Fresno. In his book, Epitaph for a Peach, Mas wrote about how he was going to need to pull up some of his peach trees, the Sun Crest, to make way for a new variety that has a longer shelf life at the market, but does not taste as well. Let me just share a little from Mas' website...
As pleasurable as a perfect peach, Epitaph for a Peach tells the passionate story of one farmer's attempt to rescue one of the last truly sweet and juicy fruits from becoming obsolete in a world that increasingly values commerciality over quality. The story of Mas Masumoto's Sun Crest peaches begins on the day he turns the bulldozers away from his orchards and vows to give himself four seasons to find a home for the fruits of his labor.

What does one do when their livelihood depends on producing a product that someone needs to give money to keep one in the vocation? Most of my friends who sell insurance says that is what commerce is, someone has to buy what you produce or you will no longer be producing. There has to be value from the buyer for the product in order for them to purchase it. They must have a felt need for it or they will not buy it.

But what if the product is truth? What if the presentation of that truth is love?

What happens when the consumer is more concerned about what makes them feel good than what will bring them life? Does the truth then get compromised just so that the truth can be told in smaller quantities? Do we start diminishing truth for added ingredients just so that it has a longer shelf life. Soon it becomes more about the added ingredients than about the truth. We start defending the need for the MSG, guar gum, binders, fillers, emulsifiers, processed sweeteners, added juices, caffeine, Red dye no. 2, and other nontruth ingredients that are only there to put the item on the shelf so some unsuspecting goof sees on the label 100% pure and begins towards the "check-out line," thinking he's got the real deal...

Note: My dear friends, I am not sure I have much more to say.

13 March 2008


A friend of mine and I were talking about being called into ministry. I was still thinking about that even a day or two later. "Being called into ministry." Was I called into ministry? Was there a setting apart this life and time to do ministry? Can you even do ministry or do you just minister. It is more than doing but more of ministering.

I have been thinking about my friends Nancy Donat, Phil Skei, and Beth Eckloff. They moved themselves, and in Phil's case his family, into an area to minister. They don't do ministry, they minister. They raise their own funding, buy their own home in the high crime neighborhood of Fresno where they minister. To the neighbors they minister. They don't go to do ministry, they just minister. They talk to people about whom they are ministering and people support them. Their homes are set up to minister. Backyards turned into places people can come to and play. Living rooms turned into homework rooms.

They don't punch out and leave the ministry, they live in it. 24/7/365 (this year it is 366).

I ask myself a lot these days, "would I still do what I do, if I didn't get paid to do it?" Would I start this which I do, if it hadn't been started? Is my identity tied into the organization or into the Savior?

Then I ask myself, "Am I called?"

10 March 2008

Sitting with heroes...

Last Saturday night I attended the fundraising dessert for Fresno Institute for Urban Leadership. The guest speaker was John Perkins who spoke on being the righteous who effect change in the community. I have heard him many times in the past 30 years, and he is still a very powerful speaker.

But then I looked around the room to the listeners and there were just as powerful people, who have responded to his messages over the years, and are doing the very thing that he started back in the early 70's. People who relocated into the high crime, high poverty areas of Fresno to be light to neighbors. People who started after-school reading and homework programs in their homes. In their homes, not in their church buildings. Phil and Ricci Skei, put a basketball court and playground in their backyard so the neighbors could have a place to play. Nancy Donat, is a parish nurse, who relocated into this neighborhood who has kids all over her home and has turned rooms into studyroom.

A woman, who's table I was sitting at brought her 4 daughters to hear Perkins speak just because her pastor told the congregation this was a good thing and he was a good speaker. She had never heard him before. Exposing her daughters to righteous speakers instead of taking them to another movie.

I was told the other day that I am a "the glass is half empty" kind of guy, and he and another pastor were "the glass is half full" kind of guys. Sitting in this room with "full glass people" filled me up again to see the power of a full gospel.

04 March 2008

Why I did not...

PLEASE NOTE: This is not directed at Michael (I have much love and respect for him as someone who is sincerely and deeply trying to follow after the way, truth, and life of Christ) or any particular way of viewing scripture with which I might disagree.

I told the story instead of using scripture to fight scripture because I was sickened by the use of scripture to put people in their place. Yes, it is scripture that gives us place, but it is also the misuse of scripture, over the many years, which gives people power, oppressive power over others. One of the things that she said was, "give me scripture to fight this battle." I will never do that. I love scripture, I love the story of faith and the truth of creation, the fall, the journey of those chosen of captivity and freedom and back into captivity, the prophets, the kings, the poems and wisdom, the words, the rejection of the words, the virgin, the shepherds, the birth, the wise men, the life, the sermon, the selection of the disciplined, the betrayal, the garden, the trial, the cross, the tomb, the stone, the fingers in the wound, the ascension, the power and authority, the persecution, the letters of correction and instruction, the story of what was, what is, and what is to come, the Amen... that have set people free for years but it's intention was not for battle.

This blog was not about a woman's place or role but about the use of scripture as weapons for arguing a point.

I have close friends that are wrapped up in apologetics, so they can argue with the heathens. Instead of practicing patience and love, they may win the argument but they always lose the battle. People walk away, they rarely are attracted towards this method of "evangelism." I am sure that is not what scripture was intended for. I have a Latter Day Saint friend who use to want to argue with me about "protestantism" and I told him if he could tell me why I chose Christel to be my wife and not the millions of other women in the world then we could discuss Truth. He thought he had the truth. I met a follower of Mohammed while I was waiting in the doctor's office and we started up a conversation about truth, he used his scriptures to discuss his, as I used my scriptures to discuss mine. We didn't agree nor was there much disagreement. Nor was there any bloodshed. We shook hands and I went in to find out I am overweight and don't have a thyroid.

I don't think love is the opposite of scripture but the fulfillment of it. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3
If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. I know that we like to save this chapter for weddings, but it is not for that event, but I think it is for those who use scripture, gifting, wealth, martyrdom, etc for self purpose instead of Kingdom purpose.

I didn't hear that Kingdom purpose when the young woman was asking me for scripture so she could win this battle. She needed a children's story. And when we make scripture anything more than a children's story, I think we miss the point big time. Again, please don't think that I am speaking small of scripture, rather I am elevating children's stories.

This cult has been missing the point since before Jesus.

01 March 2008

PART TWO Guns don't kill people, stupid people kills people...

A year went by and Sophia never brought her dog to worship. No one did. The memo was successful.

Or was it. Was the intent of the memo to not bring dogs to worship or was it to train up a dog in the way that they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it?

I asked Sophia into my office, which freaked her out, because she thought she did something wrong and was going to be reprimanded. That is a typical reaction for the staff. If I was initiating the conversation, something must be wrong.

She walked in with a timid look on her face. "Have a seat on the couch." I said.

"I haven't seen Hendrix around lately. Is he alright?"

"Well you told us that we could not bring our dogs to worship anymore." Sophia said with a bit of an edge.

"Did you understand why I was saying that?"

"Yeah, dogs don't belong in worship!" She snapped.

"That is not what I said. What if dogs could understand, be educated, contribute, and even teach, would my memo still be valid?" I asked.

"That is impossible! THEY ARE DOGS!" She yelled and she got up and left the room and the conversation.

Sophia walked out to the parking lot and got in her car and left. And then she drove, no where in particular, just drove. She found herself, after an hour or so, in front of Mrs. Huppotasso's house. She didn't want to go in, so she just sat. Confused, angry, frustrated, ...and lost.

Just then a car drove up as the front door opened and out walked a golden retriever, who turned and as if to say something to the older woman at the door. Mrs. Huppo smiled and said something back, that Sophia couldn't hear.

The retriever walked over to the car and the man got out and opened the car door, the front door, while greeting the dog. He yelled out to Mrs. Huppo, "Thank you, I will see you next week for my time with you." Mrs. Huppotasso, waved and nodded in agreement, "See you then. Be on time."

"I know, I will." With that he got in his car and drove off.

"Oh no," Sophia said, as she saw Mrs. Huppotasso walking towards her car.

"Well, hello Sophia, it has been a while. How are you and Hendrix these days?"

Sophia just sat in her car. She couldn't open her mouth because she wasn't sure what was going to come out.

Mrs. Huppotasso, opened the passenger side door and sat down. Sophia didn't anticipate that she would be so bold to sit down when not invited.

All Sophia could do was stare at Mrs. Huppo. Who was this woman who could make dogs talk? Was she a witch?

Finally, Mrs. Huppo said, "You are not the only one who doesn't come back when their dogs begin to talk. Most don't. It is too much too comprehend for people. They don't see how this is possible because they don't think what IS possible. They only see what is and not what was intended.

"We like to keep our dogs in their place. They are pets, not equals. Roles are the safest way to think. Because it seems to limit the possibilities instead of imagining what could happen. It is easiest to classify humans, animals, trees, rocks, fungus, etc. because then we can see what things aren't instead of what they are.

"This isn't magic, and no dear, I am not a witch. The only thing I do is talk about forgiveness and break the lie that has bound God's creatures into roles instead of worshippers. True worshippers don't stay in roles, they stay in truth. And it is this truth that sets them free to be that which God had originally intended them to be. It brings them to the spirit of the garden instead of the flesh outside the gate.

"When we think with 'outside the gate' minds, we limit that which was the original purpose of creation. We were formed to be in fellowship, conversation, intimacy, and have fun with God. It is not unbelievable for a dog to talk, but it does take belief and then faith to talk to a dog. We say the same thing about God. I hear many people say that God doesn't talk. But the truth is the Creator spoke and speaks everything into life. The sin is we don't hear because we don't believe.

"'Outside the gate' thinking can have its benefits. If you are good at OTG think, you can have control and power over those who are not as good at it. OTG is limiting, oppressing, corrupting, etc. It thrives on fear. Because when you are in control in this way of thinking, you are always afraid that someone will come and take it away from you. Someone can come with more abilities, better looking, smarter (by this I mean that they have more words at their disposal to intimidate), greater force, and steal it away from them. They cannot see anything unless it is concrete and limited to three dimensions. It is easy to control three dimensions.

"But when you introduce 'garden thinking' you are aware of the Spirit as well as the material, they are not separated. You see the truth as far more than academic, but poetic. Poetry that resonates with all of creation not just within a very limited space of three dimensions. It affects the way you see, hear, taste, touch, know, understand, walk, speak, breathe, etc. Fragrances have as much place in understanding as words. Colors have sound as well as weight.

"Garden thinking brings power through service not might. Might is the lowest form of communication, it is the easiest. But loving others through serving is the highest form of communication because it does not rely on words. It is pure. Those who rely on words, study words, master words but never get to the heart are only one step up from the barbarian, the conquerer. Those simple souls that we call "retarded" really understand more than the "gifted in academics" because they have to communicate without words and causes us to go back to 'garden thinking' to communicate effectively to them.

"So you see, my dear one, it is nothing for a dog to talk. Rocks and trees shout out the glory of God all day long. The real issues is the training that has to come to those who only talk and have relied on it these many years to send forth a message which is still woefully short of intimacy with The Creator. Deep intimacy is not limited in spoken words. The Word spoken by the Creator was not with the mouth of God but through the spirit and life of God.

One day, that Word, came to those who only spoke with their mouths and a few heard it, not just with their ears, but with their spirit and life, which was breathed into them, from the Life of God. They heard more than the syllables articulated but heard the truth. And they found themselves free. Free to experience the intimacy of the Voice

"The freedom wasn't of this world, because those who only speak with their mouths, had them arrested, tortured, and killed. This was tragic but the great tragedy was that soon those leaders who could hear were being replaced with those who could only speak. After a time, those who only spoke, redefined The Voice into not what could be heard, but to what could only be read. Reading became the standard and hearing became lunacy. For those who hear were relegated to standing outside of the buildings because those who read could not validate those who hear. Authenticity was only given to letters of the word instead of the intention of what was said.

"Faith was changed to a reading understanding instead of a living understanding. Reading is measurable: number of volumes read, number of papers written, then number of papers published so more people could read and write. Walking became obsolete, listening became heresy and intimacy became institutional. Intimacy was replaced by compliance, submission was replaced by subjugation. Worship became an hour long event with only the speakers and readers in charge."

Mrs. Huppotasso, stopped speaking and looked at her front door for a few moments. She was remembering how many dogs entered that doorway barking and exited talking. And how few of their 'masters' ever entered...