Wednesday, January 05, 2011

What motivates us?

I have been reading through Ecclesiastes. I find myself returning there a lot. A king who seems to have had it all, both of good & God, along with wandering out into the world to see what it had as well. I imagine he would have to be considered one of the great wisdom teachers that the world has known. Why? I imagine because he has been through it.

One friend shared with me the other day, wisdom only comes through the pain of suffering through it.

I am struck by his honesty about the world and what he sees. One passage specifically in Ecclessisates 4:4, "And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor."

I find it intriguing for the king of Israel who inherited such blessing and wealth to come to this conclusion. If there was a man who seemed to have been able to have never engaged in such a topic because of his wealth, fortune, and status, he should have been able to have never dealt with it with the people around him. Who was wiser? Richer? More popular? But then again, even the king has the same places in his heart. Envy, selfish ambition, pride. It takes one to know one, isn't that how that phrase goes?

It is interesting to engage with a culture and our world that has this often under everything else. At the bottom of most things, we could find this scripture coming to reality. I think that is why the struggle of the gospel and God's kingdom is always so opposite from this. When we find ourselves looking out and see this envy and achievement, it is pretty disgusting. Whether it be in church gossip or greedy capitalist. And when we look deep enough, we always see on the outside, what is often on the inside. I have no doubt, even Solomon in all his wealth and wisdom still felt this as well. Even the man who seemed to have it all.

I think it is important for us to be the first to confess as Paul said, the chiefest of sinners, and in that be able to name those things within ourselves. I know for me, as I confess, and I admit it is the same inside, that somehow the work of the Spirit can bring me to a deeper place.

I think the question of what really motivates us is a tricky one. Freud has his theories. But maybe it's exploring the depth of our own struggles where we find our need for a better motivation.

I think that is what I am looking for these days. A great love. A greater motive then often what finds itself lurking in my heart. I am glad Solomon is able to guide the way.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

John Muir's Father

I have been reading about one of the great wilderness prophets of America- John Muir. From what I have gathered, it seemed the mountains were a place of healing for him. He went west for something that seemed difficult to fully trace from his past, but as I came upon this letter written to him by his father after an article was published, I am reminded all the more of what, despite tremendous shame, he birthed for many. His father was a heavy reformed calvinist...

My Very Dear John,

Were you as really happy as my wish would make you, you would be permanently so in the best sense of the word. I received yours of the third inst. with your slip of paper, but I had read the same thing in "The Wisconsin," some days before I got yours, then I wished I had not seen it, because it harried up my feelings so with another of your hair-breadth escapes. Had I seen it to be God's work you were doing I would have felt the other way, but I knew it was not God's work, although you seem to think you are doing God's service. If it had not been for God's boundless mercy you would have been cut off in the midst of your folly. All that you are attempting to show the Holy Spirit of God gives the believer to see at one glance of the eye, for according to the tract I send you they can see God's love, power, and glory in everything, and it has the effect of turning away their sigh and eyes from the things that are seen and temporal to the things that are not seen and eternal, according to God's holy word... You cannot warm the heart of the saint of God with your cold icy-topped mountains. O, my dear son, come away from them to the spirit of God and His holy word, and He will show our lovely Jesus unto you, who is by His finished work presented to you, without money and price... And the best and soonest way of getting quit of the writing and publishing your book is to burn it, and then it will do no more harm either to you or others.

Muir's father through beating and memorization had Muir memorize all of the New Testament and most of the Old Testament by 11 years old. As I read these words above, it made me grow to love Muir as a man even more. Much of Muir's words have such biblical imagery that open the natural world in a way that Emerson and trascendentalism was trying to get away from. Muir was bringing the gospel words in the places he was going. He was preaching something that at his father's level had no worth, and was outside of God. And yet, he was using the language and opening people to the beauty of creation.

There is a story that as he spent time in Yosemite Valley there was erected a church for services for the guests. He would ask the question, why would someone worship in such a man made structure, when the temple of worship was all around them.

I just got back from 5 days of fly-fishing with 14 young men. Many of them it being the first time to hold a fly rod, and catch a trout. On one day, we caught 231. Native greenback cutthroat trout. The most amazing red and greens.

The man who led us into Rocky Mountain National Park was Ron Smith. One of our guides for Training Ground. He is 63, and been fishing those waters sense he was five.

Ron reminds me of John Muir. He has a hard past with religion, but somehow, it always comes back to that, much like Muir. No matter the past, no matter the pain. The metaphors, the images, the heart always has the gospel in it. Many of our southern friends were a bit taken by Ron, since he doesn't fit the classic christian man. But one of my favorite quotes from the weekend is when Ron looks around the group during one of our times together in the evening all huddled together and says, "I meet Jesus every time I catch a trout. If I catch 15 trout, it's like I am re-born 15 times that day."

I love the John Muir's of the world. Men who are a bit outside the norm. On the edges of what most would consider "in." And yet, you can't even begin to count him out. He is the prophet pointing to Jesus, much like Muir. And I am saddened as I read those words about Muir's father, that little did he know what his son was offering to the world.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Unity amongst brothers.

Psalm 133:1 - "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity."

We live in a day where there are many sons, but there are few fathers to guide those sons. I can think of nothing deeper, no ache common to man than to be affirmed, blessed, and guided into his place as a man. It takes a father to do that. God sets himself up that way. He uses the language of father describing himself.

I love the line from Iron John by Robert Bly, "A land with no fathers demands a king." We too easily fall prey to that thinking, worshiping idols over seeking fathers since none seem to be around. It seems the case from Israel's first king Saul, who everyone wanted to be their great deliverer, onto present day Obama. Everyone is so disappointed he has not lived up to his potential as king.

I think its because we need more fathers, not more kings.

I find myself doing that more often than I wish. To be near a king, to be around power and prestige is far too often a denial of the true fathering I need to grow into the man I need to become. A king is like a genie in a bottle instantly granting you wishes. A father is more a guide to grow you up. I'd much rather take the safer route of just being instantly zapped. Then walking out the pain and process it takes to become that man.

But, we find ourselves in a world in need of fathers. We have a king. One set in the throne above now guiding all men who look to him. We need fathers guided by our king of kings passing down the blessing of the Father. But few of them seem to have been through the agonizing process themselves from a son to a father, and live the day to bless the sons.

And here lies one of the issues of unity in brotherhood. While brothers can bless one another, it is the father's blessing we are after. There appear few who can give it. We are like refugees starving for food clawing on one another when the food arrives. Or is spotted. Who will get it? I must claw my way through the crowd...

There is a book by Bob Sorge called Envy. He explains that most envy comes from brother-to-brother relationships, sister-to-sister. We are not usually as envious of fathers, as we are the sons around him. The reason Cain killed Abel? Jealousy, envy of a brother for the fathers blessing. There is the story of Joseph. Why did they sell him? He was the most loved. His brothers despised that.

Sorge explains the issues of the day is between brothers and the blessings.

My biggest yearning is to be blessed, by God, by good fathers, and yet so is everyone of my brothers who are equally starving for the same. All deserving of the same. The question is, can we all be blessed, is there enough food to be passed around, or does just one of us get that? Are all our lives of equal importance, or are there just a few the king has in mind for greater things.

I think of that scripture in the Psalms about living in unity with brothers really grabbed me tonight as I read it. How truly a beautiful thing that is. It means a king has come, and fathers are blessing sons. It means they can respect and enjoy one another. Cheer one another on. Bless each others success, and pray for their struggles.

I think somehow that is what SHALOM means. It will finally come at the King's coming to finally restore us as fathers and sons, filled with the blessings. I pray till then, unity can come through more fathers blessing more sons. I think the more food we see, the less we will be crawling on one another thinking there is only a few sources to find it. We will most certainly be feasting at a large table. And I am glad there will be plenty of food. The wedding feast of the lamb. That's going to be one big meal with lots to go around.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Searching for knowledge.

I was at a little coffee place I frequent in the mornings today. Every Monday through Friday a group of retired gentleman gather there to talk about just about everything. One man in particular who is in his 80's is becoming quite an interesting man in conversation. He is always asking me what I am typing on my laptop, and no matter what I say, he seems to know about it. In fact, he said he had thought awhile about getting on facebook, but he realized most of his friends were dead. I laughed at his joke. But realized, he wasn't kidding, he is as alive and interesting as any man I have met.

Well, we were talking about Teddy Roosevelt today, and he said, you know he is a progressive right. Well, kind of I said. And he went on to tell me about the movement, and Woodrow Wilson, and FDR. I was kind of interested in learning about it and I said, "I need to look more of that up." And he just stared at me and said, "Well, I lived through it."

And it just kind of hit me staring at him. That I hadn't even thought of saying, tell me more. Or what was that like. Or did I even connect that there are people alive, and men alive sitting at coffee shops right next to me that know these stories of the past. I was going to google it. He was it.

I love technology. I really would love one of those ipads. But I wonder how man screens we are getting our information from, instead of seeing who is right before us. Or who we could talk to. I need to practice the art of asking and listening. and sitting. versus all the knowledge at my finger tips get the quick facts gathering life. I am sitting on my laptop in a coffee shop full of googles with real stories within them.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Kentucky Derby - where would you sit?

I have been watching ESPN today, as they broadcast the Kentucky Derby. I must confess I forget how men and women dress for things like this. The large hats and dresses. The suits and ties. Then there is the infield. It has been raining for the entire day, and the place looks more like woodstock. People out there partying, wearing green hair, shirts half off. There are mint juleps inside under all the air conditioning and probably PBR out there in the rain.

I have wondered, where would I belong? Which group would I want to enjoy the Derby in?

It just made me realize how there can often emerge two worlds. Two sides of people. The haves and have nots. Both are there, enjoying themselves. Different drinks. Different outfits. Different perspectives of the track. of the weather.

Where would you go? Run out in the mud and get dirty? Or put on your derby hat and head into the grandstands and high society and mix with a few celebs and business tycoons?

Sometimes I kind of wish for fun sake, we could toss them around a bit. Shake the place up and everyone switch roles. Maybe the little men on the horses would become the great men in the stand who are the wealthy owners, and the slightly overweight owners would head down to those horses they are watching in their binoculars, jump on the horse, and ride them around the track in all that mud covering their expensive italians suits.

That is a race, I would like to see.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

One Church Many Tribes

I just opened a book written to the Church from a Native American offering his vision of some of the issues facing the clash between Native Americans and us Anglo-Europeans. It is a fascinating book, I find myself highlighting most of the pages. Isn't it fascinating that as the people of God's Kingdom, we have never asked what did His original inhabitants offer to us as a way of understanding the Kingdom?

The book's author, Richard Twiss of the Lakota Sioux tribe says this...

"It may be difficult to hear or to accept, but I believe that because of clashing cultural worldviews, the Anglo expression of Christ and His kingdom has said to the Native expression of Christ and His kingdom, "I have no need of you. I don't need your customs, your arts, your society, your language, concepts or perspectives." If you look at a thing and cannot identify any value in it, you will have no perceived sense of need for it. And if you have no need for it, then you get along without it.

He is sharing that after explaining, or maybe asking why there are no native americans today in major christian leadership roles across our country?

It is a great point. What does God want to teach us through the original native people of this land as an expression of worship, of Kingdom thinking?

I just have really been enjoying a deeply reverent, Kingdom minded, and Christ focused Native American who I imagine, might be one of those voices we might need to listen to.

If you are interested, the book is ONE CHURCH MANY TRIBES, by Richard Twiss

And a few vides on youtube...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Laying a stone.

I was watching Ken Burn's National Park series tonight. It is so well, well done. Evoking so much longing. It also reminded me of the wonderous beauties of some of the places I have been fortunate to go over the past few years. One of them a trip I took with my wife, Jayne, to the Grand Teton National Park.

We were headed up paintbrush canyon, heading to the backside of the teton range from the park entrance to the east when there was a worker laying trail. There is a need in the trail system to upgrade the trails, and for many of the workers, they camp back in the parks, and work longs day, chipping away rocks, and setting up and rebuilding worn trails. I tell you, it is a back breaking job. Long hours. Sweat. No showers. Heavy lifting.

We stopped to talk to one of the guys, and I asked why he did it. He was laying stones over a small stream bed, rocks that were the size of tires, each one having to be cut, and rolled into place.

He said something of the sort, like, I get the satisfaction of coming back here years later, to see the work, and knowing what I am doing will be here for many years to come.

I dont think I will ever forget that moment. In the midst of what seemed like a horrible job, I heard him explain the connection to the place. Putting something in place that will last many years, even beyond him. The cost was worth the pain.

I need that reminder these days. I want to live that kind of life. So much of what we do, so easily is washed away at the next rain. the easy stuff easily can be washed in the next storm. only to have to be rebuilt, replaced. and often it simply is lost.

I don't know how many boulders any of us can put in place in this life that are eternal. It is grace we can do any. We sure can't make a mountain, or build a entire trail system on our own. but if we grit our teeth, and we sweat it out, and pay the cost, I think we each have a stone or two to lay.

I am in a time of my life, where I am feeling the weight and the cost of placing a few stones in their seeminly right place in the path. Its not sexy like it was a few years back. I mostly feel the cost, the pain, and the weight of the stone, and the pain of my back.

Maybe that is what we all are given. To prepare the path, and lay the stones we are given to lay. Some of us think we have to carve and cut the whole trail, others just want to use the trail, without carrying any of its cost. and some are just laying down pebbles, that will soon wash away.

I imagine for that man, the greatest joy is coming back. Walking up that trail, and seeing those stones he lay. The enjoyment of remembering that season of hard work. Seeing its place and purpose in the scheme of it all. I need that reminder these days, and I am looking forward to the day I can walk the trail, and see the stones I helped cut and roll into place, along with the so many others who offered theirs along the way.

I guess for me right now, that is one of the great mysteries, where is this trail going? If someone came by and asked of where I am currently in the path, I would probably have to admit, I am not all that sure. Its headed in that direction, as I pointed. I know its good. I just am here, doing this part.

I think of that day, when we can walk that trail, as it is finally complete. Fully restored. It will be fully paved.