Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ever Changing…Yet Unchanging

Yes, there is something rather contradictory about such a title, but I have come to find this seeming paradox quite true.  In our culture at large, we come to value the unchanging, the steady, the constant.  I have heard someone say of another, “Oh, Mr. So-in-So…he is as steady as they come; you count on him like you can the sunrise.”  That’s a pretty high complement…one I’ve often wished to overhear being said about me…but probably never will.  That’s because I’m not in the ‘steady’ or ‘constant’ crowd.  I’m more likely to hear something like, “Oh, Jon…there he goes again…so fickle...chasing another dream….”

I am a human…alive...and that means change.  Yet, in the midst of change, there ARE some constants.  For example, one unchanging aspect of my life is the love I have for my wife.  But, how I EXPRESS that love is ever changing.  At times, this love is expressed in a very physical way, through a closeness that I experience with no one else in this world.  At other times, this love is expressed through a glance, a quick look filled with meaning and depth that brings a subtle smile.  We have “off” days, bad days.  On those days, my love for her may be expressed by silence…by saying nothing…by taking three hours at the local library or coffee shop to give her (or me) needed space.  Yet, underneath the surface of multifaceted expression, the love remains…unchanging. 

Another unchanging aspect of my life is my faith in God.  As with my love for my wife, my faith in God is expressed in many different ways.  On Sunday mornings, I gather with ‘Jesus people’ in a large group where I sing loudly and passionately…where I sway a bit to the music…where I join in group study and reflection on the Christian Scriptures.  During the week, I don’t do those things too much.  (I think my office mates are glad I don’t.  I believe if I did that, I’d probably be fired.)  So, my faith—though unchanging—will be lived out and expressed in different ways depending on the situation, the context.  Some days I identify with the 1st Century Christians as I read the letters of Paul to those early groups of ‘Jesus people.’  Some days, I identify with the Desert Fathers of the 3rd Century…or with the Celtic Christians of the 6th Century…with the Reformers of the 16th Century…then with the new ‘radicals’ of the 21st Century.  At times my faith has me focused on our Creator God…at times on God the Son…and at other times on the Spirit of God.  I’m all over the place—in my expression, identifications, and foci.  But, the underlying faith is unchanging.

One of the tenets of the Christian faith is the unchanging God, yet God is always changing.  In Scripture, we find God changing His mind, changing His plans—just read the powerful, emotion-packed interchanges between God and Moses…or read through the Psalms.  Then, 2000 years ago, God changed—God experienced something that He had never before experienced.  The Creator became creation; God became human. (Think of it this way:  The man who makes the oak rocking chairs somehow becomes one of those rocking chairs—that is almost mind-blowing!)  Yet, our God is unchanging as well—forever Creator and Sustainer of all things; forever Author of love and of our salvation; forever Emmanuel—God with us.  But, how God interacts with us may change and does change.  How God reveals Himself to us may vary from day to day, and certainly from culture to culture—He meets us through a song, in a reading, in a sunset, in a stranger, in silence.  So, WHO God is never changes.  God is “the same yesterday, today and forever.”

And me?  I’ll still chase dreams.  I’ll have my ups and downs.  But, below the multiple layers of expression and the swirl of human emotions, yes—I find a solid, unchanging core…and that unchanging aspect—I must believe—is directly related to my faith in and the presence of the Unchanging One.  I’m ever changing…yet unchanging.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Still Constructing “Babel”

The story of the “Tower of Babel” is well stamped in my mind.  When I was a child, my parents gave me The Children’s Living Bible…a delightful rendering of the Scriptures, complete with full color, impressionistic-sort-of illustrations.  As a child, I didn’t pay much attention to the sermons from the pulpit—I looked through my Bible at the illustrations, wondering what life would have been like in that Biblical world.  The Tower of Babel was right there…one of the first two or three pages of illustrations—a tall ziggurat, climbing into the clouds…abandoned.

As I got older, I actually read the story from Scripture…how in the early days of humanity, men and women came together to construct a tower to reach the heavens…to reach God.  This is when God ‘confused their tongues’—created languages.  The project screeched to a halt…and humanity divvied up and went their way, everyone according to their own language groups.  The Tower was stopped and humanity never reached God.

Many years later, I realize that we are still striving to build that tower.  Babel is a human construct—a way of putting things—reality—together in our own way.  The tower is our insistence on doing things our way, on creating our own world, of making our own way to God…of reaching the heavens.  The Tower of Babel is about living in a human-made reality in place of the God-made reality. The Tower is about living in our own creation rather than in God's creation. We insist on living in a world of our own making. 

Our creations are supposed to be steps forward as we reach for the heavens.  Our human technology has produced a plethora of ‘labor-saving devices'.  But, there’s a problem—with all of these labor-saving devices, we should be the best-rested creatures on the planet, but what we find are the ‘tiredest,’ longest-working, least-vacationing people in the world.  We work and work to build this grand Tower, to create our ‘amazing’ reality…but we are no closer to God or the heavens than were the mono-lingual people of the young earth.

Likewise, we’re trying to build our own forms of community—virtual ones.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—I’m a part of them all.  Yet, they all leave me wanting.  In the end, I feel that all that happens in these ‘communities’ IS babble.  I have two Facebook accounts—one for our ‘missions’ side…and then a personal one for ‘Jon.’  I find that I have two personas—or at least I did until today.  Finally, I’ve come to realize that those FB accounts were places where I tried to create a comfortable reality, where I made my own realities that were convenient to my own ends or to the perceived expectations of my readers.  What’s missing here in all this paragraph??  God.  I was wrapped up in my own reality rather than living in God’s reality.

This immersion in our self-created worlds is part of our difficulty in connecting with our Creator.  So, how do we escape this massive human construction project?  How do we connect with our Creator?  In some way, to come degree, we have to walk away from the Tower.  Some how, we have got to move towards God’s reality, God’s creation, God’s rhythms.  Perhaps that is what Paul means when he writes about “walking in the Spirit”.  Perhaps that is why Jesus was off in the ‘wilderness’ to pray and spend time with the Father.  Perhaps that is why we find so many of the “leaders” in the Scripture out in God’s reality—creation—to recharge their batteries, to commune with God.  Babel may be under construction again, but we don’t have to join the project.  Perhaps today is the day to lay down the hammer…and seek a living God in His living Creation in community with living people. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

What I'm Reading....

Reading, reading, reading!  Can't stop...won't stop--got to keep learning and keep the mind active.
My present intellectual diet:

Under the Unpredictable Plant - Eugene Peterson
The Next 100 Years: A Forecast of the 21st Century - George Friedman
Brother Roger of Taize: Essential Writings
Experiences in Translation - Umberto Eco

I hope that you are reading also.  If you've found a really good book, share the title with us in the comments below.

Hoping you all are off to a good New Year!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all!  I hope that you are as happy to see this year beginning as I am.  2012 was a pretty good year…but this year will be even better!

I wish you and yours the very best in the days, weeks, and months to come.  May we live well, live to the full, and live lives that impact others.

More to come…!

Feliz año!!  Espero que también estás muy contento ver el inicio de este año como yo.  El año 2012 fue bueno…pero este año será aun mejor!

Les deseo lo mejor por los días, semanas y meses por venir.  Que vivemos bien, que vivemos con abundancia, y que vivemos en una manera para impactar las vidas de la gente alrededor.

Hasta pronto…!