Right now a group of us are studying the book An Other Kingdom by Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann and John McKnight. Basically, this book lifts up the differences between a consumer/market culture and a culture of neighborliness, and concludes that the consumer/market culture isn’t working to make our world better or healthier. It is time to bring back the values and practices of neighborliness for the common good, and the health and wholeness of the people… not to mention that these are the values and practices that are lifted up in our Hebrew and New Testament Scriptures.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

First, let’s flesh out what defines and characterizes the two cultures:neighbors

Consumer/Market Culture

  • Profit driven
  • Competitive
  • Employee is expendable
  • Privatization
  • Scarcity
  • Institutions
  • Progress
  • Contracts
  • Get what we want when we want it
  • Individualism
  • Faster is better
  • Autonomy
  • Marketplace is God
  • Environment is for profit
  • Isolation

Neighborly Culture

  • Buy local
  • We have enough and enough to share
  • Employees are assets
  • Employee/employer loyalty
  • Relationships are important
  • Covenants – your word and a handshake
  • Common good
  • Trust
  • A place for God and Mystery
  • Values the environment as part of our ecosystem
  • Good stewardship of our resources
  • Subsistence farming and eating
  • Be kind to your neighbor! Leviticus 19: don’t steal, cheat, oppress, insult, judge or be unfair
  • Know and talk to our neighbors

We live in what we like to call a Christian nation (this may be arguable)… but the values that Jesus would support are not the values that are important out there today. It feels like people have compartmentalized Jesus into the church box, and conveniently leave him (and his values) there after worship on Sunday morning. I am frustrated that our faith and our lives outside of the churches do not intersect.

We have become a culture obsessed with money, with having more, with being the best and brightest and to hell with everyone else. Everything is about personal gain or making the most profit. Most could care less about the common good. Most could care less if what we do to the environment will affect our great-great-great grandchildren.

But there is a rising tide of people who have a deep sense that there is a different way to live. A way that values all people, a way that respects and cares for others and the environment, a way that builds relationships and connections, a way of neighborliness. We’ll have to step out into the wilderness of the counter-culture to experience it, but for those who do the result is aliveness and vitality, love and compassion, life in abundance.

It feels idealistic, I know, to think we could start to shift the culture. Yet I think it is already starting to shift in many, many small ways and even a few big ways. We can’t change the world, but we can change our little corner of it. It is about asking ourselves the question of how we apply these pieces of neighborliness to our lives, how we raise our children, how we interact with our neighbors, where we buy our food and clothes, how we treat the earth, what we teach and how we act as a community of faith.

Perhaps we could keep asking ourselves and those we work, live and associate with, the question the authors pose:

What would a system look like that built neighborliness and covenantal relationships?



Gifts of Uncertainty

The Sufi mystic Rumi was once asked by a disciple, “What is fear?” He replied, “Non-acceptance of uncertainty is our fear. If we accept that uncertainty it becomes adventure!”

(For the full audio, click here.)

Human beings don’t like uncertainty. Uncertainty causes us hours of worry, concern and fear. We’re uncertain about the economy, our relationships, our God, our jobs, our futures, our health… you name it, there is an element of uncertainty in it. So, what do we do? We strive to take the uncertainty out of everything by planning and organizing and scheduling. But the truth is that we can never completely remove the uncertainty of life.

Our option is to accept the uncertainty in life. We call this all sorts of things… go with the flow, relax, chill out, roll with it, be flexible, be spontaneous. With this acceptance come gifts we may not have imagined. Eckert Tolle has said,

“When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. It means fear is no longer a dominant factor in what you do and no longer prevents you from taking action to initiate change. The Roman philosopher Tacitus rightly observed that ‘the desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.’ If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into aliveness, alertness and creativity.”

I think there are at least three gifts of uncertainty.

GIFT ONE… life becomes an adventure. When we allow ourselves to be surprised, to giftofuncertainty-750x350enjoy the unexpected twists and turns, to live for the moment instead of worrying overly much about the future or the past, everything becomes a wonderful adventure.

Sometimes my wife, Julie, and I will hop on her Harley and ride just to explore. Sometimes we find the coolest stuff when we just go and see where we end up! Instead we have a tendency to go to the same restaurants, the same vacation spots, and the same church (though, that’s ok). We hang with the same people, listen to the same music, make the same food, and play the same games. I understand that we’re creatures of habit. We like easy and comfortable and secure. However, I think we make it harder for the universe to surprise us, to move us, and to use us when we insist on the certainty of how we spend our days.

Deepak Chopra explains, “In our willingness to step into the unknown, the field of all possibilities, we surrender ourselves to the creative mind that orchestrates the dance of the universe.”

GIFT TWOuncertainty creates excitement for seeking and learning.

If we were certain of everything and had the answers to everything, life would be boring. Because we don’t know everything,and aren’t certain about everything, we are excited to explore, to step forward, to theorize and risk and search.

This is true of all things… including God! Sadly, the great religions of the world have done people a disservice by insisting on the certainty of religion. Eric Elnes has said that,

“Religion does us a disservice when it seeks to remove uncertainty from life. Have you ever noticed how the more certainty a religion claims to deliver, the more frenzied and hysterical are its adherents? The fact of the matter is that life is messy and no amount of doctrine or dogma changes this. Faith built upon certainty is a house of cards that falls apart when the “unshakable foundation” shifts even slightly.”

Without uncertainty there is no faith and no creative exploration of life, the universe, God and everything.

GIFT THREE… we learn to fly

“I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.”  ― C. JoyBell C.

Accepting uncertainty means we are willing to risk. Risk stretches us to discover ourselves and what we are truly capable of. If we don’t risk, if we don’t step into the unknown, we don’t give ourselves a chance to solve challenges creatively, to spread our wings and realize that we can fly and the spirit will carry us.

THE KEY: Trust is the key to living with uncertainty, and realizing the gifts of uncertainty in our lives. Trust in oneself and trust in the Divine, and the inherent goodness of the universe.

In Luke 12: 22-26, Jesus tells the people not to worry about life or what they are going to eat. His reasoning? Not that there is going to be a good crop or that Rome will stop oppressing the people. In fact, Jesus doesn’t really give any answers, or offer any security for life.  The answer Jesus offers is simply to trust in God.

But how do we do that when most days even God doesn’t feel certain. And if God has some sort of plan, God’s not sharing. So we decide we’ll just take care of things ourselves, thank you very much. Yet, I do find when I relax into trust, even if something doesn’t turn out the way I want, it’s easier to handle.

Trust takes us out of our self-created prison of fear. Trust opens our hearts and minds to the creative power of the universe, to the infinite possibilities that exist. Trust opens us to risk, to step out of the small worlds we create in our heads and lives and broaden them, excited, not scared, about the possibilities of what we might find. With trust, our uncertainty becomes adventure, aliveness, alertness and creativity.

Love & Light!


Prophetic Ministry

Congratulations Sacred Journeys on five years of sharing, caring, drawing in and reaching out. You are an amazing, intelligent, eclectic, fun group of people who have made five years of ministry a joy for me. And I wasn’t sure I’d be able to say that again.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

We began as a rag-tag group of folks who believed that “church” could be something more than it was. We knew it wouldn’t always be easy, or comfortable, but we were determined. The goal was not to form another institution that then had to be preserved. The goal was to create a Christian spiritual community unlike any we could find in this area. A community based on inclusiveness, openness, questioning, social justice, learning and growing in our unique sacred journeys.

In my somewhat warped mind Star Trek music begins playing and I hear: “Spirituality: the final frontier… these have been the voyages of Sacred Journeys Spiritual Community. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

We didn’t know if we’d last one week, one month, or one year… we hardly dared to dream 5 years down the road. And yet here we are… from 7 people around a dining room table to a community of over 120 who consider SJSC to be their home.

These five years have been a time of healing, of exploring, of building our identity, of wandering some in the wilderness trying to find our way. And, as we look back, it has been a great 5 years. We have worshiped, studied, learned, danced, prayed, sung, had fun, done tons of outreach and donated over $45,000 back to the community. But that doesn’t begin to speak to the relationships that have formed, the support and love that has been offered, the personal and spiritual growth that so many of us (myself included) have experienced.

We have entered the counter-culture these last 5 years. It doesn’t always seem like it because we have become comfortable in our community doing things our way. But when I step out of our community, I see how far we’ve come. The conference on progressive Christianity that I attended in May helped me to see that we are at the forefront of this movement, we are the newness in the dry desert of a Christianity that is no longer relevant, but refuses to die.

But we haven’t (in my humble opinion) gone nearly as far as we could have in our movement. We’ve mostly tried to ease ourselves into newness by having one foot in a more traditional model of religion (worship structure, Sunday School) and one foot clawing its way forward with a lack of doctrine and dogma to adhere to, a broader range of music that we consider sacred, using non-biblical readings and alternative Lord’s prayers, and not being tied to a building.

We’ve expanded the Christian box, but I want to keep pushing the walls out. In the coming year I want to take a few more steps forward, I want to look out new windows and see what we can see. I want to explore spiritual topics that we don’t generally hear about in a Christian context. Things like creativity, beauty, art, the four elements, modern-day mystics, and things I’d love to add to Christianity from other religions (if I could).

Personally, I see us as an evolving community that continues to seek, question and keep redefining a spiritual space for ourselves. This is an explorative space. A spiritual lab. So, let’s step forward boldly, expanding our horizons, our understanding of ourselves and the Divine. Let’s release our fears and, with excitement, push the walls of our spiritual boxes farther than we ever thought possible.

Love & Light!


Theology Colored Glasses

glassesHenry N. Wieman once insisted, the issue is not, Does God exist? but, Which of the various realities one encounters functions as God? It is this orienting sensitivity which produces, universally and necessarily, the texture of the unique theological World which each individual inhabits. Selfhood is the process of owning, with conscious commitment, this World which functions as a construct of “convictions which one sees through like a pair of glasses.” These glasses are honed by root metaphors that function together as paradigm, so operating as to “author and authorize the way we think, the way we act, the way we communicate, and the way we judge.                                             (“Theological Worlds,” by W. Paul Jones)

It would be nice if, when people are developing their theologies, they would do so in a neutral, abstract manner, evaluating their beliefs by their fidelity to scripture, context, tradition and internal consistency. However, the truth of the matter is that when theologies live in the minds of people, there are other criteria – how we were raised, what we were taught/conditioned to believe, our baggage, our fears, our culture, and so on.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

So, the pressing questions become:

  • How do our theologies function?
  • What do they keep us from seeing and what do they make us consider?
  • What inner attitudes do they validate or invalidate?
  • What outer behaviors do they encourage or discourage?

Professor, author and theologian W. Paul Jones ran a 10 year study that discovered five clusters of theological worlds each of which orients around a fundamental life posture. Each world is like a different colored pair of glasses through which people perceive and project alternative meaning into common-day experiences.

The worlds themselves seem to flow from an interaction between what Jones’ calls the obsessio and the epiphania. The obsessio is described as one’s defining life question. What is it that one continues to question about oneself or about life? What has so wounded one’s heart and soul that one continues to seek the answer? Everyone has an obsessio, and it is easy to pinpoint as it seems to stem from an early memory that brings back an acute sense of embarrassment. And, we may feel that it is crazy for our very selves to be twisted up in knots by something that may objectively seem like we should be over it. But there you have it. As Jones states, our obsessios seem, in the bright light of day, to be not so much our inner demons, but “mice with megaphones.” An obsession is never forgotten, but invisibly weighs other answers and life experiences into either substantiation for the question, or alternatives for resolution.

The epiphania is described as those moments of epiphany that may illuminate new possibilities for heal for our obsessio. At the very least, it keeps our souls hopeful, searching and even energized by the sense that our question might be worth pursuing for a lifetime.

The five worlds shake out to look like this:

  1. Separation and Reunion
  2. Conflict and Vindication
  3. Emptiness and Fulfillment
  4. Condemnation and Forgiveness
  5. Suffering and Endurance

(Depending on how self-aware you are, you may be able to look at these worlds and know pretty well where you fit. But there is a 60 question inventory that one can take to know for sure. If you’d like to see a brief summary of these worlds, and the inventory, click here.)

As an example, the obsessio for world one briefly looks like this:

  • Sense of abandonment
  • Feel isolated, small, lonely, misfit
  • Life is a quest to understand the mystery of this Whole
  • Long to find our way “home”
  • Yearn for a harmony to all things

Jones tells the story of a woman who shared her obsessio story: “When my mother left me in Sunday school, I always asked to wear her locket. She thought I like the locket. That wasn’t it at all. I knew I wasn’t worth coming back for, but I knew she would come back for her locket.” She was less sure about her epiphania, but her stories had echoes of Jesus’ parable of the lost coin.

This rhythm, this pendulum swing between obsessio and epiphania – whether conscious or not – becomes the set of lenses through which we see God, ourselves and the world.

Part of our spiritual journey, our personal healing, our path to wholeness, is recognizing or remembering that we see things subjectively, not objectively. We see all things, including ourselves and God, through colored lenses. Even if this model of theological worlds eludes you… the key is to become more self-aware, and also to remember that others come from a different place, different experiences and different teachings.