Archive for the ‘becoming’ Category

I am the project manager on the buildout of a new counseling center for my community.

As a result, I feel weak — like one in need of therapy.

I am fairly confident that I will make the contract deadline for the center and handover a stunningly necessary, functional and even upscale set of gorgeous offices.

I feel strong.

Honestly — I fluctuate.

I worked hard today, and yesterday, and the day before that, and the week before that, and the year before that, and for the last ten years before that — and pretty much all my life on leveraging what I have been given for the benefit of others —  and myself.  I’ve worked hard on personal visions and also on institutionally core initiatives, and I’ve had some good successes — accomplishments and progressifications — but I’ve also had some keen and bitter disappointment-a-mongers too.

The week I enjoyed being part of a team that is finding housing for a resource challenged women with significant disability. I think we’ve got it, thanks to my partner, and God.

And yet, last night I dreamed of a silent, disapproving, disloyal group of fat middle-class white men hovering ominously over me. I wonder where that came from?

I know.

It’s okay.

I have agency, which requires past experience, and I have character, which requires continuity, and I have integrity (I absolutely adore integrity), and yet I have also had  bad dreams mixed up within my agency — which as I am trying to tell you — is required for success, a kind of abject brokenness comingled with unstoppable love — this is the stuff that keeps driving us forward like a giant tunneling, underground drill bit.

And so, and thus and such, like many of us I am making friends with the adversative conjunction “but.”

I’m confident, but also emotionally bumfuzzled.  My core emotions dive into the  abyssopelagic, but they also sore to the summit. I am weak but strong,  disappointed but fulfilled, cynical but annoyingly chipper.

These are normal feelings for all of us who work hard and hope for much.

The low country of emotion — despair, disillusionment and doubt — they are close companions, even friends, even family members of passion, strength and hopefulness. Empowered people suffer, keep moving;  fail, keep risking; despair, keep hoping.

When we hear of empowered people, we picture a person who is fired up, on vision steroids, on courage adrenaline, always strong. Not so much. Remember Sampson. The inspired people range, they vary, they run the gamut, they ply the spectrum, from high to low.

In fact, and this is the deal, as has been said before, “Your mess is your message.” Your weakness creates your strength, your broken moments are your credentials.  You are a hot emotive mess, and a fiery, muscle force, all in one.

Within your empowerment lies your weakness, like the core of a nuclear reactor, and this weakness fuels your success, producing within you a cardinal and necessary equipoise.

Don’t forget this: the essential, contradictory emotional dualism endemic to all humans   keeps us humble. It will keep us from becoming obnoxious, insensitive, and vegetal, and it will keep us emotionally bifurcated in exactly the way needed for others to survive the astonishing success we have yet to achieve.

Yesterday as we drove into the Rocky Mountains, I was particularly struck by the yellow fire.

It lit up the tops of the Aspens as they flamed above the dark green pines and blue-green furs. Gorgeous fall-infused yellow, lovely golden-yellow, perfect round leafed-yellow, pale-yellow, sunshine-yellow.

Some of the Aspens were light green at the base, that flowing up into pale-yellow, that transforming here or there at the tops of the trees into sunset yellow and faded-orange.

By way of contrast, we see.

One thing juxtaposed beside another, nature’s palate, a wonderland of extremes, one thing not another, one thing becoming another.

Colorado in the fall is blue sky, turning grey; green forest, turning yellow.

The Aspens seem to thrive on contrasts, their trunks soft bark-white, with back splotches and thin black horizontal lines marking them up. It’s an artist’s dab and artisan’s fine-brush stroke.

Black, white; forest, framed; free, bound; poor, less poor; lovey, more-so; faithful, not-so-much — one world, many contrasts.

I’m getting okay with this.

I am like you, but not like you, and more-and-more I like you. It’s mind expanding. I am able, we are able — by means of acute social ambling and oblique relational bumbling to get on down the path of experience and begin to see better.

We are able — aided by the brand of specialized humility that comes by being cracked wide open like a nut by brutal-beautiful life — to accept different, to like different, to thrill to different, to honor different, to see better by means of different.

This is good, this is better, this is best.

By means of contrast, we thrill.

Places please us; they also make us who we are.

You are where you are from — you are all the places you are from — in part.

I was born in Long Beach, California. My family lived during my early years nearby, in Torrance. My later years — about two-third of my life — I have lived in San Diego. Thus, I am California-ized. I am a coastal, beached, palm-treed, coastal, diversified, somewhat edge-of-the-ocean liberalized.

When I was five my parents, my two brothers and I moved to Missouri, first to Kansas City, then to Warsaw, Missouri. I lived there for 15 years. Thus, I am a woodsy, lake-loving, landed, middled, Bible-belted, ruralized, familialed  — raised as a farmed-fed fellow.

I was twenty, when we moved to San Diego. I might say my formative years were in the Midwest — they were — but all years are formative years and all the places I have lived, or been, have added to me.

We are where we live, and we are where we have lived

I have lived in Missouri — five miles from Warsaw on State Highway 7, where it meets county road Z. During my years, there were woods, streams, farms and a town of 1,000 people there. Near Warsaw — at the Christian campground I grew up on — I hunted wild mushrooms around musty rotting logs after spring rains, picked and ate wild strawberries in the fields behind R-10 — my rural, consolidated grade school — copied art master-pieces for Mrs. Myers —my revered grade school teacher — fished for large mouth bass on small streams over-hung with trees, chased lightening bugs in front of the house on warm summer evenings with my brothers, watched huge bright flashes of lightening rip the roiling Midwest sky apart, water skied on smooth evening water on the Osage River, sledded in winter down a favorite hill to a small pond through trees sparkling with ice and worked in the local grocery store and threw hay into barns for two cents a bale to earn money for my first car.

I learned stuff there. How farmers live, how small towns function, what localism feels like, what natural beauty looks like, how the woods function as a refuge, how water feels under your feet, how snow tastes, what fish feel like at the end of a line, how a gun smells when fired, how the planet feels when it is only one-hundred miles in diameter, what if feels like to live one-mile from the nearest neighbor, how to read a lot on snowy winter days, to have dogs for friends and how to have your brothers as your best friends and favorite playmates.

And then I lived in San Diego, the city of Chula Vista, eleven miles from the border of Mexico, on Highway 5, in a bedroom community, on the San Diego bay, in the California inland hills, in a racially diverse community, in a desert — with yards and median planters made to look like the Midwest — and in a beautiful master-planned community called Eastlake, built around an artificial lake.

In Chula Vista I have watched winter winds whip the pepper trees into a wild street dance, attended San Diego State University and UCSD to earn degrees in literature, met my wife at a church, bogey boarded in the Pacific Ocean at Coronado and La Jolla Shores with my two little daughters, enjoyed Shakespeare at the Festival Stage in Balboa Park every summer, surfed the blue, curling waves of Tourmaline and Del Mar, tramped the bright blooming Torrey Pines State Beach Park, the gorgeous Anza Borrego desert and lovely Cuyamaca Mountains, taught in an inner city high school in Southeast San Diego and at a diverse community college in Chula Vista, pastored two churches, bought four homes, became a writer, became a traveler, began to know who I was — perhaps a little, a lover of beauty, a lover of places, a lover of the city and a lover of the country. I am, just perhaps, an odd and unique combination of two places — the Midwest and the West Coast.

On top of this, California became a bit of a launching pad for me, for from there I have traveled to Sequoia, to Yosemite, to San Francisco, to Lasen, to Portland, to Seattle, to South Carolina, to Georgia, to Hawaii (three times), to Alaska, to Arizona, to Washington DC, to New York, to Massachusetts, to Kansas City, to Montana, to Wyoming, to Maine and to many other US destinations too many to name, and also to other countries, to Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Nicaragua, South Africa, England (twice), to France, to Italy and other countries too.

I am my places — in part — and they have all shaped my perspectives on life.

Rural Missouri taught me to love oaks. San Diego taught me to love palms. Missouri taught me to love forests. California taught me to love parks. The Ozarks taught me to love streams and lakes and farms, San Diego to love the ocean. Warsaw showed me small and slow-paced; San Diego showed me large, and fast. Warsaw taught me cultural similarity; San Diego taught me cultural diversity. In Missouri I feel in love with the countryside; in California I fell in love with cities. At at the edge of the continent — voyaging out — I fell in love with the world, and the world taught me to love the world.

Who am I? I’m not sure. Perhaps I am everywhere I have lived, everywhere I have been, who I have met and how they have influenced me.

Because I have lived more than one place, perhaps I am able to see some differences in places — perhaps not always accurately — but I do have a point of comparison. Because I have traveled to still other places, I am able to notice more of what is similar, and sometime different in people an places.

The effect this has had on me, is mostly likely unique, different than the effect would have had on anyone else. We are each one a custom filter. We are each one a special geographical sponge. We soak up different things from our environments. I do not think of myself as a Missourian, or a Californian. Although I am very California, I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world. I want to be cosmopolitan. I want to be international. I long, ache and pine to be universal.

I want to live in other places, meet other people, meet exotic people of the world. Indeed, there are no other kind. All people are exotic to me, all are interesting, all are maps, all may be read as a place, all are places or combinations of places, all add to me, all add to us.

In a time when some of my fellow American want to isolate, be with only their own kind, expel outsiders, mistrust foreigners, become provincial again, put up walls, get safe, I don’t.

I know I am an North American, I know I am most comfortable here, probably in California, I know this is a good home for me, but I know that I want to be from more than one place, and know more than one kind of person and value more than one town, state, country, culture and continent.

I want to be from everywhere — well almost. Let’s be honest. I have been places and read about more places that I don’t want to be from. But I do want to know everyone — well, mostly, kind of, growing towards this, wanting to adventure out more, getting there, on my way.

I’m excited to plan the next trip, buy the next plane ticket, make the next move — outward.

I am, in part — where I go next.

We should all keep looking down, and up and out, and observing fastidiously the world we live in. We should see what is there, not what we want to be there or think is there.

Dealing in reality is so much better than dealing in comfortable fictions, fables, want-to-be resurrances, imagined interpretations, what we hope is true.

Reality, life as it is is fun, and you can learn a lot from it.

I just finished a biography of William Smith 1769-1839), the father of modern geology. What a hoot! The guy was high on what was low, the rocks, fossils and strata that were below his feet in Industrialized England.

Coal and canals to carry it gave him a life work, and it granted him access to the geological underworld and he went down into the digs and mines with gusto and figured it out.

Here is what he came up with, in his own words.

Fossil Shells had long been known amongst the curious, collected with care, and preserved in their cabinets, along with other rarities of nature, without any apparent use. That to which I have applied them is new, and my attention was first drawn to them, by a previous discovery of regularity in the direction and dip of the various Strata in the hills around Bath; for it was the nice distinction which those similar rocks required, which led me to the discovery of organic remains peculiar to each Stratum.”

This was the finding that became known as Smith’s Principle of Faunal Succession. Today it appears in geology textbooks the world over. The fossils and the layers they appear in give us a chronology for the millions of years it took for earth to come to it’s present geological state.

At the time, Christians were stuck with Archbishop  Ussher’s theory that the earth began in 4004 BC and was only about 6,000 years old. That was wrong. The Bible never said that. The Bible never gave us a chronology  for creation’s timeline. It told us that God did it; it didn’t tell how. And yet, believe it or not, there are still a few Christians who hold on to the idea that the earth is 6,000 years. There are tons of evidence, layers and layers of evidence to the contrary. All the evidence is to the contrary. God took a long time to make the universe and the earth. And afterwards, he didn’t create the appearance of age, (why would he traffic in smoke and mirrors) and it was aged.

I see this long, changing process of geology as giving God even more glory than a short and quick, wam and slam and bam creation. I could go on about this, but I won’t, because I just want to point out that there is a simple lesson here and it is very scriptural. “Consider the ant.”  

In other words, open  your eyes. See what is. Don’t get stuck in old mind-sets that don’t make sense, that lack common sense, that don’t jive with reality. Use you eyes, observe nature,  be the wisdom sage scholar the Bible recommends you be, commited  to truth, to empiricism, to observation and to reality — the best you can — and attempt to unbiasedly understand what you see.

Amen!

Gillian hit the ball with her father’s arms wrapped around her. Then she ran with his legs. Then she bounced in his arms, and then she ambulated according to his eyes.

It was all done with help, but when Gilly arrived at first base she smiled and laughed with her own face. For the moment she was the star of the REFINERY Church’s picnic baseball game. She had slugged a rubber ball with a rubber princess Anna and Elsa bat, she was on first base and she was absolutely delighted with it all.

I have noticed lately — by means of a couple of small observations of miniature people — that one of the best things we can do in life is to help a child get to first base.

Last week I walked into the REFINERY Church courtyard to find a bunch of gorgeous little children kicking balls, blowing bubbles, and running after each other. Their teenage moms and dads were their with them. I strolled on into the adjacent gallery, a large oak-floored room with pictures of beautiful orange, red and blue Mediterranean scenes. There I found more children and more parents, all around some tables doing crafts together. They were more stunningly gorgeous than the pictures.

What was it? It was the Incredible Families program from the San Diego County Department of Mental Health offering young parents who had lost their children an opportunity to reunite with them through supervised visitation, shared meals and prescribed parenting classes. If the parents follow the program, they get their kids back!

I was looking at nothing less than the restoration of the American family in a safe, sacred space. And I knew this counted. If you get somone back to first base, after they have lost first base, then they have more of a chance of getting to second base — and back home.

This matters. When we help a child, we save the future. When we help a parent we save a child.

Nothing much beats this — loving children, protecting children, empowering children, empowering their parents.

Love a child, save a child; create opportunity for others to love a child, save the world.

Let me blow your mind, and then I’ll you why it matters.

Psalm 145:3, “There are no boundaries to (God’s) greatness.”

God is limitless, no boundaries.

God is … infinite …

We see the infinity of God in three ways in scripture.

God is timeless. God has no beginning, no end.

2 Peter 3:8, “A single day is like a thousand years with the Lord. “

Secondly, God is everywhere present (we say he is imminent), or present in every point of space with His being, and yet God is also transcendent, not limited to any one space.

Psalm 139:7 “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”

Nowhere.

Last Friday morning at 2 am my alarm went off.

I woke up and thought: My phone has taken over my life. I got up and drove out past Pine Valley on the 8. Just past El Cajon, still mostly asleep, sipping espresso, about 2:30 am, I realized why I was on the freeway when everybody else was sleeping.

I wanted to see the Perseid meteor shower. I did — 75 fiery lines in the night sky in about an hour.,Universal gravitation tugged the remains of comet Swift-Tuttle into my world. Looking up, I was so taken with the Milky Way arm — 100 billion solar masses. So vast, but God there, in me too, and in an infinite number of other places too.

I apprehended the hem of the physics of eternity.

God is infinite in time and space, and God has no boundary on his understanding

Psalm 147:5, “His understanding has no limit.”

God is limitless, unbounded, unlimited, unrestricted, without end regarding time, space and knowledge.

Matthew 19:26, with him “all things are possible.”

Let’s try to get a grip on this.

God’s Infinity, the concept of infinity, is not just a very, very big number – it’s a lot stranger than that.

Consider big numbers. A Googol is a very big number, a 1 followed by one hundred zeros :

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

To be happy imagine a googol of bowls of ice cream.

Then there is the Googolplex — ten, raised to the power of a googol.

Carl Sagan calculated that a Googolplex is bigger than the number of elementary particles in the known Universe so we can’t even write down that number because there is not enough matter in the universe to form all the zeros.

And yet a googolplex is nothing compared to infinity.

If something is infinite, it is endlessly bigger or smaller. Infinity is different than size. With infinity there is no finite counterpart in our numbering system to talk about it.

It is like seeing something you can’t see. Infinity is like caterpillars turning into butterflies. It happens when you aren’t looking.

Sometimes people (including me) say infinity “goes on and on” which sounds like it is growing somehow. But infinity does not do anything.

It already all is.

Consider the infinity symbol, the figure eight on its side. Like the symbol, infinity has no beginning, no end.

Consider fractals.

A fractal is a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale. It is also known as expanding symmetry or evolving symmetry.

An example of this is the Menger Sponge. The box pattern repeats — infinitely.

The Koch snowflake is another fractal. Here the progression of open triangles at the perimeter diverges to infinity. The infinitely expanding snowflake is a reality that we cannot measure or count but we can imagine.

Do scientists apply infinity, or just discuss it? Some apply it.

The most popular explanation of our Universe is inflation, where the universe creates an infinite volume by stretching space indefinitely.

And some scientists theorize that perhaps black holes have infinite density.

Infinity is practical.

It is applicable to pragmatic theology too.

Consider with me how the concepts of infinity and God intersect.

God’s infinity, his limitlessness, is at the core of his very nature and one of the principal things that makes him different from us. It fact, it seems logical that God be infinite or he would have come from another source, had a beginning, and therefore not be God. If not infinite he would have an end and therefore not be God. His being infinite is that which ever makes him God.

Infinity draws the line between man and God. God is infinite, we are not.

And there are other ways infinity helps us understand and apply theology.

First, realize that infinity can make you happy! Immeasurably happy. Literally!

Infinity allows for the possibility of deep, lasting happiness because in infinity, happiness can go on and on, or better yet, always be.

You can expect not to be bored in eternity. Heaven will  not be boring harp music around the throne because there will be an infinite number of things to discover, sing, paint, invent, explore, see! Infinity will maintain excitement. If infinity goes in both directions, smaller and larger, and it will, then there will be infinite detail awaiting our research.

In contrast, the finite world we live in is full of ends, limits.  Ends cause feelings of loss.

My mom has dementia. I am losing her a bit everyday. Ends separate.

But infinity has no ends, and it contains the possibility for deep joy and ultimate recovery because the good will never end and what is sick and hurt will be swallowed up by it. Harm will not last! But the good, being infinite, will be ever-increasing and end all finite endings.

infinity will make us happy!

The second thing infinity does for us is that it helps us better understand and cope with the problem of evil and suffering.

How could God allow suffering? He only allows it temporarily. Evil is finite. Good will last forever; evil will end. God allowed evil within the finite universe.

Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Half the country’s pre-war population — more than 11 million people — have been killed or forced to flee their homes.

We known God hates this. He will not allow it to go on forever. We shouldn’t either, but do everything we can to help.

Taking in refugees, feeding refugees, stopping such things is God work.

The Top 4 Christian humanitarian organizations fighting poverty, slavery and world hunger are as follows:

Compassion International
Food For the Hungry
World Vision
Samaritan’s Purse

These organizations do great things to alleviate suffering.  Yes, God will himself ultimately set all things right so we should also get busy helping right now. You can give to these partners who are in the trenches working with God.

Let’s make this very personal.

Has someone hurt you? Your hurt is not infinite. Forgive them, as Christ commanded, and open an eternity of forgiveness. The hurt will pass, and the pain will pass, the forgiveness will remain.

What if the person who hurt you is a Christian? And they go to heaven? And you have an Eternity with them? Yikes! Part of the good news is that the  infinity of forgiveness will make it okay, and the infinity of space will allow you to live an infinite distance from them and yet remain in heaven!

Our sense of evil and suffering here seems long and horrible but within infinity God simply views it differently, as having already done what it needs to do to perfect and transform us.

He sees the beginning, middle and end of evil and suffering all in one glance and sees that it has no ultimate power over him or us.

In other words as said earlier, the infinite good, already all is and swallows up all evil.

Lastly, infinity has a soteriological component.

Infinity can save you.

John 3:16 For God so loved … he sent … his infinite son into our finite world.

The incarnate Son of God and his reconciling work is a bridge that God has established which enables the finite creature and the infinite God to have personal relationship. God, or part of God, for a short time, exchanged his divinity, or his infinity, for our humanity, so that we might one day exchange our finiteness for his infinity.

God has chosen to inhabit the finite universe, in Christ, therefore, we are saved from oblivion, through the expanding, fractal-like symmetry of God’s love … forever.

Zeno, the Greek, was born circa 490 BC. He was a philosopher, and he imagined some paradoxes of infinity, one being the paradox of the infinite path.

The paradox of the path is that by ever subdividing the distance left along the path, we never get to the end.  One-half, one-quarter, one-eighth, one-sixteenth left to get to the end of the path, etc … forever?

No. Not on life’s spiritual path, here we are not stuck with infinite divisability. Christ gets us unstuck from never getting there. All infinite subsets of difficulty exist within the infinite set of God’s salvation in Christ. We get to eternity through him.

Ultimate infinity is part of what God has saved us for, and living within the infinite salvific love of God we keep advancing along life’s path, we step over sin’s subset thresholds and in Christ become larger than life, universally infinite in motion, love and freedom. We get on down the road.

Infinity is real. God put the awareness of it within. The Bible tells us this.

He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecc. 3:1.

God put eternity or infinity in our hearts. He put the idea of the reality of infinity within.

Recently, I weighed myself. I had been avoiding this, avoiding seeing myself heading toward infinity. Why? Getting larger can make you feel smaller.

But if I am infinitely valuable to God … and myself … then I have the power to change, to fight. So I redownloaded MyFitness Pal, and I am counting calories again. I am an infinitely empowered person in Christ!

You Christians are now in Christ  — whatever your issues — forever,  and thus infinitly. In Christ, you are infinite, and thus infinitely valuable.

God put infinity right here — feel it! — in your hearts, a sense of the possibility of it. This is empowering. Join him in it! Do stuff! Get spiritually better. You are headed that way. Even after you have gotten physically worse, and die, you are headed for better!

God made us to last and to grasp this is to have hope for something so much better than we now know. This matters because we matter — to God.  Something that is and will be ours forever has already been placed like a gift within us.

It is infinity.

When the bike flipped, I was in mid-air for some time, which did no damage to me, but when I hit the ground – that’s when I lost some skin.

I inspected myself recently but could find not dermabrasions, cuts, scabs or scars from my boyhood bike accident years ago on that rocky, dirt road.

I healed up nicely, which we do — often. We heal. This is part of life, this is one of the commonplaces of life and at the same time one of the miracles of life. Life is injury, disease, damage and it is often dramatic self-healing.

I attempted to think about this recently from God’s perspective. When he designed the creation, living things, God apparently designed in healing knowing that he had allowed the possibility of harm.

I don’t think this is all a post-fall thing either. I think that healing power is a part of God’s intrinsic nature and that he is by definition restorative and redemptive, the great Physician, and always was.

When God made life, he allowed for harm and death, for clearly the fossil record shows that harm, sickness and death preceded humans. Let’s not deny what is right in front of us. Organisms lived and died before human kind came on the scene. You have to put your head in the chronological sand not to see that. The science on this is solid. Consider the Cambrian explosion, and its demise. The fall brought spiritual death to the world; physical death preceded it.

And when God made us, and gave the risky gift of free will, he knew,  (because he always knows)  that harm and death — social, physical, spiritual, psychological harm and death  — would be part of the lives he made and so he designed in a healing power, built it into living things, and I imagine took significant delight in it. He must have said even in the beginning, “It is good that I have made creatures that can heal.”

Christian theologians have focused a lot on the negative consequences of the fall. But redemption, restoration and self-healing were built into nature before the fall and remained after the fall. God left us the power to heal. Healing is an intrinsic part of living.

It is one of the great miracles of creation that living creatures self-heal. Yes, we get sick, yes we are harmed, yes we suffer, yes we die, but before we do, we heal many times.

Think about this. God is by nature, healing. Made in his image, you are by nature very resilent. You can go through brutal things, physical, emotional, psychological harm, and recover. God has built into you a remarkable power to recover.

Take heart! Revel in this — by the grace of God, you have power to recover from many harms.

I know.

I have.

You too!

 

We Americans have a penchant for authenticity, but in reality most of us (me too!) copy, mimic and ape each other constantly. We are  surrounded by each other’s appeals for the authentic (“Get real!”), but we keep selecting the same  cliches, smart phone emojis, Frappuccino drinks, cool Blazers from H&M, semi-serious “Oh my God’s” and binge-watched TV shows as each other.

We tend to fall in line.

What is authenticity? It is psychological and social congruency — a robust personal consistency — between what is inside us and what comes out of us. Authentic people are what they profess to be. They are true to themselves, and they are open, real and honest with others. They buy, say, offer and proffer what they truly value.

Lately I’m wanting more and more authenticity — from myself and others. To get that, I’ve been talking to myself, admitting to myself what is true about me, and others, especially being open to admitting my fears, fumblings, successes and regresses so that I can admit them to others.

I like coffee, cars, cats, books, fixing things, staff teams, history, literature, cold cereal and all manner of high-quality verbage. I am afraid of diseases, extremists and old age. I love my job as a pastor. I am so glad I have a resourcer-wife and two lovely daughters. I worry that they will not always be safe. I adore God. I also love myself — sometimes too much. I love to talk to people and make new friends. I love being alone.

To grow in desired authenticity, I’ve also been talking to others without editing as much as I used to. Instead I am trying to tap into what is really going on when I am with them, what I am feeling, what they are feeling, what we are intuiting, what we are apprehending. I am aiming at nothing less than the freedom to say what is semi-true and quasi-tolerable at any given moment, but in ways that are modest, gentle and even loving. Being authentic is no excuse for being cruel, or rude.

Saturday I encougaged a friend to go to counseling. I recently had a conflict with someone who is judgmental. It ended well.  I was patient with a person with memory loss, and I was patient with myself when I locked my keys in my office.

I can be deep; I am capable of crass superficiality. Today I bought a new casual-style blazer at H&M. I too am a member of the fast-fashion herd. At some level, I too am a copycat. Sometimes I buy clothes so that I won’t have to go around naked; sometimes I buy them so that I just might — to some other materialistic person like me — look cool, acceptable, maybe, kind of, like I (perhaps) used to?

The new blazer will look good with my blue and white checked shirt, (the one I used lighter fluid on today to get the gum out out the pocket), my Guess jeans that I bought because I couldn’t fit in my favorite Ring of Fire pair, and my black wingtips that I just had to have last Christmas because my other semi-dressy black shoe had a hole in the sole and someone might see that when I crossed my legs at an event.

I am trying, to live out me, with a modicum of honesty mixed with a preferred style. I drive a high-performance sports car because I really, really, really honestly and truly love to go very fast surrounded by eleven Bose speakers cranked up to full volume, the air conditioner blasting my face off, the mirrors vibrating to the bass, the exhaust growling at the cars I am blowing past and the curbs flying by like party streamers. I’m a resolute car sinner.

I also follow God as hard as I can, reveling in the nonpareil salvation God has offered me in the inimitable Christ and telling everybody I can that God absolutely adores them. At my core I an exhilarated by my everyday experience of God’s super-fast empowerment, his luxurious love, his bright streaming grace and his cranked up favor! God is so cool to me!

What do I recommend to you, you pop culture fanatics, you want-a-be coolios, you flawed authentics, you semi-valid truthers, you fellow hopeful reality-mongers — all you my godly and quasi-godly lovelies?

Be you; no less.

Unperson; you’ll worsen.

Sync, with God — and yourself.

Do not be overrighteous,
neither be overwise—
why destroy yourself?

Ecc. 7:16

What? The Bible instructs us not to be too righteous!

One commentator gives this explanation:

“Do not be simplistically righteous with the expectation of immediate reward, neither be naively wise, why cause yourself to be astonished that God did not honor your righteous living with immediate blessing?”

That’s a pretty good shot at it. I would add, don’t fool yourself and think that you are righteous when you’re really not, and thereby destroy your humanity with a false coat of painted-on perfection.

And, I’d add on the New Testament view too, that we are made righteous in Christ, and yet, in ourselves, yeah, still not prefect in everyday thought and behavior.

I’ve got some flaws; you too; let’s admit them.

I was upset this week with one of my daughters when I should have just kept my cool. She did nothing wrong. I was just impatient. I am not in danger of being overly righteous in the sense of being super good.

Actually, to be honest, I don’t always even always want to be good. I have no desire to be on somebody’s pedestal or my own. I’ll fall off fast. I don’t much like people who think they are above everyone else or myself when I act that way.

That’s probably wrong of me, not to want to be too righteous, or perfect,  perhaps it’s a rationalization for wrong stuff, but I do want to be better than I have been  — a lot, mostly, kind of — and I am very comfortable with being human, which of course I am, which means not perfect.

I guess I’ve gotten to more okay with me not perfect, because I know that I am trying to be right and that when I’m not,  I am loved and forgiven by God and my family.

I’m good with human.

Hope you are too.

It has been an avalanche — of generosity.

I’ve never seen anything like it.

Yesterday the stucco went on the wall, beautifully textured over the pilasters and cap. Yum brown and perfect! The contractor discounted the price by $1,200.

Today the decorative lighting goes up. A friend paid for it all, and for the night-time flood lighting too, $3,200.

In a week or so our concrete contractor will be back to connect the underground drains to the street. He gave us a $5,000 when he built the wall and laid the base material for the walks.

A month ago the stone pavers went in. Now the large stage and walkways are gorgeous in warm browns and dark charcoal greys. The discount — it was close to $10,000.

Last night we hooked up the irrigation valves to the sprinkler system. A beautiful, green carpet of tall fescue will go in Saturday. The labor for the irrigation and sod installation — free.

It’s been like that at The REFINERY.

We set out three years ago — a relatively small church — to create an interior courtyard on our site, a sacred space for outdoor worship, for weddings, for picnics, for parties, for children, for everyone, for our community.

A few months from now we will dedicate this space with a huge celebration. It will need to go on for a week. There are that many people to thank!

The architectural plan — donated. The landscape plan — donated. All the funds spent — they were freely given over several year by many people, in huge and unexpected amounts, and in small regular amounts, a $20 gift here, $10,000 there, $9 here, $1,200, $50, $1, $18,000  — it poured in, it ran over the edge of the cup, it is still coming in, we are almost there, amazing!

What do we make of this?

Several things come to mind.

Despite all the difficulty of life, vision remains — art also, and beauty and hope. And we see that resources follow vision and are multiplied by generosity which is inspired by a new thing made lovely. Gorgeous dreams inspire people, and above all there is God — and he is good.

More could be said.

What seems appropriate is simply, “Thank you!”