Archive for the ‘becoming’ Category

The volcanoes of the earth teach us lessons in reality. They ravage the earth, but they also bring it life. The same forces that destroy, build. After devastating a region, the rich volcanic soils that remain become fertile ground for new things.

Volcanism is perhaps a good metaphor for some of our own life experiences. Great human losses may be followed by great gains. In 2000 I suffered some volcanic-like health issues. This was followed by 20 years of great productivity.

Simon Winchester, in his book Krakatoa, ruminating on the destructive aspect of earth’s tectonic plates in causing earthquakes and volcanoes, notes the creative force of volcanism.

Winchester writes, “The water, carbon dioxide, carbon, and sulfur that are so central to the making and maintenance of organic life are all being constantly recycled by the world’s volcanoes—which were also the probable origins of the earth’s atmosphere in the very first place. It is not merely that volcanoes bring fertile volcanic soils or useful minerals to the surface; what is more crucial is their role in the process of bringing from the secret storehouses of the inner earth the elements that allow the outer earth, the biosphere and the lithosphere, to be so vibrantly alive.”

An example of this would be Rakata, an Indonesian island that was burned lifeless by the eruption of the nearby Krakatoa volcano of 1883. Forty years later Rakata was overgrown with grasses and ferns and plants. In short order it was full of birds. It eventually proved to be home to 621 species of animals. It’s a jungle; it isn’t a civilized paradise, but it’s alive.

Life from death. God made the earth to work like this. He fashioned us this way too.

It is no stretch to say that we are ourselves volcanic. Our bodies, while beautiful, strong and capable of great growth, over time eventually unravel. Underlying forces — conflicts, diseases, senescence — eventually come into dramatic, tectonic-like, magma-like play and we are undone. We all experience this.

But all is not lost. Out of us, out of the rich soil of our undoings, may yet spring to life new life, life more abundant.

“Enrosadira is the term given to the phenomenon by which most of the peaks in the Dolomites at dawn and dusk, take on a pink/reddish color, which gradually turns into violet.”

“The reason behind the changing colors is due to the calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate of the dolomite, the mineral found in large quantities in the walls … At sunrise and sunset, the rocky cliffs take on hues that vary from light yellow to bright red, to different shades of pink and violet, until the mountains disappear in the dark of night.”

Italy Magazine

“Alpenglow” is a similar term, the “optical phenomenon that appears as a horizontal reddish glow near the horizon opposite to the Sun when the solar disk is just below the horizon. This effect is easily visible when mountains are illuminated, but can also be seen when clouds are lit through backscatter.”

Wikipedia

Some of the best colors of the sky occur in the transition zone between light and dark.

The same phenomenon can be observed in our interior lives. In transition between one stage of life and another, between one age of life and another, between one experience and another we can often detect new shades and hues of emotional and mental color.

At such times our focus and our values may change. Sometimes we experience this is loss. We may have lost some of the precious colors of life. But there’s also a gain as light changes. With such change, perhaps we find the ability to see what is most of value. New colors appear, shades of rosy remembrances, of softening judgments, of future hopes.

Darkness comes but the dawn is always attendant. We wait, anticipating new light.

Jenny Odell in her book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy makes a case for re-examine our lives and considering seeing the “usefulness of uselessness. “

That rings a bell these days as we reflect on the last few months of social isolation. What have we learned? Perhaps we have learned how to do a nothing that is a something. Perhaps we have simply learned to tolerate being quiet. Perhaps we have been taught how to do less but love ourselves the same or more. Perhaps we have learned we have value even when we don’t appear in public.

Did we just lose two months? No, we lived those. And we connected with family. And we connected with others by texting and video chatting and sending pictures and anyway we could. Maybe we learned how to reach out with sincere concern for others more. Perhaps we learned not to wait for others to make contact.

What kind of life might we return to as society opens back up?

We might jump back into rushing around from place to place. Hopefully we don’t just renter the ratty-rat-a-tat-tat race. Let’s not fail to have learned that aloneness, repose, quiet, even fear have something to teach us. What have you learned in this time?

Perhaps we have learned that we are stronger than we thought. I learned I was both weaker and stronger. Perhaps we could see that society and work and school and even church and particularly social media drives us to keep trying to project public worth or success. But we have value because we exist. Gods love for us and our love for us isn’t based on starring. When we haven’t much to brag about on Facebook, we still have value.

Odell writes, “It is the invasive logic of commercial social media and its financial incentive to keep us in a profitable state of anxiety, envy, and distraction. It is furthermore the cult of individuality and personal branding that grow out of such platforms and affect the way we think about our offline selves and the places where we actually live.”

Do we have to appear on social media to feel alive, valuable, present? Nope. Do we have to post pictures that make us look happy to be happy? No, research shows us that online “likes” — the social validation and feedback loop — actually just makes us more anxious and insecure.

What if, as we re-enter being social or working again, we carry a new sense of a resilient self forward, a new appreciation for the family we live with, a fresh value for silence, a treasuring of the value of being alone, and the sweetness of a self-affirming interiority? What if we don’t go back to trying to prove we have value. We just do.

We are not first a brand or an image to keep up by showing up. We are not a personage appearing but a person always, not an it but a thou, not alone no matter how alone we were or are.

What have we learned by sometimes doing nothing that was something these last few months?

Perhaps, producing or not, being public or not, we have learned to hold ourselves dear, and to hold others dearest.

Yesterday was a good day! I gardened, mowed the grass, and changed the oil in the lawnmower, something I haven’t done in ages. I painted a door, and I made dinner. In between I read and wrote a little. I drove our census over to the post office and then took a nice drive through the neighborhood. In the evening I watched TV with my wife. I am at my best, busy!

Today is different. It’s a beautiful day here in sunny California and the sun is shining, but I woke up in pain and haven’t been able to get away from it. It’s a beautiful day but I’m having trouble enjoying it. I’m taking medication and lying down. Life is up, and then life is down.

Yesterday on the phone with a friend we talked about wanting to live in the bubble. I want to live in the middle-class bubble, life safe, life resourced, life on vacation, life fun, life the way I like it, life that I control.

And I have. Many Americans have. We have gotten a good deal of that. But not every day, and not every season. Right now, during the coronavirus isolation, struggling with pain, life is up-and-down for us.

Sometimes the bubble pops. Dysbiosis. What do we do with that? We live it. We live it all. We live what we can control, and we live we can’t control. Welcome to reality! This is pretty much everybody’s reality. We don’t get everything we want. Some people hardly get anything they want.

We are headed into a season where many people are and will experience losses, the loss of loved ones, the loss of health, the loss of finances, the loss of careers, the loss of homes.

I don’t like this. No one does. So what still stands when all around things are lost? What still stands in all the world is full of fear? Despite our difficulties, two things haven’t changed. Two salient callings come to mind today: Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Neither a virus, nor the status of my body changes those two great ethical commandments for me. Discomfort doesn’t change those wisest of priorities.

Question: do we still love when we don’t get what we want? Do we love God? Do we love our neighbor? Do we maintain entente? These questions challenge me. Sometimes I fail in love — for God and my neighbor.

But yesterday my wife shipped my daughter and her husband two masks. My daughter is pregnant. We want her safe. Love.

And yesterday and today I worked on forming an online reading group to better connect with friends as we practice social distancing. Love.

Today so far I am holding my tongue and guarding my heart. It’s hard to hurt. I want to be healed, but I’m working on not being offended when I’m not. I’m not okay with pain, but I am working on not blaming anyone for it. This is life, part of life, and even compromised I am not off the hook to love. That’s hard. That’s love. Love doesn’t insist upon its own way. Love exists outside the bubble of what I want.

Last night at dinner we prayed for everyone who is suffering loss right now. We thanked God for the good things in our lives. Love.

Whether we’re on the mountaintop or in the ditch, in the bubble or watching it pop, the highest calling on our lives hasn’t changed.

Yet love.

This morning a hummingbird came to my backyard pond. It hovered in front of my pond fountain — a silver column of water surging into the air about a foot high — and took some sips. Standing on air, sipping sustenance — pure magic.

And the column of water? It’s powered by a pump connected to a solar panel. The sun moves the water up into nicely reachable space for the hummingbird. Sun moving water — pure magic

This morning I saw one of the dark grey and black fence lizards that lives in my backyard run straight down the vertical wall of my chimney to the ground. Running headfirst down a vertical wall — pure magic!

All around us we see things doing what they were made to do, things that we can’t do, but things that we can marvel at and appreciate and enjoy.

And that’s the question: what were you made to do? it may be a thing that the lizard can’t do and the sun can’t do and the hummingbird can’t do. It is most likely something you do easily, without thinking much about it, like breathing or eating.

Think about it. What do you love to do? Do that! Overcome fear, apathy, negativity and do something that you know is in you to do, something that might help someone else, something that might give you meaning, something that you’ve always wanted to do but perhaps been afraid to try.

Capitalization learning involves getting good at something by building on the strengths that we are naturally given

Do what you can capitalize on, what — given your personality and strengths — you feel nudged to do, something with the potential for you to perfect — pure magic!

Just do it.

Drill down, ensoul, innovate.

Today.

For God did not give us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7

During this time of loss and fear we have a great opportunity to feel with the rest of our world.

Psychotherapist Miriam Greenspan says that our own painful emotions might help us discover a close relationship between our “heartbreak and the brokenheartedness of the world.”

If today you were sad, know that millions were sad today too. If today you felt fear, know then that you are confederate in this emotions with billions of others around the globe, especially those who have lost their loved ones, those who have lost jobs, especially those in Third World countries.

We may want to be rid of our darker emotions, but they are a part of us and part of our world and they have the potential to bind us together. It has been my observation that we bond over our weaknesses even more than over our strengths.

The moments when I have felt closest to other human beings are the moments where we have both taken off our masks and shared our hurts or our weaknesses without embarrassment or constraint.

Richard Rohr says “that in a whole lifetime spent with seekers of enlightenment, I have never once heard anyone speak in hushed tones about the value of endarkenment.”

But soul darkening has value. The endarkenment of our souls creates an opportunity to rely on God and to connect with others, to text, write, call and pray for them.

This is what it means to be human. It means to be happy and sad, full and empty, to be at peace and anxious along with the rest of our world.

Weep with those who weep,” command Paul.

Romans 12:15

If you have any of the dark emotions during this time of social distancing, don’t deny those. Sit with them. Learn from them. I speak to you in hushed tones, the hushed and healing tones of tender honesty, compassionate transparency, reciprocal disclosure, unguarded openness and loving candor.

It’s okay to have dark moments. Don’t be embarrassed. We all have them. Your feelings will come and go, but your empathy — practice that and it will come and stay.

Recently, I identified the red-streaked house finches in my back yard, in the evening sky the Orion nebulae in my telescope and also I sorted a way to respond to my wife’s request for feedback on how to handle a touchy relational issue.

I also learned that diatoms — a major group of algae, specifically micro-algae found in the oceans — may pile up a half-mile deep on the oceanic floor. It may well be that oil supplies were formed out of the carbons. I love scientific knowledge. So cool!

I also noted in the news cycle that mortgage interest rates are falling to historic lows, and I am sorting who the candidates in the next election are that best reflect my values and priorities.

Knowledge — we do well to embrace it and all the academic disciplines and news sources ferreting it out, and I do. I rush to knowledge found in theology, science, history, art, linguistics and literature. I am a truth-monger. I crave understanding. I look for it everywhere.

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.

Proverbs 18:15

It’s wise to dig for knowledge. It’s treasure. But sometime we shouldn’t try; and sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes life puts us in places where understanding is beyond us and our attempts to grasp it become befuddled and confused. Life’s trauma — relational conflicts, exhaustion, loss, illness, poverty, violence and war can bring us into times when try as we might, we lack understanding and even wisdom goes missing.

Such times create a knowledge-deprivation and an attendant insight-humility. Even when we are healthy and stable, concerning so many issues we remain benighted and confuzzled. We experience a kind mental cinemuck. We wallow on the floor of our own scary movie theatre. At such times, brought low, if we are honest, we admit what we don’t know. This can be so disconcerting. It can also be a relief and in itself enlightening.

We Christians, unfortunately, have too often — well or sick — trafficked heavily in wisdom replacements, bad science, inept interpretations, conventional platitudes, sappy cliches, out-of-context Bible verses and a pride fueled denial of our own ignorance. But a poorly researched, unfootnoted, overly syrupy, Pollyanna Christianity helps and enlightens no one.

I’ve mind-wallowed recently as some of my health issues have escaped my understanding and have dodged resolution, both by me and my doctors, even my specialists! The experts in medical science — baffled. Such ignorance however is common to all disciplines and Paul’s “we see through a glass darkly” comes to mind.

Psalm 131, I like it, it’s helpful in modeling the opposite of the ubiquitously ego-driven quest for knowledge, good as knowledge is.

Psalm 131

A song of ascents. Of David

My heart is not proud, Lord,

my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,

I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord

both now and forevermore.

Two questions. One, what are the great matters? They certainly includes matters where we have tried to find understanding concerning something and failed.

I don’t believe David is modeling giving up on understanding. Certainly not. In his writings, we can see is on a constant quest for truth, and yet here, concerning great matters, he cloaks himself in humility.

If you look over the history of competitive, self-driven experimentation, research, invention and discovery — look in science or theology— wherever you find unbridled ego, you will find grave unhappiness and tensing ignorance. You will find conflicts, law suits and relational smashups.

In contrast, when truth diggers have taken humbled attitudes before the unknown, taken needed breaks, consulted and relied on previous seekers, consulted their team, answers have often come to them in epiphanies and “Aha!”moments.

Second question: What does it mean to be a weaned child, content in our relationship with knowledge?

It means that we do well to rest in what we do know, celebrate what we do know and to let ourselves be weaned from what Fenelon refers to as the pseudo experiences that give “false courage to the senses,” that is merely propping up a hungry ego with an incomplete theory or insight that won’t hold water when reality comes along with it’s pointy stick and punctures it.

What to do?

Don’t stop seeking knowledge.

But when life weans you from understanding, seek contentment.

And for we who have faith, trust God that he knows and that he, like a wise mother, has us.

We can sit with him quietly, not understanding, yet loved and and at rest.

Competition — I’ve lived it, the good the bad and the ugly

In high school I won my gym class ping-pong championship. I glowed.

Several times I have received good chunks of money for articles I wrote. I was competing against other articles offered to the same magazine. I felt very affirmed, my acceptances, my being allowed into the conversation. It help me realize that writing was the thing for me. So I’ve worked hard on it. since.

Competition, as a positive can promote discipline, hard work and toughness, develop skills, create teamwork, lead to innovation and invention, create high-quality work and performance, fuel productivity, help people know what they’re good at and what they’re not good at and teach a person how to be a gracious winner or loser.

I once raced a BMW in my Infinity G 37 coupe. Blew his doors off. I celebrated. Or gloated. Not good. Later I regretted this.

Competition as a negative can cause a person to become conceited —desiring to be the cynosure of all eyes — harmfully proud, create fear and anxiety, add harmful levels of stress, lead to rushed decisions, elicit cheating, illegal or harmful behaviors, sabotage teamwork, ruin relationships, consume a person with bitterness, lead to a loss of morale and self-esteem.

So what to think of all this?

We might say that because there are pros and cons here that we need a balance between competing with others and nurturing others. Fair enough.

But how does this work out for we Christians. What does the Bible have to say about competition?

Well, we might first note that Israel competed with the other nations for land and power and survival. The Old Testament may be even be seen as the story of winners and losers. But this perhaps ignores the purpose God had in choosing the Jews. It was to make himself known to the whole world. The Jews were to win only so others could win. They were to be a light to the other nations; instead they were darkness. And when they failed to let God make them successful, God had to discipline them and let them fail.

Well, what about the New Testament?

For Christians who see competition as valuable they might point out that the apostle Paul compared himself to a runner, boxer and soldier, to a competitor. But in the context of these analogies, Paul is actually competing against himself, against his old nature. And he eventually concludes that only Christ within will win his fight. For him to win is to know Christ, to be found in God, to please God and to help as many people as possible do the same.

So we might say that we Christians compete to win a win for everyone possible. I think of it is similar to how I think about my daughters and wife. I want to be my best self possible so that they might be resourced, successful, win at life.

But we might say that Paul and the other disciples and early church leaders debated competitively for the gospel, just as have all the apologists and evangelists who have come after him. True. And we might note that there is a kind of world competition for the truth, for what’s right, for a philosophy or religion to live by. Paul contended for the gospel.

Christians still do. So we Christians do well to train ourselves and discipline ourselves to be as good and knowledgeable and excellent in all our work as possible, but not so that we might win discussions, but so that we may draw others into the win of God.

This is an interesting topic to take on. Perhaps big-idea and longview conclusions help here. First, Jesus was never about himself against the world. He didn’t define his mission or ours as us against them — the outliers, the sinners, the deceived — but instead as himself for all of them, and us for all of them, us in him loving them, as many as we can. He only spoke against those who wanted to make Christianity an elite group. Remember, John 3:17. Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but to save it. And Jesus had no ultimate doubts about the outcome of that quest. He knew — the father would win!

Jesus came and announced, “God wins!” That’s what the scripture, what Revelations says. And it isn’t even a fair fight. All of creation and all of history is going somewhere, the place Jesus prayed for in John 17, that we might all be one within God. I don’t know how that sorts out, but it is clear that God wants no one to be left out of that win, and that the only way that they can be left out is if they choose to be.

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth”

1Tim. 2:3-4

Life is a serious business. We all know that there are winners and losers. It doesn’t look like everyone wins in life. Not everyone gets a gold star. Not everyone gets a sticker or an A+ on their paper or a trophy. But everyone can be forgiven and everyone can realize their giftedness for the good of others.

With all this reasoning as presuppositionaI, I certainly don’t think then that the church is advanced by attacking the “pagans” or science or sinners or other religions or by holing up, circling the wagons and seeing itself as attacked by the rest of the world. The church’s goal is not to defeat everyone else but instead to share the win Jesus won with everyone else! Yes, it may be true that in the end everyone won’t win — only God knows that or who; only God could decide that — but it’s certainly not our business to try to decide that. That’s God’s work. Our work is to declare the win. If there is to be a loss, we leave that up to God.

At the last church I pastored we shared the church with other denominations, with other congregations, with AA support groups; we gave space to professional counselors, food distribution organizations and groups helping refugees and children in poverty. We owned it, with no debt, and we gave it away freely to anyone we had a common vision with us, vision to help people. We took a non-competitive, inclusive approach to our community. If we were competitive it was competition to win at the game of sharing.

Looking further in the new testament for commentary on competition, we find the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16. Faced with dismissal, the manager reduces the debts of his employer’s creditors, and thus creates friends for life. When his boss finds out, he commends the manager’s savvy, entrepreneurial, even competitive behavior.

Well, we might say this about that. God admires intelligence. After all, he made it. God admires shrewdness, for he is shrewd. God wants us to find ways to make life better, because he wants to make life better. Therefore, Christian go ahead, do well, make money, make art, be successful. You who invent products, advance knowledge by doing good science, you who are wise in the investing of time and money, who create social capital, go for it, that is if you use it for good, if you please God!

But let’s be clear, you please him not because you outdo others. You please God when you have found ways to thrive that include others. Note that thriving in the case of the shrewd manager involved forgiving others their debts. The wise steward won favor by creating wins for others, even though his master took a loss. Seems familiar. God, took a loss so we all can take win.

We also have the parable of the hired workers in Matthew 20 that seems to be commentary on this topic of competition. Those who work a whole day get paid the same as those who worked only part-day. The full-day labourers plead unfairness; the vineyard owner maintains he is being both generous and just by treating all his workers the same. Again the point comes to the surface that God himself is generous and wants a win for everyone possible

This helps our thinking. In the quest to win, to be paid, it must be remembered that God so wants to bless others that he may seem to even violate our sense of justice or fairness. We may be shocked at who is included in heaven, people who didn’t seem to have faith at all, people from other religions, people who did some horrible things. It will be an omnium-gatherum, a collection of miscellaneous people.

So why do we have here? When is competitiveness Christian, when not Christian?

I think we can safely say that competition is not Christian when the drive to compete is fuelled by greed, self-interest, envy, pride or revenge. That is clearly inconsistent with Christ’s command to love and with God’s purpose to create a people, a collective, a body, a team that wins.

I know that when I have been selfish in my family that has caused problems. Sometimes I traveled too much when I was working, off on missions to far off countries, and in doing this I was sometimes insensitive to my wife’s needs at home with the children. I regret that now.

When we are only out for ourselves, and when we are so broken that we want others to be at the back of the pack, and we are willing to oppress and damage them so that we might win, so that we might be first, so that we might get what we want, that’s not Christian. It’s evil! The drive that says “I’d rather be first than human; I’d rather be first than good” — that’s not good. This is the motive behind racism and sexism and even nationalism. I believe God opposes small thinking, the formation of oppressive, enclosed societies, the institutional formation of harmful self-interest and pride.

So then is there a place for competition within Christian culture? Yes. Paul models that we are to compete against ourselves to win the prize of God’s approval in Christ. And further yes we are in competition for the truth. It is right to stand up for the truth, to compete for the truth wherever we can. But not so that others lose, but so that they win. We compete to help them win, win the win of God in Christ.

This would imply then that we are to be excellent in all that we do, not so much for a personal win, but so that we may advance the cause of God by being a model of what it is to be intelligent and rational and hard-working and disciplined and successful. All the good things about competition come into play here, but we do not compete to beat out the rest of the competitors, instead we compete with ourselves to bring out the best in us, to steward our gifts, to do the thing that we do, best for and most pleasing to God.

Through my various jobs in life it became quite obvious that I was a leader. Even in high school I was elected to the position ofvstudent council president. I was always fascinated by leadership. I read all the books I could get on it and attended all the leadership conferences and training I could.. I trained my staff in leadership principles. I often encouraged, cajoled and incentivize people to rise up and take leaderships. God wants us to succeed, but is the kind of success that is successful when others succeed.

The bottom line for we Christians is that life is not a zero sum game. Life isn’t a pie where if we get a slice someone else doesn’t. Life is a pie that we want everyone to eat from.

Competition?

How about if our goal — like God’s — is for everyone possible to win?

We are small, limited and ephemeral. But space is vast, expansive and ancient.

How might our modern knowledge of Earth, the solar system and outer space help us in our view of ourselves and God?

Our earth is 239,000 miles from the moon, 93,000,000 miles from the sun and 6.2 light years or 38,000,000,000,000 miles from a star in the constellation Cygnus. What is a light year? It is the distance that light traveling at 186,000 miles per second would move in one year.

That is a speed and distance that we can’t even really get our minds around. How astonishing our universe!

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is about 100,000 light years across and 10,000 light years thick. It consists of billions of stars and our star, the sun, lies in the Orion arm or spur at about 28,000 light years from the galaxy’s center.

Our sun, our solar system is not still, but travels with the galaxy. Our solar system travels at about 515,000 mph and yet it would take 230 million years for it to travel all the way around the Milky Way.

There’s more. There is much more that we have discovered in the last few years. The earth is about 4.5 billion years old in the universe around 13.8 billion years old. Our existence lies within vast spaces and vast also periods of time.

How did this amazing conglomerate begin?

In the 1930s a Russian American physicist George Gamow worked out a theory now known as the big bang which stated that the universe originated in the fiery cosmic explosion from a dense particle smaller than an atom. For we Christians this sounds a lot like what we’ve always believed!

Life began with a dense fireball that erupted in less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a second and was 1 billion trillion times hotter than our sun.

Think about this says Judy Cannato in her book Radical Amazement. In its latent potential, the … person that you are at this very moment was present in the Big Bang … in an astonishing burst of light. We came from the light!”

This is truly astonishing! And it is mysterious! We now know that 95% of the universe cannot be seen but exist as dark matter or dark energy that holds the 5% that is visible together.

Judy Cannato takes this kind of information and challenges us to ask what this tells us about God.

She says that this newly discovered “story invites us to expand our commitment to emergence, to participate in the divine unfolding around us and within us as fully as possible.”

“ All life is in flux, all life is groaning toward fuller expression of greater consciousness. We can look for new life and nurture it where we find it, and we can challenge ourselves to be open and grow into things that we never knew existed.”

What may God have ahead for you? With an expanded sense of reality what might God be opening to you?

Recently, watching the news I saw disturbing images — children dug from earthquake rubble, reports of missing people, an arrested wife murderer, political infighting and name calling, failed governmental processes, corrupt, greedy leaders. I saw pictures of people with contagious diseases and images of terrible auto accidents.

I find that somewhere inside of me I want to reject there parts of our world, to get away from them, even deny them at times. Instead I want Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom. I want the wolf to lay down with the lamb. I want no more tears. I want no more harm.

Of course this is completely understandable, and of course there is the validity in longing for safety and reform and justice and newness, but rejection of our current world is not the answer. Rejection of people is not the answer; rejection of harm is not the answer. People will do wrong. There will be harm. The truth is that in this life we can’t get away from all of that.

This is a huge issue for us. we want aponia, the Greek ideal of the absence of pain. I love the absence of pain. But life has pain; it comes to us, and we don’t welcome it.

This tendency toward rejection of pain and difficulty isn’t just limited to our world. We also tend toward rejecting our own selves, our bodies, our own souls, our own emotions, our experience, our own behaviors, any parts of theses we don’t like.

We get sick, our teeth decay, we experience pain, our bodies change sizes, we need surgeries. In these hardships we don’t like how we feel. We don’t like how our bodies look or how they smell. Then there is the same response as to what we don’t like in our world. We reject the unseemly parts of our bodies and of ourselves.

We become separated from parts of ourselves, de-integrated, fragmented. We experience a mind-body division, perhaps our soul rejects our emotions. This can happen when we reject painful memories, when we reject our painful or damaged body parts, our sexuality, our physicality — our long nose, our thin hair, our bulging tummy, our aging face, our short legs, our scars, our wrinkles, our sadness, our depression, our seeming failures, our loneliness.

But this rejection will not work for us. We need integration and congruency with our world and with our bodies. We need to belong. We need integration. We need everybody who we have rejected and everything we have rejected to come home. We need a united kingdom, on earth and within ourselves.

How do we do this?

We do this by saying to our world and saying to our bodies, “I do not reject you. I am aware that you are part of me and I am a part of you.”

To those parts of our world of our body that we have rejected we say, “I welcome you back. I invite you home.”

We don’t invite evil, but we realize that we too are evil and not so different from the ones that we want to reject. We do not invite harm, but we recognize that we too harm and are harmed. Our souls and our bodies are harmed and we reach out to them and touch them and accept them, ragged, raddled and frayed as they are.

We take our direction from Jesus in doing this. In one of his most famous sayings, he said that he “did not come into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved.” Rescue came through him, in him, absorbed within him. And in his sacrifice Jesus engaged everything. Everyone.

Apply this. We are not in the world to condemn the world. Neither are we here to condemn our bodies. The dynamic, healing and therapeutic power for good comes not from rejection or condemnation. It comes from acceptance and from love.

But you might say that the Apostle John taught us to reject the world. He did not. He taught us to reject sin, harming others — evil, greed, pride, selfishness. John’s main teaching was that “God is love” and that anyone who does not love his neighbor does not love God. Love is the ultimate form of acceptance.

Place your hands on the people of the world that you have a tendency to reject and tell them you love them. If you can’t touch them still tell them that you love them. Seek complementarity. Tell yourself every day that you care for the whole earth. Place your hands on the parts of your body that you tend to reject and tell those parts that you love them.

This is the way. The way is not in rejection. The way is found in acceptance, forgiveness and love.