The Gift I cannot Give

World greatest Gift

There is a gift that exists which is given to everyone. It’s found in the deep. It’s mined from the smallest nuances within the very warp and woof of life. Like manna, this gift must be unwrapped everyday and it cannot be stored for tomorrow. Yesterday’s gift was for yesterday only.

This gift is behind and beyond all of the presents we open on Christmas. It lies beneath the surface of every material thing, but is not the thing itself. This gift is what makes every note of every song we love so good, and it’s precisely what is missing from music we loath. It’s behind the nutrients of the food that sustains our lives, and found in the labor of those who bring, prepare and provide it. This gift is the light that makes color colorful. It’s every word that proceeds from the voice of wisdom.

The gift seems like nothing, but is actually everything. It has no dimension and seems unknowable, yet we know it all too well. It’s weightless, but possesses such gravity and glory. The gift is opened at the welcome or the loss of a loved one. It makes everything we do worth doing. The perfect wave, the perfect line, the perfect jump, landing, or step eek us closer to it. Suffering, loss, and pain ensure we can’t miss it.

Sorrow is skimming through life with our gift unopened. I can buy you anything a man can make, but this you have to find for yourself. You can chase every dream you dream, but I cannot give you this gift. This is the gift of God, the gift of Spirit, wind, or breath. We can’t catch what we don’t see coming, nor can we go to what we can’t see going. We can only be with it, join it, and abide in it moment by moment. A day without it is a day squandered.

The gift of God is this moment. It’s the gift of reality, not as it is for us, but as it is. It’s right here despite our lack or abundance, despite our skill or will, despite our rights and wrongs. It’s offered freely, generously, benevolently with no strings, loopholes or caveats. The gift has a name: Emmanuel; God with us, among us, all of us. The means to the gift are endless, the gift is singular. No other word but salvation can describe such proximity in the moment.

Freedom results from our daily unwrapping.

2017: 5 Years Online, WOW!

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What if the local church has so highjacked people’s lives that liberation from it seemed sinful? I asked that question over 5 years ago and it led to my transition to online ministry from a church where I was an executive pastor and elder. After twenty-five years in church ministry I finally admitted that 95% of the church’s time and money was spent on mortgages, insurance, lights, sound, and staff for the Sunday big show rather than human need. I’m not saying the modern church model is wrong or bad, only that seems inefficient and appeals to a shrinking population of people.

Modern people understand that we don’t go to church, we are the Church. Church is wherever (or however) two or more are gathered (Matthew 18:20).

Over five years ago I began serving people as an online pastor and “un-coach.” I didn’t make the change because I was jaded, angry or rebellious. It wasn’t due to moral or theological deficiencies. I did it out of integrity and love for the Gospel, that wasn’t making it’s way to people in the city.

I left because I’m convinced the present church model obscures much of the beauty and hope of the Good News because it requires untold energy on the external attractions and distractions. It’s overly specific and exclusive to all but one particular expression. This is great if the one happens to be your expression, however, our world (like scripture depicts) has innumerable experiences with God and desperately needs wise guides to cultivate and expand these expressions. I could not do that in the typical church model which invalidates non-Christian experiences. God is beyond our tiny theological frameworks. The Christ experience has always appeared in other religions and even pagan beliefs (consider: Abraham, Moses, Romans, Tax Collectors, Samaritans, Gentiles) but always called something different. The Christ experience causes diversity to converge into unity as we go deeper. 

I became an online pastor because what I wanted most for our world is inner experience rather than church attendance. Each framework for belief has it’s fundamentals. These are great formative containers but as we grow we forgo the binary obedience codes and are repotted into the ternary world of grey. Why must we continue to argue and browbeat people into obedience to countless rules when only one rule must be mastered–The rule of love? Duty is a deficient motivator and so is fear. Love is more powerful and frees us to just be who we are. The online model allows us to shed all the husk and focus on the kernel.

My congregation is not made from the herd mentality. Those who value tribal distinctions are best served by the traditional branded model. This online church family is made up from strays and remains undefined. We are zaggers in the sea of zigs from over 50 countries. True Christianity is not an alternative religion, it is the end of religion (Romans 10:4) and the beginning of faith. Our online family meets God in the privacy of our own hearts and minds where we alone are convinced (Romans 14:5). The faith we each possess is kept between ourselves and God (Romans 14:22). In fact that is the only place any of us have any real faith at all. Faith is not a show or a competition. We need nothing more than “yes.”

Mainline denominations are being replaced by the spiritual but not religious, and gurus, coaches and authors are displacing the preacher. What are people to do when the church will not or cannot answer the questions of our culture?  Where are people to go if their consciousness surpasses the local church. The virtual Church is an expansive dialogue of progression, not a regressive didactic!  I’m so glad more people are catching on and I’m grateful to be on the front side of this wave.

 

Below is a list of the Top 10 most downloaded, forwarded and replayed posts/podcasts of 2017 and some aren’t even from 2017:

  1. The Poverty of the Poor
  2. Part 2, The CHRIST Jesus
  3. 1-Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth
  4. Why we Cry
  5. Liberation Despite Sin
  6. Dark Days1: Good News, You’re Depressed
  7. Why the End didn’t Come.
  8. Part 1: The Ruined Jesus
  9. The Ruin of Postmodernism
  10. The issue is NOT Homosexuality

I know it takes a lot of courage to trust the boundary-less, undefinable, approach of online ministry. I know it can feel nebulous and detached if you are just coming from a highly structured environment. What you are feeling is freedom. Freedom to just be and to heal for once. Freedom to be yourself. Freedom to explore big ideas. Freedom from internal and external critics. Freedom to discover the faith that has led you here and which will take you deeper into love. Liberation often feels like falling. (Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 4:18)

Thank you all for your engagement in this journey and for joining me and countless others in this online ministry. 2018 promises to be amazing as we learn to see beyond everything!

 

Healing Love

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We’ve been walking along what I believe is a trail of healing.  Knowing the diversity of my audience, it was necessary to first get behind both beauty and our frameworks for healing. Today we go further.

The proclamation of love is that it will heal all things totally and completely and every sad or horrible thing will one day become untrue. This is so outrageous, few can actually believe it. Outside of waking from some dream, most of us don’t possess a framework for how this is possible. How can the worst things be completely transformed into love. Some even despise this idea because we’ve pessimistically concluded that some things are too good to be true.

I offer no regimen. I can only allude to love’s therapy.

Like that bit of caterpillar that continues in the butterfly, the kernel of human suffering continues deep within its transformed perspective. Time obscures our ability to see this. We struggle to see beyond the suffering which is confined to this season. In the same way we struggle to fathom the infinity of space, our rational mind struggles with limitless love. The rational mind must give way to trans-rational thinking, not irrationality.

Love is the best framework I can offer into which we place all of human suffering. Love is trans-rational. Falling in love proves this. It’s wide and deep enough for suffering which defies our understanding.

A timeshare condo never lives up to it’s sales pitch. Since love wounds us so deeply, we often find it easier to make suffering our bedfellow than to risk hoping again. Our untrusting hearts prove that love does access our deepest caverns of pain. When love touches it, we blame love rather than that which love has touched within us. Anguish is our inner spinster.

I’m not talking about love as a deferment to the afterlife. Religion carefully uses the language of love but then loads it full of burdens like a bill getting through congress (Luke 11:46). The unloving ultimatum is for us to have some suffering now or have more forever. In fear, we settle for untransformed pain and powerless, surface level love. Settlers think suffering is circumstantial, and enroll in religion’s deferment program. Faith in love reveals that suffering backfills the void where love intends to dwell. Pain is love’s benevolent check engine light. Suffering always moves in when love is evicted.

We need not evacuate this life to experience healing love. The beauty of love is that it’s here, now, and it’s tenaciously pushing in on us like our atmosphere. Ultraviolet cannot be seen with the naked eye, but our skin perceives the suns rays. Likewise, healing love isn’t perceived due to its position on the spectrum. It can only be experienced, not processed. It’s not a transaction, it’s transformation. 

Healing love is an ever-present reality. Our deepest wounds can immediately be touched if we stop defending, controlling, or hating. We set a guard outside the door of our pain, then pretend that place doesn’t exist. Our self-distractions are like boat anchors that block love from taking us to it’s end of the spectrum. We live our lives denying the existence of an island that lies just over the horizon, when it’s visible just a bit off shore. We have to get in the boat to see it.

Healing love is dynamic not static. It’s a moving target. It heals us by towing us onward with it’s promise of consummation. A taste of it will put us in its tractor beam, and that is our greatest fear. Love is all consuming and will leave nothing left of our self definitions. Being hurt by love means we didn’t go far enough, its goal is to end us. We cannot find nor preserve our life without first losing it (Matthew 16:25).

Suffering is believing we are what is wrong with us. Healing Love offers us another identity: itself. Love is just, but it’s nothing like our grasp of justice. We may despise ourselves, but love heals through restoration not judgement. Our pain causes retribution to become our scale, thus we cannot rightly measure ourself or others. Healing love dissolves retribution and appeasement. Healing love completes us if we but fall into it. Falling takes no skill, only will. Healing love comes once we realize we’re accepted just as we are.

Healing love came initially to me as complete loss in a completely ruined life. Once I had nothing to lose, I let go. Healing love showed up for me as human love and as my life’s companion through years of aridity. Healing love my appear as a loved one, a pet, a project, or a passion. Your healing love is already in your life if you have eyes to see.

Healing love will transfigure your life until it’s indistinguishable from itself. In the end all that will exist is love.

What about Healing?

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Our world needs help. The global amount of human suffering is astounding. What are we to believe? Are some things beyond healing? Or is it true that “All things are possible?”

Let’s consider our current approaches to healing.

1. The modern world’s approach to healing is traditional medical intervention. Contemporary society abdicates healing to medical authority. Doctors are our scientific tribal elders, who first diagnose our problem then offer it’s prescribed therapy.

The religion of science is driven by data. Medical healing employs a strategy based in numerical statistics. These data are usually provided by commercial entities that promote their solution for healing. Best practice is shaped by a consortium of the most influential commercial offerings that bring the most convincing data to the marketplace. Healing is the dance of data, money, and medicine.

2.  Alternative Healing practices are gaining ground in part due to increasing skepticism of the commercialization of medicine and it’s statistical approach. Alternative healing focuses on a holistic solution rather than an isolated, compartmentalized, therapy. It views each person as unique amalgam of multiple dimensions. Integrated systemic healing strategies, along with natural supplements are proving as efficacious as traditional medicine for many ailments. Alternative healing is about lifestyle change but the data dominant medical authority often diminishes these claims as unscientific or anecdotal.

3. Faith healing is an interesting proposition. A faith healing evangelist can raise millions on television and fill stadiums, but never enters our oncology clinic. Countless faith healers have been debunked as frauds, but does that mean miraculous healing cannot happen? Scientific studies have a placebo arm which is another way of measuring the “faith effect” to healing.

Within faith healing there is an interesting divide. The fundamental Christian community known as the Gospel Coalition has adopted a very pessimistic philosophy: that of cessationism. While they concede that God could heal if He wants to, most don’t believe healing miracles still exist outside of medicine. The irony here is that these are the first people who say they’ll pray for the healing of others. Such faithless prayers are truly empty sentiments. These are the folks who interpret the bible literally  when convenient, but ignore Jesus teaching about how we can literally move a mountain if we ask in faith (Matthew 21:21-22).

While the pentecostals get a bad wrap for their practices, I commend them for fidelity to their faith that God can and still does heal the sick. At least when they pray, the prayer is one of faith (James 5:15).

4. Quantum science and faith are now aligning in this amazing space. Science knows that awareness alters the material particles in quantum space. All particles are interconnected which gives way to a singular uni-verse rather than a di-verse, individuated cosmos. Healing is holistic from a cosmic sense.

This re-opens the faith-healing paradigm. Mere awareness of another persons sickness actually alters our combined quantum fields of interconnected particles. Sending “thoughts and prayers” may no longer be just pithy statements, but actual alterations in the flow of our entangled cosmos. The more awareness (faith) the more entanglement. Has science uncovered the mechanics of prayer?

Whether traditional or alternative medicine, quantum entanglement, placebo, or religious engagement, our healing requires faith. Whether healing is bodily, emotional, spiritual, or systemic, it requires something of us, and this is the vital key:          PARTICIPATION.

Scripture depicts Jesus as a healer to all comers (Matthew 4:24, 8:16-17). The more I study healing the more I’m convinced it’s not an end in itself, but a means to an end. Healing is a means to liberation and freedom which is the goal of the gospel (Isaiah 61:1-4, Luke 4:18).

This means that healing is a daily practice of participation. Healing is conscious engagement in how we live, eat, and move. It’s the elevation of consciousness or truth that frees us (John 8:32). Healing is not just an event nor is it the time of recuperation. We are not passengers to healing. Healing is the intentional daily engagement of surrendering our frailties and plumbing the depths of our irrelevance, so that we can find our relevance in God. 

Whether we are sick or well, none of us are whole. None of us can escape the inevitable, disconnected terminus within our corporeality. Each ailment along the way is a pause button, designed to unite us into the daily healing process. Each night our sheets wrap us like grave clothes, preparing us incrementally for the unconsummated healing that is ever before us. Each choice is one of healing/liberation or sickness/bondage.  We must participate in our part.

Healing does not remove sickness, death, or dying; nor does it prolong life. Healing is that sweet communion that makes both life and death lose their distracting power. I’m convinced if we find healing at this level, then our minds, bodies and world will follow.