Monday, February 28, 2005

2012-2014... The Age of Aquarius Begins?

This is too cool.

And compare it to this.

Pretty interesting, considering all the moves towards a non-heirarchical world... linux, blogs, networks, etc...

Jesus and the Buddha

I am reading Huston Smith's The Illustrated World's Religions for my World Religions class. Such a good class. Such an informative (or enlightening?) book.

We just 'wrapped up' Hinduism and are now getting into Buddhism. Some interesting stuff in our reading today. Thought I'd share.

The six years that Gautama saught enlightenment were comparable to Jesus' 40 days in the desert. Tempted by the Evil One, Mara, but the temptations failed. Following his enlightenment, he entered his time of 'public minstry'... also similar to Jesus'.

Reading about this made me think of the time when the Pharisees are saying that Jesus is of the Devil, to which he turns around and says something to the extent of... "Really? You think that I, who am casting out demons, am of the Devil? That's ridiculous... it would be evil fighting evil."

I think about that because most people in the world of Christianity see most other religions as 'evil' or at the very least, 'not of God.' And I am thinking about how the Buddha fought off his own evil... his own Devil. Was he tapped into anything other than the Creator? Is there another source of Good? of Love? of Light? of Truth? I don't think so.

Something else... People toward the end of his ministry and life began asking him if he were a god or an angel or a saint and all he would say is that he was awake. He did not seek to be sainted or deitized. He was human and did not wish to be worshipped. He wanted to point to the worship/devotion of the Ultimate. I hear some of Jesus' words sounding like this, that he can only do what he sees his father doing, that it is not about him, it is about God... the Ultimate.

These are merely thoughts and comparisons, so please don't get your panties in a twist if you disagree.

Life Or Something Like it

Not the movie. My life...

It has been a rather emotional week (as some of my previous posts might imply). The weekend was no less chaotic and emotionally all over the place.

Here's a little catch-up: On Ash Wednesday, I announced to the folks of Anchor Point that I was planning on 'wrapping up' this home-church-kind-of-thing by the end of Spring for various reasons, not the least of which I had felt for a long time that it was going in some unhealthy directions (myself included). At any rate, another family meeting was held this last Friday to continue the (or really open the topic up to) discussion. It was a difficult, but good night.

I commented to Holly the next day that we should not mistake last night for a 'everything is better now' kind of thing, but that it was just the beginning of our coming to grips with our group's brokenness and healing is just beginning to start taking place.

At any rate, we are all seeking God to see what he would have us all to do... individually and communally.

Saturday evening, Holly and I got to hang with some new friends (Jason and Brooke Evans). Wonderful people really. We did Thai dinner where we realized (again) that we had several mutual friends and that this person we are looking for in Thailand (Rose) is someone they are connected to. Wow. That's encouraging.

Following dinner, we went to the Vagina Monologues. This is a good piece of art that is both hilarious and disturbing... entertaining and informative. Not necessarily for the faint of heart, but something I would recommend to you perhaps...

Sunday came, and I went with the boys to the swap meet to look at a bunch of junk. That is my mother in me. I grew up garage-sale-ing every weekend. Good fun.

Then last night, hooked up with Jesse and Paula (some of the Clover kids) to do the Journey service up in Orange County.

All in all, a very tiring last few days. Tonight we head up to the Viper Room to see Deccatree play. Sweet.

The Grace To Not Make Sense

I used to think of myself as a pretty articulate person. Really. I mean, I used to make sense, have good thoughts, be able to express myself, etc. But as of late, and more and more, I find myself unable to communicate what I have thought about over long periods of time.

I have been becoming aware of this for some time now... probably mostly since Timber when I would say things from stage that to me made no sense afterwards. Then, when I began to lead Anchor Point and would try to gather my thoughts to teach, the same thing. Now, in life, on my blog, and in any conversation where I get even mildly defensive, I choke up.

I kind of hate it, right?

Like last night, I got in a conversation with an individual who voted for Bush, and I had commented how there is little that could have caused me to vote for Bush (seeing as how we view our worlds very differently, W and I). This guy asked me if I took the war out of the equation, could I have voted for Bush... which of course launched me off into a lot of nonsense, some of which made since (ie. you simply cannot take the war out of the equation).

Then he said with the whole Supreme Justice thing, he voted for Bush because of the possibility to overturn Roe v Wade and he apparently liked Bush's thoughts regarding homosexuality. Now at the time, I could think of nothing... not that I was trying to make him like me (or perhaps I wanted to?), but that I wanted to sound informed and articulate... because I am at least pretty informed. But I said nothing really.

If I could do it all over, I would say to look at the statistics of abortions in most countries where abortion is illegal... that will tell you that illegalizing abortion isn't the issue. Education, inspiration, taking people into your homes, breaking down systems of mis-thought... those are perhaps means, but simply outlawing it... I haven't seen it effectively work anywhere. And the homosexual agenda of Mr. Bush is sickening to me... and I also think it is mere pandering to an ultra-conservative crowd. A constitutional amendment? Come on. Do you really think that homosexual marriage is what is going to destroy the family unit? I know some homosexual couples that are healthier than heterosexual couples. I think infidelity and selfishness are what are tearing the family unit apart... not homosexuals.

So, all this I would have said, could I have said. But I didn't. God has granted me this thing to keep me from getting too conceited... this sort of thorn in my flesh that keeps me at least sort of low to the ground. I can never make complete sense or defend myself well.

Oh well, I guess I should just be thankful for the grace to not make sense!

Friday, February 25, 2005

Helen Keller and an Aquaintance

Encouragement has been coming in from unexpected places as of late. Here is an email I received by someone I have met but a few times. Still, her words spoke truth into my life. I thank God that he still speaks through people. I thank God that we are not alone. I thank God that when I have cried out from the depths of me, he has responded. Thank you.

Here is the email:

Reading your posts over the last couple of days made me think a lot about where I was a couple of years ago struggling with living in Orange County but knowing I must be here for a reason and about ome questions I asked Jason Evans about a quote he had on his blog. I was able to find the exchange (posted below)…I’m not sure why your situation made me thing about this specifically but I felt that, even though it is out of character for me to do so, I should send it your way. I think it is easy to believe that if the lives we are living are more comfortable (financially, materially, emotionally) than others, more mainstream than we like that we are not doing the great work of God. I listened to your story in the forum at EC, have read your blog since then, and been inspired by the relational tithe work you and the people around you are doing. You are doing the great work of God. He clearly uses you and Holly. Sometimes the real sacrifice is being willing to give up what we believe is the more noble, global tasks, to be everyday believers of Jesus right where we are planted.

It was interesting to me that a lot to the things in your mission statements seemed to speak directly to being planted where you are (specifically this:
Things I can do in life to bring goodness/positivity into my life:
Social: Get involved in a larger friend network.
Mental: Read more books. Read better books.
Physical: Hike more often. Run some mornings.
Spiritual: Visit the monastery again with Holly

I am sorry if this is completely out of line seeing as we are virtual strangers, but I felt I had to go where the spirit was leading. I pray that you will feel peace with where you are at no matter where you are and especially that you will see clearly that you are a valuable instrument of God that He uses often and brilliantly.

"Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings."
- Helen Keller

My friend wrote this in response to the H. Keller quote:
I read the quote on your site from Helen Keller and it made me think. Are we apathetic if we stop for pockets of time to take care of things closer to home or has God made us strong enough to accomplish both and we in our feebleness just don't see how? Or is it that our life of service is a composite of everything we do and therefore what may appear to be apathy to others is really just a momentary shift in priorities. Are some meant to serve the masses while others are meant to serve specific people for specific times?

Jason responds:
Good questions... I recently read The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman (a really good book, by the way). It confirmed some things I've been thinking and that is I'm pretty convinced that if we don't focus on the "specific people" at specific times" we'll miss the greatest opportunities and if our faith journey doesn't become a "composite of everything we do" we may very well miss the whole point.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Sharpseven in Sojourners!

We had the opportunity to help a good friend out by doing some pro-bono work for Middle East Fellowship, an organization that works to educate people about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from other points of view than the strictly zionistic ones.

Here it is in all it's glory. Go pick your copy up today or order it online.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Personal Mission Statement Generator

My friend Ben turned me on to this as a joke, but I actually kind of needed it. I had to do two statements... just 'cause.

My Kickstart Mission Statement:

I will be generous and encourage generosity in others.
I will love Holly and place her needs before my own.
I will try to be like my friend Jesse who reads good books and thinks about things and is content in life.
I will try to be a more caring, nurturing person.
I will fight establisment-ism where it is oppressive.
I will love God wholistically as I grow in understanding how to.
I will help to be a part of liberating those who are oppressed.
I will always strive to be adventurous.
I will always try to care for my loved ones and those in need.
I will seek to struggle through confusing situations, seeking to find a light at the end of the tunnel.
I will work for the good of all.
I will seek to love God wholistically.
I will seek to love and care for all of creation, including people, creatures, and the environment.
I will always strive to be forward-thinking while holding onto the great historical past we have.

(Note: Creatures does not include cats, spiders, or mosquitos.)

Your Journey Mission Statement (this one might make less sense because it has more 'thought-flow'):

Be a travelling singer-songwriter with something to say.
Travel the world, bringing healing and hope to people in need.
Write a book.

Inspiring moments: I was moving out to Oceanside, I was a part of the first Emergent Gathering. Scott Crosley, Holly, the Cote's, the Pagitt's, Mark Scandrette, Michael Toy. I felt not-alone and ready to change the world.

My heroic epic I am in: I am the 'normal guy' who comes to grips with his humanity and divinity and becomes a voice for those who are anti-established-religion. I bring peace and an understanding for a multiplicity of worldview/opinion in the world. It is for the good of the world, especially those who have been colonized or otherwise oppressed by the West. I am doing it because I believe that I am called to bring healing to the world. It results in people loving each other, moving, breathing in love... for man and God (however they see him/her/it).

Holly sees these as my top 3 strengths:

Application of each:
At work:
Creativity: Make good art. Don't skimp.
Leadership: Really offer suggestion on what to do with clients. Take business level up a notch if I am to keep doing it.
Dreamer/Visionary/Inspirer: Work with artists to inspire them to do good art. Dream what my future vocation could look like.

At home:
Creativity: A nice living environment, flexibility in problem-solving, imagination of what our lives could be.
Leadership: Make decisions, help my wife to search out things on her own and follow through.
Dreamer/Visionary/Inspirer: Inspire Holly.

With friends:
Creativity: Help people creativly problem-solve.
Leadership: Organize things for people to do together.
Dreamer/Visionary/Inspirer: Inspire people to live the lives they would dream of living. Help people see that it is possible.

Regrets: I would have used time in college to go abroad more, to have gotten involved in opportunities to bring goodness. I would have secured finances early on, avoided debt and bought a house early. (Can you believe I said, "buy a house?")

Accomplisments: Owning my own business, having travelled as an artist, my marriage, my lived-out convictions, my moving to California.

If I had $1M to give to charity, what would I give it to and why?
Half to aid suffering in the world (Sudan, Indonesia, etc.). Half to set up education system in the States for people to understand the multiplicity of realities.

Things I can do in life to bring goodness/positivity into my life:
Social: Get involved in a larger friend network.
Mental: Read more books. Read better books.
Physical: Hike more often. Run some mornings.
Spiritual: Visit the monastery again with Holly

So, it's kinda cheese I know, but it was cathartic. So... what is your personal mission statement?

Hiatus From an Existential Crisis

So, in light of Ben's comments (Are you a Ben I know?), I think I will cease my melodramatics for a day or so and try to ponder what I am doing in my life now that is good and healthy and healing.

You see, it's not that I dislike where I live (I love it), nor do I dislike the jobs my wife and I have (we are very fortunate to have jobs that work off our skill sets). That isn't the point.

The point is how long I can continue on this road I am currently on... and whether this would be the best use of the life I have been getting. [Ryan, you are getting melodramatic again... calm down.]

We are currently looking into several opportunities to serve abroad, whether they be in Thailand beyond this first trip, or perhaps Tibet, or perhaps elsewhere.

On the topic of changing places for changing's sake, I disagree with you. While I can see much benefit in staying put and fighting your demons, I think it is realistic to say that a new place can help you get a new start. Given, several people move only to find themselves in the same patterns they were in before. If we move, it will most likely not just be moving to a new city to do the same thing, but moving to a new place to live a different rhythm.

A couple things that have stirred my interest as of late, if you are interested...
New Monasticism
ServLife International
Global Crossroad

And I just spoke with Chris last night from the simple way who had some good insight on how good art must always point to justice. Their community, as he says, offers a good alternative to the American Dream.

Well, that is me saying that I am going to mellow out and explore what good I can bring to this area... what ways I can be used here, how I can make best use of my life now...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

On My Journey From Here

Perfect music to listen to for this post is: Ohio - Over The Rhine, Eastmountainsouth.

So, there is this Hindu thought that says that you cannot become the person you are to become by being in the same place that you are currently. This is also echoed in several strings of historic Christianity (and Buddhism and other religions I am sure), specifically in the Celtic pilgrimages.

I feel like the time is close at hand when I will find this to be overwhelmingly true for myself. That I must be off from this place called home for the last year and a half. And perhaps it's selfishness. Perhaps it's a feeling of loss... or of failure... or of something like that. And perhaps it is me running, but it doesn't make it any less real. And it doesn't make it feel any less necessary.

I look at where we are right now. And we are in a good place, living a nice life. But you know, Siddhartha Gautama was living a wonderful life of pleasure when he decided to leave his life of royalty to seek the highest spiritual place. I am no Buddha, but I long for a higher place spiritually. St. Francis of Assisi left his wealthy family to embrace poverty. I am no St. Francis.

But I have been awakened all the same.

If I am where I am now in several years, perhaps owning a house, I do not think this will be fulfillment for me. And perhaps fulfillment is not even attainable; perhaps it is just being satisfied where you are, being grateful for what a great life you have. I don't have the answer, only questions.

On My Journey Here

I was driving to class today, thinking (as I am inclined to do while driving with the radio off... God, sometimes I think too much...) about life and where I am now on my journey, who is with me in this journey, who has been left behind, who I have helped, who I have hurt, whether my life really matters or not.

You know, whether for selfish reasons or for true virtue, I want to live the life Jesus talks about... "life and life to the full," but I find myself in a rut. I was thinking about this whole Thailand thing and wondering if it is nothing more than a desperate plea for my life to matter... to count. Perhaps.

I was also thinking about how I got to this place that I am at these days: cynical, yet hopeful, attempting to die to self while still holding on to so much, re-exploring who I can be while still being who I am.

Some of you may know that several years ago I toured with a band, Timber. One summer we decided to join a mission trip group to Romania where we would be the band for the trip. We did these concerts (which somehow drew people who had never heard of us) and then afterwards, our team leader did a 'altar call' kind of thing where he invited people to come forward who wanted to know this American Jesus and get some free t-shirts. Who would not come?

That week has never set well with me (or Holly... or any of us from the band), and I think about it from time to time. I think it was a starting place for this journey that I am on in rediscovering Jesus.

You see, this was the first time that I identified a Christianity that seemed so different from Jesus' way, you know?

I began reading some books, having some conversations. (I could never thank Tim, our violin player, enough for always challenging Conventional Wisdom... I needed that.) Some books led to more books, more questions. I remember even sending my grandmother a book I had read... don't know what she thought of it. I also sent my dad a book that changed me called Your God Is Too Safe. Not sure that he ever read it. You see, these books cost you something. They cost your interaction with the ideas, but often, they cause you to change the course of your life or face the consequences of the old addage, "with much knowledge, there is much grief."

Ignorance is bliss until you know better. Then you can't shake it.

Next came this Christian camp we were a part of... several camps actually. Good times, good people, but the same old-same old. Is Christ's life and death really just about going to heaven after you die by believing a couple of propositional truths? I couldn't shake the idea that it was bigger.

The next step: My band gets invited to play a national touring student conference for Evangelicals. Wow for us then. But it was not all that. It led me into a deeper time of questioning and doubt as I heard people say things like, "Sure Ryan, you are right, but people aren't ready to hear that... even if it is true." or "The Church is a big boat... you have to move very slowly in changing things."

I was also parts of other churches, working on staff or helping out. I'd hear things like, "Hey Ryan, I appreciate that book you let me read about inclusivism... it really makes sense, but tonight I am preaching on exclusivism because of my gut feeling."

When Timber dissolved, I was left indentity-less, except that I could still be a 'worship leader' and I was still a husband to Holly (that has been a saving grace the whole time). I was enlisted to be a part of a church plant in Oceanside which is slowly winding down, for better or worse. My identity is gone again with regards to having a formal place within "the Church" or "the Ministry", you know?

This morning's drive included alot of that history in my memory. And I found myself kind of depressed. Men, I'm told, derive much of their significance by their work identity. I am a producer and a design manager, but this is not enough for me. Back to the first thought I was having, "I want life to the full."

And I am so afraid that our possibility for being in Thailand all summer will fail. I want change in my life (in our life, Holly's and mine). I want to be a person on the inside track of changing the world for the better, for making a difference, for carrying out Jesus' commands to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and so on. So this morning I begged that God would encourage me somehow.

Well, I was walking out of my Spanish class and received a phone call. This man from Wisconsin was visiting San Diego and picked up a copy of the SD Reader and read my article. He was so moved, he had to call me to encourage me. "I don't normally do these kinds of things, but as I read the article, I was moved to call you," he said. "I want to tell you that what are doing is more in line with following Christ than what many churches I know are doing." Wow. Wow.

After a 10-minute conversation, we hung up... and I began to weap. I had begged for God's encouragement and he sent it to me in the form of a 50- or 60-year old retired Lutheran minister. Thank you God. Thank you.

That's it for now. End of story. Gotta get to my religion class.

Monday, February 21, 2005

My Own Private Stash

I just tapped my second brew yesterday... a wheat beer. One of my personal faves. And it is so freaking good. Mmm. If you want to try some, swing on by, and I will be more than happy to pour you a pint, cut a lemon and shoot the breeze.

In other news, I am thinking of getting a new tattoo. I have one now on an ankle that says 'broken' on it, reminding me of my own brokenness as I walk through this world. But I would like to put some yin in to balance out the yang. I want to get a tattoo on my other ankle that says Shalom in Hebrew. That's what the pic is of if you haven't made the connection yet.

Some of you might have heard the word, others perhaps not. Some might think it simply means "peace," but it is actually a much more loaded, rich word than that. Shalom is completeness, wholeness, full redemption. It is life lived the way we were meant to live. It is not perfection, but it is everything in its proper place.

So I think it significant to note that I walk not just in brokenness, but also in shalom. One foot in fractured-ness, one foot in beauty. You see?

Recalibration of Jesus-ness.

From "a new life emerging": ...if Jesus were to show-up today and start over again I suspect he wouldn’t choose current "church leaders" and their religious followers. Jesus would probably choose the taxi driver from Pakistan who picked him up from the airport. Or maybe he’d choose the two Buddhist lesbians in the used-Ford van that reeked of patchouli and Mendocino County buds, who saw him walking in the pouring rain toward the city and stopped and gave him a ride. He’d choose the twice-divorced waitress with cheap lipstick and a broken heart who served the glazed donut and warm coffee at 3am. I wouldn’t be surprised if the tall prostitute in the blonde wig who propositioned him as he left the diner became one of his inner circle and her drug dealing fiancĂ©e became his closet companion. Maybe the CPA with a major coke habit and a runy nose would be invited to come along. I imagine the mechanic who owns the gas station and has a wife at home recovering from her third miscarriage who fixed the wiper-blade on the van for "no charge" would join his movement. If we joined the church we'd have to go to their houses to worship. You bring salad; I'll bring the wine.

Read the whole post.

Me: Hypocrite

So, I have been thinking over the last few weeks just how pompous and arrogant and 'all-together' I think I might come off. Railing against Wal-Marts and Bush and selfish lives and yada, yada, yada.

I just want to say this. In the words of G.K. Chesterton, "I am the problem." I am a hypocrite, talking about boycotting Wal-Mart and then buying snow-chains from there because they are cheap. I am a fake, talking about meeting the needs of the poor while I, myself, have not had a real personal encounter with a 'poor person' since last year sometime. I subscribe to smut like Entertainment Weekly and to good stuff like The Sierra Club. I give money to people who need it and I buy too much crap that I don't need.

I say this stuff just to let you know that my ramblings are always directed at me first (I don't really like blogs that directly preach at people). I am the problem that needs fixing. Perhaps this is part of the reason I feel like it is time to let the Anchor Point Experiment go. Perhaps it is time to take time off from telling others how they should live and just live myself. And that is hard... because I do not agree with most of the world that says, "Don't worry about that person. You are not your brother's keeper. You are not responsible for that."

We are. I am.

My point is just to say that I am a broken, screwed up kid who is trying to come to grips with the divinity and humanity both alive within me.

So, in light of all this paradox, I want to say that I am at least somewhat impressed that W just met with ole Chirac. That is as much compliment of that man that I can give right now.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Some interesting thoughts on sweatshops...

Just thought this was an interesting thought from Tony's seminar from the Emergent Convention.

this is an audio post - click to play

"What is it Like?" vs. "What is it?"

This last Monday was Valentine's day. Holly and I and Lisa and a couple other friends of ours met for dinner. Nice.

The question came up, "Do you believe in soulmates?" Some people scramble to answer. Once some thoughts were laid out there I prompted, "Isn't that the same question as asking. 'Do you believe there is one person out there for each person?'" and some said it wasn't the same question, but either way it got us thinking about destiny (whether we used that word or not).

Destiny... that there is a way things are 'supposed' to happen. After some awkward, "Well, (s)he is definitely my soulmate," comments, the question turned to "God's Will"... dun, dun, dun...

We started asking if God had a person picked out or a soulmate for each person. [Now those of you who read this blog often probably know that I do not believe this. I would probably be classified as a mild deist (although I believe God is at work in the world) before I would see myself as a "If Allah wills..." kinda guy.] So I talked a little bit about the Greek understanding of perfection that was new to ancient Hebrew thought. How Hebrews saw things in light/dark, broken/shalom, incomplete/complete, out of place/in place. That is, there was no perfect/imperfect, there were just things out of place. So one person said that her husband brought completion to her life, so that meant that he was her soulmate. Cheers! That sounds great to me.

But after pondering this on the way to my Spanish class the next day (I am a full-time student this semester...), I was thinking of how we really want to say "God is..." or "Destiny is..." and actually place a definition that is timeless after that elipse. But I think that the Universe, that God, that Destiny is way beyond our vocabulary, so we need to move more towards "God is like..." Make sense?

I sat in on this seminar where someone was talking about how many people get attached to some of the metaphors of the Bible and cannot see beyond these "names" of God to see that (s)he is way larger than anything we can think of or imagine. We call God, "Father," but he is not male. We call him, "Holy One," but he lives within us, not beyond us. He even went on to say that the word, "God," is a metaphor. Even "Yahweh" was the metaphor for God being our very breath. Perhaps (s)he is, but perhaps (s)he is way more than just that.

What is God like... it is a less confining way to think about Ultimate Reality.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Malevolent Orthodoxy by Fundy Evangelicalist

I cannot wait until this book comes out! Malevolent Orthodoxy: "Why I am a Parochial + Patriotic+ Fundamentalist/ Calvinistic + Rigid/ Angry + Republican/ Warmongering + White/ Southern + Flag Waving/ Rush Loving + Manly + Modern/ Propositional + Baptist + Complete Christian"

An Interview With "Pastor" Sharp

It's posted online.

I was interviewed for the San Diego Reader this last week. It was kind of cathartic to get the story of Anchor Point out of my mouth to an 'objective stranger'. Still, you never feel like 500 words can do a story justice.

Here is a snippet: 'People view church success as a stable ministry, with a growing number of people attending the services. I've revamped my idea of what success looks like now,' said Sharp. 'I see success as people sacrificing more than they had, people giving more away. I see success as people connecting to nonchurch people and showing their faith and telling the story of God in their own words. My goal isn't to grow the service, but to get people to go out and do the things we speak about at church.'

PS - We are not 'white' because we do not have ethnic friends! We just don't have any people of color attending our services!

Remember Sister Dorothy

So tragic. I heard about this on NPR yesterday. A woman standing up for the peasant's of Brazil.

More Thoughts on Wal-Mart

I really do not mean to oversimplify, but we must consider this kind of thing...

From From Colossians Remixed:

Every time we step into a Wal-Mart or Niketown or Gap or Winners and exclaim over the great deal we get on an article of clothing, or how trendy we now look, we've made sweatshop workers our slaves. Every time we buy coffee that isn't shade grown and fairly traded, we've made those coffee producers and their children into our slaves. Every time we have purchased a product - any product - that says Made in China, or Indonesia, or the Philippines, or Sri Lanka, it is pretty likely that we have made someone our slave...

The truth is we have many choices...Our point is that when there are options available - whether various consumer choices or lobbying - to decide to do nothing is itself a choice. The Gospels call it the wide and easy path. But we can choose another path. There are ways to proclaim and enact Paul's word of release to slaves, women and children.

I do not think it is just as simple as not buying from Wal-Mart (although this is a good starting place perhaps) because as my friend Jesse pointed out, "is putting no money in their pockets really better than really bad wages?" That's not his words verbatim (which means I shouldn't have used quotes, but oh well).


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

this is an audio post - click to play

Reflections on Giving Things Up

So, I decided to give up certain stimulants this year for lent. That primarily means coffee, but would extend to cocoa (in chocolate) and cloves, and whatever else I can thrown in from time to time.

The cloves and the chocolate? Easy. The coffee? It's been painful. And now to learn that most decaf coffees are raped by chemicals in order to be decaf causes me to be cautious of even decaffing my life. Perhaps it's time for cold turkey! Hmm.

I started thinking about how the reason I don't necessarily like to give up things is because it costs me something: If I am buying better food and giving up unhealthy eating habits, it costs money; if I give some of my money away, it may cost me cable; if I give up coffee, it costs me some energy.

Now perhaps you are thinking, "Ryan, your energy will come back to you. It's just that your body has been used to running off caffiene, and now it's re-adjusting." Thank you. I appreciate your sentiment. But, I am not so sure of it. I think there is a good possibility that when you give something like that up, you have to recognize that you might not be able to maintain where you were? Does this make sense?

Spencer Burke has said several times that sure, most people want to be green, use less energy and whatnot, but the truth of the matter is that you cannot plug in as many things if you are running off less energy. There has to be sacrifice that comes with... well, sacrifice!

One of the stories of David (the old Hebew fella) is about him making an offering to God. And there is a suggestion of using some stuff for his offering that wouldn't cost him anything. He turns around and says that if it costs him nothing, it is not a sacrifice, not an offering, not worship, not true.

People want to change (I'd like to think). They want to help. They'd like to become better human beings. They would like to help. They would like to see more beauty in the world and perhaps even be the ones that bring it... but it will cost something. And this is at the very heart of the message and life of Jesus... that bringing goodness into this world will cost something. Giving your money away to the poor is not a way to ensure a good retirement! The way of Jesus is not a way of stability or financial success!

Sure, some might comment and say that you can have your cake and eat it to, but I would invite you to really consider that again. I mean, if we come to a place where the way we live our lives costs us nothing, is that any way of obedience? I guess I should really turn this on myself. I mean, it's more of a self-critique than anything else. I was thinking about when we first came to Oceanside, I would invite strangers into my home, deliberately take my neighbors out for lunch, meet the needs of the homeless-camping community on the beach. I think I have settled into a life where sure I give some money away, and sure perhaps I do good things from time to time, but really, is this living?

I am hoping our trip to Thailand will prove to jumpstart my heart in a direction of self-sacrificial giving beyond the way I live now.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Jesus Walks

I don't usually link to people who are quoting songs, but seems like we all make concessions from time to time...

(Jesus Walks)
God show me the way because the Devil trying to break me down
(Jesus Walks with me)
The only thing that that I pray is that me feet don't fail me now
(Jesus Walks)
And I don't think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs
(Jesus Walks with me)
I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long

To the hustlas, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers
(jesus walks with them)
To the victims of Welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah
(jesus walks with them)"

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Rwanda Take 2.

I was just thinking about the movie again. You know, one of the characters is talking to a reporter about the history of the whole thing, and he says that the Belgians just picked the Tutsies... for no reason he knew of... just picked them. And they used that privilege to oppress. And I think of the way that resonates within the Christian Church. Blessed to be a blessing, but the church has hoarded... I have hoarded. I have used my religion to oppress, perhaps not directly, perhaps so. God have mercy on us as we work at becoming better humans. I need some sleep. What to do next with my life can wait at least until tomorrow, right?

Just one idea though before bed. Anyone care to join?

Whom Shall I Send? Who Will Go For Me?

I just saw Hotel Rwanda this evening by myself. I just got home and nearly busted into tears when Holly asked how the movie was. I didn't want to talk about it. Not while she was watching The Grammys. Not now. I mean, nothing against my wife; she will be the first person I probably talk to, but not right now. Somehow writing it here seems less contexed... like I am speaking into a vacuum.

I wish for everyone to see this film. It is an incredibly disturbing and violent film with threads (small threads, mind you) of hope. It is violent, yes, but the kind of violence and injustice that should bring us out of apathy (whether locally or globally) and cry out to God.

As I saw the meek being herded off to the slaughter, I wondered how Jesus could have had the audacity to say, "Blessed are the meek." And as the peacemakers were given no authority, I wondered how he could have said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." I wonder how I can carry the hope of the Kingdom of God, that good will triumph, that everything will be put in its rightful place... when I see this kind of thing.

For those of you who do not remember (as I didn't), I'll paint a sketch of what I gathered. The Belgian colony of Rwanda was originally left in the hands of the Tutsies, but when the Belgians withdrew, they left the power to the Houtoos. The Tutsies had been oppressing the Houtoos in their reign, so when the Houtoos gathered some power, they decided to begin an ethnic cleansing (and the separation of ethnicities was created by the Belgians... it didn't exist before they colonized the land...). They killed a million Tutsies when everything was said and done... and the Western world did nothing. Left them to themselves. There was a line in the movie where the reporter told a Rwandan man that the West would watch the video footage over dinner and then go back to their lives.

That's what I am afraid of doing. Going back to my daily life. Please God, here I am, send me. What can I do? Where should I go? Who am I to be?

And I kept saying, "Is politics and military the only way to bring about and ensure peace?" Over and over. Can you not see why so many have thought that this is the only way to advance the Kingdom of God? I guess I now understand a little more. Not that I would endorse that but...

I have said time after time that the gospel of Jesus is not a thing brought by force, nor is it a thing that is by any means efficient... except when we short-circuit it. But how long must those in oppression sing this song? How long, how long?

Pardon my ramblings, I just needed to vomit up some ideas.

I hope that this next season for Holly and I is marked by large risks and incredible opportunity to bring about healing to this world. I kept crying in the movie asking what could I do... I was young then, I am willing now. Should we go to Darfur? Where can we be used? Here I am, Lord, send me please.

Extraordinary Rendition: Exporting Torture

An article that a friend sent my way from The New Yorker: "Jane Mayer writes about the use by the United States of 'extraordinary rendition,' the practice of sending terrorism suspects to other countries, where they may be interrogated and tortured on America's behalf."

Anyone have any thoughts after reading this?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Thoughts on Hell... Sounds fun, verdad?

From a new book that I cannot seem to put down...

I have always thoughts of the Pharisees of Jesus' day as teh conservatives and the Sadducees as the liberals, but apparently this is a case of our reading our own contemporary definitions back into the Gospels. It turns out that the Sadducees were the more conservative Jews who resisted this syncretism. They wouldn't accept the Persian ideas such as hell, heaven, and angels. For them, a person dies and that's it, with no resurrection. The more liberal or progressive Jews were known as Pharisees; according to my book here Pharisee means Farsi, or Persian. The Pharisees integrated these Persian-Zoroastrianian concepts into their belief system.

In turn...

...they would threaten sinners with hell... [T]hey would use the language of hell to accomplish what they felt they needed to accomplish-to frighten sinners enough to repent and change their ways for the good of the nation.

Interesting stuff. The book continues on to refer to how this is the common practice within the realm of the Christian church.

Remember, before the Babylonian exile, the Jews had no ideas about heaven or hell or angels and demons, particulaly not one called Satan. These notions were all brought into the Judeo-Christian tradition from other foreign cultures and religions.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Wage Peace Now.

Please take time to check out this short film and perhaps sign the petition. There is also a list of dates of when this 'installment' is going to be in town. Try to make time to check it out. It could change your life... or at least your outlook on this war we are engaged in.


Holly and I just signed up. It is a way to support local farmers/growers. It is also a way to eat locally grown, organic produce and such. It might be worth your time to check out what your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is up to. It's not too expensive and is delivered on a weekly basis (or bi-weekly if that's your preference). Here is one directory.

Wow. Take 2.

A picture my step-brother sent me of him and Rummy. This is not a fake, by the way.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


This makes me want to renounce Christianity. (You may have to scroll down to get to the article.)

Emerging Friendships

The emergent events (gatherings, conventions, etc.) have meant a great deal to me over the last 2 years... to me and to Holly. The events have been less about the event and more about who I know that is going to be there... what friends I will get to see. These people who might or might not call me friend back (I'd like to think that most of them claim me) have become a preserving agent in my life.

After this event, we got a chance to do lunch with Doug and Shelly, Jay and Jen, Michael Toy. Then Michael came up our way and got to see our place. Wonderful to have people see where you live and exist for like 95% of the time (particularly since we work from home most of the time).

The next day the Scandrette family came up our way on their way back to the bay. Mark made some nice comments on how we really 'inhabit' our space well, and that it didn't seem to messy even though I kept commenting on how much crap there was there. We snapped a photo just before they took off.

Isaiah's shing moment on film, no?

The next day I got an email from Jason Evans, and we hooked up just days later. Wonderful human being.

Anyways, just thought I'd remind folks (and myself outloud) why emergent has become so important to me... not just because of the new concepts that I subscribe to or the new ways of living as a human being that I try to be, but because it has provided incredible friends for the journey.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

More On The Bush Budget

A request has been made for the source of my information regarding the bush budget and here it is.

Ego... Check.

It's fun being quoted on someone else's blog, ain't it?

On Re-Centering One's Self

So this morning I went for a jog. For those of you who know me well, you know that is very out-of-rhythm for me. I don't really like jogging/running beyond walking or hiking (and I do love hiking). But this morning I figured I would try an experiment. It was to insert or even exchange one habit for another, jogging instead of sitting in my daily morning routine.

I feel sick to my stomach right now as I write. I think in my zealous-ness, I overachieved and now feel sick. I am coughing up a storm... hang on...

Okay, back. So one of my comments about this past year (and perhaps most of my life) is that I live very un-centered, having convictions, but living by some other script which is really just a response to whatever my circumstances are. You follow me?

So a goal for this year was to live more centered. I can think of other friends who articulated the same desire. But as I was jogging this morning, pondering how I was beginning to feel more centered in my life, I realized something: I have been centered all along. I think our habits and our lives tell us what we are centered by. Kind of the whole 'faith without works is dead.'

What I mean is that I have been centered by a frame of mind that says, "Respond to whatever comes your way. Do as much as you can (even while saying, 'Live Simply, Ryan')." "Identity is found in what you do." "Life is short." Etcetera, whatever... I guess all I really mean...

So, it is exchanging one center for another, and constantly doing this in pursuit of having a mind/spirit like Christ. It is a journey towards wholeness and true-centered-ness.

And that is what is great about the Lenten season: It's a chance to change your rhythm, to re-center, to re-calibrate. I am still trying to figure out what it is I am going to let go of this season... and it might be good to look for something to put in its place that will be healthier, you know?

Alright, I gotta get. Holly's tellin' me to go to Mass this morning before school. Ciao.

Need-Based Theology

I was thinking this morning - a very dangerous thing to be doing at 5.47 in the am - about if and when we begin to develop theologies based on our felt needs. I'll give you an example: We cannot bear to believe that God wants for us to suffer, so we develop a theology of Christian Hedonism. And when I say develop, I don't mean necessarily from thin air, but borrow from other places, re-construct previous theologies, etc.

I was in my World Religions class yesterday. I am taking it amidst people of several other religions. That has been cool. We are currently studying classical Hinduism. The caste system (4 levels of social standing) is a fascinating theological development. Although there are different creation myths that explain why it is as it is in a place like India (where the caste system is still very much in play), some believe it was created by elite intellectuals who didn't want their families to lose their place in society, so they developped this social ranking system to keep everyone in their 'proper' place.

Well, I think of this in regards to Christianity as we think of it. Doctrines of universalism (that all will be go to heaven) developped from the need to see God as purely a God of love and forgiveness, not judgement. Or the doctrines of legalism in their many forms (man is entirely sinful, you need the church to remain as part of the faithful, doctrines of giving, 'praying the prayer', etc.) could have been developped because some wanted to secure their place (perhaps priests/pastors/heads of churches) and make sure that the church was the only 'deliverer of religious goods and services'.

You tracking with me here? Entire theologies based on the need to maintain social structures, so that now, in order to 'get out of hell', you must seek God through the church [read: through a Christian]. Hmm.

I'm gonna definitely have to look at some of my theology and consider its implications. Where did these thoughts come from, for surely they are not original. And what do they say about me, or the communities from which they were birthed?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Bush Budget

Thought you might want to know what the proposed budget would constitute:

• Making permanent the tax cuts of 2001 - 70% of which benefited the wealthiest 20% of U.S. citizens
• The elimination of block grants that aid poor communities
• Making it more difficult for working poor families with children to be on Medicaid
• A $355 million cut to programs that promote safe and drug-free schools
• Cuts to housing and urban development programs
• The elimination of 48 educational programs

If this causes a turn in your stomach, you might want to take what action you can. Go here.

West Hijacks East

So, I was thinking about a conversation I had yesterday regarding East versus West. As I stood in the shower this morning, I thought: The West has no religion of its own (save consumerism-capitalism-militarism-absolutism).

Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and yes, Christianity all have their roots in the East. Near-eastern and far-eastern religions are what this world is defined by. I don't mean to disclude other smaller religions or sects created in the West; I just mean the large percentage of religious people.

Yet many think of Christianity as a Western religion, rooted in Western understandings of God [read: Platonic and Socratic understandings of dualism, the soul, etc.], perhaps rooted in the East, but refined and defined by the West.

Have we gone astray in these thoughts? Or is this just how history works? Hmm.

Monday, February 07, 2005

A Timely Quote (or Three)

An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.
- Mohandas Gandhi

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
- St. Paul

If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.
- Jesus of Nazareth
this is an audio post - click to play

My Wife, The Artist

Her latest two paintings. She is brilliant. Sorry the photos are a we bit blurry and cropped. Guess you'll have to visit to see them up close, no?

I could comment on them, but instead I will let them speak for themselves.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

On Not Being Understood

It is hard to speak everyone's language. It's hard to tell everyone what they want to hear in the verbiage in which they want to hear it.

Someone asked me over my Christmas vacation if I was a part of a socialistic commune of sorts. What? It took me a second, but I finally came to understand that because I was heavy on words and phrases like 'sharing meals' or 'living life together' or 'community,' certain people were mistaking me for a cult leader. Strange. I never thought my words would sound that way.

I guess you come to a place where you realize that you cannot take everyone along in your journey. Not that you must deliberately leave people behind, but they cannot necessarily connect in the ways you had hoped they could. I guess I thought that through clear communication, people could understand where you are going and what is important to you and why... I was wrong.

In the same way that you cannot truly understand another country/religion/idealology without actually 'being in it' and attempting to fully experience it, I think others cannot fully understand you without living life with you, going through the experiences with you, participating rather than watching.

I guess this seems pretty common knowledge, but tonight I got a shock of reality in dealing with this. I am sad that not everyone will understand why I do what I do, but I do take slight solace in the historical fact that many inspirational people have been oft misunderstood only later to be made into saints. I doubt many will find my life to be magnificent, but I am hopeful that the God who has birthed the hope for the reconciliation of creation within me will bring it to full completion.

Tickets to Thailand

We just bought tickets to Thailand. Holly and I are going over during my Spring Break this year. Exciting and scary all in the same breath.

Our hope is to check out Phuket Island and the connections that are there to consider the possibility of living there for the summer. It could be a great fit for us being that it is developed enough to have broadband (so Holly and I can keep our day jobs so to speak) while helping facilitate some reconstruction efforts in the tsunami-devastated areas.

Please keep us in thought and prayer regarding this.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Reflections on EC 05 and Life

I am sitting right now in the main session room for the San Diego EmergentYS Convention. I have been here before. This is my second year. And I am just now remembering with great detail the year that has passed since the last time I was here.

I am sitting listening to Tribe, an incredible experiential-worship-drum-circle-kind-of people. I heard them last year in this room. I drank wine and ate figs and chocolate with my beloved. We danced. We sang. We worshipped.

Tribe had such an influence on our ideas of what worship integrated with music could look like that we tried to use their "everyone-as-part-of-the-band" approach within the context of Anchor Point. We started a drum circle on the beach that met every Wednesday night. We passed out egg-shakers at our weekly Sunday gatherings for people to be involved with.

But then things happened, you know? People let me down. I let people down. I got hurt. Others got hurt. People stopped coming. I stopped caring. Then surges and waves of passion and confusion intermixed like oil and vinegar, one always overpowering the other, but never truly resolving together.

This past year has been characterized for me by risk that led to failure, expectation that led to re-evaluation of expectation, excitement that led to simplicity. It has been a grand experiment in the dynamics of the human-divine equation, the yin and the yang of our lives.

I have come to understand that whether God is in control or not, we definitely are not at all. The sun rises and sets, the rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous, the greatest attempts can fail at any moment.

So where does this leave us? Longing for a sense of stability? Or perhaps we stop looking for stability and safety and learn to live recklessly and playfully?

You know, earlier in the day I heard NPR say that the Dow was up 84 points and I thought to myself, "I don't give a shit and probably never will." I have chosen a way of life that will not permit me to live by the script of capitalistic-American values... or so I tell myself.

I wonder if I will ever own a house. I wonder if I will ever be a part of a venture that will succeed in the eyes of my parents, my friends, my community. I wonder if I expect too much. I wonder if I expect too little... of people, of myself.

I wonder if we can live in the way of Jesus in any way in this day and age.

And I am incredibly hopeful that as the Kingdom of God comes into the present from the future that we will sense it and allow it in whatever way we can.

Wake up, blind man! Wake up! Wake up and find life beyond self-serving, self-seeking, secure and safe living!

Your love oh Lord endures forever. Yah, the sun also rises. And nations will fall. And fortunes will scatter. But none of this matters at all. Because Your love oh Lord endures forever. Amen.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Brian and Larry

Last night, with Jasen and I sipping some of my fine homemade brew and Holly with her fruity rum-mango cocktail in hand, we watched Larry King LIve at 9pm. We were tipped off by some friends who had told us that Brian McLaren would be on. We were also tipped off that Brian was just featured in TIME's latest issue on the 25 most influential people in evangelicalism (or was it Evangelicalism?). Interesting.

I gotta be honest, Brian is brilliant, but the show just led me to shake my head. You see, they were also interviewing Tim and Beverly LaHaye [read: LEFT BEHIND], Franklin Graham, and TD Jakes. Now Rev. Jakes was a hoot and actually came off with some legitimate and thought-through ideas/responses. Tim, Beverly, and Franklin... I was just kind of bummed out about.

I am not going to rant much beyond that because it just wouldn't prove useful, but I will say this: I am so grateful that in a time where I do not feel represented by most Christians with loud voices, I am so grateful that they had Brian on to balance the discussion.

Larry asked some great questions (most of which were passed over) like "Why would God make someone gay if it is a sin?" and "The Constitution says that the government is to stay out of religion... and vice-versa". But the best part was where Tim LaHaye was talking about how American values have been under fire for 50 years now and that the attempt at taking "Under God" out of the pledge of alegiance was an athiest pushing his/her beliefs onto the rest of us, but Larry pointed out that aren't we (and I can include myself in this because I believe in God) pushing our understanding of the universe/God by leaving it in. Curious dilemma. I mean, I am not for the removal of that line, but I guess I wouldn't be opposed to it.

Which leads me to my probing question: Can't we all just get along?

I was hanging with this Suni in New Mexico last October, and I asked him what he thought about other religions... and he responded by saying, "Why would God have created people so different, with different understandings of him/her if it were not good?" I dunno. I guess that could be a good point. Perhaps we would do well to listen to each other... even me to listen to evangelicals like Tim LaHaye? We'll see about that one.

Today begins the emergentYS Convention. Should be fun to see friends and have engaging dialogues. Ciao!