Thursday, September 8, 2016

Over the Hill? Or, The First of Many Summits. My Thoughts on Turning 40

This last year has been moving inevitably toward today (Well...there was one other option but I'm not ready for it just yet) - turning the big 4-0. Now that the"over-the-hill" train finally docked at the station...

How do I feel turning 40?

Despite the reality that my bald spot is winning the war on the top of my head, varicose veins are mapping the back of my legs, and my runs are slower...both in speed and recovery, OVERWHELMINGLY today I feel...


So...on this first day of my 40th year I want to share 40 things for which I'm thankful!

  1. God is LOVE.
  2. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, both as a past event and an ongoing experience.
  3. My wife - MB, Mary Beth, "Hon" - a woman, companion and friend who knows the heart of God and puts up with mine, even knowing it's broken state.
  4. My 3 gifts of joy, insanity, and energy: Kaden, Ashton & Pierson.
  5. My family of origin. I started life with a 56-card deck. 
  6. Forgiveness.
  7. Friends who I know would lay down their life for me.
  8. The Church, the Bride and Body of Christ...with all her warts, scars and failures.
  9. Finding home and acceptance in the wide open state of New Mexico.
  10. The sun's relationship with the Organ mountains...constantly changing, reflecting and shadowing.
  11. Green Chile
  12. UCC community. Although I've been blessed to serve many communities of faith, this place is special.
  13. A great church staff with whom I have the privilege to partner.
  14. My church Elders.
  15. Daily Coffee - with Splenda and 1/2&1/2 (Two years ago I would have ranted on its evil. Today, I celebrate it's goodness).
  16. Watching Kaden drum.
  17. Observing Ashton engage with people.
  18. Seeing Pierson dance before the Lord.
  19. Chai Tea with pumpkin spice - enough said!
  20. Fridates! My favorite day of the week!
  21. The Gila Wilderness.
  22. The majesty of the Grand Canyon.
  23. The iconic features of Half-dome.
  24. The humbling experience of Yellowstone.
  25. Ă…ndele's green-chile queso!
  26. Trail runs.
  27. Kayaking a river.
  28. Paddle-boarding The Butte.
  29. The view from my backyard.
  30. Mama Terrie's homemade coconut cream pie.
  31. Homemade banana pudding.
  32. Caliches. 
  33. The art of preaching.
  34. Campfires.
  35. Biking to work.
  36. Desert rain.
  37. Diversity.
  38. Kisses from my wife.
  39. Belly laughs from children.
  40. Hot showers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

In the Petri Dish of Self and War: Blessed are the Peacemakers

"Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for they will be called children of God." -Jesus


Children of God.

Children of a God who spoke order into chaos, whose very nature (Trinitarian) is harmony, who responded to the hate, violence and rebellion of the world shedding his blood, whose love holds all things in tension until it resolves in his goodness.


Children of a peacemaking God.

Borders, not geological formations, but human inventions defining which humans are "in" and which are "out," artificial markers to give me permission to view those on the other side with suspicion. Sometimes suspicion morphs into threat and threat leads to defense, counter-intellegence, espionage, war...and torture. 

What gives me the right to the territory within my Borders? Pockets within my tradition (Christianity), both the past and the present, argue, "God does!" In fact, we've claimed land in the name of God or in the name of the work of God. claim for God what already belongs to him. If we trace my tradition back far enough we discover just that, "God is the sole possessor of Creation." Perhaps Borders do not mark territory but rather our fears and uncertainties instead: monuments of our power and illusion of our control.

Sometimes Borders blind us to the Imago Dei...the image of God.

These thoughts swam around in my brain for several weeks and were still afloat on Saturday morning as my youngest boys and I headed on a 3-hour drive from Cruces to Albuquerque. The day's adventure centered on watching my oldest son perform with his high school Symphony Orchestra. I love watching him play and I also salivated with anticipation knowing I'd get a chance to partake...Yes, you read that right: partake not eat. Eat is too crude of a term for Albuquerque's Flying Star's Southwest Benny: homemade english muffin, thick green chili turkey sausage patties, two eggs, parmesan cheese and the green-chili cheese hollandaise sauce (a.k.a. liquid gold).  I preoccupied my mind away from my rendezvous with the Southwest Benny by downloading the Serial podcast; each podcast season covers a single story throughout multiple episodes. 

Serial, Season II covers the gooey chaos of Bowe Bergdahl's (a soldier in the U.S. Army) desertion of his Afghanistan post, which led to his eventual capture by the Taliban. They held him hostage for 5 years. Bergdahl's entire story is a political warhead...any mention trips the explosive and sends anger shrapnel from all sides of American ideology and patriotism. I have no intent to go anywhere near the nuke, but within the retelling and interpretation of this story an Afghani interviewee describes his perception of Bergdahl at his capture: "He had come a long way to invade our country and kill muslims." 

Woa! Hey now! Americans aren't going to describe it that way. I would rather say, "We are headed to Afghanistan to promote democracy, defend human rights, and free the oppressed." But now we are back to Borders. It does not matter what I would like to say. It doesn't even matter what the truth is at this point, because Borders has the floor. Bergdahl had come a long way to invade our country and kill muslims. Suspicion. Fear. Control. War. And for Bergdahl, eventually torture...5 years of torture. His captors attacked the bottom of his feet with a water hose, chained his ankles and wrists spread eagle to a bed for months, slashed his chest hundreds of times with a razor blade, neglected to feed him, left him blindfolded, and locked him in dark places with nothing but loneliness. 

"Torture is not new," I thought! "He is not the only one! The Taliban did not invent such cruelty. How did we get plan with forethought, 'If we do such-and-such we can keep this other human alive but in a constant state of physical and physiological suffering. Perhaps, if we show exceptional skill this other imago dei will dream of death.' Do any other living species treat their own kind with such preplanned malice? Yes, dogs kill rabbits and play with their dead carcasses. Biologists argue over why chimpanzees engage in infanticide and whether or not dolphins kill for sport, but torture? Torture is our invention!"

As I moved up I-25 I asked myself, "How could we get here? Borders? Torture?" 

Fastforward to a belly full of liquid gold and my boys and I make it into the theater. The orchestra nails it; the crowd applauds; parents give the required this-is-my-kid standing ovation, and then we sit  down to wait for the next performance. As we try to nestle back into the tight chairs, "Grandma" shows up at the end of our row. No, "Hello." No acknowledgment of my fatherhood...but instead an intentional looking past me to my boys, "Do you boys think you could be quiet and still during the next performance?" 

"Oh, are you wanting to sit here?" Two seats were open on the other side of my boys.

She glances down at me and then returns her gaze to MY boys, "Because you are being very distracting to those sitting behind you!"

[WHAT!? You came down here to tell MY kids to be still and quiet? You don't address my kids if you have a problem with them. You address me! These kids have been in the car for three hours and now they are having to sit here and they are sitting here! Oh, what? They whispered a did half the audience. Oh, what? They giggled when my camera started making weird noises. At least they laugh! Oh, what? They moved a lot! They always move a lot! The youngest hasn't stopped moving since he exited the womb. Heck, I move a lot! Instead of exhausting yourself coming down to lecture kids, well behaved kids, for being kids, why don't you use that energy to relocate yourself to another seat where you don't have to be distracted by kids behaving exactly as kids behave! Okay, let's make a deal! If you can manage to get that stick out of your butt before the next performance starts, then we will be completely still during the next performance. I bet we win!]

I looked at her...snarky, "Don't worry; we are leaving anyway! Let's go boys."


"By the way, they weren't doing anything wrong!" Silence. She turned and sat back down. I took one step down the aisle and then reversed back to her row. "You know what? This is a high school performance!" She should expect younger siblings to be there. She should understand this is a free concert. No one rented a tux for the occasion.

"But it is a STATE competition!" She reminded me.

Glaring, "He is 10! He is 12! They acted perfectly for their ages!" 

I left fuming but I wanted to go back. I wanted to tear into her! 

She took over my mind for the next several hours. She took my joy. She took my peace. She stole my time and the longer she stayed there, the more powerful she became...and then like an unsuspecting left hook, "This is where it starts....borders...torture."

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.