Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Institution

What is the church? How is it relevant to society? How is it relevant to me?

These questions have been spinning around my head for so long now it seems. In the past, I have been a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church and I have been heavily involved at various times with that community. More recently my attendance there has waned to the point of not having gone in several months now and I have been asking myself questions of who my community is and how the church plays a role in that definition.

As a part of experiencing different modes of worship, I decided to attend a church service, but not one of my normal church. A friend of mine invited me to attend the Imago Dei church down on 15th and Ankeny. It was definitely an experience. One that in many was resonated with my past experiences at my old churches. To this, I was greatly disappointed. It was the same old, same old as far as I was concerned. The only thing that I felt comfort in was that I was able to be lost within the congregation. The first time I went, it was with the friend who invited me. The second time I went alone. It was a blessing to "blend in with the pew" and not be forced to be happy, or excited to be there. I was there to worship. Worship is something done without words. I had no words those days. What I had was anger, frustration and a desire to not be a part of this "pack of conformed people."

What is church? Church represents a community of people that gather together to praise God and presence with each other. If that is what church is, then why do I need to go to a 'bring and mortar' place to experience this praise? So much of our spirituality is a personal thing. Beyond that, what is the purpose of a church? It is a place of belonging. And it is a place of belonging where a person much act and dress and believe in a way that conforms to the ideals of that institution. If you do not act, dress or believe in that fashion, go somewhere else. Every church will implore you that they accept all people... and they will do their darndest to convert you at the same time. They are not O.K. with you being O.K. There is a need for the church to make you feel as though you belong to it.

Lover of My Soul FbG6

During the stage of the Warrior, there is a transition that is made. In the language of real life, we find those places that allow us to escape from the mundane. To escape from the battle. These places are so important because they help teach our soul how to live. As we step into the shoes of the Warrior, we also step into the shoes of the Lover.

Through the process of Boyhood to Cowboy to Warrior, there is an undercurrent that pulls at our hearts. It's something that we at first don't recognize because we are in the thick of whatever it is we're doing. But by being where we are; being, exploring, or fighting, there is always this concept of beauty.

As life moves forward, the boy becomes the teen who becomes the young man. Beauty is so often seen in the woman. The woman is important yes but it is what's beyond the woman that is so important. She is the embodiment of beauty but if that is all we (men) see, then we are treating her as a commodity, not as something special and so much more than that. In fact, I would go so far as to say that so often it isn't the woman we see at all the first few times around, it is the mystery of the beauty.

This concept of the mystery I feel is so important and really takes hold of whole idea of beauty in and of itself. It isn't just something that can be bought, it's something that must be discovered every single day that we walk on this earth. For we are not just looking for the beauty or love of a woman, but also the beauty of love of God. And it's only by looking for that beauty, God's beauty, in every moment of every day, that we can find it. Everything in life seems always to come back to the idea of the process, well this is no exception. An individual cannot simply find love, the real thing, on the first go around. It's something that must be explored and fought for before it can be experienced.

So we begin to understand how this process all fits together and supports itself. We cannot transition through these stages, leaving one unfinished and expect to move forward as men in a healthy way. Yes, many of these aspects can be experienced simultaneously and grown men might need to be boys, but the understanding that we do this is what's so important.

In the end, the lover cannot give what he does not have. If he first does not love himself, then how can he give love to another. You see, if he doesn't love himself, he can't know true love of God. That can only be experienced, together. To do this men must be vulnerable with themselves and vulnerable with God. Share in the mystery of God's beauty and learn from his example as a Lover who is pursuing you with every fiber of his being. May that be your example, your template for being the Lover.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

This is not the time... FbG5

"The Lord will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies."

Isaiah 42:13

Does this not speak to you men in some way? Maybe on the surface, maybe deep down. I'm not sure how it speaks to me. I guess part of that confusion stems from the notion that I have, during my entire life, been told of how passive and meek Jesus/God is. He is an entity of peace and calmness. We are always told not to fight, not to be aggressive with people around us. But as men, as warriors, we are made to fight. We are made to have passions and to let them be expressed. Instead, we are told that good Christian little boys don't get angry, they don't feel anything beyond love, peace, joy and happiness. I'm sorry, those people that have built that paradigm are wrong. It says so right up there.

Throughout the Old Testament there are multiple figures that are chosen by God, given the Spirit of the Lord and have gone to battle. Othniel, Gideon, Jepthah and David to just name a few. A key point here though, is that they were given the Spirit of the Lord. Outside of that, they were nothing. Take Sampson for example. Who was he when he wasn't the strong Sampson we think of? We see this fight in our everyday lives. I believe men try to capture this idea of the fighting and being warrior in sports. By watching sports we vicariously participate in a gladitorial type system of defeating those us. I don't believe that is a good thing. The reason that John Eldredge promotes for why we must fight, why we must be warriors is spiritual. "Our God is a warrior because there are certain things in life worth fighting for, must be fought for. He makes man a warrior in his own image, because he intends for man to join him in that battle." We are meant to be warriors with a conscience and a purpose. We are fighting for something. Not just for ourselves.

We are given the opportunity to be warriors ever day and beyond that, many times within every day. But we run. We hide. We are passive and it is passivity that kills the warrior, not the scars we acquire through battle. Suffering, for some of us a mainstay, is experienced as a result of not being willing to fight. For many of us, we choose not to recognize when the battle cry is being made. We choose to hide our heads in the sand before the battle lines are even made. In this way, evil is allowed to win almost without even trying. And it is a choice. Each warrior makes a cognitive choice to turn and flee. Why do you make those choices though? I believe this builds off all the previous stages and how men are wounded. We aren't taught or shown how to fight nor how to have the courage to even don the armor. As Eldredge says, "Passivity has no place in the lexicon of true masculinity. None. And to overcome passivity, God has set his warrior heart in every man."

So how is the warrior made? Through hardship. Through trials and tribulations. By proving that he can and will overcome the evil that is so pervasive in every moment of every day, that is how a warrior trains. Discipline. Training. Every experience in life can be seen as training for the day when the skills are needed. When the passion and the adventure come together to serve a purpose. It is through the training and the discipline that the passions are harnessed and allowed to manifest deep within ourselves so as not to be deterred from our mission, from our purpose.

How then, is a warrior unmade? Abandonment. By not having a purpose. Eldredge says that a warrior is wounded when there is "no king to give his allegiance to and no cause to fight for." My questions then are; what am I fighting for? Who is my king? What is worth shedding my blood, both spiritual and physical? How am I a warrior every minute of my day? Because when I do find things that begin to boil my blood, I need to be ready to fight with everything I have. I believe this concept speaks directly to what Paul meant by saying, "fight the good fight."