Who am I?

Who am I?

My things? My skills? My occupation? My music? My name?

I have become none of these things.

I have long struggled with the all-struggle; my identity.  For years I sought to become who others were. Most of my young teen years were spent hoping I was in, but knowing I was so far, far out. I was so desperate for that attention, yet so weak I mostly just shied away from the in crowd, instead of taking the risk of embarrassment to fit in. I needed to be something to someone, and no one had any interest.

I was never the best looking guy. Never was the best athlete. I was pretty smart, that I’ll give myself, but by the time it mattered (to whoever it’s supposed to matter to), I didn’t give a shit. I spent many years pining after one, or two of the same girls, to constantly be rejected. I spent many years pining after the attention of older, cooler, kids, to mostly be ignored. I spent many years feeling alone, and ignoring myself.

When I reached my later teen years, I found my identity in me being different. I searched high and low for the most obscure music, books, comics, and video games. I would talk endlessly about poetry, and music, to people that I knew had no clue. I would never have admitted that, but I began to identify myself by the differences I had with people, and those differences made/ke me feel good. Really good. That fact that I knew who Death Cab for Cutie was in 2005, made me feel special, and forced people to pay attention to the differences I held with them. The fact that I read the Walking Dead before it was ever even an idea for a TV show, forced people to pay attention to me. Because I let them know.

I didn’t do these things because I wanted to be different (I already was), but because I wanted to be known, and no one knew me, nor (it seemed) cared to.

I spent years becoming an arrogant, sarcastic, really-bad-at-being-stoic stoic, and probably ruined a lot of relationships I could have had.

But my identity was always in crisis. Regardless of the years I had/ve spent crafting this person I am today, I still doubt many of my decisions every day. Every choice I’ve ever made since I began making ones that matter have been for the benefit of others, in a bad way. While I know that all these decisions were so my thirst to be known by others could be sated, it is still terrifying to look back and see all of the “me that could have been.”

All these things began to rise to the surface when I started going to therapy on a regular basis. My intense need to be understood, to be known, to know I’m loved. I never truly felt/feel that. And it makes living hard.

A few weeks ago I was reading a chapter out of Henri Nouwen’s collection of teachings Spiritual Direction, to the small group I’m a part of at my faith community. I hadn’t really prepared for it, I just decided I’d read something out of a book I kind of read,  but knew was good (based on other people’s descriptions). The chapter was on our identity. And who we are as people. And mostly, who we are not.

Jesus’ whole message is saying you are not what you have, nor what people say about you even when that’s important and even though it makes you suffer and even though it makes you happy, that is not who you are. I come, Jesus says, to reveal to you who you truly are. And who are you? You are a child of God. You are the one who I call my child. (Now, child doesn’t mean little child, child means son or daughter.) You are my son, you are my daughter – Nouwen

What I took away from this chapter was this:

I am not my things.

I am not my skills.

I am not my occupation.

I am not my music.

I am not my name.

What I am is Beloved of YHWH.

When the Creator, the Great Spirit, Wakhan Tahnka, Ngalyod, or whatever other names of God we have, looks at me, s/he sees beauty. It takes convincing, and I’m still not convinced, but s/he sees the most beautiful creation that has ever been made. I am the beloved of the Creator, and s/he loves me. More than any other can love me. And s/he knows me. More than any other can know me. And s/he understands me. More than any other can understand me.

And s/he loves you. More than any other can love you. And s/he knows you. More than any other can know you. And s/he understands you. More than any other can understand you.

And you are beloved of the Creator. And in all your struggles, and in mine, for searching who we are, or believing we’ve found it, it is always hardest to fall back on this simple reminder.

You are loved.

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I’m Sorry, Christian, But You Don’t Get to Make That Move

Rumblings

I have a bone to pick with Christians this morning. Not allChristians. Not even themajorityof Christians in my (limited) circles. Not by a long shot. No, my concernis with a smaller subset of Christians that tend to make a disproportionate amount of noise. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of conversations with Christian people about the Syrian refugee crisis. I’ve observed a lot of reaction and response from Christian people online. And I’ve noticed some of these Christian brothers and sisters buying into thefear and the hysteria that attempts to convince us that we need to keep our nation’s doors resolutely closed to refugees from this part of the world.

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Vous êtes mon Coeur

I love the band Gungor. Their latest music specifically, challenging some core theologies of the Christian orthodoxy. However one of their older songs, not necessarily my favorite, recently spoke to me. The song is “You are my heart”, title in french, Vous êtes mon coeur. It’s quiet, beautiful and is essentially a conversation between Yeshua and his lover.

I’ve heard this song a million times. But when Deep Green Resistance recently posted a status update about courage, I got to thinking. The root for courage is in fact the word coeur or heart. I tend to think simple things are incredibly brilliant, and this is one of them. I thought about having courage, to do the work of the Messiah, and when I thought about it this way it was different for me. Not just “having heart” like some losing football team, who, believing they can win, suddenly pulls ahead with a hail Mary pass or something. But having the Heart.

The Great Spirit of YHWH is within us. When Yeshua Messiah tells us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, he was speaking of loving him, as opening ourselves up to accepting his ruach, to come into us, fill us with the same coeur as himself, and bring us into community with others of the same spirit/ruach/mind. That is not all however.

Yeshua Messiah did not just come to save us, and give us power to help ourselves, and our communities. He gave us the courage to withstand the Empire, and to fight injustice just as he did. We are to be followers of his way, to be “after his own Heart.” Our courage is one of resistance, and one of community, giving, and Love.

When I consider the being of one mind as our pastor at Circle of Hope recently spoke about, I think the heart is of the same context. Being courageous together, standing together, as sisters and brothers in the Messiah, with our communities, and our poor neighbors, and our oppressed brothers and sisters around the world, we are not to sit idly by. We are not to passively condemn injustice (guilty), but to stand out amongst our communities, to be courageous as was Yeshua. To be full of his heart, to be full of his strength, and fight the injustice that we know should be fought.

Jesus bar Abbas: A revolutionary

The similarities are striking. Many, if not all, Christians know of Barabbas as the murderer released on the Passover, (as per tradition), in replace of the Governor Pontius Pilate’s first choice, Jesus. However, what many do not as readily know, is the strange, almost intentional, similarities between Jesus and Barabbas.

Fight the Power...or don't.
Fight the Power…or don’t.

Not much is known of Barabbas, however, in Mark 15:7 it tells us exactly who he was; [he] was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. Barabbas was not just a common criminal, or violent murderer as we are often told, and as so many people have been led to accept. Barabbas was actually a revolutionary. A zealot, who stood up for his people against an oppressive government of racially biased, and wealth consumed, God-haters. One of Jesus’ own disciples, Simon, was a zealot before he became a follower of the Christ, and it’s quite possible he knew Barabbas. Even more possible, Barabbas may have known of Jesus, due to his reputation. But what we do know, is that Barabbas was a political prisoner of the Empire, caught during a riot, or an uprising, and sentenced to death for his “crimes.”

The similarities, to me, are far more than coincidence. Especially when you learn that many early manuscripts of Matthew, called Barabbas, Jesus bar Abbas. Quite literally “Jesus, son of the Father.” No, I think there is a lot to be grasped here.

When Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem on palm Sunday, the people were in love with him. He was a rockstar. He was their hero. They thought he was their king. Despite all of his riddles, and his teachings, they thought Jesus was the one who was going to physically remove the Romans from Palestine. But Jesus is a God-man of Peace.

He clearly taught these principles of non-violent, shame resistance, in response to the Empire, and its laws. When Jesus said if a man hits you on right cheek, turn to him your other, he wasn’t just saying “give him another shot.” The only way to hit a person on the right cheek was with your left hand, or the back of your right. And since the left was considered unclean, and would never be used for any social interaction (not even slaves), the backhand is most likely. Imagine how a backhand slap would be used. An insulting, and dishonoring way between a servant and his master, or a guard and his prisoner. Jesus was teaching us to not only resist retaliation, but force them to feel shame by committing this act again.

This is something that Barabbas did not understand. His violent uprising, alongside many in the Jewish nation, led to his committing murder in the name of justice, and eventually his arrest. I speculate that Simon was one of his cohorts in the past, and perhaps was a quick learner of Jesus, one who realized the real implications of murder, no matter what the reason. And due to his new found understanding, left the Zealot movement. Barabbas did not, and instead, continued on the path that led him to Pilate.

The people on palm Sunday did not, or could not, understand Jesus’ actual message. They wanted a Messiah who conquered, and reigned on a throne. Jesus is not that Messiah. They wanted a King who ruled, and ravaged their oppressors, and enemies. Jesus is not that king.

Give us Barabbas!
Give us Barabbas!

When Jesus was arrested by the Romans, I’m sure many Jews thought, this is the time he will rise. But Jesus chose no action. He chose non-resistance. He chose not to fight back, not to speak, and not to defend his actions. This was not the Messiah the Jews wanted. And they were angry. Many scholars say that the Pharisees planted people in that crowd, to use mob-psychology, and have Jesus crucified. I have come to think that the people who thought Jesus was a ruler, and a King, realized he wanted to be neither, and were angry. They saw their Messiah as failing them, perhaps even viewed Barabbas as a likely replacement, and demanded Jesus be executed.

The Jews had a choice.

A peace loving God-man, who chose a path of a wandering ascetic, teaching us how to love one another, healing the ill, and feeding the destitute. One who spent his days with drug-addicts, and homeless; spent his nights on dirt floors of strangers, and ate food he found in fields or from passersby. Yes he stood up against the oppressor, but not in a way that would immediately relieve the tyrannical grip of the Iron Empire.

Or a man, oppressed, angry, and indignantly justified, to fight back against the Romans. A man who stood up against the oppressor and did what was necessary, to free his people. A man who killed for his country. A man who stood for freedom, and justice, at the cost of murder, and violence.

And the oppressed people made the “obvious choice.”

This brief study for me has reinforced the message of passive resistance to violence, and an informed resistance against the Empire and it’s war-fighters. It has reinforced my belief, that the Empire of man will always choose the violent path, be it for justice, or wealth, or any reason you may find. No matter the reason, mankind will desire Barabbas, because they do not see Jesus as relevant, or strong. They do not understand that peacemaking, and peace-keeping, are more powerful weapons against the enemy than any drone, and more effective than any nuclear weapon. Justified, violent resistance is often a reaction in both personal, and national mindset. But as Followers of the One, Jesus, we must heed his call to peace making. Jesus is not a wide cast net. His message will not change the system from above. It changes the foundation, one brick at a time.

A Jesus Response to Racial Violence

Loudly. Jesus would have responded loudly. Perhaps yelled, indignant thrashing of inanimate objects with a stick, or maybe a bull-whip. Who knows?

Found this on a blog that no one should ever visit.
Found this on a blog that no one should ever visit.

We as people who understand Jesus, know that his life was one of a roving radical. Against all odds, against all empire, Jesus stood for justice, and peace. In the face of the absolute chaos of a civilized, and orderly, empire of religious structure, racial tension, and radical violence, Jesus stood out, and he stood out loudly.

Jesus spoke out against the evils of the day using riddles, and confounding the rulers of Palestine; he broke the “law,” while being perfect, entirely fulfilled the Law. He healed, and fed the poor and destitute, and demanded his true followers follow in suit. However, he also knew of the heart, and the brokenness of the world. He knew that the only change that could come about in a damaged, civilized, entirely destructive culture, was his ministry of Love.

photo credit: Joshua Grace www.ghostridethewhip.wordpress.com
photo credit: Joshua Grace
http://www.ghostridethewhip.wordpress.com

As I mull over these ideas, I think this is how we ought to react as Jesus followers in a nation where Jesus isn’t even the last thought on many “Christians” minds. We need, of COURSE, to react to these events in protests, demanding legislation, and demanding recompense for the evil done by the broken; while at the same time expressing our forgiveness, and love for the evildoer as well. But Jesus also knew that demanding change from a system, does not change make. The system will always be broken. We may change legislation every 4 years, and still in ten centuries, have a destructive, and racially biased society. What needs to change is the heart.

Jesus is the only Water that can open the crusted, and dried seed of the broken human heart; and Jesus is the only Light that can blossom that seedling into something beautiful. No matter how broken, how evil, how encrusted in racism, oppressive behavior, or violence, or Nationalism, or even Christianity, Jesus can break through.

The system must change, and we as Jesus followers must attempt, and work, to change it, however, the system will not save the heart of a person to whom the system oppresses, or protects. Jesus needs to be the lens through which we make the change, and should always remain our main focus. We need to ensure that when we make these changes, the people who are being affected know why. Not because what is acceptable, or not acceptable needs to change. But because we want people to see Justice, and Peace, and know Jesus through it.

Without Jesus, change just falls through the hole in the pocket of society. Without Jesus, good, honest, and Just legislation, just crumbles. Without Jesus any good we do, is just good enough. Real change is through Jesus’ Love, work, and peace.

Or at least that’s what I think. What do you think?

Jesus loves Darren Wilson

In the rising tsunami of peaceful protests, violent riots, and town hall meetings, one thing has become clear. People hate Darren Wilson. Every single day Facebook is chock-full of photos, articles, and videos, about the pre-present-post shooting of Mike Brown, and the villianization of his murderer. The things seen are sometimes disturbing, going places I can’t imagine. The problem then spreads like a plague.

Justice is not always what we think it is.
Justice is not always what we think it is.

When followers of Jesus see injustice, and oppression, we often feel obligated to rise to the support of the hurting. Racial injustice in this world is scary, and followers of Jesus often feel the hurt with the oppressed just as Jesus did in his day. But the love of Jesus does not spread to the oppressed alone. While it is imperative that we focus our efforts on the hurting, we need to realize, that the physically hurting, and oppressed, are not the only people who have pain. Often the oppressor is hurting and oppressed in their own way, in their heart.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. When his followers attempt such, we should not discriminate. One way, or the other. If we are to stand with the oppressed, we need to love the oppressor, which is what Jesus specifically demanded.

Whether or not you see Darren Wilson’s murder of Mike Brown justified based on the prior circumstances; or if you see Darren Wilson’s murder of Mike Brown as a heinous act of racial injustice, one thing you may not do, is hate him.

As Jesus followers, we are required to love Darren Wilson. His soul is in pain just as Mike Brown’s was, just as the Parents of Mike Brown are hurting. Darren Wilson’s murder was a result of an ingrained, system that has been in development for thousands of years. What he did is nothing new, and will never be old. But we need to ensure Wilson and other police ‘murderers,’ receive love, and forgiveness, just as Jesus loved and forgave his murderers.

As a follower of Jesus, I have decided to forgive Wilson, and others like him, for what they have done, regardless of how painfully horrible what they have done was.

Jesus wants people like Darren Wilson in the Kingdom of God, and we as Jesus Followers better damn sure want the same.