Archive for April, 2014
Any good chef will tell you that the best produce and spices are the freshest and closest to the actual farm they came from. Local seasonal produce organically raised and carefully farmed is always the best way. The problem is that limits the chef and requires the skill level to be higher. If I have it mass produced, chemically enhanced, and flown in from all over the world, it is easier to make but the sacrifice in quality is not always worth it. I might even say it is rarely if ever worth it. Fast food sacrifices health and flavor for convenience. More time does really give more time.
I saw a man coming out of the grocery store the other day that was at least 150lbs overweight. He was wearing a t shirt advertising the show The Walking Dead. I couldn’t help but see the irony. I don’t know this man’s background or circumstance and no judgment is meant but the combination of things typifies our world. Give me more and faster so I can have it now even if it is not better.
It didn’t use to be this way. Farmers were farmers because they needed the food long before it became a profession. Open trade within a community offered variety and the hunter gatherer mentality remained to add spice and unique flavors to food. The primal nature of the process produced the goodness and developed the communal aspect. Our desire to make the process produce more and faster has limited this greatly and reduced the value of what we achieved.
Last year I toyed with the notion of starting my own garden and this season I planted it and am working through the growth curve of becoming a farmer on a small scale. This process has been amazing on multiple levels and taught me many things. The first is peace. There is an almost zen aspect to the art of cultivating and tending your own garden. It requires finesse and planing as well as hard work and strength. Plants grow with a desire to reach the sun and produce beauty before they produce fruit. The process of flowering produces the ability to grow fruit and the cycle itself takes time. It can not be rushed.
Our world moves faster and faster each day with the false assumption that greater speed gives more value. In a practical economical model it does, but that does not apply to spirituality, theology, and philosophy. Regardless of your background and or inclination on whether God exists and created us, your answer can not be something that is rushed to or presented to you by a preset conclusion from somewhere else. It needs to be explored through time. As a pastor, I have met many people that want to adopt what I teach whole heartedly but later change their mind. Rushing to a conclusion does not give value.
There is something primal about farming. There is something connecting. There is appreciation. When you order from a restaurant your appreciation is related to the bill. When you buy at a supermarket, your appreciation is based upon the sales and quality. When you grow it, it is based upon your efforts. I believe that we are created beings by a magnanimous God who shows his love daily in many ways. That is so easy to forget in daily life but so easy to see when you are looking through your garden for dinner. Food is not a right, it is far more a luxury than we admit. Having to work to get it, and then work to ensure it tastes good by finding the seasonings and spices and each individual part gives you a new perspective on appreciation.
Meals at one time were a family pursuit. It was a place for the family to connect. They all took part in making sure the meal was available plentifully and that it taste good. When your efforts truly connect to the product delivered with the intention of sustaining life for your family, your perspective changes.
One of the most stunning things you see is the clearest evidence of an intelligent design. I am not offering a polemic for the current theory as much as the concept. The earth used is a mixture of light rocks, decaying leaves and bark, and aged animal dung. Place a dormant seed from a previous version of the plant into it, add water and sunlight, and watch it become alive and grow food to keep you alive. Somehow relegating that to mere chance seems more of a fantasy than a being we can not see.
The overall process seems so interconnected. The planting and maintaining requires energy that is replaced by the product of the work and the outcome of the work provides a peaceful state that rejuvenates rather than drains. For me as a Christian, I can’t help see hope and love that directs me to a God that cares for me. Somehow the experience transcends the muck and connects with the Divine. That alone is enough reason to farm.
When I was in Seminary I was approached by a fellow student who had heard me offering an opposing view in class. He quickly asked me a straightforward question. Would I consider myself a three or a five point Calvinist? I was on my way to the restroom in between classes and was really not looking to discuss Calvinist Theology at the time. I responded by rattling out an answer that was neither of his preset choices and not something that fit his paradigm. He began to follow me into the restroom and debate his view against my statement through the stall door. Taking the socially awkward moment even a step further, he began to get agitated that I was clearly not giving his argument my full attention. All I could remember thinking was “This guy is in my next class so at least we will be late together.”
As inelegant as this persons methods were, his motive were pure. He thought there was something wrong with my belief structure that would hinder my relationship with God. He wanted to correct that. Unfortunately no matter how pure his motives, his actions were indefensible and rude. With that being the case I have to wonder what value he ever thought he would gain. I am taken back regularly when I see the actions of the modern church resemble this persons’ tactics greatly.
One of the largest questions in our country today is marriage equality. The LGBT society is looking to secure an equal footing in the area of marriage. Their focus is based upon human and national rights that they feel are not being given them based upon that issue. The church is responding by telling them they are wrong and marriage is about one man plus one woman. The LGBT community is responding by saying the Church is full of hypocrites and haters. Can you think of a more awkward and inelegant conversation? How do human and national rights have anything to do with marriage and how does the Church feel it can respond to this concern with a calculation? Why can’t there be conversation that leeds to a supportive agreement? Oh, I remember now, the Bible defines marriage specifically. But does it?
When the Biblical passages on marriage were written, marriage was a social construct with the intent on preserving the family through progeny. The multiplication of workforce was the added benefit that made fertility the focus in marriage. This included marrying within your family if possible to ensure the family line. I am not saying there was not love, but that was clearly not the focus. There were many instances of multiple wives and incest based upon today’s standards. Is this really what we are using to proclaim God’s message about modern marriage? I understand how we would use it to proclaim that message within the body of Christ, but why are we doing it outside that body? If people don’t want the relationship with God that we are presenting, why are we holding them accountable to the standards of that relationship?
The modern family is a social microcosm that is far different than anything this world has ever seen. Our structured understanding that we would want to see in the Bible comes from 20th century Americana and not the Biblical text. Families don’t look like the Cleavers anymore and we should not expect that to be the goal. I am a single parent of a 14 year old that is not my son. I am a bald tattooed biker freak who has security following him because of profiling far too often. The Cleavers would consider calling social services on me rather than calling me and my nephew a family. Does that mean we are any less? Where does the church get the right to make a decision what is a family? I am not removing any of their authority to make statements within the body of Christ but doing so for the world is backwards.
It would seem to me that the church should be understanding this and supporting unique family structures if that is where people are finding peace. Are we really saying the love of Christ can’t permeate those bonds? If we truly believe that our God is the Almighty, graceful, loving, and forgiving, how can we not stand for justice even at our own detriment? If people we disagree with want to live their beliefs, why not let them? Why not help them? Why not encourage them to experience God? Do we not believe that God will break down the barriers and communicate himself to them? I can not save anyone. You can not save anyone. Only God can. So why do we spend so much time trying to do it for him?
We sing songs that cry out “If God be for us who can be against us”. If we truly believe this, why do we need the world to do things our way? And why are we so willing to tell people that they are wrong for doing the best they know how to. I am not advocating we baptize the behavior into Christianity but to stop it from happening before the people want to be Christians is just wrong. I am really tired of hearing people fight and argue about rights when we are referring to how people have sex, watch movies, cohabit, and exist. We are not preserving God’s justice but we very well maybe inhibiting his love. Are we afraid if we let people be who they are we will somehow look bad ourselves? If we truly believe in the forgiveness of God, why are we so afraid if our intention is to serve God by loving his people? Cant we maintain our beliefs without trashing someone else’s?
If Christ were here in the flesh now, would he be acting like our churches are or would he be talking to people instead of at them? I think he would be the first to say that using politics to pursue an agenda in the name of God is wrong. How will people ever change if we don’t give them enough room to want to? How will we ever be able to tell people about the love of God if we are too busy telling people how wrong they are? If we truly believe that God loves all, shouldn’t we be willing to prove that by doing it ourselves? If the only thing stopping us is our own moral code we are afraid to cross, we need to rethink it with Christ code and love others even to the point of loss of ourselves. I don’t have have any respect for a person who just knows the answer, but a person who knows the answer and is willing to back it up by action has my undying respect. I think God would agree. No, that is wrong, I know he would.
It is a single moment in time that all too often changes the world. It can be quiet or cataclysmic, profound or mundane, but our reaction to it determines our direction and builds a pathway into our future.That pathway may be completely separate from the actual event but will trace back to it somehow even though we may not know how. The event itself is less important but our reaction to it is key to our behavior and future self so responding in the best way seems obvious but is much harder than it seems. Frequently we choose to follow instinct rather than use instinct as the tool it was intended to be. One of the most common instincts is fear.
The Limbic System in the brain contains the Amygdala. This area acts like a filter for the stimuli that comes in and funnels the information to the appropriate bodily areas for response through aggression or fear. Anthropologists feel fear is the oldest emotional response that goes back to the evolutionary stages of man. Although the Neuroscience and Anthropology is interesting, the conclusions are a bit of a stretch and more importantly the learned behavioral actions of the process pay a much larger role. Two people can respond to the same stimuli differently. The patterns of behavior suggest that the how of fear is less important than the why. Some people fear heights and others do not, some fears snakes and others do not. The stimuli of the height or the snake are the same for both but the circumstances surrounding the why are different. Fear is the reaction to the stimuli due to the learned behavior of the past circumstances. It is not a genetic trait but moreover a physical tool.
Fear is the catalyst for revolution in the moment of revelation. It is the cosmic “Oh Crud” factor. It is a biochemical response to external stimuli. We let it become a motivating factor in our decisions rather than use it to create better decision making. We fear the unseen rather than seeing what we should fear and avoiding it. We let it control us rather than using it as a tool to control our circumstances.
Fear comes in all flavors but for conversation purposes can be broken down into a simple causal factor. Freud noticed the first instance of fear a person has is separation from their mother. I think he began to go pretty south after that point but realistically started with a key idea. Fear begins with the recognition of separation from something we want. The idea is simple, we understand loss and it sucks so we want to limit it as much as possible. The reaction to anticipated loss is fear. This manifests itself in all forms of loss. Whether it is loss of items, health, relationships, life, status, etc., the reaction to this anticipated loss is fear. In reality, if we had no concerns or problems with loss, we would never fear.
The problem is no matter who we are, we will at some point in time, and some place experience loss. We cannot avoid it. Expecting that we accept the loss without regret or problem is unrealistic and frankly unhealthy. The real challenge is managing the tolerance for loss. How much do we fear things that really should be no concern and no long term value? If I am walking across the street and a bus comes at me at full speed, the anticipate loss of health and or life should cause me to get out of the street and protect myself. However if the news tells me that a major earthquake is anticipated in the future but that could mean days, weeks, years, decades, or centuries away, should that really cause fear? The anticipation of loss should be negligible and not something I need to plan for. The specifics of circumstances are less relevant than the perspective. Are we really willing to allow the anticipation of possibilities to control our actions.
The fear itself should be healthy and protective but the reaction to it can be and usually is unhealthy and in some cases can be deadly. The irony is that the reaction to fear can cause worse problems than the loss or separation that is feared. If a person overeats or smokes due to anxiety and fear, the physical problems will be much worse than anything they fear. In order to be healthy, we need to control the response to the stimuli causing the fear.
What is the value of protecting a dollar and losing a thousand? What is the value of protecting a moment in a relationship but losing the relationship? How can we get to the place where fear is managed like the tool it is? Simple really, we need to stop worrying about the loss and accept it as part of life. This includes appreciating the things we have while we have them. The list of items we own is worthless if we do not have time to appreciate them. The amount of money in the bank is worthless if all it does is make money for the bank. The number of friends we have is meaningless if the relationships are founded on shallow purposes. The need to accumulate spawns the need to protect and the desire to fear.
If we control our expectations by appreciating what we have while we have it then losing it will only be a step in a new direction. Fearing the loss will be meaningless if the loss is understood as part of the journey and the lack of fear will give us the ability to appreciate it all the more. The apparent circuity makes far more sense than we want it to. The only thing it depends on is our willingness to let go.