New year, new resolutions. For some reason this year I have heard more talk about resolutions than years past. The conversation has not been about what resolutions folks are making but rather why they don’t work and how you can make them work. I don’t remember that conversation happening last year or the years before. Multiple podcasts and blogs that I read have covered the topic this year. I usually enter a new year with new resolutions for my life. I also usually fail them by the end of January. Should we make new years resolutions?
I have known so many people over the years who were turned off from Christianity or were deeply hurt by Christians and lost their faith over it. Recently I have been thinking about what happens when Christians fail those around them. Part of it is because of high profile cases of Christian leaders failing those they serve very publicly and some of it is because of personal experiences. I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago aimed at Christians who have been hurt by their brothers or sisters in the faith or by the Church itself. While I was writing that, I realized it did not really address those who do not consider themselves Christian but who have also been hurt. This is my attempt to start a conversation with those folks.
There is a lot of hurt and pain in the world. In my opinion, Christianity should be a place of healing, wholeness, and forgiveness for that hurt and pain. Unfortunately this is often not the case. I can’t even count the number of people I have encountered in the last twenty years who had deep wounds caused by those who wear the name “Christian.” Lately I have been thinking about this and pondering what message might be helpful to my fellow Christians who have experienced pain at the hands of their brothers or sisters in the Church or the organization of the Church. I am not sure I have any easy answers or the perfect answer but read on if you want my perspective.
“Come with me if you want to live.” A famous line from one of my favorite franchises growing up. Terminator brought the fear of artificial intelligence taking over the world into the mainstream. It became so ubiquitous with the thought that even broaching the topic will bring the obligatory “Skynet!” response. If you have followed any media in recent years, you have likely seen a few stories  Check out Elon Musk, Steven Hawking, and Bill Gates on the topic or for a funnier take look at Flight of the Conchords take; warning there are some curse words in that last one about popular science and tech minds decrying the danger of artificial intelligence. Recently I watched a video that has me thinking about completely unintentional consequences when it comes to AI which may be more scary and no one is talking about them.
Fasting has become a hot topic lately. Several diet fads have popped up that include some sort of fasting. Friends of mine a little over a year ago began fasting one day a week following one of these diets. Lately the idea of “intermittent fasting” has caught on. Fasting has been around a long time and practiced among many spiritual traditions for millennia. Today’s fad of fasting is slightly different than the practices of old though. These fads are for the goal of losing weight and overall physical health, but the ancient practice is usually for spiritual growth.
Many things have been written about worship over the ages. Worship is a topic close to the human heart. Every religion that I can think of have rituals or practices that can be described worship, or at least reverence, toward spiritual power beyond our understanding. Much of the Jewish scriptures focus on the correct worship of the creator of all things and how often humanity gets it wrong. I have been studying the topic of worship lately in preparation for preaching on the topic and wanted to share an ancillary thought from my reflections.
Lately I have noticed a trend in our culture that has bothered me. Everyone seems so certain about everything all the time. People on both sides of the political aisle state their opinions with such certainty in order to garner confidence from their base. News media state “facts” with such certainty they malign the real story with unnecessary spin in order to gain more viewers or readers. All this certainty leaves me feeling very alone. There is little I am absolutely certain about.
If you get to know me well enough, you’ll learn that I am a highly anxious person. I over analyze everything and work myself into worrying about things I shouldn’t worry about. It seems like this reality is normative for more and more people these days, or at least more folks are talking about it. Our culture seems to be stuck in the minutia and building anxiety off the narcissism of minutia.
Recently I read a book by Mark Manson which sat at the top of the New York Times best seller list and sold millions of copies. The title is enough to make the more innocent blush so I won’t mention it. Mark is a writer who is simultaneously offensive and incredibly meaningful all at the same time. Manson is not a Christian writer, I have no idea of spiritual beliefs, but his book resonated with many spiritual truths I have contemplated in years past. Continue reading “Grasping at Anxiety”
Part 4: Selflessness
Life is full of ups and downs spiritually. I have experienced times of great growth and times of stagnation and depression. One vivid memory of mine is during one of the times of great growth. I remember being so excited about loving and helping others that one day I came out of my apartment in San Jose, CA and saw an older woman struggling to get grocery bags out of her car. Without even thinking about it, I jumped into action and helped her carry everything to her apartment. When I was done, I jumped into my car and began to drive to the ministry school I was attending at the time. I began to feel proud of myself. While I sat in traffic I recognized what I had done and how purely selfless it was. My sinfulness began to creep in and I immediately wanted to tell everyone about how wonderful I was that morning. A moment of genuine selflessness was perverted by a deeper pervading narcism and pride.
Part 3: Community
When I was a kid my best friend lived around the block from me and I would wander to his house almost every day and see if he was available to play. Of course on the days that he beat me to it and showed up on my doorstep I was saved the two hundred yard walk. The streets of my neighborhood growing up were filled with children. We often played baseball, basketball, street hockey and football in the streets. We rode our bikes for miles to gather in larger groups and organize bigger games in parks. None of it was “official” or sanctioned by any professional association. We had no coaches or referees.