Election Fervor

Following the election has often been like sports to me. I like keeping up with the pundits, the bloggers, the polls, the strategies, and more. Even as I am fascinated by this game, I am concerned that we might take it a bit too seriously. The psalmist continually reminds us to trust in the Lord not in the strength of the horse or the arm of man.

We have such confidence in systems and structures that are mere illusions of power. Jacques Ellul studied the political history of France and wrote a book questioning political power called The Political Illusion. He suggests that as people begin trusting political power as their source of hope there is a tendency toward centralization of power which ultimately takes power away from the people.

Ellul refers to himself as a Christian Anarchist. In 1987, Vernard Eller developed Ellul’s ideas in a book entitled Christian Anarchy. This book is published online in its entirety and is worth reading. I am still processing their ideas, and they challenge many basic assumptions of modern Evangelicals, but these are ideas worth wrestling with even if you may not fully agree.

Regardless of who you support or oppose in this upcoming election, I would argue that your future has virtually nothing to do with leader of this nation compared with the Creator of this world.

What is a Hero?

Last weekend I saw the movie Hero. Following the innovative storytelling techniques of Akira Kurosawa, Hero explores the multi-faceted mystery in the stories of this world. We think we understand so much, and we fall so short. In some ways, this film makes me think of the Eastern Orthodox notions of apophatic and cataphatic. The cataphatic is our attempt to make sense of God and the world around us. It is the way we categorize and label and explain. But the apophatic is direct encounter and it always shatters our cataphatic illusions. This film takes on our illusions of a Hero and forces us to question what is a Hero?

The Hero of Christianity is a big loser. Despised and rejected by everyone–even his closest friends. Are we willing to embrace the way of a hero or do we simply want to be perceived as heroes? And do we even really know who we are and what role we are playing in this world.

Beautiful film.

I've Never Been to Europe

I’ve never traveled across the mysterious wall of China, walked through the ancient streets of Poland, or even pilgrimaged to the home of my Celtic forefathers in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. I have not seen the land some call holy because it is ground that Jesus walked upon, or spent a silent retreat among the Orthodox monks in St. Anthony’s monastery, or even toured the stunning cathedrals of Europe. And I may never do any of these things.

Just because I’ve never traveled to these and other exotic places doesn’t mean that somehow my life has been incomplete. There is more mystery and wonder in the person at my side than all the wonders of this world combined. The question is, “Will I ever truly face that person and behold the wonder?” Or will I rush past them on my way to the next exciting destination, or the next big event, or the next educational degree?

Will I ever pause long enough to lift my wondering eyes in gratitude and praise for the glory that surrounds me, or will I simply continue striving to find the next place or thing or experience that will somehow make my life complete?

By soaking in the poetry and other writings of my Celtic fathers, I’ve come to see the value of place. As Bobi Jones says, “Come, breezes breath, that I may praise the places I have loved so dearly, a nook here and there…” I could learn more about the glory and wonder of my Creator by contemplating the little dogwood in my front yard than by traveling around the world.

The Celts were not against pilgrimage. In fact, they encouraged it! But they pointed out that you cannot go to Rome to find Jesus if you don’t bring him with you. And this is the fundamental mystery with which we strive.

We strive and struggle and search for things and experiences that will give our lives significance. But traveling the world or earning multiple degrees will not make the half-hearted man whole. I wonder how often our lack, our emptiness, or our longing for significance fuels our ministries, our studies, our pilgrimages, and even our relationships?

Jesus tells his friends, “Abide in me, rest in me, dwell in me.” He did not tell them to achieve this and that, build this and that, accomplish this and that and soon you’ll feel like your life means something. He reversed it: rest first; abide first. Realize that significance comes from outside yourself, from the unending lovingkindness of the Creator. His superabundant love gives us value and significance.

As I come to realize that place I am standing is holy, then I pause from my fruitless pursuit for importance. In this rest rooted in God’s grace, my actions are no longer motivated by taking (taking love, taking power, taking significance) but on giving. I can act in love—both when all eyes are upon and when no one notices me.

This frees me to be completely present in the moment—whether I’m mowing the lawn or exploring the Russian countryside.

Smile

All afternoon I’ve been smiling. Brian Wilson finally completed his legendary album, Smile. All afternoon I listened over and over and over. Delightful!

The music world has been waiting almost 40 years for this album. Wilson started it in the 60s, but eventually abandoned the project. For years he wouldn’t even discuss it. But finally, this treasure has been completed and released. The story behind this long wait is worth reading.

Listening to the music stirred a range of emotions from laughter to tears. While I cannot fully explain the reasons for my response, I know that it brings to mind the hope and wonder of the 60s. I know some people think of the 60s as a time of rebellion and even consider a dark time when the cultural norms began to disintegrate. My sister and I have very different emotions.

We were young children in the 60s; she was born in 62 and I born in 64. The chaotic music, fashion, and energy of the 60s provided the background for our ealiest memories. The music of that era has a mythic quality for us, and I cannot help but hear with a sense of longing for innocence. So in some ways, my experience is completely reverse. I realize the darkness and light of that period cannot be confused with any true state of innocence, but it stirs something within me that longs for reality that is purer and truer than anything I’ve seen on this earth. I think all people sense this longing, but different things may trigger it. For me, one trigger is the jubilant harmonies of Brian Wilson.

“Smile” journeys across the mytho-poetic landscape of the American storyfrom the Pilgrims to the Wild West to the infamous Chicago fire to the beaches of southern California or Hawaii. What an wonder-filled journey!

Thanks Brian.