Monday, April 14, 2014

Pondering the Old Testament

Reading the Old Testament is an exercise that raises lots of questions for any reader. It is a complicated, multi-genred collection of books that carries a raw and beautiful story that must be understood at 50,000 feet and where the feet hit the ground.

The question I pondered this morning was why there are so many ups and downs in the life course of God's people. Why not a simple, "God wins and we all go home" story? Instead we get: Sometimes things are good; sometimes things are bad. They are victors. They are losers. They are good. They are bad. They are faithful. They are faithless. They are kind. They are ruthless.

It was when I listed these things above that I realized two things:
1) It is easy for me to relate, in principle, to so much of the inconsistency of God's people in the Old Testament. When I become critical of the OT, I find that were I to hold myself to the standard I hold the text to, I find myself seriously inadequate. I could plot similar lines of ups and downs, successes and failures (big and small) in my life.

2) There is something in the story of God's people for everyone. It is not merely for the winners whose life seems to go well no matter what, it is also for the losers who can't get ahead to save their life. It is not only for the heroes who capture all the fame for their acts, but also for the nobodies who seemingly don’t accomplish much. Almost every Israelite is a nameless nobody, but is part of the story. The rock stars are complicated and flawed (Moses, Abraham, David), the wimps are elevated and also flawed(Gideon), and the generally unimportant matter.

I have had my fights with the Old Testament – perhaps you have had them as well. In fact, I hope you have. But for every part of the Old Testament I find difficult to reconcile (there are many), I find many more reasons to embrace it. I am grateful for a text of a people so generous to be as flawed as I am.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Grief is entering eternity piece by piece

In grief, there is no closure. There is no end. There is no coming to terms and there is no recovery. When someone who you let into your heart and let them tie strings between their heart and yours, who you allowed the psychological and spiritual privilege of connecting with you – when that person dies you do not recover. You never get back to where you were. In grief, you are forever different.

Those strings get pulled tight with one end of the string on this side of eternity and the other end of the string on the other end of eternity, only there is no way to fully or even faintly see what the other side is like. Those strings pull so tight wrapped around the heart it can feel like you’re carrying the weight of not only your life, but that of the other as well. In grief we try to live for two when we do not have the strength to live for one.

Ambiguity is as much a part of grief as pain. Knowing where the person you love is used to be easy. There they are. In loss they cannot be accessed in any way. It is not satisfying to gain logical truths about what the dead cannot do. Even if the mind can grasp permanent absence over time, the heart refuses to be convinced – because the heart believes there is life after death. The heart is right. The physical absence and psychological presence of those who have died creates incongruence between heart and mind. This ambiguity is difficult to reconcile and impossible to close. Closure is actually foreclosure on the heart. We are not successful in our grief to come to closure, but rather we are successful in our grief to hold together the seemingly impossible realities that this loved one is dead forever and also alive forever – forever.

The psychological and spiritual privilege you extended came with risk and in loss that risk is realized. It hurts like Hell. “I let you have a piece of my soul and when you died part of me died as well.” That pain is the evidence not of permanent loss, but rather of living in two worlds. The more people I love who die the more I am divided between here and there. Grief is entering into eternity piece by piece.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Grief Strings

People go about their lives tying strings to each other. From heart to heart strings are tied, some of them tied forever and some of them for a season and then untied. Sometimes the strings are cut and it hurts.

Really good people, the kind of people who have really figured out how to love, these people go about tying strings to the hearts of everyone they meet. They are contagious people who cannot help but be good to others. They have so many strings tied from their hearts to the hearts of others that their life is a web of connections that is dense and beautiful.

It is these beautiful webs of connection that help keep each other from plunging into the depths or falling off the edge. We need as many of these connections as we can get in our lives.

And then when we lose someone to death, it hurts so bad. The tug of those strings pulls tight and stretches our hearts until they bleed, and then more. We do not cut these strings in death. If we did we would not feel the pull. Instead, we feel the meaning and importance of the strings more in death than in life.

When someone dies and leaves from here to there, we do not lose connection; we maintain it. We feel the tug and pull and ache not because they are dead, but because they are more alive than we are. Everyone that goes on ahead of us is pulling us toward them. At the right time, whenever that is, we will join them.

Grief is the short time (even thought it never feels short – ever) that exists between the time we lose someone and the we join them.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Send Us To Kenya

Dear Family and Friends,                      "I already know I want to donate" - click here

Greetings! We pray that this letter finds you well. We are in our 4th year of living in Nashville and who would have dreamed so much would happen in four years? We have seen doors open that we never imagined and opportunities presented to us that were pleasantly unexpected.
We would like to share with you one of those opportunities and invite your support. We have an incredible opportunity to engage with an amazing organization in Kenya, Africa called, Made in the Streets MITS (www.madeinthestreets.org).

Context For The Trip
Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya and home to over three million people. It is a city of contrasts. It is both an economic center in the nation and at the same time home to thousands of children who are on the streets with no parents, no homes, and no hope. Most of these children are abused, hungry, and addicted to substances - glue sniffing is a pervasive and destructive problem for these children who live in the streets.
MITS is a child development program that uses a holistic approach to address the serious issue of child homelessness and the related problems of abuse and addiction. MITS reaches out to children who are still on the streets. They identify children who are ready to leave the street life and offer them something better. Once a child is taken off the street, their basic needs of food, water, shelter, and clothes are met first. As children are able and old enough, they are given incredible opportunities in education and learning trades such as auto mechanics, sewing, woodworking, catering, hairdressing, computers or farming.

How We Plan To Engage
            Engaging with MITS as a family is a rare and beautiful opportunity. There will be two kinds of engagement during this trip.
The first kind of engagement is the children who have been rescued off the streets. This trip is unique in that the plan for the trip is to engage the unique qualities and skills of the Americans with the unique qualities and skills of the Kenyans. Chris will engage in some staff training (and getting training from staff) on child development and will be exploring how Positive Youth Development might intersect with the work of the program. Gail and Sierra will engage in the young women learning to sewing and singing. Canaan will gravitate toward the farming and computers. 
The second kind of engagement will be with children on the streets of the Eastleigh Suburb of Nairobi. We will observe and even participate in the outreach work done in the streets is Eastleigh. So, in a sense, we will see both the challenge that exists in the streets as well as participate in the existing programs that address these challenges. 

How You Can Engage
We would love to have your support in any or all of the following three ways: Prayer, Financial, Social Media. You will see more details for each on the following page.
Our financial needs include airfare, ground travel, lodging, food, immunizations, passports and visas. For each of us, the cost is roughly three thousand dollars for a grand total of $12,000.
We depart July 15, 2014 and return July 30, 2014.

Peace,

Chris, Gail, Sierra & Canaan Gonzalez
Facebook: facebook.com/fajitaboy
Twitter: @fajitaboy


DONATE ONLINE:

DONATE WITH A CHECK:
PAY TO THE ORDER OF: Otter Creek Church of Christ
MEMO: MITS
STICKY NOTE: "Gonzalez"

Otter Creek Church of Christ
409 Franklin Rd.
Brentwood, TN 37027






Saturday, February 08, 2014

A Prayer for the Board of Trustees at Lipscomb University

 

Heavenly Father, Holy Spirit, Jesus, we come to you today grateful for your generosity in allowing us to breathe another day full of breath, for the privilege of being alive. We come grateful for the responsibility of being situated as leaders at Lipscomb University. You have positioned us to touch the lives of students, their families, their friends, their churches. Everything we do vibrates across hundreds or even thousands of relationships, plucking the tender and resilient strands that hold people together. Let us now take off our sandals, for you have placed us on holy ground.

As a Christian institution of higher learning located in Nashville, in Middle Tennessee, in the Southeast, in the United States, in the world we have the choice either to close ourselves off and protect ourselves from the world and culture that swirls about us or to engage this world and culture.

May we resist the temptation to disengage as the Essenes did finding comfort and identity in separating from the world about them, settling into an insular seclusion as though we can somehow be separate from anyone else.

May we resist the temptation to engage as the Pharisees did finding comfort and identity in judging the world about them, settling into self-righteousness and spiritual pride as though we could be spiritually superior to anyone else.

May we resist the temptation to engage as Rome did finding comfort and identity in lording over others with power and authority, settling into domination and oppression as though the power we have was meant to control others.

Instead, guide us as we engage this amazing world around us. We seek to follow the way of Christ as he engaged the world. Let us make an incarnational engagement with this place, with everyone we touch. Let us be fully in this world while not being of this world. Let us be generous like Jesus, giving ourselves away without losing ourselves. Let us be an aroma that promises delight and let us be the delight to the world that we promise to be. Let us change this place by goodness not force, by kindness not judgment, by connection not protection. Let every single thing we do leave a generous and unforgettable experience for this world to ponder.

With the responsibility and privilege we have been graciously given, we ask for boldness. May we be bold. Truly bold. Not the imposing boldness that flows from arrogance, not the flailing boldness that comes from desperation, not the explosive boldness that ignites from anger, but rather the generous and engaging boldness that can only exude from humility.

With the responsibility and privilege we have been graciously given, we ask for wisdom. May we be wise in leveraging our collective experiences, wounds, successes, failures, skills, talents, deficiencies and personalities for the benefit and blessing of the world around us. And yet even with all of that, we ask for more wisdom. Give us wisdom beyond ourselves. Give us wisdom that we have not earned through experience. Give us divine wisdom. In your word you promised that a request for wisdom would not be denied and so we come expectant.

We are grateful for being blessed with the privilege and responsibility of Lipscomb University.

We offer up this prayer in Jesus name.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Grief Demands A Story

Grief demands a story. It is story inertia - story energy that sits heavy on the soul. It may be so heavy the soul can hardly pull itself out from underneath it. Early on, it simply can't. Grief is meaning that must be storied. Grief introduces piles and mounds and layers deep of meaning with no pre-programmed language or behaviors by which to tell the story. Grief does not ask for you to read lines; it requires that you write them - in a language you have never spoken. Grief, the relentless and ever flowing source of disquieting, disrupting, unstoried meaning, tires the body and wears on the mind, stress-fractures the soul, sets granite boulders on the heart and then says, "speak!" 

For my grieving friends, I know you are tired and weary and may be looking for a place where grief is not or a moment when grief sleeps - so you can also sleep. I also know such a place does not exist and such moments for rest are elusive. You may look at the days before you as an endless line of blank hours awaiting processing. 

It is my prayer that you can find some way in all the disorienting emptiness to story your grief. In words. In song. In dance. In tears. In prayer. In poetry. In mission. In art. 

And it is my prayer that you will have genuine and humble listeners. Real listeners. May listeners be near you when you can story your grief, the kind of listeners who are uninterested by anything else in the world but you, who are undistracted by any other care in the world, whose listening humbly invites more story. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

An Open Letter To Cancer

An Open Letter To Cancer

(Not so) Dear Cancer,

Let’s cut to the chase and dispense with any trite and meaningless pleasantries. I am not going to sugar coat this or pretend to play nice. I hate you. We all hate you. You are an unwelcomed intruder and are invited to leave immediately. Your invasion into the body of my friend is an absolute affront to her and everyone who loves her – an army numbering in the thousands. 

We’re on to you. We know what you’re up to. Your invisible presence is now out in the open. The spot light is on you and will be on you until you are gone. We know that your goal is to take the strength, energy, health and ultimately the life of everyone you touch. You take health. You take money. You take security. You take hope. You’re nothing but a selfish, wicked, insatiable black hole of life draining evil. There is nothing good in you.

Your mission is evil and we will fight you with everything we’ve got. We will find every medicine available in this day and age to crush you. We will use any surgical procedure to cut you out. We will marshal the warriors of Heaven to storm the gates of the Hell you seek into impose. With unrelenting prayer and merciless prayer we will petition the Almighty God of the Universe for your complete annihilation.

We are not discouraged; we are energized. You wanted to crush our faith; it just increased. You wanted to instill fear; we just became more courageous. You wanted to tamp us down; we’re just getting started.

You think you’re a serious diagnosis? Diagnose this:
·         There are more of us than there are of you
·         God is on our side
·         You are alone in your mission - friendless
·         You’re trending downward in your victories
·         Your “best days” are way behind you
·         Even when you win, you lose (New Heaven; New Earth – what have you got?)
·         Anything you can do will be countered the Redemption of all things, so….

We didn’t want this war, but since war is thrust upon us, we will fight you with everything we’ve got. You’re going to wish you hadn’t started this.

Sincerely,



The Band of Friends

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Rain Dances

Frantic plips pulse and fade
In confident puddles 
That will mud
That will crack
That will forget 
But not today

Insistent streams surge and swell 
In search of rest
That will irrigate
That will stagnate
That will evaporate
But not today 

Immersive rains quench and quell
In expectant thirsters
That will run
That will sweat
That will thirst again
But not today


Happy 4th of July

The emergence of the United States of America is a multi-faceted and complex social anomaly in history that has accumulated great power based on the vulnerable premise that there is no guarantee of self perpetuation. How America began could also be its own demise and because of this potential, there must be humility and generosity and the flight from tyranny at all costs. Accumulation of great powerr while maintaining an intentional flight from tyranny is perhaps the most challenging call to any social institution and at the same time is the only way to sustain it. Power, in its very best use, is leveraged for the benefit of as many as possible, not as few as possible. So long as America leverages its power for the benefit of the many and not the few, there is a bright future for this nation.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The nostalgic future of clock museums

Time lost track of me
Oh the blissful abduction of flow
Unconscious
Hyperaware

Time flew by
And went looking for me
But I was here all along
Very here
So here
Extraordinarily here
More here 
Than time would have ever allowed

Hidden in plain sight
Cloaked in laughter
Covered in friendship
Clouded in love

Time tried to hunt me down
But I was too happy to be found 
And eternity went deep
Outside the radar
Undetectable
Undisturbed
And free

And when time finally found me
It couldn't contain 
Memories pushed back
On the intended occupation 
For memories of the past
Pushed right through me
And became anticipation 

Time failed
Time jailed 
Time wailed

And I...
I remembered the future