Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kingdom Identity

I think that it would be somewhat accurate to say that every person has or is going/gone through a period in life in which they are trying to figure out who they are and what their purpose is. Last year, I had what I have now come to call, my quarter-life crisis. It was a time in which things were just not settled in my soul. I knew that I was meant for something that I wasn't currently doing, but didn't know what. It was stressful. It sucked. Thankfully, God has guided me out of that wilderness into the place I am now (which is not so much more defined as it is better directed).

The reason I bring this up is because today I want to tell you two things and I think it will help if I can relate them to myself. These are meant to be defining markers in discovering your Kingdom-of-God identity. The first is:

You are not the sum total of your experiences and abilities.

 Conversely, you are also not the sum total of your inexperience and inabilities. When a person holds this view, they are seeing themselves in utilitarian terms; that is, "I am only as good, acceptable, worthy-of-life, etc. as I am experienced or capable". The problem with that is that no one in the world can actually be "acceptable" to this standard. This is simply because there is too much in the universe to experience and there is too much that a human could be capable of. So where do you draw the line? When are you good enough? The answer is never; chasing that definition of yourself is like trying to sweep up that last little bit of dust into a dustpan with a lip on it -- the line will always evade you. Instead, there is a greater truth -- a better way to define yourself: 

You are the sum total of the relationships you have.

When you view your life in relational terms instead of utilitarian terms, you see the value and beauty in the world. I am only as much me as I am in relationship with all of you (whoever that is). The beautiful thing about this is that it naturally fits into how we behave as creatures. It is natural to have one relationship that filters all other relationships. For a child, this may be the parent; for a spouse, their other; for a believer, it is Christ. This means that the believer's relationship with Christ not only dictates how they see themselves, but how they see every other relationship, which in the above definition of self, circles back on how to understand oneself. This is why, as a Christian, it still hurts when loved ones of the faith die: a small part of our identity is separated from us. That part that was your mother, your uncle, your sister or brother is now separated -- and it hurts. This idea also explains why men revert to an animal state when lost in the wilderness or stranded on an island. It also explains why solitary confinement is an effective punishment. Finally, it explains why the church needs each member of the body, all in line after the head, Christ. 


The second thing I want to tell you is:

God's goodness is greater than your shortcomings.

I found written in the back of an old Bible I own this quote: "God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called." While I don't believe the first part is true, I definitely agree that he equips the called. One theme that echos throughout the entirety of Scriptures is that God is faithful to provide what is needed when it is needed so that his will can be done. My failures and my sin are no stumbling block for God. My inability to produce goodness on my own is no stumbling block for God; furthermore, the same is true for you. Now, don't misunderstand, this is no excuse to do whatever you want; God still demands righteousness from those who seek him. What I'm saying here is that when we fail (and fail we will), it will never be so disastrous that God cannot make beautiful things come of our mess.

So, when you're trying to figure out who you are in creation, remember that it has little or nothing to do with what you can do and what you have experienced, but everything to do with who you commune with; who do you know? If it is Christ, the rest will fall into place; if it is not Christ which defines all other relationships, I fear you will always have an emptiness in your soul. Secondly, when discovering yourself, be courageous to step out and strive for things; Jesus said to seek his Kingdom first, not find his Kingdom first and everything shall be added to you. God does not expect us to achieve his will alone, but to strive for it, then the Spirit which is in you will carry you when your feet fail you; but what feet fail while standing still? none. You must be moving toward his will and don't be shackled by your shortcomings.

Pray that God reveals these things in your heart as I have just done in your mind. You are loved and worth loving, according to God. You are for his purpose, regardless of your personal junk.

peace,
C.M.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Lost Art of Gratitude

If the only prayer you say in your whole life is "Thank you," that would suffice.
- Meister Eckhart

Meister Eckhart (1260-1329) was a German mystic who was of the Dominican order. In the above quote, he points out one of the single most important aspects to the Christian life: gratitude.

Why is gratitude important? I think that there are several reasons, but lets cover just a few in brevity; by doing so, my hope is that there is room for the reader to think about this topic and come up with some of your own reasons for being grateful.

Gratitude Takes Humility and Wisdom
If there is one thing that I think stands the test of time, it is that humility and wisdom are often directly proportional in a person's life. Gratitude often is a difficult thing because it means one of two things: either I needed the gift given or I can appreciate it, even if I didn't strictly need it. In the first case, it is obvious that it is often difficult to accept help when one needs it; I think we all can agree that our pride often gets in the way. In the second case, the wisdom that is necessary to realize when good things are given and that they did not have to be given takes time. By way of example, I remember my philosophy professor pointing out a rose and saying that it did not need the quality red or the scent that it carried in order to be a rose; if God wanted it gray and scentless, he could have made it so. In this way, Gratitude helps us to practice wisdom and humility in any given situation and those are Christ-like qualities.

Gratitude Pleases God
The only thing that is more of a let down than when someone doesn't say thank you is when someone thanks you for the gift you've given and then doesn't use it. It's like getting your friends a coffee maker for their wedding, receiving a hand-written "thank you" note saying how glad they are that you were at the wedding and then finding that coffee maker, still in the box, in the garage at their cook-out two years later. You feel let down; you feel like they didn't truly like the gift and that there was no joy derived from it. In your mind you had images of early morning brew gently rising them from slumber and ushering them into a beautiful day only to find out that they were likely still grabbing that Starbucks every morning on the way to work. Gifts are given so that joy and fullness can be experienced from them. The same is true for us and God; God gives gifts to all of creation. There are general gifts like nature and our bodies that are given to both believers and non-believers and there are spiritual gifts given to those who have become one with the Holy Spirit. In either case, we truly let God down when we take that gift and leave it in the box, on a shelf in our spiritual garage. Gratitude not only means saying thank you but using the gift because there is joy to be had in it and this pleases God.

Gratitude Brings People Together
When I was managing a restaurant, one of the most important things that I did for my employees was say "thank you." Most of them had never worked for someone who valued their creativity and efforts as much as their actual output. For example, we were tweaking a recipe and I asked one of my cooks to have some liberty with the recipe so that I could see what came of it. The first couple tries were a flop, but each time I encouraged him to try again and sincerely thanked him for his efforts. By the third or fourth time, he nailed it, confident in himself. He told me later that no one had ever thanked him for his work and made him feel valued that much. Gratitude inherently brings people into better relationships. When we thank people for their contributions and stop viewing people in utilitarian terms of what we can get from them, it is much easier to see them as people -- just like you. Ironically, no one likes being used, but most everyone struggles to intentionally make people feel valued. Gratitude is key in this effort. 
This is Not the End
There is so much more to be said about gratitude and when you stop and think about it, thankfulness impacts so many areas of our lives; it touches our self-image, our relationships, our jobs, our families and more. Practice gratitude in sincerity and action, not just in hollow words and if you have to fake it until you make it, it's better to say it and learn to feel it later; remember that the wisdom to recognized deserved thanks only comes with maturity and we're not all there. Also remember that our prayers should be primarily articulations of our thankfulness and then secondarily requests. So think about how you can be more grateful today
and then do it.
peace,
C.M.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Looking Through the Glass



How we regard ourselves is arguable one of the single most impactful things in our lives. If we think ourselves small and powerless, we are likely to behave small and powerless; if we think of ourselves as powerful and in-charge, we are likely to act thus. What is interesting is that it is not a matter of how we really are, necessarily, but how we understand ourselves. In looking in the mirror, we have to recognize that we don't really see ourselves. That is, we cannot see the inner workings of our body much less our soul and so, there is only a representation of ourselves and not the whole thing.

Paul, the apostle and mystic, has some words about this topic. When discussing love and the powerful, central role it plays in a Christian’s worldview, he mentions keeping a handle on reality.

Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture. But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
                        -Paul, the apostle, NLT
First and foremost, Paul acknowledges the true way that we exist as created things; that is, no matter how developed or sophisticated our science and philosophy, we will only ever truly know things in a partial way. Now, the empiricist might argue that we know exactly how the heart works; how it moves, what powers it, what each ventricle, atria, artery and vein does. They would be correct only to a point, however; that is, we still do not know what initiates the first electrical pulse that powers the heart. Does it come from the mother? Is it self-generated? How does a heart actually start beating? This is one, limited example, but the point is that ultimately, there is mystery in all of our knowledge and it is a mystery, Paul says, that will never be revealed until we are one with God. 

Secondly, Paul speaks of process; that is, growing up spiritually by way of a physical analogy. He says that when moving from childhood to manhood, he let go of the childish things in favor of the manly things. This isn’t to say that there was no value in childish ways; as father of two little boys, I know their ways are beautiful. What he is saying is that when one has reached man-status (in whatever way that is measured), the childish things cannot be embraced alongside the adult ways; it is an either/or. If there is one thing that is true about children is that they often think they are more mature than they are; this also should be a word of caution to us: don’t think that you are more mature than you really are. Evaluate yourself with sober eyes and realize your shortcomings; they are much easier to reconcile with when they are laid bare.

Finally, Paul looks to the end and speaks of the time when we shall know ourselves and everything else in its fullness, just as God does. It is a little strange to think that God knows us better than we know ourselves, but it is the truth. Do you know how the soul is attached to the body? Have you walked the corridors of the spirit to discover what secrets lay therein? No, only our Creator knows the depths of our person. Someday, however, we shall see ourselves as we truly are; not just past the physical, but in a larger context with all of our connections and relationships laid out like a road map. Until then, we should only strive to know God more, for that is how we learn more about ourselves and actual reality. What we see now, Paul says, is a distortion of how the world really is. We are the ghosts and beyond the veil is reality. We pray now for revelation and look forward to the time where we can be with him and him with us. There we taste the fullness of his gift; for there is no offense and, indeed, no forgiveness between God and us because there is no space or room for it; He is in us and us in Him.

So, today, pray this: that we should be with him in that fullness and see ourselves as maturing and not-arrived-yet. The truth of our lives is that they are not over yet; let us embrace the process and, in humility, see ourselves as we are to the best of our ability.

Peace,
C.M.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Love Your God: Conclusive Thoughts

Over the last week or so, I have been slowly taking a look at some of the deeper meaning behind what is called the "greatest command" in Mark 12. In the first installation, I talked about loving God with our hearts and making sure that we knew what the divine will and affections are so that we can bring ours in line with it. In the next post, I talked about loving God with our soul and gave some practical resources to start to get in touch with your non-physical body so as to be able to devote it to God. In the third piece, I talked about loving God with our minds and wrote on what the mind does and how to exercise it for God's Kingdom cause. In the last post, I discussed loving God with our strength and how this encompasses our physical bodies, our areas of influence in the world and our practical capabilities. In this conclusive post, I would like to draw these four together to demonstrate that what Jesus is really getting at -- and what the law was meant to portray -- is that we belong to God and he is ours in graceful union.


To me, these four specific areas seem to fall into a set of two couplets that encompass all of the relational facets of the human.

Couplet One
I see mind and heart making up the first couplet; here we find that Jesus is saying to love God with our intellectual and reasoning faculties, but to also love God with our feeling and wanting faculties. This seems pretty straight forward, but let's look at why this important. If a person were to compartmentalize their relationship with God (as most people are prone to do from time to time), there is a privation of total experience. For the intellectual person, we lose out on that deep-seated feeling of love; for me, this happens while working on my master's degree. I'll get so wrapped up in evaluating thing in a sterile, laboratory-type mental state that I forget that theology is inherently organic; it is natural, mystical and real as it is simply our thoughts and beliefs about God. It would be absurd to view my relationship with my wife as purely analytical and legal -- it would just be unhealthy -- so why should my relationship with my Creator be any less messy and intimate? it shouldn't. However, the pendulum can swing the opposite direction.

It is true that at times, people can compartmentalize in the other direction: with the heart. We get wrapped up in what it feels like to try to commune with the divine but in placing all of our focus here, we necessarily cut off the ways that we try and meet God via our minds. As one who has been in music ministry for more than half of my life, I can identify with this as well. It's easy to find "that song" or "that passage of Scripture" that just speaks to your heart and dwell so long on it that we lose out of the richness of fully engaging the couplet of heart and mind. Where this becomes detrimental to one's relationship with God is when our theology suffers because of our emotional longings. Sound theology, proper, demands careful thoughtfulness and passionate energy. Passion alone is like my two-year-old dancing and playing air guitar to the end music of his Scooby Doo movie; it's cute and beautiful in its own way, but it lacks grace, coordination and accuracy (he seems to switch from left handed to right handed guitar a lot). The better way -- the more holistic way -- is to love God with the entirety of this first couplet: heart and mind -- passion and intelligence.

Couplet Two
The second couplet, then, is clearly the two remaining ways of loving God: the soul and strength. Here we also see opposing facets of human relational capacities. Simply put, we are to love God with all of our physical parts as well as all of our non-physical parts. Just like the first couplet, we tend to compartmentalize or over-emphasize one of the two. When that happens on the soul side, we end up with people who are very "spiritual" without actually doing much. This can look like a number of things, but it is most apparent in one who is willing to say they're Christian, maybe post a lot of Christian memes on Facebook, maybe listen to "Christian music" (whatever that is) or maybe simply study and believe all the right things about God, but when it comes down to it, this person is not communing with the marginalized in their community; they aren't reaching out to the hurt and lost or (and this one is going to hurt, so please believe my intentions are good) perhaps this person is simply destroying their body with how they live their life. I don't mean substance abuse, but the just-as-deadly killers of the western diet and lack of exercise; there are far too many in ministry who don't talk about health and fitness because it indicts themselves and their lack of effort. Remember that it is a measure of love to care for our bodies and it is a measure of love to do good works for the Kingdom. Let us not be simply speakers, but also doers.

The other extreme, however, is the person who is willing to volunteer, is faithful to be in the pew on Sunday, bakes the casserole and writes the check, but does little to deepen their experience of the divine. This person may see the value in doing, but rarely feels that intimate connection to the divine except in emotional starts and bursts. There is no consistent awareness of the presence of God and there is little exploration away from their little island of theological awareness and experience. Just as it would be awful in my marriage to be content to take care the kids, do the chores, pay the bills and never connect with my wife on a deeper level than the transactional, never learn more about her and only grow closer in starts and bursts, so to is it with our relationship with God. Truly, humans are designed to need both sides of this couplet in order to have the fullest relationship with God.

Last Things
I think that if we really think about it these two couplets, when used to their fullest potential, not only yield the greatest expression of love to God, but also are a blue print of sorts to the best way to yield a vibrant relationship with God. Spanning the width of our minds and hearts while simultaneously reaching ever deeper into the fathoms of our soul and strength; this is the greatest command: that you should love God with absolutely every part of who you are. This is our design given by the divine.

peace,
C.M.

p.s. If you liked this series, let me know! Also, share it with someone you care about :)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Love Your God: with Your Strength

Part 4 of what (I just now decided) will be a 5 part series. Thus far, in examining the greatest commandment, we have evaluated loving God with your heart, soul and mind. Here we begin the fourth way and next after this, I'll draw some broader conclusions and pull these ideas all together into a unified message. Let's begin.

Now, at a brush, "love God with your strength" kind of seems like an odd phrase. We usually associate love with feelings and so we don't typically think about using our physical modes in non-physical ways; it's just absurd. I remember as a kid asking a youth group leader what this meant and he more or less said "love God real hard". While this is something of an exaggeration (that is, he did try at something but this is about all that came across), it does point out a blind spot in our understanding of this Mark 12 passage. So now we have to ask the seemingly silly question:

What is my strength?

The easy, undeveloped answer is simply that the Greek word used for strength in this passage is transliterated as ischus (is-khoos') which means ability, force and strength. On first appearance, this definition doesn't seem to bring much clarity, but when you start looking closer at each of these areas, you will find that to love God with our ischus means a lot more than you'd have thought.

  • To love God with your ability means to submit in loving humility and servitude to God with all that you are able to accomplish. Entrepreneurship, speech, networking, raising kids, cleaning house, making dinner, calling friends, writing a letter (yes, people still do that); the list goes on and on. This inherently puts submission and prizing the will of God in the active category, not just the emotional. Love is not a feeling, but a verb -- a movement. So, in all of your activities -- every single one -- demonstrate the sacrificial love of Christ (without getting into it here, I'd just like to add that this is harder than it seems on first examination).
  • Loving God with our force means to love God with our power of influence. Whether you are a CEO of an enormous company or a stay at home mom, you have a measure of influence (I would add that the latter has the greater amount) and it is to be used to the glory of God by the furthering of his Kingdom. This places love of God as the central responsibility for the believer; not correct theology, not perfect reputation in the eyes of others, but divine love. So, take time to take stock of your force and think critically of where you might utilize your power for Jesus' cause.
  • Loving God with your strength (more colloquially here) means submitting your physical body to him in its care and purpose. This is not the same teaching as "don't tattoo yourself because your body is the temple of God" or "don't smoke or drink because you dishonor your God-given body". Instead, this is the stronger (and better exegetic) argument and command that not only what comes out of the body is either dirty or clean and so make sure that is fit for a Kingdom-person (Matt. 15:11) but also how you care for and know your body indicates your love for God. For clarity, let's put this argument in a simpler form: which is more convincing and right? to say to someone "take care of your body as best you can because God lives there and it dishonors him not to" or "take care of your body as best you can because it demonstrates love to God". The latter is consistent with our definition of love while the former functions on warped premises (i.e. Does God need a body to live in? no; is his honor of primary concern? no, Jesus says that love is of primary concern). So, get to know your body, feed it good things, move it how it should be moved and do no evil with it.
So how is all of this accomplished?

While I gave points of direction at the end of each of the above bullets, the simplest answer is this: intentionality. Just as I covered in the "love God with your soul" piece, it is not by any accident that we love God with our physical applications. You must block out time in your day to sit down and write out which areas of your life you have "force"; you must carve out of, what seems to be a stone-hard schedule, time exercise and eat right; you must purposefully behave in a way that reflects love, especially when people don't deserve it. Loving God with all of your ischus is nearly as difficult as loving him with all of your psuche. Nevertheless, this (along with the other installations in this series) is the command of God.

Thank you for reading this and the other posts; join me next time as I (attempt to) tie these four modes of loving God into a single theory of loving God.

peace,
C.M.



Saturday, March 22, 2014

Love Your God: with Your Mind

Part 3 is here! I encourage you to go back and read parts 1 & 2 about loving God with your heart and soul. I have been systematically walking through the passage in Mark in which Jesus says that "the most important commandment is...you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength (Mark 12:29-30, NLT)." So we find ourselves ready to evaluate how to love God with your mind; let's begin.


The first thing we ought to do is define terms:

What is the mind?

The mind is a person's intellect, capacities to reason and memory. As I said in the previous post, I believe that the mind is a facet of the soul and thus not necessarily located in the brain (I won't get into it, but I will say that all that science can say definitively is that if there is a connection between the soul and the body, it is likely in the brain/nervous system). In this post I would like to expand on this idea and add that I think the mind is the guide to the soul; that is, it is the part that directs the soul where it would go and what it would evolve into. This is why we're told through Scripture that it is by the reforming of our mind that we are transformed into Christ's likeness. If you renew your mind -- the conductor of your "soul train" -- you necessarily impact the rest of the person.

So how do we love God with this mind?

I think, while there are many specific ways which we can love God with our mind, there are also general categories. My purpose here is to draw out these broad categories.

First, our mind can be made to love God by expanding it. Learning is one of the most primary ways that we honor God. Any time creation is as it is intended to be, God is honored; by learning, the mind is most fundamentally acting as it should according to it's purpose. In this way, we utilize our mind in humble submission (and thus love) to God's will and intention for that piece of our being. Again, there are specific ways that we can do this and most people learn by different means. So, whether you are a visual, auditory, a reading or a doing learner, you can love God by pushing the margins of your knowledge to new limits. God want's you to; he made you to; he delights in the wise and learned; he blesses seekers of truth.

A second general way that we can love God with our mind is to "meditate on the things of God". We covered this in subtlety in the last post. In lay-terms, think of things that are of God; things that are good, true, honorable, etc. We also do this by thinking about the teachings of Christ, the traditions of the church and things revealed to us by the Spirit. For example, once in a time of transition in my life, I felt the Spirit clearly say to me "eyes forward, hands on the plow". A reference from Scripture recalled and re-worded for my benefit, this message carried me. I spent time thinking about it; if I wanted to be fit for the work of the Kingdom, I needed to be forward looking and have my hands firmly gripping the tasks at hand. It is often true that you become like that which you think about.

A third way that we can love God with our mind is to do what it naturally does: drive the soul. Specifically, we ought to use our powers of intellect and reasoning to form a worldview that reflects the worldview of Christ. This means that we need to take his sermon on the mount seriously; it means that we need to view the world in terms of spiritual warfare; it means that, despite modernity, we ought to realize that the world as we  know it and the governments we submit to are not good enough. In light of this Christ-like worldview, we ought to be driven to action. Our mind drives not only the soul but also the body in this way.

There are probably things that lay outside of these categories, but I'm fairly sure that most uses of the mind and most ways of loving God with it fall into one of these three broad and often inter-related categories.

Things to keep in mind:

While there are many things to note when discussing loving God with our mind, I think that one of the most important is that we ought not fear reason and intellect. There is a subculture within Christianity that would say that unquestioning obedience is what God seeks and that philosophy, doubt and reasoning ought to be held as suspect. This, however, is not truth; Jesus consistently pushes his followers and challengers to think well. I am of the belief that Jesus was the greatest philosopher in the most academic sense of the word. Here is a fantastic book that builds a solid case for the life of the mind in a Christian's walk, here is a book that beautifully demonstrates that Jesus was indeed a philosopher and here is a book that shows you that doubt is not the opposite of faith.

I strongly encourage you to look up those books and even read them. Also, think about what has been said here; learn, think about the things of God and form your worldview to match Jesus'. Join me next time to talk about loving God with our strength. Also, please feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section: how else can you love God with your mind? Let us reason together!

peace,
C.M.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Love Your God: with Your Soul

Continuing into part 2 of this series on loving God, we approach the sometimes confusing part of the passage in which we are to love God with our soul. If you missed part 1, I encourage you to read it first.

A good preliminary issue to tackle is the elephant in the room: what is the soul? This is often the confusing part for those who would read Mark 12 and seek to obey. The Greek word used here that is interpreted as "soul" is transliterated as psuche (pronounced psoo-khay) which can also mean one's breath of life, vital force and a person's essence which is different from the body and preserved beyond death. Soul is simply a concise term to capture that idea.

I believe in a particular "theory of the soul" but there are many; for simplicity and efficiency sake, I'll be speaking from my own belief and not educating the reader on all the many theories. I do encourage you to go look some up, though, there are many. As I understand it, the soul is the biggest category one can use for a person's non-physical attributes. Within this broader category, we have subcategories which include the spirit, the mind, the heart, the memory, etc. In order to love God we must devote each of these categories in humble submission to the divine.

If I'm to love God with my soul, it means that I am to love him with all of the non-physical parts of me.

Well that seems pretty straight forward, but how do we actually DO that? Great question, thanks for asking!

In order to conform all of the metaphysical parts of my person to the submissive, loving servitude of Christ's example, I must begin by knowing myself a bit. If I don't know what my soul is like, I can't very well interact with it or bend it to my will (which, paradoxically, is located in the soul). In the west, we have far too often lost the art of meditation, introspection, self-evaluation beyond an online personality survey (which Disney Villain are you?) and so we end up walking around the earth like ghosts; we don't know our physical bodies much (unless you are in a health profession) and we don't know our non-physical bodies much (unless you are an exception to the norm, which is just as plausible as being a health professional; that is, it happens). So, first, get to know you, then follow Christ's example and teachings.

How do I get to know my soul?

I'm about to lose some people here...
The most effective way that I have found to encounter my metaphysical self is to still my physical self. This in and of itself is a feat to be mastered (and I have yet to master it), but it is well worth it for the pay off is enough quiet to accomplish an inner look at oneself. Contrary to popular belief, mediation is not historically a foreign practice to Christianity. In fact the ascetic and monastic traditions within Christianity are rich in theology and experience of the divine. It is incredibly worth a look at the Desert Mothers and Fathers as well as more popular mystics like St. Gregory Palamas or Bonaventure. So here is a quick how-to on Christian meditation. Be forewarned, this isn't nearly the only way and you likely won't get it perfect the first time (unless you're just a soul-ninja) as calming one's mind and body at the same time is a skill to be practiced.

  • First, find a time to practice; I'm a morning person, so being up at 6 am with nothing to do for an hour and a half is great for me. My kids and wife (and even dog) are still sleeping and I have no obligations other than what I place on myself. You may be a night person or only have time on your lunch break. Like exercising your physical body, you must block out time intentionally to "take your soul out for a jog". Thankfully, you shouldn't need more than half an hour at most; even still, I would only attempt about 5-10 minutes in the beginning as that will be plenty difficult. Set a timer somewhere if you need to, but don't try for too long; acclimate. 
  • Next, find a place that is appropriate to practice your meditation; I've found that too comfortable a spot isn't good because I just fall asleep and too uncomfortable a place is also distracting, though this may be ok as you become more proficient at mediation and are able to block out discomfort. You'll want to be seated, not laying, in a comfortable position in which you won't need to fidget too much.
  •  Then pray; this is the easiest way to get out all the things that would likely have come up to distract you later anyway, so just pray that God grants you peace and help to discover who you are in him and how to grow in your soul. This will be the start of your practice.
  • After that, I've found that what is called the "Centering Prayer" is most effective to begin to calm my mind. The Centering Prayer works like this: you pick a word (i.e. grace, peace, Jesus, love, hope, sacrifice, Father, Trinity, etc.) that will help you "center" your thoughts and focus. As you close your eyes and begin to think of nothing but that word, you are preparing to hear from God. This is not an emptying of your mind, but a focusing on the things of God. Here you will learn what occupies your mind (which is a part of your soul) as these are the things which will come to distract. Don't be discouraged or angry when other things come to mind; simply acknowledge them briefly and then use that word as a tether back to your center.
  • Then, listen; look inside yourself and ask who you are. Ask God who you are meant to be. Don't think too hard, just be. Again, this isn't an erasing of yourself; just as a static body can be working very hard, so too can a still soul be active.
  • When time is over or you feel you've heard/learned something new, pray again in gratitude for all that God gives.
  • Finally, "wake up" the body again. Stretch, move, walk around; it is rare that the body is so still and the soul so active, and what goes on in your metaphysical person affects your physical deeply so be courteous to yourself.
Ok, that was a quick (very quick) instructional and it is not nearly all encompassing by any means; it is simply what has worked for me. Other ways of learning about yourself (if this suits you) is to write a "spiritual autobiography". For this, you only need to make a timeline with your birth at one end and today at the other, then go through and mark major life events and then go back one more time and try to discover what your spiritual life was like during the time between events (remember your spirit is the part of your soul which communes with God). One last way to learn about your soul is to read; read, read, read and see what you like, what interests you and what you believe and what you don't. Engaging your mind is part of this effort.

All in all, you must always remember that in each of these efforts to discover your metaphysical person, it is all for the purpose of loving God who doesn't want us to be strangers to ourselves. Learn who you are in the deepest parts of you; introspect and question. Only then can you begin to think, feel, know, believe, experience and love God with your soul.

Next time I will be writing on loving God with our minds; I hope you join me again.

peace,
C.M.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Love Your God: with Your Heart

For the first time, I will be writing a blog series. This series is called "Love Your God" and will be evaluating Jesus' conclusion that "the most important commandment is...you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength (Mark 12:29-30, NLT)." So, in keeping a good handle on organization, we'll systematically work through each of these "ways to love" and then I'll likely have a conclusive post, tying it all together; that's the plan anyway. Lets begin.

The first way that Jesus tells us we need to love God is with our heart. I feel like it should be pointed out that Jesus is referencing Deuteronomy here when he makes this claim. This is important because it tied his teaching to the Jewish tradition and made it less refutable to those who were trying to get him to slip up. If he had been presenting completely novel doctrine, it would have been much easier to brand him a heretic and undermine his popularity if not also his authority in the people's eyes. So what does it mean to love with your heart?

Traditionally (both in Scripture and in most, if not all, cultures) the heart is used to describe the will and affections. While it might make sense for the will to be located in the mind, it seems that willfulness - free will - is a much deeper seeded quality in humanity. It is the drive that pushes us beyond assumed capacities as seen in extreme conditions of survival and sport. It is the thing that accomplishes more than thought possible as seen in numerous entrepreneurs and successful people (with other factors in play, of course). The will is much more than a psychological capacity; it is something rooted deeply and thus is best associated with the heart. The affections are located here for a similar reason. Try describing the messiness of affections towards people or things. For example, I cannot for the life of me explain why I love collecting guitars so much! In all seriousness, the passion we feel for our family, lovers, hobbies, careers and beliefs is a hard thing to describe. Humans feel, not just think and as such, we know one thing with certainty: affection is a deeply rooted quality as well.

So why the heart? As the blood-pumping and thus life-sustaining organ of the body, it is a fitting symbol for the things that drive us more powerfully than intellectual evaluation or any other source of motivation. Even before modern medicine illuminated all of the vitality of the heart, it was well known that this electrified, auto-rhythmic powerhouse is what keeps us moving, both physically and abstractly.

So how do we love God with our heart? The answer must be one that is tied to submission. This only makes sense as love is, at its base, about prizing one thing over another; in a relationship, this means prizing the other person over ourselves. In the case of loving the divine, we prize God over everything, ourselves included. So, in the context of submission, we willingly bow our affections to the Creator. Did you catch that? We utilize our will to freely long for the things that God longs for. This is no coercive action on God's part, but an actualization of our potential to choose the things of God. We do this by rehearsing the art of wanting what God wants.

So how do we accomplish this? Practice, practice, practice. Like any other movement of the will, it often must be intentional, if not forced, in the beginning. When you learn that highly processed sugar at the volume of normal, western consumption is not good for you, you have to force yourself to moderate your intake at first. It is a force of will. The same is true for quitting any vice like smoking, alcohol abuse, being quick to anger or habitually lying. We learn intellectually that there is a better way, so we force the practice until that better way becomes habit.

So, in applying this idea to our goal of loving with our heart, we see that first we need to know the God whom we want to love. This seems like it should be common sense, but far too often believers set out to become Christians without knowing the will and affections of the Christ they wish to emulate. This is how you end up with "Christian" leaders calling out for war and violence against a people whom they don't understand. So, step one, learn the heart of the one we're submitting to; what is the divine will, what does the divine long after?

Second, we must not try and "quit cold turkey". It is often a self-defeating approach to try and be perfect outright. Instead, pick one area of your heart that is unlike God's and begin there. Perhaps you struggle with anger or being short tempered; perhaps you struggle with wishing ill of people; whatever the case, it's easier and more productive to choose one thing to work on at a time and progressively improve thus.

Finally, we must not quit improving. Until we are finally united with God in fullness, we have to embrace the fact that we'll never meet perfection. So, we should never come to the conclusion that "we've arrived"; there is always room for improvement.

Concluding Thoughts
 There is more to be said about loving God with your heart; I could never say it all here. Hopefully, however, this will be a spring board for some introspection in which you, the reader, can identify some areas in your heart in which you can begin to better love God. Our heart is the summation of our deep-seeded longings and the drive which moves us. Let yours be of the Father.

Next time, I'll be evaluating how we love God with our souls. I sincerely hope you join me.

Peace,
C.M.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Music in Church: a repost

So, a while back I wrote this blog post and it seemed to be well-read, so I thought I'd re-post it in my new address so it would be more accessible...I might do that from time to time as I look through old stuff...

Today I have a topic to think about and you all get front seats to this thought storm; here goes:

As one who was brought up in church, I got involved with worship music somewhere around 8th grade. Since then I have been a part of music teams as they transitioned from "traditional" (whatever that means) music to more "contemporary" (again, that's pretty non-descriptive) music. I've also had the incredible experience of playing a role in re-building a worship music program from the studs. Along with all of that, I've studied for a worship music minor (that I decided to drop my senior year of my undergrad college experience) and have studied theology, philosophy and church history intensely for going on 4 years now.

I preface this post with some of my credentials in order to say that I have probably spent more time thinking about how we as western, American, Evangelical, Protestant, mostly modern Christians worship today than your average Christian.

Qualifying statement: This does NOT in any way make me a better Christian, person, etc. but it does make me more likely to have made some observations that others may not have come across.

While there are several different aspects to our worship which I could comment on, I  don't intend this blog to be an all inclusive thought project, so let me establish some parameters:

1. I want to begin by delineating between what I'll call a "private worship life" and a "corporate worship life". There are many nuances here, but I'm going to use these broad categories in order to remain focused.
2. I have no intention on attacking any practice currently in place. Over against any hard teaching, I only want to flesh out some of my recent observations and reflections, so please try and take this for what its worth and if you don't like it, ignore it.
3. While there are many many ways that Christians have worshiped throughout the life of the Church and stretching back into our Jewish heritage, I will only be speaking of things that are relevant to my western context because that is where I have personal experience. Also, this lets me off the hook for having to do research just to write this blog.

ok, I think that's most of it, pressing on...

Today, I want to assess how we choose which songs to play at church. Now, while I think that there are many issues with how we do church (everything from over-emphasizing Sunday worship to marginalizing congregation participation and beyond, but that's a bit outside the established parameters), I think that if we accept the generally established music utilization in our Sunday gatherings, we ought to give due diligence with what kind of music is played.

Before getting too far in to what songs we choose, I think that it would be good to put some preliminaries out there about our Sunday worship:

1. I think that it is most correct to approach Sunday for what it is; specifically, it is a corporate worship gathering. This means that, against our current culture of hyper-individualism (no citation, sorry), we should spend this time coming close to each other. We often fail on this point and it is evidenced in many ways, some of which are how we tend to sit only with our family and often not right next to anyone else if we can avoid it. By way of example, I remember getting a bizarre look when I sat next to a guy who was not a family member and I didn't leave a space in between us... man-law violated, I know. But we should not shy away from this nearness; we are part of the body of Christ and no hand would try and shy away from its fingers.
2. Closely related to the above, this is specifically NOT individual worship time. My interior life is maintained daily so, I should not feel the need to hijack this time to selfishly serve my lacking spiritual life. We are gathered for each other as much as we are gathered for ourselves...perhaps more. There are many implications of this that I encourage all to think about, but there you have it.
3. As much as our culture has made this a "show" in which only a few men (rarely women) are highlighted an given the stage, we are all to engage which is not the same as saying "we are all to sing along". No, instead, we should feel that the service would not quite be the same if we were gone; that kind of impact. Maybe this happens behind the scenes like in giving the preacher/teacher or band leader feed back, but however it occurs, we ought to feel some ownership of this time.

So, with those preliminaries out there, we turn our attention to the music itself. I think that there are many things to be conscious of, not only as music leaders but also as elders, leaders, worshipers and members of the body who are being asked to sing the words on the screen week in and week out. The qualifiers that I'll list below for songs are not meant to be all-inclusive and they certainly are my opinions, but I think that they transcend music style preferences and volume of music etc. So, to be more pointed, my opinions here have little to do with what kind of music is being played or how its played, but they are focused on the content of the songs. Lets begin:

1. Our music should be theologically sound. While you may be tempted to say "duh", we often don't put songs through the ringer. I think far too often we gauge the value of a song based on the feeling we personally get or the response of the crowd without very much thought given to the truth or context of our words. Without pointing to specific songs (because I do care about offending people and their song preferences), some problems that come to mind are like using the word "lord" without acknowledging that this isn't simply an interchangeable name for "God" or "Jesus", but is instead a title that reflects a relationship that may or may not be real for everyone in the congregation. Another issue may be in using metaphors with no explanation. This is one that happens with hymns often (i.e. what's an Ebenezer? Does everyone in your congregation know that? Is it a good metaphor for our current context?). We ought to be theologically thoughtful.
2. Our music should be corporate in voice. Again, we're discussing corporate worship settings, so I believe we should more or less stay away from songs that are heavy with "I", "me", "my life", etc. to the exclusion of more corporate language like "your church", "the bride", "the kingdom", etc. When we fail to avoid those songs, what happens is that we perpetuate the selfish, hyper-individualization that our culture pushes that prizes our individual comfort over community. This is starkly anti-Christian. Now, I should say that those songs often elicit worship because we connect to them more easily and, as a song writer, I have myself written songs like that, so I think there is value in them. I only want to say that their proper place is in our private lives, not in a larger communal setting. Sadly, this may mean re-vamping most churches musical libraries; but I think it's worth it.
3. Our music should teach. I feel like it is more or less irrefutable that music teaches. This is why everyone was mad at Eminem when I was kid. Ironically, he said in a song "music can alter moods and talk to you..." and here, I have to agree. Music is so much easier to remember than oral, written or rote-memorized teachings. With that in mind, I think that we ought to be careful what kind of things our songs teach. Not just theology, but in building a picture of God, we ought to take care. I believe that our mental picture of God's character is probably the single most important part of our worldview and as such, we ought to be careful what kind of mental picture we are painting. Are we perpetuating the butler God? Are we perpetuating the tamed and cuddly Jesus? Are perpetuating the angry, warrior God? The cosmic vending machine? a deist or heretical picture? I know this can seem like a slippery slope, but we ought to seriously ask these questions of the music that we're asking people to sing.

Those are just three things that I think about when thinking about songs we sing in church. I hope that discussion opens up in the comments section or through different social media venues. Most of all, I hope that this lands in front of church leaders. When I began to first think of myself as a Christian leader, I was terrified for several reasons (among which was not feeling qualified). Since then, I have more confidently come to terms with that role, but the one thing that has not left me was the urgency of the office; that is, the seriousness and eternal implications of what I may teach people. After all, who wants to go swimming with cement shoes...or a mill-stone around the neck...At any rate, I fear that the consequences could be dire if we mislead people with the music we put in their mouths. God will move regardless of our foolishness, but we should still honor the call we've answered.

I'm sorry if I offended. Truly, my goal with this entire blog is simply to better the church and provide space for me to work out my own beliefs and in that context, I thank you for following along. I would only ask, if you were offended, that you ask yourself why. Furthermore, feel free to open it to discussion; often we learn best together.

Peace,
C.M.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Hardest Thing Ever

I want to share a couple of passages of Scripture in which two of my favorite mystics, when taken in concert, issue one of the hardest challenges to mankind and it is one that most Christians (myself included) gloss over. My prayer is that you read these in their entirety and accept the challenge.

"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and it's unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. he gives his best -- the sun to warm and the rain to nourish -- to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I'm saying is Grow up. You're Kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."
                          - Jesus, Matt. 5, msg.

Pow. Right between the eyes. Here Jesus points out that we aren't even acting as our true selves when we don't love indiscriminately. As if that command doesn't hit hard enough, lets look at our other mystic who clarifies some.

"But now I want to lay out a far better way for you. If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate...If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others, isn't always 'me first,' doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others, doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back but keeps going to the end. Love never dies...When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! we'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us...But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. and the best of the three is love."
                        - Paul the Apostle, 1 Cor. 12&13, msg.

Now, if you're a Christian, I'm sure you've heard both of these passages at one time or another. My purpose in laying them side by side like this is to point out two things.

First, is the blatant command: love your enemies; to supplement that command is the clarification: this is what love is. Most people have heard this Pauline verse used in marriage ceremonies so often that we assume it is talking exclusively about romantic relationships. You might also have heard it applied to the church, as in "this is how God feels about you and the church" which is true as well. Few, however, apply this thorough definition of love to our enemies. Go back and read it with someone you can't stand in mind; it's a much tougher read.

Second, both Jesus and Paul seem to have some idea that maturity is directly connected to how we love. Jesus says that we should "grow up" and love our enemies; Paul says that when he was a baby, he acted like one, but when he grew up, he loved correctly. We should regard our love as a gauge of our maturity. One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller once wrote that "reality is like a fine wine, it just won't appeal to the immature." I think that God's reality is love and that is the finest of wines which we should strive for.

Meditate:


There are many lessons we can draw from these passages of Scripture and more still when we examine them side-by-side. These are simply two of my thoughts. What are yours?

peace,
C.M.
                      

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick

Happy St. Patrick day!





Here is a link to a great and brief source on the historical St. Patrick.


It is incredible to remember that it was out of his love for God that he felt compelled to go back and seek salvation for his previous captors. Having watched the movie "12 years a slave" yesterday, it is hard to imagine a slave longing for charity for his captor. What a shining example of the power of God's love in a man's life.

Peace,
C.M.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Jealous Like Water

I used to get really hung up on passages of Scripture like Joshua 24:19-20 in which Joshua, while calling out Israel to act right and make a covenant with him says things like "You can't do it [give up false idols]; you're not able to worship God. He is a holy God. He is a jealous God..." (emphasis mine).

I would try and imagine Jesus like I thought he really was. A lay-worker, perhaps a mason; probably not very tall; he probably stank most of the time. But he loved with a demeanor that drew people in upon first impressions. No one doubted he was of God; that is why his opponents were so vehemently against him: he was clearly doing God's work...and they should have been.

So I take that guy and then add what most modern people call a negative thing or even an emotional malfunction: Jealousy. Jesus who encouraged us to give up all our stuff so that we can further the Kingdom is the same God who is Jealous?

I struggled with this, but then I got a job in a beef plant. I know, that didn't make sense, but it will.

You see, I started working on the slaughter floor of a local beef processing plant when I was 19 years old. From there I joined the Quality Assurance department and moved over to the fabrication and ground beef areas. As one with an Associates degree in Science and one who was picking up my Biology degree path again (some year and a half after starting), they moved me to the Quality Assurance Microbiology Lab.

Here I learned how God is Jealous.

One of my coworkers was a legal immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico and his English was pretty good most of the time, but he struggled to find the right word when explaining things. One of the tests we did required us to fill up several glass bottles of water and autoclave them for E-Coli test media. We had an extremely limited space in our lab and the release and shipping of a major portion of the plant's product hinged on this test so that we couldn't afford to be untimely. In my training, this coworker was explaining this important job and repeatedly instructed me not to spill the water under any circumstance. When I asked "why?" he tried a couple different answers, but it wasn't coming across. Finally, in frustration, he blurted out "we are jealous for the water".

"what?"
"We are jealous for the water. You know, we want it all."

Then it clicked. We didn't want to lose even the smallest drop of water. We were jealous for it.
God is a jealous God; he longs for all of us. He wants his people's hearts, minds, souls and bodies. My coworker thought he was choosing a poor word for the situation, but his frustrated answer yielded a revelation to me.

A couple days ago I used a quote by Julian of Norwich; this morning, I came across another:

God is thirsty for everyone. This thirst has already drawn the Holy to joy and we the living are ever being drawn and drunk. And yet, God still thirsts and longs.
                                                                                     -- Julian of Norwich

 Meditate on this reality: God is thirsty for you. God is jealous for the water of your being. He wants every drop. You are valued and loved by the Divine Creator.

Peace,
C.M.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Why Am I Here?

I think we've all asked this question at one point or another. Most people ask it with the less-articulated question rising in the background, "what is my purpose?" or perhaps the more communal question "what is humanity's purpose?" Instead of kicking a dead philosophical horse (I only call it that because this is one of those "unanswerable" questions in philosophy, so wheel spinning is about all the farther you end up with it), I'd like to answer this question with a different intention and you'll see why...

Q: Why am I here?
A: Because God loves you.

 Now, I know that at a brush this answer seems flippant and perhaps wouldn't be the best place to start in a moment of evangelism, but I think this is the truest answer available to us with any certainty.

We -- you and I and the people on television and the man on the radio and the dictator overseas and the woman in that "mens" magazine -- are here because God loves each of us. Beyond that, creation itself is here for the same reason. The ground you walk on, the air you breathe into your lungs, the forests we clear, the oceans we abuse, the quarries we dig -- all of it because of love.

Clearly the underlying intention behind my answer is a bit different than the initial question. My answer is predicated on a question of existence or, rather, of sustinence: "I shouldn't be here in this condition (whatever your situation) and yet I am. How is this so?" Instead of function or purpose, the existential question begs at a deeper query in our souls, "how does someone or something like me get to enjoy beauty and existence as such?"....Love. Divine love is the only thing that makes sense here. Furthermore, it is a love that is not contingent on your form or function, but on the source of your existence which is located in the same place as the source of love itself: God.

Now, I believe the other question is worth asking also. We ought to find something productive and Kingdom-growing to do with ourselves and our resources. We should not, however, become so distracted with what we think we ought to be doing that we forget who we ought to be being.

We -- each person of humanity, both individually and collectively -- are loved. That is why we exist. That is why we continue to exist. That should drive our purpose. Praise God.

Peace,
C.M.

Friday, March 14, 2014

An Integrated Reality

 "As the body is clothed with cloth and the muscles in the skin and the bones in the muscles and the heart in the chest, so are we, body and soul, clothed in the Goodness of God and enclosed."

                                                                                         -- Julian of Norwich

The above quote from Julian of Norwich (likely not her real name, but we don't know much about her at all except that she lived in the 14th century and was an English "nun") is an incredible word picture about God's hold on us.

In many Christian songs we use romantic language like this, but how often do we take that romantic language and really mediate on it?

Notice Julian's progression from outside of the body -- the clothes -- and moves inward to our heart and even the soul. We're enclosed, enfolded, engulfed in the divine goodness of God. This reminds me of another church lady named Hildegard who often wrote of Jesus' hug; yes, a divine hug. Being wrapped in the arms of Christ. Here Julian takes it a step farther: our skin is the very goodness of God.

Personally, I don't draw a very sharp line between the body and soul of a human. As such, physical experiences like exercise, eating, sex and great discussion over coffee can be incredible spiritual experiences. 17th century Christian monastic, Brother Lawrence wrote in his famous work, Practice of the Presence of God, that he was as much at worship in a busy kitchen at the monastery as he was on his knees in his prayer chamber. What if we strove for that? What if we made a conscious effort -- not necessarily all of the time, but honestly tried -- to think of our physical, day-to-day activities as small theophanies

As Christians in the U.S. I know that it can feel a little like there is a sharp distinction between what we do in "worship" (usually a misconception of what it means to devote a small amount of time to God) and what we do in our lives (or what I would call your true worship). It is because of this tendency that we must make time to acknowledge the integrated connections between our muscles, heart, and soul and how the reality of God's existence is "written in our very skin".

Peace,
C.M.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Rebranding: Welcome to the New Digs

OK, so for those few people who followed my old blog, there needs to be a wee little explanation about this re-branding...

I have been toying with the idea of re-packaging my blog or just starting a new one and so I did!

The reason for doing this was kind of a hodge-podge of reasons and here are some in no particular order:

1. The new address and name is a much more searchable title/address and, to be honest, I'd like to expand my readership. I hope to one day write "accessible theology" for a living and actually be a published author...ya know, like in books and stuff... Anyway, I see this as training grounds and so the more feedback/exposure to writing, the better.

2. I want to get more focused. I started Musings of a Dread when I was in my undergrad and most of what began there were just as was suggested: musings. I should finish my Masters in Theological Studies this year and as such, I feel like I have grown both in the depth of my faith and spirituality as well as in my focus of what my heart beats for; namely, the church today and in the future. This blog is for that purpose.

3. I feel that I identify well with Christian mysticism. This is a foggy area to the western mind and, frankly, an uncomfortable spot for some people. Nonetheless, as I have studied Christian worship and Christian history, I find that more and more my personal life is naturally and most easily analogous to that of a Christian mystic; perhaps I'll write a post about being a modern mystic in my generation, but that's for another time...

4. I don't have dreadlocks anymore...ok, that's not really a reason...

5. Clean slates are always nice and as my extended college experience draws to a close, I find myself in transition, so starting fresh here with a more narrow focus seems good.

That's about all I have. This is just a quick intro to the blog, so...

WELCOME!

thanks, I look forward to hearing from any and all who have thoughts about my thoughts.

Peace,
C.M. (Church Mystic)

P.S. I'll leave the old blog up just in case anyone wants to go back and read some pretty amazing literature ;-)