Contemplative Christian Spirituality.

This regularly updated site from Josh Pinkston centers around Christian Spirituality, contemplative awareness and practice, and some social consciousness.

Original Sin vs. Original Blessing

When people say they don’t like Christianity, I get it. For most of my life, neither have I. There were many seasons when, if I’m honest with myself, I stuck to it out of fear of what would happen if I didn’t. I admit that now and see how incredibly unhealthy and severely unchristian it is. I also notice signs of this behavior run rampant throughout the Church in general. I can identify it because of my ability to identify with it. Fear has no place in our faith. If at any point our interpretation of Jesus’ words or the Scriptures produces fear, we’re missing the point.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. … There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
– 1 John 4.16/18

My faith was not sustainable with fear; and neither was I. It was turning me into someone constantly desperate for affection and affirmation. My friends and family were being reduced to mere means of my attempting to satiate this subconscious and endless need. Obviously, this damaged many of my relationships. There needed to be a turning point; either a complete about-face away from our religion or at least a pivotal change in direction.

Needless to say, there was a pivotal change. And there continue to be pivotal changes on a regular basis, but I wanted to share one that came up in conversation with a friend battling with depression the other day.

So often, I hear people defining themselves with their mental conditionings. We say things like “I am angry” or “I’m just ADD” or “I’m just in a bad mood” or “I'm just naturally anxious” and so on. We speak as if we have no say in our identity and allow whatever we feel about ourselves to also be what we believe about ourselves. Our feelings objectify us instead of learning to objectify our feelings.

It is commonplace in churches to see people over-identified with their faults. We over-identify ourselves and others with what we believe are faults. This is missing the point. For far too long, my faith made me look crappily at others and look crappily at myself. This resulted in feeling rather crappily, as well. Not to mention, it also bred a pretty crappily view of God. Everything and everyone was looking at an uphill battle to become “good”.

I’ve found this to be profoundly unchristian behavior. Jesus didn’t look at anyone this way, yet it’s exactly how we’ve used him to look at ourselves and others. This is deeply rooted within our history too. At some point, we began identifying the human race more with “original sin” than with our “original goodness”. Because of this, we find a religion that doesn’t bring us any closer to God, but keeps him at a distance. 

Before anything we’ve done, God’s already doing. You are made in God's image, so your knowledge of God's identity is the revelation of your identity! You are Love. You are Kind. You are Gentle. You are Forgiving. And so on! These are your truest attributes, personality traits, and characteristics. Behaving otherwise is actually unnatural for us and why we are so exhausted and short all the time. You are also made to live in the wholeness of an abiding conscious relationship with this Great Reality of Presence (the Residence of God within you).

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness … So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
– Genesis 1.26/27

Mama Shawna

For God wanted them to know ... this is the secret: Christ lives in you.
– Colossians 1.27

It’s a countdown to parenthood here in the Pinkston household. Our due date is just a couple weeks away which means he could be arriving at any time now. The thoughts and emotions are almost so much that I’m unable to get any of them out onto digital paper; something I like to call the "Stooges Effect”. That’s when there is so much trying to come out at once that nothing is able to make it through, not unlike when the Three Stooges all try walking through a doorway at the same time and end up getting stuck.

One thing that has stayed with me over the past nine months has been Shawna talking about how often she has had to remind herself that she is pregnant. When our baby isn’t trying to Jackie Chan his way out of her stomach, she would often find herself going about life as she normally would (an increasingly rare occurrence as the due date nears). Then, walking by a window or mirror and seeing a reflection she would remember with a sense of shock, “OMG, I’m PREGNANT!

Especially early on, it was easy for her to behave or feel as if there wasn’t a new and fragile life inside of her. She would want to do something as natural as lie on her stomach and then suddenly remember how that might not be the right thing to do because she is pregnant. She had to keep reminding herself about this new life within her and shared with me about the striking similarities between this new experience and knowing the kingdom/residence of God within. This has been one of the most amazing parts of our being pregnant, for me.

We are all housing a Life beyond our own. Even right now. It might even be said, especially right now; because the present moment is the most significant time to be conscious of such a reality.

Some folks live in the past, others just worry and pray for the future, but there is no more important moment than the one we are being given now…whenever that is.

Our immature consciousness has weak eyelids. Like a new born baby, it is difficult to keep our eyes open for too long. After a few seconds of looking around, our eyes close and we forget where or who we are. A daily practice of Silent Prayer helps create an endurance with this awareness. Without some kind of consistent discipline or exercise, the skill and mental muscle can’t progress and complaining about our weak consciousness without doing something about it is like an overweight guy complaining about his clogged arteries while eating bacon maple donuts. We all need to learn to be intentional about being awake!

So remember, you’re pregnant. Don’t forget it. There is a life within you that is beyond you while also giving you an opportunity for a fuller and more abundant life. Do what you can to give it the sustenance and conditions it needs to thrive.

For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
– Romans 8.22

Listening.

 

Reporter: When you pray, what do you say to God?
Mother Theresa: Nothing. I just listen.
Reporter: What does God say to you?
Mother Theresa: Nothing. God just listens, too. And if you don't understand that, I can't explain it to you.
—Mother Teresa of Calcutta 

When you pray, do not keep on babbling.
– Jesus, Matthew 6.6-8

I’m running into more and more Christians who like the idea of silence, which I find so encouraging. It is deeply comforting to know the practice of Silent Prayer is no longer foreign in Christian circles. Unfortunately though, I’m also finding so many people who speak highly of silence, but then stop there. They’re comfortable talking about Silent Prayer and maybe utilizing it in times of crisis or sacredness, but then don’t go any further than that. What I’ve noticed about this phenomenon is its similarity to Jesus’ description of the seed scattered on the road in Matthew 13.5/6:

It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

Isn’t that a wonderful analogy for when we encounter something or someone new, get all excited, and then only moments or days later, feel completely bored? What is so sad about this to me is how often we experience this type of temporary encounter with life and then decipher that this was all that "the seed" ever had to offer us. We never return to discover the greater, endless reality hidden within by allowing the roots to reach into our depths. … Where are your roots?

What concerns me when people treat Silent Prayer this way is how they become no less anxious, no less afraid, and no less distracted in life; neither do they become any more humble, any more peaceful, or any more intimate with God or other people. At best, they become more educated about methods of prayer. This familiarity with Silent Prayer without digging any roots into it breeds numbness.

People will say things like, “I just get so distracted,” or, “I just get so bored,” as excuses for avoiding a practice of Silent Prayer when those are exactly the reasons for a practice of Silent Prayer! If we are unable to focus on God’s humble and often silent presence within us for any real duration of time when our eyes are closed and our mouths are silent, what makes us think we’re focused on him while it’s busy and chaotic? If we can’t worship, love, and listen to God when it’s silent, are we really worshiping, loving, or listening to him when it’s loud? Any internal hurdles we have to be simply present to God in the kingdom of God within are a revelation of how our external lives are shaped and formed to avoid this intimacy with God, ourselves, and others. 

When we create a regular practice of Silent Prayer, we discover a baseline of awareness, consciousness, and intimacy with God. Once we stand firmly on that baseline by returning to it regularly, the ups and downs of life no longer dominate our emotions or way of thinking. We come to know and being known by a peace beyond understanding.

Silent Prayer is an invitation to depth and intimacy with God, ourselves, and each other. I can’t imagine anything more worthy of just 20-30min of our time and efforts.

The Spiritual Discipline of Seeking

Seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.
— Deuteronomy 4.29

Sometimes, I get the feeling that the church in general has stopped seeking God and started only seeking answers to “problems.” For instance, we know that the fruit of the Spirit in one’s life is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, but instead of focusing on the Spirit, we seek the fruit. We reduce the Spirit to a means to an end rather than the end Itself. It’s like we’ve learned all the right answers on a math test without having to do the work to solve the problems for ourselves. It makes us no more intelligent or ready to put a skill into practice when we have an answer without a personal understanding of how it works.

It is in the deeply personal and intimate activity of Seeking that our identity and character are discovered, recovered, and refined. The process of seeking is also where a life of Relationship lives; not so much in finding, but in seeking.

In truth, the entire Christian journey could be summarized as a devotion to seeking, not finding or knowing. Our job is seeking and God’s is the finding! The earliest scriptures instructed us, “Seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” And this is not a one-time event! So many times we reduce God down to an idea of god. We think that once we capture the right idea, we will have God. This is so painfully deceptive. It wouldn’t work in a marriage to reduce your spouse in such a way and it won’t work in a true relationship with God either. God is bigger than any and every idea, location, denomination, and theology.

Just because we are given a wonderful perception does not mean we should stop seeking God! Jesus himself tells us, “The one who seeks finds.” We’re given a faith that tells us God is all and in all and over all, yet we compartmentalize our seeking to certain areas of formality, crisis, or behavior. The whole of our lives, from every area of normalcy to those of extreme significance, should be given room for seeking God’s presence and participation. We see so little of God in our lives and in the lives of those around us only because we do not implement any effort in finding him. Some Christians become content with only seeing God in an idea of the afterlife, resulting in a religious and yet Godless life.

Our minds are crowded with the idea that we are right, we see everything there is to see, and we know how things should be. There is no room in them for seeking God. What if we took Jesus’ instruction to deny ourselves and follow him to this level? We'd give our minds a break from the over-stimulation of opinions and perceptions. By doing this we're creating space in our crowded minds for a seeking of God’s presence in all and through all. Life becomes much fuller and abundant this way.

What Robin Williams Taught Me...

The news of Robin Williams’ death seems to have struck so many people. I have numerous conversations with people who’ve commented in one way or another that they’ve taken it "surprisingly hard.” It’s strange how we can feel such a deep emotional connection to someone whom most of us have never met. It almost feels silly to say that with Robin’s death, I became more sensitive to my own fragility. But I know that many feel this way. It is truly a gift.

Reading everyone’s experiences of Mr Williams has really made me start thinking about my own. Of course, his portrayal of characters like Peter Banning/Pan, Patch Adams, Mrs Doubtfire, and as psychiatrist Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting have played a role in my developmental thinking. But what really captured me about him was his standup comedy.

For years, I had been intrigued by standup comedians. I find what they do to be outstandingly artistic and courageous…When done well, of course. Robin Williams especially peaked my interest because he had become such a successful actor yet continued to perform standup. That seemed odd and outstanding to me because most comedians-turned-actors used standup as a means to an end rather than an end. Steve Martin, Jim Carrey, and Eddie Murphy all stopped doing standup once they made it big, which says something about the grueling nature of standup. It also gives me profound respect for people like Seinfeld, Louis C.K., and of course, Robin Williams. He had always seemed to me as someone who was an especially conscious artist, who gave a great deal of consideration and thought to his life and work. I’m drawn to those types of people because of how clearly I feel it portrays the nature of God, even when what they’re creating may not resemble anything we’d consider to be God-like (the same could be said about some of God’s own creation, so it’s best to look harder).

In 2002, Williams released Robin Williams: Live on Broadway and I purchased it right away. I’ve watched it at least a dozen times, studying his rhythm, phrasing, and subtle nuance. One of the most captivating bits for me is when he begins talking about Jesus, religion, and his being Episcopalian, which he jokingly refers to as “Catholic Lite: You get all the religion, but with just half the guilt!” Knowing him to be such a thoughtful, creative, and artistic person, I was enthralled to know more about his faith. He goes on to spout out funny and poignant observations about our faith at a rapid-fire pace, but that wasn’t enough for me. I began listening throughout his entire act (and body of work) for expressions and indications of his faith.

While he was telling and acting out sex and fart jokes, I was listening and looking for signs and expressions of Williams’ faith and relationship with God. Most adult Christians I knew wouldn't sit through it without being repulsed and offended, but he helped me to learn to seek and be present to what is below the surface. This may be one of the greatest lessons and works of my Christian faith and I've never stopped striving to mature in this way. How can we love and be present to a God who is all, in all and through all (Ephesians 4.6) if our practice is to constantly avoid people, circumstances, or behaviors?

Monday evening Shawna and I turned on the evening news for the first time since we got cable over a month ago and newscasters were speaking about Robin in the past-tense. It seemed illogical that he would’ve died so I asked out loud, “Was? Had? Did he die??” And a few seconds later, it was clearly stated. A few moments after that they announced it was being investigated as a suicide. He was 63. Was. It still hurts to write in the past-tense.

I still return to the lesson he taught me. While his suicide is heartbreaking and genuinely tragic, I keep wanting to find something beneath it. Now, being in a position to so clearly see how severe his life-long struggle has been it puts all of his extravagant generosity and kindness to others in a new light. I am still inspired by the man’s faith and relationship with God and so devastatingly heartbroken over his relationship with himself.

Thank you, Mr Williams. May you rest in peace and your family recover with the memory of your love.

Consider carefully how you listen...

It’s amazing and humbling to look at Jesus’ words and still find hidden messages of wisdom after years of familiarity. Sayings like, “Enter through the narrow gate,” “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and, “The kingdom of God is within you,” can all be numbingly commonplace to those of us who’ve been or been around Christians for considerable amounts of time. When I’m overly-familiar with something or someone it results in my no longer giving intentional consideration, simply because I don’t need to. “I get it,” I think, and so stop listening or looking closely; whether it be with my spouse, friends, nature, God’s presence, or my responsibilities, the illusion of familiarity numbs my heart and mind.

This reflection was taken while I was on personal retreat at San Damiano Franciscan Retreat Center.

When I stop really listening and looking, I miss so much wonder and uniqueness and consequently lose intimacy from my life. It is in this way that I feel like familiarity is one of the major culprits within Christianity. We’re too familiar with Jesus, church, Scripture, and the use of the term “Christian.” 

One of the most refreshing experiences in my relationship with Christ is when I’m reading Scripture and something strikes me as being totally unfamiliar. This experience happened when I was reading Luke 8:

Consider carefully how you listen…

Jesus goes on to say more, of course, but I was stunned with the implication of this simple instruction before I read on:

Do I consider how I listen? Sure, maybe I consider what I hear; but do I consider how I am listening?

How I am listening really dictates what it is that I hear.

  • Am I fearful? Then Jesus words will sound scary, condescending, or give the terribly arrogant “turn or burn” impression to compensate for our fear.
  • Am I angry? Then I will understand Jesus’ words with an irritable tone, subconsciously justifying my own unresolved aggression.
  • Am I bored? Then Jesus will sound like an uninspired 80 year old professor, just counting his days until retirement.

In each case, I am not truly hearing (or reading) Jesus but a projection of my own emotional condition. This can have disastrous effects on my life, faith, relationships, and maturation.

The goal, I believe, is to be fully and purely receptive. To truly hear and see Christ we must:

  1. Learn to let go of what it is we might be afraid to hear or see.
  2. We must also learn to let go of what it is that we might be hoping to hear or see.
  3. Lastly, we have to unbind ourselves from opinions and things we’re so convinced of that we've stopped needing to listen to God and others. This way they can be permitted to grow, change, and mature.

Taken at Half-Moon Bay while on a day-cation with Shawna. We dug a hole in the sand so she could lay on her pregnant belly.

This third step includes our use and understanding of Scripture. Used correctly, it is an indispensable guide to intimacy with God and others. Used incorrectly, is a terrible disabler of relationship and intimacy with God and our neighbors, namely because it is used in place of intimacy and relationship. Christianity should only ever bring us to continuously and increasingly loving God, our neighbors (whoever they may be at any given moment), and ourselves. If it is not doing this, we’re not truly practicing Christianity.

When I listen to Jesus’ instruction to consider carefully how I listen, I can see how once we’ve released our fears, entitlements, and over-identification with opinions, we will be able to truly listen to God and our neighbors, without a self-centered filter. God is infinitely creative and finds ways and, being made in God's image, so should we.

How am I listening to God? How am I listening to my neighbor? It might be helpful to consider it this way:

Listen to the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. And listen to your neighbor as yourself.”

An Invitation: The Idolatry of Scripture

“Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.
If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
— Matthew 12.1-8

This passage of Scripture has been on my mind since mid-May. It always stands out to me when Jesus contradicts the Scriptures and traditions. Jesus is declaring people innocent who are breaking clear Scriptural laws mandated by God. What a  shocking thing for him to do! And he makes contradictory statements elsewhere. For instance, Jesus quotes Exodus and Leviticus where God is quoted as saying: 

Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. … I am the Lord your God.
— God, Leviticus 24.20 & Exodus 21.24

But Jesus contradicts this direct quote from God in Scripture in Matthew 5:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
— Jesus, Matthew 5.38-45

The beautiful and very small (I stood at the back of the room to take this picture) Sky Farm Hermitage Chapel in Sonoma, CA.

Now, I don’t see this as a reason to throw out the Scriptures, and neither did Jesus (while tempted in the desert, it was Scripture that he quoted in the face of each temptation). I see it as an invitation. If my faith was in the Bible, it would be a catastrophic blow to my religion. But, thankfully, my faith is in God. Jesus addressed this differentiation while speaking to the Pharisees:

You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.

— Jesus, John 5.39/40

I remember hearing a pastor say to a protestant congregation, “We don’t worship the Bible, but we get about [pinching his fingers close together] thaaaat close.” My heart sank when I heard this. I realized he was under-exaggerating. The idolatry of the Scriptures is the cause of so much division and condemnation. A.W. Tozer called people “Textualists" who “magnify the Scriptures so much that they block the very Light they are meant to reveal.” That may be a more proper name for contemporary Christianity than “Christian” (which means “little Christs”).

Scriptural contradictions and inconsistencies are an invitation to dive deep within ourselves to find what the Spirit is bringing about in our lives. They can also be things we just happily read over and move past. We don’t need to burden ourselves with information, when the invitation is to relationship. We can remain focused on that relationship.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

— Jesus, Matthew 22.37-40

And there it is.

Some read this and see no use for Scripture. Consequently, those folks tend to be inclined toward emotionalism and self-centeredness (I know this from experience, of course). The other side reads this and obsesses with the Law and the Prophets for a more in-depth understanding, but tend to get lost in a religion that draws and defines lines between people and God, a deceptive and destructive form of self-centeredness (I know this from experience, of course).

There is a middle path though. And Jesus incarnates it.

Scripture helps us incalculably in learning to live out those two commandments with pure hearts, unstained by ego and self-centeredness (self-centered kindness is possibly the most destructive of sins). If something in Scripture brings out the opposite of what Jesus describes in Matthew 22, let’s do what Jesus did, humbly and happily contradict it while moving along in relationship.

An Invitation

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
— Jesus, Matthew 11.28-30

For the past few months, I’ve been meditating daily with this invitation of Jesus’. It has become increasingly meaningful. I recommend reading it internally, slowly, and repeatedly. Not just because it has meant something to me, but because Jesus’ words are worth savoring.

What has stuck with me the most has been Jesus’ defining himself as "gentle and humble in heart” and that his “yoke (teaching/way of living) is easy” and his “burden is light.” It never ceases to be refreshing for me to know this about Christ. When my faith and/or religion make feel weary or burdened, I must be doing it wrong. It saddens me to know that the portrayal of Christianity that most of us are given is so burdensome. For one reason or another, much of the church has handed down a Christianity that is brutal and arrogant, rather than gentle and humble.

I could spend days, months, and years (and already have) trying to form and answer questions like: Why has Christianity strayed so far from the character of Christ? How did we get here? How do people read Jesus’ words and interpret ways to isolate and condemn others?

While those might be good questions to ask and sit with, I believe it’s more important to find and provide an alternative. Every criticism carries with it the responsibility to be the alternative we had hoped to see. Otherwise, we’re just Negative Nancy’s and Defeatist Darryl’s.

It seemed like my teens and early twenties were for pointing out inconsistencies and fallacies in others because I hadn’t really lived enough to invent any of my own (or at least an awareness of it). For the past decade or so, it’s been about trying to be what I had hoped others would’ve been. This, in and of itself, can bring about an amazing amount of weariness and burden. It’s also one of the many reasons Jesus brings what is actual Good News (the literally meaning of the word “Gospel”).

Jesus extended an invitation to all who are weary and burdened, especially to those who are so by their religion and religious leaders. It is freeing to know that true-Christianity doesn’t look burdensome, painful, or heavy. So, whatever might be burdening me in my faith should be looked at very carefully and critically.

Is it necessary? Are it’s roots found in fear? Is it simply a moral or behavioral argument or does it have to do with my ability to be in relationship with the Divine?

In order to accept Christ’s invitation extended to the weary and burdened, we need to have the courage to throw off the things to which we are truly yoked. To what are we bound? Another way to phrase this question might be: What things have we allowed to define us personally?

When we are yoked/united with Christ, we discover that when Jesus describes himself he is also describing us. For, if Jesus truly is "the image of the invisible God,” we need to pay attention because we are ourselves made in God’s own image! So, when Jesus says, “I am gentle and humble in heart and my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” we can realize that this is the revelation of who we truly are. In our hearts, we are humble and gentle! 

We’ve somehow grown up to believe we are so many other things: angry, hurt, anxious, bossy, afraid, shy, or weak. Those are conditions we’ve developed. Many of them are innocent defense mechanisms which have formed an incasing around our hearts and true selves. They are not our true identity. We are gentle and humble in heart. Taking on the closeness of Christ in all and through all (like two yoked oxen plowing through a dried field), we discover this over and over again.

Today when you feel angry and inflated with yourself, simply remember, you are gentle and humble in heart, and there is One who will yoke with you to show you how to get through “this” as such. 

We're moving to Santa Clara!

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
— Jesus, Matthew 11.28-30

Sometimes I think to myself, “I must be doing this wrong.” And by sometimes I mean rather frequently ever since my latter teen years. The statement from Jesus (above) is essentially him replying to that thought with a wonderfully encouraging, “Yup.”

I’ve been praying that passage from Matthew for the past few months and it’s been incredibly reorienting. Ambitions, dreams, ideas, fears, and desires quickly become the alter where I pray to God. And the fruit of this is anxiety. It’s a shallow comfort (though comfort nonetheless) to know I’m not alone in this. I see it in the majority of Christians. And as the old adage goes, it takes one to know one.

Our ability to identify things in other peoples lives is only made possible by our ability to identify with those things (hence, “Do not judge lest you be judged” – Jesus, Matthew 7.1).

This is only one of the many reasons we are moving to Santa Clara.

Portland, we miss you already. Your weirdness, honesty, sincerity, and openness will stay with us always. Our neighbors here have made our lives rich and sweet. We love you and hope to return one day.

Santa Clara, here we come! We can’t wait to see how our lives unfold together as we welcome our son and many growing friendships who share a bright view of the future. Thanks for welcoming us the way you have!

I know it seems like we just moved to Portland and that’s because we did. But things change.

Essentially, we moved here because of Ryan and Shelly Brown. Geez. They are just two of the most wonderful, inspiring, kind, warm, accepting, encouraging, and loving a schlub like me can find. Now, they’re moving to Spokane, WA for a truly superb opportunity that couldn’t be more fitting for them. We’re excited and happy for them, but Spokane is a little far for us. Things change. Thank God for Facetime.

The wonderful folks at Valley Life Center in Santa Clara invited us to come start our family with them while also be a part of what’s going on there with the hopes of developing an internship/residency program emphasizing on a contemplative focus. It is literally the dream job. And the faith community depicts so well what Shawna and I have hoped to find. We couldn’t have seen this coming. But things change. It’s impossible to emphasize enough how excited we are to learn to be parents in this new community. The timing couldn’t be better. We’re extremely grateful. Thank you Brook & Autumn Fonceca and Stu & Jendy Nice! We’re overflowing with gratitude, hope, and joy.

So, seven month pregnant Shawna and I are on the road with our deaf dog Kitty, taking the scenic route (in more ways than one), and journeying to our new home (in more ways than one). Our Instagrams will be ablaze; as will our hearts. The adventure continues. Things change. And then the adventure continues.

We’re looking forward to being nearer to friends and family with our baby. We’re looking forward to the peacefulness that we feel drawing us into this new season. We’re looking forward to Love unfolding and growing and incarnating within our lives more and more.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.
— Jesus, John 14.27

Fourteenth (final) Station of the Cross: Jesus is laid in the tomb

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
– Jesus, Luke 17.33

This may be the most avoided station in our lives: to bury what needs to be buried, even when it’s Jesus.

The few disciples that stayed with Jesus’ dead body had loved him, learned from him, believed in him, and still had the wrong idea about him. Their theology was very off. But their love was pure.

They were convinced that Jesus was the Anointed One who would free them from the Roman dominion over their lives and land. They were wrong. But their love for Jesus was bigger than their idea of him.

This scenario is still very much a reality today. We have wrong theologies, beliefs, opinions, and ideas about Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, and everything else. It runs rampant. It also causes a terrible amount of division and damage. Certitude is an idol. When we blindly and strongly believe the theologies about the Anointed One handed to us, we repeat the Pharisaical cycle.

Don’t be afraid to question your beliefs. Don’t be afraid when your beliefs are questioned. Is our faith merely belief? Or is it a Divine Loving Relationship?

It’s okay to bury theologies that are wrong, especially when they are divisive. It’s okay to bury religious opinions that are wrong, especially when they are uninformed and ignorant. It’s okay to bury ideas about God because He is and will always be infinitely bigger than any idea we try confining Him to, and resurrection can’t happen without there first being a burial. Lastly, it’s okay to be wrong. All of the disciples were, yet Jesus’ demeanor remained the same: Love, Invitation, and Relationship. Too many feel like if they bury one part of their theology they must bury the whole thing and walk away. That is truly unfortunate. 

Let’s not let our tremendous Faith be reduced to education and right vs wrong. If it were about that, Jesus would’ve spoken plainly, rather than in parables. Thankfully, he is purposefully and powerfully perplexing. Facts, figures, and arguments will never prove our faith because they are not what our faith is about (though many will try).

Let’s let our Faith be about loving Jesus, in all and through all, for that is how Jesus presents himself to us. “There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free (or whatever other kinds of divisions you can dream up): but Christ is all, and in all,” (Colossians 3.11). True love for Christ is greater than love for an idea of Christ (a principal that applies to all relationships).

In silence. In solitude. These are the greatest and most challenging places to begin; where we encounter the testimony of our faith within ourselves. It is the only thing that proves our faith. Find It within yourself and it won’t be so inconceivably difficult to find It in all and through all.

Christ Jesus, grant me to be with You; at all times, in all ways, in all places. To be with You as You are with me.”

2014 Copyright.