Exegesis of the Prophet (Bob Dylan)

I am going to analyze the words of the prophet (Bob Dylan) from time to time.  This song speaks to me of our common humanness.  We are all citizens of “Desolation Row.”
The song starts out describing the basic craziness of living in this human place.

They’re selling postcards of the hanging
They’re painting the passports brown
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors
The circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner
They’ve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
The other is in his pants
And the riot squad they’re restless
They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight
From Desolation Row

The themes are clear and common to all humans.  Violence is primary: “They’re selling postcards of the hanging” the restless of the mob.  Justice enters as the “blind commissioner” self absorbed with “his hand in his pants.”  No mention of the victim, just a restless crowd looking for entertainment.

Human relationship is introduced with Cinderella as a sex symbol and Romeo claiming ownership.  This all familiar man centric, sex enamoured play ends in tragedy and “after the ambulances go” Cinderella returns to her servitude.   Romance does not change her state.  This is quite a contrast to the romantic myth so familiar to us.  But that is reality, on Desolation Row!

Cinderella, she seems so easy
“It takes one to know one,” she smiles
And puts her hands in her back pockets
Bette Davis style
And in comes Romeo, he’s moaning
“You Belong to Me I Believe”
And someone says, “You’re in the wrong place my friend
You better leave”
And the only sound that’s left
After the ambulances go
Is Cinderella sweeping up
On Desolation Row

An ominous feeling arises in this place, there is about to be a bad event.  But the event is celebrated too!  Although the moon and stars are warning and even the fortuneteller is worried, some are “getting ready for the show.”
Reference to Cain and Abel and the hunchback seem to remind us that “the show” may be the murderous hanging of the “other.” The victimage prompts everybody to be “making love or expecting rain.”  The common event of the hanging seems to provide a sense of tension and binding together at the same time.

Now the moon is almost hidden
The stars are beginning to hide
The fortune-telling lady
Has even taken all her things inside
All except for Cain and Abel
And the hunchback of Notre Dame
Everybody is making love
Or else expecting rain
And the Good Samaritan, he’s dressing
He’s getting ready for the show
He’s going to the carnival tonight
On Desolation Row

There is a major shift that begins now.  We have been on the inside of the human village but now we are “peeking into Desolation Row! ”
We join Ophelia, who seems to be dead even as she lives.  She is young, but old.  Death is romantic to her in her protective vest, she owes her life to religion and “her sin is her lifelessness!”
This is a picture of a faith that is removed from its humanity, an archaic religion that is fixed on the rainbow of God’s promise without knowing the God of promise!  This religion which sees a god far above earth and seeks to remain seperate is desperate to connect with humanness and “spends her time peeking into Desolation Row!”

Now Ophelia, she’s ’neath the window
For her I feel so afraid
On her twenty-second birthday
She already is an old maid
To her, death is quite romantic
She wears an iron vest
Her profession’s her religion
Her sin is her lifelessness
And though her eyes are fixed upon
Noah’s great rainbow
She spends her time peeking
Into Desolation Row

Intelectual activity dies a cruel death outside it’s humanity.  The brain is retired “with his memories in a trunk” in this delusionary world of christianity.  He was famous back in the human village but now “you would not think to look at him.”  This is an obvious juxtiposition of the Isa. reference to christ as the one who we did not want to look upon.

Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood
With his memories in a trunk
Passed this way an hour ago
With his friend, a jealous monk
He looked so immaculately frightful
As he bummed a cigarette
Then he went off sniffing drainpipes
And reciting the alphabet
Now you would not think to look at him
But he was famous long ago
For playing the electric violin
On Desolation Row

The patients that suffer this dehumanization of religion are described and one holds the “cards that read “Have Mercy on His Soul”
The sounds of these lost souls are heard “From Desolation Row! ”  The lost are not in Desolation Row but in the towers of false divination.

Dr. Filth, he keeps his world
Inside of a leather cup
But all his sexless patients
They’re trying to blow it up
Now his nurse, some local loser
She’s in charge of the cyanide hole
And she also keeps the cards that read
“Have Mercy on His Soul”
They all play on pennywhistles
You can hear them blow
If you lean your head out far enough
From Desolation Row

The show is almost ready!  We are finally introduced to the victim, Casanova, who is being fed with fame and confidence.  The charismatic preacher will be “poisoned with words and then “kill(ed) with self-confidence.”  He is to be skapegoated for participating in that worst of all sins: admitting to being human by “going to Desolation Row.”

Across the street they’ve nailed the curtains
They’re getting ready for the feast
The Phantom of the Opera
A perfect image of a priest
They’re spoonfeeding Casanova
To get him to feel more assured
Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence
After poisoning him with words
And the Phantom’s shouting to skinny girls
“Get Outa Here If You Don’t Know
Casanova is just being punished for going
To Desolation Row”

The agents of the superhuman god of violence, the “principalities and powers” of an angry god round up those who begin to see through their false religion that denies the humanness of god in christ and seeks to continue the charade.
Now they are trying to keep those who are escaping “to” desolation row.  We have gone from seeing the very realistic human condition as “the circus is in town” to watching the crowds as they run from the show to return to human reality.

Now at midnight all the agents
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do
Then they bring them to the factory
Where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene
Is brought down from the castles
By insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row

The picture returns to the state of chaos outside humanness.  Now we see religion, politics and every mythology that attempts to divinize the life on earth as it is, “everybody’s shouting, ‘Which side are you on?'”  This is the critical moment that reveals the myth of human nature.  Seperation creates an almost psychotic frenzy.  Religion, politics, law, civilization in all forms creates an “us and them” delusion that sparks violence and attempts to erase the human memory that we are all living in our human suits and removes the hope of unity in christ, the true human!

Praise be to Nero’s Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody’s shouting
“Which Side Are You On?”
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row

A glimps of hope emerges with a letter “as the doorknob broke.”  The door that would open the way back to humanness seemed helplessly closed, until a letter came.  Another human reached out,  but it seemed almost a cruel joke to ask “how I was doing.”  Others were mentioned, asked about, but they had to be restructured to allow them to remain out here.  The only hope would be if someone might send a letter from the place of humanness.  No more letters, unless you go there and send me word “from Desolation Row!

Yes, I received your letter yesterday
(About the time the doorknob broke)
When you asked how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name
Right now I can’t read too good
Don’t send me no more letters, no
Not unless you mail them
From Desolation Row

Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music

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The Seed is Breaking Out!

growing new wine in the foreground of the old castle

growing new wine in the foreground of the old castle

As we look at the world, we see lots of violence and death, lots of pain and power plays.  But if we look closely, we may discover something hidden, something underground, that has been germinating for centuries.  Is there a seedling of hope in these times of despair?  Must we throw our only hope onto some violent overtaking of this vicious world order or is there a quiet germ that has been planted among us that could save us?

For as long as we could call ourselves human we have defined ourselves through violence.   Kingdoms have seperated the “other” to gain control.  We learned very early and it has become a part of our DNA, our “fallen nature,” if you will, to seperate, to differentiate,  to identify skapegoats and to fight and murder in order to create culture.

This “way of being human” has helped us in some ways.  It has allowed the strong to evolve and has limited the self-destruction that was inevitable.   Through “sacrificial religion” we have memorialized the skapegoat and settled our frenzied appetite for memetic competition.  But the appitite seems to come back to haunt us and the victims seem to be piling up in the garbage dump of the hell we have built for ourselves.

But it seems, if we bend down and look closely at the soil of human history, there may be a sprout that is trying to push itself up out of the dirt.  It is breaking out of the seed planted in Christ so long ago.  An innocent victim gave himself to the human race and broke free of death so that we could discover a new birth as humans.

A new way to be human.  A way of peace rather than violence, service instead of dominance.  A way of acknowledging the victim and lifting them up rather than stepping on their backs.  This new way is breaking out in the culture, not so much in the church.  Religion is an instrument of the “principalities and powers” and continues to oppress.  Every time a church leader seperates, says “we are holy, they are not.”   Each act of “us vs. them” is an attempt to shovel this seed back into the ground.  But it keeps popping up in music, in culture, in real life.

Each time we hear a song that celebrates our human family, each time we see a group of celebraties speak out for the victimized, whenever the voice of the weak and disadvantaged is heard, the seed is breaking out!  We may not recognize it because we are looking for so called “christian” voices, but there are sprouts coming from many unexpected places and the institutional church will miss the gospel of the risen Christ because its oracles will be tatoed musicians and misfit artists.  Former attendees of various churches will iterate a gospel of peace that will be unrecognized by those who maintain the walls and the limitations of church structure,

The seed has been planted and watered and continues to blossom in the soil of truth.  What can be done by those who hope for love to sprout?  Look for it, recognize it when you see it and point it out to others.  Give voice to the victimized and weaker in your midst.  When you point to the gospel seedlings you give them water and sunlight to bloom in the hearts of others.  Live it out in community.  Learn to love those who are in lesser circumstances.  Build alliances with others to meet the needs of those who live in lower circumstances.

Celebrate the voice of the Gospel when it is proclaimed in music, film and the arts or anywhere in culture or everday life.  Whether you hear it coming from Pharrell, The Black Keys or Oprah!  Maybe it will be unnoticed in my generation but I pray that this seed will become a tree for my children and grandchildren to rest in, a shade from the violent structures of this world and a place of rest to build upon for many generations!

Think About it!

sunset boatI recently posted an article on facebook that discussed why many are dispelling the notion of eternal, infernal punishment in hell.  It was issued with a bit of a challenge to some who, I thought, were thoughtful about their faith.  I was hoping to get some responses and questions from those who would challenge the article or at least, raise questions about the assumptions.  I got one thoughtful, though decidedly closed, comment.  No one else seemed willing to question their faith or even defend it.  Maybe it isn’t important where 99% of the humans will spend eternity… or maybe (please God) no one cares about it because we are too busy making the world a better place!
I have a few, I think more likely, proposals but correct me if I am wrong!

“Don’t make me think, I am comfortable with what I have always believed”
This is possibly the most likely reason for the non-response (or “crickets” as I like to describe it.)  I discovered several years ago that I had lived “in the bubble” for a long time. Theological questions were answered, no need to ask or question. Those that do question are considered contentious or doubters. This results in what Frank Schaefer refers to as “broken brains.” We are in the middle of what many consider a new reformation and we must think, discuss and re-think anything and everything.  In the middle of this thrilling reshaping of Christianity, there are a large block (maybe a majority) of people who attend church who are uncomfortable with the questions.  This “bubble” stops us from seeing the world as it is and blocks us off from so much truth!
“The Bible is clear; don’t confuse me by questioning my interpretive lens”
This reason is similar to the one above but the focus is on the perfection of texts that are so clearly unclear and want of perfection. Don’t get me wrong, the bible can be seen as a beautiful collection of inspired texts (and I see it that way), but I don’t buy the idea that it can be, by its very nature, inerrant.  Everything we read is read through our lens, this is maybe more true of inspired texts because we place such eternal weight upon them.

“First, there is an implied, and quite unwarranted, positivism: we imagine that we are ‘reading the text, straight’, and that if somebody disagrees with us it must be because they, unlike we ourselves, are secretly using ‘presuppositions’ of this or that sort. This is simply naïve, and actually astonishingly arrogant and dangerous. It fuels the second point, which is that evangelicals often use the phrase ‘authority of scripture’ when they mean the authority of evangelical, or Protestant, theology, since the assumption is made that we (evangelicals, or Protestants) are the ones who know and believe what the Bible is saying”.
NT Wright ,How can the Bible be Authoritative

“I don’t want to enter a discussion because there will be disagreement and we are supposed to be “united”’
To me, this makes a point but, ultimately, it suggests that we don’t trust others or ourselves to have a charitable discussion in which we may disagree. This is maybe most dangerous. If we can’t discuss important issues with others who are believers and are trying to follow Jesus as their conscience dictates, maybe we should question whether we believe anything!
Maybe we are more interested in having a human community that agrees upon their beliefs and supports one another emotionally and, sometimes in other ways. These are all good things. I don’t always feel that I have enough of this type of community.  However, that is very different from a true faith community that questions, discusses and re-questions, rather than being spoon feed by (many times very ill educated) leaders.   Without the voice of those who have different angles, different viewpoints or even outright criticism, the bible becomes a flat piece of wood and faith is diluted and stagnant. I believe the life of faith is an endless journey of discovery and astonishment, not a stamped ticket to heaven and self-appeasement.

The next generation is hungry for honest, direct questioning.  The concept of truth being all wrapped up nicely in a bow is one ready for the funeral pire!  Let’s give all the certainty a proper burial and let’s embrace the tension of the Mystery with all the questions, doubts and faith.

I’m up on the tightwire
one side’s ice and one is fire
its a circus game with you and me
I’m up on the tightrope
one side’s hate and one is hope
but the top hat on my head is all you see
And the wire seems to be
the only place for me
a comedy of errors
and I’m falling

I’m up on the tightwire
flanked by life and the funeral pyre
putting on a show
for you to see

“Tight Rope” By Leon Russell

Think about it, then, let’s us reason together!

A Saving Doubt!

A short excerpt from what might be a book someday!

table of bounty

The things we have learned often create a barrier, a wall against growth and new creation. If we spend our emotional, psychological and spiritual energy protecting the walls of the castle, we may find ourselves in a corner, dark, damp, musty. We may find ourselves in a castle of our own making after spirit has retreated!

“He who is not busy being born, is busy dying.” Bob Dylan It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)

I embrace mystery! When my son asks me a question for which I have no definitive answer (99% of all the questions) I just look at him and say “that is the beauty of faith!”

“Embracing paradox helped me discover that religion is a neurological disorder for which faith is the only cure.”
Frank Schaefer. Why I am an Atheist who believes in God . Page 24.

Doubt may be the greatest gift to my faith.  When I was certain, I had no room to grow. Yes, I dug and studied and tried to mine new truths.  But it was all within the same framework, within the “castle of my own making!”  Now there is no end to the universe of truth.

Since doubt entered, I have learned to look up and see the world, the universe, outside the bubble. There is no end to the places that truth can be discovered. Science is no threat, just another field to explore! Music and art are no longer divided by holy and vulgar, just beauty and truth. What might we discover if we step out of the ghetto of “Christian” music, movies, language and books? We might discover that those outside the ghetto have as much to teach us as we do them!

I might find an insight within the beauty of any stream of thought or faith. Is there a reason to deny truth just because it comes from the mouth of a practicing Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist? I frequently chat online with an old friend who abandoned (or should I say escaped) an extreme faith and has since become a leading voice of atheism in my home state. We don’t always agree but we have some really interesting discussions. Sometimes I find myself agreeing with him and disagreeing with those who self-identify as Christians.

What doubt and mystery provide is a bursting of the certainty bubble that protected me from free thought and free discussion and an opportunity to understand the world and people. 

I no longer know everything!

I approach people and subjects as a student, a seeker. Maybe that is what Jesus meant by “having the faith of a child!”

Defining God

I know, ridiculous, right?me and ml

But we do it all the time.  We do it with how we describe God and our experience.  We do it by limiting the sphere within which we think She operates!  We think we have the market on anything that relates to God!  Of course, we always add a disclaimer, “He is so much more…!”  I have realized that the words used in the past are not just limiting or insufficient, some are just wrong!

Almighty, All Powerful, Omnipotent: Of course we want to believe that The One has it all under control, can do whatever, whenever.  It is an issue of control.  We want a god that can step up and deal with whatever is going on in the world and in our lives and deal with it decisively.  But reality shouts a different truth altogether.  That is just not how things work.  We don’t pray some perfect, faith filled prayer and everything gets better!  There is no magic way to convince the Great One to zap our problems or even end world hunger or give peace a chance! The power of God is not definable in terms of control.  It is not a worldly power that commands and demands.  The Power is one of influence, cooperation and patience.

We hear this word “all-powerful” and think of a king in the sky who can do anything he pleases just because he is king. If we import this kind of human metaphor into the word ‘omnipotens’ we are not allowing the character of the Abba to redefine it for us. Our Abba is not like earthly rulers, who lord it over others . We know this because we see Jesus as a servant of all. Our Abba is ‘omnipotens’ in a beautiful way. Potens = power or potential. Our Abba is the one of all potential, of endless possibility. With our Abba, all things are possible…  Our Abba is not just full of infinite possibility , but of creative infinite possibility. Our Abba is not just an arbitrary deity who can do anything he/ she wants because after all, he/ she is God. No, our Abba is a God whose possibilities are creative or life oriented. Creation is alive, full of life, robustly manifesting life. Our Abba is a life-giver. Our Abba calls light out of chaos, out of darkness. Our Abba brings life to the grave. Our Abba transforms the decaying, dying cosmos into new creation all the time. Our Abba is full of life-giving possibility.

Hardin, Michael (2014-02-27). What The Facebook? (p. 172).  . Kindle Edition.

Omniscient, All-Knowing: Does He know how we will respond to his love or does She know when someone is going to fly a plane into a building and kill thousands?  If we couple these two descriptions together, it would seem to me we are describing an accomplice to all the worlds tragedies!  I don’t know the answer.  There certainly has been a belief that this God who we worship has knowledge beyond our understanding.  Both scripture and tradition speak in terms of this knowledge being immense.    I would prefer to hold this idea loosely rather than implicate the God of all love in the genocide of the human race!

Immutable: This big word suggests that there is no changing in God.  I don’t see it that way at all!  I think God is a wild, flowing, ecstatic love that is in constant movement toward us and changing to adapt to our decisions and grasping for opportunities to show us the path!

When we look at the universe we speak of ‘natural law’ and assume that somehow things are fixed or permanently set. Did you know that measurements of the speed of light fluctuate? The one supposed great constant in the universe of physics changes ! Imagine that. Can you imagine a physical universe that is open to infinite possibilities and that is not static? Quantum physicists can and do! Our Abba is a God of incredible possibilities.

Hardin, Michael (2014-02-27). What The Facebook? (p. 172).  . Kindle Edition.

Sovereign: This one just gives me hives!  This is Almighty, Omniscient on steroids!  I picture an angry faced emperor slamming his crown on the ground and yelling “It will be done because I said so, screw those minions!”

I realize that there is a more generous version of this concept but I just can’t think of it… not with Calvinists screaming “God hates you!”  I am also reminded of the story of a young woman in my study group who recently described how a local church explained divine selection (god has already determined our eternal destiny.)  She said that the leader in a class for new members told her that we all have an invisible stripe on our back (if we are lucky!)  Those chosen have been pre-ordained to eternal life.  Those with no lucky stripe are doomed!

I say “Run!”

Holy: I know this one has merit, but I still get pictures of Puritans casting out those who did not conform (they may have shown a little too much leg!)  The accused were nearly always women who were cast off, ostracized or killed (think Salem witch trials or American Indians.)

I am certain that this Great Energy is not us.  He is above and beyond us, in some sense.  But the whole purity code and morality drive of the American church just makes me want to puke!  Holiness is about love and kindness not what you do in your bedroom or whether you “smoke, drink or chew or go with girls who do!”

Please, while we are concerned about the morals of others, we can’t seem to portray to the world any hope that we won’t kill each other in the process!

If I want to describe God in the limited capability that is our language, I see how some of these words may be helpful.  But frankly, the best way I know to describe The Beautiful One is for you to listen to this song: Take a moment to listen! (click on the title)

“Helpless”  by Neil Young

    There is a town in north Ontario, With dream comfort memory to spare, And in my mind I still need a place to go, All my changes were there.  Blue, blue windows behind the stars, Yellow moon on the rise, Big birds flying across the sky, Throwing shadows on our eyes.  Leave us
    Helpless, helpless, helpless
    Baby can you hear me now?  The chains are locked and tied across the door, Baby, sing with me somehow.  Blue, blue windows behind the stars, Yellow moon on the rise, Big birds flying across the sky, Throwing shadows on our eyes.  Leave us
    Helpless, helpless, helpless

002There is only one word that could come close to explaining God or this song… Transcendence!

There is something about the music and the words as they roll like waves over my cracked heart!  This Indescribable makes me believe there is something, someone beyond me yet not away from me!  Someone interconnected, but more than me!

I know that science can provide all kinds of reasons why our emotions and our brains create this sensation and we may have been pre-programmed to label it as God.  But to me it is much more personal, too intimate to explain in scientific terms only.  Maybe it is just the story I choose to place myself in and I build my understanding within this context but it is beautiful and compelling.

A God who cannot be described but is ever with me, in me.  We are knit together!  He is in between every molecule of star dust from which I am made!  A God who became and is every bit human in Jesus of Nazareth.  Made human to show us another way, a way that defeats the powerful control of violence and sacrifice and reveals that we can all walk on a new and better path of love, forgiveness and mercy.

Religion often tries to define and describe God as if She could be contained within our words.  But even our attempts to use the Omni-words just fall flat!  What if this God, this energy, this whirlwind of love is beyond description?

Can we live with that?

Can we just listen to the music and acknowledge that there is a Something that is ever moving, changing, revealing and loving the world?

Listen!

An Almost Rainy Day

“After 30 years, what can you expect?”

Today could be the best day of my life!
Except that I have had 30 years of beautiful, excruciating, joyful, loving, unspoken, touching, peaceful, wonderful, painful, fun, smile inducing days!

How can I count or recount the times of our lives?

Listen to Emerson, Lake and Palmer:

Do you wanna be an angel
Do you wanna be a star
Do you wanna play some magic
On my guitar
Do you wanna be a poet
Do you wanna be my string
You could be anything

Do you wanna be the lover of another undercover
You could even be the
Man on the moon

Do you wanna be the player
Do you wanna be the string
Let me tell you something
It just don’t mean a thing

You see it really doesn’t matter
When you’re buried in disguise
By the dark glass on your eyes
Though your flesh has crystallised
Still…you turn me on

Do you wanna be the pillow
Where I lay my head
Do you wanna be the feathers
Lying on my bed
Do you wanna be the cover
Of a magazine
Create a scene

Every day a little sadder
A little madder
Someone get me a ladder

Do you wanna be the singer
Do you wanna be the song
Let me tell you something
You just couldn’t be more wrong

You see I really have to tell you
That it all gets so intense
From my experience
It just doesn’t seem to make sense
Still…you turn me on
Emerson, Lake and Palmer. “Still… You Turn Me On Lyrics”

You have to listen to the music, though! The words are beautiful. But the music fills in the rest, makes it complete.

It is like that with our lives. You can tell the story but it doesn’t tell it all. There is color that is missed.

There is the beauty that can’t be spoken… And the pain.. There is the drum solo that speaks to the bones! You just can’t understand it without the music.

It is the same with life, with God, with kids and grandkids!
We try to explain, we try to express. But it is not the words that really make the life. It is the color, the music that fills our lives and animates us!

It is the smile from the side of the room. The hand over my face.

The blue eyed universe looking up at me!

The smell of taco soup coming from the crockpot! The wise-ass look from my granddaughter that sends me back 20 years to when my baby daughter first created that look to tell me she wamads cigars becoming a person of her own.

It is the transcendence of a smell, a taste, a look that makes us more than we think we are.

We are our relationships. We are the connection between our family, those we love, those we touch.

Live and breathe and listen to the music and enjoy those who are around you and kiss the life you have!

Enjoy the Ride!

“Stop and smell the roses,” “the journey is the destination!”, “a journey of a thousand…”  “Breath!!!”  Well, we have all heard the cheesy sayings.  Some of them are very meaningful, others… not so much!  But, what are we saying about our faith and our life if the journey IS the destination?

First, The Big Picture…

What if the big journey, our life here on earth, is the destination?

Now, I am not discounting an after life,  I just want to consider that we may be rushing things… and missing the point!

In all my studies, lately, I keep discovering this same truth: The point of Jesus… his incarnation and birth…his life, teaching… his suffering, his death… his resurrection, ascension and the spirit outpouring… is not about getting us to heaven!

It is about bringing the kingdom, the reign, the administration, the cooperative leadership of God into the earth.  About showing us a way to live, a way to be human that is altogether different.

At a personal level, it is about being fully alive, fully aware of who we are and what is around us.  The beauty, the awe, the God-stuff, that infuses us and all of creation with amazing wonder.  It is about being awake!  Like Jacob realizing that he was in the midst of the “other” while he slept on a rock.

“When Jacob woke from his sleep, he thought to himself, The Lord is definitely in this place, but I didn’t know it. 17 This is his  house and the entrance to heaven.”  Genesis 28:17-18

Being human also has to do with how we relate to others, not on an island, but in community.  When I say “in community” I am not suggesting a group of people who insulate themselves and build walls to protect themselves from the “sinful world” or the less spiritual.  I believe the vision that Jesus offers us is bigger than that!  We build community with the whole world.  We are the people of the way who are learning and living out a dream that God has, a dream of peace and love for all!

“…God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ…” 2 Corinthians 5:19 

“This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth.” Eph. 1:10

So, what if we take a deep breath… and consider that it is about the here and now.

” …God’s kingdom has already overtaken you…” Luke 11:20

So, do we continue to worry about the minutia of ourselves, continue to struggle for domination over others, worry about our stuff, continue to live as if Jesus never introduced a new way?   Or… do we stay consumed with the afterlife and minimize how we might introduce this love and peace into the world of money… the world of politics… the world of domination… the world of the church?!

Do we remain so consumed with the end, the result, that we miss the chance to listen… to hear… to smell… to taste…to kiss?

What if God is here right now, infused and breathing through us and every living thing and pulling us forward to a place where his dream is realized on earth!

So, the less big picture…

I chose this picture of my dad riding down the hill with me on the back for a reason.

Let me tell you a story 

My Dad has always been a good man, always cared for his family and worked harder than anyone I have ever known to keep a roof over our head and to keep it from falling down around us!  Literally, he spent hours after work keeping our house together, building additions to our little house to accommodate our growing family and then holding it together with nails and glue and sweat over the many years we lived in the same house.

I suspect that he didn’t have a lot of time to smell the roses.  The only thing he had time to smell was the septic tank overflowing!  He didn’t have much time or opportunity to stop, breath deeply and enjoy the ride.  He was always busy and I love him for all that dedication and sweat and frustration he went through to care for his family!

But this one time while we were in Hawaii and had just walked up the hill to view  another magnificent scene, I had a slightly malevolent thought!  I decided to give him a taste of pure enjoyment!  He had no control, no way to manage the speed or the direction of the chair.  I jumped on the back and we were just riding free!  We careened down the hill and, for a brief moment, I think, he took a breath, let go and smiled!

In his face we see joy and utter fear but for that moment, we let go!

So, the big picture is: live in this world and don’t make everything about the next.  The small picture is:  take every step, every breath, every ride and just live!  I have not come close to mastering this great way, but, I hope that consciously choosing to live this way will help me take each new step in that direction.  If not, I will take out this picture, look deeply into my Dad’s face, remember that day in Hawaii and quietly breath as I say the words:

“Enjoy the Ride!”