Archive for July, 2008

Organic?

I hear the word “organic” thrown around a lot in religious circles. When I took a minute to look at how this term was actually defined, I found numerous definitions. I think, in the kingdom of organized religion, these are what they are talking about:

Philosophy. having an organization similar in its complexity to that of living things.” Or, closely related: “developing in a manner analogous to the natural growth and evolution characteristic of living organisms; arising as a natural outgrowth.” We yearn for something “real,” something that is not awash in organization red-tape and growth impeding programming and manipulation.

But I also hang with a group that is trying to be “organic” in other areas of our life — food, clothing, transportation … and when I started to synthesize these two similar (but different) ideas of what “organic” is, I started looking at additional definitions:

“…pertaining to, involving, or grown with fertilizers or pesticides of animal or vegetable origin, as distinguished from manufactured chemicals: organic farming; organic fruits.” Another one:

“Architecture. noting or pertaining to any work of architecture regarded as analogous to plant or animal forms in having a structure and a plan that fulfill perfectly the functional requirements for the building and that form in themselves an intellectually lucid, integrated whole.”

Hmmm … maybe “the church” doesn’t really understand what’s involved with being organic? See, if you look at the broader scope of what it means to be a living, breathing organism (instead of a calcified, program-driven organization) you see that to be organic means to do without the chemical additives and genetically modified “stuff” that so many churches adopt in hopes of being the next “successful ministry.” Organisms grow, change, alter, die in a course set for them by the Creator. While they can be guided (think Bonsai trees), they can never really be consumed by organization without simply becoming another waste product (think … OK, never-mind).

As I’m revisiting this idea of “organic organization” (an oxymoron from the get-go), I’m wondering if those crying for “organic church” in my proximity really understand what they are asking for?

I’m growing tomatoes right now (actually, they are growing themselves). B. and I laid the groundwork … we did an organic technique this year that involves laying black plastic over the growing area, and planting through it to inhibit weeds naturally and keep the soil warmer longer — extending the growing season we have here in the “great white North.” I keep them watered. Yeah, I talk to them once in a while when the neighbors aren’t looking. But beside that (and checking for tomato worms, which I would immediately pick off and drown!), I’m just waiting for the harvest. I watch them, I water them. But these are truly “organic” tomatoes, growing and developing and simply doing what they were designed to do.

Does a desire to “do more” stir in my heart? You bet! These were tomatoes my brother didn’t think would make it, and everything in me wants to sprinkle them with “Miracle grow” or something or the other that would make them bigger — better. But deeper inside of me, there is the knowledge that “the best” thing to do is to simply let those tomatoes do what they were designed to do. As they grow, their success has very little to do with me. And I’m OK with that, because I firmly believe in the concept of “organic”. I have to take my hands off — loosen control — breathe, and simply “let them be.”

I don’t know if what we call “church” can ever, ever truly be organic. Not if we look at the broader scope of the definition. Maybe I’m wrong — that would be OK. But in my head, the jury’s out and the doubt I feel comes from years of seeing people “screw with the garden.”

I guess that’s all for tonight. I’d love some “push back” on this issue.

(all definitions taken from http://www.dictionary.com)

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Either/Or?

Pulling quotes from a good friend:

“And this is what the bible addresses through and through – that belief in God is accompanied with actions and non-belief in God is accompanied by actions. So if someone leaves God – they are usually committing actions against humanity and God (ie: shedding innocent blood or stealing). The beliefs of the bible are directly tied to the actions of the person – defining them that way versus definition via some label or belief system per se (beliefs that mean nothing like – God is 3 in 1).

The bible is explicitly overly concerned with morality/law in concerns to one’s faith in God. Actually, and this is my opinion, faith is determined in one’s actions more than in one’s beliefs alone (since in this era we have a variety of beliefs – some mean nothing and some mean something in terms of action). What you do defines you better than what you think.”

I have said this before.  People around me (Christian people) insist it’s not an “either/or” situation.  I say you can say you believe anything.  But what you do is what you believe.  I cannot imagine anyone rationally thinking anything else.  People say (Christian people) that what you believe is paramount when it comes to your faith.  I believe you have faith in accordance with what you form your life around.  You can say a lot of things — what do you live?

Tonight, I’m agreeing with Jason.  I think we’ve spent too much time trying to figure out what we “believe,” while the world has “gone to hell.”  For me, I want to work on how my faith is lived out, day in and day out.  It’s not “salvation by works.”  It’s putting feet to what my mouth says.  Pretty simple — yet so tempting to rationalize my way out of.  Stop talking.  Start living.

And the actions that accompany “belief” or “non-belief” better be biblical — not traditional or self-righteous or whatever.  What is the greatest command?  What is the second which is “like” it?

‘nough said.

Kitty is dead

Here’s where you see my stupid emotional side that I try desperately to keep hidden … today, while all the kids are out of town and B. and I are trying to finish laying flooring, we let the cat outside to play (which he loves).  After a while, I wondered where he was and looked in my front yard only to see his lifeless body laying in the road in front of our house.

This stinking cat — which no one wanted at first except my oldest daughter — became an amazing pet.  Loving, sweet, feisty … earlier today, we sat on the front porch together, him doing rolls and somersaults while I tried to scratch his belly.  We say out there a long time, Gato and I.  And now he’s dead.

I feel like my heart’s been ripped out.  Everything in me wants to say, “He was just a cat — get over it.”  But everytime I think about his furry little self, lying so still on the road, I want to puke.  Part of me wants to run through the house, getting rid of all the kitty paraphanalia.  Part of me wants to just curl up on my bed and keep crying.  I just can’t stop crying.

Maybe kitty’s death allowed me to really, really grieve — something I haven’t done since … I don’t remember when.  Usually, lost or death hits me as anger.  I get mad, or sarcastic, or both.  But this time, I am broken hearted.  I feel lost — weak.  I can’t even begin to imagine telling the kids. 

I know death is a part of life.  I know pets come and go.  But Gato was our first “real” family pet.  I can’t even look at his body.  B. had to come home from guitar lessons to take him off the road, because I just couldn’t do it without throwing up again. 

I want to pretend it didn’t happen.  But I’m afraid, as efficient as my psyche is in pushing things under, his death will simply lay with all the other crap I haven’t dealt with, and I will be unable to help my kids deal with this happening.  So, I feel like I have to stay emotionally naked for a while, until they are able to grieve and get through this, too.  And they don’t even know yet. 

This really sucks.  Adding to a weak where we buried one of B.’s favorite uncles, and my kids are gone and out of reach … I’m emotionally a wreck. I keep hearing the strays around out house meow.  I keep thinking I should go find him.  But I’d only have to look in a bag in the garage right now, where he waits for B. to get home again and put him in his final resting place. 

I feel horrid, and have no desire to feel better.  I guess the best thing to do is just get busy doing something productive.  I don’t do grief very well.  But as much as it sucks, life goes on.  Especially when it’s a pet — and not a person.

Wondering…

B. and I went on an early morning bike ride to Home Depot this morning.  We’re putting in a living room/hall way floor this next week, and you’d be amazed how many choices and decisions need to be made for such a simply job!  Anyway, whenever we are out and about early, everything seems clearer … even my mind.

Tooling down I-75, I was amazed at how many church buildings I saw.  Some of them, huge!  Around here, the economy continues to tank, and people are surviving on less and less … or moving.  And I wondered, how could we possibly rationalize building bigger and more buildings with “God’s Money” when there is absolutely nothing in the Bible about building a place to gather as a worthy use of “God’s Money.”

I recently read a blog comment where someone was ranting about one of my friends — “when is the last time you did this-or-that to help anyone?”  Cracks me up.  Apparently, this man only thinks “helping people” comes in context of a building and the people that meet there.  They don’t know what my friend (who, by the way, is currently homeless and still providing for his family) does and doesn’t do.  The generosity of a family who has so little.  And they don’t rationalize doing “for God.”  They do it because it’s simply the right thing to do.  I was frustrated, because I could say the same thing to this guy who went off on my friend.  I don’t know what he does or doesn’t do with his money.

Frankly, I don’t care, because judgment isn’t given to me anywhere in the Bible he claims is the inerrant word of God.  So I’d rather not do it.  I can talk about my feelings and opinions.  I can talk about what I know personally.  But judging other people because they say or do things I don’t agree with … nah, that’s not in there, I’m pretty sure.

So, back to my wonderings.  If people really believe the Bible, and have claimed they should “be like Jesus,” why do “churches” (which do do a  lot of good) spend so much time doing things that aren’t in their book?  Or, why do they make interpretations of things that are in there that benefit them, their power structure and control systems, yet could be interpreted very differently, especially in light of the life of Jesus reflected in the Bible’s pages?  For me, I’ve been examining my life closely, trying hard to live without judgment.  Even in this case, I figure the guy who attacked my friend is either a) dealing with guilt in his own life, b) taking up an offense for a friend of his who screwed my friend, or c) has been “in the church” so long he can no longer think about those outside except in terms of church nomenclature and a set, orderly pattern of understanding God in his own terms.

I dunno.  It’s not up to me to judge that.  I’m too busy trying to live my life in accordance with what I understand.  And, to raise my kids to think for themselves — to not trust any man’s interpretation of God, but rather walk closely enough with “him,” to explore and experience the Divine so that they know themselves.

It’s tough, though.  Being surrounded by people who say they trust God — but in reflection of their own scriptures, don’t.  (that’s not a judgment call, by the way.  I’m just going by what the book says).  People who say they don’t have all the answers — but continually press what they think or feel on others.  People who are afraid of the literal truth — and call it symbolic, but then call what could be literal, historical writing symbolic to instill fear and further their own agenda.

I use to think the “paradox of faith” was something deep and mystical.  And to be honest, I still have part of that belief.  But the longer I am an observer of the system, I think the paradox for me becomes about how “the church” could be so far from the mark set up in the book they say they follow.  And while they do “good,” how long can we use the good we do as a rationalization for not doing other things?

It comes back to what standard we use.  If we use “other people,” “other churches,” or whatever, then we really are following them?  Maybe it’s time we start really considering personal responsibility again, and stop depending on a system to lay it out for us.  And what responsibility does the system have, spoon feeding, providing program after program to “teach us” and keep us from really doing anything?

Just early morning wonderings from the back of a motorcycle.

Disney As Prophet

  Went to see the new Disney movie, “Wall-E” last night with the kids and a bunch of their friends.  I wasn’t expecting much — the previews looked kind of stupid.  But I was wrong.

The whole premise is that humankind abandoned the god-awful mess we made of the Earth, and instead took up residence in a flying 24/7, 365 space flying resort, where computers and robots do everything for us — even walk.  We drink our meals in a cup, we talk constantly on a holographic screen placed directly in front of us.  We wake up when the machine tells us; we sleep when it tells us to go to bed.  Absolutely everything is done for us.

This goes on for 700 years, until Earth is totally forgotten.  The exception is a little “cleaner” robot (Wall-E).  The story is about him, relationship, and rediscovering what makes us all human.

I’m a tree hugger.  I believe in global warming (although I think there’s a lot more to our demise than that).  We recycle, we reuse, we try and reduce our usage and buy locally.  I feel like I’m training my kids to think about the world we live in in a global perspective, while reinforcing that individual relationships and personal character are what makes the difference.  So of course, a movie with a theme about the destruction of society by our own stupidity resonates with me. 

What I loved about this movie, though, is that it serves as a warning to us on so many levels.  Not only the obvious environmental issues, but what about the fact that, after only six generations, the people living on “Axiom” totally gave up their humanness?  That they allowed gadgets meant to make their lives “easier”  to totally enslave them?  That they forgot what each others faces looked like, the feel of cool water on their toes, the taste of unprocessed, fresh food…. wow, doesn’t that sound a little bit like the societ we’re in ALREADY???

After still another discussion with a friend about where we are headed as a country, I’ve come to the conclution that maybe, just maybe, the downward spiral we are in isn’t all bad.  If it brings us back to the ability to think for ourselves — rather than have organziations or governments do it for us — it somehow restors our humanity.  If we learn to buy locally to help our neighbors, if we understand that the stupid things we do impact not only people around the worlds, but generations to come, maybe we can stop the insanity.

I am surrounded by people who think so much about “the world to come” that they forget as believers in the God of the Bible they, too, have a responsibility to be caretakers of the world we live in.  I hope each and every one of them go to this movie, and actually watch it, listen to it, and breathe in it’s message.

The compassion and gentleness with which “Wall-E” handles these topics is amazing.  Not often does a “kids” movie impact me with its subtle message.  Go see it, and embrace what’s left of the opportunity to be human!