Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Pavement Always Wins

I ride a motorcycle. My friends ride motorcycles and my sons ride motorcycles - not those sissy, little putt-putt units designed to get 600 miles per gallon. We ride large, fast, pavement eating, all-day-long-large-displacement-move-your-tail-two-wheeled-monsters! OK, I just thought it would be cool just to write that and think of that guy with the LARGE (and fake!) voice that advertises MONSTERJAM at the Tacoma dome…

Now for real, I like to ride and my friends like to ride. We ride every weekend once the wet edge of winter turns to the hopefully sunny weather of spring, through the summer, clear up to Thanksgiving – if there is no snow. I like the speed, the wind, the personal time, and the way the machine just works. I also enjoy how that sport / hobby draws people together in appreciation of God's creative genius seen in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and in the beauty of the different personalities that we experience when we ride as a group. There is one lesson I've learned, that I want to pass along to you: THE PAVEMENT ALWAYS WINS!

Whether you ride or not, maybe you can imagine what it's like when bike and rider crash to the pavement at any rate of speed – the faster the speed, the more dramatic and traumatic the result. I've ridden street bikes since I was senior at Kentridge High School. (Don't ask when that was!) In all my years of riding and hearing all the stories of others losing control, or doing something stupid behind the bars, or being the victim of someone in a car doing something stupid - which is most often the case - I've NEVER heard or seen the pavement bleed! I've never heard it complain or cry! I've never seen the pavement need repair or a long period of convalescence because a motorcycle and rider crashed onto its tender surface! THE PAVEMENT ALWAYS WINS!

So it is with the way of foolishness. The fool is the one who will never admit that THE PAVEMENT ALWAYS WINS! The book of Proverbs is one of the greatest sources of wisdom on the planet. Even those who profess to be of an 'anti-god,' 'no-god' or 'detached creator' theological persuasion can glean miles of wisdom from its pages if they approach it with an open mind. One of the major themes of this little powerful tome is the contrast between the wise person and foolish person. Wise people are humble. Foolish people are arrogant. Wise people like themselves, but they don't coddle themselves like the foolish who engage in varied degrees of narcissism.

Proverbs teaches that wise people think before they act. They seek wise counsel and submit to the laws of the land. They learn to control their anger and their impulses. They value relationships above possessions, and character over appearance. Wise people fear God. One will also learn that foolish people submit only to their own law. They follow other fools. They use and abuse relationships. People are a means to their personal ends. They never see the need for the counsel of others. They engage in anarchy – at least passive anarchy. Their impulses and their anger control them, and they hang out with the same kind of people. They think that pleasure is the goal of life's gifts. AND foolish people act as if there is no God to whom one day they will give account! Long before Solomon wrote and assembled the Proverbs, his father, King David, wrote that, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Ps 14:1; 53:1) Now we all act foolish once in awhile, and we will continue to do so at times, but the truly foolish continue in their folly with no thought toward the day when the "pavement" of life will catch up with them.

So, to those who wish to avoid the perils of foolishness and wonder why fools seem to never get what's coming to them, concentrate on your own road. To the others who made it this far - by nature, revelation and experience - I have news for the fool: THE PAVEMENT ALWAYS WINS!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Inside-Out Your Christianity!

Snow! Now I ask myself, "How can the Farmer's Almanac be right considering Al Gore's theory of global warming? Hmmm…" Awe, but that's enough of politics. Most of humanity will admit that life is more a spiritual journey than a political one for sure. Our inner being simply can't be satisfied with externals.

A challenge: compare Jesus, His life and teaching, with what we know of as present day Christianity. You will find that Jesus and "popular Christianity" often do not agree. Take what we call the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's account of Jesus' life, in the fifth chapter. It was one of Jesus' earliest mass-meetings – maybe one of the most misunderstood and thus controversial. (I also dare you to compare Jesus' life and teaching to what life is like for those outside Christianity – that would only be fair treatment.)

Jesus began His sermon by saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:2) "Blessed" means happy, fortunate, free from daily worries and cares. Ha! Ever experienced that side of "blessed?" Rarely, if you're like me, that's because we're all trying to get the outside fixed up as a means to lasting happiness. Jesus said it goes the other way – real happiness comes from having our stuff together on the inside with God and real life change results.

From the beginning, Jesus taught that life is to be lived from the inside-out. Whatever 'is' bubbles up from the visceral and makes its way to the visible. Much of the church teaches the exact opposite today. Popular Christianity tends to present the idea that belief starts on the outside and makes its way to the heart. Either by action or by straight-up propaganda, it teaches that if we dress up the outside, good stuff will seep to the center. Sorry, gravity doesn't work that way. "Fake it 'til you make it" theology only works in Church. It begins to erode by the time most people hit the parking lot. True Christian spirituality works from the inside out. It starts almost imperceptibly and slowly builds toward a changed life – a journey that lies within. If I want a truly different life, I've got to allow God to start on the inside. My behavior, morals, and crappy attitudes will change as a result.

The term "spirit" references the intangible but very real part of the person. So the first thing required for an inside-out-life-worth-living is a broken heart! But, there is nothing more contrary to our natural way than to be working toward honest brokenness. Most of us would dearly love to refrain from anything that looks like brokenness because our version of that concept is weakness and lacking value or strength. Again, our thinking is ass-backwards.

The thief on the cross always reminds me that the path of deliverance is an inside work, spirit to Spirit, that makes its way out. The thief, the one who knew he deserved to die, affirmed that Jesus was undeserving of death, called Him Lord, and asked to go with Him to heaven. He had no time to clean up his messed up life or to repair the destruction caused by his lifetime crime spree. He had no time to join a church, no time to read the Bible, no time to develop a disciplined prayer life, no time to get into the media and tell outsiders that they suck. He didn't even have to time to find water and get baptized! Most of these things are good, but they will not, on their own, get one into the kingdom of God unless an inside work has begun by the Spirit of God in the human spirit. The thief only had time for belief and repentance which both take place on the inside. That's all it required for him to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus' own words were, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43) That's the good news.

Christian spirituality is an inside-out faith. Popular Christianity is often presented as "outside-in." We have to "inside-out" our thinking to see this, but it's the truth according to Jesus. To whom do you think we ought to listen: the Person who started true Christianity or those who simply report on it from an American point of view?