church of uber – ELIZABETH

November 7, 2017 12 comments

The Uber Express is back up and rollin’. A two-month hiatus is over. Uber world was a bit freaky this past week. You’d be surprised at how many people need a ride at 3:30 a.m. on a Monday morning! Tuesday morning greeted traffic with a snarling ice storm. Olympian ice skater Michelle Kwan could have pretty much pirouetted her way across town on any given street. One of my normal 15-minute rides took 1.5 hours. Not a real problem unless you have three cups of coffee in your bladder! Perry (my rider) builds lattice electrical towers in Alaska, so he kept me pretty entertained for most of that ride with stories and video.

It’s weird being in the car hours before sunrise. Everything looks so different. Even though you realize what part of town you’re in, it all seems the same. Only the neon lights give hints of what’s really going on under the cover of such darkness. One of the older areas of Colorado Springs has a large number of rundown retro motels. It’s definitely charming if you’re into old school, but it’s really telling of who and what you’re likely to encounter in that neighborhood. There are lots and lots of weed shops in that area. You’ll also see constant foot traffic of the indigent and homeless. It’s kind of like eating at Waffle House (I LOVE ME SOME WAFFLE HOUSE!). It’s just a different kind of experience. You gotta get your mind right about what you might possibly encounter… no matter what time of day!

At one such motel, I picked up Elizabeth. She and her fiancé live in one of those tiny rooms. The sign in front of this place wasn’t touristy or even inviting. The flaking paint on the wobbly sign could only be seen because of a single light bulb swaying above the sign. There were about 15 rooms, but only three cars in the parking lot at 5:30 a.m. I suspect that most of the visitors to this motel are hourly customers. A wee bit earlier, and I figure things would have been much busier at that particular motel.

When I drove up in front of the room, a shirtless burly guy opened the door and gave me the “just a second” signal. Within a couple of minutes, Elizabeth was shuffling towards the car. Shuffling is the right word. I thought it could have possibly been muscular dystrophy or some kind of palsy. Her back was super straight and it wasn’t a normal walking gait. As Elizabeth opened the back door, she greeted me with a super friendly, “good morning” (not a typical greeting that time of day), and a beautiful smile. I liked her immediately.

My new ride is much smaller than the Suburban I’ve been using the past year. People sit much closer to me, so I smell my clients now. If you fried bacon for breakfast, I know it. If you smoked weed all night, I know it. If you drank bourbon during Happy Hour, I know it. If you love wearing Polo… God help me… I know it. By the fragrance that reached me when she got into the car, my guess is that Elizabeth and her fiancé have several pets sharing the room with them. It wasn’t overwhelming, but definitely noticeable. But within a few seconds, I couldn’t have cared less. This girl was so sweet! Unbelievably gentle, and Elizabeth dripped with caring love for the people she works with at the dry cleaners where she’s employed. She really had an infectious spirit. Such a lovely kid!

As we neared her drop off, I asked, “So Elizabeth, I noticed a little hitch in your gitty-up as you walked to the car earlier.” She said, “You saw that huh?” Over my shoulder I responded, “Yeah I did. What you got working there honey?” “Well,” she said, “I was hit by a car when I was sixteen. I was messed up pretty bad. I’ve had lots of surgeries and I’m a bit of a miracle.” The short of it is that she spent a couple of years recovering from all kinds of surgeries for the spinal cord injury she received. She wasn’t supposed to live, much less ever walk again. Of course, the driver didn’t have a legal drivers license or insurance, so there was no insurance money for her medical bills. So, dad and mom pretty much sold everything they had to get Elizabeth the help she needed.

The story was brutal, but cheer never left her voice. Finally I said, “Babe, listen, that’s a lot of pain and heartache you went through in that season, but I don’t detect any bitterness. None. How is that possible?” She put her hand on my shoulder and her eyes filled with tears. “Thank you so much for saying that,” she said. “I was bitter for too many years. I was mad at God, at that driver, at all of that pain and what it did to my parents. But I’ve worked hard to forgive and let all of that go. I’m alive, my parents have recovered, and I have a happy life. Bitterness was doing more harm to me than my injuries from the accident. ”

I didn’t wipe away my tears because I didn’t want her to know that I was crying. It was in that moment I realized how very privileged I was to share space with this beautiful miracle who had a tender heart for people and life.

Being around people who are truly grateful will move stuff inside you. Elizabeth filled the air with calming peace and hopeful grace. You just know not everything is easy for someone like her, but she lives way beyond her past and high above her situation today. I know it gets said a lot, but she made my day. Yup! Elizabeth made my entire day. In the truest sense of the word, she is an overcomer. There’s not too many of those shuffling around.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized

stars

October 24, 2017 10 comments

I used to hunt all the time. I’ve never shot a four-footed critter, but mainly birds. Dove, pheasant, and ducks usually presented more than enough of a challenge to keep me interested. So when my buddy here in Colorado Springs invited me to go with him into the national forest for elk hunting, I thought it would be great to try something different for a change. I wasn’t disappointed.

To be clear, I wasn’t planning to hunt. The plan was to hang out in camp, read my books, enjoy the higher altitude and fresh mountain air, be in solitude, and experience some quiet. First of all, I did hang out in camp and enjoyed the air, but not by myself. There was no solitude or quiet (my guys constantly chattered like caffeine-induced chipmunks). I hiked 6 miles in a driving snowstorm the first day, and substantially more miles the next day. They carried guns; I did not. We saw elk but none they could shoot. My guys had bull-tags, and only cows graced us with their presence, so no meat.

Bears Ears Peaks

The scenery was breathtaking. The mountain we were on is called Bears Ears, named for its twin peaks that look like the top of a bear’s head, though you can only see that from a distance. Inside the forest, you primarily had two kinds of trees: pine and aspen. I know the forest was full of hunters, but I can’t imagine anyone left disappointed. The natural state of the forest is absolutely gorgeous. The aspen grove where we hunted still supported a few gold-colored leaves. From our vantage point, you could take in the massive aspen grove, the dark timber above the grove, and the distant snow-covered ranges that explode brightly under a darker blue canopy of mountain sky. It really was something to see. I loved it all!

Of all I just described, none of it touched the real show… the unexpected gift… the thing that actually brought me to tears. STARS! Oh my goodness! Each night that we camped, the sky was crystal clear (a freezing 15 degrees clear, but clear nonetheless). The closest town to where we were camping was 40 miles away on a dirt road, so there was no artificial light in the forest. Honestly, I couldn’t get over how dark it was.

They should have sent a poet. —Dr. Ellie Arroway

Living in Colorado Springs isn’t conducive to star gazing. There are almost a million people living here now, so we need blackout shades on our bedroom windows, even during the night. When I’m back home in Texas, I can be out in the country within minutes, but there’s usually a Gulf wind blowing a lot of hazy moisture in the atmosphere. It’s just different in the desert and Rocky Mountains.

After that first night, I couldn’t wait for the evening sky to reveal itself. It was that mesmerizing. So many stars! The thickness of stars is what was so unique. They’ve been there, but it’s like some one opened the screen door. The Milky Way looked like a long cloud of smoke across the sky. I’ve just never seen it like that. I genuinely teared up several times at the beauty of it. Jodi Foster’s character in Contact had it right: “They should have sent a poet.”

So, for four days I never took a book out of my backpack. I think having my head up, instead of down in a book, was the better outcome in this situation. Maybe engaging in all the chipmunk chatter was rightly warranted and proper human interaction. But listen, figure out how to go see stars again! It’s the ultimate painting of what’s bigger than us. They’re out there speaking to us about our paradigms and big opinions… reminding us that the universe doesn’t swirl around “me” and our little interests. I know there’s lots of talk these days about “grounding.” Go see some stars. You’ll get your grounding back on. I guarantee it.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized

grounded beauty

October 3, 2017 6 comments

NOTE:  I wrote this blog Sunday morning, and Vegas happened later that same evening. I would never want to convey for a second that I am insensitive, unaware, oblivious, or numb to the obscene atrocities that happen in this country, or others.  Such a total disregard for human life is beyond reasonable logic or moral decency. I honestly believe that the following post is not a distraction to our travails, but rather a confirmation that we must continue to stand in love… even though hellish hate shows itself every day. This isn’t mere romantic idealism. Love is a spiritual force… the prime mover of God’s heart towards man. I’m convinced we just don’t know it or believe it as we should. Mercy Lord, mercy! —Mike

We who seek to grow spiritually are like children ushered off to school for their education and personal growth. God is the principal or headmaster, and the saints and mystics are the various teachers and coaches who will interact with us on a day-to-day basis. Our goal, therefore, is to learn: to learn the curriculum of a truly spiritual life . . . grounded in love, mercy, tenderness, compassion, forgiveness, hope, trust, simplicity, silence, peace, and joy. To embody union with God is to discover these beautiful characteristics emerging from within and slowly transfiguring us to remake us in the very image and likeness of God.”

—Carl McColman

Patti and I just returned from a ministry trip to North Carolina. I was invited to preach in a sweet church in Asheville, and spent the following four days teaching the foundations of the Enneagram to a small group of young adults who are living together in a communal discipleship program near Black Mountain. On top of that, we got to spend some quality time with long-time friends from Holland, reconnect with several young couples who are near and dear to our hearts, and meet several new friends. But mainly, we hung out in the gloriously messy swirl of a growing family of faith. It genuinely was a “lovely” time for us.

There is always plenty to self-critique after a trip like that. I used a month’s worth of words last week (lots and lots of words). Quite frankly, if they genuinely heard half of what I said, they’ll be processing for a while. It was a lot of data. So, I’m thinking back… processing… evaluating, but not about what was taught or preached about. That’s the stuff that is easy to adjust or correct. The most difficult thing to honestly critique would be…me.

If you agree to that premise, then feel free to make it…us.

The earlier highlighted quote by Carl McColman really rocked my devo time this morning. So much so, it stirred me from a three-month blogging sabbatical. The last sentence is what grabbed my attention:

To embody union with God is to discover these beautiful characteristics emerging from within and slowly transfiguring us to remake us in the very image and likeness of God.

 See, that statement right there is the heart’s desire, but it’s got to come from the real source that’s already deeply embedded inside a person. You can’t just download a beautiful emerging transfiguration for convenience. It can’t be patched in because you need to glow-in-the-dark for another gig. Real Spirit people know the difference. Any attempt at a shortcut sets off everyone’s bullshit alarm. Trust me on this.

I suspect that the information was good enough, and the “shtick” of delivery would be exhilarating for anyone who speaks in front of people, but what about the “Christ” effect inside the real curriculum of a truly spiritual life? To say it another way, beyond the data and transfer of information, did anyone remotely sense a voice or heart that was…

grounded?

Rooted, anchored, planted deeply in love, mercy, tenderness, compassion, forgiveness, hope, trust, simplicity, silence, peace, and joy?

I don’t assume a positive default answer here, not for me anyway, but I really love the question. It’s one of those questions that should be printed out and taped to the mirror where we prepare ourselves for the day and end our nights. It might be something that we need to entertain more, rather than ever so often.

Even with all of the social and political agitation in our country right now, is there a way for us to respond passionately, conscientiously, forcefully, yet respectfully, while remaining grounded in these beautiful characteristics that mark our deep commitment to the core values that we esteem in the life of Jesus? A genuine response that still holds humanity in some kind of loving regard?

The hate circling around Jesus didn’t seem to displace him from his mission or internal depth. His counter-energy flowed constantly against control, small-mindedness, and the established norms of cultural and religious orthopraxy. Yet, Jesus was never offended enough by the chaos to do anything other than offer those beautiful characteristics… a truth even magnified during his march towards death.

How in the world did He do that? If I’m not mistaken, He was both God and man!

I do realize that I’m still in theological infancy, but the only thing I can attribute to Jesus’ unflinching beautiful characteristics was the grounded awareness of who He really was, and His grounded commitment to live the honest reflection of his Father’s love for all of mankind. Beyond that, it must be… has to be THE mystery of the ages… or something like that.

You probably don’t need to be reminded, but “Christ” is in the word “Christian.” If we’re going to wear the brand, the product should be an accurate representation of the name we bear. We are the product. What we do, and the spirit behind what we do, does matter.

How consistently do those beautiful characteristics reveal themselves through us? I do believe that the ability to “reveal” resides in all of us. We are capable. We have His DNA (He knew us before we got here). We just need to decide and offer our lives from the heart. Living that honestly reflects our gratefulness for WHO we belong to.

Look around. Now would be a good time for us to show some of that grounded beauty.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized

loosening our grip

June 6, 2017 10 comments

“Be patient towards all that is unsolved in you heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now.” Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1936.

I have a reoccurring thought that resurfaces in my mind almost constantly. It is a thought stimulated by the writings of Rohr, and I think it might be one of the more challenging ideas about life I’ve ever contemplated. It’s not that the idea is difficult to understand, but practically the confrontation is boldly counter to my thirst for westernized success, significance among my peers, and my ego’s craving need to be seen, heard, and acknowledged.

Ready?

All great spirituality is about letting go.” -Rohr

There it is! That thought right there – those seven simple words – are a tremendous invitation for us to give up the notion that we are in control—OF EVERYTHING.

We are not.

Jesus showed much respect and love to humanity, but His message was and is clearly counter-energy. Particularly counter to heavy-handed control and religious oppression. I don’t think He was anti-Jewish or adamantly opposed to formalized religion, but ultimately it appears that He wasn’t big on giving answers to all of life’s complexities through just those venues. Of the 183 questions He was asked in the gospels, Jesus only answered directly three times. Yet somehow, we feel compelled and obliged to give answers on most issues of society, theocracy, and ordinary life.

When did we become so damn certain about everything?

 I’m in the final hours of my ‘50s. I feel about the same as I did when in the final hours of my ‘40s… READY. That’s about the only way I can describe it. I might actually have a little more hope to enter this next decade of my life because of something one of my octogenarian mentors told me as I was preparing to enter my ‘50s:

“You’ll begin to tap into the purpose and meaning of your life near the end of your ‘60s. You’ve still got things to learn and unlearn.” McCarty

 As much as I love that statement, it whispers to me that as hard as I’ve tried to get it right (trust me… I’ve given tremendous effort to get it right), I’ve not arrived yet. Not even close. In fact, I suspect there is plenty more deconstruction required for this seeker of God.

There was a time when I don’t think I could have handled what I’m about to tell you. Poet Maya Angelou used to ask the most peculiar question of those who boldly proclaimed themselves “Christians” in her presence (like being “Christian” is similar to being a card carrying member at a country club: you buy your way in, pay dues, and keep the rules).

Maya would ask, “Already?”

That is a beautiful thing right there! As I said, I think I’m just now able to appreciate some of what is packed in that “Already?” A question in a single word that directly challenges what we think we know and what we think we control. It is a word that liberates us if we will allow it. I don’t have to get it right today. It’s an unfolding process of success, failure, joy, disappointment, betrayal, loss, trust, and most importantly… loosening the grip on our, “I got this.”

When Rohr proclaims his doctrine of “letting go,” I think he is inviting us to drink from the cup of liberation. That concerns most conservative types because we fear stepping across lines and out of safety zones! Liberty isn’t necessarily license. It’s freedom. It’s freedom from the things that entangle us. To be briefly translucent, I suspect that “me” is frequently the culprit of what entangles me most.

When it’s time to blow out the candles for the 60th time in my life, I’ll wish and hope that I’ll have enough courage to “let go” (again and again and again) and tap into a more genuine spiritual expression that truly reflects and honors His (Their) DNA in my life.

CONFESSION: I rarely look anymore for what is fashionably trendy or traditionally “common” in our current Christian culture. I’m pretty much over our tired brands of belonging (regardless of how big the crowd), and glow-in-the-dark problem solvers. It often appears that people genuinely in touch with their brokenness and rejection issues are much more attractive reps of authentic Kingdom. That seems to be more in line with the teachings of the Gospels.

Give me a community of lovers who are honestly self-aware, genuinely concerned for others, and not too certain or too quick to give absolute answers for every life challenge … and I’m there. I’ve come to believe that God is terrible (the Hebrew word is yârêʾ, pronounced yaw-ray´, also translates as “awesome,” see Dt 10:17; Job 37:22; Ps 66:5, 111:19; Ezk 1:22), unboxed, and magnificently unmanageable or manipulated by me—A God who is really God.

Novel, huh? I agree.

I thought it would be cool to list 60 questions around “letting go”. That’s probably too many, too long, and you’re probably already bored. But, here they are anyway. Feel free to peace out at will: 

60 for 60

 

Can I, have I, or am I willing to “loosen the grip” on my…

 

1 … need to be right?

2 … need to prove my superiority?

3 … need to have the answers?

4 … need to be strong, no matter the situation?

5 … need to be “in” whatever is in?

6 … addiction to winning?

7 … belief that “how it looks” is what matters?

8 … belief that ego (false self) projects my best self?

9 … belief that heaven is reserved only for those who pray “the” prayer?

10 … belief that only Christians understand God’s truth and revelation?

11 … belief that “God knowledge” can be fully contained in doctrine and systems of theology?

12 … belief that Jesus saved us from the angry wrath of our Heavenly Father?

13 … belief that some sins are worse than others?

14 … belief that a man or an organization can get me to my destiny?

15 … belief that being mean to someone might help change his or her mind and heart about God’s love?

16 … belief that God’s love is only reserved for good Christians?

17 … belief that life is fair and plays by my rules?

18 … belief that mercy does not triumph over judgment?

19 … belief that God’s people vote Republican?

20 … belief that I’m in control?

21 … belief that I can manipulate God’s favor with my piety and good deeds?

22 … belief that the Bible is the only way God speaks anymore?

23 … belief that hell is singularly an afterlife punishment by God?

24 … belief that God is surprised, disappointed, and totally angered at mankind?

25 … belief that real Christians believe that the Bible is God’s final revelation to man?

26 … belief that there is no way to connect with God outside of church activities?

27 … belief that I am never, ever wrong?

28 … belief that we’re still bound to Mosaic Law somehow?

29 … belief that all non-protestant faith expressions are opposed to God, and ultimately hell-bound?

30 … belief that poverty happens because people are lazy and up to no good?

31 … belief that God “owes me” because of my devotion and passion?

32 … belief that grace is for salvation; after that, we’ve got to get it right?

33 … belief that things matter over people?

34… loveless faith expressions?

35 … love of dualism (right or wrong, out or in, good or evil) ideologies?

36… spiritual pride?

37 … jealousy?

38 … lust for success and wealth?

39 … “us” against “them” mentalities?

40 … dismissal of anyone who doesn’t live like, act like, pray like, or believe like me?

41 … refusal to acknowledge that God’s DNA resides in every single person?

42 … certainty that I already know the answers?

43 … certainty that God prefers my worship style over others?

44 … certainty that I know what is sin and what is not sin?

45 … certainty that Christians wear holy Kevlar because of our prayers?

46 … certainty that I know who is in heaven and who is not?

47 … certainty that I know who goes to hell and who does not?

48 … certainty that real Christians always believe that the Bible is inerrant and infallible?

49 … certainty that the Adam and Eve story literally happened about 6,000 years ago?

50 … certainty that all scripture is always literally applicable “as written”?

51 … certainty that some kind of justice is served when people die badly?

52 … certainty that our pastor and spiritual leaders have it all figured out?

53 … certainty that tomorrow will happen?

54 … certainty that science is in direct moral opposition to faith?

55 … certainty that the Apostle Paul was an authoritative deity, much like Jesus?

56 … certainty that I totally grasp how good the “Good News” really is?

57 … certainty that God loves winning and winners?

58 … certainty that my main job as a Christian is to be outwardly nice?

59 … certainty that I’m right about not ever being wrong.

60 … certainty of my certainties?

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized

over it

May 9, 2017 14 comments

 

I was over it.

Ever been there? It happens when you’re exposed to something more than once, and then you realize that maybe it’s not your favorite. I’m not talking about despise levels. It wasn’t anything near that severe, and in all honesty, it probably had more to do with personal preferences—as in not liking cucumbers in your salad. I’ll eat it that way, but I’d rather not if it can be avoided.

I had grown indifferent to visiting Africa again. That’s not really normal for me. Been there, done that, and I’d seen more than enough, but all the romantic juice had been drained off. The curiosity had been satisfied. Simply, I was over it. Over Africa and all of its challenges.

Granted, I’ve only seen a very small portion of Africa. A few months in Uganda, a week in Swaziland, a couple weeks in South Africa, several weeks in Nairobi, and a very long four days in Nigeria has been the extent of my exposure to that continent.

So, when my friend Michael Hindes invited me to join him on a recent work trip to Kenya, I said “yes” without much real enthusiasm. Of course I’m always excited about hanging with my friends, but there is always a certain amount of dread for me when it comes to 24-plus hours of international travel.

Want to hear me whine about it? Okay! I don’t sleep on planes. The food is mostly disgusting. It doesn’t help that this 6’ 5” man has to find a way to get comfortable in a chair designed to fit a curled up 5th grader. Thank God I’m not germaphobic or freaked out about the free-radical radiation at 40,000 ft. I’d have to be sedated.

(BTW… thanks Michael for the Economy Comfort seat! Saved my frikk’n life.)

So, as we boarded our flights to Kenya, I was as devoid of expectation and excitement as I’ve ever experienced in the past 35 years. Just being honest here. I was open to the possibility of God showing himself, but I wasn’t placing demands in the ether for fireworks. I was settled to just be a passenger, a troll, a casual observer.

Stop giggling.

I thought, “I’ll roll with my buddy, and love on some orphans and everyone else. If God shows up… great! If not… I’m pretty solid in my confidence of His love. He doesn’t have to jump through any hoops on my account. Really, I’m good.”

Let me just go ahead and get to the bottom line here, and then I’ll fill in the gaps:

I GOT OVER BEING OVER IT!

After spending the first night in Nairobi, we drove towards the first ministry site. It was a 7-hour road trip to get to our destination. The first thing you notice when you travel across Kenya is an absurd amount (and intensity) of speed bumps. Holy Moly! The second thing you discover is that the traffic is a wee-bit sketchy. These people drive on the wrong frikk’n side of the road, and the biggest vehicle always wins. After you’ve got all that emotionally managed (without soiling yourself), then you can start taking in the culture and the scenery. It doesn’t take long to realize that Nairobi ain’t Kenya. Make no mistake about it:

NAIROBI AIN’T KENYA

It seems we Americans like to put fences around our stuff. We can’t let the big bad wolf in, so we fence in our livestock and ourselves. It didn’t take long to see that the countryside was littered with herds of livestock that were free roaming. Real shepherds were with each flock… no matter the size. It’s not a very familiar sight to us. Heck, I’m from Texas! You can’t do cattle without barbed wire!

I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of rhythm is required to live day in and day out among a grazing herd of animals? I wonder if those shepherds ever crave Starbucks or lament when they can’t get to their Twitter feeds? Do they give a crap about refreshing their Facebook or Instagram accounts, or getting their hair or nails did? In the big scheme, are they missing out on anything really important?

So let me just cut to it. Yes, I fell in love all over again with orphans, and missionaries, and the heart that some of the Church has for such ministries. The stuff that my buddy is involved in is significant and important. I’m very honored that I got to meet with the staff and feel the pulse of such loving cohesion. No one is pretending in that ministry. It’s the real stuff – feeding, clothing, loving, raising, and educating orphans. Quite frankly, it’s overwhelming to see such people do what they do. Either they are really called, or highly committed, or absolutely crazy. I suspect all three are in play in certain situations.

But eventually, my getting over being “over it” had more to do with a moment of worship. I’ve worshipped in everything from mud huts to cathedrals, churches to bars, camps to prisons, but never have I felt the ancient hum (the life, light, and love of God) in the land as I did during my week in Kenya! You can go to the “Oasis for Orphans” website and see the projects I’m about to mention, but God spoke loudly in each location in the most unfamiliar ways.

I get logos (and if you doubt my love for that, you don’t know me), and Spirit (even though it may not always be that noticeable). My history with the two is unshakable. But this new appreciation that the DNA of God is in pretty much everything there is, is exhilarating for me. There is no limit to how we can appreciate the Father’s love. Kenya drove that emphatically deeper into my soul. There is no end to His goodness.

The Hill felt like ancient majesty and the paths of royalty have tread there for millions of years. Is this where the Lord goes to consider the least of these, and lose himself in his own paintings and creativity? The tinkling cowbells demand that peace reign throughout those emerald hills.

The Valley hinted that the Garden of Eden had to be somewhere near that zip code. Life explodes from that red soil like wild lightening and thunder! There is no way not to notice it. No way.

The Shelter shines God’s radiant love though the laughter and love of children who hung on us like sloppy bathrobes. The guardians and mommas patrol as giant white Pyrenees who hover over and protect the most innocent ewes and lambs of the herd.

I can’t stop thanking God for allowing me to experience the soul of such places. Just maybe there’s more to loving God than getting the doctrine just right?

My pilgrimage to being over being “over it” concluded the last morning before flying back home. I was alone as the sun just peeked over the horizon, standing on a smoothed lava rock at the very edge of the Escarpment of the Masai Mara National Reserve. While looking over the lush plains of exotic wildlife, I felt I heard God say, “Will you acknowledge that I am is in this place?” A rush of repentance hit my heart. I felt ashamed for my previous judgments of Africa, its people, its politics, and the land. Who am I… who are we… to do such a thing? I did what I knew I had to do. I spoke the words, “I am sorry,” knelt, and kissed the ground, the rock that had become my altar of worship.

Those tears felt so good. I felt clean again, restored, back in unity with maybe one of the most beautiful places on earth. I was overwhelmed with the presence of His goodness.

Although I’m over being over Africa, it’s still a third world country with third world problems. But God has not left the building. If you can catch the rhythm, you, too, will feel the groove. And I truly believe it is Africa’s own groove and strength that will ultimately bring Africa what it needs most. Not our first world “church” or our obsession with our own gaudy religious rightness. Ultimately, Africa must fortify its own faith and trust in the goodness of God… even in… especially in… the people on the land of Africa.

Before I forget it, let me say that the hum and presence of God can be found just about anywhere. It can be witnessed at church (although it’s not a given), but it’s not bound only to religious activity, or your Bible study, or your devotional material. Go for a walk, a run, or a ride. Smell the fresh air, touch a tree. Examine a butterfly, a snail, or a bee. We can hear the hum in a freshly plowed field, or a steep trail, or that creek that runs behind the house. Even that 4 X 4 porch in your apartment complex can become you altar for worship. That space where you notice.

God is showing off in what He has created. Hearts that hear usually take notice. I think that is mostly what He wants. Our simple notice and value for what He’s done and continues to unfold before us.

Thanks for being the listening hearts of priests! I really appreciate it!

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

 

If you will, go check out the “Oasis for Orphans” website. They’re actually doing what they advertise. No fluff. No sell. Go see for yourself and consider helping out!

Categories: Uncategorized

church of uber

March 28, 2017 34 comments

Yeah, it’s a thing.

I started driving some for Uber back in November. A friend told me last May that he knew a guy who was doing it because he had time on his hands. I was slightly intrigued at first, but it seemed more like the right thing to do after slugging through a nightmarish four-month run with a less-than-honorable insurance company. I would tell you more about those four months, but I usually break out in a bloody rash when I talk about it. So I’ll spare you and myself the agony.

About the same time I started driving for Uber, I was also poking around to find a pastoral environment where I might add value. The conversations I was having at the time were mostly exploratory. But that eventually evolved into a situation where I had the confidence of the leadership and the organization I was talking to, but they actually had more pastors than they had churches in this part of Colorado. Since I’m not licensed and ordained with that particular denomination, they genuinely owe the opportunity to the men and women who currently serve the denomination. I suspect it’s a timing thing regarding me, so I’m totally at peace and feel absolutely no rejection due to their decision. I got that word a couple of weeks ago.

 

I have noticed something different though. After the last couple of weeks, it has dawned on me that there have been a lot of intense encounters in my vehicle since I started driving for Uber. Not every ride is awesome, but the overwhelming majority are awesome! There have only been three times that I wished I had an eject button for the passenger’s seat. Too drunk and too high were the culprit on two separate occasions, and the third was just nasty rude. Most people are charming, engaged, and want to know about Uber driving. Honestly, it is a lot of fun, but it’s strangely very familiar. Well, more than familiar, actually. It’s my church right now. My flock. My people.

I know what the buds in the ears are advertising: “Just drive, sucker.” So I just drive and leave them to their phones. I’m kewl with that. But, most talk and ask questions nonstop. So, I’ve got anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour to show some love and respect for who they are, what they do, and share a morsel of hope for a good day. Most encounters are just casual and light-hearted, but not all.

Telling Tierra (age 19) that her all-night job at the local TNA didn’t disqualify her from the love of God was pretty awesome. Such a beautiful kid, but the fatigue and pressure of trying to do her dancing job, go to school, pay the bills, and hide from her paying clients are making some heavy duty demands on her body and spirit. She knew I was a long-time pastor before I realized her vocation. Instead of hiding herself, she shot straight. Either she needed some good news, or she was expecting to be carved and served on my religious alter. So when I dropped her at her apartment, I went for it:

Tierra, look at me and don’t look away. God is not put off by the choices you’ve made regarding how you pay your bills. He loves you no matter what you’ve got going on there. If anyone tells you any differently, they’re either liars or misinformed. God is crazy about you. You can always believe that!

Her smile and tears were enough. I pray for Tierra fairly often. Serving her was definitely a huge blessing.

Meeting Rick, who has now become a good friend, was also pretty dang special. Rick buried his wife 10 years ago because of cancer’s damage. He still misses his best friend. He works a lot. He likes it like that. The busier he is, the less time he has to think in the past. He’s a really good man. Still hurting.

I’ve prayed for lots of people, but it’s always at their request. “Preacher… mind saying a few words for me?” It’s awesome, really, but this week I met a chick early one morning who required me to be a little more muscular with my spiritual involvement.

It was shortly after sunrise, and Holly (probably age 21) looked like she’d been doing cartwheels or something. Her hair was all over the place. She popped in the front seat and immediately burst into sobbing tears. “I was so afraid… so afraid.” That’s all she would say between soaking outbursts. After what seemed like ten minutes, Holly said, “I’m so sorry to do this to you… but, I was so afraid.” I asked her if she wanted to tell me about it? She wouldn’t and I’m not sure she could. This was ugly cry stuff. Wailing.

As we neared a 7-Eleven store, she asked if I’d pull in so she could buy cigarettes. She left the vehicle still sobbing. I watched her enter the store. She went straight to the counter. The woman behind the counter was probably close to my age. She had on the smock 7-Eleven employees wear and a huge ‘80s mullet. She turned around and grabbed Holly’s smokes, and then she came around from behind the counter and clinched Holly in a massive hug. They stood there for a good minute. Watching that right there put me into tears also.

When Holly got back into my car, she immediately grabbed me. “Can I hold your hand?” I responded with, “Yes babe, you can.” She started crying again. Then she put her forehead down on my hand. I could feel the tears rolling down the side of my hand. She was repeating, “So afraid… so afraid.” She stayed that way until I pulled into her driveway. I asked a few questions about whether or not we needed to call the cops. No way. Her mom was at home so she wasn’t going to be alone. So I leaned in and asked her if I could pray. I don’t remember the words, but whatever was tormenting her seemed to lift some. She thanked me and left the car to go inside her house. I pretty much prayed for Holly until the next ride had my full attention.

Lots of people are just trying to get from point A to point B and that’s all there is to it. But, I’ve been doing this long enough now to notice some things about the people who arrive at Church of Uber:

FIRST – Some work to pay the bills, but most feel they are making a significant contribution to serving mankind. That’s encouraging to me.

SECOND – People are tired. Granted, I see most of my riders between 4:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., but people got a lot going on in their lives. If you’re listening, you’ll detect the fatigue. Stress is definitely doing a number on us. Respect and preference of others is usually well received, especially when they’re under so much pressure.

THIRD – Most everyone responds to kindness with kindness. I’m totally convinced that the whole sowing and reaping thing is legit. Some are too wounded or angry to reciprocate, but they still need the kindness from us.

LASTLY – You can’t judge people by first impressions. You’ve got to share air with them a few minutes in order to appreciate their unique way. It feels everyone is different than me, but I love the variety. God’s explosion of creative splendor is always on display with people. Seeing and appreciating is definitely church.

Just this morning I picked up Lucy. She announced to me that she’s known as the “Lesbo Bouncer.” She’s probably more than capable of doing the job, but 10 minutes in the car with her was amazing. All she could talk about was how the people she works with in various bars are her true brothers and sisters… the only family that ever has anything to do with her now. Her love for her colleagues made me want to be one of her peeps. God bless Lucy!

So, until the timing declares something needs to change, I’ll continue to roll at Church of Uber. It’s a great congregation!

Can I get a witness?!!! Beep beep! AMEN!

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

Mike

P.S.  Tip your frikk’n Uber driver. Generosity is always a good thing. Be good at life!

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

quiet time

March 21, 2017 4 comments

I got the Indian out a couple of days ago. It still looks like the dead of winter here in Colorado, but the sun and surprisingly warm air more than make up for the crusty brown landscape. I’m under no naïve notion that springtime is fully here, but it has genuinely been nice the past few weeks.

While on that ride, I decided to pop in to see a long-time buddy. We’re in different seasons now and time together is scarce, but it’s always easy to catch up once we’re in proximity. As we nursed a micro-brew while basting in the warm afternoon sun, Jimmy could barely contain himself as he revealed his new love affair with his quiet time. I’m always interested in what people are doing to connect, but the words “quiet time” are usually packaged in the genre of spiritual disciplines, i.e. concordance study, bible readings, devotionals, and journal writing. At least those have been my routines for decades now. To be totally candid, that’s not so much the pattern anymore. What my buddy talked about is where I’ve been now for some time.

When you no longer fear whether or not you measure up to God’s expectations or demands (btw, there are NO demands), the pressure comes off in regards to groveling for His grace. All you can see—everywhere—is grace.

Jimmy is a few years older than I am, but it’s clear he’s kicked over his spiritual container and he’s sorting through the data. I’m sure I’ve bored you all with my Rohr quotes, but my appreciation for what that guy has taught me has to be expressed. Kicking over the container is a necessary and real thing if a person truly wants to move into the fullness and mystery of God. My own personal experience can only confirm the glorious liberation of not having all of God figured out. Imagine that! We have a God who can’t possibly be contained in a single systematic theology. Right? Mind blown!

I asked, “Dude, give me the details.” I’m happy to report that I didn’t get a list of things. No lighting lavender candles, no memorizing scripture, and no reading of the devotional that I spent years writing. None of that is bad, but it’s pretty darn predictable. The tears that immediately filled his eyes confirmed this guy had definitely been wrecked by something. It took a minute for him to collect himself before he said, “It’s sweet. I sit and look and think about how good God’s creation really is; and Mike, love is in it. In my mind, God is bigger than ever!” That’s so kewl!

My friend is a highly intelligent individual whose devotion to his family and God is serious business. This isn’t a casual God follower. The man is lit up with wonder and awe about God’s massiveness. As he’s poking around with mystery, I think he’s pretty much done with business as usual. In my estimation, my friend is growing again. I’m not sure how that thought lands on you, but it’s something we all need to examine.

There is more to God than what we’ve always known.

J. P. Newell is probably right concerning the constant unfolding of God’s revelation on earth. Real time contemplation and observation of God’s handiwork is what it means to be fully alive. Don’t confuse that with trinkets of self-serving interests only. It’s deeper than that.

Spiritual expansion is truly a glorious thing in a person’s life, but it can also be scary as hell! That’s why most people won’t do it. Hanging on to the predictable past (what we’ve always done, what we’ve always known, and what we’ve always believed) is just easier and safer.

Regarding Jimmy, it takes a lot of guts to believe that God genuinely loves what he has created. If we can get quiet (easier said than done), there is a lot to see and appreciate that declares God’s continuing creative goodness. Touching and experiencing that at a deeper level brings such abundance to the mind and heart. It also helps nurture internal joy. Remember, joy isn’t a byproduct of your circumstances. Joy is a state of mind… a condition of your heart that is conscious of God’s benevolent heart. Circumstance can’t touch that.

Get quiet and give the Spirit a chance to reveal the Holy Trinity’s masterpiece. His beauty abounds.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized