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processing through faith . . . (metaphors abound)

I want to give a shout out to Mrs. Kedy — from my Creative Writing Class in High School.  It was in this class I learned to process writing, media, etc.  In class, we learned to take the quotes that resonated with us — and to really let the content sink deep until it produced new thoughts about the world around and within us.  So, thank you for this gift Mrs. Kedy!

She inspired a pursuit that I have continued to hone to the present day.  I soak up movies, novels (not great at reading fiction, but when it do), theology, philosophy, tv shows, art, poetry, etc  — all to have my eyes opened more to life — to self — to others — and certainly, to God.

Cloud Cult has been a band that spurs that value on in me.  I’ve often revisited there music over the years — finding a depth and meaning in their music that encourages my own pursuit and way with God in this life.  As we continued to consider our process in life/faith as a community, we talked about the great tragedy of ARRIVING.

I think one of the greatest values I can pass on to my kids (and we to our children in our community of faith) is to encourage them to KEEP PROCESSING.  The most tragic thing may be when we think we HAVE IT MADE, when we FOUND IT ALL, when we ARRIVE AND CONCLUDE.

And yet, to champion processing — we need metaphors that are beyond the stagnant — beyond “solid” and “rock”.  What metaphors might we have?  Certainly they abound.  But we entered this exercise by considering the Cloud Cult’s, GHOST INSIDE OUR HOUSE

 

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We saw a ghost inside our house,
Or was it wishful thinkin’?
Oh god, don’t leave us by ourselves,
Or we’re bound to take up drinkin’

Please send us a miracle, So I know that there is meaning
I said, “I think that it’s a miracle, Just to be breathin'”

So live on, Baby live on
Packed up my clothes in a grocery bag, I’m going to find the creator
An old man in the clouds or a happy little alien
Whoever it is I need to thank her

And even though I don’t know God, I’m happy with the mystery
And I’m certain that I feel it, Every time that you sing to me

Songs, you say, Life is like a song, It’s a song, A hum-able song

I watched you sleep until 5 am,
Cause I want to be part of your dreaming
Oh love, don’t leave me by myself, Or I’m bound to lose my meaning
We’ll start a little family, And call it our religion
Hunt for ghosts inside our house, ’Cause we’ll never give up wishing

That we live on, May we live on, In our song, Our hum-able song

 

What does this song stir in you?

Write down one thing you are “processing”?

Why do you feel you have not “concluded”?
Can faith be something always in flux?
Is there no destination or arrival?  Why?  Why not?

 

Barbara Brown Taylor writes,  To become fully human means learning to turn my gratitude for being alive into some concrete common good. It means growing gentler toward human weakness. It means practicing forgiveness of my and everyone else’s hourly failures to live up to divine standards . . . It means receiving the human condition as blessing not curse, in all its achingly frail and redemptive reality. 

 

On the evening we engaged in this dialogue — I also asked us to work through some poetry — and to even write some poetry in smaller groups.  I challenged us to use the model of Wendell Berry’s poem, to offer our own “limited-wisdom” on process.

 Be like the fox

who makes more tracks than necessary, 

some in the wrong direction. 

Practice resurrection. 

 

Be like the _________

who _______________

(admission of limitations)
(life-giving restated)

 

Some of the examples are below . . . consider the grace of limited wisdom.  Consider the process you may be in the middle of.  How might you show grace and love through your PROCESS?  How might you SEE with new eyes your situation — and soak up the inspiration from the moment.

 

Be like the sun
Which produces heat and light.
It can whither life
But centers our universe

 

Be like the turtle who moves ever so slowly
and life may seem to pass him by
but he enjoys the moments
as they come

 

Be like the chameleon
Who changed colors like the wind
sometimes the camouflage is unhelpful
practice uniqueness

 

 

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Why Noah should be watched.

The Loving Search WK 1

Tonight, during the Gathering, we began the conversation around “The Loving Search” – both a reference to contemplative prayer and an awareness found in loving God, others, and self.  Consider my intro post as a primer to this post.

This week, the language of The Loving Search has been forefront on my mind.  When a topic for leading our conversation has thoroughly rooted itself in my mind — i tend to see it everywhere.  I hear it in songs, read it in stories, and view it in movies and shows.  This weekend my son and I watched Noah–it was on redbox — and I had failed to find anyone that would go with me when it opened in theaters.  So, Friday night – I popped it in the DVD player with no opposition from my son.  I was excited.  I tend to enjoy finding good reasons to buck the mainstream “voice” of Christianity — and I couldn’t wait to find ways to like the film despite it’s controversy.

Again, it wasn’t hard for me to like the film — I thought it was a thoughtful and imaginative retelling of the internal conflict that must have been a part of the Noah epic.  The Bible often doesn’t offer the emotional insight that modern film can — as I watched– i felt like I was immersed in the struggle.  This is no story for the walls of a nursery.  This is a story of one man wanting to follow God’s ways — and being caught  in the tension of what that means for he and his family — and, of course, for all of mankind.

So, I want to offer a few clips from the movie — to help consider the inherent tension found in The Loving Search.

NOAH is honest about the tension.

The Loving Search reveals the tension of mercy/justice • Noah Chapter 10

The film places mercy and justice on the scales to be weighed and considered.  Is God merciful in the flood or is He bringing justice?  Where does that leave Noah and his family?  Are they really any better than anyone else?  Don’t they deserve the same act of justice that all of mankind will receive when the waters come?  Here we have consider the words of Marislov Volf:

“. . . you have to look with the eyes of love . . . the most important decisions in the world are made in each person’s heart,
to see beauty . . . attend to the shape of the self, which gives quality to your vision.” (from The Rotting Dog interview)

 

On the loving search – will we choose to see through eyes of justice or mercy?  Through the eyes of love or judgement?  And certainly – we must know that the dichotomy isn’t helpful — we cannot be either/or — we must consider our loving search to include the both/and.

NOAH longs for Love over Justice.

The Loving Search leads us toward Love as the highest • Noah Chapter 11

The film shows Emzara (Noah’s wife) go to Methuselah and asks for mercy.  Her deepest longing is for love — not justice.  It cannot help me think that we must not limit our hope for justice in our world — but for love to rule.  To cry for love is to cry not for what is deserved, but for mercy.

 

 

NOAH is a story of restoration.

The Loving Search sees restoration for all • Noah Chapter 21

In the film, Noah has seen himself as a failure.  He chose love — to have mercy on his family — rather than follow what he believed with the just will of God.  This entire struggle left Noah on the beach, naked, alone, and drunk.  Since this is where the biblical story goes — I can only imagine that Noah, in his frailty, was processing the nightmare of the judgement on the human race.  Too much for any to bear.  And he struggled.

This scene has Noah being confronted by his daughter-in-law, Shem’s wife, who beautifully declares restoration for Noah.

 

Her words resonated with me.  Isolation distorts the voice of love.  When we are alone – love can become self-obsession.  When we are alone — love can be deafened by self-loathing and guilt.  When we are alone — we have no other voices to echo or challenge the distortions we hear.

But, community restores.

True community cannot isolate.

True community joins us on the loving search.

The final scene of the movie is full of light, full of hope, and full of new beginnings.

 

NOAH will always be about new beginnings.

The Loving Search returns to new beginnings • Noah Chapter 15

As far as I’m concerned, Aronofsky’s treatment of the passing down of Story in a family setting is beautifully done.  The following clip does a masterful job of enhancing our continued commitment as a community to see the Bible as the Meta-Narrative or Big Story we continue to find ourselves in today.  This story has been passed down for thousands of years — and we continue telling it within our community context — along with so many communities across the globe.

The film reminds us of the intimate environment the story is told within and it echoes the continued beginnings that God orchestrates.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 • The Voice (VOICE) • Therefore, if anyone is united with the Anointed One, that person is a new creation. The old life is gone—and see—a new life has begun!

The Creator did not create once and sit back — but has been intimately involved in creating – a – new continually.  In the film, Noah tells the story of the new beginning.  And, in the loving search — we continue to tell the story of new beginnings!

 

A Final Film Consideration

I know some of the push back on the film was it’s supposed “environmental” and “vegetarian” agenda.  I have to admit – I just don’t see it.  Certainly creation care was at the forefront of the film — but, should we not also take that from the narrative?  Can we not assume that creation care was fouled up just as much as the obvious humanity against humanity atrocities that were in full force at the time?  I saw plenty (including the final clip I featured) that spoke of hate, murder, and sin beyond animal cruelty and environmental issues.  It seems to be all in the film.  But, may I ask, is wrong with us also taking in a message that humanity hasn’t taken good enough care of creation.  Wouldn’t it be a part of our loving search to consider the earth and animals too?

 

What resonated with you about the film?

Do you also see the loving search portrayed in the film?  The struggle and triumph of love and promise?

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what pilgrimages are you on?

It’s a word we don’t use a ton: pilgrimage.  But, throughout church history and really broader human history – pilgrimage has been (and continues to be) vital.

What pilgrimages do you find yourself on?

What is your current trajectory?

 

MY NATIONAL GALLERY EXPERIENCE

I had the amazing opportunity to spend some time in the UK this summer.  I was at Cambridge for a week – but ended my trip with a half-day in London.  I wanted to do at least one thing that I would love with my few hours in London, so I chose to go to the National Gallery.  It was amazing!  One of the main reasons I chose the National Gallery over other great museums in London was to see my favorite artist, Caravaggio.  Let me say, my experience far exceeded my expectation.

national gallery - caravaggio

I navigated room after room, taking in as much of the art as I could — all with a purpose to find the room where Supper at Emmaus is housed.  About mid morning, I found myself in front of the painting–in awe and overwhelmed.  It was large, inviting, and the characters were life-sized.  I stood for several minutes, taking in the scene.

I had seen this painting online, in books, but never in person.  I saw things I had never noticed before.  The one thing that stood out the most, in this setting, was the scallop shell pinned to the coat of the man on the right.  I hadn’t even noticed anything on the coat before–much less something so symbolic.  But of what?  I wasn’t familiar with the scallop shell as Christian symbol.  I couldn’t wait to pull my phone out and start researching—but there was still much to see.  I’d do that in the airport–which I needed to get to quickly!  The time had flown standing before some of the greatest artists in history.  I was shaped by the moments in the National Gallery.

1602-3_Caravaggio,Supper_at_Emmaus_National_Gallery,_London

 

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DISCOVERING NEW (OLD) SYMBOLS

I gravitate to images.  I mean, I love words–and I love reading, writing, speaking.  But, I really gravitate to images.  They capture something within–speaking volumes.  So, finding ancient symbols of the faith that feel new is a welcome discovery.  The symbol of the scallop shell is a reference to Saint James.  It’s a symbol for pilgrimage.  And it says so much in this painting.  The Emmaus story (and painting) invite us in to experience the wonder of the resurrection.  Caravaggio takes us into the instant that Christ is revealed to his followers.  The wounds are shown when the bread is broken, and it both draws them near—speaking to the intimacy of the moment, the nearness of Jesus; and pushes them back in fear and trembling at such a revelation–the Christ is here, alive, not dead!

The men here are on a pilgrimage.

Spain_Leon_-_Santiago_ShellThey are moving through liminal space (in-between-ness) of the darkest of moments–the horror and isolation of watching Jesus put to death; into the light that is the resurrected Christ.  It’s a journey of uncertainty.  It’s a journey of new beginnings.  It’s a journey with Jesus.

The symbol is fitting for the follower.

The symbol is fitting for the pilgrim.

 

A FEW RAMBLINGS ON PILGRIMAGE

The shell is a symbol of Pilgrimage associate with the Way of Saint James or the Camino de Santiago.  The trek spans 500 miles across northern Spain.  The pilgrimage ends at the cathedral where James is buried.  Legend connects James with the scallop shell – but a thousand year tradition of those who have engaged in the journey have forged the imagery and meaning of the symbol.  Movies, books, journals, and art have all been produced in light of the journey.  Most recently, The Way, was filmed to tell the story of the value of such a pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage, in history, has been for healing, for fertile crops, for forgiveness of sins, and on and on.  The value of pilgrimage is not just the arrival, but the process.  Pilgrimage can certainly be to a location–but, it can also be a way to see everyday life.

What pilgrimages are you on?

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

‘pilgrymes are we alle.’

William Langland, 14th Century

“In each of us dwells a pilgrim.  It is the part of us that longs to have direct contact with the sacred . . .

It’s not so much what you do, it’s how you do it . . . The Way is uncontrived.”

Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

LIVE LIFE.

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The final words of this clip hit me.  As one put it tonight in the gathering, it was a “BAM” moment.  To choose a life (in this context) was to order and control a life that is meant to be LIVED.  Pilgrimage speaks to living.  It’s the journey, the process, the life, that we become open to–available for–learners of.

 

PILGRIMAGE IN/TO LOVE

My loved ones, let us devote ourselves to loving one another . . .
We have experienced and we have entrusted our lives to the love of God in us.

from the first letter of John

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No matter what our answer to: What pilgrimage are we on? — i think it comes down to LOVE.  Read 1 John 4.  Our journeys must be summed up by the arch of LOVE.  My current pilgrimages include my journey through the DMin program at George Fox.  I see an end, but it’s still far off.  I will know the arrival of my destination when I go through the ceremony of graduation–but, really, my pilgrimage is about the research and writing the story of Convergence (more on the details of that later).  But, another pilgrimage I’m on is to be a softer, more open, less stressed person toward my wife and kids.  I want them to feel a difference between who I am and who I was — often stressed out when coming home.  This is a journey of love.  This is a journey toward love.

What is your pilgrimage?

AWARENESS PRACTICE

We ended the gathering considering our pilgrimage through the shell.  Each person chose a shell from the ones my family had hunted on our recent beach trip.  We went through the following prayer practice.  I hope it can be an encouragement to you this week.

PRAYER OF THE SHELL • considering pilgrimage

  • TAKE HOLD of a shell, find the one that stands out to you.  Consider why it stands out . . . the color? the shape? the brokenness? the perfectness? the size?
  • FEEL THE SHELL run your fingers over the edges, the ridges, the smoothness.

– In what ways does the smoothness resemble your journey?  the moments when you “coast” or “refresh” or seem to “glide”.

– In what ways do the ridges resemble your pilgimage?  Can you feel the heartbreak of the caverns, the growth within the confined areas, the deep lows of isolation?  Ask God that you might no the abiding presence and shared sorrow found in His companionship.  And now, what of the highs, how do you recall moments of joy.  Ask God to be near in great and unforgettable times.

  • LOOK at the shell.  Do you see the pattern both driving to the center and exploding from it at the same time?  Consider the resurrection light that goes out.  How is your pilgrimage reflective of such light?  Consider the inward movement to the center.  How is this your pilgrimage?
  • CONSIDER the shape of your shell.  Do you see completeness or partialness?  Do you see holes and fragments or wholeness?  How is this a picture of the paradox of your life?  The paradox of completeness and brokeness?  
  • SET OUT on a pilgrimage of love.  Ask God to guide and direct, that you might live love.

 

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Convergence Tee @ CottonBureau.com

One easy and risk free way we could offer tees to our community was to submit our branding design to a great site called, cottonbureau.com. And, they’ve agreed to feature the shirt for ANYONE to buy for the next 14 days. But, here’s the catch . . .

  • They only print the shirt if they get 12 preorders within the next 14 days.
  • The dream of wearing a cool convergence shirt ends for everyone IF we don’t get 12 preorders in the next 14 days.
  • SO, you need to order a shirt–or more than just one!


HOW TO ORDER:

  1. Go to CottonBureau.com/products/convergence
  2. Purchase at least one shirt (please remember, these are american apparel shirts — which run SMALL!)
  3. Share the link with friends via text, email, twitter, Facebook, pinterest, instagram, etc. Maybe it’s even a great way to share about faith journey you are on — or maybe you just want to share a cool tee design. Go for it!

 

LAST DAY TO PREORDER:  July 12, 2014

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Gallery Space: Carla Schwab

We are so excited to have Carla Schwab’s artwork on our walls beginning this LIVE ON THE PLAZA on Friday, January 13th.  Come check out her work!

Neon Accents by Carla Schwab
during LIVE ON THE PLAZA
7-9P @ Convergence (1755 nw 16th OKC 73106)

Acrylic Medium with soft pastel
Bright Colors, Textures and layers. All paintings are made to represent line. This is accomplished through using varying utensils (palette knifes, silverware, kitchen utensils, home depot finds). Most work is brush free.

contact Carla Schwab

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