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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Star Trek Into Darkness May 20, 2013

poster

With this new set of films, Abrams has really made
Star Trek part of the next – Next Generation.
Action.
Adventure.
Humor.
Snappy dialog delivered by a pitch-perfect cast.
Cumberbatch is a nice addition. Still, IF there is a show-stealer, it’s Zachary Quinto.

This film will certainly stand alone, but I’m glad I heeded the advise of one reviewer to dig out the 1982 “The Wrath of Khan,” and watch it prior to seeing “Into Darkness.” It did enhance the experience.

Of course, as with the series, there’s socio-political commentary. Here we deal with the myth of redemptive violence. As those who have tried to tell us again and again (MLK, Ghandi, Jesus) “An eye for an eye” only escalates the violence. (Who the “terrorists” are can very often depend on your perspective. Some would say this applies to our leaders response to 9-11.)

Lastly, you really should see this in IMAX 3D. It’s a great movie, so you may as well enjoy it at full warp speed.
spock&kirk






Tribbles

 

The Idolatry of God February 14, 2013



“There is a fire inside the building.
Please remain calm and step inside.”
idolatry


The Idolatry Of God
– Peter Rollins




– The Apocalypse isn’t Coming, It has Already Arrived. –
          Thus the adventure begins.


They say that (especially for those of us who are “youth-challenged”) one of the best ways to help prevent the decline of mental capacities is to actively use the brain by learning new things.
Simply put: THINK.  And think new thoughts.
In that context, a Rollins book is just what the doctor ordered.   Reading  “The Idolatry of God” is spiritual LASIK.  Here, however, the surgery is never finished.  Even if we don’t see everything the way Peter does, the adjustment continues to change the very nature of our spiritual vision.

The sub-title to this book is “Breaking Our Addiction To Certainty and Satisfaction.” I think it could also have been sub-titled, “Insurrection: Part Deux.” A number of the ideas expounded upon here were initially raised in “Insurrection.” While each book stands on it’s own merit, thy make a lovely couple.
🙂

It may be hard for some to conceive as to how one can “idolize” God.  Nevertheless, this book declares that’s predominantly just what “Christianity” has done.
“We have turned God into just another product to provide for our personal satisfaction.  A cosmic vending machine that promises answers and an escape from eternal suffering.”
The truth is, no matter what our vision of God is, that vision is never God.

There are three sections to “The Idolatry Of God:”
The Old Creation, The New Creation, and The New Collective.

Section One.

Early on, we read about how infants undergo two births.  The second of these is where “the infant begins to identify as existing in separation from her surroundings and slowly begins to experience herself as an individual.”
This information becomes important in the discussion of our sense of separation, and in turn, our feelings of being incomplete.

I love how Peter finds truth wherever truth can be found. He references works like “Austin Powers,” “Mission Impossible III,” and “The Walking Dead.”  In chapter one Mr. Rollins discusses a phrase made popular by Alfred Hitchcock: The “MacGuffin“.   A MacGuffin can be anything, and the point is not what it is, but that it has some assigned value, and it is wanted and desired, even if what it is is not known. OK, that may not make much sense on it’s own, but within the pages of this book, it initiates some amazing thought processes.

This leads to a discussion of “Original Sin.”
Finally, after 58 years, I’ve read an approach to Original sin that makes sense.  The church often says “sin simply means separation from God,” but then turns to endless discussions of “sins” instead of “sin.”  The focus is on what is and isn’t a “sin.”  This, of course, would vary from person to person, church to church, decade to decade. It all became an issue of what one could or couldn’t do, and still “remain” a Christian. I now find all of that laughably ridiculous, and simultaneously quite sad.  The end result is a “sin management” system, and any meaningful concept of Original sin is lost.

Chapter two has a visual recreation of the standard line drawing used in many evangelical tracts.  It’s the one with the stick figure on one side of a chasm, and GOD on the other.  You’ll know it when you see it.  We see why this entire approach to understanding our reality misses the point entirely.  “Instead of seeing Christ as the apocalyptic destruction of this whole approach…these diagrams obscure the truth by calling the Idol ‘God.'”

Chapter three reaps wisdom from the 23rd chapter of Matthew, and from “Miami Vice.”  We expand on a concept introduced in “Insurrection:”   I wear a mask that looks like me.  We look at the masks we “are,” and the mythologies (political, cultural, religious) that create and feed our life stories.  The church, in large part, does not confront these mythologies, but rather blesses them.

Chapter four brings us the “Zombie Apocalypse,” the “radical message of the cross,” and great insight into the Temple curtain being torn during the Crucifixion.  I loved the revelation of “what’s behind the curtain.” This is good stuff!

Section Two.

One of my favorite parts was chapter 5, “Trash of the World.”

We explore how a Christian “identity” is actually the setting aside of all identities.
We look at divisions that were thought to be a “natural” part of the world during Paul’s life:
Religious identity (Jew/Gentile),
Political identity (slave/free), and
Biological identity (male/female).
We then look at how the “sword” Christ says he brings divides those who may, in fact, believe the same things, while bringing unity to those who’s beliefs may be markedly different. A person’s enemies are now those of their own tribe.  The graphics in the book help clarify the new division of non-division.

Chapter Six covers material like “renewing of your mind,” “freedom from the obsessive drive for that which we (falsely) believe will make us complete,” “Christ as Fully God,” and more insights into the Crucifixion.

Section Three.

Chapters Seven through Nine.

We’re shown some new ways of being church.   Ways of facing our addiction to certainty.  Ways of interacting with the “other.”  And, of great importance, seeing ourselves the way others see us.
There are some really good ideas here. These ideas are not just theory, but ones that have been put into practice by the author and/or people he knows.
I would participate in these practices, but I don’t know that I would initiate them.  Whether or not you use these ideas, they can spur you on to come up with your own ideas. These certainly are some unique methods of encounter.

We also look at how, sadly, the existing “church” does not confront or challenge the Idolatry spoken of in these pages. Rather, the church reinforces the Idolatry.  Actually, it thrives on it.  The modern church would, to a great degree, not exist without it.  Not in it’s current form.
(I like the title of Chapter Eight:  “Destroying Christianity and other Christian Acts.”)

Oh.  Also in chapter 7, Peter critiques the “Confessional” scene in “Blue Like Jazz.”  I understand him, and for the most part agree with his criticism.  However, I still believe the realizations made through that type of process are powerful, and for many (most?) Christians, a necessary point at which to arrive before being able to move on.  It’s like not being able to get from A to H without going through E.  (And personally, I still love the movie.  Not everyone will.)

I tell ya, one sure-fire way to know that a book, author, singer, poet, etc. has something the church probably needs to hear is if those who claim to speak for the church call it heresy. [Challenge power, and power pushes back.]
This book is no exception. Peter (like Rob, Brian, Anne, Spencer, Phyllis, and others) is, in my estimation, a modern day prophet. Not in some weird, supernatural concept of the word, but in a real-life, get-back-to-basics, kind of way.
A way that calls us out of the Babylon of Christianity, and back to the way of Christ.

– df

—————



Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Also read: “Insurrection,” and
The Orthodox Heretic.”

Quotes:

– What if Christ does not fill the empty cup we bring to him but rather smashes it to pieces, bringing freedom, not from our darkness and dissatisfaction, but freedom from our felt need to escape them?

– All our religious narratives are but ash before the all-consuming fire of divine mystery.

– [Holing on to the] Idolatrous form of faith, [you] will be tempted to embrace that huge industry dedicated to conferences, worship concerts, and traveling apologists.

– The Good News of Christianity: You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

–  Instead of God being that which fills the gap at the core of our being, the God testified to in Christianity exposes the gap for what it is, obliterates it, and invites us to participate in an utterly different form of life, one that brings us beyond slavery to the Idol.

– [Paul] understood that the prohibition of the law does not cause one to renounce an object, but rather fuels a self-destructive drive for it.

– People tend to think that the Law and sin existed on opposite ends of a spectrum… they actually are intertwined and exist on the same side.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– All the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have a fictional quality.

– Religious leaders are actually lying, first and foremost, to themselves.

– We are all tempted to fall into the same trap as these religious teachers whom Jesus chastised.

– Love fulfills the law…by raising us into a different register where we live beyond the prohibition.
… while not everything is beneficial, everything is permissible.
[This revelation to me, long before reading this book, was a wonderful breakthrough.  I am no longer obsessed with what things are “sins,” and what are not.  I now ask myself, “Is this the smart thing to do?  Is this the best path to travel?  Is this beneficial?”  So the writing here, as so often seems to happen, confirmed a work already being accomplished within me.]

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Original Sin and the Law are obliterated and the Idol they create dissolves into thin air.

– [This is very good.]  More often than not, the reasons we reject another arise after the actual rejection.

– Christianity is not a singular, monolithic, unchanging belief system but a fluid tradition that is always interrogating itself.

– Love is the crazy, mad, and perhaps ridiculous gesture of saying yes to life.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

 

Another Conversation With Barry February 3, 2013

barry with guitar

[Following is a portion of a recent email I sent Barry McGuire, and
portions of his reply. My few interactions with him have been
extremely rewarding.]


Hi There.
I was part of the “Jesus People” crowd back in the 70’s and 80’s.
Over the last 5 to 10 years, I’ve become a very different person, spiritually.
My wife and I left “institutional religion” about 5 years ago. I was a co-Pastor, Elder, Worship leader, Sunday school teacher, ect., ect.
Now, when I look back, I can see, IMHO, how the Jesus movement seemed to eventually be co-opted by conservative, right-wing, Republican “christianity.”  I’ve also noticed, as I never did then, that the “Christian” music industry, book industry, ect., also is pretty much controlled by the religious right. (I didn’t believe that the Christian left even existed.)

Anyway,now when I listen to some of the old songs by certain artists like yourself, I hear a more radical tone than I ever noticed back then.
I hear implications that we’re all connected. I hear concern for our planet, and actual love and relationship with those of other religions. All things I have come to believe in.

I’m at a very different place spiritually than I ever would have imagined even a decade ago.    It’s a different place, but it’s the best and most honest place I’ve been in that regard.

Question:

Have you had any major shift in your spirituality since the Jesus People days?  Were you just always more “left” (if I can use that term) than most of us realized?

Anyway, thanks for all the years of great entertaining and thought-provoking music.
Keep it up!

Mega Blessings,
David Foreman

———————–


Hi David,

Well, good for you my friend. I recently received an email asking me if I was still walking WITH Jesus and I had to tell the enquirer, that “No, I no longer walked WITH Christ, I now actually walk IN Christ.” All the difference in the world.


I can tell by your email that you are sinking deep unto deep. Recently a pastor in So Cal expressed that he’d heard that I’d gone off the deep end. My response was, “Praise God, yes, I’m tired of the wading pool. It’s deep unto deep for me.”

Someone asked my wife recently what church we went to. Her response was, “You’ve asked the wrong question…
She told that person, “We are the church, you and I are the living stones in the Body of Christ.” She went onto say that we belong to the church of Two or More. Wherever two or more are gathered in His name, there He is in our midst.


We could spend hours talking, at least I know I could. It’s been a long journey, but for me I’ve discovered that fundamental Christianity just doesn’t work. I’ve written a few blogs you might want to read on my personal www.barrymcguire.com website although it’s been a long time since I’ve read them myself, and I know my outlook on reality has changed since then. What we believe to be true today, with additional information, will change what we believe to be true tomorrow.


Just sink into your heart my friend, all the answers live there and ultimately it’s Christ WITHIN us that will prevail.


Blessings on you my friend, get stubborn in your surrender to reality,
Barry

[Bold and underscores added my me. – df]

www.barrymcguire.com
www.trippinthesixties.com

—————


Some other quotes from Mr. McGuire:


We have never known such peace, such assurance, we have never been filled with such expectancy, such hope, such knowing, that Christ IS living WITHIN every heart.

My world view changes from day to day. The truth of it is, we can know 99% about all there is to know, but the 1% we don’t know will totally change our understanding of the 99% that we did know……”His mercies are new every morning as our Spirit is renewed daily.” I’m not the same person today that I was yesterday, and I’ll not be the same person tomorrow that I am today.

Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance.

Ghandi had the right idea. He was assassinated. Anwar Sadat was a man of peace. He was assassinated. Martin Luther King spoke of the brotherhood of man. He was assassinated. John Kennedy wanted to get us out of Vietnam. He was assassinated. Jesus Christ gave us a message of forgiveness and love. He was assassinated. Socrates apparently did all he could to get people to think for themselves and not let others tell them what to do. He was assassinated. That’s why I take an a-political stand in this world I find myself living in.

How dare I judge ANYONE that Christ gave His life to forgive! I don’t care if they’re gay [or] straight.

Well, I don’t know about Christ’s soon physical returning.  People have been thinking He’s going to be coming back any minute for the last two thousand years.  For me, and Mari, He’s already come back!
Our constant goal is to stay focused on this present moment, and to pour one hundred percent of our energy and attention into the demands and requirements of each moment we experience.

barry mcguire dot com

 

The Vega, The Ghost, and the Rambling Old Man January 19, 2013

Well, we’re a few weeks into 2013.
I can’t count the number of times the world was supposed to end by now.
(Of course, this could all be an illusion created to satisfy us while we’re just being used as batteries to keep the machines running.)


I thought I should write something before the first month of the new year is over. Since I don’t have a specific topic in mind I guess I’ll just ramble.
I don’t get how some people blog every single day! I do think I’ll shoot for a couple times a month.
Yeah. Good luck with that.

58
Oh, I just turned 58 this month.
I’ll talk about that.
Ya know, I keep saying that getting older sucks, and many aspects do, indeed, suck.
But there’s plenty to be thankful for, as well.

Man. 58 years on this planet.
Fifty-friggin’-eight years.
That seems like a long time. Simultaneously, it’s like a flash in the pan.
I feel like I’ve lived a number of different lives in that time. I should write a memoir.
I’d need help from a good ghost-writer. But I know some of the things I’d include.
I’ll give a very, very small sampling.

So many experiences.
Experiences I shouldn’t even still be alive to…
well, experience.

I’ve lost track of how many wrecks I’ve been in.
Crashed into a tree. Into a bridge.
Rolled a car in front of a moving semi.
Flipped a motorcycle.  Just to name a few.

Hey! Ya wanna ride?


When I was younger, growing up on a farm, we used to play “pitchfork toss.” We’d see
how close we could get without actually impaling each other.
We really knew how to have fun, didn’t we?
I don’t know how the hell I survived childhood, let alone live to 58!

I got beat up a lot. (Something to do with having a “smart mouth,” I think.)
Still, they never shut me up.
There! I showed them, huh?

I’ve been threatened at gunpoint. That’ll get the heart pumping.

I had a rather odd (and not much fun) trip to the Grand Canyon.
(And, if I recall, the Painted Desert, Petrified Forrest, Royal Gorge, and the Rockies.)
Four people, camping gear, and a couple weeks on the road…chevrolet-vega-1
all in a Vega.
Yeah. A Vega.

It wasn’t my friends fault that I had a bad time.  It was just a personal thing.

I used to go camping. (OK. Sometimes that was fun. A little.)
I went spelunking once.  The kind where you start by slithering through a
hole you wouldn’t make your dog go through.  I can’t say that I recommend spelunking.
Sure, it had some interesting aspects. Just not enough bang for the buck from my perspective.


Fun Experiences:
White-water rafting. Para-sailing. Flying in a helicopter. Flying in little 2-seater planes.
Trips to the ocean. Trips to lakes. Multiple times sailing and other boating trips. Lots of trips to amusement parks. Trips to Las Vegas.
And many enjoyable memories of concerts (from Alice Cooper to The Monkees, to Marvin Hamlisch) and live theater performances (Like “Les Mis ”, “Cats”, “The Lion King” and “Wicked”.)

I’ve written, produced and recorded two CDs with my wife.
I’ve written (and been paid for) some articles for a magazine.
I was so happy to play a small part in bringing the movie “Blue Like Jazz”  to the screen, and be listed in the ending credits.


Changes.
A less than stable first five years of life.
Then adopted.
Loved, but grossly miscast as a farm boy. Not a lot of friends.
Got in lots of trouble.
Lots of trouble.
Seriously, I was ADHD long before they knew what that was.

I had a number of teenage crushes, and at least one long-term teenage love.
High-school dropout.
Convicted, incarcerated felon.
Late-teen/early twenties evangelical. Pentecostal/Charismatic Jesus-freak.
Right-wing. “Mostly” Republican.
Got Married.
Became a stepfather.

I’ve worked in a lot of factories. I really need to get back to that kind of work.

More changes.
Marriage troubles (mostly my fault.)
Divorced.
“Post mid-life” crisis.
Coke-snorting, multiple drug-taking, party-boy.
Trying hard to find my place.
Trying to distinguish what I know about myself from what I’ve thought I should be.
Trying to distinguish God from what I’ve been taught about God.

Grace.
Lots and lots of grace.
Re-married (same woman).
Became a grandparent.  Twice.
Co-pastor. Elder. Sunday-school teacher. Worship leader. Counselor.
Ex-co-pastor. Ex-elder. Ex-Sunday-school teacher. etc.
(Still a pastor and a counselor in a more “real-world,” organic kind of way.)
Ex-member of institutional religion.
Left-wing. “Mostly” Democrat.

Speaking of leaving the IC:
I tried hard to maintain some of the relationships I had there. Sadly, no one was really interested. Religion can so entwine some people that, to them, leaving a man-made organization constitutes leaving the friendship.
There was one man at the institution I used to attend who, I have no doubt, would have remained a close friend to this day, had he not already transitioned to the next part of eternity.

So, I went a few years without much positive social interaction. Recently that changed when I associated myself with a group called “Lifetree Café.” It’s a conversation cafe, which I’ve hosted a number of times.
We’re currently on hiatus.
A few friendships evolved out of that, as well as a 4-man discussion group/book club.

58 years.
So many changes.

Philosophical.
  World-view.
    Religious.
      Spiritual.
        Social.
          Political.

All of those areas of my life have seen more change in the last 3 to 8 years than I would have imagined or thought possible.
good-newsI’ve been freed of much of the horrible theology I used to accept and promote.
I learned that the “Good News” really is good.
I was pretty young in life when I was “born-again/saved/converted/came to know Christ,” or whatever you wish to call that form of spiritual awakening. I used to think that during all of the “troubles” I’ve mentioned that I somehow lost that “salvation.” A couple of the more important revelations in my life were, first of all “salvation” is not primarily about what happens after this life, and secondly, I couldn’t disconnect from God if I wanted to.
Ignore God; live out of selfishness and greed; Yes. But be separated from God; never.

2012 saw me more politically engaged than I have ever been, financially and actively.
This engagement was, for me, simply an extension of my faith and of my love for God.
I won’t go into much detail here because I’ve explored many of those issues throughout this blog.


Sexual/Spiritual healing.
I’ve learned to accept myself the way I am wired as a sexual being.
(If you haven’t already done so, you can read more about that aspect in my “Tribbles” article.)
I’ve learned to reconcile my sexuality with my faith, and with my life as a happily married man, without having to deny, dislike, or fight that inner part of my soul.

My wife, Kathy, is truly the best part of my life. I don’t recommend divorce as an avenue for making your marriage better, but it seemed to help us. I’ve now spent much more of my life with her than without her. Neither of us, of course, are the people we originally said “I do” with. We’ve grown together, and evolved together in amazing and unbelievable ways.
Sidelight: I can’t imagine spending all those years together – the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, and all the in between – while being told that our love wasn’t worthy of being called a marriage just because it was looked down upon by someone else.
Tragic.

Onward.
58 years, so far.
Sometimes I wish I knew how much time is left on my clock. Sometimes I’m glad I don’t know.
Some nights I call it a draw.”
One day at a time. Despite what we may try to believe, there’s really no other option. (That doesn’t seem to stop me from often borrowing tomorrow’s troubles.)

Kathy and I are discussing our retirement plans. We know we won’t be living high-on-the-hog, but we figure we should be modestly financially stable. We may still need part-time jobs, unless we retire in another country. That’s a real possibility.

I hope, in retirement, to spend more time volunteering for causes I support.
I have a deep desire to do at least one more CD.
I’d like more opportunities to put my multiple counseling studies to good use as I continue to “pastor.”
And maybe someday, I’ll connect with that ghost-writer.

– df
.                                                                             .  ghost-writer

 

BLUE LIKE JAZZ on DVD August 8, 2012

Order The DVD From LIFEWALK! CLICK HERE!
(It’s also at Walmart, Netflix, Redbox, Amazon, and likely on Mars by now.)

[I got a call from Donald Miller thanking me for my support of “Blue Like Jazz.” Yeah, that’s kind of pretty cool. Here’s a brief review of the movie.]

I expected to enjoy “Blue Like Jazz.” Yet, I must admit, after all the promotion and high hopes, I had some fear [just a teeny tiny bit] the movie might not be something I would be able to “brag” about.
After seeing the film, all fears have been laid to rest. I thought it was a great movie. My wife and I both really enjoyed it [and not just because our names are in the closing credits].
Good writing. Good production values. Good performances all the way around.
AND a great message! One I can actually get behind.

If you’ve read “Blue Like Jazz,” and listened to some old Steve Taylor records, you’ll have some idea of the creative power behind the movie. It addresses the hypocrisy of religion, while remaining very pro-faith. It’s real, raw, and avoids the clichés and pitfalls that seem inherent with most movies dealing with faith.
I will be seeing this movie again and again. We traveled a couple of hours just to see it. It was more than worth it.
Do yourself a favor: See “Blue Like Jazz.” It’s not just a movie. The background of its making, and the execution make it a piece of cinematic history.

UPDATED TRAILER with quotes from movie reviews:

READ MORE. Click Here.


DVD Special Features Include:

Audio Commentary with Author Donald Miller, Cinematographer Ben Pearson and Director Steve Taylor
Making Blue Like Jazz
Master Class: Directing Actors on Set
Deleted Shots
Photo Gallery
“Save Blue Like Jazz” Featurette
“The Cast” Featurette
“The Animator” Featurette
“This Is My Story” Featurette
“The Music” Featurette

 

The Kingdom, The Ship, and the Really Hot Days July 2, 2012

We weren’t home much over the weekend.
There were some pretty bad storms, and we lost power Friday afternoon.  As of now (Monday) our power is STILL out!
This during some record-breaking heat.
We stayed one night with our son’s family.
We also spent a LOT of time in stores, at the mall, in restaurants, and sitting in coffee shops.
And we went to the movies.
Two of them.

One was “Battleship.”

We figured it would be watchable, but didn’t really expect much. Turns out, we thought it was pretty good!
So much for Rotten Tomatoes. More and more I find their reviews unreliable.
I miss Gene Siskel.
Anyway, it was great to see Peter Berg, Taylor Kitsch, and Jesse Plemons working together again. Hamish Linklater provided additional comic relief.  It also starred Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, and  the always working Liam Neeson.  It was, as seems to be the norm, a bit too long, but Berg and the actors delivered the requisite “humanity” it takes to make a movie like this worth watching.


We also saw a movie neither of us had heard of before:

“Moonrise Kingdom.”
It was playing at the mainstream theaters, and is now, appropriately, at the local Cinema Center.
It introduced us to young stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.
It also had a star-filled cast, including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, and Tilda Swinton.
We didn’t really know, even after reading the description, what to expect.  What we got was one of the most quirky, off-beat, and unusual films we’ve seen in the last decade.  A different kind of story, superb writing, and strange-but-great performances make Moonrise Kingdom a movie that’s in a league of it’s own.
Highly recommended.

So, not really a bad weekend.
Still, it would be nice to have electricity in our home again.

 

Woman Of God June 29, 2012

Here’s my first attempt at turning one of our songs into a “Lyric Video.”
This is from our second Re-Union CD, “Inside Out.”

In case you are unaware of the back-story, my wife and I were separated, then divorced.
Two-and-a-half years later, we were re-married (or Re-“Unioned”).
It was, in great part I believe, the prayers of my wife that brought, shall we say, my “salvation” (not in the modern born-again sense. But more in the way of Jesus’ teachings).

That, in the tiniest of nutshells, is the basis of this song.

I hope you enjoy it.




Click this image for more about the CD:




AND to read an article about Kathy and I that was in our local newspaper, click HERE.

 

 
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