Sunday, May 29, 2011

Montreat Signature Conference

So those of us blessed with Asperger's syndrome tend to struggle socially.  Finding a balance between that my extrovertness is never easy but rarely does it come out the way it does when placed in unfamiliar situations by myself.  That has been day 1 of the Montreat Signature conference for me.  I've been battling the duality of myself so much that I really am not focused the way I want. 

I really want to talk with people, get to know them and share.  Yet, I have NO IDEA HOW and it seems everyone else is in their own world here with people from their church or school or old friends.  I feel completely on the outside. 

Now that I've said that on to the subject at hand.  The theme here is being spiritual in a crazy busy world.  A valid and worthwhile theme, but one that doesn't come with nice Presbyterian answers.  Unfortunately more than half the people here seem to be the type that want that and nothing more.  So there were moments tonight when some people were rolling their eyes at a sermon that seemed even a bit "safe."  Yet, the points are well heeded by anyone who wants to think about things spiritual.  We do have to change what we think is important to daily living if we want to see bigger changes in our lives.  If we always think that things should stay the same, or that things are just a certain way and that's the way it should be we become self defeating.  You can't give one thing lip service while doing something else. . .

To bring that back around, I'm sitting out in the lobby hoping for some contact because at least there are people here.  Maybe some of them will speak to me, maybe not, but it's at least trying something to change things.  BTW: Cooperative confirmation classes are NOT new and shocking.  *shakes head*

Yeah, now I'm eavesdropping.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hymn Text Draft

A Short Hymn on Living Faithfully

We give ourselves over to comfort
by refusing to search for new ways
Transversing what we see as desert,
our focus set on heat and the blaze

Sometimes we must look to the outskirts
and sometimes we just have to look in
Fight power with something that subverts
For we know it's God's love that will win

Though we are not called to our privilege
We each are given much in this life
We must not carry it as baggage
But use it to bring light unto strife

For faithfulness is just to follow,
follow God into the unknown
To "love one another" is hollow
if those different than us we disown

©WolfWill 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rough "One Take" poetry

The following is just off the top of my head right now.

We give ourselves over to comfort
Refusing to search for new ways
To tranverse what we see as desert
So focused on heat and the blaze

Sometimes we must look to the outskirts
Sometimes we just have to look in
Fight power with something that subverts
For we know Gods love it will win

Though we are not called to our privilege
We each have a lot in this life
We must not carry it as baggage
But use it to bring light to strife

I have little burden to carry
If I carry just what's my own
But share with the hurting and wary
And my faith I will not disown

To be faithful is but to follow
Follow God into unknown
For "love one another" is hollow
If we journey just with our own

©WolfWill 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who am I?

Another day where I wonder if I come across the way I want when I talk.  So many parts of me compete for attention, and somehow I feel so over-aware of them most of the time.  I am an Aspie, so I fear change, but my theology and philosophy in life is that we're always changing.  I'm an Aspie, so I struggle socially, but the lowest I've ever scored on a Myers-Briggs type test is 95% Extrovert.  I need people, but I never quite feel connected.  I'm a diabetic, but my A1Cs tend to be in the low 5s.  I'm a type 2 diabetic, but every doctor thinks that that HAS to be WRONG, because nothing says I should be, and I have no family history.  I am a diabetic, but I get by on very minimal medication and not the strictest diet ever made.  I have a Master of Divinity, but I'm not ordained nor do I plan to be.  I work as a Christian Educator in the PC(USA) where it's unusual to have the combination I just mentioned.  I'm a undeniably Presbyterian theologically, but I'm definitely Quaker when it comes to life and spirituality.  I graduated from a Baptist seminary, though I grew up without a denomination, but I now will fight for the PC(USA) until I, or it dies. I am NOT a youth worker, but youth and parents would all probably fight hardest to defend me against anything said against me.  I am obviously loved by kids, but my wife and I want none of our own.  I am a coach, a director of plays, and love to preach and teach, but again I'm an Aspie and it stresses me out to no end.  I'm Male, an competitive athlete, but also a theatre major who looks quite good in a pair of high heels.  I am a theologian, who is logical (Aspie) and a science nerd (love me some quantum physics) but also artsy (theatre major) and a bit of an anarchist.  Not to mention I'm a perfectionist in a world where I know I'm anything but.

So who am I?  Am I defined by my diet?  My marital status? My "way of thinking"? How I get my energy?  My educative background? My theology? My spirituality?  My job?  My gender?  My "disabilities"?  My political views?

Some would argue I'm all of these things, I though tonight feel like I'm none of these things.  These things are all comparative.  I only need to be defined by any of these things when they affect the circumstance I'm in at a given moment.  At this moment, I'm just a guy typing a stream of consciousness blog post.  I AM though ALWAYS one thing.  I am always a creation made in the image of my creator.  I decided long ago in my studying of faith, scripture, and life that the idea of being made in God's image was not about how we looked, but what we were capable of and what we exist for.  We are capable of creation, that is undeniable, we see that which we have created all around us.  Yet we exist for more than creation, the same way that God exists beyond acts of creation.  We exist to be stewards of creation, to maintain creation with the same love that it was created and continues to be cared for with by God.

Stewards does not mean: Use as we want.  Creators does not mean: Be our own God.  To be creators and stewards of creation means that we have to constantly be seeking that which is best for creation, that which God desires.  Those desires are also our own deepest desires.  We desire to be understood, thus we should desire to understand.  We desire to be loved, thus we should desire to love.  We desire to feel a purpose, thus we should desire to seek our purpose and to work to do that with all that we are.  We are blessed with all that God is, all the power to be whatever we want to be, but we should want to be that which God is.  That is what we see in the life of Jesus.  Jesus doesn't do everything we do daily, the world is different, but does everything with the same WHY that we should have behind everything we do.

I am a steward and creator, created by God to LOVE and take care of ALL of Creation with ALL that I am.  I can be less, I can choose not to be this, but this is who I am called to be, who I aim to be, and who I desire to be.  In that I know who I am, because I know WHY I am.

And it is who we all have been created to be.  I am not going to say let us forget that which makes us different, because in our differences are better able to understand the depth of God and of life and are better able to be that which we are called to be.  I am though saying that maybe if we spent a bit less time with the comparatives of life it wouldn't be so bad.  Maybe we can actually enjoy our diversity if we focused less on the "What" we are and remember the "WHY" we all are, because in that "WHY" we are all equal, and that then lets each of us be "Who I am"

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A post by The Righteous Reverend Deadpool

I was asked today about the Rapture.  After offering to help the young lady experience it, I picked myself up off the ground and sermonized as follows:

Let us assume thusly that we are never beyond the grasp of life. If you shoot me do I not get back up? If you electrocute me do I not still kick your butt? Thus I tell you as sure as you are at risk of me here today, you will continue to be at risk of me until the day that you join me in paradise...with chimichangas. Do not be concerned! For we all realize that the day is coming, but do not know when.  Thus live as thus that day may be today, for you do not know when I come for you. Bang Bang.

**We really need our own catchphrase!**

Friday, May 20, 2011

A wondering wandering stream of consciousness regarding recent events.

A lot of things have been happening in the world of religion recently.  We've had questions about justice and vengeance, questions of inclusion and exclusion, questions about heaven and hell.  These are big issues but they keep echoing a singular thought in my head.  What do we really know?  And thus, how is it that we know it?

I spent a large part of my seminary career contemplating what in scripture should be treated as contextual and what was actually stated as a universal truth.  For some of my friends it probably is hard to hear that when I got to seminary I was struggling with who could be a pastor, I had put large groups out of this place, myself included.  I figured I would be something else in the ministry, but that my life, and my choices had excluded me from ministry.  I actually figured I'd end up about where I am, although I didn't know what a Director of Educational Ministry was at the time.  Yet, after taking language courses and beginning to read the bible in a new way, full of words with deeper, more varied meanings than I had been taught growing up, I found myself at a crossroads.  A place where I knew that there were no simple answers, so I either could try to find someone else to follow who would give me the answers (a favorite writer or professor perhaps) or I could strike out on my own and assume nothing.  I will admit that in trying to do the latter, some of the former has happened as there really aren't original thoughts, just new ways to put them together and help them make sense for self.   The end of the day though, I found that my theology based on pstis as faithfulness meaning a focus on the why.

This though means that I now find nothing worse than telling someone that what they hear God saying is the opposite of what God is actually saying. That is not to say that there aren’t universals, but I have come to realize what it really meant to carry someones burden with them. It is not to lead them to where is right, but rather to get into the messy ambiguity of the journey, to walk with them on their journey of discernment. This means that often the call is to put my own ideas on the back burner so I can hear others where they are, and then struggle along with them.  Also, it means that since community is so core to my ideals that the primary purpose of community becomes a safe place to struggle together.  A place to be challenged, a place to be loved regardless of differences, a place where we grow and connect, supporting one another in our journeys towards understanding God and life.

This means we should not assume we know the answers, yes our life experiences and what we've learned may have given us a good lead on understanding things, but we still all have much to learn.  Faithfulness is a journey of discernment, where we're all seeking God continually.   Where my journey intersects another's we both can learn and grow.  This leads me back to all the recent news:
Who are we to take another's life?
Who are we to decide who God is calling to ministry?
Who are we to decide what happens to others when our physical beings no longer function as we know them?



Who are we to claim we have the answers?  Yes, we may have been created in the image of God, but we are called to be the stewards of creation. Thus we are to use what is inherent to our beings to do as God would do, not to try to be God.  We should embrace the ambiguity of the journey and not remove it, choosing to make choices and discern more from our experiences individually and shared as we move forth towards that which only God knows.

Welcome to the struggle.  For we cannot know truly another person's "why" when it comes to an action, we can only ask that they share that with us and that they let us share our "why" with them.    Our individual journeys can be faithful without agreement, but we should not act to preclude anyone from continuing their journey.  This to me is THE universal.  We are to love.  We are to open ourselves up and move beyond places that are comfortable.  We are to be that which is the greatest love that we have experienced. Or as Steven Hawking said in his recent interview: "We should seek the greatest value of our action."  For me the greatest value is to show the greatest love.  To be that which supports the day to day struggle and walks with another, seeking and sharing that which is life for today and forever.

Thus ends this wondering wandering post.  Love one another.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Responding to Hawking through Theology and Science

I wrote a long paper in seminary on the existence of God as found in Quantum Theory.  That in no way makes me Steven Hawking's equal on the subject and I am going to say that up front.  Yet, I tend to get obsessed by certain things, and one of these obsessions for me has been Quantum Physics. Having followed the science for most of my life, I cannot say I am shocked by Hawking's quotes regarding heaven.  I though am somewhat surprised. Now that I have said that, I would like to consider what it is I hear him saying from both a theological and scientific standpoint. 

Theologically, I am not surprised at all by his claim.  He has been distancing himself from ambiguity for some time.  As a scientist, Hawking is always been looking for the answer, and in his search he has done much to forward our understanding of the universe, but in recent years he has started drawing conclusions that have yet to be proven out.  Now that is part of science (and part of faith), we have to have ideas of what we are working towards, but sometimes certain beliefs or thoughts or fears take control and we decide certain things are "just so."  In the case of  Hawking, his moment of deciding things were “just so” was when he decided that not NEEDING a creator was the same as not HAVING a creator.  That movement removed a number of ideas from potentially being part of his reality.  One of those ideas was the idea of heaven and the afterlife. You cannot have a heaven without a God.  It is that simple.  There is no afterlife if there is no reason for life, and without a creator, as Hawking has said himself, we are just here by random chance.  So that brings up one theological question before we get to the scientific stuff:  Why is it that he also says that the purpose of life is that we "should seek the greatest value of our action" in the same interview where he says there is no afterlife?  Who then sets the idea of value?  There is inherent in that statement a global ethic.  Hawking is not just saying "do what's best for me" and he obviously does not assume that as individuals we are just part of a larger "program" as he speaks of death by saying: "I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first."  So within his theology, the individual has value, but life also has some greater purpose.  This issue gets even more complex when we look at the scientific implications of his statement.

Scientifically, Hawking continues to support M-Theory as the most likely explanation of the universe and all happens within it.  I likewise think M-Theory has more pieces of truth in it than other theories, and feel confident that some version of Super String theory is going to show up as THE theory that we base all future discoveries on.  So for the sake of the rest of this blog post M-Theory will be synonymous with Quantum Theory.  In Quantum Theory there are many dimensions (M-Theory says 11) that make up our universe.  Three of these dimensions are easily observable: Height, Length, and Width.  The fourth we assume is time (though there is debate about how space-time really exists in relation to how we mark it/recognize it).  Yet even then, there are 7 dimensions we either do not experience, or cannot fully recognize in the physical world.  This is where we get to the scientific implications of Hawking's statements:  To say there is NO heaven, is to thus say that all the other dimensions can be understood within the context of the dimensions that we already experience.  How is that so?  Because it logically assumes that the other dimensions are subservient to the ones (and Hawking would include space-time as we generally understand it) that we experience.  Otherwise you can't make a statement like the one that there is no heaven, or that we are nothing more than computers (brains).  Those statements give precedence to the physical.

Thus it is that I do not argue with Hawking's theology.  I do argue though with his scientific beliefs.  I give the unknown equal footing with the known.  All 11 dimensions share equal importance and one does not exist without the ones we do not experience being active and equal.  For me the other pieces of the universe are not just shadows, but active parts on planes that do not touch ours all that often.  I believe that the spiritual is one (or more) of these planes and I believe that when the spiritual comes in contact with the physical amazing things happen (See creation, Christ, or our own spiritual moments). Maybe this is also what happens at "Thin Places" and amazing stories of the supernatural, or maybe not, but either way I have to say that we know that the physical dimensions make a difference and thus scientifically I assume that it is true of all the dimensions.

With that in mind, I must politely disagree with Hawking. There is more to life than the physical, and while I take an ethic similar to his own "seeking the greatest value" I am convinced of a creator and an existence that continues even when the physical ceases to function in a way we understand.  Would we experience the world the same without the other 7 dimensions?  Some could make that assumption since that is what we can know through our experience.  But IS the world the same without them?  That is where I say no. Without these other dimensions there is nothing, creation as we know it does not exist, yet because they are able to touch our physical dimensions we are likewise made up of more than just the physical, and do not cease to exist because our "computer" stops working.  We seek the greatest value because we were created to do just that, and in doing so we continue to seek answers about that which created us.  Hawking’s statements seem to me to indicate a desire to try and stop that search for himself and thus assume he has the answer.  I though, knowing a scientific brain, doubt that he really has, and thus give thanks for his own faithful searching journey which has, as shown in this response, influenced my own. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Willingness

There are a varied number of words in Greek translated as Willing(ly, ness, etc.), but while some are more about wishing (boulomai) and others more about passionate desire and want/eagerness (prothumos), the word that seems to touch the idea that we as Christians go willingly (as Christ did to the cross) is thel√≥. This is a word I struggle with when translating Greek. Is it related to desire? Is it related towards faithfulness (intent)? 

No matter which way you go with it, the idea of being willing in the sense that we are able to will something to happen or in the sense that we do things with a certain attitude doesn't seem to exist here.  This changes in some ways the way that many currently interpret the word. It may have something to do with attitude, but it is not about going and doing things because it's what we WANT to do, or because it will lead to things we WISH would happen. 

I think Willingness is very closely related to faithfulness, which means  we don't always know where we're going when we're being willing to move, it means that those initial steps may be done sadly, begrudgingly, maybe even with a little anger, but yet we move.  And we move not because we fear the outcome if we don't but because we are open to that which moves around us. That is the willing that says "take this cup from me" in the garden, yet still heals those who are bound to destroy you.  It is the willing that doesn't take the escape routes that are available. 

For me, the idea of willingness is so connected to the idea of faithfulness in scripture, that it is something we cannot do alone, but it is connected to the design of God. Thus willingness is: That which we cannont NOT do. It is: That which we must, because our wish for the outcome to come (whatever it may be and unknown to us) is too great to overcome.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Presbyterian Discernment

Am I wrong to kill in order to feed my family?

Am I wrong to take an extra loaf of bread from the food pantry because I know I won't be able to get a ride next week?

Am I wrong to call someone a murderer because they were a soldier for the other side in a war?

Am I right to quote chapter and verse from scripture to say that women can't be ministers?

Am I right to point to specific instances where people of a certain ilk have done evil and apply it to all people like them?

Am I right to think that things should be as I once perceived them to be because then it was simple, and life was good (at least from my point of view)?

These are extreme examples of what happens when we frame our lives in idealistic ways shaped around legalistic right and wrong.  Yet we do it on a small scale everyday, because we're afraid of the unknown, because we want quick answers and want to win, to be right.  There is a quote from The American President that sounds a lot like what I just said: "He is interested in two things and two things only; making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That ladies and gentlemen is how you win."

That doesn't sound like too nice of a person, not one that we'd want to be close to really does it?  Yet sometimes I think that is the God we create for ourselves.  One who wants to win, one that sets down right and wrong on every little thing that happens and will inflict punishment when we "lose" our gamble of making a choice.  So we're afraid of that punishment, and ready to blame whomever or whatever it is that is the cause of the problem. 


Yet, I worship a God who is Love.  Love is something that we all experience, and God must love us at least as much as the person who loves us most in this world.  The people who love me most in this world, are the ones who I know will forgive me, who give me room to make mistakes, who are more interested in my day to day journey than if I'm ever going to "make something of myself." 


Today in the PC(USA) there will be a "deciding vote" cast (probably in Minnesota) that will spark up a lot of talk about a lot of issues.  I have my views on these issues, and I'm sure you do too, but let me put one bug in your brain:  The statement we are accepting into our book of order is nothing is not full of ambiguity.  I'm not sure either side would argue with that, or that either side is completely comfortable with that.  Yet it is for me all about love, and love happens on a journey, and ambiguity gives us a chance to journey together to many places yet unseen.  At the end of the day though, it's not about the place we arrive at, but the journey that got us there that leads to the best stories, the strongest lessons, and the greatest bonding moments of a trip.  Let us celebrate this journey we begin together, with Love and not fear.