The Cross of Cross-Cultural

When you hear a big mouth like me saying “Grow Big Ears to counter-act big-mouth syndrome” perhaps it’s time to listen to another view on things.

This blog is simply to say tacit agreement, un-thinking and obvious non-scriptural positions are not to be applauded nor agreed upon in order to stop or stave off “division” and promote “unity”. It IS to say “missionary” is never listed as a specific gift of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. As not all are specifically gifted by Him as evangelists, missions are not even in the narrow read of the scriptures, a gift though it is a gift in general to have more than a “study” of “the other” in one’s experience. Why?

Choosing to be, being chosen or “by accident” or “natural” or unexpected causes engaged with people of other cultures, sub-cultures, races, ethnicities and huge or near zero power is a gift to us. Our perspective widens or our hearts may be hardened by such experiences.

If much of our source is either anger or fear we are likely never going to be about Jesus’ mission because we will ultimately remove ourselves from those He is calling us to reach with Good News.

The bad news is plenty of believers do not see themselves called to love a neighbor they do not know, trust or understand. There are plenty of reasons to rationalize ourselves out of the personal crosses and calling to love our neighbor, but a genuine, convicted and called missionary typically (not by any means all or always) soon recognizes what they do not know, learns to listen, not only study to gain converts but is her/him self converted in terms of “the other’s” areas of strength, intrinsic value (a core concept of Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross).

Like many musicians and sports lovers I became fully engaged with so many black and other people of color like this: To me they were at first foreign, next a little strange, then familiar, and eventually amazingly brilliant, deep and in time, deeply relating music, lyrics and life experiences of folks who did not look or sound like me.

My admiration for gifted sports figures went far beyond race very early in my life.

When your God is too small and your up-close-and-personal relationship with others is largely limited to folks who look, think and judge as you do, you may tend to the security of walls vs. bridges. You are likely not even close to living out the mission of Jesus, and instead of repenting where an attitude of distance is being created (by you, because you cannot literally force the other folk to come to you) then to call for unity and cry out against division puts you right back inside your own comfort zone. We avoid crosses of the cross-cultural just like that.

Big ears. Big heart. Grace to those who may well be living in gross sin, error, need God’s love in Jesus Christ. For this to happen via you and I we have got to change -and be changed by deeper connection with God the Holy Spirit as well as links to people we don’t really wish to associate with. Yes. Political, racial and otherwise. Yes.

I’ve mentioned in blogs and elsewhere that the horrors as well as sweet and excellent work of missionaries has taken place often resulting in the missionary realizing various aspects of this or that pagan culture at times is more in line with Jesus and His Gospel than what the home and home-church has lived out. Elements of our chosen or simply born-into, inherited culture in the white West are as sick and damnable as plenty of foreign cultural habits and preferences. If one is not willing to humbly face that reality, then all bets are off regarding true unity in Christ or even in basic humanity, at least coming from us!

This happens as we risk real encounters with real people over time, calendar days, often years. We wake up when the alarm begins to sound in our own ears.

God help me, help us to Listen. Learn. Lock, load and shoot at first sound won’t cure you and may destroy someone else for whom Jesus died.

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Advertisements

White Privilege?

My friend Tyler Menssen posted the following within a group of Christian leaders. He is the real deal and shares from a different space than you may expect if you read through. All I can say is Amen and God help us:

“As ministers, one of our callings is leading people (communities) to repentance and reconciliation. Growing up in rural, southern Minnesota and having lived in rural areas most of my life, I have not always liked the term “white privilege.” Yet here are my thoughts on why it is important – these are more personal – but I think they fit within our duties and callings as ministers to also know the term:

Many people I know who are white do not always appreciate the term “white privilege” because it feels like an unfair label, especially to whites who are in poorer communities. I hear that concern, but I want to take a moment and try to explain how I’ve come to recognize my privilege as a white male. Because of the family I was born into, the color of my skin, and my location, I have had almost every advantage one could ask for. I am blessed.

There is a wrinkle in my story. As a privileged white male, I am also the “other”, part of a minority culture (disability culture). Born without ears and with a face that might not look like yours, I get a small glimpse into what it’s like to be judged not based on anything you’ve done or your personality or how you act, but based solely on a distinguishing characteristic that isn’t part of the majority. 99.9% of the world’s population has ears. I do not. People look, stare, and still ask questions to me about my distinguishing characteristics. If I am honest, there is still a fear in me of other people – mainly a fear of being made to feel uncomfortable by other people or hurt other people because of their words or actions. I also understand what it’s like as a hearing-impaired person to be in a world with systems and structures (and even church prayers) geared towards those who have ears and can hear.

Yet, in spite of this discomfort, fear, and inconveniences here and there, I have never had to fear for my life. I have never had to fear that someone would mistake a wallet I was grabbing for in my pocket for a gun. I am part of the majority – the privileged. Whether we (white people) like it or not, regardless of a rural, urban, or suburban location, being in the majority in terms of culture and the social construct we call race (i.e. being white in America), gives us privilege – an advantage. I do not have to keep my driver’s license on the dash of my car so that if I am pulled over there can be no mistaking pulling out a wallet for pulling out a gun. We are privileged as whites because we do not have to live in fear of people discriminating against us because of the skin color we have. We get to be who God made us to be without any repercussions. Our minority brothers and sisters cannot say the same.

We also do not have to continue to fight against a history that denied us all rights and power (slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, etc.). For all of America’s history people in power have been white. As of March 1, 2018, only 3 Fortune 500 CEOs were African American. In 2016, only 7.9 percent of college and university presidents (this includes Presidents at HBCUS) were African American. All but 1 US President has been white, and many of our Presidents even up until recently have a checkered past with racism. What would it be like as a kid to look up and see all the people in power in business, education, and in politics as white? That is the privilege of being white. As I long for people with disabilities to more be in politics, run businesses, be on non-profit boards, be college presidents, be featured on advertisements, and in tv shows (not just as a token disabled person), I can see how the absence of other minorities on this list makes it feel difficult to feel respected and worthy and included in society.

All of this (white privilege and the systems and structures in place that continue to favor whites) stems from our sin, desire for power and domination, and fear of the other. We are all complicit, and we all have a duty to continue to reconcile and bring justice to the whole kingdom of God. This means giving up our privilege and our power where we can. It means passing laws that provide equal opportunities and access within our systems and structures for all people. May our actions, our words, and our faith continue to embrace the lives, the histories, and the stories of those we have hurt so that we can repent, receive forgiveness, and move forward in reconciliation.”

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Slide Guitar Stuff

Just so you know- LOTTA folks ask me to publicize their music, website, workplace and so forth. As I don’t want to simply be an add-man for anybody it’s only now and then I’ll post what I think friends of mine are doing that deserves wider attention. This is one of those times.

My bud Shane Speal just sent me one of these. VERY cool.

Turquoise (Jasper) Stone Guitar Slide

Like him I use all sorts of slides, handmade, store-bought, junk and whatever.

You might already know I play slide guitar on a lapsteel and several 6 string electric gits as well as cigar box guitars, each set up for slide playing. But this here may be the best well-considered basic tutorial for slide playing I’ve yet read:

https://www.guitarworld.com/lessons/diy-musician-five-reasons-you-suck-slide-guitar

And then I will say what he offers and what he does with a portion of the loot is very, very cool.

https://shanespeal.bigcartel.com/ (read Slides, Africa & The Blues, etc.)

In my workshops I’ve long taught folks to play slide and am on record saying it is BY FAR the simplest, easiest way to get into guitar playing. Others may disagree but I can list a number of reasons why I came to that conclusion years ago. In any case, enjoy!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Spiritual Diabetes

If you want simple and in-your-face answers you’re in the wrong place. I mean, living on planet earth!

What I’ll call “spiritual diabetes” seems a likely metaphor for what I’m going to generally address now.

My family- Mom, Dad, brother and sister (as far as I know) were all diagnosed or eventually had to face diabetes. If you have this disease, really know someone well who does or have studied it, you likely know much of the following.

I’ve been right at the edge of this for years and being the last of three siblings in such a family wasn’t in the least surprised when something like a dozen years ago my doctor told me I had reached that particular cliff.

In my case, the dna is rather obvious. I’m a foodie and struggle with food addiction, eating either the wrong stuff or simply too much, even of the good stuff and it affects my body chemistry as it does everyone whether or not diabetes is the issue.

Science, doctors and other medical professionals -and indeed spiritual, Christian pastors, counsellors and coaches have all come up with a long list of solid or un-verified reasons why people develop it. There is also a wide range of approaches to how people can overcome or certainly change quality of their lives via everything from education to exercise to medications, abstinence from certain foods or over indulgence, prayer, study and application of The Bible, 12 Step Recovery work and on it goes.

Put slightly another way, not everyone (nor those who believe in them or try various methods) is in full and complete agreement about how this or that individual contracted the disease. There seems even more variance and often disagreement with regard to viable, actual cures or at least how living a more stable, healthy life in light of a diagnosis of diabetes might move past the insulin and pancreatic issues.

With me so far?

You may partly or fully disagree with me on what I’m about to say, but here it is:

Whether or not dna, sin, taking actual responsibility or fully neglecting/rejecting all or partial responsibility for your (in my case, my) attitude, with due and accepted respect for emotional mood-swings and biological, diagnosed diseases (autism, bi-polar, clinical depression, etc., etc.) there are some folks who seem pretty well consistently:

Unhappy

Contentious/combative

Angry/mean

Paranoid

Distant

I do NOT mean they always wish to be thus, simply that I’ve known so many people whose general modus operandi is rather laced with the above list.

Whether inherited, chosen with regard to their choices or via actual or imagined abuse/abuses, genuine traumas they experience in life or a mixture of these, diabetes and the attitudes and general day-to-day life of such folks mean they bear crosses some do not.

Some reading may well think “Yeah, and such people are crosses in my life…” and I also get that!

Have you considered that they beat themselves up constantly far beyond any misery we get out of being around them?

I am not saying stay put with violent, physical abuse people, not in the least!

Truth is that quick and often ignorant as well as harsh diagnoses (I mean, by we non-medical peeps) as to a person’s nature/character and even whether we want to be anywhere near them are often wrong, biased and if nothing else, unloving and non-gracious on our part.

I have often found myself wanting to escape from being near such folks -and am sure some of them have done their best to avoid me -because of any number of character issues they believe (and may be correct in judging) about my life!! Read that again and ask yourself if you fit in either or perhaps both of these categories…

I could have spent the rest of my days denying God, blaming Him, my parents and any number of other people for my condition. My conditionS. My willingness or unwillingness to change, to adjust best as I can grasp, move to the positive in this or any number of areas in my own life.

Exercise and low-carb -when I apply them rightly- have kept me from needing any medication at all -but there are a great many folks that do not get the same results as I have. Your mileage may vary and often does.

I believe in the devil, demons, old-nature/the “flesh”, “the Fall” and sin. I also believe in the wisdom of science, doctors and medicine. Anyone (spiritually or biologically) can mis-diagnose the problem and/or appropriate treatment. Anyone at any time. We’ve all done it! Yet we live on a planet with hurting people and yes, they often hurt others because relationships or even in the workplace or a church, wherever we go there we are.

Regardless, I don’t want to be the person who continually and with contempt judges ANYBODY with regard to their weight, diet, consumption of cake and ice cream or anything else!! Empathy and sense requires me to be kind. Jesus commands me to “Love [my] neighbor as [myself]” regardless of the source of their affliction -or if they sometimes afflict ME. Indeed.

Church, how are we doing with our diseases? Let me make it real simple: in Scripture, does Jesus hate and totally avoid sinners? Did he demand lepers merely repent to be healed? Thank God, it seems to me he laid down His life for th… errr… me and you.

I get the difference between sin and disease, and there is a difference. So… how are you doing with your “expert” diagnoses? I cannot claim to be an expert at anything.

I also think we all need to repent.

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Grace Boot Camp

This is by no means the definitive tome on grace- but it’s a start. I’ve riffed on this before here in my blogs but today someone needs it today,  deeply, so here we go.

I’ve a friend who is in need of some peace. The needs include answers to difficult issues regarding family, finances and essential security. All of this is linked to faith in God, the ability to correctly hear His voice, and of course provision.

If one is biologically prone to anxiety and depression, there are brain chemistry issues and not only spiritual matters of faith involved.

Does any of this remind you of anyone you know… or sometimes are?

Full disclosure- I rarely get depressed. I get angry or fall into self-pity but rarely classic, dark depression. And yep, I know sometimes anger or self-pity are the surface symptoms of a depressed state, understood. And no, we’re not talking politics at the moment…

In that by God’s grace we exist, breathe and suffer (yes, that’s not a typo) and in that God is real, never lies, and we don’t always believe either due to pain and suffering in life on this planet, well what of grace when the pain is unbearable? What if “boot camp” kills us before we get to the “real” battle?

Grace (God’s UNmerited, UNearned FAVOR) does not always look nor feel like grace. It sometimes feels like a cross. Or several of them, even simultaneously. Sigh…

If you’re like me you couldn’t wait to finally get out of school. Later you realize you never graduate… the lessons keep coming whether you like them or not, if you do or do not appreciate the Potter molding the clay via difficult events and being involved with difficult people.

Some of your prayers, sometimes what in your mind are THE MOST ESSENTIAL requests are apparently denied. God seems or truly is, silent. Now what?

Book of Job stuff- in his agony his friends treated him with anything like kind respect, his wife finally said “Why don’t you just curse God and die?”

Suffering loss, staring potential or actual mountains of financial debt in the face, the uncertainty of next week or the rest of your days due to illness, “natural” disasters (note, often described as “acts of God”) and any number of confusing signs, mixed advice from friends and enemies and your own nagging guilt with regard to actual or imaginary sin, all of this conspires against emotional peace and certainly doesn’t nurture us toward mental problem-solving and solutions. That is, not toward solutions that feel like the pond if not lake or ocean of -grace- you need. Or might they move us toward Jesus and saving faith if not practical eradication of the pain?

Still with me?

The battles are real, the mind is often a loop, a re-run of all this and in the end I will say there are at least (there are more but…) three major intersections to **consider.

In no particular order:

**We live in a fallen, imperfect world as imperfect, vulnerable creatures who cannot totally control -anything- and at times find controlling our own thoughts and emotions nearly impossible.

**Faith is a gift, in fact I would argue a gift of grace from God Who “…makes the sun shine and rain fall on the just and the unjust.” -Matthew 5.45

**Medication- whether prayer, music therapy, good coffee at a warm fire, a walk in the woods or self-destroying drugs, booze, porn or any number of addictions are matters of choice -and there are also fallen angels (biblical demons) at work to influence you away from God, His Word, His people and the lessons that give life to you for yourself as well as others. We do make decisions when tempted by the rotting self-“medication” or the nurturing people and tools to help us through the crawl-in-the-mud-dirt-under-barbed-wire-and-today-is-live-ammo-day-soldiering moments of life.

Those who do not experience the sufferings of this life have already died -only God Himself knows if the suffering for them is finished or unending.

The EMOTIONS, the FEELINGS won’t likely be magically fixed and vaporized but a theological and absolutely boots-on-the-ground practical matter is mentally clear as a bright day if you take a slow walk through the first chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.

Grace and reason has been poured into me again and again in this chapter!

https://www.bible.com/bible/100/2CO.1.nasb

Important note- the actual word “grace” is mentioned twice in the chapter, along with terms like peace, suffering, despair, death, consolation and joy. Real stuff, all of it. What has always moved me deeply yet not always ended my trauma’s or battles, bringing to light at least a part of God’s presence and work both in and through me are these words of Paul in verses three and four:

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Then for me, the kicker: (v.12) “For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.”

For the amazing, entire chapter: https://www.bible.com/bible/100/PHP.4.NASB

So much of what is life-giving is to focus up and out, rather than inward. I do NOT mean to not love yourself, disregard self-care and healthy choices, rest and recreation, etc.. You may indeed benefit from spiritual direction, mentoring, a small group, recovery gatherings, prayer and Bible study and careful professional examination regarding chemical imbalances and such with regard to your mood and depression… I’ve been blessed with ALL of these and practice them except for medical treatment regarding mental issues having not needed it (so far). But please don’t miss this:

A. you’re not alone

and

B. you’re not on the planet for yourself

Last point in this bit of writ and then some thoughts on grace:

If grace truly does not always FEEL like favor and mercy, how do we “live by the grace of God”, or put another way, know we are living IN it, experiencing it in the midst of “live fire under barbed wire?” (apologies, I’m a lyricist, rhymes happen)

I pray because I must, search God’s Word the Bible daily because I must, share with spiritual friends regularly because I must, do recovery work and drink coffee and tea and walk in the garden because I must. Living is part of God’s plan for us. Faith is a gift but choosing these disciplines REGARDLESS OF MY FEELINGS is a must.

What I am absolutely certain of is that none of us exist on this rock merely for ourselves and the sooner we look up to God and outward to serving others the better.

We may be locked in a jail or prison cell or filthy rich in a penthouse with more money than Solomon but our relationship to Jesus and His people is the true, even eternal wealth, the rest is good and often pleasurable but it’s frosting, not nutrition.

Breathing is a gift. Faith is a gift. Walking alone or with the Lord and His people are gifts but also very much a matter of choice.

I deeply believe (SOOOO easy when all is going great, even fun and sometimes surprisingly sweet!) that we cannot earn God’s grace and mercy, but we can choose to share it with others even in and through suffering which all of us will experience in this life.

The worst of it is that some choose to suffer alone. You do NOT have to!

Paul makes amazing claims in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Philippians, and in that chapter again mentions both suffering and God’s provision.

Tradition tells us he was executed for his faith by pagan Romans -yet he was not without God’s grace in life, in death and now in the presence of His Savior.

Glory to God for His unchanging GRACE toward us!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Division, Loopholes

In light of black history month-

We can say anything we like about division and ignorantly ignore or talk about transcending uniqueness, differences between race, ethnicity and the like. And it would be very much like saying in the United States there are no liberals or conservatives, no Republicans, Democrats, Independents or Libertarians.

You might add “Nobody’s wealthy and nobody’s poor, nobody’s imprisoned and nobody’s free out on the streets. Really? Truth? Or “Hey you are CAUSING division by stating myths!” I’d say you’re either ignorant, lying to yourself, or have faith in nonsense because it suits you.

We can deny there is a sky at all, or that it’s typically blue and ok with us, makes no difference, that the weather doesn’t matter. Then comes a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, blizzard or polar vortex and the loss or potential loss of life, etc., and all of a sudden we’ve become our own worst enemy.

I speak as a pastor, evangelist and a Bible-reading, believing and seeking-to-live-it-out Christian (flawed, sinful right through my walk) for all but the first 18 of my 66 years. I could be partially or fully wrong.

What I don’t agree with is the logic of pretense because we feel better telling ourselves myths are reality.

Sure, some think Jesus Himself was/is a myth, or that the Gospels, the other writers of the New Testament, Old Testament, all the stories in them are essentially just a stitched-together mythology. Some surely consider core Bible concepts of heaven, hell, judgment and moral writ mere human constructs to help explain some of the miseries of life and mysteries of any possible afterlife, various morality narratives and not much else.

Some folks think as they do based on what they judge as illogical and immoral amongst professing Christ-followers who seem to do everything they can to either gain or keep control of their “slice of the pie” regardless of how others (“not like us”) are kicked to the curb as a result.

There are those who either have decided all are simply reaping what THEY’VE sown, we have zero responsibility for their situation. There are some who believe God predestined the down-and-out to BE down-and-out in their miserable lifetimes on the planet. Some folks believe both of these at once. I don’t believe either.

I’m convinced all of us are responsible to essentially do two things: Love God and love our neighbor regardless of the change, loss or even pain it may bring us. Nobody, certainly not me -does this perfectly and in all relationships at all times. And yet this is the call of Jesus specifically to those of us who claim saving faith in Him.

If this is divisive, I’d say what God the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives is working to divide us from:

Self-interest and harsh judgment to the point of ignoring His commands to love WHOMEVER THEY MAY BE by looking for an exit to this call

And

Converting us to treating those we don’t like or value as equals with THE SAME VALUE WE ASCRIBE TO THOSE WE LIKE.

IF as the Book of Genesis account says, we are ALL created in the image of God… and IF He commands throughout The Bible (He does) that we are to love one another without preference, how is it we so quickly prefer one individual to another and break His clear commands by deeming them of less value by our very attitude and lack of respect and care for them? The mission, the witness of the Gospel has in history at various times and places been left in the dust at this very point.

Here are two solid English New Testament translations that speak via apostle Paul to the Philippian church and all of us today- (Philippians 2.3,4)

“In humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (NIV)

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (NAS)

Neither God nor His Word are bound. We cannot say this is also true of all professing Christians. Often it is our own anger, fear and lack of maturing in the love of Jesus toward others which both blinds and binds us.

Racism exists and sometimes “people of faith” have propagated it. You can of course deny history past and present but that won’t make Holocaust/s “go away”.

I cannot find a loophole to all this -but perhaps as a noose was once preferable for those we thought unworthy of our respect and valuing, that is the “loop” we credit ourselves with?

May God have mercy and may we learn to actually sow the mercy we seek to reap.

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn