Category Archives: Life

Calling to the contemplative

I’ve been reflecting on my life, my calling, my vocation. Am I called to be a husband? A father? A pastor? A spiritual director? Something else?

Well, all of those things are true, but none of them fully capture what is growing within me – the urge to cultivate a contemplative life.

What is the contemplative life you might ask. I am just beginning this journey so I have far more questions than answers. First, a few things of what it is not.

  1. It is not a withdrawal from the world – it’s a different form of engagement within the world.
  2. It is not going off to a monastery to live as a monk – though I have nothing against that. A contemplative life doesn’t  necessarily mean you are deciding to live within a cloistered community.
  3. It is not sitting at home and praying all day. Though it does involve setting up frequent times for silence, solitude, and stillness.
  4. It is not passive. Again, it’s a very different form of engagement.

What is contemplation then? I love Merton’s quote below:

Cultivating the contemplative life is cultivating an awareness of the sacred in all things, in all places, at all times.

It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

A contemplative life is a life lived to a different drum beat, to a different rhythm. If your experience is anything like mine, you feel pulled (almost sucked) into more. More busyness, more productivity, more achievement, more success. (By the way this is disguised within the Religious world and is often encouraged and rewarded as doing God’s work.) Our western consumerist culture baits us with shiny lures. We often cannot help but bit down hard, only to find that we are then being pulled in and feel entrapped by the very thing we desired.

Jesus said, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Repent really means to see differently, to wake up. For me this has increasingly meant to see the many ways I have taken the bait. I have been pulled into the busyness, productivity, achievement orientation over and over again. Some have suggested that the kingdom of God is a consciousness that is available now. This makes the most sense to me. Taken together Jesus’ phrase means, “Wake up! See Reality and thus the illusions you are living into and change the way you are living because there is a new Reality, a new consciousness, a new way to live that brings healing and wholeness to your life and it’s available to all people right here, right now!”

The more I meditate on this text, the more potent it becomes to me.

The biggest thing I have learned about the contemplative life in the past month is that it isn’t just about contemplative practices, it involves my entire life. It isn’t just adding some practices, it’s about taking up a new set of lenses with which I the world. (Again, repent has connotations of changing the way you see.) It’s a new paradigm.

I’ve been engaging in contemplative practices going on three in a half years now, but I feel like I’m now just beginning to cultivate a contemplative life.

In my next post I will share some practical steps I am taking as I explore this calling live a contemplative life.

 

 

The experience of love

This past Sunday One Church celebrated our four year anniversary. I am grateful for both the work of those who have gone before me and for the work of those who continue today.

As part of our service (which you can watch here), we listened to several people share a little about their spiritual journeys. Most people find One Church for one of two reasons (or both). Either they are looking for a church that is open and affirming to all LGBTQ persons, or they are looking for a church that is more open and allows space to question, disagree, doubt, or see things differently. As the pastor, I hope everyone feels the freedom to disagree with me at times. I am certain of very few things in life, but one of the things I am certain of is that I surely don’t see Reality, Truth, God, or anything else through a perfect lens.

A consistent theme as people shared at One Church was the idea of unconditional love and acceptance. One Scripture that was shared is the well known John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

There is a lot here to explore, too much for one short Lenten devotional, but one thing to point out is that when many read this they assume that “eternal life” means “going to heaven when you die,” which is does not. The message translation more accurately describes this by stating, “anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”

Like I mentioned, there is a lot here to unpack, but let’s move to the following verse, which is often overlooked.

17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Or, as the Message translates this:

17 God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

While Christians are well known for being judgmental and condemning, our Scriptures instruct us to do just the opposite. As this text was shared I couldn’t help but think how important this is for us to reflect upon during Lent. As we journey inward toward greater self awareness, perhaps we should be exploring the following questions:

  1. In what ways am I critical or judgmental of myself? (We tend to treat others the way we treat ourselves. If we are critical of ourselves, this will be reflected toward others.)
  2. Who do I tend to judge? (Let’s be honest, we all struggle with judging others. The question then isn’t do I judge others, but who are those “others” that I judge.)
  3. In what ways do I feel invited or called to partner with God to help put the world right again?

 

Additional thoughts to reflect upon:

I was reading some of Julian of Norwich’s writings this past week. Julian was a Christian mystics who lived in the fourteenth century and wrote the first book written in English by a woman. Thomas Merton called her one of the greatest English theologians!

In Julian’s writings, she refers frequently to God as Mother. While this might be a stretch for some, I find her writings to be refreshing because her focus is on God’s nurturing, motherly love. This is most clearly seen in chapter sixty and sixty-one of the Showings. Below is just a couple of quotes from these chapters:

The kind, loving mother who knows and sees the need of her child guards it very tenderly, as the nature and condition of motherhood will have. (Chapter sixty)

But often when our falling and our wretchedness are shown to us, we are so much afraid and so greatly ashamed of ourselves that we scarcely know where we can put ourselves. But then our courteous Mother does not wish us to flee away, for nothing would be less pleasing to him; but he then wants us to behave like a child. For when it is distressed and frightened, it runs quickly to its mother; and if it can do no more, it calls to the mother for help with all its might. (Julian exchanges the masculine pronouns he/him with Mother to refer to God.)

It seems to me that God is beyond gender, yet I think we should be aware how our words influence our views. I think many people have rejected the masculine, domineering, demanding, Zeus-like-deity, but are still open – and perhaps longing – to receive the kind of nurturing love that Julian experienced and wrote about.

  • Have you experienced this motherly love?

Perhaps this week is an invitation to open yourself up to see God in new ways and experience God’s nurturing love. I believe it is this very experience that forms us and allows us to become less judgmental.

As we experience love, it transforms us and we are better able to extend love toward others. 

Christ is all and in all

If your walking through Lent, right about now it is becoming difficult, redundant…dare I say boring?

Every time we make a decision to enter into a new season and make changes, it is exciting at first, but usually several weeks into it, that shine wears off. As I continue to journey through Lent, that time is right about now and I doubt I am alone.

I stumbled across a text from Scripture that spoke deeply to me.:

In that renewal, there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian[1], slave and free; but Christ is all and in all![2]

Amazing how many times I have read that text and yet not realized how progressive – even provocative it is! I was recently listening to a podcast on the progressive nature of the Bible[3] and it became even more clear how the Bible itself is a movement, a journey, a migration.

It is a human tendency to create lines – an us-vs-them mentality. Unfortunately, religion is often used to feed this desire. When religion does this, I would call this unhealthy forms of religion. We see a healthy form of religion above because it is tearing down any walls, anything that separates, there is no us-vs-them – there is only us!

Christ is all and in all?

What this is saying is that there is no separation between the sacred and the secular. Christ is in all things. There is no place and no person where the sacred does not permeate. No exclusions! There is not a single person, a single nation, a single ethnicity, a single orientation, a single religion where the sacred cannot be found.

This also means that the sacred is found in mundane things like folding laundry, cleaning the bathrooms, running errands etc. Being a pastor is no more sacred than being a teacher, working in an office, or being a stay-at-home parent. As a pastor, one of my jobs is to continue to point out the sacred in all this things – to remind people that God is found in all places and to encourage people to become more aware of this sacred invitation available to all people at all times.

Here is an ancient prayer that I leave with you for today:

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

May you become increasingly aware of the sacredness of each moment.

 

 

 

 

[1] Scythians were ancient nomadic people commonly thought of as the ultimate barbarians. Let’s just say they were not thought highly of.

[2] Colossians 3:11

[3] Pete Enns podcast with Rob Bell which you can find here.

The morning after.

On the morning after the 2016 elections  I do not know what the future will hold, what America will look like, and how this will shape the world my kids will grow up in.

This past Sunday I gave a sermon at One Church where I shared that faith means trust – trusting that God is in some way working in and through every situation.

How is God working in this?

I do not know.

election-night-and-the-day-after-1-300x300

I know millions of people are fearful, anxious, uncertain and shocked. I know millions of others are hopeful because their candidate has now been elected to be the next president. I also know that millions of people from both sides are making broad generalizations that only divide us more. I refuse to be a part of the latter.

I have friends and family that did not vote for the person I did and see the world so different. I choose to love them anyways. I do not accuse them of being bigots, racist, homophobic, xenophobic or other.  Most of them are good people. Making broad accusations only contributes to the division and I refuse to be a part of that.

That being said, love does not mean I just accept their views or remain silent. Remaining silent is not an option. Apathy is not an option. Despair is not an option.

Some of the people I have come to most admire, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa , Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and others did not succumb to despair, but through hope gave themselves to a vision of a more just and compassionate world.

These people inspire me because they overcame many difficulties and endured much suffering. They spoke out against injustice and and stood in solidarity with the oppressed. For this, they sacrificed much.

This is our calling. This is our vocation.

To continue to work through whatever difficulties or obstacles may arise. To continue to believe that compassion is stronger than hate. To continue to believe that tomorrow can be better than today. To continue to extend grace to all.

I believe that inclusion, equality, compassion, and justice are more important than ever before.

We make these decisions in small ways every day. When we listen to others. When we make sure everyone is included. When we decide to forgive even though it is difficult. We make this decision by making sure we don’t feed the division in unhealthy ways. We make this decision by what we post on social media. We make this decision by how we raise our kids and what we teach them. We make this decision by what kind of church/religious expression we are a part of. We make this decision when we buy food, clothes, houses, and cars.

Yes, our president influences our nation in tremendous ways, but we each make decisions daily on what kind of people we will be. I think we have far more power than we realize. Let’s continue to take a stand against injustice. Let’s continue to take a stand for equality, inclusivity, and compassion. Let’s do this together, stand with each other, and encourage each other, because all the small things really do matter.

We cannot lose hope. We cannot give up.

What if Gandhi decided it was to hard? What if Mother Teresa decided it was just to difficult? What if MLK gave up? What if Rosa Parks did not refuse to move?

If you feel weary or tired you are not alone. Every one of those above felt confused at some part of their life. Every one of them felt exhausted at some point. Every one of them felt like giving up, probably many times. What they all have in common is that they refused to give up. They refused to stop fighting. They refused to let hate win.

An open letter to the founder of One Church

This Sunday at One Church there will be a special ceremony where I will be ordained and installed as the Lead Pastor. This will be a special day for me, but I wanted to take a moment to share an open letter to Pastor Ryan Gear, the founder of One Church who has shaped my life in so many ways.

Pastor Ryan,

We first connected through facebook when a mutual friend introduced us. You reached out and made sure we scheduled a lunch. We met at Thai Basil in Tempe and I shared my story with you.

At that time, I was in a very liminal space as I had become theologically open and progressive, but was currently struggling with the high liturgical church we were a part of. I found the liturgy beautiful, yet culturally very different from the evangelical tradition I was raised in. I was frustrated and lost, seeking a way to be theologically progressive and yet wanting to hold onto the evangelical feel of the tradition that formed me so much.

I found all that and more at One church, the church you planted and worked so hard to see flourish.

When I first started at One Church, I was wrestling through a sense of calling. I was frustrated with organized religion and wondering how I could be a pastor – all this while in the middle of seminary. I had experienced so many negative aspects of religion and church and had little motivation to continue. You listened patiently and empathized with many of my concerns which, I believe, is a huge part of what it means to be a good pastor.

After listening, you asked several clarifying questions, again the mark of a good pastor, and then asked a question that has stuck with me and one I go back to on almost a weekly basis.  You asked:

Is the answer to unhealthy religion no religion or healthier forms of religion?

This was the exact question I needed to be asked and I need to ask myself on a regular basis. Thank you!

Now, I’m not an overly religious person and I have great respect for those who seek to bring about a just and generous world outside of religion, but have come to realize that I feel called (at least that seems to be the best word to explain it) to work toward bringing about a more just and generous world by promoting more healthy forms of religion – at least as best I can. I owe a lot of this passion to you.

Not only did I wrestle with that question, but at One Church have experienced how healthy religion can be helpful for people. I have heard many stories of people seeking a community that is a safe place to wrestle with faith and not feel coerced or pressured to see things a certain way. I have had people come up to me after a church service, so thankful that they found a community that was open and inclusive where they would feel not only welcomed, but affirmed for who God created them to be. I have seen many serve others and see God work in and through them. I have seen how the church can serve the community without the pressure to convert everyone, but to simply work toward bringing God’s kingdom to earth. At One Church people discover Jesus in new and refreshing ways.

If it were not for you and your hard work, I would not have experienced this!

You have also encouraged me through many doubts and fears I have had. Not only have I experienced being part of a community that seeks to create healthier expressions of religion, I have felt more confidence to step out in my gifts as you have encouraged this in me. You have been patient and so very encouraging every step of the way. Thank you!

I know that planting a church and nurturing it is no easy task. Your heart, passion, courage, and perseverance are inspiring! If it was not for your determination to work so hard, to sacrifice so much, and to continue to persevere, One Church would not exist. This community exists because of your faithfulness to God’s leading in your life. Thank you!

Finally I admire your sensitivity to know when the time has come to step down and to follow God’s leading in a different, but similar way. Many people stay at a place far too long and struggle to release what they have worked so hard to create. It takes just as much or perhaps more courage to entrust this to someone else.

You have become such an encouraging part of my life and it will be hard for me to see you go from One Church. Yet, I am so very excited for the future of One Church as we continue to move forward as God leads us. I know you desire to see One Church flourish and it means a lot that you have entrusted this to me (or trusted God to work through me). I am fully confident that God is working and will continue to work through One Church in great ways.

Thank you for pushing through all the obstacles and overcoming the barriers in order to create such a wonderful community. Thank you for allowing me the place to learn, grow, and develop as a pastor and leader. Thank you for all your encouragement. One Church would not exist without you, and I would not be here without you. You will be missed, but are so greatly appreciated!

with love,  admiration, and appreciation,

Aaron

 

 

Transitions

I will soon take over as Lead Pastor at the church I have served for the past year and a half. During this transitional period, I have been doing some reflecting and think that it is important to take time to do this when we experience a transition. Here is a list, in no particular order, of things I believe are important to consider before and during a transition.

static1.squarespace.com

  1. Trust

I struggle at times with insecurity. Who am I to think I can pastor a church? Who am I to think I should lead a congregation? Who am I to think I should preach or teach? There are plenty of people who are far better at it than I, so why don’t I just stand by and allow others to do it?

This insecurity often sits alongside fear and can paralyze us. We decide ahead of time if we will step out and trust or succumb to our own doubts and fears, and let’s be honest…we all have them!

When I talk about trust I mean that you have an internal desire to do something combined with external voices that confirm this. One of the most beautiful parts of a community is that they will often see the gifts and talents you have more clearly than you do, and a good community will call them forward and encourage you in those gifts. When both the internal and external align, trust means taking the step despite insecurities or fears.

2. Priorities

Leading up to every transition should be a time to reflect and take inventory of where you have been and where you are going. Where have your priorities been and where should they be? What part of this transition will make it most difficult to keep your priorities in line? If possible, try to find the top three or four priorities and list them out in order. Below are mine:

  1. Family
  2. Health
  3. Job
  4. School

While I care deeply about the church I serve, I must consistently remind myself that my family is my top priority. Being a husband and father bring me the most joy and they are the most important thing in my life by far.

If I am not living a healthy life, everything else will suffer. Health is not often on the top of people’s list, but it should be.

It’s important to have a list of priorities because when things get stressful (and they will from time to time), we need to decide ahead of time what will suffer first, otherwise the things that matter most seem to suffer – crazy how that happens!

3. Sustainability

One of the biggest questions my wife and I have been wrestling with is:

How can we do this in a healthy and sustainable way?

If your single this is a little easier. For those in a committed relationship or a family, this becomes not only about you, but also about them. Perhaps you could do more and still be healthy, but will your family still be healthy?

The question is not can I do this for six months or a year, but how can I do this for years to come without running myself in the ground? This is also important to ask on a regular basis, because there are seasons where we need to work harder, but if those seasons last too long we are in trouble. It takes an enormous amount of humility, wisdom, and courage to recognize that the pace you have been going is not sustainable in the long run.

4. Spirituality

Of course as a pastor this is important to me personally, but I think this is important to most people. With every transition brings a change, and that includes a change to our spiritual lives. Will we have time to engage in spiritual practices or practices that connect us to the sacred? Will our practices need to change? How will I be able to tell when my spiritual life is struggling?

This is especially dangerous for clergy because sometimes everything we do can be seen as doing “God’s work.” We even refer to clergy as those “called to ministry,” a phrase I loath because ministry means serving and I believe everyone is called to serve (technically clergy are those who help equip others to do the real work). Spirituality has to do with the health of the spirit, and keeping the inner life alive. This is something our society often doesn’t recognize, but is vital. If we want to do whatever it is we feel called or led to do, keeping our inner life alive will enable us to pour out and serve others in more healthy and meaningful ways.

 

 

Bridge building & non-dual seeing

Our world is doing violence to us. How? By pulling us apart, by pushing us to see in dual or binary ways, and suggesting that we must always choose a side.

  • Either Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter.
  • Either you are pro life (against the legalization of abortion) or you are against life.
  • Either you believe the way I do, or your “out.”
  • Someone/something is either good or evil.
  • You must be either for or against something.

The pressure to choose one and reject the other is taring us apart – from each other and from ourselves. Not only do we feel pressured to choose sides, it then temps us to see the other side as evil.  We are drifting further and further apart to the point that we no longer listen to the other but rather we lob verbal attacks from opposites sides of the room.

The further apart we are the louder we must yell,  and the louder we yell the harder it is to listen. Last week at One Church we talked about the idea of bridgbuilding (you can watch here), something I am more and more convinced is so important.

Building a bridge doesn’t mean you agree with the other. It doesn’t mean that you throw away personal convictions or opinions. Building a bridge means you actively seek to understand the other, work in areas where you have common ground (there is almost always ways to do this), and build relationships with that person.

Most of us know that it is easier to demonize a faceless group, but once you get to know an actual person from that group, once you swap stories, ask questions, and better understand why they hold those convictions, it is much more difficult. You find yourself closer to each other.  You no longer need to yell, but can have an actual conversation – even if you don’t fully agree.

Uniformity isn’t the goal, listening and understanding is.

Here are some practical steps each of us can take to build bridges and begin to see the world in non dual ways:

building-bridges-paulo-zerbato

  1. Ask questions

When you meet someone who sees the world differently than you, whether it is political, religious, economic, or it is specific issues such as health care, parenting, education, if your like me, you are tempted to jump to all the reasons why their view is wrong. Asking questions is the first and most difficult step because most of us have very strong opinions and and are passionate about why we hold those opinions. Someone shares a different opinion and often we see red; our blood pressure begins to climb, and our heart feels like it’s going to jump out of our chest. These are very real physiological changes that take place. Perhaps taking several deep breathes to engage our parasympathetic nervous system may be a practice we can all engage in to help calm this “flight or fight” response that is hardwired into each of us.

2. Research

If there is something you don’t quite understand, it is natural for us to fear that thing/idea/person. The more we understand, the less we fear. The less we fear, the more open we become. This is one reason why education is so important.

Fear closes us off to others, but understanding opens us up.

3. Develop relationships

What would the world look like if we all took one meal and invited someone we least understood to share that meal with us? Maybe it’s a person of another religion, political view, ethnicity, or sexual orientation than us. How often do we ignore or pass by these people? If your like me, you try to not to engage with others you don’t understand. This will only contribute to the dual ways we see the world and perpetuate violence.

What would the world look like if every religious person took time to visit a different place of worship? What if they did so strictly to ask questions and learn and refused to share their thoughts, opinions, beliefs or reasons why they disagree. How great would that be?

Most likely, we all have people in our lives, people we interact with on a weekly basis with whom we know little or nothing about. Taking time to ask questions, do a little reading, and be intentional at developing relationships are practical ways to build bridges in our world.

A Christian response to Orlando

This morning I awoke to the news of what is now being called the deadliest shooting in American history.

There are 50 known people who have died and 53 injured as a result of the shootings in Orlando at a Gay nightclub.

As most people, I was horrified, shocked, and deeply angered. This shooting has been on our minds all day as we try to make sense of it.

I am part of a wonderful church community called One Church located outside of Phoenix in Chandler AZ. We are a church that includes all and tries our best to follow the life, teachings, and path of Jesus in ways that make sense to 21st century people. We are also a part of a larger movement called Open, which focuses on bringing about a more just and generous expression of faith. (We are not alone in this!)

Some have thought our church to be watering down the truth, the Bible, or the gospel. I  get this picture that they believe we have a sort of hakuna matata attitude that thinks all we need is love and we do very little work in the world. Usually this mindset is reflective of fundamentalist and conservative Christians who think that because we are open and affirming and focus on relational work in the world instead of a transactional salvation message where we escape this world, that we somehow don’t take the life and teachings of Jesus seriously.

I actually take the life and teachings of Jesus very seriously and I believe they are more difficult and challenging then I have ever before imagined!

When someone steals from me, my automatic response is to want to steal from them. When someone steps over me, my response is to want to step over them. When someone mocks me, my response is to want to mock them back. When someone belittles me, my response is to want to belittle them back. When someone hurts me, my automatic response is to want to hurt them back.

Violence begets more violence.

To think that violence will somehow put an end to violence is, as Walter Wink has said, the myth of redemptive violence. It is easy for me to paint with a broad brush and condemn a whole group of people because of one person’s actions. It is easy for me to judge others for something someone else did. I have done all of these and more plenty of times, but when I act out of violence, hatred, or bigotry I create more violence, hatred, and bigotry.

According to the gospel account of Matthew, Jesus states:

 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  – Matthew 7v14-15

The way of Jesus, the way of love, forgiveness, and compassion is a very narrow and difficult way. My automatic instinct is to take the wide, easy way and react out of hate or violence. In the same gospel Jesus says that we are to love our neighbor and our enemies. No one can tell me that this is an easy task!

One of the biggest ways we do this at my church is to learn from others. As someone told me today, it is easy to throw darts at people from the outside. In other words, it is easy to cast judgment and to view the other as wrong, violent, or “sinful” when you don’t actually know them and haven’t heard their story. Because of this human tendency (of which no one is exempt), our church has invited a Rabbi, an Imam, and many other religious leaders to speak and share not only wisdom and insight, but also their stories and experiences. Not only does this begin to break down walls that divide us, but we actually find they have so much to offer and so much to teach us!

In light of the shootings in Orlando, as a religious leader and as a Christian I must state the obvious – this is an unjust act of evil. Yet, I must also state the less obvious – hate and violence will only perpetuate more hate and violence. My hope is that this act of evil only exposes this truth.

Darkness-cannot-drive-out-darkness-only-light-can-do-that.-Hate-cannot-drive-out-hate-only-love-can-do-that.-9

When we take the words of Jesus to love our neighbors and our enemies seriously, this leaves no one to hate. We cannot hate Muslims, Gays, Atheists, or even people we disagree with inside our own tradition.

I believe the way forward can only be through love and compassion and that begins as we better understand others.

Instead of judgment, hate, violence, or bigotry – something we all struggle with at times – Jesus invites us to take the narrow path – the way of love, forgiveness and compassion. It is a narrow, more difficult way, but it does lead to life.

 

 

Post charismatic?

I grew up in the charismatic Christian tradition, which basically means I saw a lot of crazy stuff. I still remember my parents talking about the “Toronto Blessing” in 1994, and while I was very young, it altered my life. My family switched from a Baptist church to a charismatic church and then the real fun began.

What does it mean to be a charismatic?

On one hand I have no idea. On the other hand, and in my definition, it means to focus on God’s Spirit – particularly the “baptism of the Spirit” – which resulted in something we called “speaking in tongues.” We were the right, correct, and highly blessed ones who really got it (sound familiar?). On top of that we often prophesied over each other (by prophesy I don’t mean what I now think it means, I mean speaking insight about the persons personal life or future events), laid hands on each others (something I still think is powerful, but for different reasons), and sometimes were “slain in the spirit” or “drunk in the spirit.” Yes, it is all just as weird (or weirder) than it sounds.

hillsong-church-london

I still remember a time I went to a “revival” meeting in the heart of the Bible belt – Oklahoma City – and seeing many fall to the ground as the speaker “blew” or “breathed out” (drawing from Scripture – though in a very odd way) God’s Spirit on people. I also recall the speaker sharing how his wife was “drunk in the spirit” more often then not, which caused me to wonder why God would cause such a peculiar thing to happen. For some reason it was not ok to get drunk on alcohol, but it was ok to be drunk off God, even though both people acted the same way? Bizarre.

Needless to say I left that tradition, and quite honestly I don’t speak of it often because it’s truly a phenomenon.  So I have been a closet post-charismatic for some time.

Someone recently asked me how I have handled my former charismatic teachings and experiences, which has caused me to reflect on ways it has influenced me and informed how I live today. I’m sure I don’t know many of the ways this tradition has influenced me, but I’m certain it has.

I have always been drawn to “experiencing” God – what I would have formerly called “intimacy with God” – and still feel fairly comfortable with that language, though I don’t think I would use it myself. As I reflect upon my upbringing, knowing that I am deeply formed by my tradition, I realize that there has always been this drive to “know” God. By “know” I mean somehow experience God, God’s presence, God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Perhaps this is also part of my personality, in that I am a “feeler” and deeply intuitive, though I don’t always have the language to articulate the “what” or “how” of my feelings. I also have a deep longing for depth, holistic living and seeing, and understanding the interconnection of all things.

I have been drawn to the Mystical tradition, finding people like Thomas Merton, Rumi, Richard Rohr, and others fascinating. I see that many of the great mystics were bound by their consciousness, their culture, their worldviews, and their language, yet I find something deep and peaceful in their writings. It speaks to me on a deeper, almost soulish, level.

I recently listened to a podcast by the liturgist here, where they interviewed one of my favorites, Richard Rohr. Rohr reflects on ways the charismatics may have gotton it right, and ways they may have missed it, but it was insightful for me to hear.

I don’t use the word post-charismatic, though I have undoubtedly been deeply influenced, for good or ill, by this tradition. What I am most thankful for is that this has caused a longing within me to experience the divine in my life, but this tradition would have never have known all the ways I might have experience the divine that would not fit neatly into their theological boxes, labels, or categories.

In a way, it taught me how to see; then when I began to see things in different ways, it had no idea what to do.

So, my charismatic upbringing has prepared me to launch into the deep, to experience God in unexpected places, and to see things in new and deep ways. While I may not be a charismatic, and I may not have a worldview that aligns with theirs, I have realized that it is a part of who I am and while it is something I may have moved through, it is also something I have included. For that, I am grateful.

Why Vegan?

Several months ago I decided to take the step and become a vegan.

What is a vegan?

A vegan is someone who abstains from consuming meat and meat products (including eggs, cheese, milk, etc) – some go even further and abstain from buying anything that was made using animal products (e.g., leather).

The question is why vegan? There can be a number of reasons someone decides to become vegetarian or vegan. Here are the top reasons why I choose to make this lifestyle change.

vegan

1. Ethical 

Factory Farming is a major reason why I became a vegan.

If you are not aware of the harms of factory farming you can watch a 12 minute video by clicking here (this video has disturbing images).

Because people have such a high demand for meat consumption, animals are now raised under the following conditions in most factory farms:

  • Animals are packed into spaces so tight that most can barely move. (seriously have you seen this!)
  • Farms are often not properly maintained and are breeding grounds for many diseases.
  • Animals are treated poorly (understatement), and deserve better.

And this is just a couple reasons. To read in more detail many of the unethical ways animals are treated click here, here, here, or here.

Bottom line – the vast majority of meat (roughly 99%) in the U.S. come from factory farms. Factory farms treat animals as commodities in unethical ways. Eating meat that has been raised on a factory farm contributes to the violence and unjust treatment of these animals.

2. Environmental

The second major reason I became a vegan is for environmental reasons.

  • Water

1. Meat production wastes a ton of water.  – 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat.
2. Raising animals for food takes up half of all water used in the U.S.
3. You’d save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you would if you didn’t shower for six months.

  • Rain forest

1. For every meal eaten with meat, 55 square feet of rain forest has been torn down to produce that meal.
2. Every six seconds, an acre of rain forest is cut down for cattle farming. (roughly 14,400 acres a day!)
3. In 2004–05, 2.9 million acres of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil were destroyed in order to grow crops to feed animals on factory farms.

But what will a vegan lifestyle do?

1. If we actually ate the foods we feed to farmed animals, we wouldn’t need to grow nearly as many crops, and we could eliminate the need to decimate the rain forest.

2. A 2008 study concluded that a meat-eater’s diet is responsible for more than seven times as much greenhouse-gas emissions as a vegan’s diet is.
3. A vegan is responsible for the release of approximately 1.5 fewer tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year than is a meat-eater.
4. It takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie from animal protein as it does to make one calorie from plant protein.
5. Animal agriculture is a leading source of carbon-dioxide, nitrous-oxide, and methane emissions – these are the top three greenhouse gasses.
6. And the University of Chicago found that going vegan is more effective in fighting climate change than switching from a standard car to a hybrid.

The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined.

One study shows that reducing global meat consumption will be critical in combating global warming.

3. Spiritual

Yes, spiritual. I believe one can cultivate compassion in their life and one way I have chosen to do this is by not eating meat or meat products.

  • Compassion is the concern for the suffering of others.

Animals suffer greatly because of the high demand of meat in our lifestyles. Every time I chose to eat something other than meat, I am using this moment as a way to reflect upon how my choices affect others and how we are all connected. Animals are sentient beings, not mere commodities. Each time I choose not to eat meat I am saying, “I value their lives and realize that I share this earth with them and have a duty to help preserve this world and live in a sustainable way.”

GBarks-Slider-Images-Gandhi

Should everyone go vegan?

Probably not. There are reasons why one would choose not to become a vegan and I respect many of those reasons. While I have chosen to become a vegan, I am not a vegan advocate. I do, however, believe in advocating that people eat less meat, know where the meat comes from, and know how it was raised. For me, this is more important than becoming a vegan and is perhaps the best way to reduce one’s carbon footprint.

If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and ate vegan food instead, it would be like taking 500,000 cars off the road….think about that!