Tag Archives: Provoketive Magazine

Give Up Your Good Christian Life and Follow Jesus

This post is part of the August Synchroblog.  The theme is  “Follow” and bloggers are invited to share their thoughts and ideas about following Jesus.  The Synchroblog is once again partnering with Provoketive Magazine and all the contributions will be published on the Provoketive Magazine site throughout the month of August.  Go here for a list of all the August Synchroblog posts.

My journey of following Jesus led me to a point where I had to completely start over. Some real life stuff came along and made me take a closer look at what I believed about God, following Jesus, Christianity, the Bible, the church etc. and I realized that most of the stuff that I had been so devoted to … attending church, listening to sermons, reading the bible, witnessing, maintaining the church building, adding to church membership … didn’t seem to have much to do with following Jesus.

In recent years I have come to think that following Jesus is more about justice and love than about church and believing – more about community than about me getting into heaven – more about people than about institutions or buildings.

Starting over hasn’t been easy. It has often meant enduring criticism, rejection and loneliness. But from where I sit I can’t see that there was another way for me.  I had to let go of all the preconceived ideas, religious dogma and conventional wisdom in order to get a fresh look at Jesus, his mission and his message.

These days following Jesus for me is about accepting the call to follow Jesus into the world as an agent of the Kingdom of Heaven – working to bring the way of heaven to earth.

Sometimes that is as simple as sharing a meal with someone and sometimes it is as complex as working to dismantle an unjust system.

In the beginning of my journey of following Jesus I thought the main questions were “who is going to heaven and who is going to hell?” but now I think the main questions are “how can I bring heaven to earth and how can I participate with God to bring restoration to the world?”

The humorist Garrison Keillor said “give up your good Christian life and follow Jesus” and that is what I feel like I have had to do.

These days I am more committed to following Jesus than any other time in my life and yet I’m not a member of a church and I don’t often read the bible. My worship of God usually comes in the form of working for justice, and serving and loving others rather than singing songs in church while clapping or raising my hands. I don’t care about converting people to Christianity but I do want to influence people to live in a loving and generous way. I am interested in cultivating my faith to be a bridge that connects me to others rather than a barrier that separates me from those who don’t profess to be followers of Jesus.

I certainly do not think that I have arrived anywhere and on any given day I would be hard pressed to even tell you where I am going … but for now I am trying to follow Jesus where he leads me even if that means giving up my good Christian life.

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A Few Of My Favorite Things in 2011

Wow! 2012 is taking off in a hurry.  

I have almost waited too long to post any kind of reflection about last year!  However, I do want to say something about 2011 so here are a few of my favorite things in 2011.

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Adele.  Sure they overplayed her songs on the radio but before that happened there were those times when hearing her sing was one of those “I’m glad to be alive” moments.  So I can’t make a list of favorite things from last year without including Adele.  

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Pinterest.  I heard about it and didn’t think it sounded interesting.  I tried it anyway and immediately loved it.  Pinterest is a place to organize and share online images that you find interesting or inspiring. Once uploaded or shared on Pinterest, these images become known as Pins, which the user can place on customized, themed Boards. You can create Boards for any topic imaginable, from cats to classic cars to cats driving classic cars. The possibilities are endless. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds. 

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Synchroblog.  It’s not new but it remains one of my favorite things year in and year out.  A synchroblog is a collection of similar articles or posts made by a group of bloggers who have agreed to blog on the same topic on the same day.  The synchroblog group that I participate with has a different theme each month – such as “The Devil Made Me Do It“, “Hope” and “Experiences In The Wilderness“.  I love it because it keeps me writing, connects me with other bloggers and gives me a chance to hear a variety of voices.  If you like to blog you should try it out. 

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Timeline.  Yes, I like timeline.  I have always wished that it was easier to look back at something on Facebook and I also wished for a more visual experience.  I think that timeline delivers both of those things without losing any of the features that I like about Facebook.  I know there has been a lot of complaining but I don’t pay much attention to that as it happens everytime Facebook makes any changes.  Timeline was definitely one of my favorite things in 2011! 

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Photo Books.  I created some online photobooks for the first time last year, ordered printed copies and absolutely loved them!  I love digital photography but I also love having a printed version of a photograph. The photo books are a perfect was to enjoy a collection of printed photographs! I used Mixbook and liked the process and end product. There were lots of styles/themes to choose from and I had the ability to customize everything.  I already have plans for more photo books this year.  

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Paste Magazine.  Paste is a leading online destination for pop-culture enthusiasts, covering music, movies, TV, books and video games. Each month you get 4 issues, 28+ high-quality downlodable MP3s, exclusive videos, in-depth articles and more for only $2.99. You can pay monthly, cancel at any time, and never miss an issue!  I love Paste Magazine!

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larson.  The book trilogy (Dragon Tattoo Trilogy) and the movie (only the first one is a movie at this point)!  The characters are rich and interesting, the stories unique and dark.  I was intrigued throughout all three books and for a change I thought the movie was just as good.  I suggest reading the books first and then seeing the movie.  

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Provoketive Magazine.  It’s like a blog but better. Provoketive Magazine is an online space of rich conversation about life, faith, justice and culture. The desire is to provoke the reader’s imagination through conversation and open up spaces of dialogue, learning, and hope.  It is one of the fastest growing online magazines and has over 120 writers contributing to it’s content. If you would like to contribute to Provoketive, begin here

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The Help. I always see a lot of movies and this past year was no different. At one point during the year I had been to the same theatre 14 weeks in a row (at least that is what Foursquare reported to me). As usual I saw the good, the bad and the ugly. The Help was one of the good ones. I had read the book quite a long time before the movie released and had almost forgotten how much I liked the book. The movie reminded me how good the book was and I was pleasantly surprised that the movie was just as good (although the book did have some great story lines that weren’t covered much in the movie). I am glad to see it is getting some recognition and hope to see it win some more awards during the Oscars later this month.  

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Spotify. Oh, how I love Spotify.  Who would have ever believed that there would be an app that was free where you could listen to practically any song you knew anytime you wanted!  On top of that Spotify has all sorts of social networking features that help you share the music you are listening to and discover new music when your friends share what they are listening to with you.  It’s amazing!!!!  And for a small monthly fee you can even take it with you on your smart phone, your ipad or your ipod!  Amazing!!!!!!!!! 

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Those were a few of my favorite things in 2011.  What were some of yours?

Better Than Hope

This post is a contribution to the January synchroblog which is being done in partnership with Provoketive Magazine.  The theme is Hope.  You can go to Provoketive Magazine and read all of the synchroblog posts and I’ll also put links to each person’s individual blog post at the end of this post as they become available. No matter where you read these posts I strongly suggest you check out Provoketive Magazine! It’s a very cool online space that features pieces on faith, life, justice and culture.  I love the look and content!

I grew up hearing how great and necessary hope is, which is why I was so shocked when I first heard about the notion to “abandon hope.”

Last year I participated in the tradition of choosing one word as a sort of theme for the year.  My word for 2011 was Awaken.  I chose Awaken because I wanted to pursue the practice of being fully present in the moment. In my efforts to learn more about being fully present I ran across the Buddhist idea of “abandoning hope.”

Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, wrote, “One of our deepest habitual patterns is to feel that now is not good enough.”  Chodron encourages us to abandon hope and put our energy into being where we are. She informs us that as long as we are putting our energy into the desire for something or someone to be different (which is what hope leads to) the present moment will be lost.  When the present moment is lost we lose opportunities that can only be found by staying in the moment that hope wants to sweep us away from. When we are swept away from the present reality to a vision of an imagined future we lose answers and solutions and healing that we can only know when we stay and face our pain and our fears.  If we are caught up in hoping for a future result we cannot embrace the present moment.

A famous Buddhist saying is “Hope and fear chase each other’s tails.” In other words, hope and fear are intrinsically connected – you hope because you are afraid of what is happening or not happening – without fear hope would not be needed.  The present – which is demanding your attention here and now – may not look appealing and yet it may have something deeper to offer you than a hoped for future. The idea is that this method of befriending our present concern affords us a clarity of action that we can never gain while trying to avoid or rid ourselves of our pain and fears.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t have a positive attitude. And there are certainly times when hope allows people to take that next step and behave “as if,” despite all evidence to the contrary.  But abandoning hope isn’t really about being negative.  Abandoning hope is more about detaching ones self from success or failure.  It isn’t about giving up in a way that would make you stop working or striving.  It is a kind of positive giving up that not only has the potential to reveal to you what it is that makes you more fully alive but at the same time affords you the ability to put even more effort and energy into whatever that is.

Thomas Merton, the late Christian mystic, advised a friend: “Do not depend on the hope of results … you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.  As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself…”

We typically have a purpose for everything that we do.  We want to succeed at accomplishing our goal and not fail.  That is fine.  However, what happens so much of the time is our thoughts of success or failure begin to become more important than what we are doing and how we are doing it.  The fear of failure causes us to become more rigid, less compassionate, more impatient, less creative, more cautious, less willing to take risks – all because we cling so desperately to a successful outcome.

WOW!  This new way of thinking about hope was making sense to me.  At least enough sense that I wanted to try to put some of this stuff into practice, so over the past year I have tried to merge what I was learning about hope with my pursuit to be more present in the moment.

Where did all of this new thinking about hope lead me?

Well, I still find myself hoping as a reaction to fear or worry.  But at least I am usually aware of that happening and can stop and focus on remaining in the moment – letting myself experience the feelings more fully – being more aware of myself in the present moment (Buddhists call that being mindful or waking up).

And I still find myself performing a task or doing work with a goal in mind but at least I am getting better about the goal not overshadowing the action.  As a result I feel less attached to outcomes and more interested in the value of what I am doing and how I am doing it.  I don’t know if I am accomplishing as much but I think what I do is a higher quality, more enjoyable and unique.

My problems have not all disappeared because none of this stops life from happening.  The hope and fear continue to return because the practice of letting go of hope and fear is hard to embrace. But I keep training and practicing and the more I train and practice the more I am able to lessen unnecessary suffering and worry.  I believe that I am more present in the moment and that the more I wake up the more compassion I have towards myself and others, the more creative I feel, the more risks I am willing to take, the more discernment I seem to have about what I should spend my time and energy pursuing.  It’s a process and honestly I feel like I could let all the progress slip away without much notice if I don’t remain vigilant but all in all I think I am discovering something better than hope.  I think I am discovering now.

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Below is a list of all the posts and participants in this month’s synchroblog.  There are two links for each contribution listed.  The link on the title of the post will take you to the Provoketive Magazine site where all the pieces are posted and the link on the author’s name will take you to their personal blog.  I encourage you to not only read these wonderful pieces about “Hope” but to also check out the contributors personal blogs.  

The Trouble With HopeJohn Ptacek

Hope = Possibility x ImaginationWayne Rumsby

Little RemindersMike Victorino

Where Is My HopeJonathan Brink

Hope for HypocritesJeremy Myers

Now These Three RemainSonny Lemmons

Perplexed, But Still HopefulCarol Kuniholm

A Hope that LivesAmy Mitchell

Generations Come and Generations GoAdam Gonnerman

Demystifying HopeGlenn Hager

God in the Dark: On HopeRenee Ronika Klug

Keeping Hope AliveMaurice Broaddus

Are We Afraid to Hope?Christine Sine

On Wobbly Wheels, Split Churches and FearLaura Droege

Adopting HopeTravis Klassen

Hope is Held Between UsEllen Haroutunian

Hope: In the Hands of the Creatively MaladjustedMihee Kim-Kort

Paradox, Hope and RevivalCity Safari

Good Theology SavesReverend Robyn

Linear: Never Was, Never Will BeKathy Escobar

Better Than HopeLiz Dyer

Caroline for Congress: Hope for the FutureWendy McCaig

Fumbling the Ball on HopeKW Leslie

Content to HopeAlise Wright

Hope: Oh, the Humanity!Deanna Ogle