Broke Not Poor

Poverty, poor, welfare class.  I grew up that way.  I lived that way for a while until at 25 I decided that I wasn’t going to cooperate with poverty any more.  I broke free.

There was that time in ’08.  I was technically homeless.  I blamed it on my divorce, which I blamed on me.  I was unemployed. I blamed that on the recession.  It was a short time, relatively speaking, but seemed to last forever.  On the other side of that brief period of time I was no longer unemployed or homeless. I was a successful craftsman and business owner.  My family was well cared for and we even went out of town for long weekends at Great Wolf Lodge. Life was good.

I married my best friend.  I guess I am lucky that way.  She too had been through financial hard times. She told me that being poor was a state of mind, while being broke was a state of finances.  That made sense to me.  I let those words sink into my brain. I embraced all that it meant.  I can point to both in my past, poor and broke. Sometimes they  came at the same time. Other times I may have had money and been poor, or been broke and been rich.

Perhaps it is because I was forgetting where I came from.  Maybe it was the human tendency to judge others.  At some point, though I had compassion, i became aloof from those who were broke or poor.  I felt that somehow it was always their choices that led them into that state. I felt as if it was always somehow their own fault.

I left a very successful business to move to an area that was financially disadvantaged. Maybe even poor in some regards.  People thought I had lost my mind. I couldn’t tell why I was led, but I can point to several markers that indicated it was Divine leading that brought me to this place. Then it happened. I became broke. It brought me back to some realities. My financial difficulties were largely brought on by the choices of other people, and not necessarily honest ones. I had not protected myself or my family from such events. Does that mean it was my fault?

To be honest, I have placed several things in motion that will prevent me from being broke.  I thought they would activate before things got to this point, but there is a 90% likelihood that they will activate and I will stop being broke.  I see an end.  But in the middle it is hard to see the end. At least it’s that way for me. And, I may be broke, but I am rich in so many ways.  If you want to know how, read some more of my blog.

Leaving my business and moving to the mountains brought a great deal of relief. There was relief from the long work weeks, the relief from dealing with contractors that all had some problem or another preventing them from doing what they agreed to do, and relief from the stress that comes with handling large sums of money and being responsible for so many lives.

Being broke comes with stress too.  I guess I forgot that.  There is the stress of having to count the items in your grocery cart and putting things back in order to fit into your tiny budget.  There is the stress of phone call after phone call from people wanting their money.  There is the stress of letter after letter threatening legal action. There is the stress of looking at a wife who has been used to having enough to not have to count to see if there was enough.  There are the late fees that add up that if you could afford you wouldn’t have been late in the first place.  All of that stress is real.  I don’t get to go home and try to forget it in the evening like I used to.  It never leaves me or goes to sleep.It is awake every moment that I am.

My time of being broke will come to an end.  I am looking forward to it. It was and is very painful. I don’t know about you, but I  really prefer pain free.  That said, however, I am committed to never wasting a pain.  If I have to feel it I want some advantage from it, so I am letting it teach me.  I think that the lessons here are not how to never be broke, or how to protect yourself from unscrupulous dealings.  I am pretty sure the lesson is more on how I look at others who are going through it. Maybe some of them cannot see an end like I can.  What keeps them going? How can I add hope to their lives.  I think the lesson is more about who I am than what I have.

I think that going forward I am going to be more likely to pay for the groceries of the mom in front of me who is counting out her change.  I think I am going to be more patient with that guy who is yelling at people for no apparent reason, but is carrying a load on his back invisible to the human eye.  I think I am going to try to love even more, and even better, those who cannot ever return the blessing. I can probably think of a number of ways my pain is going to instruct my future.

So please don’t send money.  I am, in some odd way, grateful that I am broke.  It reminded me to be more like Jesus.  We are, after all, His hands and feet here and now. It reminded me that God is my source, even during those times when it seems like I am.  It reminds me that faith is an easy word to say, harder to live.  It reminded me of what it means to love well.

Thin Places

Thin places are amazing places.  Like an early morning mist, they are elusive and often change location in a moment.  They are well camouflaged, so much so in fact that most people run right past them never even knowing they are there.  Worse still, they often run right through the middle of them, busy, hurried, and oblivious. Like rushing across so much gold in the sand beneath our feet. Such loss.

Thin places, in Celtic lore, are those places where exists only a thin separation between heaven and earth.  A place where we can be in the earthly realm and in heaven all at the same time.  A thin place is where the holiness of the Eternal can be seen, felt, and experienced on this side of the veil that separates mortal from immortal.

Some thin places seem to stay in the same place. They don’t always move around, though it seems that mostly they do.  I have experienced a thin place, close in perception of the Presence of God while standing on familiar ground.  I know I am in a thin place every time at Dinosaur National Monument.  Each time I go I feel heaven so close. Strange, so many of the scientists who study ancient species believe their findings separate man from God.  When I am there I feel even closer.  God. Creator. Savior.  He first thought about dinosaurs and they did not fall apart from His knowledge. He thinks about me too.  Nothing that happens to me is apart from him.  Such care.  I sense creation in the presence of the ancient.

There is a thin place in the mountains where I live.  Often times I find it hovering over the town. Even more I find it hovering over our home just outside of town.  When I cannot find it there I can usually find it in the lonesome trails that are minutes from my front door. It is strong when I am alone.  Stronger still when I share it with others, but that kind is even more rare.  Finding two humans in the same heart at the same moment doesn’t happen often..

Thin places are healing, warm, and restorative places to be.  You can only experience them by first finding them.  You can stumble across them accidental, but will notice only once your senses are tuned to find them.  Loving God and loving folks is the best antennae for tuning into the presence of a thin place.  It makes them stand out more. They are more common than you think.  You just have to look for them, feel for them, and long for them. The best way to increase your odds of finding thin places it to linger longer than necessary once you have found one.  Get to know it.  Get accustomed to it.  Allow your pallet to be changed to long for its taste.  Perceive it, sense it, explore it.

Thin places are miraculous.  The downside is that when miracle becomes the rule then law becomes the exception.  That is why we cannot stay in a thin place, or if we do the thin place seems to move on away from us.  Thin places are special places.  They are places where we love to be.  I think that God loves to meet us there.  A lot like He did with Adam in Eden.

Thin places can go away in an instance.  A clumsy disregard for what is holy, an attempt to explain or somehow invite yourself to partner with it, and poof, there it goes.  Jesus invited three of his disciples to join him in a thin place.  Moses and Elijah came down to meet them.  Peter opened his mouth.  First mistake in a thin place.  Don’t pollute the air with what you have to say.  He tried to get involved, adding man efforts to a God event.  Second mistake.  Then it was over. Vanished and gone.  I wonder how long it could have lasted if he had just been.  I wonder if Jesus was disappointed.

You cannot make a thin place.  It simply is.  It is there.  It is just beyond the common.  It is waiting for you to take the time and to dream the dream of finding and letting it wash over you like a shower.  A baptism of closeness to the One who created  you, me, and the thin places too.

Revelations

Winter fest was fun. Warm, a bit above freezing, but cold enough to keep it wintery. Because of the recent warm weather the city went to where they had all the snow stacked that they had removed from the streets previous and placed it strategically on the main street as needed for the events. They hauled it all away, then hauled it back for the occasion.  Job security.

Our event was the snow sculpture competition. We had some friends who were recent additions to our tribe make the trip down from their mountain nest to help out. Being the local barber, I made the plan for a giant mustache with curved up ends. Our two families had a great time grooming the stack of snow into a reasonable facsimile of a handlebar mustache.

I had only recently moved to this small hamlet tucked deep in the gold filled mountains of Eastern Washington. I felt had become overwhelmed in our previous life on the coast. I had opened several businesses, managed a growing staff, and was busy building my status as a motivational speaker and trainer.  One day we just sort of bagged it all and moved to a small, dare I say minuscule, little town in the mountains.  Being away from the busy crowds and lifestyle of the coast had been refreshing. In fact, I felt better than I had in years.

This was the first time I had ever seen our little town busy. Where there were seldom more than a handful of folk walking the main drag at any given time.  I ha d a small shop on the street and spent days there doing my work in front of the big picture windows looking out and down the main drag in town.  Even at it’s busiest there were hardly more people out there than could fit in a large van.  Now there were a few hundred. As my wife, kids, and a friend walked the sidewalks looking at the booths I felt uncomfortable. At first it was a mild anxiety, but over the next fifteen minutes or so it grew into an inner rage that I was having to fight down. There were too many people. They were too close. They were close behind me, which was the worst of all. I began to panic.

The center of the blocked off street had only a few folk milling around and I escaped to there, breathing, almost panting with relief.  My wife looked at me a little funny but it didn’t look like a big deal so she went right back to enjoying the day. Inside, it was more than a big deal, it was huge!

We managed to enjoy all that Winterfest had to offer. We didn’t win with our gargantuan cookie duster, but we got a lot of encouraging comments. We went on to share a delightful dinner with our friends, family, and extended family, later that evening, but my response to the crowds left me questioning.

In the next couple of weeks I did some inner searching as well as some internet searching. It was then I discovered my secret, I had enochophobia. Enochophobia is what they call a fear of crowds.

Enochophobia made sense. I thought about my life, the things that made me think I was somehow abnormal and defective. I loved live music but I hated concerts. I loved faith teaching, but hated going to church. I could wait patiently for hours but I hated being in line. People, crowds of them, made me miserable.

Enochophobia. Enoch was an Old Testament fellow who had so much love for God that he never died. Enochophobia makes me die a thousand times over when I am around too many people.

I think I am a rare version of extroverted enochophobe. I really like, care for, even love folk. I love having people over for dinner, small groups, and jam sessions. The more there are, though, the more uncomfortable I become. There is a tipping point where my extroverted energy becomes overtaken with my crowd anxiety. Trouble is it changes from situation to situation.

It took me moving away from the crowds to realize those very crowds were a great cause of misery. I couldn’t be happy because I was almost always either uncomfortable or on the verge of it.  I am a little perturbed that I wasn’t aware before. Maybe I could have done something about it. Maybe counseling, acupuncture or electric shock therapy could have helped. My nature opened doors for me that my anxiety would never allow me to enter through, or if I did it would not allow me to remain.

Without really knowing why, I was given the cure, or at least the medication. At the urging of The Spirit I moved away from the crowds and the press. I was planted in a community stuck in the 1950’s. I was told to become faithfully rooted in this little hamlet where crowds are rare, community is common, and where love is the cure.

I don’t know if my mountainside medicating will ever cure my enochophobia.  I don’t even know at this point that I am interested in a cure.  Like I said, I feel better than I have in years.  I suppose the occasional crowd that springs up can be managed.  Maybe I can pray or ask for prayer.  Maybe I will just be, and enjoy being, and let things be as they are.  Maybe, just maybe, that little phobia was put there for a reason, to mold me, to make me, or even to send me.  Who knows, I may have just been born for such a time and such a place as this.20190119_1234365379708117099613349.jpg

Community or Competition

vintage-photo-of-minneapolis-farmers-marketI did one of those Facebook games that revealed your most used words on Facebook. Fortunately for my wife, who is also a friend on Facebook, her name was one of the top used words, as was the word love and the names of my children. Whew, I was sweating that one!

Another word that was used a lot is the word community.  I have a lot of investment into the idea of community. It can be micro defined to indicate smaller subsections.  I want to use it in macro, to describe an entire way of thinking, of letting the thought of community influence and even dictate an approach to every day life.

On the other side of the spectrum is the word competition.  It didn’t show up at all on the Facebook game I played.  It can have several meanings, but the one I am looking at is the market way of thinking. Marketing, acquisition, competition!  Marketing operates under the assumption that there is a limited amount of resource available.  It assumes scarcity and uses fear of privation* to manipulate acquisition. Ruled by the marketing mindset one must compete, do whatever one is capable of to gather and store up this finite resource for yourself otherwise you will not have enough.  My abilities to gather and store make me better than someone who is not able to do the same. It takes no mind of what it takes away, only that it is yours by way of possession. It means that if I do not win then I lose, but for me to win then you must lose.

In a community mindset the assumption is that there is an abundance. There is enough to go around. Rather than scrambling to gather all that you can for yourself you are more inclined to share, help others gather, make sure that everyone has what they need.  Its OK, tomorrow there will be more. In the community way of thinking life slows down a bit. There seems to be more time to smell, to taste, and to savor living.  Our existence is no longer a race to some unseen finish line, but a tasty, meandering journey to be enjoyed for what it is.

Trying to live community in a market world takes work, intentionality, and determination.  A community minded person cannot force the market minded world to LOGO_BUYNOW_BLACKchange. They can only change their little corner of influence.  Sometimes community will be directly opposed by market, and often times market will win the battle, but the overall victor is still undecided.

I run my life internally under the principles of community.  My family and I invest ourselves into hospitality, extending the walls of our home out into the world, opening our lives to others.  We try to be generous givers, both of love and of substance.  We want to be even more generous. I understand that doing business in the market place has with it the inevitable contractual obligation.  It is what I have to do to pay my bills and enjoy the services of heat, lights, and others.

I run my business internally under the principles of community.  Rather than contracts, which state specific actions and restricts actions, we work under the idea of covenant.  Covenant is freedom and commitment all rolled into one big burrito!  As a community we covenant to work toward the good of the whole community. We share the resources rather than hoard them.  We do what we do to gather and know that there will always be enough and that there will be more tomorrow.

It isn’t that hard to do once there is some buy into the idea.  After all, that is what we all want. That is the kind of life Christ and the Apostles pointed to when they spoke of Kingdom.  It is hard to resist the temptation to assume scarcity.  It takes trust to believe that there will always be enough.  It makes us vulnerable. It takes a little while to begin to see that the heart really does resonate with being in and a part of a real community.

It is never easy, but sometimes people who buy into scarcity will attempt to take away from those who buy into abundance.  When that happens the temptation is to let them convince you that there really is a scarcity. Fear of loss can drive us away from love and community. That is why Jesus said to give to those who ask and not withhold.  His goal wasn’t to take away what we have,  but to show that your Heavenly Father cares and provides. All we have to do is believe enough to go and gather.

If you are able, we welcome you to explore living in community, both macro and micro, along side of us.  It is an experiment in being vulnerable and loving lavishly.  It is a reflection of what Kingdom living and Christ Following is all about.  It is also a great deal of fun, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be doing it.

 

pri·va·tion
prīˈvāSH(ə)n/
noun
noun: privation; plural noun: privations
  1. a state in which things that are essential for human well-being such as food and warmth are scarce or lacking.
    “years of rationing and privation”
    synonyms: deprivation, hardship, destitution, impoverishment, want, need, neediness, austerity

    “years of rationing and privation”
    antonyms: plenty, luxury
    • formal
      the loss or absence of a quality or attribute that is normally present.
      “cold is the privation of heat”

The Story

The story goes like this;

The very first church in our modern understanding of church, was planted a very long time old bookago.  It was led by a pastoral team who were also husband and wife.  They were especially equipped and had even been married for the specific purpose of the task ahead of them.  Their mission goal was to take care of the church and to be an influence for God’s Kingdom in the world around them.  The church itself was amazing.  It was equipped with every good thing a human needed, and it was a place where God Himself would show up.  I can only imagine the worship that went on there. The husband and wife team were free to minister in any way that they chose except one. They were forbidden to judge the people around them. That was the one ministry agenda that God reserved for Himself.

The rest of the story goes something like this; the wife and the husband really wanted to be able to judge like God judged. Who wouldn’t? I mean, to know the difference between good and evil and to be able to evaluate who was and who wasn’t, now that made perfect sense.  It seemed like wisdom, after all, how long could Eden be a great church if people who did evil came in and hung out there?  God would surely appreciate the help!” And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat”

God was not impressed.  Of all the good things that He had given, had wanted to give, for his first pastors to take the one ministry that He reserved for himself was too much.  It was so much more than any of the evil that had ever been committed that this one action carried with it the ultimate penalty, the death penalty.

I think more and more that people want to agree with Adam and Eve over God.  Adam and Eve had never done evil (that they knew of), but others may have and they wanted to be able to expose it, adjudicate it, and administer justice.  That was never God’s plan.  Christ didn’t condemn sinners, his harshest rebukes were reserved for those who felt that following God’s law somehow made a person adequate to judge how well others followed it.  He railed upon people who placed law above love and compassion. He said to love  God, you personally, and he said to love folks.  He reached out to sinners, responded to the frailty of their condition, and he cared about their heart.

Now, I get it. I really do!  Its like the old Irish drinking toast, “Here’s to our enemies, may the Good Lord turn their hearts, and if He doesn’t turn their hearts may He turn their ankles so we will know them by their limping!”  We really do want to know who is in and who is out. It is safer that way.  Clear cut rules by which we can map whether a person is really our kind .  We want to be certain they have paid just as high a price for their status with God as we do. Sort of like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son. The only thing is that following the rules does not change our status with God one little bit.  Didn’t Jesus tell a story of people who did all the right things but were left outside of the Kingdom to come because they didn’t know him?  There goes that pesky little story thing.  Changes everything.

God makes it clear throughout the story: He doesn’t need or want our help in the judgement of others department.  That is love.  I mean serious love, to save us from the pain of judging our fellow humans.  What could be more scary than imperfect people judging other imperfect people according to a perfect God’s law.  Gives me the shakes just thinking about it.

adam-and-eve-e1304299403712

ENFP – WXYZ

If you don’t already know it, ENFP is my personality type based upon the Myers-Briggs instrument for measuring a persons personality.  Odd, isn’t it, that the entire half century of living my personhood can be summed up in four letters?  I mean the very thought or process of quantifying a persons natural tendencies runs counter to the whole personality profile I read anyway.  We hate processes and quantities!

The odd thing is that shortly after taking the test and receiving the results I was in a completely different setting, removed and disconnected from the M-B testing site, instrument or test partakers (at first I used the word “testees” but decided that wouldn’t work).  It was not even remotely connected to the Myers-Briggs test, yet when I shook hands with a young intern who I had met months earlier, he looked me in the eye and said, “ENFP, aren’t you?”  What, did someone tattoo the letters on my forehead in some ink only visible to the uber-hip and cool?  If it was that obvious you could have just told me what I was and I wouldn’t have had to take the test!

So, I have begun to move in new circles where the Myer’s Briggs is used to help people in the process of discovery and self actualization on a regular basis.   Most people are decent enough to ask me what my MB personality type is before they say, “I thought so” or “I knew that would be you!”  OK, so the ugly truth is that everyone else on the planet knew who I was long before I ever knew.  Go figure.  I’ve been too busy chasing squirrels to worry about it.

So, the real truth of the matter is that I am eternally grateful for, not only the instrument itself but also for the insight to offer it and the encouragement to take it.  For years, not too many to count but nearly so, I have felt that I was different than normal people and somehow deficient.  I have cursed my fickle chasing of the latest and greatest crusade that strikes my fancy  I have bemoaned my boredom to the point of catatosis at the every day pursuance of the type of tedium that seems to be the oil that lubricates life as we know it.  I have felt like I was speaking an unknown language while expressing vision and dream to the caring and knowing elders who seemed to hold the mystical keys to the doorway of success and future only to have them shake their heads sympathetically as though I was touched, addled, deficient.

It feels good to know that while I am in the minority there are others like me.  Long before I sought this insight someone had already prepared many of the answers on my behalf based upon observable aspects in others who came before me.  It feels even better to know that my personality type has its uses and is even necessary to healthy functioning.  Even better that my personality is celebrated for what it brings into the lives of organisms and organizations alike.

Only in recent years have I allowed the Holy Spirit to temper my personality type with elements that were previously foreign to it. I have begun to treasure things like patience, thoughtfulness and caution. Rather than cringing at criticism and running from it I have begun to embrace it as my best background to juxtapose my image of myself against in order to see conformity or incongruity with my goals as a Christ Follower.

Actually this whole experience has increased my faith.  I have faith that I was created with intention and purpose.  I am not a mistake, some divine experiment gone terribly bad.  I have faith that God will not use me in spite of my personality, but rather He will use me because of it.  That allows me to stop trying to change what I cannot change and to build on those areas where I lack. No more efforts or energy invested in not being me.

Simple Faith

Recently my wife and I were joyfully surprised when a couple we spend time with used their limited resources to help us meet a need (actually several).  They said that they had prayed and God had given them both the directive to do what they did.  Their gift was from a finite source and they had no way to replenish it, they simply believed that God told them what to do and they did it.

Later on I told my wife that I wish that I had such “simple faith”.  The faith to simply hear, simply trust, and simply follow without even a second thought beyond the happiness  and joy that comes from being willfully and even wildly obedient.

My wife told me that I should be careful how I express those thoughts since the word “simple” could be considered a slight or diminutive.  While the word, simple, might be misinterpreted as meaning of less value, my intent is quite on the contrary, I treasure the word and the concept of simple.  I believe simple is better, or even best.   While my friend Dave may have written the book on Simplicity, I am wearing the tee shirt, flying the banner, and beating the simplicity drum (metaphorically speaking).  Simple to me is a badge of honor and the KISS principle (keep it simple and scale-able) a sort of high calling.

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.”  Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”  But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home.  Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.  I know this because I am under authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers.  I only need to say, ‘Go.’ and they go, or ‘Come.’ and they come.  And if is say to my slaves, ‘Do this.’ they do it.  When Jesus heard this, he was amazed.  Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth.  I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!  And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world- from east and west- and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of heaven.  But many Israelites -those for whom the kingdom was prepared – will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go back home.  Because you believed, it has happened.” and the young servant was healed that same hour.

A couple of things stood out to me in this; the first and foremost is that while this was what I would label as “simple faith”, there was nothing diminutive about it.  It was a faith based upon what were likely some hard hewn foundations stones.

1.  Before he ever approached Jesus with his request he assumed that Jesus had the ability to accomplish the request

2.  He approached Jesus respectfully. He full well knew that Jesus had authority in an area where he himself did not

3.  He declined the hoopla of having the biggest prophet/celebrity of the day come to his house.  “Just simply say the word, Jesus,”

4. He valued Jesus’ time and once Jesus said the word he went on his way.

Everything in this brief encounter showed respect for who Jesus was, showed respect for Jesus’ abilities, and showed respect for Jesus’ time.  While there were crowds of people who were pressing in on the Master, many wanting an ancient version of the “photo op” with the celebrity/prophet, the Roman approached with simple faith, to have Jesus grant a simple request.