Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas Sweaters

Oh, the colors, the figures, the ties, the layers, the design, the warm and fuzzy's, the candy canes and nature thangs.   

Step right up, it's time for a new sweater. The latest, the greatest, better than the other brands.
Designed just for you, with the substance of your passions and desires in the latest colors and finest sheep wool.

Now who am I selling this sweater to?  That's later.

The automobile industry was never designed, built or marketed for someone who doesn't drive.
  People and companies are paid out billions to get you to "switch" to their brand.  Money is not spent on trying to get people who don't believe in cars to "see the light, embrace the vehicle and watch your life change".

Ok, I'll admit there are people in the automobile industry who's job it is, is to influence young people who will have the right to drive someday. Like candy cigarettes of the 60's and gum cigars, the marketers were gunning for us before we could smoke.  But, the lions share of dollars are spent on companies trying to get folks to move from one brand to another.

The corporations bottom line, the executives that run them, and their stock holders or financial base (for the NFP's) are based upon ROI and the bottom line. That, is the bottom line.

I'll say this before moving on. "There are no perfect people".  Not you and certainly not I.
Most of the planet are not leaders or shepherds, they are followers and sheep.
Willing to believe, do what they are told and give their wool to the sweater makers.

Now me? I didn't go to the Warton School of Business nor a prestigious 2yr M.Div program. But i can tell you by those leaders who did, that in their implementation of classes into their values, vision, mission and carnage, what kind of sweaters they  have and are creating from the teachers that taught them.

Creation.  What is it?  In it's natural state it "is" God. The constant of the womb, the soil, the water, the air, the suns of unknown systems. Creation creates to create, not to be sold.

And here is where a good sweater went bad.  If you are happy with Jesus current church, you most likely should stop here and read "Our Daily Bread". i like that one.  If you ask questions and then pray about them, you might learn something from the rest of this.  Might...

Where creation goes bad...  "ascribing value".

Enter money into creation for sale, and Judas comes to life. Believers with more justifications and lies than Walter White in Breaking Bad.   Entering Religion into money, and trying to manage that oil and water has become the game of shake it up and say its all ok. Ok for a few seconds until they naturally separate on our lettuce.... entertain you salad served in a new sweater.    For me, there is really no turning back that I can see, since justifying our actions has become the basis for our wealth, and then our ability to give back that 10% makes us Walter White.   Oh the sweaters we allow woven from our wool.
|:  No wonder so many moral people fall for socialism  when given the state of religion  :|

And yet, in all of that, we find pockets of pristine beauty. Pockets filled with love and healing and grace on those sweaters.  Friendships that make you stay in a job or a  building. That make you accept the unacceptable like an abused spouse afraid to lose the house and family and friends.
  And the more pockets they weave on your sweater, the more chance you'll keep it for what good, of good report, you have put in those pockets.

My first question was "Now who are we selling sweaters to?"
Or better yet. With our wool, who are we giving wool for sweaters to and why, and what's the ROI....

This becomes the foundation to which I pen this blog today.

In my successes and failures of 60 years, one thing is clear, not much.

For a man named Solomon used to confuse me in his writings, and  a man named Paul's words seemed so clear and direct from old to new Testaments.
Now, 45 years into this faith journey, this has reversed in so many ways that I do not have time to o-pine about here.
Yet, in and thru it,  I believe in the eternal life of these words and the ever living power of and in them.  In them long before they were written or printed, filmed or blogged about...  For Truth is Truth, whether used for good or evil.  Love is love in the same manner and we apply this to "choice" as well.  Now, Deciphering each "use of" for good or evil is the eternally difficult question for all choices.

So,  again, who are we selling sweaters to?  You already know the answer if you understand my question. The only other question becomes, what reasons or (to some) excuses will we give to justify our sweaters.  And in the end who's responsible for that? You  & I, or the Shepard, or his teacher, or his father, fathers father? Where does the "buck" stop?
Ask a Jew, A Palestinian, A native American, A Shite, A Sunni.  It doesn't end, even if you somehow think you were a grasshopper last time.

First, I would submit this.
In following Jesus as a group, we have confused the offices and buildings completely.
I have been and may continue to be a part of this very broken system for many reasons, but truth to me is truth as I see it and observe it from the side line or the fine line.

A couple simple questions for Christians (or) Jesus Followers as it relates to scripture?
1.   Why do Christians meet? To build each other up for a life of service or to build and fill seats?
2. What should Christians do when they meet? Build each other up for a life of service or plan and do events to give out sweaters and fill seats.
3. What is a Christians mission in life? To love the Lord God..... or to build better sweaters for jesus to increase the size and scope of one church over another through sweater envy.

So how would Solomon answer that? And how would Paul and how would Jesus himself?
Do scriptures and statements from each of these men come to your mind as you read this question?

See, I'm not here to give you answers. I'm here to love you and ask questions to myself, and to you so we can think about, and to meditate on and to listen for answers that resonate in each soul as truth from God's Holy Spirit.

So here it is, here's my current issue today with Christmas Sweaters...

Pretty, novel, ever changing for another dollar, ever changing with pop culture, layered with fake layers of real things. (vests, pockets, ties, shirts) that from a distance look real, show value, get you to buy in,  but up close are just not the real thing. One layer of many fake layers.  Folks can tell you you look great in it, you can say it's warm, but unless you get a new one every year, you're not as happy as you could be. And if that other sweater maker move in with a new location down the street that has better colors or sizes or features... Well, it's the" all about me" world we live in, so see ya.

That is unless the sweater maker has been schooled on this wolves tactic and so has invited you to make best friends with those in the weaving guild..  Or the design guild or refreshments guild or greeting guild or children's guild., or 12 step guild.  Or better yet gotten your children into the children's guilds programs on shearing and preparing wool for sweaters. Classes with trips to foreign countries to show them the value of wool and giving sweaters to the sweater less.  After all,  we live for our kids till they are gone and then we live for their kids...
If all this is done, chances of you leaving for a cooler sweater company will be diminished by your friendships and relationships that in the core are designed to help you keep put. It can be an ugly thing pulling back the curtain.  And even if you do, there will be even more justifications than your grade schooler coming home with a hickey.

Movties... What are the root motives..really...

I turned on the TV a few weeks ago, and got a miriad of Web Based ads in Dec.
It was like Vegas and Branson and Europe Cirque Du Soleil with Jesus goin on. Super creative, Professional everything, best in camera, video, lighting, comedy, harmony, symphony, dance, Latte's, decorations, christmas sweater'd everything.   Our company's productions are hipper and better than anyone elses, so come join the best of the best with the best and we will out sweater the world in  ©Jesus name.
And I've been a part of this (in Jesus name).

But don't write me off.  For I've seen lives changed and hearts touched, including my own. I still love hundreds of people and sheep I've looked over. And 1,000's I never got close enough to.
     Yet why am i'm still sickened at seeing the latest version of our christmas sweaters on TV and the Web. Why does it feel like sheep dip on my soul.   Why?

Because of the fall out?  Because people matter?
 Because all people matter, and I've seen enough behind the curtain of it all and it's root motives?
 You see, people are not wool, They are not a commodity. Should not be lined up for use based upon size, shape, color sex or smell. They should be loved, nurtured, forgiven, and taught to live in community in love, not obligation or fear or guilt to give and serve and obey.

As Jesus followers, we are to go to the ends of the earth with His love and story of redemption. Beginning with our own story of our lives changed in word and deed, and then bringing that to our own circles and out ward from there to the world around us.  If we wear a sweater, it should be one He wove of our lives. One people can see is really us.  One that a lost world would envy to emulate. Ask honest questions of and want to be like. One that the Holy Spirit speaks thru one heart at a time. Then if your wool leads another to the Shepherd, you can invite them to come celebrate with you, do life with you, be apart of your circle if they choose. New Sheep in a flock, not an NFL trade or switching schools or promising a cooler newer sweater.

Here it is.  What place does building a sweater factory to get people to move from one sweater factory to another have in the big picture of the great commission.  Church Shifting for sweaters as an acceptable form of a business  model at it's root,  is just another cute but fake sweater with a short shelf life.   Yes, shiny things will bring short term wool for sweaters and inflated egos of numbers, but they will leave, and leave with heads down in time, looking for the next sweater and another shepherd to love and tell them they matter for not their wool.

I would submit that the place where believers meet should be a place where the Book of Acts is lived out. Where the words of Solomon are balanced with the words of Paul and the words of Jesus are the final authority against the rest in each mans heart.  

Radical Theology and Ideologies are not born over night.  Bad ones take generations and centuries to justify by their actions. From the outside it can seem so clear. And over the centuries we've seen this over and over.

Intent? So leader...  what is your intent, and are you humble enough to accept responsibility of defeat for a future victory that may look like a total loss for you.. well there it is.  And why would you be willing to do this?
If your answer of "yes" contains a " but" upon discussion, you need something kicked.

If you have not noticed, I've been mainly speaking to leaders here today. Our leaders.
Questions to help sheep ask real questions of eternal consequence for the greater church.

I have not discussed music, or worship today, which has become the tip of this knitting needle.  The color of the thread and the designs of the sweaters for most leaders to play with for their survival..  Another time....

Community with Faith, Hope and Love is an unbreakable rope. We as sheep try to find and make this happen with churches we give wool to.
It usually fails in the end, because at the top, it really has become business. Business about the survival of those in charge making choices to implement survival for a few, by the lure of beautiful sweaters, and keeping up with the competition at all reasonable costs with scripture filled explanations.  And yet,  for me the Sheep are innocent. Not because they don't have a brain, but because they are not stained with ownership and leadership over each other by under shepherds.. They have entrusted under shepherds to lead them for better or worse.
Well, "do not grow weary in well doing sheep", but do not also stop listening to your heart beat or stop being willing to "dust off your robe" and move on. Re-think old teachings. Move on not for the next coolest Christmas Sweater but for a community that moves you , that you want to do life with.  Well, perhaps you've done this so much that you're done moving now and you just say, "here's my wool, Jesus will deal with you over whatever you knit from it, I'm just here being faithful with my wool"
Ok, I Totally.. get that, and that prayer would be a great prayer to meditate on and listen back from, every day.. Every life matters at any age, don't forget that.

My prayer this next year is for Jesus sheep to honestly, prayerfully, humbly review the role of church.
It is not to be a glittery evangelistic outpost. That would be the gift of the evangelist. They should give up churches and just do evangelism thereby sending people from there to churches.
And,  It's not a Health Club with memberships and a list of perks either. But you'd never know that today.
For to many young evangelists building churches today have no pastors or teachers in sight. And to many pastors reject their evangelists passions to allow this to happen. And so it is with all the gifts God has given to his children.

And now sadly to many shepherds and sheep are working in shopping malls doing life ministry now, because they just could not accept the christmas sweater business model.

So, looking forward,  if Jesus shows up wearing a Christmas Sweater on a white horse with LED lights dropping packets of miracle water with a .god web address ... well, I'll be very disappointed as i plan to be shouting whooo hooo for the twinkling of an eye.  But something tells my soul that's not very likely.

Love hard, Forgive more, and as I say to my kids, make more good choices than bad ones each day. It will all work out in the end as the Holy Spirit speaks to our choices, if we humbly listen after speaking.

Humbly listening. hmmmm  There's a mortal oxymoron for most leaders, unless of course your business or church is 10 times bigger than mine.  Then i won't just listen, I'll follow you based upon your epic sweaters.

And in the end I say, Forgive me Father for I have sinned again. Help me see mens true motives through Your eyes and act according to Your words.

And if you have made it through another long CT blog, I pray that God will somehow give you wisdom to see through my shallow words to some truth, for your soul.
No,  not from my words mind you, but from your prayers as a result of questions to a loving father.

Happy New Year and may we all expose our roots this next year, get them planted into good soil, get our vines trimmed and see less but better fruit....

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Birth Of The "O-Pine"

With the exception of Right Wing crazies and then all the way over to Fascists, the right has laid silent with passive humble prayers for too long.
Now many labeled "Alt Right", are a fed up mix of left, center and right.. As if tea party has lost its ring, now it's Alt right... What's next?
In my life, the politics of the late 60's and early 70's folk scene was all about music not politics. None of that stuck ironically. I sang and played it all, but the politics of it from the liberal campuses and folk activists? I dismissed as "thats just not me". I still respected all the music, just not the speeches. Still, i knew in a folk context that any artists who were there in protest would and could say anything at any time. The ones who I couldn't hang with any more?, i stopped going to their concerts over their political speak, not their musical giftedness.. And I've stopped going to movies by actors who have gone to far... And I'm starting to boycott sports who've gone to far... And now with #boycotthamilton, I'm saddened by this selfish act of personality over purpose.
And music? It's no coincidence that most of the the liberal US down right hates country music. They believe IMHO that those in the arts of "higher folk" or Country, are racist, homophobic, xenophobic, ignorant backwoods white trash twangers. (hmmm sound a bit like calling the kettle black... or white)? Well in the words of the great Cracker Barrel golf tees game... (yer just plain ignorant).
Then came the Rush....
For me, entertaining in Palm Desert in the winters in the late 80's, I heard a guy on the radio with B1 Bob Dornan (the orange county congressman). I listened again to hear his name. It was like finding a tribe leader. He spoke my language (with attitude) and I agreed with someone on the radio for the first time in my life...
It was Rush Limbaugh with one hand tied behind his back.
I laughed each day at his sacrilegious songs and self aggrandizing look at the left and media.
I took my commodore64 and tried to email him from my Nashville living room floor. Baud rates were 12.2. C-prompts were necessary to connect, and since I didn't have a Compuserve or AOL acct, my attempts were hysterically ignorant.
I opted for the mail to get my "Rush is Right" lapel pin in '87. No one back home knew who this was yet. He wasn't on midwest radio.
I still own that pin but just don't wear it anymore so as not to offend others.
You see middle class Conservatives here in fly over land had no voice outside of coffee after church or in a hunting or fishing shack or around a quilting table or a rural watering hole.. Rush changed that, and the new voice of the conservative was amplified.
Rush for the first time made it loud and clear that it was ok to be a normal conservative.
It was ok to speak up for the first time and tell an arrogant left wing activist for the first time that they were not the only ones with an opinion any longer or a protest sign outside the election cycle. Rush made it clear to young skulls of mush that their opinions on 99% of college campuses were NOT flawed and reckless and damaging to the nations future. They should not shut up, but stand up.
Till then, the left was used to an occasional loony kkk, fascist, nutcase right winger showing up, but regular folks? .... game changer.
And now 30 years later as a result we have Trump.
Without Limbaugh (love him or hate him) we would not likely have had Trump, or Bush 43..
And all the very rich conservative talk show hosts today on radio and Cable and Web, should have to pay points to the golden EIB mic fund to keep Rush in new C. Implants.
Yet with all the current O-pining going on in social media and with "non news" folks, we now know that bias has crossed into the main news organizations big time. Journalists have come out and crossed the lines of an impartial press.
Taking sides in the name of a free press. Writing very slanted and skewed opinions in a field that needs an even playing field.
I'm guessing 60% of America are all standing around today, turning on our TV's, I-pads and phones to try to find real honest news without the sickening spin every 15min.
So where does O-pining and news go from here?
Newspapers are certainly dying..
Is it back to local news at 6 and 10 where you have (at least) a chance to not get spun? And then the rest of your info is gathered from radio and ever changing web portals and apps that you think you can trust on your phone?
There is no putting the genie back in the bottle now. 24hr 15min. breaking news spin cycle is here for good till the next modification.
Will it be "turning off and out?". Is that the future?
I listen to O'Reilly, that's about it.
I keep looking for a moderate voice on the left that I can at least listen too and learn from. No luck there yet, and I don't see anyone rising on the left with any common sense except screaming and yelling that "some lives matter" and that only "they" really care about the planet and anything but a human.
So today i pray the populists rise up after this election. I pray they are who I think they are. "Centrists" with common sense from all social and religious backgrounds who want a better America for Americans.
I hope they force the two parties to change their way of doing business. If Trump actually does this first it will lead the way for the rest of the country to follow suit.
And politicians? Like so much of the country who've lost their pensions from their struggling companies? Yea, Trump could start by eliminating the congress retirement system that we pay for and the states could then follow suit. These guys and gals can make a living doing something after congress without taking tax dollars for the rest of their lives... Right?
And term limits? yea, make that one so, even if after number of years served, you have to wait to run again. ie: you serve 6 years? you have to wait 6 years to run again (if you want to).. 
Whatever it may be, can it be done without slandering each other, calling each other names, defaming and exposing, lying and spinning and weaving webs of deceit? doubt it...
This is one reason why we have faith and hope in higher things. To keep us sane while trying to live in this fallen world of greed and selfishness.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Take A Breath And Say Thank You.....

In Fly Fishing there are so many left brain right brain moments that collide on a trout journey,  that you stop sometimes and question what you're really doing here. John Gierach writes about it so well in "Standing in a River Waving a Stick".  

Now the great question a young person never asks themselves is "is it the journey or is it the pay check".
  The answer a lifetime fly fisherman will always tell you in the end is, "it's never the pay check or the fish, it's always the journey.   Oh sure you can re-live landing the biggest fish of your life time.   You can rewinds and relive it over and over on a snowy winter day or on a cold rainy day stuck in a tent in the middle of nowhere.

Like cooking, it's the trips to the market and the smell and feel of your produce. The size of the cuts and the breaking of the fat or the yeast or the sound and smell of a sear. It's the plating and the wine. 
Like music, it's the musicians on "that" gig. That crowd and that magic. Its never tasting or the check.. That's the bonus.

People often ask me, how and more importantly "why" do you like to go into the forrest alone for 3 or 4 weeks at a time to be alone where you can be eaten by those higher on the food chain for something so low on the food chain that you can buy in most fish markets for $20.

Well, if you've never slept on a high plateau of sage brush on a moonless night over looking the waters. And heard the sound of a lost calf bleeting all night for its mom while you sit at a fire of dried sage and listened to your favorite cowboy music whilst sipping old Bourbon with a good 6/50 magnum only to fall asleep and wake after a good rain to the smell of Gods kitchen.  God's kitchen is a 1,000 acres of Sagebrush soaked in rain with the smell of sage so strong you don't want to open your eyes. You just want to breath in and exhale saying "thank you God" over, and over, and over.

And you cut down a fallen cedar tree and split it up to expose the beautiful red and orange and vanilla interior.  Put that on your night fire and start it up in the morning.  That smell.. of fresh cedar?  No words..
Grandmas Cedar chest? That's about a million times less powerful than the smell of a fresh cut cedar.

And you go to the river and catch a few small 8" trout. clean and wash and take them back to your fire and put them on the coals for 5 min with your potato's and onions and garlic and fresh sage that have been cooking since you left.  The dew on the ground, the coffee in the french press, the sun rising, your breath in the air and chill before the sun fully comes up?  Well, that is church. A church service that demands devotions and praise and worship and a quiet pinch to your soul right there. 

And then there is eating.. The bonus.

Now if you're a beginner, you miss all this. You're focused on the pay-off. The fish, the applause, the photo, the touchdown, the golden calf...

Many years ago, when, if lucky, I had 72hours to fish between rental cars and flights, I'd get to the rivers without sleep and run to the banks to jump in 20 yards from where i came to the river.
There where "those guys" there. Older guys sitting up on the banks relaxing, staring, having a small cup of coffee watching the sunrise. I figured they were just tired, so I'd race past them or worse yet ... fish right past them on my way to the goalposts. Never did they speak a word. I'm guessing none of them were east coasters or football fans.  

Years later, I'm learning... and reflecting... and smiling.
I've never seen one of those guys or occasional girls on the bank with a beginner at their sides. I now understand there is something sacred about those moments. Almost as un-natural or immoral as inviting someone into your bedroom or a Kazoo player into your favorite symphony session.
  Sure, I've seen a 1,000 guides at put ins (put ins are where fly fishermen launch their drift boats), teaching men and women a 15min. class in the attempt of casting only to hope they don't get hooked on their $500. float.  But that doesn't really count since when you're doing it for money only the pay off matters, and you're day off on the water is your only  attempt at redemption along with a beer with other guides sharing stories in an old western bar. 

There are those days when you can drift a river and nary a fish will rise regardless of what you see above the water. I've entered the water during the famous Salmon fly hatch. Had those 2" goddesses without teeth crawling all over me and Yellow Sallies and Hex's and and and the sky so full of Fish Tenderloin bites that's no fish in their right mind should not be jumping out of the river to eat. And yet.. nary a fish to rise.  And you question everything you ever learned about fly fishing. And you force yourself to take in the journey not the prize. And it's painful, but you know there will be other days. And on those days you will not be worthy of the fish you release.

I've only had a few of THOSE days.  And those days i walked for miles down stream before putting together my rod. And those days i didn't even enter the water till 5pm.  And 35 to 60 trout in a few hours were the hours of Caddyshack. The priest playing golf out of his mind.. And you remind yourself not to get cocky and think you're special.. You breathe in and exhale saying "thank you" over and over and over again.

Ironically those days taught me only one thing I could never learn on a river catching a fish ever hour or so.
  The art of releasing a fish is beautiful in those moments.  You false cast to your spot to figure distance and cast method and then lay it out and let it drift to your spot. A fish take it every time, every spot, every good cast. You take them in as fast as God will let you and you put your net in the water and your rod under your arm as soon as the fish is in the net.  As you put your rod under your arm you grab your forceps and reach down into the net with them and grab the hook. The fish will twist out your hook in a second and you release your forceps at that moment to fly back on it's zinger to your vest as you take your rod back in your hand and put your net back behind you all in one long 10sec. motion... And your eyes go back to the river and your next spot and your taking a step or two forward and beginning the process all over again and it's magic and you're not worthy... and you inhale...

And then you break off a large fish on the shoulder turn or if you have a 3x tippet, they straighten out your dry fly hook like it's a piece of tinsel. 

And then, like a moment before sunset last year, I stood across from an overhung tree throwing two flies a foot apart. A common purple haze terrestrial on 3x followed by a small purple attractor bead head nymph on 5x.  It took me 3 false casts over the end of the tree to make sure I didn't land in the tree. 
On the forth cast I had a tight fast loop to get the flies in there. About 12 inches before both flies it the water, two rainbows in tandem like porpoises came flying out of the water together to take both flies. Like slow motion with my jaw hanging open I raised my tip up in unbelief. The rainbow who hit the little nymph turned and snapped himself off before even hitting the water. The other one on a 3x tippet was mine. 
 I actually looked up and down the stream to see if anyone but God was looking or smiling. Now where i was I know there were no people within 5 miles of me in the middle of the mountains but when things like this happen you naturally look around like a golfer playing all alone who hits a hole in one.

That rainbow measured 16" as was his sister who snapped off. Now I thought it was 17 or 18 but my darn creel has a ruler on it to 22" so I couldn't lie, but, I did measure it 3 times to make sure :)
Ok, 15 and 7/8ths.

Yup this was a hole in one, a double overtime win, a final lap come from behind win, a real honest spontaneous standing ovation. And yet, it was really just the bonus. 
  For it makes me think back over and over of the hours of packing clothes, and tents and supplies. Of sorting thru fly boxes and checking leaders and tippet material and bear spray and 160 grain 357 loads. The nights of stripping and cleaning line and reels. Finished with that trip to the local fly shop in the area to ask for advice on what patterns are hot right now (knowing full well if they don't know you, they are selling you last years shit flies at a premium, and you just take them like stupid panfish during spawning.

Well,  late at night, at your fire, all alone in the forrest after eating two trout and some grilled carbs or a jetboil tinfoil $6.00 carbfest with salt, you sit on the dirt and stare at the fire and the crickets are loud and the bourbon is warm and temp drops 10degrees an hour and you time your fire to your dropping eyelids and head to your tent to disrobe quickly and zip your self in till morning light.   And you take one last sip from a flask and see your breath and turn out your head light and cover your head. Then recheck your reach to your bear spray and handgun and cover back up and say your prayers and take a big breath and say "thank you over and over and zzzzzzzzzzzzz. :)