The Artisan life is a Godly & Manly path.

The Artisan life is a godly & manly path.

2 Chronicles 2:14

“The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre. He is trained to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, and in purple, blue, and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and to do all sorts of engraving and execute any design that may be assigned him, with your craftsmen, the craftsmen of my lord, David your father.”

Exodus 31:1-5

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts”

Artisan Prayer by eric blauer

Father of inspiration,

Resuscitate my inner world,

Grant me the steady plod of training,

Mystical Muse,

Spark desire from duty.

All Seeing One,

Author of creative sight,

Open me to the wonder of all about me,

New worlds hidden within the old.

Image bearer am I,

Flesh of flesh, bone of bone,

Womb dweller, water breather,

Son of hearts and hands,

Willing witness, born to work.

Divine Palette,

origin of all,

My hands hold chaos and void,

Brooding order,

Bring life from the elements

of Earth again,

and again and again

and again.

Is Instant Anything ever as Good as Slow-Cooked?

I was reading a post from a friend who shared a prickly interaction with someone, this was her comment:

“A little while ago I had a weird confrontation with someone I barely know who called out my armor, and even though this felt like an unhealthy interaction with an inappropriate use of power, this person wasn’t wrong about the guarded, defensive posture of my heart.”

She continued to write about how she took the comment and turned it around to help her do some self-reflection in her life in a positive way, of course, this is a good and mature way to take criticism or attacks and use them for one’s own growth. Everyone needs to learn how to do this to navigate the world as it is, but one issue stuck in my craw and I want to yank on it a bit.

What place do we really need to give to the types of people who “call out your armor” that hardly know us? Is it really some type of gift, to undress someone’s soul? Is real and meaningful life gained through such ways of being with each other?

Confrontational engagements almost always reveal something more about the other person than the one they are exposing. I’ve found that envy and jealousy are often at the root of most encounters. Crafting a life that is deep and nourishing is a work that involves all the roots, fruits & refuse of life. We all need help tending our land but that work should be granted to those who love us but not to those who want to see us fail.

We can all learn from fan or fiend but the education our culture is getting about relationships via the Internet is destructive more than constructive. It’s taught people to handle one another in a manner that’s uncivil, harsh, curt, persnickety and pushy.

People think a comment section or email address is somehow an invitation to a level of interpersonal interaction that used to be the sole gift of time and trust. Instant access isn’t authority. We’ve created a borderless interpersonal existence that Friend or Fiend can invade.

The whole idea is summed up in the phrase “Instant Message”. What a profound assumption it is that anyone thinks they should have 100% access and place to speak whatever and whenever they want. It’s a dangerous illusion that empowers much of the ugliness going on these days.

“You set all the boundaries of the earth.” -Psalm 74:17

This truth extends to our relational lives as well, everyone is a guest and how they use that access determines the level of place they are given.

We need to recapture the art of the slow-cooked life, one that honors the specific elements of purpose, attention, space, limits, levels, amounts, temperatures and time. God has given boundaries for a reason and there is a generous grace in submitting to the limitations of our lives. Let’s return to the place where we invite and respond to invitations in a manner that honors each other and celebrates the gift of relational hospitality.

Marriage, Sex & Age

I pastor many people of many different ages. One of the realities of age is the changes it brings in our bodies on spiritual, mental, physical and hormonal levels. Everyone is affected in some way, some more than others.

The norm for anyone has to be walked through with grace, wisdom and whatever help one can find to deal with whatever their new issues the seasons of life may bring. Injuries, health challenges of disease, sickness etc can impact the whole person.

Our sex lives are obviously impacted, altered or injured by all these realities. One’s psychological life impacts one’s sex life too. All kinds of life events, abuses or stages can influence this part of ourselves and our marriages.

So even in our attempts to foster healthy and fruitful marriages, we also know that it looks different for each person or couple.

What doesn’t change is the fact that every person in a marriage is supposed to attend to the needs of their spouses.

How you figure that out has to be navigated with love, understanding, intentionality and selfless care for one another.

If you run into dead ends, difficult issues, problems of heart, mind or body, that is where reaching out to professionals that focus on your mental, physical, sexual or relational health can be the next step. Doing nothing and not attending to one’s self or the other, is not caring for each other in a loving way.

We live in an amazing time where one can find a lot of help for things that used to be hidden in silence, shame, stubbornness or sin.

Open and honest communication in a gentle and helpful way can ease the embarrassment, release the tension of unexplained actions or patterns, bring light to lonely darkness, attend to unmet needs, reorient sexuality back into togetherness; instead of unhealthy or unsatisfying alternatives and bring the couple back together in heart, body and soul.

Answering one of the Hardest Questions my Son has asked about life.

“How does it feel to be at an age when you are losing everything that matters to you?”

That question was asked of me by one of my sons. 
Not the easiest question to answer on a day that you find out your grandfather died, but I understand the question.

I often fume about how it feels midlife so quickly turns from incoming tide to outgoing tide more quickly than you ever imagine. Sometimes the sand under my feet is moving in a manner that funks with my inner equilibrium.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Letters to Malcolm:
“Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden. At our age the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to Him?”

I understand those prayers now way more than I ever did in earlier days.

There has been a lot of goodbyes in this season and I know that only increases. But what also increases is the ability to see and hear things you couldn’t before in life, even when your natural sight and hearing lessen.

Life is full of loss but it’s also full of receiving, even from what you lose. All that passes through your hands, head and heart leave you different. I have found that age and faith have a transformative power in life. So much so, one can keep growing even among the battering of winds. It may be a twisted growth but all that bears down on it shapes it in a manner that leaves it more beautiful.

Just as the body enhances or compensates for parts that may be injured or lost, so our soul expands and deepens in such a manner that we grow younger even in our aging.

That renewed youth is very experiential.

-You soften, even as life gets harder in many ways and you feel it more profoundly.

-Your delight in small things amplifies.

-Pleasure becomes more broad and accessible.

-Joy becomes a surprise again instead of pursuit.

-People matter but not in a way that is just utilitarian.

-Memory increases in animating power, like incense, even if accuracy diminishes.

-Silence expands and that can be mournful in many ways but it also enhances one’s ability to truly treasure what is said or heard in a manner that a previous loud life couldn’t.

-Meditation and prayer are no longer an act of survival or duty but a movement of desire from a smaller and calmer life.

-When others leave, the ones who stay become more full of glory.

It may appear that midlife starts to become an undertow but it actually just becomes a more strong tide that can seem to withdraw way more than we want but then comes rushing back in with unforeseen ecstasy and revelation.

The wonder of new marriages. 
The birth of grandchildren. 
The loss of concern over everyone’s opinions and demands. 
The freedom of thought and living that wisdom brings. 
The grace of boundaries that purpose, pain, and age bring. 
The immovable strength that conviction and time build. 
The power of prayer that builds over the years. 
The delight of simple things. 
The gift of quiet. 
The surprises of discovery that slowing down gives. 
The freedom of wealth from living responsibly.

Yes, loss is real, but not all the tears are those of sorrow, many are the result of seeing what is most meaningful, true, good and beautiful…like never before.

Art, Tolstoy & Murder

“Art should cause violence to be set aside. And it is only art that can accomplish this.” -Leo Tolstoy

Hosting a multi-racial, trans-generational, inter-denominational evening of music, visual arts, crafts, poetry and culinary cuisine one block from where a murder and another attempted murder took place a few weeks prior, is a radical act of intentional defiance.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

– Romans 12:21

When people ask me if the art has to be “religious” at these events, I always say no. I do so because I know that general question is arising from a type of ideology (known or unknown)that often misunderstands or misses some of the most meaningful power and purposes of art.

If someone asked me if the art being considered for the show had to bring people together and that’s what they meant by “religious” than I’d heartily agree. But too often these days, art divides, denounces, denigrates, demands and despairs and that’s true, even of much “religious” art.

Our ARTattack event was striking at the core of our community’s cultural and moral cancer by bring people together around the shared values of truth, goodness and beauty.

We celebrated life together, on the same sidewalk where death sought to tear us asunder.

But…we will persist, because there is greatness in Americans and together, we can overcome.

Below are some selections from: ‘What is Art’ by Leo Tolstoy that express this vision.

“The task of art is enormous. Through the influence of real art, aided by science guided by religion, that peaceful coöperation of man which is now obtained by external means—by our law-courts, police, charitable institutions, factory inspection, etc.—should be obtained by man’s free and joyous activity. Art should cause violence to be set aside. And it is only art that can accomplish this.”

“The task for art to accomplish is to make that feeling of brotherhood and love of one’s neighbor, now attained only by the best members of society, the customary feeling and the instinct of all men. By evoking, under imaginary conditions, the feeling of brotherhood and love, religious art will train men to experience those same feelings under similar circumstances in actual life; it will lay in the souls of men the rails along which the actions of those whom art thus educates will naturally pass. And universal art, by uniting the most different people in one common feeling, by destroying separation, will educate people to union, will show them, not by reason, but by life itself, the joy of universal union reaching beyond the bounds set by life.”

“The task for Christian art is to establish brotherly union among men.”

“A real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between himself and the artist.”

“…thanks to man’s capacity to be infected with the feelings of others by means of art, all that is being lived through by his contemporaries is accessible to him, as well as the feelings experienced by men thousands of years ago, and he has also the possibility of transmitting his own feelings to others.

If people lacked this capacity to receive the thoughts conceived by the men who preceded them and to pass on to others their own thoughts, men would be like wild beasts… And if men lacked this other capacity of being infected by art, people might be almost more savage still, and, above all, more separated from, and more hostile to, one another.”

Nakedness

Nakedness

There is something profoundly provoking, powerful and perilous about a naked human body. Its unclothed reality is something that is mesmerizingly earthy and otherworldly. Its beauty is an icon that often reveals more about the person witnessing it, than the person displaying it.

It’s often the bane of the pious and the pulpit, the altar of the pornographer, chain of the prisoner and dream of the lover.

We enter this world and leave it naked and in between, we wrestle and worship it. Some see it in shame, others with disdain, others bewail its inability to live up to one’s demands or desires and others have set the world’s armies against one another to hold it close.

In studying the gospel of Mark there are moments of short narrative that are easily moved past that capture the attention of the curious.

Why mention seemingly insignificant observations?

What is behind Mark’s storytelling?

What is it about us and our nakedness that finds a place in the final moments of redemptions zenith?

At the dusk of the Old Creation, we read of naked humanity fleeing from God’s presence. 
At the dawn of the New Creation we see humanity fleeing in nakedness.

At the cross Christ is stripped of His robe.
On the cross Christ hangs naked. 
In the tomb He is clothed in a linen burial cloth.
At the empty tomb, in another garden…the garment is left on the ground.

Nakedness redeemed…?

Genesis 2:25 
“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”

Genesis 3:8-11 
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked?

Mark 14:34-35
“And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.”

Mark 14:51-52
“A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.”

Mark 15:46
“Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”

Mark 16:5
“Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.”

(Artist: Italian painter Roberto Ferri)

The Power, Privilege & Provocations of Washing Feet

“Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?

You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

John 13:5, 12-17

I watched a handful of Jesus disciple’s respond to this passage last night at our Thursday Holy Week gathering.

It’s one of the most perplexing and provoking teachings of Jesus in my estimation.

It’s an act that challenges us in ways many other Christian practices do not.

-It pulls us out of our comfort zones.

-It messes with our heads.

-It crosses all kinds of lines.

-It’s dirty and awkwardly, public.

-It’s vulnerable and intimate.

-It’s a cultural tradition that we can’t seem to find an equivalent.

Yet, it’s moving to watch and experience in its genuinely humble simplicity.

There’s a sacred and subversive power that is touched in doing, that invites us to experience Jesus in a manner that helps humanize us in love.

But it cannot be forced, love is freely given and overflows gently and purposefully from one to another.

It’s a sacred act that’s profoundly important in preparing us especially to care for life as it enters the world and exits.

Loving the unlovely, the messy, the stink, the dangerously vulnerable and the dependent is a profoundly Christlike posture.

The servant…is king.

It’s a message and practice we desperately need in our culture, churches, homes and hearts.

Bunnies, Peeps and Pagan Oh My!

Every Easter there’s a need to respond to the folks who have genuine questions about the ‘origins’ of Easter celebrations. Some years I do better than others in addressing those concerns, others I poke fun, either way, I make someone mad.

You are free to believe what you want about Easter, Christmas, Mary, Adam’s Belly Button, Moon landings, the origins of the KKK, the second shooter or the duplicity of marrying “good’ with ‘Friday’ a word that comes from the goddess Frig.

Your scruples matter but they are not gospel and for most of us, they are probably rooted in the notes of a heretical hobbyhorse of some Kook, Crank or Cult, but…that’s for another post or book.

In the spirit of the gentle evangelical side-hugs, youth group backrubs and Junior High shoulder punches, I offer up some of the best advice Paul ever gave to Mr & Mrs. Persnikittey:

“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” -Romans 14:5

With those few words, I offer you my theological and cultural magnum opus on the issue of the pagan roots of Easter, my poem:

The Easter Battle of 733
In 733 the hamlet of Brusselsprout was all astir, church bells clambered with fearful ferocity, the apocalypse’s rumored eve was near, for the nearby village of Dingledort was surely burning!

Hordes of menacing fluffy beasts, stampeding hedges, leaping across porches, scurrying over shuttered rooftops, zigzagging neighing ponies feet!

The night full of screeching and scratching, the battle of ‘aggedon was upon them! Flashes of yellow lightning, over-taking every hollow and hill! Talons and beaks flashing, frantic fluttering scampering, clucking the prophesied doom!

Springtime horror! Diabolical dress! Yellow as bile, green as dragon’s breath!Devilishly sweet to the taste, ancient poison of the soul.
Sister Sauerkraut wielded her broom, like gallant St. George on his steed, fighting the invading hordes hell, the furry and feathered…Mephistopheles!

Before each Easter, the diabolical tale is told, by pulpit and paper, whisper and whimper, of masses driven mad by the devil’s goad, beware the bunnies, chicks, and sweets, heed the warning of this frightening ode!

A Prayer for Missionaries

A prayer for our friends in gospel mission beyond our borders.

Jude 1:20-25
“But you, dear friends, as you build yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting expectantly for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. Have mercy on those who waver; save others by snatching them from the fire; have mercy on others but with fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.

Father 
We pray in the Holy Spirit that our friends serving beyond would be ‘built up’ in their holy faith. That they would be strong to withstand all that discourages, destabilizes and seeks to displace them from their set places of ministry and mission.

May they experience the love of God and may that love keep them in whatever ways they need to be kept, as they wait for the mercy and life of Jesus to unfold in them and through them.

Jesus, 
We pray for the wavering among them. You know how difficult life and mission can be and how many times one wants to give up, give in or get out. Grant them stable hearts, heads and hands and feet as they regain the perspective needed to face what is before them at this time.

Grant them the joy of seeing people saved from the fires that consume them. The fires of mind, heart or flesh. The fires that burn uncontrollably and the fires that smolder, yet consume, sometimes unnoticed for a while. Save them from the fires of persecution that can break instead of build up. Save them from the fires of loss, the heart-wrenching attacks or tragedies that take from us that which we love or that which we have spent so much time investing in and building. Save them from fire merciful Lord.

Grant your workers wisdom as they work with others who are entangled in contagious matters. You know how easily we catch things that others have Lord. In Your mercy protect them from anything that could poison or pollute mind, heart or body.

Holy Spirit, 
Protect them from stumbling. Give them feet like mountain goats, able to climb seemingly unconquerable heights and able to flee trouble with quick, sure-footedness. Protect them from all the small things that seem to catch our feet when we are trying to run after You and Your promises. Keep them upright in all things Lord.

May they stand before You in joy, not perfect, but cleansed and sustained by Your grace that covers our sins, failures, faults, and fantasies and protects them from evil, in others, and in themselves.

May the end of all their lives and labor be an offering that burns eternal to the Sacred Trinity.

Amen

The Best Advice Ever…

I’m going to be your nicest buddy right now. What I’m going to do for you should cause you to send me whatever amount of money you consider an evening of your life worth.

You should curtsy to me, kiss my ring and give me the center of every cinnamon roll you ever eat from now on. You should name your next child after me, no, you should rename your current child after me.

My advice is going to be like getting Hillary prosecuted or elected depending on your political madness.

What I’m about to share with you is so important to know it’s worth going without sex for a month or as joyful as finally having it.

Trust me this is such valuable information you’d choose to get a Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tattoo above your butt crack, visible enough to create shock or awe.

Please, stop pooping, pay attention and read this carefully….don’t watch this movie. Ever.

In fact, go to your kid’s room, grab the Lego box go out to a hard floor and pour them on it. Take off your shoes, turn on a song you loathe and dance until you bleed. You need that kind of memory to prevent you from ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever giving up and hour and a half of your most precious life to this terrible movie.

Oh by the beard of Zeus heed my Apocalyptic word and banish the thought from ever coming into your brain meat. I don’t care if you’ve watched every movie available on Netflix…don’t do it. I’m talking like don’t look into the Ark of Indiana Jones level of don’t. Seriously…doooooooon’t!