Tag Archives: arrogance

almost there. almost enough.

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My fingers have been afraid to push down on these keys. I’m not sure what I have to say or whether it’s worth saying. I’ve been in the world of everyone else, fighting to make sense of the day to day and hoping that every now and then something of meaning squeezes out of it. Paperwork is usually late, dinners are cut short, stories aren’t completely told. And while I feel like I almost have something to write, it seems like it’s a little short of worthwhile.

But in each of those moments, I still know something magical has happened. I’ve met a buddy for a beer or a friend for a coffee. We’ve eaten too many chips in queso or had too many mozzarella sticks. But we’ve been offering rounds of “me too” and “yes, exactly” in the meantime. We share the same anger at the same institutions, the same grieving around the same situations, and the same hopefulness toward the same possibilities.

And it only feels almost there. Almost enough to write home about. Almost enough to remember. Almost enough to be worth reminding others that something worthwhile comes along every now and then. But it always seems just short, so I’ve chosen not to write it down. In the last week, though, those moments of almost have seemed just enough to be worth it. The moments that fall a little short of important seem very important. The conversations that fall a little short of profound seem very profound.

And it leaves me wondering if it’s not worthwhile moments I’m waiting on to write about, but perhaps I have forgotten what moments are worthwhile after all.

So, fingers to the keys and eyes on the horizon. I’m doing my best to pay attention. At least, that’s what I intend to do.

djordan
Pine Tree

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on psalm 35 | what I want; what I want to ask for; what I need

psalm35a

What I want is to know you are for me,
which seems odd to ask;
that you over and in and of all things
might stand up for me and
fight for me and
stop attacks against me.

I know I need to hear from you,
though;
I need to hear that you are,
if not now then ultimately,
saving me and prepared to be saving me
from everything that fights against me
and inside me
and around me.

You see that I’ve been fighting for a while now?
You see that I’ve been asking for you for a while now?

I want to ask of you
I want a promise of you
that anyone
that any person
that any group
that any funder
that any fearer
who may be after me
who may be scared of me
anyone who gossips or finagles or whispers
in piety or privilege or petty or paranoia or peril or against me
would be put on the front page
under headlines of shame or confusion
under headlines of disaster or destruction.
I want to hope that whatever they hope happens to me
ultimately happens to them, but worse.
More public.
More noticed.
More shamed.

And I think<
were that to happen,
I might be happy, finally.
If those in other worlds of piety and paternalism,
if those in other worlds of arrogance and ambition,
might finally be put in their place,
I think I might,
then and then only,
sing a song of honest gratitude to you
giving thanks that things are well
and trusting finally that you are King
and trusting finally that I’m with those who win.
Trusting finally that I’m worth it;
that this is all worth it.
I would be such an incredible person
when they all get what they deserve.

I promise.

It feels granted, of course,
for me to wait for their demise.
Because when they struggled, I struggled.
Because when they defended, I defended.
Because when they were offended, I retreated.
Because when they were angry, I apologized.

And maybe I need to know
after all this time
that you are for me.

Because it feels like you
just watch.

Like you just do nothing.

I’m sorry for saying it, I guess,
that It feels, sometimes,
like I’m paying attention
and you just aren’t paying any attention.

How long do I have to ask for help?
How long do I have to wait for some kind of validation?

Do you refuse to help me?
Am I all wrong about all of this?
And I pushing away from what you are pushing toward?

I can’t believe it,
so if I’m all wrong,
fight me.

But if not,
will you stand up for me at least?
And if you won’t stand up for me at least,
will you let me know you’re for me?

I’ll give it back to you,
whatever that means.
whatever that costs.
I swear it.

I suppose, finally,
whether or not you decide to be for me,
I need to ask that you be for those,
no matter how big
no matter how small
no matter how wealthy
no matter how poor
no matter how crazyno matter how appropriate
no matter how irreverent
no matter how pious
no matter how marginalized
no matter how important
no matter how detested
no matter how esteemed
no matter how quiet
no matter how loud

I suppose, finally,
even though what I want to ask,
after all this nonsense and ridiculousness,
is that you be for me,
in a way that shows you are against them,

I need to ask less that you be for me
and more that you be for those
who seek
your peace
your shalom
your kingdom
your King.

And while I’m afraid to let you off the hook,
because I fear you might take advantage of it;
and while I’m losing some confidence in you,
because you aren’t doing what I’m hoping you will do

if I still tell myself the truth,
even then,
even if you don’t prove it to me,
or if I’m not convinced that you do ––
stand up for me that is ––
I have little choice
but to keep pushing forward
for your peace
for your shalom
for your kingdom
for our King.

I have seen and learned too much
to only stand with
the big
the wealthy
the appropriate
the pious
the esteemed
the loud.

I can’t stand with the men of standing.
They stand on those you are for.

So even if they win today,
kind of,
I’m working toward,
more than today:
all the days.
I’ll keep talking about
how you empower
peace, shalom, kingdom;
how you empower your King.
And for that,
no matter what I need to ask of you,
I’ll sing songs of hope and thanks about you.
And the crowds will,
finally,
sings songs of hope and thanks about you,
won’t they?

But seriously.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

image from The Ismar David Electronic Archive
Click here for Psalm 35 \ NRSV 
via BibleGateway

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in the eyes

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in the eyes
the way we make it clear
what we think about you
whether we speak kindly or not

in the tone
the way we make it known
if we think we are lucky to know you or
if we think you are lucky to have found us

in the words
the way we make it obvious
why we are wasting time on you at all
or why we desperately need to know more of the world that
you know
you have survived
you have crawled through
you have climbed over
you have made beautiful
you have dignified

the reality that we manage the resources
that often stand between you and the respect you were born deserving
can and do often mislead us
to think that we could
if we wanted
speak unkindly with our eyes
suggest superiority with our tone and
communicate arrogance with our words
because we think that you need us

while all the while, the kingdom belongs to you.
God of those we attempt to marginalize, for our sakes, forgive us.
Lord hear our prayer.

djordan
108 S Church

These words come after yet another encouraging meeting where staff sit together to work and pray through what it means to remember that we are servants doing the work of Christ, knowing that in doing Christ’s work as he would do it, every interaction we have should reveal more of the dignity and worth inherent in every person. We don’t do it well all the time, or maybe rarely do it we do it well, but it is our heart at ARM to do so. 

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good men and the practice of resistance [PART 1]: a guest post by Wes Gristy

the-resistance.-part-1

There’s a line in a song called The Resistance by Josh Garrels that haunts me. It comes at the end of the first verse. After poetically describing the power structures of this world that abuse the masses, Garrels asks, how do good men become a part of the regime? The question assumes these systems of captivity to be the handiwork of good people, good Christians even. Ethical businessmen. Rule followers. It’s an assumption that runs contrary to our own. Unlike Garrels, most of us think that the waves of oppression, domination, and injustice arise solely from the drug lords, crooked politicians, and criminals—in other words, from the bad men. They are the ones responsible for the regime. Yet while bad men certainly play their part, I think Garrels has a point.

The truth is that good men contribute much to the structures of this world. Think about it. Good men are prone to protect, and so they work for stability. Good men like to keep the boat steady, and so they don’t allow for radical course corrections. Good men want to give assurances and make promises, and so they create lots of policies and procedures to keep us safe. Good men like to show the prettier side of things, and so questions that poke holes in their presentations are often labeled as negative or even disloyal. Good men can be conservative in the worst sense of the word, stiff-arming innovation with rolls of red tape, declaring with confidence, “The system works well enough. We’re doing the best we can. Our intentions are noble.” And so the status quo holds fast due to the diligent efforts of good men.

How does this happen? How do good men become a part of the regime? Garrels offers an answer: They don’t believe in resistance. They fail to critically analyze the ideologies of this world, and so they are unprepared to resist them. Too many good men fail to heed the words of the Apostle Paul, “Don’t let yourself be squeezed into the shape dictated by the present age” (Rom 12:2). Obedience here requires active resistance; the regime flourishes by subtle means when we let down our defenses. Without resistance, we’re assimilated, and we don’t even know it.

Without resistance, good men with good intentions will inevitably slip into the patterns of this evil age.

It’s not that sooner or later good men are unwittingly going to turn around and start shooting people, but rather that popular notions, incompatible with the ethic of Jesus, will begin to sound reasonable to embody—certain notions of success, of courageous leadership, of religious conviction, and of personal ambition. These notions slowly become the subject of our conversations, the content of our imaginations, the stories we tell our children, and ultimately the fuel of the very regime we say we despise.

I had a professor who once offered his students this proverb: “I used to think that bad people did bad things for bad reasons. Now I believe that good people do bad things for seemingly good reasons.”

That’s my fear.

That’s why this lyric returns to my mind again and again. And so I pray, Heavenly Father, save me from becoming a good man who quietly and unknowingly becomes a part of the regime. Teach me to practice resistance.

Wes Gristy is an associate pastor at All Saints Anglican Church in Jackson. He’s been married to his kick-butt wife Abbie for eleven years, and they have a brilliant four-year-old daughter and hilarious one-and-a-half-year-old son. Wes is one of my very best friends who has taught me much about the costs of resistance, and about what it actually looks like to push hard into the questions and compassion and work of the kingdom. I’m grateful to him for guest posting, among many other things.

This post is Part 1 of a 2 Part series. For Part 2, CLICK HERE.

djordan

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the threat of ambition, the need for obedience

while there’s nothing we’ve been taught to avoid like disobedience
there’s nothing we’ve been taught to value blindly like ambition.
and we assume that our ambitions result in our best
and that our best results in the best of those around us
but our ambitions are challenged by all the things which pull us away
from simple, longstanding obedient commitment
to be who we are and where we are and why we are in the world.

there are always shinier places
and loftier goals
and fancier titles
there are always more noble causes
and more remarkable feats
and more impressive benchmarks

but there is nothing like long and simple obedience
proving to be anything but simple
proving to require a holy trust and an unwavering commitment
even when the story is over but the people carry on.

so there is nothing like long and simple obedience
which challenges great ambitions like nothing else.
so there is nothing like long and simple obedience
to family
to vocation
to community
to justice
to beauty
to freedom
for others and therefore for ourselves
that drives a dagger through the lying heart of great ambitions
to show the selfish, insecure desires which so often create them.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

RELATED POSTS | crack our great ambitions | when there’s nothing else to do

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sabbath tuesday mornings

the beauty of the sabbath
and the reminder of both
all we can accomplish
and all we can only hope for
in our work
is found in
the beauty of the sabbath

rest required
in small part because we need the break
in large part because we need the reminder
that we are joining in the work
not steering it
not guiding it
not forcing it
but joining it
but learning it
but trusting it

and so the sabbath
becomes the reminder
that we are invited
that we are needed
that we are a part,

and only a part
a humble
a grateful
a broken part,

of the magic of the work.
so there is always time to rest
even on sabbath Tuesday mornings.

djordan
Pine Tree

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calling out in the darkness

I sat this morning watching a video (below) that highlights the last five years of a homeless ministry that houses and feeds the homeless in churches every night of the winter months. My mind went back to one evening about six years ago spent with Jonathan Stewart and Wes Gristy; we had been making and serving sandwich dinners on Friday evenings in a parking lot downtown, and our question had become “are there homeless in our community?”

In following that question and other rumors that accompanied it, we met at the church late one evening, made a pot of decaf coffee, and headed to the amphitheater where we had heard those who were homeless stayed.

I remember conversations about exit plans, what we would talk about, how we would find them. We parked facing the main road, flashlights in hand, and started walking through the damp ground toward the amphitheater calling out in the darkness.

“Are you there?”
“We won’t hurt you.”
“We aren’t the cops.”
“We have coffee.”

There was, of course, no one there.

Six years later, with churches across the community working together to host those who are homeless in their buildings night after night, what seems most certain now is that we were, indeed, calling out in the darkness.

We are, those of us fortunate enough to have grown up in church, blessed with a great deal of treasured heritage, and at the same time plagued by a deep spiritual paternalism that we can’t see until we are staring our ignorance straight in the face.

Were I to ask “Are the homeless christians?” the answer would no doubt be, “not necessarily.”
Were I to ask “Are the homeless not christians?” the answer would no doubt be, “not necessarily.”

But were I to have asked “Why do we serve the homeless?” the answer might have likely been “to show them Jesus.”

We are still often calling out in the darkness.

Six years later, I can say that I have learned more about who Jesus is and what he has done from the Christian men who are homeless in our community. Their homelessness is not a result of their not-Christian-ness. And they were not necessarily waiting around for me to show them Jesus.

They are often showing Christ to me, as even Jesus made clear that when we interacted with them we were interacting with him.

But we say we serve to show them Jesus, so we do little looking to see him in them.

But that is changing with those who are willing to open their eyes and see that when we have experienced relationship with those in need, we have experienced relationship with Christ.

Here’s to a future of continuing to open our eyes more and more, and continuing to call out in the darkness less and less.

Theirs is the kingdom, of course.

djordan
South Church St.

 

 

OTHER RELATED POSTS | the fear of the weak among us | we can assume | crack our great ambitions

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because you did not ask

head in the shrubs, photography, surrealism, asking, leadership, authority, questioning, questions

 The questions that learning leaders pose challenge their followers to see complexities and interrelationships in [major issues] and launch inquiries that stretch the bounds of their worldview. Moreover, this work is never done. What is learned one day is used the next as a bridge to considering a new set of understandings and challenges. 

+ from “Learning as a Way of Leading” by Preskill and Brookfield

It isn’t uncommon to reference the idea that Jesus answered most questions with questions. At times when women and men were at risk of facing persecution or losing their lives for following him, it would seem that if there were ever a time to answer directly, clearly, give the people “something to hang their hats on,” break it down because “only a few can understand,” it would have been then; it would have been when guards were carrying him off; it would have been when asked an ultimatum of a question by Pilate; it would have been after coming back to new life. But he only asked questions, adding to the confusion with people who were having a hard time understanding anyway.

There is an ease in going along without questions, resting on what others have said with authority. There is an ease in “taking their word for it,” and leaving the hard stuff to those we think know better. But Jesus engaged those who “wouldn’t understand” with questions that made these even more confusing.

Christ was constantly explaining what the kingdom of heaven was like, and it was always upside-down, backwards, inside-out, heretical, inappropriate. And on-purpose.

And it was always posed with a question. A set of illusive stories with no explanation, but counted on the fact that those listening, who had ears to hear, would indeed hear it.

I had coffee a couple of weeks ago with a friend who had been told not to ask any questions about this and that from those in leadership. Something in her, because of what she knows about what Jesus is up to in her own life and world, forced her to ask more questions. In respecting leadership, she was forced to ask them more questions. Ask others more questions. Listen past the answers sometimes shaped to shut down thought and conversation and merely align allegiance. And she took on the challenge.

What was so thrilling for me was her excitement now on the other side of those initial questions. She is renewed in what her calling is, what her faith is about, what her God is doing in the world, and what Christ has set in motion.

She is reminded all over again of the extreme danger that asking questions poses, and the risks involved when shattering what has been by asking what should be. But more than that, I am reminded of the great job that comes in assuming we are always missing something important, in asking others, in reading and learning, in trusting the largeness of God enough to bring him our questions.

Her face and grin as she sipped her coffee has become a symbol for me of what, whenever I am tasked to lead others, I am really being called to do; God doesn’t need me to tell them what they need to know as if they aren’t smart enough to think…instead, I get to join others in asking good questions about a good God who is making all things new.

djordan
Louisville, KY

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