A Divine Mandate

I have a divine mandate, a calling from God. We all have one, so I’m not that special. However, my calling is pastoral in the sense of shepherding the people of God. Unlike most pastoral people, I don’t decide who shall be in my flock; it’s the flock that decides. In that sense, it is God who decides and leads people to give some regard to my pastoral leadership.

In this virtual setting, most of my leadership is exerted through persuasive writing. I’m trying to keep an eye on ways I can help God’s people get out of Satan’s domain. There is no image here of perfect escape, but of selective escape for certain issues that I have been granted to understand. On another level, it is a calling to understand something of the nature of Satan’s dominion so that people can discern for themselves how to look for ways to be free. Thus, I tend to offer my specific ideas as examples of how to approach the whole question.

One of those issues is the broad cultural trap in which we live. The best ally Satan has in keeping you under his thumb is the social mythology of our Western world.

We know that humans are inherently vulnerable to certain threats. That’s why there is such a thing as bulletproof vests, for example. They are expensive and their effectiveness is limited, while the act of wearing one is burdensome in itself. But if you spend very much time exposed to people inclined to fire bullets at you, it’s worth the expense and trouble.

We are also vulnerable in other ways. That includes a great deal of psychological vulnerability. The human mind remains open to some kinds of threat simply because that’s how we are wired. In order for us to live here in this environment, we have to take certain mental shortcuts. But those shortcuts can be exploited by other people to manipulate us into doing things we shouldn’t. Naturally you would expect the predators to lie and play down that weakness, saying it’s all a bunch of hoopla and scare-mongering. They have allies who dismiss the threats by saying you should simply ignore the manipulation, as if there is no cultural atmosphere that disarms us and makes it too painful to argue about it.

Precious few are born with the will and presence of mind to fight the system. And most of those are intentionally pressured and harassed until they stop exercising that will to resist. Our world makes it terribly expensive, even deadly, to take your own path. Distrust of the system will get you killed, or at least badly hurt. The system itself is predatory and demands that you keep yourself vulnerable.

I am my brother’s keeper; there are lots of sheep who aren’t wired to fight, so someone has to fight for them. I’m not a Darwinian about such things; I care. So it’s natural for some like me with a pastoral bent to make a lot of noise about things you need to consider changing. If I warn you about something the system seeks to do to us to deceive and manipulate, you can blow it off if you like; it’s really your choice. But if God starts knocking on the door of you conscience about this, then get with Him and work it out. If you start making noise about how people should naturally handle such things on their own, then you’ll be classed as an ally of Satan. Resistance has been beat out of them, so it’s my job work at healing the wounds and to provoke it back to life. Don’t be a calloused ass.

Advertising is inherently evil, folks. It’s one thing to let people know what you offer, but you’ll almost never see that in advertising; it’s so rare now you can’t call it “advertising.” Advertising is inherently manipulative, striving to prey on human weaknesses, both native and culturally derived vulnerabilities. By no means would I expect to change the system, particularly on the Internet. We are awash in advertising. What I am suggesting is that you as an individual consider the problem and decide whether God is calling you to act on this problem. I’ll offer ways to bulletproof your mind, both in restructuring the mind’s operations and in in blocking predatory input. There is no moral obligation to consume advertising, so fight it tooth and nail. That’s what Jesus did in resisting Satan in the Wilderness Temptations.

I’m not worried about some tiny slice of Internet users blocking advertising, as if this will bring the whole system down. The vast majority of folks won’t do anything about it. What I am worried about is the very real effort on the part of some to take that choice away from you. Those people are so evil they deserve vilification. These are people who want to hurt you. Given the right opportunity, I would consider taking more assertive action to stop them and removing the threat altogether. However, such opportunities are wholly unlikely, so I’ll stick with making noise about taking control of how you use the Internet. I’ll agitate for a few folks — that tiny slice of humanity who feel drawn to my message — to take more assertive action with how they use their computers.

That’s what God has called me to do.

A Shift in Emphasis

This is a “get to know me” post.

I really thought I was coming home from Europe to become a church pastor. I had been ordained for a decade and had been quite well received by the chapel folks in the military. But as soon as I got back to the US, I ran into all kinds of trouble. So I distracted myself for awhile in secular education work, but then I really stirred up trouble, so I quit that work. Once I had time for contemplation and study, I found myself completely out of place in the mainstream of religion. The harder I tried to make things work, the more they broke. It finally hit me that I had long been an outsider, so I began reaching out to those who had been similarly disenfranchised from religion.

That’s how my online ministry started. The virtual nomadic hunter-gatherer life was far more fruitful in spiritual terms, while the domesticated fields were full of toxic rot. This engagement of the fringes manifested in all sorts of ways — switching to Linux and Unix, learning about obscure networking stuff, developing a writing style to captured like-minded readers. But in the process I began turning over a lot old rocks and ruins, and discovered that whatever “mainstream” meant, it was all very wrong. I moved farther afield and discovered that a lot of non-Christian folks were using stuff that reflected the more ancient biblical viewpoint. A lot of real weirdos and kooks starting hanging out with me (in virtual space).

Too be honest, I really believed we could still find some place to stand near the mainstream, if not inside of it. But after more and very consistent rejections, I gave up on that. It was pretty lonely for awhile, because nearly everyone who really liked what I was doing were people I’ll likely never meet face to face.

Those who were too conventional became scared off by my explorations. You should imagine that process brought even more radical changes in my outlook. Eventually, I began to discover where I really belonged. Oddly enough, this space became its own new “mainstream” in the sense that I was ready to starting working on a whole new society. In other words: While I was at one time reaching out to marginalized folks, there came a point when I moved out there on the margin and put down roots. So now I’m reaching back into the mainstream to pull out folks who need to escape. The field of focus remains folks who are marginalized, but it’s people who aren’t self-consciously so. They aren’t standing out on the margins intentionally. This change wasn’t a conscious decision process; I’m not self-absorbed enough to think I can create a new reality all by myself. This thing coalesced around me bit by bit. Now I look around and realize I’m not alone; I’m not some kook raging in the wilderness. There’s a village growing up around me.

And that village keeps looking at me for clues. Personally I wonder if they haven’t all made some huge mistake, because I’m not sure I can do them that much good. But this thing persists and I refuse to just run away. This is where I belong, so if you’re going to keep hanging around, let’s try to make the most of it. This is what’s behind the recent series on building a new Christian Culture. The interaction I get seems to call for this kind of effort and no one else seems to be working on the question.

Jehovah Jireh

The preacher is a little angry. Perhaps you’ll see it as a holy fire, not petty spite.

Everything we do is provider-centric. Read that a couple of times and let it sink in. We’ll come back to it.

When your average church or religious organization plans it’s various human activities in pursuit of the gospel message, chances are that the whole thing is deeply infected with human reason. Granted, reason is how we get things organized, but reason has to follow the heart. And how many churches do you know about that teach the heart-led way?

Stop and think about that. In my personal journey, long before I stumbled across the concept of heart-led living, I was already trying to implement it using terminology I had been taught in religious college. Back then, I referred to it as “conviction” and spoke of how it’s something implanted in your soul by God. The image I used was a bedrock of our existence, and how that was the bedrock of commitment to Christ. It comes from God, not from anything we can do. And I taught that God wrote with His finger in that bedrock something unique to us as individuals He Created for His glory. Our first duty was to discern what was written there, in part by pulling away the rubble that God didn’t put there. I suggested that, for most of us, it was several layers deep.

You should have seen how much Hell I caught from religious leaders for that. While the particulars they picked over varied, I could tell there was something fundamental about it that they rejected. At some point, I began to understand that it was a threat to religious leadership itself. These people had a vested interest in maintaining a system that was forced to deny that teaching. It happened in several different Protestant denominations.

When I discovered that the heart was quite literally a sensory organ in itself, something measurable with scientific instruments, a lot of things fell into place. Slowly I realized that the scientific works was misguided, but served to illustrate something that science could never understand, anyway. Never mind the physical realities of the heart; the heart is a symbol with deep traditions in the Ancient Near East, and particularly appears in the Bible. I already knew from biblical scholarship that Hebrew people regarded the heart as the metaphorical seat of the “will” — a term that roughly equates to conviction. At that point, I understand a lot of Hebrew imagery that never made sense before.

For all their talk of the “priesthood of the believer,” the American Protestant religion remains deeply centralized. Sure, you are free believe what drives you, but you can’t hang around with your church family in any meaningful way unless you toe the line of orthodoxy. I’ve had enough of religious leaders enjoying my talents while putting chains on me within “their ministry” so I didn’t weaken their authority.

So if someone tells me that this or that expert on something is “Spirit led,” it really tells me more about the one saying it than it does about the expert. Have you noticed how that works? “So-n-so is a deeply spiritual, man of God” — whose teaching just happens to keep the speaker in power. Whatever happened to the man of God wholly willing to surrender his position at any moment? Whatever happened to the kind of moral leadership that demands you work through all the questions yourself before you try to join up and follow him? And that you keep working through them and keep reaffirming that it’s good to follow for now?

I’m not interested in what some organizational leader tells me is the right way to go about doing the work of God, regardless whom he cites as the expert, nor how many experts he lines up to back his ideas. Since when does anyone have the mandate from God to decide what my calling and ministry should be? Give me your opinion, but don’t stand in the way if God leads me in a different direction. As the DeGarmo and Key song says in reference to religious debates:

Will you still love me after I choose?
Doesn’t the issue stand upon this truth?
Up on a cross he died for sinners!
Up on a cross between two thieves!
Up on a cross he died for you and me!

(DeGarmo and Key, “Up on a Cross,” Streetlight 1986)

Suddenly all those resources that they insist belong to God were denied me and they loved me gone.

The ministry of the gospel is donor-centric: It centers on God. God decides what talents and calling I shall have; He decides how it shall be carried out. The results are measured in terms of His glory, not my personal success as humans measure such things. Don’t tell me my talents are better off under your control, doing something that pumps your prestige. Don’t tell me that I have to meet the people where they are, when what you really mean is you want me to bring them into your shadow.

Nor does it matter what any human on this earth thinks that people out there really need. I can’t give them what I don’t have from God. God is the One who knows what they need, and if He can’t tell me Himself, it’s likely because of all the crap someone else put into my head that gets in the way of His direction.

And what they need is the heart-led life. That’s what this parish is all about. Not because I say so, but because each of you discovers for yourself that it’s true. That’s what I’ve discovered for myself, and that’s what I’m trying to share. I already know that this means there won’t be very many takers, at least not at any one time. I already know this means that I can’t invest much effort and interest in what most of humanity imagines is a good idea for making the world a better place. Sure, I’m a trained and experienced logistics and management guy; I bring order out of chaos. But I keep that in its proper place. It’s quite likely that such skills will get me into some place where I can help a lot of folks with material needs, but the real issue will be those few who see my faith in my work and are moved to ask about it. Those few are the real issue, the real reason God put me in that position.

The Hebrew word for “my provider” is jireh. Our ministry here together is centered on the ultimate Provider of all things; His name is Jehovah Jireh.

How a Virtual Parish Operates

We do not trust the intellect alone to arrive at verity. The mind is self-deceived, holding a truculent insistence that it can be objective, yet the very structure of its efforts aim to please the fallen nature in all of us. This is what John calls “the boastful pride of life” — a clumsy translation, but we get the point (1 John 2:16). It is the arrogance of truculent self-assertion, that one can arrive at ultimate reality through one’s own talents and powers of reason. It is the siren song of being one’s own god. We have found this false; we have discovered that there is a higher faculty lying quiescent in the soul of humans. It is quiescent until it connects to the Source of all things, our Creator.

For us, relying on biblical imagery, we refer to this higher faculty, brought to life by that eternal link to our Maker, as the heart. We find that it holds to an entirely other form of logic, a reasoning that asserts a moral sphere of perception that is not within reach of senses and mind, but requires the superior sensory powers of the heart itself. Even then, it’s just a parable of how these things work, because it’s above knowing and telling. It is the mind’s best estimate of how to deal with that higher moral reasoning. We start from the assumption that we can’t really know, only that we must proceed with some fear and trembling, knowing that the results will always bear the mark of our fallen nature.

The mind quite naturally reconnects to the heart and can instinctively submit to that superior guidance. It’s just that the mind must unlearn that boastful pride of life, and its previously stained trust in the lust of the eyes and lust of the flesh. We must break down the old structures of authority and operation (2 Corinthians 10:5). The heart takes the intellect captive, and drives the mind to consider all reality from a different angle. We call it heart-led living.

It’s not just words, either. We insist that implementing this will force a radical change in perception and action. We are forced to confront a whole world of idolatries. In the final analysis, we are forced to pull away from the majority of organized Christian religion. Those organizations would inevitably find our teaching a threat. It means dissolving the authority structure on which they rest, and by which their leadership controls the identity and actions of the organizations.

The path we propose makes each and every individual responsible for their own religion. It elevates the individual believer far higher than any other way of doing religion. We don’t even really have leaders in the traditional sense, just people who seem to have a talent for telling their own story of faith. And a part of that telling is the assumption, if not the bald assertion, that this is my story, not yours. Overlap as much as you need, but you hold a duty before God Almighty to tell your own story.

In this mess of life after the fall and centuries of human activity struggling to displace God from His throne, we find that there are things we can share even with this radical vision of uniquely individual faith. We form bonds with each other. It’s the paradox of lasting warmth and friendship mixed with the tentative nature of shared experience. That is, we always recognize the essential nature of this thing that requires we huddle together against the Darkness even as we realize no two of us will have the exact same way of resisting it.

We find that what has come before in terms of church — the gathering of like-minded believers — has been too restrictive and too regimented. It’s less like a household and more like a corporation. We are repelled by the way genuine heart-led faith has become captive by far too much compromise, and how the organization enforces a range of compromise that is no longer quite voluntary. It seems to us that the tools of subtle manipulation have raised false choices based on the old fallen brand of hyper-competitive tribalism.

That’s a form of religion that pulls faith too far back down into the fallen human mind, making individual believers excessively dependent on mere human resources. We cannot allow what we do to represent yet one more ball-n-chain in a world that is itself a dungeon. We intend to set people free. In the process, we build a religion that openly encourages people to come and go as they sense their own leading from God. No one is really in charge beyond the barest necessities for acting together as one body at any given moment. Somebody has to lead when human bodies gather in one space so that we can avoid chaos and physical harm, but that does not mean anyone leads in the resulting decisions of faith.

In our online setting, it means even less control, because there are no herds of bodies involved. It’s just one guy running a blog and folks coming to read as they see fit, and associating more closely or not on that same basis. Thus, we link to blogs run by other guys and gals and who, for as long as they see it appropriate, link back to this one. And de-linking need not signal anything more than that it’s time to move on to other things. Whatever set of human circumstances that bring about that decision really isn’t important.

When I announce that some Brother or Sister is an associate elder with me, that’s not to compel your trust in them, but to signal my trust in their expression of faith. It signals that we are close enough in religious thought and action to work together in helping others find their own unique faith. It’s entirely practical. And from one hour to the next, the vagaries of human response to the call of faith might mean that our level of human closeness may vary in the normal range of emotional intensity.

So here’s a reminder: Kiln of the Soul is the organized ministry of a handful of people who associate closely as a covenant family. It’s rather like the name of your local parish, and the label that appears on the meeting house. It signals a closeness in thought and expression, a long term community of shared faith. We stay together because we can tolerate each other quite well enough to make the most of shalom in a single household, as it were. It builds an interdependence that none of us easily departs.

Radix Fidem is the label we put on a far wider association of people who tend to approach the basic question of religion in similar fashion. It’s our virtual denomination. We may not be able to easily harmonize our daily activities together, but we get along well enough to be friends. We take each other in smaller doses, but are still bound together in faith. Goodness knows, writing style is so critical to what we do online that it is sufficient by itself to justify being closer to, or farther from, anyone.

Again, it’s just a matter of pragmatism. Nobody should be painted as a sinner for moving farther away, regardless of the reason. We reserve negative labels for those who actively attack, and seek to hinder, our freedom in Christ to seek His glory. Nobody is morally superior for appearing to move closer, since they could be an infiltrating agent. All the more so in a virtual parish like this one, the whole thing is a living and growing creature that morphs daily in one way or another without asking anyone’s permission. And by all means, you should never trust my judgment without taking your own second look. My meat could be your poison; you have to discern that on your own heart-mind linkage with the Holy Spirit.

One Big Happy Family

The Old Testament provides a wealth of imagery for describing our virtual congregation.

The background of the Bible presumes that humans are wired for ANE feudalism. Thus, this blog is a virtual feudal grant from God and I am the clan chief who leads a family. I am responsible to God for how I exercise dominion here.

Everyone is welcome. There is a covenant of faith in force here that guides what I write and what comments I permit through moderation. Aside from the obvious references to the Radix Fidem meta-religion outline posted on our parish parlor blog, our covenant recognizes two primary marks of the Spirit’s Presence in your life: penitent humility and not disputing against Scripture. If we can see those two marks, we will assume you are brothers and sisters in this covenant of faith.

If you can’t embrace all that stuff, but still want to be friends, you will be regarded as resident aliens. You aren’t part of that family of faith covenant, but we offer another covenant of alliance, the one symbolized by sharing a meal in the Old Testament. I’m still your pastor/elder.

Enemies can post so long as it’s on-topic and seems to address something of substance. You’ll have to understand that I will seek to use hostile comments as opportunities to teach those who are not so hostile. It’s like a grant of safe passage for mutual benefit or maybe humanitarian reasons. I’ll pray for anybody.

I don’t take myself that seriously, so poking at me is not in itself a violation of protocol. I delete comments that serve no discernible purpose in what we do here, just like spam.

What’s different is that I don’t measure these things merely by intellect and reason. It’s not a question of rational categories. The boundaries aren’t precise and static, but alive. As with biblical language, I don’t define; I indicate. Context is everything in this world when bringing to bear the moral truth of God, which is rooted outside this world. I don’t mind trying to explain, but there are some things not open to debate.

We Need

(With an imperious air) We don’t need you.

And you don’t need us. On the other hand, we are altogether glad you took a moment to read this. Our motives are radically different from other religious groups. It’s not propaganda to say that we are trying to get you free from bondage to sin. The difference is that we know better than to think your spiritual liberty depends on us. It depends on you and God. Our mission is to help you become aware of the lies and blinders that prevent you taking His path to liberty.

We don’t see your path; we simply know of a certainty it’s there. God said so — wanna argue with Him? But you do argue with Him. All sin is rooted in disputing what God has revealed. Our mission isn’t to bring His revelation to you, but to show you how we found His revelation for each of us. Because the only way you’re going to get a personal encounter with God — a direct revelation — is come down that path He made for you.

Our payoff is the blessings of His glory shining in our souls when we see how He uses our fallible human response to His divine call to bring other folks into that glory. We are just along for the ride and entirely disposable. But what a heavenly thrilling ride it is! So we gladly encourage you to hang out with us as long it serves His glory in your life. As soon as that changes, you need to move on. You’ll know; if we have to tell you, there’s something wrong already.

Meanwhile, just a few of you will sense that this mission here at Kiln of the Soul is a longer term destination for you. Welcome. We are still figuring this out, so don’t be afraid to jump in whatever you got going. Still, don’t pretend you can just take over. If that’s your urging, there’s something very wrong with your understanding of how this works. We have a pretty clear idea what God has put into our hands, and we’ll guard that trust He has given us. But in this virtual space, that guarding is mostly a matter of sharp words to call your attention to something.

I noted that some of you will hang out and find an important job in this parish. Sister Christine is my partner in this mission. She lives out around Ottawa, Canada and I live near Oklahoma City; we’ve never come any closer geographically. God can work that way. We’ve developed a strong bond of friendship and fellowship and helped save each other massive amounts of moral misery. She’s the Mama Elder in my parish. That’s a role, not a “position.” The label is meant to form an image in your mind of what her presence is like on this blog. She’s about as good as any mama I’ve ever known, and better than a great many I’ve known. The point is that God uses her in my life and I can’t imagine how you could hang out with me here and not be blessed by her involvement.

She posted something on her blog yesterday, then thought better of it, I suppose. That’s her business, but I loved it and was going to discuss it here. The gist of it is simple: Your freedom is right there burned into your heart. Whatever excuse you use for ignoring it won’t matter, because it still works out to sin. Remember what I wrote in my “Our Crazy Religion” series? It’s a moral failure in God’s eyes — a sin against Him as Creator — if you do not strive to unite your moral awareness into a big holistic picture that includes how your body is an integral part of Creation. God takes His Creation seriously; He sent His Son to die on the Cross so Creation could be free from bondage. Creation is a living and active member in all of this stuff. Creation is one big thing made up of countless little things, each with their own kind of personal awareness and a form of sentience, and each one eagerly participates in your personal redemption if you will just take the time to learn something about how it all works. Nature isn’t fallen; we are. We can take advantage of that and use Creation as our strong and trustworthy ally.

But at some point you simply must assert your moral boundaries and stop listening so very slavishly to folks who don’t get that picture. Nobody says you have to become an activist and culture warrior to force the world to get right. You can’t possibly know what’s right for the next person. You’ll do all you possibly can do just getting yourself right. When Christine and I offer specifics, those are technically examples that may or may not jive with what your own heart can tell you. We know from experience that your heart will guide you in both the nature and timing of every decision that brings you into greater communion with Creation. We also know that making the occasional concrete suggestion tends to trigger a shift in thinking so that your mind becomes more comfortable with obeying and implementing what the heart commands, instead of trying to run everything. The intellect is a terrifying master, wholly inept and implacable. It’s an amazing good servant once it knows the heart rules.

We can’t possibly stop talking about this stuff. It won’t let us be quiet. We aren’t building a church; we participate in one that forms around us because we would like to share in the joy of God’s Kingdom growing in human souls. We don’t need money and names and stats. We need the glory of God. Wanna shine that light over here?

Mysticism and Trust Models

In Christian Mysticism, models for trust have no significance.

It’s hard to break a system that doesn’t exist. Our “system” manifests here, but isn’t rooted here. By moving everything of importance into the moral sphere of the heart, human frailties are of no real consequence. You do not have to trust yourself, much less anyone else. Our whole operation places full trust in God, who stands outside all systems. We invest everything in Him and leave the results in His hands. We accept whatever returns to us from Him. There is nothing to lose, so trust is not an issue between us.

Each time I write and post, you are morally obliged to filter that post as if it were a fresh application for your attention. Anyone can spoof my name; a few could spoof my writing. God alone can make you believe it. My investment in time and resources goes straight to God as merely my obedience to Him. You owe me nothing. The discretion to cease paying attention rests within you. My payoff is in the obedience itself, not your response. Your payoff is an affirmation that improves the dominion of your heart over your mind.

And it doesn’t hurt that I regularly warn you to test my words — all the more so when we look at the actual security leaks from similar services. If I don’t own you, I can’t lose you. If you choose to stay linked, you retain full authority to disappear without notice and without fear of retribution in any form.

There would be a stronger emotional link if we met in the flesh. Our online format makes that exceedingly difficult, so that bonding requires a far stronger impetus from God. Yet you remain aware that my involvement is subject to sudden end without notice, for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with my wishes.

All that’s left is the immeasurable changes in each of us, something that represents our trust in God in the first place. It might be emotionally uncomfortable to cut this virtual link between us, but the link itself presumes to teach the strength to get past that.

Whatever requires protection cannot be guarded on our level. We have a hard enough time communicating something that is beyond words in the first place. We are forced to encrypt our discussions in the moral language of parables. Genuine communication requires a moral decryptor built into your soul. People unable to operate on the moral plane could hardly grasp any of it, so we can be wide open about everything. Anyone who can understand can’t possibly threaten us.

Learn this well, because should God ever grant you a fellowship of like souls in meat space, you’ll need the armoring in your soul to prevent the folly that has ruined religion for millions of people in times past.

Keep this “trust model” for religion outside this virtual parish.

Faith of Abraham

The work on revising and updating my Ancient Truth Bible studies continues. Right now I’m revisiting Hebrews from the General Letters. In chapter 11 the writer mentions how Abraham was way past his prime and still had a son. God didn’t choose the most vigorous young man to father the nation to inherit the land. Instead, he chose someone whose heart was ready and used what was wrapped around that heart. Abraham walked a land he did not own as a promise that God would give it to them. Their inheritance was this vast unexplored territory of faith, and the land was just a visual symbol.

I’m seeing a tiny handful of people interact here in that same faith. A few of you communicate with me behind the scenes of the powerful changes God brings because of our shared message of faith. We have all been changed — are still being changed — and this is not the same world where we started. We are still exploring this territory of faith.

Do you suppose it’s possible that in the future some of us will be connected with meat-space manifestations of this virtual parish? Honestly, we should be surprised if various congregations are not started that way. For all my blather about what a fine thing it is God chose us to begin this work in virtual space, we could hardly expect it to stay that way. Don’t wait for me to tell you how it works; we are forging into territory new to all of us. Just start with those whose hearts call them to your side and make it happen. Whatever arises from the fellowship has to be good and right, at least in terms of procedures and such. All I ask is that you try to make it as much as possible like a family household from the Ancient Near East.

Right now, a visitor to our virtual parish might not see much happening. I consider this the calm before the storm. This is the time to survey the lay of the land from the heights of faith. Focus on preparing the moral space in your hearts. I, for one, will move forward as if all my wacko predictions are coming true.

Church Ball-n-Chain

Church politics has not been good to me.

I’m gazing back over the wreckage of my life seeking entrance into the ranks of professional ministry. It would be easy to oversimplify and note that God never intended me to succeed at that game. At the same time, I know with a certainty that I was supposed to try so that I could be touched and changed by a particular kind of failure. None of that absolves the people who used and abused me along the way.

It’s not as if I wasn’t up to the par of those I worked with, but that was never really the question. Most people who spend time in the conditioning process of church activities can find their place; it requires no phenomenal talents that your average Christian can’t summon. Mostly it’s a matter of conviction, from whatever source, that you should be doing that work. You can’t just shove the discussion aside with God-talk, but most do that because it justifies their relative success as humans measure such things: admiration, influence, and some measure of wealth. I came close to those things at various times and it kept me believing that somewhere around the next corner I would be established as one them.

One of the greatest single causes of repeated failure was this thing in my soul that would come rushing to the front at those critical junctures. Like any human, I can find myself moved to lie and deceive about things, but at those singular moments on some threshold, I would speak with grave honesty among people who had something to fear from such frankness. With typical social conditioning, you might suggest I was offering the wrong kind of truth, but I would counter that my heart demanded it. If it shattered the illusions of the moment, then I would insist that it was the hand of God revealing to me in that moment just how deluded the whole system was. It’s not a question of whether folks want to know, but a matter of throwing pearls to swine.

That is, the question wasn’t whether they were swine — we all are in one way or another — but whether people understood the value of what was offered. Operating in a system that makes no room for honesty, a system that is fragile at those points most in need of God’s moral redemption, was the real problem. I didn’t fit. At some point I realized that I could not fit, and the system was not going to change. The people involved were too deeply invested in that broken system where self-disclosure was “inappropriate.” They weren’t morally better, but were unable or unwilling to look in the mirror the same way I did and refused to make allowances for how it opened the doors to moral integrity. They couldn’t cross over with me.

In my own mind, I was trying to point out the miracles of redemption in my life. I was lifting up the glory of God, but all they received was the shock of having to recognize that I was just an ordinary man. The professional ministry was founded on the illusion that some of us were somehow a cut above the common rabble. We were supposed to be “holy” using a definition that was inherently unholy.

At this point, I gain nothing by condemning them. The tears have evaporated and I am here instead of there. But for once, I know where I am supposed to be, and my impulsive honesty is not a hindrance. Now I have new tears because I see that a lot of people I still care about are stuck in a meat-grinder that comes with the collapse of the world they failed to leave. But I still want them to see and escape and join me at whatever point they can, and salvage whatever is left of their souls. Yes, I know many will go down with the system. There is no joy in watching those who closed the door on me refuse my hand of rescue.

My humanity finds it rather odd to be in this position, where for once in my life, my impulses are correct and God grants me peace I cannot describe. Granted, this is the wrong place for a lot of other folks, but I still want them to have that peace. I forgive because it’s part of that peace and I can’t find whatever it is that breathes life into ungracious gloating. I’m still no better, just very fortunate, and it’s a fortune that’s available to anyone who wants it. I’ve found that Pearl of Great Price for which I long searched. Some of them are not ready, not able or willing, to shed that pigskin and see the value.

They are still trapped in church politics. But I’m still hoping some of them work it out before it’s too late. They were as much victims as I was and I sense that I was granted an early rescue for their sakes.

We Have This Treasure

What we have here is powerful, rich and sweet. Do we need any further excuse to offer it to others? Actually, the thing itself won’t tolerate silence. It would be wholly unjust to keep this divine justice to ourselves.

But the same justice constrains the means to sharing. It is inherent in this justice and cosmic sense of harmony and peace that we tend to be peaceful about it. There’s no bait and hook, no strings attached. We help those who ask; otherwise we seek God’s command in defending what He has given us. There’s no doubt we end up helping a lot of folks who don’t tell us.

Most of you know this instinctively. Once you surrender your reason to the convictions of the heart, everything changes. No two of us experience it the same, but the only real agenda here is restoring the divine justice that was missing internally. It’s a mission that we expect to find unfinished in some ways when the final call comes to stand before our Creator. This thing we do carries with it the ultimate confidence in Our Creator to remake us, and in similar fashion to remake everyone else who shares this thing.

So on the one hand, we cannot possibly keep this to ourselves. On the other hand, we dare not transgress anyone else’s boundaries in any way. This whole thing is about divine justice, God’s character, cosmic moral truth, etc. It’s all the same thing. The highest art form is discerning the fluctuating contextual boundaries to satisfy God’s moral imperatives in the moment. But we can’t avoid this moral justice oozing out into the world around us. It’s the miracle of our Father’s Presence in us as we go about shining His light into every corner of our own existence. We can’t avoid bumping into other people who happen to populate portions of our private world.

You have to find your own path, but I would never presume to infiltrate my person or my teachings into an existing religious organization to disrupt things there. That will surely happen to some degree, but not by my design or intent. People who absorb what I share will eventually come into conflict with the existing system of their world and handle it according to their own calling. But there is no conscious effort at shaking things up. The truth of God does that by itself. It certainly shakes me up, and to all appearances, does the same to some of you, dear readers.

So all we have to do is live out the implications of that shaking and shattering before the world. God will catch the attention of whom He will, by whatever means pleasing to Him. To the degree we are any threat to the existing order, it’s simply because we exist as proof that there is something not right in the system. God is adding to our number. We aren’t keeping count in any human sense, because too many will need to move along and take this thing with them once they get what they need. Others will stay to help with the incubation process. Today I’m addressing myself to those who feel led to stick around for awhile.

Don’t worry about cooking up a strategy. Just be and the actions will become apparent in their time. By all means, notice how it works, insofar as you can discern it. That’s part of the incubation process: We can tell others what we have seen. So sometimes I get the craziest ideas in my head and they won’t let go, yapping at my heels and demanding action. It’s because I’m not God and can’t comprehend what He’s planning, so I do well enough to respond when I can discern something rather concrete that I should try. It’s not even the doing, per se, but moving in the right direction to intercept something I can’t possibly see coming.

Just those things we find calling from within our convictions is enough. It tends to be more than we can handle anyway, so that’s plenty without trying to devise a plan that might interfere with God’s moves. Stay loose.

Some practical implications for me: I haven’t seen the end of this ghost server. How I use it now is not how I’ll use it somewhere down the line. There is a lot I can’t see in the misty future, but my heart tells me this is just a passage along the way. This thing is parish property, so to speak, and I’m simply the guy tasked to handle it. I still need a serious laptop, but this is a prayer request, not a call for funds. All I understand right now is that I’ll need to isolate my personal stuff from the server some day because the server will be somehow open to the public. Just pray with me; computers are the primary way I carry out my mission. I’m not a gamer and this is not about feeding my ego, as most of you already know. I’ll share the specs if you ask.

And the mission is not confined to some future exodus from mainstream churches. That is a major focus for obvious reasons, but we’ve long had a stream of folks coming here from outside of organized religion. God uses our limited grasp of the situation, too, but it seems this thing we do here calls to a lot of folks from all across the human spectrum. Divine justice is sweeter than any siren song and certainly does no harm. However, my conscious effort is mostly a matter of reaching out to folks consciously professing Christ who bear a sense they are being held back from really serving Him. I remain convinced that something ahead on the road for humanity will cause an exodus of conscience. I’m trying to be ready to help them and asking you to consider joining that effort. That we are sure to bless others is hardly a mission failure.