2017 Archives

God’s House

Dave Brisbin | 12.31.17
On New Year’s Eve, on our last day in the space and facility that has been our home for over nine years, it is a day of endings. But then tomorrow is a day of beginnings… How do we process all that? People have often told us that just stepping into our room gives them a sense of spirit or presence or just connection and peace. Is that something we’re leaving behind? If this has been God’s house for us for nearly a decade, will our next space be God’s house as well? When we look at scripture, at Moses experiencing holy ground before the burning bush, then building the first tent of meeting–God’s first house among the Hebrews–we start getting clues to how God views his house. 

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Beyond the fact that his first house was portable, the story of the filling of his presence moves unmistakably from the enclosure, the space, to the people themselves. And in Numbers 33, we see that the Hebrews always recorded their journeys from their starting places, as series of setting out, not destinations. And if we’re paying attention, we come to understand that God’s house is within us, among us, in our midst–and in every setting out, we simply bring God’s House with us…if we so choose.

The Path to Recovery

Frank Billman | 12.17.17
Frank Billman, one of our recovery pastors brings his experience working with alcoholics and addicts to bear on the path every one of us must take to recovery in its most universal sense: sobriety certainly, but freedom from all the addictive obsessions and compulsions that keep us mired in recurring and debilitating choices, behaviors, and thought processes. Illustrated with scripture and structured around the 12 Steps of AA, understood from a spiritual point of view, the path to recovery and transformation–Jesus’ Way to the Father–stands out in sharp relief.

Star of Bethlehem

Dave Brisbin | 12.10.17
We know so little of Jesus’ birth and childhood. Only two gospels give us any information at all. Luke gives us most of what we traditionally know of Jesus’ birth and childhood, and Matthew gives us the story of the Magi. Who were these Magi, these wise men from the east? What was the star they followed and what do their gifts signify? Why did Matthew feel this story, above all and any other stories of Jesus’ nativity and early years, was the one to include in his narrative? 

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So many questions that we’ll never fully answer, but if we look at the Magi from a spiritual point of view and not just a historical one—bring the past right up into the present of our daily lives, it is shocking how relevant the Magi become. If we let them speak to us, if we put ourselves in their place, juxtaposed with the reality of our lives herenow, we find we can begin to see answers to the why and how of it all, even as we continue to speculate on the what.

The Effect of Change

Dave Brisbin | 12.3.17
As we prepare to move to a new facility at the end of the month, we take a moment to look back on our time at our facility of nine years and consider how we as humans attach such meaning and emotion to places and things. It’s a beautiful thing we do—makes us real. Taking time to grieve the loss of everything we’ve known, even as we prepare for the adventure of what is coming soon. And as we are also approaching Christmas as well as a move into the unknown, makes sense to consider Mary in Luke 1, given an incomprehensible message that she will be bearing a very special child that would change her life completely or possibly even end it. 

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What was she thinking as she listened, what fears played across her mind and heart even as she humbly accepted a scenario she could never understand? And what lessons can we learn from a little girl, only 12 or 13 years old, that we can apply to ourselves, to the adventures that life will insert into our paths when we least expect them?

How Simple Can It Be?

Dave Brisbin | 11.26.17
With Thanksgiving just passed, it may be good to stop for a minute and consider what this holiday may have to teach us at root. The older I get, the simpler things begin to look, and I’m beginning to realize that the things that remain complicated are of much less importance than the simple ones. As a master of simplicity, Jesus is always breaking things down to their simplest terms, and when it comes to kingdom, his central theme, it may all come down to just one word… The world is becoming angrier. Why? Unmet expectation, insecurity, envy, entitlement, victimization? Yes, all the above.

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And Jesus is always pointing in the same direction: overcoming expectation with awareness, insecurity with intimacy, envy with spiritual abundance, entitlement with vulnerability, and victimization with choice and action. And each one of these choices creates the same sensation, the same condition in life: gratitude. Gratitude is not a ticket in the door to kingdom. Gratitude is the experience of kingdom itself. Gratitude is what kingdom feels like—its default position. When we’ve taken the journey, it’s how we know we’ve arrived.

Breath of God

Dave Brisbin | 11.19.17
The world and culture that produced our Scriptures is so different from ours that the very basis through which we understand the words we read in our translated texts—our worldview—has to be translated first in order to really understand the truth being conveyed. Try to imagine a world in which the workings of nature—from thunder and lightning to earthquakes and solar eclipses—are not scientifically understood, but ascribed directly to God. Imagine a complete dependence for survival on rains and weather, animals and crops, on family structure. An impossibly dark sky at night exploding with stars and the bright band of our galaxy as divine lightshow. Imagine living your life never seeing your own reflection, and the sense of self and identity that would entail.

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In a world like that, the most basic phrases relating to God and spirituality take on new meaning. Breath, wind, and spirit were all expressed by ancient Hebrews with the same word and so occupied the same space in their lives. To understand this central place of spirit in motion and breath is to begin to understand biblical spirituality. Here, with no analog in Western culture, perhaps the Hawaiian concept of aloha and island spirituality can come to our rescue and help us translate our own texts.

Singing to the Corn

Dave Brisbin | 11.12.17
It often helps to hear deep spiritual truths as expressed in faith traditions other than our own. We can become so familiar with our own traditional expressions that we don’t hear them anymore…they become enveloped in colloquial meaning and lose the ability to shock us into deeper awareness. And we do need to be shocked. Native Americans did not put their energy into buildings or infrastructure. They didn’t value the physical trappings of Western societies and lived nomadically within the systems nature provided. They saw life, meaning, and purpose from a vastly different perspective—one that Jesus was trying to convey as well. 

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When Crowfoot, the great Blackfoot chief says, “What is life? It is a flash of a firefly in the night. It is a breath of a buffalo in the winter time. It is as the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset,” when Waheenee of the Hidatsa tribe writes, “Often in summer I rise at daybreak and steal out to the corn fields, and as I hoe the corn I sing to it, as we did when I was young,” they are speaking of the meaning of life encapsulated in the immersion in a singular act in a specific moment. All life and meaning coming to a single point of awareness. Jesus would call this Kingdom, and if we can’t learn to sing to the corn again, we won’t really know what he means.

Life Happens

Dave Brisbin | 11.5.17
Maria Montessori said that play is the work of the child. She recognized that the playful activities of childhood influence the pattern of the connection between nerve cells in the brain, the development of motor skills, language, socialization, personal awareness, creativity, emotional wellness, problem solving. And if play is the work of the child, then toys are the tools. And yet, the child knows nothing of this. The child just plays, and all this development happens in the background as by-product. John Lennon wrote in a song that life is what happens while you’re making other plans. As adults, we often dismiss the play of the child as meaningless childhood expression, missing the deeper significance. 

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In the same way, we miss the deeper significance of life because we take our work and tools literally and not as the play and toys they really are. Our work and tools have no real intrinsic meaning. Everything we build with our hands and tools will be lost in time. But what comes as by-product, from a direction in which we were never looking, is the eternal, deep truth-understanding of life—as we simply show up day after day, working, striving for excellence, taking care of customers, co-workers, family, friends. If play is the work of the child, then work is the play of the adult, and once we realize that the real meaning of life is what happens as process rather than outcome, we can really start to live.

Repentance Without Regret

Dave Brisbin | 10.29.17
A nationally-known pastor writes of a sea change earlier in his life when he realized that he was no longer on a path he recognized or thought would lead where he really wanted to go. He wrote that he believed that we have a far too narrow view of repentance, that it meant “to think,” and he had much to rethink and repent. But if we really look at the etymology of the word repentance through five different languages, ancient and modern, we find that repentance is vastly broader than simply feeling regret or rethinking. 

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French, Latin, and Greek all stand between us and the original Hebrew that forms a major theme in Jesus’ teaching. The first words Jesus speaks in Mark is, “The waiting is over. The kingdom is here. Repent and believe the good news.” But when we look at repentance fully, we find not just a word, a single meaning, but an active process, another threeness that takes us from the sorrow of a path not taken to the renewing of mind that overcomes the fear of choosing altogether new directions. And it’s right there that Paul picks up the story and tells us of the kind of wounded sorrow that moves us toward a repentance that moves without any regret at all.

Out of Control

Dave Brisbin | 10.22.17
Looking at the record of increasing human awareness of the intimacy of God’s spirit recorded in scripture: from a wild, fearful presence on a mountaintop, to the shepherd-like pillars of cloud and fire leading the people of Israel, to the cloud standing outside the tent speaking to Moses, to that presence settling on and filling the tent and eventually the temple, to filling Jesus at his baptism, to the apostles at Pentecost…what of us? How do we move from the awareness of Spirit standing outside our tent to resting on and filling us as well? How do we receive the Holy Spirit? What does that even mean? And how do we know if we have that filling? 

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There are clues all over scripture to guide us, but only if we really pay attention to the context, to the backstory, to the larger experience of the people that show us what it really means to ask and invite the Holy Spirit into our lives. Much more than a verbal asking, a spoken prayer—and much more than the speaking of tongues, the awareness of God’s presence filling our tabernacle is life changing on every level.

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