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Changing Colors

We can change the color of the building, but the structure of the myth behind it, and why we see it that way, remains the same.

Whether its nations or corporations, people groups or steeple groups, politics or economics; we choose to classify, label, and color ourselves based on convictions, locations, and originations. By doing so we allow ourselves to be categorized based on factors that we may, or may not, be able to control. It allows us to form “us” groups; groups where “we” are under, or over, and against, anyone outside this, “our,” group (way of understanding, living, acting, believing, or being).

Those beyond our own constructed view of the borders become “them” and “they.” “Their” agenda (propaganda, memoranda, or modus operandi) goes from an object of scrutiny to personified evil. “They” morph into the body of this living, breathing, hated movement. Now that “it” has been largely depicted as “them,” the nations, corporations, institutions, ethnicities, genders, faith communities, political parties, ways of life, and all people associated to “them” become easily vilified, dismissed, abused, and stripped of all resemblance to “us.”

We protect “our” group by developing a way to destroy “them” conscience free. “‘They’ are no longer worthy of love because ‘they’ have lost ‘their’ humanity.” “‘We’ can’t be in relationship with ‘them’ because ‘our’ way is superior.” “There is no hope of ‘them’ ever seeing things like ‘us’ so ‘we’ would all be better without ‘them.'” Stories, myths, lies “we” tell “our” group because it’s easier to maintain a sense of “us” that way. And the possibility for “us” to ignore, attack, and even kill (in word or deed) “them” grows into the fruit of the god we truly serve by being this way: “ourselves.”

Jesus talked about this type of idolatry in his day; he called it out in John 8 when he saw the humanity in the woman caught in adultery. Jesus didn’t condemn her, he offered a way to relationship. When “we” lose “our” ability to see “them” as human, “we” also create a worshiping community that fails to see as Jesus does. Jesus looks at the different colors we all put on ourselves, the gods we sometimes follow instead, and sees only what we were born as by God the Father; children of the same eternal family to which Jesus himself belongs. If we claim to worship God, we must do likewise.

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Moving From Dormancy to Vibrancy

This past Sunday we talked about how we, like seeds, must shed our seed coats (the hard, or defensive, exterior of our self with which we’re born) in order to drink in the water of life (Jesus) that is needed for optimal health (spiritual, physical, mental) and eventual growth into our fulfilled self. There are various reasons for dormancy (failing to germinate, or grow, under optimal environmental conditions – in the right place, exposed to the right degree of light, and receiving the proper amount of water) to occur that can be given.

The cause of this dormancy is either exogenous (conditions outside our seed self) or endogenous (conditions from within our seed self). Exterior caused dormancy includes physical dormancy (hard seed coats resistant to water caused by environmental cues) and chemical dormancy (outside substances prevent growth). Dormancy caused from within include morphological dormancy (lack of differentiation), morphophysiological dormancy (underdeveloped parts of self that inhibit growth), physiological dormancy (lack of the power to break through structures preventing growth; such as the seed coat), combinational dormancy (both physical [hard seed coat] and physiological dormancy), and secondary dormancy (occurring due to being in non-optimal environmental conditions).

The good news for seeds, and for us, is that dormancy can be broken, and germination, or growth can be induced; stimulated. Gardeners use different strategies to accomplish this, and some occur naturally. One of the ways is called scarification (methods used include physically breaking the hard seed coat, softening the seed coat with hot water, or poking small pin holes through the seed coat to allow water to penetrate). Natural conditions that perform similar functions include rodents chewing on the seed coat, the seed coat rubbing up against a rock, solidifying and thawing of water on the surface of the seed coat, or passing through the digestive tract of an animal.

Another means of growth motivation is stratification (moist chilling, done by adding water to a seed and allowing it to experience the extremities in temperature of its surroundings). And a third method for inspiring growth is leaching (soaking in water to remove chemical inhibitors). Of all the approaches to break dormancy, the gardener selects, or allows, the one most fitting for the cause of dormancy to be removed, relieved, or restored. So what does that mean for us as people?

Jesus tells us in John 15 that God the Father is the gardener. If we are the dormant seeds, the gardener can see the possible causes for our lack of growth toward our fulfilled self. And it will be different for each one of us; whether those are external, internal, or a combination. Solutions will vary. Some of us need scarification. That can include experiencing mind and heart crushing things that remove the external hardness; allowing room for living water to soothe wounds. Some will only require a softening through getting into hot water; making the waters of life easier to receive. Others simply need to have a few holes poked in their impenetrable walls that have built up over time; a soaking in of true refreshment that breaks open the rest from the growth occurring internally.

Others are allowed to experience the naturally occurring things in life: gnawed on by the world around us, bumping into the hardness of our lives, or running our course through the excremental situations many people face. God, the good gardener, can use even those awful things He’d rather we didn’t have to go through, to pour out Jesus’ living water on us when we’re most ready, and able, to receive it for future growth.

Personally, I’d rather go through the leaching, or soaking in of, Jesus the living water. And yet I trust whatever my path to growth is, whatever it is I’m experiencing right now, my Gardener will induce vibrancy within me, and through me, in the process.

Motorcycle

Last Sunday’s message about accepting both the costs and rewards of discipleship hit me in a unique way this week. It wasn’t so much about the journey, but about the way we see the journey as we live it out. This relates to our personal journey, our church’s journey, our denomination’s journey, and the journey of the body of Christ worldwide.

As individuals, churches, denominations, and the whole body, we can focus on things too heavily at times, so much so that we begin to see only from one possible perspective. We can see only the cost, or only the reward, and miss the greater picture that involves both.

It’s not unlike what happens in our own physical bodies when we see only out of one eye. It’s lazy. Much like amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” is decreased vision that results from abnormal visual development in infancy and early childhood, how we were taught, or taught ourselves, to look at Christianity, and specifically discipleship, following Jesus, can impact us in ways that decrease our vision of what that looks like.

With “lazy eye,” there are nerve pathways between the brain and eye that aren’t properly stimulated. As a result, the brain favors one eye, usually due to poor vision in the other eye. The weaker eye tends to wander. Eventually, the brain may ignore the signals received from the weaker — or lazy — eye.

In our following Jesus, when we don’t stimulate our need to see both the cost and reward of the journey, we tend to see out of only one of those eyes. Either everything becomes a great cost, one we’re not sure we’re willing to pay, or everything involved should be great rewards, leaving us disappointed when challenges come our way.

Like “lazy eye,” our spiritual eyes stop working together, we lose our depth perception, the ability to see into matters at a deeper level than what may appear to be the surface issue. This can cause us to wander, looking out at the world around us, or too inwardly at the world inside us, for how we perceive, and respond to, what’s right in front of us.

Our judgment can become clouded. Or, at the very least, we can favor one way of seeing our walk with Jesus, each other, ourselves, and the rest of the world, over the other. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but it’s also not all pain and difficulty. With a refractive “lazy eye” condition, there is a significant difference between the vision in each eye; causing nearsightedness or farsightedness. In steps with Jesus, being nearsighted, or farsighted, makes us lazy Christians.

The good news for this last condition, and for us as believers, is that there are lenses available to help build our ability to see from both perspectives more easily; and that strengthen the weakened eye from which we sometimes fail to look out. In discipleship that lens is Jesus. Focusing more on his words, his ways of living and dying, and his call to come back to right relationship, and a more God honoring perspective, about how we see and experience our world, our walk, and our Christian family, could truly help resolve our departing viewpoints.