Category Archives: Life Coaching

I’m Learning

Reckon the old man dead.

I am crucified with Christ.

Counted to be righteous.

Beauty for ashes.

New creations in Christ.

Ever since I came to faith, I’ve heard these quotes and sayings. I love them. I believe them. 

But, how? How is it that I am crucified with Christ or declared righteous? Sometimes it seems like magical thinking, like make believe, a game of pretend. 

If I were crucified with Christ, I’d be like Jesus, wouldn’t I? I’d be consistently loving my enemies, caring for creation, serving the poor, hospitable to the immigrant and refugee, embracing sinners, welcoming the least, caring for the poor, homeless, marginalized, disenfranchised, the mentally ill, the addicted, the sick, the lonely and the lost. I’d be the nonviolent servant of all. If I were crucified with Christ, I’d be standing up against racism, injustice, consumerism, despotism, patriarchy, conspiracy theories, violence, poverty, and militarism. I’d be living by the Sermon on the Mount. 

I look at my life and I don’t feel much different than most people around me. Surveys and statistics consistently bear out the fact that church-going, Bible-believing, born-again Christians in general act no differently than others.

Is the gospel only about “going to heaven when you die,” and not about bringing God’s love to the world? 

“They’ll know you are my followers by your love,” said Jesus. 

The problem, at least for me, is that I’ve long been a part of a tradition that emphasizes Bible knowledge at the expense of transformation.

I’m grateful for the Bible knowledge. The more we know the Bible, the better. When I belatedly went to seminary, I discovered I knew the scriptures better than some of the professors. The problem was that those professors were more Christ-like than me. Knowledge without transformation puffs up. 

As he looked around Denmark in the 19th century, Kierkegaard saw clearly that the whole nation claimed to be Christian, yet virtually no one acted like Jesus. Gen-Z and Millennials look around 21st century North America and see the same thing. That’s why they’ve nearly universally abandoned evangelicalism.  

I looked at myself and didn’t like what I saw. I was angry, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, supportive of policies that hurt those Jesus called “the least of these my sisters and brothers,” and full of judgmentalism.

The intensive training that goes into becoming a legitimate pastor, counselor, chaplain, life coach, and spiritual director is helping teach me to listen, observe, accept, and be teachable. I’m learning humility. I’m learning I don’t know it all. I’m learning that some of what I know and believe needs to be challenged. I’m learning to be ok with nuance and mystery.

Most of all, I’m learning to love.

Why come to me for spiritual guidance?

People With Strong Faith Doubt Everything

Well, maybe not everything. (Although I remember a period when I questioned my own existence and wondered if all of “reality” was in fact some giant’s dream that would go “poof” when he awakened.) Let’s not go down that trail. 

People of great faith almost always have deep doubts. St. Theresa of Calcutta and St. John of the Cross are good examples. Does God exist? Is God good? Who am I? Does my life have meaning? How do I know if all that stuff I was taught is true?

Doubt is not the opposite of faith.

You can’t really have faith if you have no doubts.

When we doubt, we do not doubt what is essential, fundamental, eternally true. We doubt our perceptions, our ideas, and our opinions of what is essential, fundamental and true. You do not really doubt God. You doubt your view of God. 

A client told me she did not believe in God. I asked her to describe the god she did not believe in. I don’t believe in that god either. She described a mean, demanding, oppressive super-being. 

Deconstruction is the process of doubting, questioning our perceptions, the ideas and opinions handed down to us by our parents, faith communities, and cultures. It’s healthy to ask why we believe what we believe. What are our essential values? Why?

But if all we do is deconstruct, we wind up sitting in a heap of rubble.

We also need to build and construct a fresh worldview, a fresh set of internalized values. We need a worldview that is more closely connected with Ultimate Reality. 

God Loves People; Empires, not so much — Daniel 9

1968

I was a junior in high school for the first half of 1968; worked at a marine field lab during the summer, and was a senior for the last quarter of that year. It was a momentous year – one that changed America and me. 

In 1968:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were both assassinated.
  • Massive riots and civil unrest erupted in most major US cities; curfews were imposed, thousands were arrested, many died, whole sections of cities burnt to the ground, Federal troops were called in. 
  • My drafting teacher came to school in his army fatigues.
  • Thomas Merton, Helen Keller, John Steinbeck, Upton Sinclair, and Karl Barth died.
  • The Prague Spring was brutally crushed by the USSR.
  • Two sanitation workers in Memphis were crushed to death taking refuge in the back of a trash truck during a storm because they were not allowed inside the building with white men. 
  • Kids my age were slaughtered during the Tet Offensive n Vietnam.  
  • North Korea captured the USS Pueblo and her crew.
  • In My Lai, US soldiers massacred women and children.
  • Civil rights marches and worker strikes took place around the country. 
  • Riots triggered by police brutality disrupted the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
  • The Black Panther Party provided food, healthcare and education to impoverished neighborhoods. 
  • Second wave feminism was born. 
  • Black athletes protested with raised fists on the Olympic podium.
  • College campuses all over the world erupted in anti-war protests.
  • In Oakland, CA, the police murdered 17 year-old Bobby Hutton, a Black Panther sympathizer.
  • The National Guard murdered three student protestors on the campus in South Carolina.
  • The Catonsville (Maryland) Nine, including the Berrigan priest brothers, were arrested for protesting the war in Vietnam. 
  • An explosion in a West Virginia coalmine killed 78 miners. 
  • Hippies sought universal peace through mind-expanding drugs.
  • Nixon was elected president. Segregationist George Wallace won 5 states. 
  • Sly and the family Stone danced to the music.
  • Bob Dylan stayed home with his wife and three children.

1968 was the beginning of my journey from agnosticism to Anabaptist Christian. 

1968 left me with a profound sense of the immorality of war and racism and a deep passion for justice. 

In 1968, I volunteered to tutor inner city kids. One had part of his ear missing. Rats chewed it off. Another was learning disabled. She had been so hungry as an infant, she had eaten lead-based paint chips from the windowsill.

In 1968, I volunteered to coach a little league team of boys from the projects. The league was run by Mary Dobkin, a bilateral leg amputee, abandoned at birth, who lived on welfare in the projects with those she served.

The year before, Jesus found me, alone, sacred, confused, and broken. He called my “Little One” and told me he loved me. 

My life since then has had one primary purpose: to share Jesus’ love with hurting people.

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