On Divine Fellowship
"I’m Not Going to Church Anymore"
That is the title of an article from Brandon Chase. If you haven’t read it, you should read it. To summarize, it speaks towards the need of being the church deliberately, that we are the church, and that where we fellowship with other Christians, there Christ is as well. Who can argue with that. We all need to do that constantly.
To me the real questions raised are matters of blessings, of safety, and of need.
Like Brandon, I spent a ton of time in church growing up. To miss church meant I was sick or something big happened to keep our family away; like being gone on a vacation, or having an emergency breakdown or repair. This is common among those raised as Christians.
Growing up through moving out of the house follows a certain life cycle.
First, as a child, you go because you believe everything wholeheartedly; you are enthralled with the music, the stories, the little felt figures and heroes! If you are lucky they’ll sing “Father Abraham” and you’ll get to play a bit of musical chairs before the teachers start. When it’s sermon time on Sunday Evenings’ you get as close to the front as possible! Going to church is a social event; the highlight of your week!
Then you get to the bored phase. It starts to be cool to look bored, to work your way from the front toward the back pews. Pretty soon you need to follow that up by ditching church. You still go, but only when ‘you want to.’ This is right around the teen years.
This is also the phase where you often start questioning your beliefs.
The next stage is growing up and abandonment. You really are tired of going to church. You mainly went the last couple of years because it was expected of you, you had friends you only met there, or there was a cute girl (preferrably the pastors kid).
Sometimes you stay through the first several years of your marriage. Finally, you start drifting away. You have many fine arguments about why this tradition or that repetitious phrase is wrong. You go maybe every other week, then three weeks, eventually it’s months.
Your doubt and suspicions grow. Perhaps you even go as far as trying to tear it all apart - to prove that you know longer need church.
And why not. Perhaps you’ve been deeply abused and scarred by members you trusted. Perhaps you’ve grown up in a Baptist home, you can claim they are too strict. Or maybe you were raised in a Episcopalian home, and you claim that their traditions are invalid, void, legalistic. Or in a Pentecostal home - well you know they aren’t really being slain in the spirit, after all, you’ve never really experienced these things personally.
You might even say that these various traditions encourage arguing for proof that they are needed; that’s how they were born after all.
So you are now unchurched. You are free to start a new relationship with Jesus. You explore the connections through the Bible, prayer, spiritual exercises, and copious amounts of books, blogs, retreats, and tweets! You are no longer tied down to a schedule, people, routine!
You are the Church!
I want to halt this exercise here for a moment and focus on what that means. What does it mean when you proclaim yourself as the Church?
To me it used to mean an individualistic freedom. I could find a place to serve people with other Christians, in Jesus’ name, or just in the spirit of service, and that was the Church. Or maybe I would help a church with whatever ability I had as I had free time, and that was the Church. Or even putting my life and livelihood on the line to help lift others up to my level, and that was the Church.
The truth is, I over looked the fellowship of my brethren. I was with them often, but my goal was not to experience Christ with them: My goal was to do the work of Christ with them.
Where was Christ? Surely he was in every face of the homeless person I served a meal too. He must have been in the voices of every oppressed person I organized for. I even saw Him in those who opposed the idea that He existed.
By proclaiming that where I go the Church is I only proclaimed a portion of the story; and I lost people along the way.
That view is very individualistic. It is about you as a person; you’re personal experience and relationship.
But fellowship, fellowship is so much more. Fellowship is deeply rooted in community; It is rooted in care for each other; It is rooted in sacrifice of self for others - of service to the highest standard; and lastly, fellowship grows from common practices - traditions, ideals, special times and places and songs and prayers …
Fellowship is all of that, geared towards sharing the experience of being the Kingdom with Jesus.
"When we eat this bread and drink this cup,
We proclaim your death or Lord,
And profess your Resurrection,
Until you come again.”
And then we partake of the body and blood of Christ, celebrating His good news while He celebrates with us. We give glory to God through Psalms. We fellowship with each other through wishing peace and joy to each other; through asking forgiveness for the sins and the struggles we inflict on the church as a whole; through praying and caring for each others’ needs and mistakes.
That is divine fellowship.
I have seen a following phase go in three possible directions.
You lose touch with God; you despair of your relationship, and you wonder … does He even care about you? Why doesn’t He listen to you? Why has does He bless those around you, while you sit in true mourning at your loss.
Or, you don’t lose faith in God, but instead build one based on only an individualistic approach. Those who knew you once in church, are now estranged from you by your own choice; they no longer enjoy that fellowship with you that they once had - if even only superficially. They reach out for you and you pull back.
And lastly, you could end back in the folds, your faith stronger because you now choose to partake fully in service and in fellowship.
In all cases, it is often like the story of the prodigal son. We in the church miss you, worry about you, and long for your return. We see you as a brother, a sister, a cousin, family. Every hurt of yours is ours.
We cannot force your hand, nor turn your heart. But we are ready to run and greet you when you chose to come home. And if you never make that choice, we still long for your fellowship in whatever form we can have it - though we wish it were with us in unity once again.
Death by Choices
Over the past few days I’ve been building a web framework for #erlang . When I went to go work on it tonight I find myself almost paralysed. I realized that I have so many choices for which direction that I can go in, that I simply could not choose one.
It’s so easy to have a product die from this miasma. How do you survive? Go back to the base of what you wanted to do, pick something that moves you forward, especially if it’s not the perfect choice, and come back later after you’ve accomplished something; anything more than standing still.
Theft and Anarchism
I believe that the fatal flaw in the modern anarcho-capitalist thought process, and indeed the individualist thought process, has to do with stealing. This is especially true when it comes to christians.
They assume that stealing always meant what people take it to mean today; that of taking one persons private property without there leave. It is easy to make that assumption. We live in a system where the only way to make it is to own. All around us we are driving to purchase, hold tight, rely on our ability to gain: and we grasp that gain as tightly to our chest as possible so as not to lose our chance to live easier.
But that only describes one side of theft. It is equally valid to say that gain from one side is loss to the other; that in order to hoard bread for yourself you must take the opportunity of bread from others.
I would say that the Bible speaks more towards that theft than any other known kind. To steal from the widow by not leaving food to glean; to take from the poor by not giving of a share of your hard work and harvest; to steal joy from those who don’t have the opportunities to live as you do, by not giving the first and best of that harvest; to steal the life of others by not paying wages worthy of their hire; to steal from strangers by not providing them the hospitality of your home; to steal from God by not forgiving the lesser debts owed you in comparison to the debts you owe him.
It is easy to twist the idea of theft and apply it to the idea of loss of hard work; sweat equity; your retirement savings; private property,
It is easy to target the state as the largest thief on the block.
It is easy to say that socialism, communism, and all other ism’s are the enemy of your right to earn and hold close what you have worked so hard for.
It is much harder to look at yourself as a thief whom God would be displeased with; ashamed of; and even angry at.
Because you have stolen from him by claiming His resources for yourself; you have broken his methods of providing for all his children by hoarding the mana for another day, and letting others starve without enough for the present day; you have hindered him by your individualism, by your pride; and your pride and arrogance has brought about war.
Anarchism is not about individualism but solidarity; it is not about private property but communal equality; it is not about the pursuit of your own happiness, health, and well being, but the joys, health, and peace of all, through the struggles and sacrifices of individuals, towards servanthood and brotherhood of all.
Anarchism has nothing to do with the sovereignty of self, and everything to do with the dignity of others.
Christianity only amplifies the definition and goals of anarchism. Christ provides only one of many examples shown in the Bible of how to work towards that goal. We are to give above and beyond ourselves, ‘to your own hurt.’
That is anarchism.
I just read this after over a year of of writing it. I’ve moved beyond even anarchists juxtapositions these days: life is more complicated than any one title, and age plus experience only hones that.
With that in mind, I decided to actually publish as the main drive is still sound. I decided to publish it as is because it shows a snapshot of my life.
I still soundly support the aims of brotherhood and solidarity; I’m still actively involved in it at different fronts outside of politics. This articles challenges all of us, myself above all, to step it up.
Seeking God’s peace for all of us brothers and sisters.
I pulled a ring tray out of a dusty shelf, blew on it, and started removing wax sculpted rings and figurines from it.
"These are awesome!", I proclaimed.
Tray after tray, bucket upon dusty bucket, I found treasures unseen; hidden for the last decade. I then learned about massive versions of these sculptures once cast in bronze: the equipment forged by hand to cast these pieces painstakingly carved in detail down to the texture of the hair.
"Why don’t you make these any more?", I asked the greying head beside me.
"They don’t make money. I used to carve art, but had to carve what sold to feed my family."
Understandably I asked, “But why don’t you make them now? You have a stable business now. You have a home. Why let this collect dust?”
"Get the money.
"It’s the motto to live by. Life is a game, and if you don’t GTM then you lose … You and all of your precious family starve or go on welfare."
Midnight oil burnt: an important lesson learned
This past week I’ve been refactoring an IVR system and getting a module ready based on the refactoring. Friday we went to deploy it. All the tests passed locally, and even worked in production mode on port 3000, but failed entirely under passenger. What made this worse is that there were no errors as to what went wrong.
Well, a weekend spent on this and I find out that it’s a gem I’m using to parse handlebar syntax. It was required in a module we had in the lib directory which may explain some of the lack of logs. I replaced it with Liquid and all is well.
So the lesson learned here is, get your code in production mode as soon as possible. The sooner you do, the sooner you catch possible gotchas.
I was fortunate in that I was only using this library in one method. Others’ may not be so lucky.
Just a little update: things are heating up!
So what has happened since my last post you say? Well, I accepted a job in Phoenix, AZ, moved my whole family, haven’t found a house and have been here for 3 weeks already. Oh, and this!
But then … a Tale of Client Communication and Technological Gaps
I’m feeling rather abused today. Last night I agreed to make a simple change for a client. I went out of my way to slot them in a very full schedule, I made the changes fairly easily, but then … and isn’t that always the case?
Hours of dealing with a failing server later I pushed that easy change. The server was beyond my control. I dealt directly with the host. I shoved all of my work to the side and made it a priority until I literally fell asleep late at night. I woke up in the morning to check on the server, redeployed, all is right. I communicated with my client and had them check the work; but then …
I put other clients work on the side for them, wiping out this evenings plans so that I can catch up. I sprinted through ways to work around the third party service they are building this for; around sloppy documentation; around bad API design; around an infinite amount of things that test a seasoned developers wits and skills. I email them and explain the changes and incompleteness in the API; the fact that what the sales person gave them, as the pancea of all their needs, was only part of the picture; that it would take a lot of exploring and that I was already booked out for the rest of the week.
But then …
All they see is work promised, failed delivery, and they don’t care why: even if is beyond your control, even if you actually delivered the code changes but the specifications they gave you from the sales guy, were not the actual specs that were needed, except for setup, and that I wasn’t given access to the actual documents until after the initial coding was done (aka too late).
Some clients don’t care. They don’t understand and why should they. That’s why they hired you right?
Yes and no. It’s my fault for excepting emergency work on a short time frame. It’s my fault for not looking for other side effects outside of the scope of work they asked for. I wanted the best for them and they didn’t have the full concept of what could go wrong, because they don’t understand the new world around them fully.
And I feel completely abused because they don’t even acknowledge the lengths that I’ve gone through for them; it’s very possible they don’t even realize it.
Here’s the no part. Clients need to be aware of technology around them; it’s sweeping the world up and moving it beyond them. They usually have a general idea that this is happening and a goal to catch a particular train that’s speeding fast.
But then …
And so, the best I can say is, it’s our job to compensate. I failed today and am working extra to help fill that gap. Learn from this.