I am Boston: Thinking About Yesterday’s Marathon

Darren Beem:

“We should never stop celebrating life.” Going back to my reflections after last year’s marathon at the one year anniversary.

Originally posted on Momentary Delight:

It’s been a long time since I ran my marathon. It’s been over five years.

When I mention to someone that I’ve ran a marathon, they usually ask, “Where?”

Among many marathoners, particularly in New England, Boston is “the marathon.” There may be other marathons, but Boston is the one people think of when you mention the word.

To answer your question, “No, I didn’t run Boston. I ran one of those other marathons.”

The next question they usually ask me is, “How long did it take you?”

Yeah, if you looked at me, you’d also doubt my ability to finish a marathon.

For me, running a marathon was among the most rewarding and uplifting things I’ve ever done in my life. Beforehand, I had this prosaic image of myself crossing the finish line with my arms upraised.

That’s not quite the way it happened for me.

For many people, they’re cheered to…

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Communion is for Screwed Up People (Like Me)

Sorry folks, I’ve been having too much fun writing at Composting Faith, a new e-magazine on sustainability and following Jesus. Since, I didn’t want you to think that I had totally forgotten you, I thought I’d republish something that seems timely. I wrote this article for a friend’s blog Subrenovationis during Lent of last year.

Life often seems complicated. I’m capable of a broad range of feelings and emotions and many times these disparate feelings seem to get in the way of meeting God. When I come to church, a lot of baggage comes with me. I might be happy. I might want to hear God’s voice. I might want to soak in God’s presence. I might be spiritually hungry. I might even be desperate for Jesus. At other times, church hits me like a ton of bricks. I don’t want to be there. I’ve had a bad week. I’ve had a bad weekend. I’m hurting. I might be angry or even depressed.

On those days, I share the sentiment of Jesus and David:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Oftentimes when I feel sad or depressed, it can feel as if heaven is a locked fortress. God is hiding in an elusive place. He’s a million miles away. He’s inaccessible and unavailable, and if He were available, then surely He wouldn’t want anything to do with me.

When I’m feeling good or spiritual, the Eucharist can be a joyful thing. I reflect about Jesus, His life and His love for me. I think about the cross and Jesus’ death. I might reflect on my life and think about some sin in my life, or about pursuing reconciliation with someone. I might repent to God for my sin or the hardness of my heart. In these moments I come to communion prepared to meet my savior.

On the other hand, when I’m immersed in my own troubles and God feels very far away, I might have an uneasy relationship to the Eucharist. My steps feel uncertain and tentative. While I know God loves me, I’m a little unconvinced that God loves me right now.

I would much rather come to God later, when my heart and life seem right, or at least better. This coming to God, in the midst of my confusion, my depression or sadness seems off-putting and awkward.

In the midst of these conflicted feelings comes communion. Jesus wants to feed me. He wants to break bread with me. He wants to give me himself. In these moments of confused feelings, I look deeply inward and come to the realization. . .

I need Jesus. I need you. In this moment, when I feel so profoundly lost and adrift I need you. I’m amazed that you want to me, right here and right now. In this moment when I’m feeling complex feelings of inadequacy and shame, I have you Jesus. You know my shame. You also know the deepest and darkest parts of my heart and you still desire to sit with me, break bread with me and feed me.

Over the past few years, I’ve discovered the growing understanding that the Eucharist is for the broken, the hurting and for people who feel so messed up that they are uncertain if God still loves them. In other words, the Eucharist is for me. Rather than let the bread and the wine pass me by, because I feel unworthy, I receive His blood and his body, because more than ever I need Jesus.

The Eucharist is a reminder that Jesus wants to be a part of my life. Despite my doubts, fears and uncertainties, He loves me. The Eucharist is a reminder to me that God doesn’t want me to wait until “I am right” before coming to Him. The Eucharist offers me hope in the middle of my hopelessness. It is a reminder to me that God knows I’m utterly screwed up and yet despite my feelings of inadequacy He offers me bread and wine. He calls on me to drink and eat. He loves me.

He loves me!

My Experience with the Eucharist

At my church, the Greater Boston Vineyard, they take communion every week and it’s a very simple experience. If you want more of Jesus and want to say yes to him, you can take communion. On the whole, I very much value this perspective on the Eucharist, which sees communion as being something broad, inclusive and first and foremost about wanting to enter into a relationship with Jesus.

I expect some people might find this approach to communion to be overly familiar.

Nevertheless I cannot help but think about those first disciples who took the first communion lounging around a table.

For the first disciples, communion was about breaking bread with Jesus, their savior and friend. Clearly they were more than a little confused by some of the things Jesus was telling them about his coming death. They didn’t understand why Jesus had to go away. In the midst of this confusion, the one thing the first disciples wanted was Jesus.

For Jesus, this was enough.

There’s a Alot Going On-Sharing Worms and Awesomeness

One of the big things in sustainability is “sharing” and the sharing economy. While this post has nothing really to do about the sharing economy, it does have alot to do with sharing.

At our new e-magazine Composting Faith on following Jesus and living sustainably, Jo Hunter Adams dives headfirst into the topic of faith in God, worms and the unexpected joys of vermicomposting in her article “Sustainability is Fun: Experiments in Vermicomposting.” Jo does it all in this article with grace and humor. While going sustainable might mean sacrifice, Jo digs into the topic further, and discovers the unexpected blessings of making different choices. It’s a great read and it will likely get you looking at our little worm friends differently. After reading Jo’s article I’m thinking maybe we can pass on getting our girls a pet, and instead we’ll try worms. Anyway, I’m hoping that you’ll stop by Composting Faith and check it out.

The other thing I would like to share with you is a guest article that I wrote for friend Joe Webb at the Awesomeness Conspiracy entitled “Daring to Love.” It’s on sexuality and learning to love other people. While I’ve talked around this subject this is the first time I’ve chosen to dive into it (so to speak.) Joe has a great heart for others and works with youth. He’s a really thoughtful guy and I’m glad for the opportunity to collaborate with him. While you’re checking out my post, I hope you also find the time to look at some of his other thoughtful articles.

Well, that’s “all” I have to share with you today. Worms, Composting, Jesus, Sexuality, Loving Others, Composting Faith, Awesomeness. I think this pretty much sums it up.

 

 

 

Answering the Question, “What Do You Do?” & Starting Something New

It’s really cool when you get to do something you love with good friends.

When this happens, for me it’s like cha-ching. I’m “D-E-L-I-G-H-T-E-D” and I do my happy dance.

Apologies for everyone not eight years old, but that was a kind of tip to the hat to my daughter, who likes dancing along with Captain Huggy Face every time she watches the PBS Kids show Word Girl.

A few weeks ago, I talked about responding to the question, “What Do You Do?”

If I were not bound by societal conventions, how would I answer this question:”What do you do?”

On my Twitter profile, I describe myself as follows:

Loving life. I’m a 40-something, follower of Jesus, husband, father of daughters, lover of trees & blogger. One step ahead of total chaos & enjoying the ride.

This is who I am. No, this doesn’t tell you about my paid place of employment, or tell you my major in college, but it does tell you who I am. It also tells you what I love.

I love Jesus, I love my family, I love nature and I love to write. This is me and it offers such a better and more complete picture of my identity, than knowing I work at a large insurance company managing a special program.

All of this still rings true, but more recently I’ve had the opportunity launch a new e-magazine Composting Faith on following Jesus and living sustainably. It’s awesome because I get to share about something I love and do it with good friends Eugene and Jo Adams, along with some pretty cool contributing guest writers and people who are letting me interview them.

Hopefully through our dialogue we can experience more of Jesus and discuss how we can praise God through our small daily choices.  Ultimately, I’m a strong believer that faith should be fun. We should be willing to try things, take chances and enjoy the places where God surprises us. I’m hopeful that this new e-magazine will be just such a place.

I’m thankful to all of those who’ve read Momentary Delight these past few years. If you’ve read this blog even semi-casually, I hope that you check out Composting Faith and hang out with us.

Coming Soon: A New E-Magazine on Following Jesus & Living Sustainably

This past week I saw an article about Christians congregations who are composting and using the practice of compost as a metaphor to share about faith.

As the article states, “Across the country in the past decade, hundreds of houses of worship have started composting, relating it to theological concepts of resurrection and stewardship.”

The article was serendipitous because I’m launching a new e-magazine “Composting Faith” with old friends Jo Hunter Adams and Eugene Adams. Our new e-magazine will be about following Jesus and living sustainably. Jo and Eugene have been passionate about sustainability for a long time, but I’m a relative newbie to sustainability. The basic premise of our e-magazine suggests that living sustainably might give us an “in” to experiencing more of Jesus.

Wait, did I say “sustainability?” Yes, I said sustainability. In case you’re wondering, Jesus never uses the word sustainability. Go to Bible Gateway, look it up in a word search, it’s not there.

So, what am I talking about?

While Jesus may not have mentioned sustainability specifically, he did talk a lot about things like materialism, living simply, loving our neighbor and living a meaningful life. In other words, topics that circle around the topic of sustainability. When Jesus talked about loving our neighbor, it generally was not in the context of what Christians might call “evangelism,” instead Jesus’ idea of love was more practical, involving physical acts of compassion and a change in the way we do life.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21)

When Jesus talks about living abundantly and loving life to the full, he wasn’t talking about the accumulation of wealth, or prosperity with regards to our possessions, but instead Jesus was talking about something very different. He was talking about living a life with God and for things that truly matter.

In the gospels Jesus shares about the greatest commandment

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

When we think of the Commandments in the Bible, it’s tempting to see them as rules.

Do this and you will live. Fail to do them and you will be miserable.

Rather than seeing commandments as rules, I think it’s more helpful to see the commandments as an invitation to live an abundant life.

So, what does sustainability have to do with loving our neighbor and following Jesus?

Sustainability asks us to take a long term view at all aspects of our consumption and toward the stewardship of our resources and the environment.  How are my actions affecting other people? When we start asking about how our actions affect others, we can also consider how we might love others through those same actions.

Sustainability also questions the long term viability of exploitive industries and economic systems. Is an economic system where significant numbers of people and families are forced to live below the poverty line and work in unsafe conditions sustainable?

So, as we live more sustainably, live more simply, loving our neighbor through our physical actions, I would suggest that we are responding to Jesus’ invitation.

A command like “Love Your Neighbor,” can initially seem like a sacrifice.

“What God, you want me to love that person.”

“What God, you want me to give up my comfort?”

Nevertheless, when we take a step of faith and respond to Jesus’ call to love God and love people, we discover a benefit.  God surprises us. Loving our neighbor and undertaking small acts of great love is not just for our neighbor, it’s for us. It shows us what’s possible when God is alive in our life and choices. In inviting us to love him and love our neighbor, God is inviting us to bring healing to the world.

In the coming months, we’ll be exploring these topics in greater depth at our new E-Magazine Composting Faith. We will be featuring articles by different authors and interviews on the topic of following Jesus and living sustainably. I hope you’ll join us and participate in the dialogue and that together we might find the unexpected surprises and benefits of loving Jesus in the small things.

Composting Faith will be launched and the website will “go live” on Monday, January 6, 2014. For updates, come to Facebook www.facebook.com/compostingfaith.