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Category Archives: Martian Chronicles

Martian Chronicles: Good News

Mars OneHail and well met, fellow missionaries! I’ve been off for a bit doing some investigating, exploration, archaeology. Results will be reported in due course.

Just to review the premise here…

OK, so we are on an adventure…

We’re posing the hypothetical possibility that we have been selected to be one of 10 Christians (or Christian couples) to journey to Mars somewhere between 2025 and 2040, to establish the First Christian Church there.

We’ve been endorsed and sent forth with the blessings of our denominations, and given extraordinary license and dispensation to establish a new church whose only constraints are scriptural, not traditional. That is not to say that tradition is to be despised or held in contempt. Merely that the traditions of one or some should not hold sway over the traditions or convictions of others.

What’s more, we have the incredible opportunity to establish “A” (not “THE”) First Century Church. All these colleagues have an active, living, breathing, personal speaking relationship with the living Christ, and the humility to balance personal revelation with scriptural validation and mutual accountability and examination. (That’s an amazing statement.) This is to say, these are all unabashedly functional mystics.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The last post on these Chronicles posed the question, “Are We Alone?” and considered a frequent impression of people far from all that is familiar and homey.

An interesting point is/was that, while it makes perfect sense of Martian colonists or explorers to feel very isolated and alone so far from home, (even isolated from God Himself), that this is a common, frequent, quiet fear and concern for everyday normal people right here, right now. This sense of isolation, sometimes called “existential angst”, or a sense of the “void”, is something of a primal fear we learn to keep penned up in our darkest closets, lest it escape and take up residence under our beds at night.

We may come back to considering this chimera later, but for today I’d like to consider one of its most common companions… the sense of insignificance.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now, our colonists have all been specially picked, specially screened, specially trained… for this extraordinary mission. They are very “secure” in every psychological sense.

But many people who seek out counseling, or pastoral counseling, experience great pain in their lives and seek help for what APPEAR to be a vast variety of reasons: parent problems, kid problems, spouse problems, work problems, social problems, school problems, health problems, legal problems… People seek me out because some arena of relationships is causing someone pain.

What I have found, time and time again, is that people do NOT seek me out to hear my “wonderful advice”, or even so that *I* can “solve” their “problems”. That’s really not what they want or need. (It has taken me a painfully great number of years to learn that!) When there is “success” in a counseling relationship, it is nearly always because I was able to meet one single fundamental need they had when they came, and once it was met they were able to resolve their own issues.

Their need? Significance.

It starts in the very first appointment, when they sit down to “tell me all about it”. Years ago, I used to interrupt a lot, seek to array the facts and details in “their proper sequence”, and work to frame my response and recommendations “just so”. Eventually I learned how very out of order that was. I need/needed simply to LISTEN… let them be HEARD.

This is the first step. This is something incredibly lacking in our day to day lives. I, like so many others, live(d) in a “mindset of response preparation”… rather than a “mindset of embracing their expression and experience.” Someone who seeks me out doesn’t nearly so much want to know “what I THINK” about their situation, as they want to know “that I UNDERSTAND them, what THEY are thinking, what THEY are feeling”… and that I can enter into that experience with them.

So I’ve learned… it starts with (usually) our very first meeting. They have a “story to tell”, and I need just to sit still and quiet, and “receive” that story. Free of reaction, free of judgment, free of comment, free of response. Just receive them, their story, their experience. I don’t have to “approve” of all the elements or decisions made throughout the story. That’s not my role. They haven’t yet asked a question for me to answer.

But it took me the longest time to realize, the underlying theme in ALL these stories… was how this person seeks to affirm their own meaningfulness, their own influence, their own significance, in their lives and relationships… and the pain they experience when their efforts fall short.

Now here’s a strange thing… this is as true for truly “powerful”, “influential”, and “significant” people (whatever that really means)… as it is for the weak and helpless. The issue of “security” and “insecurity” is not met with worldly potency.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bottom Line on this Piece of Good News:

Truth: Human beings crave “attention” as “affirmation”.

Some more, some less. But the more powerless someone feels, the more attention they will demand, and the more their behaviors will absorb the time and attention of others.

So where’s the Good News here?

We, human beings, are MADE this way. We are FASHIONED this way. We have an endemic need for the nurturance and security of attention.

And we are “fashioned” this way because this is a socket in which we are permanently seated, in and for our relationship with God.

Scripture after scripture, from Genesis, through Psalms, through Proverbs, through the Gospels… affirm over and over again… God is HERE, God is ATTENTIVE, God is ALWAYS PRESENT, and He is NEVER too busy to be “paying attention” to you… to me… to each of His children.

This tremendous “Mystery of the Infinite”, this characteristic of Omnipresent God, assures that Jesus, Father, and Spirit, ALWAYS hold our hands and carry us in their arms.

We have no need to:

  • Beg for His attention
  • Ask His pardon for interrupting Him with our petty prayers
  • Hope He doesn’t see our mistakes and shortcomings
  • Cringe, cower, or plead that He will hear and respond to our petitions
  • Wonder if He knows what we need or the timing of that
  • Wonder if He really notices or cares…

None of that.

But I’ve noticed before, that a person CANNOT believe a kindness of God, that they have never ever first experienced from a human being. So, I’ve discovered, first and foremost, the greatest gift I can offer to someone who seeks me out… is simply to “pay attention to them”, “acknowledge them as significant and ‘worthy’ of ‘my time'”, and “HEAR them”.

You would not believe how often, simply THAT… simply LISTENING to them without comment, judgment, or interruption… for the entire first time we spend together… relieves 50% or more of the pain they felt when they arrived.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, suggestion… share the Good News of someone’s significance with them today. You don’t have to “Say” a thing. Just HEAR them. In this, you will affirm them in an incredible way. You don’t have to affirm the “rightness” of everything they think, do or feel. You are simply affirming the rightness of their BEING in the first place. God will grow them, as they allow that. But first, they can know that it is valuable (at least to YOU) that they exist and live at all!

This is a tremendous gift.

This, is Good News.

 
 

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Martian Chronicles — Are We Alone?

Mars OneWell, THAT was a bit startling, wasn’t it? Quite suddenly (in our science fiction scenario), let us pose that budgets and priorities shifted and here we are on Mars! We have 318 souls with us, another contingent due in in a few months, and each of us are performing not only whatever spiritual tasks and services we are capable of, but also using whatever practical skills we can muster towards our mutual survival as well. For some, that’s rendering our desiccated dehydrated food supply into appetizing home cooking (in a variety of international cuisines). For others, it’s tending, nurturing, and singing to new baby plants that we need to thrive in the arboretums to provide recycled air and moisture for us. Still others have mechanical skills and work shifts assembling and wiring modules for work and living spaces.

We are here and work alongside religious leaders of other faith groups represented among our explorer/colonists, and the living and working is amicable. In off hours from time to time, there are wonderful discussions among us, about the person and nature of God, and the relationship with and among humanity.

On one of these occasions, we find ourselves “comparing notes”, and we realize there is a common theme among conversations with our congregants, right across religious and cultural lines. It is seldom expressed in “groups”, nearly always a matter of a “private whisper” or “personal concern” by one person or another. It’s like the shadow that lurks at the back of a nightmare under the bed, that never quite shows itself…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It usually goes like this…

“Sometimes,” the colonist whispers, as if disclosing a shameful secret, “sometimes… I just feel very afraid, for no good reason. I look out, see the stars and the inky blackness or the red desert extending in all directions, and I just feel so empty and small. Like… Like… Like I’m completely alone out here. Like God has forgotten me, or maybe… or maybe… I had been imagining Him all along, and this is all there really is?”

And then they blush and stammer, and quickly add… “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have SAID that… at least not to YOU. I’ll go now!” And they hastily rise to escape.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We nod, sipping our hot beverages as we compare notes as “faith leaders”, we realize each of us have had these conversations from time to time. And we welcome this opportunity to address these concerns with our colleagues…

*Punt*

*Your turn!*

 

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Martian Chronicles: To Infinity… and Beyond!

Mars OneWhat if… what if… God were Infinite?

Yeah, yeah, I know… but what if… what if we BELIEVED it?

Yeah, yeah, I know… but what if… what if we REALLY believed it?

What am I talking about, right? lol

Well, think about that for just a moment.

Richard Rohr writes of the two halves of life… the first half where we struggle to acquire “stuff” and establish our identity, and the second half, where we struggle for meaning and significance. We think of “competition” or “conflict” as somehow a part of our hard-wired nature. We think of the “work ethic”, the struggle to accumulate or to do some task, to take care of ourselves as innate drives or characteristics. All these things.

How many times have we heard someone say or pray something like… “I know You’re really busy, God… taking care of the universe and all… but if You could just spare a moment, I’d really like You to…” *fill-in-the-blank*..

Or how many Christians struggle to be righteous, or worthy of God’s love and grace and kindness… or NOT to be UNWORTHY of it?

Or how many times do Christians consider God to be “paying attention” to them when they pray, or when they’re doing something wrong? (Only).

I guess all this is kind of following from the “Father’s Day” reflection, as combined with the Mars Mission. People, by and large, who have gone into space, have come back profoundly changed. Some have had deeply spiritual experiences, some write poetry, often careers change radically. We can get something of the flavor of this if/when we can get out to a space without artificial lights on a clear and cloudless night. There is something quite mystical about lying in the grass (or on the hood of a car), looking up at literally billions of stars twinkling at us in the darkness.

Infinite… Infinite… what does this even MEAN? Now combine that with God… with love… with grace… with… with “FATHER”?

Have you had the privilege, in your life, of watching your daughter marry? Have you ever seen a picture more beautiful before or since, than she was in those moments, dressed in her bridal gown? THAT is the Father’s heart towards you, towards me, towards all who engage Him… Infinitely.

Have you stood at the altar as a groom, watching that bride approach you to vow your lives together forever? Has your heart ever pounded so with anticipation and joy, before or since? THAT is Jesus’ heart towards you, towards me, towards all who engage Him… Infinitely.

Have you held a baby in your arms, covered them in your love, your protection, your provision? Have you ever felt both so powerful and so protective, before or since? That is God’s heart… well, you know the rest… Infinitely.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What if we believed this? What if we REALLY believed this? What if we were utterly free of the fear of His disapproval, or His absence, or competing for His time or attention or blessing? What if we never worried about displeasing Him with our flaws and frailties… but really believed that His is always there, always guiding, always providing, always encouraging, always correcting… always in utter love, and grace, and provision?

What if we really believed that… Infinitely?

And what if, in the vast vacuum of terrifying space and endless stars in the darkness… What if THIS were the Gospel we felt compelled to share with all those who would hear?

What would that be like? If we believed it?

Or even… what would TODAY be like, if we really believed it right here and now?

 

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Martian Chronicles: Respect

Mars OneWell! Here we are again, assembled in preparation for a first expeditionary missionary trip to Mars, scheduled for sometime between 2025 and 2040.

Today I want to look at what some would call a “meta-issue”. Neither content nor context, but the process we are using.

Over the past several weeks I have been amazed at this project. Amazed at the number of people reading it… at the number of people commenting… at the amazing diversity of readers, commentators, participants… and at the “fragrance of grace” that has perfused the commentary.

In case you are a “casual” or “intermittent” reader of The Postmodern Mystic, let me assure you… we do NOT all agree. Many of these commentators and the bloggers that cross-talk among our blogs come from extremely different traditions, worship in vastly different ways, and even differ on some generally hotly debated topics of theology.

And yet… it takes very little time indeed to sense the great sense of “amity”, “harmony”, “accord”, and “familiality” (not familiarity) that exists in these writings and among these opinionated disciples. (And believe me… we ARE “opinionated” disciples, indeed.)

So… if we’re all so opinionated, dedicated, fairly passionate… how does all the “amity” and “accord” come about? Well, obviously, the “textbook answer” is “the grace of God”, the “spirit of Christ”… all that. That’s a GOOD answer. That’s the RIGHT answer. But sometimes even a good and right answer, isn’t terribly helpful. My peculiar ministry, pastoral counseling, teaching, healing of heart… rests in my effort to take what is “good and right”, and find words to make it “helpful” and “pragmatic”.

For example: take the question… “How do I live a righteous life?” Answer: “Stop sinning.” See? True, good answer, right answer. Not necessarily helpful for most people. I myself have needed a bit more pragmatic structure to an answer to work for me. The ultimate answer I’ve found that helps ME (not to say it should work for you or anyone else), is “treat all people as the sacred children of God, fashioned in His image by His hand in His love”. Doing that seems to avoid most “sin” in my life, and address my challenge of righteous living.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now, I am manfully resisting the impulse to launch into a detailed essay about “one accord”. One of the most challenging passages of Scripture ENDS in what are among my very FAVORITE verses, describing the nature of Jesus and His relationship with the Father. But that same passage BEGINS with the most challenging and difficult verses that I have struggled with my whole life, let alone career…

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:1-11]

It’s this “regard for one another” thing… this defeat-of-the-ego thing… that so arrests my attention. It’s not to say that one’s own view is wrong, or another’s more right. This passage really treats such issues as irrelevant. It’s all in the relationship… it’s all in the context, not the content.

Ignatius of Loyola, in his manual of exercises for spiritual growth, sets out what he called a “Presupposition” as he opens his work, thus:

In order that both he who is giving the Spiritual Exercises, and he who is receiving them, may more help and benefit themselves, let it be presupposed that every good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it. If he cannot save it, let him inquire how he means it; and if he means it badly, let him correct him with charity. If that is not enough, let him seek all the suitable means to bring him to mean it well, and save himself.

Please bear in mind that Ignatius was writing in Spanish about 500 years ago, and some phrasing does not translate smoothly.

Anyway, I said I’m not going to prolong an essay here, so I shall not. But suffice it to say that one of the most difficult truths I’ve ever had to learn was that someone can disagree with me, even profoundly… and still be “right” because of their own experiences and understanding, without me necessarily being “wrong”.

Herein, I think, lies the mystery of the “amity” and “harmony” of this table and discussion. We all seem willing to grant respect to one another, to consider one another’s views as valuable as our own. In doing that, our words “give life” and “give value” to the other… rather than taking it away.

I work to bring this view into the everyday world around me, but it seems much easier when directly discussing God and obvious matters of spirit.

Anybody else out there find this to be so? Or is it the opposite? lol. Is it easier to be “calm and understanding” in matters of “the world”, and more adrenalin-filled when dealing with discussions of God?

 

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Martian Chronicles: Ritual Revisited

Mars OneWe’ve looked at a few different aspects of what it is to be “church”, to make “church” on Mars for the first expedition headed that way sometime between 2025 and 2040.

We have discussed questions of ritual, and even considered the example of baptism for how we’d carry forward scriptural mandates without clinging to denominational detritus out of simply habit.

An earlier post asked “what is the benefit of ritual?” Are there any good aspects to rites and rituals, especially as that would affect this Mars Mission?

Gentle Breeze (Julia) made a magnificent response in a comment as she listed a variety of things she would want to bring along as a Martian Missionary… Here’s part of what she said…

First I would want the Bible. if I couldn’t bring the whole thing I would bring the four Gospels and the psalms.

Then I would want my daily Bible reading notes unless I could persuade each member of the team to take it in turns to write our own each day.

I would find it hard to leave behind my favourite book of Blessings-Benedictus by John O’Donohue. I discovered the importance of blessing each other through my sister.

Too, I want to bring my very first Prayer Time Book to remind me of my child hood faith and how sometimes a child is closer to the kingdom of God than the most learned.

Can I bring a candle?-sometimes I light a candle when doing daily tasks like washing up. It helps me when i can’t pray in words and makes even an ordinary task a prayerful activity.

I want to bring bread and wine (non-alcoholic for some) to share in the Lord’s supper.

I want to bring water-fresh soft water from the hills to drink to refresh and hydrate me and remind me of the Living Water.

I also want music-secular and religious. I would like my favourite songs or pieces of both as they can all be used prayerfully.

I would like a radio or TV as I would not like to live in my own cocoon. I need to know what is happening on earth.

This wonderful contribution richly highlights the question of “ritual”. Is there a positive benefit, a healthy aspect, to ritual? Yes, I believe there is. Ritual denotes routine and predictability. All of us have dealt with times of change in our lives. Change can be unsettling, even scary to some extent. Routines can add elements of stability, predictability, and comfort for us.

When it comes to religious practices, where we often look for comfort and stability in the first place, routines and ritual can be very dear to us.

Julia’s comments are wonderful because they point out a tremendous source of grace, love, joy, peace and comfort in our lives, as we invest time in practices we develop over a lifetime of prayer and closeness with God.

We’ve all taken part in creating rituals… whether for ourselves, for our children, for co-workers or friends. Patterns of behavior that make life stable and predictable. Mealtimes, bedtimes, beginning work, lunch, vacations, weekends… all these things.

Right, so if we grant that the presence of ritual may add to stability and a sense of “hominess” for colonists very far from home and the familiar… how do we make positive use of that comfort, without becoming slave to rules and routines beyond the mandates of grace and scripture?

Coffee, tea, and mocha poured. * Branching out these days *… Pie sliced. Whatcha think?

 

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Martian Chronicles: Water Shortage

Mars OneWell! Here we are again, assembled in preparation for a first expeditionary missionary trip to Mars, scheduled for sometime between 2025 and 2040.

Since we have decided that “rituals” and “traditions” are too heavy to take along, and we are a multi-denominational team of Christians determined to share leadership subject to the Lordship of Christ through the Holy Spirit…

Let’s consider how we intend to “practice ministry” according to scriptural guidelines only, without yielding into parochial debates of traditional practices and interpretations.

Let’s use this example…

Let us suppose one of our colonists comes to profess faith in Christ and seeks to enter fully into the life of Kingdom.

  • Need we baptize that person through a physical ritual?
  • If so, must that involve WATER? (H2O)?
  • If so, how much is necessary?

As I am certain the engineers and technical briefings Don has endured have made clear… the two most critical substances we will deal with in this expedition will be Oxygen, and Water. Water will be valued far above its weight in platinum. The Biosphere we will help create and stabilize will be needed to help produce and purify both water and oxygen, and electrolysis and other highly inefficient means will have to be used to produce them. We’ll not be able to afford wasting even a molecule if we can avoid it, and our use will be severely limited.

Even hygienic “baths” as we are accustomed to here, will be luxuries beyond imagination there. Bodily cleansing, in the colony, will be exercised through non-aqueous solvents that can be synthesized readily, purified, and reclaimed rapidly.

So… how do we want to approach this with scripture alone as our guide? Do we ask the engineers to design a “misting suit” that a candidate can wear, simultaneously moistening them in an instant while we speak words of induction into the Body of Christ? Do we anoint them with a moistened towelette on the forehead? Do we immerse them physically in a bath of fluid representing water, but not water, to stand in for our evangelical “baptistries”?

What do you think?

* pours coffee, tea, and cuts pie. Wonders how many at the table believe ‘abstinence’ to be an issue? Wonders if this may be the moment to check that out? *.

 

 

Martian Chronicles: Ritual, Rites, Runes

Mars One Well! Here we are again, assembled in preparation for a first expeditionary missionary trip to Mars, scheduled for sometime between 2025 and 2040.

All righty then, having established that we gather in mutual respect, and seeking the means best to express the love of Christ among and around us…

Let’s consider a “knotty” question then…

Taking Scripture as our only “Gold Standard”…

How should we approach the issue of “Ritual”?

God expresses Himself to us through “spirit” and “truth”, through revelation by inspiration of the Holy Spirit; expression of the Word of God “Logos”, the words of Christ through the Holy Bible; and through relationship of love and mutual encouragement through others and godly counsel. This is not an “exhaustive list”, but it’s the list of means I have experienced that God “speaks”. Are there more? Discussion open.

But people, social creatures that we are, tend to group together and express our response to all that… not only through the privacy of prayer and secret worship, individual worship, but also through the congregate enterprise of “religion”. A major part of that is the development of “ritual” or “congregate practices of devotion” that we engage in.

Historically, these practices codify into one or another form of Codex, or Rituum, or set of Rites that identify a group and its cohesion. Ultimately, it devolves into a clan or a tribe, identifying with one another as being “right” and “good”, and with others or alternative practices as “wrong” or “bad”. Terrible wars, intense bloodshed, have been pursued among Christians who have mutually inflicted martyrdom upon one another.

We, at this table, seem dedicated and determined not to follow such a path…

So my question is… how?

What elements of congregate practice, group cohesion, mutual encouragement in worship, prayer, and mutual support… reflect the heart and mind of Christ? What is “good” about “ritual” (if anything), and thus should be kept? And what can we properly eliminate (if anything), as NOT reflective of Christ and the revelation of God’s heart in the Bible?

How do we DO this “church” thing?

Coffee’s poured, tea’s up… Pie sliced… and this time, I brought some cookies, too!

 

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