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Adam and Eve were given the Garden of Eden. Their job was to manage it and mind the boundaries.

Israel was given the Promised land, VERY conditionally. If they remained faithful to the plan, they could keep it. If not, they would lose it.

In essence, both parties were homesteaders.

The basic rule is:

1) Get land/property for free.
2) Prove it up.
3) Protect it.
4) Keep it.

Mess it up, and you lose it.

The art of life, basically speaking, is continuous homesteading, in the broadest sense of the term.

We start with little things. Take care of these fish. Take care of this pet. Take care of your toys and your room. Jesus says that if we are faithful in little things, we will be given bigger responsibilities.

Jesus also, in his parables, talks about doubling the value of what was given us (the Parable of the Talents).

In essence, we are all gardeners.

So how is your garden growing?

Is your life a garden or a junkyard?

YOUR BODY

I talked with a doctor yesterday, interviewing him for our radio show. Dr. David Steenblock may well win a Nobel Prize someday. He talked about the bodies he treats being junkyards or gardens. It’s almost impossible to plant seeds (i.e. “do medicine”) in a junkyard body.

“Garden” bodies take daily care. Are you working on your flexibility, muscle strength, bodyfat percentage, respiratory capacity, and energy level? The more you work on these things, the more your body produces stem cells, which lead to fresh tissue repair, which works against aging.

I turned 50 recently and started doing lots of strenuous Pilates work with a trainer. First time I almost cried like a little girl. After a few months, I am doing things I never thought possible and my core strength is surpassing that which I had playing football in college.

Am also working on my breathing. Most Americans get lazy with breathing and their respiratory system atrophies. Being overweight multiplies this and many of us don’t get nearly enough oxygen.

Another expert here in California, Dr. Tony Ganem (fatburning247.com) has taught me that:

1) Eating between meals
2) Sweet and diet sodas
3) Drinking liquid during meals

can add bodyfat. Look up his work to find the reasons for this…

YOUR HOME

Is your living space de-cluttered, clean, and balanced? Is disrepair piling up? Do doors squeak and are knobs coming loose?

We were given our homes with the “homesteading” mentality. Leave things better than you found them and you get to upgrade.

My theme for my home is “nothing missing, nothing broken.”

You may need help with this, and it may cost money. But it’s worth it. Too much time is spent in front of screens while we should be “proving up” our homestead.

Is your desk clear? Is your home organized? Are your windows and carpets cleaned on a regular basis? Are your media and books in order and accessible?

Are you getting rid of the “stuff” you don’t really need? Reduce, reuse, recycle!

How does your lawn, garden, plants look? Remember. You are a gardner by birthright.

YOUR WORK

Do you have clear vocational objectives? Is your workplace cleaned up? Is your place of work “upgrading” because you are on the team?

Are you working against “wear and tear” in the workspace?

The easiest way to promotion is to exceed expectations at your current “status” and have an impeccable workspace. Chip in to buy new carpet at the office. Offer to paint and decorate.

YOUR SOUL

How are you cultivating your soul and spirit? Are you scheduling time for serious, intentional prayer and meditation?

Are you attending your church or spiritual community regularly? Forming community around your highest values and the “better angels of your nature?”

Is entertainment the core of your spiritual life? If so, a yellow warning light should be blinking.

What is your spiritual growing edge?

1) Cultivating an experiential and personal relationship with the Creator?
2) Letting go of material anxiety?
3) Learning not to hold bitterness toward others?
4) Working on getting rid of the “dark sectors” on your spiritual hard-drive?

THE PHILOSOPHY OF HOMESTEADING

All property ownership started with homesteading. Long ago, someone found an unused piece of land or a valuable object.

You, according to Natural Law, are entitled to “own” it as long as you care for it and “prove it up” on an ongoing basis. Let it unravel or rot, and you lose it.

If you claim too much land or property to handle, others around you will hold you accountable.

It’s like at the 4th of July parade in Huntington Beach, which goes right by our house.

Days ahead, people start to stake out, with chalk, their “spot” from which to watch the parade. If they take more space than they need, those around them “veto” it. If they choose someone’s front yard (a place someone else has been “proving up” all year), then that also will be pushed back.

We do the same deciding where to put our towels on the beach. Or where to put the BBQ outside the stadium during the tailgate party.

First come, first served, and you only get as much space as you can “prove up.”

We don’t need police or deeds to enforce this. It’s in our human social instinct.

In fact, the right to defend one’s self and property against aggression is the number one human right according to natural law.

THE GOVERNMENT AND THE BANKING SYSTEM

Right now, all of our property is tied up in government registered deeds and mortgages.

But the Federal Reserve/Property Taxation/Mortgage Banking system is breaking down. The cronyism in this “junta” is set up to put pressure on those who are rightfully homesteading. If you don’t pay your property tax, guess what happens to your property? Property tax is an affront on Natural Law and its corollary, homesteading.

And the banks are currently just an arm of the Federal Reserve, whereby bank profits are kept by execs and shareholders, but losses are “socialized” by government bailouts.

As that whole system collapses, be ready for a return to homesteading.

There’s plenty of land for everyone. Most of America is empty.

You start with less valuable land. Prove it up, and trade up.

Property “owners” in the rust belt who have let their buildings decay, are no longer rightful owners of that property. Anyone should be able to move in, make a claim, improve the property, and get to stay there.

Anyone should be able to occupy an abandoned building for free, as long as they prove it up.

Let a building crumble, and you lose it. Simple as that.

It’s a whole new world coming. We’re seeing thru the “stacked cards” of the current “ownership” society where the banks and the government really own all we have.

Are you ready to homestead?

It’s what we were all made to do.

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Here I stand, bare feet on ancient stone. Looking down at the water…

How did I get here?

It’s 3am in Tsfat, Israel. Dark outside. Full moon over the 4,000 year-old graveyard behind me…

I was on the way home to California from a business trip in London.

As if by an unseen hand, I was led out of my well-worn hotel room and down the switchbacks to this holiest of places in this holiest of cities. Yitzak Luria‘s Mikveh.

I feel like Indiana Jones, except there is no khaki or wide-brimmed hat…I am as naked as the day I was born, no barrier, coram Deo. Even my watch and wedding ring have been taken off.

Just me. Just God. Just now.

My name, David, which never made much sense to me, seems oddly right for, perhaps, the first time ever. I have cultivated nicknames all my life. I think of the double delta of David’s monogram…

I think back over the last 48 hours here in Galilee.

Invited into the back rooms of synagogues…

Rabbis pointing through the texts of “secret books” in Hebrew and asking questions….

  • How did you learn Hebrew?
  • Your name is David, are you sure you aren’t Jewish? You look Russian…
  • Where do you sense the presence of God here in Tsfat? Where is that feeling the strongest?
  • What are you doing here?

I did not choose to stand here. I’m not even sure what a mikveh is…I was led here…

I need answers to three questions. Just two days ago, I wrote those questions on a tiny slip of paper, rolled it up, and placed it in the Western Wall of the temple mount in Jerusalem at sunrise. My forehead against the cool ancient stone, my palms up high, time collapsed…the better part of an hour evaporated like the morning fog…

It is dark outside. Not even the roosters have begun to crow…

I slide into the biting cold of the fresh spring water, holding the pole and stepping down the ancient steps. I breathe deeply and submerge….

The world disappears.

I pull my knees up against my chest, going fetal in this womb-tomb.

An avid surfer, I am used to being underwater and I gently roll backwards….

A glow emanates from nowhere and everywhere. I open my eyes underwater to confirm the experience and the light vanishes…

I come up for air twice and submerge again. The glow returns, and I feel enveloped in the Khesed-love of the Creator. Answers come to me faster than I can receive them.

I generate a will to receive.

Something shifts around me. The third time under turns into a dream. I feel as if I am breathing underwater. The glow gets warm.

All of my theological legalisms about baptism vanish and dissolve into an ocean of God’s presence.

As I climb out and dry off, my soul comes to total rest. I will walk for hours until the hilltop town awakens. Like an old snakeskin, I have shed something. A new season is starting…

Where is your “mikveh” where you take off everything in the presence of God?

When’s the last time you were there….?

The final copies of my first novel just arrived!

Have a look at the 90-second intro-to-the-novel video movie:

Please pass it on to others, thanks!

The book comes with a built-in study guide for groups, book clubs, and classes.

For…

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Of course, you could say that we are thousands of years old (from the date the first human set foot on Alaskan soil) or 234 since the Declaration of Independence. But I prefer 1607, the day people started speaking English and living here (Jamestown). That’s when America as we know it started to take shape.

I am hopelessly patriotic. Not sure where that comes from, because I never set out to be that way. And my patriotism is not comparative. I don’t think in terms of “better” than other nations. Having traveled extensively, I can easily see why Italians and Ethiopians are also patriotic.

So, let’s talk about America for a few paragraphs, since we’ve taken another trip around the sun together. Some random thoughts:

1) Patriots can question America and point out faults. Family can do that.

2) Americans need to respect their political opponents more. I am so tired of conservatives and liberals bashing each other.

Conservatives who don’t think liberals are right about anything (and vice versa) lack perspective. I am a family-values free-market guy. But I actually listen to my political opponents, value them, and learn from them. Demonizing Bush or Obama (depending on your flavor) closes your mind. Keep it open.

3) The immigration issue has degenerated into sound bites and posturing. Where are the real solutions that would actually work?

Politicians stir up xenophobia in order to pander for votes, and then they present no real plans to solve the issue. The result is hypocrisy (let them in but say we won’t tolerate it).

Like him or hate him, the last one to present a real solution was W. And his own party shouted him down. Since then it’s been useless pundit-pulpiteering.

4) America needs to re-embrace having children.

Listen to people talk about having kids or being pregnant. Trust me, they will usually imply that children are a liability.

This, not politics, is at the heart of our abortion statistics. Children should be seen as a blessing, not a curse.

And economically, we aren’t having enough of them to pay for our retirement. And then we wonder why we need so many immigrants to keep the country running.

We think that having children will get in the way of our development, but all of us with children know that NOTHING develops and matures us like having them!

And children with more siblings tend to be healthier and have better social skills.

5) America needs to go on a diet.

This is the main problem behind our soaring health care costs. I struggle with it as everyone else does.

6) America needs a big project or a frontier.

We lack vision as a nation. Haven’t done anything cool together since Project Apollo.

7) America needs to embrace the Open Source revolution.

This will most affect education. Stacking kids in huge buildings and talking at them is no longer the best way to maximize learning. We need much smaller schools which encourage friendship building and teamwork. Children need to be evaluated for aptitudes and these skills need to be brought out in teams. We need to re-visit job skills (whatever happened to vo-tech schools?), apprenticeships, and stop implying that everyone needs to go to the university. Children should learn how they are wired up and be motivated to develop those gifts.

8. America needs to solve her energy problem.

The gulf oil spill is a painful reminder that, economically, environmentally, politically, and otherwise, running our national engine on gasoline and diesel is not sustainable for the rest of the century.

Which of you is going to be the new Edison? Time for major breakthroughs.

9) America needs to redesign her cities around people, not cars.

The way we have built suburban tract housing has isolated our children and created a sedentary generation. Most Americans now live in a setting where there is nothing meaningful to which we can walk. It’s all designed around cars.

After many years in tract-land, we moved into a real (old school) neighborhood 8 years ago. I can easily walk to: library, bank, drugstore, post office, UPS, the beach, schools, and 25 places to eat.

Is your neighborhood designed around human beings or cars?

10) America needs to embrace local food and urban gardening.

You don’t want to watch massive food factories at work, especially with animals.

11) Our children need to be given more social free time.

We are over-supervising and over-scheduling their lives. As a result, they are no longer developing leadership skills.

12) It’s time to revisit our spirituality.

American faith is potent and vital. Its taproot is in the slave songs of the cotton fields. It is empowerment-based and transformative.

Listen to gospel music on a regular basis. It’s one of America’s greatest cultural gifts to the world. And develop a live relationship with a live preacher. Having a “rabbi” and a faith community is deeply enriching. There is a little “indie” church near where you live that could use your presence. They are doing a lot of good–join them.

13) We need to withdraw our military from the Eastern Hemisphere. Our future is in teamwork with Canada and Latin America. All North Americans should learn some Spanish. All Latin Americans should learn some English. We need to build a 21st century railroad to South America. We need to send out brightest and best north and south, not east and west.

Our over-involvement with the Old World has caused nothing but trouble and heartache. Most all of our war casualties (since 1865) have soaked the battlefields of the Eastern Hemisphere with their blood, and we don’t have a ton to show for it. The founding fathers saw this ahead of time and warned us against “entangling alliances.” We are obsessed with virtually impossible blood feuds in the Middle East, which they are going to have to solve on their own, and we all saw how this bit us on 9-11. Badly.

We could easily protect the Western Hemisphere, with about half of our military budget. Dream a little. What if we sent all of our young adults on a one-year sojourn to Canada or Latin America (instead of straight to college) to work and learn and build contacts?

In the broadest sense, everyone in the New World is an American too.

All that being said, I love living in this country. I love being American. We can rise to prevail over all of these challenges. I feel blest every time I wake up here.

God bless you all and God bless the United States of America on her birthday.

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Please pass the link to this essay on to everyone you know. Thanks!  Short version: http://wp.me/pGQxY-b0

Each Christian congregation has a “piety flavor.”

For those of you not super churchy, piety is one’s spiritual “vibe.”

Once this “sets,” it’s virtually impossible to change.

The piety match between pastor and congregation is perhaps the most crucial factor in ministry success.

As Christians, we can play “away games,” and even appreciate a road trip to the other pieties. But we can only have one true “home court” pity.

There may be other “sub-groups,” or even a piety I have not thought of.

But these are the four bouncing through my mind.

They are:

1) Athletic

2) Contemplative (Cool)

3) Warm

4) Hot

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that aligning these flavors is actually more important in predicting success than denominational association or theological angle of the church.

For instance, a “warm” piety Lutheran will feel more at home in a a “warm” Anglican church than in an “athletic” Lutheran congregation.

Please pass this link on to others, especially the leaders in your congregation.

As in so many parts of human endeavor, the feelings “win.” The vibe of a human group is more important than we have realized.

Call it congregational “tribal vibe.”

There are many pastor/congregation mismatches. The worst ones occur when an athletic or contemplative pastor tries to transform a warm congregation into his/her image.

Most pastors going into a mismatched congregation see “vitalization” as changing the culture of their new congregation to their personal piety flavor.

Here are some brief thumbnail sketches:

Athletic

This piety is strident. There is a missionary vibe. “Discipleship” is the prevailing theme. The congregants, and especially the pastor, have serious looks on their faces most of the time.

They mean business.

These folks tend to have strong political left- or right-wing opinions. “Activism” of one kind or another (abortion, racism, hunger, the lost, you name it…) prevails as the reason for gathering in the first place.

Home schooling is common. They all vote.

This group is the one most likely to have highly developed enemy images, and they are invoked often. This creates group solidarity.

This is the home base of the “theologically serious.”

Contemplative (Cool)

Understated and elevated.

These people are consumers of 90% of the candles used in churches. And the most likely to wear tweed.

No plastic or synthetics in the room. Instead: Wood. Stone. Water. Natural fabric paraments and vestments. The organ has real pipes.

These churches are not afraid of silence.

The sermons are oblique, and often float into tertiary reflection (Outloud thinking about what someone else thinks about the Bible text). Listening can approximate being in a flotation tank.

There may be a Taize-style communion station with candles and kneelers in one of the corners.

These congregations have the best table manners at the Eucharist (only group which uses this word), which is fine dining complete with potent “spell casting” sound bites and real silverware.

Choral readings are key. Creeds. Lord’s prayer. Lots of formally-read Bible passages, but no one actually opens a Bible in the pews. The members (especially if they are audio learners) actually learn a lot of Bible over the years, because they hear so much of it every week.

The more committed of this stripe often hire spiritual directors, and aren’t afraid go on silent retreats.

$25 bottles of wine and European cheeses are available at their social gatherings.

The educational and NPR/PBS quotient is high, and the women wear less makeup than average.

Warm

Affection is the overriding theme here. If you aren’t drawn to physical touch and “stiffen up” when people hug you, then you won’t last long in this group.

The music chosen tends to be affective rather than theological. A relationship with God is eros, in a non-sexual way, if that makes any sense to you.

Small town churches of every stripe lean in this direction. Bible camp for grown-ups. There is a profound informality undergirding everything. No one would be shocked if you raised your hand and asked a question during the service.

A large minority of the attendees of these churches are socially and emotionally broken women; many of them divorced with kids. A good chunk of the men are in some kind of 12-step group.

Hands get raised during singing, and there is kleenex available all over the room.

The sermons are therapeutic and encouaging in tone. Favorite Bible texts are the Psalms and the Johannine canon.

There is always a group of folks in these congregations trying to get you to go on the next Cursillo/Emmaus weekend, where many of them were converted to warm piety in the first place.

Hot

Hot is not its own flavor, it is “warm” piety with the intensity turned up. This one can be downright scary to outsiders.

Generally speaking, this is the hard edge of the Pentecostal movement. It feels like just about anything could happen. This is the only flavor where shouting is a common form of communication.

This piety is often the norm in non-Anglo, non-Western Christianity.

Parishioners can fall out in trances and even writhe around on the floor.

Deliverance, and the here-and-now prophetic, are as common as doorknobs.

If you visit, sit in the back.

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Obviously, you can see why the pastor/congregation piety match is so pivotal.

The most pain comes from a pastor trying to “remake” the congregation in his/her piety image. Phrases like “they just don’t get it” are common.

One flavor is not better than another.

The skilled pastor will try to make the congregation into the best version of itself. And will do his/her life’s work in a church that matches where he/she would like to go to church in the first place.

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I have been especially aware of patterns this week.

People all have a certain way of being in the world. A pattern.

There is a Muslim way of being in the world, a Mormon way, a Right-Wing-Fox-News way, a PC-liberal way, etc.

Some of these patterns are potent (Islam). Some are not so potent (mainline Presbyterianism). Some are on the rise (Hipster-ism), and some are on the decline (the “emerging” church).

I’ve done extensive live-in stints with:

Lutheranism

Action Sports World (surf/snowboard)

Theological Academia (22nd grade and a Fulbright Scholarship)

Pentecostalism (even wrote a book on it)

Each “-ism” has abundant self-serving circular reasoning and tribal litmus tests. They have buzzwords and enemy images. Perhaps they are even necessary–but none of them correspond perfectly to naked reality and truth.

It’s a trade off; you get security and you tolerate errors and inaccuracy when you “buy in” to any “-ism.”

I am about to be voted off the Lutheran island for good. Sad, because I have nothing against it, and, on better days, I consider myself one of its more intentionally constructive, original, and helpful thinkers. I appreciate the good in Lutheranism, my family of origin, but I don’t pretend that God depends on it, or that it is the highest possible way of being in the world.

I am increasingly troubled by the American liberal/conservative polarized political thinking. The left doesn’t understand the power and creativity of the free market and globalization, and the right doesn’t understand sustainable environmentalism, and the potency of collectivism for certain public endeavors (fire, utilities, roads, etc.). We are disintegrating into TV attack ads with stupid sound bites. We need an intellectual like Lincoln to come back, who sees deeper nuances.

In any case, these political “patterns” relieve everyone of the responsibility to think.

And the much of the world is just plain out-growing the need for religious patterns. Especially the overwhelming majority of non-fundamentalist global young people. If you don’t believe me, you’re not spending much time with them.

Let’s just have real conversations about who God really is. Let’s pray together. Let’s talk about Jesus and how his message is so different than that of the Buddha (see E Stanley Jones and his “Egg and the Bubble” analogy). Let’s talk about God’s preferred future, and include him in on the conversation, rather than argue about the merits and errors of competing eschatological “systems.”

Does God Almighty really care about the victory of Confessional Lutheranism or TULIP Calvinism? Is he secretly pulling for a return to a stricter Reformed theology? Is he really upset about the idea of married Catholic priests? Is he hoping we finally secure the Mexican border? Is he worried that Health Care Reform will ruin the world he created? Is Oprah his worst nightmare, wrecking his weekly Sabbath rest? Hardly.

Are we willing to set aside our patterns, even ones we love, to seek the truth? Look it right in the eye?

I have this crazy idea that God is real, and that he doesn’t report to a pattern.

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Please forward the link to this essay to the leaders of your congregation: http://wp.me/pGQxY-8T    Thanks!

A lot of us fail to connect with the spirituality and faith of others.

Often we get into conflict with those who don’t pracitce their “piety” as we do.

The word “piety” is a Latin term. It was a highly prized and nuanced virtue, meaning “devotion” or “Spirituality.”

We think that our faith differs from others because of content, theology, politics, or philosophy. And we tend to avoid and mistrust those with a different faith temperament.

The truth is, piety temperament divides us more from others than anything else. We get into arguments with people which stay on the intellecual plane and we don’t deal with the real issues that divide us.

First, it helps to define the three different flavors. They cross all “religious system” barriers.

1) Athletic Piety. These folks use words like discipleship, discipline, and mission all the time. They are evangelistic and zealous. We don’t want to be cornered by them. Left wing or right wing, they tend to be activists and have a cause. Those with Athletic Piety (AP) like books like My Utmost for His Highest. Their preachers love phrases like: if you only knew what was at stake! One more conference! One more book to read! Theology can be an excercise in combat; and many of them gravitate, over time, to Calvin as a guide. Those of you with “AP” will get frustrated with this essay and write a critical comment. Their churches have clear windows. APers contribute a great deal, because without them, who would feed the hungry and transform the world? Their public leaders wear power suits and ties.

2) Cool (or “Deep”) Piety. These are the sophisticates. They prefer Henri Nouwen books and Taize music. If they start to struggle–candles always help; aesthetics in their shadowy churches and shrines are everything. Pipe organs resonate with their very souls. Reflection, contemplation. Ideally, their faith expression would be a succession of Haiku quotes. The sermons in their churches are complex, nuanced, and “oblique,” often with great depth. The first thing they visit in a European capital is the cathedral; and they love stained glass. Their public leaders wear embroidered robes.

3) Warm Piety. This is me, so I’m biased. Please forgive that. There is a lot of human touch (WPers can’t pray for someone without touching him or her) in these faith groups, and a lot of humor in the messages. Their love for the Bible is affectionate rather than theologically rigorous. Rules are just suggestions. People raise their hands when they sing together and talk a lot about a relationship with God; WPers expect God to touch them in one way or another. Testimonies are more important than detailed instruction by the teacher. They love Cursillo weekends and Bible Camp, and they know songs with hand motions. They have the best youth groups. Their mental background music is made up of inspirational, positive quotes. Their leaders wear non-trendy jeans and hooded sweatshirts. They love hugs.

A spiritual community with one “flavor” contracting the services of a leader of another flavor is a recipe for trouble.

We can also be a blend. I can float in the other two flavors without too much distress.

One of the keys to getting along with people is learning to appreciate the value of the other groups:

-Effectivenes (AP)

-Depth (CP)

-Love (WP)

This is all more or less true in most all faith systems. A warm piety Christian may get along better with a WP Hindu than with an AP Christian who drives her nuts. An AP Protestant has immediate resonance with an AP Roman Catholic.

We often feel that we are in a faith community that doesn’t “match” because we were sent there by God as missionaries to “change it.” Not a good idea. It’s malpractice to try to turn a WP church into an AP church. Help your faith community be the best at its own temperament that it can be.

What about “balance?” Also not a good idea; like putting mustard on waffles. Better to stick with one basic flavor in a church or faith community.

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