Perspectives:: Stones of Remembrance

June 13, 2018

People in the United States are experiencing loneliness at a greater rate than ever before

If you feel alone in reading this email, well, you aren't alone. That isn't a statement to dismiss your sense of isolation, but to point to data that says that it's something many other people are experiencing too. 

It's quite possible our country has never had so many people living it and we have technology that makes our ability to connect greater than ever before. These factors should lead to greater connection between people, but it's having the opposite effect. 

We're surrounded by people and feel a deep loneliness and isolation. In fact, having people all around us can actually lead to a greater sense of isolation. While being surrounded by people, nobody seems like they understand how you see the world. And these feelings become overwhelming. They shape our reality and lead us to believe that no one is with us to laugh, cry, sulk or dance. All of those activities are for us to experience alone without other people to share them. 

And while these narratives are very real in our heads, they aren't true of human experience. We're not alone. There are other people who have had similar experiences who are also feeling isolated and are looking for connection. They want to share their lives with other people and break through the false narrative of isolation. 

I imagine this sense of being all alone in the world is one that Jacob felt while he was in the wilderness running from his brother. He had experienced the close community of his family and twin brother for 40 years of life and had walked away from all of it.  He felt physical and emotional distance. 

And yet in this place is where God greeted him in a dream. He was reminded that we wasn't alone in that space and he wouldn't be alone at any other stage of his life. God was with him and God was going to stay with him. That's a powerful intervention in the depth of isolation. 

You're not alone. 
You won't be alone. 
You are deeply loved and valued. 

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Connie Baker:: Spiritual Trauma and Abuse

June 12, 2018

** We had some technical dfficulties with this recording, but our team is awesome and salvaged some audio from a video recording that was happening in the back of teh room. It will sound a little far off.**

 

Trauma and abuse are words that are thrown around a lot these days.
If we aren't being traumatized by getting the wrong order at your local coffee shop than you're feeling that the person at the DMV counter was using abusive language. 

The temptation when certain words are being over used is to roll your eyes hard when you hear them. While that posture makes sense, it doesn't mean that the concepts aren't helpful to explore. Maybe you need to understand it better for yourself, or maybe you need to understand it better for people that are close to you. 

Certain systems are set up perfectly to produce abusive or traumatic experiences. This doesn't mean that they always create abuse and trauma, but it does mean that we have to be aware so that we can be involved in healthy ways. Systems with significant relational connections and an imbalance of power are places where abuse and trauma can happen. Throw in relationship with the all-powerful and all-seeing God of the universe and you could see how people could be profoundly hurt if it was used against them instead of for them. 

Almost no one creates abusive or traumatic systems by choice. Believing that you aren't an abuser doesn't serve any purpose other than making yourself feel better. We want to lean in to the reality that church can be an abusive or traumatic experience so that we don't become that. 

These concepts aren't ours, but directly the words of Jesus and clearly linked to the few times he showed anger in all the Bible. 

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Perspectives:: I Will Be With You

May 30, 2018

The image that I remember most from what I was taught about heaven growing up was that the streets will be covered in gold. 

For an 8 year old, this is not a selling point. 

What am I supposed to do with golden streets? Unless there is chocolate underneath that gold, I wasn't interested. 

A root beer fountain at the center of town? Now we're talking. 
Streets covered in trampolines? I'm all about it. 
Gold teeth for every person? That sounds fun!

In that framework heaven was a place that I just needed to believe was really, really good. If the descriptions didn't appeal to you, don't worry about it. One day you'll get there and you'll finally "get it". It was a future reality that was waaaay better than this reality and all of your dreams (but not the sinful ones) could come true. 

The idea of heaven coming to earth was a confusing one. Is that like a sneak peak of the sequel? Would we just get those golden streets in downtown Lents? How much and what parts of heaven would come to earth? 

In the story that we're lingering on for our current message series, there's a dream where heaven and earth meet. The angels of heaven are seen here on earth as the move up and down these steps. This vision sets Jacob off on a course of seeking after God's leading in his life, but why is that? What about the meeting of heaven and earth matters for us here and now and is that something we'd like to see. 

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Perspectives:: God Was In This Place

May 25, 2018

There's just something about the ocean. 

The consistency of the waves. The sound that drowns out everything else. The massive expanse of water that extends beyond the horizon. The life that gathers and thrives in and above the water. 

If I want to be inspired the ocean is always a really good place. I see God in the ocean and I'm reminded of a reality that is bigger and greater than myself because I'm face to face with a reality that is bigger and greater than myself. 

A Motel 6 in Winnemucca, Nevada is not a place I would go to find inspiration. I wouldn't call that space sacred, holy or filled with the presence of the Lord. 

I wouldn't see God in the ice machine, the snack machine or the blinking red light on the phone by the bed. I would probably see God in the Gideon's Bible placed in the nightstand, but I'm just assuming they have one there. 

Why is that? Why do we have certain spaces that we connect with a sense of spirituality and others that we don't? Why do we assume God can be communed with in particular places, but not in others? 

This week we are starting a brand new message series that delves into the times and spaces we expect to see God and the times and places we're sure God isn't in. What if we were constantly growing in our awareness of God's presence and saw all matters as spiritual matters? 

We might wake up one morning and say, "God was in this place, and I didn't know it."

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To Be Honest:: Being Right vs. Being in Relationship

May 8, 2018

Do you have a friend that you love to talk about more than your other friends? 

These are usually the people that live the most entertaining and perplexing lives of all your friends. They spent some time in Costa Rica living off the land. They built out the back of their 1998 Astrovan and spent time driving around the country playing coffee shops. In one month they went on 3 dates with women named Molly. ***

Hearing about their most recent exploits is a constant source of fascination because it's odd in comparison to how you see other people functioning. There is usually an undercurrent of judgement in these conversations. You might roll your eyes at the absurdity of their decisions because the results of their choices will so obviously be bad. The words of "I tried to tell them...." are always on the tip of your tongue and ready to be deployed when we can all agree they've made a mess of things. 

So what is the best way to proceed? Do we have an obligation to correct the errors of their ways? Should we hold our tongues and just be there if things fall apart or celebrate when things go well?

What's our responsibility in relationships with people when our interaction with God's truth leads us to different conclusions? 

Jesus was given the impossible task of taking the entirety of the Jewish scriptures and reducing them to its very core. Jesus identified love as our rule and God, self and our neighbors as the direction of that love. While the command is clear, how we walk out that command is complex and challenged by our lack of understanding of ourselves, of God and of others. 

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To Be Honest:: Subjective vs. Objective Truth

May 1, 2018

Have you ever heard a child mispronounce a word and find it so adorable you never bothered to correct them? 

Allow the full grown adult version of one such child let you know about the pitfalls of this decision. 

Mapkins.

These are the paper (or cloth if you're fancy) devices used to clean up any sort of mess and are most commonly used during meals. Many of you would have corrected me and said that it's actually "napkins". "N" and "M" sound DANGEROUSLY similar and it's an honest mistake, but a mistake nonetheless. 

My family let it slide for the sake of their own entertainment. 

Fast forward to a young child in the public school system asking for another "mapkin". My peers found this to be less adorable and more hysterical.

This was made more hilarious to them with my insistence that they were called mapkins. 

I had always called them mapkins. I asked for a mapkin at home and I was handed one. It was often my job to put the mapkins on the table before dinner. My parents told me to put the mapkin in my lap when we ate out. 

I quickly learned that the rest of my social world called them napkins and I was the one who was wrong. When I confronted my family on this revolutionary truth and the horrible mistake we had all been making for years, I found myself to be all alone. They knew. They weren't calling them mapkins annnnnnywhere else. 

I had a subjective truth that was shattered by the objective truth. Subjective truths are the ones that appear true from your vantage point. Objective truths are true regardless of your vantage point. Regardless of who you are or where you grew up these things are true. 

Do you know people who present their subjective truths as objective truths? It's something that happens a lot and many times we don't know we're doing it until we encounter people who challenge our assumptions of subjective truth. 

Most of us live, hang out and work with people who share our subjective truth. In that setting discovering objective truth is nearly impossible. 

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To Be Honest:: How Honesty Bounces Off of Truth

April 24, 2018

How many movies has Tom Cruise been in? 
How many free throws did Lebron James make in 2014? 
What's the capital of Tunisia? 
What's Pi to the 10th digit? 

50
439
Tunis
3.141592653

The beauty of these questions and the internet is that there are clear and easily accessible answers. You can disagree with the answers, but they aren't really up for debate. There is an objective truth that exists for these questions. The answers don't change based on who you are, where you're from or what your faith tradition is. And I am confident if I made a mistake with any one of those answers, someone will correct me! 

What's so comforting about objective truth is that the answers don't change unless they change for everyone. Later this year Tom Cruise will release another movie and the number of films he's been in will climb to 51. While the information changes, it changes across the board. There is clarity and simplicity in this information.

Why do innocent people suffer? 
How does God answer prayer? 
What happens after we die? 
 How should Christians vote? 

ehhhhhhhhhhhhh....

These questions are cut from a different cloth. Google doesn't link you to 20,000,000 results that all say the same thing when you type these questions in. 

Now, I believe that there are objectively true answers to all these questions, but what is my relationship to that truth? Do I speak about this truth the same way I speak about statistical or geographical facts? 

You certainly can speak about these questions with the same certainty that you talk about the capital of Tunisia. Many people do. There can be something comforting when people bring the same clarity to the ambiguous questions of life and faith. It takes it from the category of complexity to the category of simplicity and we could all use a bit more simplicity in our lives. 

The problems comes when the complexity of life challenges the simplicity of answers we've been given or we discovered on our own. 

Can there be absolute truth in the universe and can we not have a complete grasp of it? What comfort and what conflict do we create when we treat complex questions like simple questions? What's the role of honesty in the midst of differing versions of "truth"?

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The Cascade Journey: Where We’re At

April 20, 2018

When you were younger did you avoid the ever-present threat of cracks in the sidewalk? 

I guess it really depends on your relationship with your mother. What responsibility did you feel for the health of her back

It was a silly game to play when walking was an evil necessity between the much more enjoyable parts of life. At least for me, life was periods of enjoyable times interrupted by the boring stuff. I jumped from destination to destination trying to maximize fun and minimize the mundane. This way of living idealized birthday parties, holidays and outings to be the true living. This had the impact of building my expectations higher and higher for the next event while simultaneously making more and more of my life a thing to be avoided. 

As I get older the appeal of the highlights is still there, but it's dimmed some. The periods of time of normalcy are more interesting. 

Part of this is linked to valuing life as a journey where every step matters, not a series of escalating fun experiences that matter more and more. With this shift has been the opening up of seeing God in more and more places I couldn't see God before. I'm trying to be more aware of what God is doing in the little things, than only being able to see God in the big things. 

I don't need games to pass the time between more enjoyable or important things, I am able to see God in the cracks that I once tried to avoid. 

This journey mentality is one that we want to share with you about Cascade this Sunday. Our story isn't one that involves a place we started, a place we are at today and a place we are going. It's a step by step journey that involves success and failures as we seek to see the values God's called us to follow after become more and more evident in our midst. We want to value each step in the journey and value each person that's led to join us in the journey. 

My prayer is that you'll be part of the journey. We're better with you. 

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Word Made Flesh:: John 21

April 10, 2018
When I played basketball my freshman year of high school our coach gave us some great advice about taking free throws. 

He had us all develop a free throw shooting routine that we would do before taking the shot. You could take a couple of dribbles, pat the ball twice before shooting. You could rotate the ball backwards and bounce it back to yourself before taking a shot. 

Mine was five little dribbles, one spin on the palm of my hand and then take the shot. 

The thinking behind it was sound. 

When you play high school basketball every hoop is 10 feet tall and you're shooting from 15 feet away. The differences in gyms you play in, however, are completely unique. Some have huge banners hanging behind the hoop, some have bleachers, some have no room at all. 

The point of the routine is to trigger your muscle memory so that you can block out the differences and focus on the similarities. Even today, if you had me shoot a free throw I'd probably start the little routine out of habit. 

There's something so helpful and calming about routines that remind us that things are the same even when they feel very different. At there best these kinds of tricks bring us back to the present moment and remind us that so much is the same even when it feels all different. The presence of God is with us even when it seems like everything else is turned on its head.

At their worst, our routines try to recapture something that doesn't exist anymore. We exit the present moment and retreat into the comfort of old patterns that allow us to avoid the world around us. God takes a back seat and our memories take the front seat. 

This week we'll be looking at Peter going back to fishing after the death and resurrection of Jesus. What's present in Peter's return to the profession he knew after everything should have changed for him. 

 
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Easter Sunday 2018

April 2, 2018

The tomb is empty. 

It's one of the briefest and most confusing statements of joy ever spoken. They went to mourn and their confusion went from the smallest spark of hope into a roaring fire of joy. With Christ our visits to the places of deepest mourning bring us encounters with new life. Like Spring, it keeps bursting forth from the dead to remind us that God is still working. 

We are invited not just to observe the resurrection, but participate. What else is yearning for new life? What other tombs need to be discovered as empty? What hope needs renewal? 

As a child Easter was saying "thank you" for a gift I didn't ask for. It wasn't that I wasn't grateful, it was just that I didn't understand. God made me, but I was born steeped in sin and that meant an eternity spent in Hell. Fortunately God thought that was a bad idea, so he sent his son to die and now I don't have to go to Hell. 

It felt like a massive drama where my mortal soul was at stake, but I was ultimately an observer. My role was to find the tomb empty and celebrate the life of Jesus or spend all the days after my death being tortured by the Devil. 

What if the empty tomb is an invitation to partner in the act of resurrection? What if it isn't as much about observation as it is about participation? What else is God inviting us to see brought back to life? What part of our relationships, dreams and even our very selves are being called to partner with Jesus in coming back to life? 

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