The next, last and only “project” I really need to get done in this
life is “Second
“, which deals with finding God at work in this world today, as
a confirmation for my faith in God and Christ. For the project, cf.
also my mindmap-style project plan in article “My
vision for my life, as a mindmap
“. Currently I can do just some
thinking, planning and preparations. Here’s one thought:

One of the crucial issues of this project is how to determine the
truth content of religions, religious experienced and claimed or
supposed-to-be experiences with God. Sunday 2007-12-09 I was in Colone
with some friends, and we also did a short visit to Colone Cathedral.
The best result of which is an inspiration I got there and typed into
my handheld computer. It is a candidate for a criterion to determine
the truth content of claims about God:

Remove all outer forms from a religion or style of
devotion, and what
remains is authentically the work of God.

That’s because all outer form is authentically the work of humans,
and it tends to obscure the work of God. Cathedrals, music, solemn speech
and so on is human work. This criterion does not require to abandon all
form in order to be the faith “where God is authentically at work”. We
may have forms, as forms can be nice, like worship music. But forms
must never ever be our reason for believing some claims about God to be
true. Therefore, experimenting with abandoning forms temporarily will
make it apparent on what basis our beliefs rest: hopefully on something
that God does, and that becomes visible as the content of the forms.

I’ll give one example how to apply this criterion. It’s an extreme
one: what remains as the authentic work of God if you substract all
outer forms from a  Sunday service in Colone Cathedral? Watch the
little video clip I made in 2007-06 in the Freiburger Münster … I
wanted to show you one from an evening mass in Colone Cathedral from
2007-12-09, but that material is not adequate here ;-). So, look at
this illustration and imagine that every impressive outer form, even
every intentional, human created audible or visible or touchable form,
is removed. What remains? I’m not sure if anything would remain in this
concrete case. What do you think?

Start date: 2007-12-09
Post date: 2007-12-12
Version date: 2007-12-12 (for last meaningful change)

I thought that only Islamic culture is based on shame and honour, so I was somewhat shocked to see the the culture of my personal life share these characteristics to a good degree: it’s my western shame culture. That was an interesting observation that I recently made: my life does not feel well because I am ashamed for oh-so-many of it’s circumstances, situations and things.

Some examples:

  • My tiny chaotic flat (see image) with its “kitchen” and “special” style of nutrition … there was a time when I was proud to live that way, but that time has gone. It is indeed a problem that I cannot invite people without belieing all these social expectations.
  • My theoretical approach to life, including my blog and my opinions; there is the need to justify myself for these before practically gifted people and before those who do not share the interest in the theoretical penetration of life.
  • The jobs I do … so far away from what I have learned and from the gifts I have that I feel the need to justify myself whenever somebody asks me casually what my business is.
  • My rather low quality equipment, be it computer (six years now!!), clothing or “furniture”. Regarding clothing, I wonder whether punk people have their outward style as a mode of coping with the fact of tattered clothes. Might be … I sometimes experiment in that direction and I like it.
  • And finally … my world tour plans and the reasons for these. Again something wherefore I need to justify myself, this time before security oriented, socially integrated people.

As I that, this doesn’t feel well. I needed to get rid of being ashamed, or life will not feel well. Me thinks [sic] that I’ve found a simple solution to that: rethink if you want to be different, and if not, start to be yourself. That does work, indeed: there’s no reason why I sould be less convinced of my lifestyle than others are of theirs. So, basically it boils down to this: this is me, and this is my style, and if you cannot cope with that, that’s your  problem, not mine.

To me, being myself is something like: I am a nerd or geek (depends on defintion) and I will stay this and live this and you guys need to cope with that. What motivated me further is that I deeply respect people who live out their identity, who are themselves: my father, my mother, my brothers and my friends. And, of course, Jesus, who is probably the best example of living out one’s own identity.

Start date: 2007-11-22
Post date: 2007-12-08
Version date: 2007-12-08 (for last meaningful change)

Today, some funny image happened to me when trying to improve the contrast of some digital facsimile scans for a neighbor of mine. Dear neighbor, can u guess in a comment the worksheet number where this image belongs to? And to the other guys and gals out there: what might that be? Jus’ crazy, isn’t it. Here is how I made it, with the “local adaptive threshold” option of the nice free software tool  “convert” from ImageMagick:

convert -lat 30×30+20% infile.jpg outfile.jpg

Start date: 2007-12-07
Post date: 2007-12-07
Version date: 2007-12-07 (for last meaningful change)

Today, 2007-11-30 at about 10:30, my chef and friend called me and
told me we’re both losing our current job at 2007-12-31. Basically,
that’s cool … not just that I really dislike this job. Times of
changes are
times where new and good things can arise. And even better, risky times
have the latent possibility that one might experience God immediately:
how he cares about me personally, and supplies for me personally, as I
need this.

It’s no box of chocolates, though. I thought about the bad things
that might happen … having no money at all, for example. So this post
is to remind me how to behave when this time is come:

(31) ‘So then, do not keep asking, “What shall we eat?” “What
shall we drink?” and “What shall we wear?” (32) It is the people who do
not believe in God who work for all these things. Your Father in heaven
knows that you need them all. (33) ‘Work first for God’s kingdom and
what he calls good. Then you will have all these things also. (34) ‘So
do not be troubling yourself about tomorrow. Tomorrow will have its own
trouble. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’ [Matthew
6:31-34 BWE

But what is to “work for God’s kingdom and what he calls good”? I
think that Paul talks baout exactly this when he says that God’s
kingdom is about something different than eating and drinking:

“(17) The kingdom of God is not about what a person eats and
drinks. But it is about living in a way which is right with God. It is
peace. It is joy because a person has the Holy Spirit. (18) A person
who does the work of Christ in this way pleases God. And people like
him. (19) But we must do the things that make peace and that help each
other to do better.” [Romans
14:17-19 BWE

That’s interesting: to work for God’s kingdom is not to serve in
your church. But it is to care about living out righteousness, peace
and joy! It’s about doing exactly the
things you do now, but in God’s quality. It’s about caring how you work
(the moral quality), not about the result of your work (the money).
Money is God’s business.

Start date: 2007-11-30
Post date: 2007-11-30
Version date: 2007-11-30 (for last meaningful change)

Four dead-end roads

How to arrive at a truthful and (if possible) joyful life? This is justifiably the desire of humans, and it’s my desire. I tried several ways:

  1. Child-like accepted faith. I accepted to have found truth and a joyful life through Jesus, without thinking about it. This failed when I began to think about it in ~1996.
  2. Intellectualized fundamentalist faith. I was absolutely convinced to have found truth and a joyful life through Jesus, as I collected and thought about and accepted all the fundamentalist’s arguments for believing in Jesus. This failed in beginning 2005 when I realized this had shifted me to a legalistic, joyless, strained life with deliberate but not necessarily true convictions.
  3. Experienced faith with emotions. This was the best time yet: I got to know Jesus in a totally different way as a loving, gracious friend and saviour. Along the way, I throwed out many legalistic and otherwise strained convictions and wrote about that. But the best thing was that I experienced God personally in concrete ways, including some few supernatural experiences that I accept as genuine even today and honest, precious relationships to friends. That was really a time of joyful life … it ended in first half of 2006 when I experienced God no longer in these ways and then started to question the genuineness of some of these experiences, and the validity of my emotional reactions to them.
  4. Demystified history-backed faith. The following time was filled with many philosophical considerations about God, genuine experiences with God, valid emotionality etc.. It resulted in throwing out many opinions I once held and now recognized as non-genuine, mystical and religious … as documented in my blog articles. The result was an intellectually justifiable faith in Jesus, and if only as the basic conviction that Jesus is the Christ if there is any God at all (which is also faith). My faith was now founded in the historical facts about Jesus and the hope to find contemporary miracles of God in the Second Acts project (see my article “My vision for my life, as a mindmap“). This ended on Tuesday (2007-11-13) when I realized that this course would lead me neither to joy nor truth: it is the stressful, self-navigated philosophical course of a desparate seeker, therefore something that excludes joy; it also excludes joy as it would not lead to any new experiences with God, emphasizing thinking so much, not doing; and it would not lead to a confirmed conviction of truth in the short run, as Second Acts is rather a long-term project.

Fifth start: Jesus-led practical faith with experiences

My above mentioned human desire for a way to truth and life is acknowledged by Jesus as he promised all three: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:16 ESV). Jesus even promised to be the way to truth and life himself – which is the new idea for my fifth start: to let Jesus be the way. Another way round: if there is an Almighty, there’s no need for me to live this stressful seeker’s life, as God is then able to lead me to truth and life anyway; and if there is no Almighty, there’s also no need to live this stressful seeker’s life, as there’s nothing to be found.

Now, what shall this analogy mean to “let Jesus be the way”?

  • Stop to find out yourself. That is, at least for me, stop the current habit to philosophize, as it makes stuff really complicated and mostly joyless. The only alternative to excessive thinking is to start doing something. Which will also result in more practical articles in the future.
  • Expect God to navigate your life. That does not mean to just sit and wait, but to stop worrying where all this will end. As, such worries are implied in a self-navigated life: the problem is navigation when you neither know where to go nor how to get there. Letting God navigate, however, implies to not expect him to adhere to your own plans (as I proudly did with my agenda how to find truthful and joyful life). But you can trust him to strictly adhere to good plans 🙂 Only if you let God navigate, you’re going to make experiences with God; when deciding all for yourself, you’re going to make experiences with yourself.
  • Expect God to find ways to answer your questions. I won’t accept unjustified a priori statements about God and how he wants to navigate my life, and also, I won’t return to finding out myself about God and how he wants to navigate my life. But I expect that God will find ways to show me the truth about him and how he guides people, in a way I can justifiedly accept.
  • Expect God to find ways to confirm himself by experiences. Philosophy shows what could possibly be true, but one needs to experience facts to know for sure. But, stop searching those facts yourself, as that’s stressful and joyless. Personally, I expect God to show himself in my own practical life … and  to let me know what he does currently in this world. Wherefore I want to pursue this Second Acts idea further, but in a not-so-desparate way, expecting God to correct it or make it succeed.
  • Find your flavor of a lively, relaxed, simple relationship to the Father, Jesus and the Spirit. There’s no need to dig up again legalistic or fundamentalist  practices of faith, but you need a practical faith to get out of the theoretical realm. See below for concrete ideas. Whatever form you choose, put emphasis on a proud-free relationship that has room for collecting concrete experiences with believing God.

Caveat: these elements of “letting Jesus be the way” may sound as if one should expect an immediate, 24/7 relationship with God. This is not the case (see my article “The third way of life in this world“). You can expect God to navigate your life, but it is unclear in what way and when you can expect this. You’ll have to try yourself. From my experience I conclude that it can be very different form immediate, audible or visible words


Practical ideas for practical faith

As said, you’ll need to let God choose the experiences you make in a radical-practical faith that’s led by God. All we can do is to furnish an environment that fosters practical experiences with God. Here are some ideas, but as I’m right at the beginning I’m quite clueless and would appreciate any additions. What is very obvious is that practical faith needs practice: thinking and talking alone has neither power nor effect. One cannot learn how to live with God practically from philosophizing and blogging (as in my case).

  • Fill the day with people. Whatever filled the day that was not practical faith, it is worth to be replaces by just that: by the simple and beautiful activity of having community with people sharing practical Christian love and building authentic relationships, which is very precious. One practical idea: when living alone, one might move to a flat-sharing community.
  • Collect some inspirations for outer forms. The goal of every outer form of faith is to support and foster the practical relationship with Jesus. You may look for new forms if you find inadequate what you know; for example, look at some things the emergent church movement does. Any outer form that supports even such basic things as memorizing what you know to be true is worth to be considered. This may include appropriate dealing with music and lyrics.
  • Find your positive access to the Bible. Whatever problem you may have with the Bible (or, more precisely: human conceptions of the Bible), it is the most important document for the Christian faith. Therefore, face your problems and find for yourself how to dig up that buried treasure. I once made good experiences with the four gospels, getting to know Jesus in a new way. And with changing the translation … . Also, I made the experience that faith can become quite arrogant and overcomplicated if one forgets the basics … which are spoken about in the Bible.
  • Collect your prejudices against God. After a frustrating period, it might be a good idea to find out what exactly is ones frustration now. That avoids an overall, diffuse disclination and fosters to consciously lay down these issues and try to learn about God anew.
  • Invest into honest, authentic friendships. This includes: daring to trust without fear, daring to be open and really (!) honest about yourself, daring to be interested in other people (not just their abilities or gifts), daring to enter a dynamic relationship without knowing the direction, talking about unconvenient matters, daring to struggle with each other (in a constructive way) and learning to do so.
  • Start to believe again in everyday life. Pray and believe, as those who do not pray won’t receive. It might be a difficult time to learn why so many many prayers do not get answered and what God really wants, but without starting to pray one can never arrive at positive experiences with God’s gifts.

Some things have changed in this vision since last re-vision … umh, ok. It will be cool and humiliating and enlightening to see the differences when posting new versions of this mindmap in future posts … this thing is never finished, I think. And, this is my first image on this blog, bringing some more colors to it 🙂 Note that you need to click the image to view it in original, readable size.

Start date: 2007-09-29
Post date: 2007-09-29
Version date: 2007-09-29 (for last meaningful change)

From time to time, I write down what is my long-term vision for my life. To own my “plan” in a compact form for reading, thinking about and sharing, and to document it and later find a development from version to version. Here is the version from today (2007-08-21). The driving question behind all these thoughts is: how to live an adequate answer to the world as I find it, that is, how to live a life that is not banal (see also my post “What ain’t banal” for that). So I plan to live an orchestrated combination of the following elements:

  • Mobile, international life. So to speak a “permanent world tour”. I simply see no reason why the “random” place where I was born should determine where I am or even stay. To me, freedom includes to be at home on the whole planet. Practically, I plan to use a 4×4 truck with box body as my default home while I am on this planet, and a fine-tuned equipment within it. The equipment is currently in late planning state; it will make it possible to move easily from the truck to a flat, tent or any other shelter, just as possibilities and needs are.
  • Community of 4-10 friends. Intentional community fascinates me for years now, though I have to admit that I’ve lost the focus on it during the last months. Community might take multiple styles, and to me what fits is this: a mobile community of 4-10 friends, which allows moderate fluctuation, and which will include people who want to be healed and mature in personality (all of us to some degree, actually …). Yes folks, mobile means all of you will live or at least travel in 4×4 trucks 🙂 Combining this community with working at universities in development countries and helping Christian congregations (see below) means that all of us will support this in some way or another.
  • Working as university teacher and researcher, mainly in development countries. I need to earn money to live and do nice things, but what this world really needs is just outside the economic system (i.e. Jesus is not for sale). So I’ll have to take a “serious” job. From all the jobs that fit my profile (nerd, computer geek), me thinks this is one of the less banal. I don’t want to work for the high-level problems of industrial countries, as they lose their meaning and justification in relation to the poverty and injustice in this world. Combining this with a mobile lifestyle means to travel between countries and universities, teaching for one or several semesters at each.
  • Missional life style. The idea to reach something “great” is hollow: great things can only be organizations, and organizations are nothing but an cumulation of individual “small” work. Plus the synergy, admitted. I thing there are enough organizations, one for every possible goal, and I’ll not add to this. Instead, a non-banal part of my life will be a missional lifestyle: building and using contacts to convince people of Jesus. Read on: this is not about religion. I’ll have to lay the personal non-religious foundations for this first … I won’t convince people of something where I’m not totally, absolutely and justifiably sure that it is the truth and nothing but the truth. The posts labeled “A Seeker’s Guide to Life” in this blog and a supposed-to-be book “Second Acts” serve this purpose of becoming justifiably sure … .
  • Stopping by to visit and help Christian congregations. This will be again a non-banal part of my life. Interesting enough, one could compare this kind of lifestyle with Paul’s who did this “tent-making” job, travelled around, lived a missional life style and visited (and founded) Christian congregations all around. And, when people like Luke travelled with him, he had also a mobile community, just as I long for!! Though my job will probably play a bigger role in my life than Pauls job did in his life, we as community will serve and help the congregations we meet, just as is possible. And when looking to Paul’s sweeping effect, I lose the fear my life might be ineffective this way … there’s the chance to be not, and it depends on God’s blessings.

Date: 2007-08-21

Last meaningful change: 2007-08-21