California and back

A few years ago, a bunch of us sat around the living room at the Jones house in Prague doing what we do best–dreaming up road trips. This one was going to be of the u.s. Southwest, Andrew dubbed it the Weeping Jesus tour, because every trip of ours needs a spin. a raison d’etre.

I even started making a website for it:

weeping jesus

The ‘Weeping Jesus’ idea, I think, had something to do with the ironies of southern religious culture. The religious symbolism of the south has come full circle–it got aware of itself, at least in my generation, and then it was cool to deconstruct all the Bible Belt culture, especially if you were an outsider, and now things like Gospel brunches and Jesus action figures are no longer ironic–they are self-aware but they are actually still the real thing. We thought driving through small towns and being at “Jesus and barbecue” all along Route 66 was a good idea.

But California was the destination–we all have tons of friends in California, either personally or by association–people Derek and the Jones knew from years of living in San Francisco and moving around. It was time to see them again, to kind of refresh the connections and make the lines of friendship stronger. Anyone who knows us knows that our community exists beyond the confines of one place–it stretches across states, and continents. But it is a real family.

Truthfully, most of our horizons are pretty dim, until we get around people that God uses to sharpen us. Most of us are used to settling for less-than, even in our spiritual relationships, but the real body of Christ, the one that exists across space and time, is meant to become one whole strong thing and become people of infinite possibility, which is really the kingdom.

My story is about communion–how when we let God bring the right people into our life at the right time it always makes us bigger than life, bigger than ourselves, and propels us. In our circle of friends a true convergence happens about every 6 blue moons but when it does, there is real magic. Most everyone I know is looking for something real and authentic and wanting anything other than simply religious commitment to a group of people. My true family, my “church”, is spread abroad–more and more, God has been showing me that the kingdom is much bigger and more mystical than just a local expression of people getting together. This makes for some hard gaps where we long for spiritual intimacy with others but when a real convergence happens it is enough to fill you up for awhile.

So three years later, Derek and I still knew we had to get to California, it was time to pay our friends there a visit, but how would we get everyone together? Much to our surprise Andrew, Debbie and kids were coming to America after six years, Jessica had a break from work, Shannon was here to kick off her friend’s gallery tour–and bam!–we had a convergence. The spin of this trip was no longer Weeping Jesus (although it’s hard to avoid American road trip kitsch once you’ve crossed the border of a Texas city into Texas country and onwards). We could have dubbed this tour, “the breakfast tour”, if you knew how many bagels and eggs and crepes and hashbrowns and oh that yummy California corn-beef hash I put into my stomach over two weeks.

But I have to back up a bit, because the whole story starts out with us in Europe. Derek and I were visiting Bryce and Sam in Switzerland and being in the middle of their creative swirl as their band was beginning to produce a new album of video and music. At the same time Shannon had arrived in Austin with a tribe of friends from England and Germany to kick off the Doxology exhibit, a collection of enormous freehand paintings by her friend Rob Pepper. We came back from Europe just in time to meet up with everyone at the opening. That weekend had everything from an impromptu barbecue at the local campground to meeting up with lots of old faces and talking about life and art… and just the fact that we all met up at an art exhibit says something… in the past it has been a festival or a conference or something of that nature but now it has become something which is getting closer to who we are.

And then we set off on a trip across the country, and with the Jones this always means a lot of zigging and zagging as those of us who know them know, but the zigging and the zagging always means something like a really good breakfast buffet at 3 a.m. in Las Vegas, a hunt for the perfect crepes in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, and then a plot to find the right pad thai in Marin Country. And of course lots of coffee and buying kitschy american-style 3 liter travel coffee mugs to hold our cravings intact.

So as you might guess, being with the Jones means 1. breakfast, 2. breakfast, and 3. other kinds of food, or coffee instead. Forget the tea, you are now in land of coffee. It also means getting to be myself and be with family. The Jones are a part of my family, and so are Sam and Bryce, and so is Shannon and so is Jessica, and so on. And when we all happen to be around each other, the stuff that we are together lights up. Not that all of those in my spiritual family are artists or creative thinkers, but most of them are people of possibility. When we are together, there are always lightbulbs and more lightbulbs and more a-ha moments.

Going to California was full of these “a-ha” moments because California is a place of possibilities. It is as grand and strong as Texas but definitely a dreamy place and a place where people think outside the box all the time as if it were normal fashion. I overheard at least 3 cafe or street conversations where people were talking about metaphysics and science and fractals and Buddhism in the same breath. You just don’t hear this kind of talk in Texas.

California is like a big soft bowl, collecting dreams. As to what that puts into people, I was so surprised by how truly unsuspicious Californians are–among all the folks that travel in ministry or Christian circles there is little to no territorial stuff. Most of the people are broken or have been through a lot of crap so they just don’t presume anything. What this makes for is a lot of really creative and open-minded leaders. That creativeness and openness to community is the thing I wanted most to bring back to Texas.

And we can be ourselves around each other, which is important. We can be with each other deeply or we can be silly, but we can just be. If we need to call each other on our crap, we can do that. If we need help, we can ask for it. If we need to feel sorry about ourselves, we can do that. The first night we arrived in Dave and Karin’s house in Marin County (near S.F.), I had one of the richest and most loving conversations I have had in a long time. In the midst of it, I wondered, ‘Isn’t this communion?” And I realized that most Christians if not all don’t experience it enough, if at all. What it means to really love and to really be with each other in a way that stretches across time and where you are able to sense how you are connected eternally.

That is how it should be and one day that is how it will be. As Derek always says, ‘we only have 3 days here on earth’, and beyond that we are all connected in Christ through some part of him. These days are about finding how we are connected and to whom… and seeking that like the great pearl.

By the time everyone starting coming back home–I wanted more than anything to bring that sense of community back to Texas, back here, where people share and get together without expecting each other to join this club or that club. Just be together–broken pieces and all–because that is what I saw the most of in San Francisco. The broken people were the most transparent and the most powerful.

las vegasif we could just stop all playing games and get real, we might glimpse a window of this kingdom. We would be amazed at how many different pieces of us were so lost–and we find those pieces in the most surprising places–in people we never expected. With some friends God might charge your compassion, with others he might worship a lot, with some you get excited about the prophetic parts of God, and with a lot of this part of our tribe you get juiced creatively. Most families don’t stop in Las Vegas at 4 a.m. to have a breakfast buffet and check out the architecture. There is always the sense of adventure, and a whole lot of just plain silliness that keeps us going. Life isn’t so serious, and I need to remember that from time to time. I felt like I came back with this whole new paintbrush, roaming, looking for its canvas.

Recent Posts

Midrash on the Psalms

Reading the Psalms again today (little midrashing for you today!), as I often do, as they seem like the center (and therefore centering parts of

Read More »