Dwight Is Gone

That Dwight Ozard is gone–I cannot get my mind around it. We’ve emailed regularly over the years and most recently his side has been journaling the roller coaster ride of his cancer treatment. Dwight wrote honestly, bluntly, lovingly, colorfully–he was an earthy guy whose mind was on God and heart was on earth with the least of these.

I miss him dearly.

Here’s a piece he wrote on Spiritual formation and then the endorsement for my Jedi book–that didn’t get in on time for the book, but made it to my heart.

He wants donations to go to World Vision, PO Box 9716, Federal Way, WA, 98063-9716. Donations may be sent to the Dwight Ozard Memorial Fund, Account #101007777. –please send one.

Musings: Is “Spiritual Formation” a Bourgeois Preoccupation??by Dwight Ozard

(an excerpt from an email exchange with one of my favorite people in the world–now the editor of a small ‘zine for a spiritual formation ministry and the best poker player I know…)

I’m finding that there’s an entire sub-species of aging/maturing left-of-center would-be social activists and advocates, as well as their sister/brother sub-species of would-be modern mystics etc. both of whom are in desperate need of grace in their ordinary lives.

Sadly, both groups have bought into an oddly Gnostic notion of the universe and spirituality that simply doesn’t affirm God’s nearness and work in the mundane–and thus fails to affirm the core notion of orthodox Christianity: the Incarnation. These folk want to develop great things, and believe God is there, but don’t actually believe God cares about mortgages and yards and gardens and dead-end or boring or functional jobs or certainly not the television shows they quietly (and guiltily) enjoy (except maybe to be indignant or pissed off with the latter or bored with the first).

They read Brother Lawrence but see doing the dishes as a means to something other, rather than as fully part of and integral to the life God has for them–and wants to share with them. And because of this, they oscillate between guilt, misery and bitterness, with only occasional glimpses of godly joy.

Now, admittedly it’s much harder to see the hand/feel the presence of God when you’re just doing an ordinary thing. It seems so much more useful and exceptional and godly to do “community development” than it does to work in a factory or as a copy writer or a mechanic. And if you’ve been clearly gifted or called to something specific, then, yes, those jobs will be a distraction from that which is useful or exceptional or godly.

But let’s be honest: most are not called.

Most believers around the world, frankly, are busy wondering how to feed the family and not get a deadly disease from their only water supply. And in the “New Testament” and early church, most of the converts were not apostles or even free-men. They were slaves and day workers. If they had dreams of exotic, godly careers and lives of glorious intimacy with Christ, those dreams came after 18 hour days of brutal, soul-crushing work.

And yet evidence suggests that those early believers, and the majority of today’s Christians around the world, find grace, comfort and joy in their faith and rare moments of corporate worship, all without specific “ministry callings” or “weekend spiritual formation retreats.” They believe that the hand of God is at work, and believe that the presence of God is real in their mundane, difficult and frequently miserable lives, and in their routine, daily and weekly formalities of faith–especially the Eucharistic feast, but that’s a whole other set of meanderings.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Ministry callings and opportunities, and certainly spiritual formation retreats are really, really cool. Those of us who can take advantage of options like this should give thanks. Deeply.

But we need to remember that these things are luxuries–glorious, good and godly luxuries–but luxuries nonetheless.

There you have it. Most of our clamoring for social justice and the spiritual disciplines are a function of our bourgeois privilege.
If this is the case, then what of it?

One, it ought to give us a big old dose of humility when we start talking about changing the world or delving into the disciplines developed six centuries ago in a cloistered, self-contained community. We are not on the cutting edge of the church–we are in its chubby little middle.

Two, it ought to help remind us–and believe–that that the ordinary stuff we’re always trying to transcend is holy and good. We have got to start starting from that place–the notion that God has sanctified the ground around us, whether we shovel shit for a living in Calcutta, or shovel shit for a living into the mouth of a respected but poorly circulated magazine.

Three, while we’re struggling (as we ought) to deepen our walk with God, we need to remember #2 (above) everyday, and remind ourselves that our experience of God is in a very real, if equally odd way, profoundly irrelevant to our relationship with God. I don’t get this, but there are not only times and seasons in believers’ lives when they don’t feel God’s presence, there are many, many sincere, good and godly believers who never sense his presence in the way that we would-be mystics, activists, Charismatics and “key leaders” speak of.

Because they have without ever having an experience that they could define as “mystical,” many of these believers live their lives in quiet anguish or deep guilt, having been made to feel by over-zealous preachers that the exceptional experience they lack is somehow normative.

And yet they persevere. And believe.

This should not indict their faith, but rather our own. Perhaps they’re the ones Jesus spoke of after being finger-holed by Thomas:
“Even better blessings are in store for those believe without seeing.”

Fourth, all these other musings aside, we should keep on doing our seeking after God and our attempts at godly activism and radical living. It’s just that we have to do them in a new light.

And with a special tenderness and respect for those of our brothers and sisters–near and far, in physical poverty or just anxious and consumed with the necessarily mundanity of the everyday–who don’t get to share in our particular journey.

Besides, there’s been more than one time in my life when the golf course has suggested a moment of God’s nearness. And that’s about as bourgeois–and pathetic–as it gets.

SECOND: DWIGHT, THOUGH VERY SICK, ENDORSES THE JEDI BOOK (Dick, There are reasons for the lateness. I hope that they can be excused.)

When Star Wars arrived on Cinema screens, I was, like many other evangelical kids, forbidden to go. The prohibition had nothing to do with the content of the film; rather, I was forbidden to go to the movies, period.

“It’s about our witness,” my father the preacher said, “it’s about keeping our reputation pure so that when the time comes, we can share our faith with integrity.”

All these years later, the folly of this oddly isolationist notion of purity or holiness, if you like has become more and more clear, and was abandoned long ago. Indeed, it has been in engaging our culture the world around us in all its ambivalent glory that I’ve not only come to understand some of the most critical and delightful aspects of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, but it has been in that engagement I’ve had the best and most interesting opportunities to share that faith.

Now, let me tell you the truth. I don’t give a cat’s patooty about Star Wars. In fact, I make fun of almost anyone willing to use something like Ewoks as a metaphor for anything. But that said, Dick Staub remains one of my heroes. I’ve learned as much about what I call “worldly Christianity” from Dick Staub as almost anyone on the planet he’s the apostle of earthy engagement, the high priest of Christian cultural crit, the gracious guru of a spirituality that demands your hands be dirty and your knees be skinned before you’re let in the door.

Star Wars, The Matrix, The Simpsons, tomorrow’s paper Staub finds grace in every image, turn, page and notion. Why? Because Staub understands that God waits at every turn or notion, image or turn, longing to pour out his love and mercy upon us. And so, whenever I can I seek to understand all that I can about Dick, because, pathetic and curious earthling that I am, I know but one thing: if God’s still pouring out that love and mercy, I’ll take a pint with my pretzels.

(Dwight Ozard was a writer, pundit, speaker and consultant to non-profit ministries and NGO’s around the world.)

Dwight Ozard is alive with God. Dwight Ozard left a legacy for those still on earth. Every once in a while you see Jesus–I did in Dwight.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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