Monday, October 31, 2011
"I will not let you go unless you bless me." - Jacob in the wrestling match of his life!
I blearily stumbled into the kitchen and was greeted with the face of my 3 yr. old, a face that beamed with energy, perhaps the energy of a thousand energizer bunnies coursing through his little frame. And he asked me a question I could have guessed a thousand times over, "Daddy, do you want to wrestle?"
As he looked at me with those big hazel eyes, pleading for what I know would make his day, I deliberated the cost. Not much, I thought, five minutes of romping and rolling around on our bed in the hopes of making my favorite boy's day. So we wrestled, and I'm not sure who had more joy, Dad or Son.
I've been reading Tim Keller's Conterfeit Gods and I finally finished it. It was difficult to pick up. I am so swamped with idolatry that I wasn't sure I could handle a book that would blast through it all with the truth. I guess I was afraid that all I would hear would be just more moralistic bootstrap pulling thickly veiled under gospel language. The old "Just stop it" we here in our Christian religion.
I've tried to stop my idolatry and I can't. I need more. I need to wrestle with my God. I need to jump on his back, test his arms to see if they can carry my pain, get spun around on my head and laugh until my sides hurt as he tickles me.
My daughter always insists on stripping down to her underwear when we wrestle. We need to feel skin on skin, to feel the reality of closeness, to feel the muscles twitch and turn as we contort, twist and tickle.
This is what Jacob found in his WWF match with God. As Keller notes, this is what Jacob must have been thinking:
What an idiot I've been! Here is what I've been looking for all my life. The blessing of God! I looked for it in the approval of my father. I looked for it in the beauty of Rachel. But it was in you. Now I won't let you go until you bless me. Nothing else matters. I don't care if I die in the process, because if I don't have God's blessing, I've got nothing. Nothing else will do.
Could this be the universal cry of the human heart? Was it Jesus' cry from the Garden of Gethsemeny? God blessing, God approval, God wrestling? We were made in the image of God, made for this, made for bodies to lock, skin against skin, to twist, pull, push, grunt, sweat and laugh and to be overwhelmed by the power of this creator God, who limits his power for us, much like a Dad with a 3 yr. old.
So this morning I popped little David's hip out as well, just so he'd remember who he was dealing with. You have to keep them in their place after all.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
I had a dream about a month ago that terrified me. My little nephew, who can be a little rascal at times, was really acting up. He was demon possessed! And I was the one given the role of casting out the demon. Finally when I did, a dark and oppressive power rushed over me. I woke up Melissa with my screams.
That dream gives me the willies. And I've talked with others who have experienced demon oppression, and their description is much like what I experienced. While mine was probably just having eaten too much sugar before bed (probably marshmallows or some-such demon possessed delectable), it was terrifying enough for me to realize what we are up against as believers.
And then I read passage of the father with the demon possessed boy out of Mark today. In it Jesus in effect is saying, "'If I can cast out your demon?' Are you kidding me? I'm Jesus!" Then in Hebrews, I read that Jesus was made our priest not by the power of being a descendant of Aaron, but by "the power of an indistructable life."
This Jesus we follow is bigger, stronger and more powerful than our deepest fears. My deepest fear is hell. This morning I was reading about it in Mark. Fun it is not. Hell is absolutely terrifying! Jesus says it's better for us to chop off appendages than to go there. Fun.
Last night I was watching the Animal Channel, and they were describing a house haunting and how this poor woman was woken up and held down by a powerful and dark presence that told her to "Get out!" in a deep voice. On the Animal Channel! What? Fun.
Now that I think about it, just last week we were having a little family outing in Chattanooga at the Corn Maze. Unfortunately the corn was about ready to harvest and the plants were wilting, which left in plane view their "Horror Fair" located right next to the maze. David and Teya kept commenting on the "interesting statues," which consisted of people chared black and impaled on poles (I think they burn them at night). I wish I still had the "unenlighted" eyes of a child that saw stuff like that as just "interesting statues." Fun.
So here I sit, in my comfortable little Starbucks nook, with the sun streaming in and everything here on Lookout Mountain absolutely exploding in fall colors. And I'm struck with the staggering beauty of God juxtaposed to the horror filled experiences described above. Why would anyone want to have anything to do with hell?
I imagine no one really does. But every day I make choices that seem to draw me closer to it's gates. I even question if I'm a Christian at all sometimes. I'm so ridiculously selfish and though I know I'm not enslaved to sin, it sure feels like it.
But my reality as a child of God is Christ. Not in some obscure metaphorical or simply spiritual way. But Jesus Christ is going on and on and on, pleading my case before God's throne. A case not based on "Look what Phil did, he really isn't all that bad, he just needs a little work, a tweak here and a tweak there."
No! Jesus is pleading my case because it's his case. He owns it. He's actually "living to make intercession for me" (Hebrews). What a relief to know that his work on the cross, while final, continues to be in play for the believer. That since Jesus holds his priesthood permanently "he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God."
Jesus' work continues in little old Philip. As scary as I sometimes am, Jesus ain't scared. That's a comfort during this season of so many contradictions: Thanksgiving and Halloween, beautiful changing leaves and haunted houses. It's a comfort when you get the willies.
Note on picture above: He looks like my Hebrew Professor in Seminary!
Monday, October 24, 2011
I'm not proud of this fact, but I haven't been reading my Bible much recently. How good is a missionary who doesn't read his Bible? Umm...
I've written on this before, my tendency to put my Bible down as I find it boring, difficult and just sort of a chore to read. But as a friend of mine once surmised, "Reading your Bible always seems like a bad idea until you pick it up and read." So true.
Yesterday as I was sitting in church, feeling like I was literally dying of boredom, the pastor said something that hit home. What do we say about the word of God when we leave it at home, collecting dust on some shelf? Are we not saying that we don't really believe it's important?
I tend to think like this: There's my Bible and it's antiquated reality and then there's my reality, and rarely the "twain" shall meet (I have no idea what twain means. Maybe it's a reference to Mark Twain. He's all over the place!). My reality seems more urgent, more real, demanding more of my attention. Heck, sometimes I just want to sit down with a fantasy novel and escape both realities, God and mine.
But the truth is that "The Lord is my light and my salvation, the stronghold of my life..." And if I'm to experience the joys of living life in a stronghold, I probably want to read about it.
I get so caught up in struggling with idolatry, materialism, greed, selfishness, ego, and the list is very very long, when I have a book that addresses all of these head on, like a bull charging a matador that forgot his red flag. It blasts through these issues. It literally consumes them.
Somewhere Paul encourages us to strengthen the weak and shore up the falling. I can think of no better way than digging into God's great book on Life with a capital L.
I forget every day that God loves me, so I leave his 6000 pg. love-letter on a shelf. I am a whore, but God loves this little whore, and will never, ever, ever abandon me, for I am his. Ironically this is probably the first thing I forget when I quit reading the Bible.
So that's it, I've got to get to his word today! May you too find in it what you're searching for. I bet you will.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Is there something good in all of us? Something redeemable? Something God can use?
I drink so much Starbucks that I've become friends with all the employees in the greater Chattanooga area. I've also used every restroom, regularly (lame pun alert). My goal is to befriend all of Tennessee, the US and finally the world. Then wherever there's a Starbucks, there's a friend of mine.
Anyhow, one of my better friends at Starbucks posed this question above to me as we talked about Tolkien and more specifically Gollum. His claim is that Gollum is a hero of sorts. That he is the one that accomplishes the mission of the entire Lord of The Rings Trilogy: He destroys the ring and defeats evil.
Sure he does so by biting off Frodo's finger, dancing about in selfish glee over the fires of Mt. Moriah and eventually falling to his doom. I'm not sure this is what Tolkien was getting at, but something within me resonates with the idea of Gollum being a hero of sorts.
Maybe it's because he was always the most fun to immitate. "Fishes, fishes, my precioussss." I can picture my brother Taylor and I scuttling about in our underwear doing our best Gollum impersonations. He was so much fun. In fact, in my early 30's I impersonated him in Vancouver at a swimming hole that was too cold for non-Gollumsies.
I swam across and dove down, revelling in the water, only to crawl up on the other side, perch on a rock with my fresh fishy, glare hatred at the weird humansies and hiss at them. I love being Gollum.
And in a lot of ways I am Gollum. I constantly learning the hard way about life. I strain against God's will and look for preciousses in other places than in Him. But what's fantastic about the Gollum story is that Tolkein uses Gollum's selfish desires to accomplish something really good, the destruction of the RING OF DOOM.
Perhaps he uses my selfishness and sin to do the same. Perhaps, in learning the hard lessons, I'm growing less like Gollum and more like my creator, seeking him more than all the glittering preciouses. Perhaps.
Tolkien definitely wants us to pity Gollum. He gives a detailed back-story of the poor guy, and we see the pain that has ruled his life. Deep pain and rejection. In the story Gollum even seems to begin to reform. I believe Tolkien wants us to relate.
Why? Perhaps because Gollum is a creature that has the imprint of a creator. He was created good. Evil has bent, twisted and corroded him to the point of bare recognition. But in the end, Tolkien uses the evil to accomplish good.
There's a lesson hear about God's good will being accomplished. That no evil can thwart his goodness. That even our own evilness, our hell-bent desires and selfishness, will ultimately accomplish his purpose.
It's an encouraging thought, and the hope of everyone who believes in redemption: God will bring good from the most evil of circumstances. Good will win. God will win!
It's the greatest hope of the believer that no evil will seperate us from the love we have in Christ - specifically the evil within.
Monday, October 17, 2011
I've always have trouble understanding Jesus. I hear him referred to as "sweet precious Jesus" and I think, "What kind of Jesus is that? I don't find him in my gospels."
I love the scene in "Taladega Nights" (I don't recommend seeing the whole movie, unless you don't mind a lot of crassness.) when Will Ferrell is praying over dinner with his family, and prays to "Dear Lord Baby Jesus." This scene grows in hilarity as his friends and family members stop his prayer about 4 times to inform him that Jesus grew up and is no longer a baby. Will gets really mad raging that they can pray to "teenage Jesus, or bearded Jesus or whatever kind of Jesus they want" but that that he prefers his "Christmas Jesus". He finally continues his prayer rubbing in his belief in a "Dear sweet tiny tiny baby Jesus, with gold, golden fleece diapers... Dear eight pound six ounce, baby Jesus who doesn't even know a word yet..."
We all do this. We all make up Jesus. My kid's books really do this. They never portray Jesus as looking like a normal 1st century Israelite. While they've gone away from blond hair and blue eyes, he always has a purple sash and is very handsome, if not a little iffeminate.
A couple of days ago, I was reading one at breakfast to myself (which is a good practise by the way - reading children's books on the gospel has a power that speaks directly to our heart.) I was reading from one of my favorite series (Archway Books I think) about the blind man Bartimaeus.
I got excited as I looked at the illustrations. They were terrific! So earthy and real. When Bartimaeus finally is invited to come to Jesus he is lead to one that I assumed was Jesus. He looked like a 1st century Jew! It turns out he was probably Peter, always the illustrator's punching bag.
The real Jesus was sitting on a marble slab in a tiled square rimmed with big porcelain vases. He looked like Plato, brooding and handsome. He was the image of the ethereal and Romanized Jesus of western thought. And later after "beautiful Jesus" finishes healing Bartimaeus, the illustrator does something that really gets my goat, puts the goat in a sack and tosses him over a bridge.
Bartimaeus and everyone are celebrating in the market, with their cute/ugly cartoon expressions, a really beautiful scene, when Western Jesus totally ruins it by serenely walking through the square, with his purple sash and with the two finger medieval wave he does raised in greeting to some dude in a window shaking out his rug. I can only imagine the rug guy's thoughts, "Who? What weirdo is this? Why did he two finger wave at me?" I would have drawn Jesus celebrating with the rest of them. Poor cartoon Jesus, always destined to have no fun and to be no fun at all.
This sort of Jesus is so detached. An emotional robot. A figment of our imagination. Didn't Jesus have no "beauty or outward appearance to draw men to himself"? Wasn't Jesus one of us? Isn't that the ENTIRE point of the incarnation?
Thanks for letting me vent a little on my blog. If this is the way we picture Jesus, no wonder so many of us have trouble relating to him.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Drool was sliding peacefully between my lips when I heard Melissa moan, "Phil, will you get up with the kids?"
"Get up? It's still night right? No, it's just another pre-dawn morning with two humans under 6." David, with blanket in hand, was present and accounted for by a brain hemorraging whine originating from his impossibly small mouth (for the volume he produces anyways).
So I did one of those drool slurp things I've mastered, knowing I'd need all the fluids I could get this AM. And after cursing myself for being so stupidly self-sacrificial, I rubbed my eyes until I could see blurry shapes and said in a completely defeated and pitiful voice, "Yes, I'll do it."
I managed to roll/fall/curse again out of bed. Then I dragged David down the stairs, still pleading for Mommy, when he informed me that he wanted to get dressed. I patiently explained to him that "IT WAS STILL DARK! How are we supposed to get dressed in the dark?"
I knew this would just end up leading to more whining, and my growing morning-hangover (I hardly ever drink, but I always wake up with a hang-over. I think this is unfair.) was pleading with me just to do whatever the "little devil" (I don't really think of him this way. Just in the mornings.) wanted provided he stopped making that brain-getting-pierced-with-icicles-noise. So we fumbled around getting clothes in the dark, and at one point David dissappeared entirely only for me to realize he had simply left, gone on a 3 year's old errand of spontanaity. I hate spontanaity in the mornings.
So I sat there, in the dark, wondering why Melissa and I couldn't have just adopted a couple of 10 yr. olds that could take care of themselves and possibly me. Alas.
David eventually returned and we fumbled our way downstairs, AGAIN, and I poured cereal into a bowl of milk, poured him a juice full of glass and slapped my weary end down next to him.
Thinking of us in that pre-dawn morning light, we must have looked like a couple of bums, silouhetted against the kitchen window like in an alley - all we needed was an alley-cat routing through garbage. Of course one of the bums would be really small, awefully chipper, and the only thing noting him as a possible bum would be his eating cereal with hands and shirt on backwards. The bigger one, however, would be classic bum - hair totally disheveled, unshaven, wiping his mouth on his sleeve, eyes blood-shot right through, with a look on his face that just begs the question, "Why life now?"
The morning continued... I found myself building marble towers, hangover still chastizing me for all the pops of marbles hitting plastic and little-boy-whoops. Then I found myself wrestling on our bed while Mommy showered. I was basically sort of trying to sleep while tickling, throwing, bucking and having David and now Teya jump on my back for fun. It was the worst nap I've ever had.
God bless mornings. He better. Otherwise I would never get through. So to everyone out there in cyber-space reading this, "Morning." I hope he doesn't bless yours like he blessed mine. But now that I have coffee in my system am safely at Starbucks, I think I'll miss these mornings some day. Plus I'd do it all over again, "I guess so honey, if I have to. Yes? Crap."
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
"You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters." - Leviticus getting crazy!
Perhaps the coffee hasn't kicked in yet. Maybe the rain and fog is getting to me. Maybe it's just that it's hot in Starbucks today and my brain feels stuffy (allergies don't help). But I'm trying to read God's word and finding it impossible to focus. I can best summarize my feelings as "Blah!"
Of course I have friends meeting beside me, and my cosciousness keeps floating over to their table, listening to their conversation and away from Leviticus and it's curses. I'm in the curses section. I barely want to focus. Man that's an ugly section of scripture!
Sometimes I don't know how to respond to this God of ours. Do you? He can seem so close one second and so far away the next can't he? I know he's always close, but it sure doesn't feel like it sometimes. And in scripture we see him absolutely raging at his people!
He's alien. When I see him cursing his people, I see a God that doesn't fit well on billboards and church signs. I see a God that's talking about making parents eat their children. Scary stuff.
I had to discipline little David today. He was sitting at the bottom of the stairs, moaning and yelling at Mommy. I came to him, got down on his level and asked him to look me in the eye. He looked away, curling up into a little ball of rebellion.
I warned him that if he didn't look at me, there would be a consequence. He continued to moan and yell at Mommy. He chose consequence over obedience and joy.
This helps me make sense of passages like what I'm reading today. And it helps me with God's seeming distance. Perhaps his distance is me curling away, eyes shut tight, not wanting to look him in the eye. Perhaps his silence is me refusing to listen. But perhaps not.
Sometimes a God that loves me in deep and even painful ways is just too much. Stiffling. I think I want to be left alone.
I know I don't really want to be left alone, if I knew the magnitude of that sort of consequence. Say I don't want to wind up eating my kids.
But on days where I can't focus, I just want to run from my responsibility of calling yet more people to raise funds. I just need a God who's close, a God who holds me as I thrash and beat my fists on his chest.
The Gospel tells me that this is exactly what I have. For Jesus took all of the distance and alienation for me. He felt God's utter abandonment. What I feel is simply a tiny taste, or perhaps not even. He enables me to be this raw, this way with God. Being true to the way I feel, while perhaps not true to the way of reality.
Life has me blah today, and Jesus enables me to be "blah" me, free to pour out these feelings onto a page without fear. For he felt the weight of the uggliest of consequences (I can't think of anything worse than the verse above) and he bore it for me, for you. That's the heart of God. A God who is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."
I have to rest in this, it's a sure place for my soul. It's the place where I am held.
And woa! I just figured out what might have me feeling this way today. I had a supersized extra value meal at McDonalds late last night! That's a whole consequence in itself.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
"Deep calls to deep, at the rush of your waterfalls." - David (context is perhaps drowning, but we always take it as something beautiful)
I've been reading Ann Voskamp's book again 1000 Gifts. I try to hide the actual book when I'm out in public since it has a pink, bage and purple cover with a woman holding a nest with baby blue eggs (it might as well have been embroidered in lace. In fact it's probably the girliest book I've ever seen). But it is a book that's changing my life. Or rather, God's changing my life through this book.
Ingratitude permeates my soul like poison coursing through my veins (I say this on faith as I've never been poisoned, although I've eaten a lot of McDonalds). Ann Voskamp's major premise is that the key to living the Christian life, the full life, the life of joy and peace all those apostles sputtered on and on about is having thankful hearts to God.
It sounds way too simple. But for anyone who's tried thankfulness, it can be much harder than it seems. And Voskamp is emphatic here, we can't have the plastered on "thanks in all things" that is no more than a forced smile and gritted teeth. The thanksgiving that she talks about is thanks that soothes our soul and helps us see God in all things.
This sort of thankfulness takes practise. And while it seems cheesy, I've begun a gratitude journal, recording all the things I'm thankful for, be them ever so seemingly small and seemingly insignificant.
In doing so, I'm shattered by how much I drift through life dead. Dead to the beauty and gifts of God. Dead to his love song. Dead to his creation. Dead to his hand of provision and gifts. I live dead.
May God forgive me for this betrayal. I know he does. His forgiveness and patience is yet another gift.
So I was thinking last night, as I watched a video on our little Flip camcorder of Teya, David and me at the beach. Melissa was interviewing us, getting little snippets over the powerful rush of waves, asking us what we liked about the beach. Teya said she liked the getting tumbled in the waves. David yelled something incoherent. And I said this (and it surprises me with it's significance), "I knew they'd like the beach, but not this much. Not this much." I shook my head in disbelief, as I looked out over the crashing waters (I looked so cool by the way. It could have totally been in a movie).
The reason my comment has significance for me is that I think it's how God delights over us. Perhaps he shakes his head in disbelieving satisfaction when he sees us revelling in his gifts.
Perhaps this is the greatest gift of all. God shaking his head in delight as we revel in his goodness. Even and perhaps especially in those hard hard times.
Monday, October 10, 2011
I don't know why I still struggle with the fact that God loves me. Maybe it's because we Christians have boiled down the astounding nature of salvation and relational reconciliation to "pray this prayer with me and you'll go to heaven."
Language repeated ad nauseum loses meaning. Repent and believe can mean so many things these days. The very words seem to have lost their potency because they've become a formula for us to yet again try and get what we want. And who doesn't want heaven?
Church signs, pamphlets, guys with bullhorns, fuzzy TV channels, often blare correct words (often not) that drain our ability to know this astounding God who loves furiously.
I'm writing in the context of the Bible belt, where every one is a "Christian" and everyone loves football. The football gets tiresome, and so does the Christianity. It seems like something pasted on just to make our lives better.
I don't know how people can have a "I prayed a prayer" kind of belief. Following Christ is not just like receiving a gift at Christmas. It's so different than that. And I know that I could never feel like "praying a prayer" was enough. (This is partly because I still don't understand the truth that it is a gift and want to try and do something to earn God's favor.) Simply "praying a prayer," saying words so as to get a free-ride to the amusement park in the sky, doesn't do justice to the miracle that is salvation.
Of course, we all stumble into the kingdom don't we? We barely repent, we barely believe (and even these are a gift) when we are rescued. We were still sinners right? Running along in our sin when we were saved.
So back to my original question, why do I still wrestle with the fact that God loves me. I'm beginning to learn that everything in the fall is designed to make us doubt God's love. It's the great deception. The big lie. That we're alone. With no God. Or at least saying "No" to God (Anne Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts).
So my entire being is in need of God's transformational work. Otherwise I'll just fall back into the lie. The only way to live is to cling until you know you're clung to. And clinging looks like searching out God's word, meditating, serving, sharing with brothers and sisters and talking to God about my pain and joy.
I'm betting that the same God who saved me from the fires of hell can save me from the big lie and awaken me even more to his love.
Note on picture: When I'm dissatisfied with God's love, I often run to my hobbies. My main favorite one being biking, I find this picture particularly meaningful for a number of reasons. Biking can numb my pain and make me unreceptive to God. Biking can be a prison, keeping me from waiting on God. And when I get like this, restlessly pursuing a hobby for filling I'm like a wounded child. But I'm hopeful, for prisons are no problem for our God.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
"I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing." - David at the threshing floor of Araunah in 2 Samuel 24.
David's life after the Bathsheba incident was no gravy train. When I look at his later years I wonder, what am I supposed to learn from David's slow deteriotion towards heaven? It's kind of weird and it doesn't fit with my "onwards" and "upwards" view of sanctification. Perhaps I have it backwards.
But at the end of 2 Samuel we catch a glimpse of David's heart. He was a man gifted at repentance. He knew that repentance must cost. And it does.
I've been learning a little about this myself. I often admit to people the wrong I've commited as a form of penance and quick acquital. I think of this as repentance. And I even get complimented for having a repentant spirit. I don't have so much of a repentant spirit as I have an impatient and restless one, one which is unwilling to pay the cost of feeling sadness over sin.
Along with David, I don't want to offer to God gifts that cost me nothing. God doesn't need our cast-offs. God doesn't serve as our great confessional in the sky, as if he needs to hear what we've done. For he says, "The sacrifices that are pleasing to God are a humble and contrite spirit."
I hope to someday understand the grace of costly repentance. For repentance under any other guise isn't real repentance anyway. At least that's what I think.
Boy Above: "Father, why am I in a box and why am I wearing a Hawaii Shirt?"
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
They say that want-to-be writers should write every day. "They" being the published writers.
But "they" tend to imply that writing is a chore. "They" say lots of stuff. "They" are snobs and I don't like "them" (just kidding, I'm just enjoying putting quotation marks everywhere). I actually enjoy the process of writing (nerd-alert). And I have a sneaking suspicion that it may be because I am mastering the art of really bad writing. Alas, some of us must write the really bad stuff so that people can read stuff and say "Oh, that was really good!"
If you've read me much (that sounds weird - "Hey Bob, I was reading you yesterday.") you'll know that I mostly like to write train of thought. I'm not sure but that might be bad. I should google it. But I say to heck with it, I like watching my own pretty trains of thought go by in black and white. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh they go.
I like to express and explore not only what's going on in the inside but to see more clearly what going on. And what is going on? Lots! We live in a world of perpetual "goings on" and while it can be tiresome to process the entire world, it's really interesting, and it's a world worth writing about and worth investing in with creative thought. Or um, at least semi-creative thought. Or at least thought.
Most of all I think that what makes me enjoy the process of writing is that I have a small keyboard that perfectly matches my small hands. And it's one of those keyboards that makes a utopian little click with every keystroke. It's extremely satisfying.
So I write all of this really profound stuff just to celebrate the fact that this is my 150th blog post! Yeah! And if you've read them all, I'll send you a t-shirt along with my condolesces.
I also want to thank all of you, yes you Arakmajad Smith from IZAKURTISTANIANSWEATERVEST, who are out there in cyberspace, are reading my posts and enjoying them. I also want to thank those of you who hate my posts but read them because they make you mad.
It's fun writing knowing that someone out there is reading. And with the whole cyber-space thing, it's sort of like letting go of balloons and watching them float off into the distance and wondering where they'll wind up. Hopefully not in some poor gooses throat. With each post, I worry that I may be killing a goose.
And on one last closing note (I feel like I'm receiving an award - albeit one from myself, which are the best kinds, because you get yourself exactly what you want!) my mind is still "bloggled" and looks like it will be for a long time to come!
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
"When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD." - Leviticus 25:2
It's always cool to pull a quote from the most boring book in the Bible, Leviticus. It makes me feel extra holy, and hey isn't that what Leviticus is all about?
Speaking of holy, with my resolution of "little suicides" yesterday, I'm finding they're sort of tiring. Resolutions are hard for me. My body revolts at resolutions. If I was in a revolution, there would have to be no resolutions, or I'd revolt against the revolution and the whole thing would unravel, at least for me.
What I'm trying to say in a very round about way is that I need rest. I can't enter into this whole "little suicides" thing without a lot of rest. And in a paradoxical way in order to move in God's kingdom, in this world as a follower of Christ, we've got to be in a constant state of rest.
For me this whole following Jesus thing really is impossible. Every time I try, I fail. Sometimes I fail spectacularly, with things going BOOM. But when I give up and let Jesus lead, it's sort of like a home-coming or actually living.
That may be why Jesus said to us "take up your cross and follow me" as well as "my burden is light." If I can experience the truth that Jesus is with me ALL THE TIME, as my brother has been reminding me, this process of following can be very peaceful and restful. My body, mind, emotions and spirit will be stretched no doubt, but it will be like a good run when I'm in shape. I believe I will feel rested and full at the end.
Monday, October 3, 2011
"If you aren't telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died." - Donald Miller
I've been reading a lot about death. It's fun. And I've been thinking, death is morbid. Our hearts stop beating, the rest of our organs shut down and most of us will get the honor of being slowly eaten by maggots. Yum.
We shove the topic of death to the back of our minds and try desperately never to think of it, unless we're watching Rambo. And when we're watching Rambo even then it's other people dying in all sorts of interesting ways, not us.
I was taking communion yesterday, having my typical judgemental and self-righteous thoughts of how I wasn't such a bad guy after all. I'd noticed the pastor using hand gestures that seemed copied from our other pastor and I was thinking, "At least I don't copy people's hand-gestures."
When I realized how petty and ugly I was being, I tried to confess my pride. But for some reason, God wasn't taking the ugly thoughts away. It wasn't until I began to think about death, Jesus' death, that I began to feel comforted. He died so that I could know how much he loves petty, self-righteous and ridiculous old me.
Jesus said that there is no greater love than that. Love that drives someone to lay his life down for his friends. And Jesus did it for his enemies.
I hope by the time I'm maggot food somewhere, I will have reflected some love like his. I hope that I won't be remembered because I had a naturally kind and gentle temperament. I pray and hope desperately that I'll be remembered as someone who lived like Jesus was alive in him, because he was. (I also hope to be encased in undecomposable plastic, so that the maggots will never get me.)
So here's my plan, Lord willing, I hope to die little deaths every day. Little suicides to self. Jesus empowered, Jesus inspired, attempts at living death.
As was said in Gladiator, "Countrymen, let us sell our lives, for what we do in this life echoes in eternity." Something like that anyway. Something totally memorable.