Russian Saint

•November 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

henpecked beard of a fire-stoker.
threadbare copse of fir outside the city.
huddle of wan pinecones,
settled in a hovel, half-lidded by the muddy grime
of gangplank byways traveled in winter—
seeds that will never grow.

The ascetic never sees what he wants to see
only the discarded refuse of another reality—
never a clear future, never a plumb horizon,
never freedom from the burdens others cannot
and will not carry—

how heavy is the cross to carry
as heavy as it needs to be
no weight, no number
equivalent to the heart that carries it
unmeasured

small birds flutter atop
new snow, pecking stone
rain falls into the silent river
hoarfrost and ice along the sides

face in the coal, dust and skin from a scuffle
under the nails in the coffin
of how things were before.
Life is the mired island filled with all persimmons,
pomegranates, sea salted wafers of chocolate and
caramels from the Swiss to enjoy
between the hammering, haranguing, and
hanging of ragged, bent-over breaths
stolen when the secondhand isn’t looking.

Filled with a sense of purpose to realize we’re
rudderless.
it’s cause for pause to see the frame
of a lone figure pulling at the oars
heading out to sea, backlit by the sunset.
color spells mood, spills hope, splays rays
into the edges of

Vapid, Vacant & Vacuous

•April 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So, yes—I’m a nerd. Or a geek…I’m not quite sure which, technically speaking. But normal, I’m not.

Take, for example, my fondness for the cultish (and shortlived) TV series Firefly. I absolutely loved the characters and dialog of that show. And I only nominally hold against it the cheesy sets, costumes and CG that made it so unappealing to the masses (acknowledging it was made in 2003). Still: Joss Whedon. Well, in the Jamestown episode there’s a small snippet of conversation between a preacher and a girl pushed by terrible circumstances into a sort of insanity. She, has this talent for seeing through the veil of the world to understand the pattern of fibers that make up life—and uses it in this example to criticize the Bible, and the preacher’s Faith. The convo between Book (the preacher) and River (the girl) goes as follows (content copied from this wiki):

BOOK
What are we up to, sweetheart?

RIVER
Fixing your Bible.

BOOK
I, um, what?

RIVER
Bible’s broken. Contradictions, false
logistics – doesn’t make sense.

BOOK
No, no. You – you can’t…

RIVER
So we’ll integrate non-progressional evolution
theory with God’s creation of Eden. 11 inherent
metaphoric parallels already there. Eleven.
Important number. Prime number. One goes into
the house of 11 11 times, but always comes out
one. Noah’s ark is a problem.

BOOK
Really?

RIVER
We’ll have to call it “early quantum state
phenomenon.” Only way to fit 5000 species
of mammal on the same boat.
(rips out page)

BOOK
Give me that. River, you don’t…fix the Bible.

RIVER
It’s broken. Doesn’t make sense.

BOOK
It’s not about making sense. It’s about believing
in something and letting that belief be real enough
to change your life. It’s about faith. You don’t
fix faith, River. It fixes you.

This kind of dialog doesn’t surprise me; Christianity went out of vogue decades ago. Maybe, in Hollywood, it was never “in” to begin with. I do see something unsettling in the dialog, however—but it has nothing to do with how secularists see believers. I’m frustrated because I hear other Christians saying similar things, and thinking themselves very poignant in being so spiritual. Bible believers are using empty words and espousing vague notions of religiosity that clearly aren’t Biblical—and they feel feel comforted because their words are being accepted by their peers. The problem is, their words likely originated from their peers!

—Oh, you believe in a form of Karma?
—You think we all pre-existed, and have multiple lives?
—You believe God has many names, and doesn’t care what we call Him?

Hmm.

The proverbial rug has been pulled out from underneath us the moment we replace What God Said with What Makes Sense, because it shifts the focus of authority from God to us (or me). Suddenly, what I think is more important that what God thinks (or says, or does, or did). And I hear this in conversation with my believing friends all the time! I almost physically cringe when, in conversation, a sentence begins: “I know the Bible says (insert your verse here), but…” The men and women of the Reformation, who gave their lives to get Bibles into the hands of the populace, thinking if they could just read and know it for themselves, would be grinding their bones in their graves if they heard our conversations. It’s not a statement for inducing guilt—it’s a statement to remind the reader of who and what has come before, and of the struggle many fought to bring us where we are today. We have the Bible, we’ve read the Bible, and we’ve chosen to ignore it in deference to our own feelings, thoughts and half-formed ego-centric beliefs.

The sputum of Hollywood’s emptiness is pervasive, but we don’t have to mirror it. We should think for ourselves, and measure everything against the inspired Word of God. And when what we’re told to accept and what we’re called to believe don’t match up, we’re allowed to disagree. Avoiding confrontation is not the goal set before us—and disagreeing with lies and mistruth is something we should be doing, both for ourselves and others who cannot see with our clarity. God has established us as a city on a hill, as a light, as the temple in which His Spirit dwells. Speaking God’s truth and living it out through our lives—these are our reasons for living and breathing. These are the things that reveal to a watching world the image of an invisible God.

The vacuousness of the world is a smokescreen hiding the fact that it is devoid of Truth, Life and Substance. Nothing has more significance that our message of One who would answer these voids by filling us with Himself—and do it lovingly and at great sacrifice. If we parrot the emptiness of the world in order to gain favor, acceptance, or similarity, we rob both parties.

There is something alluring about being normal in today’s world, but never has the geek (or nerd) had more aplomb. Still, don’t find your courage in the opportunity of a possibly welcoming world; find it in the nature of the One who sends us on His behalf. He has justified us; He has sanctified us; He has made us fit for His service. Now is always the best moment to revel in that—and do something about it. Just don’t be normal.

Sitting and Listening

•February 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I just mentioned in my previous post how weary I’ve been these last few months. Every life has these times of increased need and output. It’s normal.

Yet my response to this season has been un-typical. I’ve been completely drained, with nothing in the energy bank. It’s why I’ve been complaining so much, I think. I’ve depleted all my inner resolve, and have only the well-wishing of others to keep me nurtured. This isn’t good.

More than an atypical lack of sleep, or a super-charged schedule and superfluous amount of work, this season for me has another significant factor in this total life drain. Spiritually, I’ve not been full in months. I’ve been going to church, leading a weekly fellowship night, and doing morning quiet times, but each has been perfunctory. I’ve been living by the letter of the law that dictates that such things are done—not by the letter of Grace that allows me to see the One behind all these beautiful expressions of our relationship.

My quiet times have become listed items on a long tally of to-dos; consequently, the quality of my intimacy with God has become a moment of checking in before running off. There has been no dialog, no exchange, no time of value. Other things have been more important that my God, and as such, things have felt out of place. It’s not a punishment (in case you think that’s what I’m saying). It’s more a symptom of a life out of order—when things aren’t running as they should, one should expect inefficiency trending toward ultimate breakdown.

While the secular world will always see Christians as those who need a life-crutch—hence their dependence and need for a Savior—my experience has been that the One who created life is the best Teacher at how to live it. Taking a doctors’ advice doesn’t make one weak; it makes them more wise for seeking the experience of learning.

I am reminded tonight of a few important things that God has shown me over the years, that until recently I have not been very mindful of:

1. I need to get/keep my eyes off myself and put them back on Him. I can ask for His help in this; it needn’t be a task or chore to perform.
2. I need to be thankful for all that I have; thankfulness puts my mind in a less selfish stance, and reminds me of God’s great blessings in my life.
3. I need to stop increasing activity to overcome the heap of things that need changing and rest in the knowledge and truth that God will fight my battles if I will listen and obey—and that many of the battles I’ve been fighting have been skirmishes against the wrong enemy. I’m slinging my sword at everything that moves, and probably hitting friends in the mayhem.
4. I need to slow down and learn to listen again.

It is a funny thing, but I have found that in my life periods of great inactivity are more a product of my lack of rest than they are a lack of effort. They are indicaitons that I need to work more at sitting beside my Savior, to rest and to listen—and to accept what He has for me.

Complaining

•February 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

There is more depth in this topic than I will plumb tonight, but rather than save posting until the novel of my comprehensiveness is complete, I feel in need of renewing this journaling of mine. I have been too busy these last 4-5 months—working my daily 8-9 hours, then coming home to work another few on freelance projects that allow me the creativity I crave. It is not a good system.

Consequently, I have noticed myself increasing in my complaints and “honesty” to others about the things I’m frustrated with and pained by in life. While my friends always have this access into my life, and should expect honesty from me, my normal reticence in bemoaning all that ails me has be worn away these last months. And I have been complaining…often. Which I hate in myself. The realization of this reveals a few things to me:

1. I’m spending more time looking at what I lack, than at all that I have
2. I’m not spending enough time being thankful for all that I have
3. The pain or frustration I feel has become a talking point with others—I want the sympathy of others to confirm the validity of what I feel
4. I’m whining in my armchair, instead of acting with purpose toward a solution

It is this last point that most bothers me most. The sharing of words has substituted for action on my part. This, I feel, is not good.

If something is wrong, I need to fix it.

Raising Our Eyes

•October 22, 2009 • 1 Comment

Nobody dreams of flying anymore.

I had a convo with a friend some weeks ago, where he mentioned some personal disappointment at not getting a raise (and a  manager position that had recently become available), never realizing these were simple, single-level steps above his current situation, and that there was a whole sky above him. There are entire other jobs, whole other countries, completely other income brackets that he never mentioned as his dream. What he obsessed about was that one, single step from where he currently lives.

What’s the reason for this? Is it simple proximity that makes our dreams so meager—we see the reach of our own arms and expect nothing more? Are we content with seeking higher branches on small trees, instead of seeing the blue sky above? I’ve been feeling this especially of late. I’ve not pursued a Greater. I want more, but haven’t defined what a potential More could ever be. I’m reacting to my current life, not shaping it (or even trying) in any fashion. I’m mesmerized by the status quo, eyes at the floorboards beneath my heavy feet.

How do we grow past our mental blocks to enfold the feathers we don’t know we have? Can it be a book, a conversation, an experience? Can that be manufactured, or must it be divinely Purposed? What is our role in the process?

On one level, maybe it’s helpful to write down the levels so you can see what lies ahead. Make your dreams concrete. As they recommend in writing classes, don’t think or analyze them as you’re writing—get them on paper first. Commit them to reality and the page. Editing can follow, but only after creation.

How full is your page yet (I’ll begin mine tomorrow)? 🙂

Thrones in Sandcastles

•October 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

What motivates us toward good works? Is it to please God? Is it to help others? Is it for a sense of self (or self-worth)?

Certainly the answer—if there is one—lies in a complex sharing of multiple origins. One day a sense of service to God empowers nobility. Each day reveals another motivation, and what begins one way can certainly change and become another…even shifting hues along the way.

We spend our days working toward achievements that will please God, please others, please ourselves—but is work to be the focus of life? The Westminster Shorter Catechism posits according to the traditional question/answer structure:

“Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”

One will need to re-read Watchman Nee‘s Sit, Walk, Stand (63 pages) to have a deeper sense of my beliefs on man’s responsibility to God, but it certainly flavors this discussion. Do the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” only refer to our labors? Are they a payment of sorts? Are these words to be the zenith of our earthly lives and the answer to the human condition… or does our focus on this represent the sin of pride and our need to repay back something freely given? Jars of Clay writes a line in their famous song Worlds Apart, “Did you really have to die for me?” and I’ve always read into this my own frustration with the indebtedness I feel when confronted with the Gospel—because it leaves me feeling helpless, unable to add anything. Of course, this is the entire point. I am those things.

Perhaps this is a male trait, but I want to work for my food. There is pleasure in the earning, and a healthy esteem to be taken in doing a thing well. The concern here (at least for me) is to not allow work to be my focus. Doing and earning often replace resting and thanking, and these are evils against which I am continually struggling. “See what I have done…for you” (when said to God) can never replace, “Thank you for this gift.” And “Here God, let me help you with that…” is a cosmic slap in the face, I suspect. With dinner on the table, the command is “Eat!”, and we want to reassure the Host how we will repay the gift.

The Christian action is always one of response in recognition of the work that God has accomplished. “It is finished” has been cried from atop the cross, and must affect my motivations and actions even in this, today and now. God has already done so much. My awareness of this empties the power of my works to earn me anything from God. It doesn’t mean I should stop working; it means I can forever let go of needing my works to earn value or merit rewards. It turns my selfishly built ramparts into mere sandcastles on the beach left overnight. Efforts borne in thankfulness affect how and why I labor, and swing the focus away from me to a) what God has done for me, and b) others in need and areas wanting help. It pushes me listen better and to build where God directs, how He directs, and when He directs. It puts Him back on the throne of my life.

Discussions of Morality

•September 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Sorry, this video has some suggestive content—but I’m still posting it as it really impacted me in regards to authenticity in  the discussion of morality.

Why is it that this kind of transparent honesty is so revered and accepted in a secular environment, and that the Church’s words in this discussion are so ignored (or even worse, absent). The videos I see coming from my friends in ministries are aimed at getting people interested, in proving how relevant and dynamic they are, rather than proving their relevance by voicing Belief in a setting where there is a need for it.

I’m not suggesting making a video with girls in their underwear, murder, drugs, stealing is the answer—I’m saying we’re spending time and money to say we’re worth listening to and never, then, saying anything more. This disturbs me. Greatly.