first of all, i have to say that as divisive as politics can be i probably shouldn't write about any of this. but none of anything i have to say is held higher to me than the rule of love, and i refuse to allow any opinions about anything at all divide me from any other person. how different would all of our conversations about this stuff be if we read i cor. 13 before them? ok, moving on--it's long but bear with me.
i'm not going to vote. i've been thinking about this post for a couple weeks now, mostly since i saw this video--which, for all intensive purposes says that if you don't vote you don't care about anything. it's not the only one by any means. the push to vote is extreme, at times almost even militant. people will wear their "i voted" stickers/badges on tuesday with a little american flag on them, like they have done their civic duty and couldn't be more proud of it. they will cast suspicious looks at you for your plain shirt as you cast down your eyes in shame.
it comes from christians just as much. i read an article comparing non-voters with jonah, telling them to get on a boat bound for tarshish. i better be careful--without that little sticker i might get swallowed by a whale! and this wasn't even coming from the religious right, which there really is no need to criticize because i think most of you already recognize the complete lack of spirit of Jesus there. if you need any read this, responding to dobson's unbelievable "letter from 2012 in Obama's America."
shane claiborne just wrote an article about voting as damage control. while i agree with some of the things he says, along with the quote i read elsewhere "an election boycotted by pacifists is more likely to produce a war than an election in which pacifists vote," ultimately i can't subscribe to that line of thinking. why is voting "a grave responsibility"?
i know all that stuff about the people who sacrificed for your freedom, and you take it for granted that you live in "the best country in the world." that latter statement is quite arrogant, though i hear it a lot. i've been abroad, and while there i things i very much like about america--i wonder how much of that is because i grew up here; i wonder how much of that affinity is cultural. there are some other great countries out there, plenty that i wouldn't mind living in. ok, i'm ready for the "well if you're not going to vote, then why don't you just go live there." i don't live in america because i think it has the best socio/political system, i live here because of my friends and family.
and don't try to tell me that if i don't vote i don't have the right to say anything. claiborne talks about that in his article in an interesting way. and beyond that--i pay taxes. i contribute to society in a number of other ways as well. voting does not give me any special right, especially if the decision not to vote is a conscious choice and therefore my own vote of sorts.
ok, now getting on to the actual political issues of why i'm not voting. the illusion of democracy.
1. majority rules. is this the definition of democracy? we've been led to believe so. but what if you believe that democracy means that everyone has a voice? well then you better go to europe or canada and join a parliamentary system--because they are far more democratic than we are, even if we want to call them socialists. you see, in a parliamentary system, party representatives are given based off the percentage of the population that votes for them. So, if 13% voted for x party, there would be 13% of x party representatives in parliament. it doesn't work that way for the prime minister/leader of course, but local elections might actually in a lot of ways be more important--at least in their system they are in way. that way parties actually work together, because they have to. and everyone's vote actually counts. that is true representation. here, 49% of the population can and does go completely unrepresented.
2. electoral system. for the simplest problem with all of this, i'll keep it personal. i live in kansas. mccain is going to win kansas. we are not a swing state. unless i vote for mccain, my vote doesn't matter. "oh but if everyone has that attitude then it will never change." that's true. everyone does have that attitude though, and i can't change it. i can change my own--but even if i did vote it wouldn't be for one of the major 2 so that doesn't matter anyway.
3. the lesser of two evils is still evil. why do we limit our choices to only two? if you really believe in "democracy" like the "if everyone did it" mentality of #2, then you would probably be more satisfied with some of the other candidates--especially if you are a chrisitan and there are things from each candidate you like and dislike. but you don't know about them (and neither do i). if we really cared (and like i said, i don't--more on that later), we would look into those other options and maybe actually find a candidate we can truly fully get behind.
i could keep listing things but that would get tedious. what i'm not saying here is that we should subscribe to a form of quietism or remove ourselves from the public sphere. i just don't think voting is the best way to really involve ourselves. politics is not the answer people. it never has been, it never will be. sure we can champion william wilberforce and a few others who have done great things through politics. but i would argue that politics is actually a much more reactionary system than a progressive one. real change is not made by politicians--it is made by social movements and then politicians react and change policy because they have to in order to remain popular and because that's their job--to represent the people. to what extent they actually do that is another problem i have, but not one i will write more on here.
a lot of people talk about government being necessary for major institutional changes like getting rid of slavery or abortion. did you know that the emancipation proclamation came only after decades of fighting against slavery on the social level? started mostly by religious quakers? no you hear about how people used the bible to justify slavery. but if not for christians working hard outside of politics against slavery no real change could have happened. change happens at the local level and spreads, and only then do politicians react. it will be the same with abortion if anything is ever to change there. it will not come by electing "pro-life" politicians (besides, making it "illegal" isn't winning the battle by any stretch of the imagination. case in point: drugs are illegal). it will come if people decide to really start loving people in that situation and changing the tide of what the common, everyday person sees as loving and acceptable. ultimately that will have to reach the politicians, but we are a long way from there to worry about that right now. and when and if we get there, the tide/mass will be what pushes the change from behind, not any speeches or rhetoric about needing "change." it's the oldest political word in the book, "change." but rarely do we actually see that come from one elected official.
so we should work in other ways. yes we can also vote at the same time, but shouldn't we vote for something we truly believe in? if i cared enough about politics then i would research the other candidates more fully and find someone to vote for, even though it wouldn't mean anything because they have no chance of winning. if i thought it would be worth it, i would do it. but i don't believe that the political sphere is where we should concentrate and devote our energy to. (writing this long post and all the other reading/watching is getting close to my limit). if someone is truly passionate about politics and wants to devote all of their energy to working and changing the system then good for them. i will support them and pray for them--because they will need it! it is such a mess in so many ways that much needs to change, and the system is set up in such a way that it is nearly impossible--especially with lobbyists basically running everything, red tape in droves, filibusters, etc. personally, i will devote my energy in other directions that i think will have a much greater impact with far less limitations.
ultimately, i have to ask the question (as cheesy as it is), would Jesus vote? and if he did, who would he vote for? well, i tend to think that he wouldn't. he didn't come as a ruler or king to liberate the people from roman oppression. (maybe oppression was actually better for the christians than the "freedom" he could have brought if he fought a "revolutionary war"). no, he did his thing with no work to change the political tide of that day. granted we are not jesus and we can't always heal people with the hem of our garments, so we need structures and organizations to help true social work. if we really want to change politics and the world, we will work to change the culture of the people around us--not by voting but by loving our neighbor truly. we will do it by being a part of the kingdom of God.
rome is not the answer. a new cesar is not the answer. we are. because we are citizens of the kingdom of God. there is no need to cast your vote in that kingdom, because we know what we are supposed to do. and i don't think propelling america or dividing people because of their political opinions or chastising people for not voting made the list.
we should be careful when we exalt voting, for voting is the act of worship to the god of democracy (slightly joking with the language of crazy fundamentalists)--which we spread across the world through war and bullying. why? because we think it is the best system and it truly liberates people, or because of fear? many terrible things have been done in the name of democracy--of course you could say the same about the church. but if we truly want to liberate people from oppression i don't think it will happen with war and a new political system. and it certainly won't happen by voting.
ok i don't know about that last paragraph--that might be a bit to far. i guess the thing i wonder and maybe might be a good thing to ask, is if voting is a loving thing to do. if you can see how it can be than please go vote. but if you don't think it really is than it isn't all that important. not to discount everything else i've written, which i really believe (though not unwaveringly of course--would love to hear counter opinions). and either way let us see each other in love and unity no matter what people do or do not do politically.
Praying, therefore, means being constantly ready to let go of your certainty and to move beyond where you now are. It demands that you leave your house and take to the road again and again, always looking forward to a new land for yourself and others. This is why praying demands poverty, that is, the readiness to live a life in which you have nothing to lose so that you can always begin afresh. Whenever you willingly choose this poverty you make yourself vulnerable, but you also become free to see the world and to let the world show itself in its true form. You have no need to defend yourself. You can proclaim loudly what you know through your intimate contact with God, who is the source of all life.
But this demands courage. If you are to make real all the consequences of a prayerful life, you might well get frightened and wonder if you can take all the risks. In those times it is vital to remember that courage is also a gift from God, for which you can pray with words like these:
Give me the courage to live and work
for a new heaven and a new earth as Jesus did.
Give me the freedom to be critical where I see evil
and to offer praises where I see goodness.
Most of all, make me faithful to the vision you have given me,
so that wherever I go and whomever I meet,
I can be a sign of your all-renewing love…
I do not know where you are leading me.
I do not even know what my next day,
my next week, or my next year will look like.
As I try to keep my hands open,
I trust that you will put your hand in mine and bring me home.
Thank you, God, for your love.
bracing itself against the wind,
as a storm is approaching.
it blows closer,
the stem stiffens--
the winds change;
the flower is left free,
without the crush of the storm,
as the sun comes out
without the water of the storm.
color fades and beauty dies,
and roots go deep--
for there is nothing
above but safety,
in the desert,
"So Elijah did as the Lord had told him and camped beside Kerith Brook. The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land."
I Kings 17:5-7
that's a little bit what my life feels like right now. distant.
what can you cling to when everything seems out of reach?
change makes life seem like it is falling away from you, and we try to salvage what we can. or we break clean and hope that what is new and in place of the old will in time come closer than that which was before. if the word "break" didn't convey enough we might need to note how we try to fix it up with "clean."
like one with a revolving door who thinks it better to go around and around than to enter into the place of destination, as if the choices will change after the next trip through. like magic. or maybe us. like superman.
we were not meant to break. we were made for communion. but damn aren't we picky about how we want it? and so we cut. and we bleed. and we wonder why it has to be so hard.
the pearl. our consolation price. it is not great. it is not the great. it's vanity.
the diamond. first prize. a coin flip for forever. maybe one day it will just click. tails; take it up the ass. or maybe a drunk driver will do it. and then it's time for your deep-sea search.
you will pry. you will cry. but your tears are swallowed by the sea. where else can you go though?
and if we believe old steinbeck, we won't think it's worth it. but no writer can convince our hearts.
so find those edge-pieces. hope the rest follow suit. 1000 at least for standards. there's no box to look at. but you've got to get it perfect. buy and sell your love until you get the right price. God will make up the difference.
you might recall hearing the somewhat cliched advice "follow your heart" from time to time. it might be cliche, but isn't it so true? i mean, you can't go somewhere if your heart isn't in it. you can't do something that has great significance if you don't feel good about it. there is both question and truth in those statements. oh but it's deeper than that isn't it? it's not just how you feel, it's what you're heart is telling you. listen to your heart. it is good. it has been redeemed and made new if you are a follower of Christ, right? or it is at least being made new. either way, we follow our hearts quite religiously.
some people don't quite prescribe to that for all areas of life--but there are at least those some things that are purely "matters of the heart." these are things that the heart rules, logic cannot overcome, will has little power, and it is often unexplainable. i think this is truly the case in certain matters. but at the same time have we completely given those areas over to our hearts, or are we still willing to sacrifice those matters if God would call us to it?
part of the problem comes in that so many people do not really know the voice of God in their own lives, and so they take what their heart tells them to be the equivalent. God certainly can and does speak through our heart as much as he can speak through our heads--though this is a hard thing to really explain. the heart is most of the time our director in life--that's just the way it is, and that's why it is also in a way the deepest god/idol we can have. i know there have been times in my life when my heart desired something and yet i also knew that God was calling me to something else. our heart is not equal to God's will. we all know that, but so often we don't act with that understanding.
why is my contentment with my faith based on how closely God's leading is congruent to the desires of my heart?
what is the difference between our heart and our desires? is the heart just our deepest level of desires? dallas willard talks about how the heart, the will, and the spirit all are essentially the same thing in us. the heart is the core, the center of our being. but what do we have at the center of us? is it our heart? or God's heart? if that makes sense.
do you spend your life following your heart? this seems bad (in a way) when you think of it as your will or desires--like that is selfish. it seems good when you think of it as your spirit. but either way it cannot be the ultimate. we cannot put our faith in our hearts. we can trust them. but we cannot hold it as our ultimate concern, what we orient our entire lives around.
the key to all of this is surrender. we must be willing to let go of the direction of our heart if we truly know that God is calling us to something else. but to be able to do this we must seek to disentangle ourselves from thinking of our deep heart inclinations as the direction of God. they are well and good and God has set us up to be led by them much in life. but deeper is the will of God, and to that we seek to surrender our will and our spirit and our heart. will i follow him when my heart isn't in it? will i follow when every bit of me urges against it? then my heart is not my god.
it isn't easy. and that's an understatement. i guess that's why i pray for God to unite my desires with his heart--then it is a lot easier to do what he wants, because i want it too. and not only do i want it, but i want it more than anything else. and yet i am so far from being there. i can't avoid the despair--it is a part of hope. and while hope must be concrete to really be tangible, i seek to keep my ultimate hope in God, and not in the fulfillment of my own desires and hopes.
let me leave you with a couple of willard quotations. as i pulled this book out to look at some things for this post it strikes me just how good it is, and how i want to reread it sometime soon.
Especially, on the present point, human life as a whole does not run by will alone. Far from it. Nevertheless, life must be organized by the will if it is to be organized at all. It can only be pulled together "from the inside." That is the function of the will or heart: to organize our life as a whole, and, indeed, to organize it around God. And of course life must be organized, and organized well, if one's existence is to be even fairly tolerable to one's self or those around. Every civilization of any type has recognized this. A great part of the disaster of contemporary life lies in the fact that it is organized around feelings. People nearly always act on their feelings, and think it only right. The will is then left at the mercy of circumstances that evoke feelings. Christian spiritual formation today must squarely confront this fact and overcome it.
Obviously, the thoughts and feelings that the will depends on in any given moment of choice cannot be changed in that moment. But the will or heart can change the thoughts and feelings that are available to it in future choices. It is because of this that we are responsible for our character.
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
I John 3:18-24
in the middle of the sea,
and i never learned
to read the stars--
muffled though they are anyway.
feelings betray the course,
when only bearings remain
left from their port
that fades from memory
with each rocking.
destination is the only map;
direction is no solid ground
for my head to lay and not swirl,
no shore to sink into sand:
cool and constant
warm and soft.
perhaps it isn't so far.
and one of these days i'll wake
to darkness no more,
to the clearing of the clouds,
to a land that rises with the sun.
or at least a bird
that has to land somewhere--
sand is not solid.
and in this tempest
as more is thrown over,
what sinks is now lost,
and i cannot lay here any longer--
do not need the immovable,
but need to stand
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love--
unconditional, everlasting love.
"The tears of dreams can be real enough to wet the pillow and the passions of them fierce enough to make the flesh burn."
i've been having a hard time with dreams recently. they're tough because you really can't control them. i suppose some people do have lucid dreams where they know they are dreaming and have fun with it. i'm more one of those poor suckers who suffers the fates their dreams have to offer. i don't usually remember my dreams. in fact, they usually come in seasons--short periods of time when i will remember a few dreams for a few days and then they are gone again.
theoretically speaking they are a fascinating subject, but i don't really feel like going into all that right now. here are a few more words from buechner:
"We are in constant touch with a world that is as real to us while we are in it, and has as much to do with who we are, and whose ultimate origin and destiny are as unknown and fascinating, as the world of waking reality. Our lives are a great deal richer, deeper, more intricately interrelated, more mysterious, and less limited by time and space than we commonly suppose... Maybe the Real World is not the only reality, and even if it should turn out to be, maybe [we] are not looking at it realistically."
that last word stands out to me. realistically. have you seen vanilla sky? it's a great flick. at one point there is a line about how his dreams are a cruel joke. and it is the working out of everything a little too perfect that the mind seems unable to accept. the matrix briefly shoots out this idea at one point as well. there is something about dreams that is at least a source of pain and at most a form of torture. even when everything works out perfect and we don't realize it in the dream, we wake to find the same life that left us the night before.
it's also no coincidence we call our lofty wishes "dreams." it's where everything works out just as if our minds had control over everything in our lives. our wishes find their reality behind shut eyes. that is, of course, excluding nightmares. we won't go into those here either.
a lot of christians put a lot of stock in dreams, as have i in the past. heck, i've even driven halfway across the country because of a dream. i think especially since i rarely remember them, i have tended to think they are significant when i do. and maybe they have been. when i acted on that one it turned out for the best. i've also had some crazy prophetic dreams--like about a heart attack to someone close to me the day before it happened. but i can also come up with other reasons why i remember them at those times. i can think of times when my dreams do not lead me to anything good. and most recently my dreams will not conform to the reality that is before me.
which has left me with the question: do my dreams just reveal my illusions? is it just the mind playing out what it cannot experience in the disappointment of real life? is it wishful thinking to hope that they point to something more? maybe i just don't trust them anymore. why should i trust them though?
i have been able to pray for dreams in the past and that has worked, as well as asking God not to let me dream about something which has worked also. it's hard to know what to want though when i'm not sure if my dreams are working for or against me. what should i ask for tonight?
we all want to believe that our dreams will come true. but they usually don't. that's why they call them dreams, like when i wanted to play professional soccer or go to europe. maybe mine will though someday, right? maybe they point to a time in the future. maybe?
yeah. keep dreaming.
It is the one terrible heresy of the church, that it has always been presenting something else than obedience as faith in Christ...And the reason that so many who believe about Christ rather than in him, get the comfort they do, is that, touching thus the mere hem of his garment, they cannot help believing a little in the live man inside the garment...Instead of so knowing Christ that they have him in them saving them, they lie wasting themselves in soul-sickening self-examination as to whether they are believers, whether they are really trusting in the atonement, whether they are truly sorry for their sins--the way to madness of the brain, and despair of the heart...when all the time the man who died for them is waiting to begin to save them from every evil--and first for this self which is so consuming them with trouble about its salvation; he will set them free, and take them home to the bosom of the Father--if only they will mind what he says to them--which is the beginning, middle, and end of faith. If, instead of searching into the mysteries of corruption in their own chaarnel-houses, they would be awake and arise from the dead, and come out into the light which Christ is waiting to give them, he would begin at once to fill them with the fulness of God.
If you do nothing that he says, it is no wonder that you cannot trust in him, and are therefore driven to seek refuge in the atonement, as if something he had done, and not he himself in his doing were the atonement...No man can do yet what he tells him aright--but are you trying? Obedience is not perfection, but trying.
If we do what he tells us, his light will go up in our hearts. Till then we could not understand even if he explained to us. If you cannot trust him to let you know what is right, but think you must hold this or that before you can come to him, then I justify your doubts in what you call your worst times, but which I suspect are your best times in which you come nearest to the truth--those, namely, in which you fear you have no faith.
The whole secret of progress is the doing of the thing we know. There is no other way of progress in the spiritual life; no other way of progress in the understanding of that life: only as we do, can we know.
He will leave no man to his own way, however much he may prefer it. The Lord did not die to provide a man with the wretched heaven he may invent for himself, or accept invented for him by others; he died to give him life, and bring him to the heaven of the Father's peace; the children much share in the essential bliss of the Father and the Son. This is and has been the Father's work from the beginning--to bring us into the home of his heart, where he shares the glories of life with the Living One, in whom was born life to light men back to the orginal life. This is our destiny; and however a man may refuse, he will find it hard to fight with God--useless to kick against the goads of his love. For the Father is goading him, or will goad him, if needful, into life by unrest and trouble; hell-fire will have its turn if less will not do: can any need it more than such as will neither enter the kindgom of heaven themselves, nor suffer them to enter it that would?
The one only thing truly to reconcile all differences is, to walk in the light...in such walking, and in such walking only, love will grow, truth will grow; the soul, then first in its genuine element and true relation towards god, will see into reality that was before but a blank to it; and he who has promised to teach, will teach abundantly.
1. Chinese donut count tonight: 4. Ok this takes some explaining. They were small. And then, there were only two left and I ate them--but it was not enough. So I asked them to make more. There weren't a lot of people left in the restaurant, the great hunam, so I felt obligated to take more than one when the new ones came out. Man were they fresh and hot and good though!!
2. Hereos. Still watching, and the limit of one a week is healthy. I have a love/hate relationship with this show. My biggest problems: a. no one ever dies. and when someone actually does the actor comes back as another character or a figment created by another characters power. seriously, drop the axe once in awhile. b. everyone is related. soon enough micah will turn out to be the third cousin of peter but at the same time somehow the brother of the evil arch nemesis behind it all who in fact is peter's uncle and noah's half brother. sheesh.
Going to Chicago this weekend. So excited to see old bible college friends. I probably could have flown for cheaper, but some plans changed and it will be good to have a car there. Road trips have some sort of spiritual goodness for me anyway.
Thank you to Matthew Perryman Jones for providing the soundtrack to my life of late. Seriously, so many of the songs. Currently it's "When it Falls Apart" and "Swallow the Sea." "The heart cannot go free till it breaks."
An incredible drive late tonight through fog and light rain with the perfect music from not so long ago. Two albums.
Kansas City feels strange now. We go around looking for where we can find "home," when all the while God has made his own inside of ourselves. Will we accept it as ours as well?
I don't like mosquito bites. They say, "Remember when you were outside and I wouldn't let you enjoy it?" Come blessed frost, come!
I'm happy Tony is still a Chief for now. No second-rounder is worth him, especially after all that the Lions got for Roy Williams! Ridiculous. The fact of the matter is that for the first time in a really really long time I am more excited about the Royals than the Chiefs--and it's October. Crazy.
Rasberry iced tea is deliscioso. If that's not a word it should be. They have it at any Panera. You should have some. You don't understand, I don't even like iced tea! It's almost as good as Canadian iced tea--and if you haven't had that I'm sorry for you. I have some mix tucked away in a cabinet in Manhattan, come over and I'll make you some. It's only like 4 years old; I'm sure it's still good.
That's all for now.
Dreams are wishful thinking. Children playing at being grown-up is wishful thinking. Interplanetary travel is wishful thinking.
Sometimes wishing is the wings the truth comes on.
Sometimes the truth is what sets us wishing for it.
i won't go into too many reasons of why i stopped for a bit. "separation" says it mostly. i needed to let myself experience that. i needed to allow myself to hold onto some things as truly mine, let them soak in, let myself really learn them. sometimes in my desire to share i hand things off before they have really become a part of me--but then i am just a courier, and that creates little in me. there are many who will take much more than they give. and some who will give without letting themselves keep. i don't want to be either of those things.
sometimes our open hands need to close. and though if they are empty they make fists, fists to shake in anger--maybe at God, maybe at another--they will open again. and in that maybe somehow they will also receive, in more ways than one.
i hope she doesn't mind me sharing. i know it's kind of hard to see, but that's isaiah 61:1-3 on there. and it's pretty much a guarantee that she sent that before oct. 4, since it came from nicaragua. so freaking cool. and man did i need it today.
i'm trying to let it all soak in now...
i hope i haven't discouraged or disheartened you in the last couple months of blogging. i'm sorry if i have. i truly am.
i don't know how long i'll be gone--it might only be a week or something like that. it may be longer. if it's longer i might post something real brief occasionally, like a song or quick thought--but i will try to limit myself as much as i can. i'll still be reading, as i look forward to your writings.
and hey, maybe this gives you a chance to catch up on that crazy flurry of posts last month if you need it.
let me leave you with a deep quote i heard the other day. it just penetrates the haze over reality so well. i think it even will be my new personal motto and mantra for the time to come, with all my energy devoted to realizing its truth:
"change your tv, change your life." --sharp
i've never been a very decisive person. perhaps because in a lot of cases my preferences aren't all that strong. or oftentimes because of a fear of commitment for one reason or another--how it affects another, failure, what's left behind, etc.
but then there's life. not too long ago i was informed and i guess have realized some how particular i can be in certain things. i've always been very decisive and direct in how i have wanted to live my life. i have wanted a life that is not my own. i have wanted to give. i have wanted to follow God wherever he might take me. i have tried to follow the belief that the more you give away in love the more you are.
"it is the heart that kills us in the end. just one more whole and broken bone that cannot mend. as it was now and ever shall be amen."
the old stadium was my hollow company tonight. i don't know what i was expecting, or what i was waiting for. it doesn't really matter though, because nothing really did happen. and there i sat, in the same place as the last time i was there one spring day--right about the time the concrete was informing me of my cyst's arrival. what a year.
i think i'm tired of choosing. i'm tired of trying to choose life, love, and hope. i'm tired of letting God make the decisions that leave me like this.
come you friends of Job. offer me your blessed explanations on all that i am not seeing--how i am being so short-sighted and this will all be for the best for me. let me know all the things i have done wrong to bring me here. sit with me for a few days--or since i suppose we're all too busy for that, maybe a few hours. go ahead. tell me that i shouldn't write about this so publically. tell me i should finish another lament with the upward turn towards hope at the end. and tell me what i don't know and no one can seem to tell--what the hell it means to "take heart."
maybe i can choose to live differently. maybe that is what separates the saints. i am no saint. and this euthenasia patient is having second thoughts. i wonder if that happens to people like that--they have a moment of panic just before they go. but then they remember that there was nothing they really wanted to cling to anyway. and off they go to wherever they will go.
i don't have anywhere to go.
and anything i would cling to is out of reach.
so i sit.
watching the clouds pass.
and no rain.
and no angel.
and the dead of the night,
with no dawn in sight.
and the shame of my self-pity.
waiting for a reason--
does there even need to be a reason?
and the most distant shrug of my heart sighs faith. to walk by faith. one tiny step at a time. i guess all this is it somehow--in that everything i know tells me that you have abandoned me, but...but, i commit myself into your hands. in just about the weakest commitment i think i have ever made.
"we are not sailors lost out on the sea. we were always headed toward eternity."
oh every bit of us will fight not to let ourselves die. but i don't really know why. maybe that's why we so often have to be brought to a place of desolation, because only there can we see the desirability of death in freedom from the comforts of this world that we settle for.
success at the top of that list has been one i've been feeling as i wrote a few posts back. but it's good to think about those other things as well. future plans has been terminal for some time.
i think the hardest for me are affection and emotional support. there is so much i feel like i have to let die right now...
maybe the biggest at the moment is control. i have so little actual control over my life, and i'm trying to accept that. i have also given it over to God, letting him be in control. and i have done my best to follow whenever he leads. i have not always been perfect of course, but i am trying--and at times i hold that against God. it is just another form of control to cast judgment on the way God has led me. i want to let go of that control--to even be able to judge from my limited perspective just what the hell God is up to. i'm no fatalist, and i know i haven't always made the right choices, but still. the challenge is trying to surrender that in the midst of still having the emotions that are conflicting. it's times like this when i am glad that faith can be an action, because it's hard to find heart. someone please tell me how to take heart.
i might add to that list "hope." a mpj line has stuck with me recently--"hope is comfort if not relief." i don't want hope that is a mere comfort. i want hope that means something, that is realized. does this belong on the list--or is it actually something that is essential for living? Dostoevsky says to cease to hope is to cease to live. but must we always fight for life? i also think of macdonald's words from a few posts back about craving more life. do we just keep fighting and going forward?
i feel like that's a very american point of view. we are so pragmatic in our spirituality. it all has to have a purpose and a use as we move forward and grow. but what kind of love is that? love for use is a cheapening. and we want our results. what good is all this going to do me? like that is some sort of consolation. and we want it as fast as possible. we want a red pill or a blue pill as william p. young noticed. we do not handle process well at all. i remember as a kid talking about how i wanted a quick death--so i wouldn't feel it of course. don't we all want such a thing in a way?
but as christians we are called to go through the process of death before we die. to feel the pain and agony of it because...is there a because? yeah, i suppose so that we can truly claim our identity with Christ and know others in their pain and not-yet-death. it is always a choice though, to choose the way of Jesus or not. can we see beyond the grave? the grave that meets us each and every day?
may our hope give us vision beyond. as all else dies let the comfort of hope die as well. but let the hope of life lead us into death and carry us through. but the focus can't be on the "through" in a sense--we must fully dwell in the present death and agony. and pray let the pain become the pearl. that is a love and a life i want to know.
i think the most significant thing has been the understanding that there are times of bearing fruit, and there are times of pruning. lately i've felt that the pruning has been cutting a little deep, a little too far up the tree. it never feels pleasant at the time i know, but the words keep ringing "sorrow is constant and the joys are brief." i'm still waiting for the pearl, for the fruit. i'm no pine tree. the leaves have fallen. but then, do pine trees bear fruit?
so when this word was given to me in a prayer by someone down in oklahoma this past week, it was the peace of a vision that i hope for--and not only for me. and i thank God for it.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
or as another version says it:
For the Lord has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.
and i'm reminded of the words of don chaffer song that touched me once--i say once because it hasn't been released but in concert i managed to jot down these words (hope this isn't illegal!):
Beauty will break my heart
I will finally fall apart
After all the leaves have fallen
Down on the ground and I'm done callin'
I will lean against a dying tree
and let the beauty come break me.
there really is so much from this past week, and in a lot of ways it is still sinking in. i think i have a lot to process and allow myself to engage with. which is perhaps why i'm no longer going to colorado this weekend. God kept pressing it on me tonight that i'm not supposed to go, though i really want to and think it would be a lot of fun. but i can't shake it so it must be what God wants and here i stay. the empty house will give me lots of time, hopefully good.
i had some strange dreams this morning. two on the same subject. i haven't been remembering my dreams of late, ...ok i'm rambling. what was this post about anyway?
this last week was the bridgeway leadership pilgrimage. i was a pilgrim for a bit--we ate turkey and made those funny shoes. ok not really but it was definitely something of a journey for me. i think as a whole the week held some of the most extreme downs and ups that i've ever experienced. a lot of it was personal, a lot of it was about the church and what God is doing and how i'm a part of it. a lot of the technical stuff was pretty familiar so i won't go into that--more the questions i've been asking and some of what i see happening.
a big theme of the week was health. a quote i liked was "people like our sermons because they're making us smarter--the kingdom is not growing because they're not making us healthy." Jesus so often answered people's smart questions with healthy questions. i think God is asking me some healthy questions right now, which is so good in the midst of all these external changes and leading i've been doing with ichthus.
one of his questions is, "are you dying to success?" some of you might think that is a funny question for me--i mean, but don't you know i am mr. ambition? i am all about making tons of money and climbing the ladder. no, in a previous post i linked an article about the real prosperity gospel, and that has deeply affected me. it is something i have felt in my heart and wrestled with over this last year moving into full-time ministry. the article is mostly about personal happiness and contentment, but i struggle with it more on the level of blessing and success for the church.
there is so much talk about the kingdom, revival, see great works, etc. and it seems like God has just been saying to me "until you are satisfied with the least of these..." why do we need to be the early church or the church in china? it has happened twice in all of history, and i have my serious doubts about trying to make that happen in this culture. or even if it does to an extent--can something that rapid truly be deep and impacting in the lives of the people changed, esp. if they are just one out of several thousand? i don't doubt the Holy Spirit, but often i think it is not in his name when we are trying to build some sort of movement. the slowness of God, the patience--we miss that a lot for sure.
we say it is for God's glory, but probably more accurately it is for our own frail faith that we need great signs and wonders, great stories. i wrestle there because i still long for that stuff--but i want to be ok with something less than a culture-changing revival. i love people and want to see them come to Jesus, but i want that to be because of them and not because i need to see it happen. i don't want church leaders just set up for disappointment because of un-relievable pressure. again, not doubting the Holy Spirit. it just has to be because we love the people, not because we are accomplishing something. and while i watch this die in me, it's hard when so many still have this mindset. shoot and that's just one thing.
i also was reminded of the concept of spiritual mothering and fathering. i want to offer this. i want to receive this. i want to be a part of a spiritual family. our generation craves this so much. who will adopt us? who will take on the responsibility? who is looking for that from me?
did you know that "radical" actually means "at the root"? not the fringes, but actually the heart and center of a thing? interesting.
i saw the most incredible transformation concretely--a building that was on the worst street in okc and was the worst crack house full of gangs and prostitutes, with murders happening in it regularly. a man in california bought it as a bad business investment not realizing what it was, he went to okc to visit it and God called him to stay. he and his wife moved there and began going in there and praying and eventually holding a bible study. and people were afraid of the power they brought with them. and the darkness fled. now it is being refurbished and turned into "the refuge," a place that will be a housing grounds for sending missionaries into the city and many other things. unreal stories there that could be written about for hours.
it was so good to see right before me an example of God's power and transformation. and to see how it was all initiated and done by the Spirit. a good and needed boost to my faith.
i heard a man speak who is a church planter in okc, and his heart was gold. his major premise was "love your city, not your church." he asked some really good questions for me to think about: what do you love that is worth weeping over? or rather, where (as jesus wept over jerusalem)? what do i have to offer the world? a city? what are the ways in which you've been wounded, in a good way? things that you will never recover from and change you--things like poverty, world hunger, more personal, etc. what does it mean to be the church? where is God already at work among us? what does it look like for us to join him there? "the church is only the church when it exists for others" --bonhoeffer. who do you exist for? what is the kingdom role you are supposed to play in your city? could you tell someone where God is at work in your city?
you could spend a lot of time with those questions and it would be so good. not to be overwhelming though, one at a time is just fine with God.
is God calling me to something new in the near future? that one you'll have to ask me about in person. it might be one of the biggest things from the weekend and one of the highs, but it's quite early--we'll see.
bravo to you if you've read all this way. there are some other deeper and more personal questions, doubts, and wrestlings. but not for here. i've been missing good conversations i think. i had one earlier this week that was just so good and life-giving. so if you're up for a fireside chat, perhaps with a stogie or a beer--or not, let me know.