Saturday, April 30, 2005

body language

my friend John said...
What does his incarnate face look like as a church struggles with issues? Often it seems that we mistake the appearance of a narrow presentation of worship on Sunday morning for the face of Christ. How malnourished we are!

I think the face of Christ we need to be loyal to in difficult contexts is the body working together with her differences. Often it seems those in power have not moved to be inclusive nor have we moved to be included. Perhaps that is part of the difficulty. The face of Christ is in the mirror and in the face of our brother/sister and we need to be changed to accept the fullness of Christ's face.

which reminded me of something i punched out a couple of years ago. it amazes me how a hyperlink to God can be found in so many of life's encounters... this one started with the liner notes from a fear factory (a heavy, industrial rock band, not to be confused with 'reality' t.v. shows where girls in bikinis try to hold their breath while jumping spiders make webs on their heads) album...

he unknowingly enters an abandoned building. it is dark, cold and deserted. there is a ray of light piercing the darkness from a window high above. the light exposes rows of old wooden seats. one row on either side. in the shadows, behind the ray of light, he sees the statue of a man, hanging vertically with his arms spread out from side to side. he has seen this image before, but a very long time ago. almost like a faded memory. he contemplates whether it was a myth or a legend. as he walks up to the figure, he views the coloured glass on the walls, and the paintings of men with glowing orbs around their heads. now standing adjacent to the statue, he extends his arm with a curious hand to touch the tired-looking face of the forgotten man.

walking away from the hanging figure, he glances back for a moment. the dampness in the air appears to be affecting the statue, for the beam of light is now hitting his face, and it seems as though he has been weeping.
(from the liner notes of "Obsolete" by Fear Factory)

the spiritual state of people that need to receive the gospel: lost and spiritually alone, many with only vague and disjunct memories of past religious experiences steeped in ritual and tradition rather than relationship.

these are the people that Christ died for, and christians know truth that can set them free.

worship isn't a designated time or place- it isn't a calculated emotional curve or a mosaic of isolated holy moments. no, although these can all be part of worship, it is a gestalt of all of them for the earnest servant of God... it is a day by day, hour by hour, breath by breath, heartbeat by heartbeat song to God. it begins at the foot of the cross, through the moment of acceptance and straight on 'til morning. it is both active and passive and therefore all consuming. it is the reason that all of creation exists- to reflect back the glory and the love of Almighty God.

worship is saying "you are" to "I Am"

we are to live lives that bring glory to God. all that we do should be worthy of being written down as the work of God. all that we do should be an act of worship. we are his hands and his feet- we are the body of Christ (I Cor 12:27)

it's not the words of Christ that are so confusing, it's the body language.

how can Jesus' people be true to the great commission found in matthew 28 if all they do is live tidy little lives? are the people that are wandering through the abandoned churches of this world going to make a commitment to a lifestyle or a saviour? will anybody be able to make the connection if the christians don't show that there is one? is it working so far?

nietzsche said
"one should not go into churches if one wants to breathe pure air."

although he was writing back in the late 19th century, one can still smell today the musty odour of tainted spirituality that characterized both the church of his day and the temple of Christ's. hypocrisy continues to abound and the forgotten man on the cross continues to weep when it happens. he didn't die so that people could be outwardly righteous and inwardly corrupt. he didn't die so that people could use his name to get what they want from each other. he didn't die so that people could sing "when i get to heaven gonna walk with Jesus" without actually trying to walk with their neighbour first.

the world is looking for a saviour, but first they have to get past the saved...

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

loyalty placement

my friend dennis made an observation about why people become miserable in churches, yet refuse to change environments...

"they are victims of their own standing loyalties."
nailed it there.

it seems like people generally place loyalty somewhere... a cause, a church family, a pastor/leader, an organization, a principle...even if it is simply loyalty to their own convictions on things. this loyalty is a stability of sorts, causing one to feel grounded and sure.

the problems seem to make a break for it when the balance of reason and resolve is somehow upset by 'lower' factors (like any leadership change- particularly in style or personality) that fly under the radar and then catch us by surprise. we find ourselves unwittingly embroiled in a situation that causes us to feel compromised or otherwise inconsistent, simply due to either unfamiliarity or negative familiarity (a bad experience or strongly preconceived opinion) with the agent of change.

music, particularly worship music, is often a flashpoint because of the important role it plays in our (churched) culture and how strongly emotive a change in music can be. we get on this thing where our personal aesthetic is somehow spiritualized and we buy into the lie that there is good and bad music, when in fact music is predominantly contextual... it is a language unto itself.

the truth about most worship music arguments is that the music simply FEELs unfamiliar and people draw spiritual conclusions from those feelings.

i felt uncomfortable, months ago, attending a worship service in another (more 'mainline') denomination. the service was set up according to the lectionary, with prescribed readings and passages and hymns (the combination of which was all already light years from my personally comfortable worship zone)

now, i love hymns (particularly as a devotional or songwriting aid) but these hymns were songs that i had never heard before which were written according to a whole different set of musical and lyrical rules than any with which i was familiar. i was lost, even though the directions and page numbers and colours of the books were printed in the program that i was handed at the beginning of the service.

but it came to me, as i was about to dismiss the whole experience as 'someone else's thing' that i simply needed to sort out how to engage. i stopped singing and started reading the words while everyone around me who was already familiar sang instead. the poetry was breathtaking. the biblical truth was purely pronounced and worded in (irony of ironies) a 'fresh new way.' without the personal distraction of musical style and inaccessible melody, i was free to worship- it was a personal pentecost and i was suddenly hearing the truth in my own language.

it occured to me that this difficulty finds its symmetry whenever someone from a church like this one comes to ours to visit. it strengthened my resolve to frame things in in such a way that people are free to access an awareness of the presence of God without feeling disloyal to who they are or what they hold to be important about their own worship experience.

ultimately, as dennis put in much fewer words, we are responsible for the placement of our personal loyalty because if it is misplaced then God fails to receive the worship that is his.

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papal election: WWJD

marcythewhore said...
My neighbor did it again. He said to me, "What would Jesus do?"

and after a bit of venting she attached a really interesting article to the comment box of this blog's 'hemispheres' post:

Bizarre and bloody fill history
Miami Herald-David Crumm
"As the selection of the first pope of the new millennium nears, the church continues to distance itself from the corruption and murder that sullied some transitions..."
Knight Ridder News Service

i agree very strongly with the sentiment that seems to be behind the history lesson: people can get in the way of everything good.

here's the weird thing in all this: there are those, like your beloved lawn-mowing neighbour, who ask 'what would Jesus do?'

(aside: the pop-spirituality phrase that swept the continent a couple of years ago was spawned from a 1967 book by charles m. sheldon called 'in his steps'... just took thirty years for its marketing potential to be realized)

so in selecting a pope, what would Jesus do? well, when he selected the first one he didn't go to the synagogue, he went into the community and found an independent businessman- a guy who was actively involved in the ongoing life experience of everyday people.

the first pope was not well-educated (other than at the school of hard knocks), well-groomed, or even well-liked. he did not wax eloquent, and regularly spoke out without really thinking about it until having been rebuked by Christ. he was hot-tempered, faithless, visionless and prejudiced, seeing only the temporal when in the presence of the eternal. yet all of these things were redeemed by Christ to provide the early church with its first great leader.

after Jesus’ resurrection, ‘cephas’ (better known as the apostle peter, from whom the succession of popes can be traced) was the first of Jesus’ buddies to arrive at the empty crypt. he was the one who jumped out of the boat and swam to shore when he realized that it was Jesus who had called to his boat. he was commissioned to ‘feed the sheep’ (which was a pretty familiar metaphor by then… Jesus being the self-proclaimed, spirit ordained shepherd.) he was the keynote evangelist at pentecost, the launch day of the church. he was the tireless miracle-working faith-healer and it was he who cracked the gospel open to the non-jews, having had his own prejudices addressed in a vision from God while he was holidaying at a bed and breakfast on the mediterranean.

what would jesus do? he would look into the heart of a man like peter and see the future. i can’t do that, but i can look into my own heart and attempt to sort out who i am and what divine purpose i serve in the bigger picture…

right now i think i'm just a long-winded blogger, cluttering up the blogosphere with things that everybody already knows but maybe hadn't thought of in the same way.

i was talking recently with a (mildly lapsed) catholic friend of mine about the implications, in her mind, of the passing on of jpII. she led me in the direction that i have been praying ever since, stating that the future of the catholic church will be strongly determined by the election of the next pontiff.

well, i mean d'UH! but what she might have been getting at (or at least what i took from it) was that in these volatile and uncertain days, with so much 'ecumenical good' having come of jp's leadership, all of hell is going to be driving hard to let the ambitions of men take hold of the church and turn back into an institution what was becoming sacramental.

my role here has been to pray. God is big enough to be able to take all of those prayers in the bowl and work in ways that i cannot fathom... because if i could figure it out he'd be far too small to be God.

'i don't care if it rains or freezes
long as i got my plastic Jesus
sitting on the dashboard of my car...'

Monday, April 25, 2005

like a record

dans_inferno said...
...Seems as though I've got procrastinating readers finally dusting off their copies of Dante's Divine Comedies, particularly the Inferno. Some days it feels good to feel like an English Lit professor.

and then he promptly disappeared after five posts, leaving me (and maybe others- who can say?) on my own to read 'inferno' without anyone but virgil and the translater/commentator to take me through.

i did, in any event, make it to the other side with the help of alice cooper.

'inferno' was a great read. however, because of the kind of twitching brain i have, i found it important and useful to have music on that would set the tone for the journey. call it 'method reading' or whatever.

so here is my listening list (please- in completely random order!) for anybody other than me who finds reading part 1 of dante's magnum opus a bit too- er- poetic for their 21st century adhdMtv aesthetic to stay with for any length of time without some set and setting:

alice cooper: 'goes to hell'- amazing parallel journey

rick wakeman: 'lisztomania'- classical electronica circa 1975 (soundtrack featuring vox from roger who?)

deep purple: (self-titled) just stare at the album cover for sixty seconds before reading the book and then watch the images appear on the page behind the printed words.

vangelis: 'heaven and hell'- it actually all works for 'inferno'... (definately NOT 'chariots of fire!') can't really imagine listening to this and reading dante's third book.

genesis: 'the lamb lies down on broadway'- peter gabriel's nightmarish journey of a character named rael, bearing some comparisons (note: the album notes are almost as long as dante's work, but they don't have all that rhyming that makes the translated sentences of dante hard to follow sometimes)

andrew lloyd webber: 'requiem'- a very young sarah brightman and a rather old placido domingo's contributions to this album are collectively mentioned in an old elvis costello song.

david sylvian: 'plight and premonition'- tuning radios, cycling tape loops and creating some breathtaking ambience

black sabbath: 'master of reality'(although sabbatoge also works) ozzy at his most coherent!

ginger baker: 'middle passage'- ecclectic percussive curios from around the globe

nine inch nails: 'the fragile'- ('downward spiral' is just too active- the lyrical/musical angst is so thick that it is virtually impossible to concentrate on the book- 'the fragile' is more subtle... and longer)

led zeppelin: 'presence'- the manic slide work and drum pummelling in 'nobody's fault but mine' and 'achilles last stand' seem to go the same places as the book

and, of course, anything by tom waits... 'rain dogs' or 'frank's wild years' tend to be more like musical journeys through a heart of darkness trapped in a sideshow freak.

i ignored some really obvious stuff (although black sabbath is listed above and probably shouldn't be for exactly the same reasons)- there is no marilyn manson, no slayer, no rammstein, no pantera, no coal chamber, no leonard cohen, no ACDC, no motley crue, no type-0-negative, no alice in chains, no cradle of filth, no fear factory, no king diamond, no neil diamond, no johnny cash (ring of fire)... you know- just too obvious.
and then just when i thought i would never hear from the guy again, out of the pit itself comes dans_inferno himself with an observation about my list...

Cant' believe you didn't listen to Sympathy for the Devil or Pink Floyd.

no, i didn't listen to any floyd because i always listen to the floyd. in my office at the church here i have the green pyramid poster from darkside proudly displayed. if i were to listen to pink floyd whilst reading 'inferno', it would probably be the entire wish you were here album from beginning to end. i always found the hopelessness in the lyrics and the drowse of the title cut chilling in a way that was a little too familiar to my soul...

(eagles' hotel california plays out the same way with all that stabbing but not killing, checking out but never leaving stuff.)

the devil himself doesn't come around much in the book until canto XXXIV, where he is depicted as feasting upon traitors in the 9th circle. he seems to be portrayed more as a classical greek/roman demi-god... you know: hades, lord of the underworld, guardian of the grave? 'sympathy' always felt more like satan's rebel yell or resume than words from a warden...

i might even speculate that the devil in the stones' song is more biblical than the creature in dante.

mick jagger- theologian of the 20th century. R.I.P.

although dans_inferno found it laughable that i hadn't read 'inferno' until prompted by his blog, it really shouldn't be that surprising. bible school wasn't really about 13-14th century poetry.

i think that dante's work is more about quantifying the pain that people inflict upon each other, and then grading these things on a curve that appears to, yeah, spiral downward. although dante was hardly writing in the modern era, i found his stuff to be very categorical in that it takes the whole 'putting selfish needs and desires before all else' thing, speculating on which offences are more objectionable to God and then creatively making the punishment fit the crime in nature and severity.

but see, i'm not sure God is quite so ready to plot sinfulness on a continuum. i mean, what would be the point? all have sinned. Jesus died in our place. 'whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life...'

perish? sitting for all eternity in the spiritual cold going 'damn!'

well, whatever the case, dans_inferno is up and running with the devil... if you are interested in that sorta thing.

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Friday, April 22, 2005


*note: this is all i could salvage from a blog response that crashed during publishing... hope it makes a little bit of sense

in 'taken hostage' we were talking about being social thongs…
well, we weren't actually talking about that, but our conversation took my imagination there...being stuck between two virtually identical, yet perfectly symmetrical and therefore completely opposite hemispheres. the thong does not divide nor bind together, it simply fits best in the middle because of its design.

well, there are parables and then there are just really bad analogies.

anyway, i left off with “if synergy is spiritual and God is receiving less worship from human beings who know him and each other personally, then it is as though hell holds our relationships hostage. all this with the a powerfully imminent and evident change in the holy weather on the horizon… sounds exactly like what i would do if i wanted to be God and had to settle for eternal damnation instead- nowattamean?”

and Sushi said
I've been thinking about this for a while now, thanks for putting it into words. Now how do we avoid it happening in our fellowship with others and in our relationship with God?

it’s not that, for awhile now, sushi has been thinking of buying some racy underwear (or avoiding buying it, for that matter- who’s to say?) it is that she has found herself, once or twice, in between two halves of the same bum. we’ve all experienced this and it drives many of us crazy.

relational triads exist as yet another example of the wisdom contained in solomon's reflection found in ecclesiastes: ‘nothing new to see here… move along.’ however, we can’t just indiscriminately apply solomon’s sword solution to any dispute in question, giving each plaintiff half of the conflict situation as their settlement any more than solomon could.
(I kings 3.16-28)

i guess what i mean here is that we can’t avoid this stuff- it is part of our free will complex- and so God equips us with what we need to acknowledge it and then address it accordingly. for me it all breaks down when i start attending to the wrong voices.

i’m sitting with two people who don’t want to be there. i’m thongboy- the ‘mutual friend.’ as much as i want to be a neutral party that facilitates a healthy resolution to the conflict, i have brought something of my own to the table that can blow the whole process to bits: i’m not actually neutral.

i try to be. i love both of my friends as equally as i can, and recognize that both own parts of this conflict that they need to sign off on. that’s fine. the problem is that i value the relationships i have with both friends respectively and so i am in danger of compromising in favour of my own self interest. fear and insecurity start to sneak in and i start wondering which person is going to leave mad at me or who is going to leave the church or whatever.

solomon’s sword starts looking really appealing.

but i’m attending to the wrong dialogue- allowing the inner one that no one but i can hear to shape the outer one to which i’ve been called as a friend and fellow. the relationships that have been entrusted to me which involve these other two friends are now being held hostage by my own interpersonal issues. the circle grows bigger... pretty soon we’ll have our own twisted anti-support group where we all bring our stuff and start working it out on each other.

a lot of churches unwittingly operate in this manner, i imagine.

so what are we to do? invite someone else in now to mediate this relational tree?


God is eager to step into that role. sure it's a problem that he chooses to use regular people as his instruments, but there is hope in the fact that the intrapersonal (self-concept, insecurity, fear) issues of regular people are internal and between us and he who created us. the Holy Spirit mediates here, clearing our heads enough, silencing our own internal dialogue enough that we can hear others speak and can focus on what he wants to do with all of the interpersonal relationships in the room.

is it insightful or prophetic to be able to step outside of oneself long enough to see things as they are, rather than as they appear to an emotionally volatile creature?

i don't know. i mean, somedays, worship leaps from us, other days it seeps from us. the song of a soul set free is the song of God, but there are many different types of freedom and life is, among a million other things, a process of self-discovery. the way we see things is based on who what where when and how we are today.

i think a really good way to avoid relational hijackings is to recognize how vulnerable we are to them. oswald chambers speaks of unguarded strengths, and how the great heroes of faith often fell in the area of their prowess. a person in ministry is already about people, which means that people are probably going to be the greatest manipulatives used by hell to thwart anything God wants to do through them.

it's amazing that hell does the same things the same ways and we still fail to recognize them when we are stuck in the middle.
"if i were a good man i'd understand the spaces between friends"
(roger waters, from the 1970 pink floyd album 'atom heart mother')

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Monday, April 18, 2005


matthew said
For me, my faith in large part comes from using reason - if that makes sense. I look around and see autonomous, conscious beings. I then ponder the fact that random processes lead to disorder not order, and I think there had to have been supernatural intervention. I am an engineer, so maybe it's not a big surprise I think about the mechanics of things, but hey whatever floats my faith-boat right?

i have been reading a really neat book called 'the dancing wu li masters' by gary zukav. it is a slow read for somebody like me because, apart from my basic struggles with speedy reading in general, it is a self-proclaimed 'overview of the new physics' (which, as expressed in my lengthy blog the other day, is gonna be a challenge for me on many levels!)

yeah, well anyway, he puts this thing in there that i have had bouncing around in my head since i read it yesterday:

quantum mechanics is a branch of physics. there are several branches of physics. most physicists believe that sooner or later they will construct an overview large enough to incorporate them all.

according to this point of view, we eventually will develop a principle, a theory which is capable of explaining everything so well that there will be nothing left to explain... every occurance in the real world will be accounted for by a corresponding element in our final supertheory. we will have, at last, a theory which is consistent within itself and which explains all observable phenomena. einstein called this state the 'ideal limit of knowledge.'

i think that mr zukav and mr einstein are sitting at the local pub speculating upon how to address omniscience without the troublesome spiritual rhetoric that goes with the word.

zukav goes on to quote einstein a few lines later:

creating a new theory is not like destroying an old barn and then erecting a new skyscraper in its place. it is rather like climbing a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering unexpected connections between our starting point and its rich environment. but the point from which we started out still exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller and forms a tiny part of our broad view gained by the mastery of the obstacles on our adventurous way up.

i love this. i'm going to have it etched on a plaque and mounted on the wall of my office right next to the green pyramid poster from pink floyd's dark side of the moon. all of life seems to be about creating new theories as to what's really going on. we long to know who God is (let's not even try to speculate WHAT God is right now...) and yet we still haven't figured out who we are yet. so we exist- einstein's proverbial starting point personified- unable to get beyond ourselves long enough or far enough to actually see things around us because our vision is both eclipsed and limited by who what where when and how we are today... and from this point in time space and spirit we devise theories, speculating about how to somehow calculate the will of God.

i believe these things to the core of who i am:

  • anything good is God's first
  • everything bad is good perversed
what i find intriguing is how ready we can be to pursue the creation of a theory which explains everything, but how eager we are to speak in completely generic, nonpersonal terms about the coming to be of all that which defies our current explanations.

i went out to the church house where the citizens like to sit
they say they want the kingdom but they don't want God in it
(bono, 'the wanderer' collaborating with johnny cash on u2's 'zooropa' album)

i guess i'm not the only guy who thinks in rhyming couplets... at least we're not down at the pub trying to express our beliefs and observations in limmericks!

is it that solomon has once again been proven right concerning the newness of our experiences and their interpretations?

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Friday, April 15, 2005

reason and the bubble boy

tell your story? that's tough if you're afraid that people will miss what you're really trying to say.

being that i kind of grew up in the church bubble, i have always tried to avoid the testimonial approach to discussing spirituality... it is too easy for people to default to the 'well, that's easy for you to say- you've never lived' setting. this is arguably the main reason why the life of Christ was one frought with pain and poverty as well as purpose... that no one would be able to default easily to the 'well that's easy to say if you're God' setting.

i've always been more interested in talking about Jesus because, quite frankly, he's more interesting- at least that has been my official line. playing an introspective game of twenty questions in the last little while, however, has brought to light something surprising to me... and although i would passionately argue to the contrary, i think that a simple truth about me is that i really hate surprises. you see, when icarus posted an invitation for any and all to share their personal journey towards God, i had already been stalled for awhile on this one.

i mean, it's all different when somebody asks isn't it? it presumably means that they actually want to know because they feel that it will somehow benefit their own journey. well then i am at a bit of a loss because a lot of my own defaults in this regard are probably faulty. to get past the insecurity and the control issues that are tightly held at bay and just trust another person to handle with respect that which is vulnerable and personal is a real challenge for me. although i have known this about myself for most of my life, i don't think that i truly realized what a stranglehold it all has had on my 'personal witness' until icarus asked me a month or so ago how i came to faith. i wanted to answer; i just wanted to do so with more than a personal chronology and a flimsy attempt at tracing some cause and effect.

the fact in all this murky emotional disclosure is that i think i might have made the gospel about me somehow. i am afraid of somebody dismissing Jesus because of my failure to articulate, in terms of my own life, how he has made a difference. i am afraid that an attempt at sharing a spiritual testimonial will come off like a sloppy endorsement- like that lame commercial about some headache remedy that i recall from my childhood: "i'm not a doctor, but i play one on t.v...."

i think i am also afraid of being personally evaluated on the basis of my life's story because it's not really flashy. if i'm going to be a t.v. commercial, i'd much rather be the "i liked it so much that i bought the company" guy. well, eventually you have to just say 'get over yourself' and take a shot at conquering your own stuff, because ultimately the gospel will move forward through the world with or without your help and endorsement... it comes down to whether you want to be part of that movement.

so my faith journey? growing up as a christian kid, attending youth group, going to bible college, getting married to a girl i met at bible college, gaining a degree in education, being redirected in my calling after a few years to begin pursuing ministry as a pastor, blogging about God incessantly... yada yada yada- who cares?

however, God has spoken truth into my life a number of times using numerous languages and voices. whether it has been through a book that i've been reading or a film that has crashed in unexpectedly or a dream at night or a conversation with a friend or somebody's sermon or somebody else's blog, i find my journey redirected as regularly as i have my antennae up high enough to pick up the signal. i guess that i would be categorized as experiencial in my faith journey because i draw a lot of guidance from as many of life's experiences as i can keep track of, always going back to the bible and those with whom i walk closest for the ongoing affirmation or clarification that i need in order to somehow survive the decisions i've made claiming to have been by the inspiration of this God to whom i have dedicated my life's breath

an example is as recent as yesterday when i read something in a blogger profile that bumped me over to a spot where i decided to try to tackle this whole testimonial thing again.

  • Q: Your people want to make a statue in your honor. What will it be made out of and what victory will it commemorate?
  • A: It will be a generic man, portrayed realistically and ideally, commemorating the victory of reason over faith.

'the victory of reason over faith'?

later on that evening, i had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a computer engineer guy that plays a mean bass guitar. we were discussing modern man's propensity to explain things, to identify things, to define things, to categorize things and ultimately to assess value to things so that they may be clearly priorized on some continuum... like that radiohead song: everything in its right place.

everything in its right place?

this approach to life is hard for me to lock into because on most days my world feels like a pandimensional ven diagram of perpetually changing, formless, shapeless, brilliantly coloured smells which momentarily share time and space with an infinite number of other like, yet distinctively unlike ones before everything changes again a nanosecond later, never to be repeated exactly, although similarities may exist between this instant and that one ten millenia and several light years away. because of random precision and irrational numbers, the odds of repitition are undefinable... and i'm okay with that- it just makes communicating with my friends the logicians really difficult. i wish i could think in a straight line, but the reality is that i can only approximate it for a very short time before getting a headache. i have one now.

but could i claim the same thing for my statue: the victory of reason over faith? i wish i could delineate some hierarchical difference between the two in order to determine which one would win over the other in a footrace, but i can't and i think that the ability to do or not do that comes down to our hardwiring. the best i can do is try to have the two walk side by side on the same road, letting each other converse together without finishing each other's sentences. i have no reason to not have faith. my faith is strengthened by all of the things that i cannot explain, in that in the unexplainable is my wonder, my fuel and my joy and my worship- is raison d'etre the same as reason?

this life is a rich one and i probably shouldn't be so eager to apologize for that- as if roadwear brings credibility or something. pain builds character, sure, but my faith has hardly been an opiate to buffer me against prejudice, family tragedy, mortality, betrayal, broken dreams, financial stress or anything else. what faith does is give me reason to carry on, defaulting control of the things that are so outside of my scope to a personal deity who desires a relationship with me in spite of all the stuff of pretension and pride that i carry around with me wherever i go, so that i am free to attend to the smaller details of one life and how it can be lived in spirit and in truth.

well there's a treasure at the end of this narrow road I'm traveling
and it gives me a purpose for my life
Jesus is my treasure- he's the reason that I am living
and he's gonna be my reason when I die
(Gary Chapman: Treasure, 1994)
there are three amazing books that explore these themes far more articulately than i can:
Finding Faith by Brian D McLaren
A Reasonable Faith by Tony Campolo
A Case For Christ by Lee Strobel

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Saturday, April 09, 2005

taken hostage

so we were talking about being stuck in the middle of two people that just basically don't get along-
which would be no big deal, really, except that all of our relationships, even these 'menages des trois,' impact eternity...

here’s what I feel: relationships cannot be imprisoned by this person’s or that person's personal dysfunctions... i mean, we all have our issues which leap out from behind the smallest of happenings at the most inopportune times. most of us are even aware of them... emotional blindspots are a whole nother blog. however, when these smaller (because they are just one person's problem) things begin to interfere with interpersonal, loving, serving and being socially and spiritually happy with others... it is only because interpersonal and emotional balances have been upset. one thing appears to happen wherever you look in nature: balance is maintained. anything less is war against how God intended to see things go down.

ministry is always interpersonal, and if the collective spiritual force of our gifts, as realized in relationship with others, is being hobbled by hell’s diligence at pushing the buttons of our hearts, then God fails to be glorified the way he intended to be when he first considered the idea of having people around to celebrate his love with him. in the process of causing us to feel awkward and causing us to second-guess serving together, the diabolical minions assigned to our respective cases have succeeded in robbing Almighty God of worship that is rightfully his.

if synergy is spiritual and God is receiving less worship from human beings who know him and each other personally, then it is as though hell holds our relationships hostage. all this with the a powerfully imminent and evident change in the holy weather on the horizon… sounds exactly like what I would do if I wanted to be God and had to settle for eternal damnation instead- nowattamean?

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Friday, April 01, 2005

bad shirts

icarus, responding to a message by rick warren, said:
Besides demonstrating that he has no fashion sense, Mr. Warren made the common points often brought up by religious leaders. God created us all, and has a plan for everyone. Your life isn't about you, but about serving God. Mr. Warren railed against the "Me" generation and stated that we were created to serve God's will. This is our purpose and goal in life: To serve God by serving others. But let's take a little closer look at this purpose by asking the simple, yet profound question, why?

One serves God because he feels that by doing so, his life will have more meaning and this will make him happier, or maybe he looks forward to a pleasant after-life. But in appears, the only reason to serve God is for your own personal benefit. Your life is about you. It is "me me me."
these are edited highlights. read the whole blog at

icarus, there are some really good things in what you've written which coincide, i believe, with some of the really good things in what ricky has written in his purpose-driven book.

i must, however, vehemently agree with you that his fashion sense for floral prints throws many of his points about ultimate purposes into at least temporary question (you know me, not the most logical calculator in the drawer. here we go with one absolutely massive red herring! continue reading at your own risk...)

Jesus says in luke 12 (as is eloquently paraphrased by graham chapman in 'monty python's the life of brian') "consider the lilies- have they got jobs?" he then goes on to say that "even solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

so why the heck does pastor rick feel he needs to outdo solomon? what is the ultimate purpose of those shirts- to celebrate God's creation and bring glory to him or to simply to make a fashion statement... and if this is simply about making fashion statements, why must they be so graphic? i mean, we all know the weird and kinky stuff that flowers get into when nobody is looking (remember the gerald scarfe animations in 'empty spaces' from the movie version of 'pink floyd- the wall'? profound or just profane- who can say? i know i will never look at lilies the same way, whether in a window box, a field or simply on one of rick warren's shirts.)

anyway, that passage is mainly about the folly of worry and how righteous it is to live faithfully because God desires for you the meeting of all of your needs- and not just simply the monetary ones. this is about life in abundance- physical, emotional, social and spiritual abundance. this is the indigenous people's medicine wheel. this is maslow's triangle. this is the proverbial it.

in his book 'desiring God- meditations of a christian hedonist', writer john piper cites a traditional creed: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. then he does some spin and it comes out reading the chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever. maybe the differences or only semantic in nature, but the two creeds do feel different, not so much in orientation (both deal with some agreed-upon reason for our existence) but in expression- ie: how to see our raison d'etre realized.

so here's what i think. all of these people- icarus, Jesus, rick warren, abraham maslow and john piper- seem to be in the process of agreeing with each other: there is a chief end of man and that chief end- that self actualization- is about happiness.

i think that ricky wears the bad shirts because he is free to do so and does so because it makes him happy. he likes them. he feels comfortable in them. i think that this is part of the personal realization of his chief end- this is part of how he enjoys God forever- by being himself, fashion criminal or not. he can wear these shirts while he serves God in the capacity to which he feels called. he can wear these shirts while deciding upon the details of that calling- which speaking engagements to accept, which broadcasts to appear on and so on. the fact that he suffers from acute pre-performance anxiety (sorry, don't know what you're supposed to call it when you are talking about a pastor rather than a singer like carly simon) might be an armchair psychologist's explanation for the distracting patterns. who knows? who cares?

the point is that life is a process of self-discovery and, in our own rational self-interest, we act according to our knowledge of the person we are right now. the role of God in that knowledge is fundamental to some, yet peripheral to others. great. we are all exploring existence and seek to sort it out in time to be varying degrees of happy before we stop existing- at least physically.

but what makes me sad is that so many- even those who profess to know him- misunderstand the God who created happiness in the first place, presuming that he intends happiness for everyone but themselves. that misconception of God's purpose for us might be exactly what Jesus was getting at when he spoke of the lilies of the shirt.

by the way and for the record, i have read both of rick's books and enjoyed the ideas but found the constant barrage of 'quotables' and wordplay a linguistic equivalent to the incessant patterns in the man's wardrobe...

but he probably wouldn't care for the way i write either. it's the ideas that we are here to share that matter.

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