Wednesday, March 19, 2008

the needing God

sometimes relationships and dialogue serve as a catalyst for these great lengthy rants.
other times, they spawn these little platitudes that would probably make great fridge magnets.

synthesizing a few different streams, i was prompted to type this in an email to a friend:

the need that is to be attended to in ministry is
what God needs you to do, not simply what you and others are in need of... if we all think this way, the world need not go hungry.

it's a bit quirky to speak of God needing.

(tangent: i sometimes get all caught up in these silly kinds of things and the result of the catching is that i overthink my way out of expressing the idea. i remember a friend once spoke of the danger inherent in editing, as one can unwittingly edit brilliance down to mediocrity. although i recognize the value of choosing words carefully, i sometimes am so careful that i end up saying nothing at all. i have heard people pray this way, flipping and flopping around with verbal shock absorbers and 'not my will but thy will' phrases to the point where you gotta wonder if God isn't just finding those infinite reserves of divine patience and longsuffering being depleted.
God sits there, forcing a smile, saying was there something you wanted to talk to me about?)

i wonder if the idea of a God with a need isn't such a bad thing.
what if the idea of need further completes our picture of God, further augment the perfection and the holiness that we ascribe to God?

can one with need be complete? be God?

for me to embrace this notion, i must let go of the projections that i am tempted to slap onto God which are actually human conditions- human conditions that drive me mildly crazy. you know the ones: those aspects of the phrase 'needy' that suck our own reserves dry.

a needing God is not the same as a needy God.

God needs regular people to show love to each other
God needs regular people to share what they have with each other
(you get the idea...)

see, God has created us to engage in meaningful life and experience with one another, and seeks to work miracles of faith and provision through these engagements. i'm fond of saying that

every good thing is of God and
every bad thing is something good that's been compromised

i believe this, but if what i believe is true, then part of God's glory must needs be realized through me. i have a responsibility in this bigger picture- this grand mosaic that presents the face of God to humankind through the faces of each other- to be part of what's going on, lest my lack of stewardship in the area entrusted to me become compromised and no longer bearing the truth of God's invitation.

i am needed to actively share the aspects of God's face that are part of God's revelation through me... failing to meet this need, part of God's expression of love to this world is stifled, suppressed.

in my view, these things don't change who God is. i'm not tossing some home-brewed version of pantheism onto the table and claiming to have discovered something new. creator is still separate from the created.

thing is, aspects of creator go unexpressed in direct relation to the responsiveness, or lack thereof, of the created to divine opportunities for revelation.

God needs people to express things as creator which can only be truly expressed through the created of God. whereas, some aspects of God's character are plainly evident in this world of somethings, the relational aspects must be expressed through the someones.

take, for instance, a song that i was given back in 1999. it was the last song i wrote in the 20th century, written on new year's eve.

(i say 'given' because there are many different processes for or approaches to creating art, whether this art is visual, dramatic, musical or linguistic. modes of inspiration? probably a whole nother blog that someone else has posted already and articulated better)

the way this song was written was unusual for me. it was almost like automatic writing of sorts, in that there were ideas that seemed to synthesize themselves, arriving on the written page already finished and requiring virtually no editing at all. the ideas flowed in an order contrary to the way i usually think, exploring the passion of the Christ, forgoing any discussion of resurrection and moving backwards in time from the burial to the passover meal.

break this thieving heart and place it in the ground
turn and walk away as darkness falls all around
pick up all the pieces of your life
as if we'd never met
and maybe then i'd know how to love

crucify this thieving heart-bind it with thorns
strike it with your fists, subject it to scorn
pledge undying faithfulness
and then betray it with a kiss
and maybe then i'd know how to love

take this thieving heart and do with it what you must
feast upon the flesh, forsake its every trust
drink deeply from the cup
it laboured so earnestly to fill
and maybe then
just maybe then
and maybe then i'd know how to love

i find this all very humbling, because when something like this takes place you are left with a sense of divine visitation of sorts. this is what i mean by revelation.

now whether the revelation of God through a person is as dramatic as this example seems to be for me, or simply a moment when the need of another presented itself and a person responded in love and grace, i must conclude that God needs us in order to express these aspects of God's character that fall silent in our absence. the need of God, then, seems to be both contextual and infinite- well, as infinite as the possibilities and opportunities that exist mathematically if we assign a number to every person who has lived, does live and ever will live, and then multiply those numbers by themselves to the Nth power... that's infinite enough for me to represent a pretty huge divine need.

that you and i are part of the meeting of this need causes me to feel incredibly small, yet somehow integral to the 'self actualization of God.'

blaise pascal spoke of the God-shaped void within every human being. could it be that in the heart of God there is a human-shaped void for each of us?

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Blogger BL4CHRIST said...

" could it be that in the heart of God there is a human-shaped void for each of us?"

Great thoughts here, I never looked at it like this way. Why else did God create us than to fill a need of his own to be loved!

This comment will stick with me for a long time.

Blogger hineini said...

The idea of need and God being unreconcilable is an early philosophical idea that held for logical necessity, perfection could have no need because need meant that there was a lack that needed to be filled. To fill this need would then make the thing that had the need better and since you can't have a better perfection it was impossible, logically speaking, to have a perfect God with need. Its obvious that this can be thought different ways as you've pointed out jollybeggar but with an embrace of the needing God we then are confronted with the necessity to ask ourselves further questions such as the possibilities and consequences of a limited God, a vulnerable God, an impotent God, a culpable God and an abusing God to name just a few of the myriad of possiblities.
You mentioned the reliance God may have on human agency to enact or manifest revelation. This is very hopeful to me in terms of multiplying our responsibilites we have to those we encounter but its a troubling idea that seems to undermine any attempt to maintain an absolutely sovereign God.

As an example that is in no way meant to be glib or dismissive, one possible reality of the existence of Auschwitz in history is that God was unable to do what was necessary to overcome the evil of the world. The Shoah being that telling example of the weakness and vulnerability of God who needs humanity as partners, whether equal or even greater, to do what we can to hold our fingers bravely in the dykes against overwhelming evil, an evil that we saw was simply too much for good to overcome

Blogger jollybeggar said...

or at least too much for good to overcome it without a decisive battle of sorts.

i am reminded of something that i ranted about recently

...dreadfully vain to be referencing oneself- no escaping that, i guess...

concerning hope of rescue,lifeboats and the r.m.s. titanic.

(more completely pounded out at

the idea that it took too long for the lifeboats to be organized still feels more indicative of our human failings in the area of responsibility, than it does of God's inability to intervene. we have been entrusted with the care of those with whom we share some space and some time, and yet it seems to always take so long to get over ourselves and our own fears enough to 'organize the lifeboats'...

Blogger hineini said...

There is a reason I help my son feed the cat.
Feeding the cat is my son's job. He is two and a half. I have to do a lot of nudging and reminding of my son and yet still, it is usually me who fills the dish and and keeps it stocked.
I wonder what would happen if I looked at the cat and shrugged my shoulders explaining calmly that "It is my son's job to feed you. I'm sorry your hungry I'll go remind him again" I'm sure my son will learn eventually but I wonder how many starved cats I'd have to step over before then.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

some great spin, hineini. you've kept me willfully distracted for nearly an hour already!

anyway, aren't there many ways to help your son feed the cat without just simply intervening and feeding the cat yourself? recognizing that he is two and a half and that he is still learning and growing, you probably won't just shrug your shoulders and say 'he will figure it out one day.' you will, out of your love for him and, i suppose, the cat suggest, tell, remind, order, follow up on the order and start the whole loop over again until that cat gets fed.

okay, but what if your son refuses to listen for reasons that are only his own? or what if your son, in his natural curiosity and propensity to learn, has decided to try some experiments on the cat in order to learn more? does your son's will have anything to do with his responsibility to look after the cat? well, yeah.

and the fact that we are not talking about one's responsibility to look after a pet in need, but rather to provide for a sibling in need makes this, for me, suddenly way more messy. all the examples that come to my mind seem to break right about here because, although all life is life, somehow i still have a greater sense of urgency when it comes to other human beings.

maybe it's just that i don't particularly like cats.

(tangent: uh-oh... does this mean that if i don't particularly care for other human beings then the argument is relegated to something less meaningful and the responsibility to ethically steward my free will is diminished? if it does then perhaps i am already in hell and this is all lucid dreaming for a day when i had choices that i could actually make.)

i know of the dissonance that exists within my own heart when i resist doing what i know is right in the service of another. i also know that, if i develop a habit of regularly failing to attend to the needs of others, regularly failing to put myself in the place where i am able to help somehow, that i can become calloused and desensitized to the point of emotional and ethical detachment. i do not believe that this detachment actually silences the voice of God, just my receptivity to it. apparently, conscience is subject to our freedom of will as well.

yes, i believe very strongly that conscience is the voice of God.

sadly, i don't understand how God can deal with the self-serving stubbornness that seems to be so characteristic of this fallen state inwhich we have all placed ourselves and our planet. i have no logic to comfort me here. i have no way of knowing the kind of shouting and door-slamming that has gone on within the hearts of those who have so exploited others throughout history and continue to do so today in their quest for knowledge, wealth and power. i consider the anxst that i feel when i fail to give the 5 bucks i have in my pocket to someone in need who asks. in those moments it is very uncomfortable to be me. i cannot comprehend or even imagine the sheer volume of the basic prompting from God, to enact justice and love by attending to the need of a fellow human being subjected to the atrocities committed throughout history... much less be one of the cruel. it is enough to drive one to madness- it just gets bigger and more profound the longer you spend there.

however, the fact that i have no logic to explain the action or inaction of God in this regard just more deeply impresses upon me the need to learn to be ever more watchful as to what i am afforded the opportunity to affect and ever more faithful with regard to the responsibility that i can already identify as having been entrusted to me.

Blogger hineini said...

"you will, out of your love for him and, i suppose, the cat suggest, tell, remind, order, follow up on the order and start the whole loop over again until that cat gets fed." (jollybegger)

Thats the hope isn't it. Otherwise its just obscene. Any half-decent, reasonable, vaguely moral person would do just that. Which makes me wonder, in extrapolating the metaphor, why the body count doesn't seem to be slowing.

We've had this conversation before, and will have it again. And I hear the whole free-will arguement. I can even assent to it if (and this 'if' does a lot of work here) it were just me and God. When we add the victim into the conversation, things get, as you mentioned above, a whole lot more messy. Maybe its an oversimplification and maybe its a personal grudge but when I explain to the cat that my son has free will and that's the reason it's starving and will be dead soon, don't you think I come across a little cold and uncaring?
Sure I can grant we have free will, and sure I can grant that we are viciously responsible for all manner of atrocities to out fellow human beings but it sounds very much like when I press you, God fades more and more into the background, the unmoved mover which isn't what I think you feel to be the case.

You spoke of psalms, you even mentioned the "How long O Lord will you turn your face from me?" but I'm not sure what weight this holds in your theology. I generally feel we always skip too quickly to the end of the psalm. But then again, we have an addiction to silver linings.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

"it sounds very much like when I press you, God fades more and more into the background" (hineini)

this is a very good observation.

probably two contributing factors:
1) my basic inability to articulate the things i don't understand without coming off a bit glib.

2) the alternative (which i think you've openly ascribed to in your discourse- please grant me grace on this one if i'm misunderstanding your words!) to the fading God is the God to blame- i just can't default to that one.

addiction to silver linings...

but what is a silver lining? isn't it simply a reminder that there is a greater, although perhaps distant light being eclipsed by a cloud full of rain?

Blogger marcythewhore said...

Okay, does this thing work now?


Blogger marcythewhore said...

Okay, it works.

I didn't want to waste time typing if the darn thing don't work.

Anyway, I know how you all must have missed me. Well, I've been busy. I moved my business from Chicago to New Mexico.

Roswell, to be exact.

Well, to be a little more exact, about nine miles out of downtown Roswell and the International UFO Museum.

I'm at a place called Midway.

Now, for all of you who think that this planet is the only place where there are sentient life forms, you need not read further.

For those of you who want to talk to your definition of 'God,' well, I've got friends who can help you out.

And let's get over those stereotypical notions of what ETs look like. They look nothing like in the movies made by Spielberg or Whitley Stribers' books.

Hey, you probably think God has a white beard and looks like Charlton Heston (RIP).

Okay, just thought you good people would like to know what I've been doing lately.

Actually, you are scratching your heads and wondering who I am.

Well, I'm...........


thank you.........

Blogger jollybeggar said...

i've been scratching my head wondering who you are for years, marcy.

but i've been wondering who God is for much longer.

nice to read you back... congratulations on the move.

Blogger hineini said...

Roswell always struck me as spooky; with an essential uncertainty that defies explanation or any sort of conceptual grasp or understanding...

Seems God and Roswell have a lot in common.

Blogger marcythewhore said...

Well, it's working again. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't want to accept my password.

Kind of like ETs, or angels, fallen or otherwise, whatever you chose to call them. When you deal with the spirit world, you will learn that there is spiritual warfare ongoing.

It can be spooky chatting with the unseen.

It can also be complex to understand. Like when Brenda, the medavac nurse, was told she wasn't going to take her scheduled medavac flight in the morning. Someone else would be put in her place at the last minute.

The plane crashed on the other side of Rioduso.

It's a bit confusing why Brenda was taken off that plane and another nurse put on, at the last minute. Like she was told it would happen.

Brenda probably has other plans in store for her.

It can be spooky if you don't take these things in stride.


Blogger marcythewhore said...

Marcy's thought for today on Picking Your Own Battles:

Anonymous said: Some people are more violently opposed to fur than to leather because it is safer to pick fights with wealthy elderly ladies than it is with motorcycle outlaws.

Marcy said: It's a heck of a lot harder to kill a bear than it is to kill a cow.


Blogger marcythewhore said...

Good morning, Vietnam

Blogger marcythewhore said...

In case you are wondering, Adrian Cronauer (the inspiration for the Robin Williams film Good Morning, Vietnam) is an active Republican, he was a National Co-Chairman of Veterans For Dole and a National Vice-Chairman of Veterans for Bush/Cheney.

All the same, I hear the Dalai Lama has purchased some nukes from Israel, and the Chinese are thinking twice about screwing with Tibet.

Meanwhile, President Hussein Obama has pulled all the troops out of Iraq....and the day after al Qaeda killed another three thousand New Yorkers, Vice President Joe bin Laden reassured Americans we won't be sending our troops back.

Neoliberal Utopian Americans tend to forget why we are at war. As long as there is an American oil well pumping in Saudi Arabia, al Qaeda will keep coming after us.

The illogical idea that turning the other cheek will make everyone in the world love America is about as sound as the idea that if you wave a blue flag at a bull, that color blind bull won't charge at you.

Anyway, all this American brouhaha over Obama and Clinton and all that, well, I've been shown how the election turns out. I can't tell you, because that would be like telling you what is in the packages under the Christmas tree, and that would spoil Christmas day for you.

The angels, or ETs, or whatever you prefer to call them, they have this way of knowing who should know the future, from who shouldn't know.

I suppose that's what makes them special.

And a heck of a lot different from us.

So, you just got to be somewhat silent and listen if you want to learn.

And you know how dang hard it is for people to be quiet for two minutes.


"My mother taught me we spend a lifetime learning. Then we die and forget it all." George Foreman

Blogger jollybeggar said...

"So, you just got to be somewhat silent and listen if you want to learn.

And you know how dang hard it is for people to be quiet for two minutes." (mtw)

i don't think it is the two minutes of silence that is so hard... it's the two minutes of listening.

ha ha- jollybeggar's thought for the day, i guess

Blogger marcythewhore said...

If you think listening is dead, go to youtube and listening to that Tricia-Walsh Smith's divorce rant.

That'll wake up the dead and the saints alike.


Blogger marcythewhore said...

All the same, the internet has all but almost killed listening.

Thank goodness youtube has returned the gift of listening (with pictures).

Remember when you were a kid and you had the choice of reading either the regular Bible, or you could read the classic comic book version of the bible.....and you learned about Noah through graphics.

Anyway, saw Evan Almighty the other night. Guy who goes to Congress and turns into Noah. Morgan Freeman played God.


Blogger marcythewhore said...

PS....Go to the website Trailer Mash: movie trailers recut.

Look at Ten Things I Hate About Commandments.

Samuel L. Jackson plays the burning bush talking to Charlton Heston's Moses.


Like Carl Rove always said: There's more than one way to get the voters to listen.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

i recently had a representative from david c cook publishing come by the church to give somebody a box of stuff that they had won in a draw, giving the church address rather than their own. i took him to my office and thanked him, drawing his attention to one of my prize possessions: the classic 'graphic novel' version of the bible in, like, 6 volumes... i still pick it up from time to time to gaze upon those familiar illustrations from my childhood that were foundational for me as far as biblical literacy was concerned...

(of course, even in six volumes, much of the really weird content is omitted. there are apparently limits to how literate we want our children to be, lest they start acting out some of the crazy stuff, claiming to want to be biblical believers!)

i won an award as a bible school freshman, but didn't have the guts to tell everyone that it was largely due to reading the comic book version of the bible over and over as a kid.

Blogger marcythewhore said...

A young student could earn an English Lit degree by reading classic graphic novels.

We are a species who've been going backwards ever since we quit using hieroglyphics to communicate with.


Blogger marcythewhore said...

Another way to earn a Classic English Lit degree without the time consuming challenge of reading the long classic novels of the Bronte Sisters is to read the classic obituaries in the New York Times.

Or read the current obituaries if you are going for a Contemporary English Lit degree.

Now, for those of you who haven't yet read Norman Mailer's 'The Castle in the Forest,' you can find bunches of Norman Mailer obituaries still wet with print.

To give you a clue, Mailer's 'Castle' is the tail of young Adolph Hitler's birth and childhood upbrining with the help of Deter, one of Satan's right hand angels.

The concept is great. Young Adolph is followed around and advised by a handpicked minion of the Dark Evil One. Quite a literary undertaking (pardon the pun) for a deceased Jewish writer. The problem is that Norman Mailer is not Stephen King.

Yes, Norman is one of the all time great literary masters. But Stephen King could probably have told the story in a way that would have made more of a Faustian connection to the reader.

I mean, have you ever tried to read Faustus? It's like reading Moby Dick and trying to understand whales. If it wasn't for the Twilight Zone television series explaining what it is like to sell your soul, the average reader would never have had a clue that Satan is out to make a deal with you.

So, maybe Mailer's very good story about young Adolph and Deter will some day come out in classic comic book form so that the bulk of American readers who don't read obituaries will one day be able to appreciate Mailer's last novel in his lifetime.


Blogger marcythewhore said...

Just so you understand, here at the farm in Roswell, the ETs (sometimes callled angels) speak in picture form.

They are so far ahead of us it's no wonder they were able to teach the ancients how to build pyramids out of stone blocks supposedly too heavy to lift.


Blogger marcythewhore said...

Anway, Marcy (me)was wondering....

I've watched the Evangelical political movement create a strong power base in the 2000 and 2004 elections.

Then I watched the Evangelical political power base sort of slide in the 2006 midterm elections.

Here in 2008, with the Democrats touting a Muslim for President, the Evangelical political movement seems to be asleep.

What gives?


Blogger jollybeggar said...

Owner: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.

Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

Owner: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!

Mr. Praline: The plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead.

Owner: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

Mr. Praline: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up! (shouting at the cage) 'Ello, Mister Polly Parrot! I've got a lovely fresh cuttle fish for you if you show...

(owner hits the cage)

Owner: There, he moved!

Mr. Praline: No, he didn't, that was you hitting the cage!

Owner: I never!!

Mr. Praline: Yes, you did!

Owner: I never, never did anything...

Mr. Praline: (yelling and hitting the cage repeatedly) 'ELLO POLLY!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!

(Takes parrot out of the cage and thumps its head on the counter. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.)

Mr. Praline: Now that's what I call a dead parrot.

Blogger marcythewhore said...

Yes, I agree wholeheartedly.

The (Dead) Parrot is the archetypal doppelganger of the Dove of Peace (and by osmosis, the killer white rabbit).

The Death/Sex of the Parrot is the sadness and heaped upon guilt when gods go to war against one another, and humans live in denial.

The ownere insisting that the Parrot (God) is not dead represents Pope John insisting he knew nothing of the Holocaust as it was happening.


Blogger jollybeggar said...

gosh it's fun to have you drop by

Blogger marcythewhore said...

Have you noticed that talking about God does not bring you much pleasure anymore?

It's gotten to be like going to a job you don't like.

Too bad.



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