Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I never expected my kids to grow up without my mom being around. I was sure I would have the other problem - keeping her from spoiling them. But today marks two years without her, and it's starting to settle in on my heart. And it's settling heavy.
I called my dad. He said he raised the flags today. I thought he meant he raised them to half mast. But he's been flying them half mast the whole month of July. He has dubbed today as my mom's Independence Day.
Friday, July 20, 2007
I read in this cheesy newsletter, which was really just an advertisement with a few oddball stories and some fortune cookie class proverbs, this one - "Fashion is so ugly and cheap that we can only stand it for about 6 months before we change it all." Yeah. But we stick with it.
But that's not as amazing as this guy who had such a hard time getting a novel published that he became convinced that it was just impossible, that unless you had an agent who worked the system of favors and whatever else they do, you can't get novel published. So he changed the character names and chapter titles to Jane Austen novels and sent them in. The publishers thought they were crap. Only one actually recognized the ruse and retorted.
It's the same way with preaching. Go to church. You don't hear things that are true and beautiful and painful, filled with joy and grief, filled with passion and adventure and romance. In other words, you don't get reality. You get the easy sell, what plays well, what's popular, what's in vogue, what can be expressed with style and rhythm and "amen?" and the know-it-all grin. In 42 minutes. And there's about 1000 varieties of the same cheap trick.
Those publishers have lost touch with what is good literature. They are living in a reality of what sells, and of who's who.
It's the same with preachers.
Oh, I know. Your church is "different". Your preacher even preaches about those other preachers who have sold out, or who are populists, or who water down the gospel, or who preach ear tickling sermons...and your ears tickle the whole time they talk.
If you're saying "not me, not my church, it's different" right now, then I'm talking about you. If this is you, if your church is different, you are still blind.
Thing is, you can't build a church today on the beauty of the gospel. People will vomit it up. The very reason they go is because they know they can get cheez whiz there. Just invert the can, bend that applicator, squeeze out some processed, predigested cheese-like substance on your cracker, and munch away.
You can't build a church on the beauty of the gospel anymore. People need something to say "amen" to. "Selah" is right out.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
The daily reading from Ransomed Heart today was entitled Eternal Life. When I stop my madness, pull over and watch the world go by, I realize that life is not only what I want...it's all I want.
But what is life?
And what is eternal life?
And what does it mean to cross over from death to life, to be saved from death?
Christianity hasn't been very useful here. I say that because whoever it is in the back room making up the talking points has decided that how people need to view eternal life is this. It's "going to heaven when you die". Another image is "not going to hell when you die". Salvation then is being ear-marked for heaven when you die, wherever that is. Nothing more. When someone tells you "I got saved" this is what they mean. It's what we were all told happens to us and how to view what happens to us.
It reminds me of the bulls my dad and I used to castrate, vaccinate, spray for ticks, brand, and pierce their ears with these plastic tags. But what are the (former) bulls supposed to do then? Stand around, eat grass, get fat, and wait for the slaughter? Apparently so.
There has to be more to life than this.
What Dallas Willard wrote in The Divine Conspiracy is intriguing to me.
Jesus offers himself as God’s doorway into the life that is truly life. Confidence in him leads us today, as in other times, to become his apprentices in eternal living. “Those who come through me will be safe,” he said. “They will go in and out and find all they need. I have come into their world that they may have life, and life to the limit.”
Could it be that salvation is being made an apprentice, rather than a fatted calf?
And what's all the business about going in and going out? I thought the goal was to get in and stay in.
Apparently, when you forfeit "eternal living" for "eternal life" you have to figure out what to do in the mean time.
I'm looking for a Way of Life that is not about learning where the fences are, not about learning how the grass really isn't greener on the other side, not about learning how to be fat and happy, not about learning how to convince other people to come into the safe pasture where all the rest of us saved creatures wait for our death so we can finally get started doing something besides waiting, not about learning how to keep from thinking about what's on the other side of the fence, not about learning how to figure out where the invisible fences within the fence are, not about learning how to argue about fence lines (invisible or otherwise) with other creatures who are outside or inside one or more fences.
Unfortunately, the pickins are slim. Judging from the sermons, magazines, Bible studies, and letters thanking me in advance for being a "friend of the ministry", I'm going to have to look somewhere besides Christianity.
I'm tired of waiting. Very tired.
I have to find the other way Jesus talked about.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
This is one of the most stirring things I have ever read. The whole parable is. But particularly this opening.
Once upon a time there lived a sea lion who had lost the sea.
He lived in a country known as the barren lands. High on a plateau, far from any coast, it was a place so dry and dusty that it could only be called a desert. A kind of coarse grass grew in patches here and there, and sometimes wind, which together make one very thirsty. Of course, it must seem strange to you that such a beautiful creature should wind up in a desert at all. He was, mind you, a sea lion. But things like this do happen.
How the sea lion came to the barren lands, no one could remember. It all seemed so very long ago. So long, in fact, it appeared as though he had always been there. Not that he belonged in such an arid place. How could that be? He was, after all, a sea lion. But as you know, once you have lived so long in a certain spot, no matter how odd, you come to think of it as home...
from The Journey of Desire by John Eldredge
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
I was reading MJ’s blog a while back—black background with white text. When I looked away from the screen, I could still see the image of it superimposed on my office wall.
A few weekend ago, I did some tree trimming with my son—hot work on a hot afternoon. When I first went out I noticed it was hot and muggy, but we just kept working. I finally realized I was getting dehydrated, so I went back inside for a while. Man was it cold! And dry. I wondered why on earth we would pay so much to keep the air running like that.
The other night I made grilled salsa and pickled jalapeños with my son. We were crying from the onions and sneezing from the jalapeños, but we just kept at it. It wasn’t too bad. I had to run to the store to get some canning jars. Everything was off the fire and cooling, so I just left it where it was. When I got back I walked in to this thick, overwhelming wave of odors, and I hoped everyone wasn’t too mad at me for stinking up the house.
I use this bible software program on my computer. One night I was scanning through it, looking for something. My mind started wandering, and before I realized, I was just scrolling and scrolling and scrolling back through scriptures and high speed. I finally broke out of my daze and let up on the mouse. But the screen kept moving. Only, it was now drifting back the opposite direction. And I was having a hard time catching up to it.
I read an intro to a story once where the script was leaning back, as if it were written by a person who was backhanded. It was kind of an interesting and archaic looking font. And then I got to chapter one. Regular font. I could hardly read it. It looked so strange, like it was going to fall off the page.
And then there are the noise-cancelling headphones my family gave me for birthday or Christmas or father’s day or something. Awesome. I let the flight attendant try them on the airplane. I thought she was going to freak out. The way they work is they have these built in microphones pointing out that listen for repeating patterns of noise, and then they produce a negative sound wave to cancel the external noise. So it’s actually louder inside the headphones than when it started (there’s no way to create anti-sound), but my ear adds the one sound to the other and gets something that’s flat but at a higher level, and so it gets interpreted as silence, but louder silence.
I also have on my car stereo this thing called Speed Controlled Volume (SCV). If I use this, it automatically adjusts the sound up when I’m going faster, and down when I slow down. This seemed strange to me at first, but I’m sure everybody’s experienced this thing where you’re listening to music going down the highway, and then you come to a stop sign, and it hurts your ears. You wonder what in the world you were thinking to make the music that loud. But it really wasn’t that loud. Your ears had adjusted up for all the engine and road noise so that the music wasn’t that much louder than “normal”, than “baseline”, than “rest”, than “peace”.
The human body is adaptable. Evolution theorists have told us for decades now that adaptation is the key to survival and even progress. They are quite pleased with themselves for figuring this out. And there may be some truth in it. But the most amazing thing to me about adaptation of our species is how quick we are to do it. Even in these simple things I’ve just written out. It’s amazing how quickly and how decidedly we adjust to what we are presented with, and are able to accept it as normal.
It makes me wonder how much our heart adjusts to and calls it normal. And how long the soul can survive in chaos and unholiness and call it peace and blessedness. It’s not that we’re wrong to accept things, to accept a life of sin, to accept a desert of lack. It’s not that we are rebellious if we are accepting something less than “God’s best” for us. It’s just that we have the amazing ability to adjust down or up to the version of reality that is being presented to us at the moment. It's part of our design. It's also why we need friends, why we were created to live in fellowship. We need people to say, “What’s up with that?” and “Is this what you really want?” and “Why is it you think this is the only response for that?” and “What would it take for you to wash your hands of this whole mess?" and even, “How long do you intend to keep living this way?”
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