Thursday, November 26, 2009

thanksgiving day charade

i spent thanksgiving in the dark
wondering how i lost my spark

i had some coffee & some pie
i ate alone, i don't know why
all i could do was sit & sigh
my spark is gone & so am i

candles offer but a glimmer
of light & hope growing dimmer

the melted wax will overcome
the flamey wick will then succumb
to the weight of darkness' rule of thumb
without a spark this life is numb

soundly assailed without & within,
i wrapped myself with layers thin
i had more coffee & more pie
my spark is gone & so am i

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ramp Signal

Like most people these days, I take the freeway to work. The ramp signals are usually on & there's a line up of cars waiting to infuse themselves into the flow of traffic. As we slowly crept up to the line yesterday, I noticed a panhandler standing on the small strip of earth that separated the ramp from the freeway. This is a common sight anymore, so his presence didn't really phase me. There was an old Ford 350 in front of me who's driver looked to be a burly, bald headed guy. He inched up to the line, rolled down his window & stuck his hand out to entice the panhandler. I could see he had something in his hand, but as soon as the panhandler hobbled up to the window, the driver snatched his hand back & sped off. He was laughing, thinking himself pretty swift. I wanted to speed up behind him & somehow exact revenge, but I had my job to go to, so... anyway.

In case you're wondering, I didn't offer the panhandler my spare change when my turn came. I don't give handouts as a general rule. I don't know his situation- whether he was faking it or whether he was truly homeless or just down on his luck... but the way the man in the truck treated him really bothered me. It was completely uncalled for & undignified, for both parties involved.

Its hard to believe we still measure the worth of a person by what they're wearing or how they smell or what they do. It seems like grade school stuff. Isn't a person worth something just because they're made in God's Image? This world still doesn't think so... and that's just sad.

Freeway ramps & busy corners are never a good place to stand & advertise your trouble. But people do it every day... some are genuine, some aren't. Some drivers care, some don't. If you choose to care, you'll hold up the traffic behind you. And other times, there's no traffic... no panhandler... & its just you & the Light.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Word is the Word

If you've ever read the first few chapters of Genesis, you know about the story of creation. But look closely & you'll find that the account in chapter 1 doesn't match up chronologically with the account in chapter 2.

Chapter 1
Day one- light & darkness
Day two- sky
Day three- land, sea, sprouting vegetation
Day four- sun, moon & stars
Day five- fish & birds
Day six- animals & man (Adam)
Day seven- God rests

In chapter 2, man appears before vegetation sprouts up. So I got to thinking- maybe God just planted seeds on the third day & they had to grow into trees & plants & shrubbery- food for the animals & Adam & Eve.
Chapter 2 also tells us God planted a garden in Eden... but only after He had created Adam. And in the garden, Adam is presented with all sorts of living creatures, which remember, according to chapter 1, were created on the 6th day, preceding him. But Chapter 2 implies God formed them from the ground there in that moment and paraded them past Adam so he could name them & maybe find a friend (And you thought E-Harmony was a new idea.) But no suitable match could be found, so God put Adam to sleep, took a rib, and made Eve. Yet according to chapter 1, Eve had been made with Adam at the same time... "Male & female He created them." Ge. 1:27.

There's a basic argument that you can't take the Bible literally. And for stories such as this which seem a little far fetched, I'm inclined to agree. But that doesn't mean the story isn't valid.

I got to thinking about that scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16 that starts out by saying "All Scripture is God-breathed"... Some versions say "All Scripture is inspired or given by inspiration". Taken literally in its entirety, you create a petri dish for all kinds of fanaticism. Because God spoke it, it's Holy & by golly, it must be taken literally, to the hilt. I believe the bible is a mixture of literal & figurative, surely inspired by God, but not necessarily spoken or translated word for word.

The idea of being "God breathed" takes me back to the garden. Regardless what day man was created, he was nothing without the breath of God. Ge 2:7- God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of Life into the man's nostrils & he became a living person.
I'm reminded of another example in Ezekiel 37 where God took the prophet Ezekiel out to a field of bones & told him to speak them. Ezekiel did as he was told & the bones came together. Muscles & flesh formed over them, "but they still had no breath in them". Then the Lord told Ezekiel to "speak to the Breath", to breathe into the bodies so they would live. Breath entered them & they stood up as a mighty army. This of course was a vision, but the gist is, no breath, no life. For a more modern day application, what about CPR? You have a body that's essentially dead, so you pump the heart & put your breath into their lungs... If the Word of God is "breathed" into a dead body, it comes to life.

But (and here's a shocker) the words of the bible are just ink on a page. The gold edged paper, red letters or genuine calfskin leather doesn't make it holy... doesn't make it life giving... It doesn't matter what translation you have, there isn't one that's any more "holy" than another. Studying it, praying it, speaking it & practicing it are helpful, yes. The last part of 2 Timothy 3:16 says scripture "... is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..." Yet Jesus said Himself "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life". John 5:39-40

The bible testifies about Jesus, points to Him, bears witness of Him, but it's not the bible that gives us life. "In the beginning was the Word, & the Word was with God & the Word was God (John 1:1)". We call the bible the "Word of God", but its Jesus Who is the Word... He is the inspiration of & fulfillment of Scripture. His is the spiritual breath that gives life to the corporeal body we call bible...

Remember our petri dish, brimming with fanaticism? We can cultivate a form of life by diligently searching our scriptures for literal application or we can step out of the lab & have life- literally.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Falling Out Of Formation

Weakness. Is it wrong to admit to shame? To cowardice? Is it wrong to admit an iota of uncertainty or at worst, unbelief? Is it wrong to attempt to own up to one's shortcomings as a Christian, as a human? Why is it that people in the Christian community tend to shrink back in horror from the sin of their own, even as their own sin remains hidden, unchecked? Why is it some of us go to such great lengths to hide our weakness?

Paul spoke of boasting in his weakness so the power of Christ would rest on him. The Lord even said to him "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Not that we ought to strive to remain weak or seek to manipulate the power of God, but clearly, its the depth of our weakness that affords Christ's perfecting work in us... We are told to be holy as He is holy. We are told to be slaves to the Spirit of God & not slaves to sin... And yet, even though the curse of sin has been broken for those of us who call ourselves Christians, there is still sin in us... & sin still moves through us like the air we breathe.

What's our goal? To not sin or to see Christ's power being perfected in us daily? Sometimes I feel as though I'm so much less of a Christian for my obvious faults. I seem to chastise myself over my weaknesses regularly... I've had those happy go lucky doe eyed Christians reprimand me countless times for being too hard on myself, for lacking "joy" as an outward evidence of my salvation... I've been accused of being so self focused that I forget about all that God has done for me & all the things I still have to do for God. But I can't see the value in "faking it" just to keep up with the flock. I'm weak & falling out of formation...

When I see other Christians "falling" yet still challenging themselves, I'm strangely encouraged- more so than when I see them "joyful & triumphant". I get to see Christ being perfected in them- I get to see the process. I find comfort in knowing I'm not the only one with gimpy wings... And maybe somewhere down the road, the process of Christ's power being perfected in me will provide encouragement for another.

So I will boast all the more about my weakness, that Christ's power might rest on me, that Christ's power might be perfected in me...

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Curse Of Wolferella (a.k.a. It Is Finished!.... Again!)

Today I finished my 6 month read thru of the Bible 17 days ahead of schedule. Since I decided to skip around this time, I ended with the books of Revelation & Acts. While I feel an obvious sense of accomplishment, I harbor a sense of disappointment as well. What's changed in my life since I began this round of reading? How am I more like Christ, or perhaps, less like Him? What's been revealed to me about God through His word? About myself? About this world I live in & my purpose here?

I'm admittedly rather sullen. Is change possible? Possibly. Is transformation a goal I can attain? If faced with an angry mob who wanted to kill me b/c of what I believed, would I cave or would I speak boldly like Paul? Some of you who know me might find humour in that statement, as most know I'm not very bold about anything (except perhaps my own obstinacy). And yet, its really quite a sad thing to know about a person; to admit to one's self.

In Revelation 21:8, God is speaking- listing off the kinds of people that will be left out of the heavenly city (the very place from which I claim to have my own citizenship). At the top of this list are the cowardly... not the fearful, but the cowardly. There's a difference. The cowardly run away from the battle b/c of fear. The fearful run TO the battle in spite of fear. Out of all that I read this morning, this verse hit me square.

I admit I've been a coward concerning most things in my life, watching from a distance... If someone spots me on the periphery, I can sort of blend in... at least until the moon waxes full or the clock strikes midnight. Then the curse of my shame, like the wild hair of a wolfman, emerges from my sleeves... my obstinate pride puffs up & tears at the jewels around my neck. It rips the gauzy gown from my back, until a seething beast emerges & devours the footmen nearby. TODAY the Word has once again caught me unawares, & the truth has been revealed.

Hebrews 3:12-14 NIV
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called TODAY, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.

Thoughts On Migration

So a new season is upon us. The distinct autumnal scent of wet, decaying leaves & wood fires permeates the crisp, misty air. In the last few days, I've noticed the familiar sounds & formations of geese overhead... These birds will go south for the winter & return in the spring, like clockwork.

I was returning from the hospital when I saw them flying en mass over the wide stretches of farmland that border the interstate. I had dropped my friend off to be with her family... Her grandma, recovering from routine surgery, had quite suddenly taken a turn for the worst. The doctors were able to stabilize her & she remains under constant supervision, but the prognosis isn't good.

As I was driving home, I got to thinking about life & death- how these are a kind of "migration" for us... Like geese, we often instinctively follow the same patterns, fly in the same formations with others who are part of our lives.... We use each other to conserve energy so we can make it to our destination. We come, we go, until one day, we grow weak & fall out of formation. Yet even death is a kind of migration- from this world to the next. Its not really far off from any of us. Its in this departure that we realize the hope of our final destination, our homecoming... our rest.