Sunday, January 31, 2010

ACTD: Day 3 Ruin

Day 3 of A Call To Die looks at the events of Isaiah 6 where Isaiah has a vision of God. One of my application questions asked if I've ever had an experience with God where I felt "ruined" like Isaiah did.

I wish I could say yes, but I don't think I can recall a specific time that "ruined" me for God. My conscience comes into play when I engage in blatant sin, but I don't think that qualifies as being "ruined". However, I can think of many instances that ruined me otherwise. One encounter, one look, one experience had the power to predispose me to this thing or that orientation over another... And these un-named instances have become thorns in my side, mine to bear till this body is finally redeemed. In that case, yes, I feel I've had an experience or two of being "ruined"...

But I know God wants more from me. He wants to wreck me so He can raise me to a life "ruined" for Him. Frankly, the whole idea sounds absolutely horrible. But sin is a vicious disease with consequences more terrible than the prescribed treatment. Woe unto me if God lets me settle for anything less.

The Caracal & The Smell Of Death


Its coming up on 3:30am & I can’t sleep. I woke up tense, tossing & turning- not exactly comfortable & not sure why. I ambled to the kitchen to get a bite to eat & crawled back into bed. As I rolled over, an odd thought came to mind: the caracal & the smell of death.

My friend & I went to the zoo last Wednesday. Theres a small cat in the African exhibit called a caracal. It kind of looks like a lynx, but its something entirely different. Anyway, its enclosed behind fencing, as opposed to the glass that separates one from the lions & cheetahs & painted dogs. We happened to be there 1st thing in the morning- feeding time for everybody- so we watched the lions get their breakfast & then the caracal. My friend commented that it looked like they had thrown it an organ & asked if I could smell it. I said “no” (thankfully). She went on to say something to the effect that it smelled like a slaughter house- the smell of death. I’ve smelled death before- not very pleasant. But for some reason, I wasn’t able to detect anything that day.

Why my thoughts turned to the caracal this morning, I don’t know. It troubled me however & for whatever reason, I began to draw comparisons to my walk with God. Since beginning “A Call To Die”, I realize my relationship with God hasn’t been all I thought it was. What’s worse, I’ve not been able to detect the smell of my own spiritual death. Its been swirling all around me & everyone seems to know but me. Maybe I’m just used to it- desensitized- but I have to do something about it now that I know.

This death is darkness- the kind in which self thrives... I must bury the remains or be consumed. And if I bury it, I must trust God to raise me up to life, to roll away the stone in His time, by His prescribed means.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

ACTD: Day 2 Words

Love. Joy. Peace. Salvation. Eternal life. All of these words are part of the good news Christ spoke about. But Jesus also spoke words about repentance, obedience, suffering & death. How interesting that we often gloss over these words in favor of the fluffy ones. Yet Jesus wasn't "fluffy". When He calls us to die, its not just a saying to Him- its life or death. If we can't die to ourselves- our wants, our entitlements, our talents, our achievements, we have no place in the kingdom. Jesus didn't say "if you read the scriptures & go to church, sing worship songs & pray a lot, well, good news! You're saved!"... No, He said "if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross & follow me"... Those are some pretty heavy words. They're words we often only see 1 dimensionally. But Jesus calls us deeper- beyond the surface of mere sentences. The ground beneath falls away pretty fast. How far am I willing to go? How much am I willing to let go of?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

ACTD: Day 1 Under the Cross, On the Cross

One of my application questions says to write a paragraph about what it means to me to take up my cross.

It means accepting my position as a prisoner to sin. It means turning myself in, daily. If I choose not to take up my cross, I'll live- but on the run, probably tortured by guilt until I submit. Oh sure, I'm saved from the ultimate punishment of sin, but I still have to live with the reality of sin as long as I walk this earth.

1 John 1:8-10 says "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves & the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful & just & will forgive us our sins & purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him be a liar & His Word has no place in our lives".

And so I take up my cross, walk the road & surrender my self to be crucified with Christ. My belief & confession are fleshed out. I am "saved", even as I lose my life. So what does it mean for me to take up my cross? It means submitting everything I am to Christ. It means admitting I’m powerless to save myself from my sin. It means relinquishing control. It means dying to me & walking like a ghost in this world, as a stranger... no longer bound to the curse of sin, but instead bound to hope & clothed in new life in Christ... as a new creation, as one born again.

And I'm sure it means even so much more than this. Am I ready?

The Cross

Jesus told His disciples to take up their cross & follow Him. The cross for them had very specific meaning- it was gruesome, reserved for criminals as a sign of shame & punishment. It was meant not only to punish the offender, but to deter the observer as well. Does seeing someone being strapped to a table & injected with a lethal dose deter me? Not so much. Its not really shocking enough. How about the gas chamber or electrocution or a hanging? I imagine these could be unnerving, but in my mind’s eye, none of these seem quite as gruesome as crucifixion. Couple that with a good whipping & a smart fella might think twice about a life of crime... I know I would.

We have no comparison for the cross in these modern times. It poses the problem of application- how can we grasp such an idea today? The cross is almost a mythical symbol anymore. Its everywhere- in jewelry, on buildings, on designer clothes, carved in any size & any medium one can contrive... the cross as a symbol doesn't seem as as foreign to us as the cross in reality proves to be...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Prelude

Last month I was in a thrift store & found a pristine copy of David Nasser's "A Call To Die". I bought it & promptly stuck it in a box, where it rested comfortably for weeks. Now the boxes are gone & the book is out in the open once more. Its been whispering to me with its simple white cover... with its black & red print... with its crown of thorns. I've been staring at those thorns, realizing that as one opens the book, they're practically life size... and I am no longer holding a book, but a crown of thorns... a call to die... Huh. I wonder if that was intentional?

At any rate, I've decided to take the plunge. Its supposed to be "a 40 day journey of fasting from the world & feasting on God", but I'm gonna stretch it out a little. Each "day" is 5 or 6 pages of reading, a couple pages of in-depth questions after that & then one last page for journaling. That said, I think taking 2-3 days per reading is more than fair... which will put my "deadline" between 80-120 days. I intend to record thoughts & observations here every 3 days. I hope you might find yourself encouraged or challenged in some way.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Home Part 2

Today I was breaking down my moving boxes... an act symbolizing closure- the move is complete. I found a box that hadn't been opened yet, stacked among the empty ones... It was a box I thought I had accidentally handed off to Goodwill or worse, maybe it had somehow been stolen from the truck. But no, there it was, 3 weeks later, waiting on my back porch. This box is significant b/c when I brought it in, home became "home".

Contents: 5 taxidermied frogs acquired from Craigslist. 2 antique bottles & an African percussion instrument given to me by my best friend. An ugly old creamer container from England (but a family heirloom nonetheless) & a simple glass that used to hold pens in my grandfather's secretary. As I pulled these items out & tore off the newspaper, as I placed them in my barrister one by one, "home" became a reality once again.

I know possessions don't ultimately make a home- memories do, family does. Its about the history.

Pray for Haiti...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Home Part 1

When does "home" truly become home?

I've been here a couple weeks now. Most everything is out of boxes & organized. Its my stuff, in my new apartment, yet it doesn't quite feel like home. Maybe I need more time to establish a rhythm. The size of this place is bigger than my last place- there's room to move, room to breathe. Less potential for clutter. Its quieter- I don't share paper thin walls with late night musicians or tv addicts. There's a busy street about a half a block away, but it doesn't seem to bother me like this new found silence does. I turned the fan on to sleep the other night. It seemed to help. My patio (& I do have one) is bordered by holly trees, which are filled with all kinds of birds & squirrels... They seem particularly happy when it rains. The drive to work is slower, but shorter... and I pass the river on the way in- always a treat. I don't have to take the freeway anymore & I don't have to drive home down narrow, pot holed side streets filled with vehicles that should be in the junk yard... I've seen no homeless since being here- no one drunk & muttering, pushing a cart full of cans... no one on the corner holding a clever sign about being out of work or needing beer... And while my new neighborhood isn't quintessential, I have to admit, its not bad.

So when does home truly become home? With all its flaws, what is it that made my last place "home"? And what will it take to find a home here?
Perhaps, as with many things, it just takes time. A new dwelling is a clean slate of sorts- while one carries vestiges of "home" with them, there are addendums to the perception of home yet to be made... I will learn more about my neighbors, more about where I belong & where I don't, what to part with & what to keep. I will learn how to live anew, & eventually, how to make this place mine...