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Monday, February 28, 2005

genesis snake

i was thinking this morning about the voices in my head.

my friend and i were talking yesterday about ideas that seem to come from somewhere else, flying under the radar of perceptual screening because there really aren't any screens in place to filter thoughts. i mean, if you come across something that goes against all that you are about, you can always turn the page, click 'back', change the channel, skip to the next song or scene, go out to get a refill on popcorn, politely excuse yourself in order to use the washroom even though nature isn't calling right then, look away or whatever. but the voices won't be silenced by any of these means, however, because these means all involve manipulating your external environment, or removing yourself from it.

so what do you do about your internal environment?

'course, i'm not talking about the south park 'kill cathy-lee gifford!' brand of spiritual prompting. i'm talking about that profane voice that invites you to put something that is entirely self-serving before anything and anyone else. the genesis snake, asking all the wrong questions, implying all manner of faithlessness; that lying, venomous voice of self-consiousness and doubt, whispering profanity and deception into the ear of a child... what do we do with those voices?

a bunch of years ago i saw the play 'jesus christ superstar' done live. i had seen the film and owned the album in numerous versions and formats, and i think that attending this show was a return to something from my childhood that i remembered warmly. ted neeley and carl anderson (who had played Christ and judas respectively in the film) were in the show, as was dennis deyoung (of styx) playing pilate. oo, ahh- 'all star cast'.

by far, though, the most powerful image from the show that has remained deeply engraved in my mind was a new one that had not been part of the film. you also couldn't sense it in reading the libretto or listening to either of the early versions of the record. with judas, throughout the entire show, were three beautiful girls dressed in red. they ran their fingers through his hair, they breathed enticements into his ear, they caressed his chest and his thighs in ways that would be impossible to ignore, yet no one else in the story appeared to even be aware that they were there. they were the cast and crew of hell itself, personified for all of us to recognize, lest we remain unaware of them in the 'real world'. remarkable was how, right before judas' final act but after the thirty pieces of silver deal was set, they just turned and calmly walked away, abandoning him to face the outcomes alone.

apart from contemplating the genesis snake, i also updated my antivirus software this morning, wondering how good i am at updating my heart in the same way to ensure that nothing vile and stinky has made its way in there, free to corrupt from the inside out before abandoning me to the consequences of the faithless decisions i've made.

daily you became restless-
i watched the fire grow
by darkness you were molested
i was careful not to let you know

and quietly i encouraged you, contributed to your facade
the harder you tried to conceal the lie the easier it was for me to play God
i was reading a book by john eldredge called 'waking the dead' (ISBN 0-7852-6165-6) and although the book isn't full of strange tales of exorcisms and things, it does have a really engaging story about a richly gifted, worship leading, singer/song-writer who falls silent- i think it's worth reading: pp169-174

***UPDATE MARCH 1, 2005
i just read this and began to chuckle to myself as i thought of dana carvey's SNL 'church lady'. it is sad, i know, how Jesus' people are often known more for how much they talk about satan, than how much they talk about Jesus. that sucks- yet here i am dragging this blog on the 'genesis snake' on and on ("could it be.....SATAN?!?")

sad thing is, satan is part of everyday life on this planet, and will be until God decides that enough is enough. but rather than passively giving permission to the staff of hell to be on my case all the time by pretending that it isn't happening, i guess i'd prefer to acknowledge it and move on.

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Sunday, February 27, 2005

COUNTing the enCOUNTers

yay for fixes (whether pre or suf)

okay, so this is my first post. my prime-post... as one of you other dedicated post-er-types may know, i have been putting this off until i had something in my brain which i figger is post worthy. post worthy!?! yeah, you know... something that will either get weight offa me, or something that will put weight on other people ('s heart) ANYWAYS!....
the other day i was kinda in a slump. probably because i sat around my house and watched extreme sports on tv all day and didn't participate in any myself. i don't recommend this for anybody out there. it is rather depressing. alas, i went for a walk. Walks are good. it's like a mini vision quest; a "vision-quest-let" if you will... solely for the purpose of finding God outside. oh boy, did i find God outside.
You ever notice how no matter how confused you are about stuff, God has a way of making things clear if you put yourself at his mercy? So i'm freezing outside, wandering about my neighbourhood, and i get quite a distance away from my house. When i looked back on it i see how similar it is to all the other houses. There it was, brown fence, "light brown" (coughpinkcough) siding and somehow, the same as all the other houses around it. even though, it's on the corner, nothing else makes it stand out.
Later on my treck i saw a blue house amidst a bunch of white houses... it really distracted my eyesight. yeah, it was glorious how this house stood out. and it made me think ... there has to be something different about the people in that house... something different... yet right there in my community of same-ness.
As we explore this new series, this image is going to stand out in my head as a reminder of the song in the borderland. sure, the people who like blue houses could have moved into a community of blue houses... but they seem to find it better to move into a community of white houses. Goodness = Beauty, Beauty = Colorful, therefore, splash the world in color!
PAZ (that's peace in spanish)


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Friday, February 25, 2005

uncommon denominator

i really like how conversations will go basically the same direction in a number of completely isolated contexts. here are some exerpts from an email thread that seem to also speak to ShortStoryDude's comments to a recent posting. yes, i know that the common factor in both conversations is me, and that we are talking about something that means a lot to me, so it's likely to come up. still, there are revelations of God shared between friends that can go beyond the original conversation and open up dialogue somewhere else if permitted to do so, right?

so context1:
a friend of mine and i recently got back in touch- really cool when that happens, yeah? well, i mentioned that my role in life has become a bit more 'pastoral' in the time that has passed since we used to trade cd's back and forth and talk about art and movies and stuff, although this of course still happens.

she mentioned how her own spiritual walk has taken some more intentional curves of its own, and how this was creating some friction among those with whom she grew up because of some perceived abandonment (and probably some fear that she has joined a weird 'cult' or something and is going to be brainwashed to oblivion by someone else's spiritual spin... key word: oblivion.)

pieces of email...(edited highlights?)
"i think that people's opinions often begin with their misconceptions. yet it is from there that the dialogue needs to begin because uninformed opinions are often judgmental in nature. the trick (not sure that that is the right word) is to be in constant dialogue about all things- to never allow subjective taboos to exist between people who love each other. i mean, we can agree to disagree, but the way we all ("you, me, them, everybody" elwood blues in 'the blues brothers') grow is by open discourse.

"a friend asked me one time how he should go about inviting his nextdoor neighbour to an alpha dinner. i asked him if they had ever talked about his faith. when he replied 'no' i suggested that they go there in natural conversation first... nobody likes to feel like somebody's prayer project or something because nobody likes feeling that there are things (particularly negative things) presumed about their soul.

"there are shallow and deep water issues of faith (*see 'eyedrops' posting, this blogspot) , and i like how you have been able to differentiate between the beliefs and the approach to the beliefs.

"who is Jesus? what is the mission to which we are called? these are deep water questions.
is the sabbath to be saturday or sunday? is abstinence from pork any more or less holy than 'fish friday?' i think that these are items, not foundations. thank God he gives us space to work it out together.

"but don't quote me- what do i know?"

context2: ShortStoryDude's comment
"I also understand what you are saying bout faith. My father is currently hospitalized with heart failure and my mom and I have been talking religion a ton lately. She talks about the catholic faith and how that is where my roots are at. I debate with her the fact that denomination shouldn't matter - a Christian is a Christian regardless of how you practice...regardless how you choose to worship. Am I off base here?"

i think you're totally on base: denominations shouldn't matter, but we all kinda know that they do. they matter because they strongly affect how people not only relate to God but also how they relate to each other about God. denominations need to be seen as different 'models' of one religion, rather than different religions. (i'm going to just presume that we are only talking about Christian spirituality right now, rather than having our own little ecumenical movement and placing equal signs between different faiths outside of it- that would a blog to be tackled by somebody much wiser and smarter than i!)

the great thing about denominations is that people of like heart and mind can come together to explore their relationship with God through Jesus Christ in a way that makes the most sense to who they are as individuals. that's why some are noisy and some are contemplative and some are dancers and some are kneelers and some are liturgical and some are experiencial, right? denominations should be about freedom of expression and freedom of choice. they should be a celebration of these things as people hook up with others who relate to God in similar ways.

the painful rubbing comes when members of any one denomination or faction become exclusive, prescribing for others how a relationship with God is to be maintained. the personal element dissolves and you end up with something corporate rather than congregative. it seems like we've all been hurt by this somewhere along our faith journey, and because of this we build ethnocentric walls around our own camp, deeming IT the true faith. round and round we go.

however, having gone on and on already, i need to also say that denominational roots are a good thing. they are a crucial part of our social identity. the great thing that i see in the root analogy is that many extremely healthy plants that are exactly what God meant them to be when he first planted them look nothing like their roots, although they could not survive without them.

yeah- i think that's what i've spent all morning trying to get to.

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Thursday, February 24, 2005


"You know, it sounds odd but at one point in my life I would have agreed with the philosophy of being a "non religous" Christian. However, as of late, I have become more involved in the church and Christianity and I am discovering what it's all about."
(ShortStoryDude: )

my friend, shortstorydude, put it out there.
doesn't sound odd at all- especially the part about one or another point in one's life. the process is the thing, isn't it?

as for religiosity, i love the church. i just want to make sure that that when somebody asks me 'what religion are you?' i don't respond by citing what system of spiritually symbolic behaviours and policies i subscribe to. faith is more relational than that, ya know?

what starts my brain going in a different direction right now is the whole notion of church. we acknowledge that the church is definately not just a building, yet the building analogy also holds because of the rich symbolism that is a huge factor in the design, construction and use of any place of worship. Pope Julius II, who rose to infamy in the renaissance with his decision to tear down St Peter's Basilica in rome (built by the emperor constantine about 1000 years earlier) in order to erect a new, more grandiose church upon the buried remains of St. Peter, spoke not of building a monument, but a living hymn to the living God. in those days cathedrals often took nearly three hundred years to complete- a place of worship was no small matter.

worship can happen anywhere and at any time, yet there are places we call 'sanctuary' which we have set aside to try to hook up with God in a meaningful way. they are furnished differently, lit differently, entered and exited differently than any other place in our world- not because this means a whole lot to God, but because it helps us 'escape' the static of life that seems to interfere with our attempts to connect with God. 'sanctuary' has the same root as 'sanctify' which means 'set apart for holy use'... it is an environment into which we enter to sense God's presence, because the whole invisible person thing can get a bit tough to embrace some days.

however, Fathers LaFarge and Gundlach, writing for Pope Pius XI in 1938, further personalized it this way:

174. The same can be said of the architectural splendor of the great monuments the past has handed down to us as testimonies to its faith and piety: each element contributes its beauty to a whole that transcends the beauty and perfection of these elements. Consider one of our cathedrals: each line rises into space as if it had its own life, thanks to the conjunction of stones each of which has its own perfection. A mosaic or stained-glass window expresses an image whose beauty surpasses the individual beauty of each of its parts. And in the creative imagination of the artist, although each element retains its own value, the arches and columns, the vaults and naves, the windows, mosaics, sculpted portals and capitals, the towers and the steeples, all come together harmoniously in the transcendental splendor of the whole.

175. And yet this building is only a material testimony, written in wood and metal and stone, to a still more marvelous spiritual reality: the incredible collaboration of countless minds and countless wills in realizing this gigantic work. They have come to this spiritual city, which the material edifice merely symbolizes, from the far corners of the earth: architects, designers, sculptors, and painters, masons, cabinet makers, and carpenters, with their apprentices and disciples. Often, they came from far away: they left their homelands and traveled a long time in order to contribute their bit of beauty to the ineffable adoration of God expressed by a new temple. All classes of society were represented: prelates and priests, monks and scholars, kings and statesmen, innumerable men, women and children of the people, craftsmen, associations, and pious confraternities, all working together to erect a house of God worthy of Him.

176. It was not by stifling or mutilating the personalities of the co-workers that this sublime harmony was achieved, nor by submerging them in the anonymous collectivity or in the ideas and the will of some brilliant architect whom the artists only have echoed in a servile manner. These ways of proceeding may at first seem productive; in fact, they lead to death. This is not how the miracle was accomplished, but rather through each artist’s personal response to the call of the Spirit of God, which invited him to collaborate in the plentitude of his individualized activity. Not being lost in an indiscriminate collectivity, each man could draw from the depths of his personality the most perfect and spontaneous expression of the task that fell to him through his particular vocation. Thus, through the mediation of their common activity, they could offer God a worthy testimony of their obedience and love by erecting a temple to be a dwelling among us for the Eucharistic Christ, the eternal Oblation always present on our altars.

Thus each man could say of his participation in this great manifestation of collective worship… Could these Christians not say they had found themselves in finding Christ? In Him and through Him, they discovered what the modern world is so feverishly searching for: the full development of the personality that each person has received as a gift from the Creator, and the unity in activity wherein the fullness of individual life may be achieved.

(exerpted from Humani Generis Unitas; commissioned from Fathers LaFarge and Gundlach by Pope Pius XI, 1938; reprinted in The Hidden Encyclical of Pius XI, 1997, p272-273)

i am a place of worship
a cathedral designed by an inspired and inspiring engineer
who in devotion to the Almighty
longs to celebrate the height and light
of the one true king

or a country chapel
assembled by the nail-gnarled hands
of a carpenter
to be a place of rest for common people
stained by the sweat of their brow
soiled by their toil upon the land

i am a house of prayer
'my Father's house has many mansions...'

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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

bad habit

'religion industry' IS a funny descriptor, isn't it?

sounds like we manufacture this patented product which is somehow guaranteed to get people in touch with God. i'm not sure which word is more problematic in the phrase...

probably 'religion'

'how to be christian without being religious' (book by fritz ridenour, 1967)
'i'm not religious, i just love the Lord" (song by scott wesley brown, 1977?)
'that's me in the corner... i'm losing my religion' (michael stipe, REM, 1993)
'she wears her religion like a bad habit' (jb, 2002)

that last one is me- i couldn't resist... it's arguably the line of poetry of which i am the most proud. a habit is a codependant system of behaviours repeated again and again. the habit exists because of the repitition and the repitition exists because the habit requires it.

but a habit is also the garment worn by a 'sister' or vestal. what might a 'bad habit' imply? something meant to be good that was, for some reason, tainted or soiled? perhaps a less-than-white one. maybe just an old one that is looking a little rough due to repeated wearings and washings. the problem would not be why the habit was bad, but simply that it was and was therefore a distraction rather than a fitting inspirational symbol of devotion.

being religious is a means by which some people structure their lives, making room for devotion by placing it at the centre of all that gets done. right on- that's a sure-fire way to successfully to ensure that all the right things happen. however, if the religiosity is the whole point then it falls short of that which it signifies- it becomes a bad habit.

Jesus was pretty clear on this one when he used an analogy of his own in matt23.27- the whitewashed sepulcre. it is not the garment or the structure that matters, it is the person within. however, if the religion allows the religious person inside it to hide unaddressed darkness, folly or some other version of self-centredness within it, then it is a bad habit regardless of how tidy it looks.

when we read of white garments at the end of the bible (rev3.5) they appear to be more about what God has done on our behalf than they are about what we have done on God's behalf.

interesting that the section bearing this description is subtitled 'the dead church' in some translations.

UPDATE: 5:59 P.M.***
it's amazing how things land in your lap at the right time... i just read this:

"...for so long religion was my false gospel. but there was no magic in it, no wonder, no awe, no kingdom life burning in my chest. and when i get tempted by that same stupid Christian religion, i go back to the beginning of the gospels and am comforted that there is something more than the emptiness of ritual. God will ignite the kingdom life within me, the Bible says. that's mysticism. it isn't a formula that i am figuring out. it is something that God does."

(donald miller, 'Blue Like Jazz' pp 203-204)

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

the story we tell together

major pet peeve: dvd's with no special features.

i don't know about you, but i really like watching all of that extra junk on dvd's. i've always been a sucker for 'the making of the movie...' documentaries, even though we all knew that they were publicity gimmicks aired on regular tv to create a buzz around premier time. what i have always found intriguing about them is the 'other side of the camera' stuff where we see these people playing themselves, sorting out with each other how to portray their character. the process of acting and re-acting is fun to watch... call it anthropology.

so the other day i bought a copy of 'starsky and hutch' for $6.99 at blockbuster. right on- you basically watch it once or twice and then keep it forever with no late charges (although there are none now anyway so i probably have to rethink my argument for buying dvd's instead of renting them over and over). whatever- point is, this dvd has arguably one of the most interesting 'making of' features i've seen yet.

i mean, hearing spielberg compare 'jaws' to a movie he did about a rabid truck is mildly intriguing; seeing how 'star wars' grew to mythological proportions in the face of the studio system of the 70's is a cinderella story; hearing tarantino pay homage to 'grind house cinema', samarai movies, spaghetti westerns and japanese surf music in the process of 'kill(ing) bill' informs the ultraviolence; seeing the freedom withwhich 'independant' (actually not sure what that means anymore) filmmakers create and manipulate digital images using affordable technology in films like '28 days later' and 'sky captain and the world of tomorrow' is like being invited to hear a magician explain an illusion; and viewing the mother of all special features- the appendices in the special editions of 'the lord of the rings'- gives you so much background that you actually feel qualified to be the best man or matron of honour at any one of these people's weddings.

so what makes something as comparatively light as 'starsky and hutch: last look' compete with these epic background pieces? although they hide it well on film, everybody in 's&h' is absolutely ticked at each other. it's like watching survivor, only everyone has already got their millions and they're still taking bites out of each-others' backsides! the director feels that everybody likes him and each other, and this couldn't be farther from the truth- or at least from the edited version of the visually documented truth. juliette lewis says it best when she says 'it's like working with 90 ten-year olds.'

my son is ten. i know what 10 year-olds are like- but 90 of them?

the movie is entertaining in a small-e sorta way. the situations are laughable, the characters are familiar and accessable and the timing feels right. i watched this stupid movie three times in the theatre and then rented it at least twice before buying it- not because it was that good, but because it was fun. so to be given a look behind the scenes into the relational breakdowns that were taking place on the road to a marketable product gives me new eyes with which to watch the film. it doesn't draw me further into the story, however. it draws me into a place where i am watching closely to see what kind of betrayal lies behind the eyes and the actions of this or that actor playing a role. it feeds my curiosity about what people are really like behind the mask and the make-up.

but here's where it gets a little awkward: then i think about church. if someone were to follow each of us with a handycam, documenting everything we feel and say about those with whom we do ministry and life, would the documentary inform the story we tell together, or would it simply reaffirm in the minds of the viewers the idea that it's all an act- an escape from relational reality?

everybody watches for their own reasons.

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Monday, February 21, 2005

hamburger helper in tupperware

i am a little short on anything new to write today, as it all went into yesterday's 'sermon' on how much a certain oldschool shock-rocker has in common with the prophet jeremiah, and why this is hope for us all. Jesus keeps saying 'i love you' to us- often even through each other.

anyway, feeling a bit dodge-y, i have gone into the archives on my hard-drive and let my subconsious mind pick a relatively old blog from june, 2002 to repost on a relatively new blogspot. not having much of a clue about psychoanalysis apart from the stuff that i've picked up from watching 'spellbound' by alfred hitchcock, i've gotta say that the whole subconscious connection is a fun one: i believe that our subconscious mind has as much of a hand in the decisions we make (particularly the creative ones) and the topics we explore consciously as it does in the dream voyages we take while sleeping. interpretations for this or that choice can often be tied to other things that we thought were out of our system, but were in fact simply playing it. i guess what i am staggering around trying to say is that life is probably a holistic exploit of the soul, and everything is part of everything else so the sooner we can open up some headspace to play in by having this or that wall knocked through the better.

oh, i wish i could think in a straight line- even for a couple of minutes.

whatever. seems that there is a bunch of nostalgia, some dissatisfaction with the weather, and perhaps some words of truth for a new friend encased in the choosing of this piece of used prose.

besides we all have nothing better to do than eat leftovers, yeah?

so i’m pretending that i’m climbing mountains back in bc.

everything is there: the heat, the smell of sage, the dry grass, the dust.
it doesn’t seem to matter that i am in fact in the qu’appelle valley and that this act of climbing a mountain is really just climbing up out of the hole that has been created for us through thousands of years of erosion. no, right now i am reliving my childhood while the childhoods of those climbing around me, as if part of some parallel universe, unfold before my very eyes. there are some days when it is really cool to be a teacher.

there comes a problem late in the day. one girl, while ascending a particularly steep grade has somehow irrevocably lost a sandal. those climbing with her have searched for the prodigal footwear at length before one by one abandoning her on the hill where she now remains half barefoot, waiting for something to happen. it’s time for some big teacher to save the day, i guess, and because others are supervising a great number of students in the swimming hole (for it is the end of a hot one) i head up this widowmaking hill with an extra pair of sandals.

on the way back down, something beautiful catches my eye. in the middle of the trail there is a flower. just one, pink and perfect, all alone in its colour and beauty on this dusty hill. without warning, i am caught in a moment of spiritual truth. nature will do that sometimes, regardless of your pathway to God.

this prairie flower grows out of a clump of perfectly camouflaged cacti which lies in wait for the next shoeless passerby.

my first thought is the usual darwinian, scientific theory of natural selection, kind: the cactus cluster grows as protection for the flower against its natural herbivorous enemies. right around then is when the spiritual dimension raises its hand to speak.

this thing of beauty is protection for me as i hike this trail. the only flowers i see mark the spots where all the cactus are, and the only places the cactus grow are out in the open. they only grow on the path. there are none in the deepest, densest bush, and there are none in places of barrenness- other, more treacherous perils exist there.

we need to appreciate beauty around us- be it an experience, a song, a vision or a word. we just can’t let ourselves become so entranced by the beauty that we miss the significance. beauty leads us toward God, while whispering “be careful.” God has marked every peril with a flower, so as we embrace the richness of this human walk, let us not lose sight of that which often lies beneath many of the best things in life.

but we needn’t walk in fear.

folly is the temptation to take this physical existence too seriously. The ecclesiast lamented that all is vanity and always has been. douglas coupland, whom I have been in the habit of quoting lately, said that “nothing very very good or very very bad lasts very very long.”

all things have their season, and the key to navigating the mountain path is to recognize that it is, in fact, a path. many have preceded us and many will follow. the flowers in the dirt exist there independent of the hikers, in a realm outside of good and evil. they are signposts or markers along the way, affirming that we are still on the path, and that the path is a safe one as long as we keep our eyes open and our feet shod.

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Friday, February 18, 2005

holy water

"well the preacher kept right on saying that all i had to do was send $5 to the church of the sacred bleeding heart of Jesus located somewhere in los angeles california and next week they'd say my prayer on the radio and all my dreams would come true..." ('faraway eyes' by jagger/richards, '78)

maybe we just dream the wrong things, hoping that they will come true. where is it written down that God's grace is some kinda sacred rabbit's foot?

truth is, God doesn't offer a life with no turmoil, he simply offers peace amidst the turmoil of life on fallen planet earth. Christ said no man is greater than his master, and he certainly didn't escape earth without experiencing some personal inconvenience. funny that we think we should be able to.

perhaps we are more like Christ than we realize (in a twisted, self-centred, misguided sort of way...) turning his water into our whine.

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

bullet in announcement

as funny as i thought that this was, i need to preface the bulletin announcement below by stating that it is fake. i made it up in the car this morning as i drove from tim horton's, already feeling the effects of a particularly powerful cup of joe. there is no ***** **** church, and if there are churches that operate this way... they probably mean well.
: )

We at ***** **** are entering a new day of Spiritual Formation.

To usher in every new era (and there have been a number of them) it has been our custom historically to be strategic in our approach, employing and deploying people of complementary passion and gifting to the task at hand in order to be effective and affective in our endeavors, God being our helper.

In order to be mindfully missional, intentionally intense yet agreeably aggressive, we have a plan.

At ***** **** we intend to
Disciple the

Won’t you join us as we storm the gates of Hell together, beginning with the gate to our next door neighbour’s yard?

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Wicked Thinking

In time, no one will remember anything we ever did, and even our names will
be forgotten. Our lives will pass away the the traces of clouds and vanish
like fog in the heat of the sun. Our time on Earth is like a passing shadow.
There is no escape from the day of our death: it is fixed, and no one
can postpone it. - The Wisdom of Solomon 2-4

Have you ever felt like you've 'cheated death' I've known two actual
occasions where I maybe had escaped death. Or so I had thought back
then. Once, being buried in a trench and the other being by heavy
machinery. Now, I'm not so sure that it was 'I' who cheated death.
As a matter of fact of it, I am quite positive that 'I' had nothing
to do with it all. If I knew how to link on these loopy blogs, I would
post the link to a story which happened in California this past late
January. Just to recap the jist of the headlines that day, an individual
decided to take his own life by setting his car upon a railroad track
to end his sorrowful life. But he backed down at the last instant, he
got jammed up, he sobered up, although not drunk. Just
in the nick of time and hurled himself out of the car. Saving himself
from the wreckage of the collision as the train smashed against the car.

But he killed 12 people in the train.

Go back to Solomon:
There is no escape from the day of our death:
it is fixed, and no one can postpone it

I strongly believe that. And I now travel light.
But never alone.

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from the mountaintop, everything looks different

from the mountaintop we tend to look up and out more- at other mountaintops mostly. it's a heckuva view

take lots of pictures on the mountaintop where the air is the freshest and the vision is the clearest... where there are no circumstances to interfere with enjoying the peak

but don't stay there

refusing to leave the summit is choosing to reduce the Holy to the common. if you don't leave the summit, it too will become ordinary- not to mention you will never experience that thrilling moment of awesome reverence again

there will be no new angle

the pictures you have taken will be blessings as you descend. they are merely impressions of the view from the top, but they will serve to remind you of your time at the summit, as well as being evidence and hope for you to cling to in the valley's depths. save the pictures in a scrapbook and view them often. also, share them with those who toil in the valley. use them to invite companions to join you on your hike to the neighbouring summit

and never forget where you've been

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Saturday, February 12, 2005

girl in a gown

who is this bride who stands
gazing into her own eyes and
swoons before her own image in the looking glass?
silly girl
she will miss the party of her life

who is this bride who
now hides her face from her suitor
behind veils of stubborn self-reliance
as though she could somehow be married
to her own reflection

silly girl
she wears her religion like a bad habit
and will go from maiden to maid
having never entered the covenant
nor having ever been entered into
and celebrated as a holy place

silly girl
so self-satisfied with your appearance
in a gown that was made to be taken off
will that gown provide any warmth for you
as you pass into the abyss alone?

tragically silly girl
pointlessly beautiful
and all alone on a Saturday night


recently my friend got married.
although the wedding was a really fun occasion which involved the riveting performance of a cowboy junkies song, the presentation of a matrimonial omelet spatula, and a recessional to the theme for raiders of the lost ark, the most memorable part of that day for me was the look that my friend wore upon his tear-streaked face as his soon-to-be bride moved gracefully up the aisle. it was beautiful and real

i’ll never forget that look, and i can’t wait to see it on the face of God.

there are numerous bible passages which invite us to see the relationship between God and his people as marital. the saga of hosea and gomer is rich with significance here; song of songs/solomon has been allegorically interpreted by some in order to explore how God might express his love for his people. john the baptist specifically uses the bride metaphor in order to somehow explain his relationship to the Christ- comparing himself to the man who holds the ring, rather than the man who places it on the finger of the most beautiful girl in the room (John 3.29). later, we read in Revelation (21.2, 9) of the cosmic bride, beautifully adorned and prepared for her husband. this bride is dressed in costume so rich in significance that the groom’s breath is literally taken away in that moment when he first sees her on the day that begins their life together.

fine, so what does this have to do with anything?

i believe that worship is the dress. it is the bride’s preparation for everything that will begin at the wedding feast and continue throughout eternity. it is liturgy, sermons, hymns, worship songs, inspirational readings, poetry recitation, multi-media pomo laser shows, inspirational painting and pot-throwing… all the great things that draw us closer to Christ because they are so effective at blocking out the radio interference of life on planet earth so that we can become truly aware of his presence and his love.

the bride is beautiful and she knows it, but the holy adornments actually interfere with the wedding celebrations because they have become an end in themselves. she finds herself standing in front of the mirror admiring the dress, rather than getting on with the wedding.

does the church lose track of Jesus in all the business of being religious? artistic? innovative? politically correct? cutting edge? are there things that can keep the bride hidden from the eye of God because they have become more important than the relationship that Jesus died to repair? if so, they become, not a wedding dress but the filthy rags described in isaiah 64.6.

back to the story of my friend. what might his face have conveyed, had he been left to stand alone at the altar? the tears would still be there, and the reason for them would be equally as memorable… perhaps hell is knowing for all eternity that you broke the pan-dimensional heart that, inspired by love, created the universe and longed for you to join him in the centre of it… pointless beauty and isolation rather than consummation.

as we adorn the bride with things of beauty, let’s continue to remember that worship is a gown that is made to be taken off.

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Thursday, February 10, 2005

way before nirvana

i was washing dishes this afternoon and had one of those moments of startling clarity. even now, i'm trying to remember the internal conversation that was going on at the time, but nothing is coming back... ah yes. there it is. i was thinking about madonna:

i was going through the lyrics of bowling for soup's '1985' in my head because our band is playing it as the newest song in our set on valentine's day, and the 'madonna' line prompted a mental image of the 80's version of the savvy pop diva. from there, though, my brain slid over to a series of sermons that were done in the 'seeker services' of the 90's. the hook was 'what Jesus would say to... (fill in any 80's-90's superstar's name here, from madonna to donald trump to homer simpson; there was wide pop-coverage on this one)'

seemed that Jesus had something different to say to all of em. although this was during madonna's more 'controversial' period, the message was affirming and loving.

anyway, it occured to me today that Jesus would probably say the same thing to everybody:
"I love you."

nothing particularly epiphanal about that.

however, the pop-ups kept coming as i scrubbed and rinsed. scroll forward to michael moore's interview with marilyn manson in 'bowling for columbine'... (disclaimer: sloppy paraphrasing and misquoting is immanent- watch the movie yourself for the real reel dialogue)

moore: ' what would you say to (the teen gunmen) if you had the chance?'
manson: ' i wouldn't say anything- i would listen.'

so there's marilyn, speaking like Jesus again. he's always doing this. i'm not sure if he's as antiChrist as the publicists and the fundamentalists insist... another topic for another day.

regardless of what kind of divergent adhd thinking got me here or what harmful chemicals were making their way from the dishwater to my brain via my bloodstream, having accessed it through the pores in my hands, this is where the clouds rolled back and a dove from heaven descended upon my shoulder, whispering a message in my ear:

it's not the words of God that are so confusing... it's his body language.

the church is to be the body of Christ. in his physical absense, we are to be his physical presence in this world. from Jesus' mouth people hear 'i love you' yet from his body they are receiving mixed messages which bring the sincerity of his words into question.

i think that james has something to say about this.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005


my friend was trying to pursuade me to join her side of the debate.

it reminded me of a time this winter when a bunch of us were in a parking lot full of freshly fallen snow. because the plows were still snowed in, the snow in the lot had not yet been pushed into convenient piles, and one of the vehicles in our group had gotten stuck.

being hardy prairie guys, we got behind the vehicle to try to unstick it, rocking the thing back and forth while one of the girls worked the gas pedal. problem was, there were only two positions that felt natural for her right foot: all the way up and all the way down.

so no matter how hard we tried, the vehicle was getting more and more stuck because, rather than simply drop the vehicle down to first and take it slow, the driver rode the pedal to the metal every time we said 'okay, now give'er a little gas.'

the debate is like this, and i think that many if not most of us respond like that minivan stuck in the snow- we can probably get unstuck if you just drop the intensity down a couple gears, redistribute the torque of the argument and ease us slowly into a new track which allows us to once again get where we are trying to go.

it's like that with me anyway...

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

somatic dream

"he knew how to read and write; therefore he had a heavy responsibility: to catch with his pen all that was about to perish and by placing it on paper, to make it immortal" (nikos kazantzakis)

in his book 'the last temptation of Christ', kazantzakis explores his own faith, telling the story of Christ as though it were his own. i think his reasoning goes this way: if Jesus' life were to be a relevent testament to the power of God, and if Jesus' death and resurrection were to have any personal significance for an everyday person, then his story would have to be somehow interchangable with ours... not in the details, obviously, but in the grand themes, trials, doubts, temptations, victories etc. in order for the gospel to be good news, its central character needs to be accessable for the everyman. although the idea is probably off a bit in the finer doctrinal points, i find the heart of the idea touching and biblical (philippians 2.5-11)

sometimes your exploration can take you in strange directions that require some reeling in... exploration and doubt are very different. please do not doubt my faith as i explore it.

"all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream" (Edgar Allan Poe)

now what does this mean to me? as i open up to ideas from which i once would have turned in closed dismissal, i find options which do not necessarily contradict my faith.

am i becoming more 'liberal?' i don't think so.
am i becoming more gracious? i hope so.

what if this life is but one of many dreams experienced by an eternal soul? what if the notion of reincarnation is merely the sleep cycle of a soul in slumber- or worse: comatose?

what if the call of Jesus is the only thing that will truly rescue a soul from an eternal swoon? what if damnation begins as the pointless cycling through of life dreams which are ultimately of no consequence- each one ending more or less the same way: the soul awakens from physical life knowing that once again he or she failed in answering the call of God through the blood of his son with the voice of the Holy Spirit, and having to return to the physical dream in order to hopefully accept redemption this time through?

and what if the cycle ends with the acceptance of the redemption offered by God- at the conclusion of this somatic dream the soul is permitted to live without further physical interruption for all eternity outside of time in the presence of God?

is this road really that different- or is it simply unorthodox?
what does scripture say?

wondering again.