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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

uncommon sense

Soren Kierkegard said:
He who always hopes for the best becomes old, deceived by life, and he who is always prepared for the worst becomes old prematurely; be he who has faith retains eternal youth.

Oswald Chambers said:
Supposing God tells you to do something which is an enormous test to your common sense. What are you going to do? Hang back?
...Jesus Christ demands of the man who trusts him the same reckless sporting spirit that the natural man exhibits. If a man is going to do anything worthwhile, there are times when he has to risk everything on his leap, and in the spiritual domain Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold by common sense and leap into what he says... At the bar of common sense Jesus Christ's statements may seem mad; but bring them to the bar of faith and you begin to find with awestruck spirit that they are the words of God.
***

here's what i read here: faith is not common sensical. in fact, one could even say that faith is an 'uncommon sense' or a sixth sense, if you will. it is something that defies other senses while qualifying them. it is the 'third eye' that somehow sees beyond the physical and into the spiritual realm- a bridge from concrete and temporal to abstract and eternal.

when we act upon the things that we perceive through our faith, we are engaging in the work of God- the stuff for which we were called into eternal existence in the first place. as we try to outrun father time, could it be that we are losing that footrace because we are breaking the number one rule... looking at your oponent rather than the track and the finish line in the distance? perhaps eternal youthfulness is found in embracing the eternal at the expense of the temporal. just living the adventure rather than calculating whether the next one carries with it only reasonable and manageable risks?

since when is adventure reasonable? it occurs to me that living by faith takes one to the very edge of the chasm and then invites one more step... whether you die or fly depends entirely upon that in which you have placed your faith.

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

mommy's alright, daddy's alright



i was given the task of 'preaching a sermon' on
'what kids need to know about their parents...'
although all of these probably don't apply to everyone, many of them do.

so here are your parents with the masks off and the distance removed
face to face, barriers down, undefended and vulnerable to attack
(this is not an exclusive list, it is an inclusive one)
***
you were the most mind-bending surprise of their life
they had all the answers until you were born
they've learned most of life's most important lessons from you
you didn't come with an assembly manual, so they've learned to improvise
they have traded away a lot of freedom in order to raise you
they take great pride and delight in all the things you are good at- even if these are not the same talents as theirs
they brag about you constantly- even when you blow it
you are the source of their best stories
you are the source of their strongest emotional experiences: pain, joy, fear, frustration, love, pride, confusion
they see more than you think, love more than you can imagine and fear more than they let on
you remind them of themselves and each other (it's like they see themselves when they look at you)
they remind themselves of their own parents in all the wrong ways
there were things about your grandparents that drove them crazy and they have been trying so hard to not make those mistakes in raising you that they've made a bunch of entirely different ones
it scares them to grant you freedom to make your own decisions because they don't want someone to hurt you somehow along the way...
they trust you, they just don't trust others
they desperately want to somehow save you from having to experience anything they found painful as kids
more than anything in the world, they want you to be happy free and successful
it bothers them that the world has changed and they won't be able to provide for you what their parents provided for them
they will never stop feeling like a parent- even when you stop feeling like a child

as you make decisions which reflect both your desire for independence and your limited insight and perspective, they feel in a tiny human way how God feels when we all rebel...

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

barney rubble


"unless God specifically tells you to stay, then he's already told you to go."
(keith green)
***
it all started with this picture depicting a man sitting amidst tsunami rubble, crying out to God for help... i realized that the help he was begging God for was to come from the western world: from us- no, that's too general... from me.

there are two ways to listen for the voice of God:
  • one- goes about trying to discern the will of God in a given situation by looking for an answer from God: a ‘yes’ from him. that is the most common. that is how I’ve been listening until now.
  • the other- the alternative, if you will- goes about the same task by listening for what God doesn’t say… it is essentially listening for a ‘no’ from God. if there is no 'no', then the ‘yes’ already exists in the form of the great commission and the newly-stirred heart.
five years ago, as i sat under a tree at university of waterloo where i was attending a worship conference, i experienced some 'automatic writing' as the spirit of God took hold of my hand while i was journalling:

now that you’ve heard me say ‘I love you’
I want you to let go of everything
now that you’ve heard me say ‘just trust me’
just leave me with your fear and begin again

there’s nothing you can do
there’s nothing you need to say
there’s nowhere left to run so don’t hide yourself away
I will just find you again

just take me at my word
I told you you could lean on me
I’ve set my people free
but you must lead them from captivity

and I will go with you…


to this day i find these words impossible to argue with, whether it means going across the street or across the world.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

street cred

credibility is the lovechild of integrity and productivity

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Friday, May 20, 2005

death mask


the best writing is that which is real
and fueled by first-hand friction with mortality

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Monday, May 16, 2005

colour blindness


everything God does is miraculous
we just fail to see the spiritual colour of things sometimes.

years ago i embarked upon a project with a group of students from the school that i was teaching at. we had a 'paint club' called SPLAT (the 'society for the promotion and legalization of artistic tendencies'... this was in the mid 90's when a bunch of us thought that acronyms were cool) and had been given carte blanche on any wall upon which we intended to paint a mural.

it was great fun. in a rural elementary school (k-9) we had murals taken from a variety of sources; whether it was an album cover or a sketch by michelangelo or a photograph of albert einstein or whatever, it would end up on a wall somewhere.

with one project (the ted harrison one above) i got the idea to mix the colours myself in the industrial arts lab rather than have the paint store do it. i bought the basics: blue, red, yellow, black and white, then set to work applying my knowledge of the colour wheel. everyday at noon i would be obsessing on today's colour, beginning with a base of the lightest colour to be mixed and building upon it with both tints and shades. i gotta admit- it was really fun. i would look at my hands, all covered in paint from not only today, but the last three days or so (it was oil-based marine enamel which had some real staying power) and know that they were happy.

but an eye opener came one day as i was walking down the hallway with my friend who also happened to be the principal of the school. i was bragging myself up, explaining to him how difficult this particular colour had been to match with no technology other than the human eye and a stick to mix the paint with. i was showing him the original print and my homemade colour, inviting comparisons and comments when he stopped me with a truth:

"i love how excited you are about this project, and how eager you are to share that excitement with everyone- your enthusiasm is infectious... but you know i'm colour blind, right?"

yep- i knew. but because i wasn't, it was really easy for me to forget that he was. he could see that there was a lot of colour being applied to the wall, and he could see the image forming out of the colours as we treated this wall of the school like a giant paint-by-numbers set, but the nuances of the colours themselves were not lost to him: they didn't even exist.

could our lack of spiritual perception be compared to colour-blindness? we look at the world through filters of the fall that cause us to see only the physical, even though the spiritual is right there before us.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

dominion versus ownership


satan has just got to get it through his thick thorny skull that
'the earth is the Lord's and all its fullness,
the world and those who dwell therein.'

anything beyond that he can take up with God

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

sample

you can't judge a book by one page that you find lying in a puddle

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Friday, May 06, 2005

fredd the showdog


NOOOOOOOOO! NOT ANOTHER BLOODY PET BLOG WITH A CUTE LITTLE PICTURE AND EVERYTHING!?!

relax, dear reader. i'm just in need of something light today, as it's been too heavy lately.

so, on a mildly related note, my dog fredd was a showdog in another life (he's on his third one now, having never died. i mean, cats do it all the time because they're alien spawn, so why can't fredd?)

he has ribbons and photographs to back up the story that he was ranked 5th in north america in 1997. talk about anthropomorphic? he's a dog not the cover of CQ (canine quarterly), yet dog people have their own way of living out their dreams of stardom through their pets. at the time his name was 'aramis' (after the musketeer, not the fragrance).

anyway, breeders bought him, papers and all, for $4000 and proceded to keep him under their employ providing a place in a line of champions for anyone who was willing to pay for a celebrity hug over the next five years...

that's when we got him. to us, he came free, but by then he kinda walked sideways and had a rather distracting habit of leering knowingly at any dog, male or female, that might walk by. we changed his name to fredd because the whole musketeer thing just didn't work for him anymore... didn't smell that great either.

fredd forgave us for changing his name- he comes running with his little pokemon beanbag whenever we call. new life, new name, chance to start again, a relocation program and a well-earned retirement? it's all good. however, every now and then he takes a dump on the dining room floor if he's been left alone too often over the last few days, just to communicate with us in a language that we all understand.

he's a former canine socialite in need of a happy ending that will actually satisfy a dog of such rich background and experience.

it must suck to be a has-been.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

into the mystic


a couple of posts back, i pasted a letter from my friend icarus. the dialogue that has resulted on icarus' blog from his open letter to christians has been engaging and reflective of many different spiritual perspectives. at one point in the discussion, my friend concluded the first paragraph of a comment post with the following statement concerning biblically accounted events:

One, we would look at the events he transcribed. Are they common events that agree with our knowledge of history and reality? Or, are they mystical events that are contradictory to what we have observed in reality. If the latter, more scepticism is called for.

and you know, even though i was just doing some catch up reading to see if anyone had said anything new, i found myself typing away again.

(the big problem, of course, is that in a discussion like this one, people's own positions are usually held so strongly that they always seem to be only listening to each other in order to refute the other's point of view or otherwise poke holes in the other's logic. still, conversations like this put muscle on the bones of our faith and push us to sort out for ourselves what we actually believe and then discipline ourselves to articulation of that belief. this is probably what i am enjoying most about this cyber-roundtable.)

anyway, here's a summation of where icarus ' statement took me- or more specifically, how i took icarus ' first statement.
***
the statement is made as though mystical reality is pure conjecture. i find that disappointing, as mystical experience, without being relativistic, is experience that takes place inside and works its way out, rather than the other way 'round. there is still a reticence here towards anything emotional or spiritual, although these are crucial human endowments that require intentional growth and development probably to greater degree than intellect.

emotional intelligence was a big buzzword a few years ago, coinciding with the publication of 'emotional intelligence' by daniel goleman (which came first, it's hard to say- chicken or egg?) the book scientifically explores the apparent paradox of (e.g.) the brilliant man who fails again and again at maintaining longterm relationships due to an inability to acknowledge the emotional element of his person, concluding that 'modern man' is emotionally inexperienced, unschooled and underdeveloped and therefore unsuccessful. (although the book didn't drop another buzzword, postmodernity, into the discourse, the fact that it was attempting to somehow gain an understanding of the connections between head and heart as they affect our whole life suggests some timely perspective.)

because spirituality is buried even deeper in the north american success model, i suspect we're even worse at giving it appropriate attention and expression. however, to deny its existence might be comparable to a man who, being born blind, refuses to acknowledge that sight is possible simply because he hasn't experienced it.

the other problem is the 'contradictory to observed reality' bit- although having considered the (forgive the sanctimonious cliche there- it just seemed to be the straightest comparison i could think of) blindness analogy, i feel like i've already expressed this idea- we cannot conclude that something doesn't exist simply because we haven't experienced it personally, can we?

my personal experience, with regard in particular to the bible and its role in the Christian faith is not contradictory to 'real life' or observations of reality that are part of my spirituality. sure, my life is viewed and interpreted through the lens of scripture, but these scriptures do not contradict life in the western world (except for the contradictions that are indicative of humankind's abandonment of the principles extolled there.)

let's not jump all over the bible, citing literal interpretations and perceived contradictions or events etc that are literal in nature as reason to abandon the ideas and principles that dance behind them the way the colours of a raoul dufy painting dance behind the details rather than be confined to their lines. much of the bible is poetic or otherwise figurative, and, like most poetry, the words are most deeply understood by those who have let experience be coloured by them or reflected in them. the difference is that the experience of writing was not simply intellectual or aesthetic, it was also mystical.

and so here we are full circle, once again trying to sort out whether the mystical is real.

eventually we basically have to embrace our spirituality or embalm it.


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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

metallica, monty, napoleon and ozzy


...and with dust in throat I crave
only knowledge will I save
to the game you stay a slave
rover wanderer
nomad vagabond
call me what you will

but I'll take my time anywhere
free to speak my mind anywhere
and I'll redefine anywhere
anywhere I may roam
where I lay my head is home
(wherever i may roam- hetfield/metallica, '91)

as i walked in the sun this morning i was thinking about freedom.

freedom is one of those things that we cherish, although our limited experience with big picture perspective and life in general renders our understanding of it a bit shallow.

one of the things that results in a knee-deep comprehension of what it means to be free is the preoccupation with ourselves. as navel-gazers, we fixate upon the things that we value and fight for our freedom to continue to enjoy them, good or bad- it's just the way we are as a species. by our fallen nature, we are habitual and therefore arrested in our ability to see beyond where we are and what we are unhappy with far enough to embrace the mind of God.

to make it worse, the pious ones that are earnest in their pursuit of personal holiness and the realization of God's will for them can be so fearfully preoccupied with themselves that they continually do all this faithless back-peddling whenever their prayers come close to approximating the kind of conversation which touches the heart of God.

at least it is that way with me-
pious or pompous (depends on the day, really.)

'if it is your will...'
'if it will bring you honour'
'if you see fit to grant...'
'if it pleases you...'

these phrases ring through our prayers like verbal shock absorbers, putting big fluffy mittens on hands that are called to action and big fluffy scarves over lips that were made to speak truth. it's as if we are so careful to not speak our own(?) ideas for fear of somehow being selfish or pushy that we become intollerably (and vainly) vague when we speak with God.

this must drive God crazy.

'just spit it out!' he probably longs to thunder from the heavens. if God wasn't so loving and patient he would no doubt become that brusque king in the clouds portrayed in monty python and the holy grail: (www.intriguing.com/mp/_scripts/grail.asp )

GOD: Arthur! Arthur, King of the Britons! Oh, don't grovel! One thing I can't stand, it's people groveling.
ARTHUR: Sorry.
GOD: And don't apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone it's 'sorry this' and 'forgive me that' and 'I'm not worthy'. What are you doing now?!
ARTHUR: I'm averting my eyes, O Lord.
GOD: Well, don't...

i mean, reverence is one thing, but this is like we apologize for even trying to exercise the freedom of relationship that Jesus died to set up between us. israel's king david, called a man after God's own heart, was painfully honest in his prayers, many of which were published in the hebrew hymnal called psalms. the prophets of the old testament communicated the messages of God to an unbelieving or spiritually aloof people through harsh words and wild actions, unencumbered by whether this was going too far or that was too seeker-hostile.

but many of us know all of this already, yet continue to live lives, not of quiet desperation but of cautious distemper- so afraid are we of either negatively affecting the sensibilities of God or making God look bad in the eyes of the people with whom we come in contact.

so we default on our freedom to be used of God to somehow change the world for the better.

the idea that arrived in my head this morning, walking in the sun, was that ultimately freedom doesn't mean simply quoting napoleon dynamite and saying "i'll do whatever i WANT- geez!" (which is, in essence, where the lyrics of 'wherever i may roam' by metallica take me) in our heart and in our actions, if not in our words. it means being of the mind of God, free of all the distractions that bog us down to the point where we are simply existing in a cage built of our own misconceptions and fears, masquerading as convictions and concern for others.

it means knowing that God's ideas have become ours... not simply holding to some super-spiritual claim that our ideas are God's.

oswald chambers put it this way
(i read this after having my epiphanal walk)
'we do not identify with God's interests in others, we get petulant with God; we are always ready with our own ideas, and intercession becomes the glorification of our own natural sympathies... vicarious intercession means that we deliberately substitute God's in others for our natural sympathy with them..."

i think that true spiritual freedom comes when we can actually hear the voice of God and be secure enough in our relationship with him that we recognize what he is saying and are eager to carry out the plans that he is sharing with us because we know that our ultimate happiness and complete self-actualization lies in doing that for which we were created...

it doesn't mean not having free will, it means being free enough of all the external crap that we can use the will as a holy fire which drives us to see the world draw closer to what God desired for all of us when he placed us in the garden all those years ago.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

social transduction



so i'm running in this long distance race... not a marathon per se but a good, solid six-mile run nonetheless.

at one point in the run, because of the way the route has been set up with options for 5km or 10 km involvement, we actually meet those ahead of us on the route who have already reached the turnaround point. there is a strange exchange that takes place as those who have already travelled the road upon which we currently run yell at us.

'good race, buddy!'
'hang in there- you're almost at the turnaround!'
'looking good, not far now!'

that sort of thing, coming from those who are ahead of us in the race, many of whom are running competitively, trying for personal bests, conditioning for upcoming marathons etc.

and suddenly the personal morale is bolstered, the pace of the pack quickens and the resolve to do more than simply finish returns at a place in the road where we have every right to feel bested and beaten.

it is transduction.

a transducer is a device which converts one form of energy into another. a microphone, for example, is a transducer, taking the sonic energy of a human voice and converting it into electricity (wattage) which can be sent along a current through an amplifier which increases the wattage en route to the speakers (also transducers) that convert the electric energy back into sonic energy at the other end. as we all learned in high-school physics, energy cannot be either created or destroyed any more than matter can. it is simply distributed, converted and redistributed.

and i'm thinking to myself as i yell back words of encouragement to those who are beating me in this race, that i might be further ahead if i wasn't wasting all that energy talking, yelling, clapping and whatever. it is then that the transduction idea comes to me...

one person cheers and another person receives a boost which drives them forward towards the agreed-upon goal: the finish line. this boosted person cheers others and so on. energy passes back and forth, possibly from the person at the very front, through everyone in the race, to the person at the very back. the thing that creates a community of a bunch of individuals running a race is the ongoing exchange of energy that begins sometime before the race starts and ends sometime after the last runner crosses the line.

it would appear that the only resistors in the circuit are those individuals who are taking the whole race idea so seriously that they only receive without passing on.

however, i don't think that these runners are even part of the flow. with eyes set on the finish line and focus locked in, they neither receive nor pass on. we know that electricity does not take one way trips, and i don't think that the hyper-focused runners are capable of drawing strength from the community of runners assembled on this sunny may morning. i think that they run their race alone. interesting thing is that there are very few of these people running this race- as a matter of fact, there are very few of them running any marathon of which i've ever been a part.

i'm just new to this running-thing, though, so my experience is pretty limited.

all i know is that at the part of the road that should feel the most lonely and insignificant, you feel the most like part of something good. the unyielding hardness and grade of the road, the resistance of the wind, the seemingly reduced capacity of your lungs, the fatigue in your legs and the numbness of your feet all seem to cease to exist in that moment when you unite with a stranger in the act of social transduction, sharing the benefit of each other's endorphines.