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Monday, June 27, 2005

the Y factor

i went snooping around this evening to see if my old blog was still online somewhere... it was, in fact, right where i left it. i skimmed this post and realized that, although much has changed for me, much has remained the same.

Garbage In, Garbage Out... the computer programmer's dodge.

whatever data you enter will result in a relative outcome. the responsibility rests on the one entering the data to do so thoughtfully and accurately. if the electronic brain is modelled after the organic one, i am prompted to ask: why do we read what we read?

i mean, we have to keep our noses in there... but whether or not some things are as inherently damnable as i was led to believe as a child remains to be seen. i don't think that GIGO can directly apply to our hearts and minds, because unlike electronic brains, ours are subjective... they have intentions. there is a "WHY" factor that is distinctly human.

predictably, i am saying that the state of your heart before ingesting something intellectually will have a major influence on just how edifying the material is. in fact, it will even determine to a certain extent the choices that you make about what to read or view or listen to because of its intentions.

(at the time i wrote this i was) reading "The Anti-Christ" by Friedrich Nietzsche (and had been for some time- he is a very slow and oftentimes frustrating read... we've had many arguments, he and I) and the CD that continue(d) to land in my CD player (was) "Holy Wood" by Marilyn Manson. in the strictest thinking, the old addage "you are what you eat" carries grave implications for the reader and listener of such clearly-labelled "filth." yet on closer inspection i am ready to listen further and read more, not less. these people are the eloquent spokespeople for the ones that i long to reach for Jesus... they have put into words and sounds the murmurings of the damned and are amazing at shining a different kind of light into the hearts of the lost, that we might be able to see into that darkness and find a spot where the gospel can be truly received as good news. it's not to be rebellious or "naughty" that I explore such tabooed intellectual stimulants, it is in a spirit of seeking to understand the world for whom i am praying.

recently (in 2003) i went out for lunch with a friend who could be called a textbook "new-age pantheist." most of the time we just talk about playing guitar and watching movies, but this day was different. i found myself "out of my depth and out of my mind" (re: Roger Waters in "Pink Floyd- The Wall) and wondering how God was going to use me in this new ground. luckily for me, we were not there to debate theology, we were just there to be friends and conduct the business of relationship face-to-face. however, upon returning home i grabbed brian mcLaren's book "finding faith" and read up on the perspective. to become a new-age pantheist? no- to try to be aware enough to someday be used of God to snatch him from the flame as we read in jude 1:

Jude 1.20-23
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them

we need to regularly test the metal of our faith with conversations and books and even music that challenges it. i don't want my faith to become something that was once muscle but is now relaxed-fit.

the bible has to be there in order to give perspective to everything else- yeah. test all that you take in against the scriptures. how does this jive with God's final word on the subject? how will you share God's message with someone whose belief system is structured the way this song or book intimates?

the opportunity might come sooner than you think.

little epilogue (no pun intended):
this friend and i have now been in that band for a couple of years- at the time of this original posting it had only been a couple of weeks. in that time we've done a lot of music- even practiced our white stripes/ blink 182 etc tunes in the church a few times- have run in a marathon together, done a lot of talk and even a couple of master cleansing fasts. but now he leaves for korea in a month to teach for two years and i find myself wondering a lot what will be done with the seeds here planted.

we all have our jobs and i think mine was to open a heart dialogue. now it's time for another to take over?

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Sunday, June 26, 2005


upon viewing the part of the film 'kingdom of heaven', where orlando bloom's character sits in silent vigilence all night, waiting for a word from God (and concluding from the silence that God does not speak to him) i had an idea:

sometimes God doesn't speak to you
he speaks right through you

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Monday, June 20, 2005

confessional dodgeball

'all persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental...'
(disclaimer at the beginning of kurt vonnegut's 'timequake')
so many things that we see as simply coincidence are in fact meaningful co-incidents.

conversely, so many things that we see as meaningful co-incidences are probably just a coincidences.

the trick is to be able to tell the difference between a nexus moment and a fluke, yeah? although adherents to christian spirituality are often ready to attribute things to some divine plan, the awful reality is that most of the time we are just dying for someone to make sense of it all to make the pain go away.

speaking of making the pain go away, recently we were talking about confessionals and the need for them when i was reminded of a cool story. don miller writes in his book 'blue like jazz' of a bunch of well-intentioned college students at Reed College in oregon who set up a confessional in the centre of their campus during the college's annual 'mardi-gras-type' celebration of bacchanalean excess.

as the over-sexed, over-served and otherwise stoned-beyond-recognition students wandered into the booth to brag of how badly they had been behaving, they were surprised to be confessed TO. the students running the booth confessed to being poor examples of love and truth and acceptance- in short, poor examples of 'christianity.' the booth was backed up for days, filled by people who needed to know that the christians weren't just winking at their own stuff while preaching 'repent and be baptized' to their classmates.

interestingly, the same thing was happening around the same time on a more global scale:

in march of 2000, pope john paul II confessed and repented publically on behalf of the catholic church, looking back upon two millenia of bad press for God. the 'seven repentent sins' included:

  • 1) general sin/ falling short of biblical tennets and expectations
  • 2) wrongs in the service of faith (intollerance, violence against dissidents, religious war, violence and abuse committed during the crusades, and methods of coercion employed by the inquisition)
  • 3) wrongs against christian unity (persecutions and excommunications causing divisions in christianity)
  • 4) wrongs against the nation of israel (contempt, acts of hostility and or silence)
  • 5) wrongs against respect for love, peace and cultures (in particular, those committed against immigrants, gypsies and the weak... bullying)
  • 6) wrongs against women and identified minorities (wrongdoing resulting in injury to the dignity of women and the unity of humankind)
  • 7) wrongs against basic human rights (in the field of people's fundamental human rights, including 'unborn, suppressed in the human womb, or even used for experimental ends)

sensational? yeah.
interesting? yeah.
an exclusive list? hardly, but certainly a place to start if the overall goal is to corporately embark upon the road to redemption.

many were dissatisfied with the confession, stating (in particular reference to the wwII holocaust) that it was too little too late. i think that that is really too bad. to presume to be able to sit in judgement upon the motivation of a confession is to say 'judge not, lest ye be judged? bring it on!' but let's also not forget that this was one man that could probably get away with further maintaining the facade, having the most to lose in 'political terms' from the backlash that could have very easily ensued worldwide.

in my experience, people are more interested in knowing that you are real and that you acknowledge your failings than they are in hearing about how bad you think they are or what will happen to them if they don't shape up... for the most part they know these things already and are sorting through the difference between what they know to be right and how they live every day.

at least the holy see was no longer playing dodgeball with history, pretending that this stuff things had never happened.

whether it was a following or coincidence, the fact that reversed confession was taking place at the same time in two forums, one global and one local, is pretty cool.

man, i miss jpII.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

two lies

number one, most-used lie of hell?
'you are alone.'

close second?
'you are unloved.'

a teenager took his own life on saturday night. tragically, we've seen this before- it happens way too much.

even more tragically, though, was the showing of love and support at his funeral yesterday as probably 700 kids attended to say goodbye to someone who felt he had no love or support. that the message never got there until after tragedy brought it forth is heartbreaking.

in a room of desperate questions there isn't room to stand
they gaze upon potential holding tightly grieving hands
many are beloved many are just friends
many never realize that some things really end

someone speaks of heaven- there's bound to be some room
but mass-misinformation just rubs a burning wound
words of good intention become judgement and regret...

and so on. i wrote these lyrics 12 years ago upon attending the funeral of a friend of mine who left in a similar manner. much of the details were different, but the lies were the same:
'you are alone- you are unloved.'

this drama plays over and over again all over the western world. packed into a huge room are kids and adults from all over a young person's relational network. people with arguably the same questions and the same regrets. everytime it happens we shake our heads in disbelief.

somehow, a teenager hears louder than any other voice:
'you are alone... you are unloved'
and listens to the message. somehow everyone who loves the kid fails to communicate that love at the time when he or she needs to feel it most. put another way, at a time when a heart is tempted to accept a whispered lie, the ears aren't hearing a plainly spoken truth because it's not being plainly spoken.

you fought the currents of despair that crashed outside your door
all too late you realized that you could swim no more
you called me to come over asked me to sit down
told me this was mine to sing upon the day you drown...

i hate that we fail miserably to communicate love, and affirm value. i hate that we seem to passively speak the two big lies to people again and again with our unexpressed hearts. i hate that so many find themselves saying 'if only.'

here's an 'if only' for you:
the people you know aren't gone yet.
if only you would tell them who they are in your eyes while they are here.

that's what i wish i had done.

all alone or in twos
the ones who really love you
walk up now outside the wall
some hand in hand
some gathered together in bands
the bleeding hearts and the artists make their stand
and when they've given you their all
some stagger and fall after all it's not easy
banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall.
(roger waters, 'outside the wall', 1979)

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

in the eye of the beholder

so we are talking about beauty and waddayaknow- out of the blue we're talking about paris hilton... actually i think it is the other way round: we are talking about paris hilton and somehow we get beyond talking about sadly pointless celebrity worship in the western world and move into the nebulous and grossly subjective idea of beauty. anyway, i am reminded of a 'discussion' that took place one day after art class.

a girl in my class vehemently contested 20th century painter willem dekooning's depictions of femininity. she felt that dekooning was sexist, in that his most noteworthy contributions to art history are these manic expressionist portraits of buxom women on bicycles playfully removing yellow raincoats and such to reveal exaggerated voluptuous curves. i argued that, for precisely the same reason, I think that although he probably wasn't a feminist, he was certainly an advocate for the real woman (as opposed to the paris hiltons of his day.) these aren't the renderings of a woman-hater... they are celebrations of beauty that is right there in front of the guy too caught up in reading maxim to notice it.

the painter sees a girl come out of the supermarket. she's got one of those ridiculous see-through plastic rain hats on (like the thing you have to put on your head when someone puts highlights in your hair) and an even more coat that looks like something a mariner would wear aboard his storm-tossed launch in some old movie. the sky is pouring inconvenience out upon the city. she's got her sacks of groceries loaded into one of those carts that has the one annoying wheel that keeps wiggling contrary to the actual direction she is hurriedly walking. he recognizes a deep and sublime beauty hidden beneath the raingear that he wants to share with the world. he begins to imagine. he thinks 'now THERE is something real worth painting.'

i don't think paris hilton would have turned dekooning's head... like throwing a baseball into the sun- it does not eclipse, but is in fact erased when backlit by a light that big and that brilliant.

i remember a scene of incredible beauty in george orwell's 1984 when winston and julia are enjoying some lovers' afterglow and they stand gazing from the window of their trysting place at a 'prole' (member of the proletariat) who stands outside hanging laundry up to dry and howling strains of a simple folk song.

julia had come across to his side; together they gazed down with a sort of fascination at the sturdy figure below. as he looked at the woman in her characteristic attitude, her thick arms reaching up for the line, her powerful mare-like buttocks protruded, it struck him for the first time that she was beautiful... but it was so, and after all, he thought, why not...
'she's beautiful,' he murmured.
'she's a meter across the hips, easily,' said julia.
'that is her style of beauty,' said winston

style of beauty. it's either mere coincidence that orwell was writing this around the same time that dekooning was painting it, or it is an indicator of how beauty can be in a more gracious, forgiving, appreciative and realistic eye of the beholder... it's really up to the owner of the eye.


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Monday, June 06, 2005

autoanthropological musing

what is it about cars that brings out the worst in people?

i mean, i'm thinking this while driving to work this morning. in the face of all our higher intentions, we are late. as is our custom when we are running late, we take our place in a long line of cars, presumably all late as well except for the significant difference of their demeanor- nobody else ever seems to need to get anywhere when you're in a hurry, you know?

it dawns on me as i survey the convoy that everyone in this line is turning right- i will be turning left when my number for entering the intersection is called. no one is coming the other way... understandably, for this is clearly 7:45 'going to work' traffic... 'coming from work' traffic goes the other direction at around 4:30 or 5:00 every afternoon. it's like the city breathes, drawing in fresh career people and exhaling weary drones.

i am about to encounter a weary and somewhat aggressive nightshift drone. although he is travelling north and, while i am not actually travelling, i'm facing east, and we cannot even see each other, we will meet in a few seconds. he's on his way toward me even as i'm unwittingly surveying the qeue ahead.

i decide to go around the ten or eleven cars that are all turning right in order to make a swift left and be on my way. however, as i am comfortably avant garde, stepping out of line and going my own direction in what has now become the passing lane, the nightshift drone makes his left turn at the intersection and heads toward me. i squeeze my car over as far as i can (the qeue of cars are all hugging the curb in their desire to be as right as is physically possible and so there is plenty of room for me to tuck back into my own lane. )

but that isn't enough. nope.
i have succeeded in offending another motor vehicle operator, big time.

loudly leaning on the horn, he sticks his head and his left hand out of the window. both yelling words that i never put in my blog and gesticulating for me in case i can't hear him for the volume of his horn, he demonstrates getting to road rage third base (the homerun, of course being accomplished in two ways, either pulling a gun from the glove compartment or ramming the offending driver with one's vehicle) while steering with his knees. pretty amazing feat when you think about it.

however, all i can think of is 'what a coward.'

if the same thing were to happen in a grocery store with shopping carts, the expletives would not fly. if i were to bypass a lengthy qeue at the movie theatre lined up for a different film and then come face to face with this guy in the hallway as he was leaving a different movie, we would probably both try to go around each other, first to the left and then to the right (you know, when you look like you're dancing together with a stranger?) and say 'excuse me' or 'sorry' or whatever and just carry on.

but put a person in their car (or in this guy's case, his truck) and set up a similar encounter (obviously similar is as close as we're going to get here because you can't do the stranger right/left dance in vehicles... when this does happen it's very messy) and watch how the person behaves. set up an experiment- call it 'autoanthropology.' people know that there is very little recourse- social, legal or otherwise- for a bit of basic rudeness when they are safely locked away in their car and so they behave in ways that reflect this knowledge.

i wonder if that guy is blogging about this idiot in a crappy chevy who tried to run him off the road as he was coming home from work today... naw, he's probably just sleeping it off.

But people are strangers
They change with the curve
From time zone to time zone
As we can observe
They shut down their borders
And think they're immune
They stand on their differences
And shoot at the moon
But cars are cars all over the world
Cars are cars all over the world
(paul simon, 1983)

here in my car i feel safest of all
i can lock all my doors
it's the only way to live
in cars
(gary numan, 1979)

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

gun shy

i was talking with an older friend of mine whom i admire greatly. we always seem to bump into each other when i am in the middle of a new adventure, and so i always sound like i lead a more interesting life than i really do. our little secret...

anyway, i was sharing with him this odyssey that has been upon me over the last month or so.

the idea of missions trips has always been out there and it's always been, in my narrow personal view, somebody else's job (in sad spite of what Jesus says in matthew 28 about 'going out into all the world.') however, of late there has been something stirring that takes me into unfamiliar territory. i have found myself thinking 'missionally,' realizing that missions doesn't necessarily mean going to 'bongobongoland' (a favourite term used by another friend of mine who has made global ministries his lifeswork) to read the bible to people with bones through their noses while dodging their poisoned arrows. it seems to me that being missional simply means accepting a mission.

so when i was sharing this with my friend, he made me his unwitting confessor:
'i used to go hard after everything, but now i'm just too lazy. nothing gets past thinking about it...'

this stuck because of all the thought i've been entertaining on moving outside the land of ideas

'... but you, man. you're actually pulling the trigger.'

no, i'm not pulling the trigger. i think i'm just one of the bullets in the gun.
then i heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'whom shall i send? and who will go for us?'
and i said 'here am i, send me!' (isaiah 6.8)