For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours, not by right, but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned — our degree, our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite, and a good night’s sleep — all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift. “If we but turn to God,” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.” My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.  

Brennan Manning (p 25) The RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL

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alternate routes

i just realized i get to sleep in tomorrow for the first time in… ? oh wow. i am one happy girl. All “plans” this week have fallen thru. Well aside from a dentist appointment.

p.s. if you’re a dental hygienist and your client says to you, “so it’s thundering & lightning outside. this is kind of an unfortunate time to have metal electrical objects put in my mouth.” Don’t lift the blinds & look outside wide-eyed and turn back to your client and say, “oh wow… unfortunate for you & me both, eh?”

p.p.s. i still find it fascinating/humorous that she asks me questions when i’m in a position of having no way i can easily answer them. i think it’s a big inside joke that all dental people must laugh in the break rooms together about.

i suppose that life is a series of “plans” that stay put or “plans” that shift to other alternate routes, all the time. My definition is assessing there to be no time limitation of how far in advance you schedule something in order for it to be considered a “plan”. So this week, everything that i thought would be, turned into something else. And i’m gonna go ahead and say that the ‘somethin’ else’ was/is turning out to be better. It included:

  • breakfast with mom & playing her Layla by E.Clapton on the mini-jutebox at our table.
  • getting to watch Sonya Tayeh’s choreography again… i don’t like playing this card, but she is my favorite.
  • sucking up my frustration to draw my own design for Matthew 6:25-30, rather than giving someone else that creative control. The last few nights have been spent sketching again & i’m kinda excited about the results.

None of that would have happened if my own ideas of how life should go this past week, hadn’t fallen through. i want to write more about that last one… since it’s been an ongoing thing for months now. i feel like i can’t write more here, until it’s done. i don’t like making proclamations prior to their outcomes anymore. Oy. How unpoetic of me! i used to bask in those expectant emotions. Well… i’m sure i’ll be blindly passionate to gladly be the fool again soon enough, so i won’t grieve premature death of it just yet. Ah, let’s be honest. i’m busting about it on the inside like a 5 year old girl over recess, but covering it up with stale composure (in writing anyway).

(using spaces as my segue’s out of sheer laziness)

i’ve been reading Kierkegaard, slowly with a thesaurus and a British accent in mind. It doesn’t matter one bit if S.K. was British or not. For some silly reason his words translate clearer in my mind, with an accent. How funny. i’m pretty sure (since someone needs to be blamed/thanked for this) it’s John Cleese’s fault. Hearing a portion of his readings of The Screwtape Letters on reatreat, has permanently etched an accent in my brain, for tough-to-read thoughts, for forever more. It’s kinda nice.

Kierkegaard’s thoughts are wonderfully/surprisingly relevant for my own recently. In the midst of writing about “works of love” in the biblical sense, he dove straight in to this whole self-dilemma crap that has plagued me recently. S.K. talked about the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” and has turned it tragically profound. It’s only “tragic” because i think it to be so. It’s only so awful, when i’ve realized how involved my self is, in all i do. That i can really only love out of first understanding just how much i love my own self seems twisted… but so true. i don’t think anyone wants to see themselves this way. Perhaps denying self is less about uprooting self completely (impossible!), but first understanding how tied a person is to their own self and then rearranging what we naturally do, in order to put others on that high platform that we put ourselves on (whether we acknowledge this as being true or not) all the time. That makes more sense (to me).

It makes me wonder why, from the beginning, we were created this way… so selfish. Why would God make us so? Or is it more PC to say, why would God create us with the potential to be so? Something about freedom? The tragedy of being born locked in ourselves (whether that’s Adam&Eve’s “fault” is a whole ‘nother box)… understanding freedom outside of ourselves, only by first unlocking (or perhaps it is revelation not of our own doing anyhow?) the knowledge of how much we love our own selves (there we are, stuck in our bell jars!)… baffling. i started writing about how christians see Jesus being the PR man for this stuff, but i’ll save that for another long-winded-type day. i think i need to write on lighter topics next… perhaps another haiku about something as insignificant as snow. Let me end with a quote that made me smile, probably cuz it’d piss off a lot of poets and artists alike, much like a parent telling their teenager “it’s not love! you don’t know what love is yet!”

Should it not be possible to love a person more than oneself? Indeed, this sort of talk, born of poetic enthusiasm, is heard in the world. Could it then be true, perhaps, that Christianity is not capable of soaring so high, and therefore (presumably because it directs itself to simple, every-day men) it is left standing wretchedly with the demand to love one’s neighbor as oneself, just as it sets the apparently very unpoetic neighbor as the object of love instead of a lover, a friend, the celebrated objects of lofty love (for certainly no poet has sung of love to one’s neighbour any more than of loving as oneself ) — could this perhaps be so? Or should we, since we nevertheless make a concession to this celebrated love in comparison with this commanded love, look upon Christianty’s  interpretation and understanding of life as inferior because it more soberly and steadily holds itself down to earth, perhaps in the same sense as the commonplace: “Love me little, love me long”? Far from it. Christianity knows far better than any poet what love is and what it is to love.

(p. 35-36)

the shack

(MAY 27.2010)

     Last friday, two of my coworkers excitedly dropped a book off at my desk & told me i had to read it. i have heard a lot of buzz about this particular book, back when it became popular a long time ago, but i wasn’t interested in fiction at the time and it didn’t matter how many people told me how good it was or how many pastors critiqued it casually from the pulpit. As i am admittedly back to struggling trying to read anything right now (aside from articles that pique my interest), when they put this particular book in front of me, i thought, this is so random that, i have to read it now.

     Sunday after church, i went to a park determined to spend however long it would take to read through it in one sitting. i don’t think i was at all prepared for how emotional i’d get at it. i have to say, this book is the most tender and sharp hitting piece of writing, i’ve read in a long time. i would have made it all the way through in one sitting, had i not had a few light-hearted interruptions.

  •      Three little fearless kids decided to feed peanut butter sandwiches to the Canadian mafia geese (and even though i hadn’t looked up from my book – aside from smiling at them when they initially decided to play around me – they invited me to join in as well. Seriously, what age do we lose fearless simple connection with people we don’t know?) The two girls decided to play make-believe after that and tried to get the little boy interested in their game, but he was too busy proving that he could feed the geese without getting bit.
  •      A couple moms decided to take their daughter and son fishing in the catch & release pond in front of where i was sitting. The little girl caught her first fish (!) which happened to be a baby catfish (or so they thought anyhow… i’m not a fish expert). One mom was certain that catfish can sting you, so that began the drama of trying to figure out how, if catfish sting, do you get them off the hook? After calling my dad to verify that, that’s not true (according to him), they found a pair of pliers and managed to get the lure out without touching the fishy anyhow. This fun distraction however, completely ended my reading for the day, as now that i’d made a phone call, there was no getting off the phone for a while.

 

     K, so The Shack by William Young had me captivated for a good six hours straight with those minor blips. i tried to read it without being a critic about it. Surprisingly (or maybe not so much) i had no problems with how the Trinity was personified. i did have problems with wrapping my heart and mind around that strong intimacy between them and the main character, Mack. Even in the midst of Mack feeling stuck and disconnected from God, just the idea of how sweet God reached out to him in such potent tangible ways that communicated to Mack’s human senses, was enough to set me spinning. i felt …jipped? jealous? frustrated? in want? i dunno. i started wishing that i could feel what it felt like to have that sort of concentrated visit with God. Y’know, stop by the mailbox this evening after work and have an actual & not hypothetical letter from Him. And a part of me says, well it’s not like you’d believe it was from God anyhow, so what difference would that make? But… Mack had doubts too… so? 

     Suffice to say that the interactions portrayed in the book (which is really all of it) were the source of much of my emotional breaks.

(JUNE 2.2010)

     i started this draft a while ago, with every intent to finish it asap. Let me get on that now.

     When my coworkers approached me with this book, one of them was flat out convinced that it was a true story. She came by another time last week to tell me how the book helped her to see how much she misunderstood who God was and what God desires of us. Specifically, she was relieved by the interactions where Mack cussed in the presence of God and it didn’t matter. She felt pressure taken off her shoulders to stop trying to be so “perfect”. While that’s a beautiful thing, there’s something about her thinking that William Young knows God well enough to be God’s representative without folly, that is off-putting. i know she’s not the only one that thinks Young has God figured out enough where we can all take a huge sigh of relief away from legalism/theology/the Bible. i believe that may be my biggest criticism against this book. Not that i’m a fan of legalism, at all, but discernment is a good thing to not drop, especially in the midst of an emotional encounter with ideas written in a book published to the masses on a whim.

     There were a few things that made me stop and think hmmmm. Like, how ’bout the fact that Satan or the presence of Satan loitering around earth was never brought up. There was only evil represented by our own choices to depart from God by going our own way. So in a sense evil/darkness/bad mojo is inherently tied to the self, played out by the decisions we (& others) make. i agree, in part. i know very well how much i let my own self trip me up. Plus i can’t stand “the devil made me do it” types of proclamations or labeling of situations as such, which remove personal responsibility from everything. BUT i do believe it is just as much folly to not acknowledge Satan as real. If i believe that Jesus cast out demons, (which i do) then i have to come to the conclusion that there is a spiritual world very much present here on earth. i can’t say that Young was getting at the removal of the presence of Satan altogether, but it’s just strange how that’s not brought up.

     With as much trouble as i’ve had in the past with gender roles and submission, Young’s representation of it was a little fun house mirrored. Once again, i don’t completely disagree while not fully agreeing either. His representation of relationship/submission was freeing, almost to the point of ungrounding — meaning i don’t know where his foundation is firmly planted from. The idea that God submits to us is kinda funny. On one hand i see God in Jesus as being humble enough to kneel down and wash the disciples feet, which is a type of a submittal role to be in, but does this equal God fully submitting to us? God listens to Abraham when Abraham prayed for Lot and his family to be saved, but is that submission? Maybe my hang up here is that i misunderstand the word; that i’ve allowed negative connotations to take route and skew the meaning altogether. It’s a possibility. Young wrote about our incessant silly need to create hierarchy, inadvertantly perverting unnecessary control over one another. Okay. Sounds valid, but it seems pushed to a point of almost irreverance in our human relation to God. God is God; Creator of all this. Any points of what we can possibly understand as “submission” must come from loving desire of connection with creation. And i say “must” as if i must know this with my human mind… ha. i don’t. i’ll wrestle with and write it out anyhow.

     Moreover, i ended this book desiring intimacy. Healing relationship that is rich and packed with submission to others and to God first (there i go with hierarchy! i can’t see it working any other way.) i realize i still don’t get fully, intimacy with God. Sometimes i think i do, but not enough to call God papa. i think about those rare encounters i’ve had with really amazing people who make me feel so loved, that i’m full and bursting at the seams with acceptance and love and value that goes beyond tolerance of human issues. It’s a godly thing they radiate out to others. And it makes me emotional, like a child itching to be held by someone whose got it all figured out enough, where i can fully submit myself to them. Sometimes i approach God that way, but not nearly enough. i don’t think i know consistently how to.

     After reading it, i looked up reviews and then a little background info on the author, just to try to gage where he was coming from/intent/clarity with further perspective from others (1 & 2) . i guess i only researched it so much afterwards because of its popularity, how much i liked it, and the things i ended unsettled about. i found out Mack is not a real person, but rather character who is much like Young himself and the Shack is intended as more of a metaphor; ‘the place we make to hide all our crap’ . It was written not primarily for the faceless masses, but as a gift for family & friends to share how he views God. From what i’ve read, Young doesn’t connect himself with any organization/church, and if i’m remembering correctly doesn’t curently attend any church. Interesting guy, to say the least.

prayer

     i brought two books that i have enjoyed reading lately, with me to NC, thinking that for sure, there’d be ample down-time for me to sit and read and maybe even finish one or both. As it was, i barely touched them. i read through the remainder of March in Dobson’s book before dinner one night, but that’s it. His writing through March has been primarily about prayer, which just so happens to be the subject matter of the other book (Yancey’s book on Prayer) that i brought with me. Coincidentally, the sermon this past Sunday @ the church i went to, focused on this topic as well [MATTHEW six].

     At this point, i have LOTS of thoughts on prayer. Granted, these thoughts don’t come with much expertise — i don’t think reading books about it or even necessarily doing it makes you an expert about prayer. In fact, i s’pose i’d be bold enough to say, there’s no such thing as “expert” regarding a practice/communication that will always hold a certain amount of mystery. There are however wise people who know a thing or two about it. i wouldn’t consider myself in that category either though… i think i am lacking in reverence and much too casual about prayer at best.

That being said, i still want to write about it (again) anyhow! Sunday, in a portion of the sermon, the pastor warned about vain repititions and lofty words and the root being, what i would interpret as, our heart-matter. Ritual for the sake of ritual or lofty words for the sake of impressions regarding prayer is straight moot. People may be impressed by many facades, but God isn’t. A stuttering heart-felt commune with God, while sounding rough around the edges, may end up being far better than any well-formed Shakespearean prose. Far be it for me to be the measuring stick on that one, since i can’t see others hearts. This is a gut-check for myself. In my lack of it, i am impressed by people who have control of their spoken word and it tends to lead towards self-consciousness that i’d rather not pay such close attention to. i thank God that He doesn’t only hear my spoken-in-group-settings prayer. If i’m uncomfortable, i almost forget to whom it is i’m praying to.

     People say they are praying for one another all the time. i’ve heard the term “prayer-warrior” to describe those who seem to be more dedicated to it than others. There are prayer lists, which i’ll admit, in the past have seemed closer to gossip-columns than needs to lift each other up. There are prayer meetings and seminars which make prayer sound stodgy and corporate and formulaic and members-only. Sometimes prayer seems closer to a hot-potato game, where each one holds the prayer potato for long enough to not get burnt or fumble. i can remember going to my first Bible study group a handful of years ago, with people around my age. At the end we’d stop to pray. i kid you not, my heart would begin to race. i was not used to praying out-loud. i didn’t even know how to begin. Do you start with “Lord” or “Father” or “God” or “Help me Jesus!”? It didn’t help that there’d be that long awkward silence where people expected you to jump in. My desire to connect with other Christians superseded the inevitable heart-attack i’d have each time we met. And then there were the points where i saw or felt prayer move. 

     In the past, i bought and have read some of Red Moon Rising: How 24-7 Prayer is Awakening a Generation by Pete Greig and Dave Roberts. What i did read inspired and reminded me that prayer is an organic thing, much more than just a checklist item on a list of things i should do as a follower of Christ. It was brought to my attention how powerful prayer really can be; how prayer is capable of changing things. It also inspired me in freedom of creativity – without need of rigid formula, the various ways i could come before God excited me. How prayers could be expressed and shared and communicated seemed endless & likewise how God could communicate back with me made me… hm… fall in love. That may sound weird, but i can’t think of any better way to put it other than falling in love.

     In the past year or so of reading the Old Testament, i’ve been humbled at how much of a privilege prayer is. In Yancey’s book on prayer there’s an excerpt from someone named “Sergey”, who lived under a Communist regime in Siberia. He wrote about different groups of people that in essence,  fought against the regime with prayer. He also says,

Now that we are free, we are in danger of growing complacent, of not treasuring the freedom to worship. In fact, Christians in parts of the former Soviet Union have actually voted for the Communists to return to power because the church was so much more pure in those days. Itseems we handle persecution better than prosperity.

p.119 Prayer Does it Make Any Difference excerpt: Free at Last

While i’ve never lived under Communism, i can identify with the sentiment. i’m much more likely to have a healthy prayer-life (simply meaning, constant communication with & reliance on God) in troubled waters than when all is smooth sailing. i want the calm waters, but i don’t want the complancency it seems to inherently breed. The two are like star-struck lovers, oblivious of anything other than the comfortable touch of each hand holding the other.

***

     So about this whole “vain repetition” thing. It’s the whole reason i decided to start writing this post, because my thoughts on this have shifted some.

Up until just a few years ago, i would have just nodded my head and not given much thought to this. i’ve never questioned that repetitions are pointless. To be clear, when they’re just repetitious words for me to systematically recite without thought of meaning, then i agree, it’s pointless. As i’ve gotten older or maybe it’s better to say as i’ve grown spiritually, i’ve realized my tendency towards irreverance. In the midst of reading about all the rituals they used to have to do, to even just come before the presence of God, i’ve started to wonder…

     When it’s done with the right intent, can’t ritual can be rich? If i’m mindful of the words i’m saying, can’t repetition can serve as reminders? We do it when we participate in the Lord’s Supper. 

[In my haphazard ongoing attempt to read through the Bible in its entirity, it’s struck me how much of the scripture tells stories about how quickly people forget to remember.] 

Accepting the fact that i am human, i believe i will inadvertantly lose sight and destroy the beauty of both ritual and repetition, given enough time. But does that mean i discard them as pointless? On the flip side, to weigh my salvation on the mastery of either would be just as silly. The temptation would be to impress with something like that. Now, i haven’t given it a ton of intense thought, but i think there could be creativity within those two ‘r’ words, that may help some with keeping it pure, with a hopeful outcome of further reaching towards reverence. [Can “ritual” be flexible in creativity?] If i’m reminded of God – who He is, what He has done and has promised, and who i am in relation to Him, i would think it would lead me towards a more reverant state of mind.  i’ve become more open-minded to what i used to consider formulaically closed off to grace. i’ve never put it like that before, but i guess that’s it in a nutshell.

     All that being said, when Dobson started writing about praying the rosary, i got that old familiar pang of, “how pointless!” Keep in mind, i still lean towards the free-flowing prayers and i do not see any point still in praying to anyone other than God. Mary’s wonderful, but i am not compelled to, nor do i feel a necessity or any extra comfort in praying to her. When Dobson started to write about what is prayed and meditated on in the midst of a rosary, i was surprised.  (maybe that should be another post entirely, since this is already getting lengthy as is.) i will say that, it seems to me that Dobson slipped into praying the rosary while trying to live like Jesus, mainly out of curiosity and perhaps finding a creative way to meditate on the scriptures, in order that it did not become that “vain repetition”. On top of trying to live like Jesus, he was also dedicated to “reading” (quotes, because for personal reasons he chose to listen to them on his iPod, rather than read them) the Gospels every week for a year.

     As i mentioned earlier, a portion of March was dedicated to him exploring how Jesus would have prayed. So far i’m getting more of a sense of what a Jewish man, who happened to be Jesus would have done. This is interesting, given the popular WWJD craze. i know this is a broad statement and i may be in error but i don’t think anyone who bought the bracelets, bumper stickers, t-shirts, keychains, license plates, etc. ever truly thought What Would Jesus – as a Jewish man in that time –  Do – nowadays?

But Jesus was Jewish. He lived in the Jewish village, worked as a Jewish carpenter, attended synagogue, and read the Torah. He ate like a Jew, dressed like a Jew, and prayed like a Jew. So what were his prayers like?

p. 58 The Year of Living Like Jesus

     Dobson talks to Rabbi’s for further understanding and reads up on Jewish traditions and rituals and prayers. He talks about the Siddur (“order”), a prayer book which gives a sense of order and elemental understanding of prayer. He lists them out on p. 58: the prayer of petition; the prayer of thanksgiving; the prayer of praise to God; the prayer of confession. He goes on to quote further from To Pray as a Jew: A Guide to the Prayer Book and the Synagogue Service by Rabbi Hayim H. Donin,

The Hebrew word for prayer … does not mean to ask or to petition God. It is derived from a stem … that is closest in the meaning to the last of these four types of prayer. It means to judge; therefore … [to pray] … could also be translated as to judge one’s self. Here lies a clue to the real purpose for engaging in prayer. Whether we petition God to give us what we need, or thank him for whatever good was granted, or extol him for his awesome attributes, all prayer is intended to help make us better human beings.

p. 58-59 The Year of Living Like Jesus

     Now i’ve never heard anyone describe prayer to me like that. Part of me isn’t in full agreement (with the intentionality part), but that may just be misinterpretation of the exclusivity of the words. He also talks about The Amida which is prayed within a Jewish synagogue service.

The Amida is from the Hebrew word meaning “standing.” … It is a series of eighteen blessings that are divided into three categories: words of praise, petitions, and thanksgiving. All of these prayers are done while standing.

p. 60 The Year of Living Like Jesus

He lists the first three of the Blessings, which are beautiful and based on the words of Hebrew Scripture. Here is where he brings up vain repetitions, that i had to smile at. He’s right.

In Northern Ireland, where I grew up, we were a part of the non-conformist church movement, which meant that we were against all forms of liturgy. Invocations, benedictions, and even praying the Lord’s Prayer were all foreign to our experience. We believed that prayer ought to be free-flowing — flowing along with the Holy Spirit who guided the prayers. We were taught that formal liturgical prayers were “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7 KJV). As I listened to these free-flowing prayers, of course, I soon realized that most people generally said the same thing over and over again. Even though we were against liturgical prayers, our free-flowing prayers ended up being liturgical themselves.

p. 61  The Year of Living Like Jesus

     i don’t think i’ll ever lose the organic side of prayer. i think that’s ingrained in me and my personality automatically gravitates towards it. Ritual and repetition are somewhat foreign matter to me. i’m not against it anymore. In fact, i see a lot more how we all do it, to a certain extent anyhow — just perhaps a bit less formally. What makes one vain and the other not? Where’s that line? If it’s truly about my heart, then no one else can really answer that for anyone else.

beards and golf carts

     ohmagosh, this book.

     So i’ve made it through the month of January in my reading so far. This seems like it will be a quick read. The multiple times i’ve looked at it, i haven’t read in too far, ever. It truly is a diary of thoughts, sometimes a bit scattered and piecey. i don’t know what i was expecting, but this wasn’t it. i think i’m pleasantly surprised — i say i “think” cuz i’m only in the first month.

     i guess, somewhere in my brain, i didn’t think Dobson was referring to ‘live like Jesus’ in the ‘live like a Jewish man, in that culture, who happened to be Jesus.’ Apparently my brain didn’t make that auto-connection quite as thoroughly as perhaps i should have. It’s fascinating and heavy-laden with rules that he seeks clarification and understanding from rabbis on. If these laws were truly meant to make them holy, as he says in day two, then it must be through their thoughts being absolutely consumed with contemplation of how their physical bodies moving in action, did and didn’t end up breaking a rule. It’s exhausting and overwhelming to even consider, let alone actually follow through with adhering to them. Maybe it would be easier had i grown up with them. 

     Day thirteen he wrestled with what i had hoped he would address, and i hope he’ll address it even more: Giving freely, without judgement or conditions or expectations over what has been given. Keeping in mind, he doesn’t give answers, only offers up an honest representation of his own struggle with trying to follow Jesus. There was a drunk man on the street that him and his wife pass by, who asks them for money. And he goes through all the classic judgement calls we, as people, make on surface evaluations of others, about this drunk man. In fact, at first he walks on by, and then the man says something which touches Dobson personally, to which he turns back around and gives him a dollar, against his better judgement. But somehow he feels (in a sense) better in line with what Jesus would have done. And he does quote & say,

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” It’s as simple as that — give to the one who asks. He asked. I had an obligation to give.

     Dobson goes on further to recognize how he’d failed even in the follow through of that giving, being what Jesus would have done, on the basis of what it took for him to initially turn around. i’m not getting any clearer picture/answer from this interaction, other than to recognize how much we’re connected and tied to our own ..humanness? ((…i wanna say “flesh”, but i’ve always thought using that term, as many Christians do often without reserve, sounds inevitably horror flickish.)) This topic may be one of those things i never fully understand… but always encourage more discussion over. Perhaps i’ll ask some friends tonight…

     Have i mentioned Dobson is hilarious? i have laughed. a lot. loudly. Case & point:

     Almost everyone here at the community drives a golf cart. Since I wanted to go to the beach today, which is less than two miles away, I decided I’d drive the cart — but only leisurely, since it was Shabbat. Normally I drive the cart as fast as possible, pressing the accelerator to the floor. But not on Shabbat.

     The first thing I discovered was that it’s really hard to drive a golf cart slowly. Second it’s frustrating for the people behind me. They were like, “You idiot! It’s the the other pedal.” Several carts got frustrated and pulled out to pass me. As they passed, they looked at me like I was crazy.

     “I’m just trying to be like Jesus,” I muttered under my breath.

{Day five  p. twenty-one}

talmid

     yesterday, i went into B&N in pursuit of NEEDTOBREATH and surprisingly enough, i found them (& as i thought i would, i luff their new CD)!  i got distracted on my way to the music section and stumbled across (for something like the tenth time) a book i’ve wanted to read for a while. In an attempt to not be too impulsive, i also picked up two C.S. Lewis books; one that i’ve wanted to read for a while now (The Four Loves) and one that just happened to catch my eye (The Great Divorce). My intent was to find a spot to read some of each and then make a decision from there, on which would get purchased, but that didn’t end up happening. In the end, i walked out with the CD and The Year of Living Like Jesus by Ed Dobson. i read just a portion of his dislike for the labels that people give him and it was enough for me to realize that this is definitely a book i need to read ~ especially given what i’ve been wrestling with lately. i’m wondering if he’ll dive into how to balance ownership of material things. i would imagine he’d have to, but …who knows. In listening to some of his sermons through Mars Hill, Dobson’s already won me over a while ago. i already cracked up, just reading through the intro last night. It was interesting to find out that what inspired him to do this. i’d never heard of A.J. Jacobs. Dobson says at the end of the intro:

     Of course, I’m a bit nervous. At this point I don’t know where this journey will take me. Jacobs, a nonreligious Jew, spent the whole year trying to obey the Bible as literally as he could, and at the end of the year he didn’t seem to find God. I begin the year having already found God. Now I hope and pray that by the end of the year I don’t lose God.

:{p. fourteen}

Jacobs, who wrote the forward to this book, states “I explored both the New and Old Testaments, but my journey was weighted toward the Hebrew scriptures, mostly because I’m Jewish. Ed was inspired by my book The Year of Living Biblically (a fact that makes me commit the sin of pride) and decided to spend a year living as much like Jesus as possible. His was a more Christ-centered journey.”  :{p. seven}

     It *sounds*, even though he says he explored the OT and NT, that  Jacobs was more concerned with much of the OT Levitical Law, than with Jesus. I’m assuming that, so i could be wrong. It’s a snapshot from Jacobs journey that Dobson shared, which cracked me up.

This is (not the funny part, but) my favorite part of the intro:

     There’s a story in the Bible about Jesus and his disciple Peter. After Jesus finishes preaching to a crowd, he tells his disciples to get into their boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (which is actually a lake, not a sea). Jesus, however, goes up on a mountain and begins to pray. Meanwhile, his disciples are in the middle of the lake when a storm blows in. Just as they think the wind and the waves are about to sink their boat, Jesus comes to them — by walking on the water.

     They think it must be a ghost, but Jesus says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then Peter says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water. ” Jesus tells him to come and he does — he walks on water.

     Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  [Matthew 14:29]

     Eventually, Peter begins to sink, but at least he did something that no other disciple ever tried. Why did Peter even get out of the boat? What possessed him to attempt to walk on water?

     One of the desires of a disciple (talmid in Hebrew) is the desire to be just like the rabbi. The disciple wants to walk like the rabbi, talk like the rabbi, live like the rabbi, move like the rabbi, respond like the rabbi. So when Peter sees Jesus walking on the water, his own consuming desire is to be just like Jesus. He figures that if Jesus can do it, he can do it as well.

     So he gets out of the boat.

:{p. twelve-thirteen}

Focus.

I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Chistianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Every one there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes.

(p. 149-150)

     Whenever i’m in a one-on-one interaction with someone and we’re sharing what each other can pray about, “focus” is my standby; not because it sounds generically good but because i think it’s the root of everything that i could need prayer over. Whatever i am focused on will end up consuming me. Relationships – platonic or romantic. Bills & money & all things falling into the materialistic category. Hunger. Body image. How others see me. While these things aren’t bad in and of themselves, i will endlessly make them corrupt when i pinhole focus on them. i want to get busy looking at the source (God) always (i know that’s a term i’ll fall short of but let me shoot high for it anyhow!) and i’m pretty sure that in the moments where i have been focused on God, everything else is taken care of — not that it is ignored, but that it falls under the grace of God, much like i do. Those other things will be paid attention to through a different filter than what i could imagine on my own and taken better care of than what i could strive in my own effort to do. Which… probably doesn’t make sense unless you’ve experienced it.

     C.S. is killin’ me sweet. i’ve kept to reading him only on my breaks at work and i am about 75 pages from the end of Mere Christianity. With the exception of two chapters, i’ve absolutely luffed and ate up everything he’s written in this book. Part of his view on marriage was, surprisingly enough, too shallow to me. He’s so wisely in depth into the human character, that i don’t get why he tries to explain the roles of man and woman in marriage in what (in my mind) is a very surface view. i agree, it is a highly unpopular topic – one that has taken me a VERY long time to see in any positive light, but i have come to see it in a beautiful way and the way C.S. talks about it, it threatens to leave a bad taste in my mouth yet again. It’s only a paragraph that gets me, but even that little bit shocked me ill.

     i thought for sure he’d win my affection back over with his next chapter about “forgiveness”, but …nope. That is solely because he dived into a topic that my heart and head cannot seem to get themselves wrapped around. i. do. not. get. War. i understand (without fully understanding it, that) there’s a difference between “murder” and “killing” and it may be valid to bring it up, but it’s just way beyond me. In reading through many of the books of the OT, the idea of “holy destruction” from some kind of hindsight or panoramic view could possibly make sense, but i don’t personally have that sight. It doesn’t make sense to me. And it’s strange to consider it in the midst of the idea of “forgiveness”. It shocks me as both awful and profound at the same time that C.S. brings the two together. Because i do think there’s something there, like a word that’s on the tip of your tongue and won’t come out, but i dunno …i think it’s both above my understanding and also too frightful for me to take too much time to pause thinking about it, if that makes sense. i take it to a personal thought because i am not any sort of omni-anything. i will say that at this point in my life, i do see how strict pacifism verges more on the side of naive avoidance rather than any sort of true solution to peace. On a very basic level, i would rather for someone to have it out with me, rather than just play nice with underlying animosity. It’s a little too difficult for me to bridge that into the idea of “war” though.

     Once i got past those two chapters, so far, things are back to a good sort of awe and wonder as i’ve read through. For anyone looking to read a book that explains Christianity in a very basic (meaning back to the root of being human and what it means and what we naturally lean towards/away from & why believe in God and furthermore, the Christian God) and apologetics type way, sans much of the Christianese lingo, this may be a good one to check out. C.S. makes me laugh in the midst of being insightful without apparent pretentiousness, which seems to be a magnetic quality for me. In short, iLike.

progress

     Let’s see… yesterday a woman from another area told me that she heard i “was leaving”, more specifically that “it was on my terms” that i’d be going. Hm. Well, that’s news to me. i’d like to know who started that rumor. Perhaps they could tell me where i’m going. i’m very interested to know. Then this morning, another woman came by to give me her regards, as she had also heard i was leaving. She then proceeded to give me a compliment of a lifetime (an internal rather than external impression). i informed her i wasn’t going anywhere… that i knew of, but perhaps someone else knew better than me, to which, she pointed to the ceiling tiles. i’ll admit, first i thought i don’t think higher management, aka the boss-man, is upstairs but then after a few more seconds i got it. She meant to reference God. And i agreed. But… i don’t think God is telling everyone else… at least i don’t think so… maybe?

     i’ve had this book for hmmm…about 4 years now, and i can remember first trying to read through it, smooshed in the backseat, of a long car ride to NC. i barely made it through two or three pages before i was frustrated. i tried to pick it up multiple times after that, and i’d barely make it through a page or two before i’d have to put it back down again. i think it was truly over my head. i was lost in his terminology and sentences and stuck on how i defined words rather than how he defines them. A simple word like “law” tripped me up. So, i’ve just been holding on to it thinking maybe someday i’ll read it. It’s been in a book-pile under the center front console thingamajig in my car. A couple days ago, i picked it up along with two others and started carrying it around in my bag with me. Yesterday i decided to give it a go again for the first time in …i s’pose it’s correct to say “years”.

      i am already through BOOK ONE: Right and Wrong As a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe, which really isn’t much more than about 30 pages, but wow. It’s astonishing that it’s a breeze to read through now. i did not consider C.S. Lewis to be an “easy” read. i don’t know if it’s growing up; having read more; having studied bits of his writings on retreats and listening to a British reading of his writing a few times now, so that now when i read his words, i imagine them in a British tone; or if it’s something else entirely, but i get him now. i get what he’s saying and i’m kind of excited by it.

     Lull? What lull? Ha. Well that only took a day to jump off that bandwagon. Tho, maybe if i’m honest, i’ll realize this lull began a while ago & i just didn’t recognize it.

     Mere Christianity is a surprise; a late one for me personally, but still nonetheless a good one. Mr. Lewis has said so many profound to me things in the span of 30 pages that i’m buzzin’.

     Take for instance “progress”. i think a part of what i mentioned in my prior post (the unrest of the intellectuals) ties into an understanding of what “progress” is. i think sometimes, people can get hung up on what we think for sure we think we know, so we push forward with that knowledge stuck, refusing to go backwards when something feels off, because to turn back means we’re not progressing forward… right? But check out what C.S. says:

Progress means not just changing, but changing for the better. (p.13)

We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. …There is nothing progressive about being pig headed and refusing to admit a mistake. (p.28-20)

     Beautiful. Okay. Much of, if not the whole basis of this first “BOOK” has been to prove Moral Law; that it exists and that there’s a mind bigger than our own behind it. It hasn’t even dived into the Christian God being the God and he makes note that he is not an authority (not a priest or a scholar of biblical studies) but rather that he is a man who recognizes the fabric to his own self, which is undeniably at the core, much like all of humanity. This is so good. Maybe this is my year for Mr. Lewis finally.

well(-)read

     i feel like Macgyver this morning… although, did Macgyver break minor things while fixing the major things? i dunno. i’ve never watched the show. But i know enough to know, i feel like him.

     i finished Praise Habit: Finding God in Sushi and Sunsets by D. Crowder yesterday. It should have been a quick read but, as per the norm, i got endlessly distracted by other books while casually reading that one. i’m pretty sure i started it almost two years ago. Reading through the last few chapters yesterday, i’ve determined (sorry Crowder) i didn’t really like it all that much. i don’t know if it’s just that i let too much time pass in between reading chapters or what. i figured out by the last two that if i reversed the order of how he published the Psalm in relation to his synapsis in each chapter, i probably would have gotten more out of it. When i’d read his thoughts first and then read the Psalm, it came more alive, whereas my brain would not make the ties so easily the other way around.

     Phil Yancey really has held me captivated for close to a year now. Anytime i make time to read some more from his book on Prayer, i feel… challenged. i felt that way with What’s So Amazing About Grace as well. i got my dad Where is God When it Hurts for Christmas. i think i like Yancey so much because he doesn’t give quick-n-easy-bake definitive answers to tough questions.

     For the past approx. five years now, i’ve felt romanced by books again. i feel like some of that is slipping away again. What is book-smarts worth? i’m not at all interested in fiction. Some days i think i’m better for taking initiative to learn more and some days i almost feel tortured by it.  Y’know that whole ‘ignorance is bliss’ thing has some kind of painful truth to it. i’m pretty sure that, that’s a delusional kind of bliss for the most part, but i can’t help but notice, as i’ve grown to know some really intelligent, well-read people, i see more unrest in them than the peace i desire. Maybe it all depends on what you read? Maybe some of it is biological makeup that can’t be helped. i s’pose some people are smart thinkers by nature regardless of literature.

     Part of this lull in me has to do with changes in responsibilities, which is not unexpected, but still disappointing regardless.  At times, i might as well be wandering in the desert blind to miracles and provision that stare me in the face every day while i stick focused on the wrong things. Back when i read through Deuteronomy, i underlined every time scripture stated “remember” and “don’t forget” in relation to the people being delivered from the hardship of what was into the hardship of what is. i think i underlined it as astonishing tragedy when i read through it. There was an urge to shake my head, disappointed at the people after Exodus from Egypt and at the same time a disheartening realization of my own human nature to forget the necessary dependence on and goodness of God from one moment to the next, sucker-punched me in the gut. i think it still shocks me.