October 6, 2011

A Doghouse Wedding

     I kind of think of Time & Space as a doghouse.

     We persistently allow ourselves to give in to the belief that this doghouse is our Home. However, what we constantly forget is that this Time, this Space, this whole life and human skin our Souls have been arranged within, is not our Home. We forget that fact, though, because of our fallen nature; the distance between God and ourselves has been ever wider since the first rifting sin of Adam and Eve. But imagine this- maybe God allowed that gap to occur because He already planned to show us the perfectly eternal perspective of His Love through the expansion of the "Couple" to the "Family".

     God is Love, but is also too Big for us to imagine, much less truly fathom. So, when we separated from His Truth (by our own fall), He gave us the other types of Love to remind us that our plans and lives are to be for Love- in a dirty, albeit loyal, impression of all that He is- to reflect His Being to others (being mirrors to try to reflect Christ outwards) and Love in such a radical way that it stands out and is highlighted to everyone around us. Jesus says Himself, in John 13:35: "By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have Love for one another."

     After the fall of that first "Couple", though, there came diverse expansion for the dimensions of Love: Storge (the Love of affection, such as fondness for another through familiarity), Philio (the Love of friendship, such as that between family and friends), Eros (the Love of romance, of lovers), and Agape (the Unconditional Love, a Love that brings forth caring regardless of any circumstance). Four different side of one beautiful gem, a giant prism that contains every spectrum and color within its rays. Perhaps God gave us these other Loves to strengthen the illustration of His Perfect Love for each of our Souls; a constant reminder of our waiting Home, that lays outside this weary doghouse.

     Maybe He really is making us stronger, no matter how tempting or misgiving our doubts and disbelief may grow to be or seem to ensnare. We might screw up all the time with Love, but maybe He's always perfectly loyal, no matter how filthily stained the Bride's gown may be in the end. Maybe He's just overjoyed because she made it down the aisle in one piece, since that's the hardest part. Maybe this whole Time & Space shindig ends as a glorious Wedding. Maybe He really has just been in control of everything, from the very first place of it all to the final scene...

     And maybe none of those questions are "maybe" things.

     After all, how could our Humanity coexist with Divinity? Through marrying its redeemed essence, the Holy Spirit, united in the aggregate Body of the Church, from every course and era of this history, present, and future? The Bride to the Bride-Groom of Christ as the clincher scene before the real and true "Happily Forever After". It's His story, anyway, right? And, since He's Love, I don't Believe He would have written it to end out as a Tragedy.

     Maybe He did it so that when we're led, at the very last, out of this putrid doghouse, we'll see the true breadth of God's Light and Love and Being, lose our breath at its sight, and then we'll finally and actually Believe Him, in forever renewed earnest, when He tells us that we are not dogs, and that we were meant for a world, a reality, that shines so much brighter than the rotten wooden slats of this place we all-too-often believe to be our position and perception.

     The Bride shall be walked right down that aisle, right out of that doghouse, and directly into the full light of an infinitely elaborate and joyous ceremony...

     I'm a Soul who's rather big on metaphors. I nearly speak the dialects of analogy and poetry better than I do the average verbal exchange (and I'm pretty sure that not even considered a "nearly", by at least a few). However, I could not now be happier with what He has given me; in this metaphorical tongue, I can almost hear Him whispering to us that this whole thing, despite our original err and sin, is truly a Comedy, after all.

     I can picture Jesus taking us into His arms then (one at a time, yet still all at once), at the very end of this unreality, and reminding us each of the Truth even while He wipes away our streaming tears of blinded joy, every one of them gently, His every word spoken with the calming care of convicted Love.

     "Like any good Comedy, this one needs a wedding!"

September 25, 2011

The Closest We Ever Came


“Community” is a tenet which is laid cobblestone with the very foundation of our Faith— and rightly so.

          Through the elements of a tightly-knit and healthy community, we gain the immeasurable benefits of accountability, fellowship, encouragement, support, and, most importantly, our defining unity in Spirit of Faith, Belief, and Truth. Moreover, the presence of a (truly and earnestly) Christian body, we obtain a model for our aggregate composition: the Bride of Christ.

          Contrary to the misguided doctrine of some modern churches, the “Church” is not just one solitary group of individual believers (nor “denomination”), and it is certainly not something buried behind the sheet-rock walls a congregation is regularly present within. The Church, in actuality, consists of every Believer from across the pitched and stretched face of Time and Space, from each one of Humanity’s eras, captured in but a mere still-shot of Eternity’s infinite extent. It is a Body that, when amassed, equates to so much more than any of its individual parts (or “Members”).
          However, as reassuring as it most definitely is (or should be) that we stand with such a beautiful wealth of Souls amongst the ranks of our Faith, it yet remains astoundingly difficult to unify— much less maintain the unity of— any one localized family body of Christians. The question as to what exactly our respective churches should look like has been one of the most forefront queries in each of our Convicted Hearts...
          But are we, as one entity, truly attempting to do more than only consider this question? 

          Tragically, it does not (at least, to me) seem to be so. To find a paragon church that has existed “closest” to perfection, in both intention as well as expression, one could search the world over. But I believe our most lucid and comprehensive “for instance” can actually be found in the latter part of Acts 2:41-47, where God’s Word describes the convictions and realities of a community arming itself with full earnestness of Faith:
41So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
 42And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.46And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Now, with that specific collection of Christians as a standard, a mark to which we can but strive to aim for, take an honest moment (in a moment) to consider your own church, your own regular body of Believers. And, as humbling and difficult as I know (personally) it is to do, I encourage you to be radically honest in your comparisons— not holding yourself, nor your church, in judgment, but only being forthcoming to your own Soul about the discrepancies... 

Man, that’s tough.

          Part of me wants to excuse myself (as well as any church) by saying, “Well, of course they believed that much, back then! They had just seen miracles! There were 3,000 souls converted in one day. They’d have to be dense to not be so affected by what they had witnessed!”

          However, is it their intelligence that should be called into question?...

                                                             Or is it our own?

What should it matter that they witnessed "wonders and signs" where we do not, ourselves, witness such things? Is our Belief not still the same? Is the Faith not still held in common? We are of the same Body, the same family; we are kin to these Souls. We either Believe these things, and have Faith in them, or we do not. There is no room for ambivalence. And, if our convictions are as earnest as we testify, then should that not be shown through each and every one of our own lives? Through our personal communities? Through how we relate to and interact with those within (as well as without) our churches?

Is that what I do?...

                                                    Is that what you do?...

                                 Is that what the modern church does?...

And, if the answer is "No" to any one of those three humbling questions, then shouldn't we (as in you, as in me) be doing something to try and change that response?...

January 30, 2011

Someone Is Singing

Over the course of my lifetime (as brief as that may be, comparatively) I've witnessed countless debates concerning which "style" of worship is “better,” about which genre-like praise wins.

Is it "contemporary" worship? Should we set up a drum kit, plug in an electric guitar and a soundboard? Or maybe "traditional" music truly reigns supreme over the rest—it became a "tradition" because those who raised us (even those who raised the ones who raised them) decided that it did the best job, right?

As I've gotten older, though, I’m beginning to think that praise actually is not a competition. I simply cannot bring myself to believe that the human pursuit of glorifying our God is some sort of competition or contest, where the winning team gets more love or gratitude from God after the curtain finally goes down. 

First of all, God owes thanks to no one, much less in varying degrees. And His already-perfect love for each of us doesn't fluctuate depending on the songs we sing, just like it isn’t dependent on anything we do (or don't do). Thank the Lord for that, though, because each and every one of us would be forever condemned if we were left to our lone devices.

Instead, I’ve begun to think of worship, of sincere glorification of our God, as an art (maybe even the art).

One of art's most defining characteristics is that different human beings can relate to it. If a work of art is heartfelt and passionate then it will be relevant and meaningful to the artist. Moreover, when something like art is truly relevant to a soul, then other similar souls will respond alike. To me, that’s what it means when a work of art is truthfully “artful.”

That said, will every single form of art be considered “artful” by everyone? No, of course not— but those distinctions, those differing tastes (and the communities that evolve from them), make the realm of art that much more beautiful, bringing complement and contrast to the arrangement of flowers that we collectively offer to God.

                Who am I to think that I have perfected the art of praise? It is arrogant for me to claim, or even think, that a particular style of music is the penultimate end in the growth of human worship. It just seems wrong for me to sing along with my favorite praise songs and make the decision that the humane worship of the divine Creator has reached its personal zenith, that there is no room left for change or development.

I'm not trying to say that churches should exclusively play either traditional hymns or rock music. I mean, our Biblical forefathers didn’t have electric guitars or microphones— just like they didn’t have organs or choir tiers. 

It just sounds off to me, to tell someone that they ought to imitate my art, that their form of art isn’t “good” enough— especially when no human being (with only one exception) will ever be good enough.
Maybe how the songs are being sung doesn’t matter as much as we think.
Maybe what actually matters is that someone is singing them.


January 24, 2011

Check-Out Counter Candy

It's amazing how the smallest occurrences, the briefest of experiences or situations, can clearly illustrate truth in a way that we would never have thought of on our own...

I was standing at the check-out line in a thoroughly non-local grocery store (AKA: Wal-Mart). Everyone can relate to this. There was a woman and her two small children at the front of the line, and (you guessed it) they were making "the scene."

The smallest child tugged insistently at his mother's skirt, pointing with his quiet eyes and loud mouth at the rows of gleaming candy bars lining the customary check-out altar to sugar and sweets. His screams were awkward and piercing, the kind of notes where my adrenaline starts to edge in, because it sounds like there's violence being committed nearby.

Meanwhile, the poor woman's other child was being far too quiet, as he began not-so-subtly snagging candy bars from the lower shelves. I thought his efforts were pretty humorous (as did some of the other people waiting in the line); but his mother didn't agree with us at all, as she yanked each and every one of the prizes from her child's reluctant fingers. However, her conversation was primarily directed at the first child, as his demonstrations were far more... boisterous.

"Jerry... Sweetie, it isn't healthy for you to eat candy all the time... Jerry, you cannot have that. Jerry, stop yelling... Jerry, please quit screaming... Ralph! I can physically see you taking those!"

I was tremendously impressed, though, because the mother kept her voice and demeanor calm, her manner controlled, her head level, despite how frustrating the situation understandably was for her. I don't really expect to see that from parents in public who have a child locked in the throes of a truly epic tantrum war.

After it had finally dissolved (both children disappointed), I started to mull over what had just happened. I finally checked out with my items and exited the store. Then, as I took my first steps across the parking lot, I noticed the same mother, now kneeling beside the smaller (louder) child. The kid's cheeks were a ruddy red- instead of more protests, though, I heard (even at that distance) his tiny voice tearfully apologizing to his "mommy."

I felt a kinship with that child, immediately, as a very difficult and all too obvious truth struck me upside my temple:

I am the screaming kid at the check-out counter.

Not literally, obviously (that'd be awkward)- I mean on a bigger scale than that of a particular moment or experience. Throughout my life, I have constantly berated God for not being "good" to me, for not truly having my interests at His heart, for not knowing what was actually best for me. Like a child, screaming for a candy bar from the check-out counter, I have begged for "good" things to happen to me, demanded that my circumstances suddenly improve, forever feeling that all of my suffering and pain would dissolve away if I could just get that candy bar. I've even tried subterfuge, attempting to steal the candy when it isn't given to me- but it always seems that He keeps me from doing that, as well.

If I am the child, then God is the parent- but He isn't losing His head over my immature protests, and He doesn't concern Himself with what others around us might be thinking about the situation. Instead, He wisely takes every one of the candies that I'm trying to shove in my pockets and puts them back on the shelf, calmly telling me that it isn't healthy to have a diet of only chocolate and sweets. He's perfectly right, too. My poor little teeth would have rotted straight out if He'd given me every sweet I've begged for over the years- I would be far beyond spoiled, naive and ignorant of the truth in this life that I've been given.

That isn't to say that I've learned my lesson, though... But I think I'm beginning to realize that I never will, that I never even can. I'll probably always think that I know what's "best" for me, just like that kid saw no reason that he shouldn't be eating candy all the time. But his mother knew better than him, and God knows better than me... That said, though, the gap between a parent and small child is nothing when compared to the unimaginable chasm laying between the humane and the divine (in terms of respective wisdom, knowledge, and experience).

All I can do is apologize to Him, the tears chasing down my cheeks, when I finally realize (and will actually admit) that I was wrong.

Time and time and time and time and time again.

But I can feel my heart cringe, maybe even break, every time I do repent of my nature. Even as I utter the words- no matter how earnest my apologies, no matter how fervent my tears, no matter how convicted my heart- I know that I will find myself at another candy counter, sooner or later...

And one of the most tragic truths that I have had to learn is this:

I will do it again.