Friday, August 29, 2008

Of Logs, Specks and Duty

With election season upon us I think what I have been listening to lately is very appropriate. No, don't worry, I'm not getting involved in politics again. Far from it actually. What I've been listening to and thinking about is actually prompting me to be even less interested in politics than I have been recently (which lately has been very little).

The call rings out across the land: "Christians everywhere unite. Let's win this country back for God". My response a few months ago would probably have been one of passionate agreement with that sentiment. Yeah, lets go, lets mobilize the troops and get out there and vote in people who will return this country to its "City on a Hill" status like it was in the "good old days".

Good old days eh? Hmm, when exactly were the good old days? Maybe a year or two in the 1950's? Umm, no, we still had segregation then. Maybe back in the 1700's or 1800's? Umm, wrong again, we were wiping out Native Americans and enslaving Africans back then.

Don't get me wrong, I haven't turned into some America hating Communist. For all its faults, past and present, the United States has always gotten a lot of things right and has always seemed willing to learn from its mistakes (albeit very slowly and very painfully).

But, let me get to what I think is the most important point here. And that is the question of what relationship the Christian Church should have to politics and political power. Well, the simple answer is: "NO RELATIONSHIP AT ALL!" Now that I've got your attention let me explain. The Christian Church is the body of Christ. Its job is to represent Christ to those around it. Jesus never once attempted to compel behavioral changes or morality through any type of force, physical or political.

Jesus lived in an empire that was every bit as immoral, sinful and hedonistic as ours could ever hope to be; He lived in a part of the empire that was rife with political dissent and dreams of throwing off the rule of the Romans. But yet he never advocated the use of power to change behavior or got involved in politics for any reason, even "good" reasons.

So on to what I've been listening to and the point of the title of this post. I've been listening to a sermon series by Gregory Boyd (senior pastor of the Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul MN) from back in 2004 (another pretty highly charged political time). The series is entitled "A Myth, a Cross and a Sword" and resulted in a book called The Myth of a Christian Nation. I've been listening to and reading Greg's stuff on some other subjects and have found it to be life changing. When I discovered his take on politics mirrored the feelings I've been having lately it was a bonus. In this series Greg Boyd lays out, far better than I could, a compelling take on the relationship between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdoms of the World. Capped off by a call to pay more attention to the logs in our own eyes than the specks in the eyes of others, and to remember that our duties, especially to those outside the Church, are those of healing, help and honor, rather than condemnation and compulsion.

Check out the sermon series here: The Cross and the Sword.

If you are daunted by the task of listening to them all try starting with this one, I think it is a good summary of the whole: Is the Church the Guardian of Social Morality?

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Wife the Servant/Warrior

I realized last night during several conversations with my wife that she was perhaps the most important tool God has used (and is using) in my healing and coming back to life. I've always known that her tenacity and strength were astounding, but I guess it's only been lately that I've realized just how important she has been in this process. My wife provided a refuge, a place of safety and security in a tangible way, that I had never known before. We know, once we are well enough to grasp it, that God is our refuge and our strong tower, but oh how important it is to have that represented to us by someone in our lives that matters.

Safety and security are things that I never experienced in my life before now. My life has been one of uncertainty and fear, always waiting for the hammer to fall, for someone to leave, for some disaster to strike. I've never been able to trust in God because I never had his trustworthiness and fidelity modeled by the important people in my life. Someone who grows up without a father would have a hard time relating to God as a father, in the same way someone who goes through life never knowing what it is to trust will have a hard time having faith and trust in God. That has been my experience for nearly as long as I can remember, a complete block when it comes to trust and faith in God. I have been consumed with worry, doubt and fear my entire life, which has resulted in anger and even hatred towards God as I blamed him for all of the horror that I saw around me and all the abandonment and betrayal that I felt from the experiences in life.

My wife told me from day one, really without knowing the original source of her promises, that she would never leave me or forsake me. Then she proceeded to live and demonstrate that promise through the ensuing years of rough emotional upheaval on my part. My reaction to the prospect of getting married was a full blown anxiety attack that lasted almost a year, followed by depression and related medical issues that lasted for several years. Only recently has the healing started taking place to the point where I am no longer a dead man walking. Only recently have I been able to pray to God, to trust in God, to worship God, to hear from God, to read his word, to actually understand and grasp the astounding love of God that led him to embark on the perilous and risky endeavor of winning and wooing his lover and bride (that's me, that's us) back to himself.

It was actually a perilous and risky endeavor for God from the very beginning. To bring into existence created beings (Angels, humans, etc.) that were free to follow their own paths, to choose whether or not they trusted or loved their creator. Free to turn on him and plunge the universe into unspeakable horror and danger if that was their choice - which they did. And then, as if that wasn't enough, God chose to prove his goodness and his love to the very beings that had turned their back on him. Instead of smashing his rebellious creation into non-existence and starting over, or forcing their devotion with the iron fist of a dictator, he chose to pursue his errant and adulterous bride all the way to the gates of hell and beyond and rescue her from the very jaws of death. And to do this, Jesus came in the body of an unglorified man and defeated death, and the lord of death (Satan), by inserting himself, as it were, between us and the executioner (Satan) and taking the death blow meant for us.

I can grasp and understand this, really for the first time, because I've had someone do this kind of thing for me in the physical realm. My wife took on a perilous and risky endeavor when she chose to bind herself to me in marriage and pledged to never leave or forsake me. It was a very risky thing to do. She would endure emotional pain and sacrifice and hardship because of it. She could have suffered betrayal and the loss of everything. But she counted the cost and chose to pay the price no matter how high it turned out to be, all for the sake of love. She pursued me to the gates of the hell I was in and beyond. And, as a willing servant/warrior for God, she brought me out of that darkness and into the light. What a spectacular demonstration of God's love, to give sacrificially for someone else. By doing so my wife acted as the hands and feet of God and brought me to life so that I can in turn bring others to life. They in turn can do the same for others. The healing will spread like ripples in a pond as the kingdom of God continues to rescue those being stolen, killed and destroyed by the thief (Satan).

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. --John 10:10

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. --Romans 5:8

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. --John 15:13

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Here's to Rabbit Holes

A few months ago the faint, pink hues of dawn began to appear in the skies of my consciousness. I began to be aware of the unfamiliar, but very welcome, sensations of life. Around this time I wrote my brother an email. I'm not sure I was aware at the time I wrote it of the germination taking place within my heart. In that email I shared with my brother a waking dream, perhaps a vision, that I'd had. In the dream...
I was wounded and crawling across a battlefield. There were dead and dying everywhere, the blood and gore was sickening, and all seemed lost. I crawled on and on dragging myself through the filth, hardly able to breathe, nearly paralyzed by dread and fear. Every second that passed I expected to be my last, with every movement I expected to feel the death blow as the enemy, in the full brutality of his obvious victory, claimed me as another victim. Then, from somewhere, came an impulse: "Look Up". I did.

For the first time in a long time I looked up and saw what I would have seen at any point had it occurred to me to look up instead of focusing on the horror and the filth on the ground beneath me. There He was, the Warrior King straight out of Revelation, sword and all, with his battle host surrounding him in the full splendor of inevitable victory. The battle wasn't lost. The enemy wasn't winning after all.

I looked across the wide expanse of the field of battle and there were so many wounded... crawling... heads down... completely unaware of the victory over their heads. I looked down and my gaze was caught by the putrid panoply spread beneath me. The bright hope of morning was dimmed into the dismal gray of coming night. The Warrior King faded quickly into a memory of light, a faint image at the margins of thought. I was wounded and crawling across a battlefield.

Look up you damn fool. LOOK UP!
That was the story of my life. Crawling, defeated, sidelined, wounded, doomed to repeat the same mistakes and follow the same road day after changeless day, year after senseless year.

Writing that email to my brother marked a turning point. I wonder how he would like being compared to Morpheus from the Matrix? I believe it was God's great pleasure to use my brother in just that way. To offer me a choice and an opportunity to unplug from the dream state of false existence and be reborn into that otherworld, that real world, that dangerous but free Kingdom of God where I can be trained to infiltrate the darkness and wake more sleepers to life.

I have followed the white rabbit. I have chosen the red pill. I've stuck my hand in the mirror. The doors of perception are being cleansed, everything is beginning to appear as it is: infinite (to paraphrase William Blake).

Monday, August 4, 2008

Alexander Solzhenitsyn 1918 - 2008

The world has lost a great light. Thankfully this light was a writer and his words are still with us. Here is a tiny sample.

To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging and evaluating everything on earth. Imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not been noticed at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life.


No one on earth has any other way left but -- upward.

Harvard Address - June 1978