The College Try part two Academia Nut

And so I find myself in Medford in Southern Oregon. I can attest to the aforementioned clarity of that first morning as symbolic of, say, calm before the storm. See part one if you haven’t already.

I had transferred up to your garden-variety public school. Early nineties, so Bush One was about out and Clinton was stumping for office. I can’t really say what policies either president implemented for the present educational system, but I can assure you I felt the tinges. In whatever way it had trickled down into Wilson School, it was affecting me, no doubt. Couple that with the bottom-up anxiety I had come from being shuffled in and out of both ends of the didactic spectrum (aside from homeschooling) and you have this perfect storm, ready to drop.

My dad and I walked across the street on a morning in January not unlike the one described. Crystal clear and bright as light; I could see my breath. We checked in to the office as another father brought his daughter and her younger brother to school late. I could sense her poise. I came to find that her name was Megan and crush for her began to develop. I then walked into Mrs. Dower’s third grade classroom and had already begun to identify those in authority. And I’m not referring to the teacher, I was referring to what students seemed to be more with it than others. Pegging one or another as this or that, socially. I’ll just say right here that I was wrong with my first impressions. But that paradigm, of noting the cool kids. Seeing who was “with it” and who wasn’t was a muscle that strengthened greatly while I was in third grade. A couple weeks went by and in my attempt to fit in (yet another failed attempt at social integration), I greeted a fellow student—a boy—with a slight peck on either cheek, reasoning, however childishly, to myself that it was akin to how you might greet a foreign dignitary upon his arrival to your exotic country. And from then on, I was mercilessly bullied by two twins for being homosexual. Again, a high sensitivity-based-shyness alongside such a monumental social faux-pas and you understand, maybe a little, how that perception might be leveled at me. And I can look back on it and shake my head, if laugh. But understand, this was like an avalanche of, not just social awkwardness, but extremely heavy social condemnation. Looking back, it’s hard to believe the nastiness on display from two lanky individuals, the perpetrators of this campaign to in a word hurt me. Because a person’s reputation, in a very practical sense, is neither here nor there at that age. I find that there is much change from eight years old that an individual will undergo during the years leading out of elementary and into middle and high school. The funny thing was, as I dispassionately examine these events, I can tell you that there was nothing good to be gained in looking to be “a big fish in a small pond” or someone who was cool for its own sake. Life is about becoming an individual. And instead of becoming that, I sought even harder to fit in, to justify myself. To prove that I was straight and cool and, quite possibly, macho. This is the wrong response, more of a knee-jerk reaction. The campaign died down over time, but I had tasted blood. I had begun to see anti-light glimmers of what lay ahead. Namely a future in school with the chance at a girlfriend and a place in the In Crowd. It took about three years before I had worked up the courage to ask Megan out on a “date” (I had no idea what that meant) and on the day I had purposed to do so, my dad pulled me out of school. Thank God. The funny thing is, he knew nothing of the troubles I’d faced nor of any of the aforementioned social posturing that seemed to be the only marketable skill I took away from my time at Wilson.

I knew upon exiting school at ten years of age that my life trajectory was going to be different than most kids. I already sensed that I was going to have a harder time getting a job without having gone to high school (because I instinctively sensed that I was done with the public school system) and this worried me. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the time but it’s like the option was permanently shut off. And please understand, while my dad was a wonderful man, full of intensity and also very smart, he subconsciously sought to keep me from having a life like his. A life that included dropping out of university because he couldn’t take the strain that his mother put on him in looking for someone else to shoulder the burden of an alcoholic marriage and whatever social stigma that came along with it. For him it would be the dry discipline of the Marines. This is where he went after school and after serving two years active duty, sought to go back to community college. But couldn’t seem to settle on something to major in. I don’t know how these experiences informed the decisions that he made in taking me out of school to homeschool me, but for many years, my life looked to take (what would look to be) a similar floundering and directionless path. I distinctly remember walking across the parking lot of a local store shortly thereafter, figuratively wringing my hands together and worrying how I was going to make it in this world without any formal education. Another touchstone took place one night at a restaurant. The waitress asked me what middle school I’d be attending. I answered “Hedrick”. After she left, my parents were shocked that I’d lie, but I didn’t know how else to answer her, I was too ashamed.

What followed was a highly unstructured and free-form tour of the middle and high school years at the foot of my father. I showed interest in helping a neighbor of mine deliver newspapers and so at 13, I learned what it meant to get up early everyday, rain or shine, and serve others (I took over the route after he was done). This continued until I was 27, until I was long since tired of that routine. It felt good to earn money and be able to rouse myself out of bed in the wee hours of the morning—a “soft skill” that I use to this day. But it was a dead-end job. Something that required no education in the things of math, science, or, really, reading and writing, at all (could “paperboy” be on the spectrum of literary careers?). But that’s not really what “joining the workforce” is about, is it? Ideally, we should be plumbing the depths of our being, with help from peers and parents, to find our mission, our calling. And if I’m at 27 not knowing what I’m meant to do, at least in a broad sense, something may be wrong. But the knee-jerk reaction to “what to I do with my life” isn’t “go to college”, I don’t believe. While I know now what I want and what I want (i.e. what I’m majoring in) most-likely isn’t going to change, I don’t advocate simply going to school for its own sake. To me, the way to do this thing called life is to serve. To selflessly live until you gain that kernel wrought irreducible through the forge of the system of the world at large. And read. If you haven’t already guessed, my dad really didn’t have a gameplan or curriculum for doing what he did. As I got older, I really wonder if perhaps he could have gotten in some kind of trouble for the way he raised me. My mom worked and I know that she struggled with the state of our life—a stay-at-home dad who looked for all intents and purposes without to be homeschooling his two sons but whose only real instruction to me (the one rule I could put my finger on) was to read voraciously. This was not the way to raise a child. But, amazingly, it was the way to raise me. Please understand, I did respond to this and whatever gifts and skills I possess do I own by virtue of making the most of the situational cards I was dealt. But citing the social/emotional trauma I received in grade school, it was good, though, for me to be alone. I still carried with me the scars and irrational ways of looking at life and society and it took all the years of being “homeschooled” in order to unlearn the posturing and peer-oriented self and emerge from that cocoon into the real world. With something to actually offer others as opposed to being in a system that I would learn to manipulate as I made my way through.

The College Try part one The Silent Era

I remember being taken out of school at sixth grade. Don’t get me wrong, it was the right idea. My dad knew me like no other and he saw that I simply wasn’t getting it. A conspiratorial confluence of events and influences had led to my tanking in the academic arena and so he simply elected to pull me out and homeschool me. My lack of focus was leavened, so to speak, as the school had in an effort to acclimate students to the Middle School way decided to have them go from class to class and then be based in a home room. History, Math and then Science (my home room teacher) were parsed out amongst the three teachers there. A month had gone by and the schooling I was receiving was not taking (probably more interested in girls and in “being cool” though there could have been some sort of “learning disability”). So when in a heated phone argument with my history teacher, she promptly hung up on him, the last straw was lain. Wilson school would no longer be the place of my learning.

Academia nut

Let’s rewind a bit shall, we? For something so momentous as me going to college—I mean, for you to truly understand just what this means—I should lay the foundation for what my mind has gone through up till now. Starting with my very first memory.

We had moved from Plano, Texas to Montrose, California. I was about a year-and-a-half and I remember certain things. Not, like, the day in, day out routine of that apartment but I can flesh out an interior, an atmosphere. Certain colors and pastiches. In other words, nothing really concrete. I remember being babysat as a toddler and my parents coming home from their night out. Evidently the babysitter had either done something she wasn’t supposed to or had forgotten to do something she was supposed to, I dunno. I just remember my dad being put out with her, to put it politely. And then there was the time he called me in sick to school because he wanted to spend time with me. I distinctly remember that. And now that I think about it, I can recall this time where I’d gotten a new Lego set, a helicopter, and I recall staying up all night to build it. I don’t know why it would have taken so long, perhaps I didn’t start till way late? Who knows. The thing about all these memories is that they took place in my childhood living room in Montrose, California. But none of them are my very first memory. That one involves me sitting on the floor in my diaper reading a novel called “Warleggan” from the Poldark series of novels by Winston Graham. It sported the series cover as it had been made for TV. I thumbed through (all thumbs) the yellowing pages and was taken in, not by the story nor the characters, but by the fascinating rows of symbols and, I suppose, punctuation. Not that any of it made any sense to me, I simply remember it. My very first memory and I still have the book to this day.

I began attending a Christian Montessori school a couple blocks from where I lived. It was there that the aforementioned symbols began to make sense to me. The alphabet began to crystallize in my head and parts of speech were assigned their correlate shapes (the Montessori Method, you understand) and I even read a book or two. I also took up drawing and fancied long division. Learning was fun. And it was in this atmosphere that I feel that my truest self took root. The three-and-a-half years from Preschool (I remember an earthquake on my first day of Montessori preschool) through Second stand out to me this day. In much the same way that I have a simple gestalt for memories pertaining to my Montrose apartment, the same holds true for my time at Montrose Christian Montessori. Albeit larger, the grounds of the school are intermingled with childlike feelings and perceptions and literal dreams. It’s like this orange bubble that is living, pulsing with an atmosphere of pure freedom and possibility. Warmth and love and growth. It would turn, during that time, into a rich loam from which to draw as I moved up and on and out. I left MCMS after second grade. My mom (a nurse) had taken a job at a hospital up the road in Glendale and so we relocated.

The silent era

I went from a happy-go-lucky kid, a tad on the silly/flighty side to crying in the back of my classroom. The half-year I spent at Glen Oaks Elementary nearly stamped out the fledgling mental state in which I wandered around in wonder. I don’t remember my third grade teacher’s name but I distinctly recall her wishing us good luck as we talked to her for the last time before moving up to Oregon. My mom had again found a better position in her health care career and so we moved up to the area I am now. But before we go any further, I would like to make a couple clear points. The memories of Public school are, for me, a lot harder. Harder as in jarring and dry. Whereas the beauty of the Montessori atmosphere I would have likened to color (warm pastel, specifically), the long, lonely school building nestled in the old-growth neighborhood of Glendale connotes concrete. A gray wash with an urban feel that is indifferent to the warmth and excitement that my former school instilled in me. I have one good memory from my time there: a young boy, my peer, gifting me a little pencil box with a simple manga-like character on it. It lent a tincture of comfort to what I was thrown into, what I was going through. Otherwise, you’d find me sitting at my desk, weeping and snuffling for disorientation. But it was the era of neon and of late Michael Jackson. Of the Los Angeles Lakers and of kickball on the blacktop. The excitement of Ducktales and Talespin after school and of Gameboy in my dad’s big red leather chair. But if you’ll notice, most all this stuff is extracurricular. Well, with the exception of my neon yellow backpack. But I wasn’t growing the right way, I know this now. Your average Montessori school will shuttle its students through the same grade all the way up to the end of Elementary. And I can say that my fellow MCMS students and I had grown close, the relocation doing little to mar the closest friendships. But I didn’t know anyone at Glen Oaks. Making friends wasn’t something I did instinctively. It either happened naturally or not at all. The marked distinction in the two schools, not to mention schooling styles, had cracked something deep inside of me. Yes, my teacher (again, I forget her name yet somehow remember all my Montessori teachers’ names) used certain devices that must have been eminently her own, but nothing stands out. And with reference to the jarring relocation, I believe people in general are more resilient than that and I in particular am no exception. But if you read the first paragraph of this post, know that what reached a head in sixth grade—that which would be the cause of my dad expelling me himself—would have taken root here, in this school. And as I would have been a few years older, my mind and its memories are were (and are) more developed. I suppose, now I think about it, that it was good to have gone to a Montessori school first. As that seed would have been planted deeper, it would have taken root first and as such would have been my first love, so to speak. This being said, my time at Glen Oaks was a blessing as well. It’s important that we stay true to our calling and that our motives are pure, to say nothing of our influences, but how do we really know what light is—let alone how to appreciate it—if we haven’t tasted a little darkness? The contrast is then more distinct, the balance between the two gained and hopefully maintained. But if six months of public schooling after three-and-a-half years of private is enough to balance out the beauty with a hardship, what would another two-and-a-half years in yet another public school atmosphere do? Another school at still one remove from the other? Things were going to get darker, much darker, before they would ever get brighter.

I’ll finish part one with this memory. My family and I had moved from Glendale, California, to Medford, Oregon in January of 1992. We got up here before the moving truck and I remember looking out of the second floor window of our empty, light blue apartment on Poplar Drive. I was looking at this bare tree across the street. The sky was an even lighter, almost translucent blue and the pale morning sunlight belied the forthcoming rigidity that the school across the street would soon be inculcating into me.

This Doesn’t Change Anything

“Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth…” (Galatians 3:1)

It’s only right, I think as a Christian, to be interested in Jewish culture and history and whatnot. Without sounding too goyish, I would like to say that I wholeheartedly respect the place from which my faith came. And as my faith informs most-if-not-all aspects of my life, I would like to touch on just a little bit of that basis.

“And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” (Galatians 3:8-9, my emphasis)

I was reading through Galatians three recently and meditating on the enormity of what we (i.e. non-Jews) have. As all early exponents of the early Christian religion were converted (read: Messianic) Jewish, they knew whence they came and they lived and walked around in the density that their culture and society is. Therefore the present contrast to the preceding four-thousand years was all the more stark in light of what had come and been given with Jesus (Seriously, can you imagine that feeling of change in the air?). This being said, and as referenced in the passage above, that loophole, that holding out for those, Gentiles though they may be—was enlarged. Jesus said “think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17) That Jesus lived and died, ending humanity’s need of the Law in the sight of God, ushering in an age when anyone who believes, regardless of lineage, can access the Father, harks to the ultimate point of what the Law was given to do. Namely, let people in on the goodness and inherent love of God. We don’t understand the serious of sin with reference to the holiness of the Father. Think about it: why should God have had to get angry in the first place, at all?

“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith in Christ Jesus. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Galatians 3:24-25)

Okay. So, read that and wrap your mind around it. Read it again if need be and really soak in what Paul is expressing in those lines. Now read this, a couple verses prior:

“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Galatians 3:22)

The same idea is echoed in Paul’s letter to the Romans (11:32). What can I say? Paul was “an Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5), he knew what he was talking about. Here’s the verse from Romans:

“For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all.”

If I may—and I know I’m speaking from a standpoint of having been “graffed in” (see Romans 11:13-26)—everything aimed at reconnecting to God prior to Jesus is only the best that humanity could do. All of the strictures that are employed to see society progress (in whatever field you’d like to point at) and, therefore, humanity, are necessary and for-all-intents-and-purposes look to be very much like the six-hundred plus rules of the law. But get this (this time from James 2:10, emphasis mine), “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. All we can do anymore with reference to God is believe, is have faith in Jesus. To know and walk with Him. To, in a word, love Him. See, everything from circumcision to the wearing clothes of utmost purity in weave to any number of odd animals that you surely wouldn’t think were appetizing but that you daren’t touch (read through Leviticus chapter 11) were all guidelines and guardrails that, really, were aimed at proving the futility of humanity’s attempts at changing their essential nature. But the keeping of a bunch of rules doesn’t change anything. Jesus said the same thing when he tells the Pharisees to “search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life.” (John 5:39) In other words, just because we can read, doesn’t mean we know the Author. The author of life. I will never experience what it feels like to be Jewish. I can partake of the Passover seder in April and read what it’s like to have my Bar Mitzvah (Bat Mitzvah is for a girl) when I am 13 years of age, but it’s all foreign to me. This being said, I love it. The rules and the rubrics and the history, the tradition. But even more than that, I want to know God, the God of my father(s). Jesus says this about those who believe in and on Him:

He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he (and she) that receiveth me receiveth Him that sent me.” (Matthew 10:40)

It’s the difference between mere comprehension and true understanding. God the Father wants to be known, and, to a degree, demands to be known. And the only way to do this is to meet Jesus. I pray for your introduction.

September

I awoke this morning to Earth, Wind and Fire’s September refrain sounding in my head. Not sure if I’m spelling it correctly but “ba de ya de ya de ya” was stuck on repeat. I thought it remarkable not least because I couldn’t remember having heard it in the past number of months, anywhere. It isn’t in my iTunes account and I don’t listen to the radio anymore—where it’s overplayed, regardless of the time of year. But I also thought it amazing as this smallest of registries bubbled up from my spirit: An answer to prayer. Nothing fancy, mind you, just a brief touchstone between God and I. While I fell in love with the song upon hearing it for the first time maybe ten years ago while my parents went through the divorce cycle, I’d since come to disdain it. Back then, however, it was a bright spot, tinged with orange, that always lifted me upon hearing. At that time, I did listen to the radio, like, all the time; something to get my mind off the misery and depression of what I was going through. I think that as my initial affection for the song began to wane and as I took to changing the station every time I heard it following along with that pattern, enough time had elapsed to where said affection for the song could have been reset. And please understand, this song came to me this morning ex nihilo—out of nothing. It was in my head when I awoke. One of those (at least, in this case, the chorus of nonsensical syllables) dream-state thoughts that clears as you climb out of bed and taste the bad breath and rub the sleep from your eyes. I should add that about three or four days ago, I sent up a very deliberate prayer to the Holy Spirit that He remind me of a latent, if forgotten, song from my past. But I wasn’t expecting this.

“Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

Here’s the thing about how God answers prayer. He’ll do so in a way that will surprise you. One of the curses of being earthbound, as it were, is that we always fight the natural tendency to see things lag and lose their luster and burn out. This had certainly happened with this song and if you had asked me about it, I would have answered along the lines of what you may have intuited earlier in the first paragraph: I’m still tired of it. But with the new dawn and such a quiet-but-remarkable reminder of something that had at one point in my mental space been such a bright spot, I guess I’m inclined to continue listening.

In closing, I would just like to say that God has that ability. Be it a relationship, a season, an affection—really anything that isn’t sinful—can he reimbue with His original purpose and the object’s (however abstract) intrinsic value and nature. Something only He can. Oh, and the song’s been on repeat since I started writing this post.

Putting Salt in the Wound

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” (Matthew 5:13a)

Salient saline

Salt is amazing. Don’t wanna use too much, obviously, but if you’re keyed in to the taste of what you’re eating and then add a dash of salt, a few crystals, it’s glorious. It’s like something in your brain awakens and you can’t go back to eating the way you used to. And Jesus above just compared Christians, i.e. those who follow and believe in and love Him—to salt. But why? I would first like to make mention of the fact that salt serves one purpose: to be salty. Yes, we can pour it on our food or enjoy some health benefits provided it’s done correctly. But salt is salty, how else can I say it? It’s good for one thing. And with reference to God, if the Lord wants to use us to heal or to enliven the human experience for those around us, what can He do if we’re not walking with Him, allowing Him to enable us to do those things?

“It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matthew 5:13b)

Ooh. That’s pretty serious. I would like to say real quick that it would seem one of the onrunning themes in the Word of God is that of Him using any and everyone to teach His kids a lesson. Or lessons. Correlate this to Jesus’s warning that those who neglect the main purpose of their life will essentially be walked all over and you see Him continue to reference this paradigm of suffering. Suffering at the hands of those who don’t know the Lord (the Children of Israel in Egypt, et. al.). God wants to keep His children safe from the ravages of those who would enslave and subjugate and otherwise neglect and disavow them. Now, don’t confuse this with the suffering that those Christians, white-hot though they may be, encounter and live (and sometimes die) through. The suffering Jesus references in His salt analogy is essentially wasted suffering. Nothing in this world worse than wasted suffering, I might add. And the Lord can certainly turn around any wasted suffering and use it to His advantage and His glory (see Joel 2:25). But if you don’t need to go down that path, don’t. By all means, please.

Silt and solution

“And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.” (2 Kings 2:19-22)

Amazing. There you have it: God using Elisha to spill into the headwaters of a polluted river a highly unconventional solution. Pouring a “cruse” (anything from a bowl to a high-necked vessel, not sure) full of salt into that which gives life to all it flows into. I find that it’s a similar way with us as believers. Granted, the pouring of salt into a wound not only hurts but it’s also metaphor for “making things worse”. And when we live in and among those who may not be walking the best way that God would have them, it tends to, how can I say this, rub them the wrong way. But this is a good thing. That salt, that irritant, brings to the surface something God wants to deal with and see healed. So pour it in. Notice the “situation” of the city. In other words, it was geographically ideal, Placed in a good spot. Location, location, location, and all that. Perhaps the climate was nice or it was founded on fertile soil. But then again, the soil was corrupt as well. Drought will do that, I suppose. And all Elisha had to do was pour the cruse of salt in to the “spring of the waters”. That’s it. But if you want to know how something so groundbreaking and momentous could come from so simple an act, look back over his life. He went through a lot to see the anointing of his master Elijah passed on to him. Even going so far as to receive a “double portion” (2 Kings 2:9) of the same spirit that rested upon Elijah. All it took was that he maintain the closeness to his liege that his special anointing required. And so he got more. God promised (through Elijah) more for Elisha if he kept his eyes fixed on his master as he ascended. Contrast that with the instruction of Jesus to keep our eyes trained on Him so that we continue to hold in front of us what’s important.

Unwound

“Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3, emphasis mine)

Yes, God is love. And yes, He loves you and He wants to meet your needs and introduce you to Jesus and see you in Heaven for eternity. But He’s also holy. There are statements you come across in His Word that are stark, they’re black and white. He gives us these, what are essentially ultimatums, to show us that He’s serious. When Jesus says if we’re not going to remain salty, that we’ll be cast out, it’s best to heed. Think about the barrenness in this world and the world around you. You. You can be the solution to that. Don’t be afraid to be salty.

Concatenating Correctly part two Something or Other

O Lord, Thou knowest

I awoke one morning in July and as is my daily routine (most days), I sought the Holy Spirit for what He would want me reading in the Word as I began my day. I felt led to the book of John, chapter five, specifically, and when I hit this verse it’s like I bit down on a rock and broke a tooth:

“Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5:14, emphasis mine)

And it’s the last part that got me. I had just finished a particularly long and taxing season from which I figured there would never be an easy escape. And while I was excited to be able to step out into something new, the effort I knew it’d take in order to be fully released from where I’d been, would be considerable. Couple this with the fact that I didn’t really know where I was headed from there and you can maybe see how this idea of “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” might sound like a little too harsh an injunction based on the rawness I was feeling. Again, it was almost as if I bit down on something hard I didn’t know was in my mouth. I wasn’t expecting it. I mean, why would God wake me up and then draw me down into the middle of this chapter only to give me a heartless ultimatum bereft of the sweetness and beauty I know Him to be—and that He had indeed showed me He was, and is—throughout the aforementioned hard season? I knew something wasn’t right. This is the God I know (see also Psalm 138:6)

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” (Psalm 34:8)

I knew a man in Christ

If you must know the specifics of what I was referring to in the previous paragraph, it’s this. Growing up, I was extraordinarily headstrong and also scatterbrained. As I’ve grown and aged, I realize now that there is also a gift in me in need of responsible shepherding (it’s the same for every person). And it was this very realization that my late father, who passed away in July—ending the season mentioned above—knew, looking on. All the discipline he put in my way growing up was an effective roadblock seeing the gift in me be either snuffed out or used incorrectly (i.e. for something other than the glory of God). To where a weed would take root and then seeing said weed turn into a jungle—a “tangled forest of bad decisions”, as it were. So when I read the fourteenth verse from the chapter of John and feel in my heart and mind that it’s God speaking to me in such a way as to inform me that were I to go back to living the way I had been as a kid—even though, get this, even though I had thoroughly grown up from that childish way of thinking and living—then something worse would befall me. Something worse than watching my parents’ marriage dissolve and then my father’s will to go on do the same and then watching as his body slowly follows suit up until his death—while I am left in many ways a child, picking up pieces that shouldn’t be carried by anyone, let alone someone whose mother isn’t around to salve the wound(s). All this cascade came crashing down on me as I read the verse and then stopped reading. It “stuck in my craw” but, like, times ten. Again, this isn’t the God I know. I am concatenating incorrectly. I am drawing conclusions and making connections where I shouldn’t.

“I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints: but let them not turn again to folly.” (Psalm 85:8)

There’s the same idea expressed in the Psalms. Though I like the way The Message words it:

“I can’t wait to hear what He’ll say. God’s about to pronounce His people well, The holy people He loves so much, so they’ll never again live like fools.”

Whether in the body or out of the body

Notice how with a simple conjunction (“so”) it connects the forthcoming blessings and beauty that God promises to those who walk in His ways with what looks to be a closing of the door to the former ways of foolishness and wrongheadedness. I like that. And whether it’s the same exact idea as expressed by the Sons of Korah, or not, I couldn’t tell you; I didn’t rewind it back to the original Hebrew for myself. But moving forward, it flows with the ways of God: ever encouraging and without a hint of fearmongering. This is the God I know. Now read with me in the fifth chapter of John. Jesus comes to the pool of Bethesda and offers to heal a man who for thirty-eight years could never make it down to the water in order to receive the healing the angel had been providing on a regular basis. Jesus asks him, “Wilt thou be made whole?” The man answers with an excuse, essentially, to which Jesus simply tells him to get up and go. What’s amazing, going forward, is that when the Pharisees later interrogate the man as to who would have healed him on the Sabbath day (*gasp*) the man couldn’t even say who did it. This is remarkable to me because it shows an individual receiving a miracle from the hand of the Lord who doesn’t know Him. Perhaps this is why Jesus gave him the ultimatum he did? Who knows. The rest of the chapter turns into a diatribe on the part of Jesus against the hypocrisy and evil of the Pharisees and their complete lack of understanding of the scriptures from Moses till then. Jesus makes some incredibly powerful declarations as to how He and the Father work in conjunction (see 5:19-23). He then sews up the latter part of chapter five with what could be distilled and expressed as a pithy lesson in fielding other people’s attention. Jesus tells them in verse 41: “I receive not honour from men.”

I cannot tell, God knoweth

It’s funny how God brings things around in His time and in His way. The reason I bring up Concatenatius in part one is because he struggled through a lot of the same issues that I face on a regular basis. In spite of being a fictional character from my imagination (yes, sorry), I would have to say that neither he nor I are the only people who hear from God and then take what He said and run with it to God-knows-where. And if you read the first part of this post, you know that it was the Lord who led me to the fifth chapter of John. Because this was something that I struggled with as I always endeavor to have purity of mind, not just from sin and what-have-you. But from lies and false assumptions and confusion. With the way I’m made up, I cannot function in a sea of confusion.

It’s interesting—and more than just a little bit of a broad allusion—but when chapter five ends, we find this statement (John 6:1-2a):

“After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed Him…”

That’s the thing about the forthcoming season. It looks to be busy, that’s all I can say.

Concatenating Correctly

Concatenatius was a 12th century Montenegrin philosopher. Born Andro Mihajilo, he showed an intense innate curiosity and it’s the one thing that drove him to draw connections and inferences in the most radical and unconventional ways. Growing up, he was rumored to see the pale pink blossoms of the wild pea plant and work out the Genetics. While his thesis on that subject is lost to time (and Mendel is credited with with the discovery of the science of genetics) he never seemed bothered with his lack of notoriety in whatever subject revealed itself through his “science of connection and inference”. One cold, clear Winter night, he laid under the stars and saw how each burned brightly and stood out “like diamonds on velvet” and intuited the molecules (assuming there were any) in the exosphere would be heated with the sun while the air around would be freezing. His hypothesis would prove true as science eventually caught up. But it was his training in philosophy coupled with the aforementioned drive that he felt was his greatest strength. He was known for answering statements that pointed to the incredulity of his reasonings with “Don’t you know anything?” So often did he utter this pointed expression of disdain at his fellow philosophers that he became somewhat of a recluse in middle age as a result.

The year after his watershed conclusion on molecules he had what he thereafter referred to as “The Rainbow Connection”. It came at a time when he felt he had exhausted what details in his surroundings (he was bedridden in his early forties for the greater part of six months with an acute case of malapropia) showed him what was and is and was to come. On August 15th, 1117, Mihajilo saw “through the membrane”. It could be argued that he was in a state of delirium but he knew. Again, the fact that he had exhausted what his senses revealed to him coupled with the temporary failure of his body and the closing of his mind led him to seek the Lord. The same Lord, he said, that he had been feeling—and drawing him—throughout his life. It was after this event that all the words made sense (“they gelled”) and the colors, he said, held a deeper hue—hence the reference to the rainbow. One thing, however, that he continued to struggle with was the inherent truth to some of the associations he continued to draw. Montaigne is said to have taken his “Que sais-je? (lit. “What do I know?”) catchphrase from the works and life of Mihajilo.

Canonized when he was only forty-nine years of age (a singular event in the history of the Catholic church), he sought to explain the link in everything back to God. A main theme of his later writings was, after the Connection, not the unraveling of his former philosophical concerns and postulations, but a fuller understanding of what his innate gift showed him prior to meeting God. He held as a banner the scripture from the psalms (Psalm 119:96): “I have seen an end of all perfection: but Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” He continued asking and seeking and connecting up till his early death at age 65.