A Shot in the Dark

I’m sitting in a little coffeeshop (called “Main Street Bistro and Coffee”) in downtown Silverton. There’s a blinking traffic signal off to my left. It’s not swaying in the breeze but it may as well be. I sip my “shot in the dark”—so-named as it’s a shot of espresso in a cup of brewed, black coffee—and listen to Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be”, featuring the same expression in the lyric. It’s all coming together. The coffee shop takes up the first two floors on the corner of the Wolf Building on E. Main and N. Water St.

I was given the last week of February off from work. I had forgotten I had the time but as my boss is decent, she made sure I didn’t lose something that was rightfully mine. I wonder, had I not been given the time off, how I would have been able to hold up under the slow landslide of homework that marks the end of the semester. But I got the time and so I was able to give my assignments their due and then think about and plan a mini vacation.

So I drove up to Portland and stayed the night at a hostel on SE Hawthorne. It’s amazing how a couple hundred miles removed (as opposed to the “thousand” spoken of in the aforementioned song) from one’s “comfort” zone serves to “switch up the batteries”, if recharge the ones that lay dormant in my heart and mind. The hostel felt the same and so did the neighborhoods through which I ran this morning after I got up. Downtown Portland yields itself up after a brief stroll here and there: gray. But it’s a good gray. And thank God it wasn’t raining like it was yesterday when I arrived. I took a stroll then as well and got soaked to my socks. My shoes are still drying out. I was effectively cleansed from the grit and grim of the quotidian and the mundane that silted up in my soul while in Medford.

I subscribe to Multiverse Theory, but not in the way you might think. There’s such a thing as “distance” and then something altogether different called “time”. Though in the case of the latter, the difference from the former is a metaphorical one. Here’s the thing: both distance and time are covered through movement. And if one spends the necessary time to get where they’re supposed to be with reference to activities and responsibilities (like in the case of my homework), then they’ll get to a place where time will still flow the sixty seconds to a minute and sixty minutes to an hour. But alongside this, another dimension will open up of possibility and potential. All the beautiful things that lay dormant in your heart and mind will begin to unfold like the moist wings of a butterfly emerging from the cocoon. Let them stretch in those minutes and hours. You don’t necessarily have to be removed geographically but take that time and make it work for you now. Everything else that you temporarily leave behind will be waiting for you, don’t worry about that. But give it up for a few moments and give yourself time and space to breathe. Try it. It’s a shot in the dark but trust me, it sounds great.

It’s also delicious.

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Lionizing Jesus

To lionize someone means that you treat them other than what they really are. Humanly speaking, it means that you see them in an unnatural light and maybe perhaps think they’re more than human, more than down-to-earth and approachable.

Halo effect

“When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, He departed again into a mountain himself alone.” (John 6:15)

Reading through the testaments, one gets this idea that the children of Israel wanted nothing more than a physical representation of that which God the Father promised to them in eons past: namely, that of a king, on a throne, dispensing judgment and edicts, etc. But, true to form, God did things different than expected. He sent His Son to be born in obscurity and grow up among the hoi polloi (yes) and, after that incident in the temple with reference to that long-forgotten prophecy in Isaiah (see Luke 4:21, Isaiah 42 respectively), Jesus is on the scene. He’s the Messiah and all of humanity is left to deal with it the only way they know how. Thank God He sent the Holy Spirit to truly discern the nature of Christ and what it means to approach Him on His terms (see the passage at the bottom of the page).

“The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am He.” (John 4:25)

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the knowledge of just who Jesus is with reference to history and humanity seemed to come to a select few—those whose hearts were ready to hear it. The woman at the well referenced above was eminently set in her ways and yet with a simple realigning of her priorities (and a little bit of sin-conviction), she was lit from within and ended up going out and evangelizing a city that most likely would not have heard the Gospel till God-knows-when (they were Samaritans and they didn’t mix with the Jews; racial tensions, you understand). But think about it: The children of Israel were promised many times—if they had read the scriptures (see Psalm 132:11, Isaiah 7:14, et al.)—that God would send a Savior, a Messiah. And here you have the man himself walking “through Samaria” (John 4:4b) and looking into the eyes of one individual (of many), telling her that He is that One. How then is this example different than the one from the sixth chapter of John above? The rabble, gripped with a mob mentality that looks to hoist Jesus high on their shoulders in order to take him somewhere and make him something other than what the Father had in mind when He sent him, is the wrong response. I can imagine the ignition, the pilot light that started in the eyes of the woman from Samaria when Christ leaned in and whispered those words. Evidently she didn’t see him as anything special before that.

There are several prophecies in Isaiah that describe a multi-faceted individual. Someone altogether human and yet concerned with one thing. The forty-second chapter, second verse says “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.” This means that doesn’t have to do what normally a person seeking an audience would be inclined to do. Yes, he had an entourage of twelve disciples but that was only because he was a teacher and it was tradition to find students and teach them. All throughout his time walking the streets of Israel, he was affecting the change talked about back in the prophecies of Isaiah. Another one from that book (53:1b-2) says “To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” In other words, there’s nothing about the outward appearance to Christ that suggests a knight in shining armor or an individual who has an unfounded messiah complex. He’s simply here to do what he was sent to do. It took a widescale realigning of the human experience by those who knew Him to understand, to apprehend the enormity of his person as he went about his day, doing things that were totally ordinary. He asks Philip (one of the twelve) “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?” (John 14:9) It takes time to have the light of God diffuse into us to where we see Christ for who he is while we’re here and as we are.

Help is on the way

Here’s the thing about Christ: He’s amazing. He’s the Man. There is a gravitas to His person that keeps one from being flippant and glib in His presence. But this isn’t to say that He inspires a mindless hero-worship bereft of our faculties. To see Him in what light one is accustomed brings a peace and a beauty that nothing else in this world is able to substitute. And He loves you. Don’t be fooled: He is the “Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David” (Revelation 5:5) and due all the worship one is able to wring out of their person. But He’s also a friend. He’ll help you see Him for who He really is.

“These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:25-27)

The Other Side of the Coin

“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:8)

I have a somewhat cavalier and nonchalant attitude when it comes to money and finances. Don’t get me wrong, I save and I budget (maybe a little) and give and spend wisely. But when it comes to “squeez[ing] every last drop” (to quote Prince John from Robin Hood) of usage out of my money, I sort-of, uh, turn off. Blame it on the fact that I am predisposed to live in the moment and you might understand that, while I know I have a future, I’m not overly concerned with “making it in this world”. But before I go any further and lest you think I don’t “get it”, let me quote Jesus here (Luke 16:9):

“And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”

Almost sounds scandalous doesn’t it? Here, Jesus is talking about dealing wisely with reference to money and finance and capital and whatnot. I suppose the gentleman (Jesus; I was gonna say “guy”, but that sounded a shade disrespectful) who can tell Peter to go drop a line and pull up, not just dinner, but both of their taxes as well, needn’t worry about such things (see Matthew 17:23-27). Think about how He calls it “the mammon of unrighteousness”. The context of the verse quoted doesn’t really flesh out the idea of our failing as an inevitability (“when ye fail”). It’s the unique individual in this world who isn’t under some sort of financial auspice or in the employ of a person “signing the check”. Yes, the man in the parable “had done wisely” (16:8) but there are all sorts of unwise things that we do with money—things that don’t play into the future the Father wants to give us—when we know deep down that there are other, better ways to spend and to save. That being said, here’s the next verse in the parable (Luke 16:10):

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”

Quick question: Does that have to refer only to money? What about time and patience and joy and a thousand other beautiful intangibles we have flowing out our ears because our God is just so generous? If you tithe regularly but look the other way when passing a person who might need a smile, what does that mean? I think often of Paul’s response to the chief captain’s declaration of “With a great sum obtained I this freedom” (referring, of course to citizenship in the Roman Empire). Paul says: “But I was free born.” In other words, Paul did nothing but emerge from the womb in order to be at the same privileged level for which the chief captain had to give God-knows-how-much (probably a lot) in order to procure. By the same token, I did nothing to get the look in my eyes and the smile on my face—two of the things that God uses to bless others. These things are of inestimable value. They’re also the very things that glaze over and become gray, dry and ineffectual when once we get our focus too far out on things like money and status. Seriously, don’t lose the light in your eyes.

“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

Paul went one further and informed the world that, while love may make the world go ‘round, if one, uh, invests that love in money, said person gets pulled down to the center of the earth by way of some evil gravity (I’m not kidding). Referring again to what Jesus said about “Mak[ing] to [ourselves] friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, depending on what phrase you heard first growing up, you might not get what He said. Jesus isn’t saying to “love money”, He’s saying that it needs to be respected for the tool it is.

“Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:5)

What about memories? Even if I make a costly mistake, I get the privilege of living through it and watching it work together for my good (Romans 8:28). Not only do I get a story to tell, but I also gain a window on the inner workings of a system I’d not get to experience otherwise. The truth is, we don’t know where all the money’s going (see Psalm 39:6). Even that bottom layer of our bank account that we don’t have to touch because payday rolls around sooner than later is like some sort of miraculous dimension wherein God can work miracles in the lives of those less fortunate. Think about it. I’m not telling you what to do with your finances: just be wise.

“Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)