Revel In the Details

“In all thy ways acknowledge Him…” (Proverbs 3:6a)

Did you know that’s the antidote to any fear based on circumstances that seek to inundate you? It surely is. Think about what Solomon is saying when he says “in all thy ways”. When I was a kid and my dad would admonish me to live according to this verse, I would get supremely discouraged as I felt it was a literal thing—to be actively engaged in sharing every single sensation I felt with my Heavenly Father. The thing about my dad was that he sought to live it out in that very way though. He would tell me this story of having gone back to school after Winter break. It was during that two weeks off that he met the Lord and so everything going forward had been wiped clean of the past and all was fresh and new. He tells me he has this jacket of indigo blue with red, yellow and green lines running the length of the sleeve (and, I assume the body of the jacket). He remembers looking down at his sleeve seeing individual snowflakes light on the fabric and stand out like intricate diamonds against the dark, multicolored backdrop. And now I have this story. There’s obviously something there because the story fires in my mind when I really screw down my attention to this verse and ponder its truth in light of my avalanche of circumstances. But then there’s the rest of the verse:

“…and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:6b)

The thing about the details of life is that life is made up of millions of tiny details. Details are the stuff of life. Thoughts are about the smallest thing I know, only because they would seem to be symbolic of something else: that synapse firing in your brain (another intangible) that gives rise to whatever thought is in your mind while you read this. I’m reminded of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians wherein he tells us to bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) And it would seem any and every physical detail we elect to focus on to the neglect of the greater whole (seriously, letting go of the big picture at times is a sign, an act of trust) has its own thought. Like a snowflake or a piece of glitter you notice in the carpet. A mote of dust floating through the air. Any pattern on any surface you encounter has exquisite detail if you know how to look. It isn’t even a matter of knowing where. Revel. All around you is this rich, beautiful loam of perception that you (and I) get the gift of experiencing.
 

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Shades of Ghrei

Some say gray is “light black”. Others say it’s “dark white”. I say that gray is not the skin-color you want when you’re born.

Because apparently, that’s the (non) color I was when I came out of my mother’s womb. Of course, I was there. I don’t remember it though. My dad would tell me this story growing up. Living in a suburb of Dallas, I came into the world in 1983. My mother, exhausted from the parturition, looks down and asks him “how is he?” To which he responds, (belying his horror at my lack of “human” coloring) “Oh, he’s fine.” Knowing full well that, without a miracle, I wouldn’t make it. He follows me into the neonatal unit and after I was hooked up to the various and essential equipment, very inauspiciously lays his hand on my leg and says, “be healed in Jesus’ name”. Or something to that effect. The doctors decide then, to take me into Dallas, to a larger hospital, one with a pediatric facility better equipped to help me. On the way there, my mom’s pediatrician sat next to my dad in the car, politely informing him of the benefits of insurance, its necessity, etc. My dad felt like punching him, praying to God that he’d shut up. After arriving and settling in, my dad decides to call the church they were attending, needing prayer. The line was busy. No big deal. He hung up with a heavy heart. Moments passed and he called again. This time, God spoke to his heart and said “I’ve healed your son.” He hung up with his heart at peace. Shortly thereafter, a young doctor emerged from the double-doors of the neonatal unit. She says: “we don’t understand it. You’re son’s out of the woods.” And the rest is history. I find it interesting, without reading too much into it, how my dad would touch my thigh and God would heal me. And when God touched Jacob’s thigh, it crippled him for life. That’s kind of a gray area for me.

“Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” (Jeremiah 8:22)

As an aside, in the comic “Ultimate Iron Man”, Tony Stark, the main character, is born screaming. It’s because he’s hyper-sensitive and has neural-tissue (gray-matter) growing throughout his entire body. His father, Howard, comes into the room and rubs a strange blue liquid all over baby Tony which instantly calms him down. One of the things he does as the story progresses, aside from eventually becoming Iron Man, of course, is learn to shut out the ever-present pain that comes with being so smart. Science-fiction, you so crazy. I know an older couple, very sweet. Apparently, he was born blue and she, with her fiery red hair, was severely jaundiced (yellow). A full spectrum!

I live in the Northwest. It rains, maybe more often than it should, but I don’t mind. When the sky grows overcast and gunmetal gray, anymore, instead of pining for the sun, I feel a welcome insulation. Like a giant comforter has been thrown over the sky. The rain is a welcome side-effect.

“Ghrei-“, however, is the Indo-European root for “Christ”. It essentially means “to rub”. The same root gives rise to “cream” and “grime”. And while the Indo-European root for “Christ” is different than “gray” (“gh(e)r”- “to shine”), I do find a parallel in the two. See, Jesus is the one who healed me (the “Great Physician”), the one who suffered on my behalf so that I even could receive something as impossible as a full healing at birth (the first pediatrician didn’t know if I’d live, if I did, I’d be a “vegetable”). There’s much debate over why God heals some and not others. I look at those who have terminal illnesses and recurring side-effects from illnesses past and I have nothing but love and compassion. Some want it, others are fine without it. And there have been times in my life where I would have preferred that God would have taken me then. “The spirit of a man can sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14) Any contention or clashing over the subject of supernatural healing should be neither here, nor there. I find this to be a strong point of tension amidst the body of Christ and a source of derision from those who aren’t Christian.

I met a man one day who—after I’d told him this story, ending with the caveat I was supposed to die when I was born—told me: “If you were supposed to die, you’d have died.” So, I guess it’s either black or white… The thing is, healing (internal/external) has been made possible by Jesus. Ask Him for it and don’t doubt. You’ll be put through the paces, but your faith will be rewarded.

“But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. (Matthew 9:13)

“Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24, emphasis mine)

Owning Our Worst Enemy

“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” Paul writing to the Romans (12:20). Can’t cite that verse without the next one (vs. 21): “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”

It’s one thing to “turn to him the other [cheek]” as Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel (5:39). Quite another to literally give something to someone to fulfill a need, if they’ve mistreated you. It takes time and effort to acquire the food in the first place. When they see that you’re willing to give what you worked for, with honest heart and pure motive, something happens to them. Don’t look for an outward response though. This all seems like pretty elementary stuff. Simply explained and easier to live out the more you do it. But here’s another way of looking at it.

Have you ever thought about that Romans passage with reference to yourself? Not sure if it’s meant to be conveyed along those lines, but I will say that the hardest person to forgive oftentimes, is us. One of the firmest convictions I have regarding God, is that He always looks upon us with eyes of love. There are all sorts of variables here, such as the whole love/judgment paradox and the fact that some people actively hate Him and continue to do wrong, in spite of professing an aligned moral compass. Work through those. I’m referring, right now, to God’s response to our mistakes. The ones we do that hurt others, however inadvertently. The deeper we get in relation to others, the more chance there is for that fine line to be crossed, and to rub someone the wrong way. I’ve done it before and I always hate it. I tell myself that I could’ve waited. Could’ve prayed more about the fine points of the relationship and not said the thing I did. Here’s what silences those nagging thoughts: Jesus forgives me upon asking. It’s as simple as that. There’s no way that I love myself more than He. But that’s exactly the reason why I hold out and refuse to let it go. I tell myself that I care for and love myself more than Him. And that’s not correct. Forgive yourself as readily as you’re called to forgive others. Overcome evil with good.

As an aside, when Isaiah stood in the presence of God and saw the angel take the live coal from the fire and put it in his mouth, the angel then told him “lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is purged.” (Isaiah 6:6-7) When Paul refers to feeding our enemies, ourselves included, it’s understood that we’ve taken pains to forgive them prior to doing so. Our motive of heart remains pure when we’ve forgiven the offense, in them and in ourselves.

“Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thoud didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread.” (2 Samuel 12:20-21)

David might seem calloused and uncaring. What he’s showing here is radical self-forgiveness after having repented.

There, That Wasn’t So Bad.

Some say (broad term, I know) that the main cause for belief in God—any god–is “fear of death”. And whether any atheist reading agrees or no, in the Christian mind, death is not something that is…really considered anymore. When one is caught up in the great purposes of God, death is neither here, nor there.

“I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32, emphasis mine)

That was Paul speaking. Death can’t be something counted on as an excuse to believe in God, because death would only bring one closer to the God the believer knows and loves so much.

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

But for some Christians, pining for the latter obscures the former. Life isn’t about holding one’s breath until Heaven. After meeting Jesus, life becomes something altogether different. We realize that we didn’t arise out of nothing. We realize that we were put here by God in this time, for His reasons. Oh, He’s more than willing, eager even, to share them with us. And if death still holds court and inspires fear, know that “to be absent from the body” is “to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

“Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” (Philippians 1:24)

A potential byproduct of living as a Christian with no fear of death is this notion that things around us can rot for all we care. This must be an annoyance for those who truly see things falling apart around us and feel helpless to affect positive change. I mean, if Heaven’s real, why worry about Earth? And while this sounds like a logical conclusion, it doesn’t mesh with the exhortation to “labour…that we may be accepted of Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

While death might be inevitable, Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). And appealing to the unsaved on a judgmental basis only, is unwise. “You want to go to Heaven, don’t you?” I would. If I believed in Heaven. But the real fragrance that attracts someone to God is Jesus. Knowing Him, as the “resurrection and the life” is beyond compare. Oh, and He’s also Lord of the dead. Having risen, He acquired a title that He didn’t have before.

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

There’s a common phrase. You hear it bandied about in numerous iterations: “No one knows what happens when we die.” But if you were to take Jesus at His word and “only believe”, then God would show you—for yourself—the answers to any and every question that plagues you. Take Him at His word.

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man” and woman (Hebrews 2:9).

“A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1, emphasis mine)

Because then it’s all over. Who knows if deathbed conversions take. Admittedly, pride being the monster it is seeks to hang on till the very end. Emperor Constantine supposedly converted to Christianity just before dying. Bear in mind though, that he used the symbol of the Cross to conquer and subjugate and acquire territory, without actually believing in Jesus and getting baptized. But it’s not my place to wonder about such things.

Fin.

(however temporarily)

Figures of Speech: Introduction

And so begins a several-post series on the topic of marriage.

I’ve been meaning to write about it for some time and as I am not married—but know what a good marriage isn’t—I feel that I’m in a good position to interject and interlocute my opinions. I hereby place them on the table. Please, feel free to tell me your opinions. Both on what I write and what you think for your own life. If there’s one topic I’d like to start conversation on, it’s this one.

That’s the angle at which I’m looking at it, by the way. Marriage: a study in long term communication. Verbal, physical, emotional, spiritual, etc. Five Love Languages? Personally, I think there’re more.

Making It Happen

So, chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re still here. Take heart! Trust me, you didn’t miss the Rapture. Wasn’t it supposed to happen yesterday? One of the questions I have is, how could Harold Camping find some numerological thread that has no basis in truth and then calculate it out to mean that the Rapture, and/or Second Coming was supposed to happen yesterday? October twenty-first, two-thousand eleven. I don’t mean to be rude, but at what point in his life did he begin to see numerical coincidences as overarching truths? Does this mean I can start reading and relying on my horoscope? The so-called “Bible Code” might be compelling and hard to assail but non-believers tear it apart and laugh in its face. Besides, Jesus didn’t ask us to believe on that, He commanded us to believe on and in Him. At no point in history has an end-of-the-world prediction come true (obviously). And why is everyone in such hurry to leave? Isn’t love supposed to “bear all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7)? Jesus said that no man (or woman) knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). He also said to “occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13). No sense in busying ourselves in futile matters of false prediction. The Old Testament imposed harsh judgment on false prophets.

A better time-marker would be Jesus’ declaration that His Gospel would be preached to everyone before His coming (Matthew 24:14). And maybe that’s happened, I don’t know. God bless the translators who are feverishly working to translate the Bible into all of the world’s languages, but consider this: St. Francis said to “preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words”. Brilliant. I can guarantee you that hasn’t happened. When Christians don’t act any better than the spiritually-dead people they used to be, you can understand why people would want us to leave! Unsalty salt is “good for nothing” (Matthew 5:13). Yet another instance of Christians being made to look bad by one of their own.

Keep your head up. Watch. Hearts and minds take time to change and if we’re looking to escape the world at large without attuning our minds to the frequency of Heaven, we’d feel out of place even if we were raptured in an instant. The answer is: what would God have you do right now? And now? And now? Revelation (19:7) says that “His wife has made herself ready”. This is how. Live with God in the moment and that “moment” will be here before we know it.

One more thing! This is my hundredth post. It couldn’t have happened if I wasn’t here to write it. Thank you so much for reading! More to come…

Open to interpretation? Part 5 Body’s in motion and at rest.

Christians, as one, are the Body of Christ. Many people disagree that God the Father has a body, but I believe He does. And Jesus has a physical body (Luke 24:39). But the Holy Spirit does not. I refer to the Holy Spirit with a male pronoun. Where the King James translates Him as “It[self]” in Romans (8:26), I don’t think it was as precise as it could’ve been. He is truly without gender but that doesn’t mean He’s an “It”; He’s a person, like you and I, in that He’s a Spirit. It’s understandable that it might be difficult to wrap your mind around the concept of a bodiless entity without size and shape and with no means of discerning outside of a humble and believing heart. Jesus said the “world does not see Him” (John 14:17). God will help you, but (within reason) there might be some preconceived notions that need tweaking or shelving. I say “within reason” because by the same logic, anything that we invent by imagination could exist. But were not talking philosophy, we’re talking Christianity.

As Christians are the Body of Christ in a figurative sense, then the Holy Spirit is like the blood that flows within and gives life to every member. Jesus, when speaking of the Holy Spirit, said to His disciples that He (the Holy Spirit) was with them, and shall be in them (again, John 14:17). Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, I don’t think it was possible for those who believed in God to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. But there are exceptions (Daniel, David). When Jesus said that He would be in them, does this refer to the Holy Spirit’s descent at Pentecost? Sure. But what do you think about this: could it be that we receive a portion of the Holy Spirit upon salvation but that we could always have more? David (Old Testament, I know) said that “his cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5) The river is always flowing. (Revelation 22:1)

An interesting event takes place in Acts, chapter 19. Paul is on his way to Ephesus and he comes upon some believers who, it says, hadn’t even heard of the Holy Spirit. After a question and answer session regarding their original baptism, Paul lays his hands on them and baptizes them in the name of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit that was in Paul comes into them. They immediately began speaking in tongues (verse 6).

This story illustrates that there are different ways of receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. By direct contact with another human. Or directly from God, as in chapter 2.

However God chooses, if you’re willing and press on in faith, He will see to it that you get all that is rightfully yours, in Him. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)

I suppose that the reason I feel so passionately about this is because of a particular corollary. It seems that our church is immured—hemmed in, kept down—by the world’s standard of expression and interaction. When society becomes intolerant of any expression of “religion” and seeks to keep it out of the public square, then we as a country will eventually cease to exist. Alexis de Tocqueville (French statesman and novelist), when he toured the country during the 1800s, praised the open expression of religion in our public square. By the same token, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (a Russian author and Nobel prizewinner), touring the country a hundred years later was booed by his Harvard audience for expressing the same sentiment. The church is seen in many circles as powerless and feckless. Jesus said that we’d receive “power” after we received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). There’s a disconnect somewhere and it’s not God’s fault…

“Brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10). When we sideline and ignore the Holy Spirit, how then, as in Mark’s Gospel (16:20), will He be able to “work with us, confirming the Word with signs and wonders following”? (see also Hebrews 2:4) One of those “signs and wonders” is the gift of tongues and interpretations. Pray about it, wrestle with it. Where can we go from here? How can we, as a church body, return to the simplicity and power of our spiritual forbears in Acts? Acknowledge the Holy Spirit. He’s just as much God as Jesus and the Father.

And “forbid not to speak with tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:39)