Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kyrie Eleison

I heard a quote from Billy Graham recently. He told of a time when he was in the hospital very sick, and in his estimation, close to death. He said that he saw his whole life flash before his eyes and in an instant he cried out to God. Calling to the Father he did not claim confidence in his life and tell God that he had been a good preacher and a committed evangelist. No, he said that he was a sinner and that he was still in need of forgiveness, still in need of the cross.

"I am still a man in need of a savior!" I find myself thinking those words more and more often. The declaration has not grown dull over time, having been made empty my the repetition. Instead I find myself unable to come to grips with just how true it is. "Does not God grow weary of me?" The question rings in my skull and I must confess that even now I think that it is true that the Father has good reason for being angry with me. And so I do what I can to earn my way back into hope, trying to make myself feel repentant for my sin. But I know that I will be wandering off before the day closes. The truth is, that I love my sin...and I love the Lord so very little. What I do to mortify the flesh, I do out of fear and guilt, not out of love for the one who loved me first. I am a wretch...and more wretched because even though I know that I am a wretch, I still drink my daily cup of pride and put off repentance for a later day. I have seared my conscience and lost my ability to weep over my sin, except for out of fear or shame.

And yet I still hear the invitation ring out from Calvary. I hear the melody in drops of blood beckoning me to bring even  what I am now to the cross. I still turn from such music and say "but it will be insincere, hollow, forced, and out of fear. I will let you down, I will end up right back where I was. I love my sin!" And in return I can still hear him calling out to me, "Child...bring all of that as well".

 O how I am still a man in need of the cross! Lord how I cannot, and want not, to sing with my heart "kyrie eleison". And there at the foot of that old rugged tree I hear him whispering "then I will sing it for you..." And even now the music pours out from the very wounds that I have inflicted, and the song in drops of blood cries out to the Father. The voice that beckons me, sings for me.

Now I find myself weeping. I find myself wanting to weep. And I find myself hoping that I will never stop.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


There is great comfort in knowing that one is not alone in his or her trial. To know that, somewhere, somtime, there was another person who has walked the path you now walk, can be a balm to the depths of the heart. But what happens when we face those mountains that, to the best of our knowledge, have never been crossed. I think that it is there that as a Christian I feel stuck. I am desperate to feel normal, to rejoin the land of the of the "simple walking". I am afraid that I have streched my mind much farther than my faith can hold, and although I am would not call this swamp I now find myself a faith crisis, I would gladly call it a faith sucking vacume.

I long to simply believe again. To be a child in the arms of God agian, is at once my greatest hope and yet a terrible fear. I have spent so long learning about God so that I could teach others, or in order that I may wage a war of words against the skeptic. Yet now I find that I myself am terribly confused and I cannot seem to be able to tell the difference between what I truly believe and that which I want to believe. I want to believe that God is good and that God loves me, and yet oddly enough I find myself unnable to think of what those things really mean. Jargon, it all has muddled down to jargon , like when you say a word so much that it loses its meaning.

I long for what I want, and yet I fear that what I want is not true, and this for no othere reason than because i want it. I want God to be good, and I want God to love me and I want those things to be true in the simple way that I seem to remember.

What it means to follow God is not as simple or as complex as one might think. No, it is more confusing, more grey, and more quiet; very much like the way the world really is. It almost makes sense.

I hope Jesus will hold on to me as it all almost makes sense, for it seems that my faith has rested upon that condition, that things make sense. And so my faith is failing. Yet I hope, and I long to hope.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

To Know Your in the Now

For the Christian the present is the loneliest and most difficult moment to understand. In the past we look upon the great acts of God, and we catch the glimpses of a sovereign plan played out on the passing of history. We look back and we see waters parting, angels speaking and swords flashing; all the drama and power that would be expected of a world in which the eternal Deity acts.
Look towards the future and we find the end of the story. There up ahead lays the satisfaction of all our dreams and the wiping of every tear. Around the bend we catch the echoes of trumpets, the homecoming of all the saints, and the faces of all those whom we have ever loved. One day, all the incoherence of life will be threaded back into the tapestry as one delightful surprise as we see Him with our own eyes.
But the now, the here and now, is quiet and seemingly void of Him who seems so clear in the then and in the later. The monotony of every day carries on and death silently grinds at all our bones. There are no voices from heaven, no battle fields on which the swords of angels cut through wicked men. In the now we as Christians drink in the incoherence of death as those in whom eternal life dwells. In the now, there are no trumpets on heavenly lips to be heard announcing the reign of our King. We live on the silent planet where every man fancies himself a ruler. So how do we as Christians live in the now, what is the answer to this aching question. I don’t know…but I wish I did. The only answer I dare to strain at is not a nice one, but perhaps it is the one I need to hear.
The past and the future require nothing of us. What was…was, and in spite of all our planning, what will be, will in the end… be. But the now requires of us obedience. In the now the Christian finds himself longing for the story that is so clearly seen in the past and in the future, while forgetting all along that the story is unfolding moment by moment. We long to see God as those did then and those who will later. But I think we forget that we are not mere spectators. Why does God seem so quiet now, so far off and unwilling to act? I don’t quite know and it makes me angry that I don’t know.
But I think that somewhere inside me there is this whisper that convicts me of some kind of an answer. For the Christian to know God in the now, it means obedience. Unlike the past and the future I cannot know God in the now as a spectator, but as a slave who would be called a son. Perhaps the Christian is to know God in the now by the dying of self in the every day. How exactly? My mother’s words come to mind. Trust and obey. This is to me an entirely unsatisfactory answer and does not seem to soothe the aching of my soul. But what does it matter, if it is the truth. That being the case, I suppose I will leave the soothing of my heart to Him, and find solace in the fact that the truth that I am to bow to, is also the person that I long to know…here in the now.
For me to live is Christ, to die is gain….

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Bearded Head on Liberty's Pike

I was just heading out the door from work when one of the people I worked with chuckled and then showed me an image on his cell-phone. It was a rendition of Osama Bin Laden's head impaled on the torch of the statue of liberty. The whole scene was subtly bizarre seeing as I am a Christian, the person who showed me the picture was a Christian and we both knew it. I had been listening on the radio about the mixed feeling that have come about due to the assassination of Bin Laden, but it didn't really hit me until I was faced with this event that was a microcosm in my experience of a greater experience that perhaps the whole world is going through, and in particular, the United States. But to hone the point to a sharper edge, one could ask how is an American Christian suppose to respond to this even in history?  Am I at liberty to celebrate the death of an enemy, in particular, the death of an enemy that stands as the responsible head for the destruction and calamity that struck the nation which I love, do I allow myself some kind of nationalistic, patriotic glee? Or am I to respond with the remorse of an individual who knows that death is not the end, and that for this man now dead, an eternity of hell may now await him? Do I delight in justice or mourn a life that has been blotted out without knowing Jesus? So there is this tension in my chest between the two.

However I do not think that the questions above are fair. It is here where I think we fail to distinguish people from the ideas that they may stand for. For every person, there is a duality in this world. We live in a world that suffers from hunger and yet, very differently, we also live in a world where people suffer because they are hungry. World hunger is a problem, but over time the very idea of world hunger becomes a thing in itself, disconnected from the lean faces that are starving. Human kind has this radical tendency to think and consider things as concepts and ideas, while allowing the reality behind those ideas to fade into the monotonous particulars. While there are many who would stand against world hunger, there are very few who actually take the time and the personal investment and risk to actually go out and feed those who are hungry. To sit among the destitute and the dirty, to share a meal with those who are withering, is to come very close to a dark reality that we would much rather forget. How can immense resorts dripping with luxury and indulgence stand in countries where there are so many that have nothing? How can certain celebrities waste away their wealth on narcotics and spurious glitz when in that very same city there are those who dig through trash for a gulp on milk? Because hunger as an idea can be dealt with by monthly donations, but the hungry can only be fed by those who would feed them.

This I think is the difficulty with Osama's death. His face and name have become synonymous with the idea of terror, his very identity has been wrapped up in the idea of cruelty and violence, and this justly so. Can we celebrate the demise of such a symbol that represented the violence that shook this country to its core? I believe we can. But are we then at liberty to become dull to the fact that this man was once a child in his mothers arms, and rocked to sleep as she dreamed of all he might be? I do not think that as Christians we are allowed this forgetfulness. Do I personally feel that justice has accomplished its task, yes, but I also believe that justice is a weight that has every right to crush my head as well. I am no less deserving of judgment than Osama was, I stand in mercy because of grace. Did Osama have the same offer of that grace as I have? Yes.

Osama Bin Laden full name actually means "Osama son of Mohammed. son of Avad, son of Laden" It is a genealogy in a name. His own name calls attention to he fact that he was a son, and his own name calls attention to his own father. His own name declares an identity that connects to his father. If only this man had known another man who claimed to be one with His father, and if only Bin Laden had believed that this other man offered all peoples a new name that would declare that we could become sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father. The name Osama actually comes from the word lion, and although I can find joy in justice, I do also believe that our Heavenly father weeps that this lion would not submit to the lamb who was slain so that the lion would not have had to be slain.

If I am the son of my father, if we Christians are not the sons and daughters of our father, are we not able to rejoice in justice, but also weep as our father weeps when any person is lost. Is not the cross clear in that it proclaims that we all deserve death, and yet we may all be made sons and daughters.

I feel the tension in my chest as many in the country do, and I am glad of it. I believe that this tension is there because I am the son of my father.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Personality of Pain

I must admit that I am one of the very few, and very disturbed people, who do not feel that pinch of pain upon my faith. The reality of suffering in the world does not, for the most part, encroach upon me so as to snuff out my confidence in God. But lets get something straight, this is not because I am in some way superior, no, it is because of the fact that I am unmitigatedly selfish. The suffering of the world does not bare down on my back, no, I am too busy with concern for my own suffering, and when I am not suffering, then pain is not a factor in my life. I have to admit this vice in my own nature, for selfishness is a vice. It is as addicting and gripping as any drug, and yet so much more subtle. I drink of selfishness as one drinks of air. No needle is necessary, and oh wouldn't be great if it were. Then at least I would notice my own intoxication.

However there are other reasons why pain is not an arrow to my hope. At least, that is to say, pain on the collective level of humanity, is no challenge for my belief.

The first reason is that collective suffering has been rendered rather innocuous by my childhood. I grew up as a missionary to third world country. Through out each and every day I was exposed to the harsh realities of the worlds condition. I have seen in my tender years what others have suffered in their tender years, and the shear trauma of the vision is blunted for me. The shock is gone. As I grew up I could take steps in any direction and be at a moments notice within inches of the wretched, the weary and the broken. "They" who ever "they" were, were just a fact of third world countries. The poor, the old, the hungry, "they" were all common in my eyes. I did not feel, as some do, pity for the world because they did not live as "Americans" live, in comfort and unblemished security. Rather, I felt thankful that "I" as an American had been spared from the common condition of the rest of the world. I was not the normal that all others should be made alike, in my security and opportunity, all the rest were the normal and I was for some reason gifted with the blessing and responsibility of being rescued out of the normal to be set somewhere else. I spent little time agonizing over the condition of the masses, and in all honesty, I still spend little time doing so. I can watch the most tragic of advertisements about Haiti and feel little to nothing at all.

But before I am marked as heartless, let me explain. It is utterly true that I, in my childhood and even now, am moved little by the collective pain of humanity, however, it is also true that I am greatly disturbed by the agony of people. I confess, the masses have never moved my soul, and in my little years I was very little bothered by the site of numerous card board shacks, but do remember the faces of those who lived in those shacks, and of all those faces I still think, to this day, about the people I knew personally. I remember the kids that I played with, and the kids that ate with. I remember crying for a man I did not even know, but a man i had met and given food to myself. But I don't just think about those persons of my past. I think of a good friend of mine who struggling through cancer, whose husband is one the kindest gentle men on the planet. I think of my mother, and the life she has had, and the pain she has known in her body and her mind.

This all well and fine you say, that I care about people I know. But its not just that. Give me a face and I will care. There have been times when all I know about someone is their story and their name, and their broken hopes send shots of aching through my bones. What I am trying to say?

I care very little for "world hunger" or for "cancer" or for "world poverty" and I care even less about "world suffering" Let me see the faces of those who are hungry, let me know the name of the person with cancer, and let me see he tears of that person who is suffering. The truth is, there is no such thing as the collective agony of humanity. I do not feel another persons pain, and I cannot feel "world hunger". The only pain that any individual can go threw is the pain he or she can go through. There is no collective pain that one human can suffer for others. I do not know what world hunger is or how it feels, i only knows what it means to be hungry. As one person, I can only know the personality of my own pain, and as much as I attempt to empathize with others, I cannot know what they endure as they know it.

If this good friend of mine were to die and leave her husband alone, my faith would be shaken, and I am not quite sure what I would do to resolve my own questions. If my own wife were to die, I do not know if my faith would stand the blow. But I feel nothing towards cancer or death as a whole, I cannot feel what all people that have gone through cancer have felt. There is not "suffering" out there in the world, there is no "hunger". There are only those who are suffering and those who are hungry. To simply slip them into the congealed label of "evil" or "pain" is to ignore their very personhood, their very dignity and value.

This ultimately means that the only way to understand the suffering in the world, is to bear the incredible weight of allowing every instance of suffering to be understood through an "I" "you" relationship with every person in this world that has suffered, or is suffering, or will suffer. Anything else is a mockery. To  coagulate all the tears of every weeping soul into oceans of sadness means absolutely nothing. But to walk from soul to soul and wipe each tear with a tender hand, and look into every face with mercy, means everything. To measure buckets of blood is a futile procedure, an exercise in inhumanity. As if the  blood itself, in its quantity, could stand for anything but filth and rot. But to know the pain of every man woman and child individually and personally, as they bled each drop, is an incomprehensible burden that tests the measure of love. To speak of the pain of humanity is to say nothing at all, it is mere rhetoric, but to hold all the pieces of every shattered heart in one grasp, and yet never confuse the puzzle, never mistake what pieces belong to which heart even if the pieces be nothing but dust, is love itself. This is the cross.

This is what the very cross of Christ truly is. Jesus did not just die for the world, He died for you and for me. Jesus did not just suffer on the account of humanity as a collective, but all the sins and all the consequences of sin, suffering, pain, and the like, were placed upon His back, not as one coagulated mass, but as the individual lives of every person that ever lived, that live, and that ever will live. Jesus did that which we could not understand, not just in the atonement, but that God Himself did not spare Himself from all the aching of His world, and neither did He do what we can do in dying for causes. No, Jesus tasted of every single cup of suffering that could every be sipped, not as some whole, but as every single person has ever drank themselves. Jesus drank sip by sip of all the pain that has ever been tasted. He looked out upon all times and said "I die for you, and you, and you, and you, and you," etc. It is true that there is no such thing as the collective suffering as man kind, but it is also true that Jesus personally entered into the pain of every person that might ever suffer. On the cross we see one single individual who suffered, but this suffering also represented what was in the heart of the Father, in that an infinite God is fully capable of feeling the individual agony of every individual, even though there be billions of them.

And the promise still stands that one day God himself will do exactly what we cannot. He will individually wipe every single tear from every eye, not as whole, or as one collective act, but as a personal expression of intimate love, one face, and one tear at a time.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Happiness on a Knifes's Edge

There is this power in crisis. When everything is going wrong is when I seem to think the clearest. Give me disaster and I know exactly what to do. But for god's sake dont give me the monotony of everyday in which I may find the joy of drinking in the simple routines of life. I am utterly lost in the calm after the storm, so give me the rain and give me the ominous grey of an angry sky. I suppose that I am at home in tradgedy, and I create nothing but tradgedy when I am home. Not that being home is a tradgedy for me. No, I long to be home, I was just never very good and knowing what to do once I got there because I hadn't been there in so long.

Mothers are always smarter than we sons think they are, an abismal understatment I know. It was my mother who first noticed the addiction in me, my dependancy on chaos. She spotted it from miles away, over pizza and lemonade. What is it about women and the way they see the world as it truly is, before they realize that it would be much worse without them? Then when a woman comes to that place of pride and "femminism" knowing that the world would be worse off without them, they seem to loose that second sight. (but now I am wondering off in thought)

There is a certain satisfaction that comes in feeling as though one is doing something that he or she doesnt really have to, a kind of inner praise that fuels the irony of "sacrifitial" ambition. It is the same fuel that drives us to that point of duplicity where we are oddly proud of our humility and are able to point at ourselves and smile. I suppose any fool could do what is impossible if he gets enough praise and drinks in enough admiration. But what does it take to do the generic, the easy and the unnoticed?

I remember a gentleman who knows me, and yet I cannot say that I know anything more of him other than his particular inflection of voice when he would get up infront of the church when I was a child. I remember him reading from a small reddish book of sorts, words that I dont think I will ever forget. For those words are embodied by two other men in my church that diserve their crowns, and yet I know that they will be the first to cast them aside. These are the words:

-It takes the simple strength of man to conquer adversity and rise to heroics in the midst of tradgedy and turmoil. It requires no great power to be remembered, only human ambition.

But it takes the supernatural power of the Living God to live day in and day out in the monotony and drudgery of quiet mornings that turn into quiet evennings. To live such a life as Christ, in all holiness, quiet victory and faithfulness, while knowing all the while that no on will remember, is beyond all flesh. For this, only the power, promises, and faithfulness of God will do. To live a life of death, requires the life that has conquered death. -

There is no better description of what now lays before me. There is no better description of what it means to be a husband.

There is no better description of....what it means to follow

Monday, January 24, 2011

Love and Marriage

An author once pondered the idea that perhapse marriage was not a means by which we found happines, but a grace of God in which we are made holy. This is in fact more true than I am prepared to be comfortable with. I want my happiness, and I demand my right to attain what I imagine to be the real thing. I want, in some way, a marrige that gives me a world in which I am truly belong and in which I am truly happy, not only with my surroundings, but truly happy with myself. I want a life that has lingered in the eye of my imagination for perhapse too long, almost like the feeling you get when staring out at sea. There in the endless waves, all is clear and wide. The horizon is not brokean by anything, and what lay beyond that horizon is a matter of dreaming. Somewhere out there perhapse there is a better place, a place where I can escape myself and find who I was truly meant to be. The sound of the breaking waves and the cool air on your brow bring such a beautiful longing that it could break your heart to let that longing fully take you.

I find it to be true of marriage that we all look out to the horizon of time and hope in the same way. That perhapse out there somewhere, is a marraige or dream of a marriage that would truly satisfy that longing. Perhapse the dream is real and I have missed it. I have missed the chance, the last boat, to take me away from myself and fall in love with someone who would really make me happy, and make me better. And there are some who break their ties to their first love and venture out upon the waves, and there are those who secretly live another life, as one person in one life and another person in another life. And then there are others who give up and succumb to the erosion of time and dissapointment, slowly loosing all they think they have left.

And yet there are those that come to the place where they know not what to do, and they hurt because of they know not what. There are those who stand at the shore and drink in the sight with their eyes and then turn and head for home, not knowing exactly why. Some are entrenched in stubborness and some are strapped in habbit while others are caged by fear. But there others who are stuck in all the above and yet are compelled by something else to rebel against their stubborness and fight against their habbit and push against their fears, while still walking home.

These are the walking dead. But they shall live again, and live to see the sea in their first's love silver eyes.