Category Archives: God stuff

When is a Birthday Worth Celebrating (And is it THIS Year)?

It always has fascinated me just how much celebrations are connected with music. Maybe it’s simply because I’m musically minded. But I do believe there’s deeper symbolism somewhere in there.

In his first volume, “The Raw and the Cooked” (Le Cru et le Cuit), French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss wrote that music is “the only language with the contradictory attributes of being at once intelligible and untranslatable…” Songs are a story, which is something we know inherently. They’re a musical story of us.

Maybe that’s why we often sing songs traditionally without any thought or regard put into what’s being sung. Songs connect us to something deeper than even the lyrics may convey.

Ever been to a birthday party and someone doesn’t sing “happy birthday” with everyone else? It doesn’t even have to be your birthday for it to give you this incensed feeling. Even though if you were to really think about the lyrics of the birthday song, we’re singing nothing of any value. All we’re really conveying in that song is, “Hey you were born today. Hey you were born today. Hey you, specific person I’ll name by name you were born today. Hey you were born today.”

And you might say, “Well…it’s not the lyrics themselves, but the symbolism. It’s not the lyrics themselves, but the sentiment behind the song.” And so if someone is at a birthday party and REFUSES to join in singing “Happy Birthday” with everyone, we ask ourselves “then what are they even doing here at the party??” Because we correlate their lack of singing as a statement on their part that whomever’s birthday it is isn’t worth celebrating. So why are they even at a party focused on that individual?
I don’t know. This is just a hypothetical.
MAYBE they’re there not for the birthday, but for the rest of you. Who knows.

It IS weird to me though, how we just mechanistically we DO these customs and traditions without even thinking about them.
Or how often we sing songs because of “tradition” without really considering the lyrics we’re singing. But isn’t that…KIND OF what so much of our lives have become? How many (metaphorical) songs do we find ourselves “singing” without even once stopping to consider (or in some cases, reevaluate) the lyrics we’re singing?

…All Show, No Substance…

When you’re out at a restaurant and “Happy Birthday” is sung at another table, do you join in singing? Or do you refrain because you don’t know the person? What if the party is incensed because of your refusal to join in song?
Would it be ridiculous for that part to say to you, “Well if you’re not going to sing and participate in celebrating this individual, why are you even AT this restaurant?”

What makes someone worth YOUR singing about?
What makes someone worth YOU celebrating?

“Please stand for OUR National Anthem”


The song’s about a Spanish guy!

Not really.
The song is about a flag.
It’s honoring a piece of cloth.
Glorifying fabric.
Worshiping a glorified bed sheet, or board shorts, or tank top, or a pair of crocs.

But no…because it’s not about the lyrics, but about the symbolism and sentiment behind WHY you stand and sing it. You’re not celebrating the flag, you’re celebrating “the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It’s not the words, it’s what’s behind them.

“The land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Interesting description.

It’s not about the lyrics, but the meaning behind it. We’re not celebrating the flag, we’re celebrating freedom and bravery.
Whose?

Are we free? Are we brave?
Well..it’s the HOME of those that are. Okay, how many? And how many does it take to make the whole land be known as the “home of”?

What makes it the land of the free? What makes it the home of the brave?
Citizenship?
Is it “The land of the Free American Citizens,” “Home of American Citizens who are brave?”

What’s it take to COME to this “land” and make it “home”? What agency? Autonomy? …Freedom?
…What bravery?

Does THAT still count?

There’s a document we tend to honor and celebrate, kind of like a birth certificate. That says things like “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Who does that apply to? JUST American Citizens? Or was this supposed to be the country where you CAME TO in that pursuit?
Do these rights REALLY apply to ALL, or does “all” simply mean American Nationals…CITIZENS?

…All Show, No Substance…

Another song we love hearing a good rendition of on particular celebrations?
America the Beautiful.” (LINK TO LYRICS) Ohhh. SO Good!

Now there’s a lot to unpack in this song as well, but the question is still the same: What are we singing about in this song? The land itself? LAND? Worshiping LAND?? No? Something deeper?

Alabaster cities…(jars that have symbolism in Christianity of being completely poured out and EMPTIED onto Jesus)

And just what the hell does it mean that “God shed His grace on thee”…?

God crowns good WITH brotherhood (interesting that it’s not “IN” brotherhood, but WITH it…)

 

In 1852, Frederick Douglass delivered a speech now referred to as “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” Given in reflection of the Celebration of American Independence (it’s birthday…) the day prior. This was delivered a good 10 years prior to the abolition of slavery.
Analysis of the speech will convey Douglass’ desire to to address what TRULY makes an “American”? Where’s the fight? In a sense, what IS that “American Spirit”?

And yeah, Christianity plays a HUGE part in his speech. Not partisanship. Not the “moral majority.” Christianity. Where Christians SHOULD find their identity. As Americans? As Nationalists? As Republicans? Or as followers of Christ?
And his point was that this “Christian” Nation of ours wasn’t behaving very Christ-like.

This “Christian” Nation of ours ISN’T (currently) behaving very Christ-like…

But Douglass had hope that while he stated we as a Nation weren’t worth celebrating, we CAN be…

 

We may sing hollow songs because of the meaning and substance IN the song. But I like to believe we don’t sing songs that have a meaning we don’t at all agree with and believe.

America. An “Honorable Christian Nation, Land of the free and home of the brave” that currently ISN’T behaving bravely, freely, honorably, Christlike, or even AMERICAN.

I believe in the symbol America stands for, but the substance is lacking.
…A white-washed tomb…

And until we bring back that American Spirit, I may be a the party, but I’m not going to be singing.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 4th of July, America, America the Beautiful, Celebrating, Celebrations, Christian Nation, Fourth of July, God stuff, National Anthem, Patriotism, Political (as such), The Star Spangled Banner

What Do You Say When No One Has Ears to Hear?

It’s been the span of just one month (at the time of writing this), and the amount of horrific tragedies having occurred all over the world have been nothing short of countless (while nothing compared to the amount that this entire year has wrought).
I say countless, not because these events have been innumerable, but because even just ONE of them is ONE TOO MANY.

It’s felt as if the whole world has just been soaked—steeped, like a bag of tea—in chaos; in darkness; utterly in a void.

And it didn’t take long for the Internet…well, social media, to follow suit. What I’ve witnessed it become, I can only describe to be some sort of collective madhouse serving to accomplish nothing but an overwhelming—damn near deafeningcacophony.

i don't know what we're yelling about.gif

Articles and blog posts after articles and blog posts after articles and blog posts.
Politicians and speeches.
Articles and blog posts about politicians and their speeches.
Tweets.
Facebook posts.
Facebook profile picture changes.
And all theLikes.” Ohhh, all the “Thumbs Ups” Facebook “Likes” and “Shares” and “Repostings” and “Thoughts and prayers,” after, “thoughts and prayers,” after, “thoughts and prayers.”

loud noises

And for reasons I’ll elaborate further on in time, through it all I’ve remained…uncomfortably silent. Not because I have nothing to say (quite the contrary, in fact), but rather, for motivations I’ve felt to be considerably significant.

I’ve remained silent because it’s been abundantly clear that EVERYONE has something to say…and NO ONE really seems to be doing any listening.

It’s as if whenever our world is steeped into the VOID, the only thing we ever find ourselves doing is nothing; nothing but stand at its precipice, and scream, and shout, and cuss, and cry out, all of it, into that VOID.
And it just feels like it accomplishes NOTHING.
I have seen so so much of people’s hearts hurting, aching, breaking, for all the suffering and tragedy and loss that has repeatedly occurred within this span of just one short month. Now whether these emotions are genuine or just for show is not for me to say; though I will state with certainty that I believe there is an unmistakeable distinction between having a big heart, and having a heart in the right place. And please don’t misunderstand me here, I am by no means criticizing (nor calling into question) anyone’s sentiment, anyone’s heart, and anyone who has found themselves on that precipice screaming and shouting and cursing and crying. Nor am I just cynically ranting about the pointlessness of social media and all that it entails (the fact is not lost on me that this very piece represents exactly what I’m eluding to…).
But rather, I am sincerely expressing the personal struggle I’m having with a question as difficult for me to find an answer to, as it is for me to just simply find the correct words in the correct order to correctly word the question itself. And it is a question I long to have answered both for my own selfish reasons, but also in hopes of righting all this wrong I’ve seen in response to the world unavoidably spewed and spewed and spewed all over the internet.

And I’m as much asking myself these questions (if not genuinely so much more), as I am positing them to you.

When you stand at the precipice—filled with emotion that you’re just longing to express—and you scream and shout and spit and cuss and cry into the VOID, just WHAT IS THE POINT.

What do you do when it seems as if NOTHING you say or do seems to make ANY difference?

What do you say when all you see is no one listening?

I mentioned before that through everything that has occurred recently, I’ve found myself in a place of tense silence. And to be fair, much of it had to do with timing, and a preoccupation with caring for my infant son. But the fact remains that these questions have plagued me long before thematically outlining this piece. As I said, I’ve personally had many thoughts about so much of what has transpired these past weeks, coupled with a desire to write them all out (I even had a clever, kitschy title summarizing what I wrote, “Teething, Terrorists, Trump, and Troubles.”).
What stopped me? Well initially I’d like to say that because no one asked my opinion or thoughts, I really didn’t give a damn about sharing anything.

And I know that there is at least a part of that remaining.

But the bulk of what’s been holding me back are those very questions I listed above.

When it feels as if all I’m doing is shouting into the VOID—when all I am doing is nothing more than adding to that VOID, WHAT IS THE POINT.

When I struggle with believing that NOTHING I do seems to make ANY difference, what is there for me to do?

And ultimately, regardless of anything I might have to say…about anything, when the response appears to be as if NO ONE has “ears to hear,” WHAT IS THE POINT of saying anything?

… … …

I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard the phrase “ears to hear,” anywhere other than in a Biblical context; “for those who have ears to hear, let them hear.” Though it’s a phrase that I’ve easily glossed over time and time again when reading Scripture, I’ve become enamored with it, because it truly captures both the simplicity and sincerity that lay at the heart of genuine Christianity like magic from fairytales being both the same and different, hard enough to build a foundation, but fluid enough that you never can quite think you’ve got them all figured out.

For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

Simple and straightforward.
A phrase I’ve always (or, at least until recently) taken at face value.

Jesus is recorded frequently finishing whatever he was speaking with that phrase: “for those who have ears to hear, let them hear.” And THE closest I think I come to understanding it is essentially saying, “for those of you that are truly actually paying attentionfor those of you that are truly actually listeningYOU’LL get what I’m saying.

I quite often find myself easily bombarded by a mess of bright and spastic, overwhelming visuals that…I fail to really see.

And even more frequently do I find myself comfortably consumed by the cacophony of long winded explanations and pompous justifications that…I fail to really listen.
When I find myself staring at the VOID too long? That’s all I start to believe.

And voids are anything BUT simple, and anything BUT sincere.

For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

What is the simplicity promised within these words?
What is the sincerity promised within them?

What are the words?

Echō ous akouō akouō(!)

Echō (G2192: to have, hold)
ous (G3775: the ear, ears)
akouō (G0191: hearing, to hear, listen)

Echō ous akouō, akouō(!)
Whenever Jesus finished with these four words, it was never a conditional statement.

It was a PROMISE!* (*Yes, exclamation point included.)

Jesus wasn’t concluding by saying, “for those of you actually listening, you’ll get it.”
No, Jesus was making a promise:

Oh listening ears, listen!*”

(*rf. Greek grammatical notes on Matt. 11:15)

Were there those ears that didn’t listen? Of course there were.
And neither is it any different today. There are those that just DO NOT LISTEN.

There are those who—for whatever reason—cannot hear the “Word(s) of God,” instead hearing only thunder*, and there may very well continue to be so.

(*rf. John 12:28-30)

There have been—and may always be—“children” in loud, busy marketplaces, willfully and firmly placing their fingers in their ears and making whatever cacophony possible in order to drown out the music that would compel them to dance; who preoccupy themselves with countless distractions of their own design so as to never hear the “dirge” and mourn; simply and sincerely, mourn*.

(*rf. Matt. 11:16,17)

The reality of the world we live in seems far too clear:

EVERYONE has something to say, and yet NO ONE is listening.

EVERYONE has enormous hearts, but enormous hearts that have become hardened and calloused.

There have been, and always will be, people who make so much noise—who make the most noise—not out of a desire for themselves to be heard. No. We all have that desire, and not all of us struggle with it that way. There have been and always will be people who make as much noise as they can solely (dare I say spitefully?) to KEEP TRUTH OUT. Whether it’s truth in the form of thunder, or truth much less in the form of a whisper, even a whisper sharp enough to cut through prideful, arrogant, opinionated, cacophony.
There have been, always will, and may even currently be, people you know, people you’re related to, people on Facebook, and people staring at you every time you look in the mirror, who boisterously spout off their views and opinions not because they long to have them heard—not because THEY long to be heard—but because in doing so, they effectively deafen themselves, drowning out anything and everything else…especially truth.
Because truth isn’t safe.
Because truth can (and quite often times does) hurt.
Because truth quite literally forces us to face an end of ourselves, the end of ourselves.

But at the end of ourselves is something so much bigger, and—trulyso much better.

The truth of the matter…the truth of ALL matterthe truth of everything THAT matters is this:

We ALL have ears to hear, and those ears were MADE TO HEAR.

And whether you’re unable to hear due to impairment, or due to affliction, out of violence, or out of fear; or whether you’re unable to hear because you’ve spitefully crammed your fingers in your ears and are screaming at the top of your lungsJesus made a promise that ALL WILL HEAR.
And I may not be able to convey in detail and with certainty just HOW that promise will be kept, I do know He’s pretty good at keeping His promises…at keeping His Word.

Oh, and when He does make due on His promise?

That moment ALWAYS tends to be enough to melt hearts and get EVERYONE listening:


What else is there to leave you with but this:

Echō ous akouō, akouō(!)
“OH, You listening ears, LISTEN!”

Leave a comment

Filed under God stuff, Tragedy, Uncategorized

Dear Mark Driscoll

Dear Mark,

I know you and I have had some…difficulties.
Admittedly, mostly on my end…due to you being a very public personality and, well…really not knowing me at all.
I also know that I—for some time, chose to just do what I could to ignore you rather than stir up negative emotion in myself that had no outlet.

But I’ve come to realize two things about you which came to me—quite literally, out of nowhere (or is it, out of everywhere?). Two things I now realize run true through everything I’ve ever read of yours, and every word I’ve ever heard you speak. So if you’ll allow me to do so, I’d like to tell you what those two things are, and then maybe do a nice little wrap up of what I’ve gleaned from realizing them.

The first thing I’ve come to realize about you is just how much (it seems) you long to know that you are chosen, that you are loved, that you are accepted.

That you’re important.

Gosh, when it’s out there like that, it comes off…a little harsh…a little…rough around the edges. But then again, so do you.

Like, all the time.

Come out a little harsh, a little rough around the edges, but in spite of (or precisely because of and alongside) this, you still embody something I believe all of us feel—that longing to feel accepted, truly and genuinely accepted.
No matter what sort of differing semantic label we put on it: chosen, predestined, predetermined, loved, liked, favored. I believe that that is at the core of all humanity, and I believe that that hole (as Pascal would call it), that void, that…womb can only be filled (fulfilled) by God above. And we all wish it filled (whether we’re aware or not). And we’re all a wee bit…rough around the edges in regards with how we go about with that desire.
A desire for something beyond this…reality. This…age. This existence and experience.
A desire for love and acceptance that only God can satisfy.
A desire to know that we are loved and accepted and enjoyed and favored.
A desire to know that we are chosen…predestined…elect.

A desire to know that we are…important.

And we are.
And…you…are.
In all my time on this earth I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything that wasn’t important to God—anything that was deemed unimportant in any way. (God kinda does a better job emphasizing this point than I ever could in the book of Job, but at any rate it would be a truly fascinating thing indeed that somehow manages to exist in this universe without being important to the Creator of it all.)

And that brings me to the second thing I realized about you.
Despite what critics say of you, I don’t believe you think highly enough of yourself (if you actually do at all).
I know, I know, this whole…lovey dovey stuff is easy to dismiss.

Love. Bleh.

Love. Bleh.

But to me, that whole 1st John “God IS Love” business is one bomb that just isn’t easily gotten rid of.

bomb disposal

What I don’t wish to convey is that the…dark doesn’t matter.
That sin doesn’t matter.
That our fallen nature should so easily be over looked, ignored, or otherwise tossed to the side at the expense of the fact that God IS LOVE. On the contrary, I believe it’s vitally important—there is a necessity to our fallen nature, to sin, and it is something that most definitely shouldn’t be overlooked, ignored, glossed over.

It should most definitely be seen—if only through the foundational “God IS Love” lens, not in spite of it.

You know, my father once said that the closer you get to light, the bigger the shadow you cast. How true for those of us who—as Hank Williams so eloquently put it, have seen the Light! It’s this fact that leads me to truly believe that when Paul wrote that he was the “Chief of all sinners,” he was writing out of genuine emotion, not to make some statement of ratings and placement above everyone else.

The problem is, when we let our shadows define us, and not the other way around.

It is inevitable that when we interact with light we will cast a shadow, and—as Dad said, the closer we get, the bigger the shadow. But to define the shadow as anything other than a byproduct of our interaction with light is folly. It indeed stems from us, it indeed is connected to ourselves (unlike Peter Pan), it’s very existence is indeed based on ours. And it indeed is something that should not be ignored or overlooked, for we all cast shadows (all have sinned and fall short). But that shadow is still not a something, it is a no thing, a nothing, a lack of something—namely, light. And ultimately—going back to my father’s original words, it is nothing more than a byproduct of our interaction with light.

The light.

And this is where seeing through the eyes of the light—seeing through the eyes of the one who sees me, comes into play. I believe the Father sees us.
Yes, He sees the shadow too, but to the one who created all things, sustains all things and through all things were made and nothing that was not made was through him (refine), I believe that what he FOCUSES on is the thing, not the no thing.
He sees both, but what does he know, what does He focus on, what does his Gaze fall on?
The shadow?

No!

For knowing Himself, knowing He is light, and knowing the state of this world where shadows are cast because it isn’t finished, where He has not yet filled all the voids, surrounded everything and thus, leaves no room for shadows to be cast, He focuses His creation, not the byproduct of His interaction—His relationship with His creation. He focuses on the something, not the no thing.

Which brings me back to you.

You are a something, not a nothing.
You are a somebody, not a nobody.
You are important enough to be created, important enough to be saved.
Not from yourself, but from your shadow.

But I don’t think you’ve been able to see the difference. I don’t think you’ve been able to separate the fact that YOU ARE NOT THE SHADOW YOU CAST.
And I don’t think you’ve ever been able to accept yourself.
Love yourself.
“Choose.” Yourself.
I don’t think you’ve ever seen yourself through the eyes of the one who sees you. Yes, who sees your shadow too, but have you ever played that game where you put your hand in front of your face and rotated between focusing on it, and focusing beyond it? Which one is blurry, but still seen, and which one isn’t depends on what you’re focusing on.
And God is focusing on YOU.
Not. Your. Shadow.

See the darkness, yes.
Hate the darkness, yes.
In fact, I believe that’s why God created you as such a warrior. And with such a hatred of that dark, the darkness. Because that’s what He hates. And that is what the fight is against. Not flesh and blood, not some things, but the no things.
The nothings.
But you’ve gotta stop believing the lie that the dark shadow is you. Or that anyone’s is theirs. I mean, yes. There are those who fear the light and so hide in the darkness where their shadow cannot be seen, but that is as much them believing a lie as you believing one.
Hate the darkness.
Hate the dark.
Hate the shadow.
Fight the darkness.
Fight the dark.
Fight the shadow.
But see what the One who sees you sees. A warrior. A voice. An example of the struggle of the whole of the human race.
Don’t believe the lie that the shadow is you, or you’ll never wish to truly get close to God—who IS LOVE, out of fear of how big your shadow becomes.

Run to it.

Because I believe once you do, you will see that just as God hates your shadow, not you, he also hates everyone else’s shadow.
Not them.
And all your glorious efforts and fight can be directed toward the true enemy. The no thing that wants to be a some thing.
The void that longs to be filled…with more void.
The womb. Waiting for a child.
The empty dirty, poopy manger. Waiting for a birth.
For life.
For Jesus.

So Mark, know this:
You are important.
And it’s time you started believing it.

And, yes, that may not be an easy thing.

I Don't Believe You.

But you owe it to yourself, and you owe it to the one who gave you the ability to do so. And you know what one of the favorite things I’ve ever learned in my studies is? That “belief” in the original Greek—particularly in the case of John 3:16f is not only “belief into” (pisteuo eis) but that the definition of belief is “a willingness to be convinced of.” You don’t have to convince yourself that what I say is true, because it’s not on you to do the convincing (Scripture does say that it’s Jesus—not us, who is both the author and perfecter of our faith), but be willing to be convinced.

Believe. And See.

Cheers and Blessings til I see you on the other side of eternity (unless I happen to do so in this age.).

~(a) Christian

1 Comment

Filed under Dreams, God stuff, Uncategorized