Thursday, January 27, 2005

worthy

isaiah 42:3

examining
cracks
the dish
shatters
falling
from my
bloody
hands


Worthy

I have struggled with worthiness issues the whole of my life. Thirty-four years have I questioned if I was indeed worthy. Listening to a musician sing, “You are my worthiness.” I began to wonder.

If Christ died for me while I was a reprobate heathen, if He died for me before I even acknowledged Him, if He loved me from the foundations of the earth, have I ever been unworthy?

I think of Peter:
“Do not call unclean what I have called clean, arise Peter, kill and eat.”
“Not so Lord.” (This is me after all).

My entire Christian life, I’ve heard labor to enter into His rest.

My mind catches the labor part, but oddly enough misses the rest. I’ve been sold a get rich quick faith. I’ve been told that God will reward my suffering and it makes me wonder. Nowhere in the Book does it say will reward “in this lifetime.” Not that we serve a God of loopholes, never. But where does it say we are monetarily blessed for anything? The widow got her oil, Peter got a net full of fishes to be sure but I keep reading passages that tell me to take up my cross daily. Lay down my life. Serve my neighbor. Give my extra cloak. It seems we are to monetarily bless others more than the other way around.

In the case of Job, his family was restored but he was not given seeds to plant and over night new children sprung up, was he? No. He waited a lifetime for those children to be restored unto him. Sure, the flocks and finances may have been a faster matter, but I have never heard anyone from any pulpit say, look at the breadth of time covered in these verses. A lifetime. For one afflicted, any wait is too long. With each subsequent birth, the memories of the lost children would have poured forth afresh. Job grieved a lifetime, just as He was restored over a lifetime.

This begins to make sense to me. If Job was restored (not overnight, mind you) over the breadth of a lifetime, then perhaps my restoration will come slowly over the rest of my lifetime. Perhaps. Perhaps it will come with tears and joy, laughter and pain interwoven.

Provided my treasure is not stored up in heaven.

I’ve long believed God to be this manic personality. Kind one moment, vicious the next. But I am beginning to understand it from a different perspective. I hear all the time how God will stop giving me stuff if I don’t shape up. (all this time in the darkness, I have been saying, just tell me what to do and I’ll do it—the body of Christ has plenty of things to do if you are looking for something to do, but very little of it is of real value to a sufferer.) I try to shape up, and remain woefully unworthy feeling, aw, He’ll never give me nothin’.

I can’t shape up. Do you get that? You can’t either. We can’t be perfect. We are not meant to attain perfection in this life. We are meant to be perfect IN CHRIST. He is our righteousness. He is our perfection. He makes all the deposits, we make all the withdrawals. Lowsy deal on His end, but for the Love. He did it all and continues to do it all, for the Love.

The way I see God’s ability to give is using the clogged artery analogy. There are lots of things to eat on this planet. If I eat that In-and-Out Double-Double with grilled onions three times a day, it will not only affect my waistline, but my arteries. Does this affect God’s ability to give to me? No, the consequences are all mine. If God had in His heart to give me long life, I shortchanged myself and clogged my own arteries. I diminished my own capacity to receive. I never affected God’s ability to give.

Am I worthy then, of this free gift? Well, the church would say, yes, but…

Whenever I’ve received a “free” gift, I never, ever, not once, looked for someone to pay.

But this is not the message I’ve gotten from the church (whether by my poor interpretation or misinformation I am not sure). I’ve believed I had to earn this “free” gift. That the “free”gift of God isn’t really “free.”

But it is. There is no bill coming. No fine print or penalties for late payment. It is truly free.

What I am beginning to see is God is the benevolent Giver. Lover of our souls. Father of mercy. We are all worthy of His love. Even the most reprobate heathen, like me, is worthy. C.S. Lewis was right. The person beside you is your experience of the Divine. We are the houses of God.

Unbelievers, too?

Yes, I believe so. Hear me out. When do we become unworthy? Who is it that gets to say we are unworthy? Who?

God.

So, if God died for us while we were yet sinners, if He loves us even in our sinful state, and knocks at the door (of the worthy), it is up to us to open it.

No man on this planet, save Christ alone, has ever been able to tell with 100% certainty who opens that door and who doesn’t. Sure, we’d like to say Hitler, Manson, and the like didn’t but I would like to believe (until it is no longer an issue), that these men fell on their knees before the Living God and opened that door. (After all, I want that kind of mercy until I die. I don’t want anyone condemning me to hell, so I don’t need to be condemning anyone either.)

So, this worthiness issue is a lie then. It is a grand delusion. I have been fighting shadows and phantoms my whole life. Because I have always been worthy. And so have you.

dreadlock Jesus

wading through david gill's excellent book doing right, and finding john piper is to theology what david gill is to ethics. john piper's works are so heady that they are, to me, like brussel sprouts: good for me, i know i must get them down but it is a struggle. david gill's work is like brussel sprouts with cheese, in that he is so funny in his footnotes, it keeps me snickering through a very serious subject.

i found this in one of david gill's footnotes (makes me think i'm not so crazy after all):
I find most artistic representations of "Jesus" appalling. A Palestinian Jew could not possibly have looked anything like the Euro-Jesuses often depicted. They are deeply alienating and offensive, especially to many people of non-European origin (to say nothing of what the real Jesus must think, looking at this stuff). Jesus could have posed for a sculptor way back when if he thought it was important for us to see him represented this way. He chose not to. Do you want to disagree with his choice? Do you want people to have to accept your preferred image of Jesus, however historically impossible and culturally alienating it may be to others?


now of course if i had said it that way, i might have offended no one, and there is something to not being offensive. but my works and thoughts don't seem to come out that pretty. this book is the fodder of some twenty-years thought on gill's part. mine, the fruit of five minutes labor. ah, well. i guess i could let stuff ferment a while, but maybe it's the wineskins?

i flicked on the t.v. to get the brussel sprouts with cheese off my brain (i am doddling, i confess!). what do i see, prince. purple rain. ah, i watched the very end and loved it. flick the channel to vh1 classics, and there is lenny kravitz, are you gonna go my way? flayling those long medusaesque dreadlocks around to the rhythms of those drums, while grinding out a riff on his guitar. it is all so beautiful to me. i can't help but say, if that were Jesus, i'd sure as heck be saying, YEAH! so it makes me think. Jesus must at least be half as talented as lenny kravitz. or prince. hmm, let's see. He did create the sun and moon and stars.

He created lenny kravitz and prince. that makes me think again about what kind of music God would enjoy. what kind of message would He have for His church today. I can't help but sing along with lenny, are you gonna go My way?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

book review

this book is on something, i'm not sure what:
ellie lafaro's leap of faith

makes me wonder how some things get published.
i've added to my rating system, -* mulch it!

Monday, January 17, 2005

van Gogh on birds

i have just begun to delve into the depths of van Gogh's spiritual journey but i find some friends here, some i know by heart, henri nouwen for one and that comforts me greatly. that one such as he would find such spiritual inspiration in van Gogh encourages me that i too am finding the crumbs along my path.

i've yet to begin van Gogh's letters, but the book i have started today is entitled: the shoes of van Gogh; a spiritual and artistic journey to the ordinary by cliff edwards. i do not know the man, but he spoke with henri before his death and that comforts me too. that they were upon parallel paths.

i've thought much about the sylvia plath effect and mentioned how i don't want that to be my end. then i consider van Gogh, whose story i am scarcely familiar with. and in trepidation i turn the pages and find myself reading a kindred spirit. his words, passion and art stem from one great desire, to know God. van Gogh could not afford to go to the king's college so he could not be a minister as his father was (ministerial salary and five kids did not allow for the education of vincent). i find that tragically beautiful.

read some of his words:

As molting time--when they change their feathers--is for birds, so adversity or misfortune is the difficult time for us human beings. One can stay in it--in that difficult time of molting--one can also emerge renewed; but anyhow it must not be done in public and it is not at all amusing, therefore the only thing is to hide oneself. (letter 133)


read on:
A caged bird in spring knows quite well that he might serve some end; he is well aware that there is something for him to do, but he cannot do it. What is it? He does not quite remember. Then some vague ideas occur to him, and he says to himself, "The other birds build their nests and lay their eggs and bring up their little ones"; and knocks his head against the bars of the cage. But the cage remains, and the bird is maddened by anguish.


such beauty. such eloquence. i am a stuttering dullard when it comes to him. he was despised, his art disdained all the days of his life. he could not make a living for himself and his art was sustained by his beloved brother. oh the anguish this must have been for him.

i have a family and child, so there i am rich beyond anything he knew. but i understand the often terrible dilemma of art or survival. the struggle between labor and creativity. he chose to create a legacy of passion but it cost him his comfort. am i willing to pay such a price? to beat it out in weariness and keep trudging on toward the goal of creating something, anything of value. and if it is not to be valued in my day, and in days to come, will the promise or hope of future value be enough to keep my fire burning? can i subject my family to this?

i do not know. i tremble at the thought of it. only here in this modern day and age can one stuggle and grapple with such things, as it were, in public.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

the antisemitic church

while i can embrace paradox, i cannot embrace this gross contradiction. i am reading a book which essentially equates israel with "the great harlot." and it leaves my head spinning.

if we disregard israel, we disregard Jesus. He was, in fact, jewish. this may surprize some believers but i don't see how. it is right there in black and white.

unfortunately, this too is in black and white, an excerpt from the book i am reading, published under the nexgen imprint (cook communications):

Israel was to be the church, but she turned her back on God and chose instead to advance her own religious kingdom rather than submit to God's plan. Therefore, Israel disqualified herself as the faithful bride of Christ. John wrote in Revelation 19:2 that 'HIS JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and HE HAS AVENGED THE BLOOD OF HIS BONDSERVANTS ON HER.' I believe John was telling the church that God has rejected Israel in favor of his bondservants who were coming to Christ through the ministry of other christians. This growing number of Christians is now called the church, the bride of Christ.


yikes. and if that weren't enough, the author goes on referring to the new covenant:

When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete.


think about the ramifications of that, if that were true? if God could renig on His promises to Israel, His beloved, His chosen, the true vine. what about us? the ingrafted, the gentiles? it is frightening to believe that anyone could hold such a confused opinion of Israel, but i am told it is the party line for many churches.

i wonder, don't they read Romans 11?
Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.


i shudder to be a part of the church sometimes. times like this, when i see such confusion and cutting off of the arm to spite the hand.

if God refuses Israel, it would mean He is no keeper of His Word. He cannot refuse Israel. He must not let His word fall to the ground. this raises all sorts of issues for me, of pastors who spoke meaningless words. i cannot serve a pastor like that, let alone a God like that. God must keep His Word. and in Romans 11:26 it says:
And so all Israel shall be saved


last time i checked all meant all. every. not leaving one out. including every member. i am believing God for all of Israel. i am believing God for all His Word.

one more thing though, once Israel is saved, game over. the curtain falls and a new season begins. the return of Christ. pre, post, mid--no matter, when it is time, it is time.

are you ready?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

derelique

i was thinking about this upside down kingdom we belong to. henri nouwen's notion of "downward mobility" and my impending gig at a food bank. the phrase derelique came to mind. for those who did not see ben stiller's zoolander, i don't recommend it, it was not that funny.

but it has been a long time since i've smelled the earthy smell of urine, bo, and alcohol wafting together in a perfume stiller aptly called "derelique" although his reference was to a clothing line. it makes me think, is this a sweet smelling fragrance to God?

as unGodlike as my thoughts are, i like to think God breathes in deep the smell of roses and gardenia.

my husband would say, smoked meat and vietnamese food.

but i think those are smells we like.

think about it, we have an aversion to anything remotely uncomely. Jesus didn't.

He was reaching out and touching LEPERS of all people. the ones deemed untouchable (and for good reason, not just pettiness).

(imagine the mortified apostles when they saw this. shaking their heads trying to stop Him but He moves too deliberately and too quickly before they get a read on Him. He reaches out, they shake their heads, oh no! unclean. He heals. they are speechless and glad they were too late to say anything. tell me Jesus was not a Wild Man. tell me He was a patsy, He simply was not!)

He was spitting in mud and wiping people's eyes.

the things He did, and does, make my head spin.

so it makes me wonder. does God like to smell the scent of humility? and what does that smell like? sure, i'd like it to be something i'd like to smell, but i don't think God cares much about what i'd like. i think He cares about what i need. what He wants to do to enlarge my character. what He wants to do to reach his wounded and estranged people.

i remember that smell, do you know it? perhaps it's time to get reacquainted with that smell again.

book review

how not to write a book:

Live Full, Die Empty by Rick Godwin

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

ask

this morning my husband said to me
i had hoped you'd make me breakfast


to which i replied
don't hope, ask!


then i laughingly added
you have not because you ask not


giggling to myself about this i proceeded to walk down the street contemplating that biblical image

i can use that somewhere

then proceeded to slip in the mud and land knee down in my white karate pants (a big dojo no no) and left hand.

God giggled about that one, eh?

nevermind the damn spot that won't come out even though i did SHOUT

i came home too late to make my hubby breakfast, my snickering subsided, i just felt like a lowsy wife.

then another thought came to me

i need to be seen through the eyes of mercy

it later occurred to me

i need to see through the eyes of mercy

if my husband ditched me, hungry and snickering like that (new year's resolution not withstanding), i would be understandably irked.

but when i with muddied knee returned, i wanted mercy.

of course, i always want mercy.

i always need mercy.

i must remember to simply ask.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

humor us

i've been giggling and snickering my way through the year so far, how 'bout you? encouraged by some who find my wit funny, i keep on.

i attend an overcrowded bible study on friday nights. this is church to me. some of the best bible studies i've ever attended have been overcrowded. you can't avoid one another there. you can't wind your way around those unknown quantities. quickly, they become known. you become known. if, for nothing else, that questionable bo or the garlic bread you had as a snack before arriving. (note: do not snack on garlic before a crowded bible study).

what is it that makes one giddy, and why is it, adults don't have a bent for giddyness. is it because we are too mature for that? our collars are too starched by then?

deboning a chicken (another note: most of the best bible studies i've attended have included food) last night i asked a young buck if so-and-so uses the chicken bones for anything.

like what? was the immediate reply.

my husband beside me said, voodoo?

and we laughed.

of course our dear and beloved owner of the bones wouldn't have laughed, but it was funny. the young buck laughed too once he caught on.

another gentleman had a somesuchsomething stuck in his molar and was working quite diligently to extract it with a toothpick when he said, i just can't get it out.

come out, in the name of the Lord, was my instant reply and we laughed about that.

bible study humor, what can you say? it is what it is. but we are not prudes or humdrums or longfaces, we need to laugh. we need to have fun with each other. we will be spending eternity together, after all. (to which i hear a hearty, oh no.)

oh yes, we better start enjoying one another now so we can pick up where we left off up there. let's start laughing and giggling our way through life, through the drudgery of it all so we can present ourselves a joyous body of Christ to the world.

no presavedperson wants to join a club that is all longfaced about some rosaline!

remember, that chap with the missing teeth, he is a son of Righteousness. that lady with the man hands, she is a daughter of the King.

even so, come Lord Jesus, come!

Friday, January 07, 2005

i was wrong

i always hope to be someone who can admit when they are wrong. many foibles have taught me the lesson of quick repentence. but i fall again, and on and on it will go until i fall no more forever.

the mediocrity book, while i said it could be cut down by 100 pages, is well worth the 233 pages the author used. i enjoyed it immensely, and i was surprized. i thought it was just going to be another pastor taking used illustrations from the big book of illustrations, but i was wrong.

the pastor who wrote the book about mediocrity was listening to the Lord. how can i presume to know this, the same as you, i know the Shepherd's voice.

i wrote a joyous recommendation for which i am glad.

i do not take pleasure in writing a bad review, i take pleasure in a job well done. my job, it seems, is to critique books. so, my job then, is to offer an opinion of the merits and deficiencies of the books i review. this is never easy for me.

i have been contemplating the idea of unnecessary honesty. is there such a thing? can there be such a thing? i don't know. perhaps. it seems a contradiction.

i also slighted a dear friend and wish i hadn't. breached a trust. i feel my heart tender and an open window for God to teach me about betrayal and trust. so i am praying through all my wish i handn't's and whatnots. but i can't change the past.

i realize again, how delicate friendship is. especially new friendship. i do not expect to be forgiven. nor do i expect trust again. i hope to be forgiven and hope my size 9s didn't cost me a friend. but i will not know until i know.

once in college i wrote an article for our very lame paper about the way things are handled on campus, it was called on behalf of the topless. i had a jeep, incase you are wondering and it had to do with the parking situation on campus. the administration had gone from stickers for parking to the plastic sticky on the window without residue. anyway, my pass got stolen and i was pissed.

i was offered a position as the student liaison for parking situations. of course this was not the official name, but it suffices for now. you gather that i am not about the inane details.

i realized after serving that i was wrong.

i wrote another article saying that. recanting my frustrations. i was approached by a student (michael mooreish, if you get my drift) who said, never apologize. and waving the paper, never apologize in print.

yeah, whatever. that is a rule to live by.

my rule is, apologize often and quickly. keep short accounts. no amount of saving face is worth not apologizing when one has sinned against another.

i wish it weren't so, and it is very hard to apologize sometimes, but always apologize, especially in print.

Monday, January 03, 2005

a critic's late night

i've a stack of about six books on my desk for reviews, none of them particularly grab me. nothing about the covers, titles, or topics are that interesting and i wonder, why did i request these? the titles (we see only the main title and author) are unrecognizable to me as they sit here awaiting my evaluation.

when i work through a book, i don't just read it and that is it. i think through and process the material. some books take me a great while to think through. one particularly hairy one is about worry. it starts out with the assertion, worry is sin. no lead in, no maybe. just says, worry is sin. then ambles around the table to tell me why (and i wonder, why didn't the ambling come first, then i'd be more inclined to continue).

next, the author hits me with this corollary, the more you love God, the more you trust God. which isn't necessarily true. i know because i think we misjudge these things from our limited perspective. so i am having trouble with that one, it is bogging down right beside the worry is sin bit.

i'm unconvinced by the assertions because while they are stronger than some of the wish washy asserting i see, they are just sixteen pages into the book. this book, i think, suffers from one too many good undeveloped ideas. the initial example of worry this author uses has to do with being late to a college class and the angst one feels (ugh). the next example is one of feeling angst over abusing a child. in my opinion, this author's examples are as out of order as her assertions.

fortunately this book is only 133 pages. i will knock that out tonight and be done with it (i will force myself, which is a shame, if one has to force oneself to read something, it makes me wonder why i do this).

there is one exceptional, witty, well-researched (20 years well-researched!) book but it weighs in at a daunting 300+ pages, small type, many entertaining footnotes, but not a quick read by any standard.

another book, is 233 pages, and by a mega-church (or mega-church principaled pastor) on mediocrity. i can tell the book is about 133 pages too long. in the first ten or so pages, he's rounded the corner well enough but circled back three and four times to make the same point. again, bad editing to blame for that. but the author will take the hit.

it's late, i've a book to press through and a review to write, so i must tend to it.

incase you haven't seen my reviews before, i alphabetized and rated them.

*don't bother (total crap), **so-so (i only read it because i had to), ***good (i wouldn't buy it, but might recommend it), ****must read (would definately recommend), *****absolutely loved (would break down and purchase).

Sunday, January 02, 2005

laughing

this year i said i wanted to go in laughing. and so i did.

may this year be full of joy and laughter, even if our circumstances remain stubbornly unchanging.

this year, may i glimpse the eyes of God gathered up in wrinkles about His smiling eyes.

this year, may i forgive more than last. may i be gracious, and kind.

this year, may i have hope, lasting hope as a rock under my feet.

yes, this year may i go laughing on into whatever comes my way.

i do not promise to be happy, i promise to find joy again. and to pull her close to me and never let her go.

may you find her as well.