Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Wednesdays are garbage days around the Luv house. That is a special day in our lives, as it is the day that Mrs. 4theluv and I get to review the evidence of our passive aggressive natures. You see, to ask Mrs. 4theluv, it is a constant and continual failing of mine that I don't take the garbage out of the house near as much as needed, nor near as much as Mrs. 4theluv desires.
Now understand, the right time to take the garbage out is the source of debate in many households, not just ours. I am sure many husbands face similar failures in their own lives. But that is only the beginning. See, I am a morally conscious individual. I believe that taking out the trash is not just the man's job, that just about anyone is capable of doing it. The skill set required to take out the garbage is fairly limited, and definitely not gender specific. And, being the politically correct and socially conscious individual that I am, I graciously allow Mrs. 4theluv ample opportunity to prove the equality of the sexes by taking out the trash. Its technically not rocket science. If you see it needs to be taken out, you pull the strings on the bag, and walk it the 40 or so feet to the big garbage can outside.
But Mrs. 4theluv takes an opposite position, at least when it comes to regularly taking out the trash. Now she will take it out on the days that she cleans the refrigerator, particularly if broccoli or some similar odoriferous content needs disposing. Then she will bag it, but set it just outside the door in the garage so that as I pass by it in the morning on my way to work I will carry it the other 30 feet and put in the can which is outside.
Normally, though, she just ignores the need to take out the trash (a trait which I allow to take place)and instead just keeps throwing things away in the garbage by balancing various rubbish on top of other rubbish, creating an almost Dada"esque" creation worthy of Kurt Schwitters. The balancing act is always very delicate, intentionally so, I think. She knows eventually I will take out the trash, and that trash sculpture will crumble like a house of cards.
So, come Wednesday morning, as I am trying to get out the door for work, I will always remember the trash has to go out. I will turn to our leaning tower of refuse that is our main garbage area and try to bag it. Of course, looking around, Mrs. 4theluv is nowhere to be found, but as things scatter on the floor I am certain a smirk crosses her face, as she has once again shown her superiority in this game of oneupmanship (oneupwomanship? oneuppersonship?).
So I get the garbage out, saying a few words I probably shouldn't, and spend the rest of the day feeling like the loser that I am. And, like Lucy pulling the football from Charlie Brown, Mrs. 4theluv gets to enjoy the rest of the day knowing she got me one more time. I wish I would at least get a "thank you" but I am sure that would spoil the fun.
As I reflected on the battle this morning, I began to sense the frustration that Christ must feel with me, with the sin that so easily entangles me, and my refusal AND inability to take it out. And I began to sense that Christ does what he does with me, not for the "thank you", and not out of a sense of waiting to see if I will do it myself, but rather because he loves me, and gave himself for me.
Paul reminded us well. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. [ ... ]Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, (Eph. 5:1-2; 25-26)
I can't get out of mind today how it is that Christ puts up with and carries out my garbage that I pile up for Him. He taught us so many lessons about true love. Forgiveness is an act of love. Service is an act of love. He does it simply because He loves me, and for no other reason. And it is that same love that he calls me to love my wife.
Like many men in our church, I married waaay up. And in that relationship, like every other relationship I am in, like parent, son, sibling, friend, co-worker, I fail consistently. But with relationships built on love, forgiveness is a routine part. And for that, I am the luckiest man alive.
I have received that forgiveness from so many in my life, perhaps I should return that same love. Perhaps I can learn something from the battle of the garbage.
Monday, March 24, 2008
As a fifth grader my class took a trip to Mammoth caves in Kentucky. At one point in the tour, the tour guide had us all in one particular part of the cave and turned out the lights to show us what true darkness really looked like. If you have ever been in a similar situation, you know that real darkness, the true absence of light, is pretty scary, and the hope and knowledge that the lights will come back on takes the edge off of the fear, the darkness just an experiment. But in those moments of darkness is the helplessness and fear of a life dependent on someone else for the light of safety and rescue.
Darkness is one of those things which is experienced in isolation. But real darkness is not relegated to the caverns of Kentucky. Light and life seem to go hand in hand in the metaphysic of human existence and experience.
The poet Dylan Thomas wrote his famous poem about the death of his father, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight, with those same allusions of light vs. death:
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
It is no doubt that the death of those close to us leaves a black hole of darkness from which it is difficult to rise. It is little wonder that at the moment Jesus died there was complete darkness for 3 hours. That darkness must have given temporary pause to the priests, scribes, and Romans who had sentenced Jesus to death, making them question what they had done. But then came the ninth hour, and the lights came on, and all seemed basically right with the world. The sun would rise tomorrow, just like it had every other day.
But not so with the disciples. The black hole created by the death of Christ was huge, and lingered way beyond the temporary darkness witnessed by all. While others went about their passover feasts and festivities, mocking this man that had thought he was the Son of God. Like the rest, the death of Christ had caused those who had believed in Christ to wonder why they had followed such an obviously deluded man. They hunkered down in fear, expecting any moment that those who had killed Jesus were coming for them. In those days, death was their constant companion, and their fear of reprisal for following Jesus was real.
The black hole was particularly tough for the remaining eleven. These disciples were personally as crushed as the dreams of their glory of being the advisors to the new king of Israel. You will recall earlier the Bar Zebedee boys had asked to be on Christ's right and left side when he came into his kingdom. Yet on the day He died, to his right and left were two criminals receiving the penalty of their government for their crimes. Nowhere to be found were the Zebedee boys, having saved their own necks and left Jesus to die.
Little did these disciples know in those two dark days that death would stalk them the rest of their lives, but the fear of it would be a thing of the past. They would meet the resurrected Christ, and know that death is not the end, but only the beginning. So shattering was their meeting with the resurrected Lord, that they went forth, hoping to die for his name. No longer would they hide in fear, for there was nothing the priests, the scribes, the Romans could do to them to hurt them.
Only through the resurrection, the sure knowledge that death has no power to kill, is there true freedom to live. And only when you know the resurrected Christ, can you face the darkness with certainty.
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Cor 15:55-57).
Death is no longer the journey into the night. And Easter is the reminder to us that death is as momentary and essential as birth, but is no longer something to be feared. For Christ Himself is our life. The dark caves of Kentucky reveal nothing of the truth of Christ, but the inability to find Him on our own. Thanks be to God, He has gone there before us.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
|STABAT Mater dolorosa |
iuxta Crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius.
| AT the Cross her station keeping, |
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last.
| Cuius animam gementem, |
contristatam et dolentem
| Through her heart, His sorrow sharing, |
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.
| O quam tristis et afflicta |
fuit illa benedicta,
| O how sad and sore distressed |
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One.
| Quae maerebat et dolebat, |
pia Mater, dum videbat
nati poenas inclyti.
| Christ above in torment hangs, |
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.
| Quis est homo qui non fleret, |
matrem Christi si videret
in tanto supplicio?
| Is there one who would not weep, |
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ's dear Mother to behold?
| Quis non posset contristari |
Christi Matrem contemplari
dolentem cum Filio?
| Can the human heart refrain |
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother's pain untold?
| Pro peccatis suae gentis |
vidit Iesum in tormentis,
et flagellis subditum.
| Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled, |
she beheld her tender Child
All with scourges rent:
| Vidit suum dulcem Natum |
dum emisit spiritum.
| For the sins of His own nation, |
saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.
| Eia, Mater, fons amoris |
me sentire vim doloris
fac, ut tecum lugeam.
| O thou Mother! fount of love! |
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord:
| Fac, ut ardeat cor meum |
in amando Christum Deum
ut sibi complaceam.
| Make me feel as thou hast felt; |
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord.
| Sancta Mater, istud agas, |
crucifixi fige plagas
cordi meo valide.
| Holy Mother! pierce me through, |
in my heart each wound renew
of my Savior crucified:
| Tui Nati vulnerati, |
tam dignati pro me pati,
poenas mecum divide.
| Let me share with thee His pain, |
who for all my sins was slain,
who for me in torments died.
| Fac me tecum pie flere, |
donec ego vixero.
| Let me mingle tears with thee, |
mourning Him who mourned for me,
all the days that I may live:
| Iuxta Crucem tecum stare, |
et me tibi sociare
in planctu desidero.
| By the Cross with thee to stay, |
there with thee to weep and pray,
is all I ask of thee to give.
| Virgo virginum praeclara, |
mihi iam non sis amara,
fac me tecum plangere.
| Virgin of all virgins blest!, |
Listen to my fond request:
let me share thy grief divine;
| Fac, ut portem Christi mortem, |
passionis fac consortem,
et plagas recolere.
| Let me, to my latest breath, |
in my body bear the death
of that dying Son of thine.
| Fac me plagis vulnerari, |
fac me Cruce inebriari,
et cruore Filii.
| Wounded with His every wound, |
steep my soul till it hath swooned,
in His very Blood away;
| Christe, cum sit hinc exire, |
da per Matrem me venire
ad palmam victoriae.
| Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence, |
by Thy Mother my defense,
by Thy Cross my victory;
| Quando corpus morietur, |
fac, ut animae donetur
paradisi gloria. Amen.
| While my body here decays,|
may my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in paradise with Thee. Amen.
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
Would it be that we not forget, the sin that cost us God, nor the God who bought us back, nor the price - His Son, our Lord. Amen.
* Stanzas removed by 4theluv for doctrinal reasons.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Teeth, capped white with porcelain, contrasted the tanned skin, tightened face and coiffured hair of the Anointed as he set about the task of completing the sacred mission of the day. Firmly facing the red eyed cyclops the anointed showed no fear, confident in his ability to soothe that beast and bring it under submission. Behind the red hot eye lay the prize set before him: the blessing that only the anointed can know, that only the anointed can enjoy. He commands some more anointing.
Surrounded by tens of hundreds of witnesses, the freshly pressed and tailored Italian wool suit shines under the glistening lights but belies the hunger that rages in his belly. He speaks. And with his speech come the thunderous sounds and rapturous howls of the anointed, deftly using sacred secrets to whet the appetite of the cyclops, to lull it to a sense of safety and security, knowing that by his power they can ride this monster to the buried treasure.
He speaks to the cyclops. "I know the secret things," he says, baring his teeth in the sly grin that can easily be mistaken for sincerity. "I have the secret things to make you handsome, make you rich, and make you wise. He bled, in seven places, so that you know no suffering, and have all your hearts desires. The Jews had it right - buy this, and I can show you the secret laws that control God. Listen to me and learn to control God. Buy this cloth, and wear it over your head when you pray, the evils spirits will have no authority over you. You can be like God."
Across town, the same wool covers the different anointed seeking to tame the red one-eyed beast. His wool covering is darker, and less tailored, and the softness and soothing of his voice lulls the beast to give its treasure. But the same sly grin of sincerity persists. "God has set these rules," he leers. "You're better than you think you are. You must set your mind to new heights. It matters not if you are Jew or Gentile, Christian or Muslim. Your belief will bring your best life." God set this world in motion, and gave these secrets.
Half a world away, the leader of the pack speaks. His wool covering, reminiscent of Dr. No and Kamal Kahn, radiates in the spot light with the power of his magnetism. His voice powerful, and old worldly. He speaks to the monster, and shows forth his power. He bears his perfect teeth, and snarls "Slain in the Spirit." And the red eyed cyclops bleeds forth its wealth.
Their names are irrelevant. They could easily be called Valentinian, Marcion, Jefferson, Larry, Joel, Rod or Benny. The wool suits they wear barely hide the wolf within. They prey on the wallets of the weak by appealing to the fleshly needs and desires - greed and despartion are their weapons, and their vices. They tell stories of great healings and miracles to cover the carcases of so many lambs, being sure to keep the facts vague, and untraceable. They trade in secrets, "truths" they call them, for a price. But all they deliver is disillusionment and broken lives. They appear sometimes in packs, with the knowing glance that one will help the other bring down their prey, and not expose the truth.
These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. (2 Pet. 2:17-19).
Like bartenders with short shots and short change, these charlatans are a monument not to the overarching schemes of Satan, but rather to the unmitigated depravity of man. Their excesses and abuses, Mercedes and BMW's, Mansions and jets are testaments to their greed, and their followers' desperation. And all of our desires to be like gods.
But the wolves don't worry how many sheep there may be. All they know is there are plenty to go around. It does not take a prophet to see that they whore the gospel, and pimp the revelation of God, while using the language of love. And the day that you eat thereof, you shall die.
Today, in that town, someone will point out that these men (and women) have nothing to sell, and nothing from God. To repeat their refrain of greed, "Might as well be me."
Monday, March 10, 2008
Keith Green, was an early contemporary Christian artist of the 1970's and early 80's. A fallen teen heart throb and proficient pre-teen song writer, Green had searched through such things as Buddhism, drugs, and agnosticism before His love broke through. Green influenced, some would say paved, a whole genre of contemporary Christian music. While he and his "Last Days Ministry" was strongly influenced by the Vineyard Christian Movement in Southern California, and his theology was not always "spot on", he wrote and sang from his personal experience, and the change he experienced when he met the living Christ.
Keith Green died with three of his children in a 1983 private airplane crash while circling his Last Days Ministry property.
In 1978, singer / song writer / poet / philosopher and guru of all things hip, Bob Dylan experienced a personal and musical transformation which he attributed to coming to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no doubt that Dylan was the voice of the 60s and 70s for a world of musicians and people, and the firestorm surrounding his conversation was both huge and expected. And there is no doubt that God gifted Bob Dylan to be one of the greatest and most talented men to ever write and perform music.
As a result of this transformation, Dylan recorded and released two exclusive gospel albums, Slow Train Coming and Saved. His song, You Gotta Serve Somebody made it into the rock and pop charts in 1981 in both the United States and the United Kingdom. "Slow Train Coming" was classic Dylan with a Christian twist, but his best song, in my estimation, was "I Believe in You."
But when both Green and Dylan moved toward Christian music, they each turned to one man who had long traveled the worlds of Christian rock music and rejection from both the church and the world - Larry Norman. Known for such Christian hit songs as "I Wish We Had All Been Ready" and "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?" (If you watch no other video but this last one, watch it.), Norman was never fully accepted by anyone, sacred or secular, outside of the musical world. But inside that world, some of the greatest names in music recognized his talent and genius and sought it out. Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Glen Frye, and yes, Bob Dylan.
For his part, Norman kept a certain amount of distance between himself and his Christian followers. In speaking of being Christian before it was popular, Norman told Contemporary Magazine, "I did not particularly feel comfortable with the Jesus Movement. I was not one of the kids who had recently become a Christian. I did not have any scintillating 'testimony' of getting high on Jesus and then giving up drugs, girls and the pursuit of material possessions.... In fact, I felt that I was neither part of the 'establishment' [n]or part of the alternative lifestyle enclave which felt itself so superior to their parents and our civic leaders."
Norman was just an ordinary guy who loved rock music and loved Jesus. He sought to be known as an entertainer and artist who was a Christian, and not a "Christian entertainer" or a "Christian artist". He didn't really care if people liked his music or not. Preferring not to sell the truth, he often gave his music away for free. He didn't pay much attention to trying to be somebody. He never proclaimed himself a "super-Christian", a superior theologian, nor the voice for God. And he would be the first to tell you he was none of those things. He only sought to help other's see his spiritual journey through his music. His life was spent wanting to make music to the God of creation, in the genre of his generation. Norman's God given musical talents used for God's glory, through Norman's personality. And in the process, he incidentally shaped an entire musical generation, including a kid from a small farming town known as 4theluv.
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King.
Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity. (Psalm 98: 4-9)
Because of my love of great (and perhaps not so great) music, I frequently talk with people in their 20's and 30's who never listen to or know they GREAT music of the 60's and 70's. Late Generation "X"ers don't really know the great music I had growing up. The secular philosophical lyrics of the music of the 60's and 70's is rivaled in Western culture only by the sacred hymnology born from the Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries. And of these "kids" I talk to, I dare say none of them heard of Larry Norman.
For me, a kid growing up in the 70's and 80s, hooked on English bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles, Bob Dylan was one of the few true American talents I owned. When I first heard Slow Train Coming, the Christian wheels began to turn. Dylan led to Green, whose musical style was very much in the early 70's vein but message was decidedly different. Green led to Petra, an 80's Christian rock band. But all of them pointed back to Norman, the pioneer in Christian Rock.
Paul said it well. "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." (Eph. 2: 19-22).
Larry Norman passed away recently after a lengthy illness, but his legacy will remain for quite some time. Norman lived his life with personal integrity and incredible musical talent. Norman properly viewed his life as an alien. While here, we are only visitors to this dying planet, witnesses to its greatness, and it baseness. We are in it, but not of it. And that greatness (and baseness) can be seen in the sacred, and the secular. Norman could see the brilliance of great secular musicians, and combine it with the truths he found in Christ.
It amazes me how some Christians discount brilliance and talent because the one possessing those gifts is not "Christian", or even not Christian enough. As Christians, we are too quick to discount the sparks of truth that radiate from believers and non believers alike like a July 4th sparkler. While our theology should never be based on music, we can see the majesty of God in musical expression. We can express our own journey in music like in no other medium. We can learn something of the God who gave mankind eyes to see the world around him, and express what he sees through song, as we experience that world through the eyes of believers and unbelievers alike in song.
And people like Norman are a unique reminder of God's providence in so many ways around us. Larry Norman's last word, written the day before he died, say it so well:
Somewhere beyond the sky.
I pray that you will stay with God
Goodbye, my friends, goodbye.
Goodbye, Larry. You impacted people you never even knew, in ways you never dreamed you would.
And perhaps, that is the point.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
The past few weeks I have been chugging through the first half of Dawkin's The God Delusion. Chugging is the appropriate word. It is a heavy word, pregnant with all the intensity this haughty book deserves. But, four weeks after purchasing it, I'm only half way through it even though I have sat down for countless hours to chug through it.
His book is condescending, calling atheists "smart people" and religious people "lower educated people." He even quotes the statistics to back it up. His reported stats show that the average intellectual and academic degrees of proclaimed atheists is higher than those who identify themselves as believers in any form of god. This, he concludes, is proof that high intelligence breeds atheism and, apparently, is superior to religious believers who have lower intelligence. (I think to be fair to Dawkins, "intelligence" is best understood as mental acumen coupled with rigorous training and thought, and expounded systematically, consistently and rationally resulting at a minimum in agnosticism but inevitably atheism.)
In response to great scientists of the past like Newton, Pascal, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Mendel, who were trained theologians and expressed personal faith in Christ, Dawkins dismisses them as men of their times for whom, without the lip service to the church, would not be able to ply their trade and indulge their intellect. If they were avowed atheists, they would lose their funding.
Earlier academics and scientists were overwhelmingly professed Christian but that was because they had to be in order to do their science? But, modern academic studies show overwhelmingly that scientists are either atheists or agnostics?
Really, Mr. Dawkins? Let's be consistent.
Your positions suggests only that "intelligent" people of the past were mere con men, but "intelligent" people of the present are now honest and free and have integrity. (Let's forget for a second what religious cost Galileo paid for his scientific endeavors.) Could it be that modern "intellectuals" cannot show faith because to do so would sound the death knell of their careers? Would they lose their academic funding in a society of academics which disdains faith? Would they face the scorn of men like you who would view their achievements as suspect for nothing more than that they are people of faith? Or, perhaps, is it because the intellectuals of today are much smarter than the intellectuals of yesterday? At the same age you were learning to drive a car and hit on girls, Pascal was completing his treatise on theoretical geometry.
It is mighty cavalier to dismiss the beliefs of an entire class of learned men by excusing their "ignorance" as "men of their times." Your statistics only suggest that modern scientists are "men of their times" and to extrapolate further is inconsistent. Excuse me, but your snobbery is showing.
Really, Mr. Dawkins? Let's be consistent.
We shall grant you the latitude to not believe in the god you choose not to believe in, even a god who probably doesn't exist and probably doesn't send people to hell. But be consistent. Probability must be based on some known variable, and while the probability of God's existence you concede is based on known unknowns, the probability of his attitude toward nonbelievers in him is an unknown unknown and thus not subject to probability. You cannot know the nature of a god you claim you cannot know.
Perhaps much to Dawkin's consternation, so far the book leaves me not doubting my faith, as both the proponents and opponents of the book have suggested as a probable outcome of reading the book. Rather, it leaves me doubting Dawkin's snide apologetical outline of the religion of Reason, one that is passing away even as we speak. Perhaps, in the second half of the book, Dawkins drops his bombshell. Somehow, I doubt it.
Here's your mirror, Mr. Dawkins.