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Sunday, March 08, 2009

To be a jalapeño or fishflakes?

The problem that i see with bludgeoning someone with a point is that there comes a moment when you have driven the point home perfectly, they get it, no further shillelagh work is necessary, message received, please stop.  But unless the subject cries "uncle," or "aunt" or "mom" or "total stranger who i just met at random due to a Google search!"  The point maker is likely to continue the battering well past this all critical moment and with each subsequent blow actually degrade their pupil's ability to retain knowledge.  It's a philosophical conundrum, that's for sure.

So, as i look around for my tomahawk, if your skull's feeling a bit like a brown banana you might want to duck into some LOLcats or iTunes or something.  Or better yet, try some reality television, that stuff is guaranteed to calcify the interior of the old brainbox.  Sort of your noodle's natural defenses taking over.

i have spent a large portion of my life wondering what i'm for.  Since i have no trouble believing that there is a God, He loves me and has a purpose for my life as well as everything He does, it seemed an appropriate use of my time and energy.  The problem is, it isn't.

All that time thinking about my purpose became time thinking about me.  i became the focus.  In short, because i wasn't doing something i wanted to do, i assumed i was doing something wrong.  And i was, but the wrong thing i was doing wrong wasn't the right thing.  You see?  Why do you look all bruised and mushy?  As i've chronicled here ad nauseum, i was waiting for a change in circumstances.  A change in environment to lift me out of the malaise i was in and transport me to some higher ground and some Fricken shaped niche that i was designed to fill and i would suddenly blossom like Baryshnikov discovering ballet, into who i was meant to be.  And more importantly, start enjoying this life i'd been given.  

Well, if you take that thought and plant some peppers, frijoles and corn with it, you should get some real good chimichangas by fall.  God has planted you, my hot little jalapeños, in exactly the garden he wanted you in, all we have to do is stop spewing fertilizer and bask in His light and soak up His Living Water.  'fore you can say, "yo quiero Taco Bell," you'll be spicing up whatever batch of chili life whips up.  i guaran-fricken-tee it.  How can i be so sure?  One word:


It's a familiar story, even pagans can summarize it.  But in case there aren't any pagan's around to explain it to you, i'll sum it up real quick.  

God said, "Go here, do this," to Jonah.
Jonah said, "blow it out your ear."  Then he went down dockside, found a boat going to edge of the known universe and he was out of there.  Along comes a storm.  Now the sailors in this boat, they knew how to handle this situation.  They threw everything overboard to lighten the ship, did all their sailor-y stuff, battened some hatches, furl't the mains'l and all that.  When that didn't work and it became obvious the ship was in danger they started praying to their gods, the gods of their own understanding.  No atheists in foxholes or foundering ships apparently.  When that failed to appease Triton they searched the ship and found Jonah sleeping.  "Dude!  Wake up!  Pray to your god, maybe he's got some pull with the mountains of water trying to bury us!"  They drag Jonah up on deck and they determine that someone has truly teed the gods off.  So they cast lots, draw straws, roll dice, flip a coin, play a quick game of hackey-death and surprise, surprise, hello Jonah.

Jo 'fesses up.  The sailors ask, "alright, cool, what do we do to make this stop?"
"Simple, throw me in."
Now, i dunno about you but i chalk being swallowed up by the sea right up there with falling backwards off the slide, being caught in a bear trap in bear country and slowly being compressed into a jello cube on my least favorite ways to check out list.  i don't think Jo would have gotten past the word "throw" before he was practicing his doggie paddle had i been there.  But these sailors were actually pretty human dudes.  Even after he told them this they went back to trying to muscle their way out of the storm to shore.  As we know, it doesn't work, the sailors reluctantly toss him overboard and Jonah gets to be grouper chow.  The storm stops and the sailors convert to Judaism on the spot, offering sacrifices and vows to the God of the Hebrews.

So the Moral of the Story is…do what God tells you to do or He’ll kick your butt.  Yeah, maybe.  But recently he gave me something else to chew on.  He told me that He loved a bunch of scruffy sailors.  And that he used Jonah to present the Gospel to those sailors.  He showed them that they needed to be saved.  He showed them that their gods couldn’t do that saving.  He told them that someone had to die for them to be saved.  Still they tried to do it on their own, well-intentioned works!  "No God, killing is wrong!  We can try harder!  We’ll get it right this time!"  But in the end, someone had to die.  Someone willing and those sailors got it.  And He got all that done, not with some great champion of the faith who lived a blameless life, but with a grumbly, disobedient, self-centered jerk who didn't want to go where God put him and do what God told him to do.  And I find that very encouraging.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Upon this Rock

The temperature was dropping into the single digits.  The wind was howling white.  The stars and their crescent queen shone weakly through a slash in the clouds.  There appeared to be more light coming from the glowing snow than the frozen sky.  For anyone fool enough to be out, exposed skin burned, eyes watered, breath froze.

i was in my element.  i stood at the highest peak of carcass basin and flabbergasped.  i had ascended to the edge of the precipice to test my courage against another drop into the basin itself.  Each descent was a near death experience.  A falling sensation, numbness, all going white, then there was a thump, temporal pain and fear followed by an out of body moment.  It was as if one was rising above the earth, weightless, a spirit free from both the mundane and the profane.  Then tumbling, smashing, crashing down again and there you are, in your sore, battered body again, gasping for air.  Not a run to be taken lightly.

That's what i had climbed here to do but before i could throw sled and body over the edge.  The wind took me.  It came blasting across the snow shrouded wastes, broken only by huddled and shivering houses.  Which is to say, laughing at man's foolishness.  It struck me and roared on and i was inside it and there was nothing to do but laugh with it.  It brought my head up to see the stars which seemed to have come closer, it pulled my head down to view Elwood station in it's entirety.  From fricken coop to mailbox and all trees in between.  Lit up like some ship in the dark sea, alight but only seeming to emphasize it's frailty before the infinite.  Beautiful, yet ridiculous.  All my earthly labor lay before me and i was not proud.  My mind and eyes ran to my sons.  One seeking shelter within my earthly labor, shunning our mad company and the other struggling to join me atop the hill.  i saw their differences.  i saw how one made my job easier by seeking me and the other made me seek him.  And yet deeper was my wife who was not even foolish enough to attempt our idea of fun.  What must i do to reach her?  How can i express this mad joy?  Not at the falling but at the elements forcing me to admit that i am not the center of the universe and yet i am a cherished member of it: a son who sometimes seeks and sometimes must be sought.  This glimpse of both my proper perspective before God and How he must see me at times.  In this momentary revelation i wondered at tomorrow.  Should i call another snow day and stay home or go to work?  Believe it or not, that was a hard decision that had been left utterly to me.  Mundane, Profane, Insane and Sacred all swirled in that wind.

Happ finally crested the hill and asked me what i was doing still standing there.  So i told him all the things that i had thought of, alas without the poetry of recollection.  

"That's a lot to think about in five minutes,"  He remarked.

"When you're an adult you have to do your thinking when you get the chance.  Cause most of the time people will be telling you what to think."  He merely hummed at this.  i don't know if he was thinking that adulthood sucks or that i'm terribly cynical.  "Most of all," i added, "i thought that the stars looked so close that i felt closer to God and then i remembered that He's not up there, He's here... with us.  And He wants to go for another run."  And i threw body and sled over the precipice.

Now i'm sure that the rock had lay under the snow there all along.  Yet somehow, despite our tracks being all around it, we had yet to uncover it's lurking dorsal ridge.  On this run however, my near death experience came a little nearer and i found myself, abruptly halted mid run, holding the sled by it's one remaining handle, the other being torn out by the impact and laying on my back, listening to the wind overhead and the snickering stars.

"Perhaps i heard wrong.  i think He may want to go inside and see what Mom and Rascal are up to."

Sunday, March 01, 2009

"Praise God in the great congregation."

So here's what happens...

Sunday morning i wake up a little before seven.  Now i'm not a spring from bed at full throttle kind of guy.  i'm more of an ooze downstairs, osmosip half a coffee pot while reading blogs till i'm ready to ease her up to all ahead half-full.  So, somewhere around seven thirty i realize i've goofed off too long and now it's all ahead full or we won't make it as a family to church by nine-fifteen.

That's when the discouragement hits.  No one wants to get up for church.  i pretty much have to drag three quarters of my family, of which i represent a quarter, to congregate with fellow believers.  As the spiritual head of my household i see this as my duty.  But since it's been this way for so long, i begin to wonder if maybe i'm doing something wrong.  Church isn't a duty, it's a gift.  It's a reunion.  It's a redirecting of our priorities which have a tendency to reset to factory standard, that being our own lovely image in the slot labeled, "Most important person in the universe."  Now if no one in my family is getting this, if they see church as a drag and a burden then i'm not leading, i'm driving.  And while i might be a somewhat successful mule driver, wouldn't it be great if i could get the team to pull for once?

Told you i was a frustrated idealist.

And then there's the practical.  My wife, Mynnie, works six days a week.  Her body is habitually wracked with pain.  She would really, REALLY appreciate a day to sleep in.  So, do i just take the Ballyhoo Gang and let her rest?  Think of all the writing i could get done.  Heck, i just wrote this blog in the time i was supposed to be in the shower.  i have to write next week's service.  There's the irony.  The worship leader for next week is skipping this week's service in order to have time and rest to write next week's service.  Shouldn't entering into the presence of God the Almighty with my brothers and sisters give me rest and inspiration?

Guilt is the wrong reason to go to church.  The desire to be washed free of guilt is a great reason to go to church.  Sloth is a lousy reason not to go to church.  To be encouraged is a great reason to go to church.  These are things i learned in church.

But it sure is hard to get up.