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Monday, October 31, 2016

The Four Needs

i think in metaphors.  i try and understand things by associating them with other things which i may or may not think i understand.  Sometimes i do this in the first degree, with willful intent.  Other times it’s involuntary idea slaughter.  The comparison, metaphor or similarity just pops into the ol’ oblong pumpkin unbidden, uninvited and with all the grace of Kramer barging through Jerry’s door.  (Some of you will now need to go and look up reruns of Seinfeld.  Nothing like derailing half your audience in the first paragraph.  Without reasonable concern, we damn the torpedoes and pour on more steam!)  (Some of you will now need to go look up Admiral David Farragut.)

So it was no surprise to me when studying what some people wiser than me have determined are the four underlying idols of our hearts that my mind was off into Ezekiel and Revelations and picturing the idols as demonic manifestations; twisted, bent copies of the cherubs of God.  It was a compelling image in my head.  A satanic pretender throne surrounded by the four faces of idolatry: Comfort, Control, Approval and Power.  The four Needs.  (Did you know our word ‘need’ comes from the German ‘Not’ which implies danger or emergency?  How appropos to our topic at hand.  Learning is fun and educational!)

The four cherubs are described as the Ox or Calf, the Man, the Eagle and the Lion (Ezek 1 and 10, Rev 4) Zeke saw them as four similar beings with four faces each.  Johnny saw them as four separate creatures.  Could be the difference in eye witness accounts of witnesses who are in the process of having their minds jellied by the Holiness of what they are witnessing but i tend to think God does this stuff on purpose.  He is separate parts.  He is one whole inseparable.  He is paradox.  Which is a fancy word for, He-don’t-fit-in-your-box cuz He made you and the box you came in.

The cherub’s likenesses are said to be symbolic and have been interpreted many ways and also assigned to the four gospels.  Matthew the man, emphasizing the humanity and incarnation of Jesus.  Mark the lion, emphasizing Christ the Lord over all powers and authorities.  Luke the Ox, strength, servanthood and sacrifice.  And drawing up the four, John with his high minded, spiritual Savior-Logos, the eagle.  (Full disclosure here, cuz we’re friends and i like ya, look hard enough and you can find different assignations and symbology.  Why?  Cuz God didn’t say in His Word, 
“Okay, Matt, you get man; John, you have to have the eagle cuz you’re so flighty, Luke, you get the cow and Mark gets lion.”  And Luke spake unto him, “Aw man!  Why does Mark get lion, i wanted lion!”  And God answered him, “Mark wrote his first so he gets first pick.  Deal with it.”  
This part is church tradition.  So hold it loosely.)

So in my mind, these idols become the four Needs, fallen angels with counter gospels, lies they tell us which are all variations on the same theme their boss, the serpent, gave Eve in the garden: "God doesn’t love you.  You need to be your own god."  Is it useful to think in such terms?  i don’t know.  If it keeps the conversation going; if it helps us look at our own sin and confess more intelligently; if it makes it easier to picture for us visual thinkers (nothing like having a self-possessed cow sitting on your lap to give you a mental image of temptation); if it helps somebody remember, "Finally, become strong in the Lord and in the might of his strength. Put on the full armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the stratagems of the devil, because our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."  Then good.  If it doesn’t, then leave it alone.  i don’t assume every thought that pops into my head is good for edifying and feeding the Body but enough of them have been that i would rather err on the side of sharing than bottling.  Most days.  So without anymore ado, cuz we’ve had enough ado, i give you the four Needs….


starting tomorrow.  This post is long enough.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Vocational hazard

"What do you think about vocation, Seamus?"
"Ah do-on't."
"You don't wonder what your true calling is?"
"Ah'm doin' it."
"You were called to clean septic tanks?"
"Look," he poked the rancid air between his finger and my chest, "'Callin'' is what you lazy, starry-eyed dreamers want to do instead o' work.  Ye make up words like, 'vocation' to legitimize it."
"You can't poss--"
"Fook ye, get a job."
"A vocation is a job, it.."
"Not if no one pays you for it, it ain't."
"Dude, sometimes you have to strive for something, like olympic athletes or artists or.."
"Oy aye, and everyone loves those wankers, 'cept for the one payin' their room n' board!"
"Didn't you dream about being something when you were a kid?"
"Oh aye."
"What?"
"Ah dreamt a cleaning shite holes.  And here ah am!"
"You're a miserable bastard, Seamus."
"Vocational hazard, mate."

Stranger in a strange bed

The air is too thick
the welcome too thin.
came in from the cold
must have let it in.

the sheets are too clean
can’t shake the smell
of being a guest
in my own hotel

the silence’s too loud
there’s no sense of place
sealed in a capsule
tumbling through space

the bed is too soft
it’s freshly turned dirt
from the hole she dug
to bury her hurt

the distance too great
we’re too far apart
no man’s land between
and walls round her heart

we are two people
one swore we to be
now there’s a stranger
that stranger is me.

Friday, October 21, 2016

No Rhoads Warrior

i have been encouraged to write again.  And i almost wish i wasn't.  It makes life nigh on unbearable for me.

Not because i don't want to write, quite the opposite actually.  i do.  i want to with all of my innerds and a few of my outterds too.  i love writing and to make matters worse, i'm being urged to write a devotional which is a bit like inviting heroin into your life.  It feels good but several months from now i suspect my life will bear a strange resemblance to much of Syria.

i don't say that flippantly.  i've tried it before.  Devotion writing, not heroin.  i was, as you can read in the archives of this very blog and my Rabbit Trails one as well, full on into the expedition, with gunboys, porters, elephants and two particularly stout and careful fellows bearing my Ming dynasty bone china tea set.  One need not be uncivilised about such things.  But like the Brits with their empire, after the war, i had to give it up.  And for much the same reasons.

i had become an insufferable twat.

Here's the thing and it's taken me some time to recognize this about myself.  Or i recognized it long ago but oddly, my ego wouldn't allow me to speak the words.  i suspect i'm great.  i do not say i am fully convinced of this for i spend much of my time lamenting not being great.  Much of my depression seems to me now to come from not living up to my suspected potential, a word and phrase i heard growing up about as often as, "Wash your hands before dinner." or "Be nice to your brother, you know he looks up to you." or "Quit picking your nose!"  "He doesn't work up to his potential," they'd say.  "He has so much potential, this is disappointing."  "If you would only try, you have so much potential!"  Apparently, other people thought i was more than i was trying to be.

Which brought on two counter cravings.  The desire to be praised and recognized for the things i did, to be as great as they said i was and the equally emphatic desire to be ignored, to be left alone to do what i felt like doing rather than trying to "live up to my potential."  It was like i had to compete not with someone else, but with an imaginary better version of me.  A version, i was fairly certain, i did not recognize.  Though i fantasized about him a lot.  Eventually i decided i couldn't be him so why try.  i set my sights at achievable goals, OSHA approved industry minimums and bowed out.  Slowly, sadly the disappointed shook their heads and went away.

And you would think that would be the end of it.  Or you might not.  You're probably savvy enough to know that the worst voice of judment this side of the Great White Throne is in our own heads.  There's no where to hide from that voice.  No where to run.  And so as not to go into a narcissistic navel novel; yada yada, he grew up, struggles with angst common to man, listened to the voices, tried to live up to the potential once, failed, wrecked his marriage, his finances, his family and became a shell of a man, a burnt-out desolate man, a man who wandered out into the wasteland.

And now here they come again.  Worming their way into the black matter of my brain.  Should i take the bait my soul craves so mightily?  Have i become wise enough to handle the power or will the shame this time be mine?  Is the Cross enough?  Will i here, in this blighted place, learn to live again?