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Monthly Archives: February 2007

SF in Charlotte

This is in response to a blog posted on MySpace by one of my best friends. I was actually going to respond on his blog, but I decided to just paste it here. So bear in mind that this is a continuation of an ongoing conversation. For that reason, forgive me if anything is unclear.

I ask that you give it a good read before moving on.

Relevantism (Part 2)

Truly, we are aliens in this world. This place is not our ultimate home. Yet, still, here we are. I think that sometimes we lose sight of the fact that this world, in a way, is our home for now. Don’t get me wrong…we (Christians) live in the Kingdom of God. We live for the Kingdom of God. Our every step is to be taken being mindful that we are His body and that we each are to strive to be an image of Him. But, we are still physically in this world. We are surrounded by countless well-meaning and hurting and seeking people who are shut out by the modern “Christian” culture. [Which, as I think about it, isn’t always so Christian…I think of when our Lord said “whatever ye do to the least of these…” I don’t always see those who say they are Christians caring one whit about the least of these, from donations to major charities all the way down to saying a kind word to a person on the street. (Alas, I, too, am guilty of this.) Some only seem to care about doing things so that God will bless them. Ugh! But, I digress…]

So much to say…this cuts to the heart of things that have been going through my head lately. And, not just lately, but for years. But, I’ll try to keep it short.

You talk about loving those who don’t love in return. One of the things that struck me about the attitude of the Orthodox Christian Church very early on was a certain point in the Divine Liturgy (which is what the Sunday service is called). The priest came out and said a quick set of prayers (kind of like brother Toby will in the middle of the morning service, except these are the same every week). Among those prayers, he said the following (or, close to it…I can’t remember all of it right now, even though I hear it every Sunday…I think the first part might be missing):

“Those who love us, those who hate us,
those who’ve asked our prayers, unworthy though we may be,
those for whom we pray,
those for whom we forget to pray,
may the Lord God remember in His kingdom,
always, now and ever,
and unto ages of ages.”

Though it’s seldom heard in modern Christianity, this is to be our attitude. Christ calls us to forgive without any expectation of payment or recompense of any kind. (This would also include even the acknowledgement by the offending party that they’ve done wrong and asking us to forgive them.) Likewise, He calls us to love all in the same way, the just and the unjust, just as His Father causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, the sun to rise on the good and the wicked.

We are to be the light of the world just as He is. The light that shines on us and in us doesn’t glow from afar, ensconced in some pretty glass container that we can only walk up to and admire the beauty of. Rather, it is freely given and illumines all of creation. It touches us and warms us and, if we allow it to, it melts the ice that forms around our hearts when we become embittered or self-righteous.

We have to engage the culture around us, or Christianity will become more and more of, and only, a separate culture in the eyes of the world around us. The veil of the temple was torn in two when Christ commended His life into the hands of the Father, allowing access to God at any time by anyone (through Christ, of course). Yet, when some Christians give their lives to Christ, almost the opposite seems to happen. They shut everyone out except their church, taking their newly found life and keeping it all for themselves. If we do this as Christians, how then will we fulfill the commandment to go and make disciples of all nations (and cultures, and people groups, and cities, and ghettos, and cliques, and ages, and sexual orientations, and races, etc…)?

I just thought of something…

You remember the old VBS and day care days of singing “This Little Light of Mine” with a room full of people? I would say a lot of people have lost the point-of-view expressed in the song (which also is a teaching of Christ). And, what we’re seeing is a Christian counter-culture…if you will…that is trying to regain that mindset and live it out day-by-day and trust that, in the words of Jars of Clay lead singer Dan Haseltine, “God will call His own to Himself.” If they don’t live it…if we don’t live it…I would say we’re not really taking up our cross, which Christ said we must do to be His followers.

On the website for the organization To Write Love On Her Arms, you find this in the FAQ, and I think it’s a pretty good summation of all that we’re saying here:

Q. Is TWLOHA Christian?
A. We feel that the story (and the rest of this project) speaks for itself. Identifying something (such as a band, store, venue or project) as “Christian” often alienates those outside of the church/christian culture and we don’t want to do that. TWLOHA aims to be inclusive and inviting. This is a project for all people. This is a project for broken people, and it is led by broken people.

And Christianity is the same. As I’ve said before, we should not have to say all the time what we believe, or wear WWJD bracelets, or shout the name of Jesus everywhere we go, or write blogs about youth conferences. Jesus said that we will be known as His disciples only (as this was His only comment on the matter as far as I know) if we love one another as He has loved us. One another. Not just the good, the holy, the believer, the straight, the narrow-minded, the sane, the white, the normal-looking, the middle class, the choir member, the college single, the whatever. But, one another. The man standing next to you on the bus. The lady at the grocery store. The guy who cuts you off in traffic during Friday rush hour. Everyone.

This is a bold statement, but I feel the need to say it. I would say that not, at the very least, desiring to be formed into the image of the One who is Love that we might truly and wholly love one another in the way discussed above is an attitude that is entirely not Christian.

So, the movement toward being relevant is not so much just people wanting to blend in. But they see something wrong with the way things have been done before and they’re trying to remedy that. As my priest, Fr. Stephen Freeman, said recently, “We all need to pray and do the best we can to present God in truth and in love. The world is in crisis.”



OCF Shadows
It’s amazing how things work out.  You plan things and think you’re doing it for one reason.  But, then something comes along and you find out that you wouldn’t have been able to handle it the best way if you had made different plans.

That’s part of where I am in life right now.  Something has come along and put me on the ground.  And here I sit, wondering if it’s safe to get up or if I should sit a little longer and wait for the storm to calm down. It has done the same to my parents.  At this time, it’s very important that I be here as much as possible if something should get worse.  Thank God I did one of my crazy academic stunts and “decided” that it would be cool to take all independent classes this semester (which may prove to be my bane), ensuring me of the ability to be home practically whenever I need to be instead of being forced to stay in West Virginia the entire time.

Anyway, as a result, I’m not sure how often I’ll update the blog.  I know it’s sporadic at best anyway.  But, it might be a few days, or weeks, or even all of Lent before I get back to some semblance of regularity. Just please bear with me.  And I ask your prayers for me, my parents, and especially my brother.

Not only is Lent a time of quiet and stillness and, *gasp*, silence (which might reign for a while here), but it is a time to seek to realize our need for God and for our reliance on Him. And, you know, it’s times like this when I begin to gain a glimmer of understanding of the truth that there really is no other way to rightly survive life.

See you soon…

No Name Face

words by Jason Wade

Could you let down your hair
Be transparent for awhile, just a little while
To see if you’re human after all

Honesty is a hard attribute to find
When we all want to seem like
We’ve got it all figured out
Well let me be the first to say that I don’t have a clue
I don’t have all the answers
Ain’t gonna pretend like I do

Just trying
To find my way
To find my way the best I know how

Well I haven’t memorized all of the cute things to say
But I’m working on it
Maybe I’ll master this art form someday
If I quote all the lines off the top of my head
Would you believe
That I fully understand all these things I’ve read

I’m just trying
To find my way
To find my way
To find my way the best that I know how

Well I haven’t got it all figured out quite yet but
Even if it takes my whole life to get to where I need to be
And if I should fall to the bottom of the end
I’ll be one step back to you, and
trying to find my way
Trying to find my way

I’m trying to find my way
Trying to find my way…

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

This verse kept going through my head as I travelled to and from West Virginia yesterday and last night. Along with it, thoughts of how not everything goes as planned, or as wanted, or as expected. This is nerve-shatteringly obvious sometimes.

Yet, my response should be shaped and encouraged by this verse. For, I know that God loves me perfectly and without condition or pretense or selfish desire. If this is so, and if He has this plan for my life (which I believe He does—see Jeremiah 29:11, for example), then whatever that plan might entail, I should not be afraid of the overall result. I know it will be for my good. Which is far different from saying that it will be good or easy; it might be very difficult and painful. But, I know that God is good and that He knows what He’s doing better than I even know what I’m doing (which I often don’t). So, I should trust without fear.

It’s hard, but it’s such a release when I can bring myself to die to my want to know how everything will turn out and to just remember that, as Father Arseny said, “God’s ways are inscrutable and His mercy is inexhaustible.” He has everything I need to make it through: the knowledge of where He wants me to go and the strength to help me get there, no matter what happens.

This song speaks to this point, and even beyond it. It’s among what I typically call “scary prayers.” That your world come apart if it needs to and that you will not have any of your strength to rely on when it happens is a pretty scary thing to ask. I mean…what if it really happened that way? What do you do then? The answer is far easier said than done. I know very well.

Yet, if I want God’s love to be realized more and more in my life, informing and guiding every step and thought and action and decision and so on, then these things that I build have to come crashing down. They’re nothing in the end but monuments to my pride and my righteous view of myself. They are distractions, they are idols, they are rubbish. Though I like them (else I wouldn’t have them) they have nothing for me.

Still, this is such a hard thing to chase after and desire. It brings to mind a very fearsome scenario.

But, may it be as it should.

“Let Your Love Be Strong”
words by Jonathan Foreman

In this world of news, I’ve found nothing new
I’ve found nothing pure
Maybe I’m just idealistic to assume that truth
Could be fact and form
That love could be a verb
Maybe I’m just a little misinformed

As the dead moon rises, and the freeways sigh
Let the trains watch over the tides and the mist
Spinning circles in our skies tonight
Let the trucks roll in from Los Angeles
Maybe our stars are unanimously tired

Let your love be strong, and I don’t care what goes down
Let your love be strong enough to weather through the thunder cloud
Fury and thunder clap like stealing the fire from your eyes
All of my world hanging on your love

Let the wars begin, let my strength wear thin
Let my fingers crack, let my world fall apart
Train the monkeys on my back to fight
Let it start tonight
When my world explodes, when my stars touch the ground
Falling down like broken satellites

Let your love be strong, and I don’t care what goes down
Let your love be strong enough to weather through the thunder cloud
Fury and thunder clap like stealing the fire from your eyes
All of my world hanging on…

All of my world resting on your love

AV Chapel

All will be well.
You an ask me how,
but only time will tell.
–Gabe Dixon, “All Will Be Well”

Hope is not in vain.

The verdict has been given, though from an unlikely source. And, I was right. It has ended well. Not the way I would necessarily have chosen. But, well all the same.

So, I turn away from the chasm not because I never heard anything, but, as is often the case in my life, I’ve decided to change my direction. Maybe I’ll return, maybe I won’t. I’ve learned not to say either way for sure. Speaking in certain terms often gets me in trouble. Or, at least, a nice heaping plate of crow.

This is not my path right now. It’s a lovely path, indeed. But, it’s just not mine. Not this time. Yet, no time was wasted and nothing is regretted. As I think about it, this is the best way this could have turned out. My choice would have been awful eventually. I hate to admit it, though.

And, so, on I go. Right now, my life is chock full of adventure. It’s anyone’s guess where the next one will take me.

Stay tuned.

Louisville–Ohio River
On a grey rainy morning, my mind is pondering personal suffering and endurance. Not so much these things themselves, but what is behind them—what causes the suffering that, handled properly, will lead to endurance (Romans 5:3).

I’m currently in the middle of a situation where the end will bring a verdict. It will likely end well, by most indications. But, it might not. And the idea of carrying on in the meantime is driving me nuts. I’m not depressed by it. It just makes things tense.

I sometimes feel like I’ve dropped a rock into a chasm. I’m waiting, listening to find out if the rock will hit a ledge or if it will continue falling into the black abyss that the chasm appears to be. If it hits a ledge, then I can descend into the chasm and explore, knowing that there are places where I may rest and find safety if I need to. However, if it continues down into empty nothingness, I’ll have no choice but to turn back, knowing that this part of the journey isn’t for me. At least, not now.

In his book Night, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel states that the worst feeling in the world is not to be hated. Instead, he says that it is indifference that kills a person’s soul. If people hate you, they at least pay enough attention to you to care one way about you. If they are indifferent, they don’t care if you live or die. In fact, it’s as if you’re not alive at all. You’re nothing to them.

That’s what the waiting is like. Though there is plenty of positive indication within the situation itself that it will be fine, the one making the decision is giving no clue. I can’t tell if he’ll turn right or left. So, when I consider his role, I get no feeling for what’s going on. It’s just like being ignored, wondering if the people in the room will ever do anything to acknowledge my existence.

This has been going through my head on-and-off since Wednesday.

Monday night, I heard a message that ended with a discussion of what “hope” really means. The speaker observed that hope seems to be just a word people throw around anymore, that few use it and actually mean it in the fullness of its true meaning. The way he explained the Greek meaning of the words that are translated as “hope” was this: “Hope is the current illumination of a future certainty.” That might sound like a wordy rewrite of Hebrews 11:1, but check this out.

In my dreams, and sometimes in reality, I see this thing ending well. I see a resolution. I look out toward the distant horizon, and I see things glistening in victory and radiant in triumph. Maybe not total triumph, but triumph nonetheless. And, in those moments, I feel lighter. I find solace. I experience joy, and it sometimes shows on my face and in my step, and you may even hear it in my words. The evidence born in me of the certainty that I perceive is the illumination brought by that certainty. I have visions of a desirable end to the wait, and it’s like the sun shines a little brighter. Things don’t seem as dark anymore.

So, I definitely have hope. But, as I await the final word, I’m caught somewhere between the dreaming and the coming true. It’s not so much painful as it is just agonizing. But, I know it’s for my good. And, I already see evidence of its good in my life. Certain relationships are stronger. I’m learning important things about how to suffer through an ongoing discussion with someone who doesn’t always seem to want to listen. And, of course, humility. There’s always that.

It’s only a matter of time before this does come to an end, whether good or bad. I hope for the good. And I hope it happens soon.