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The rowing endeth

I ran across this little ditty when proofing someone’s paper earlier today. Thought it would be fun to share. I’m sorry if the poker imagery doesn’t quite sink in for you, but it makes me so happy 🙂

I’m mooring my rowboat
at the dock of the island called God.
This dock is made in the shape of a fish
and there are many boat moored
at many different docks.
“It’s okay,” I say to myself,
with blisters that broke and healed
and broke and healed–
saving themselves over and over.
And salt sticking to my face and arms like
a glue-skin pocked with grains of tapioca.
I empty myself from my wooden boat
and onto the flesh of The Island.

“On with it!” he says and thus
we squat on the rocks by the sea and play–can it
be true–a game of poker.
He calls me.
I win because I hold a royal straight flush.
He wins because He holds five aces.
A wild card had been announced
but I had not heard it
being in such a state of awe
when He took out the cards and dealt.
As he plunks down His five aces
and I sit grinning at my royal flush,
He starts to laugh,
the laughter rolling like a hoop out of His mouth
and into mine,
and such laughter that He doubles right over me
laughing a Rejoice-Chorus at our two triumphs.
Then I laugh, the fishy dock laughs
the sea laughs. The Island laughs.
The Absurd laughs.

Dearest dealer,
I with my royal straight flush,
love you so for your wild card,
that untamable, eternal, gut-driven ha-ha
and lucky love.

-Anne Sexton

Summer Goals

So today I’ve been thinking about my goals for the summer. As I often do, I began taking a mental list of the places that I wanted to go and the things that I wished to do. The problem is that when I make lists in this way, I wind up doing hardly anything on the list. So I asked myself why that is. Is my ability to plan flawed? Will I later realize that I don’t really want to do all of these? Or am I just, for some reason, not following through with what I really actually want to do?

Recently, I’ve been noticing this trend more and more. Not that the trend in itself is recent. Rather, my observations are becoming more sharpened as I try to more intentionally examine my life and my actions. There is always a disconnect between desire and action. Before, I believed in the excuses that I gave, finding them to be reasonable. “Of course I’m not actually going to do that… start that… engage there. I’m not ready. I’m not qualified. Someone else should. I need more time. Yeah, I know that my heart is setting off signals, but it really doesn’t pertain to me.”

So this summer, instead of making a list of things to do and hope that they wind up happening, I plan on doing just three little things. I want to initiate, to lead, to start things, to be proactive rather than responsive. I am such a responsive person, but that needs to change. I need to look for ways to bless others and not just wait for things to fall into my lap. Secondly, I want to facilitate, to help others in discussion, in worship, in service, in whatever, as needed. Finally, I want to cultivate myself and those around me. I want to see myself grow in so many ways. But I also want to build others up, to train, to educate, to edify. I feel that these three things overlap A LOT, though each has it’s own emphasis and focus.

So I plan on asking myself these three simple questions:

-“Am I taking initiative and being proactive in all things?”

-“Have I taken part in facilitating in areas where I see need?”

-“Am I cultivating those around me with my words and actions, and am I giving myself the necessary ingredients for godly growth?”

Feel free to remind me to consider these things, or to ask my how I’m doing with them.

Last year in Insight, I got to read a lovely book called “The Christian and the ‘Old’ Testament” by Walter Kaiser. I enjoyed it, but figured that I probably was going through it too fast to get all the good stuff out of it the first time around, so I decided to give it a second run-through (this time with my trusty highlighter!)

Walter Kaiser has two main points to prove here. The first, as the name implies, is that the “Old” Testament isn’t just pre-Christian history; it’s much more than that. And there’s a lot of really really good stuff to be drawn from it in study and reflection. The second, and this is connected to the first, is that the Old Testament sets the framework for God’s “promise plan”, which is Kaiser’s all-encompassing plan of everything that God has done and means to do. This plan really seems to include everything, and he goes throughout the OT and points to where it does. But the breadth of this plan, at times, seems to devour itself. The promise is bigger than Messianic redemption. Ok. It’s bigger than the Kingdom of God. Alright. Then what is it?

“True, it is basically a plan by which God is going to send the Messiah and, through the Messiah, is going to bless all the nations upon the earth. But those are only the bare bones of the plan. The plan grows and… includes missions…inheriting the land… fearing God so that we might know how to conduct life… be wise… eat and drink… mundane things like marriage relationships and marital love.”

I think that many people have had issue with the plan, as they feel like it’s too formulaic, or that Kaiser is trying to fix everything into a little box. But I think he really just wants the “plan” to be the planned workings of God in human history, what He will do, and how He wants us to respond. The book pretty much just goes through the Old Testament with Kaiser pointing out what the important components are. What’s the point of the Law? How does it relate to us? Where does it fit in God’s “promise plan”, what does He mean to do? Etc. And he does a pretty good job at doing that, though I would admit that sometimes he does “read” things in the text that I cannot see, though he is much more historically and linguistically capable than myself.

Overall I think it’s a good book, though slow later on. I read it mostly for additional commentary on the Old Testament (not as an argument for the “promise plan) as I read through it, and would say that it does suit that purpose. My favorite section, by far, was his treatment on the OT law, and how it relates to the contemporary Christian today. That, though, is a whole other discussion waiting to happen.

One thing that I find absolutely fascinating about the Christian church is its diversity. We truly are a mosaic of backgrounds, histories, cultures, and personalities. We approach God, understand God, and respond to God in such a range of ways. The response of variety is often a claim of heresies brewing. Everyone thinks that their approach is the only way of Christian living. Yet even when suppressed, diversity of thought and practice have prevailed. And that is largely in part to the fact that God’s interaction with each group is messy; there is hardly ever a “100% stamp of approval” that we can see. This has led me to believe that doctrine and ideas may not be the bottom line after all.

In my last year, I read a lot about the history of church conflict. This year, I feel like I’ve dropped into the middle of it, quickly trying to learn what Christ intended the Church to be, and how that compares with my own approach to it. I recently read “Pagan Christianity,” by Frank Viola and George Barna (both house church advocates), in addition to various encounters and conversations about Wolfgang Simson and his “Starfish Manifesto.” And more and more, I’m starting to realize that the institutional church is just man’s attempt to bring predictability to God and His interactions with us. Rather than entering into living, breathing, Christ-centered communities, we consolidate our faith. We worship only on Sundays, only in certain locations and with certain people present. We rationalize God. We systematize everything.

Me, I don’t claim to “know it all.” I wish that there was a single way to view God, a single perspective to be had; I really do. We could all learn it and respond to it, never again having to quibble with each other. Unfortunately, God is so much bigger than our systematic theology, our concepts, and our worldviews. Defining our lives within a system full of absolutes will only result in miserable and self-righteous religion. Because when He moves or acts in a way that we have chosen not to accept, we are the ones that find ourselves wallowing in our own ignorance.

So I’ve been trying to just take a step back and see where God is moving, what He is doing, and how that interacts with His call on my life and on the lives of those around me. Again, I don’t have this all down. I can’t answer all of your questions. But Christ came to usher in a Kingdom, and there is only one King that exists within this system. We have been granted full access to His presence, and I think that going straight to the source is the best option available.

So do I leave the system that is so clearly broken? Do I stay and complain under my breath? Do I work within the institutional church, helping them to be as Kingdom oriented as possible, despite the inherent problems that I see? I mean, I’m all for Kingdom living, and I’m not the biggest fan of the institutional church. But it’s there, and it’s trying; I really do believe that. I need to know how to respond.

I guess it’s a good think that I have direct access to the King, isn’t it?

I’ve had to read a lot on poverty this quarter. And we are all aware that God really has an eye out for the poor. We’re supposed to help them, to love them, but how do we do that? In Walking With the Poor, Meyers goes into detail several explanations for the root causes of poverty and the responses to them rather than tell poverty through story. His end definition of poverty is a “result of relationships that do not work…the absence of shalom in all its meaning”. At the roots of these broken relationships, there exists a spiritual distortion made by sin. Though hard to wrap my mind around it, I think that this very well could be the best holistic definition of poverty that I’ve seen so far. Meyers specifically attempts to find a poverty concept that includes the consequences of the biblical fall. In addition, the fact that poverty is relational explains why we always speak of it in relationship to something else. It is only when we see restored relationships (in all the aspects that Meyers gives) that we begin to realize that some people, for some reason, are not living in a beneficial way. It also attempts to explain how the non-poor can be steeped in their own poverty of sorts, and how their lives can also be marred by sin. These points remind me of another book that I’ve read: Discipling Nations, by Darrow Miller, which agrees with a similar point and goes into detail how we can and should go about worldview transformation in order to fight against poverty in this world. It’s books like these that really give me hope when it comes to holistic Christian mission. So many people feel that it’s necessary to divide evangelism and social justice into two groups. You can’t be in both at the same time, they say; it’s not possible. But what we don’t realize is that all of this is connected. It’s all brokenness, just resulting in different (yet equally depressing) outcomes.

Why truth?

The purpose of this blog is truth. Seeking truth. Finding truth. Loving truth. Living truth. This inspiration for this blog comes from the from Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in chapter four:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

It is my complete and absolute desire to seek truth, to seek the God of all truth, and to discover what his intentions are for this absolutely beautiful, yet absolutely depraved world. Yet the absorbing of truth, of purpose, of mission, is not enough. It is in our reaction and response to truth that we exhibit its transforming power. What good is truth if it results in no transformation? How penetrating can it be if we remain unaltered by it?

So, thus appears this. This blog. And the purpose of this blog is not to give a quick answer or a final say in the matter of anything, really. It’s just one person who’s gotten a glimpse of the heart of God and desperately wants more of it. So much of this will be reflections on life and truth, prompted by my readings, my conversations, and my experiences. Because if God’s truth covers all of reality, I have a long ways to go before I figure it all out.