Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
To suck the marrow out of life is quite the word picture, indeed. Imagine gnawing through our rubber-like covering--some call it skin, others epidermis—and then through the fatty tissue underneath shrouding muscle and sinew which provides a protective armor for the base skeletal structure that holds us together…bones. Imagine then, with blood and flesh spattered all over your face, most dark red around your mouth, chewing through a bone, crushing it with your molars and exposing the purplish-red middle. And then, with barbaric and cannibalistic mirth, wrapping your lips around the fractured bone and sucking with all your might, vacuuming out every last morsel of marrow that is the deepest representation of our flesh. There is nothing deeper, nothing. There is nothing richer, nothing. It is the core, the crux. This is the marrow of our very life.
To live deep is to go to the top…but it is also to drill to the bottom. It is to plow below the surface of things, penetrating layers and layers that cover the great deep…the hidden recesses…the dark caverns of life that are reserved for those who press through the superficial to what lies beneath.
To live sturdily and Spartan-like is to fight off all that counterfeits life. All that seeks to dilute and pollute, all that tries to make sport of living. To be a soldier for life, to be a guardian of life…a keeper of the flame. To be vigilant in my protection of my story. I want to kill all that is not life, to rout it---to the death if needs be.
This, I know, will take all the effort I can muster. I will become weary in well doing, as the Bible puts it. Paul said that he did not want to lose heart. That is another great description of this fight…this life support. Losing heart and losing life are one in the same. And it can happen overnight if you’re not careful. If you’re careless.
And this carelessness is killing us, we humans are rotting away, marrowless—meaningless. Who will plunge past the silky skin of appearance, past the fatty tissue of the trivial, past the muscle of meaningless movement, past the last line of defense…the brazen bone, and dive into the marrow of life’s meaning. Who will care about that unseen reservoir of real life? Who will look to the marrow within me? Who will be unsatisfied enough, unsettled enough to press beyond all appearances to the rich resources within…the marrow of Jason.
It is this bloodthirsty longing for life’s marrow that invites me onward…inward. As C.S. Lewis said, “Further up…further in”. Amen.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
"The millions are awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?"
The difference between a prosaic life and a poetic life couldn't be more stark. I love to think of life in terms of poetry. To find new expressions to lace together with fresh words. To abandon the dead language and lenses of rhyme and meter and to function in free verse...letting your heart surprise you and others with its ability to soar by living on the fly...that is in flight.
Political living replaces poetical living quickly. We are strapped to systemic rituals that have been in place for so long it's hard to envision life apart from these constructs. At times, I try to cast off the bonds of these traditions at dawn, only to find them leaking back into my system by midday. Codes of conduct and modes of operation press in and politic for control. The poetic life is often discarded and made sport of.
But the rich and creamy life of poetry gives meaning to truth, and how badly truth needs a meaningful facelift these days. We have outsourced meaning. We have downplayed it and degraded it as superfluous and inconsequential. What a tragedy. What a travesty.
When lives again lay hold of the divine, that is the poetic spirit that swirls around us and within us, the very Spirit that hovered over the waters in the beginning, we shall once again know life in its most robust form. Can you feel Him hovering over you now...can you feel the poetic life hovering about you, suspended and whispering into you ear, "Come over to the other side...the road less travelled by that makes all the difference. Come live as a poet. Come live"?
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
It is time to push from the shore of civilized commentary and allow the poetic pen of H.D.T. to be the gusty wind in our sails nudging us toward the ineffable, unspeakable mystery of this thing called life. Last night I was, again, filled with the rapture of his expressions and the way they give voice to what I often cannot find words to explain. All I know is that when my eyes dart across the pages of his book, Walden, I am bewitched and enchanted in ways that I need to be in order to not lose heart. I lose life in the living. I don't mean to, it just leaks out on me.
So I've chosen to devote some time to extracting and expositing the text that you will find below. It is found in the chapter titled, "Where I lived, and what I lived for". This is my feeble attempt to call to order the first meeting of the bloggers "Dead Poet Society". (a movie I just re-watched last week that wrecked shop on my beleaguered soul)
I don't even know who frequents by this blog, but I must tell you that we won't be doing much frolicking in the days ahead. I encourage you to set down your snorkel and to show up with your scuba gear. Henry has a way of taking the human heart 20,000 leagues under the sea...your ears will pop when you're down there, your head will feel like it's going to explode under the immense pressure, your ears may even bleed when you return to the surface and go about your life...but what you will see will infuse a life in the living that may be escaping you without your knowing it.
Here is the text we will be diving into...
"Why is it that men give so poor an account of their day if they have not been slumbering? They are not such poor calculators. If they had not been overcome with drowsiness they would have performed something. The millions are awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?
We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the day, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to 'glorify God and enjoy Him forever.'"
Monday, December 08, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I spend a lot of time trying to clean up after religion. It has made a royal mess of things in many ways. I don’t feel like I could vouch for its history, but there are some “baby/bathwater” issues that must be delineated for the sake of truth and its endurance to all generations.
I recently visited Germany and was surprised to feel how moved my heart was by the relics of religion. I walked into a cathedral in Salzburg, Austria and stood there paralyzed in prayer. The statues, the crucifixes, the candles, the prayer benches, the stone columns, the pipe organs, the paintings, the confessional booths, the basin of holy water, the hard pews, the hand hewed wooden molding, the stone walls, the high ceilings, the spires…all these things just moved my heart so deeply. At one point I was holding in tears. That’s when I know my heart is being summoned.
I’m learning that religion isn’t all bad. Just because we can get caught up in the surface of things alone, it doesn’t mean the surface of things is meaningless. In fact, quite the contrary. There were so many moments on this trip when I felt saddened at how everything in the States is about three things…Is it cheap? Is it quick? Is it easy? Because of this, we forfeit quality for quantity, aesthetic beauty for basic economy. Religion cares about what things look like, to a fault to be sure, but at least they invested in quality and beauty knowing it represents worth.
Things were expensive. Things were built to last. Things were crafted with pain-staking precision. Why? Because they believed in symbolism.
Everything was made to symbolize something, to represent something. That’s what I miss about ancient religious history. Symbolism. Imagery. I miss liturgical practices. I miss altars and stones of remembrance. I miss phylacteries and recited prayers of forefathers. I miss the cold feel of reverence instead of the warm feel of relevance. I miss the echoing halls of stone and the Gregorian chants. I miss incense and Latin. I miss sackcloth and ashes. I miss adhering to the church calendar. I miss the silence. I miss the stillness. I miss the repentance.
Cheap. Fast. Easy. Comfortable. Accommodating. That’s the contemporary church in a nutshell. And it’s just about small enough to fit into a nutshell. But not the God that they built those towering, monolithic cathedrals for. He couldn’t fit in a nutshell. He was big. He was beautiful. He was exquisite. He was overwhelming. He was infinite. He was awesome and awe-inspiring. He was holy…and wholly other than us. He was too hot to handle, too cold to hold. He was beyond, yet within. He was there, and here. He was ineffable, yet approachable. But you had to kneel before him then. You couldn’t just waltz up to him in a nonchalant manner. You couldn’t just talk to him like he was your little buddy next door. You wouldn’t dare. He was better than that. He was God back then.
And somehow, even with all the gorgeous reminders without and within the cathedrals, they lost him. They worshipped the created things instead of the Creator, but that’s no reason for us to stop caring about created things, now, is it? That’s no reason for us to stop kneeling when we call upon his Hallowed name? That’s no reason to abandon symbols of worship? That’s no reason to hold in contempt church fathers and their patterns of contemplation. That’s no reason to start building crappy churches barren of beauty. That’s no reason to abandon repentance just because we don’t have to hit the parish on Saturday night with an indulgence. Come on. What has become of us?
I was holding back tears that day, because I knew the baby was lying three stories down on the cold pavement badly injured. The bathwater had long evaporated. I felt myself descending the stairs in my mind trying to get to the ground floor of my faith and the place where the baby of religion lay ever so still. I wanted to pick it back up and say sorry. But instead, I just sat there on the pavement looking at it wondering how I could have done such a thing. I’m still staring at it wondering what to do next.
All I know is that religion isn’t to blame for every mishap along the way. Sometimes it’s just ignorant people who need something to throw under the bus to make them feel better for their own stupidity. This I know, it’s not the cathedral's fault. Cathedrals didn’t lead the crusades, people did. Ignoramus people.
Friday, November 21, 2008
My recent trip to Germany got me to thinking a lot about an all too often underestimated utility of our society…toilet paper.
You don’t know how important toilet paper is until you experience a bad product or no product (aka – primitive camping).
I’m not sure what the rich history of European toilet paper is, but based on my experience, it is neither rich nor fit for a toilet. It isn’t toilet paper; it is quite simply just paper. Rough, recycled, brownish card stock paper.
You know you’re in for a treat when you can barely tear it off the roll. You know you’re in for a special experience when you have to fold it back and forth before you rip it at the crease. You know you’re in for a harsh encounter when you could either use it to cover tables at a wedding, sand a antique piece of furniture or twist it up and use it as a tow strop to pull someone out of a ditch. If you haven’t been to Europe, imagine wiping with reams of paper from Kinko’s.
They haven’t been introduced to the idea of the “tissue”. What we call toilet paper in our society could better be described as toilet tissue. It isn’t paper. It is sometimes doubled up for more cushion, it is often quilted, sometimes even impregnated with aloe to for a medicinal purposes. No, we don’t have toilet paper…we have rolls of pillowed cotton made for pleasure as much as purpose.
Pleasure is something that wasn’t associated with my bathroom experience in Germany. If there was any pleasure or relief being experienced, it was soon clouded by the inevitability of having to wipe. I never knew how important wiping was to me in the whole bathroom experience.
But I did say this was going to be a theological discussion about toilet paper, so allow me to explain.
When looking for a church home, how do you determine the health of a church? So many people check out the church website to see how technologically savvy they are. Others stop by the information hub and gather all the literature and pamphlets available for their curious perusal. Others want to meet the leaders to get a horse sense of their people skills. Many just want to attend the weekend service to see if they like the music and the preaching. They look for creativity and relevance. Still others are interested in the children’s program…is it safe? Is it fun? Is it biblical? Many walk in and are tallying how many people introduce themselves and how friendly the church is in general. Do they feel welcome? Do they feel at home? All these litmus tests and so many more are employed by many to determine the credibility of a church.
I have a little different criterion for health. I walk into a facility, past the greeters, past the welcome hub, past the worship space, past the coffee shop, past the pastors, past the ushers handing out bulletins and onto the bathroom. I open the door and head for the first stall. If there is someone occupying it, I patiently wait my turn. When the coast is clear, I enter and close the door behind me. Even if I don’t have to go to the bathroom, I lock the door to give the impression that I do. For the next several moments I engage in a thorough examination of the “church toilet paper”. How soft is it? Is it doubled up? Is it too thin? Is it brittle and harsh? Is it quilted with ornate designs? Does it tear too easily? Is it see-through? Does it tear easily enough? What does it smell like? Does it have an aroma or an odor? What does it feel like on my fingertips? What does it feel like rubbed up against the sensitive skin on my face? Are their backup rolls anywhere in sight? What is their girth prior to use?
Toilet paper matters. When a church doesn’t think it matters, I’m bothered by that. And here’s why.
If a church doesn’t think to take care of my butt, I highly doubt they will take care of my heart.
It is loosely connected to the verse in I John where it states that if you don’t love you brother whom you do see, how can you claim to love God whom you can’t see. My rendering of this passage would go something like this, “If you don’t care about my butt which you can see, how can you possibly take care of my heart which you cannot see.” It’s holistic ministry.
I don’t know what it is, but when I go to a church that doesn’t cut budget in the toilet paper line item of the budget, I have a warm feeling rush through my whole being. I can entrust my heart that that kind of church. I can relax and feel at home in that setting. They care about my rear end, not just the end times. That gives me great confidence in their leadership of my heart.
Toilet paper matters.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
I just gotta get this off my chest.
Yesterday was my daughter Kami's baptism. I was so excited for her. Heidi and I were pumped to be able to baptize her together. Family was in town. The stage was set for something really amazing.
But then something happened inside me that I can't explain even with a good night of sleep under my belt and some time to process yesterday's emotions. As I was sitting there in the service waiting for the baptism, I made a determination that I would not cry so as to not steal away the moment from Kami and turn the focus upon me. A decision I now regret because I spent most of my mental energy trying not to cry and used up the energy that helps you be normal.
The baptism came and I struggled to be normal. I couldn't talk sensibly. My brain was spinning around in circles and I couldn't frame what I wanted to say. Here is my daughter sitting in the baptismal tank and I'm lost for words. I communicate as a profession...and I'm sitting there stupefied in a moment of paralyzed pathos.
My tongue wouldn't work, like a nightmare where you're trying to run from your pursuers and your legs feel like molten lead. My tongue felt swollen and palsy. My brain runny and restless. Kami was looking at me and it felt like her eyes were saying, "Dad, why are you ruining my baptism with your incompetence?" I know she wasn't, but it's hard for me to not feel that. I was a "no show" and it was my eldest daughters baptism. Of all times to go limp.
I started talking and said something that didn't relate to the next thing I said that couldn't have been further from the context of the next thing I said. Nothing meshed together. Nothing made sense. To make matters worse I dove into a conversation Kami and I had about sex on the way home the other night. It really did have a point, but after I led out with a couple sentences, I forgot what that point was until later in the day. Thus, it just felt like I interjected two sex comments into a baptism moment for no apparent reason. I wanted to share how much I loved her inquisitive heart and how I loved our deep conversations spurred on by her questions. I wanted to affirm the richness of her heart and how proud I am that she cares so deeply about weighty things.
Instead of that, I uttered detached logic strung together with nonsensical words leading to a feeling of "what the heck is my deal" filling my whole being. After botching the whole baptism, we proceeded to dunk her and as she came up out of the water and we moved out of the tank for others to occupy, I just felt like I wanted to go somewhere lonely to hide myself away. I wanted to cry...I was crying inside. I felt like I got ambushed. And my daughter paid for my idiotic showing.
I was struggling, for some reason, with being a pastor and a daddy. The two roles don't often seem different to me, but they did during this baptism. I was wrestling with performance anxiety. I was overthinking. I was overstrategizing. I was overfeeling. I was overwhelmed with a fantasy world inside my head. And I couldn't break free from that. I tried and I couldn't.
I'm sure more could be said. I feel terrible for my daughter.
I went out with her for breakfast before school today. It was more for me than for her. I just needed to feel close to her and to talk to her about how I felt. I actually apologized to her for not saying all that I wanted to say to her in that moment. She probably wasn't listening anyway...but like I said, I just needed to say it for my own heart's sake. I told her this morning what I really felt yesterday about her decision to follow God in baptism.
Man, I wish I could go back and get my poop in a group. But life is such that you have to go on and make the best with what you got.I just can't shake this abiding feeling of disappointment in myself and sorrow for my daughter. I know, I'm messed up