A Voice in the Shadowlands

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The ramblings of an ADHD addled mind

Today during Sunday school, my brain started off on its own track. Now this in itself is nothing unusual. When you’re borderline ADHD an hour long class tends to be more than what my little brain can handle. I drift in and out picking up extra bits so that I can keep up with whatever is going on along with still running on my own related channel.

Today we tackled a tough section of 1 Peter. A large portion of the class was devoted to what exactly the section meant and how it applies to our Christian walk (the typical Sunday school stuff). My brain, however, was more along this line:

“Hmm, honestly, I think Peter could have written this a little less confusingly. It’s confusing even in the Greek. You know, this just goes to show that, while he was a great spiritual leader, this guy really was a fisherman at heart. Peter’s great. Blue collar guy. One of the boys. I think he may have been a bit ADHD. Always jumped the gun. Passionate. Probably could have phrased things better at times. I’ve always related a good bit with him. Definitely not a Paul. Paul was a bit anal retentive, I feel. I’ve never liked reading Paul all that much. He’s too cyclical. Man, I just wish he’d get to the point. I’ve known my share of Pauls. Known my share of Peters too. You know, I bet if Peter were alive today, he and Martin Luther would get along. Granted Martin Luther would have to be alive today too. I bet they would approach their everyday theologizing the same way – around the table with a few guys and a few more brewskis. Paul’s much more likely to be corkmaster of a wine club somewhere. It’s cool that God does that sort of thing though. Using the beer drinkers and the vinophiles. Did I just make up that word? How many folks would be shocked that I was comparing the theoretical drinking habits of the apostles in a baptist church? Where was I? Oh yeah…”

I’ll save you the rest. I do agree with myself though, shocking though that may be. I am constantly amazed at what God can do with the poor slobs he chooses to use. It really does take all kinds, for as many different uses. It gives me hope that there is a special group and a special ministry for me. Peter couldn’t reach the same people that Paul did. Paul’s crowd would have had Emerson, their steward, tell Peter that he needed to use the servants’ entrance. Peter’s folks would have probably been making faces behind Paul’s back. Still, both Peter and Paul were willing to let God use them in the way he wanted and to the people who would receive them. So, I’m willing. I know that I can’t go toe to toe with the apostles but thankfully God used a lot more folks than just 12 guys to get his message out there.

Free Will-y?

So, one of my favorite authors recently posted a question that I’ve been pondering for the past few days: Will there ever be a time when we will lack free will?

Free will is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. It allows us to actually love him. True, the world could potentially be perfect if there wasn’t the pesky little problem of people choosing to do wrong. The problem with that would be that the entirety of humanity would be reduced to slightly glorified automatons and love that you are forced to express isn’t really love. Is it?

So, we definitely have free will now, but forever? After we enter eternity, there is supposed to be an absence of sin, of tears, and sadness. Life, as we’ll know it, will be perfect. How, though? If God leaves us with free will, wouldn’t that open the door to eventually at sometime someone choosing evil? That wouldn’t very well be Perfection. It would be a constant state of Perfection-on-the-brink-of-destruction. Which honestly is too wordy to exist in. Still, if in order to ensure perfection, God removes free-will would we then just be glorious puppets for the rest of eternity? Would that be Heaven? It gives me images of floating on a cloud with a slaw-jaw drooling grin that lobotomy patients can have.

How does it all work out? I don’t know if we’ll know the answer this side of Forever. As far as we know, God could just meet us at the Pearly Gates with some metaphysical ray gun and blast us on some sub-atomic level altering us forever from the desire to do evil, while yet retaining the power of choice.

Too big for me to comprehend, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like poking at it.

Running

I’m going to just go ahead and say it. I hate running. Actually, most things that could be called exercise fall into the hate category. Don’t give me the whole “Hate is a pretty strong word. We shouldn’t hate” kick. I know hate and this is the closest equivalent word in the English language to how I feel about running. I’m sure the Germans have a really great word for my exact feeling, but I’m sure it’s too guttural, has about 37 umlauts, and would take up an entire line. English will have to do.

Back to running. I tend to only run when not doing so would mean a drastic shortening of my life span. Still, on occasion, I suffer from severe lapses in judgement. A wonderful example would be when I decided that for once in my life, I would healthy. I would take control of my destiny. I (feel free to insert inspirational music in the background here) would become a runner. Most of this completely uncharacteristic desire came from the encouragement of a good friend of mine. He ran, enjoyed it, and I felt that perhaps if I joined him on this endeavor, I too could become a better person.

On the morning I was supposed to begin my transformation from a gelatinous mass into a fit human being, I rose early with the knowledge that one does not simply wake up a great runner. One has to work up to that. I was content to be a moderately untalented runner in the beginning. I was going to run for a half a mile. Off I went, with a happy heart, some beat up shoes and a pocketful of miracles. There was a hole in my pocket. Say what you will about my physical state, but as I rounded the 1/4 mile mark, my body rebelled.

It was as if my body finally snapped back into sanity. “What are you doing with me? You know we don’t like running. We had this discussion back in 8th grade. This isn’t fun. All right. Fine. If you’re going to do something I don’t like, I can turn that around. I seem to recall your forgetting to stretch. How about a few cramps?” My muscles suddenly developed the amazing mutant ability to snap into a million knots. My stomach, in protest to not being fed anything before this little jaunt, decided that the nearest front yard was the perfect place to empty what little contents it had…repeatedly. I actually lost the ability to see and my heart apparently relocated to my ears. I managed to make it home. I also managed to stick out running for a week; actually getting to about a mile and a half. Strangely, my body stopped trying to kill me. My running career ended, however, when I went for a run with my friend. I still wasn’t ready to go with the big dogs. A bit over three miles was more than my body could handle and, after an experience similar to my first day, I hung up my running shoes, probably for good.

My particular place in life right now feels very similar to my first day of running. I know what I’m going through is for my own good. Somehow it all has meaning, but at the moment, I feel a bit like retching. I’m stressed, confused, discontent. I feel guilty for being discontent. I can’t help but wonder if I’m holding off because its what God wants or because I’m too scared to step out.  I’m in some sort of training, and I know if I keep pushing through I’ll make it but, good Lord, I swear I’m going to die on someone’s front lawn before I get through. I know that the Bible promises to rise up on wings like eagles but right now, I think I’ll curl up in the corner of one of the pits Psalms mentions…or lift my eyes up to the hills. Help is supposed to come from that general direction.

Pax.

Taking a Second Glance

I’ll admit it. I’m weird.  I have gotten used to the fact that I have a unique way of appreciating life. It leads to meeting a weird and wonderful group of people in many aspects of life but when it comes to the religious life, you tend to find yourself on the outs. Still that usually doesn’t bother me. In fact, I feel like it leads to me having a very individual and interesting way at looking at an area of life that often gets excused as either confusing or boring. Confusing? Oh yes. Boring…not if treated properly.

I’ve written before about my questions for stories that are hinted at in the Bible but not addressed and my ponderings on Imago Dei. Perhaps you are aware that I’m dabbling in writing a play that had been poking at me for a while. I’m in a bit of a stall at the moment with it, but I have an idea for where it’s going. Some folks that know about it are amused, some are just baffled. It’s my attempt to make the Bible a bit more accessible to people like me. I believe it’s the overflow from a lifetime of reading odd things and watching too much TV (I am, after all, the only person I know who associates Elijah’s showdown on Mount Carmel with a good old fashioned Western). In a sentence, it’s an attempt to present every book in the Old Testament in the manner of The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged. Fun, but frustrating and I’m not sure if that’s natural or not (this is my first large scale drama venture.

The last week or so I’ve been wondering exactly how worthwhile the endeavor is. Is it for too much of a niche market? Have I danced around the line of sacrilege so closely that I’ve finally crossed it? If I do finally finish it, would anyone come to see it? Am I too weird?

I was comforted this week when I ran across a website called Word. Word is an artists attempt to combine his love of design and the Bible coming up with some amazing designs for passages from different books, or the books themselves. He also has reflections for each work. It has made me happy to find someone who appreciates the subtle humor that lies in a pair of she-bears mauling young men who are joking a bald prophet.

It makes me feel better to know that I’m not the only oddball who reads the Bible the way I do. It gives me a bit of a push that maybe I’m not too far off for writing this play (or for wanting to attempt the other stories that are crammed up in my noggin).

So, I think about the Bible in a non-conventional way. I’m all right with that. If nothing else, I can explain it to myself in a way I understand.

-Pax

There and Back Again

I have had a bit of a hobbit’s holiday. It’s similar to a busman’s holiday, except that at various points in the journey you feel like you’re about to die, you never seem to be able to misplace a ring, it gets insanely hot and you eventually learn a life lesson or two. On the upside, it seems that I’m coming through some of the spiritual funk that I’d been experiencing.

We’re all entitled to them, and even if we aren’t, they seem to find us and drag us down. It’s funny that while these are the times that you need to dive closer to God, they’re the times you least want to. I am eternally grateful that eventually God either pokes me enough or breaks a divine 2×4 over my head to get my attention. And, when you finally surrender, you do feel better. For me, the struggle with release is the fact that I have to admit that I can’t do it by myself.

So, after being slammed with the “Ecclesiastical” idea of “this too shall pass” I find myself a bit less neurotic, a lot more calm, and a bit more peaceful. God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world. My time to do what I was born to will come and I’m just in training (and lately have several new ideas). My worries are only light and momentary when compared to what I will become. I am responsible for my spiritual growth. The more I release, the freer I become.

I’m still trying to understand all it is that I have learned. You have to ponder and ruminate these things. So, tonight’s words are short but pleasing to put down.

For those of you who read (which honestly amazes me), may I suggest that when the time comes that you experience the dark times that you look up Brooke Fraser and listen to C. S. Lewis Song. Sometimes what you need is a little perspective.

“Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me”

~Pax

That’s Enough

I feel like I spend so much of my life waiting. You wait to get old enough to do stuff. You wait in lines (the ones in Wal-mart are the worst…I’m becoming more and more convinced that ol’ Wally World is an annex of Sheol). You wait for Friday. For 5:00. For dinner. It never ends…and I hate it. I hate spinning my tires in idle. I hate feeling like I’m doing a whole lot of nothing.

And waiting seems to be an important part of the spiritual life. Doesn’t that just give you warm fuzzies? It makes me want to throw my arms up and walk away from it all sometimes. God has an interesting sense of humor on top of being our Parent. Years ago I felt the call to my special purpose. I tried to follow but I know now that I wasn’t quite mature enough and the time just wasn’t right. I got burned; I got scared and I ran. Several years later, I decided to play substitute with God. The old “What you want me to do doesn’t really thrill me so what about if I do this for you instead” routine. God let me indulge in that (and I think do a fairly good job) but I realized that, as scary as it was, I would not be happy if I didn’t do what God made me to do. I let God take me to the mat, ate some crow and started to actually get me excited about the possibility. So, of course God would come in on his white horse, do his God-ly duty and make everything fall into place. I’ve heard it happens like that sometimes but only very rarely for me. So, I’m still waiting, but I’ve never been patient.

I know that it’s for my own good. Apparently, I still need to learn patience and other things but it weighs on me. Lately, I’ve had other weights around my neck. I keep saying that the “period” term is out of sorts, but there is a term older than the 18th century that we still use today, “dark night of the soul.” Thanks to St. John of the Cross, I think I have the best term for what I’m experiencing. Still, in the midst of the darkness, I can appreciate the light that I see. God answered some prayers Wednesday night. I have hope that situation will continue to brighten. Wednesday was also the third time recently I was reminded about a situation in Job. Through all of his suffering and the unhelpful advice of his friends, Job just wants to confront God and lay out all the questions he has. If anyone had a case, it was Job. He lost his kids (10 of them), sheep (flocks of them), camels (herds) and legitimately all hope that he would ever have comfort or security again. Finally, God shows up but before Job gets his say, God has a few questions of his own. They go on and on. It is nearly 4 whole chapters (if I remember correctly) that God talks and then he let’s Job go.

Job doesn’t ask questions. None of his questions were answered. But, in front of the storm, Job simply says,”

“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

God showed up. That was enough.

I’m jealous. I want that. I could be all right then, I think. The waiting. The seemingly pointless stretching out between the call and fulfillment. I honestly believe if he’s just show up…that could be enough.

On a night without a lot of peace…Pax.

Wrestling Match

A few days ago I saw a picture that has been on my mind ever since. The picture seems to be after a gathering, a group of people are dispersing, anyway. There’s a guy walking towards the camera with a sign that says, “Jesus hung out with 12 guys and a prostitute. He’s a lot more like me than you.” Now, I have no idea what meeting this sign was for.  It seems likely that the cause would be something I wouldn’t agree with, but regardless of it’s original intent, there was a message in there somewhere that I’ve been wrestling with…Who is more like Jesus? and even What was Jesus really like?

It sounds weird, I know, but I have an insanely hard time wrestling with this. Being like Christ is supposed to be the goal of this great experience (experiment?) called Christianity. I mean, the guy’s name is central to the whole name of the religion(/relationship). So in order to do that, we are called to be different; live and act different and right. We polish up our halos, tune up our harps and live. We are called to be in and not of and we tend to focus on the “not of” part more than the “in.” In order to keep the halos shiny and our robes shiny white, we avoid the right things and people. Well, not avoid. We’ll talk to them (most of the time) to invite them to join our club and act surprised when they back away. Typically, after this we shrug and assume that they might have been blinded by the sheen that the new Sin-Away cleaner has given our holy glow.

But was this what Jesus did? Yes, there were definitely people that didn’t care for his holy glow either, but over all people seem to be clambering over each other in an attempt to get closer to him. People were concerned because of the people who came to Jesus and the people Jesus went to find. The untouchable, the unsavory, the detested all were people Jesus took time to get to know just as well as he did the respectable people in society. He did it often enough to worry people.

So when we search to figure out how to be, how do we look at Jesus? We teach that Jesus was a unique phenomenon: the God-man. So much God as if he weren’t human, so much human as if he weren’t God. A paradoxical double 100% blend. We know that it is impossible to be completely like Christ, but we’re still called to be like him. It is hard to wrap your mind around the fact that the very One who spoke the universe into existence probably joined into a conversation about farting with his twelve best friends under the very stars he made. I’ll give you a minute….See? I told you it was difficult.

How is it possible to live like this guy? Do I copy the holiness that cannot stand to be around sin or the man who dined with prostitutes? Strive hard to keep my robes spotlessly white or be all right if they pick up a little dusty haze while I tell the amazing story of the God-man? If I’m called to live a separate life, how do I become someone that lepers, children and (gulp) tax collectors want to be near? And if we can’t figure out how to do this right, forget about meeting every other Christian’s Christ-like standards.

I hate to say it but it often seems like those we’re supposed to seek out and spread the gospel to are the ones who seem the most like Jesus.

And I don’t expect an answer. And I know I’ll never get this right. But I think my soul would feel lighter if I could make my peace with this tonight. This life isn’t easy though. It’s true that it’s easier to get dragged down than to life someone up. At the same time, though, you can’t help lift someone if you aren’t reaching out.

I’m not posing answers. This is just round Several Hundred in an age old wrestling match for me…

Pax.