Monday, March 10, 2008

Voices in My Head

I wonder what the conversation would be like if Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, John of the Cross, Jonathan Edwards, Augustine, John Piper, Tim Keller, Bruce Waltke, and Eugene Petersen sat down to have a meal together?

That's what they're doing in my head, and they dine often.

It's not always pleasant, sometimes I feel awkward, lost, afraid of where the conversation might lead. I often feel the compulsion to protect and defend each one at different times, at other times I am angry that one of them could say such a thing - especially given all the other wonderful things they have said. At times there is an anxious clamour as each one speaks louder to be heard - or perhaps resists speaking while preferring an angry and protesting silence.

It's not easy to have this kind of company over... but for some reason I love the sounds, I love the voices, I am entranced often by the rhythm and melody, the crescendos and the diminuendos, its pure delight when I really give myself to the conversation. Each voice has its place, has its tonal quality, its depth, its time-tested timbre. A lot of the conversation sounds more like an orchestra warming up than a symphony.

But then something happens...

Kairos, God-time, invades the chaotic clamor awkwardly progressing through chronos. The voices begin to become one, the melody begins to emerge, a great and mighty theme echoes in the chambers of my mind. I begin to forget that there was ever dischord, I begin to listen not to the many but to the one... the One. It took all the textures of each of the voices to sound together for me to hear, but I do hear. Sometimes it is His voice speaking to me, sometimes it is my voice speaking to Him, and I discover that in those moments the company I keep were really at the banqueting table of Another. I joined them because I perceived they heard Him, but now I hear Him, and I hear myself. Their words, sounds, colors, textures mediated His presence for me and now He is present, or perhaps more accurately - I am present to Him.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

One Step in a Journey from Fear to Love

I was praying today. Praying for me is always a strange adventure, I never know quite where it will take me - sometimes I intend to talk to God about one thing and invariably my heart leads me to talk to him about something quite different. I am discovering God is primarily interested in the truth (the existential sense, not the over-rationalized Enlightenment sense). I went to talk to God about one thing and discovered I needed to talk to him about a rather different issue. The moment I entered into conversation with God I found myself awash in anxiety. This was particularly disturbing given that I had spent a substantial amount of time recently trying to unearth this deadly growth in my soul. Why had all the anxiety come back? And even more frustrating is the nature of anxiety, it is emotional numbness, and thus an ignorance about what actually is wrong. I knew something was wrong, but what it was I couldn't say, and when I don't have words for my heart I feel so lost, desperately clammoring for a sense of self.

So I waited. I listened. I watched. Where will my anxiety take me?

It took me to the truth. The truth is I have immersed myself, yet again, in a functional self-salvation. The motivations of my heart erupted into actions, actions that betrayed my true new self. My self-salvation looked like this: I needed others to validate me, I needed others to tell me that I was ok (that my thoughts, beliefs, inner experiences, were real, true, good), I needed others to be pleased with me, I needed others to not be disappointed with me or upset with me, I couldn't handle others supposed judgments of me. I was using all kinds of various actions to fill these deep needs, actions such as writing, speaking, planning ministry, even who and how I looked at others. I was trying to be a good little boy and keep the world around happy with me, yet always afraid that it wasn't, always constructing a whole life around the fear that I'm not ok... a whole life around the fear that I'm not ok. My whole constructed life could have been strong, but my heart was weak - what good do strong walls do for a city with a cowardly ruler?

The walls protect me.

The walls isolate me.

Better to be a city with no walls and a strong ruler... in fact if the ruler is strong enough he doesn't even need walls because he has nothing to fear.

But I am afraid.

How does a coward find strength?

I found myself asking this question, feeling particularly exposed before my God. In my exposure I asked, "do you love me?" A word from God would restore my soul. Only one thing can break me from my fears. Only one thing can make me strong. If God loved me then I wouldn't have to get others to tell me I'm ok, I wouldn't need others to validate me, I wouldn't doggedly pursue others affections, approval, and attention. I would have all those things in God. But why, why should God love me? I could offer all the same things to him that I do to others: you know the usual achievements, accomplishments, humor, wit, kindness, all-around likeability - all those things I use to get others to love me. But those things feel small before God, and even before myself - its as if my soul says "I don't want to be loved for those things!" I want love, you know the intrinsic kind, where I'm loved deeply, at my center, loved for my distinct "Sam-ness."
But how can I know that God loves me, you know me, that deep, secret, hidden me that is wonderfully precious but also tragically lost.

So I asked the question again, "God, do you love me?"

I waited. I listened. I watched. And then this...

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this - that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."

That's beautiful, but not the whole story. It's not just a diffuse experience of love, its the kind of love that has been demonstrated. Other translations say "showed" as if God's saying, "Hey look, if you want to know, I mean really know, that I love you then I'll show you - look at my Son, he's my factual, demonstrable, historical, real proof that I love you and that nothing can separate you from me, not even the love of my Son." Bizzare but Beautiful.

Still I was a little puzzled, I mean how do I know that was for me. So I asked God.

I waited. I listened. I watched.

"In love he predestined us..."

This completed my experience. It was like God saying, "Sam, you believe Jesus is for you because you were meant to." It is my destiny to believe that this demonstration of the love of God was for me. It's for me because I believe it's for me, I believe it because I was meant to believe it by God, from eternity past. The ground of my belief in the love of God is God's eternal love of me. "We love because he first loved us."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Obama's Audacity (but not for Hope)

I cannot vote for Obama for the following reason - I love life. These articles have convinced me that Sen. Barack Obama's bid for presidency is an assault on life itself, and if he were to be elected, his time in office would be devastating to the great Americal value of the "inalienable right to life."

Article One is penned by a senior at Princeton who is a 2008 Rhodes Scholar

Article Two describes Obama's voting stance on late-term fetus' which survived the abortion only to be terminated or left for dead after surviving.

It seems to me the golden tongue of Sen. Obama is nothing other that the flickering one of the Serpent.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Piper on the Prosperity Gospel

I'm letting these words sink in.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Silent Water's Deep

I feel. Good start. I feel it underneath, subterranean if you will; flowing, churning, briskly moving within. It's the stream, no the river within, and it tells me that I am alive, living, life. Yet it is underneath still, like the rivers in the great Sahara I hear, and I'm like the desert above - shifting sands and all (very Peter-esque). It was a gift I didn't ask for, couldn't have - wasn't looking for it. But it's there, it, no no, Him, He's there living in me, not me living.

Again though, He's subterranean, all this earth between me and Him, oops, Him and me, but I am mean. That's always the problem though isn't it? The world get's in the way. Layer after layer, sedimentary, leftover from the erosion of my soul given to television. Those layers harden over time - not just sand, but sandstone. I feel it now, I didn't before, but I do now. It's Him, He's the reason to live - the reason to die. Sadly Sahara desert sands shift and I'm not with Him, He's with me, but I'm not with Him.

What would happen to the desert sand if the silent water's deep were to well up, well we'll find out won't we?