Light is a Fascinating Thing – Advent Thoughts

4 12 2011

This is a”proem” (kinda prose, kinda poem) that I wrote recently for an Advent project that a friend of mine does each year. I thought  I would share it with you guys as well.

 

Light is a fascinating thing.

It may be as dominating as the sun,

As demure as the moon,

As penetrating as a flashlight,

Or as subtle as a candle.

Still, whatever its manifestation, it is in a word … present.

 

Its adversary – we are told – is darkness.

If you ask the opposite of light, will the response not be, “dark”?

But darkness is not light’s opposite, its enemy.

It is light’s absence.

It is the place light chooses not to be.

Darkness, no matter how powerful it may seem at any given time,

No matter how deep,

No matter how dense,

No matter how overpowering it claims to be,

It can only boast in light’s absence.

Never in light’s presence.

 

It cannot be light’s nemesis, for it has no power over light.

You cannot “turn on” the dark.

It can only wait until you “turn off” the light.

But rest assured, it waits.

And when the light goes away – even for a moment –

The darkness moves in.

Aggressively.

Opportunistically.

Imperialistically.

With something of an evil grin.

Realizing that light is simply not … present.

 

So it was in times long ago.

God – the Father of Lights – had been turned off to His people,

To all of His creation.

400 years of creatures groping in the darkness.

Simply because they had chosen to reject the light.

 

Stupid, stupid creatures.

Embracing darkness and shunning light.

Hating day and loving night.

Thinking “presence” was a given, not a gift.

Taking light for granted, not a grant.

And so nearness became absence,

And light was simply NOT – in a word … present.

 

 

Then on an unsuspecting night,

In an inconspicuous place,

For all too common people,

God turned the light on.

Emmanuel was born.

God was present …

With us. Among us. FOR us.

In Him was life and that life was the light of men.

 

The light shined in the darkness,

But the darkness still managed to not comprehend it.

Stupid, stupid creatures.

Emabracing darkness and shunning light.

Hating day and loving night.

Closing their eyes to the light that was once again,

Finally … present.

 

So the light was not put on a lampstand, but under a basket.

Hidden from the world, so that darkness could move in.

Aggressively.

Opportunistically.

Imperialistically.

With something of an evil grin.

Pretending that light was simply not … present.

 

But light could not be covered over by darkness, for it had chosen to be present.

And a light as subtle as a candle

Became as penetrating as a flashlight.

A light as demure as the moon

Became as dominating as the sun itself.

It showed that darkness was not its adversary;

Darkness was only its absence.

And on this one night it established in one moment and forevermore

That it was – in a word….

Present.

With us. Among us. For us.

And once and for all … IN us.

Light is a fascinating thing.

 

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” – 2 Cor. 4:6





re:create 2011 – Day 2 – Shakin’ the Trees

8 02 2011

It’s been quite a while since I have blogged. I am going to try and pick up the habit again. So I thought I’d start by doing some blogging from the re:create conference Iam attending in Franklin, fittingly the place where I was first introduced to blogging, tweeting, and all just about all other things internet by Randy Elrod. Trust me, you know him even if you think you don’t. Anyway, on to the blog.

What a great day at the re:create conference 2011. I just got back to the hotel after hearing Ed Kowalczyk (formerly of the band “Live”). Unfortunately, I had to cut out after a few songs because, alas, I am old and pathetic. But what I heard was really incredible. The band backing him had some incredible musicians, and the place was rocking! We also had an incredible liturguical communion service and a really cool worship time with “1211,” a worship band from Gateway church in Austin, TX. It was like an Austin City Limits show once we’ve all passed on to glory.

But the major impact of the day was our morning speaker, Patsy Clairmont. She started with what will probably be the go-to phrase for the week, “shakin’ the trees,” speaking of the power of our personal stories, owning that story, and using that story to impact people. Here are sopme excerpts of wisdom from her talk:

–    In sharing your story, you offer to others the answers for the questions in theirs

–    There’s something about redemption that qualifies you to share your story

–    Owning your story helps you become more consistent between who you are and who people see

–    William Faulkner quote – “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

–    Listening to someone else’s story we ask ourselves, “Does that fit into my life? Can I do that?”

We then did  an exercise in which we selected an item from a miscellaneous group of things poured onto our table, and we let that take us to a memory in our life, a part of our story. We then had just a few moments to process what that might mean. I chose an eraser. I don’t have time to get into what that led to from my story, but suffice it to say the eraser said much more about me than I could have imagined when I selected it. Maybe it’s really time (now that I’m too old to stay awake for rock concerts anymore) to process and really own my story.

Thanks, Patsy. You “shook my trees” today. Now it’s time for me to “rake the leaves.”





Robin Hood and Ayn Rand

14 05 2010

Checked out the new Robin Hood movie starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott for a couple of reasons. One, because I love Gladiator, which involved both men in the exact same roles. But even more so, because I have always loved the Robin Hood stories and have tried to partake of them in every form imaginable – even the whole Kevin Costner Robin Hood: Cardboard American Midwestern Prince of Thieves.

Recently, I have read a couple of Steven Lawhead’s King Raven Trilogy books, which is a re-imagining of the base legend elements of the story, unsterilized by the glorification of time, re-telling, and blond men with chin dimples and perfectly groomed mustaches in emerald green tights. (Speaking of … yes, I of course have seen the Mel Brooks movie as well).

I know we are all familiar with the story so stop me if you’ve heard this one before. (actually, keep reading if you have … that’s really just a figure of speech for emphasis of the point). There is a ruler fighting a war against the Muslims which he desires to believe is justified by God. He strays from that original war to begin warring in another country – one that would have no affiliation to the original Crusade but just an old rival that apparently needs to be conquered for the good of his kingdom. His successor is not a “war-maker” and is actually interested in decreasing the military strength of his country and raising the already exorbitant tax burden on his citizenry so that he can increase his own status and tyranny in the land. After all, he will know better what to do with  the money than will the “honest, brave, but naive” unwashed masses who are trying to live their lives by the sweat of their brow and hard work. “A kingdom,” he reminds us is after all, “expensive to run.”

This causes great unrest among the people who have now been pushed beyond what they can handle in order to feed the whims of the king. They decide to begin a revolution against the king, and there is a spirit of division which the country’s enemy is attempting to use to conquer it. Upon realizing his throne is in danger – not only from the outside – but even more so from within his own kingdom, he steps in and “promises on his mother’s life” sweeping reforms based on the ideas of democracy and personal “liberty by law”. He is assured by Robin and the revolutionaries this will bring not only a forced loyalty to the throne but actually admiration and love from the governed. The country unites under these promises and fights against their external foe, beating them back once again. But, of course, once the threat from outside is defeated the king rescinds his commitment to the ideas of liberty for the people, claiming a divine right to rule.

Sound familiar? Even a little bit?

I don’t know that Ridley Scott intended on reflecting the recent events of American history in this movie, even a little bit. I don’t know what his political leanings are. However, if nothing else, it reminds us that whatever the form of government in whatever time period you may view it is a self-propagating, self-promoting, personal freedom-squashing entity by nature. No matter what good intentions it may boast or believe it has, freedom shrinks as government grows, changing a strong independence for an abusive dependency. What is also evident is that no matter the form of government or whatever time period you are examining, the human spirit  and the quest for freedom and liberty is always in conflict with it. It can be repressed, warred against, beaten-down, over-taxed, insulted for its “naivety,” berated for its lack of education or understanding, or decried for its lack of compassion; yet it still beats under the surface, rising from time to time to flex its muscle over those who would rule it or claim a divine right to hold it down, a God-given or human-achieved superiority by which to rule. Interestingly, our American Constitution acknowledges divine rights to the citizenry and not to the governors. Ironically, our government continues to struggle understanding this.

I have always felt a little strange (sometimes even duped) that we have “hero-ized” Robin Hood, a guy known primarily for the re-distribution of wealth. But this Robin Hood story doesn’t emphasize that aspect of the tale, being more of a back-story on his pre-outlaw days. Sure, you can see Robin has a very egalitarian point of view and a sense of what seems fair for all people; but, in this movie, it is more along the lines of letting a man be a man, letting him live according to his work, letting him accept the responsibility given to him by the enjoyment of liberty. “Fairness” to Ridley’s Robin is not in an equally- divided outcome, but in the equally available opportunity to work and reap the benefits of it, which may include sharing it willingly with others.

I left the movie thinking about Ayn Rand and her libertarian philosophies, focusing on individual rights and limited government. From her book, Atlas Shrugged, she would say, “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” That statement seems to be the entire basis of the new Robin Hood movie, and, to be honest, we could use a fresh dose of it in our approach to government and society. We hear much today about the evils of capitalism and the need for governement to expand in order to provide an endless array of things for its people , but Rand found “laissez-faire capitalism” to be the only compassionate economic system. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “That government governs best which governs least” (and most Americans – even Congress – say they like Jefferson).

Rand was deeply humanist, and I certainly don’t agree whole-heartedly with all her philosophy. However, I found much of her ideas in this new Robin Hood movie set in the context of what seems to be a recurring theme in history – the pull of tyranny and the push for freedom. Go see it and keep pushing.





This Blog Is On the “House”

21 10 2009

Dr. HouseJust wanted to take a moment to put in a word for what is one of the best shows on TV. “House,” airing on Monday nights on Fox at 7pm has for a few years now been must-see TV for me. Admittedly, the “storefront story” is usually the same – bizarre medical puzzle stumping genius doctors for approximately 50 minutes until a completely unrelated and innocent statement is made which magically reveals that the condition is not the incurable disease once thought but is instead the fact that the patient got a splinter from a rare African wood imported to the US and handled by a guy who sneezed on it and kept it in his house for a while to let his dog with mange defecate on it resulting in a deadly toxin that has created a multitide of symptoms which on any other occasion would look like an auto-immune disease ravaging the body when it simply requires 3 doses of Nyquil and a roll of cherry lifesavers to chase it from the bloodstream. That part of the show is always a bit predictable, but interesting if you like the medical mystery thing; still, it is hardly the most interesting and poignant part of the show.

On the second level of the story-telling is the character (or lack thereof) development of those on the show. These are people with complex pasts, complicated relationships, all kinds of psychoses, neuroses, and just wads of life-stink. These people are flawed beyond imagination, just like every other real group of people in the world. The writers didn’t even provide us with a “foil,” some archetype of perfection to stand over and against all these pathetes running around in the sewers of their own devices. It’s just a bunch of broken people doctoring up broken people. Still, as engaging as I find these characters, this is not the most powerful part of the show.

“House,” more than any other show I am aware of, overtly wrestles with the questions of God  – if he’s really there, who He is, how He works, and all those things that we ask deep down and deny publicly that we would ask such things. Meanwhile, the world around and outside the church find no shame in asking them, and “House” is evidence of that.

House, the character, is staunchly atheistic (or so it seems), yet the show itself often allows for “mysteries” that House insists can be explained scientifically but which are more suited to the realm of the supernatural. Some of the most honest, open, and important questions about God are being asked on that show almost weekly – questions I don’t always hear so often from “church-people” on Sundays. This season has presented moral, ethical, and eternal questions on the value of life (the evil ones, not just the innocent), the measure of wealth against family, and how to live and relate in light of an oncoming and certain day of death – just to name a few.

If you are not a “House”-watcher, you are missing what I think is an important conversation by the world around us about God, life, morality, relationships, and perspective. Admittedly, the answers provided by the characters are not satisfying or pretty or pleasant to see or within a Christian worldview. There is adult content, language, and elements with which some Christians may be quite uncomfortable. It is not a show for the faint of heart or those weak in discernment or those who want to continue living in a safe “God-bubble” secluded from the issues and questions in our culture. However, I believe that we would be remiss to not hear and be able to engage the questions about God our world is (and we are) asking. “House” is a pretty scary, often uncomfortable, and yet somehow refreshing place to hear them.





Nose Hair and Paradise Lost

13 10 2009

Now that I am 40, life at this age occasionally drops some perspectives on me that slipped by me in my youth. One, of course, is that a person really does require at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep at night (who’da thunk it?). Another is that red meat, carbohydrates, Mountain Dew, and gummi-worms actually do not constitute a balanced diet and  – after a period of concentrated abuse – will generally make you feel like you’re sporting a hangover while being hit by a truck. But the one that is becoming more and more real to me with each passing year is that the unsung and hidden curse of Adam’s fall in the garden is that wild, aggressive, and annoying species,  folliculus probiscus, commonly referred to as the common nose hair.nose hair

I don’t know if any studies have been conducted on this particular subject, but I believe it could be shown that the nose hair is the fastest growing carbon-based entity in the known universe. A hair can spring forth within one’s nostril and span a lifetime from larval stage to fully mature hairdom during the morning commute. What’s worse, as these hairs grow they seemed to have naturally evolved into the ability to find the nearest inside edge of the nostril and place the hair tip just up against it so as to make it itch ever so slightly – just enough to assure that as you have a face-to-face conversation with someone you make every possible facial contortion to assuage the misery of the itch even as you wonder if there’s not a ginormous hair that has emerged and begun growing like Jack’s Beanstalk toward your upper lip during the last sentence. All the while, you’re trying hard to smile and actually listen to the other person, but your mind can’t help but drift toward the intolerable torment of what this person is thinking about the coaxial cable hanging from the left orifice in your nasal construct which you remember had a lot of goo in it earlier (is that being revealed as well?) even as  you make every effort humanly possible not to move your hand to your nose thereby drawing attention to the protruding monstrosity with its residual goo and suggesting to this now bothersome conversationalist who will not shut up that you are – in fact – a habitual picker. Can you imagine what this person will be posting on twitter and facebook later about this horrific experience?

Or scenario two – the attack of that one relentless hair that has apparently been growing from the dawn of time, rooted in your medulla oblongata, bearing the diameter of a #2 pencil, and – against all advice from Poltergeist’s Tangina  – is “going to the light” found out the front of your face while you innocently drive your vehicle. images-2While you think there is a possibility your car is a buffer zone of safety against detection by others of you actually reaching to your nose to attempt to clear the intruder that is suddenly making you a mouth-breather, you come upon a traffic standstill or a redlight, temporarily barring you from the pluck of freedom because you know you will have to reach deep enough with both thumb and forefinger to bring nostril distortion in order to rip this demon seed from its bed of torment somewhere within the gray matter that has illegitimately spawned it. So you fake the “I’m reaching for something in my opposite floorboard while I’m stopped” deal and you try the 1 in 100 shot of the quick snatch-and-pull, only to hear the people behind honking now that traffic has begun to move and to sit up quickly in your seat to realize you have pulled out several of the little tiny worker hairs that have just been birthed in order to guard and protect the queen. This, of course, hurts like a compound fracture of the femur, your eyes begin watering and prevent you from being able to see where you are driving, and you begin a sneezing fit previously unknown to humanity as your body tries to expel the foreign invaders it doesn’t recognize as its own digits because they are where they simply not wanted.

I, of course, could go on with scenario after scenario, but I must spare those of you who are faint of heart. Also, I must speak to pollyanna optimists who assure me that the nose hair is not part of our curse, but a gift from God designed to keep foreign invaders such as dust, dirt, germs, insects, small rodents, etc. from entering our bodies through our nasal passages. Let me remind you, however, you naive little glass-half-full non-thinkers that if Paradise was all we crack it up to be, there would have been no need to protect us from getting sick and therefore no need for these bearskin rugs layered inside the walls of this delicate sensory organ that God originally only intended to allow me the pleasure of smelling brownies baking, wood burning, my wife’s hair, my baby’s post-bath lotioned body, Vicks Vaporub, magic markers (the really good kind), and gasoline … oh, but I digress.

Oh yeah, don’t give me the nose hair trimmer thing. We don’t have time for the discussion about those no-good tools of Satan. Let’s face it, we are subject to this body of death until glory comes. What I can’t imagine is being a Hindu and having my goal to reincarnate as a cow – have you seen the nose hairs on those guys ? And you know getting the hoof in there has to be much more challenging in the long run.

nosehairThey tell me I will soon expand my hair experiences to the ear canal. I can’t wait. Thanks, Adam and Eve. Not only do I have to mow the lawn by the sweat of my brow, I have to mow my face.





Remembering 9/11

11 09 2009

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Regardless of your politics or feelings about wars and rumors of wars, I believe the events of 9/11/2001 generate common emotions in us all. I’m sure we all remember that day, where we were, and our promise to never forget. Today, 8 years later, a friend of the left-brained artist blog has a great posting on his site that includes memories of that day from several people. I wanted to provide you with a link so that all of us can keep that promise we made.

http://broadwaydave.blogspot.com or click on  “Clouds in My Coffee” in my links to the right





Your Mistake is Mistaken

7 09 2009

Okay. That’s it. Proverbial straw and camel’s back and stuff.

I’m admittedly a little bit obsessive about this, but, at some point, SOMEONE has to draw the line. Are we just gonna let this stuff go on forever?

To get to the point, I have been amazed at the ever-widening meaning for the term “mistake.” It simply doesn’t seem that words have any real meaning anymore, no way of keeping words in categories so we can actually communicate from a common understanding. Apparently, even our Presidents aren’t sure what the definition of “is” is anymore. Now, in our 24/7 media-driven world, our constant over-exposure to and over-analysis of political scandal, athletes “being athletes,” and celebrities being drug-induced idiots, we apparently have lost the depth and the meaning of the term “mistake.”

When a politican gets caught in the middle of an international sex-scandal, he cries and apologizes for his “mistake.” When a “czar” in the present administration signs his name to a document asking for investigations into the former administration’s role in allowing 9/11 to occur in order to justify military action, he issues an apology for the “mistake.” When an athlete tortures and kills dogs for years but wants to have the privilege to play again (and make millions of dollars), he apologizes for his “mistakes.” When celebrities of any ilk do anything that ranges from the bizarre to the stupid to even the inhumane, they depend on the blind, forgiving culture of America to overlook their “mistakes” and let them back into the unrealistic lives they lead making more money in a week than the average American makes in a year.

Before you get really uncomfortable, my issue here is not whether or not we should be so forgiving. That is another blog altogether. This is about the subtle way we blur the lines of word definitions to allow us to act as we want with as little responsibility as possible.

If I call the wrong number, that’s a mistake. If I neglect to set the alarm clock, that’s a mistake. Should I forget to stop by the store on my way home to pick up the milk my wife needs, that’s a mistake (and a deadly one at that). Mistake doesn’t necessarily exclude severity, but it should have to do somewhat with the absence of volition. I am not choosing to call the wrong number. I am not choosing to leave the alarm off (well, not always). I am not choosing to forget to stop by the store, for why would I choose to pile marital misery upon myself?

Repeated, intentional actions are not “mistakes.” They are choices. Stupid choices. Bad choices. Sinful choices. They require more than just an “I made a mistake” like it’s a craft project in elementary school; they require repentance, and they bring consequences. If we can turn a DUI and manslaughter into a mistake, maybe consequences can be avoided. If we can turn sexual irresponsibility into a mistake, maybe we can escape unscathed. After all, what consequences does the guy who forgets the milk have to suffer? (Oh, if you only knew, grasshopper)

Some actual mistakes can be terrible. They may carry some repercussions that are harsh and costly. Again, it’s not an issue of severity. Neither is it an issue of  a one-time or repeated event. You can repeat mistakes, and you can “one-time” sin. The issue, for the sake of us defining words, is volition. Am I consciously choosing to act in a way that is wrong?

Then don’t cry “mistake.” You’d be mistaken.

Soapbox dismounted.