Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chapter 5

The seas were calm. The boy sat, cramped in his little alcove, smooshed between the stuffed lion and the stuffed zebra, who, conceivably, were most certainly enemies.

There wasn't too much to do but sit and think. His first thought every morning was of his brother; whether he would ever see him again this side of heaven. Charlie was always supposed to be there. For you see, throughout the young lad's life, he had Charlie by his side. Charlie was his conscience. His great advocate, his true companion. Many men lead lives of intrigue, but if they have no one to relate their stories to, what's the point? Stories are only worth living if you have someone to tell them to.

In this contemplation, the boy became overwhelmed with loneliness.

Such a sensation was fraught with a deep, internal coldness. Though his skin, bundled up amongst his ark of zoo animals, remained warm to the touch, his bones shivered. What if this journey led him nowhere? What if he never finds the owner of the lock? What would his key then be? Without Charlie, who was there to live for? The boy was never particularly blessed, so he pondered... why now did he presume that the tides would change? What hope was there?

It rained.

The seas became violent.

Water seeped into the shaft of his vessel. He couldn't stay dry. The animals gained pounds in wetness.

The horrendous pattern of waves smacking and catapulting the little albatross also caused much sickness. Rounds of vomit became an inevitable aspect of these dark days.

The boy lost weight. He lost energy. He was beginning to lose hope.

And then his sail broke off.

Just like that, in an instant, a violent wind blew the whole thing sheer off its base. Gone baby, gone. This meant one thing: every inch now had to be earned. No more resting on the laurels of the wind. Rowing was the cost.

The boy began to row. He would never stop. This was his fate. This was his call. He would bleed out this voyage, putting forth the weight of his whole being; mind, emotion, will, and now body -- all for a goal he couldn't fathom.

Hope, like a commodity in high demand, seeped out of every orifice. As the stormy days lingered, what once was hope morphed into perverse thoughts of end-games. Maybe a tiger shark would come and eat him. Maybe a title wave would push him to the bottom of the sea. Such thoughts, such thoughts...

Then the sun came.

Sprinting away as if to a sudden impulse, the dark clouds parted. The seas calmed. Daylight. Sunshine. Peace.

The change alone rejuvenated the boys' audacity to hope. He rowed once more with meaning, with purpose, with direction.

He paddled and rowed onward in a hurry, concerned that if he were to for a moment relent, that the sun would deem him unworthy of her presence, and hide herself once again behind the vengeful dark of cloud. He rowed for hours and hours, perhaps days even. As long as he continued valiantly, the sun would not escape him. Daylight would not abandon him to utter darkness. The moon dared not creep up. The sun refused to go. Hour after hour. How long that time remained, this author knows not, but many have auditioned the thought that time itself had stopped so that the boy could make his way through the sea world.

He tried to hold onto the moment, the peaceful bliss of calm sun light on his brow, but his body ached. His muscles contracted and groaned. As much as he longed to continue ever onward, he knew a rebellion of flesh was upon him. He couldn't keep this up forever. His bones would forsake him.

The chance had to be tested. Since he couldn't bear to row forever, since he would have to stop eventual, the boy began to ponder how that moment was to come. He could row until he could row no more. But that was risky. Who knew what would happen to him under the reigns of such exhaustion. It would be better to stop before he reached his own end. But would the sun then betray him? The silly worry welled within his bosom.

Logic won out in the end. Surely his rowing had nothing to do with the rising and the setting of the sun. It couldn't be! The sun is no respecter of mere boys! This was not the world of the greeks, the world of fickle gods concerned with the fortitude of overly zealous young chaps. Neptune and Ra were not real.

Reason dictated the answer; the boy stopped rowing. At long first, he held his breath in frightened anticipation. The relief slowly crawled in. Moment after moment, second after second -- as his tired muscles thanked him for release, the boy whispered divine thanks, for he closed his eyes, lifted his head, and still felt the happy sun caressing his face. How sweet the feel!

With his eyes resting, basking in the contented moment, the boy's ears perked up. A familiar sound. Coming from behind.

He looked back just in time to see a pigeon fly down and squat at the edge of his tub. The bird indignantly shucked its left foot. A small scroll fluttered down off the leg onto the bow of the ship. The bird then, at once, lifted off and resigned itself back from whence it came. The boy scrambled to read the note. It read:
Charlie is dead. Please come home. 
The lad passed out.

In his exhausted state of sleep, the boy dreamed many dreams. They were not about Charlie. They were not about Seattle. They were not about his adopted parents. No. They were about the future. They were about touch. They were about a certain feel, a certain elevation. He could see only intense close-ups... images seen too nearly to be composited. Grass. Flowers. A smell. A bare shoulder. And hair. Lots and lots of hair. The rest of it. The boy smiled in his sleep.

A jerk and he was awake. The lids on his eyes arose to behold quite a new view. His boat was at rest. Land.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Life is Lived on the Streets"

The statement, I have had enough may claim two polar meanings.

The first interpretation moves one to change, the other, to complacence.

There is the 'enough' that equates to a resting point, and there is the 'enough' that comes as a bellowed longing, a heaving sigh or a vindictive chant.

I am no scientist. Patience I have not, and the mathematical patience the various scientific trades require is much too heavy a cost for my feeble body and mind. Nevertheless, despite this prescient reality for me, I remain deeply interested in the theoretical and practical advances we see constantly revealed before our eyes. A question I have longed asked my friends of renown, is the question of the speed of light. For interstellar travel, it would appear necessary for us to break this supposed law to make any claims at Star Trekkian success. I have, on many occasions, been told that it can't be done; that it will never be done. The speed of light is the max-out, the end of the ball of yarn, the summation of the speedial story. I refuse, in my home of relative ignorance, to accept such a proclamation.

You see, maybe this world's had enough of being solely slower-than-the-speed-of-light. Maybe we've had our fill of that time period. Maybe it is time for a speedal game changer. And I ask you, you skeptic, you fat and satisfied; who are you to say otherwise? Tell me!

Last week quite a rufus was made by claims that some Italian neutrinos had broken the speed of light by a few nanoseconds. Apparently the evidence is pretty credible:

The thing about being satisfied, about saying, I've had enough as if to speak of a permanent contendedness with the status quo, is that it ultimately constructs a belief that the story is complete.

The story is not complete. To believe otherwise is blasphemy.

We are walking through this life, through this grand story that we've been dipped into, and in our walking we must remain acutely aware that we are walking towards an end, towards the next signpost.

N.T. Wright writes in his book Surprised by Hope,
Jesus’s appearing will be, for those of us who have known and loved him here, like meeting face-to-face someone we have only known by letter, telephone, or perhaps e-mail. Communication theorists insist that for full human communication you need not only words on a page but also a tone of voice. That’s why a telephone call can say more than a letter, not in quantity but in quality. But for full communication between human beings you need not only a tone of voice but also body language, facial language, and the thousand small ways in which, without realizing it, we relate to one another. At the moment, by the Spirit, the word, the sacraments and prayer, and in those in whom we are called to serve for his sake, the absent Jesus is present to us; but one day he will be there with us, face-to-face.

When all is lost, when best friend betrays, father denounces, and nation slanders... when characters like Titus Ronet have no physical relationship to cling to --- there remains the reality --- the story isn't over. Not yet. There are more acts to be played out. There are more cards to reveal. There are more plot twists to be had, to inspire, to bring to despair, to bring to hope.

As for me, as for you, let us not grow satiated with having enough blessing.

Enough's enough. Something's got to give. Let's live to see the next plot twist. Let's live to meet our maker face-to-face... to see what the denouement has in store for us. 

*The title of this post was taken from a work of graffiti I pass by almost daily here in Koper. It presents to me this unease, this uncanny sense that I must do more of this, this living.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Conversation with Titus Ronet (with commentary)

My son, eat honey, for it is good, 
Yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste;
Know that wisdom is thus for you soul;
If you find it, then there will be a future,
And your hope will not be cut off.
Proverbs 24:13-14 


I have met for 30 minutes with Titus once a week for the past 11 weeks.

He drinks only water. I drink scotch. I like to drink in front of the patients I meet with (unless they have a history of alcoholism) to try and break their perceptions of who I should be to them. I am no father. I am a brother. I may be a priest, but I am made of flesh and blood. I am like them.

Titus infuses me with passion for my work. My heart is lit by his words to set my body free of the inconsequentials of this life. My mind is aflame to be free of the tediousness of my daily physical tasks. So far, it would seem the God of my life put Titus in front of me to save me from a wasteful existence. It would seem so... but what of his soul? Oh God, what of his soul?

Titus doesn't drink. I asked him why once, and he politely told me, like he has in every other situation, that he knew of no reason why he should escape. It is hard not to hear such words as convicting... but, I admit, I need the alcohol to keep my composure in the midst of such a man as him. I need scotch during my encounters not as a means of escape, but as a means of coping with the reality, the here and now, of Titus Ronet.

I've written down the stated words of our latest meeting as best as I could recall them.

Good afternoon, Titus.
Straight for the scotch, today, I see.
You are a handful, good sir. I need a little liquid courage whenever I come into your presence.
Do you think I am wrong for drinking?
You know better than to ask such a question.
Why do you say that?
How could there be a wrong decision?
Do you not believe in hypocrisy? Even those most ardent believers in relativism tend to disparage the hypocrite.
What are you doing? You are hear to talk, and you have this hope, this aspiration for yourself. You want me to repent of myself; to join your cause.
Yes. Yes I do. I won't lie to you, Titus.
No, you save the lies for yourself. 
That's not fair.
Take another shot, Doc. 
You think I'm a hypocrite? Is that it? You muddle me together with all your past hurts and experiences. All religion is the same. All men have licentious motives. All men only want. You cannot do this; you cannot simply number me among their count.
Hypocrisy is a two-step process, no?
How do you mean?
A hypocrite performs two actions. First he states a conviction, and then his action betrays that conviction. Fair?
Those are two moments in time. Two-steps.
I am trying to only see the current outpourings.
You are trying to remove the past, every past, all the time? That's impossible Titus.
I am trying to only function in any one moment. If you knew me, you would know fully why this is so necessary. 
If I knew you? Titus, you can't hold the world away at arm's length. I've spent enough time with you to know who you are. Do not ration me as a mere stranger.
Tell me, Pastor, what is the point of Christianity?
It is a relationship with the very God that formed you, the very God that loves you, the very God that knows you.
What does this relationship look like?
How do you mean?
What does it look like? What does it resemble?
He is with me always. There is not a moment that He is apart from me.
Even now? Is He here with you?
He is with you when you lie, when you cheat, when you steal, when you sneak a look at that woman who is not your wife?
I've made no claims of perfection, Titus, you know this better than most. 
And yet He leads everyone in such petty lives. 
Men are flawed.
It is not a matter of being flawed. If God is with you always, then you walk in constant betrayal. That would be an ever queer relationship, no, one based on such continual degradation of the other?
Life is tough. People get distracted. They lose their way.
Ah yes, they forget that God is with them.
Something like that.
I think this is not what your religion is about.
Because of the hypocrisy?
I interest you. I can see it in your beady green eyes. You are not yet satisfied with me. You are not yet quenched. This is tangible alliance. If you were in relationship with this omniscient God in such a way as you pretend, then you would be stuck in a state of continual infatuation, of ceaseless hunger. Christianity is not about this, is it? No. It is about the comfort of the next life --
And you don't need hope for the next life, you need hope for the next. 

(At this point, Titus leaned in over the table. His eyes trapping mine. I was stuck here, where he put me.)

If you believe in this God of yours, why aren't you aching to know him better? Why aren't you all worshiping him day and not? You do not even pray as faithfully as the Muslims do. You do not meditate on him as the Buddhists do. You do not fixate on fidelity as the Mormons do. You do not focus on obedience as the Jews do. If you want to prove to people like me that God is knowable, then why do you act as if there's nothing else you need learn about him? Have you tapped out? Have you seen all there is of the infinite? Are you already quenched? If so, if you know all the recesses of the eternal, then I can tell you now, it is a shitty world, and the eternal is a bore... but something tells me that you won't make claim to knowing it all. And yet you betray your own words, your supposed convictions. You ask of hypocrisy. Sir, I don't believe in it. People do what they think is best. People do what they believe. People nurture the relationships that are pleasing to them. You want to convince me that the God of the universe loves me, then show me what that love looks like. Lovers cannot hide.


Our textbook for American History was the book "Don't Know Much About History". The title, of course taken from that boo-woppy song, implies a certain disposition of humility.

Proverbs rakes us with a mallet over and over with the beauty of the pursuit of wisdom. We are to do this. We are to seek it out as something insanely precious. Our precious. My precious.

For a brief moment in college, I conceived of a church named called the "Don't Know Much About God Congregation". Such a name would perchance lead to a strong sensation of false-advertising, as that church community would still obviously need to be centered on the Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.


I don't know God that well. I know a few things. I guess one could say I know enough. I know facets of His story. I know plot points. I know the story of His Son. I know the story of His people. But there's so much yet to know, yet to learn, yet to acquire, yet to feel.

This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh...

I want to know more. I want to mine for the character of God. I want more of Him, more of His heart, more of His mind, more of His will, more of His story. Is that not what love in motion should look like? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. This 'allness', is it something that is static? By no means! Everyday my mind is expanding, my capacity for love is growing, my physical body is changing... the limits are in constant flux.

Evangelism is a strange little entity. What, when we tell people about our Lord, are we welcoming them into? I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Granted, this life is decaying, groaning, helplessly calling out in anticipation of renewal, but it is not all for nothing; the body is not evil, in eternal conflict with the soul. No, God fashioned for us physical bodies, and we will be physical into eternity. But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Into this promise we tell our fellow man of the great future, and what else? Is this the Kingdom not already here? Are we not born again into this present life? And heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, "The kingdom of God has come near to you"...But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.


God is knowable. 

And there is yet so much to know.

Let us live evangelism as such; that the desperate worship and rich enjoyment of seeking out the Lord in every fabric, every cornerstone of life, would mark as as the Beloved. Let our evangelism be the gait of our search and discovery. Let our evangelism be the outpouring of our growing relationship with the Triune God.

If we call our friends into the kingdom of tomorrow only, are we not deceiving ourselves, living as the dead-in-waiting rather than the alive in Christ?

Is the Spirit not with us? Do we not believe He can be known as a lover?

Pine for God.

Put me like a seal over your heart,
Like a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The very flame of the LORD.
Song of Solomon 8:6

Friday, September 23, 2011

Titus Ronet

The patient, Titus Ronet, is the most amazing creature I've ever encountered. I am humbled by his intellect. He reads my motivations, intuitions, my every poise, long before I can consciously guard them.

How can I help a man whose grasp of this world is far beyond my own imagination's compass?

 How can I help? 

How can I help?

Despite his intellectual fortitude, he does not appear to hold it as a thing to be weighted. He doesn't seem to reckon its very presence. The pity is I can't even hold tightly to that observation, for he may well be playing me by some hidden methodology of appearance over substance. He could very easily be doing that to me.

Our job is to help, to shine a light in the dark recesses of a plagued mind. We build up. We tear down the impure. We build up. But Titus will only ever be convicted by his own rationale.

Maybe that is the trick; I should let nature speak for itself. Let him convict himself by the functioning craft of this natural world. I can't do that work. Something greater than I and greater than him will have to.

He's experienced the darkest of nights. He's felt reams of pain, physical, mental and spiritual, in a manner I will never know.

After 10 hours of sessions, I told him directly. I said plainly, Titus, you are a broken piece of equipment. Surely you know this.

He stared right back at me. There was no fear in his eyes. No shame. All I could catch was the slightest inch of smug certainty.

He replied, And what would my machinery be used for, if it was never broken?

I, of course, had no answer. 
Mercifully, he cleared me of any duty...

Titus spoke. There's nothing to be done. Here, in this room, or there.

Can I really give an answer? Love my wife. Work hard at my job. Raise a family. Do those things add up to meaning?

If Titus Ronet cannot be unbroke, then I believe it is the world entire that lay in shards.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Only the Smudgeness of It

 Many years ago, I had a worry, a burden of the future. 

Though I have not always been prudent to follow such paths (for myriad reasons), throughout my life's journey it has come to my mind that I am something of a writer. In college, in one of those self-help spiritual formation type classes, I was asked to chronologue my dream-life ten years into the future. I quite struggled to come up with something tangible to put on paper. I knew I wanted my life to be immersed incessantly with a concrete sense of grappling story, but that could take thousands of forms. I didn't know if I was to live the story, write the story, or will the story into being like quiltwork. All I knew was that a life without intense emotional story arcs seemed lame. And lameness is most assuredly a thing to be avoided.

Like I said, I had a worry, a burden of the future. 

I had to turn in the paper for class; I had to come up with something. So I put pen to paper. I made decisions. I sealed a hypothetical fate. The process was eye-opening, in that I wasn't really even that comfortable with the image I created... if God came to me like He did Solomon, telling me that I could have the desire of my heart, that I could own my most precious life, would I be content with receiving the apple of my eye?

The paper ended up as such: it's a Monday morning. I sit on the porch, looking out at the mountain tops before me. I sip my coffee with ease, having no sense or worry of the hour. There's a wife. She's with me. We sit awhile. Then she departs -- off to some job, off to share herself with the world. I stay behind, finishing up my time with the morning newspaper. There's a dog that faithfully follows me throughout the house, hoping beyond hope that this is the blessed moment in which I'll explore the vast outdoor world with her. Today, however, she yearns in vain. I lock myself in a little room and manifest some immense screenplay of merit. There I dwell, there I live, there I am maintained. That was it. That was all I came up with.

But you see, I had a worry, a burden of the future... 
perhaps a burden that I am just now realizing I can put aside. 

I worried about this idea of contentment. I worried that it would function as some sort of natural Provac; a lifelong sedative. I worried it would dilute the passion of my soul. I worried my inner being would be silenced by its casual fulfillment. I worried that I would be sacrificing the highest peaks by filling in the deepest troughs. I worried my ability to empathize immensely with the characters of my life and intellect would run dry. I worried for the loss of my intensity for the sake of peacefulness. I worried for the dulling of my earth. I worried.

One cannot simply brush aside this worry. After all, John himself told us through inspired Scripture that, perfect love casts out all fear 1 John 4:18. What fun is life without shots of fearful adrenaline?

And now dear class, cheesy life lesson time:

As I grow closer to God, closer to the One who cared to frame my soul, as well as closer to His creation, I get an ever evolving and maturing grasp of what this perfect love does. Sure, it casts out fear... but it also raises the stakes.

Christianity, or rather more explicitly, the Christian story, is one of great price. Whether or not you can bring yourself to worship the man who is God, think about its most fundamental idea. It boils down to this:

-I was lost, doomed to despair.
-Someone loved me... and not just anyone, but the King of the land. 
-So He experienced pain, excruciating punishment, so as to erase my record. 
-And now, what have I to look forward to? --- Forever. Forever with the one I love, the One who first loved me. 

It is an epic story that cannot be rivaled.

I am in love with the story, as I am with the One who formed it. And because I am in love with it so, the stakes are high. Even if I am able to cast aside all doubt (which, being prone to the ways I am proned to, have certainly not yet been able to do), there is still imagination's game of 'what if'. What if it weren't true? What if God didn't love me?

The Bible uses much romantic language to speak of God's relationship with man, and so I will follow. What if your lover wasn't true? What if it was a house of lies? The more in love you are, the greater the fall, the greater the betrayal. If Romeo didn't love Juliet, they would have both lived full lives, no? The cost of their love was the sharpness of their fall. Believing in the life they could have together meant that the vision of life apart became a horror beyond endurance. So it must be for the lover of God.

And so I may, in full assurance, put aside my worry. 
It is not love that casts out my ability to be a storyteller, 
to be the tortured artist; by no means! 
The truth is quite the opposite... 

another anecdotal story...

This week I talked with a gentleman who has had a history of drugs (and surely gobs of life story I will never know). He spoke freely that he did not believe in any concept of love; not of family, not of friends, and certainly not of lovers.

The longer one dwells entirely in the shadows, the longer one aspires to live up to the 'tortured artist' pedestal, the smaller one's world becomes. I may, in my embrace of God and the notion of love, experience great sadness and mourning for my comrade which is far too jaded to know such majesty. My joy does not hinder me from such emotional peaks and valleys.


Being in the emotional state I find myself in on these fine days, I am brought to wonder about the other end of the spectrum.

Elijah Price: Your bones don't break, mine do. That's clear. Your cells react to bacteria and viruses differently than mine. You don't get sick, I do. That's also clear. But for some reason, you and I react the exact same way to water. We swallow it too fast, we choke. We get some in our lungs, we drown. However unreal it may seem, we are connected, you and I. We're on the same curve, just on opposite ends.

If I feel so full -- what of the one who is just as empty as I am continually nourished?

Take a man. In ruins.
He was kept away from happiness. Perhaps physically beaten; torn to shreds.
Now he comes into the normal world. How can he function? How can he perceive this normalcy?
And then that which is beyond normalcy, could he ever accept it? What would break a lifetime of hardened torment? Can love be fathomed by the hated?

Charles Williams recounts the soul of a man who knew not any love in his fleshly life. The man, expunged of his own humanity by the shrewd depravity of this brown earth, kills himself. For Williams, however, this suicide does not entail the 'unforgivable sin' as Catholics would see fit. No. In the imaginational clefts of William's fictitious analogy, this unnamed vagabond is shown a great mercy. He is shown the chance of a real love. He, now being rid of his body which was trained to know only the constant torment of hateful derision, is free to chose of his own accord. It is a pleasant thought...

But of the poor sap who only knows pain in this life, who can not honestly admit to knowing of any mere earthly love, by what means can he be made innocent again?

Of course he can. God can (and does) redeem the most broken of souls among us. This is grace manifested. But...

But until that day, until grace is made fresh in the weary heart, 
until that precious moment; 
there is no story. 
And there is no storyteller there. 
There's nothing.

Do you yet understand? Do you yet see? 

Shall I show you?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Necessity of Ghosts

It has long been said that if God didn't exist, man would invent Him. I wonder if the same goes for poltergeists.

When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets.**

The tendency is to think of ghosts as something frightening, as menacing. Either that, or then we have the personal hocus-pocusy Crossing Over with Jon Edwards bullshit that involves much well-wishing and happy denouement closures for long lost loves. There's no point in dwelling on the latter issue. It is a sickness birthed wholly from regret and suffering. But it's far too cheap to warrant my consideration at this time (as I dust off my shoes and indignantly raise my hand against its bitter nothings).

From what I can see, there exist, there remains through the epochs, three reasons for a psychological desire for the palpability of phantasms>>

Then Saul said to his servants, "Seek for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her." And his servants said to him, "Behold, there is a woman who is a medium at En-dor."

Reason #1: Okay, there's a ghost that's chasing me. AAahhh. Scared, I am, I am. Oh-no.... it's all so dramatic. But remove yourself from the present darkness, and a rather sweet sensation rolls through your soul. You've been chosen. For whatever reason, you, amidst this big sea of humanity, have been plucked out for ethereal torment.

Amongst the myriad reasons a spouse may stay in a battered relationship is that very powerful base thought that at least I'm receiving attention -- at least I am important enough for that, I am important enough to stir up such anger in him, at least I am that important. In the same vain, are not ghosts spinning the same story? As we look behind our backs in that dark alley, at least I'm valuable enough to be stalked. At least I'm worth someone's obsession.

At least...

Collectively, we want to be justified in our existence. We want to matter. Some specter trying his damnest to get inside me is re-assuring. My life is not without its observers... it is worth something.

Then Saul disguised himself by putting on other clothes, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night; and he said, "Conjure up for me, please, and bring up for me whom I shall name to you..." Then the woman said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" And he said, "Bring up Samuel for me."

Reason #2: Similarly to our first rationale, specter involvement in our little lives gives our lives a presumption of purpose. If we are granted with the presence of those that stepped beyond the grave, than there obviously is some sort of consequence to our actions here in our fleshly vehicles. The next life, the bodiless one, apparently still can't hold a candle next to our deeply-impacting lives.

Take for instance, the common superstition that ghosts are troubled souls that left something unfinished here on the third rock. That implies a few intriguing ideas. It implies that there's real, genuine, eternal work to be accomplished here. How can something be unfinished unless there was an initial blueprint of what must be done? This bears with it the idea of destiny. Destiny, in and of itself, is a thought of security. If you have a destiny, a fate, then the book has already been written in some far-off timeless age. You are merely the lead actor in a predestined play. This is a great comfort since so many of us walk in fear of screwing up our lives beyond repair.

You see, with these apparitions wandering about us ever-so curiously, the need to define the purpose of our lives fades away. We need not search for it, since the wondering bodiless souls amongst us give credence to our meaningfulness.

A similar corollary is that exactness of fear. This fear of those stretching from that one-step beyond, only enforces the strength of this life. To feel fear is to acknowledge subconsciously that you want to live; that there indeed IS something to live for. Fear as an advocate of appreciation... interesting, no?

The king said to her, "Do not be afraid; but what do you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I see a divine being coming up out of the earth." He said to her, "What is his form?" And she said, "An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe." And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage.

Reason #3: The easy one: there is more left. For the brokenhearted, the despondent, the bored, the cantankerous, the tired, the irrational, the lonely, the old, the shy; there is more. The existence of ghosts confirms an afterlife. Hate your life? -- well that's okay, because there's another one coming so maybe you'll find justice there.

Even if it proves to be true, that this life and humpty-dumpty alike can't be put back together again, the world of apparitions gives us an eternal hope. No matter how deep the shit gets, there flickers this hope for another place, another realm.

Hope. It can set you free?

Then Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?"


To Summarize
Reason 1: Importance
Reason 2:     Meaning
Reason 3:          Hope


But there are indeed ghosts... or rather, A Ghost. 

God is omnipresent. And He has promised His presence with us in the personhood of a Ghost.

This Guy is a Wildcard. Certainly the Biblical text is vague at best about His meanderings. 

Christ tells us the Ghost is our Helper. So what does He help us in?

Thing 1: Lo, I am with you always. Matthew 28:20 He cares enough to be with us all the time. Through thick and thin. This attention instills within us the true knowledge that we are loved. In this we may find our value and our importance.

Thing 2: But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Matthew 10:19-20 We need not worry about our purpose, for the Ghost is enacting in us what the Father desires to see come forth. If God speaks through our vehicles, if the very Creator of all things is willing to use us to speak, I think we need not fret over purpose, destiny, and the like.

Thing 3: Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 Our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus' blood and righteousness... with the good Ghost with us, what need have we for anything but a blessed hope of utter union with our Lord. The Ghost would not be with us if He didn't have plans for us, would He? Whether it be in this life or the next, the Ghost in you is a sealed promise. Of Heavenly places. Of love divine. Of hope fulfilled.

Postscript: today's thoughts inspired by the newly released trailer for The Awakening. The opening credits of the trailer read: 

After the massive loss of life in World War I
many drew comfort from a belief
in the supernatural.

* All photos taken from Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989) directed by Ivan Reitman
**The story of Saul and the ghost of Samuel is recounted in 1 Samuel chapter 28.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


The beginning of wisdom is:
Acquire wisdom;
And with all your acquiring, 
get understanding.
Prize her, and she will exalt you;
She will honor you if you 
embrace her.
She will place on your head a 
garland of grace;
She will present you with a 
crown of beauty. 

Proverbs 4:7-9

We are given two moments from which to grow. Two snapshots. Two drawings. Two memories of inspiration. This is to be a our base. Our origin. Our firm foundation.

The indie-superhero flick, Super, starring Rainn Wilson impregnates its protagonist from scene one with these two pillars of truth. Frank D'Arbo is a pathetic man who has the poor misfortune of not being particularly bright, being incessantly socially awkward, and the worst of the lot, being perceptively aware of his personal shortcomings. He is a man who's life experience has taught him to think lowly of himself. From the getgo, we generously pity him for his lot in life. But at least he has his two foundations...

Frank tells us of his bedrock. He has two happy memories; two moments where he felt important, two moments in which he felt empowered by purpose. I would add that these are two moments of grace felt.
  • Moment One: His wedding day. Frank loves his wife. He seems to have this understanding that she is a perfect, immaculate creature that he really has no right to be with. He sees her as vastly beyond him. It is an infinite grace that such a beautiful creature would care to love such a man as him. 
  • Moment Two: Frank helps an Officer of the Law get his man. Frank plays a role in establishing justice on this earth, if only for an instant.
Wanting to be daily encouraged, Frank draws these two moments onto a couple pieces of paper and tapes them to the wall. To remember. To be edified. To be renewed by the reassurance that the world has shown him favor. Frank has known love, and been loved in return.

For her profit is better than 
the profit of silver
And her gain better than 
fine gold.
She is more precious than
And nothing you desire
compares with her.

Proverbs 3:14-15

Now the inciting incident. Sarah, Frank's bastion of grace, his beautiful bride, is lured into a drug addictive relationship with heroin and its dealer, Jacques, played to the max by Kevin Bacon.

Frank falls into ruin. His foundation is rocked. His great gift is taken away.

*Here, a few thoughts about the film's execution before mulling over the themes therein... 
Super is a twisted film. From my perspective, it doesn't know what it has. It too badly wants for cross-pollination of genres when it should have been played with much less pomp. To depict with example: at various times in the film, we are given cartoon-interstitials. The characters are depicted through comic book antics. This is galvanizing, creating a second reality -- one that breaks from the story to comment on the evolution of the superhero genre in pop culture. I mention this to the shame of the film. Anyway... I am distracted...

Half of his self-worth suddenly catapulted away from him, Frank cries a desperate and honest and sad and self-centered and remarkable prayer:

God, please guide me. Tell me what to do. I hate you god!... I'm sorry I said that. It just seems so unfair god. Other people have goodness, they have good things, they have love and tenderness, people who care about their lives. Not humiliated at every turn. Other people have things God, even the starving children in Africa, even their parents love them. Why was I so unlucky, to have my soul born into this disgusting me? This ugly face, this hair, this hair that doesn't comb, and this dumb idiotic personality? 
[Sobbing] Other people stare at me god, I can tell. They are amazed at how something so stupid and idiotic can even exist! Why am I that? Please. God. I just want this one thing, I'll ask for one thing, I'll never ask for anything ever again. Please. Let Sarah be my Sarah again. 
A sobering prayer; one not that distinct from desperate moments I myself have exuded to my Lord. 

Frank is given a vision, one that will leverage his other bedrock (helping manifest justice); he is to become The Crimson Bolt. He is to become a superhero.

Until the final scene of the film, the rest of the film is fairly predictable (except maybe the realistic bloodiness and consequences of dolling out hand-wrenched violent wrath). The film's climax involves Frank's inevitable assault on Jacque's property and the saving of his lost bride. From there, however, we fade to the moment of Frank's story. Again we find him sobbing in his room... but this time, his eyes run with tears of joy. He is alone, but he now has not merely two, but dozens of drawings of happiness from his life. The movie ends with his voice-over:
So maybe you think something's wrong with me. Maybe you thought I was gonna learn what Jacques said was true. That I was deluded. That I was as evil as the rest of them. But maybe you're the one that needs to learn something. I know how it looks. But sometimes how it looks, and how it is, are two different things. The truth was in my heart. I followed it. And I saved Sarah.
She stayed with me a couple months. They were not bad times. Though they were most likely out of Sarah's sense of obligation. But one morning, she moved on. I thought it was me at the time, that I was the chosen one. But it was Sarah, all along. And that's why I needed to save her. She needed to finish school, to study anthropology, because Sarah knows something about people. She needed to go back to her meetings, where she had insights that struck others uniquely. And sometimes she needed to have nightmares of those ugly times at Jacques' ranch. Because a kind man, a man who was good and didn't know it, needed to learn how to comfort someone. And maybe, most of all Sarah needed to have Patrick, and Trevor, and Laura, and Joy. Four children who probably wouldn't be at all if Libby and I hadn't gone to Jacques' ranch that night. Maybe, if all of us are lucky, they're the ones who are gonna change the world.

My son, if you will receive my words
And treasure my commandments within you,
Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your heart to understanding;
For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God.

Proverbs 2:1-5

Once, long ago, I heard a sermon on the sufficiency of Scripture. One cannot easily argue with such a lesson. Yes. The Biblical canon is sealed. It is complete for telling the story of redemption history. Yes. But what does this word, sufficiency, mean? What does it imply? To be satisfied, for me, conjures up the image of being full. I need not eat anymore when I feel as such. Truly, I have not even the desire to ingest more. More food would lead to suffering. Is that how Scripture is sufficient? 

How did John the Revelator receive his vision?  He tells us simply enough: I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet... Revelation 1:10. That voice proceeded from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whilst in the Spirit, the Lord spoke to John.

Do we not have access to this God of ours in similar fashion? Of course we do. If we claim relationship with God, then we claim progress, no?

In a romantic relationship, does not each person desire to know more and more of the other? Does not the bond grow deeper with every discussion, every minor revelation? Is it ever sufficient? I would gander to say it is both sufficient and yet unsatisfactory all at once. Are not all things of this nature in tension?

Paul tells us that all of creation groans. That includes us. We should be groaning, for the church's bridegroom, our great Redeemer, our Boaz, our Father and the One in which we are fulfilled wholly in, is not yet fully known. His kingdom is not yet fully realized. We are not yet in His utter presence.

And yet with each day we can grow more intimate with Him, no? I think so. I think that is how the Ghost works in our lives. I think.

Why is wisdom and knowledge and truth and beauty so impressed upon the reader in Proverbs? Why was God so impressed by Solomon's asking for wisdom? Because in these things lies the fabric of the character of God.

There can exist a laziness in the Church. There can exist a sickness among us. I, often, find myself falling victim to it. It exists as this: the perception that we know God well enough.

Think of the Jews of Jesus' earthly ministry. How could they have anticipated how the Savior would come? Granted, the scriptures prophecy so much of what Christ was to do, but yet, the full measure of how God chose to save us remained hidden. We expected a warrior king, someone who would physically free Judah from her natural oppressors. We got a servant. We got a sacrificial lamb. We got God's blood on our hands. Who could have predicted it? Who could have fathomed such a story beforehand?

God is too big for us to fully understand. I write this smiling. It's a great, awe-full thing for Him to be as such. We can never fully know. The implication of that fact then stands that we can forever be learning more. We can forever grow closer to Him. We can forever want more. We can forever be hungry.

Frank D'Arbo had only two drawings. He loved those memories. He clung to these instances of grace. But he, in his heart of hearts, longed for more. I think so should we.

God has blessed me beyond any means by which I can measure. Still, I shall ask for more, confident that in my seeking, I will be set ablaze in awe, glimpsing more and more of the God whom I am just beginning to love. The God who loves me so.

Chapter 8 of Proverbs takes a bizarre turn. Wisdom herself takes form, and speaks to her own being:

The Lord possessed me at the 
beginning of His way,
Before His works of old. 
From everlasting I was established,
From the beginning, from the
earliest times of the earth.
When there were no depths
I was brought forth,
When there were no springs
abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
Before the hills I was brought forth;
While He had not yet made 
the earth and the fields,
Nor the first dust of the world. 
When He established the heavens,
I was there,
When He inscribed a circle on
the face of the deep,
When He made firm the skies above,
When the springs of the deep became fixed,
When He set for the sea its bounday
So  that the water could not transgress
His command,
When He marked out the 
foundations of the earth;
Then I was beside Him, 
as a master workman;
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
Rejoicing in the world, 
His earth,
And having my delight in the son of men.

Now therefore, O sons, listen to me,
For blessed are they who keep my ways.
Heed instruction and be wise,
And do not neglect it.
Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at my doorposts.
For he who finds me finds life
And obtains favor from the Lord.

Proverbs 8:22-35