Saturday, October 25, 2014

Alone, but not really

Darkness, silence, the crickets chorus in synchronicity. A streak across the starry sky, the death of a nameless rock as it plummets to its fiery death in the upper atmosphere. 

I walk, quiet but for the rythmic sound of my shoes against the pavement. Thoughts flicker across my consciousness. Alone, but not really. The end or a new beginning?

Yesterday a casket is mourned, the remains are honored. Those that cared stand in silence as a country pays homage to a hero. Tears, a choking constriction in my throat. My face grimaces and contorts as I fail to hold back the emotion. 

The airman stands head bowed holding a folded flag. Three volleys punctuate the stillness of the moment. Taps is played mournfully with soulful passion. I feel the notes move through my soul. Alone, but not really. Woe, and sorrow. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. 

The last notes linger for a moment as the pastor says a few last words. Revelation 20:4, tears, no death, no mourning... they have past away. A future is promised. A future incomprehensible from my present vantage point. Hope and faith. Love and loving. Intangible? Yes, but no less real.

The tension melts as the service mercifully ends. People hug, mill about engage in tears, whispers, more hugs. A peal of laughter as someone recounts one of a million moments from the past where the hero was being who he was. More tension dispels. 

The casket lies there in the pool of living humanity. Someone places a sticker on it, "I voted early!" More laughter, more talking. Everyone pretends to not notice as the grave diggers wheel the hero away from the living ones. To be placed in silent testament with his brothers in arms. A remembrance to the cost of the life we hold dear. Life, precious, yet at the same time we waste in countless frivolous meaningless gestures.

Life is too short to live without purpose yet too long to maintain the passionate intensity required to really express it's value. The colonel's last mortal remains lie in a fresh grave in Texas. Alone, but not really. The colonel lives on, free at last from the constraints of mortal existence. He can't join me, but someday I shall join him.

I sip my coffee. The familiar sound of steaming milk. The acoustic echo of the disembodied voice and guitar emanate from the speakers in the darkness above my head. Starbucks. A place of reflection and personal space. A quiet oasis of light in the surrounding darkness. A place to be alone, but not really.

There is life still to be lived. Am I up to the task? Inadequacy and inability are my two best skills. Too much to do. Mountains seemingly impossible to climb. Problems innumerable and intractable to be solved. Solutions and fruitful paths hidden and seemingly non-existent. Discouragement and fear lurk behind me, waiting for a chance to leap out and paralyze any forward progress. 

Keep moving. Take the next step. Do what you know. Don't over-think it. There are things that are obvious to do. Do them now, with passion. Ignore the dark. Live in the light. Volitional will, the opportunity and ability to choose. Precious and fleeting. Use the time you have. Only you can choose what you will do. Choose and live, you can't stand at the crossroads and continue down the path at the same time. The choice is yours alone, but not really.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Meditations on James 1:1-12

James 1:1-12 Read it yourself

See it as a joyful event when you have trials because these trials produce steadfastness.

Rejoice in testing because it produces perseverance, tenacity, steadfastness.

This presupposes that steadfastness is a good thing, a thing worth having, a desirable trait, something of value.

Why is perseverance a valuable trait?
This trait or property of steadfastness is generative, fertile, fruitful, virile, productive. When it exists and it is given room to grow, it expands and brings completeness.

When steadfastness has had its full effect, you will be complete, lacking nothing.
What does it mean to 'lack nothing'?
When you lack nothing, you have everything you need. You have no deficiencies, there is nothing missing, you are full and complete, whole, holistically complete, without defect, exactly what you are intended to be, fulfilled, content.
Do you lack anything? Do you have needs? Those needs can be met by experiencing trials, because trials produce steadfastness, steadfastness, when given room, brings abundance.

If any lacks wisdom, let him ask God…
Lacking is a symptom, it is not the problem. The problem is perspective. Consider it joy… Instead of joy, avoidance, cynicism, despair, self-pity are the attitudes associated with trials. The lack of wisdom is a lack of perspective, instead of joy, there is something else.

Ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach.
  • God is generous, abundant, overflowing, beyond what you ask for, more than you expect.
  • God gives to anyone who asks,
  • God gives without nit-picking or fault finding, or conditionally, or with an intent to manipulate or maneuver the asker into a position of slavery or subservience.
But let him ask in faith, without doubt.
Is faith a prerequisite to the asking? Will God only be generous to those with faith? Does doubt negate God’s generosity? Is God’s generosity conditional? No, No, and No, God gives generously to all without reproach.

Then what does doubt have to do with it? Why is asking in faith encouraged while asking with doubt discouraged? Because God’s wisdom is not natural, or better stated, it is not discerned or apprehended in our natural state. Our natural state is a state of fallen-ness, a state of inability to see God or his generosity, like a young child being fed healthy food, we are unable to see the goodness in our circumstances or events that occur, without faith it is far easier to succumb in despair and accommodate or appease evil. We are born in a state of rebellion that manifests itself in our ‘natural’ rejection of God and his wisdom, this leaves us exposed to the vagaries of evil and hostile entities that would devour us body and soul.

In our natural state we will always miss the obviousness of God’s generosity not because he isn’t generous, but because we don’t want to acknowledge him. Faith in this context is an acknowledgment that God exists, that he is generous, that he gives without reproach.

In contrast to faith, doubt is the negation of one or more of those propositions. God doesn’t exist, that he isn’t generous, and that he finds-fault.

The problem with doubt is not that God will not give generously when you doubt, but rather that doubt will mask your ability to see what God is so generously giving, and that it is good.

Metaphors for this are: lacking a gene that allows your body to process food, or trying to see without opening your eyes, or not believing that the compass in your hand is actually pointing north. Faith is the gene, faith is opening your eyes, faith is assuming the compass is accurate.

Without faith in God’s generosity, faithfulness, and kindness it is impossible to keep moving in the same direction. You are tossed about like a cork on the waves. Like a sailboat with “three sheets to the wind”, out of control, at the mercy of your circumstances. Doubt leaves you at the mercy of external forces, those forces determine your destiny. With doubt, there is nothing that you can do to change your destination.

Let the lowly boast in his exaltation...
If you lack, exult in your lacking, if you don’t lack, seek humility. Humility comes easier when you consider that your life is transient, passing quickly, completely outside of your control, and whatever riches or abundance you are currently experiencing is transient and not of your own making, nor will you be able to maintain it or keep it because you yourself will fade away despite your best efforts to the contrary.

Conclusion: You are blessed when you live with tenacity under trial, when you have stood the test you will receive eternal, abundant life which God has promised to those who love him.