God by the tail

I need to stop worshipping the small glimmers of God’s glory I desire in each moment. And so do you.image

I’m more comfortable with a holy God than one described as wrathful. Holy is descriptive of his status as being both pure and separated from the common and unclean.  Our fixation on his wrath only describes a partial impact of being outside his state of holiness. Noting the effects and not the reason for them makes his holiness seem shallow. His holiness invades our entire psyche as humans, in all walks of life, being created in his image, because we all seek wholeness, contentment, purity, good, righteousness… But all strive for it with a sense of loss. This is why it is so easy for us to grab onto and trumpet small pieces of holiness, as though we have caught God by the tail. We struggle with holiness because we see how it is defiled every day, especially in our own actions.

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 145:17)

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”” (1 Peter 1:13-16)

God begins with his love and describes himself as such. This is the essence of his creation and bringing humanity into being. We are his pinnacle of creation because we were designed for fellowship with him. Those who are his are told to be described in the same way first. Only true love can be described as him, as he is the fullness of being loved. The effects of his love are visible, but are easily worshipped as love. Blessings, gifts, care… All aspects of love, but love digs deeper and requires greater investment than its effects. It is a decision and a feeling based on action. But if the first does not happen, no amount of actions can sustain it. The actions and effects only validate what is already at the foundation of these things.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:7-10)

God is just, but I am infatuated with the activity of being recompensed. It is the simplest form of moral development, and very few seem to move past it. I want to be repaid, and someone needs to pay. We know that wrong has been done, that evil took place, but have not the wherewithal or the wisdom to know what to do about it. I love the effects of justice, but I only know it partially. A completely just individual is impossible to find in an imperfect world, yet we so desperately desire them every time we struggle with the pain of injustice. This is where our fallen humanity fights with the image of God.

“All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-7)

I strive to know God and make him known. But it means growing beyond the infatuation stage of the relationship, that place where I no longer seek only the most basic elements of God’s character and nature. Rather, to stop wishing upon and worshipping those partial pieces of the whole. Those things are always going to be amazing, and they should be. Why? Because as Paul said to the Corinthians, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) This in turn brings about the best possible response to not knowing fully what God is doing: Faith, hope, and love remain. These are our starting point to seeing God’s character. As those become our desires to grow in our walk with Christ, our understanding of the Father will develop.

It is then that we can learn to truly desire holiness, learn to be loving, and seek to understand justice.

Fear the Police?

A little FOX News perspective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8RHLvDTkok

So this latest video of police brutality in Texas got me thinking. Not that the rash of police brutality in other areas of the US, or the world for that matter, have not got my attention before. But this one struck me. Partly because of the fact that it carried two stories with it: Innocence and condemnation.

Innocence on the part of the youth laying on the grass waiting to hear what the cops wanted from them. The fact that an unarmed, teenage girl, who seems to be already apprehended, is still thrown to the ground and aggressively held in place. Everything we tell kids to not worry about when it comes to authority, all seems at stake here. There is also the outcry of the people in the community who say the party was not so innocent, so we should not see all these kids as innocent. That is hard to comprehend when you see the actions of both parties in the video.

Condemnation of the cop involved. That is an easy one when you see the video. The 2 or 3 prominent officers are running back and forth, chasing everyone they can see move, and then of course this girl gets thrown around. Guns in the air, yelling at everyone he can see, he simply looks out of control. In fact, if he had been without a uniform the other officers may have removed him from this earth if he had continued. And he was the one in charge.

I question how this whole situation was handled. Obviously, I would hope to have a better response if I was the officer in question, but I was not. It brings the question of authority and abuse to the forefront. As a dad, it makes me question how we prepare our kids for moments like this, if they would ever occur.

I personally want to leave race out of the equation, even though that is the first response of many. That scenario had a lot going against it beyond race. Crazy is the best word I could think of as I watched the video, as we all get to see a situation escalating way too quickly.
(Interesting note: Patsy Cline’s Crazy started playing as I was writing this post. Coincidence?)

Let’s look at Romans 13:1-5: 
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans+13%3A1-5&version=NIV

For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (verse 4)

This has often been a troubling sentiment to me first as a struggling anti-authoritarian, but also as an anabaptist Christian. Somehow the treatment of a God-instituted authority structure, which is allowed to carry out violence, has not always been positive. Pacifism and the ‘sword bearer’ do not walk quietly together. Moments such as this one caught on video only seem to solidify a strained relationship.

Conflict and strife are so easily discussed in fair times. I have no qualms with people I disagree with when they are not present. I can hold contradicting theology in peaceful moments. But when these things are tested in real life, it is far more unsettling to decide how one should live belief and convictions. So what does one do in light of moments like these? More importantly, how do we live in harmony with the Scripture on the subject?

What if your kids were at the party?
I think of the kids on the ground trying to plead with the officers. The ones trying to get the officer to take it easy. I question how one could be in that situation and be seen as respectful (subject), and create peace. My hope would be that if our kids are part of something they know is going bad, is to do what they can to turn things around, and then remove themselves.

The sentiment from verse 4 stands out to me so clearly.
I read those words with the sobering reality of history in mind. They were given to a people who were on the outside of society, and on the verge of being persecuted for their faith.

So what should we do when the authority behaves badly? According to Romans 13, they are accountable as well, quite ultimately, to God himself. Not a great answer when we encounter unjust scenarios, but it reminds me to be vigilant in all matters of my life. Because I know that so long as humanity is involved, imperfection and sin will be close at hand.

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13:14)

Losing Your Creativity

I had a great conversation with my youngest the other day about how people stop thinking creatively.
WIMG_20150502_163103258_HDRe were talking about how he has all these creative stories in his head, and somehow would learn to translate those for others. It could be on paper, in drawing or written form, eventually.
It all started with amazement at the abilities of comic book artists:
“It’s pretty cool that some people can make that stuff.”
“Well maybe you can too someday.”
“But how?”
“Well, you practice it. People who practice expressing their creative thoughts learn how to make them clearer and clearer. Most people learn to stop thinking creative stories, or just push them aside.”
Stunned silence. I could see the disbelief circulating through his mind.
“Why would anyone learn to stop thinking stories???”
Good question buddy, good question.

Motherhood

“Blessed are you among women…”

Some chuckle when they hear me call my wife ‘Mom’. It usually happens at home, and I say it without thinking around our guests. That started when the kids were small and we did it for their clarity.

Somehow the title became namesake, and now sticks. Rarely does my wife hear her name in our household. I hope she still remembers it.

Having lost my mom in my teens, I consider regularly how much a blessing one is. Not to be taken for granted, and no greater calling to be found. To me it seems a high honour for those who live up to the title.

I think I like calling my wife mom around the kids because it reminds me that it suits her. She lives the calling, and we are blessed.

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Mom in the rockin' 80's

Bigger Fish to Fry

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I’ve always loved the comment regarding setting priorities, that I have bigger fish to fry. As though somehow you are wasting your time preparing a smaller fish while the bigger one is being ignored. Or maybe it is an entrepreneurial statement, like you are settling for the smaller fish when you really should be putting the hook back into the water.

I realized the other day that it can be a statement on perspective as well. While I use it to mean I cannot burn energy on one thing when I am missing the need to focus on a much larger problem, it could be all about my POV. If it is about a problem or an issue, maybe it could be about how I view what is at hand, not necessarily the size of the matter in general.

If I focus too much on the stumbling block before me, I might forget to take a step back and realize that it could be much bigger or much worse. Too often instead I walk closer and become fixated, losing focus of the size of the problem in comparison to the surroundings. There really could be bigger fish to fry.

Random Genius Test

There’s the story of this homeless

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eccentric fellow living near where I grew up, who was a genius to those who knew him and crazy to those who didn’t. He seemed totally aimless as he wandered through town talking to himself. The day the gap between crazy and genius was bridged for me was when someone told me to strike up a conversation with him.

“Be sure to tell him your birth date.”
As a young kid that seemed like a ‘stranger danger’ moment, but I trusted who I was with and did so. Turned out this guy was kind and had a unique style of intelligence. In a single moment he told me what day of the week I was born, and my opinion of him was changed.

Are we enamored with politics or genius?

Sometimes we are fixated on things which market well at all cost. Occasionally we should spend time with people who look a little crazy, but do not sacrifice the truth to look otherwise.

Freedom of Speech

“…right?”

I used to frequently end my sentences with that modifier. My wife told me to stop it. No one liked it and it was not really a question I was asking. It was just a way to get a response to a statement.

She is very wise.

I recent conversation got me thinking again about the power of our words. More importantly, what we expect as a return on the words we share. Rarely do we expel words with nothing meant in return. They solicit a response, an action, a direction, a feeling. We want our words to be meaningful.IMG-20140321-02673

Kenneth Gangel directs those in leadership to define the expectations of their message, and this definition is often based on the impact we desire. This desire is often shaped by what we expect those around us to do. It sounds so mechanical, but consider a day’s worth of your conversations and statements. Consider including all those whispered under your breath, and even those said in your head as a response you chose to feed your personal demons.

Gangel would say you need to consider 2 things: Understanding and Agreement.

My ‘…right?’ addendum sought agreement. Many times when we speak we desire to find agreeability. It makes us feel good. It deters conflict. It means we can commune. Or at least that is what we think we are achieving. Usually it means we are hoping that everyone can achieve an enjoyable status quo in the setting. Often people will find just enough separation from the matter to maintain an attitude of congeniality without cost.

That does not mean we are on the same team, we just avoid putting too much weight on the balance of the relationship.

The other option is gaining understanding. This takes more time, more energy, and can cost us a lot more in the long run. Being understood is important. It is not the be all and end all of a relationship, but it is vital for long term communication. It can sound very business-like to assert understanding over simply agreeing to save the face of relationship, but clarity builds respect and trust. It allows people the space to knowingly disagree, remove themselves from a greater commitment, or better yet, engage in open dialogue.

I say I love the ideal of people speaking freely, but I know that is not always true. I desire agreement and the feeling of a unified spirit with others. Often that can come at the cost of others withholding their investment in the bond being formed.

I love it when people agree with me. But I am learning to love it even more when we understand one another openly.