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Archive for the ‘Confessions’ Category

“Do not be conformed to this world.”
– Paul to the Romans

“That I may know him, and the power of his ressurection, and the fellowship of his suffering, that I may be conformed to his death.”
– Paul to the Phillipians

What does it mean to be conformed to Christ, to be conformed to his death rather than being conformed to the world? If I am living– really living– as I ought to be living, as someone who has died to self and lives to Christ, who is transformed instead of conformed, who knows nothing but Christ and him crucified… then the myriad “I’m a Christian…” conversations I’ve been having in the last week are stating the overly-obvious. And if it’s not obvious, then I’m missing it. Again.

Why is it so easy to be conformed to the world, and such a challenge to let go and let myself be conformed to the image of Christ? Why, even knowing the greatness of the riches of God, is it such a continual struggle to let go of myself, my dreams, my way of doing things? Why do I hold so tightly to the things of this life that I know are of no lasting value, instead of reaching out to the One who is greater than this life?

And of course there’s a part of me that wishes it were just that easy, that just doesn’t understand why I struggle so much with what should be simple, obvious choices to die to self and conform to the will of God… why I have such a hard time making the leap of faith that faith demands. That the commitment and surrender and death to self were a one time deal instead of a day by day and moment by moment choice to make. And then, of course, I have to laugh at myself for thinking that following the Crucified should be easy. And of course it’s not… self doesn’t die easily or quietly. No, it begs and pleads for its life… making reasoned arguments and emotional ones, and arguing against being made a fool for Christ. And I listen. Far, far too often I listen and become Judas, betraying my Lord for own desires. But my desire is to be transformed and conformed, not to this world, but to the suffering of Christ. “I do not think that I have yet laid hold of it, but this one thing I do: forgetting everything that is past and stretching toward what lies ahead with my eyes fixed on the goal I push on to secure the prize of God’s heavenward call in Christ Jesus….” Thank God for grace.

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Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum; verumtamen justa loquar ad te: quare via impiorum prosperator?

 

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend

With thee; but sir, so what I plead is just.

Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must

Dissapointment all I endeavor end?

 

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,

How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost

Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust

Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,

 

Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes

Now Leaved how thick! laced they are again

With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes

 

Them; birds build– but not I build; no, but strain,

Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.

Mine, O thou Lord of life, send my roots rain.

 

– GMH.

(And me. Sometimes, someone else has just already said something so throughly, there’s no sense in trying to add to it. This is the place I’m at tonight, and there’s some comfort to be had in knowing that 100 years ago someone else was at this same place. There really is nothing new under the sun.)

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In the beginning, God created… and God said “Let there be light. And there was light.”

I think sometimes we forget how vital and life-sustaining light is. I know I do. Our society is one in which light is readily available… my bedroom, for example, contains an overhead light (4 lightbulbs), 4 lamps, and at least 2 flashlights at all times. I can fill the room with light without any appreciable effort on my part… and I have a tendency to take for granted those things that don’t require much thought or effort. Thanks to Oklahoma’s recent catastrophic ice storm, I spent 9 days without power over the last week and a half. No light, save the inconsequential flashlights and later the floodlights of police helicopters patroling for looters. No light in my house, no light on my street, and no light in my city. My day began to revolve around the light… more or less ending when the light ended. The world was cold and dark, and I was anxious for the sun to rise in the morning. And as I drove from house to house checking on the families I work with, I began to appreciate the light. Over those 9 days, I began to read the Biblical passages on light in a new way.

And God said, “Let there be light. And there was light.”

Have you ever thought about how amazing that is? What the light must have been like, cutting through the primordial darkness? What the world’s first glimpse of light looked like? And then Jesus, being the light, shining in the darkness and the darkness not understanding. Christians, being lights.

 In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. Through him, all things were created, and without him nothing was made which has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

There is a starkness in the difference between light and dark. Instantly noticable. Unmistakable. There is no confusing the two. In Christ, there is life… a life that is light to the world. As we enter winter, with short dark days and cold nights, let us remember our source of light and life.

During the power outage, many of those who regained power before their friends, neighbors, or family stepped out to share: a warm bed, a warm meal, or even an extension cord. The message, from many, was “I have light. You can come here.” In the most basic sense, that’s what we’re called to do as followers of the light… to share the light we have so others can benefit from it. Love the light. Share the light. Be the light.

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“…with God is strength and understanding…”

-Speech of Job of Uz to his friends

Sometimes, I don’t understand. I don’t understand God, when faced with the incredible mind-numbing brokenness of this world we live in.  I believe God is powerful and personal… which is to say, he has the ability to change things, influence events, and is active in human events. Beyond that, because there is no greater power or source, I believe that things don’t happen outside of his will, or at least outside of his allowance for them to happen.

And on weeks like this, it would be a joke to pretend I understand my God. I don’t understand children suffering, especially like I’ve seen in these last few days. I don’t know what purpose or good could be found in something like this. I just don’t get it. I believe, but I sure don’t understand. Sometimes, I think belief is a more challenging path than disbelief, and this is one of those weeks. So I fuss at God, ranting and complaining to try to make him do things my way, as if I were God instead of him. And when some kind of quiet comes to my soul, I can begin to wait for redemption in this too… but there is no quiet. Not yet. Not this night. Sometimes I wonder if God’s not more interested in our struggle than in the eventual resolution. Or maybe I just hope so.

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…For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…

How do you know God’s plan? Lately, I’ve been feeling dissatisfied, as if I’m waiting for something else, something more…. and I don’t know what, exactly. I’m tired of socialization in the name of spirituality. I’m frustrated with churches thinking they need to put on elaborate programs to draw people in, as if Jesus isn’t enough on his own, as if something else is required. I’m tired of wasting time on things that aren’t important. I want something more than that. I want Christ, unadulterated by my desires. I want God, free from my cultural expectations of what God ought or ought-not to be. I want to be changed. I’m tired of being distracted, of settling for less, of putting my will before God’s will.  Jesus told Martha, “Only one thing is neccesary” when she was distracted. I don’t want to be distracted any longer, or flinch from the things God asks of me… I want the one thing.

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Now behold, the Lord was passing by, and a great and mighty wind was rendin the mountain and shattering the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire the sound of a gentle whisper. Now as soon as Elijah perceived it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him, saying “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 I’ve been living with the possibility of silence for three years now, but have only really experienced it in the last few months as my life slowed down– I slowed down– enough to hear it. Silence, true silence, has an engulfing presence of its own that must be attended to in order to be felt. I have finally begun attending to it, and experiencing the rather unique presence silence has. Silence breaks down barriers and– given enough time unchecked– forces self-examination and a unique honesty within the self. Finding silence is a rarity in our time… a few moments of silence are more likely to inspire music or tv or a phone call than contemplation… and I’m finding it to be precious.  I’m finding myself reading about Carthusians and Trappists and studying contemplation. I could do with more silence.

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Barukh attah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam…

Tonight begins another of my forays into the world of Hebrew. A new workbook, a new tablet of graph paper, and I feel rather like a child starting the first day of school. A couple of previous attempts have ended in frustration (largely, I think, due to the lack of fit with any of my previous language schemas), but I’m hopeful that this new workbook will help change that. It’s simple, and seems relatively straightforward… rather like Welcome to Hebrew Kindergarten. This is also exciting on another front… despite the multiple jobs, I now have more time for private study than at any other time in recent years. This, too, is exciting. I’ve long been frustrated by my lack of Hebrew knowledge… it seems to me impossible to really understand a text without understanding its first language, and yet I’ve found myself in a position where my most beloved text is one whose voice I don’t know. This is a step toward changing that. It is a beginning.

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