Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Sevens: More

Lu left a comment on my previous "list of sevens" entry. She's a little miffed that I had only one simple item under the "things to do before I die" heading: survive. "God has a wonderful love adventure for you."

Well, I'm not really an adventurer. God chose or made the wrong man for that. I'd rather be left alone. That attitude is, of course, a holdover from the old days.

It's interesting how many justifications there can be for maintaining the status quo. If nothing else, the experience of my obstreperous and resistant emotional self is instructive illustrating other people's experiences.

Dealing with God is actually quite simple, in theory. Give your life to him because he will do a better job of managing it that you will. Then you take his hand, hold on and walk. Practice brings complexity.

The fun thing to do is blame God for when things go awry. "What's wrong with you, God? You promised to take care of me, to provide for me, and now you've let me down just like everyone else has." In my case... I know, with the same confidence that I expect the telephone to fall to the floor after my bare toes get tangled in the cord, that God is doing exactly what he promised. My emotions get completely out of sorts, however.

Emotionally I want nothing further to do with any of this. Find me a rock, dig a hole under it and disappear. I want peace, I want quiet, I want a hassle-free existence. If I wanted all of the emotional upheaval that God's rearrangements cause I would have let the emotional infrastructure stand when I was a kid. I didn't want it then, I don't want it now.

Except that, as usual, there are prices to be paid. It turns out that without emotion there's no real reason to continue living. Surviving becomes... surviving, and that's it. Day after day of just one more day. Boats stay on an even keel quite nicely when they're sunk.

So. I know God changes lives. I've seen it happen. Intellectually I know it to be true. I look back at my life and see all the many places where God stepped in to facilitate some little thing that served as a stepping stone. I know he cares deeply, the first proof being in what he did to make possible our relationship, proof from that point on in what he has done.

Unlike people, he has never reneged on a promise. What he says he will do, he does, and keeps trying to do. My response? Fear. The power implied in that contact, the expectation...

And there we reach one part of the problem, I believe. My vision of God is of him sitting in heaven, waiting for me to screw up. I know this isn't true, but emotional reality is very strong. I am powerless to change it, no matter how badly this misconstrues God's actions. Being a pessimist is a good idea because it prevents disappointment. I've had a lifetime's worth of disappointment, so I'll play rock and let things, good and bad, just roll over.

If there were no God, the status quo would remain forever. But he takes advantage of small lapses of attention, little errors of judgment, to slip in little surprises. He found me a niche in an on-line gaming community, and that has become important to my life. It's where I'll be spending Christmas Eve: in Until Uru with my friends, listening to music.

Yesterday I got a little package from a friend. There were several things in there, but the one I looked at first was "A Glimpse of Jesus," by Brennan Manning. This man already has my respect because of "Ruthless Trust," so I looked at this book and was astounded by the subtitle. Something about "Against self-hatred." My first reaction was that this is more pop psychology, but that thought didn't last long because the man who wrote "Ruthless Trust" wasn't going to devolve suddenly into feel-good pabulum.

I've only read a few pages, but the book already fits me well. Self-hatred. We all learn it, some better than others. God gets painted with the black brush here, Brennan says, because people project their own self-hatred onto him, and it reflects. God hates me so I deserve all the bad things. Well, I know people project. I'm just sad to see myself doing it, in function if not in words. Function seems to be ruled by emotions, and I'm just no good at living this way. "God, send me back to Egypt, so I can be a slave again."

More proof, if any is needed, that Satan rules this world. Self-hatred is a great way to stop people, redirect them, and turn them away from God.

So, perhaps I should list...

Seven things that have helped me continue walking with God:
1. The Holy Spirit (emphatically a person, NOT a thing), who doesn't know the meaning of "quit"
2. Ken Medema's music, particularly "Fork in the road." His song "Come, Let Us Reason Together" is one that God has used to speak to me many times.
3. "Ruthless Trust," by Brennan Manning
4. C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia
5. The Bible, when I'm not too afraid to read it
6. "Hind's Feet on High Places," Hannah Hurnard (mid-1970s, first time around)
7. "True Spirituality," Francis Schaeffer (also mid-1970s on my first pass through God's world)

There are others, but you get the idea. An interesting pattern shows up here: I do not get encouragement from people. Others will list the people who've encouraged them, challenged them, helped them on the way, but I'm usually too scared and too defensive to accept help like that. Now, if a nut falls off the tray someone is carrying, I'll pick it up and take it home, but the last thing I want to invite is Christian homiletic advice and counsel from someone who hasn't spent enough time with me to know how I work.

My 2003 turnaround was engineered by God, in a series of one-off contacts with people. Eddies in life's river brought us together for a time, and then separated us soon after. I don't fight the current. Drifting is about all the adventure I can handle.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Seven, Oops.

Well, I can't very well turn down Lu's invitation. Normally I don't join Internet bandwagons, but this one has some interesting aspects.

Seven things to do before I die:
1. Survive.

Seven things I can't do:
1. Argue
2. Pour my energy into useless activity

Seven things I love to do, and do well:
1. Sand sculpture
2. Mountain biking
3. Photography
4. Writing
5. Fix problems
6. Make things
7. Appreciate nature

Seven foods I love:
You really mean just seven? Be serious. This seasonal... But I always like the following:
1. Haagen-Dazs vanilla chocolate chip
2. Dinah's apple pancake
3. Chicken stew
4. T-bone steak
5. Caesar salad
6. Greek salad
7. Fresh fruit of just about any kind

Seven things that attract me to people:
If I could quantify this, my life would be different... it's guidance by feel. Some essential aspects:
1. Honesty

Seven books I've enjoyed:
These are the standouts, books that echo in memory long after the covers are closed.
1. The Lord of the Rings
2. The Chronicles of Narnia
3. Ruthless Trust
4. Od Magic
5. Archform: Beauty
6. Beauty and the Beast

Seven movies:
1. Never Cry Wolf
2. Hatari!
3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (third and final version)
4. My Neighbor Totoro
5. Good Will Hunting
6. South Pacific
7. Tron

I notice there's no place on the list for music, which means far more to me than movies. Books and music have always been my main solace.

Music I can't live without:
1. Beethoven Symphony #6
2. Ralph Vaughan Williams Symphony #3
3. Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem
4. J.S. Bach Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor
5. Loreena McKennitt--various CDs
6. Mason Williams
7. Hundreds more reaching back into the past...

And what of God? Where is He on this list? If I weren't so scared of what he's doing, I'd be glad he's in my life. I recognize that you could wipe out this whole list and still my life would work because of Him. Maybe the whole damned list is just a bunch of crutches.

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