Friday, June 23, 2006
Why Not Happiness?
Can't win for losing. If you cry, they say "Stop crying or I'll give you something to really cry about." If you're happy, "You need to be taken down a peg." How dare anyone try to climb out of the mud? Be just like everyone else. No one deserves any more.
Well, I don't deserve a thing. That I have life is due to being forgiven.
A pink monkey doesn't live long in the land of brown monkeys. He can wear a brown-monkey suit, but this has side effects: performance leads belief. Pretty soon the pink monkey becomes a brown monkey... and is angry at the whole world because something constantly irritates him.
Yet it's not safe to be a pink monkey. Jesus was the paradigm case of the pink monkey, and his life wasn't safe at all. He went on, being Himself despite the anti-aircraft batteries around him. Can I attain to that kind of strength? I don't know. I've learned to fly low so that when the ack-ack hits I don't have far to fall.
But the brown-monkey suit dictates. Even when no one else is shooting at me I still force myself down. Keeps the temptation under control. Better to stay down than to be shot down. Sort of a belief in constant irritation being better than some flight that leads to being shot down.
What armors the soul against the flak? I don't know. Never needed to know because of my low-level lifestyle. Stay out of the sights, you don't need to figure out the armor.
So, God holds me on his hand and invites me to fly. Go. Out there. Native ebullience in natural expression. The take-off run reminds me of an overloaded 737 on a hot day: pounding along the ground trying to find lift in the thin air. The Pilot has faith that I lack. He just keeps adding to the runway. Some excitement stirs in me but I sense the attackers ranged around. No "junkyard dog" type attack, just the constant presence of a stone on top of me.
Forced happy behavior is no more honest than forced service. I've quit trying. I don't really know where the balance is for this, either. A life spent in search of happiness probably won't find anything, but how would I know? Guessing. It's what I've been told. More brown-monkey belief.
A Berean won't take the brown monkeys at their word, even when they agree with his own psychologic biases. God supports the Berean: Why does it have to be this way?
Well, it doesn't. Forgiveness, love, encouragement and eventually, glacially, the soul begins to move more strongly. What was once prostrate, mired, flexes muscles in a new way and takes a step.
Morning comes. Might as well. Sleep is long since gone.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Midnight Thrash and Prayer
I asked God for help. There was no faith involved, no hope. I just knew what was coming--months of chaos resulting from suddenly becoming visible--and because I I'd seen other people expect things of God and he seemed like the only exit from the chaos, I asked him to still my mind and help me figure out what was going on.
The whole situation was absurd. I'd written a little story about a church, and the church's pastor got ahold of it. Predictable. And then he approached me and told me that he liked the story a lot, and why. Most people would welcome such attention from the mover and shaker himself. I wanted to disappear, and thought about crawling under the table. That would have made me even more visible. I was caught like a deer in the headlights, as several other men watched, mouths agape. I just put my head in my hands and waited for it to be over.
Attention devastates me. I want it, I can't stand it. I want someone to know I'm alive, but if they do they tend to disapprove of what they see. Old, old memory.
Another old memory: being forced to call someone on the telephone. I didn't want to. I was around five years old. My parents forced the issue, and I learned thereby that forcing things does work. It became the model for the rest of my life. If you don't want to do it, do it anyway. Good enough. I can make that work.
It sort of did. Well enough that I stayed out of trouble, but I was never any fireball in the dream department. I honestly just wanted to be left alone.
God comes along and I learn that we're intended to live as lighthouses on hilltops. Now, try to imagine what that feels like to me. I keep to the valleys, under the trees, and I wear a heavy coat. If I do something visible, it doesn't last. I don't advertise. I go through the day just hoping no one will notice.
Things are changing. People at work have been retiring, leaving me as the only one in the department who has the institutional knowledge of how our communication system is built. I used to work in obscurity. Now I meet with engineers and managers, and tell them where the problems are and what I suggest to solve the problems. I have become...
Visible. And it just sort of happened. Day by day. I imagine God moving things around, making this happen. Images of that forced telephone call, and my resistance to God's interference in my life builds.
No real wonder, there. He's just another parent, forcing my small heart to go the way he wants. Why should I care? Just march, or be forced.
That isn't God, though. We talked about this through most of the night. By the time light started leaking in through the windows I was so groggy I could barely get out of bed, but I was too hungry to stay. I ate some breakfast and bagged work for the day.
I pray in images and words. The image of that little boy approaching the black telephone. Memories of other events: places I didn't want to be, things I didn't want to do, forks in the road when I made decisions for all the wrong reasons. Where does the heart lead? What heart? A life lived moment-by-moment.
And... whence comes comfort? The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter, but my experience is of a taskmaster waiting for me, tapping his foot, hoping that this time I'll get it and start walking faster. "Come on. You know you have to, so just save time and do it now." I look ahead, see the size of the mountain, and just want to go back to sleep. "Wake me up when it's over, God."
So, what began in kindness and tenderness has evolved into rules and performance. Ruthless trust has devolved into just dragging along. And I remembered that hot night in 2003: "God, if you're there, please quiet my mind and help me understand." If God had been the kind of God I believe in now, he'd have ignored me and said "Figure it out for yourself. I don't have time for weaklings like you. Do the job, then see me when you're ready." Instead, he very gently stilled the whirl of thoughts that were tail-chasing around my mind. And then we walked through the incident itself in a series of images and associated thoughts. Together we saw that it really wasn't that threatening. Erwin hadn't said anything other than he liked the story. I hadn't done anything bad... Other than putting a lot of heart into a story.
The visible heart. I believe this is what will change the world. And I see God, although I'm not very cooperative, changing my soul to support such a heart. What courage does it take to support a visible heart? Heart in sand, heart in word, heart in the greetings I give people.
It's not as if the signs weren't there. Even when young I liked to go around our neighborhood and visit people. Until I got the impression that this was something that No One Did. I'm very sensitive to what puts sand in other people's gears. When they jam those closest get the blame. I stopped, and another piece of heart developed armor plate. It's even hard for me to write about this little incident. I remember it well, but have never put it out in the light of day before now. There are the beginnings of tears in my eyes. Tears for that little boy, tears for the man who can't reach beyond the armor of years.
Yesterday I was made a member of the Guild of Greeters in Until Uru, the online game I've been playing. Greeters do just that: greet newcomers to the game and answer their questions. Even guide them around the Cavern, if needed. People have been telling me for the last year that I should join. But... I'm just not much of a joiner. I finally did it because a man I respect told me I should, that I was already doing the greeting. And he's right. Another of God's little tricks: following the breadcrumbs I enjoy eating into being the Cavern's most active party organizer.
There was no force involved in any of this. I started playing music for a small group of friends. Others heard about that and asked me to DJ for other events. Eventually the next step was easy: start my own regular event, in the shape I want. It's a little social engineering project, to elevate the mood in the Cavern, and has proven popular. It's an event people look forward to every two weeks. It just happened because I like music.
It's one of the few places left in my life where my heart lives. Music takes me away from all the grey hard-edged world around me. I can imagine a better place. An expression of kindness and grace.
I wait for the crack of the whip, for the demands I can't meet. "I don't care what you feel. Do it anyway." God keeps doing what he has done from the beginning: gently sprinkling love into my life and waiting for the blasted, ravaged land under his care to start growing the kinds of things he knows are latent within.
Plants grow at their own pace. So do babies. Only adults expect to produce fruit before the branches are grown out. All God seems to want is growth. I think I might be able to do that, if he helps. A lot.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
What Fire Contained?
It started with a computer that wouldn't start. A Powerlessbook. I suggested a RAM problem but her screwdriver was too small to open the cunningly fitted cover. Troubleshooting at 3000 miles.
Why is it that so few people dare to start fires? Maybe they're scared. Maybe they don't know how. Maybe they just don't hold any fire within, no spark, just plod. Lu has a great fire. Maybe it's examples like hers that keep others at a distance: living with fire, like riding tigers, is difficult but it's even worse when you try to stop. Better not to start. Damp the fire. Nice kitty.
Fire shows. It doesn't really matter how you damp it. To a sensitive person the heat is palpable. The insensitive don't know what's going on, but they're attracted like cats to a radiator in the winter. Invisible infrared chains, sunbeams and dreams, cozying up to something mysterious, something beautiful, something that calls like an inaudible crystalline bell. Real leaders.
The scale doesn't matter. Is a leader only one when thousands come to her call? I suspect that God is pleased with a leader of one or two. Our world would have us believe that anyone can be a leader. It's merely a matter of training and learning enough management aphorisms to inspire the troops. Even the troops, though, know the difference between the posturing and the power. Fire will out, like the tree root surely finding the depths of a rock and cracking it in its steady slow growth. You can't hide it. You can only distort it, turn it aside into something gnarled and ugly, and people become confused or fanatical.
What burns in me? A warrior's heart, as Lu suggested, but one warped into self-defense. A stone basket over the flames, crowding low, trying to hide. What might happen if the fire gets out? I don't know, and don't want to know. But I already know: fire turned into sand, fire turned into stories, fire turned into spontaneous games, quick tongues of flame that lick out faster than they can be shunted aside and then it's too late. The fire is there, the light is there and I'm lit up like a Christmas tree on a hilltop, I, who am much more comfortable living in the bottoms of deep dark valleys.
But what can I say? It's fun! Creative challenges, troubleshooting challenges, being able to do things. Shaping sand into forms that no one else has thought of, telling stories that bust the stereotypes. God is no stereotype, no standard character, and Jesus walked his blazing path on earth lighting fires everywhere he went. The very model of creation, there: make the world new with each step, call people to thoughts they'd never thought before, bring out the light in a world shaded so long that people have to squint to see.
Who makes a heart strong enough to lead? Maybe it's a matter of surprise. Jesus is sneaky. You walk along, following his footsteps, and then you find that he's not out in front any more. Your own footprints burn, and then fear takes over and you look for a crack to hide in. Then you feel Jesus' steady hand, guiding, making things possible that you'd never dreamed.
And it's all different from what you were taught. Christianity is a linear process in the books. Step by step, follow this process, become a Christian. Foolproof. But fire calls to fire, however much asbestos you wrap around your soul. I buried mine in layers so deep that nothing got out and the land around died for want of light... And still I heard the call of lightning and felt the distant warmth of God's heart. All of us have that spark, calling, calling, trying to answer.
We are designed for fire. A flaming soul knows no bounds. Beauty and creation are much, much harder than burning down the house, and they won't get your name in the newspapers. Shape the fire, guide the flames, God's refractory touch teaching. One fire, two choices, a lifetime to learn.
And what of me? Fires don't burn well on submarines. God tempts me to the surface but hammered into the deepest recesses of my soul is the commandment to survive by being beneath notice. God has the last laugh, though; if you keep walking, sooner or later you get to the top of some kind of hill, especially for one such as I, easily distracted by looking at the scenery. The submarine surfaces, the fish walks on dry land, the climber is called from the heavy shell that holds back.
Traditional teaching works by driving: whip cracks and demands. God teaches first by example, then by calling. One little tasty nugget after another and O, his Spirit is sweet. Bread crumb by bread crumb, the trail leads on and each crumb nourishes some new addition no matter how small. A zillion drops of water make a lake, a lot of tiny glowing sparks make...
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
This is quite an amazing statement to me. I've never heard anyone else say it, yet it matches my experience exactly.
People want to care. They don't want to give up. They go on trying dead end after dead end. Or they go after that little hope-plant with weedkiller, hammer, shovel, rocks but it just won't die. I describe my own experience there. Not caring is a great survival tool, but a lousy life tool. So, the question becomes: How do I learn to live with caring?
Caring gives whatever I care about a handle to use in my manipulation. I can care about sand sculpture because it disappears. No handle remains. There are other ghostly aspects to my life: there, and then not there. No one can touch what they can't see, nor what turns to vapor before the hand reaches out with its hammer.
God cares. He died for caring. I don't know how anyone who doesn't know God can care about anything, but perhaps caring a sign that God really is with a person even if the words aren't quite right. We put doctrine before caring. If the words are right, who cares about anything else? We'll go to our graves being right, and we can be proud of that. I don't really care about being right, though; what I want is truth.
I want to know how things work. I want to know what life is about. There must be more available than the daily grind of work amid people who are so surrounded by noise that they haven't noticed that they don't care about what they hear. Could there be some truth to my childhood idea that there really is magic in our world? Is there really a good reason for living, for caring? Living requires caring, it seems. I've learned that much from the Holy Spirit. He's doing his best to enable me to care, also, which is an uphill battle even harder than that of Sisyphus. I'm one heavy, slippery rock, but God knows what he's doing.
I wonder how much of this is affected and effected by choice. Can I simply choose to care? Probably, but that calls for more courage than I have. Disappointment looms large.
God has never disappointed me, though, so I use my experience with him as the model for other things. There are signs of new hope in my life, small ones to be sure, but there. A restiveness in the same old routine, thoughts of what else I might do, feelings of expansion. I've always been able to control this kind of nonsense in the past and return to the real world but with God pushing the ideas and enabling them, well, the only way for me to win is not to care, and I know where that leads. Losing.
Perhaps that's what we should really being doing for each other: Giving reminders of why we should care. Give me a double helping of hope, please, and hold the judgment. Maybe hope is like vitamin C: I can't store it, so it has to be supplied each day. Where does it come from? In my experience, only God. Maybe if I were more open I'd receive some from others, and be able to give some away.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
The Individual Path
And, by the way, WHO SAYS there "ought" to "be more hope" in your life? I'm learning I've put far more guilt and stress on my own self by taking on the "oughts" and "shoulds" of others. The only "ought" that matters is God's. And I don't see Him shaking His head in disgust at your life right now. I see Him celebrating and delighting in you -- with great HOPE for who you WILL be in the future, as HE works His magic in you.
Lu wrote that the other day in a comment. "Oughts" and "shoulds" are one of the first things I discarded when God gathered me to himself again.
The problem is that the ideas embodied therein are just too daring for one who is much more comfortable living a submarine existence. To really get out on the edge of what God does makes me more visible than I want to be. Stay safe within the pack. The Christian world is full of heavyweight teachers who know better than I how this thing is supposed to work. And yet that's the same damned mistake I made in the late 1970s: letting people distract me from what God Himself was teaching me.
Well, the main reason for this is fear. I don't really care what anyone else says. That's a convenient excuse. What really scares me is the terrifyingly real touch of God's transforming hand. I mean, you touch him, you die. Change. Newness. The cutting edge. Walking the desert in confidence, stepping out of the boat to be with Jesus in the howling sea because he calls and you can't resist.
Now, there are many accepted visions of what it means to "step out of the boat." Usually those visions are of changing the world and transforming souls. It's interesting how God weaves these things into daily life. No big deal.
I play an on-line game called "Until Uru." God can't touch that, right? Wrong. Through a combination of interests I've become known for throwing the best party in the game. Every two weeks we play music and dance, and I am the manager. It's a role I've studiously avoided all of my life. God will come in through any unguarded door and use your actions for good. A lot of people look forward to this party and its zany creativity.
At work I'm gradually being drawn into a similar role because of all the people in my department I'm the only one left with a long memory of how our system works. The others have retired or promoted out. I get to hobnob with the high-level engineers and tell them what we need to do. If you think I like that, you're wrong. I'm much more comfortable being in the background, yet God has maneuvered things so that I'm the man on the point.
So, good-bye to the old underground Larry. To touch God is to die. Jesus said it. The old man has to die, and people look forward to some cataclysm that slays them on the spot, to be rebuilt. God's way is more individual than that. He knows my heart, knows what he put there and how to dig it out of the talus around the remaining nubbin of his design and let it grow back. Rebuilding. What an amazing concept.
It still scares me. Most days I wish God were more like how the church presents him: tame, limited, unable to do anything without great effort on my part. No, he works his will in any way he can, and he's looking far beyond today. He's looking into eternity.
That's another "ought," another catchphrase for Christians. What does it mean? To this individual, it means that everything I learn while living here is the foundation for what I'll learn later, right on into the demise of the physical Universe. Forever. Quite a concept for one who lives day to day, even moment-to-moment.
We are on our paths. I wish we could share them more. We learn this from the day we're born... For every idea there are 140 nay-sayers and critics. Any idea that actually makes it out is so toughened by the process of survival that it can barely move.
We are made to dance. Made to move, flex, bend, gracefully walk with each other. One of the first things God did with me was start to remove my armor. How do I survive? Some days it's very difficult. I'm rubbed so raw that I just want to go home. It's one of those cases where God's grace is sufficient... barely.
Robots can't dance. They're made to spec on a uniform plan. God made individuals. Many times the robot is internal, reinforced by society but carried on for personal reasons. God has a hard time talking me out of that, but he continues to whisper his ways to my unique soul.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
The story resonates with me. What keeps people from giving up?
I gave up on many things. Now that God has a hand in my life there ought to be more hope. There is, of a rather intellectual kind; I know that God loves me. He proves it to me every day. The feeling of hope is, however, very deeply buried. I just don't want it. I don't want to feel the dawning of a new day because as soon as I do that something will happen. A snowstorm comes, or my internal sniper shoots the new idea to pieces, or the once-solid ground will turn to greasy mud and I'll slide back to where I was.
I just know it's a lie. Hope doesn't exist except in my own hands, and I know how fragile and incapable they are.
If you believe in the kind of Christianity that is built on the idea of "God helps those who help themselves," you'll say there's no way this will work. I'm making God angry. God doesn't believe that, as evinced in my life. Lack of faith is seen as a deadly sin by many people. Lack of faith, to God, is just another challenge for him to overcome in his truly inimitable way. If you don't have the foundation, he will build it. If you don't have the foundation for a foundation, he will start there. "Lord, I believe. Please help my unbelief."
It seems that God wants me to feel this hope. Feel the hope that life really can get better. He has been working on it for a long time, and he brought it to mind today, something like three weeks after Lu's story. I'm not responsible for how nutty that is. I'm just responsible for listening, and going on.
How do you teach hope to the hopeless? I guess I'm going to find out.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Matters of Will
Will is the essential element in God's creation of man: sin is a perverse disposition which entered into man.
That pretty much stopped me in my tracks. An actual, big-name Christian saying that human will is... essential? A sacred part of God's image in me? I'd pretty much arrived by my own processes at the same conclusion but it wasn't something I was going to shout from the rooftops.
Maybe I should. Maybe I should be more open about what God teaches me, no matter how radical it is or unpopular with the current leaders of Christian thought. My main motivation, though, is to stay out of trouble. Question the powers that be and you get bricks heaped upon your fragile head, or at least questions designed not to elucidate the truth but to call into question things that God has taught an individual. "Don't you think..." I just don't want to go through the grilling.
And yet people are dying for want of this. God spreads a table, and belief systems build walls around that table so only certain people who are good enough can get to it. I'd like to dissolve the walls, but Satan hates freedom so he makes Christianity look as rule-bound as the fastnesses of Hell. God offers his free gift, but Satan makes it look expensive. Unfortunately, Satan having ruled this world for a long time, it's a lot easier to believe his lies because they fit our experience. God offers his love, and I look for tricks. It takes a lot of work on God's part to change the mind of one single more-or-less trying-to-be-believer.
God made me a certain way. Human characteristics. He put them there. I don't know yet how it all fits, but gradually my parts are learning to live with each other. The unrestricted warfare of years' standing is dying down into brushfire battles and skirmishes. It's an improvement, believe me, and it's due to the Holy Spirit interposing himself between the factions. His will, more than mine.
What surprises me is that my will is still active. I expected it to be dissolved. It was either that or a short slide into oblivion. The path since then has led to many surprises, and the preservation of my will is one. Which is why Chambers' quote resonates. Will is the original, and sin is its warped latter-day echo. We believe more in the sin than in the will.
I know that will is essential. I don't have much will at the moment, but in the past will has led to sand sculpture, stories, Blogs, friends and other things. I never really respected it. I have a real problem with wanting things to work the way others say they should because then I'll just blend in with the rest and stay out of trouble. That isn't real life, though. No one ever accomplished anything by keeping their abilities hidden and staying out of trouble. It seems that changes are coming, but God is building the foundation so that when I do get a will I don't get crushed by the first criticism.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Making Your Way
Motivation is something I thought I'd never need. After all, you just tell yourself what to do and then go do it, right? Some people can. Perhaps most. It's a matter of will, mind over body, crack the whip over your psychologic sled dogs and get them moving. But... who feeds the dogs? What happens when they just don't pay attention any more?
Drifting. What motivates me is mainly staying out of trouble and maintaining some independence. I don't want to end up a ward of the state or living on a streetcorner, dependent upon the kindness of strangers. I don't want to be dependent upon anyone, actually, so I make sure that anything I start can be finished by myself. Larger goals? Forget it. One day after another.
Which really means I'm just a small cog in the machine, for all my talk of independence. I stay within my boundaries. I figure the moves well in advance and like any other good chess piece try to stay hidden in the pack. My moves are mainly a reaction to those around me.
Christians are said to be called to a life of sacrifice, giving the self away. I wonder how that works. I don't want to dissolve into a sea of uniformity. I wonder if the problem is really in the words and the well-worn phrases.
Jesus is Himself. He looks ahead and walks the way He needs to walk so as to fulfill his purpose. He stands out like a blazing torch on the darkest of nights, which is a far cry from the safe middle-of-the-pack position I maintain.
Different resources, different responses. And just who is setting the goal? Self-sacrifice may be the end result, but I don't think that's the goal. The goal is to do good, which is exactly what Jesus did when he was walking here.
I really don't think God is interested in mindless gears and levers. We have individual souls and the ideas to protect them. We have our own ideas. What I don't have is any real desire to push myself onward. I've become machine-like in that regard, just wanting to get through the day with minimal damage so that I can go home and ignore things.
I wonder what Jesus felt as he pursued his life here. What was he thinking as he looked around, as he walked the hills, as he confronted the Pharisees or gently healed the bodies and minds of people who needed His touch. He knew what He was walking toward. I'm afraid to look ahead.
It's amazing how much water can be soaked up by dry sand. You keep spraying water and it just disappears. It seems my soul is a bottomless pile of very dry sand, but God keeps watering it. His love is constant and any small victory brings a smile. He rains love into my life faster than I can throw it overboard or dry it up with the torch of reason. It's not his intent to extinguish reason nor to abrogate will, but to somehow change them.
What motivates me to pursue this change? It's something beyond survival now. Used to be I was just running from the flames of a burning bridge, but now it may be something closer to what Jesus has always had: the will of his Father. Somehow that connection makes a difference. This is completely irrational. Maybe that's the first step. I know God is interested in some intangible way that's stronger than anything else in my life. I feel his interest and go in the direction that seems to strengthen the link. It seems impossible.