It is new category time again on Stranger In Rebellion, and this is the one where I make fun of the memes people post and I see it on my that one site. Starting some 40 odd years ago I found that the best of friends were people I could make fun of other people with, because we all know we’re superior than everyone else, right? So here is where I repost pics I see and make fun of them. Here we go:
Let’s start off with a confusing one that was posted without comment and the user received 2 likes so far for it. Why did they post this and to whom are they talking to? I know, it is just for general encouragement, but the picture of a kid in black and white format looking like he is yelling and about to cry does not tell me to keep being awesome. If I saw this picture by itself I would probably think this kid is telling on his sister for blowing out the birthday candles on his cake. That is going to be the most common aspect of this experiment, “What does this picture have to do with what is being said?”
Huh? Do little flowers in a cup just say that you’re pretending you’re okay? I don’t get this on so many levels. Why is this something to post? Is it for people who might want to post something vague and slightly off-putting about what is going on, and telling them to just shut up? Either way a cup full of purple flowers says it all.
Okay, hilarious! Let us use an overused quote and make it Christian. It is things like this that make me wonder about my fellow brother and/or sister. Why for crying out loud? And what does Tony Stark/Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr. have to do with angel armies? “Let’s put a popular Christian song lyric that has army in it and put it with that overused meme…” Oh, but wait. This is a pic put out by memesforjesus. Never you mind.
Sometimes there will be clever ones that I just got to include. I think the Hobbit was just an overblown reduction engorgement of a prequel for the LOTR. Good one oh unreadable meme maker.
Weird. Someone took a stupid stock photo and tried to make fun of his sister’s best friend’s mom. “I heard about this lady that was cold. That’d make a great meme.” Fake steam… lame. Look on the woman’s face… “Stop looking at me! or I might throw up!”
Wait, who is this guy again? And does he always wear a white suit in a white room with a bright light behind him? And why is he trying to look so smarmally smarmy? And is the meme talking about where he is? His suit? Is he alive or dead? So many questions. Maybe when Stephan speaks again, he can tell us the answer to some of our questions.
Another example of an overused picture. And why in the heck couldn’t they put their text in the speech balloons? It could have taken a bit more thought. Anyway, this is mostly here to record it for historical purposes. But this person should not be allowed to make another meme.
Ugh. Why brother? Where is your head? Sorry… this kind of stuff is just asking to be made fun of. The extra caption from this tells the reader not to pass by, but make sure you type amen. Because Jesus will only help those who don’t scroll past terrible art and type “yes&Amen” with no spaces an ampersand and a capital “A” in amen. If my Jesus was this awkward, I’d keep on walkin’… or scrolling.
Yes, yes I have. Why do you ask?
Here is an encouraging bit. You’re right internet meme. I should turn up the sound of my soul… and dance. What the heck does that mean anyway? And I had a hard time not typing a swear word in there on that one. Weird background, check. High-flying pink ballerina, check. Sun ray with a large offset moon, (I mean where are these rays coming from?) check. Fake rose implant, check. Dumb quote, check check check.
Train tracks? Huh?
This one is supposed to make you laugh. I mean it is quite hilarious, is it not? The person who posted this is always posting confusing or divisive pics and articles with no commentary. How annoying this one is once you begin to ponder it’s implications and why exactly why someone would make this. I guess to me it is not as funny as it might be? Perhaps it appeals to a more younger crowd.
Okay, I agree with this sentiment. But why is this flower wearing provocative underwear?
I like this one. I just hate Trump. Well, maybe hate is too strong a word. Let’s just say he disgusts me.
Tonight was first night back to worship services at Township Line since we got back from vacation. I was reminded when the leaders were saying it was going to be challenging to do this, because it was going to be hot: and tonight was hot. It is good to be a part of something that people still are galvanized about even when it is extremely difficult. People were saying to each other how hot they were, but with a smile on their face. It would be so easy to just say, “Not tonight,” and go on with you day, not worrying about it and stay all night in your air-conditioned house. Also, you know what? We had visitors. A surprising amount, and in particular, a surprising type of visitor. Perhaps more about this later, when all is said and done and the dust has settled.
First off though, I wanted to share something regarding my speaking with our Tuesday night fellowship group. We met Saturday morning for brunch and I was able to share some things that have been on my heart, in terms of my job, my wife’s teaching, the direction in our life, some needs we would like to see fulfilled. One thing that really struck me from the conversation was that they told me to be eager and excited and looking forward to what God has for us. I generally look ahead to a major transition with fear and trepidation, because of some past missteps. I needed to be corrected in this, because God does care and love us and wants to give us good things. As my sister-in-law reminded me last week, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” When people have been asking me how things are going or if my job is going well, I have to remember this. It is a perspective changer for sure. So tonight when people asked me my most dreaded question, “How is work going?” I tried to turn that perspective of looking forward to His change for me in this and it changed what I usually say, which is “…mmm okay” or “same old, same old.” I just tell them I’m looking forward to what God is going to do in my life in my job and in my family. It is very much freeing indeed.
Back to what happened tonight: After dinner and singing, I went over with the children’s group to help out as usual and I was told that if I wanted to sit in the sermon I could. “You don’t need me?” I say. “Nope. I think everything is taken care of tonight. You’ve been here every time,” is the response. “But I haven’t been here for the last two weeks?” “It’s okay, we got this.” They really didn’t need me? I didn’t dwell on it too much, because I was just glad to sit down and listen to a sermon tonight. Also, several people said they missed the Sunday Scrutinization thing, so I decided to give my loyal fans what they wanted: hard note taken and great summary… (That sounded funny to me, didn’t it to you? If it didn’t then you’re not reading enough of my stuff.) Anyway, I sat down, didn’t have my bible, or a pen, or my notebook, or a chair for that matter. Some young kid had stolen my chair next to my wife, and I had to kick him loudly out of my seat! I disturbed a lot of people, but it was the principle of the thing! It was my chair. I lugged it there and I’m a gonna sit in it. Well, once I did get my seat back and everyone settled down, my wife provided me with a half a sheet of paper and got me a pen. Isn’t she great? I started taking notes and noticed I had some sort of sore on the side of a knuckle on my writing hand and it made writing very difficult. I couldn’t take as detailed of notes as I usually do, so what I’m going to do is just type out what I wrote, word-for-word, and tell you my gut feeling about the whole thing. Here are my notes:
Gal 4:8-11 Changed my viewpoint
Judaizers -> Jesus +
enslavement -> to good things
v8 – non Gods – idols/nothingness
how do we become enslaved?
How are we free?
idol anything we have/do to gain approval outside of Christ
my idols – comfort/familiarity
1 Jn 5:21 sums up entire book – idols
idolatry is fundamental root of all our “problems” in life
why do we fail? -you have an idol
when we “blow” it – look at what is our idol
look at all the things we use to cope with life
epithermra – things we over desire 1Pt2 being noticed, included, loved
stop and look for the chains to that idol
v9 Free? God’s love
Well, there you have it. An insight into my wonderful note taking; with injured hand. Quick summary: He said that this section completely changed his view when it came to seeing his sin and when he counsels people. Of course Galatians has to deal with those nasty Judaizers who went around telling people that they weren’t doing enough; it is Jesus plus whatever they were selling. We were being enslaved all over again after being freed from sin. But how is it we come back to enslaving ourselves to things that are less important than God’s love, salvation and freedom. Although there is an idea that we are to put ourselves under the mastery of our Lord; that is why we call Him Lord you know, because we are to be His slaves, a rebellious and ornery slave, but a slave nonetheless. We all have idols and those are anything we have or do to gain approval outside of Christ. We can look at all the troubles in our lives and trace it back to some sort of idol. We were surprised, hurt or troubled by something because of some expectation we have in our life and specifically because of an idol we have in it. Comfort and familiarity are strong idols in my life. Also, after heavy consideration and asking questions at the end, I sometimes have self-condemnation as an idol in my life. Sometimes thinking that I’m just too horrible to deserve what He has offered, AND given to me I condemn myself as unworthy of Him. That is something I’ve put before God. I’ve been satisfied at times with my status quo of sinfulness and doubted His love for me, that He could fundamentally change who I am, that I am more important than Him. Look at that! Us self-condemning, those who have a tendency toward depression, are saying that their sin is bigger than God. Oh the Gall of it all!
His love is the most powerful force in the universe: it changes animals to those who are righteous. I think of that story in Daniel about the king who said his creation was grander than God and God changed him to an animal that ate grass for several years. Then God opened his eyes and this king praised God, with all his heart. When God changes us from sinful, enslaved human to righteous and saved saint, that should be the most glorious, most humbling thing we are to ever encounter. His love changed me. Has it changed you? Do you see His love in your life day-to-day? Sometimes we forget who we are because of the wiles of the world sways us and tempts us away from His love. “Come to me, all you who are weak and weary, for my burden is light and easy,” He says to us. We should be excited day-to-day what He has for us. Have you forgotten? Has this world taken you to a path of disappointment, heartache and pain? He is calling you. He wants you to cast all your cares on Him. I will speak of it, how I am excited about what He has done and is doing. He loves you, and that is your triumph over our idols. Remember, idols are generally good things for us, but we take them, or trust them too far. When they become more important than God, then is when they became idols.
You know, I love self-condemnation, but when has it ever loved me back?
I have not written on here for a while because of the reading demands of the Perspectives course I am taking as well as taking in some of the Olympics going on over in Sochi, Russia. I need to not be off here for so long next time, because there is so much that is happening in my life and this is my only outlet for figuring things out. I know I’m dependent on my writing because this morning was sharing time at church, and as soon as it was announced I knew I was being required by God to speak, and my communication was sadly lacking in cohesion.
These last two years have been the biggest time of growth for me and my wife. God has changed my perspective on what the Church is, on what a Christian looks like, who I am in relation to these and that I don’t have to hold those standards to others that God has called me to. The preparation for me to realize these things have been our move to West Plains, in essence our breaking away from what I held as a great source of security, some very difficult trials in relationships with other Christians, and finding some other deeply committed Christians who have such depth and diverse backgrounds, that I have really been able to trust. The love I have for my wife and realization that we are growing together in this journey has made me even more faithful and trusting in Him.
This and so much more is what I wanted to share this morning. I was so discombobulated about talking freely, and worried that I would ramble on that I don’t even remember what I said, not sure I made my point, and just cut myself short because I couldn’t focus. Enough about me though, I want to talk about what someone else said and our conversation afterwards.
A single mother got up and talked about how disconnected she feels with everyone because she feels like she has no mission God is calling her to and that her kids are important to her yet she feels like she is even failing in that. Her kids go to public school and most others are in a Christian school or are home-schooled. It seems that all the things of her life that defined her were the opposite of what was going on in any number of people within the congregation. She said that she never determined her life to be a circle of perfect Christian people but that is what is going on now and it seemed that she was very discouraged by that.
I could understand fully what she was saying. I mean, it was only the previous week that I didn’t want to have anything to do with anyone at that church. It wasn’t anything anyone did, it’s just me. I feel so disconnected sometimes, that no one knows me, that they are only talking to me because they have to, that the things they talk about are not important, too cerebral, or they don’t really care about my opinion nor do I want to anyway. If people cared they would read my blog, comment and like it; which most people don’t anyway. But again, that is just me. People are normal, I, am particularly… not. Or at least I like to think that I am. We reach an age, say about 14 or so, where things get bogged down in some sort of particular personality politics that wearies me. I have things going on in my mind that I dwell on and contemplate that others just don’t want to deal with, either because it is too immature, too weird, too depressing or just too deep. I’ve had conversations with people in the past where I’ve hit nerves. Not the kind that are like, “Hey! That hurt,” but more like, “Hmm… we’ll talk about that some other time. I’ll call you,” and they never do. It didn’t connect with them. But with kids, or some very close friends, getting together is like continuing the flow. It’s like getting into a familiar river, a bit cool to get you excited and the flow is how you remember it, and it is so nice to be in it, letting it take you away.
I went up to this woman afterward and told her I knew exactly how she felt. She has come up to me before and told me she is generally a man-disliker, but she felt different about me. I don’t know why she felt this way, but she did. I usually give off the “you don’t want to know me” vibe to people and I am not used to people saying they liked me right off. Her reaction to my empathy was one of confusion: “Why? How is it you don’t get along or connect with these people?” She figured I was married, had home-schooled children, perhaps I look like I got things together(?), why didn’t I connect? To me basically it did come down to trust, but why can’t I hold a conversation like everyone else does?
A few weeks back I wrote that I believed it was Satan or demons that told me to be wary of people trying to manipulate me. Manipulating me into doing God’s work? Really. That is what I believed. I believed that if my heart was strangely moved by a presentation, I started hardening it, because I convinced myself that I was just being manipulated. This had gone on since I became a Christian. The things we believe that make us not do His work are unlimited. We can convince ourselves of anything in order not to do His work or do something that is against His will. Wide is the gate and many are the paths we take away from the Lord.
With tears welling in her eyes she told me she was a failure as a parent. She had resigned it. Just as I had resigned that people are just manipulative. It was from Satan, and so is what this woman was telling me. But could I say that to her without sounding like I’m a recording in a box? “That is from Satan. That is from Satan.” over and over again. Maybe she has heard that before and has convinced herself that when people say that it is an excuse that you are the failure, and brings it back upon self, and continues the cycle. We just don’t know these things until we know people.
I find it hard to get to know people who just so happen to go to the same building week after week, forced into a situation of facing me yet again, until that guilt builds up to say, “Hey, next week I’ll be sitting at your table,” as they leave. You don’t really want to sit at my table so don’t feel so freaking guilty to tell me that is what you plan on doing, meet me where I am: where ever that might be (I say in a small squeaky voice because I don’t really know where that is really). In so she may find it hard to know people because everyone else has a “successful” marriage, has “Christ-filled” kids. They don’t have time for little-Miss failed marriage and now failed kids. Both our ideas are from the darkest pits of hell! I’ve heard this stupid little trite saying before about how today is a gift that is why we call it the “Present”, but it makes a whole lot of sense. I can go on thinking that you don’t know me and you sure don’t want to know me, or I can wake up and say that not all people are like they were in the past and darn it some of them might actually like you if you give them a chance, so stop being so suspicious all the time and talk to them for crying in the mud. And, my friend can say that every day is a new day to just do the best I can with what I have been given, with where circumstances have brought me, and I am going to forget what I am trying to convince myself and realize that every day is a new day, a new chance to do just a little better, to know God just a little better, to hug my kids just a little more, to be vulnerable just enough so that it will stop building up and take over when I want it to the least. Everyday is a gift to do more. We don’t have to be miracle workers, that is what God is for, we just have to follow Him where He leads. He is not leading me to be more suspicious and He is definitely not leading my friend to convince her that she is a failure. I rebuke that now! My Christian brothers and sisters are not out to betray me or hurt me or leave me or ignore me, even though it may seem like it, they are just living their lives the best they can in the circumstances God has put them in.
It all comes down to relationship. God has made us in His image and one of those aspects is relationship. With sin in the world we began blaming each other for our own faults and still do today. I pray that as Your Church grows that we can become vulnerable and encouraging as You meant us to be. I pray that Your name would be glorified in our failures and our successes. I pray that we would seek Your unity and forget about the things the make us different that would divide us.
I am overwhelmed right now. Overwhelmed by what God has done and is right now, doing in my life. Everything is connecting and meshing in a way I had not expected several years ago. This is something I feel inadequate in expressing. I can be self-deprecating. I can make excuses that it is hard for me to connect with others. I can manipulate. I can be humorous like dry white wine with a lemon infusion. I can hide. I can forget about my hope. I can do many things. But, explaining my love, my fear, my hope and my total amazement at what is going on in what I have been learning.
I recently learned that there have been several people who have been secretly reading this blog and especially this segment. I don’t know if they like the expression of what I’ve learned, or perhaps seeing a teaching from a different point of view, or they like my writings(?), or something else, so writing this jumble of thoughts might not connect with the normal reader. I’m just going to summarize some of the specific things I have learned and my thoughts on what they mean to me right now.
Funnels. Spirals. Sunday’s sermon started with funnels. One stem up, one stem down. Two church views. One view: the majority of Christians enter the large part of the funnel, the church, and make smaller, core groups that in turn minister to the needy church. The result: the church remains self-focusing, relying on the committed to keep a tenuous hold on the Christian community that could disappear like smoke. Second view: a committed, smaller core of community believers are part of the church that goes out from the church into the world to minister, to witness, to spread the gospel. Sure, it doesn’t stand up on all three legs, but you get it right? The spirals were introduced in the second lesson of Perspectives and is a very similar idea. One view: church in the middle an arrow spiraling toward it, the idea is the church is relying on its attraction so people will come and know God because of the people. Second view: church in the middle arrow spiraling outward. Obvious conclusion this is optimal because we go. We go. Which is the whole point of what I am hearing in my ear and in my heart. As John Zumwalt said last night, we are the only seed that resists being scattered. He made motions of throwing said and said, “Go!” and looked at his hand like the seed stuck. “Go!” he called and threw again looking at his unscattered seed. How long have I been resisting the command to go? He also spoke of the sower piling all his seed up for acres of field in the corner. How long have I stayed in the comfort of my own little pile of seed? We are the seed. We are meant to be scattered. My wife and I have talked about that we have possibly made the first and hardest step of being scattered. That West Plains move was being pulled from the plant in preparation for a more difficult scattering. This is our preparation. We are understanding that we need to go. I don’t know where, I don’t know when. But this is the beginning, the beginning of understanding that for too long we have been complacent and, this is hard, not obeyed the Lord.
Listening to John Zumwalt last night I realized something at one point and I wrote it down. Here it is: “My resistance to feel is because I feel I’m being manipulated. I have to understand that God will not manipulate me, but that I will move when I hear/feel You.”
How often have I felt God moving me to compassion and just understood that this person is just manipulating me!? Do you understand what I’m saying here? Someone spoke and I begin to feel compassion, mercy, understanding and shut it down because I felt I was being manipulated! That is Satan, and I rebuke this feeling and pray that the Lord would breakthrough and tell me the mercy, compassion and understanding is from Him, like He did last night. He spoke of the young girls in Mumbai, and whose feet are going to go there and save them from the sex-slave life they are doomed to live. Earlier in the night a question was posed, has God laid on your heart a country or people group to begin to pray for. He hasn’t laid any specific people on my heart, but throughout the night, young people’s situations kept coming to my mind, even before his speaking about the girls in Mumbai. During the break I was speaking with a couple of guys about this and we were talking about how the Super Bowl is a dark spot in our country right now. This weekend represents the highest sex-trafficking in our country. Where is the outrage? The news media? We ignore what is going on in our own country and once in a while talk about those distant parts of the world, that we might react to, may give money, or some care and good thoughts go out. Children are being bought and sold around the world and in this country. I have this bitterness welling up in the back of my throat right now, and I didn’t expect to dwell on this so, but perhaps this is where God is leading me, no manipulation needed. Shed a tear for all the innocence Satan has stolen, destroyed and killed. When am I going to say it is time to STAND? What is going on in my own community? Children are growing up in broken homes, not knowing a kind, loving and genuine word all around us. It may be time to get up, get off my seat, move my feet and do what He says. This can’t be tomorrow anymore. How long has God been expecting me to move? To be scattered and show His love, glorify His name, turn around, share His kingdom now!
God get rid of my excuses. Thank You for showing me that it has been You all along. Give me Your compassion. Show me where to go. I have had these works waiting for me from the beginning. You have revealed my gift of relation to younger people for a long time. It’s time to go to the darker parts of this world and reflect Your light to hearts that need Your love, that need purpose. Thank You for giving me Your heart in this. That I have this opportunity to grow with your church, thank You. That I have the opportunity to have my perspective changed, thank You. Get rid of all my excuses. We went through all the worldly difficulties of transfer in this world to train in trust, in trust more in You. You can do anything that needs to happen to this uneducated man, whose heart is growing more and more to glorify You. This family needs your guidance. Help us to know where to go, to know what to say. Guide our feet, be our tongue. In You, in you I find my peace. In You, in you I find my strength. In You, I live and move and breath. Let everything I say and do be founded by my faith in you. I lift up holy hands and sing: Let the praises ring! Oh Lord my God to you I give my hands. Oh Lord my God to you I give my feet. Oh Lord my God to you I give my everything. Take all I am.
Oh Lord my God to you I give my life.
Thank You God. Thank You.
After writing yesterday’s post I feel a little guilty, a little worn, a little like I’m just too hard on this city we now currently reside in, a little like I am being misunderstood when I just want to explore who I am. This morning I decided to write all the things I’m thankful for about living in West Plains, and being specific regarding some of the wonderful people here who have shaped our lives. Then I went to church this morning, and my whole focus has changed.
The sermon was a review of what the church has focused on all year, and what we can look forward to next year, starting today. So he asked us what do we think of when we think of the word: missionary. There were your standard answers; sent, on mission, telling others about Christ, but he told us that we want to come to the point that if someone asked us this question, we should think of “myself”. This year we want to focus on ourselves as mission minded. He talked a bit about being missional where you are. I thought about yesterday’s post regarding all I miss in Utah, and how I have never felt mission minded while living here. Yes, I’ve worked as a teacher, and helper in children and youth ministries, and I’ve understood the impact this work can have. But, I have never gone out to work and thought: “I am on mission.”
We see a problem that no one else does and pray about being a solution to that problem. We have to engage in that culture, be a part of the culture. We have to get our resources and connections to help us be the solution. This can be where you have gone out as part of a short mission. It can be a place that was part of a presentation or somewhere you’ve read about. Or it can be the place right where you live. I’ve thought about this in a minor sense, that I’m here because God brought me here to learn, perhaps to be a small part of a group that helps those in need. I have never seen it in the big picture sense though: that I am here to serve as a missionary to serve Him and be that solution that no one else has seen. I understand that wherever we are that we are to be mission minded, but for some reason never considered it as a whole idea here. I’ve always thought of this move as temporary; as a step on our way to learn things then move on.
God never stops sending people out. He is always sending people on some mission or other. Always. Why should I consider the time I have here any different? God delivers people, then He sends them. Never alone: He is always with us. Here is here, with me, right now, in West Plains.
One verse that really struck my today is Jeremiah 29:7, “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” This is where God has taken the nation of Israel away from their land to another, as prisoners. God tells them to seek the peace, and in the NASB it says the welfare of the city. Seek the welfare of the city, and I will have welfare. Wow. I suppose you could look at this the same way for the company you work for. Seek its peace and prosperity, pray for it, and with what it gains, I will gain as well. I never thought of that, never saw it.
I am glad the Lord works out these writings and the sermons I hear the way he does. I am a bit ashamed, but at the same time glad I can look forward to an idea that He puts in my mind. I know it is a battle to be satisfied here, but these ideas will spur me on to look positively on this city and it’s works. I hope I can bring Him glory in the things I can do for Him and through Him in the time I have left here.
The last thing the sermon covered was, we can’t be an Acts 2 Christian until we become an Acts 1 one. What that means, is that we are always seeking the fellowship of the church, the bond we have as Christians that is displayed in Acts 2:42-47, and we forget about becoming the Christian that is mission minded of Acts 1:4-8. They were baptized with the Holy Spirit, then they were sent out to be “witnesses to Me [Jesus] in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Then later came the bond of fellowship and community from Acts 2. Perhaps we are getting this wrong. We join a church to meet people and to have fellowship and community, and we forget our first mission: to go out. When we try to be Acts 2, we become so inward focused that we forget about our mission.
Our assignments are to meet two people and hear their story, and to pray that God would reveal to us the thing no one else sees that we can become mission minded towards. Thank you God for opening my eyes and allowing me to be brought low so I can be lifted up, and that you are sovereign, even in my writings. I will ever praise You! I even recall the fact that I will be starting the Perspectives class in January: to be more Mission Minded!
Strange Confessions: I’ve recently understood that what I always thought regarding my attitudes towards others is not as truly optimistic as I’ve always regarded them to be, but rather quite the opposite; I am a pessimist and I hope only recently so. Because if this is how I’ve always been, it kind of frightens me; to think I may have been a horrid pessimist always driving people who may care away from me, thinking that they chose it.
There, now that may have driven the truly uninterested away, for this is deep stuff for me, and I dare say seriously frightening for me to finally understand as well as reveal. Even though I’ve held the attitude that I have nothing to hide, knowing these things reveal much more to me than I think I wanted to know.
Last week I confessed that I enjoyed the company of children way more than adults. I surmised that I am emotionally open because of the fact if people don’t hang around me for long I can blame them because they couldn’t handle the truth. That was something I discovered as I wrote and have since searched my heart and found it to be true. I believe that this may be a recent change in the motivations of the way I am with other people because of some things that have happened in the past six or so years.
We had a friend over for supper, well actually they brought supper over to us, the other night, who is from the congregation we have recently been attending. Conversation turned to how we are… assimilating into the church. I allowed my wife to speak, for fear that I would go off on some strange tangent regarding what I wrote about last week. While I sat there, I really thought about it. Thought about why I was really so off-putting in terms of getting to know new people. To our guest, I kind of mentioned my behavior as of late, and they mentioned that I was really good at the community dinner we had a couple of months ago.
The church has a community dinner every couple of months, inviting those who are… perhaps a bit less fortunate than us(?) I told myself I was going to go there and make people feel as welcome as I could. I prayed to God to make me bold in my conversation, keeping things open and real. God was with me and in me that night, and I was happy to serve Him while serving others.
I and my family travel three hours East of us, to one of the poorest communities in Missouri, every month or so, to organize, pack, and distribute food to the people in the community there. I enjoy meeting the people who come around and those who come from other places to help out too.
We also spoke of living here, in small town West Plains. I told of my expectations when moving here that people would be interested in knowing someone who lived so far away, what life was like where I was from. No one ever said, “Really, Salt Lake City? What was that like? Where did you live? Who did you know?” That is what I talk to the kids about. What their life is like, where they live, who they know. And then there is the satisfaction of the status quo. They actually like living here, they come back and live here. There is nothing new, things are always (seemingly) the same. And they aren’t interested in the outside world. Now, I know that I am thinking in general terms here, and not everyone is like that, but it is a pervasive attitude that invades everything, and it makes me want to shake their world whenever I can. Which is rare for me. Because of what I am understanding.
As I spoke with our guest, thinking about these things I understood that I don’t trust people. Kids are honest and serve no agenda, there is nothing I need to hide. Strangers may have an agenda, but I don’t have to make myself fiercely available to them; I’ll be home soon anyway. Someone tells me that I did a good job, and I think they are just saying that because I’m the poor fellow who needs to be encouraged, so they have to say that sort of thing to me. Someone asks me how I’m doing and I believe they are fulfilling some sense of duty within themselves, and they feel better for talking to the weird guy. There is really no reason for anyone to want to get to know me, I believe. So why should I give them the benefit of knowing me when they have all they need already. They have the friends they have no need for more, especially one of such… emotional openness that is displayed through weakness and pretend shyness.
You must understand this is never something I consciously understood, but as I think about it, I see the truth in it, and it makes me sad for the sad little man I’ve become in this respect. But is this how I’ve always been? I hope not. Understanding this makes me know, at least these last few years, why I have become this way. Relationships broken. People who I thought could be trusted, but couldn’t. The evil of this world has done a number my thinking, yes? One of the “benefits” of one who thinks too much, perhaps?
With God’s leading, mercy and love for me, I’m certain things can change in this. For the relationships I need to bear with others of the faith should be more excellent than what I have been thinking about them. For this comes through in prayer, with every situation I am coming into I will pray that God will fix my thoughts on what I need to do. That I shouldn’t consider the worst in people, but only be aware of who I am in Christ, and that is all that matters.
“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” ~Phillipians 2:1-2
If you have really read any of the things I have written, and done so for a while, you may know that I am more analytic in dealing with the culture from a Christian standpoint then others; that is, I am more immersed in things of this world than what your typical Christian may look like. I don’t talk about it a lot for fear that I may weaken a brother’s view of myself or in God’s dealings with me. But, I am who I am, and by the grace of God I am saved, and I have the freedom to choose what I involve myself in. If God wants me to put something or other away from myself, it would be sinful of me to ignore Him. If it was that God called me to delete the Infected Mushroom songs off my ipod, I would. There are many things in my life that I have had a lifetime habit of, and God has called me away from that, yet I still struggle within me to free myself from such burdens.
It is a conscious choice I have to make every day.
That all being said, I wanted to talk about a book I have recently finished and the connections I see with our self-absorbed culture of today. Which is what I enjoy doing on this site anyway: view my life and/or the culture surrounding it, and it’s impact on who I am now, and it’s possible relationship to Christianity. The book is one typically not read on a regular basis by most Christians. I have a pile of books on my nightstand I intend to get around to, have half-finished, or stays there for reference. These are mostly of the Christian variety. Growing up I read a lot of horror. Generally in the vein of Stephen King and such. I still pick up an occasional King and I am eagerly awaiting the local library to hold my copy of “Doctor Sleep”, the continuation of his thirty-three year old book “The Shining”. I have picked up some of King’s books or many others, only to reject them because I am judging where content or theme is going, and it is not to a place I would rather go.
The seasons of this world affect my preferences of what I read. Autumn is the time when I like to read something a bit more dark. I came across several lists of the “most” scary books, and one came up on several. Being that I never actually read it, I decided to pick it up. The book is, “The Haunting of Hill House”. You may know the story: four people gather at a supposedly haunted house, get frightened by several strange goings-on, culminating in the death of one of them. The focus on the book is a woman named Eleanor. She seems to be a shy, unassertive person who creates a fantasy world in her own mind. My daughter just asked me if I liked it, (she is wondering what I’m doing), and I said, “Mmm… yeah.” The book had its frightening moments, I like a little horror now and then. But, it was the end that shocked me a bit and drew all your attention away from the accounts of the horror the characters experienced. It tells me something about our culture now, the one we built with the advent of the internet, facebook, twitter and the like. In fact, I may be perpetuating this culture in what I am doing now. Back when I had my operation, I wondered about how narcissistic I am in writing so many things about myself. How self-absorbed do you have to be to write all about yourself, and how the world relates to you, and your thoughts, and your feelings, and all this stuff about you, you, you? It is why I haven’t been writing as much lately as I use to. I have to sort it all out in my mind. I am a very introspective guy, you see, much like Eleanor is in this book.
Eleanor’s path of self-absorption, led to her destruction. “Is that where I am headed to?” I ask myself.
There is a scene in the book, the beginning of chapter 6, where Eleanor and Luke are talking outside. All Eleanor can think about is whatever Luke answers to her, is that he is trying to impress her and how he answers reveals his real understanding of who he thinks she is. Whether she is simple and easily impressed, or looking for someone gallant ready to sweep her off her feet, or that she is complex and mystical. With each answer she predicts he will say, she is disgusted and looks down on him for his trite ways he is looking to impress her. It is revealed later that Luke is in with Theodora, perhaps. The book is vague on some points. But, the fact is she is so self-absorbed, she thinks all Luke wants is her, and she is unwilling to concede that he may be worthy. Now, in previous chapters, her flights of fantasy in her head are truly a bit more simple: where she would live, what her house would look like, that sort of thing. Now that she is in situation where she thinks she may be wanted, or needed, a perception I believe she is doing herself, she is making herself more complex, more difficult to be swayed.
Later on in the book, Eleanor is wandering around, listening to three different conversations. With the first conversation overheard, she wants to hear her name be spoken. “Say my name!” she implores in her mind. The people talking say everyone else’s name in the house except hers. She goes on to the next. Again, all other names are said but hers. And again, the same thing. I started to imagine that Eleanor was really a part of the house the whole time. That she put herself in these previous situations, where they responded to her, only in her own mind. When she first got there, she was witty, playful and involved in the group. They all seemed silly. Then Eleanor went off on strange rants about her name and how important it was that they knew her name. The silliness of the group began to dwindle, and Eleanor began to have more inner thoughts as at the beginning.
Names are important. I just got through reading in the Bible the section in Genesis where God asks Jacob, “What is your name?” The last time someone asked him this, he lied, said it was Esau. God knows names are important, valuable even. When He renames people, it takes on a deeper meaning. Their previous name was just a reflection of how God saw them.
When I was younger I had built many fantastical ideas around who I was, where I was, how I affected the world, and who I would become. I had created alter egos to deal with situations I knew I could never deal with. But, God called my name. Yet I still deal with the residual ideas I created in my own head; as you can see in the long introduction trying to convince you that I am not who you may consider me to be. But God knows me. He understands me. I may not fully understand what that means, as I’ve told people the reason I blog is to discover more about what I understand who I am. Isn’t it enough that God understands me? I am reminded of a song we sang in church when I was younger that stuck with me: “To be understood as to understand”. That is a big part of me: understanding who I am.
Eleanor wanted to be known; to be understood. Whether she was a personification of what the house stood for, or if she was a real person and the manifestations of the house were completely her responsibility, she had a desire to be needed; to be understood.
I asked someone today, who asked me to be friends on that one site, why he is on there. He didn’t really have a good answer. He doesn’t do much on the site, but I suppose he feels it mandatory to be on there. There are many different types of facebook users as there are people, but I can group them in three categories: The person who contributes everything, the person who contributes some things, and the person who contributes nothing.
Why are we on there? To be understood? If that is the case, is it the right medium? I’ve written about this all before, and there is nothing new under the sun. What I write has probably been hashed out to death. But, it is something I need to hash out for myself. To understand. I have come to the point on that one site, that I know who I am on there now. It took a lot of soul-searching and struggle, but I finally know. Have for some months now. “What?” you say. “A lot of soul-searching?” you say. Yes. As I’ve said, I am quite introspective, almost to the point of self-destruction. I admire those who never delve too deeply within themselves and can smile confidently meeting someone new, casually carrying on easy conversations of not too important subjects. But I can’t do that. I push myself hard to meet new people. To talk. Maybe, lately it has been a bit easier, because I do understand that I don’t have to understand myself fully, but God does completely. And that is enough… (yes I am working on this too).
I know who I am in Christ. I am His son. Thank God that all who I understand needs to understand me is Him, and I will strive to serve Him all my days.
“And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” Galatians 4:6-7
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10