A group of sturdy college aged twenty-somethings, except for one. He was a bit older. Obviously one of those immigrants. She didn’t like to judge on legality in those matters, though. She could see it in his jeans that he had a rough road under his soles, but maybe those were just his work clothes. For all she knew he had a few designer suits at home and his son’s 16th birthday had just turned up one of those red sports automobiles.
That was silly.
The walls weren’t exactly how the display down at the store had told her the would look, but she didn’t care. The dulled pink had a shine to it she didn’t expect. The feeling wasn’t good or bad, not even neutral in between. It was just different. When you’re as old as she was, sometimes you just need something new. Some days the walls of your house just need to be painted because you can’t remember the last time they’d been touched. She had been the same for decades, her and that old house. She didn’t even think about its corners any more. To say that she knew that house would be an understatement.
She tidied up the small things the men had left behind: a coke can here, a scrap of plastic covering there, nothing out of the ordinary, they just weren’t part of the house. They had moved her couch from the wall, and now the space between the wall and the high back of the couch were much too far apart. She tried to push it back to it’s original position into the dents in the carpet, but she wasn’t what she used to be. It moved ever so slightly, sitting somewhat skewed to the wall, but she took it as a victory. A woman like that has to find the little victories. She had moved the couch, which was her goal, so she was satisfied. She sat down on her accomplishment for a moment to rest.
Her lids slowly slid between her glasses and her eyeballs. She could feel her self slipping to sleep, so she willed herself off the couch to continue cleaning.
Her eyes settled on the last object out of place, the television. It was a massive thing, a gift from her second son. She didn’t need such a big television, the old one worked just fine, but she was grateful for the attempt.
She didn’t feel like bothering with the thing. Instead, she walked to the black box and pressed the square power button.
The familiar blink and buzz was nowhere to be found. She only saw her dim reflection staring back at her from the blackened glass. She resorted to the only troubleshooting tactic she would ever know on any electrical machine. She wandered around to the back of the television and breathed a sigh of relief.
It was only unplugged.
Painfully, she moved her old bones down to the carpeted floor. The carpet wasn’t as forgiving on her old knees as she had expected.
She reached her arm behind the thing and strained to find the black cord with the tips of her fingers. The tv sat close enough to the wall that it would not allow her to grasp it, she could only brush the edge with her finger tips. She waved them in vain, stretching every muscle in her apendage to reach it. Finally, after she had pushed the dust from it with her repeated motion, the rubber exterior of the socket stuck to her finger and pulled ever so slightly in her direction. With one more attempt she managed to get it into her palm.
"Thank God that’s over." She didn’t know how much longer her arm could have stayed in that position.
She fumbled to get the thing back into her fingers and positioned in the proper way to plug into the wall. She pushed her shoulder deeper into the crevice to give herself more arm to work with and guided the head of the socket towards the plastic cover on the wall. As she stared at the ceiling fan with her cheek pressed against the side of the massive television, she could only think about how ridiculous she looked.
The plug would not go in. She tried, and tried, and tried, scraping the metal tips around the plastic praying that the rods would find their home, to no avail. Suddenly she felt a hot feeling down her neck which crept over her whole body. She began to itch and shake, becoming more irritated with the situation.
"Damn," she whispered as one of her many attempts failed.
She felt her body aching, wishing her to stop, but she had to plug in the television. She wanted to watch her program. She wanted to go make herself iced tea and sit in her lazy-boy and watch the television. All she had to do was plug it in.
She grew frantic.
Her arm behind the tv, waving, and twisting, and stabbing in an erratic fashion.
"Oh go in, go in, GO IN!" she breathed, an elderly whine in her voice.
It would not.
Finally she dropped her the cable from her fingers, slid her back against the wall, ripped her arm from behind the beast and began sobbing.
As the blood rushed back into her arm she felt so hopeless.
I got a nook for Christmas and I downloaded Charles Bukowski’s collection of poems entitled Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way. I have never really read any of his stuff, and I had never even heard of him until I saw someone reading this book on a TV show and decided to buy it (welcome to America). He has become one of my favorite poems of all time. If you get the chance to flip through that book it’s amazing. He writes with this particular flow. Don’t let yourself get too hung up on the end of every line. Don’t let the work come out choppy in your head. Pauses only should be accepted at periods and commas. Otherwise let his sentences keep pouring into you. I’m telling you it will be rad. Think of him as a babbling drunk with a run on sentence that is telling the whole story in one, long, phrase. He opens the book like this:
"the way to create art is to burn and destroy
ordinary concepts and to substitute them
with new truths that run down from the top of the head
I hope that all of you read these notes with a shrewd eye of caution. For those of you who know me, I am not a credible source of information. Words are my slaves. God has granted me the gift of communication, but I overstep my bounds into deception far to often.
Just because something is said well does not mean it should be said at all.
Take my words and put them through your knowledge of the Bible, weigh them with the Spirit. Only then should they be taken to heart. If you find them to be false, label them as heresy and cast them into the fire. ——————————————————————- Matthew 4:1-11
Most of you will know this story without needing to read it. It’s the one where Jesus is tempted in the wilderness.
The Spirit opened my eyes to some new things so I figured I’d share them with you all in hopes that we can sculpt something together, as the body of Christ, slowly cutting away the excess clay from the figure of Christian living.
First off, let’s acknowledge that Jesus hasn’t eaten in forty days. As a twenty year old male, this is a little bit of a shocking concept. Needless to say I want food just about every 3 hours of every day, praise God for Gino and his bless-ed corporation.
The Bible says, "After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry." In one sentence, this gospel has given me the hypostatic union of Christ. The complexity of the Bible never ceases to amaze me. In eleven words, a comma, and a period, it has shown us that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, a feat which is impossible for anyone else; yet, he was hungry, a familiarity, or at least point of empathy, for everyone else. How rad is the Bible?
The part that struck me the most, the part I want to focus on, were these three responses Jesus gives: "It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’"
"It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’"
"For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’"
These three responses are fairly straightforward, and that’s the point. This passage convicted the crap out of me. I thought about what my response to temptation is. I thought about what the world tells me to do in response to temptation.
Just say no. Remove yourself from the situation. Run away.
Call me crazy, but Jesus didn’t do any of these things. Perhaps Jesus had a proper view of virtue. We studied this in my Philosophy & Aesthetics class. Basically, we all believe in the “Good Life” in some form or another. We all believe that there is a proper way to live. As a Christian, a lot of the time I’m taught that this requires a constant resistance to sin. I’m wondering if this shouldn’t be on the forefront of my mind.
The Greeks called it Eudaimonia. We call it happiness, the Good Life, self preservation, the kingdom, whatever you want to call it. Every choice we make, in some form or another, is our own way of pursuing Eudaimonia.
So when I’m placed in a situation where I must choose between right and wrong, surprisingly I have three options. 1. I can choose wrong 2. I can choose right 3. I can choose neither
My fear is that I’ve been living number three and number one. My initial response to sin is never to reference the standard, as Jesus does in his temptation; rather, I simply commit the sin, or resist it.
Generally that’s what we do, right? If someone asked me about my life, or asked you about your life, what would you say about the things that tempt you? I know what mine sounds like: “Yeah, I’m not [insert sin here]ing anymore because it’s just not good for me.” I reference myself. What the heck is wrong with me that I do that? Is that really my motivation? I’m not doing x, y, or z because it’s just wrong and I feel bad about it? Work it out further! I’m not doing x, y, or z because there is a perfection that is opposite x, y, and z and I would rather pursue that good. THAT, my friends, is how we pursue virtue. Virtue is a life lived in constant pursuit rather than constant escape.
Jesus provides us with a completely different model than how I live my life. His response to temptation is not simply resistance, but two of his responses contain what he is actually choosing.
Sin is merely a privation of good. It is a twisting of perfection. Thus, the proper response to sin is to untwist it. The right way to live isn’t merely to avoid twisting, but to straighten things out.
I’m typing crazy now, I got nothing to close with. I’m tired and I’m reading this over and it’s just not coming. Charles Bukowski is telling me its time to stop. You guys will get the rest, I’m sure of it.
This, of all the times, would be the time when your faces come back again. Any other year it wouldn’t matter. Yet here we are, this room, this window, this moonlight, the blanketed floor: the same as those dreadful days. The only difference is the heat, gone. Your photographs lay quietly side-by one another, it’s their innocence that nauseates me. I can feel you at the base of my brain, a slow burning fire. I can feel you in the pits of my lungs, dead fluid aimed to suffocate. Perhaps it was my own foolishness that led you astray. Perhaps there was a demon present when I forever raised these scars.
Or perhaps these are my folly.
There was only a God, silently weeping as His child lay, bare and dead in a nightmare come true. It’s okay, my God. I know you were there. I shot you and stabbed you and spit on your God-long shoes; no more. Praise Thee from whom all blessings flow, for even in such tragedies my wretched heart did beat on.
Sleep is the courts in which these nightmares come, so tonight I stand awake. I pray they not be removed, contained, or even altered, for it is in this sleepless night that I may praise.
I honestly don’t know how many people actually read what’s I post on here, but I know at least a handful of you do and for that I am honestly so thankful.
So, I’m going to talk to you as though you’re all here. You’re all my family and friends, or at least acquaintances, so why not?
I’ve got a challenge which I hope you’ll undertake with me (fear not, it’s quite simple).
I’m at a place in my faith where I have to redefine a lot of things. My heart is all too hard, my friends. The Love of the Creator is pouring out on a heart incapable of reception; but, I’m chiseling.
Prayer, you good people, I have misspent. I have diminished the presence of the action to acute phrases and requests prayed all too often. There is no sacred ground on which I remove my sandals; I scarcely approach Holiness. I no longer radiate with the Glory after seeking its face.
This is all too common, I have found. Prayer has become the thinnest of solutions.
What, then, shall I do? Do we simply need to pray better or more? Do I simply need to shut up and listen?
Shockingly, I have no idea.
My prayer life has radically changed over these past weeks. I’ve found the presence of the Lord to be an ongoing thing. In my weakness, He has met me where I needed Him most: every single minute of every single day. I’ve been screaming to Him for years, begging the Creator of the Universe to cut me open just so I could feel Him (Oh the fool I have been). Now I feel Him in the quiet; I see Him in the dark; I sense Him in the corners.
He is here, my good friends.
He is right here!
Yet, prayer remains to exist as this figureless creature looming over my faith. I know I must participate in it, though I feel I shall never fully grasp the concept (seems to be a theme in the Good Life, eh Lando?) So then, it is an ongoing endeavor, a process which must be learned by disciplined study and action.
I don’t really know why. I don’t know how, or to what degree. But, hopefully this exercise will have some impact on my faith.
Let me go infomercial on you for a second, just because I think its fun.
"Prayer life got you down? Are you tired of praying the same old prayers every day? Then you need Super Prayer!”
That’s what I feel like I’m saying here, but I promise it’s not that stupid.
In some sense or another I’m sure my words have hit home with you (not because I said anything particularly profound, but rather that this situation is quite common).
So let’s do something.
In the next week, designate one person to pray for for two days straight.
*cue rolling of the eyes, sighs of disappointment, stopping of reading*
So simple. It’s been said before. So cliche. I know, but it could be so powerful, friends!
Let the Spirit pull you to someone. Let Him drag you to the place where you say “THAT PERSON?!” and then do it.
It can be a stranger. It can be your best-friend. It can be someone you only kind-of-know-because-you’ve-eaten-with-them-in-the-caf-once-or-twice-and-they-seem-pretty-cool-but-you’re-not-really-sure-but-you-think-you’re-supposed-to-pray-for-them-and-you-don’t-know-why.
Call them. Have an actual conversation with them, but PLEASE don’t just text it to them.
Then tell them that for two straight days the only thing you’re going to be bringing before the Lord is them.
It will probably be awkward. They will probably say “Thanks. I’m praying for you too,” and never think again about what you’re doing.
Do it anyways.
People want to know that they are being prayed for; you know it. It’s the Christian punchline when we don’t know what to say to someone. “Oh, I’m so sorry, I’ll be praying for you.” Then bam. Donezo. Finished. Never again.
Commit to this. Love someone enough to do this for them. Satan will help you forget. He will tempt you away from good things. Take heart, my friends! Think of the Kingdom! Think of Heaven! Think of a Creator who loved you so much His son literally bled in prayer.
I hate telling people I’m praying for them, it bothers me and I’m not sure why. I feel like it’s a way of building myself up in some awkward way. At times, I’m sure it is. Don’t let this be like that. We must fight against this. Let your words to the person be an encouragement to them. Remove yourself from this act. Let your words about the person be an intercession for them, for they are the Lord’s.
It doesn’t have to be a show. Just say “Hey, I’m praying for you, and just you for a couple days.”
Weird. Awkward. Whatever.
Let’s just try it.
Write them on your hand or something like that so you don’t forget!
Then just think about them. Just sit next to Jesus for awhile and plead for that person. Specifics aren’t always necessary. Sometimes you just need to take someone before the Lord.
He can definitely handle the rest.
I hope this makes sense. I hope someone does it.
Most importantly, I hope in some, obscure way the Kingdom comes a little bit more through what you guys are doing.
"May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you, so that He may bring you Peace, until we shall meet again, or until our Savior comes and then, forever."
Grace and Peace, Boldness and Humility, Christian Tenbrook
"Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him…When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi."
I didn’t really know what to read, so I figured, judging by the time of year, I’d start with the Gospels.
The Christmas story: I’ve heard it a thousand times, yet I’ve found something new.
Praise God for His Word and its beauty.
Herod caught my eye this time around. Every time I read this story up until this point, I thought, “Wow. Herod. Way to go retard.” (I mean what else should I think?)
I did a little bit of WikiPedia research on the man, and they said he was described a “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.”
The crappiest part of this story, is that I’ve lived my whole life just like Herod. I’ve heard about this Jesus for my entire life. I sat upon a throne that wasn’t my own, and stopped at NO cost to protect it by my own hand.
The man KILLED every boy under two in one of the major cities in his own kingdom. Let’s pause here for a minute. Let’s acknowledge how completely self-defeating that is. Not only would it make everyone despise you, but it’s also brutally illogical. You’re basically killing a good majority of a future generation of men in your own kingdom. The last I checked, men in ancient Rome were used for quite a few necessary tasks (you know the military and stuff like that).
I’ve spent my whole life killing the children in my own kingdom. For awhile, I just passed it off as sin. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. I just figure that the mistakes in my life are simply poor choices: nothing more, nothing less.
Today I feel a bit differently.
I’m resisting the Messiah’s reign, that’s what a lot of this is. I’m killing all my darlings because I’m worried He’ll take over my throne. I’m obsessed with my own power, even though it’s the most futile of things. Those of you who know me the best know that is beyond true. I’m refusing to submit to anyone but myself. In fact, I’m killing anyone who tells me I should be any different.
What happens in the end?
Jesus escapes to safety. He always does.
He’s always outside my striking range. I end up killing everyone around me in vain actions of paranoia.
Then He comes back, out of Egypt and sets up His reign. My kingdom will look pitiful in comparison to His.
Don’t believe me?
How many people are still trying to get into Herod’s kingdom? How many people are still trying, desperately, to get into Jesus’ kingdom?
I’ve killed all too much. I’ve murdered so many things that were such amazing blessings.
Those things will haunt me eternally. But I’m not dead yet.
Oh the glimmer of power, my dear friends, no matter how fleeting will kill us all.
It’s time to submit. Unfortunately this is a painful, painful process.
But how worth it it will be.
Praise God from who all blessings flow.
May I focus my eyes on His Kingdom alone, and welcome its coming with open arms. May I help to bring about the Kingdom I was made to advance.
I don’t have original thoughts anymore. I just have a bunch of cliches that keep surfacing. The voice in my head has been praying over-prayed prayers and saying over-said sayings. I sit and I think, “Oh, how cliche.” I feel so unoriginal. My whole life I’ve told myself that my faith should be different. The last thing I want to be is just like everyone else, because everyone else is wrong, because it’s pounded in my brain day in and day out that I’m supposed to be original and different.
Then Grace and Peace.
Suddenly it’s all different.
Perhaps cliches are said so often because they, in fact, are the Truth. They’ve stood the test of time, change, death, and history to be repeated again and again and again. Repetition doesn’t automatically merit Truth, but when the Spirit chooses to whisper “Blessed be the name,” time after time, perhaps it’s not just a symptom of over-churchiness (I thought I made that word up, but it’s actually a real word, how fitting). Maybe I should listen to someone other than myself?
Life is painful. Sin has consequences. Do we get through them with cliches and mindless repetition?
But maybe that’s a place to start. Maybe being indie, novel, and different has to be put aside for a minute, and we need to start diving into proven truths. Maybe I should stop trying to read St. Augustine and start reading the Gospel.
Foundation of the house before you can start decorating the windows kind of thing?
Everyone sins, everyone needs grace. Me just as much as the next guy praying the “Our Father.”
So let’s go look at the “Our Father.”
Maybe Theology 1 isn’t beneath me even thought I’ve been in the Church for 20 years.
I don’t believe in the whole “It’s in my head, but it’s not in my heart” thing. If anyone should believe that it should be me.
I believe we’re too damn stubborn to let it go from our head to our heart. I believe I’m too arrogant to acknowledge that “Hey, my head isn’t filled with all that much, and maybe if I keep learning, I’ll start loving.” In the end it’s all sin. Whatever you believe, it’s sin.
Flee and pursue, my dear friends. Chariots of Fire taught me that I was made to run, but maybe there’s more to it.
Maybe I should stop just trying to run from and start running to. The latter accomplishes the other, and then some.
So I’m running into cliches. They’re literally everywhere. I’m listening to Hillsong United for pete’s sake, how non-trendy is that?