Phlebotomic is a blog experiment that seeks to gather multiple perspectives around a common prompt, which is provided weekly.

Last week's prompt was "Beauty"...

This week's prompt is "Path"...

28 February 2009

I bid you adieu.

27 February 2009

King - Heavy is the head that wears the crown

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. An ancient proverb that tells us peons that it ain't no picnic being the head honcho. It invokes images of difficult decisions that will cost much, and the benefit of said decision must outweigh the cost to the kingdom. I usually envision a person agonizing over decisions like going to war, or taxation (with or without representation), laws that will affect the daily life of denizens and citizens, or which royal family to betroth a child. Things that are weighty, things that matter. But, over the course of history, many of these "hard" decisions barely lasted to the end of a reign. Sometimes, they lasted a while, but anyone remember (other than history PhD's) some of King Alfrech's decisions? How about King Henry I? How about James K. Polk? How about William Taft? Anybody? I didn't think so. Do these decisions really matter then? Did they last? Did all that agonizing merit the durability or lasting of that decision? I wonder if there was a ruler who made a decision that lasted........

Imagine for a moment this King. His crown will be one of thorns. He is in a garden, agonizing over a decision that will affect the life of every single person in history. He knows that it will be a costly one, that cost being His own life. He will also ask those who He chooses to follow Him to give of themselves, many their own lives as well, which they will perceive as a cost, but it is really a gain. He knows that there will be first lashes (with a cruel instrument, just google cat 'o nine tails), and then later backlashes and more backlashes (read schisms, Arianism, Calvinism, atheism, Islam, Judaism, Darwinism, spiritualism, communism, socialism, modernism and postmodernism, and a slew of other -isms). He knows there will be agony, because the device used to crucify is so painful a word had to be invented to explain the pain, excruciate (Latin for from or out of the cross). He also knows the agony won't end there, because time after time, He will be rejected, even by those who are closest to him, and claim to be His followers. He knows that most frightening of all, for a span of time, He will be separated from part of His essence, His Father God, and will experience the full anger, rage, and castigation that every human deserves, yet He did not. The event facing Him is terrible, the decision so difficult that His sweat becomes as blood (a real condition, just ask an MD). He is there in this garden, and says quietly, "Father, if it be Your will, let this cup pass from me, but not my will, but YOUR WILL be done."

Later, he hangs from a cross. Beaten, broken, spat upon, denied, and dying. He looks up, and with more compassion and love than we can understand, says, "It Is Finished!" and dies. Three days later, he emerges victorious. An empty grave His evidence, and His followers take His testimony to Jerusalem, Judea, and towards the ends of the earth. Centuries later, we still worship Him, praise Him, and are taking His Word to the ends of the block, the city, the nation, and the earth.

I say beautiful, not heavy, is the head that wears that crown.

Now, that's my King.

26 February 2009

King: An uncomfortable state

In the popular children's book, Where the Wild Things Are, Max is sent to his room without supper as he is behaving mischievously. There, he imagines a world where he stares the wild things down and becomes King of all wild things. This is only a fleeting moment, as he begins to yearn for a warm meal and the comfort of home. 

I identify with this story, as sometimes I can feel like I am a King at work, or playing sports, or hanging out with friends, but it only lasts so long. Home is comfortable, inviting, and offers unconditional love. As a King you are constantly judged and you are only as good as your last action, speech, work, etc...At home you are free to show your imperfections around the ones you love. So, is it good to be King? Or do all of us yearn to be home for a warm supper?

Where the Wild Things Are soon to be adapted into a movie by Spike Jonze. 

King:a few Kings you should know

Martin Luther King Jr.-check earlier post
Rodney King-Black man beaten by LAPD and one of the sparks of the Race Riots in Los Angeles in 1992
Stephen King-Author of suspense and thriller books that end up as movies
Sacramento Kings-a group of kings that play basketball in California
King James-NBA phenom or commissioner of an English translation of the Bible
Kaki King-crazy good guitar player lady
B.B. King-crazy good guitar player dude with diabetes
Larry King-Check CNN any time you want an look for suspenders
King College-not were you learn to be Kingly, but a 4 year college in Bristol TN or London England or any of the other schools fighting over the name
King Cake-a desert associated with Marti Gras in which a figurine of a baby is placed
"The" King-Creepy masked man who promotes Burger King products
"The King"-Elvis Presley
King-a town in Ontario
Carol King-musician and member of Songwriting and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
King Tut-Egyptian Pharaoh who's tomb was discovered in the Vally of the Kings in 1922
King Crimson-English progressive rock band from the 1970's
Peter King-Republican Rep. from New York
King Koopa-arch nemesis of the Mario Brothers
Smoothie King-pervayer of yogurt based/over priced sweet mush in a cup
LA Kings-Hockey players from other country's that play professionally in Southern California
Kottonmouth Kings-Hip-Hop act, into Cannabis but would probably spell it with a K
Latin Kings-Street gang or Swedish hip-hop group or comedy tour
King Edward-a line of Kings of England or a tobacconist
King Cobra-venomous snake from India
King Arthur-fictional King of England with a round table and sweet sword
King Cab-the 4 door cab of a Nissan Truck
California King-a bed for people who don't fit on a regular King size bed
Joe King-guitarist of the Fray and man with an unfortunate name
King Ranch-located near Kingsville Texas and used for hunting, ranching, and farming
Storm King-an Imperial Stout from Victory Brewing

25 February 2009

King: power to move and inspire

We don't have Kings anymore. It's good to be king, they say - but what does that mean? Being on top? Untouchable? In many ways I think our unfamiliarity with a King and cultural conditioning to find the idea of unequivocal power repulsive creates a hindrance for our ability to conceive of an all-powerful, almighty, sovereign God. We insert democratic ideals into our God-Man relationship. But that's a whole series of ideas...

MLK impresses me as a leader. He's an archetype of a unique class of leaders. They led well. Many have led well. MLK led against the odds. Many have. MLK led a mass of people over which he had no actual authority/power. Again, not unique. MLK led with conviction. Less common, but not unique. MLK pushed a proverbial flywheel towards a quantum idea without compromising values or beliefs. Means never justified themselves by the end goal. That is rare.

If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

A man can't ride your back unless it's bent.

A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.

A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan. (what's the church version of this statement?)

We will speed the day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing... Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I'm free at last.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.

King: Man In The Mirror

the following video was found while doing a spontaneous youtube search after seeing this song performed (rather poorly in my very untalented opinion) on american idol. i think it takes a lot to carry such a powerful song, by the KING of pop.

"if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change"...

some of us are still looking for our niche, our way to make the permanent change in this world. so often we see something (such as a youtube video) and get inspired...but is that real, lasting inspiration, is it holy discontent, or is it just a temporary awe of images? "no message could have been any clearer"... i pray that clarity will show it's face soon.

24 February 2009

King: "Aish Tamid"

The place lays phased like a warrior slayed
Engraved into the space with his sword still raised
Layers of charcoal sprayed through hallways
Praise relays off the walls echoing all ways

Dirt covered earth lays beneath my rib cage
Giving birth to overgrowth invading on to path ways
Burnt out trees cover streets where children once played
Sown seeds decay through sacred stepping stones in disarray
Where the alter used to be placed inter-changed for bloodstains
Sunrays illuminate the smoke filled haze
Trace of incense the scents of sacrifice stayed

Aish tamid eternally
Fire burns continuously
Wondering where you been
Won't you come to me?

Flash back patches of grass growing wild in fact
Cracked walls burnt black like a kingdom sacked
Memories like artifacts attacked yet still intact
Melodies wrapped in glass and shattering with the impact

Air intermingling ringing with the singing
of songs once sung, flung into the rafters
Catastrophe struck the sound stuck
Disaster plastered
The aftermath a blasted building once standing, like a starved man fasting
the skies expanding clouds passing, dust particles dancing,
in broken bars of light, streaming from a shaft, slashed into the ceiling,
Sshhhh, you could feel the ground breathing.

Aish tamid eternally
Fire burns continuously
Wondering where you been
Won't you come to me?

Daughter of Zion is lying crying in the mist
Morning light slips in, shifting through the darkness
Like a morning wife reminisce having visions of her long gone prince
Memories drip rain drops tip towing emptiness
Intermixed with tears like fears left unfixed
Walls worn thin frozen fortress like dawn waiting for the sunrise of a day that got skipped
Like a life gone wrong wandering wilderness
Lovesick stripped abyss missing once luscious

Aish tamid eternally
Fire burns continuously
Wondering where you been
Won't you come to me?

Ill Paint the scene so you could see, the city's picking up speed
I’m on a bench 14th street, taxi's streaming yellow streaks
Spears piercing through my ears, you could hear the traffic speak
Jack hammers drill smackling through the crackling concrete
Buildings filled with windowsills spilled tangled telephone wires
Signs sparking neon lights flash like wild fire
My insides rise I start to feel paralyzed
Let out a sigh-a melody blew by- like an ancient war cry
the way the sunlight hit the leaves it really caught my eye,
glistening' listening' to the breeze dancing' through the leaves on the trees,
freeze, the city move's in slow motion like a dream

I'm left empty like the temple turned into a fox den
Bus fumes dripping spitting into city summer sun
Sifting through the ash dimly lit vision listening
To the hiss lifting off a nighttime ocean
Shim, shim, shimmering singeing hair on my skin
whispering where ya been

From amidst the darkness set sail with the softness
Breeze traveling across the seas arisen from within Mt. Zion
Wind coming in picking up momentum
Cutting crisply through the thickness riding on a rhythm
A rollercoaster sizzling, twisting down the mountain
ripping rocket ship exploding like a fountain
overflowing spilling through the courtyard of Jerusalem It all begun
I see busting through the rubble bubbling drying up the puddles precision
Uncovering debris lifting up the fallen arisen within
to reach the yiddin even in Manhattan
exposed menorah glowing in the shadows of destruction
trailblazing through affliction
brushing off the branches golden
standing strong flames
dancing like a lion roaring rising out of nothing

"Aish Tamid" by Matisyahu

22 February 2009

Energy: Of the five hour variety

I like energy drinks. At a time in my life when sleep is in short supply, energy drinks have filled much of the void. I realize that I might perish due to guarana or l-tuarine poisoning when I'm 65, but I'll roll the dice for now.

"180", "5 Hour Energy", and the Starbucks fallback "Quad Grande Dry Cappuccino" are personal favorites. What about you? Got a secret energy concoction to share? I'm always looking for a good fix...

21 February 2009

Energy: A Paradox

(I am posting this on behalf of Kevin...)

Having kids is tiresome. As a young dad, I miss sleeping in on saturdays, I miss watching football, golf, basketball in a half comatose state for hours on the couch, I don't enjoy having my body tense up with every baby's cry, I miss going to the gym on the weekend to renew my energy.

Having kids is energizing . I love seeing my son's eyes brighten when I pick him up, I love seeing him learn and notice new things everyday, I feed off his enthusiasm when he is playing, and I dare anyone to come up with a better noise than a baby's laugh.

Going to church can be a beating. Waking up early on your day off, dressing up on your day off, having to be engaging and social. Going to church also gets me focused and provides me with a new perspective on life. In that sense it is energizing.

Helping others who cannot help themselves is hard, draining, and often an inconvenience.

Helping others is rewarding, refreshing, and it is our calling - to bring energy to this world by expending a little bit of ours.

20 February 2009

Energy: Information Society, Memories, Remixes, and Pure Energy

I suppose that most people remember some of the songs they grew up listening to as kids. Most people remember sitting in Mom’s station wagon listening to Hall & Oates or hearing Dad blast Steppenwolf in the garage. And I suppose I remember some of that.

My best memories, however, tend to live in my brother’s room. He was way ahead of his time in a lot of ways. He was way too smart for the 80s – that much is for sure.

I can remember sitting in awe as he would break out the newest record he had gotten. I would just watch him in amazement as he would then take that record and a couple of others and make homemade mixes. He would spend hours playing around and I would spend hours just admiring the guy. And he wouldn’t make “mix tapes” like most dorks made – I am talking about original remixes of existing songs, using an archaic mixer, a keyboard with drum pads, and two turntables.

I am still beyond impressed.

His greatest remix was of the Information Society hit “What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy)”. He took the song, complete with the Mr. Spock sample (“Pure-pure-pure-pure…pure energy”), and created a 20 minute remix that lives on today. It was actually something of an underground hit (well, under-underground as the people who kept asking for it were mainly friends and neighbors). Still, I would guess that there are dozens of cassette tapes of the remix floating around out there.

I love you Jacob. Pure-pure-pure-pure…Pure Energy.

Energy: In Photos

18 February 2009

Energy: life lessons of entropy

I have long been fascinated by the concept of entropy - this rule spanning physics, sociology, chemistry and all spheres of life that nature is winding down, the batteries are draining, disorder is a default direction. Endless research has confirmed the bizarre reality of this universal deterioration at baffles many world-class scientists. It's as if the entire cosmos was established in interdependent perfection and then was cracked, and it's been leaking its mojo ever since.

Eventually, this intrigue with entropy progressed from an external fascination to a more significant function of everything. You can't save time - it evaporates like the morning fog before a raging sun. You can't preserve relationships at the ideal zenith point - the illusion of stationary suspension of desirable states is consistently left in shambles. Mountain top experiences meet their descent into the next valley.

So often I have tried to approach life, marriage, finances, personal health and ultimately my interaction with God in a way that denies entropy. I attempt to "save," "get ahead," "invest," and stockpile units for either longer term or independent use. It doesn't work. Yesterday rarely comes to my defense in the Today or Tomorrow.

There's a vibe of independent resistance deep within me that finds full abandon in the dependent relationship with the Father as a perpetual mode intolerable. As a result, I am caught in this cycle of engaging God in truly invigorating ways, and then proceeding to act as though I have charged up my temporary rechargeable batteries sufficiently to run awhile apart from the Source. I am inclined to practice a life model that resembles GM's hopeful Volt - celebrating the ability to go just "a little farther" before needing to be recharged. As I trudge down the road delighting in my ability to keep moving despite an energy gauge reading "100%....90%....80%....70%..."

Entropy. It's like the whole game is rigged to fail. Sure, we can buy another round, but the house always wins. Whenever I see energy slipping away, it makes me wonder...what source is disconnected? What delusion am I operating under?

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words...
God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are that no man may boast before God...Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord!
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness...Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me...

14 February 2009

Idol: what false reality?

From the dawning of man we have wanted to escape from our present reality. Yes….I think that apple looks delicious.

It comes in many forms, but one of the more clearly observable forms is the idolization of something/someone. Ancient Greece’s would throw big rocks, wrestle, and run around. These Grecian were the first “Olympian’s” and they were idolized. As the citizenry of Greece would watch they were instantly transported to another reality beyond themselves for a while they could insert themselves into a reality which is perceived to be more glamorous, comfortable, interesting, etc. It was the desire to be something/someone which they were not.

Fast forward to today and there are seemingly infinite ways of passing the time and getting out of your present reality. Now there is a fine line between amusement and all out idolization. It is interesting how “human morality” can clearly see when the line has been crossed, i.e. stalkers, etc. But when I think about all the time that humans spend at movies, sporting events, reading gossip magazines, etc.…….or more perversely; strip clubs, drug dens, habitual gambling, etc. it does make me wonder how truly unhappy people are that they would try to escape from their “current state” with this idolization of the person, the situation, etc. It is also interesting (dare I say shocking) at how grey “human morality” can be to the aforementioned perverse escapes.

As I alluded to, idol worship doesn’t have to stop at a person or even a deity. I would contend that the person or deity (made from stone, metal….or even cardboard), is a means to an end. The “end”, is to escape the present situation(s) and not have to think/worry about the future.

Idol: Noun or Verb

Idol (noun) - an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship
Idolize (verb) - admire, revere, love greatly or excessively 

To worship an idol is a dangerous thing. Whether it is something, somebody, or yourself, sooner or later you will realize that nothing and no one is without flaws. When we lift someone up on a pedestal, but then are faced with evidence that conflicts with the perfect image - it creates cognitive dissonance. From that point, we either re-frame our image and acknowledge imperfections, or we twist the evidence to continue our rosy image of that person. "My father is perfect, but he behaved inappropriately - well, ummm....that person really made him behave's not my father's fault at all - still perfect." As humans, it is way too time consuming to try to represent others as they really are - complex beings with strengths and weaknesses. This heuristic bias is even stronger for those we despise. "The president is stupid, but he just approved a policy I agree with - well, he probably just gave in to my political party - still an idiot." This kind of thinking is easy - it helps us get through the day and make sense of things quickly. Ask A-Rod - he quickly went from the greatest ever to a cheat - from hero to villain.

I would suggest that we should not create heroes and villains, but to idolize aspects of people. This may be easy for our role models and loved ones - but I dare you to try this with your enemies.  You can admire and love without categorizing - it's tough, but it's definitely worth it. Pick the verb over the noun.

12 February 2009

Idol: Has a nose but does not smell

Looks like the expected topics have been covered on this one... So a personal ramble...

This photograph clearly shows a niche that originally contained a god or goddess. The idol, possibly made of silver or gold, stood on the pedestal inside the carved hollow. Archaeologists believe this niche dates to the time of Jesus. (from
The Hallel includes Psalms 113-118 and 135-136. In addition to all the Torah, Rabbi Yeshua would have memorized these psalms and recited/chanted/sung them during Jewish feasts. See if the end of Psalm 118 looks familiar (palm branches anyone? - Ps. 118:25)...

What does the Hallel have to do with "Idols" you might ask?
An excerpt from Psalm 115 includes the following:
"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.
Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; they make no sound in their throats.
Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.
O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.
O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.
You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield."

I have been working with my kids to memorize the Hallel. It can be an arduous process, but this section is easy. By touching their mouths, noses, ears, etc. the text comes alive and can be fun. At the same time we try to talk about idols (i.e. basketballs, ponies, television...). Such a concept can be difficult (sigh).
The interesting thing is that the idols of biblical times were not just laying about one's home. Niches were carved. A place was made for the idol. How often do we carve places out places for idols? The idol can be thrown away, but the niche is more difficult to hide.

Idol: The Market

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
~ Jonah 2:8
When I think of the word “idol,” I’m immediately reminded of the golden calf the Israelites created and worshipped at the base of Mount Sinai as described in Exodus 32:4 (Poussin’s Adoration of the Golden Calf is shown above). It always seemed incredible to me that Aaron could fashion an idol and encourage such blatant idolatry at the base of the very mountain upon which rested the glory of God. In doing so, Aaron reduced the God of Israel to a physical thing, something that could be understood and controlled (“This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt”). That’s what men do, we reduce the unfathomable and the uncontrollable into something much less frightening.

One of the more popular idols in our day is The Market (Arturo Di Modica’s Charging Bull is shown above). For many people, The Market is a kind of god – they follow its every move, study its inscrutable ways, wager their future and place all their hopes upon it. How pitiful that after more than three millennia we’re still worshipping the same bull. I admit to a little schadenfreude at our recent economic troubles, not because I enjoy people’s misery, but because I delight in the destruction of idols. Economic judgment has been substituted for moral judgment and that which is good for The Market has been deemed intrinsically good. As The Market bull gets mauled by a bear, and our leaders stumble in the dark to “save the economy,” I hope we’ll turn away from worthless idols, and look back to the mountain and to the God of grace.

Idol: of fetish-like convictions and leggoing my eggo

I went to the rodeo last night. Thousands of people watching men and women of all ages ride, rope, chase, and sometimes evade bulls, horses, sheep and bucking quadrupeds of all kinds. Regardless of our technologies, there's something fascinating about watching fragile humans take on large animals in feats of resiliency and determination. At the end of various events the winner would ride around the floor behind a sponsored flag. I couldn't help but laugh watching a mighty cowboy parading around victoriously behind an Eggo-branded flag and rider! How macho is that - riding in the wake of Mr. Waffle?

Whether waffles are superior to pancakes, french toast or crepes is too great a matter for this forum. However, it is peculiar how enthusiastically committed both the victor cowboy and patron saint of waffle-land rode around in quasi-allegiance to the Eggo. I struggle with assenting to full allegiance to a national flag (I'm an alien here), but to embrace a brand, a food product?

Oswald Chambers was quoted as saying, "Don't make a fetish of your own convictions." The context is in regards to how easily we let a subject or opinion consume us to the point of being in competition for our full allegiance. We let simple (not necessarily insignificant) matters drive us to division, discord, distraction and subtle idolatry. The Sabbath matters more than the Messiah or His ancient mission of restoring shalom. The type of music and devices employed for worship shears communion of the saints. One humanitarian cause demands all other adherents to fully convert or be labeled as lacking compassion.

I believe "holy discontents" have a very real function...but am wary of how quietly a conviction can become a coup d'etat for allegiance, will and kingdoms. I pray my convictions - no matter how Godly - never usurp my devotion to His Kingdom, His will...on earth as it is Heaven.

Idol: All Except the One

I feel like this topic has been hashed and rehashed in our fellowships so much that almost every believer in the West could tell you that an idol is "anything that takes a place above the Creator of heaven and earth." The word is so, ridiculously inclusive that it almost scares me. In truth, we created beings consistently run up against the problem of idolatry every day.

Trying to escape from idols is like scrambling away from a lion only to run into a bear cave.

We are constantly in danger of making people, places, things, ideas--heck, even gerunds, infinitives, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, pronouns--into idols (If your particular idol doesn't fit into one of the above grammatical categories, just stick it with the 'adverbs'. That's what we English majors do all the time.)

So, I can either spend a grievous amount of time trying to track all of the idols down and avoid or destroy them, living a very paranoid and frenetic life--and subsequently creating that stress for others. Or I can send my soul after the Source of Life, walking so closely to Him that He informs me at the appropriate time whenever I've got a high place that needs to be torn down.

Now, it's a tricky business, though, isn't it? To do what I just said. At the end of 1 John, the author tells his readers, "Little children, guard yourselves from idols." That seems to imply some sort of defensive action. I think maybe John would agree that we need to exalt Jesus just as He is given to us in the Gospels, following Him in simplicity. Many people who later found themselves following false teachings such as Gnosticism were possibly first attracted by all the stories from "extra-curricular" writings about Jesus' life as a young boy, stories that had no particular historical basis but only served to satisfy the curiosity of some. As soon as we add or take away anything from what we know to be true of Jesus as He is presented in the four Gospels, we open ourselves to a whole shmorgishboard of "make-your-own-salad" theology, which usually leads to the acceptance of things we may-not-term-but-are-in-fact idols--topped with an imposingly tart house vinaigrette.

The Suffering Servant had no terrifically handsome features that we should be attracted to Him. When we try to form Him into our ideas of good image, isn't that also idolatry?

09 February 2009

Idol: Idols, Charms and Luck: A Jumbled Ball of Twine

below is a composite grouping of so many things that we may classify as idols, good/bad luck charms and things that we believe present us with good/bad luck. isn't it funny how many times we rely on or run from so many arbitrary things in life depending on precedence, superstition, peer pressure, or political, social, or economical influence? do any of these hit home for you? what's you idol? when does something become more than just 'something'? what idol(s) are you trusting more that The Source?

rabbits foot, buddha statue, popularity, broken mirror, clothes, dream catchers, spilling the salt, garlic, alcohol, kabbalah bracelet, crack in the sidewalk, four-leaf clover, the pope, diamonds, an apple a day, rainbows, wishbone, opening an umbrella indoors, pornography, falling star, children, iphone, golden calf, lebron james, relationships, the 'perfect' body, walking under a ladder, barack obama, fortune cookies, horseshoe, tiki doll, black cat crossing your path, mistletoe, itchy palms, drugs, stray eyelash, the number '7', lottery tickets, owls, blarney stone, crossing your fingers, flat-panel plasma hdtv, american idol, sex, money, st. joseph statue, ravens, a heads up penny, friday the 13th, greed, san antonio spurs, number of friends on facebook, bmw, ladybugs, power, danelions, etc, etc, etc...

Idol: Of Hawaiian Tikis, Greg Brady's Surfing Accident, and Our Proclivity to Return to Karmic Lifestyles

In episode 73 of the Brady Bunch, we learn that Mike Brady has been sent to Hawaii to check on a construction project for his architecture firm. The firm allows him to take the whole Brady clan with him, creating an impromptu vacation (and a three-episode journey away from the Astorturf lawn and shared bedrooms of Casa de Brady). Even the maid, Alice, joined in on the fun, although she was surely missing Sam the Butcher while she was gone.

Shortly after arriving in Hawaii, Bobby Brady discovers some sort of ancient tiki idol. All of the boys marvel at the idol and Greg Brady decides to wear it around his neck while surfing. As could be expected, he gets in a serious surfing accident and the beginning of the threads of the story that paints the idol as some sort of dark, magical, bad-luck charm is seen.

The plotline continues to the point that we, the audience, find ourselves in a cave, where the boys have been taken captive by some crazy professor of archaeology, who is convinced that the Brady Boys were out to hijack his latest “find”. Of course it all eventually works out - they have a Luau on the beach for good measure and everyone seems happy (except for Alice, who is most secretly yearning to get home to go bowling with Sam).

Looking back, this story arc was one of the more ridiculous of its kind in television history. It was as if the writers watched a few too many Scooby Doo episodes (nefarious yet well-intentioned professors, kids stumbling into trouble, an implausibly clean happy ending) and suddenly decided that such a storyline might work in live-action TV. Even for the Brady Bunch, the tiki stuff was far-fetched.

And yet, look around. We are awash in our own tiki idols, in our own self-made fantasy of good and evil, taboo and luck. We cling to things that we feel good about and dispose of the things around which bad experiences form. We live like our life is this boomerang, careening back to us with blessings or burdens depending on with what intentions we threw it.

I have a neighbor who wants a new car because the current one has “bad vibes”. Might it simply be a bad driver? I know a few folks who are thinking of trading in their marriage, thinking that some bad karma seeped in while they were sleeping. Maybe marriage is just hard work and no one adequately explained that. How many of our donations to causes around the world are directly tied to some idea that we are going to be cosmically paid back for them at some point. In our society, we give to get. If only could see the reality: We get to give.

Until we take hold of the Truth that Christ ushered us into a post-karmic world, we’re doomed to a life of fantasy – of mojo and karma, of vibes and taboos. We will continue to seek the things that lead to righteousness, while our eyes and ears fail to see and hear that a new righteousness has been bestowed upon us.

Anyway, sometimes a surfing accident is just a surfing accident. No tiki necessary.

08 February 2009

IDOL: Past & Present: all the same

It used to be that an Idol was something we bowed down to know the drill...with one half of a log we carve something to bow to, make our requests known, worship...and with the other half we make a fire to roast wieners...

Now we want to be the IDOL...rockstardom....have people worship us as if we were more than wiener wood...

The root of both seems to be that we have a "place"...that we know our position...that we are affirmed in our existence...

Perhaps the most dangerous IDOL s the one closest to "looking like" the only worship-worthy being of the universe...the Creator God. Its dangerous to be "having a form of God..."

What is the point of "religion" if it does not serve to bring us into relationship with our Creator God? It may give us a feeling of belonging, an affirmation of innoculation...

" me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart..."

There is no room for half-truths, no wiener wood.

My Greatest Fear: Surely I Can't Be the First to Say "Being Alone"?

There's a song by Don Chaffer that I wish I remembered the name to.
In it, he says the following:

"... I don't think I've ever wanted as much to be free as I long to be known.
Of all the things that I hate when I look at my life, the worst is my being alone."

That's it for me: being alone.
I'm aware that in light of the existence of G-d and His desire to be with us and for us to be with Him, this fear may be easily dismissed... at least it may be in moments of strong faith.
But, to be honest, my assurance of this fact comes few and far between.

A good friend of mine once told me that he'd come to the conclusion that no one could ever know him so completely as G-d, not even his wife. However hard you try to open yourself up to a friend, family member, or spouse, at the end of the day when you lay your head down on that pillow, it's just you and Him. But, can you imagine how it might feel to not have even that?

My first few months in China were unbelievably lonely. I knew absolutely no one. I was introduced to a few different people, but because I came alone and not as part of some organization, suspicion kept others at a distance from me. Could I be trusted? The deep secrets of my heart would have to remain with me. I had no choice but to cry out to the Father for consolation. Consolation also felt few and far between. I held on to the smallest pieces of Word for dear life.

Then, a month or so passed and my parents sent me a care package (I love that word, don't you? "care package"). In it was a CD by Jason Upton and on the CD was a song called "You're Never Alone, Martin". It was inspired by an experience of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was up late in his kitchen one night, unable to sleep, praying. And he basically said something like, "Lord, I've spent all this time fighting for what I think is right, for justice and equality and everything that You stand for. And still there are people that hate me. I just need to know that I'm not alone, that You're with me. Please, Lord. Please."
And then as he wept quietly, he heard a voice that said, "You're never alone, Martin. You're never alone. I'll never leave you."

Man, what a reassurance, huh? I crave that.

07 February 2009

My Greatest Fear: Comfort

I fear comfort. Or, perhaps more specifically, that a desire for what's comfortable will be greater than my desire to be obedient.

A comfort that leads to selfishness...not wanting to give up a life that's easy, to serve my Savior as he serve my neighbors.

I fear that I will choose the path of least resistance...because it's more comfortable.

I fear that comfort will lead me to a place of complacency that leaves me paralyzed to react to the needs of those around the least of these (Matthew 25:31-46)

I fear that the temptation of comfort will leave me hard hearted and without compassion for the broken and hurting.

I fear that comfort in the things of this world will keep me from saying, like Paul..."I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and to be found in him." Philippians 3:8&9

But, I rest in the promise that, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness...and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." 2 Peter 3

because Jesus' love still moves me out of my comfort for these...

06 February 2009

My Greatest Fear: Married to One of These

Starlets terrify me. People seem to be fascinated by their lives, as evinced by the proliferation of voyeuristic media parading as news and the pop culture conversations I’ve had the misfortune to hear. But can you actually imagine being married to one of these women? Personally, I’d much prefer waterboarding. And I’m not just talking about the Hollywood glamorati, but any woman whose principle occupation is herself and whose greatest ambition in life is to remain “hot.” Solomon had a word for these kinds of women: harlots, and in Proverbs he warns of what can be expected of harlots and contentious women:

For on account of a harlot one is reduced to a loaf of bread, and an adulteress hunts for the precious life (6:26). It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman (21:9). It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman (21:19). For a harlot is a deep pit and an adulterous woman is a narrow well (23:27). A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike (23:25).
In my life I’ve had two recurring nightmares that I can remember. The first involves being chased by a giant pumpkin which I couldn’t outrun no matter how hard I tried (don’t go all Freudian on me – sometimes a pumpkin is just a pumpkin). The second involves standing in a church on my wedding day as the massive sanctuary doors slam shut and I’m faced with my future bride… and she’s a shallow, self-absorbed, contentious nag. And we’re married for forever. FOR. EV. ER! Guess which one scares me more? I’ll give you a hint: I never woke in a cold sweat after a pumpkin chase. God save me from such a fate!

04 February 2009

My Greatest Fear: Clowns

Truly. But also, seriously...

My Greatest Fear: Living a life out of balance

I tend to question the balance in my life quite often. I fear living a life that was not balanced in a way that is pleasing to my Father. The questions come…

- Am I spending enough time with my wife? She deserves it and our relationship is the foundation of all our other relationships.
- Am I spending enough time with my kids? They don't need my money, they need me.
Am I instructing them the way I 'should'? May they be like trees planted near streams of living water…
- Do I love the LORD more than my wife and children? Really? Honestly?
- Am I spending enough time in prayer/study/worship/service/etc?
- Am I studying enough for school? Am I studying too much? I certainly need to take advantage of the opportunity for advanced education.
- Am I working hard enough at my career? Not everyone has a job. I know what it is like to be looking for work. If I work extremely hard, will my efforts be rewarded? Is the reward what matters or should I work for other reasons?
- What about me? Do I need 'me' time?

There are many more questions than this, but I think the fear comes from the contemplation of the balancing act. Ultimately, I think we are all tasked with stewardship of limited resources. Summarily, I am left petitioning the Creator to increase my faithfulness as a steward of time, talent, treasure, truth, and relationships. The circus-like balancing act of life is not something for us to tackle alone. We practice and ultimately seek divine Providence to choose the right plates to spin, how to keep them spinning, and when it is OK to let some fall.

03 February 2009

My Greatest Fear: Being the World’s Most Aware (Abalone)

There is a woman who sits outside of the abortion clinic near my house. She has a sign that says “Abortion Kills Children”. And she sits there all day and shames the people going in and out. She is, in a sense, raising awareness. And her sign is correct. But would her life be better used in taking the awareness she has and applying it by volunteering at a crisis center or adoption/counseling hotline? Eight hours a day on the sidewalk and four more hours a day on her knees, fervently pleading for God to move…when all she has to do is put her sign down and move herself.

Her motives are good – she just got stuck on awareness.

When I moved to South Africa in 2004, I had no idea how severe the AIDS crisis was, not to mention the malaria problem and the starvation issue…and over the next few years the world was educated along with me as we learned about the incredible scope of the problem together. Artists and celebrities began to champion the cause of Africa, we bought shirts that donated the profits to Africa, we signed petitions, we even donated money when American Idol took up the cause…we were aware!

Then, a new movement started to rise up. Ever heard of “going green”? All of the sudden, everything was about being green, going green, and doing green (which may or may not be a drug). Africa resumed its position as the world’s alm-seeker and we moved on, figuring that all of our recently-acquired awareness surely helped make the world a better place for Africans.

Did it? Nope.

Tens of thousands of African children will die today, simply because they are hungry and there is no food. 6000 will die from a preventable, treatable disease caused by a little virus known as HIV. 3000 will die because a mosquito carrying malaria bit them.

This is not about activism. It is merely a plea for activity. We spend 90% of our lives becoming more aware and only 10% in any form of activity. Think about. Crunch the numbers. We are a 90/10 people. We ingest unbelievable amounts of information from books, television, radio, and the internet. We get more and more education every year, the baseline standard ever rising. We join causes on Facebook and wear t-shirts proclaiming that some form of awareness will topple the world's injustices. And we never really lift a finger to change anything.

So where do we go? Maybe, we start by praying differently. What if, instead of saying, “God please meet the needs of world’s broken and dying” we prayed, “God use me to meet the needs of the world’s broken and dying.”

We have all of the awareness we need. We now need to be a people that acts upon it.

On earth as it is in heaven...

My Greatest Fear - Heights and "A Wasted Life"

My initial reaction to greatest fear has been, is, and probably always will be heights. I am that whimpering, nervous, white knuckled person on planes. I cannot stand the thought of peering out over an abyss or chasm. I come by this fear honestly, as my grandfather would lean (in the car) away from drop-offs on mountain roads even if we were hundreds of feet away from the edge, and also even if he was driving (I still laugh thinking about that)!! He would avoid bridges if possible, and when he was at the Grand Canyon, he stayed a good 100 yards from the edge! I have always said that I know what it feels like when I fall from my height (6'7") so I don't want to know from any higher.

After the calming effect of a period of contemplation and introspection, I identified my true greatest fear, and it needs some explanation. My sister is an attorney, and of course, spends quite a bit of time in front of judges. She related a story about a judge's rant she observed while waiting for her trial to begin. The judge was sentencing a habitual and chronic drunk driver on his third (I think) offense, who had killed someone and injured others. It had been revealed that this man drank himself into oblivion almost constantly. Due to his addiction, he had lost his family because they could not subject themselves to seeing him slowly kill himself and to endure any more of the constant emotional and mental abuse. He lost his job, his house, his friends, basically everything because of the demon in a bottle. He stood before the judge, a broken, empty shell of the man he once was. Before he was bitten by the bottle, he had everything, a loving family with children and a pretty wife, a well paying and prestigious job, good friends, a bright future, all brought down because of his inner desire's insatiability. The judge, angry and I am sure perplexed at the state of this man, looked down at him and stated,"You, sir, are guilty of many things. You are guilty of hurting, maiming, and finally, even killing. You are guilty of breaking the law, and, for this, you will be punished. Most of all, you are guilty of a wasted life." And then, he was sentenced to the maximum allowed by the laws of that state. There it is, my greatest fear, to be guilty of a wasted life.

That story always stirred the deep set fears within me. It hit home because I am the child of an alcoholic, and I have seen those demons and their power, so that element is very frightening. However, the idea of wasting my life frightens me to the core of my being. God has given us this gift of life. A chance to live, to love, to make friends, and to experience Him and spread His Eternal Kingdom in this temporal realm. He has blessed us immensely, and desires to know us, and to allow us to have life even more abundantly than we can fathom. He wants to use our lives, and to empower us to use them for His glory, to use them to the fullest. Yet, many decide to waste it, chasing after booze, drugs, money, status, material things, and the myriad of other false trappings of this world. I think this story hits me because when we stand before our Creator, there are really only two options and two responses - "Well done, my good and faithful servant!! Come and share your Master's happiness!" - that is, you have live a full life. The other - "You wicked, lazy servant. Away from me!!" - in other words, the Just Judge has sentenced, "You, sir, are guilty of a wasted life." Can we stand before Him and know fully that we have used our lives to the fullest for His Kingdom? Will we present ourselves confidently, knowing that He was with us, and we were willing and able to be used? Or will be stand as broken empty shells of the people that we could have been? I pray that I am willing. I pray that we are willing. I pray that we all can hear "come and share" rather than "away from me." I desire that all lead full lives, abiding in the Most High. I pray that no one will be guilty of a wasted life.

02 February 2009

My Greatest Fear: Eternity

"I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank PiƱa Coladas. At sunset we made love like sea otters. That was a pretty good day.Why couldn't I get that day over and over and over..."
-Phil Connors, Groundhog Day

In homage to the movie Groundhog Day on this February the 2nd, I will share that my greatest fear is not snakes, nor failing to live a fulfilled life on earth, or even death for that matter, rather I fear the sweet promise of eternal paradise that I would be so lucky to be granted. Is there something wrong with me? I actually fear the Virgin Islands episode recurring as much as I would being stuck in cold Punxsutawney. I am accustomed to a beginning and end, so I have trouble trying to comprehend an eternal sequence or loop. I actually get physically anxious just thinking about it. Even if I lived in a world filled with love and compassion, I know that the sweet is never as sweet without the sour.  How could I appreciate sweet moments of friendship and love without conflict, or a relaxing evening after a long day of work, or a beautiful sunrise without following the long darkness of night. Will God have enough variation for me in this eternity? I know that sounds selfish, but as a human I strive for something new...even if it isn't better than what I have right now. 

In the movie, Groundhog Day, Phil finally awakens to a new day after "perfecting" his Groundhog Day by helping others and growing as a person. However, when he finally awakens, he is still ecstatic about a new day upon him. He just made the most out of Feb. 2nd he possibly could, yet he was so excited to begin a different day. That's what I worry about. I don't worry about tomorrow (or life after death) being positive/negative, I worry about it being different. I worry about the eternal return. But I pray and hope that just as I can't comprehend eternity, I can't comprehend God's love and what he has in store for me. I wait anxiously and optimistically. 

Some thoughts from Nietzsche...

What if a demon were to creep after you one day or night, in your loneliest loneness, and say: "This life which you live and have lived, must be lived again by you, and innumerable times more. And mere will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh— everything unspeakably small and great in your life—must come again to you, and in the same sequence and series__" Would you not throw your self down and curse the demon who spoke to you thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment, in which you would answer him: "Thou art a god, and never have I heard anything more divine!" [The Gay Science (1882), p. 341 (passage translated in Danto 1965, p. 210).]

My Greatest Fear: Being “That Guy”

we’ve all seen “that guy”. he shops at the same supermarkets as us. he fills up right next to us at the gas station. he even attends our church services. who knows, perhaps someone reading this right now is “that guy”.

“that guy” is the person who doesn’t quite dress the right way, use the right words or deliver the right actions on a consistent basis. he’s a little off… a bit different… doesn’t fit the mold that is easy on the eyes of society. “that guy” is a bit rough around the edges, shy, awkward, rude, or insecure. that guy may even feel like he lives his life under a microscope in the public eye, being judged with every step or action.

now, my greatest fear isn’t being “that guy”, but having the hypocritical heart and mind to so quickly point out who he is. unfortunately, i feel i face my greatest fear all too often. and when i do that, being “that guy” doesn’t seem so bad afterall.

01 February 2009

My Greatest Fear: being fully consumed

Great fears always tend to have roots in self. However, Davide rightly captured the great driver of fears in the posting on "me." That really could be parsed and sliced into 5-6 separate posts, but I will discipline myself to not just draft his idea down the bloody turnpike...

Perhaps the unspoken fear that has tormented me the most is that of being fully consumed by the all-powerful, living God. The Bible describes God as an "all-consuming fire" and a jealous persona who desires nothing short of 100%. It's part of His awe-someness but also the real terror when you find your "own" life, identity, agenda and will being the fodder for this fire.

There have been numerous times in my spiritual journey when I became uniquely aware of the loss of self happening as I was being quickened to a "not I who lives but Christ in me" point of abandon. Quite honestly it is terrifying. Call it the cost of discipleship, call it full surrender, call it whatever - there's something scary about handing over the reins of your life, of becoming a vassal of a King...even one you trust entirely.

This fear - of not just being an ally but truly an employed vassal - has led me to intentionally sabotage the progression. Yes, I've tossed proverbial wrenches in the gears of my sanctification in order to stall and assess if I was really ready to be fully consumed. Perhaps it's why I felt affinity for Augustine so much, who transparently journaled, "O Lord, help me to be pure...but not yet."

My greatest fear is also the greatest handicap in life...a fear that immobilizes when approaching the perceived tipping point after which divine inertia will surpass personal ability to control acceleration or navigation. As if I ever did truly possess such powers!

My Greatest Fear: Me

I joke around lots about temporal fears such as sharks, snakes and salsa (the "dancing" variety)...there are many more...likely more that start with "s" as well...most of them have the potential for pain or even death...

Yet, there are worse things in life than dying.

Created for relationship with an eternal personal God...granted the ability to choose, which is of course the foundation for love...invited into this relationship through Jesus, who is substance and evidence...making knowledge of faith...the "real God (stood) up"...

That I would use this choice to walk away from the source of my life...loving the creation while ignoring the inconceivable...and it terrifies me...

Nothing can separate me from God's love, except me...

Victory: In the Bag

My good friends went on vacation recently and left me to watch their house and two cats. Have you ever watched a cat playing with a toy mouse?... Like, by itself? Not 'you holding the mouse-on-a-string,' but the cat just going after it? Maybe if you've ever seen Will Ferrell's demo tape for SNL you have an idea of what I'm talking about.

So, this one cat does just that. Pretty entertaining to watch. He picks the thing up with his paws, throws it into the air, pounces on it, dangles it over the edge of the couch (by himself, mind you) with one paw and then goes in for the kill with the other. All of this and the result is always the same... the cat wins.

I think that our battle with the flesh/old man (or whatever you wanna call it) is kind of like this. In Romans chapter 6, Paul writes "knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Jesus], in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin." The phrase "done away with" does not actually mean that "our body of sin" is totally destroyed. The Greek word means something more like "rendered powerless" or "made impotent" (If you've heard Jeff Harris on this topic you probably already know that).
Now, there is no way that anyone would take you seriously if you told them, "Yeah, my cat got beat up by his toy mouse the other day. Pretty bad. Walking with a limp and EVERYTHING." Why is that? Because the mouse has no real power. Victory is already guaranteed for the cat. The only power that that mouse has is the power that the cat attributes to it.

In the same way, we're told later on in Romans 6 and 8 to live by this new law of the spirit, one that has superceded that of sin and death. Reality has changed. Man, it's so hard to take that in, isn't it? Reality has changed because of Jesus' death, because of His conquering sin and death through resurrection. Every battle that we will ever fight for the rest of our lives--against the accuser, against the old man, against the spiritual forces in this world--victory is already GUARANTEED. We are more than conquerors through Him! If I could only let that reality sink in and stick!

"Don't you know that to whomever you present yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey?" I feel like I've been in some kind of stupor. Why do I present myself to the paralyzed man as his slave? Why do I fight with the mouse and struggle as if it has some power over me?

Every victory in the spirit, EVERY VICTORY, is already in the bag.
It's just that sometimes I think that I really want to lose.

"For thus the LORD G-d, the Holy One of Israel, has said,
'In repentance and rest you will be saved.
In quietness and trust is your strength,'
But you were now willing.
And you said, 'No, for we will flee on horses,'
Therefore you shall flee!
'And we will ride on swift horses,'
Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift!" Isaiah 30:15-16

Victory: Not Without Sacrifice

The moment of victory is the pinnacle, climax, culmination of much hard work, passion, devotion and…sacrifice.

I love…LOVE the Olympics!

I get enthralled in them every two years. Everything about it…The musical theme (it get’s stuck in my head). So many countries (I will admit, some I’ve never heard of) coming together to compete in the sport they love and have worked hours on end perfecting… striving for victory. I love and I’m moved by the stories of, “overcoming the odds” and some even competing for a better life for their families. Stories of victory in the face of political upheaval and countries at war. Fighting for victory, but not without cost.
Stories like Jesse Owens, who achieved gold in the face of Nazi racism. Or, Abebe Bikila. The Ethiopian who won a marathon…barefooted, and then returned to defend and reclaim his title. Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian, first to score perfect 10. In 1980 was the “Miracle on Ice,” when the US hockey team beat the Soviets. And, of course,…Michael Phelps. The Olympian to win the most gold medals. I’m not so obsessed that I have a “ Phelps Phan” T-shirt, but I would say that what he did is awe-inspiring. I was jumping in my living room, yelling at the TV as I watched him win by a length of time that’s just barely able to be calculated. What victory! But, not without sacrifice. I saw an interview with his coach, Bob Bowmen, talking about how much he has missed for the sake of reaching this goal set when he was 11. To basically eat, swim and sleep. But…it was worth the reward.

I love these stories for obvious reasons. They’re great stories of man striving and sacrificing to achieve great victory. I also love these stories for how they move and ignite me. To think of living my life the same way. run with endurance the race set before me. The one my God has called me to. To strive and sacrifice my plans and selfishness for the sake of a greater reward. The reward of walking in victory over sin and death because Jesus paid my debt on the cross.

Victory…comes only after sacrifice.