Sunday, April 27, 2014

We Enter Naked

It’s not that I wasn’t expecting it. I’ve always understood the process and the inevitability. I wrote about it in my journal when my furure was still a pulsing great unknown chomping at the bit to be. Pondering in a moony blue poetic funk is not exactly the same as experiencing it, though. Making peace with the constant aches in muscle and marrow, letting go of nearly every motion that once was second nature and routine, concentrating on each step to avoid crumbling down into a foolish heap, this is a real and present focus that can not be imagined. 

Watching with a vague sense of empathy, and if one is honest, annoyance, as an elder shuffles by is not the same as being the elder who has lost the battle with time, who cannot, even with determination, will a foot to lift, whose every forward movement must be measured, planned and accounted for.

They say getting old is not for sissies. What a crock! Getting old is a promise, regardless of one’s courage, ability, talent, acquired knowledge, strength, passion. The only way to deal with it is to face it square on. To say, okay, I can’t do this or this or that anymore.  

Nevertheless, I can do this. 

As long as my mind is still mostly working, I can do this. If my body holds out past my mind working, then, well, all bets are off. I’ve seen what happens when the mind goes. I’ve held more than one wrinkled knobby hand searching for a path through the jungle of plaques and tangles. 

But I don’t want to ponder that possibility. Not yet. I’ve conceded so much already. I need to hold on to what’s left as long as my mental grip is able. I can do this. I’ve done worse. I’ve gone through childbirth three times. I’ve survived, emotionally bruised and bloodied, the teenage years, mine, my children’s and grandchildren’s. I’ve shivered in cold fear of the ‘good Lord, what next’, I’ve watched parents age, decline and die. I’ve been suspended in scary moments when the outcome being life or death was a toss up. I’ve been hurt, rejected, ignored, used and dismissed. By the grace of God, I’ve risen above the anguish of adversity over and over again. 

I’ve been around long enough to have a collection of assorted unfairness tucked into my belt. And for it all, truth be told, I am none the worse. In fact, it is the total of all the wrongs, hards, stupids and unacceptables that forged me. That sums me up. That taught me by the doing, the experiencing, the testing. If given the choice, if I had a time machine, I’d never go back and alter the offenses against me, nor for all the dumb things I did, because, for all my ignorance, I was smart enough to ask to be forgiven for the harms I caused. For all my struggles along the way to where I am now, for all the things I am forced to set aside, the one thing I can own completely and never give up is humble gratitude for all of it, the good, the bad, the atrocious. 

Because He sees past the layers I've added on since birth, all the way deep to my core, I am completely exposed.

We enter naked–if we learn our lessons–we exit stripped. 

For Him,

God engineers circumstances to see what we will do. Will we be the children of our Father in heaven, or will we go back again to the meaner, common-sense attitude? Will we stake all and stand true to Him? “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” The crown of life means I shall see that my Lord has got the victory after all, even in me.  ~ Oswald Chambers

Sunday, April 6, 2014

X-Factor Church

Not a single cross symbol–anywhere. The lobby is an open multi-storied massive circular gateway, similar to the lobby of a grand hotel or convention hall, that leads off in different directions to portals promising exciting, exotic lands. The sanctuary is now called an auditorium; there are more than one. Like a hotel there is a Coffee Shop, Bookstore, 3-D graphics, video screens, every modern high tech devise available is utilized for maximum visual experience and bright as sunshine sparkle everywhere.

Navigating to the proper venue via escalators, entering the darkened theater, we find the steps descend sharply downward to the plush seating that looms over the stage at the bottom that is backlit with a red glow. “Interesting color choice,” I think. Electric wires drape and snake around the stage from amplifiers to instruments, waiting in restrained energy for the performers. The anticipation is palpable. Suddenly, dazzle, frazzle, laser lights, smoke and magic. Loudness. Where else can your eardrums be assaulted with a rock and roll rendition of How Great Thou Art? 

Stimulating. Definitely. And just this side of frenzy. 

Welcome to the dynamic church environment for the modern unchurched, for those who don’t like church, a concept created to reach the lost by way of culture, some argue not unlike building a hut in the jungle in the mission field and banging on leather drums as accompaniment to Amazing Grace. Meet them where they are. Get rid of tradition if tradition repels them. Make it The X Factor instead of The Cross Factor so as not to force them to flee from boredom. 

We make excuses and rationalizations; ignore the need for a Xanax at the end of the–what to call it?–Sermon? Church? Event?  So what if the experience was more a big party rather than an assembling of the faithful to worship, share, edify one another and learn? The focus is to rouse raw emotion and bring it up to bubbling over like shaking a bottle of soda. How one feels and shows emotion reveals the level of devotion. Right? Loud and rowdy gets the steam up so the goal is loud and rowdy for Christ. Right? Win modern souls to Christ in the way they can relate! Right?

Who am I to say this method is wrong? But...

Leaving the auditorium, ears still ringing, we had to work our way through a milling crowd of teens waiting to begin their Sunday Event. We agreed there are worse places teens can be than in a place where it’s still okay to say the name Jesus, and not as a cuss word. I wondered, though, is this really the best way to promote the real Jesus or does it introduce a counterfeit, “another” who just borrows the name? 

I also wonder, would this new hip Jesus get more votes over the real Jesus if they had to compete head to head, coolness sparkle style to basic gospel? What biting critique would Simon have for the simpler Christ? 

I admit the non-church environment is not for me. Yes, I know I am a relic from another day. In the battle for souls raging in the here and now, I still prefer a sword and shield, while we are told what is needed is laser guns, digital control consoles and unmanned drones. 

And even though I get it, for some strange reason, I still want to weep. I keep thinking that in our effort to draw people closer to Jesus we have turned the concept of finding Christ into a production that is more about pandering to our needs than His, making it more about us than Him. 

Seems to me, Jesus is required to meet us on our terms now, not His. And whatever happened to the concept of trusting the Holy Spirit doing the work? I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit doesn’t need hoopla to help open eyes and ears. Is mankind that much more difficult to get to now? Are we so overstimulated by modern technology we can’t be reached without the equivalent of an electric jolt? 

What happens when times get tough or the show gets cancelled and all that remains is an empty theater where the fun used to be, will those who supposedly found Christ via the razzle-dazzle feel let down and abandoned? They have been conditioned to believe that Christ’s glory is in the party not the sacrifice. They worship a hologram that is exciting but has no substance and will disappear instantly when the plug is pulled.

I can’t help but believe this is a dangerous precedence so no matter how many excuses and compromises rise up to stifle and challenge my deep disappointment that it has come to this I have to posit:

Now what? Where do we go from here? 

For Him,

(Matthew 24:9) Then shall they deliver you up unto tribulation, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all the nations for my name's sake.  (24:10) And then shall many stumble, and shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another.  (24:11) And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray.  (24:12) And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Just Perfect

Sometimes a news item first shocks me to my core and then continues to shake me for weeks, often months, afterward. Writing about it helps. A little. 

It is clear for me, as I know it is also for many others, we are rapidly reaching a tipping point. I wonder how much further can we slide before we hit absolute bottom?  There certainly are no more guidelines, no standards, no safety net. We are in free fall. Anything goes. Right? It’s a tangled, layered mess though. It’s not just one thing, it’s hundreds of acts of active rebellion. It’s a frat party gotten completely out of hand. It’s in your face. It’s, “so what, whaddaya gonna do about it?”

I could write a thick book, a chapter on each of all the ways we have abandoned God and settled instead on our “own understanding”. But there was one recent report that caused me to find a chair. It knocked the wind out of me and all these weeks later I’ve only just now found some coherent words, or should I say, a video, to explain why I think this might be the last straw.

It seems genetic scientists have had a break-through to create a “Designer Baby” via combining three sets of DNA . Yes, I know, it sounds suspiciously like life imitating art from the pages of Brave New World, but, unfortunately, it isn’t fiction. 

First of all, allow me to posit, there would be no need for Designer Babies if we didn’t have a skewed view of perfection. What is perfection? On today’s menu, I mean. Well, apparently, it means a person who is symmetrical in shape, has the correct apportioned facial features, skin tone, eye and hair color falls into the correct percentile of height, weight, cognitive developmental stages, has above average IQ, is completely resistant to disease and is highly responsive to guidance for creating a successful, long, happy, life.

Chair anyone?

So, let’s set aside the inevitable moral debate that will eventually be beat to death by the War on Women Brigade. I have some questions: Who gets to determine the stats of a perfect human? Is there a committee? How does one get on the committee? What kind of degrees must one have to be considered? Or are the credentials based mostly on skill-sets such as one might find in the crew of a Hollywood film production?

Perfection, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is not aphorism, it is what is fundamentally true about real life on earth. I know the antichrist spirit is desperate and working overtime to spread darkness, to kill and destroy God’s perfect creation. But, there is no reality in manufactured perfection. It’s an illusion and it cannot survive. 

Well, I don’t know that writing about it helped much but this Godtube video confirmed for me that we really have no idea what perfection is nor do we have any business believing we can even come close to deciding who is perfect and who is not. Only God can make this decision because it is His art, He holds the copyright.

For Him,


Christopher Duffley WOW Choir singing I Can Only Imagine from wochurch on GodTube.