Playing Cards in the presence of the Living God

April 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

One evening last week I was at a worship service at a local coffee shop. The coffee shop owners were the hosts and organizers, and about 30 minutes before closing most of the tables and chairs were arranged – with a lot of commotion and bustle – so that the people who were pouring into the shop could worship together. Most of the shop customers caught on that something was going down, and either stayed to participate or headed out voluntarily.

A few people were in the back of the shop playing a card game. I don’t know what game – they had cards I didn’t recognize and using terms I haven’t heard in the context of cards (like “rook”). They asked what was going on during set-up and returned to their card game. Someone got up to pray before worship and they kept playing cards. “I put down a ___ and challenge your rook” or something like that. Then we started to worship. And they kept playing cards, loudly, talking over the 50+ singing voices and guitar and a cajon. I don’t think most people noticed they were there, but I did, because I was in the back, too.

God was worshiped and glorified and present there. And they were sitting in the back, playing cards. I guess the game they were playing must have been pretty engrossing, to keep playing in that loudness.

And I was offended. Not because they were loud or distracting (although they were) – I was offended because the living God, whose hem is so great it fills a temple, who dwells in pillars of fire and smoke, who created the Andromeda Galaxy and the Horsehead Nebula and the universe that holds them, who shed his own blood on the cross to reconcile humans to himself, was there,

and they just played cards.

The coffee shop became a temple of the living God because it was filled with his temples – his children in whom he dwells,

and they just played cards.

Like the God of the universe didn’t even matter.

I was angry. In my anger I realized that it wasn’t just those few people playing cards who were ignoring the living God like he didn’t even matter, disdaining his desire to adopt them as his children. I have always desired that people would know Jesus because he is life and joy, but that night I realized that I want people to know Jesus because Jesus deserves it. He deserves their worship, our worship. For all he has done and does and will do, for who he is, he deserves worship.

But people just keep playing cards.

Spring and Anticipation

March 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

I haven’t posted lately because I have what I (un)affectionately call mono brain. It causes me to quite seriously say things like “the hand is in your decision” and write The Pacific Ocean when I mean The Atlantic Ocean and forget if I’ve told somebody something, or just ramble in an attempt to get meaning across, frustratingly aware of the fact that the ability to concisely explain something has somehow slipped out of my grasp.

I’m not a doctor, but I’ve heard that the mono virus stays in your body forever. I hope the same isn’t true for mono brain.

Mono and its accompanying brain fog and fatigue are particularly unwelcome right now, as the promise of spring is popping up on flowering trees and we’re having those few days of mellow temperatures before we go, in typical Alabama fashion, from “winter” to full-on boiling-hades SUMMER.

But then, when would mono actually be welcome?

This post was not supposed to be about being sick. It’s supposed to be about the anticipation that always comes with the arrival of spring – like how it feels things are about to happen, about to change.

It was also supposed to be about how I get to dust off my passport this year and make not one but two international trips. I will actually get to “wander” again, as my blog name implies!

And I was going to tie spring and upcoming international travel neatly together with some kind of prose about future and promise and anticipation etc etc and it was going to be all very philosophical and a little bit dreamy.

All things considered, though, I’m just happy to have written a few grammatically correct (I think) paragraphs.

Life Without Peace

March 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

I just saw a headline: Syria War Enters its Fourth Year with No End in Sight.

Year four. It’s been three years. Syria has been in a civil war for three years.

Do you even think about Syria anymore?

I don’t think about it very often.

I had a hard time believing the conflict had been going on so long so I clicked through to the article, which began by discussing how the uprising began during the Arab Spring in 2011. Then I remembered that it had started then. The Arab Spring began soon after my first trip to the Arab world and I was at the time writing a paper about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so I was very interested in what was going on and amazed at how we were witnessing history. Things that will be written in history textbooks (I hope).

I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a constant state of war.

Just in the past couple days, I went to the grocery store, the post office, went for a walk on a popular nearby trail, took my friend to pick up her car, went for a check-up, had dinner with friends on the other side of town…all without fear for my life or the lives of my friends and family, without fear for my safety, without worry over my next meal – I didn’t just eat at every meal, I had snacks in between – and without worry that fighting would erupt in my neighborhood or that someone would hurt me for my beliefs. I lived in blissful peace, worrying about things like forgetting to buy an item at the grocery store, or why I still have a headache, or how long it will take for something to travel to Texas in the mail.

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the shocking difference that must exist between life here and life in Syria.

It’s hard to notice peace until there is an absence of it.

Google Earth It

March 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

I used to spend a lot of time on Google Earth. Instead of my head being in the clouds, it was in Google Earth. Where will I go next? What is this city like? How do they live? I was addicted to travel-dreaming and Google Earth was my enabler.

Google Earth is not a bad thing, though. It’s wonderful. It’s super cool. I can see parts of the world that I may never go to. It’s merely that I used to live in the future instead of the present; I lived on what might-be or could-be instead of what is. Maybe age brings balance. (Like I am so old.)

Today I was reading a news article about water shortages East Jerusalem and I somehow found my way over to Google Earth. I flew to Jerusalem, navigated to Old City, and went to street view. I landed near the Jaffa Gate and pushed through the crowds and into alley ways to find the tucked-away hotel where I stayed for a few days in 2010. Yes, that’s the money changer on the corner who will overcharge you…there’s the pizza place everyone said was amazing but I couldn’t eat at because of my dairy allergy…everything was as I remembered. Even the sunshine.

I found the city where we stayed in Palestine but there was no street view available. So I hovered above, wondering which street was which, wondering how much it’s changed.

Is it lovely or is it cruel that you can “be” somewhere in the blink of an eye, but not be there? “Here is what you desire…but you are lightyears removed from it! Haha, fat chance!”

It’s like the Mirror of Erised, at least for this muggle.

Lovely or cruel…I haven’t yet decided. What do you think?

Not Dead

March 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

“I thought you were dead,” my friend said, “You haven’t blogged in a week.”

I have not blogged in a week. And no, I am not dead. And I will probably not be posting every day anymore.

I don’t have time every day to devote to thoughtful posts. If you’ve been reading – you know this is true.

I said I would try to write 100 words a day for 100 days. I wanted to get back into the habit of writing things fit for human consumption, and I did. My love for writing has been reignited, so my personal purpose for the challenge has been met.

I am definitely not going to disappear. Expect at least a couple posts a week. My draft folder is starting to fill up with ideas that just need some time to be brought to life. I’m excited to keep writing.

I made it roughly 63 days. Pretty decent, I think.

Well – see you soon!

 

Jean Valjean

February 24, 2014 § 1 Comment

Les Miserables is one of my favorite books. It’s definitely in my top 10, maybe even in the top 5. I love the musical, too. While it fails to encompass the depth and breadth of the novel, I think it does justice in capturing its spirit. And it’s exciting and the music is fantastic!

I’m sure innumerable essays have been written by college English majors on symbolism in Les Mis, so I don’t expect to be breaking any fresh ground with this, but I was thinking about Jean Valjean’s character earlier as I blasted the Les Mis soundtrack on my way to work.

I thought, he isn’t a Christ character, he’s an us character. He’s arrested for crime – he committed it for the sake of his sister’s family, so we think, hey, he’s not that bad. But after he’s released from prison, he’s so embittered and corrupted by his time in the galleys and society’s refusal to reintegrate him that he takes advantage of the only people who’ve shown him kindness and steals their only items of value (their state of relative poverty isn’t really known in the musical/movie but it is in the book). When Valjean is caught with the stolen silver, the priest from whom he stole it lies to the police and gives Valjean the silver in order to save him from returning the galleys.

He tells Valjean to use the silver to establish himself honestly. In the musical, he says, “I have bought your soul for God.”

Valjean is dumbfounded in the face of such love, for him, a convict, who stole from the man! Again, in the musical he sings, “He said I had a soul – how did he know?” (I’d make references from the book except I don’t know where my copy is…the musical will have to do.)

As we know, Valjean takes the priest’s gift, gives up his old identity and begins living his life in the service of others. In the book, he begins to uphold the priest in his mind as his standard of love and goodness, a standard he wants to emulate.

The priest is the Christ-figure, and Valjean, like us, becomes Christlike when someone makes the sacrifice to redeem him. He even goes so far as to turn himself into the authorities when they arrest a man they think is Valjean, sacrificing himself in order to save the wrongly accused. Valjean still has some selfish patterns, but he repeatedly shows sacrificial love and grows more selfless. He cares for the people cast aside, the prostitutes, the orphans, the poor, he even spares the life of the man who’s hunted him for years.

Just some hastily written thoughts. If you like reading, and you’re a determined reader, not to be put off by 30-page descriptions of the battle of Waterloo (I skimmed that part), you should definitely read Les Miserables.

Jesus is not American

February 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

“…Jesus appeals to the soul as light appeals to the eye, as truth fits the conscience, as beauty speaks to the aesthetic nature. For Christ and the soul are made for one another, and when they are brought together deep speaks to deep and wounds answer wounds.” – E. Stanley Jones

I’m reading a book called Christ of the Indian RoadIt was written in 1925. This small book, my copy of which was published in Lucknow, India, is full of beautiful truths about Jesus (at least so far…I’m only on chapter 3). The main truth so far is one that has been so widely missed, misinterpreted, lost, ignored, and neglected that it truly makes me grieve. That truth is this: Christ is not nationalistic, he doesn’t belong to a culture. Jesus isn’t Western, he’s not American, he’s not European.

Past (and current) efforts to take “Christianity” to places that have never heard of Jesus do those people, the church, and Jesus himself a disservice, and can even eclipse the good news. Jesus never preached Christianity. He said he himself is the way, the truth, the life. He said man lives on every word that comes from the mouth of God. He never said we needed church buildings or liturgies or a creed. Those things are’t bad, they’re just western, and they don’t save. Jesus saves. He’s the way, he’s the answer.

What’s more, Jesus appeals. We were made for him, and his kind, loving nature and sacrifice appeals. He’s beautiful and good. A friend said to me earlier: “I’ve never met anybody who didn’t like Jesus, once they really knew who he was,” and I haven’t either.

Maybe we should resolve, as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “to know nothing but Christ and him crucified.”

  • Jesus' blood never fails me. I'm an always musician, a sometimes writer, a voracious reader, a restless homebody with a thirst for mountains.
    Right now I'm writing every day for 100 days.

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