Monday, February 26, 2007

Ode to Bob Dylan

Switching gears here –
This summer I watched a documentary on PBS about Bob Dylan. PBS is the only channel that we get so I watched it because I wanted to watch something. Since Dylan was on the scene before my time I never knew much about him. After watching the documentary I was surprised and intrigued, not to mention amused. Bob is a brilliant lyricist; he is very astute and articulate. He had remarkable insight into the culture of his time. His response to interviewers was hilarious. He asked one guy if he had ever listened to any of his music - probably because the interviewer’s questions were so dumb. Here’s a link for more on the film, which was directed by Scorsese:

In response to Dylan’s music I wrote a poem in similar style (or maybe I kid myself). It’s not cryptic like many of Dylan’s songs are but it does rail against an epidemic of our times: passive-aggressiveness.

Ode to Bob Dylan

What do you want form me?
Why don’t you speak
your mind?
Go ahead and tell me.
What are you hiding
Use your words –
if you’ve got them.
Tell me what’s on your mind.

What is it that you
Why don’t you be
I can’t read your mind
and I’m not going to try.
If you aren’t getting
what you want
then you’d better
stick out your neck.

Stop your stupid
Stop your foolish
Find your voice
and speak so
I can hear.

Spell it out
if you have to.
Write it down
if you must.
Stop speaking in code
and mumbling
in distrust.

Find your voice.
Speak your mind.
Be prophetic
if you’re called.
Be a leader.
Be a saint.
Find your resolve.

Why tell someone else
what you need to say to me?
Have a little faith.
Own your words.
Stop being so cowardly;
why tell them?
Tell me.

What is it that
you want from me?
What need can I
Tell me what is is
and I’ll tell you
if I will.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Go Ahead and Ask!

It may have sounded like I’ve gone off my nut in that last post; people have been burned at the stake for less. Some may peg me as a heretic, others as a doubting Thomas. My faith is not so fragile as all that. In fact, it is my faith that allows me to ask those questions. I am not afraid to ask those questions; I must continue to go further and further beyond my self into the vast ocean that is God - rowing my tiny dinghy. I am compelled to do so. What lies out there in the deep? Mythological creatures? Giant octopi? Beautiful tropical islands with white sandy beaches? Sunken Treasure?

Sometimes Christians freak out when you start asking those questions. Picture this: you’re in a “small group” with ten Christians. You ask why God created man in the first place and you reject the one-dimensional answers out of hand. If you watch the faces you may see on one, fear; on another, withdrawal; on a third, defensiveness. Looking at the others you might see annoyance, a combative stance, pity, furtive interest, pride, and maybe even contempt. Does anyone display love and openness? Hopefully! Ideally! You know what? I’ve been in many of those people’s shoes, unfortunately. I used to think I had all the answers. The older I get the more I realize that I don’t know many of the answers at all. In the book of James, he admonishes believers to hurry up and listen [to quit rushing to get our own point across] and to be quick to shut our pie holes - and to stall on playing the anger card. (My paraphrase of James 1:19) If only! Dunno about you but I could use some duct tape at times. Dunno but what some others could use some duct tape too.

In any case, I don’t suggest that we should ask these questions lightly, and with no purpose.

But I wonder if some Christians think that they will become less Christian if they are around a person who asks such questions. If our faith is as precarious as all that now would be a good time to find out! If a few questions can overturn our relationship with God... well, it must have been teetering on the edge to begin with.

I ask these questions because I must know more of God and less of religiosity. My faith is woven of sturdy stuff - not of flimsy thread and loose weave that will begin unraveling as soon as an edge is cut or a perforation is made. “I’ve based my life on order and reason in the universe… and a power of love behind that order and reason. I’ve had many a narrow shave in my day, but I don’t believe in the power of chaos.” (Mr. Theo in The Young Unicorns, by Madeleine L’Engle) I ask these questions because God said to ask. “…Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9) If we want to know we have to ask.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"I can't get no satisfaction..."

Get a cup o' coffee cause this post is deep and wide - or maybe it is only that way to little ole me...

There is a question that has been lurking in the depths: Why did God create man? I do believe that He created us but I just want to know why? Why didn’t He end it at the Flood or the tower of Babel? Why has He kept creating life so that we can toil on and on in this world and in these bodies - both of which are so messed up? I get that things are messed up due to free will and our choice to sin, thereby causing separation between God and us. And I understand that our sin causes harm to others as well, which is why the world is so broken and full of acts that are horrific.

Unamuno says, “Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.” I have certainly had my share of anguished thoughts about God lately.

So often my thinking seems more dark than light. I want to get away from my self. I want to move out and leave this person behind whose thoughts can be so dark or who sometimes says regretful words that are unkind or hurtful. I realize that this is partly my depression talking and partly my own proclivity toward sin talking. I also recognize, though, that I truly have come to the very end of my self – I have reached my finite end. My finite thinking can go no further. I’ve reached the sheer cliffs and there is no bridge to cross the ravine. “Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (I Cor. 13:12) It’s as if I have been wandering around and around clutching my one little puzzle piece crying, “I don’t see anything in this picture I’m holding – it doesn’t make any sense! It’s not beautiful, it’s ugly. Not only that, it’s totally unframeable because the edges are not straight. Why would Someone give me this terrible piece of art and say that there is purpose in it?”

I begin to see that faith without hope can only lead to despair. Hope can be described as a groaning, a yearning, an aching for something that we desire. Likewise, love without faith and hope is worthless. My puzzle piece is worthless without the context of these ideals. I will not be satisfied with some cheap imitation of faith, hope or love, either.

Having reached my finite end, I am convinced that I know next to nothing about God. I will spend my whole life fiercely groaning and straining to understand just one word in the Bible: LOVE. I do not exaggerate on that point. I know beyond my knowing that I can never hope to understand LOVE while still on this earth. In my suffering, I need the work of hope in order to look beyond life here on earth instead to look towards the continuation and completion of life with God in another dimension.

When the band, The Rolling Stones, wrote the words, “I can’t get no satisfaction…” they penned a truth that was beyond their knowing. While they may have been referring to sexual satisfaction, it is only one of the facets in the human experience that we may or may not attain satisfaction in.

Gerald May writes about satisfaction:
“In our society, we have come to believe that discomfort always means something is wrong. We are conditioned to believe that feelings of distress, pain, deprivation, yearning and longing mean something is wrong with the way we are living our lives.
Conversely, we are convinced that a rightly lived life must give us serenity, completion and fulfillment. Comfort means “right” and distress means “wrong.” The influence of such convictions is stifling to the human spirit. Individually and collectively, we must somehow recover the truth. The truth is, we were never meant to be completely satisfied.”

If we were satisfied and fulfilled in this life would we even continue seeking God?

For me to put my hope in God is for me to set aside my earthly notions of security and comfort and to instead set my sight upon the unlimited expanse of possibility that lies within the person of God. Where I have found comfort in my finite ideals in the past, I find no comfort in them now. I used to describe those things as the “pat answers” that people love to give in order to seem like they have a handle on who God is. Why do we live on a surface level with God? Why are we so afraid to trust Him? For me, it goes back to my original question as to what His motives were in creating us, knowing how crummy life in this world would be; knowing how many pitfalls there are and how many atrocities we will inflict upon each another in large ways and in small ways. I don’t have an easy answer. Even if I say “LOVE” it is still an answer that doesn’t make sense to me because I don’t have a handle on it. The finite realm of human thought and reasoning has turned to cacophony in my head. I am not satisfied with those answers. Going back to Unamuno, he says, “There is no true love save in suffering, and in this world we have to choose either love, which is suffering, or happiness. Man is the more man - that is, the more divine - the greater his capacity for suffering, or rather, for anguish.” To me, this is the awfulness, the dark side of the mystery of God.

Aeschylus writes, “In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

I cannot even begin to explain the meaning of that; nevertheless it speaks to me and I comprehend it deep down, the way I comprehend God to be wild and untamable like C.S. Lewis’ lion, Aslan.

The “awful grace” of God is beyond me to behold. I’ve heard so often that God hates sin and that He won’t come near to sin. And yet, and yet, isn’t grace a part of God, a part of His character? And doesn’t He reach down to mankind and touch us in the midst of our sin - the filth and scum and degradation of our human choices - with that “awful grace”? I cannot explain how God does this for us. I don’t know what the mechanics of His actions are while He is offering this part of Himself to us.

It does not seem as though fulfillment or satisfaction are realistic goals to grasp for in this life, in light of these ideas. How can I ever claim to comprehend this LOVE of God? And how can my heart ever be satisfied or fulfilled until I meet God face to face?

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Rhetorical Question

There’s been quite a bit going on around here lately but not enough time/energy to blog.
My kids and I all have nasty colds so I haven’t had the energy to write much other than one lone email that was probably waaaaay too long and the subject matter too neurotic to blog about. Why are some things in life like that?