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O, Canada!

randomlychad  —  January 28, 2016 — 3 Comments

Canada. Land of maple syrup and poutine. America’s hat. You are home to some of the gosh darn nicest folks in this, or any other, galaxy. Lo, it has been many years since I visited your fair shores. But visit you I did one summer in my youth.

Here’s how it happened:

My bother and I were summering with the grandparents in the cool pines of Western Pennsylvania, when one say grandma decided we needed to see the falls. Niagara, that is. So she hustled us into her Oldsmolbuick, and off we were on a road trip. Over the river, and through the woods, with grandmother we went… to Buffalo. Home of wings, Bills, and freezing temperatures. And not a lot else.

In any case, grandma decided that experiencing the falls from the U.S. side, well, was falling a bit short. So crossed the border (“What’s your purpose in visiting Canada, eh?” “Coming to see the falls, sir.” “Well, have a lovely day, and don’t forget the syrup”), and headed for the view.

It was water. It was wet, moist, and misty. I’m not gonna lie, Marge, the surge of that powerful stream is pretty impressive. But it didn’t leave as much of an impression as the Canadian bread shop did. You see, grandma wanted to buy some bread. So why not buy it from a friendly Canadian shop keeper, eh?

So we did. And there, in amongst the loaves, was a special surprise.

“Grandma, what’s this?” I asked, holding up this unknown Canadian prize.

Turning to me, shrieked she, “Here now! Put. That. Down!” You have to understand, I was about eleven at the time. I goggled back at grandma, wondering what it was I held in my outstretched hand.

“Put that dirty thing down now! Where did you find that?”

You see, what I didn’t know at the time, what I held in front of poor grandma’s shocked visage, found there with the Wonderbread, was a Canadian wonder then unknown to my young mind:

An unrolled condom.
(It was probably maple-flavored, but we’ll never know).

O, Canada!

Much ink has been spilled about the injustices, the inequities, seen all around us everyday. Kids go to bed hungry while parents shoot up dope. Or worse, kids wind up dead. There isn’t day goes by without a report of road rage; somebody cut someone else off, and then someone gets beat, shot, or run over. We regulate, legislate, send folks to anger management classes, hold sensitivity training at work, and try to watch our words. We’re simultaneously anxious, uptight, fried, yet we somehow don’t want to offend…

We sublimate, self-medicate, and stuff our feelings. Is it any wonder, with the the amounts of both intrinsic, and extrinsic, repression that there are slips in the space/time continuum? That there are blow ups? We are selfish by nature, out to get our own, looking out for number one (as the saying goes). We’re indignant when someone tramples upon our (perceived) rights, yet have no trouble trampling another’s rights, boundaries, space, to get what’s ours.

It’s reductio ad absursum. Yet we are blind to it. And no matter how enlightened, how modern, we become there are no programs, classes, sweat lodges, pilgrimages, substances, or really anything which can effect a change in what we call human nature. The heart simply cannot be changed by anything existing within the same broken, reprobate system in which it itself dwells. This calls for outside intervention.

No cleanses, juice fasts, or high colonics will ever rid us of the foolishness bound up in our hearts. A wise teacher once said it is not that which enters a man which defiles him, but rather that which comes out of him.

Out of his heart.

Many, many there are who seek enlightenment upon their own terms. But few there are who find new life.

The kids are not all right.

That’s why God sent His Son, Jesus. He may not be the immediate answer to every ill in this vale of tears, but He certainly is the ultimate one.

Seek Him while He may be found.

Conflicting Messages

randomlychad  —  December 29, 2015 — 3 Comments

The world is a contrary place, full of conflicting messages. We’re told “good things come to those who wait.” That “patience is a virtue.” We’re also told to “grab the bull by the horns,” or “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” Somehow we’re supposed to be both humble, and yet assertive. Culture tells us we shouldn’t let anyone trample our rights. But then Scripture says (of Jesus, no less) that “He thought equality with God wasn’t something to be grasped.” He humbled himself, taking the form of a servant. Insofar as we can we’re supposed to emulate Him.
 
 Recently, I found myself at the center of a controversy (of which I knew nothing) regarding cubicle size, and who was going where. Instead of insisting, I said I didn’t care. In fact, I was rather irritated by the office politics. I said I just wanted a spot to put my stuff. Let the other folks preen, jockeying for position.
 
 I wanted to be above the fray. I mean we have real work to do here…
 
 Now that we’ve moved, I’m honestly struggling with it. Everyone else in my position class gets their own cube, and I’m sharing with three other folks in an open quad. Yeah, I’m thankful to have a spot, but I’m not less than peers. I work just as hard, having been commended numerous times over the years for exemplary service. I want to be above all of this pertinent, allowing the Lord to reward we in due time. But I also wonder if, being cognizant of the corporate culture, they’re waiting for me to display some initiative, some leadership, some chutzpah.
 
 I don’t know. I’m conflicted, being all too aware that “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” I’m thankful to be gainfully employed, have a roof over my head, and a great family…
 
 And all the times I’ve ever insisted upon my rights have always come back to slap me in the face.
 
 I suppose the best I can do, and in the words of Charles Williams, is to keep building my altars in one place so that the fire from heaven may fall in another.
 
 That’s the story of my life.
 
 How about yours? What conflicting messages do you find yourself struggling with?
 
 
 

This has been rattling around in my head for awhile now, begging to be let out. Forgive me if the title seems crude, rude, scandalous, blasphemous, or unnecessarily vulgar. I have a point. In fact, Jesus Himself was scandalous in His time. Questioning the status quo did wonders for His health… Oh, wait, it really didn’t. Yes, it was all part of God’s plan.

But I think we forget just how scandalous the incarnation was to the first century Jewish mind. It was blasphemy to put oneself on equal footing with God. Yet this is just what Jesus did time and time again. And got Him a trip to Golgotha. Moreover, 2000 years removed from the events in the manner, e.g., the other side of history, I think those of us who wear the title “Christian,” are down with the divinity of Jesus, but not so in touch with His humanity.

I think we’ve largely forgotten just what the incarnation cost Him. By choice, He shed His divinity to become a helpless baby, undergo the indignity of birth (in all of its pain, blood, and meconium), and willingly limit Himself to the form a helpless baby. Which not only included diaper changes (holy sh*t, anyone?), but diaper rash, too. Think on that: the Son of Man, the Second Person of the Trinity, had diaper rash. And that by choice.

And then He grew, suffering privation in the flight to, and sojourn in, Egypt. Not to mention the all the bumps and bruises of childhood–the skinned knees, stabbed toes, and thumbs mashed by hammers as He learned Joseph’s trade.

The creed says “very God of very God and very man of very man.” As I said above, we now, here, get that first part (“very God”), but give short shrift to the second. Consider: Jesus went through puberty, and all that that entails: body hair, deepening voice, body odors, nocturnal emissions (it’s a part of growing up, folks). If He was indeed “very man of very man,” Jesus had wet dreams. It’s just the way the male body works, and there are specific provisions in the law for that. I’m sorry if that offends you, but it’s just all part and parcel of the maturation process of the male half of the species.

Having said that, it would be good to recall that Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” With all of the limitations imposed by His humanity, He still did not yield to temptation. He did this to in order to identify with us, His creation, and to show us that it is indeed possible, whilst yielded to the Father’s will, to live a holy life. If He lusted for anything, rather than sex, it was for God’s will. The late, great C.S. Lewis said (paraphrasing), “Our passions are not too strong, but too weak. We muck about with drink and sex when all the splendor of heaven are available to us. It’s like a child who’s contented to make mud pies when offered a holiday by the sea.”

Jesus, despite His very humanity, despite the hardships and indignities of this world, despite halitosis, hemorrhoids, and likely other bodily fluids (one wonders of He perhaps snored, or drooled onto his pallet), found it possible to live in such a way as to express the the kingdom of God in this veil of tears.

He has called us to the same. After what He has given, how can we do any less? God help us.

  

In the words of famous author, and noted atheist, H.G. Wells, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.” As a Christian I of course concur. And yet… despite the history-changing life of Christ, despite dividing asunder B.C. and A.D., despite dividing asunder the beating heart of one such as me, I’m weary.

Like Israel of long ago, and like the Jews of today, I’m still looking. The seemingly boundless joy and enthusiasm of the early days of my faith are sin-smeared, and tainted with a world-weary cynicism. Will He ever return? His grace, it is said, is sufficient; His strength perfected in weakness. And whither the joy unspeakable, and full of glory–the half never yet been told? Days bleed into days, into weeks, months, years.

Until they all seem the same. Sufficient unto the day is the trouble thereof, He said. And boy He wasn’t kidding! The problems stack up, and no matter how many get resolved, they come again and again and again. I can’t get ahead; rather, I’m treading water to keep from sinking. Every issue addressed is a pyrrhic victory; everything old comes ’round again…

There’s got to be more!

I’m not ungrateful, but I am tired. Life feels a weary slog through the mire. And with the weary world I watch waiting for that star to shine again over Bethlehem.

Shine, Jesus, shine! We in this vail of tears need Your light again. Won’t you shine some light today? Or must we, like Israel, continue to wait?

Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, and sin is no more. When You are the only light. When there is no more famine, nor peril, nor nakedness, nor disease, nor slavery… when there are no more tears.

Until then, we wait.