From a hotel in Bloomfield Hills (outside of Detroit)…
Lotsa rambling stuff & minutia here tonight (like a mini-blog?) …still a little fried from the past couple of days.
First of all, somebody came through the Tank and suggested I do a blog or something, because they missed hearing about what was going on in my life. I accepted this as an implicit criticism of my low frequency of Tank updates/letters (chuckle), and I had been MEANING TO write this letter up for two weeks (I promise!). It’s just difficult to stop a major piece (like this last one), and write/post something else—even letters are difficult to write for me, so the context-switch is still daunting sometimes. But I’ve recently been able to re-center my attention on the Tank, after months of being torn between all the other good things in my life.
I MIGHT do the blog thing, but when I last looked at it (for business-with an eye out for tank-usage too), I couldn’t find anything that was radically multi-browser (for my international readership); avoided ‘site associations’ with all kinds of weirder-than-even-me other blogs, adverts, banners, etc.; didn’t require me to convince my hosting provider to load special/new software to their servers(!); which would allow me to INDEX the blog and the Tank in the same index (I pay for PICOsearch currently); and which would still allow me to include the blog into my zipfile-for-download capability [I cannot afford to have to maintain duplicates of some material, just for the download capability]. So, I gave up for now…but ‘open to suggestions’…
Second. This past Sunday I got to preach in church, something I haven’t done in a couple of years. My first pastor Nap Clark (in Starkville MS—about 3 hours from me) was headed out on vacation and needed someone to do ‘pulpit service’ for him for his two churches (for both morning and evening services). He called me up and it worked out for me to do it. It took 3-4 days/nights non-stop to get the syllabi together (sigh), and then it was a 3-hour drive over in the morning (and back). One church was a small country church, of about 10-12 people, which required travel on gravel roads to get to. I knew from Nap that these people had been listening to him teach verse-by-verse through the Bible for almost 15 years, so I expected a group of committed followers of the Lord. As I was trying to find the place, I reflected upon how God had obviously ‘found’ these people, and after visiting with them that day, studying the bible with them, answering questions—I was humbled again at the goodness of God’s heart, at the non-favoritism of His grace… I see a vast amount of beauty from my vantage point on the web, incredible bursts of renewal and quiet explosions of gratitude and flowering of new love for Jesus, worldwide…but I saw the same thing here in this little country church—hearts receptive, eyes tearing up at the stories of His grace, faces which seemed a bit calmer when they left, souls thinking about what God would love to give them in their lives… “Of whom the world is not worthy”, I found myself thinking…common little people, like little glenn, bumping into God all the time—and interacting with Him, awaiting His return, and growing in love and admiration for the One “whom having not seen, they love” (1 Peter).
The second church was similar, and met in a meeting room in a hotel in Starkville. Same experience—I saw lives interacting with and appropriating God’s warmth and helpful ways…Again, I get another glimpse of this immense tapestry of grace in history. The nooks and crannies, backroads and eddies, that carry His offer of new life to ANYONE. It was sweet.
It was also the most exhausting and consumptive thing I had done in a LONG TIME! I am still trying to recover from the multi-day study-load, the speaking-load (about 5 hours, at my high-energy speaking level—I didn’t have a voice on Monday, ‘to speak of’…smile), the 6 hour drive, riding around my college alma mater between services and remembering all my pain, fear, embarrassment, insignificance, triviality, and lostness of those days, and the emotional fatigue I always have from visiting with people [a pathology of mine, which would likely require a decade of intense therapy—seriously—to neutralize]… It might be different if I did that kind of ministry for a living, I guess (since God would provide the resources-of-heart needed), but I came away SO THANKFUL that my ministry ended up taking a different form (one gently and mercifully shaped around my various ‘debilitations’, which the Lord will melt away when I finally make it Home). I literally had bags under my eyes the next day—I am NEVER that tired…
New Ramble-ette: I had a chuckle a week or so ago, as I was reflecting on spiritual pride (for my recent article on Religious Leaders). I had just looked at the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, in which the Pharisee had said something like “I thank thee, God, that I am not like…this tax collector”. I was bemoaning such an elitist and distancing attitude, and I found myself about 2-seconds into a prayer that started like “I thank thee, God, that I am not like this Pharisee…” before I realized “where I was” and burst out laughing! I was AMAZED at how automatically someone (or at least me…sheepish grin) could move SO QUICKLY from ‘legitimate judgment of value-error’ TO ‘illegitimate self-assertion of superiority’!
As I played with this, I saw again (I have many refs to this on the Tank, mostly in the audio lectures, I guess) how pervasive this pride-infection is. I reflected upon Paul’s condemnation of ‘false humility’ (and remembered similar condemnations in other religions), and then I realized that people have even been ‘proud’ of their theological insight into their own sinfulness! It obviously takes a deeply spiritual person to realize the depth of their sinfulness, right, so, since I am SO AWARE of how ‘dismally unethical I am”, I must be truly spiritual! (Now, where’s that mirror, so I can see exactly WHAT such ‘self-honesty’ and ‘anthropological insight’ LOOKS LIKE?!) [ROTFWL]
I am aware of religious traditions and Christian sub-traditions which SEEM to have themes in them which almost PROMOTE such ‘ostentatious debasement’…I cannot accurately rank this evil over against ‘ostentatious self-righteousness’ but I suspect they are both a “stench in God’s nostrils” (especially when I do them…sigh). “Humility just ain't what it used to be”? [“When you fast, don’t let it show…” Jesus said…]
New Topic-ette: “If you don’t accept the kingdom of God like a little child, thou shalt nowise enter therein” (Archaic Bible Version). I wanted to make an observation about this verse—one of my favs—relative to other verses about discipleship. The requirements for discipleship are high-bar: Lordship commitment, cross-bearing, re-prioritization of ‘ordinary’ relationships, relinquishing of ‘ownership’ rights of your ‘things’, low/no whining, focus on the work not on the rewards, and unfeigned love for the Lover. This is related to living ‘for the kingdom’, or ‘for the sake of the kingdom’, BUT ‘entrance’ into the kingdom does not require such. Little children (of the kind described in Mark 10) don’t (and cannot) make these huge commitments about sin, about “Lordship”, about “giving up evil ways”, about submitting one's will, about entrusting one's life to the Savior, about renouncing material goods—they just cuddle up with Jesus. They just lose themselves in His smile and dancing and laughing. They just bring their ‘boo boo’s to Him to fix. They just trust Him on the other end of a see-saw. Do they “give everything up” to follow Jesus (like the Rich Young Ruler was told to do so in the pericope after the little children passage)? Actually, sorta “YES”—they simply lose interest in the toys and things they have in front of them, and they follow the Nice Grown-up named Jesus. They just ‘lose interest’ in everything else—out of amazement at, and childlike attachment to—the Warmth of Jesus.
The rich young ruler couldn’t become like a little child because he had “grown old” from his wealth…[Although, strictly speaking, the instruction of Jesus to ‘go/sell/follow’—a discipleship set of instructions—was not really about ‘entrance’ into the kingdom, but, in Jesus’ words, ‘having treasure in heaven’ (the idea of ‘rewards’, NOT the idea of ‘working for salvation’ per se.)]
If a little child can do what it takes to enter the kingdom of heaven, let’s make sure WE don’t make it “harder” than God does, with what WE say ‘believe in Jesus’ means…
Okay, next point-ette: Return to Innocence. In this last piece, I used a quote from Schuster about the impossibility of returning to innocence from a “post-innocence state” (what a great euphemism for ‘being irrecoverably self-defiled by an evil choice’, eh?!!). I remember weeping over that, with the anguish no doubt many of you would also feel at the remembrance of what was lost in our own personal Fall. The legacy of moral failure is not just about guilt, but also about sadness. Something grieves us about sin, as if something very dear and beautiful dies each time. [Theologically, we understand that sin sorta ‘tears a rip in the fabric of beauty that is the universe’, when we try to force—for a period of time—a NEW universe (in which WE are god, and in which values are oriented around and relativized by US) into our personal history. Our little and brief mini-bizzaro universe ‘tears a hole’ in the real universe of beauty and integrity and consonance. So maybe it’s more like the destruction of something amazingly beautiful, than a death of something alive—although if it involves hurting another person, perhaps the mini-death model is more accurate. But in either case, grief is an appropriate response.] Remember, the New Testament speaks of “do not grieve the Holy Spirit [of God]”, perhaps reflecting this dynamic. So, it’s broader than just ‘guilt’, and something really so much more beyond this (even aesthetically).
As I reflected upon how tragic that loss seemed, I remembered the “New Name” teaching of Revelation—that I will get a new name in the New Future—and I thought about how I had written/spoken on how precious that was/is to me earlier in the Tank. And THIS thought was followed by a ‘so much more’ thought: it goes beyond a new name—I get a new BODY too! And, since most human bodies contain brains (I know it doesn’t seem like it at times), this would imply/suggest that whole ‘chunks’ of my memories might be ‘shed with my mortal dust’—those memories which DIDN’T contribute to the sculpting of my new, re-created New Heart, being re-incorporated at a 'summary level' inside it. Conversely, some memories which did influence my post-conversion spirit/heart, might continue on with me, ‘flashed back down’ upon the new brain, from my then-newly-completed Full Heart. It is not clear in the least, of course, how this works and how the mix of ‘proclaiming the deeds of the Lord’ versus ‘the former shall not come to mind’ will be determined [One possible model of how this could conceivably work, btw, comes from my own memory methods: I tend to form summary judgments and perspectives from details, but jettison those details over time once some level of 'certainty' about the summary has been reached. This means--I have found out a gazillion times--that I cannot recall ANY supporting data when trying to defend my summary judgment to my very sharp kids ("give me ONE good example, dad")...But I could at least see how I could form a large set of judgments about God's heart, about the value of His creatures, about His eagerness to help/rescue/console, etc. yet have all the historical detail which went INTO those judgments 'melt away' at the Transformation. Just a possibility, but one that sorta fits MY personal experience], but I can certainly see—in outline—HOW I might become joyously innocent again…by His grace and transforming power…and this time, I might even KNOW that I am innocent, unlike the first time—with the consequence of such abject gratitude, celebration of freedom, and rest of soul…! Remember Camus’ saying “Once we were innocent and knew it not; now we are guilty and long to forget it”…An innocence which was self-aware could be free to dance in gratitude, sing in wonder, and be a Bride for Him (“without spot”) without the tiniest sense of shame…oh, for that day!
(now in a World Club in the airport)
Next tome-ette: Each year I try to read through the bible in a DIFFERENT translation for my devotions, to increase the ‘chance’ that I will notice the so-far-unnoticed. This year I am reading in the NET bible (www.netbible.com), and their translations always seem a bit ‘different’. One verse I ran across recently was Psalm 116:6, which in the NET bible reads something like “God protects the naïve”…being MASSIVELY naïve myself, I was intrigued by the translation and checked the NIV. It basically agreed with the NET, rendering the verse as “God protects the simple-hearted” [The original Hebrew says "protects the Glenn-like"..smile]. As I “mused” over this, I noticed a sine-curve response: (first) I told the Lord that I really didn’t FEEL that protected!—since I make/made countless errors (some major) in my life, which I attribute to my naiveté; (second) I bounced back and thanked the Lord for all the things He protected me from WHICH I NEVER NOTICED. [I also later recognized many situations where it WAS obvious that people didn't 'follow up' on their opportunity to "exploit my naiveté".] That’s one of the bad things about being simple-hearted: sometimes you don’t even recognize the duplicity and/or treachery going on around you. So this second point is probably hugely true for me, and also is possibly a manifestation of the High Priestly Intercessory ministry of our Lord now. According to Hebrews, the Lord Jesus is constantly interceding on our behalf in heaven while we are still on earth, and someone mentioned in a book somewhere long ago that only God knows what all evil wanted to come into our lives to ravage our hearts and lives, but which was stopped at the gates by the intercession of our Lord. Some might have been destructively ‘beyond what we could stand’ (1 Cor 10.13), some could have been simple distractions, but in all cases, it was only by Jesus’ actions that we were spared that. The ones that ‘made it through’, of course, are promised to have been designed/compatible with our growth in spirit, in life, in depth, in beauty. So, I can easily see how Glenn-the-Naïve could have been protected from many, many beyond-me levels of danger.
But I also realized that even in those mistakes of high-naïveté I have made, God still had a hand in them, and still brought good out of them. I think of people I trusted with my heart, and the disasters which followed. Yet for each of these, I am richer in many ways—not the least of which was to get a close-up-look at some beautiful-but-out-of-my-league hearts. I can see so many ‘lessons learned’, and even though there is (recurring) pain from some of the ending-memories associated with those, there is still the naïve joy and celebration of the good aspects of those. I think the mix of this pain/joy is a sort of ‘protection’ for me, and in many cases I can see His protection in the termination of relationships, contracts, arrangements, alliances which perhaps began from naiveté. Thus protection might include protection from ‘staying in it too long’ or from ‘certain possible consequences of it’.
I have had many, many naïve ‘dreams’ I guess, and I maintain ‘deliberately’ my naïveté as a means of staying ‘young’ (smile). There is such a fine line between childlike trust-hope, and naiveté. And, to be honest, I am not at all sure that naiveté is ‘bad’. It might not ‘fit’ in a Fallen world of deceit, betrayal, treachery, apathy, of course, but it seems so close to being the childlike core quality that I wonder if it's not what I am supposed to GROW INTO as I ‘mature’ in my Christian life ('in evil be babes' I Cor 14:20)…I wonder if the New Innocence I get someday will also include a fresh load of Childlike Naiveté—which, in the New Future, would be OK! There will be no Shrewd to exploit the ‘fool’, and there will be no Evil Stranger to trick me with candy…
Next loose-association-ette: One of the (stranger) things I ‘worry’ about is God’s gentleness with me. I am constantly aware of how gently He works in my life. Sometimes it’s merely ‘quietly’ and sometimes it’s merely ‘slowly’ and sometimes it’s merely ‘indirectly’, but I often interpret it as ‘gently’. As much as I APPRECIATE this(!), since I am VERY pain-averse (read ‘wimpus maximus’), I sometimes wonder what it might reveal about ME.
Here’s what I mean. At various times in my kids’ lives, they were in ‘hyper-sensitive’ periods. I can remember having to ‘walk on eggshells’ around them during brief periods of their adolescent years, and I remember how constraining that seemed to me. I had to “handle them with kid gloves”, and was not otherwise free to develop our relationship or to attempt further (even good) interaction. Their temporary-limitation required extra gentleness on my part as a parent (not altogether like with friends, on occasion, I guess).
You can probably see where I am going with this: “how much” of God’s gentleness to me is due to His ‘exemplar’ and ‘role-model’ pedagogy, and how much is instead due to my constraining limitations??? How much of His gentleness to me is due to MY ‘irritability’ or ‘over-sensitivity’ or ‘paranoia’ or 'desire for independence'? Would that mean that our relationship could be so much more, if only I would ‘mature’ out of some defensive/hyper-sensitive stage?
Granted, I don’t know what the ‘opposite’ would be. Would I likewise interpret less-gentleness as displeasure with me, or as implying dullness in me (i.e., “I would use my normal soft tone of voice with you Glenn, but since you are being stubborn now, I will have to speak LOUDER”). So, I suspect I cannot ‘win’ this one (smile)—due to self-doubt—but I do wonder about this often. My ‘gut feel’ is that this is just His M.O., His way of sculpting souls, His preferred way of interacting with us. It’s the way He will interact with us in the New Future, it’s how He interacted with the Psalmists (often), and it’s implied by many New Testament statements (e.g., Christ’s gentleness, fruit of the spirit, explicit calls to gentleness as an ethical stance of the New Image of God in us). But I still wonder if there’s SOME FRACTION of my relationship with God which could improve if I could discover those ‘sensitive spots of mine’ which require such “extra softness” from Him…
[From a different World Club, in a different city, same trip]
Next blurb-ette: Are audiences omnipresent? Over the years, as I have observed where my ‘mind goes’ when it/the flesh perceives that it needs a self-esteem bolstering, increasingly my attention has been drawn to the ‘audiences’ in those mini-fantasies. The fantasies, if allowed to run to completion (but almost never allowed so—my spiritual side intercepts these very early, and increasingly, precludes them—a story for another time) last about 5-10 minutes maybe, before they implode from real-world realities within the daydream. The content varies (somewhat predictably) with whatever area of my life seems ‘unappreciated’, or in some cases, with how deep the sense of insignificance seems. I haven’t seemed to fall into any of these in the last 3 months or so, but the ones that used to (in)frequent my life were typical sub-culturally-defined ‘success’ arenas: reliving childhood, but with my EXISTING knowledge base (so I wouldn’t be such a dweeb, etc.), some type of refined martial-skills abilities, some super-nerd abilities, some super-importance roles, etc. [I have never really had much use for sports, celebrity, or sexual fantasies, for some reason. Over the last 15 years or so, I would suspect that those were down in the sub-5% range.] But over the last three years or so, as I have tried to reduce these ‘standard’ fantasies, I have been intrigued by who the audiences were in the various vignettes—who exactly was I trying to impress, who exactly did I feel considered me ‘unimpressive’ in real life? (Or, who did these figures represent a la symbolic surrogate?)
Sometimes they were very predictable: school classmates (but only in their adolescent form--they are okay now in their 'adult' forms apparently), co-workers and previous co-workers/bosses, people with various types of ‘status’ in the world, teachers, employees. Some were not as predictable, perhaps: my kids, my younger brothers. When I first starting analyzing these, it became obvious that many/some of these were ‘symptoms’ of something that needed attention: my assessment of my parenting, my temporary adoption of worldly-values (power, wealth, fame, etc.), my detachment from the ‘feeds of authenticity’ from the Spirit, a general ‘drifting’ in my use of time/sense of purpose, lack of clarity of the action items for whatever period I was in (e.g. the occasional ‘no instructions so far, Lord?’ periods in the Christian life, which most people—like me—find agonizingly ‘unstructured’. “Waiting on the Lord” sometimes is SO MUCH HARDER a discipleship state, than is the ‘clarity’ of persecution, hardship, exhaustion from ministry, hunger from loss of material possessions, recovering from trauma/tragedy, etc. Faith/trust in an ‘explicit’ instruction/direction from the Lord (i.e., trust that it will be ‘good for all’ to obey this specific directive), is sometimes much easier to be comfortable with than faith/trust in God’s timing of the next directive (e.g., trusting that God knows He’s about to miss some providentially open--but about to close if He doesn't move any faster-- window (smile)…trusting God that our ‘wasted time doing nothing’ isn’t a sign of ‘poor management’ or ‘low utilization’ on His part…LOL).
“Audience analysis” became a tool to identify the problematic area, and in so doing, to avoid the fantasy itself. So, that was a big step forward.
But recently, it’s gotten even better, by virtually dissipating. I have always known and believed and desired that my only ‘audience’ should/would be Jesus. That is, that I could live –as the NT suggests—my life before the Lord and before the Lord ONLY. And by implication, that any audience apart from Him was a counterfeit and actually a step backward. So, I started a test: when I found myself starting up some standard ‘stage play’, I started consciously visualizing/putting Jesus into the crowd of watching schoolmates, high-status folks, famous academics, whoever—and instantly the fantasy dissolved… My first couple of experiences of this were almost shocking, and I figured they might be anomalous. But they weren’t—the next six or eight of them all had the same result, and I haven’t had any since then…!
The dynamic of the ‘death’ was incredible: In the daydream/visualization, I am in some role, actually succeeding in not embarrassing myself in front of schoolmates this time(smile), when Jesus walks into the crowd—wordlessly, I look at Him, and the thin/airy/gossamer pseudo-values of the fantasy are just vaporized by the ‘thickness’ of His bed-rock acceptance of me. I stop whatever 'heroic' or 'laudatory' or 'amazing' deed I am doing in the fantasy and look into His face of love and depth, and the scene fades, until all that is left is me and Jesus...and a slightly changed, and slightly warmed, heart.
(Of course, now I have to pay more attention to the other relationships—as I should have all along!—since my symptom-alert system is gone…But I am happy to trade that, for this new freedom and truer experiential awareness of ‘deep’ acceptance from my Gentle Shepherd and Definition of Significance and Authenticity!…
[Gotta run to the next flight]
[back at home in Leland now]
[I only wanted to add one caveat to the above discussion about audiences. Audiences ARE everywhere, and are SUPPOSED to be just about everywhere. I am a social being, and every communication and every public act is supposed to 'presuppose' my community's values, "ways and means", and symbolic universe. When I write, I write to the literary level, interest set, and assumption profile of some supposed readership. Ditto for conversations, for gestures, for choosing what to do/not do in public. So, this aspect of audience is critically valuable to me being able to live in, and contribute to, community. It's just when I try to 'use' the audience to achieve some self-ish counterfeit aims.]
Okay, that's enough meandering about tonight...back to that unfinished piece ("Which ONE among the HUNDREDS, glenn??! Why don’t you start fantasizing about FINISHING the COUNTLESS unfinished series you have, eh, pal???...smile)
July 29, 2004
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