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My song for today

Who am I that you should notice me?
Who am I that you should care for me?
I am just your standard inconsistent man who chases after many things.
There is no great power in me, no ability the change the world – not even much ability to change myself.
But you have called me by name and said,
“I want you to live with me. I want you to be my instrument of righteousness to many. I will give you power. I will give you words. I will give you love.”

Oh Lord, my offenses against you are great. Are you able to overlook the sum of them?
How many times I have considered created things more desirable than the creator!

“I have paid the ransom price to free you from your bondage to your own desires for easy pleasure. I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

How is this possible? For I am a man with a wandering heart!

“My grace is greater than your sin. I have placed my Spirit in you. Walk in step with my Spirit, and you will have the power needed and beyond – greater than any opposing force within you, greater than any opposing force in the world, greater than any opposing force.”

My God, you are worth more than all the desirable things in this world.
Your peace is greater than circumstances.
Your love is greater than our suspicion and resistance.
You remove all doubt and replace it with trust.

There is none like you – trustworthy in all things.
No matter the time,
No matter the place,
No matter the obstacles,
No matter the enemies,
No matter my weakness,
No matter the company (or lack thereof)
You are worthy of our trust and you do not fail.

While I have not been reliable, you can make me a rock of safety for those you direct me to serve.

So, I will be what you ask.
I will do as you direct.
Not because I am something great.
But because you are the only one that is.
And you are with me.
And I with you.

The Net-Sitters

I wonder about a lot of things.  I wonder why the alien came.  I wonder why some people trust him and some don’t.  I wonder a lot about why I don’t fly more.  But these days, I probably wonder most about the net-sitters.  Are they . . . OK?

First, you need to know that I’m not human.  My people live on a world with much higher mass than your earth and, so, much higher gravity.  Because of this we stay close to the ground.  In fact, we never leave it.  Even very short falls would be deadly, and any sort of jumping is stressful at best and more likely hazardous.  We don’t look much like you either.  We have 6 limbs that to you would look like a cross between a human arm and an elephant’s foreleg.  And we walk using all of them.

So, back to what I wonder about.  Starting with the alien.  The alien looks just like us, but he came to our planet via a space ship.  He says he’s ‘related.’  He says he came because our people were meant to fly.  He says he came to help us.  He can fly – he showed us.

I want to fly.   Or at least I thought I did.  OK, really I do but I also like the ground.  A lot.  The ground is safe, reliable, and easy (given the situation of my species you will understand why we like staying on the ground).  And, by definition, I can’t fly and stay on the ground at the same time.  That would be nice though.

But flying is awesome.  It’s truly wonderful.  To be free of the limitations of gravity and mass.  To see things from a completely different perspective.  It’s hard to describe.  And we couldn’t do it, until the alien came.

He said we were meant to fly and only couldn’t because we had given something up to stay close to the ground.  He said we could have it back and fly.

But here’s were it first got really weird.  He said that he was in some way the same as us, the same ‘species.’  And that this ability was in him but no longer in us.  “If you will eat a piece of my body, which I will sacrifice for you, you will regain what you lost and be able to fly again.”  “Won’t this hurt you?” we asked.  “Yes.       But it will also benefit me.  I want everyone to see that I am good and speak the truth.  Those who take what is in me will demonstrate this.”

Very weird.  He claimed to be one of us but it was quite clear in some ways he was not.  He didn’t act very much like any of us.  And this isn’t something any of us would have ever made up!  We like the ground.  Flying is all well and good as a concept, but the actual event has all sorts of problems associated with it.  It’s just . . . well . . . disruptive.

But the alien setup a place where he would give part of himself to anyone who wanted it and wanted to fly.  He put his name on the place.  The closest I can translate it would be ‘the alien’s flying show.’  Clearly he wanted to draw us to him as well as teach us to fly.  Clearly he wanted to be known.

He said that anyone who wanted to go there and take a piece of the alien would be able to fly forever.  He said that!  Forever.  He said “I will set you free from your slavery to the ground.”

Reactions were, of course, various.  And I won’t catalog all of them here.  I wanted to fly.  So I went to him.  I took my piece of the painful sacrifice he gave me from his own body.

And I flew.  Glorious.

Then I quickly learned about ‘the net.’  I put this in quotes because we didn’t have any such concept or idea in our language. The closest we had before the alien came would have been ‘the barrier’ – this being something we put up to keep people away from something harmful to them.  The net was very much what you call a net – it was a device the alien had put up in the place were he was, ‘the aliens flying show,’ to catch any of us who stopped flying.

Now you may think, as I did previously, why the heck would anyone STOP flying once they were able to?  Oh, let me tell you.  The reasons are too many to count.  That is exactly why the thing I wonder about second most is why I don’t fly more.  But that isn’t my story today.  Suffice it to say, the net gets used!  I am very grateful for the net.  It is wonderful.  BUT, it isn’t as wonderful as flying.

And so, the thing I wonder most about – the net-sitters.   First, the show isn’t all there is!  No, according to the alien there is more.  According to him one day he will take all those ‘who are his’ and move us to a new world where there is no gravity.  Nothing to make us fall!  No need for the net.  But there is much discussion among us non-aliens about what it means to be his.  Are we his if we are ‘in’ the show?  Is it possible some people sneaked into the show without taking the sacrifice the alien offered?  Of all the folks ‘in the show’ are all of us really his?  What about the net-sitters?

You see, one philosophy of flying that has gained some traction is that even after taking a piece of the alien we are destined to fail at flying.  And the alien knows this and only cares about saving us.  So, while sitting in the net all the time is really lame (all acknowledge this), the net-sitters are OK.  They are his and will go with him to the new world.

Others have said that we are doomed every time we stop flying and fall into the net.  We are only ‘his’ when we are flying.  And it is those who are flying when he leaves to the new world that will go with him, not those sitting in the net.  This view has become less and less common recently with the previous one being predominant.  “The alien loves me so much that whether I fly or not doesn’t really matter – he will still take me with him – I will be OK.”

But I wonder.   I remember what he said “I want everyone to see that I am good and speak the truth.  Those who take what is in me will demonstrate this.”  Do we demonstrate the alien’s goodness and truthfulness when we are sitting in the net?  And the name of the place; it is his name.  Is this place for me?  Or is it for him?  Is this a place only to save us or is it a place to demonstrate the beauty and truthfulness and power of the alien?  If it is the latter, the only way one can stay sitting in the net is if we don’t care about the one who gave us back the ability the fly.  We don’t care about the one who sacrificed for us.  If we care about him, I’ve got to think that every time we find ourselves in the net (by our own choice) we will get back up and fly using the ability that he gave us to show that he is good and true and powerful.  I am starting to think that the only way to be a net-sitter is to be self-obsessed and the way to truly fly even in this world is to be obsessed with him.  And can one be self-obsessed and ‘his’?

So, I really wonder about the net-sitters.

machine

I am not meant to be a machine.  A sophisticated construction pre-programmed to accomplish specific tasks efficiently yet coldly.  A machine is created to be able to operate, often times, without the direct involvement of its creator once activated.  And although machines can accomplish much and be beautiful in their design, I am not meant to be a machine.

I am meant to be an instrument.  Capable of great beauty, nuance, feeling, expression.  Capable of moving people.  Yet only when actively manipulated by the hands of a skilled artisan.  I need my Maestro.  I have the capacity for wonderful things, yet lack the ability to produce them all by myself.  I was not meant to be left alone to produce large volumes of output at high efficiency.  I was meant to be under the influence of my maker constantly.  And only when under the influence of my maker can I be what I was designed to be.  Only when being played am I what I am meant to be.

Marriage relationships require three things, the absence of any one of which will cause an imbalance that in most cases results in a failed marriage.  While there are a number of different ways of labeling/describing the three, i prefer to call them attraction, empathy, and conviction.

Attraction is the most obvious and often seems like sorta the ’cause’ of marriage.  Attraction we understand instinctively without a lot of need for definition.

Empathy is certainly emotional but it also includes the concept of feeling together.  Emotion by itself can just as easily harm marriage as help it.  But feeling that is for our partner and with our partner is an essential element of successful marriage.

Conviction is the backbone, the element that provides stability.  Both attraction and empathy tend to have cycles and waves.  Conviction (our set of beliefs about our marriage and our partner that are based on knowledge of them, ourselves, and what is important to us) provides the value system or context in which we can understand our attraction and emotion/empathy and choose to act based on knowledge and values rather than purely in response to instinct and impulse.

It is tempting to try to create a hierarchy or order of importance for these things.  Most religious traditions including Christianity in it’s more orthodox forms tend to downplay the importance of attraction and emphasize the other two.  I’m not at all convinced it is necessary or even important to decide which are most important.  I think the most important point is that all three together make for the most healthy and, frankly, enjoyable marriage relationship.

Let’s take conviction first, as it’s the one most often left out in decisions to marry someone.  What happens in most cases of a marriage with little or no conviction behind it?  This one is obvious and constantly observable in marriages all around us (or maybe i should say in divorces all around us).  If there is attraction and empathy without true conviction that this marriage is the RIGHT one for me and this person is the right one for me or, better yet, i BELONG with this person (which is a very different conviction indeed from i LIKE being with this person – which in the end is no conviction whatsoever but rather just an observation of our own emotions), this attraction and empathy will wax and wane.  And sooner or later the will to stay in the relationship during the periods of less empathy and less attraction will evaporate.  The marriage is very, very likely to fail without conviction.

What about empathy?  Certainly a marriage can last with just conviction and attraction can’t it?  I think we’ve probably all seen (and maybe do see) examples of this –  relationships with a good belief system, strong physical attraction, but little emotional content.   It is true, but quite painful, that marriages can survive in this condition for a long time.  However, no one with much sense would describe such a relationship as successful.  More like, painful and distant.  And in most cases like this, one or the other partner eventually will get to the point where the lack of empathy overwhelms the conviction and attraction put together and . . . it’s over.  Or, what is probably more common, the lack of empathy can very easily lead to an attenuation of the attraction as well (since our bodies are directly effected by our emotions).

Finally, can a marriage be healthy with just conviction and empathy with no attraction?  How to put this delicately . . . this is a healthy friendship relationship but it isn’t a healthy marriage.  With all due respect to the puritans in my spiritual heritage, why get married at all if attraction is irrelevant?  Friendship in marriage is essential, vital.   But marriage is also supposed to be more than friendship.

Healthy marriage is one-ness.  Oneness of mind, soul AND body.  Trying to take any two of those three and be one in just those areas while leaving the other element out creates an imbalance or gap in the marriage relationship and prevents it from being all it can and should be for both partners.

So, assuming you buy all of the above, what can be done if any one of the elements is weak or missing? – That will be Part 2 of this topic.

From Part 1 it should be obvious that i’m a fan of fully exercised diversity (above and beyond a lip service to the societal value of diversity).  So, what is brilliant about it?  Why did i choose the word ‘brilliance’ to describe diversity?

Well, brilliant has a couple meanings.  One is glittering or resplendent and another is displaying mental keenness or striking intelligence.  I believe rightly exercised diversity is brilliant in both senses.  It is ‘shining’ and it displays someone’s mental brilliance.  The latter of these, of course, begs the question “Whose mental brilliance?”

Well, that would need to apply to anyone who thought of the idea, but more so to whoever originated the idea.  Certainly there a lot of modern proponents of diversity, but what if we look back more than a few hundred years?  I don’t claim to know all of the people throughout history who might have proposed the value of diversity, but I do know of one who predates all modern philosophy and sociology.

The author of the biblical books of Romans, 1 Corinthians & Ephesians instructed Christians to value diversity about 2000 years ago.  This being the case, i’d like to propose that valuing diversity was God’s idea before we became ‘enlightened’ later in history.  (If you don’t buy that God is the source of the bible then either it was just Paul’s idea or some anonymous writer of these books fictitiously attributed to Paul, but still it is not just a modern idea!)

I think the passage that best illustrates my point is Ephesians 3:10.  This passage is fairly well known but usually taught out of context.  Here the author says “His [God's] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known.” Excellent so the church is supposed to display God’s wisdom – this would seem obvious to Christians already.  But what is the context?  He talks about a gospel and a mystery, and it would be easy to just assume he’s talking about the general gospel message and leave it at that.  But look more carefully at the context – what comes before and what comes after.  Especially verse 6 where he tells us straight out what the mystery is: “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” The mystery was that God was bringing ethnically and culturally diverse people TOGETHER through Jesus.

If that doesn’t make HOW God’s wisdom is to be displayed in the church clear enough by itself let’s put all of chapter 3 in context.  Chapter three starts off with ‘For this reason . . . ”  For what reason?  Clearly he’s building on what he just said before that which is:

For he himself [Jesus] is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, . . . His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

And if this isn’t enough, what does Paul talk about in chapter 4 – the stuff that comes right after chapter 3?  He talks about unity and serving each other and diversity of talents and ministries and how God wants to use diverse people working together to make all of us stronger.

So, let’s get back to 3:10 – HOW is the church intended to demonstrate God’s wisdom?  Through it’s diversity AND unity at the same time!  Brilliant! God is wise.  But he wants to demonstrate this wisdom (at least in part) through diversity rightly and fully exercised.  The church is to be brilliant (resplendent, shining) in order to display God’s brilliance (amazing wisdom, dazzling intellect).

But this can’t happen if diverse people simply choose to live separately ‘in peace’, claiming to think diversity is important, but never actually sharing life with people who are different from themselves.  If we are to demonstrate God’s wisdom and experience all the benefits he designed we can’t just be diverse, we have to be diverse AND together.

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