28 November, 2007

Current Ruminations on Divorce in the Christian's Life

I asked a few weeks ago what everyone thought about this crazy idea I'd heard that maybe God might allow divorce for causes other than adultery. I said I would go away and think about it and come back.

Here's the "come back" part.

It will be a year or two before I'm fully comfortable with any position after such a major change in perspective, but I'll tell you where I am today and that I'm surprisingly enough, pretty comfortable with it. In this post, I'm not going to go into a lot of explanation regarding the scriptural digging that brought me here. If the whim strikes me, or someone asks, I might put together such a tour de doubt. We'll see.

Anyway, here's the score. I do not stand behind the accuracy of these opinions yet, but I throw them out for thinking out loud purposes.

From my earliest age, marriage was presented to me as a sacred union, in the sacramental sense. The bonding of two people in marriage was a spiritually "creative" event. Where there were two people before, now there were almost three. There were the first two people, and there was this third person who was the combined spirits of those two people. God saw them as one person, and that mingling of spirits happened before God as much as on Earth. Their union became a conduit for the grace of God into their lives and into the world, and its maintenance as much a sacred requirement as the Lord's Supper or baptism.

At the same time, marriage was presented to me as a profound spiritual failure for anyone who might have a call of God on their life. This was never explicitly stated, but it always seemed to be written between the lines. Paul thought it was better if I abode alone. The person who marries will have tribulation, and will have split allegiances. Jesus found those who eunuched themselves to be rare and highly gifted people. Some had the gift of singleness, and the rest succumbed to putting out the fire of selfish sexual or emotional desire by marriage, even at the detriment of the kingdom.

As frequently observed here and elsewhere, I am a little hard on myself at times. I doubt anyone ever actually put these burdens on me, but that they tried to present a balanced message. I probably heard the burdens much more strongly than they were intended. Still, I believe I was hearing an actual implied "ideal" behind the pragmatic "balance" that was being presented. I believe the unrealistic ideal of celibacy was mentioned, and the second best ideal was a high spiritualization of marriage.

Let me file away the thoughts on celibacy for a minute, and concentrate only on the elevation of marriage to a sacrament.

Adam says he will become one flesh with his wife. Nowhere in the Old Testament does anyone go beyond this simple description of marriage. It is not until Paul says in 1 Cor 6 that being joined to a harlot is a joining of a body dedicated to Christ with sin that the definition of marriage begins to get a little sticky, especially when that passage is linked to "be not yoked unequally." But even then, Paul never says anything about the spirits of the believer and the harlot having been joined. The joining is human, not sacramental.

At some point some man decided he could gain power by making marriage and its act a matter of direct spiritual concern. Some priest came up with the idea that marriage should be handled with the same gloves as new birth, baptism and the Lord's Supper - namely priestly gloves.

This was not a blessing to anyone.

Instead, as I look at scripture I am come to see marriage as a contractual relationship. I don't see any other contractual relationship in scripture that parallel's marriage, either. Marriage towers above every other contract I can think of. In almost every other part of life, we are told to let our Yes be Yes, and our No be No, and that everything more than this is sin. In marriage, we see conditions and penalties like in no other binding agreement. The partners must provide shelter, food and the duties of marriage to each other, or the marriage is justly made null - even when the wife is merely a freed slave. If a man marries a slave and he later abandons her, she goes out from the marriage a free woman. She goes into the marriage in bondage and leaves the marriage a freed woman without paying the price of a slave's release. (Exodus 21:7-11)

Per Moses, the three duties of marriage listed above are contractual obligations binding upon both parties. And God played by those rules. He provided for Israel, and betrothed Himself to her. In Israel the betrothal period was no cooling off period before the marriage, but the true and binding beginning of the marriage, even though it was a period of chastity. So God was fully, if yet chastely, married to Israel when He divorced her. She had violated the duties of marriage, and God justly cast her from Himself. God expressed regret for her decision, but no remorse for His own action. And He did not consider Himself to have hindered His right to be fully and desirably married in the future.

If marriage is a spiritual sacrament, extending into the heavenly realm, then such freedom in divorce is not available to humanity. If marriage is a contract with valid binding/freeing conditions, then freedom equal to God's is available to us. When our contractual expectations are violated, we have a right to require the breach be remedied in some appropriate way. When no other way is appropriate, then divorce is a fully allowed option. God used it.

But Jesus changed the rules. Or rather, Jesus' words to the rabbis have been interpreted as a changing of the rules. Jesus seems to say that there are no longer three contractual obligations in marriage, but only one. The man need no longer provide food and shelter to the woman or even sex, as long as he refrains from fornication.

Given the perceived tightening of the rules by Jesus, I have always maintained that divorce is legal in all conditions where it is desirable, but remarriage is only allowed when one spouse has committed adultery, and then only for the victimized spouse. Hence, I have always felt personally justified and free to remarry (except for the celibacy discussion which I am defering until the end.)

This has been a hard place for me. I have friends who initiated divorces because of abuse, and I could not have blessed their remarriages. Then again, as ladies who had already had children and who had been abused in marriage, not one of them ever had a desire to remarry so my silence was a moot point. It was an awkward thing for me, even if not really for them.

If Jesus truly ramped up the requirements of marriage, then I must stand by His words. Those women should not divorce, but could. If they did divorce, though, they could not remarry without committing adultery. This passed every test of doctrine, but failed the ultimate test of all doctrines - does it leave the donkey in the pit until the end of the Sabbath? (Luke 14:5) Any time a doctrine hurts someone honestly doing everything in his or her power to please God from a true heart, the doctrine is wrong. It's just a matter of figuring out how and why.

Then I read the argument about which I asked my question of everyone. The argument stands on its own two feet, but the proof to me is that it allows me to pull donkeys out of pits on Sabbath days. It allows me to bless the honest remarriages of honest women who are brave enough to try again. (Please remember that for my own case, I had been given my "get out of pit free" card already.)

The argument is simply this. Jesus was asked by the rabbis whether ambiguous term "duties of marriage" meant any of the hundreds of legitimate duties of marriage, or whether it specifically meant fornication. Jesus answered strongly that divorce is separating something that God put together (flesh), and that it was only permitted for fornication. The argument was that the rabbis did not ask about divorce for lack of food and shelter because those were obvious points. Divorce simply was allowed in those cases. The point up for debate was what the ambiguous term, "duties of marriage," meant. Therefore, Jesus also did not state the obvious, but only answered the point up for debate. "Duties of marriage" could not be made the legitimate cause of a divorce except in case of fornication. (And "fornication" is "porneia" in Greek, which includes things we hardly call fornication these days. Divorce for pornography addiction is legitimate even by the tightest interpretation of Christ's words.)

The argument delved into other Greek which I am not going to do here, but it was persuasive.

More importantly to me, the argument aligns with the things I see in 1 Cor 7, and other such places. It aligns with the donkey stuck in the pit. It aligns with marriage being a joining of flesh on earth, as opposed to spirits in heaven. It even aligns with marriage as a flesh and blood type of the marriage of the Bridegroom to His church, because He divorced the fornicating bride and married one whom He had made pure.

So divorce for true and continuous violation of any of the three contractual obligations is authorized by God, and a remarriage afterward is pure.

But this brings me back to the discussion of celibacy.

I have believed for the last 4 years that I could be freely and cleanly remarried, but I've not believed it in my heart. For the last 30+ years, my gut has believed that marriage is the lesser path. The scripture says some people are given the gift of singleness and some people are not. Full Stop. So if remarriage was a lesser path the first time around, then how empty must it be the second time?

Only that's not what the scripture says. And I did not realize it until recently.

Paul actually says refering to marriage:
1 Cor 7:7
For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

Every man has his proper gift, and to labor to exercise a gift that is not properly mine is a recipe for a misery God does not have planned for me. There is no honor to God in living outside of the gift He's properly intended for me, even if such self-denial seems spiritual as an act of "will worship."

I have made this last little argument briefly and in the first person, because I'm the only person I know who has struggled with it. It's awkward talking in the third person when I don't know anyone else to whom it might apply, so there you have it.

I hope no one thinks prematurely that they have found answers in these thoughts, because they are not yet safe to be leaned upon. They are not yet proven in any way. But if they have helped anyone in their personal sifting of the scriptures for wisdom, then I'll be quite happy.

May the Lord grant us wisdom.


I just got back from a vacation, and stumbled across this site somehow. I figured all you survey-type people might enjoy it. It tells you what type of vacation best suits your personality, and wherever I heard about it, it was pretty highly recommended.

Maybe you'll figure out something about why your trips with your spouse don't always click. :-)


25 November, 2007

Meditation: The True

My first analogy regarding contemplative prayer involved alcohol, and I still think it's fitting in a number of ways.

+ Some people enjoy alcohol well. That doesn't make it harmless.
+ Some people experience a form of relief while drunk. That doesn't make it healthy.
+ Some people cannot control their drinking once they've started. They must be supported in staying clear of their personal enemy.

Even the scripture is ambiguous about wine:

Prov 31:6
Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.

Prov 20:1
Wine [is] a mocker, strong drink [is] raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Alcohol is a difficult subject, because it's potent. Wine does stuff. If you tell a person who profits from wine to forego the benefits, expect resistance and appropriate resistance at that. If you tell someone who is overcoming the damages of wine to taste its benefits, expect even stronger and equally appropriate resistance.

Ah, but what about the person who is of legal age, and has never tasted alcohol? (That's a fictional character, I know, but this is analogy not history.)

Here you have the chance to teach straightforwardly about the risks and benefits of alcohol. You can teach how alcohol eases social tension, and tends to lighten the mood of a group gathering. You can teach not to drink alone, but with upright people you know and trust. You can teach that some people simply need to avoid the stuff.

Meditation is potent too.


When I was a teen, I went through some stuff that was too heavy for me. I think most people would have taken it in stride, but it knocked me out. My emotions were both exhausted and hyper; my mind was overtaxed, out of answers, and exploring down the wrong roads; my will was taken out of the game. What I did to survive was an anti-contemplative prayer, and what I found has stood in me good stead over all the years. I found my spirit.

When my soul was beyond the pale, it was very easy to find my spirit. It was the thing not moving. It was like my soul was wind, rain, and sea all thrown into a horrible hurricane. The rock unmoved in the middle of it was my spirit.

In the middle of the hurricane, I found a profound, healing, and desperately needed silence. On nights I had forgotten what it used to feel like to want to live, I would fight through to that silence again and remember. In the height of the blow, I would suddenly find my soul warm and dry, filled with joy, and truly happy to be alive. When I woke up the next morning, the silence would be gone but I remembered enough of it to know it was real and that God was still true and good. I could fight through another day on the energy of that night's prayer, that night's meditation.

There's nothing "ascended" or "second blessing-ish" or special about what I've described. Every Christian has touched something like this (though not every Christian is as emotionally delicate as I am to take it quite as hard as I do.) What's more, any New Age afficianado will describe the same experience. The difference is how they get there and how the Christian gets there.

The New Ager, and the deceived Christian contemplative, get there by emptying themselves of all thought through the use of a mind-stilling technique. In so doing, they place themselves in a passively receptive state and place themselves in spiritual danger. The Christian fills himself or herself with Truth of God.

Look at any of David's Psalms of desperation for an example. Ps 62 is a good one. See how David does nothing to empty his mind? Instead, he tells the Truth about God, then he tells the truth about his enemies, then he tells the Truth about how the two compare. David's soul is in great unease, or he'd not have had to write that song. But David repeated the Truth to himself. In verses 2, 6, and 7 he reminds Himself his God is a Rock, and by the end of the song the little rock/island within himself is answering in full song to the continent-sized Rock that saves him. David declares that mercy belongs to God alone, and He will not withhold it.

Christian meditation has always been, is, and will always be the filling of one's heart with the Truth, whether comforting, challenging, daring, scaring, or drawing. And when the Christian's heart is filled with the Truth of God, there will be silence. We actively tell God and ourselves the Truth about Him, and the storm within us is becalmed to a blessed silence.

The counterfeit of true meditation anaesthetizes our minds to achieve a cheap silence, then backfills us with a lying feeling of expansive oneness with [fill in the blank - God, the universe, the All, the Cosmic Christ, etc.]. They tell us that we cannot know God, and that to pretend we can allows pride to block our true approach to God. They tell us that meditation focusing on truths "about" God is the best we can achieve, and that such meditation cripples us; that our minds cannot apprehend God, our wills cannot serve Him, our emotions cannot appreciate Him. And so they say we must be silent, and let His Spirit move in our silence.

They lie.

Read Psalm 62 again. They promise to reach God in a higher way than David himself used, and higher than God chose to reveal in His word. We can know God. You can know God - as you, just as you are, just as David was. You don't need to be emptied to know God. You need to be filled with His Spirit of Truth, and nowhere does scripture talk about anything human being emptied out of anyone to make that happen.

Would you like to try an experiment in Christian meditation? Would you like to test to see whether Christian meditation beats contemplative prayer?

Do this.

+ Go somewhere that you won't be disturbed for a while. This is "enter into your closet" type prayer.
+ Place firmly in your mind the biggest problem in your life right now. Fix it there, and don't let it go.
+ Ask that the Holy Spirit would reveal to you the Truth about God as it relates to this problem.
+ Tell Jesus the gospel as it applies to that problem. Pray the gospel to the ear of the Man Who lived it for you. Tell Him everything He did.

Nothing fancy here. No mind tricks. Just tell Jesus your life story from His point of view, leading right up to this moment. Start at the beginning, don't leave anything out the Spirit brings to your mind, and if a moment of trust and appreciation comes praise Him for what you see.

Some examples:
+ Just before Genesis 1, God knew you would have this problem, and He loved you for caring about it.
+ Just before Genesis 1, God declared that Jesus would pay the price necessary to allow God to embrace you as a daughter or son, and let Him handle this problem.
+ Just before Genesis 1, God knew exactly how beautiful you would be after He led you through that valley of the shadow of death, and after this problem refined your character such that it would look like Him.
+ He looked into Adam's and Eve's eyes, and He knew you were coming. He loved all humanity in loving them, and in killing the first lamb to cover their nakedness, He was proving that He'd not forget you when your time came.
+ He called Abraham so He could bless Abraham's Seed - you.
+ Jesus came to Earth, and He endured what you are enduring, so He could comfort you as a Friend. Instead of telling the starving man to wait, dinner would be along soon, He joined us in our suffering and starved right alongside His brothers and sisters until we could all sit down to the feast together.

And get personal.
+ Tell Him what He must have been feeling when He first touched your heart to draw you to Himself.
+ Tell Him how deeply He thrilled the day you turned to Him for life, and repented of your dead life before.
+ Tell Him about some of the little moments that got you from that day to this, and how careful He must have been of you all along.

And finally, tell Him that you don't know how He will overcome this problem, but ...

[You fill in the blank.]

24 November, 2007

Movie Review: No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men is a hard movie to review. What do I mean, you ask? For example, I will buy this movie on DVD, but I'm not sure I'll ever watch it again. I simply must own this movie and want the director to know someone out there thought it was worth the $10 and another $15 too. I just don't know whether I could sit through it again. It's that intense.

Reviewing most movies, you have to dance around plot spoilers. Not so much with NCfOM. I could tell you the whole plot, and not feel too badly about doing so. This movie is not about plot. It's the ambience I don't want to spoil, the feelings the movie creates as it goes from point A to point B.

I think I can safely say this. NCfOM is a profoundly disturbing movie. If you don't like to be disturbed by movies, then write this one off and enjoy the rest of this review. If you don't mind violence and some of the thoughts and feelings that go along with that, then maybe you should watch the move yourself before reading any more. RottenTomatoes's critics gave NCfOM a 95% rating and the public gave it 90%. Those are some wicked-high numbers for a mass opinion site, and I would call them underrated. The movie is storytelling par excellance.

==== Here there be spoilers ====

For those of you who remain, and those of you who returned to talk about the movie, here's my take on this one.

I liken NCfOM to a 2-hour chase scene done at a cowboy's rambling, steady gait. Everything happens in slow, cowboy motion. And somehow that keeps you from tiring of the suspense. The modern chase scene is packed with harrowing close calls, loud explosions, flashing lights and a hundred other moments of fear. But those chase scenes fatigue me and seem to go on and on and on. After a relatively short while, I just want them to end. By doing the entire chase in NCfOM at a panicky saunter they increased my hunger for every grain of sand to fall through the hourglass.

There is a scene where you see the bad guy's feet casting a shadow under the door. And then those feet walk away. And then the lights go out. You knew it was going to happen from the moment it began, and still they tell the story at their own pace. The whole scene could have been done in 15 seconds. It probably takes over a minute, and feels like a quarter hour. I was gesturing wildly the whole time, because I just could not stand to sit there and do nothing. I was literally on the edge of my seat, and that does not happen often.

But the biggest thing about this movie is the delivery of its message.

I am fed up with the Anne Rice/Quentin Tarantino thing. All their movies explore evil as wrapped in lovely cinematography, dramatic passion, and high sympathy for those driven to act out the lusts they cannot defeat. It is what I call the beautiful portrayal of evil. I hope there's a better term for it, but that's the best I can do.

They show us evil, and call it evil just as they should, but they give it a pomp and circumstance welcome into the room. They rain flourishes and glory all around it, though not directly on it, as they warn us of the badness of the whole affair. They present the evil man bedecked in chains, but in their stories he steps out from a strech limo for a red carpet entrance into the 5-star restaurant at which they've arranged for us to learn about him, about evil.

It's the conflict between presentation and message that gets me. The message of their movies is "this is bad," but the presentation says, "and don't you wish you could get you some of this?"

NCfOM does no such thing.

The movie's three primary characters are evil, bad and good respectively, with no mixing of the three. The evil is evil to the core. The bad is just foolish. The good has no hidden evil streak against which to spend the movie wrestling. In this, the characters are true to form from beginning to end.

And now we get to real spoilers so, seriously, if you are going to see the movie - tune out now. I'm going to blow the whole message of the movie here, and you really don't want to hear this.

The point of the movie is one with which only a Christian can honestly disagree. It is that American society has lost. The evil has won, and there's no more point in fighting it. Bad, the movie shows, cannot even oppose evil and win, much less good. Good never even gets a chance to try. Evil is relentless, overpowering, and victorious at every turn.

NCfOM is absolutely the best feel-bad movie I've ever seen.

And it accomplishes what no Anne Rice or Quentin Tarantino movie could ever hope to accomplish. It makes the audience walk out wondering how to fight evil, how to win, how to find the courage to stand up against the times, or at least how to be good enough to stay out of evil's way. When you are done with this movie, you don't want any part of evil, and while you may fear to fight it, you know opposing it is the only answer.

Lastly, NCfOM is an art film.

The message of NCfOM is delivered in crushingly understated moves. Most of the true violence happens just off-screen - not all of it, they're not afraid of blood - but so much of it that you're kept on the edge of your seat for 2 solid hours. So many things are left unsaid as to astound. At one point, you only know one victim is dead because the possible killer checks his boots for blood. It's a brutal scene, but you didn't see a thing.

I have to find a real cine-buff's review, but I think the movie used every device in moderation. There's a 1 minute space at the very beginning in which only 6 words are spoken. The same three words are uttered by two of the three main characters. It's a powerful device, and since the whole movie has so few words (it has to have one of the lowest dialogue counts I've ever seen), it's that much more powerful. But I never saw the device used again. There were dozens of such tricks spread throughout the movie, and none too thick or too thin.

Anyway, I pretty much stink at movie reviews so I don't know how helpful or not this was to anyone. I just know I liked the movie, and highly recommend it to the right people.

Migraine Experience?

An odd thing happened on Thanksgiving Day. I had finished a hard workout and was sitting at the trusty 'puter, getting ready to shower and head off to my Thanksgiving meal (thank you, thank you, thank you to the church for the kindness in taking in orphans) when the migraine struck.

That's not an odd thing. It's been a little over a month since my last one, so it was almost overdue. And a hard workout will provoke the onset if it's sitting out there waiting for a chance to pounce. No sweat. Wait a half hour or so for my vision to return, so I can drive safely and off we go. As I've said before, my migraines meet the technical definition of a migraine, but they are not terribly painful. I just have to work a little harder to think or socialize.

Then again, depression was singing her siren song to me, so I thought about staying home and licking my wounds. Knowing I was impaired, I figured I'd keep getting ready to go, and probably feel like it when the moment came to either put the key in the car or crawl back in bed.

Then I hopped into the shower.

Bam! The symptoms were gone.


I was in full aura-mode, and could not really see the bar of soap when I hopped into the shower, but as soon as that hot water hit the back of my neck I could see again. All the pretty little rainbows were gone, and I could read the print on the back of the shampoo.

As the day went on it felt kind of like I was on hour 24 of the migraine instead of hour 3. It was there, but it was the downhill slide when I am at a good 80%. And the next day I played 3 hours of tennis and today I did an even harder workout without provoking an incident. So, I did not merely postpone the migraine. I seem to have actually gone through it.

Has anyone had a similar experience?

My working theory is that the hot water on the back of my neck caused the blood vessels in my head to constrict. I believe migraines are confirmed to be caused by some kind of vascular swelling or some such, so anything that would tend to make them constrict would alleviate the symptoms.

Next time I feel the symptoms start, I'm putting a hot pack on the back of my neck immediately, and see what happens.

Just thought I'd throw it out there.

23 November, 2007

Anatomy of an Apostasy

I met Jeanine (pseudonym) in 1989 when we all decided to move to the same neighborhood and start a home church together. She lived two blocks away, and my wife and I both loved her. Most everyone did.

She was one of those very positive people, and one of the people who was always building, not destroying. She added something to every meeting, and did a lot of the behind the scenes work that so often gets forgotten. As one of the oldest people in the church, and oldest in the Lord, she was pretty highly respected and did a fine job of living up to those expectations. Mostly, she was just a lot of fun. She knew how to enjoy wine, people, and laughter and her husband was brilliant to boot.

I still miss Jeanine.

She was predisposed toward ecstatic experience. She dripped of life and imagination, so for her to experience everything to the full was only natural. She had already progressed a good way down the path to successful contemplative prayer (I'm tired of typing this, so I will call it ConPrayer for the rest of this post) before she ever joined us. Under the tutelage of our leader, she took to it like a fish to water. She was a trailblazer all the way.

Of the thirty or so of us, there were 5-10 who really got it, 5-10 who were doing something other than ConPrayer but thought they were getting it (I was one of these), 5-10 who mostly slept, and a handful whom we never quite figured out why they were there at all. (Some things never change.) Jeanine was in the first group.

I suspect initial success at ConPrayer is personality-driven, though its practitioners assure everyone that anyone can do it. Either way, Jeanine shared loads of her experiences and we all got to know her experience of ConPrayer pretty well. Some of the group resented her openness, feeling that she was faking or at the least grandstanding, but I was fully convinced that she was experiencing the things she described, and that her personality would have grated on her detractors in any case.

In the seventh year of our home church experience, everything started falling apart at the foundations. The church was in dire crisis, and the pressure it put on everyone individually and as families was incredible. I think about half the marriages in that church have already ended in divorce, and hers was the first. My marriage was broken during that period as well, though we held on for another six years.

Handling her divorce was hard for everyone: her, her husband, and all of us who had to decide how to act and react. She and her husband were both hurt in the proceedings, but for better or worse we muddled through. The decision was made that her husband should leave the church, and he did. That left Jeanine with the solace of fellowship, and we hoped it would be for the best.

One day we learned she was in love again.

Her new man was a little bit older than her, an acknowledged pot smoker, and into Native American spirituality. He was the prototypical old hippie who had not decided to adjust. He was a good guy, but semi-unemployed (which is a deal-breaker with me - don't bring no unemployed man home to me and hope for a blessing.) He was not even remotely Christian. That should have been a deal-breaker to Jeanine. It was not.

Jeanine had changed over the years.

She had discovered the intoxicating glory of ConPrayer, and discovered that it worked no matter whether it was Jesus or "the God force within us all" that she invoked. She was right. She found that as she threw off the fetters of narrow Christian law, her prayer times were only better, not worse. She found freedom, love, and acceptance by everyone except the Christians who had rejected her divorce in the first place, and now rejected her new live-in arrangements.

I talked to her a few months ago. It seems she has finally found a stable man, and settled into a productive life. I'm happy for her, of course. And she keeps praying that I will continue to follow my interpretation of God. She has outgrown my interpretation, of course, but she understands and accepts me the way I am. I can only return the favor to a degree. I accept and love her still, but cannot accept the decision that sets her in opposition to Jesus Christ.

I still hope some day to embrace my sister again. May the Lord so bless us.

22 November, 2007

Meditation: The False

If some other religion does great paintings, I'll not reject paint brushes. So why would I reject meditation? If a Buddhist experiences something spiritual through meditation, why would I not meditate in some Christian way? Will I really allow my relationship to God to be defined as merely different from everyone else's?

No. Of course not.

Merton's affinity for Buddhism and Sufi-ism is still significant. If a man says he's bringing back something anciently Christian and lost, but is actually bringing in something foreign to Christianity, he loses credibility. And since meditation is being widely promoted as the bridge between West and East, between Christianity and everything else, then such doubts jump to the forefront.

Still, that's all smoke and mirrors if there's nothing wrong with meditation in and of itself.

Briefly stated, the difference between healthy and dangerous meditation is this:
+ Meditation that brings about a state of ready quietness before the Lord is a beautiful thing
- Meditation that induces a state of passivity makes one vulnerable to demonic influence.

Saying the word, "demonic," opens up a huge field of discussion that has never been part of this blog before. So, let me lay a couple foundational thoughts about demons.
+ Demons exist.
+ They are evil. That is to say that they want their way, and don't hesitate to cause harm to get it.
+ They are capable of introducing imaginations, lies, accusations, temptations, feelings and thoughts to humans.
+ Their methods work best with people who passively admit their lies.
+ They want to counterfeit the church of Christ on Earth.

Alongside the reality of the demonic, observe the message of Buddhism: All suffering is caused by craving, therefore cease to crave. The four conditions of śīla are chastity, calmness, quiet, and extinguishment, i.e. no longer being susceptible to perturbation by the passions.

Christians are fans of one type of chastity, of course, but total chastity is really just another incarnation of passivity. The last three elements of that list are explicit shades of passivity. There is a time for calmness and quietness, but there is also a time for aggression and volume. And nowhere in all of scripture will you find extinguishment of normal passions advocated. Buddhism is a beautiful collection of insights calculated to open humanity to demonic enslavement.

1 John 5:19
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

And the Christian's way of encountering this situation is passionate:

2 Cor 10:3-5
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Innocent people by the billions have been trained for millenia to paralyze their own minds, emotions, and wills, while Jesus taught His followers to use them to their full abilities. Buddhism is not "another path to God," but to subjection under the ruler of this world. Buddhism is not a beautiful path from which we should learn, but a deception against which the kingdom of God must make all-out war.

We are slitting our own throats when we celebrate the entrance of these doctrines into His church.

Transcendental Meditation works. If you do the things TM's advocates teach, you will experience the things they promise. Your consciousness will expand. You will feel an amazing connectedness to the universe and to God. You will feel energy coursing up and down your body. And you will have to decide whether phenomena define truth.

1 John 4:1
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

The truth of a thing is found in its relationship to Christ, and nothing else. Lying wonders are wonders still. The wonderfulness of a thing has nothing to do with whether it is true.

Meditation is a simple technique for silencing the mind. Focusing on the sound of a single syllable each time the mind activates will lull it into passivity. This is a simple, biological fact and it is measurable by the change in brainwave patterns of experienced meditators (slowing of beta waves, increase of alpha waves and possibly increases in theta and delta waves with experience.) The single syllable chosen doesn't make any more difference than whether Dumbo held the magic feather. Whether the mantra is "om" or "Lord", the effect is precisely the same. The mind is taught to descend into passivity.

Merton's teaching was that this state allows the spirit to open into God. This mind expansion is universally acknowledged to be a very spiritually receptive state.

But if this is the way to God, then why is there no example of God having required passivity of anyone in scripture? Moses was not asked to empty his mind to receive the word of God. Abraham was not asked to empty his mind to receive God's promise. Gideon was not asked to empty his mind to receive assurance of God's purpose. David was not asked to empty his mind to show his heart after God. Deborah and Jael did not empty their minds before delivering the people from God's enemy. Elijah did not receive power by emptying his mind. Even Isaiah in the very throne room of God was not silent, but spoke repeatedly and so pleased God. There is no story of one of God's chosen people being instructed to empty themselves to be filled with God.

That is for good reason.

God made us as we are, and when He saw Adam He blessed us and said we were good. Had He wanted us to be without will, mind or emotion, He would have created us so. God wants us to grow into the full stature of redeemed humanity, employing every talent with which He endowed us. Our passions are to burn hot toward Him and toward our neighbor in love, not to be lulled into silence.

God came to Earth blazing with tears, mercy and anger. When we are most purely living out His purpose, we will do the same. We will weep with those sin has crushed. We will forgive those who violate us. We will wage war to free those whom God has called.

The call to passivity comes from the one against whom we fight. The call to mind-emptying prayer comes from the one who would deceive us. The call to will-quenching prayer comes from the one who would enslave us. The call to passion-cooling prayer comes from the one who would displace love with comfort.

There is a way to quietness before God, and a tremendous value in going there, but the path of passivity is a false trail.

Deut 13:1-5
If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn [you] away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Praise the Lord Who has kept us, and Who has overcome the world for us. We are kept in Him.

20 November, 2007

Contemplative Error

Thanks for the comments about prayer by silencing the mind. I wanted to know whether anyone was drawing their primary sustenance from such silence before I started writing about it.

I lived in a group that practiced silence increasingly for 10 years. In year 2 I wrote a strongly questioning letter on the subject to our fearless leader. By year 8 I was completely done with it, and wrote an even stronger letter. Silly boy that I was, I thought the group was running afield of his wishes. It turned out I was the black sheep of the family, as his reaction to my letter proved beyond question.

We live and learn.

Over the years I heard many members of our group call out Thomas Merton as the deepest writer they'd ever read (even more so than our leader they'd say - if the doors were shut. :-) So, I cracked his, "Seeds of Contemplation." I almost always finish a book when I start it, but this book was too wrong to spend that much time. I made it two thirds of the way through. So, I will be commenting on a book which I did not finish, and which begins with the admonition not to judge it before reading the whole thing.

Since giving up on the book, I have read a good bit of the negative press about contemplative prayer and agree with a large swath of it, but I reserve the right to question pieces of the argument too. 20+ years ago Madame Jean-Marie Bouvier De La Mothe Guyon (from memory) meant an awful lot to me, and I bet if I picked her up again her work would still appeal. There is and always will be a huge place in my life for silence in the presence of God. The question is one of goal, and Merton's and mine seem to be completely different.

I hope I can say with accuracy that this blog has never been about pointing out error, but sometimes a thing advances to the point of genuine error and makes me nervous. Having done my time in prayer by silence, I think it's worth the risk of criticizing brothers in Christ to save others from traveling down that fruitless road. Merton, and those who teach his vision, does not edify the church.

Allow me to snip from the last chapter of the book.
Then there is a quietud sabrosa, a tranquility full of savor and rest and unction in which, although there is nothing to feed and satisfy either the senses or the imagination or the intellect, the will rests in a deep, luminous and absorbing experience of love.

... you are in the presence of a more definite and more personal Love, Who invades your mind and will in a way you cannot grasp, eluding every attempt on your part to contain and hold Him by any movement of your own soul. You know that this "Presence" is God. But for the rest He is hidden in a cloud, although He is so near as to be inside you and outside you and all around you.

The most important thing that remains to be said about this perfect contemplation in which soul vanishes out of itself by the perfect renunciation of all desires and all things, is that it can have nothing to do with our ideas of greatness and exaltation, and is not therefore something which is subject to the sin of pride.

Some of you will, in those quotes, quickly see why Merton is so popular. They are high-flying promises and they ring well in the ears. The problem is that they are utterly empty. They are clouds that bring no rain.

I'm sorry that my argument will seem so obtuse. It's a function of ten years under such teaching, and ten years of seeing its fruitlesslness in perfect practice. I watched 30 people sit under a man who taught these things as understandably and effectively as Merton writes about them, and I watched five to ten people succeed at everything that was asked of them, and I watched it all amount to nothing.

And I asked why.

Merton's promises are half-truths. If you do everything he says, you will have the experiences he advertises. You will feel you have been cast loose upon the great and beautiful sea of God's love. You will sense light and energy flowing through your being, and feel at one with the Creator of everything. You will feel completely empty of any will that could possibly oppose God's. I never went there, but I trust the people I knew and loved who described their journeys. Merton's method is effective.

There are two problems.

The first is a little dramatic, and I'm sorry. The method is simply and exactly the same as any Zen meditation or Sufi prayer. I learned after reading the book that Merton was striving to be as good a Buddhist as he already was a Christian. The techniques of transcendentalism work as effectively for Christians as for anyone else, much the same as prayers to Ba'al worked as effectively for Jews as for worshippers of Ba'al. God rejected His people when they turned to idols and demons, and He rejects His people when they turn to Buddha, Allah and Gaia today.

The second problem is that none of the things promised by Merton are promised anywhere in scripture. They are not even encouraged. Merton promises that if you empty your soul of all desires, will, and thoughts you will be invaded by a presence whom you know to be God. He promises this is a good and wonderful thing, and that this is the deeper level of spiritual life for which you have been seeking. He even makes this experience the temporal salvation of the whole world,

But in the moment of time, the minute, the little minute in which he was delivered into God (if he truly was so delivered) there is no question that then his life was pure; that then he gave glory to God; that then he did not sin, that in that moment of pure love he could not sin.
They are the strength of the world, because they are the tabernacles of God in the world. They are the ones who keep the universe from being destroyed. They are the little ones. They do not know themselves. They whole earth depends on them. Nobody seems to realize it. These are the ones for whom it was all created in the first place. They shall inherit the land.

It is a plain and sad error to be able to say such things when there is not one word of Christ to support them. They are delightful promises, but they are not the promises of God. If you have been exposed to New Age mysticism, you will recognize them word for word. I listened to Elizabeth Claire Prophet speak almost exactly this same constellation of promises, in almost exactly the same words, but I never heard Christ say anything like them.

There is a glory in silence before God, and I praise the Lord for the opportunity to be silent before Him. There is no place for self-destruction of the will in order to reach silence. There is a place for deep consideration of the holy law of God. There is no place for repetition of a holy word of one syllable to silence the mind. There is a place for embracing the deep, satisfying love of God. There is no place for starving the imagination, senses and intellect in order to declare the profound emptiness that remains, "God."

If this were an isolated experiment by some Christians with vivid imaginations, I might encourage it; there is a lot to be learned by experimenting. That is not what contemplative prayer is, though. Contemplative prayer is the Christian adoption of New Age Transcendental Meditation techniques.

I don't know how much interest this post will generate, and I'm open either way. I would love to talk about how to correctly engage God through silence, why I think the contemplative prayer movement's way is wrong, or to move on to another subject.

What do you think?

15 November, 2007

The Silencing of the Lambs

I hate clouded issues.

If you were to walk up to me and ask me what I thought about wine, I'd say something along the lines of, "Great stuff, but I never touch it." If you asked me that same question among a group of unacknowledging alcoholics though, that answer would not work any more.

If you ask me about the silencing of the mind in prayer in 1990, I'd say it was great stuff in moderation. In 2007, though, the scenery has changed. Suddenly, the whole church seems to be jumping on the contemplative prayer wagon and taking the ride to wherever it stops. Suddenly, this once fringe practice is being mainstreamed and presented as a panacea.

So, have you heard about it? Is it being introduced in your church? Are you being taught how to silence your mind and listen for the guidance of the Spirit? Breath prayers? Repeating the Name of the Lord to still your soul and make room for your spirit to touch God?

14 November, 2007

Shown the Door

Imagine this.

You are walking down a sidewalk on your way to a mildly important date, when a nice-looking man stops you to tell you about a door. He tells you about the perfection of the door, it's perfect functionality, and best of all - going through it is only $15!

Your first casual attempt to get on with your date spurs the nice man to greater sales efforts. He begins extolling the fact that the door is really real, and that everyone who goes through it has a better tomorrow. He's so obviously sincere that you are quite moved. If only you didn't already have a previous engagement, you'd go trip the light fantastic with him and his door, but as it is you must be going.

The amazing thing is that anyone goes through the door at all, but millions do.

Imagine again the man stopping you, but this time he explains the virtues of high art and that the whole treasure of Renoir's life work is right through that art museum door for only $15.

Do you think the second approach might be more effective?

I get so discouraged when I listen to evangelism. Our gifted men keep talking about salvation - the door - instead of talking about Christ - the Treasure.

The love of God came to earth in human form, and we don't tell about Him. We try to prove He was Who He said He was, leaving unsaid the truth of Who He was. We try to prove Jesus was God, without telling Who God is.

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. This story provides a possible entry into salvation for anyone, but how to use it? What is the carrot that will draw the soul to God? The door through which the sinner must pass is believing that Jesus is God, but it is what is beyond that door that will draw him.

Often, we tell how amazing was what Jesus did in raising Lazarus, but how often do we tell how amazing Jesus was?

Jesus was God in skin. When we see Jesus, we are not looking at a wonderful man, but at God's very heart pounding like a drum. We watch in Jesus the Father and the Spirit trudging through the sand of Palestine and paying the price of love for the fallen. When we watch Jesus, we learn Who our God is.

God wept over Lazarus. God knew Lazarus and wept to know Lazarus had suffered and had died. God cared about Lazarus by name and heart and familiar quirks. God and Lazarus were friends. God also was the fountain of life that had created Lazarus and that would raise him and that was overjoyed to do so. And God was a hard enough worker to do everything necessary to make that happen. God would go to the cross, and one day God will raise Lazarus again forever.

God gets personal with His children.

But God also was willing for Lazarus to die. His ways are not ours and as surely as Jesus suffered, He was willing to allow Lazarus to suffer. John reports that Jesus, God, intentionally delayed His coming for two days so that He did not arrive until four days after his death. We can also be sure that God knew soon enough Lazarus was dying to have prevented the whole issue, but God was willing to see everything happen as it did. God loved Lazarus, and yet God was willing to allow Lazarus to suffer and die.

God gets personal with His children while allowing them to suffer.

Do you want to understand the mystery of life? Of why you are here? Of why all this is happening? Do you want to know the God Who loves you as much and as intimately as He knew Lazarus? the God Who cares that you are going bald? the God Who wants to raise you from the dead?

You'll have to pay the price and enter through this certain door. If you're curious, I can tell you about it.

13 November, 2007

Investing Precious Time

A short time back, I posted about the sad servant who buried his talent, then blamed his decision on his lord. I'd link it, but I'm on dialup, and every little click is a test of my already pathetic patience. Add to that the agony of having to type without my Greeg
Shorthand crutch, and I'm in deep blogger misery. (Deep BM for short.)

Today Fay, my mother in the Lord, read me a passage from a book written in the sixties that made an excellent point.


When we give each other our time, we are giving the most precious gift there is; we are giving our life to each other. Someone dropped me a quick note the other day asking about an issue from a month ago. To do so, she gave me a couple slices of her life. She gave me something of real and deep value when she thought about me, and then did it again when she turned that thought into an email. And the time she spent in prayer on my behalf was of equal value because each prayer cost precious minutes of her life, given for me.

Yes, the allusion to Christ's saying, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friend," is intentional.

There is a negative side to this insight.

In light of the golden gift time can be, the investment-grade deposit most Christians are making into their televisions is terrifying.

Time is the golden commodity. We are told to deposit our treasures in heaven for our own selfish good. We are advised to do those things that will make us rich. We know we should invest a solid portion of our earthly money into things that will bring us a good return, but we should learn this about our time too. Our financial debts usually cause us to invest too little, but in time we are all similarly wealthy. We all have 24 hours every day, and a day's worth of duties.

The average American invests (approximately, from memory) 4-5 hours of those 24 into their televisions. I have no equivalent statistic for Christians, and I'm not sure I want to know. What I do know is the average television experiences no depression while being ignored, but the average Christian does. The average television will not testify anything good about its benefactors on the judgement day, while the average Christian will. I'm worried even that the average television might not even look back fondly on those who remembered and loved it.

A cup of coffee between saints will be remembered.

How valuable is a cup of coffee?

A cup of coffee is more valuable than anything heaven has to offer. You see, a cup of coffee takes time, and we've only 70 years down here to do everything in our hearts. Every second I share with a saint is a second that he is the most valuable thing in my life, and that investment returns forever. If we wait until heaven to sit down with the saints, we lose all that interest. Heaven has unlimited time, so there's no sacrifice in sitting down with a brother in heaven. Time on Earth is brutally precious, so every minute shared is precious. Such is the reality of supply and demand. And the law of compound interest says the more time we spend and the longer the period of investment, the more our investment grows.

Investing an hour in a cup of coffee may once have been a small thing in American culture; I wouldn't know. Today, though, that hour is seldom found. Maybe if we look hard enough, we can reallocate a few more of them to richer ends.

I suspect the Lord will entrust the rule of cities to those who find that hour most often.

12 November, 2007

Ideal Tennis

I played some 4.0 doubles last night. 4.0 is high level amateur, and I fit right in. 5.0 is much higher level, and while it's my goal, I'm still a good ways away. I don't think anyone had a career night, and my partner carried me from time to time, but I got to return the favor once in a while too. As usual, they were some really great guys, and fun was had by all.

For those keeping score (and I always do), my partner and I went 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 against 4 different teams. We should have won that second set, but it was closer than the score. My partner served up 10 double faults out of nowhere in that set. The only difference is that I served most of my double faults in the first set, and they were weaker opponents so I got away with it.

Three volleys from the last set stick in my mind. I was thinking about them during the little drive between homes today.

On the first, I volleyed exactly where I wanted to, but I had chosen a poor target. I aimed too high, and the other joker could have toasted me down the line. He went for the right shot, but it hit 6 inches too low.

On the second, I went down after the ball with perfect form for a short volley, and put the ball exactly where I wanted it. Both opponents took one step for it and quit. They had no chance. Given the speed of the incoming ball, it was highlight reel stuff.

On the third, the ball was coming fast and I lined it up and picked a good spot, but hit it with my racket frame such that it dropped into the net. Sometimes you get lucky off those frame shots, but not this time. I certainly did not deserve to get lucky off that error.

On the first shot luck was with me. On the second, there was no luck and it made for something beautiful. On the third, luck was against me.

The most frustrating thing about tennis for me is that it would still be a perfect game if the luck were removed from it. It would be a very different game, but it would be a heartbreakingly, breathtakingly beautiful one.

Tennis is not tic-tac-toe. If I always hit the ball exactly where I mean to, and if my opponent does too, points will still be won and lost. In tic-tac-toe or checkers, a perfectly played game results in a draw. In tennis, a perfectly played point results in a win. It's a head-to-head game, and one player always has a better idea than the other.

On the court, I always want to measure my ideas against my opponent's. That only happens on about 1 in 10 points, and it's depressing. At the professional level, about 1 in 3 points ends with a blunder, 1 in 2 with a forced mistake, and 1 in 6 with a clear winning shot. At my level the numbers don't look anywhere near that good.

So tennis at my level is best played realistically. Wise players don't try to outplay their opponents, but to sell them enough rope to outplay themselves. I'm learning to play that game, but I really wish I didn't have to.

I wish we all could play ideal tennis.

And that's always been one of my biggest problems in tennis. I give both myself and my opponent too much credit, and play too many unrealistic points.

I won last night, as much as for any reason, because my opponents made more errors than I did. Now I just need to learn to take pride in that.

(Christian applications of this abound, but I won't belabor them.)

09 November, 2007


I'm back for a week and a half where I grew up. It was a little town of 3000 in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. I was able to shoot in 3 directions without risk of hitting anything, and regularly did. Don't quiz me on gun control, unless you want to hear about the dangers of leaving your guns unloaded.

From 1970 to 1977 we lived beside a huge wood. As we drove in from the airport, we drove by the old place, and I was taken with the urge to see my old haunts in that wood. I drove myself back after settling and chatting a little bit, and found a hole in a fence to let myself back into my first home away from home.

I remember how huge and forbidding those woods were at 6 years old, and how large they still were when we moved 4 miles away at 13. By the time I was 13 they were too small to impress, but still too large to really know every inch. It was about 1 mile wide by 3 miles deep. Awfully huge to a 1st grader.

I immediately settled to look for the big bike jump. Back in the day you could see over it, but only barely, and the hill leading to it could push you to terminal velocity (the fastest speed you could possibly make your bike go.) I took my biggest spill off that jump before Mr. Hamilton gouged it forever with his dozer.

My search was in vain. The dirt trail had been 5 feet wide, and as near as I could tell it was just gone, lost in a sea of fresh growth. I found a little mound of dirt, and wondered if I was just remembering the jump wrong, but it was completely in the wrong place. Nope, the whole road was gone.

So I wandered up a new trail that would parallel where the old trail had been. In minutes, I was at the top, and turned left. Every trail in that wood was enclosed within a triangle, and if all was right, I was turning that triangle.

As I went down the second leg of the triangle, I saw a trail just off to my right. I had gotten lost on that beckoning trail when I was 6. I still remember seeing it tempting me just 10 yards away or so, and jumping from the one trail to the other. I was still a greenhorn trying to get home from Eric's house through the woods, and had set off on the wrong trail to begin with. That was why I had never seen the mysterious new trail before. And all the decisions I made on that new trail (calculated to set me back on the first leg of the magic triangle again) tended to guide me down a narrow corridor of the wood that actually stretched the full 3 miles without a break. In the end, I followed a set of hydraulic mining water pipes to pavement. I was literally walking the only path that could have kept me lost for so long.

When I finally came out on pavement, I had been crying for at least a half hour. A nice old man gave me a ride to the first thing I recognized, the city pool. I walked the last mile home because I was not supposed to accept rides from strangers, so once I saw something I recognized, it was time to get out and get back home under my own power. When I got home I was in huge trouble. I was almost 2 hours late. I guess Dad got in pretty bad trouble too, for believing I could find my way home alone in the woods, but we all survived.

Tonight, I did not jump to that trail to the right, though I'm sure I'd not cry if I got lost.

At the end of the second (downhill) leg I decide to turn right instead of left on the third leg. I wanted to get to one particular trail - Killer Hill - but it could wait. I want to verify that Eric's house was where it should be. If it was, then I've read the trails right. If not, then I need to go back to the drawing board.

It's not.

In fact, it's almost a third of a mile away. But when I get there, all the trails are exactly where they should be. Hmmm.

I go ahead and walk up to the outlet on Gold Drive. Yep. It's all there. That can only mean one thing, so I backtrack to the end of that second leg. Yep. My second leg was not the second leg at all, but the very Killer Hill for which I was looking. I walked down the whole thing, and didn't recognize it.

I walk back up it.

I'm looking for a very specific 3 tree roots. 2 of them are on the right side of the trail as you head down, and 1 is on the left. As I walk back up, I begin to notice how the curves of the trail are all in the right places, and the stands of manzanita are where they belong. I make it the whole way to the top, and my 3 tree roots are not there. I turn around and walk back down.

I reach two conclusions. This is definitely the right trail, and young boys have tunnel vision. I'm amazed at all the hundreds of things just off the trail that I never, ever saw. There are some amazing trees, obviously much older than I am, that I just don't remember. They were never worth cataloging in my memories, and I will probably remember them better 30 years from now than I remembered them today.

The two roots are still not there, though. That's critical, because they were the scene of my coolest bike wreck. I decided to take the double root jump to the right, rather than the single root jump to my left on that fateful day. I got loose off the first root, and hit the second off-balance. The second threw me to the limits of control, but I stayed cool and kept the wheels under me - until my handlebar caught a manzanita bush. I was probably doing 25 mph or so, and when my front wheel went instantly perpendicular to progress, I went into a double nose roll. I hit knuckles/back/back tire/front tire/knuckles/back/back tire/both tires, and stopped on my wheels - then fell over. It was a bizarre feeling, and I've treasured it for years.

I could see where it happened, but not the roots nor the bush.

A lot has changed. The spooky place with cedars so thick the sun could not get through has chilled out a lot. That's probably the 40 year old dude walking through it, though. The mud puddle that was always just after the spooky place is still there, but the trail is now 3 times wider so people can always go around it.

The biggest change, though, is the adults. I see 2 men, 1 boy, 2 women, another woman, a kid on a bike going up Killer Hill, and then 2 more men. In 7 years, I never saw an adult in my woods, but that was before they invented Jogging (jogging had been around forever, but Jogging was born of the '80's). And gears. Our bikes never had gears. The kid riding his bike up Killer Hill tripped me out. We never rode our bikes up Killer Hill, because we couldn't. He was wearing a helmet and pads and had a bike with 20-some-odd gears. He would have been as foreign as an Arab to us.

Oh, and there's one other little change.

Killer Hill is now called Pipeline Trail. The parks department has marked all of our trails, and named them.

Pipeline Trail.

Yeah, the trail actually has pipeline beside it and even showing through in some places where the road runs right over them. From 3 miles away, the day I got lost, if I had followed the pipes that eventually led me out to pavement in exactly the opposite direction of the one I'd chosen, I'd have been right here. Those were the very pipes that peeped through our very own Killer Hill. But even after we learned of the magic of following the pipes, we'd never have stooped to call anything "Pipeline Trail."

It's an odd thing to go home, and find out my woods have grown up, and I haven't.

05 November, 2007

That Pesky Hidden Talent

Mat 25:24 & 25
Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, [there] thou hast [that is] thine.

I have many times over the years wondered how to hide a talent versus how to invest it wisely. Jesus does not bother to tell us what the foolish servant's talent was, much less how he could bury it. And one might think that was significant information!

Well, I had a thought last night.

A hidden talent is one invested wholly in one's self.

When God makes you a smart person and you gather doctrines without enriching those around you, when God makes you tender and you find a good wife and family and luxuriate in their glow behind locked doors, when God makes you spiritual, and you while away the hours with Him and bring nothing back for those in need of a sight of the Throne; you have buried your talent. Your talent becomes hidden indeed, because none sees, much less shares and multiplies, the wealth of it.

I'm pretty sure I've had the flip-side of this thought before, but I don't care. It was new all over again last night. If finding old joys new again is a crime, then I'm headed up the river. :-)