Friday, January 11, 2019

You're Adopted!

For anyone who's more than ten months behind the curve like I am, I have four five children now! The headcount always seems one off and being a family is officially challenging. Adding a four year old boy is not the same as adding a two year old girl, our previous addition. I know you all gasped with disbelief just now but it's true. He's the butterfly effect that has brought an exponential increase in energy, adventure and chaos to my wife's well oiled family machine. I say my wife's because, without her, chaos would already play a much larger role. I've long joked that I live in the magical house. So named because it cleans itself, refills the refrigerator, does the laundry and a dozen other routine chores all with reliable precision and very few demands. But the magic is a little glitchy lately.

Affairs of the heart are life's most challenging. In a Spirit led life, sometimes loving has to precede liking, caring has to precede affection and forgiving has to precede the other's repentance. That's especially true in a family, perhaps most of all in adoption. Let me say one thing before you decide this might not pertain to you; if you're God's child, you're adopted. God made it plain he has no natural born children. You came to Christ with baggage from another parent even if you "grew up" in the church. And God's "magical" house usually works on the heart before it works on the laundry. Welcome to the glitch, to priorities that don't square with keeping the status quo even if it was a well oiled machine.

From our recent list of hard-won but worthwhile rewards, I want to share this piece of clarity. Your emotions are not your heart. Your heart is the reason you persevere in spite of your emotions. I take that from the many times Israel narrowly survived God's wrath because of his patience. That distinction matters when you're feeling the pressure to keep working with a good heart while you're also feeling emotions that make you want to braid whips and flip tables. Christ can relate... and he was sinless. Take that to heart. Yes, we make the Spirit groan. But he keeps interceding for us till the work is finished. That's real family, groaning, persevering and highly rewardable in the Kingdom. Now, where's that boy?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Tea Lights

My four-year-olds like to play a game with a bunch of fake tealight candles that light up and artificially flicker in a dim yellow orange. They take turns hiding and finding them throughout the house. They missed one tucked loosely between the cushions of the guest room sofa. On my way to bed, it caught my eye and mind alike with that cliche significance of an unexpected light in the dark, a last coal that comes to ephemeral life alone in the ash long after the fire, solitary headlights traveling high on a distant, mountain road, the moon surprising you as you pass the hill that let it rise without notice.

Is that you? Home is coming. Standing in the middle of an unsearchable reality with any sense of place in it is what makes philosophy and faith a measure of sanity. The animals have neither and we would certainly be judged insane to act like them. The coyotes howl and the river rumbles by in the dark. The sirens blare and the traffic hums along under the street lights. I've found God both places, nature ruled and ruling, at least on the surface. All rivers run to the ocean but it's never full. All roads lead to Rome but I've never been there. Come soon Lord. I feel strange here.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Gotcha Question

When Lauren Daigle recently "flunked" the gotcha question of whether homosexuality is sin, I was as disappointed with her evasive answer as any right wing zealot. We like quick, clear answers (and judgments) and we rain rocks on anyone who seems to have fallen out of line. But I talked to my Friend of Highest Regard who slowed me down a bit when he pointed to his own habit of evasive and vexing answers.

Let's start with the account of the woman caught in adultery, a close parallel to the homosexual sin question. The Pharisees asked the gotcha question, "The law says stone her. What do you say?" Christ - who in fact clarified that he was here to fulfill the law they were citing - responds by stooping to write on the ground before famously turning the moral question against the accusers, "Whichever of you is sinless throw the first stone." The extent of him calling out her sin was to privately release her with the instruction, "leave your life of sin." I'm left thinking a good trick answer would be, "Is Christ our judge?"

Sometimes, Jesus didn't even give a straight answer to close friends. In fear for his life and apparent doubt about how he had spent it, John the Baptist asked Jesus if he was the Messiah. Is there any more critical question to give a straight answer on? Jesus only answered that the evidence indicated he was, the same sort of maddening answer he gave Pilot for the question, "Are you king of the Jews?" Likewise, Christians the world over wish that, at least once, Jesus had said the words, "I am God." But we're limited to stating it as an obvious conclusion, I suspect by his own design.

Only in reference to Sodom did Christ more directly address homosexuality (one of Sodom's blatant offenses) and it wasn't to condemn it. It was to say even that's better than those who reject his kingdom. Boy, does that create some strange angles! Scriptures says I have enough sin of my own to worry about first. It also says Judge Jesus is currently exercising a lot of patience with the world before he lowers the final hammer. Besides that, I think me trying to judge Lauren's situation from the comfort of my anonymity is like a kid who thinks he's ready for the pros because he can dunk on a six foot rim. I'm not saying we shouldn't call sin, "sin". I'm just saying you might want to save your throwing arm for that stuffed animal at the carny booth.

Monday, December 3, 2018

I Thought You Were Smart

I love the look on a friends face when they first find out I'm a young earth creationist. Despite any prior regard for my intelligence, their recoil says, "Oh no! I didn't realize you hadn't evolved a brain yet!" To be fair, I know that we creationists can be quick to think less of those who disagree with us as well. It's a human trait that carries through all matters of faith, politics and life in general.

For either side (of any issue) it's reassuring to think of our opponents as idiots. That's much less intimidating than knowing someone intelligent disagrees with us. And what if we're wrong?! That's a favorite way for Christians to dodge the issue of validating their faith anyway, right? We ask, "What if I'm wrong?" insinuating a less grievous consequence than "What if you're wrong?" and you're hell fodder. It's an easy way out but it's one Christ and the apostles never took. Instead, their appeal was steadfastly attached to the validity of what they had seen and touched for themselves.

Still, no matter how reasonable our convictions about the unobservable past, they're still just faith. But faith is no small thing to Christ who simply said he was the truth and humbly offered what he expected us to accept as proof. In our time, anyone trying to answer the question of our origins is looking further back than we can see with our own eyes. Even Christ acknowledged the hurdle that creates. For that alone, I hope all sides exercise an extra measure of humility and truthfulness in deciding what ideas best align with the things we can see and touch for ourselves. And if you don't share my view on that, I can't respect your opinion, you pathetic little amoeba brain. To which you say, "Takes one to know one." I always knew we were equals.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A Marginal Post

I looked up the word "churchianity" after I went to the morning service Thanksgiving weekend (feel free to read into that) and I found its usage recorded as early as 1789. This post already feels less original. I'm changing topics.

While I was looking up churchianity, I noticed that the same uninteresting bike I had researched a couple weeks ago was still appearing in the sidebar advertisements as I browsed the net. So I did some electronic window shopping and, presto, my sidebar is now full of Legos, ceramic skillets and high end mountain bikes. Hope my wife’s not reading this.

The spiritual world is like those advertisements. Seek the truth and it seeks you. Seek delusions and they do the same in very believable packages with lots of good reviews. Our lives are a profound interest to the creatures of that realm and the God who made it. And they're paying close attention to our interests, eager to provide matching material. It's a world with its own consumer algorithms, clique baits and viruses but it's also a world of priceless and practical knowledge for those who check their sources and approach the margins with caution. Happy holiday shopping!

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Garage Full of Faith

I have the privilege of moving my family to a property in Camp Verde that we all love; so much so that we're mentally already living there (now you know my most recent excuse for being spaced out). Our current home exists only as daily comparison to what we are looking forward to. I know that eventually any new home becomes just another place with its own issues. But right now it enjoys the fantasy status of happily ever after.

I do have one immediate complaint but I have to qualify it as only being possible because of the blessed life my "complaints" are part of. That said, living in limbo for the three weeks until our new home is available is both minimal and inconvenient. I know. Poor James, right? Most of our things are already packed which leads to lots of, "Do you remember what box ___ is in?"
"No. Maybe at the very bottom of that box mountain."
"Oh. Hmmm," we answer realizing the odds of finding it don't exist and the odds of getting it repacked correctly are even lower. "I guess I can eat my cold cereal with a plastic fork and cup."

It strikes me how straight forward the analogy is between looking forward to a better home here and looking forward to Christ's kingdom. It also strikes me how distant the kingdom can stay in our minds even though it's the eminent destination for all believers. That's not an encouragement to quarrel about who the "real" believers are. It's an encouragement to live with the kingdom in view like it's your next change of address. To stretch the metaphor a little further, if you're serious about where you're headed, you will likely find yourself living out of boxes that you can't really unpack until you land there.

Feeling a little crazy and homeless are likely as well. I don't actually have a new home until the deal closes but my garage is already full of packed boxes. What if it falls through?! I'm a long ways from "name it and claim it" theology but when my dad told me over the phone to have faith that God was bringing something better, I quipped, "I have a whole garage full of faith!" The Kingdom often seems like that. You know it's real but, if you're still alive, the deals not closed yet. If that rings true, let the good things you've glimpsed but still only dream of owning spur your interest ever deeper into Christ's promises where faith (love followed by action) is the currency of a new world beyond all we can ask or imagine. Until then, you can find me in in Camp Verde.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Accidentally on Purpose

Parents know the difference between a fake cry and a real one. Fake being that tone that says, "I'm not getting enough attention for falling down accidentally on purpose" and real being that cringe-worthy alarm that says, "My head just bounced off the floor hard enough that I can't see straight to run for help." Parents also know the difference between a glance that says, "Oh crap! I just remembered I shouldn't be running past the angle iron bar table" and one that says, "I know you said 'no' but, if the dog doesn't mind, why can't I keep choking him like a stuffed animal?"

The emotional fraud and brazen testing are laughable when we're young enough to be "innocent." They're less amusing when we're old enough to be the parent and still crying, "God's not pandering enough for me to get off my emotional ass" or ranting, "How could God let my dog (a.k.a. career, marriage, etc) die when I choked it to death?" But even as adults, God is still as far above us (infinitely farther, actually) as we are above a child who thinks they're more clever or persuasive than they really are. And I'm thankful for his parental sense of humor. "Have I been with you so long," he groans through a hidden laugh and repeats the lesson one more time. "You're not as smart or big as you think. But it's okay. I'm still your Dad and I haven't choked you to death, yet."

I love that childlike elation when you realize your parent isn't actually going to kill you, that time(s) when the police handed your young, fully exposed butt back to your dad and he didn't flog it, or the time when you lied that unflogged butt off about finding some yard weeds that made the backyard tent smell just like a joint when you smoked them and Dad just laughed and went back in the house. Just remember, it doesn't stay funny forever. Or as Dad says smiling with his hands gently around your neck, "Why die before your time?"