Go now, you who would not be tamed

Go now, you who would not be tamed. Stop trying to seek a life that wasn’t made for you. You don’t need to live out the life of someone else who was supposed to have lived that life, but died before he even made it to college. You don’t need to live the life of your mother, father or older brothers, or imaginary forms of who you might have been if only you had been a better young man. If you were made to be tamed the way you keep trying and failing to be tamed, would you not have been tamed from the beginning? But, yours is not the path of the tamed, the disciplined, the rigorous. You don’t need to develop systematic philosophies and theologies from first principles, and then prove magnificent houses of cards from these first things.

It’s like this. You know who you are the moment you stop asking who you are and enter the flow of who you are. On days like today, you are dreaming of business conferences held in places like San Francisco, where you can wander about the city at your ease in between the sessions. Of course, you are an attendee and not a presenter or a vendor, and so that means that you have the red carpet rolled out for you. You have your choice of the biggest bagels slathered in sumptuous cream cheese (not the lite variety, please). You have the finest coffees poured into endless recyclable cups that you can toss in the trash half consumed when they grow cold. And then, of course, there is the eye-candy–young people dressed in their business best, shining and full of dreams of launching their own unicorn start-ups.

Evenings see you at the social mixers sponsored by the host of the event. You get a few free drink tickets, and ask the bartender to mix up something strong, like a Maker’s on the rocks, or just a spritz of vermouth to make it a respectable Manhattan. Your tongue loosens, and you talk with random people endlessly about how the marketing world is on the verge of becoming capable of predicting the future long before the future arrives, using data science and magic trickery of only the finest, wizarding minds.

There is nothing better than stretching out across a king-sized bed that you have all to yourself, and grabbing all of the pillows, including the throw pillows off the love seat and easy chair, and piling them around you, and sipping on your fourth drink of the night–a house bourbon neat–while you slide into a fuzzy, lovely haze of feeling like an important high-tech business traveler in the middle of a big city.

Get up early the next morning when light is just pushing through the cracks of buildings. Your night has been restless and full of that jittery, achy feeling that comes from having had too much booze. You throw up a little bit after the first tiny pot of warm water flavored by coffee compliments of the hotel coffee maker that brews two small cups per thin filtered-wafer package. You head down to the Starbuck’s in the lobby, and get an orange juice to replenish the vitamin C, a greasy sausage breakfast sandwich to coat your stomach and a strong Americano with multiple extra shots of espresso in it to jolt you awake enough to stumble through some conference sessions. By mid-day, you need a nap, which causes you to sleep through the second half of the first full day of the conference, and wake up just in time to wander the streets of San Francisco for an hour or so before sunset.

There is nothing better than being in a big and popular tourist-attraction city while on the company dime. Knowing that everything you eat and drink will be paid for by the rich owner of the company, you can toss away a stale Starbuck’s cup of coffee for another one, or leave a beer half-full in pursuit of a glass of wine or more whiskey. You can wander up and down the hills through Chinatown to the Wharf, and have those weird guys from the other side of the world call out to you and try to sell you tours, because you look like a young schmuck who doesn’t know any better. Sometimes they plant beautiful young ladies down there to try to get you to give up some of your money as a response to being flattered. Usually, you ignore all of this, and wander around until your legs ache, stopping to order a large seafood pizza and a pitcher of beer to wash it down. You turn your nose up at any panhandlers, because you are an important businessman on an important business trip.

But, what were we talking about when we launched this tale? Ah yes, a tale about you who would not be tamed. Stop trying to make your life into a telos of great meaning, ultimate truth, big stories, grand meta-narratives, heroic efforts spent on attaining perfect righteousness. You are just a man, a small piece of creation, designed to do and be and reproduce and launch a copy of yourself into the adult world, and then die. Enjoy television shows, fiction, booze, art, sports, music. Stop trying to purify yourself because you are killing yourself to become someone you are not. You are hating things you love in hopes that God will love you a little more than you think He already does. You are going about seeking God’s love all wrong–love the Lord with all of your heart, soul and might, and then let everything else follow from that. Love your neighbor as yourself. Pray for those who mistreat you. But, don’t sell all of your stuff and become a wandering, homeless monk if it means that it will turn you into a murderous, ravening monster.

The more that you try to tame yourself, the more the untamed pieces rise up in anger and hostility at the efforts to evict them. It is as if you are trying to starve yourself so that you might become pure and uncontaminated of anything in your bowells, but in the process you simply wreck you liver, kidneys, blood pressure, heart, etc. Your self needs a certain this and that to maintain equilibrium, and you should know by now that you were not made to be an ascetic warrior of infinite discipline and a cold, unremitting marcher toward a pristine, perfect Truth. You were made to be a sloppy, ravenous lover with a great big appetite and no real sense of a telos or a linear path in life, wandering aimlessly in the arms of a Truth that never departed from you.

You were made for these times, this place, your body, your gender, your face. Stop feeling guilty about having too much privilege or angry about not having enough brains or opportunities. When you were silent, they constantly urged you to speak your mind. When you spoke your mind, they told you to be quiet, because people like you had said enough. You were derided for being just another white male, and deemed a racist if you focused too much on your whiteness and maleness, or out of touch with the plight of the oppressed if you didn’t focus on your whiteness and maleness enough. When you didn’t work hard enough and speak up enough, you were called out for such laziness and told that any success denied to you was due to you not working hard enough and speaking up enough. When you did work hard and speak up, and start to get somewhere, you were called out and told that anything good you got was merely due to your privilege and nothing else.

You wanted to follow Christ, or so you thought, but what you really wanted was to just become an average white, middle-class dude like the ones you sort of knew once upon a time. Not too into Jesus, but you go to church fairly often and read your Bible when you can. Of course, you follow sports more closely than you follow Christ. You just want to be a regular guy who knows how all of the main sports teams of his alma mater, home town and present town are doing, and generally goes down to a bar when he can to watch the game and drink light, American beer, but not too much unless everyone is drinking too much.

You want to be the fellow who follows a group of friends, somewhere safely in the middle, not too mighty to have to fight with other alpha males and contend for the top dog role. Nor do you want to be the clown of the group, the constant butt of their jokes, the little scrawny guy who never got as big as the rest of them, but always seemed to amicably agree to their gentle, persistent persecution. Just a middling, mild man, not too talkative, but not too quiet, either. Not too athletic and competitive, but not too bookish and cerebral, either. A real average guy’s average guy, not a man’s man or a geek’s geek.

Empty-headed and divine

Empty-headed and divine. Attached to all and all is one. Surely, if I am connected, then my words matter. If my words matter, then praying should accomplish something. It depends on who I pray to, and what I pray for, and how I pray.

I could spend my time praying for God to curse and hurt my enemies or spend my time praying for God to heal them and help them become less inclined to do things that make them my enemies. I could spend my time doing more things that make me less like my enemies.

Can you hear Jesus saying, come and follow Me?

Don’t go follow another human being who seems to have all of the answers. Don’t follow rituals or traditions. Be suspicious of Scripture in light of who you know the real Jesus to be.

Is Jesus rich? Of course, He is, His riches are unlimited. Therefore, he could afford to be utterly non-possessive of material things when he was here on earth. Can you afford to be utterly non-possessive of material things? Yes, you can. Nothing that society says that you own has to go with you the next time you move. You don’t have to play by the rules if breaking the rules just makes you seem a bit odd.

Always on the outside

Always on the outside. Groups form, people find their kindred spirits. Again, you are on the outside looking in. You might be a latecomer outsider, or you might be an old-timer outsider–doesn’t matter. If there’s a way to make you naturally bubble up to the outside of the group, this universe will find it. Of course, it’s all your fault, too. You should change. No, you should be yourself. You should try harder, no you aren’t trying hard enough. You just don’t get it. Again, it’s the universe that wins in the end. In some other universe, you are always the insider and a perennial insider from this universe becomes the outsider.

Accept it. Embrace it. Learn to love that which is you, and move on. Learn to love in spite of things.

I dreamed last night that I was in this underground space where I was permitted to talk to the dead. They came in from a tunnel. I wanted to talk to my mom, but the powers that be couldn’t bring her forth. She wasn’t there, only some of her psychic energy remained, which they tried to conjure up for me. The people who did come in through the tunnel were a mixture of young and old, all very classically dead–ashen, ghostly faces and haunted, bewildered looks of being taken somewhere they had no say about where the place was they were going. The area I was standing in next to this particular tunnel wound its way in a different direction, and I asked if anyone had ever gone off in that direction. The answer was no. I found myself walking down a much better lit corridor than the tunnel of the dead, into an area where I could descend several more levels that were all under water. But, it didn’t seem to matter that they were underwater, it was just like going into someone’s home. A young boy was with me as I re-ascended. I couldn’t tell if it was my son or my little brother. This happens a lot in dreams. We were supposed to get out soon, because the owner of this water house was coming back. I had the feeling that I had witnessed something more like Sheol than Hades or Hell.

Today, I had this overwhelming sense of there not being any grand, noble goals left for me to attempt to achieve in this life. I have been feeling thoroughly post-modern lately in the sense that I can’t wrest forth a kind of meta-narrative for myself that sees an ultimate, crowning achievement of righteousness for me–there is no one single telos, just a life to live. What does this mean in light of Jesus’ admonition to lose my life for his sake? I am not really certain.

I am certain, however, that my future must unfold more naturally, and look less like a perfect path toward the great way of being that was most unequivocally the way of being God always intended for me–especially in the sense of becoming a pastor by way of a true and concrete calling.

I don’t have a lot of faith in things that aren’t simply Jesus, God and Love in their most true forms. Further, I know that I am unable to conceive of them as such–I catch glimpses of the real Jesus filtered through a lot of heavy covering up that has taken place by my civilization. I don’t trust my dreams to be worth much of anything other than attempts to quiet or dispell something that was unstable in my psyche. I don’t necessarily feel like I have a good idea on what my future or the country’s future really look like.

I have experienced a lot of desire lately to be completely freed of this burden of needing to prove myself and become someone for good. I haven’t really made up my mind whether or not I am going to abandon this so-called calling altogether, or just have a conversation with a recruiter who recruits for the kind of work I used to do, and leave it at that.

I feel like I need a lot of rest of a certain kind of rest that I simply don’t get to have much of anymore. I need a refreshing week to mosey around trails in Austin, sit on a beach somewhere, browse the public library to my heart’s content, or just walk around another nearby town with no particular goals in mind.

Particular goals have become a burden for me. I don’t have time to watch a show or two on Netflix, I don’t have time to read a work of fiction, I don’t have time to even be sitting here doing this, except for the fact that I feel like I have to have an outlet somewhere or I will explode.

I’ve also had a lot of random memories popping up in my head as of late. They seem to be indiscriminate and might be from twenty, thirty or two years ago–there is no rhyme or reason to it other than to say that I probably am missing whatever once used to be my home. My self is in a desperate search for a home that I can be truly happy living in–and by home I mean the house and the larger community around me.

Witchcraft, idolatry, prayer

Witchcraft – using formulas independent of God (possibly accessing demons) to manipulate physical reality

Idolatry — offering adoration or excessive attention to any construct, mental or physical, even constructs you genuinely believed to be God.

Prayer – petitioning God the Creator in Jesus’ name
Works of healing in Jesus’ name
Other works–like rebuking the storm

God doesn’t answer all prayers because too many prayers are sent up to God in the form of witchcraft–people want to control God as if God were a simple nature spirit or demon.

God cannot be subordinated to you or your commands. God can be petitioned, and then God sends you back insights that you employ, and you work on God’s behalf–but, you never get to be above God when you are requesting help from God.

However, is it possible that someone can manipulate and control their physical environment using the same type of authority Jesus used to rebuke the storm, and have it not be witchcraft, idolatry or attempting to manipulate/control God? In other words, you receive Godstuff that you are then able to employ of your own volition, and not have to resort to calling on spiritual entities to do your work for you. If/when you think you are bending God to do your will, you are headed down the path of witchcraft; specifically, if you end up successfully getting someone from the spirit world to do your bidding, it will likely be a demon. Good angels will be following the will of God at all times, not yours.

How can I explain this

How can I explain this–I am wholly uncertain of who I am supposed to be on this earth, and I am 40 years old. I fall in love with things that are manmade, and then I become guilty and want to completely seek out the divine, only the divine turns out to be mostly my own little idol of the moment.

How can I explain that when I go back and read my hastily-written notes about my last trip to NYC, I ache with a desire to be in NYC again at this very moment? It isn’t really a sexual desire, but it isn’t quite religious or spiritual or some other manifestation of the sensual appetite. It is a desire to be among culture–sophisticated culture and tourist culture and trashy, hipster culture. To be able to walk down the street and view cold, bloodless art, and then warm, classical masterpieces and totems from world cultures–and know that all these people walking around you like to at least occasionally go look at that art as well. To be among the very wealthy, though the thought of being very wealthy isn’t all that appealing.

How can I explain these moments when I realize that I’ve lived almost my entire life in places that don’t get me excited and make me happy? Austin makes me happier than Waco or Smalltown, MO, but this is relatively speaking. Most days, I don’t get excited about Austin. It’s not that Austin is bad–it’s that I don’t feel like it resonates with me. I feel like I make alterations to myself to fit its culture and attitudes, only to discover how little I care for myself when I do.

How can I explain that I will be a Christian for the rest of my life, but that I would just as soon prefer to spend my time meditating like a Buddhist on the emptiness of existence and the non-duality of my nature or reading the Hebrew Bible and knowing the God of the Old Testament better, or reading Greek mythology or Chinese literature, or what have you–than spend my time obsessing over the gospels? I confess that I know and love Jesus best when I cease to formulate my own preconceived notions about who he is and also cease to attempt to match my own expectations with the notions of others. I know and love Jesus best when I stop trying to assert that I know who he was or is, and simply love Jesus, love others, and want to live some place like NYC where there are a lot of others to love.

You might think that I dislike people because I am an introvert, but the truth is, I like people the more that I am around large numbers of very diverse ones. The more races, religions, cultures, languages, skin colors, shapes, sizes, faces that I see, the happier I am–suddenly, being human makes sense to me again. When I was in Waco, and got used to spending most of my time around white, Christian evangelicals who loved guns, football and Murica, I started to really think that I disliked the human race. It wasn’t because these people were bad, it was because they were not fully representative of the full spectrum of humans that God wants humanity to be.

You might think that I dislike myself–that isn’t true, either. What I dislike about myself is when I start to create a rigid, impermeable self that is a shadow or idol of the real me–a one or perhaps two-dimensional self that looks more like a box than a human being. I gladly embrace making such a caricature at first, because I somehow think that this makes me seem like more of an adult: I’ve ceased playing with existence and now I am ready to be serious about it. Only, such efforts to be the perfect adult like the kind of men I remembered from my childhood are futile. I am not my father and I am not other men like my deceased uncle J who had such crisp and insanely rigid expectations of how one should conduct one’s self as an adult human being. Believe me, I can’t stand people who intentionally try to be buddies with their teenage children and forcibly keep themselves immature. I can’t stand the thought of living out a life of endless codependent relationships and addictions and bad jobs and bad choices. I want to be a grown up, but I don’t want to be a puppet or a cartoon of a grown up.

I have this distinct feeling washing over me

I have this distinct feeling washing over me that I will be moving back around again to some of the concepts that preoccupied my mind the last time I attended college, namely, a much deeper and broader quest for understanding the Spirit outside of the confines of what is laid out for me in most teachings of my church and commonly accepted readings of the Bible. I have this sense that Jesus taught his disciples so much more than what we have chosen to keep in our canon–and even within that there might be many instances where words were put into Jesus’ mouth for the sake of advancing a cohesive set of beliefs in the early Christian church following the main councils. Primarily, I think that the straitjacket I’ve been imposing upon Christ has led me to greatly reduce the amount of Love that Christ really wants to make available for me and the rest of the world. By getting too caught up in worrying about whether or not I am following this or that specific teaching or parable from the Bible, I have forgotten how to simply love others, and also most importantly, to love myself (in a wholesome, ordinate way, of course).

I’ve become too caught up in all of the requirements of my denomination for ordination, and hoping to properly dot my i’s and cross my t’s to demonstrate that I am a good and proper member of my denomination. Meanwhile, I have completely lost sight of the original delight and love I felt when I returned to following Christ. Moving forward, my agenda will be to follow Christ, not to follow a teacher, pastor, or other leader of a sect or denomination. If this means that I never end up being a true pastor, then I am okay with that.

What is especially unfortunate is that most of my fight originated in a struggle against all of the add-on BS that seems to accompany what we do in the church, but it soon permeated every aspect of my life, including my relations with loved ones and friends, and even my relationship with Christ. Christ, of course, did not say, go get your MDiv, then pass your ordination exams, get your head checked by a shrink, and then come follow me after so many internships and associate pastoral positions. He just said, come follow me.

Where I have to begin again is right there–I follow Christ and see where He is leading me, and that could mean any number of churches, denominations or the negation thereof. It will once again mean focusing on His people, and loving them. But, I think that first, I have to get my head, heart and soul right again with God. I have to inherently understand why the concept of following Christ brings me so much joy, and then go from there.

Strangely enough, I don’t feel nearly as concerned about spending eternity in hell as I once did

Strangely enough, I don’t feel nearly as concerned about spending eternity in hell as I once did. Further, I don’t feel the flames being quite the motivation they used to be to prevent me from sinning or make me feel guilty for sinning when I did sin. I also don’t have very many days where I am outrageously gung-ho for Jesus, but I don’t have as many low days where I question whether or not the whole thing is worth my time and faith, either.

The motivation for being more righteous and less sinful seems to come more from a practical concern–most sins and vices do not accomplish whatever lasting pleasures they promised, but many righteous acts and thoughts seem to yield longer-lasting consequences of happiness.

Obviously, the simple fact that I am growing old and my flesh is less lively than it used to be could be part of the list of reasons for why I am not nearly as compelled to sin as I used to be.

But, the real focus for me comes in the yardstick of having someone or something promise what they deliver. The era of following myself and the world, and trying to become successful on the world’s terms saw me succeeding very little and being miserable most of the time. The era of following God and going regularly to church saw me more successful with finding a life partner and finding work that was more satisfying and paid better. There is an honest practicality to my faith that is hard to prove to anyone else, but I know that it works for me where not practicing my faith does not work, therefore, I am going to keep practicing it.

I tend to think that the kinds of people God will hold up in high regard as being especially wonderful human beings are mostly unknown to all of us. The mothers and grandparents and doctors, nurses, teachers, etc. who made exceptional sacrifices and greatly changed individual lives are the ones God will place near the front and center when we get to heaven. The quantity of lives won’t always matter, either, which is why I am always a little taken aback when Mother Teresa is criticized for having fed fewer poor people than other organizations. I am not completely dismissive of quantity, but I don’t think it will be everything.

Your average globally known name, be it a Shakespeare or a Ceasar–these kinds of folks may or may not be God’s favorites. Who knows, really–my point is just that we will likely be astounded at who God gives preference of place to in that heavenly seating chart that the disciples fought over in the Bible.

I for one will be happy just to be there. I will gladly accept a tiny, ramshackle nothing of a dwelling on the outskirts of Heaven–as long as it is on the desirable (I’ve changed this word a few times, but most definitely want posterity to know that I see the right side as the heavenly side) side of the great chasm between Jesus and the flames of hell, I’m good. It’s fun to sing AC/DC Hell’s Bells when you are young and pretend that it would be cool to be a star in hell vs. a slave in heaven until you really sit down and think about what that means. No, hell will likely not just be a rather warm and dark place, but still very cool and full of lots of heavy metal and sex and drugs. It will likely be the most exquisite torture that you can’t imagine, coupled with the deep and certain knowledge that you are there for eternity. Or, so I am inclined to believe as I write this.

I mean, I am not completely one to discount alternate ideas about hell–that eternal damnation is based on a certain conception of time and that hell is really the hell of eternal birth and death as understood by the Buddhists. However, as I get older, I don’t find a lot of comfort in keeping an open mind. Is comfort everything? Certainly not, but it can be a starting point.

But, more importantly, as I stated at the beginning of this, I think that a desire to serve the Lord and be immersed in righteous things–be it prayer, worship, the Bible, learning about the history of the biblical world, or helping others–this is the desire that nets a lot more profitable life changes over a simplistic desire to simply avoid being burned in hell for eternity. For me, the Lord and his Son Jesus are wonderful and amazing beings who are every bit worthy of my praise and adoration, and the unsavory bits about Yahweh in the OT and Jesus in the NT are born more out of the wishful thinking of humans who would have these powerful deities on their side doing their killing for them, than the true nature of these deities. After all, if someone is as powerful as Yahweh–why would he waste his time killing these people or those people, just out of some grim satisfaction? Of course, I see Jesus and the Lord as one God, and am good with the 1-3, 3-1 descriptions of the Trinity as understood by most Christians. But, I do see them as separate deities or beings where the emphasis of what they do in relation to this world is different, which is why I can get just as excited about the OT as the NT.

I do think that it is incredibly difficult to completely discount the religions outside of Judeo-Christianity as having no merit or being incorrect, simply because the individuals who are caught up in adoring God in their particular way are every bit as certain as I am of my faith, and their traditions are every bit as ancient and richly developed most of the time. I also have a hard time seeing an almighty God be so quick to put so much of humanity into hell for eternity–it doesn’t make sense when you concede that he is indeed almighty and all-loving.

Of course, I’ve said similar things a million times, but I think it bears fruit to occasionally touch base with some of the core things that I believe and understand to be drivers for why I am here, doing what I am doing, vs. being a Systems Admin, or something else secular. There is a path, and I have chosen to follow it, and I generally feel that I profit from it in ways I was never able to profit from trying to be the best secular human I could be. I am intensely devoted to this path, but sometimes, I too, need a reminder of this. The path of playing in the world with worldly things has long since lost its shine, and it only remains as a backup plan if it means choosing between it and seeing my family starve.