Thursday, March 31, 2005

Oops!

Anyone out there ever made a mistake? If you admit to being a member of the human race, it is likely that you have made some error during the course of your life. Mistakes come in various forms: sometimes I forget my wallet at home, or spray bathroom cleaner on the mirror because it looks like the glass cleaner, or burn the burgers because I lose track of time. These are relatively harmless mishaps and easily remedied and forgotten.

But there are those mistakes that affect others in a detrimental way, and those are not as easy to forget, forgive, or rectify. This week I did something thoughtless than put people in jeapordy. What do you do when that happens? First of all, you thank God that no one is hurt. Then you repent. Then you vow never to do anything that stupid again. Then you try to figure out what snapped in your brain to cause this lapse in judgment. Then you watch as people take a step back from trusting you. Then you re-evaluate your worth as a human being and question whether you are capable of ever bringing anything of value to someone's life again. Then you ask for wisdom. And you repeat the request again, and again, and it becomes a sort of mantra, a plea to save yourself and those you love from the deceptive twists of a soul that still carries the marks of unrighteousness. And then you wait.

Some redemption is instantaneous. But most of the time, healing is a process. The wound must be cleansed, stitched up and bandaged. The affected area must be guarded for a period of time to ensure it is not reinjured. Strength and mobility return slowly. The rest of the body suffers and compensates and protects. The blood nurtures and restores and rebuilds.

And that is my only hope. I cannot count on the forgiveness and grace of people - they have the freedom to choose. Some are brave enough to trust again, others just walk away. I cannot count on myself not to fail again - there are too many lessons I have still to learn. I cannot count on circumstances to shine favourably on me every time - even immovable faith does not guarantee positive results. But I have the blood. It is the one thing I can stand under, the one thing that gives me a second chance, the one things that wipes away the guilt, the one thing that keeps hope alive, the only thing that saves me.

Sing your songs of freedom
Praise the God of heaven
Love that never fails me
Jesus' blood, Jesus' blood
- Martin Smith

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

If my life were a salad...

Carrots pulled from the damp earth, unwashed... simplicity

Young summer peas still crisp and sweet and tiny in their pods...innocence

Kohlrabi peeled and turned upside down to resemble an ice cream cone...imagination

Variegated leaf lettuce with curly edges and ribs of deep red running through it at random...diversity

Strawberries with their pitted skin and raspberries with their cocoons of sugary syrup and tangy green gooseberries with their straw-tassled ends...integration

Choke cherries and frost-ripened concord grapes that turn your tongue various shades of blue and purple and make your eyes blink rapidly as the sour liquid pops out from the skin...the bittersweet that leaves its mark

Small bush berries that come in both red and yellow and are known to me only as "olebassum"...mystery

And a whole row of red poppies setting the rest of the garden aflame...burning passion

All topped by my mother's homemade creamy sweet and savory dressing that makes even wilted lettuce taste like manna...those whom I am blessed to call beloved

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Word Roulette

Unsure of what to write about today, I opened my thesaurus at random and stuck my finger on the left hand side of the page, thinking it would be a good exercise for me to expound on whatever I happened to point out. And the word was...MODERATION. So here we go - some thoughts on moderation.

I detest most forms of moderation for they are the antithesis of passion. Moderate people are easy to live with and moderate opinions are easy to accept. There is a certain amount of safety in moderation for you will never come close to excess or abstinence. Lukewarm is another word we can talk about. Neither hot nor cold. Lukewarm water, lukewarm tea, lukewarm beer, lukewarm Coke...ugh!

I used to equate moderation and balance, but a friend set me straight on that inaccurate assumption. I like balance, for it means you can take two extreme items and ultilize them to maintain stability. If you were to mush the opposites together and place the mixture in the middle you would get nothing more than a brownish stew and added dead weight. But if you let the black be black and the white be white, the very position of these two extremes i.e. "waaaay out there" can be made to work in your favour.

Some examples here: Can you imagine telling an artist to practice moderation in his use of colour? But balance is a beautiful thing in a painting. A moderate dose of love in a marriage would be hardly satisfying, but balance can provide healthy outlets for passion as well as aid longevity of the relationship. On the political end of things, a left-wing or right-wing party in power will push a very one-sided agenda, but when the two parties hold seats in a fairly even balance, the country is usually better served. On the other hand, a whole house of moderate politicians wouldn't get anything done.

I am trying to think of any good examples of moderation:
Eating? moderation is no good unless there is balance - a moderate amount of 100% fat is still bad for you.
Drinking? hmmm. that one might actually work, using moderation would guarantee that you did not become drunk, but very little else.
Working? a moderate worker is one who has no ambition. Show me a farmer who works moderately during harvest time. But throughout all the seasons on a farm...there is balance.

And now just a few words about passion because otherwise this whole thing is just way too negative.

Passion. Excitement. Surrender. Jumping. Dancing. Giving. Sacrifice. Crying. Loving. Running. Gazing. Touching. Laughing. Growing. Thinking. Hearing. Enjoying. Tasting. Moving. Embracing. Meeting. Grasping. Wanting. Dreaming. Looking. Being. Living. Breathing. Yes.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

ONE

I am reading a work of fiction about an artist who comes from a devout Jewish background, and though he practices his faith and observes all the traditions with the utmost sincerity, his choice of art subjects (like the crucifixion or nudes) has caused the Jewish community and his very own family to disown and speak against and at times shun him. It seems that the sacred, or what we have come to acknowledge as such i.e. having to do with religion, is threatened or afraid of being tainted when it comes in contact with the unsacred, or secular. While there are hints of this separation in the Bible, especially in the history of the nation of Israel, it manifests itself in a completely different form in the life of Jesus. In fact, the 'sacred' traditions, offices, and places seem to be threatened by Him!

Pitting the sacred and the secular against each other seems to me to constitute a rather inadequate and two-dimensional worldview. Perhaps one of the reasons is that as an artist I have experienced the blatant utilitarianism and lack of understanding that runs through much of Christendom when it comes to dealing with creative folk. Which is sad, because if anyone should appreciate and truly understand the process and nature of creation, it is those who profess to love the Creator.

If you were to draw a line down a piece of paper and list all the items you treat with honour, those things sacred to you on one side and on the other half, write down the secular or earthy entries, it might appear obvious to you that a church meeting would be sacred and let's say, a drinking party would fall on the secular side of things. But hold on...don't forget Jesus clearing the temple with a whip and in another instance turning water into wine so that the imbibing could continue. Kind of messes with one's list, doesn't it?

Personally, I try to keep my list rather simple. God is sacred and everything that God touches carries in it some sanctity. There is no secular except that which God has not yet touched, or where he has not been invited. In a similar way, I try not to separate my life into compartments for I do not see that as a characteristic of God. He made humankind as whole beings, not an amalgamation of arms, legs, eyes, skin, bones, some emotions, a mind, a will, and then threw in a breath of life to keep it all intact. I am one. I am made in the image of God who is One. With apologies to the Greeks, this tendency to separate intellect from emotion from physiology has not really aided anyone in living a full and rich life nor assisted health and healing in any way.

So often I hear people talk about how they must "witness" (now there's a nice Christian term for you) to their co-workers, speak up for God, say something to the unbelieving stranger or wayward family member. They seem to carry some misplaced guilt that is only placated when they bring up religion in a somewhat confrontational way with those who are "lost". Now I have no problem with biblical terminology, but it is lost (pardon the pun) on most everyone I encounter on a day to day basis, so I generally avoid it. Anyway, this "us" and "them" mentality that has been fostered in much of today's Christian circles is totally unhealthy when you are trying to build friendships or any meaningful relationship. The person becomes an object I must convert, or convince of my beliefs, or at the very least, convict of their horrible sins, and most people can smell this dehumanisation a mile away. True, words are important, but my life as a whole is what will really make a difference. Can I be a friend to someone who is bitter against God? Can I give a drunk person a hug? Can I listen to someone tell me why they are a Buddhist without feeling the need to challenge every sentence, but instead, really hear what is important to them? The way I treat a stranger or acquaintance will in most cases speak much louder than any Bible verse I can spout off.

My life is a sacred gift, as is every other life I come across. Every place I put my foot is sacred because I have asked God to walk with me. Everything I eat or drink is sacred when it is taken with thanksgiving and faith. Every word I utter is sacred when it issues from a heart of love. Every work of my hands is sacred when I do it as a service to the Creator. When I meet someone, I do not try to find out if they are a Christian or not - my first thought is to see the beauty in their unique creation, and where I see pain, I try to bring healing; where I see weakness, I offer to help, where I see longing, I ask God to come close. For that is the very essence of sacred...to nudge right up against and be touched by Pure Love so that it rubs off on you.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I don't know what to call this...just read it

I have prayed some interesting prayers. I am not thinking about the time I asked God to cast a demon out of a black cat or which lotto numbers to play or even the time I asked him to go back through time and affect a certain situation. No, the instance that came to my mind today was a prayer I uttered about a year ago that sort of took me by surprise when I heard myself express it because I wasn't sure it was a very godly desire - it sounded so selfish and oddly egocentric. This was the prayer: God, I ask you to move on me and in my life in such a way that people look at me, and when they do, especially those people on the edge of faith in some way, they can see your love and power and your undeniable nearness to humanity. I wanted to be a signpost of sorts - but since that concept seemed to have a tinge of attention-seeking at its core, I left that prayer unattended and went on to petition other matters of importance like healing for those bruised and broken (even sometimes bitter souls) I love, wisdom and knowledge for those around me in difficult situations, and love to always be the biggest and bravest motivation for myself and others.

But something happened today that brought everything around into perspective. Since I did my first spiritual gifts test at age 13 I have been told countless times that I have the gift of prophecy. That basically means that you deliver God's message, but it also carries with it the idea that God shows you things that ordinary people do not know. Yes, I have had dreams about events before they happened, I have prayed for my friends far away and later found out something changed at that instant, I have seen visions and uttered strange things in public. I have also made grave errors in judgment and been unwise in my words - there is definitely a maturing one must go through in developing any skill or gift. Anyway, for whatever reason, the last few years have been relatively void of any flashy exciting incidents in the arena of prophecy for me. Perhaps I am not pursuing it as much as I should. Perhaps certain mistakes and situations initiated a setback. Perhaps moving to a different part of the country changed things in a certain way, or perhaps there are just seasons to these things. I don't think about it too much...God spoke to me when I was an immature child and he can still do so today.

Anyway...for the past year I have been struggling my way out of a cocoon of religious and self-imposed safety harnesses which have kept me moderate and palatable but hardly experiencing a life of adventure and freedom. And I have done so quite openly, everything from shaving my head (my way of symbolizing a fresh start) to talking about my disappointments, my questions and doubts, my desire to be and do more with my life, the tossing out of many of my biases and presuppositions and trying things for the first time like (gasp) beer and cigars and all kinds of meat (I am mostly a vegetarian) and finally having the courage to jump in the deep end of a pool without a lifejacket, and letting myself get attached to people even when I know that it will affect me profoundly and tear at my heart occasionally.

And over the past few weeks or so, numerous people have came up to me and communicated basically the same thing but at different times and in different ways. They have told me that they have been watching me for the past year and seen the changes in my life and it is an inspiring thing to see my pursuit of freedom. They have said that they love my attitude of being up for anything at anytime - if there is a chance God is in it, I want to be there. In discussions where I am questioning and grappling for a way to build something solid in my unraveled world, when I thought I was just going on and on about myself and my silly chaotic life, I have seen people respond because they were touched and challenged and moved, having not dared or known how to confront those questions themselves. When I have exposed my most naked and vulnerable unfulfilled desires, people have asked me to pray for them for they want the same things. It is a most humbling and somewhat startling experience to be hugged and embraced and kissed because you have chosen to walk out your awkward stumbling journey of faith in front of others and that it is somehow endearing and precious to them, a gift I did not even know I was capable of giving: to impart healing, wisdom, knowledge, and love by needing them myself.

And today while I was driving home from school, I again remembered that prayer of a year ago...to be someone people could watch and see the hand of God at work; to be a tangible illustration of the character of Someone so many find intangible. And I finally realized that I am indeed living the life of a prophet: not delivering awesome orations that predict the future, but allowing God to draw his character on my soul and not being afraid to bare it so that anyone who is watching may see.