Worlds and Dreams

When we were young we were filled with dreams and those dreams defined us. We were not afraid to imagine beyond the boundaries of space and time because the world had not yet shown us its limits. As we grew older, the boundaries of reality began to compress these hopes and aspirations under the disparaging guise of the rules and laws of the real world. Our dreams started to conform to the reality we were shown and our discontent grew into this claustrophobic idea that our dreams could only be understood under the terms of what the world told us was possible. Our youthful ambitions finally just gave up and gave way; our hopes we began to acquiesce and our dreams fell to the ground to become the dust under our feet.

What is so wrong with dreaming big?

I have to wonder about the idea of creation. I know there are arguments stacked upon arguments about the creation of the earth and how God did it and how long it took him. Let me be completely honest and tell you those sort of questions don’t concern me as far as my understanding goes. But let’s consider some of the very basic information. Consider the vastness of our universe, the number of stars, the different forces acting in different ways just to hold the universe together. The amount of complexity, beauty and perfection just screams and begs for us to see it as more than just a happy accident. The Apostle Paul says something to this effect in his letter to the Roman church (Romans 1:20). What’s even more interesting is that out of all that space out there we still have the only planet that can sustain life.

When God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them he created them with a specific function for them to carry out. When he was done with each phase of creation he calls it good. The land, the plants, the sea, the bird, the fish, the clouds in the sky all created for a specific reason and they were good. The word in Hebrew is tov and it means “good”.Then he created man and woman and calls it very good. The intricacies of the human body alone are enough to make you wonder just who could design something just so perfect. Down to some of the most bizarre of details like eyelashes to keep things out of our eyes and earwax to keep dirty and things out of our ears. Think about the human brain and the complexity of the personality and just how different everyone you know is. We have the ability to recall things, we have memory. It’s just so amazing to me to think about it. As the Psalmist says, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

I think that God has a perfect imagination.

We don’t know the how or why of creation for certain but we know that from the beginning God, in his infinite everything, imagined creation and spoke it into existence.

We were part of God’s dream for creation. He created us with a much more limited ability to imagine and create though. I see this every day in the work of my artist friends and in the words of my poet friends. But it’s so much bigger than that. After the Fall in Genesis 3 the first people were expelled from the garden of Eden. Sin entered the world and sin created doubt. Doubt, I’m convinced, is one of the greatest sins next to pride. While pride tells us to seek ourselves rather than God. Doubt tells us God can’t do something, it’s too much to ask and it tells us we are nothing. It tells us our dreams and our aspirations, if properly driven and motivated, are not ever going to be realized. It tells us it’s not worth trying.

But I think that’s all wrong. Because when man fell God already had a plan to redeem his creation. Paul said to his letter to the church in Ephesus:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV)

A plan to unite all things in heaven and on earth? The word in Greek also means “task” or “something that requires management or stewardship”. Management and stewardship are active processes, things someone continually does.

A good friend of mine tells me that when he dreams he dreams big. I think that’s amazing. Honestly, I don’t know how to dream big myself. My dreams come to me in my sleep and they feed my aspirations in life. Sometimes they ruin my life. I believe, though, that I can rely on God for anything because, though on a much larger scale, God’s plans are big and I fit in there somehow. So, I ask myself why I let my dreams be so small? Is all that I want really contained within the schemes of academia? Do I want to be a pastor in a church and try to use my story to bring people to God’s story? Yes. Those are big dreams in themselves, perhaps the biggest because it’s God’s biggest plan that everyone become part of his story. That is my dream.

But you can get there many ways. Pastor, professor or musician, the dream is the same. It’s how you get there. It’s what you dream.

My dream is to turn the world upside down. What’s yours?

Exodus to Routine

I’m a slave to routine. There’s really no way of escaping that reality for something else in my life. I have a schedule and I adhere to it pretty strictly and deviation from that routine throws me off not just mentally but physically. This creates a whole lot of interesting stress in my life because I live and die by the clock and the calendar. I’m lost without my phone because it has my entire day outlined. I know when I have to go to bed and when I have to get up, when to take my pills and when to be in class. I have my syllabi loaded into a really handy iPhone app that tells me everything is due this semester. It helps me feel really secure that I have that nailed down.

It’s also really, really boring.

I wonder if my control is only an illusion.

In the book of Exodus the Hebrew people are driven by routine. In Egypt they were treated as slaves because they weren’t Egyptian and therefore weren’t the deity, Pharaoh’s, people. They were forced to make bricks and work really hard for the benefit of someone else, to the point where they cried out and YHWH heard them. He broke them out of that routine after showing Pharaoh who the real God is. You would think that the people would be grateful. Being loosed from bondage under a tyrannical and dehumanizing system should elicit praise from those set free and for a while it does.

But that was not the end of routine for them.

The other day I was driving down the road from my college which is, oddly enough, a gravel road about two miles south of anything resembling a suburban sprawl. I don’t mind it most of the time because my car is beat up anyway so soiling it further with dust or mud is not really a huge concern to me but that day was a little different. I didn’t get very far away from the driveway of the college when, in a split second, I saw a white and blue flash like a strobe light and then flames in a field on the left side of the road. I’ve driven past that farm a million times and it was always calm and tranquil like you would expect a small grazing field for horses would be. But that calm was disrupted by a burst of fire.

I’ll be truthful and tell you I know absolutely nothing about country living. I am a city guy to the bone. But I know it is not uncommon for farmers to burn parts of their field off for various reasons. I don’t know what those reasons are but I know they exist. So, since I hadn’t cognitively thought about what had just happened I drove by and did nothing. But when I replayed the ordeal in my mind I realized a power line over the field had snapped and swept through the dry grass at the base of the poles they were attached to. Those live wires then ignited the brush and grass that it touched and the fire proceeded to spread. That calm field started to smoke. I called 911 and reported the fire and then I realized something

For the first time ever I had just witnessed the start of a grass fire.

Intense.

After surviving the escape from Egypt between two walls of water that was a sea before YHWH parted it and watching the water take out the pursuing Egyptians when he stopped holding up those walls of probably white and foaming sea, the Hebrew people were free to seek the land that was promised to their fathers. They should have been excited and elated that they were finally free. Right?

If you’ve read the Exodus account and on and on through the rest of the Hebrew Bible you know that just isn’t the case. In the Exodus they fall into a perpetual routine of grumbling and whining on and on about their living conditions. God gives them food every day and gives them water out of a rock. There’s that old cliche that you can’t get blood from a stone. That may be true but their elohim, my God, gave them water out a stone. They’re both liquid coming from a solid so it’s all still pretty amazing to me.

After a period of time the Hebrew people fall back into their routine of complaining and dissatisfaction with YHWH and they ask for a king. We have record after record of good kings and bad kings and Israel falls into a routine of building up and then later tearing down the altars to the idols they would continually fall back to until God just becomes so fed up with their unfaithfulness he disperses them. All because they failed to see one crucial thing.

God provided for them.

They wanted more. The control had to be theirs.

When I think about what was going on in the weeks prior to seeing something as crazy as a power line snapping and starting a small fire in a field, I can remember thinking how mundane my life was. Groaning and complaining that I was so tired of routine and college and schedules and how I wish I could quit my job and just focus on school and have fun like the rest of my friends. I realize without the point I’m getting at that being lazy and not working would drive me insane. I don’t really have more than two settings built into me: Stop and Go. So to think that I would really be content if I could go to school without a job is really just me lying to myself.

But then again I wonder if that is the point.

Just like the Israelites, I was discontent with my surroundings, with the people around me and with my life situation. He had already pulled me out of the bondage and slavery that I had to sin and he has continued to provide for me. I have been overwhelmed with what he has done in my life even just recently and to prove to me that it’s not really cliche to say that I am truly blessed. I realize that I am discontent with what my Father has provided for me and the knowledge of that is just so overwhelming that I’ve deleted several attempts at describing it in this paragraph and have given up that endeavor completely. Those sparks flying off that live cable causing combustion and ignition in the grass below them was like a wake up call and I’ve been reeling from it ever since. God has provided and will provide, sustain and encourage. He will rebuke and he will raise up.

He broke my focus from the routine and made me remember that.

If you translate my name in Hebrew it means “YHWH will raise up”.

And he will. More than you can even comprehend.

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A documentary on Hell House… On the Highway to Hell?

Netflix has done it to me again.  I stepped into another pile of bizarre Christian conversion tactics.  Maybe I just missed the bus on this one too, but this one is intriguing to me as well because I never would have thought of this and I consider myself a fairly creative person.

This particular documentary, Hell House, surrounds a Pentacostal church [the speaking in tongues type] twho creates their own little house of horrors for the Halloween season.  The idea is essentially to portray different and dangerous things that, if you’re unrepentant, you would be condemned to hell for.  Then they show an actual portrayal of Hell and what it may be like.  From the very beginning this started to sound dicey to me.  The idea was interesting but is presented in such a way that the people making their way through this Hell House is bombarded.

They start with the planning and the things they were attacking in the process of creating this monstrosity just had me taken aback.  Things I can readily recall involved a child being oppressed by a demon who said he had introduced this person to the occult early on by reading Goosebumps.  I’m sorry, I don’t know about anyone else, but I grew up reading those books and I’m not sure I could pull anything of the occult out of them when I read them at that age.  Then there was your typical Harry Potter bashing, stereotypical AIDS reference for the condemnation of a gay person, a woman bleeding out after a botched abortion, date rape at a rave, drug deals gone terribly wrong… I’m sure you get the idea by now.  They did, however, give a fairly accurate portrayal of Jesus’ response to this in my opinion.  They have people arriving in heaven and they are rejected and turned away by Jesus, who denies knowing them and turns them over to Hell.  The problem is the guy running Hell.  He’s a skinny black clad kid with grease paint that makes him look like a member of Kiss.

So, after traversing the entirety of this house, the groups are brought into a room where they are given the choice to stay where they are or they are given an open door to go through to have people pray for them and help to bring them to Jesus.  Not a bad move, but since it’s completely motivated by fear and there is a total absence of the love of God I guess I have a small problem with their methods.  There is actually a portion of the film where one of the staff members speaks to a very upset kid in a Fear Factory [\m/] t-shirt.  The kid rants that it’s all just stereotypcial Christian bullshit.  I would have to agree, though the staff member does say that, for instance, in the case of the gay kid scene where he dies from AIDS, he rejects Jesus despite a friend’s pleas.  It’s fair, but I would have to agree that the tactics utilized by this particular group of tongue-speaking, God fearing shock-jock thespians are a little overboard if not a lot.

And, besides, if you see their portrayal of Hell, besides a member of the Kiss army running the show, I don’t think it even comes close to what could be described as Hell.  Because this is something very visual, I can’t really give you a full picture so I suggest, if the topic interests you, to check out this piece of work yourself.

My true question I guess, is whether or not I’m just missing weird stuff like this or if it’s because I’m looking.  Are there that many weird people who call themselves children of God and followers of Christ that are that far out there?