Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Blessing

The Spirit blessed me with wisdom tonight. But more than wisdom ... the Spirit blessed me with freedom. A wise freedom. A freedom to pray for people with a motivation of love, not worry.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

God Sent Me an E-mail

Last night I had a dream.

I dreamt I woke up, got out of bed, and checked my e-mail. In my dream, I was upset. My dream self felt some hurt, uncertain, and longing feelings concerning words exchanged on the internet. I opened my e-mail looking for a response to those exchanged words.

A response was in my inbox. The response was one sentence. I don't recall what the e-mail said exactly, but it was to this effect:
"Why did you have to make this about you?"
I awoke from this dream upset. In my dream, I hadn't intended to make things all about me, I was simply hurt. It took a few minutes before I even realized I had been dreaming. The e-mail wasn't real.

But was it still true? I couldn't wrap my head around why I would dream that dream. And so my day continued with occasional flashes to that dream, to that e-mail, to those feelings from that dream.

A few minutes ago, I understood that dream. For a few weeks now, I have lamented my ability to listen. Oh sure, I hear a lot of what people say, but I always chime in with words upon words. I've had this problem in a few situations with at least three different people in the past month or so.

The dream wasn't reality, but it was so true.

So, I guess God sent me an e-mail in a dream I had last night. It isn't all about me. If I start listening to people, I won't have time to make everything about me.

Thank God, family, and friends for forgiveness.


Monday, April 13, 2009

So This is Easter

I'm so tired of thinking about death. Geez Louise! At church I'm expected to drink the blood and eat the body of Christ, not to mention this whole season of Lent where we focus on waiting and preparation--on the death and cross of Jesus. It has been a long Lent, friends.

In my thesis research, I read about the death of God.

My grandmother died late December and Dr. Goodman early January. I think of them almost constantly.

I went to a wedding in Maine, but couldn't stop thinking about my next trip to Maine, when we will celebrate my grandmother's life. I could barely talk about her when I was in Maine. I don't even know if she had been buried yet (the ground is often frozen and covered in snow during a Maine winter, so bodies are kept in mausoleums until the weather warms up). I hope that service will give some sort of closure to my mourning process.

I keep having dreams of people dying. I've had at least two since my nana and Goodman, perhaps three. If not three since then, I know I had another one in the past year. One is too many.

I have an amazing picture of my nana on my desk ... it has some scratches on it. Those scratches really disturb me. I truly must purchase a frame.Geez Louise! I'm tired of thinking about death.

In The Secret, Petrarch thinks we should think about death frequently, because it gives a good sense of humility and reality. I don't think Petrarch had in mind what I've had in my mind.

If my mother is reading this piece, I bet she's almost in tears. For me and for her loss, too.
But it is Easter, my friends.
He is risen.
He is risen, indeed.
Indeed, he is risen!
Exclamation point!
Hallelujah, hallelujah, amen!
It is because he lives that I can face tomorrow. Paul tells us Jesus was the first fruits of resurrection. "First" implies more will follow. That's you and me. That's Goodman and my Shirley Mae Grant. I mourn, but I don't mourn like those with no hope of resurrection.

I don't know if I'll ever see them again. I really don't. I don't know what God's kingdom will be like after the parousia. I expect to see a lot of Christians, a lot of Jews, and a lot of people I don't expect. Can you expect something you don't expect? I think you can, in the abstract at least. Still, I can hope to see Goodman and my nana again.

I was brought up believing in an intermediary state between death and resurrection, but I would love to see Nana and Goodman and hear, "I prayed for you sometimes, Trevár. I was pleased when I saw how pleased God was with you. Glad to see you, but I really must be going. So busy! Do give me a call some time and we'll grab some drinks, my brother." Then I imagine we'll hug and go our separate ways. And I honestly don't care what anyone thinks about that image, because I like it. To me, it is beautiful, regardless of the theology.

Whether they are in heaven, in the grave, with what remains of their body, in some spiritual realm, in Purgatory, in the kingdom--wherever those who have died are, I anticipate their resurrection.

Petrarch wanted us to think of death, but I highly recommend thinking about some resurrection, too. If you can. Sometimes I don't think resurrection is going to do anything but distract you from your loss. Thinking about good things doesn't make the bad feelings go away. And I hear holidays and birthdays are the worst when you've lost someone. If you've lost someone, by death or otherwise, I hope there will come a time, however long or brief--perhaps an Easter--when you can be taken away with your hope at the expense of your loss.

I pray we all can be taken away with our hope at the expense of our loss.

I'm glad Lent doesn't come again for a long time.......

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Meditations on Tenebrae, Lent, and Holy Week

This year, I was really struck by Maundy Thursday. Perhaps it was less Maundy Thursday and more a service of Tenebrae, a latin word for "darkness," and a liturgical time of extinguishing candles (sometimes extended over the last three days of Holy Week, which is the three days before Easter ... Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday).

At Shelby Presbyterian, our Tenebrae began with a prelude by Bach, "O Man, Bewail Thy Grievous Sin." Because Bach and Mozart are both classical artists, I was reminded (in later reflection, more than during the service) of the postlude for our Stations of the Cross service the previous night, a piece from Mozart's famous Requiem Mass, the Lacrimosa.

Liturgically, a Requiem Mass is a service for the dead and composers set the service to music. The Lacrimosa can be translated as follows (according to wikipedia), I'll include the Latin to the right:
Tearful that day, Lacrimosa dies illa
on which will rise from ashes qua resurget ex favilla
guilty man for judgment. judicandus homo reus.
So have mercy, O Lord, on this man. Huic ergo parce, Deus
Compassionate Lord Jesus, Pie Jesu Domine,
grant them rest. Amen. Dona eis requiem. Amen.
For me, our service began as confession, as humbling. I recognized and mourn(ed) my sins and the sins of those present and not present. It is, after all, Lent.

Following the prelude, there was a prayer and a song of praise, "All Glory, Laud, and Honor" and a responsive reading of praise from scripture (Mark 11:1, 4, 7-10).

Then, the darkness began. The rest of the service was broken into stages of darkness, metaphorically and literally. The first was the darkness of misunderstanding and expressed through a responsive reading of pieces of John and Mark. After the reading, a candle was extinguished and the lights dimmed. The darkness of misunderstanding gave way to the darkness of betrayal in Matthew 26:20-28, a betrayal that may not have been seen as betrayal until it was too late. Not just the betrayal of Judas, though, but also the betrayals we daily enact to God, each other, and creation. Another candle extinguished, the lights dimmed again.

And amidst the darkness of betrayal, but after the dimming, we continued with the reading from Matthew that led us to communion, singing "Let us break bread together on our knees."

We moved into the darkness of temptation, but not the temptation where Satan takes Jesus into the wilderness. This temptation was the temptation of freedom, of peace, and of comfort. It was the temptation where Jesus prays for God to save him from crucifixion and where Jesus' disciples sleep instead of pray. We read Matthew 26:30-31, 36-46. We, too, are tempted to lounge instead of pray and to escape any sort of persecution, any sort of death to sin and self, any sort of cross, running instead to freedom, peace, and comfort. Another candle extinguished, the lights further dimmed.

Jesus resisted this temptation, which means we can, too. And when he did and when we do, we move into the darkness of injustice at Jesus' trials of condemnation by humanity, by us. Another candle. Less light. "Go to Dark Gethsemane": learn from Jesus Christ to die.

If we make it as far as the darkness of injustice individually or corporately, we will face another temptation, one to which Peter succumbed in the courtyard of Mark 14:66-72: the darkness of denial. Although this darkness was a hard one to experience, a hard candle to extinguish, it was the next that made my voice quiver.

We read the following, a selection from Luke 23:13-24. The parts in bold were read by the congregation:
Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders and the people, and said to them,
"You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will, therefore, have him flogged and release him."
Then they all shouted together, "Away with this fellow!"
"Release Barabbas for us!"
"Crucify him!"
"Crucify him!"
And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted.
The sixth candle was extinguished. The lights were completely off. The only light remaining was the dull, natural light from the cloudy evening and the light from the Christ candle. We sang, "Were You There?" and the sanctuary was stripped of all decorations. The purple lenten cloths were removed. The candles were removed. The Bible was removed. We even removed the table cloth where the sacraments sat. I have been at some churches that not only strip the church, but also cover it in black. The church entered a time of mourning as we entered the last darkness, the darkness of crucifixion, a darkness and a mourning that will last until that great morning.

After reading from some words on the cross, the Christ candle, too, was extinguished, alluding to Jesus' death. As we sat in silence, darkness, thought, and emotion, one of the pastors took a match and in expectation of Easter, re-lit the Christ candle during the Benediction. We mourn, but not like the rest of the world, because we expect that resurrection.

We exited in meditative silence, by the dull, natural light of a cloudy evening and the light of Christ. In my meditation, I decided to add a line to a poem I wrote, a poem that has frequented my blogs, and one I would like to further explain in the near future.



Thursday, April 9, 2009

Childish Faith

"Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." Mark 10:15 & Luke 18:17

"Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matt. 18:4

I've only heard people interpret the passages above the same way. The faith like a child is that unquestioning faith. The faith of child who takes their parents' words as truth. Child-like faith allows the Christian to accept "the Bible" as truth, even if it is hard to reason, even if it is unreasonable.

Why is that the only interpretation I've ever heard?

In Mark, Jesus mentions the children in 10:13-16, talks with a rich man, and then addresses his disciples, calling them "children." The rich man, as you might recall, asks Jesus about obtaining eternal life and Jesus ends up telling the man to sell everything and give the money to the poor before following Jesus. To his disciples, Jesus says, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God ... for God all things are possible" (10:24-25, 27).

In this section, I believe we rightly argue to interpret the child's faith as one that accepts the unbelievable (this passage specifically refers to the impossibility of obtaining--probably buying--eternal life), based on the continuation of talking about "children."

But Mark also has a way of "sandwiching" stories to make a point. The faith of the child, I believe, is one of dedication. Children are dedicated to their parents and follow them. They are (hopefully) not so prideful as to want things over their parents. The faith of a child is the one who not only follows the commandments, but also follows the spirit of the law by selling everything and giving the money to the poor just so one can better follow the parent, better commune and enjoy the parent.

And you may have already noted, "Trevar, the passage doesn't say anything about the faith of a child. It actually says, 'receive the kingdom of God as a little child.'" How do you receive something like a child? With eagerness. With such eagerness, that you might sell everything to have it (like a pearl of great price?). If you want to substitute "faith" in here somehow, go ahead. I think it fits here.

In Luke, the children bit is also followed by the rich-ruler bit, but with no other mention of "children" and the story is preceded by a bit about a pharisee and tax collector praying. Honestly, I'm not sure what exactly all that information means. Maybe you could argue children are humble (as in the Matthew passage)? Maybe you can make the same interpretation as in Mark? Maybe Luke just thought the events happened in that order.

"When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things." 1 Cor. 13:11

I also don't really know what it will mean to juxtapose this Pauline statement with the earlier words of Jesus. But it is intriguing, isn't it?

I just wanted to add a different interpretation and more options. I'm sure other people have made different interpretations, I just have never heard them.

I'm not throwing out the standard interpretation, either. Just adding some nuance?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Shift

I had another "vision" recently (to see why I put the word "vision" in quotes, see this blog). I was reading David Bosch's Transforming Mission while riding inside a Boeing airplane as it landed. The following unfolds my unfolding and refolding "vision."

I envisioned the end of the so-called "Christian academy," with the continuance of the church and the academy.

The idea scares me a little. Imagine the job loss, the slew of people applying for the few jobs open at the remaining colleges and universities. Hopefully the other private and public academies could hire more employees as Christians started attending other schools. The transition would take forever, if it were possible at all. Perhaps my vision is more of a way things could have been. Perhaps it is a vision of a way things could be, in some places.

Imagine towns like Boiling Springs as they writhe in the loss of their local economy. Imagine the buildings searching for purpose.

Outside the horror of this impossible transition, things would be set right.

Young Christians like myself would no longer separate themselves from the world with the invisible, permeable wall we build around our Christian institutions. Although I know people with a diverse set of beliefs, all but a few are self-proclaimed Christians. Such a situation cannot be what Paul meant when he wrote the famous statement about being in the world, but not of it. On the flip side, young Christians would be forced to create koinonia and forced to engage in a practical life of Christianity as they interact with the world.

The academy will then have a more proper separation from the church, because it will not be a schismatic event within the church. Instead of being a body divorcing, it will be natural. It will be a separation because the two are not of the kind that they can be one. Like a table cannot be a human, that Church cannot be one with the Academy.

Imagine a church that handles education--all the education. A church that teaches New and Old Testament classes with or without indoctrination, with or without possibilities, and with or without forums. A church that attempts to prepare the congregation to engage in ideas that are threatening to each Christian's private faith--or more importantly, a church that is available to engage those threatening ideas in a responsible way.

Imagine. Just imagine the possibilities and the consequences--the bad and the good, in all their (im)possibility.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I leave so many things up in the air, I figure I can probably fly.

Nothing wrong with not planning. Nothing wrong with suspending a little judgment.

And there I am, in the air with them. One day here, another day there. One day feeling cramped and crowded, another feeling lonely and needy.

Not day to day, though. More like moment to moment.

One moment worried, the next confused. Then apathetic. Annoyed. Carefree. Loved. Excited. Comfortable. Bored. Engaged.

Sometimes about the same thing. Sometimes I switch from thing to thing to thing to ...

Just like everyone else.

No, not everyone else. But definitely others--just like many others. Everyone is unique, but we aren't alone.

Maybe no one has the exact same combination of emotions, but somewhere out there, each individual emotion is shared by at least one other.

This fact may not be comforting, but it achieves some solidarity. Or maybe it does not achieve some solidarity, but it provides some comfort.

I'll leave it up in the air

for now or forever.

With me.

I'm flying.

Evangelism Weekend

I'm uneasy about "evangelism."

I've been doing some homework lately in the area of evangelism and, for my discussion, when I say "evangelism," I think of verbally telling a person about salvation and Jesus. Note, I am not making statments about this word's meaning, but rather what it makes me think. You don't have to think the same thing.

I've had a few opportunities to 'evanglize' this weekend. When you're a divinity student taking a class called "Missions & Evangelization," it isn't like you never have an opportunity to talk about Jesus. Yesterday someone asked me what that class entailed and I was taken aback. I wasn't sure how exactly to define the class material, especially since I only met the guy an hour or so earlier.

I felt the need to be apologetic. I think I told him the class intended to get the students to create their own theory about "sharing the gospel," "other religions," and such. And without having a fully developed theory, I started to explain about different perceptions within the class. I actually said, "I'm OK, you're OK." What does that even mean? What did I mean by it? Did I evangelize?

I cussed in front of a good friend. In high school, I never cussed. I thought it was wrong. I cussed last time I was home, but not much. Today I said "the queen-mother of dirty words," as Ralphie called it. I had the opportunity to say I no longer thought cussing was morally wrong. Did I help deliver a new perception to what it means to be Christian? Did I evangelize?

I spoke a lot to various people about how culture determines our ideas of "norm" and "beauty." I mentioned long hair, gauged ear holes, colors, and finger-nail clipping is all culture. None of them are "natural" (if natural is opposed to civilized). I didn't talk about Jesus or Christianity in relation to any of these ideas. Did I evangelize?

At some point I will write a "journal" sort of response about what I think evangelism is. I don't know what I'll write. I don't even know what has happened this weekend in that regard.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gray Re-Covers

Jamais vu is French. It describes any familiar situation which seems unfamiliar. It is a paramnesia, which etymologically means "near memory." It involves distorted or confused memory. We use a lot of French terms for instances of paramnesia. Most people are familiar with déjà vu. And even though you might not know the term, you're probably familiar with presque vu, which is used describe a time when something is on the tip of your tongue.

For me, this French term speaks to a lack of understanding of myself. Why am I where I am? Why do I enjoy what I enjoy? Do I enjoy what I enjoy? Existential questions and beyond.

Today I enjoyed without question, but not without some surprise. I enjoyed the cold wind blowing in my face. My icicle fingers. The loud roar of the waves which drowned out any nearby human noises. The familiar, but sublime look of the ocean under a thick, gray fog. No sun. No blue sky. No birds chirping. And the gray fog sucked the color out of everything, making the whole world various shades of gray. And in the mix, was gray me. Just gray me, with the gray wind running through my hair, filling my lungs, and caressing me.

Jamais vu, this French phrase, has been me responding in unfamiliar ways to familiar situations, me questioning why I am responding in this unfamiliar way and not the more familiar way. And so I suppose “jamais vu” might not be the right phrase to describe the situation, because it isn’t always a memory thing. But it sometimes is.

Reflection upon the grayness made some things make sense, made me recover from an amnesia and settled me in a nice aporia, a comfortable angst, a mastered malaise, and a je ne sais quoi that I know—a familiar unfamiliar and an unfamiliar familiar.

Jamais vu means “sad” in neither French nor English. Existential angst. Questions. Aporia. These words do not preclude good emotions. Joy. Love. Happiness. Pleasure. Peace. Well, sometimes peace, but not always that peace that passeth. Jamais vu does not mean unfortunate in French. It might conjure awkwardness, but it is not bad. For me it has produced reflection.

And the product of that reflection is still entirely unknown—unknown in its entirety—its entirety is unknown—

It is beginning to recover my prayers.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Boring Narrative Revolving Around Trevar

Tonight I decided to write a boring narration of today's events in the world of Trevar, a world that sort of revolves around me.
So I flew to Maine today and boy are my arms tired. April Fools! I didn't actually fly, I sat in a plane.

Airports make me anxious for some reason. I felt crowded. At least I got to be anonymous. Really anonymous. So anonymous that when I used the urinal, it flushed before I had even zipped up. Apparently people find it really funny when I write about pissing and urinals, so I thought that quick story would spice up my narrative a bit.

While waiting in the concourse, a group of people flocked to the gate as their plane had just been re-assigned to the gate next to me. A worker got on the PA and re-routed them to yet another gate. I chuckled at how upset people were that they had to walk to two different gates. And not old people or people limping or walking slowly. Healthy people. Healthy people were upset about having to walk to different gates instead of impatiently waiting at one gate. I'm smiling now just thinking about it. Isn't it fun to make light of the "misfortunes" of others?

I sat in the exit row on both of my flights tonight. It was wonderful to have so much leg room. On my first flight, I had the whole exit row to myself ... three seats with all their leg room, just for Trevar. And on top of the comfort, I was pleased to know that I was expected to help people in an emergency, God forbid. The comfort and usefulness assuaged some of the anxiety.

Why are the wages of sin death? Why would God make that connection? If it isn't a bad wage, than why do we think so?

I was rushed this morning to do all I wanted to do before I left for Maine. I didn't get everything done, but I got most everything done. Rushing did not help the pre-airport anxiety. The drive did. I ate a lot of food before going to the airport. It made me wish I could have gone to the gym. Wishing I could have gone to the gym made me wish I could have seen those dirty poets at open-mic night. Making me wish I could have seen those dirty poets at open-mic night didn't make me wish anything else.

Can we have substitutionary atonement with a God who isn't bloodthirsy and juridical?

I signed up for fall classes. Dr. Robertson forgot about our meeting, but saw me exiting the div lounge as he was leaving. Good timing.

It is always weird to use a different keyboard. My mother's laptop does not have a COMMAND key. Instead, it has an, ALT, FN, and four-wavy-squares keys. I miss my COMMAND key. I do not miss being a slave to my computer.

I'm not sure people can be merciful. The other day Dr. Berry tried to describe mercy by saying a coworker forgot his or her lunch, so you share your sandwich. For his off-the-cuff scenario, "justice" would have that person go hungry, because they forgot, whereas mercy has them serendipitously sharing your sandwich. But who are you to have any say in the "justice" of someone forgetting a sandwich? They did nothing wrong to you, they made a mistake. I think justice was you sharing your sandwich. It is just, because you are kin and kin should help each other. Justice is not casting a stone when you are sinful. Mercy is not casting a stone when you aren't sinful. God shows mercy. We're engaged in justice, especially the social kind.

I love the veggie subs at Quizno's. They have guacamole and mushrooms on them. It was a ridiculous price. I also really wanted a latte, but the coffee place in councourse D at the Baltimore airport had run out of everything but coffee. I had a big layover (if you know what I mean), so I went past security to Starbucks, planning to bring my coffee back to the gate. I forgot you can't bring liquids past security. I drank my latte, but my toothpaste is gone forever.