02 September 2010

The Silence and The Darkness.

The following is a story I wrote that goes with an instrumental ambient/metal project I am finishing up.

Keep seeking.

How much longer must I wait? Another sleepless night, though this night is unlike any other. I wish that somehow I could turn everything into nothing. And yet I wait and wait until what I thought was everything grows deeper, appearing like dust out of nowhere, showing its subtle changes, reluctant to move. Tonight it becomes a weighing presence, more like cement than a thin layer of dirt and everything seems to creak under its immobilizing blanket. Nothing can escape it, from the table by the bed, to the pictures skewed down the hall, to these weak and dry bones.

I scan out the window. It’s colder now and the fog is settling on the ground of this empty field, bringing a lonely darkness. I recall the last time I tried to regain some form of solace, to fight off the haunting that would never cease. One more step in the graveyard to see the ghosts and demons disappear, another time to let the moon and the madness die with the fear. So afraid of what they would steal, but too blind to see what they already had taken. The tombstones told stories of lives once lived, now hidden beneath a cemetery view of darkness so unsettling. Descending into the depths, I detach myself like a comet, splitting through the angel and the beast. As I lie there, pleasure in the pain pushed aside, I adjust and get comfortable in the grave. Underneath the weight of the world, I began to drift off in what I thought was a dream. I began to be carried in the sky on silver wings. I looked down upon the earth. Four fires blazing, columns of destruction leaving behind the ashes of remembrance. As the flames began to reach higher and higher, I began to realize they were searching. The flickering hides and the flashes define our distance. That was when I first noticed someone standing in the midst of the chaos unharmed. It became apparent to me that this person had caused the consuming columns to seek me out. “Destroy me, yes! Move me, never!” I screamed. And with these words I returned to the depths of the grave.

And now, tonight, I see this person once again. Towards my window I see the fog curling around you as you move. My heart begins to race and emotions pulsing through my veins. In this darkness you waited for me. A darkness growing deeper like two shadows joining in a dance away from the flames. Eye to eye with this thin glass between us I can see your face. But all I can see is my reflection running down your face, slowly taking my breath with it as it falls. I. Am. A. Wretch.

Your lips move but the vibrations do not meet my ears. You speak again, and I can make out the words as they turn into frost on the window. “My child, my child. Open your eyes.”

07 August 2010

To be marked.

I have found there are many reasons people get a tattoo. This is my story:

I remember back in graduate school, I wanted to be marked, but some circumstance always prohibited me from making the commitment. At the time, it was the Hebrew word "ebed" which means servant. I still love this word and the meanings that come along with it.
However, in September of 2009, as I was studying early Christianity, I came across a symbol that astounded me in a variety of ways. That symbol is one of the earliest Christograms and is known as the "Chi Rho." I have been wanting to pursue this marking since then. An incredible opportunity presented itself when gathering with my dearest friends here in Seattle. In mid-July 2010, we were talking about the honor of being marked and how we all have had ideas and desires to be marked but for one reason or another had never followed through. So we went to go visit some tattoo shops. We decided on Marc from the Wallingford shop of Slave to the Needle (for me mainly because of the ideas I had and his incredible work that looks like stone). Andy's idea was of a shepherd's staff and club from Psalm 23 with his wife (Andrea) and newly born daughter (Emilia) 's names incorporated on his inner forearm. Then Katie, recently inspired by an intentional spiritual retreat wanted "truth" with a cherry blossom (a symbol of femininity and power) on her wrist and Dave wanting a tree, a symbol of life and rootedness on his left shoulder/arm that would include Katie's name and leave room for future children. I have always wanted something on my upper inner forearm. A place that I can readily see and easily hide for the 'professional world.'

The Chi Rho is derived from the first two letters of Christ in Greek (Christos). The symbol gained popularity during the monastic community movement through the Celtic region. One of their ways of life was to sense what was good in a neighborhood and bless it, and accordingly sense what was evil and combat it with prayer. These people would carve the Chi Rho into the trees along the borders of their communities, neighborhoods, to mark them for Christ. This let those coming in to the neighborhood know the commitment to Christ of those residing there. It also served as a reminder to the residents, of Whose they were, of what truths to hold on to, and of Christ, the bond of unity for them.
It is not hard to see the biggest problem we as humans face in our faith when reading through the history of God and His people; remembrance. We will forever need reminders of the great acts of our great God. Read through Genesis and Exodus, so many times the people going astray from God started with one simple act: not remembering. This act of creating a mark is for remembrance. Remembering what God has done not only in my own life, but in the lives of those around me, stories of His movement around the world, and throughout history. It's a reminder that faith looks back which drives our hope in what God has promised, redemption through Christ and a new world.
Knowing what Marc was capable of, I approached him to create something similar but that looked like it was carved out of stone. I also wanted to incorporate something encircling the symbol, and with the stone wanted something that would signify life, like vines. Marc quickly told me that as small as I wanted, vines would not work but asked how I felt about olive branches. "Perfect," I said. And then the 3 week wait began until the appointment. The idea of using olive branches should have been an obvious option for me. As most of us know, they are symbols of peace, a peace which pervades all and surpasses our understanding. For me, it also brings about ideas of stability and the promised end to trials and troubles of this life. In John 16:33 Christ proclaims, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." I began to completely fall in love with this image of peace that surrounds the rock of my salvation. I also began to think about the promise of new beginnings. Recalling the story of Noah and the ark, after 40 days and nights of rain, then floating around on the sea with no land, no place to call home, God delivered hope by way of an olive branch, as Noah released a dove three times. The first time, it came back with nothing. The second time, the dove returned with an olive branch in its beak -- hope. The third time Noah released the dove, it did not return; it had found land, God's promises were fulfilled. In addition to the olive branches having ties to peace, it also makes me think of the Olivet discourse -- Christ's last major teaching about the end times, the tribulations, and the faith in Him that will see it through until His return -- a call to persevere, to press on.
As if these meanings were not enough, it gets deeper. Using olive branches keeps a very consistent Greek theme. As most of you know, I love running. It is calming to my soul and time of great reflection. In November 2008, I had the amazing experience of completing my first marathon, The Seattle marathon (I ran this marathon for my grandfather, who has since passed, and was the example of a man of God with a faith that presses on). Since then, I have been hooked; completing 2 more full marathons (Rock and Roll Seattle 2009 and BMO Vancouver B.C. 2010) and a half marathon (Seattle 2009). On July 31st, 2010, I finished my first ever ultramarathon, White River 50. This 50 mile endurance run was the biggest test of my physical and mental limits. Over the distance of 50 miles, the course runs a 27 mile loop gaining 5400' in elevation and a 23 mile loop with a 3300' elevation gain. That is 17400' of total elevation change. Helping me along were Dave and Katie as my crew. Throughout the 12 hours it took me to complete this feat, I learned a lot about the importance of community and encouragement - which harkens back to the Celtic communities use of the Chi Rho. Marathons began in ancient Greece after Pheidippides ran to deliver a message from Marathon to Athens concerning the victory of the Battle of Marathon. So this entire tattoo is a tribute to one of my favorite things to do, run.
In addition to symbolizing my passion for running, it gives more depth to pressing on. The Apostle Paul regularly referred to the spiritual life as running a race. In 1 Corinthians 19:24, Paul writes "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win." The early Olympians were crowned with olive branches. James 1:12 reads "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him."

Until I have the opportunity to lay my crown at the feet of my Savior, this is my remembrance.

Keep seeking.

11 January 2010

Tragedy, Faith, and Love.

In an attempt to write more this year, I will post an old writing..hahaha.

Last year, I viewed the documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So," and overall it was OK, as the main theme (to me) was the misuse of a few verses by extreme conservative Christians used to express hatred towards the gay and lesbian community. I agree with this and feel it is a great injustice to turn people away because of their sins and a travesty and a sin to hate and judge others because of their sins.

Sadly, it seemed those who were gay, lesbian, or advocating the correctness of the actions of the community were misusing Scripture "intellectually" to claim that homosexuality is not sinful or under eternal punishment from God; which Biblically, there is outstanding evidence that it is. But that evidence does not give people the right to misuse the Holy Word, either way: to wrongfully attack or to wrongfully defend. The law is to make us holy, to sanctify us, to separate us from the world so much that the glory of God is seen by and through us, His people. It appears (through the arguments of this film) that the gay and lesbian community (and advocates) is doing all things possible to hear "what you are doing is OK."

Let me pose a question, devoid of any particular sin. Would God create someone who has tendencies to sin? I encourage you to stop and contemplate this question before progressing. Well, He created you and me; and I know I have the tendency to sin, and I am assuming that you would agree with me that you do as well. You may, if you want, define this as "the human condition." We are all born with one or more tendencies (iniquities). Iniquity (as used in Isaiah 53:5) has a meaning of perversity or guilt, as of a condition. So could one be born with an iniquity of homosexuality? I would say just as much as one could claim being born with a tendency to be an alcoholic or a have a demented murderous tendency.(1) But someone with a murderous streak cannot be justified before God because he was possibly born with those thoughts (or that those thoughts were created due to his surrounding environments). If that analogy is too extreme, then how about a person with the tendency towards excessive alcohol intake seeking to be justified by their genes; similarly, neither can a gay or lesbian claim rightness of action because of his or her potentially innate nature.

Isaiah 53:5 "...He was crushed for our iniquities." Here, crushed holds meanings of broken, shattered, or bruised. So these things happen underneath the skin; the things no one can normally see, or things that are easily hidden in our thoughts and desires. Christ suffered for our personal bents toward sin. The beginning of Isaiah 53:5 reads "He was pierced for our transgressions." Pierced means to wound, bore through; it holds the picture of an open gashing wound. This represents our sins, our acts that everyone can see. The wounds are open and are in noticeable need of healing. Christ was pierced for our sins, our transgressions (meaning a crossing over, a rebellious act). So for the times we allow our iniquities and our selfish desires to go to a point of crossing over in to sin, Christ suffered, died, and rose to forgive and make us right with the Father.

As Paul penned in Romans 5:20-6:2, "The Law came in so that transgression would increase, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"

So could someone call themselves a "gay Christian?" I think, maybe, dependent upon if their combined terminology refers to the iniquity or to the transgression. I personally would be just as wary of someone using this descriptive term for his or herself as I would ascribe to be a "lying Christian," no matter how often I do wear the "lying Christian" name tag. Some claim people are truly born homosexual, while others believe it is due to lack of father figures, overbearing mothers, and/or other environmental circumstances; but what is important to remember is that no matter the name tag one dons (alcoholic Christian, porn-addicted Christian, etc.), we are called to deny ourselves. This may mean the person with pornographic tendencies stays off the internet and television, the alcoholic stays out of bars and liquor stores, the homosexual stays out of hindering surroundings and strays away from a push for the right to be married, etc. We are called to give up who we are in our sin nature so that we can be like Him; followship was never promised to be easy.

But there is hope for all of us wallowing in our iniquities, seeking to be holy like our Father is holy, but fail due to our transgressions. Colossians 2:13-14 reads "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile towards us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."

Now returning to what I wrote at the beginning of this note: it is a tragedy to hate and judge others because of the sin they are in, no matter what sin it is. Let us remember that as Paul wrote, the only thing that matters is "...faith expressing itself through love" (Galatians 5:6).

**Just a note to those who have not seen the movie...paragraph 3 on (including Scripture references) is not covered in the film, but it is my response to what I feel was misuse of Scripture in the film.**

(1) I am in no way trying to say equate sex with murder. Murder is an action that is always wrong, sex is not.

Keep seeking.