12/19/2005

Matrix Liaisons

I am reading a book titled "A Case for Faith" by Lee Strobel. The most recent chapter has to do with the arguments against the morality of hell. Can God be moral and still send some of His beloved creation to hell? If you want some thought-provoking insights from Strobel’s interviews, pick up that book. It provoked some unexpected thoughts in me.

One of the provoked thoughts that is nagging at my fingertips to type faster is the memory of the Matrix movies. I stop for a moment and reflect on the fact that I get most of my symbolism and relation to things unseen from movies. In any case, two movies come to mind. After I first saw "The Matrix: Revolutions" I went on an internet hunt for the part in the script where Neo is facing Agent Smith drenched in torrents of rain and says simply, "Because I choose to." It was his reply to Smith’s lengthy speech of questions about Neo’s insistence on survival.

I was sitting out back this morning smoking a nasty cigarette and contemplating choice. The cigarette mocked me with every drag. It seemed to look up at my mouth with its butt and say, "How clever that you should contemplate freedom of choice when you seem to have a chain that binds your fingers and lips to me." That’s when a quote from another movie came to mind. A movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer and John Malkovich called "Dangerous Liaisons". (possible spoiler ahead, please rent video before reading the following) During a pivotal scene Malkovich’s character repeats something over and over to Pfeiffer’s character. As her heart cracks and splits in front of him he says simply, "It is beyond my control." He’s speaking of his choice to reject her after spending the whole movie wooing her. Cold and distant, he eventually believes those words even when he sees the only thing he ever loved being destroyed in front of him by his own hand. Anyone who saw the movie knows what ultimately becomes of all parties involved.

In one movie, free will triumphs over bondage. In the other, bondage triumphs over free will. The truth of it all is, it wasn’t beyond his control but he chose to be slave to another powerful force in his life. Just as I choose to wear the chains around my lungs that drag heavy sticks of tar and death behind me. Those chains keep me from running too far without collapsing, enjoying a meal (I almost eat sometimes just to smoke afterwards), and using my time in more productive ways. I resent my choice to hold these chains, yet I rebel against that resentment by defining my free will with my choice to smoke. It’s almost as if having given myself over to God, I want to make sure I can still choose evil if I want to. It happens when impure thoughts arise in my mind, too. They bubble up slowly like a fart in a tub of honey. Instead of holding my breath or swimming towards sweetness I breathe deeply and ruin my experience, just to make sure I still have the choice.

People know choosing good is healthy for survival; that is evident in law and order. However, I know that we, the people, secretly love darkness more than light. That is evident in violent entertainment and our obsession with self. So my chains are a way of belonging to this world; of doing as the world does. Never mind what Paul wrote to the Romans when he said, "Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world..." I would much rather hear him out of context saying, "When I am with them I make myself like them so that I may win their trust..." In other words I drag on my smoke in the midst of other selfish polluters and mutter, "When in Rome..."

But what if the hero of the Matrix had said that? What if he had found the truth, taken the pill, and hid away in some cave in Zion praising God for saving his skin!? I know exactly what would have happened. Those squid monster machines would have finished off the human race. As it turned out, Neo was enlightened to his destiny and he gave himself up for the surviving humans. It was hard for him but he chose it.

*Side note: Some compare Neo to Jesus but there are a lot of inconsistencies in that analogy. Briefly: 1.He was just a man and not God-as-man. 2. God is not some emotionless white-bearded machine-god with demonic minions out to destroy humanity for the sake of his own survival. 3. Even to insist that the Matrix was run by Satan and that Neo satisfied and conquered Death wouldn’t be comparable to the truth about Jesus. Neo was still just some strong-willed guy who was submitted to no one but himself.*

I think the real parallels from the two movies apply to mankind’s free will. God gives us free will because He loves us. I can go to the store and buy my smokes and puff away in denial until I die of cancer. He isn’t going to interfere with my choice to do that. But just as a Father, He may show me mercy and guide me toward greater wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of that wisdom.

So that is the key: revering and highly respecting God, loving God, obeying God. Then begins wisdom.

Seek wisdom, find wisdom. I heard on the radio the other day: "Lies travel halfway around the world in the time it takes Truth to lace up her bootstraps." Truth must be sought whereas Lies seek us. Lies are all over the world while Truth is found in One Person. So the answer to choice is wisdom and the answer to wisdom is to seek it. And of course to seek something you must want it. You must choose it.

Remember when Indiana Jones and the others were in the place where they would find the holy grail? The Nazi guy said, "This is the cup of the King of kings." Dazzled by the gold cup he drank from it and...

"He chose...poorly."

Indy looked around and saw the most humble clay cup in the place and said, "That’s the cup of a carpenter." and...

"You chose...wisely." Cue music.

The only difference between Indy and the Nazi guy (who disintegrated) was wisdom. Of course, Nazi guy wasn’t seeking Truth, he was seeking Lies, specifically the lie that states power satisfies the self. What a crock! Indiana was seeking Truth and had spent his life adventuring into tombs and temples to find it. He remembered that Jesus was a carpenter and if there was a holy grail it would have been humble as God humbled Himself and came down as a man. So there. Choices hinge on wisdom and wisdom hinges on love for and a seeking after Truth, that is: Jesus.

Now that I’ve spent a couple of hours on this essay I think I have enough material to write through the entire year of 2006. I should have known I was juggling cans of worms even bringing up the subject of choice. Alas, I have dropped one and it has opened.

For the lovely people in my life that make it through my writings and fuel my fire to write more...it’s all your fault. Now I MUST write. :) Thank you for your love and encouragement. I am so blessed. Praise God!!

12/09/2005

Healing Testimony

Mark 5:34
Luke 18:38
Acts 14:8

In all these instances, the faith of the broken person healed them. Their belief in Jesus was so strong that they sought Him, shrieked for Him, and looked expectantly to Him to heal their bodies.

I have called out to Jesus when my heart was breaking.
I have cried to Jesus when my mind was causing me to doubt.
I have begged Jesus to comfort me when I was being beaten by hopelessness.
What other choice do I have but to beg Him to heal my body?

Lost and stubborn in my emptiness for so long, I insisted on abandoning hope to the futility around me. I passed myself out like flyers that get thrown in the gutter or crumpled up after the curiosity has passed. I gave myself to people who could give me the satisfaction of belonging to someone or something, even for just a moment. I lied to myself by saying that they cared for me as much as I cared for them. Abandoned to the recklessness of my environment, I gave up any struggle to free myself from the deadly chains that others wore with pride.

Then one night when I was eighteen and immersed in a world that celebrated every kind of darkness, I realized I had lost something so precious to me that the absence of it sent an agony through me that I couldn't bear. I had lost innocence. I had truly lost that oblivious human goodness we all only have as infants. Apart from Jesus (because I was apart from Jesus at the time), innocence was my only hope for salvation and I could never go back.

I called my mom at two in the morning that night and told her what I'd lost so we could mourn together. All I remember is going to sleep with shame and emptiness and no hope to be found anywhere. The next day, the anger started. I burned toward the people that celebrated the darkness and I viciously attacked them in my heart. Until finally my roommate and friend became the focus of my rage. In a heated yelling match he grabbed me by the throat and threw me against the wall, holding me there. I reached out and scratched his face, breaking the skin. He let go and both of us came to our senses a little. I grabbed the phone and called the police and he paced the house, fuming. The cop came and said he'd have to arrest both of us for domestice violence because of the scratch I left on his face. We agreed to drop it and I agreed to move out.

It had to be done. All of it did.
Because when I returned home the darkness followed me...all the way from Texas to California. It plagued my dreams and made me like a zombie. I awoke terrified one night and my parents prayed over me.

Finally, I sought truth and God. All my life I had prayed to Him without being sold to Him. This time I had to know! Who is JESUS? So I spend hours listening to tapes of preachers and reading Apologetics and the Bible. Every spare moment was devoted to understanding who He is. He represented hope and innocence, things that I still find the most precious of anything in the world!

It has been almost ten years since I began seeking Him. I have been healed of emotional darkness and been given hope every time I cried out for it. I eat His Word like a starving man eats at a banquet and the more I eat the stronger I become in His truth. He provides difficult challenges for me to test my faith and when I am victorious in Him, He celebrates with me. I know that a great challenge has been placed before me, greater than I expected. I thought for sure I would die young having learned so much already. But He knows it is a greater challenge for me to live. That is the greatest challenge of all. To actually live on the hope...just the hope. To rest in His innocent blood's salvation of my soul. To know that only that is good enough. Christ in me the hope of glory...

How can I believe that He would heal my body of what I brought upon myself?
How can I believe He wouldn't? He has done it so much already...
But this is different...this is my mortal flesh, my finite dust!

My greatest desire has always been to thank God face to face because this body seems so ill-equipt to give my thanksgiving justice! Words cannot express, songs cannot express, this flesh simply CANNOT express how grateful I am...how in love with Him I am. Whenever I try, my face leaks snot and my mind gets garbled and all I really want to do is remain hunched over with my face in my hands and cry. Nothing I do is expressive enough for what I truly know to be my gratitude. If that's all I have to give Him...I want it to be so much more than what this flesh can do.

Oh Lord,
You say to occupy until You come. You give us each an amount of faith to use until You come, Your word says so. Well, I am asking You to help me use it. I am holding this faith and my mind is telling me I need more, but You have given me at least a mustard seed's worth, right? I know You are capable, I just don't know if You are willing.
Matt 8:2, Mark 1:40, Luke 5:12

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all give an account of this exchange. It is so important to me that Jesus wanted to heal the man. Mark says 'He was moved with pity...'

Oh, compassionate, merciful God. Have mercy on me, a sinner.

12/06/2005

Getting Perspective

I can't fathom Him or His plans. His ways are not my ways and the clear answers won't be found in my brain. Though He speaks to me through His Word and He guides me through subtle nudges and not-so-subtle themes of my days, I am never positive of what He means.

I second guess most things in life. Mostly because I have a strong desire to know every situation. I wear a shirt that says, among other things, "No errors of ignorance..." It is a quote by Jeff Buckley who's greatest error was swimming in a severe rip tide area that killed him. He was ignorant of the fact that the area of apparently serene water he swam in had a frequent whirpool that surged beneath it with every giant tanker that when unnoticed in the distance. Ignorance killed him. And I wear the irony on my Jeff Buckley tribute shirt where he scrawled on a scrap of journal: "No errors of ignorance..."

Humans are always ignorant of something. We aren't omniscient and there for we have a finite capacity to observe. Some things go ignored, and we ignore them deliberately in order to focus on the things of great importance to us. Ignorance is only a matter of priority in observation.

I long for Heaven. I hunger with an insatiable ache to see my Lord and King. Not only to see Him, but to drink Him in with my eyes. But these eyes will pass away in the dust. It's with true eyes that I want to see. So I long for my true eyes, and my true imperishable body with which I can embrace Him.

I am an addict and bound by sick chains of selfishness. Slowly the Spirit of God has been freeing me from chains in His time. But I wouldn't know the meaning of it all. In my ignorance all I know is what new passion I have for flight. It's as if He allows the chains to weigh me down just enough so the breeze that passes under my wings heightens my desire to fly, but keeps me grounded. Or...

Am I being lazy? Am I huddled on the ground next to my cut chains with my head nearly buried in my fluffy feathers to keep warm? Or do I sense that there is not enough wind in the air yet, and though I must stay here beside my chains I am not really bound to them...I'm only waiting for that special current to glide on...

Eagles do not flap.
They soar.
Eagles don't manipulate the air like hummingbirds that dart back and forth. They eat hummingbirds as a snack. They are large and regal birds that wait for each perfect gust and when they are gliding, move their wings to slice through the atmosphere for speed and motion. There is nothing haphazard about the way an eagle flies. They don't fumble and hop like a crow in a trash bin or chirp and doggy-paddle through the air like smaller birds. I believe the Lord wants me to soar like an eagle.

So I can rest atop my post and watch as prey scampers or flutters or swims. And when the wind of the Holy Spirit comes and it is the current I was made to glide upon, I will spread my wings and all the people driving below will press their faces against the car windows saying, "Look! An eagle!" I will merely be doing what God created me to do and it will be wonderful to witness.

All praise and honor and glory to the One who created us!

12/01/2005

Who God Uses

The next time you feel like GOD can't use you, just remember...
Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
John the Baptist ate bugs
Peter denied Christ
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer...AND
Lazarus was dead!

I didn't know Isaiah preached naked!!! I'm going to have to look that one up. It is actually encouraging the more flawed these great church fathers were! In church last Sunday Pastor Jeff was reminding us that Paul was short, bald, and had watery eyes. I don't know where he got that information but he's the one who went to seminary, not me. Paul was not at all like the way he was portrayed in that stupidest movie EVER about his life. The first scene has Paul and some other Pharisee being bathed and it shows their butts! Paul's this hot stud...pfft! I didn't even watch more than five minutes of that stuuuuupid movie. Hollywood butchered the truth again...what a surprise. Anyway, the truth is Paul was short, bald and had watery, blinky eyes (probably because he was struck blind at one time by Jesus). It makes a lot more sense since he devoted himself solely to Jesus Christ and never married. If he was more plain-looking it may have been that much more comfortable for him, who knows.

I am a pathetic, self-pitying, lazy dreamer. I think that makes me a pretty good candidate to be used, don't you? I am like Isaac, the daydreamer. I am like Elijah a lot of the time because I pity myself and want to die. I am worse than the Samaritan woman. I am nearly like Rahab. I would get along fine with Peter and not just because he denied Christ at one point.

I am not this stellar example of a Christian when you first look at me, or even when you first talk to me. It takes more than just a handshake and a once-over to really know if someone is truly a child of God. At first the person may look like a tweaker or like she had one too many jars of cake frosting. They may look like a quiet, hunched over homeless person who has a fifth hidden in the inside pocket. They may look like a biker, drug dealer, or hit man. In fact, that's what these people may have been at one point!

The ones I am wary of are the bobbed-hair, flowered dress, 2.5 children and a stepford smile people. Those people scare the crap out of me and my guard is up faster than you can say "white picked fence". First of all I most likely have nothing in common with them, and second of all they most likely feel sorry for me. I am the one who should feel sorry for them, if they are as china doll fake and breakable as they look. I stand before people looking like Jack Skellington's girlfriend in a Nightmare before Christmas and I am honored to have been patched up by God. I want to show people my stitching and places where I've healed and say, it's God amazing?! He took this dead, limp rag and sewed together a beautiful girl with a heart of flesh and the Spirit of His Son. Only God could do that, and all glory and praise and honor to HIM!