Monthly Archives: February 2014

Not Having All the Answers

In my last post I mentioned Satan. That got a reaction. It got reposted by someone who is watching for Satan in America and it received comments, mostly verbal, from a variety of folks. Most of the comments circled the issue of the Devil.

Do I have to believe in the Devil to be a Christian? I think it is more important to believe in God than to believe in the Devil. But, I also think it is important to recognize evil as real, relevant and powerful… just not as powerful as God. I definitely think that the strongest weapon of evil is separation and that the greatest weakness of evil is loneliness.

Those are areas of clarity that I’ve come to over my lifetime. God is real. Jesus is real. Evil is real and supremely powerful compared to us, but not powerful like God is powerful. I don’t fear evil. I fear God… that is, I don’t respect evil. I don’t even respect its power. I respect God. We live in a swirling turmoil of evil, and I think that’s supremely important to understand and a viable image to grasp. As if we could be creatures who could somehow inhabit a whirlpool that is seeking to draw us downward and away from the light, we live in a swirling turmoil of evil. We can recognize the value of the water, the beauty of the light, the nutrients within the system, but it is constantly moving and consistently drawing us away into separation.
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This is the world we have created for ourselves through sin, that which separates us from God and from others. And part of that comes from acting like it is possible to have all the answers. We are pretty frantic these days to tell the answers to each other. And people seem to know just what we’re all supposed to know.

I know a guy who lives by answers. He has a quick, insightful and deliberate mind that masterfully delineates the world. I’ve sat and just watched him in conversation with others and it’s made me feel a bit like Watson beside Holmes. He’ll talk with someone and state out what they need to do, think, realize or see. Like a surgeon’s knife he cuts into and removes the primary issue and I’ve seen person after person find relief, direction or clarity. It is wondrous.

But it also has limits. I’ve seen him not pay attention to everything or be so clear on his answer that he can’t recognize the greater depth of the question. There are a handful of lesser known stories that Conan Doyle wrote in which an unnamed but “famous, non-professional consultant to the police” offers a solution to a mystery being considered by others and who’s solution is wrong ultimately. Holmes can get it wrong.

I find I mostly live with questions. I know that people come to me for answers but I also find that most of my counsel is pointing them toward what they’ve already said or experienced and opening it up with them. I’ve come to clarity in some areas and I lift that up for others asking, “Don’t you see this as well?” When they disagree or dismiss it, I’m all ears, wondering “How is it, then?” It’s mostly questions for me.

Because, someone jumped into the whirlpool, question markamazingly, took hold of my hand and somehow has started to draw me out. And the only strength I have allows me to reach out to others and offer assistance to help them latch on as well. I still live in the swirling pull. I still recognize how weak I am in comparison to it. But there is one who has taken hold of me. There is one who is stronger than the whirlpool and is able to pull me into life. I’m just hanging on.


And Satan Strolled By…

I was out shoveling snow when Satan walked by on the sidewalk on the other side of the street.

Some of you don’t believe in the Devil. I wonder if that’s because you think of the red-skinned, horned and pointy-tailed creature that was made up for late night, fireside stories. devil (1) I think that’s kind of fun but I don’t think Satan comes that way.

Today, he was in shape and voice of an old woman, calling out across the street, “There’s more coming!” with just an edge of delight. “What?” I asked, thinking who would do such a thing to a man who was just starting to shovel out a driveway filled about 10 inches deep with snow. “Did you hear they said, ‘More is coming!” She held her hands close, against her dark clothes and gathering the edges of a long dark shawl. old woman3She scurried off acting as if she was just a neighbor, watching where she was going and sharing the news, but I recognized her.

Some of you don’t believe in the Devil but I do. Who else, in the midst of what could feel like a Sisyphean winter, would wander the street sowing discouragement? The greatest weapon of evil is separation and how better to do that than to tell one their work is worthless. How better to create division between a good spirit in a person and the people they will deal with the rest of the day? We hear this voice and it could put us in such a foul mood that we treat all those who we see as if they don’t matter, as if our efforts won’t make a difference and neither will theirs, like all is tedium and despair.

I recognized you today and I remembered to listen to the other voice. The voice of the one who created me that said, you teach yourself your worth in your work. You remind your soul that you participate in the nature of life with the other creatures and you have reasons to do the work you do. You have one you love who needs to use the car. She’ll need to get out and you’re clearing the way. She came out and worked alongside you clearing the walkway for your neighbors so they could move freely, easily, without slipping. You have a reason for your work that makes it satisfying.

I recognized you today, you fallen angel and I remember how you showed up once in Americus, Georgia at Koinonia Farm where Clarence Jordan was hoeing his field. Do you remember that? You sent some thugs to burn down every building and to riddle Clarence’s house with bullets because he had started a community there of people of different races. Then you wandered over in the shape of a reporter, calling out, “I heard the awful news… that the farm was closing.” And then you added, “You got two of them Ph.D’s and you been at this farm for fourteen years… and there’s nothing left at all. Just how successful do you think you’ve been?”

Do you remember old Clarence and his words that day? Staring at you from the field and saying, “What we’re about here is not success. It’s faithfulness.” And how he went back to hoeing. Now, I’m no Clarence Jordan. I’m just some guy living in the city, but I share the same intent. So, whether it is shoveling snow or digging through theology to figure out how best to understand the workings of the world and trying to help people understand that… I’ll just keep going. So just get on your way, Satan… Go off to those who don’t believe in you. Maybe they’ll listen when you tell them how they’re worthless, but you got nothing I need.

You see, I live with this beautiful woman who always makes me stop and look when she walks into a room, and who greets me when I come in from work like this and tells me I’m amazing and she lets me stay with her. And I’ve got this glorious Friend who never forgets me, always receives me and gave up everything I call everything so that I could find life. And, I can tell you Life is pretty full.


The Best Job

I saw an interview with Harrison Ford once where he described “the best job.” As a boy, Ford used to watch the coal delivery man at work on the street outside Ford’s bedroom window. Coal delivery, for those who have no idea, is where a pile of coal is dumped at the end of the block and a man or woman delivers it by wheelbarrow to each house that uses coal as their heating fuel. The number of wheelbarrows full that are dumped down the coal shute into a house’s basement depends on the order. Ford watched as the truck dumped off a huge pile of coal, and then he saw the man bring barrow after barrow to the houses. When the coal was gone, the job was done. And that’s what caught young Harrison’s imagination. You could tell when the job was over. He thought that must be so satisfying.
I was thinking of this while I shoveled snow on Monday afternoon.shovel1 I started just before the snow was done falling, Big, moist flakes dropping onto all the rest to become snowball perfect snow. This is the kind of snow that calls one to come outside and make snowmen, forts, sculptures and angels. It begs to be caught up in one hand to be an instantly usable projectile. It doesn’t, on the other hand, make it easy to shovel. Instead of the light powder that can be “plowed” over to one side of the driveway, every shovel full must be carried to one side or the other. It must be delivered.
This is the true snow of pictures. It does more than coat. It fills. It grabs hold of your heels and pulls back and makes you use words like “trudge.” It creates the noises in the otherwise silent forest. Limbs, worried under the layers, creak and some crack with the weight. Loud, shouting snaps echo through the tree trunks as some oak or a sturdy birch can’t find an Aaron to help support its burden.
Three different times I was told, as I shoveled, that I needed to get a snow blower. I was told how proficient, how quick and how strong it would be. But, even facing a week of 3 promised storms, with just a day or so in between each, it doesn’t appeal to me.shovel3 The purpose of the blower is to get me back inside quicker. It wouldn’t give me peace to think, the exercise that makes me feel accomplished, and I wouldn’t be speaking to neighbors above the noise. I couldn’t learn that John from next door can’t wait to retire and move back to New Hampshire and New England seafood –like none other in the world. I wouldn’t realize that after 10 minutes I don’t need the jacket and after 10 more I don’t need the scarf. My body has been made to participate in the weather.
I am schooled into the reality that I am a son of Adam, who was given the job of living “in the garden to work and take care of it.” It’s a job that doesn’t end. It just gets deeper, richer. It’s part of what Jesus died for, to clear the way so I could discover and experience it alongside of the Spirit who whispers into my heart. I don’t need to get back inside that quickly. I don’t need to worry about finishing. I get to live into the work of the day and to discover a different satisfaction.