Archive for August, 2012


(Had I lived – I would have been killed)

Had I lived in colonial times,
I would have been hung.
I would have argued with them when they told me that the Indians were savages
and could be killed, cheated and dispossessed of their tribal lands
at any man’s convenience.

Had I lived in the Revolutionary War,
I would have been shot.
I would have argued with them when they told me that a black man was not
a human being and could be bought, sold and killed
at any man’s convenience.

Had I lived in Nazi Germany,
I would have been gassed.
I would have argued with them when they told me that a Jew was an ‘untermensch’/subhuman
and could be stolen from, enslaved, and liquidated
at any man’s convenience.

Had I lived –
I would have to have given my life
to save indians.

Had I lived –
I would have to have given my life
to save slaves.

Had I lived –
I would have to have given my life
to save anyone in the Holocaust.

And you say that I am a fool to want to save someone –
just because they are unborn –

and can be killed at any woman’s convenience.

(selah)

I hope for the day when we will acknowledge that there is no augment passionate enough to sway away the knowledge that almost all of the most inhuman acts in history began when someone first argued – they aren’t really human.

Jan 19, 2007

A precursory comment on cussing

This is a response to a blog post and the discussion (http://www.challies.com/archives/002318.php) regarding where, in the course of a dis’cuss’ion, a very esteemed and influencial pastor, John Piper, said something to the effect, “sometimes God just kicks our asses” – and the fact that he vigorously appologized and a well known, respected theologian, Wayne Grudem, responded as well; weighing in on all the reasons why saying “ass” in a sermon – and not meaning a donkey – was inappropriate. So many people were completely agh’ass’t. Umm – well, hell, I sure wasn’t. Here is why…

I understand and appreciate all the things that have been said about this issue. I also understand and appreciate all the scripture that is also referenced. But as I was reading through the various conversations revolving around the three letter word that Piper used, a term kept coming to mind, a term that J. Gresham Machen was often heard to say in regards to Prohibition: Overblown Pietism. It is one thing to walk in pietism – but can it in fact be overblown? I am willing to stake out the position that it in fact can be – and truthfully often is.

At one point in time I was an adamant prohibitionist in regards to alcohol consumption. A natural disposition towards sincere scriptural study, over a period of time, forced me to believe the whole notion was a theological house of cards. I slowly reversed myself and have had a somewhat Saul/Paul conversion on the issue. I have adamant tendencies to theologically grill/excavate those who still hold to that position; but I am digressing. Needless to say I hang out with a great number of Christians who share my own transversal history as well as those who grew up in strong christian households where it was taught that is was always to be used with responsibility but never that is was inherently evil. Those who lack my background are often heard to say: “regarding all of ‘that’ – I just don’t get it”. You have to have been against it to understand why and even how you could be against it. To those who have never been – your contestations are what they are: Overblown Pietism, and they have the utmost accompanying vestiges of spiritual neurosis – so profound that when you see and understand the needless anxiety for what it is in the eyes of those who don’t and have never felt it – not because they were spiritually ignorant but conversely because they were actually brought up spiritually stronger then you – you feel like you need to fall on your knees and say “God forgive me for worrying about things that were important to me but really did not matter that much to those that I really wanted to reach for you”. Profanity might be a huge issue to saints who would purport themselves to sport guilded crowns – but to the rest of the world, they just say “whatever dude”. I know of an individual who makes great mention of the fact that they are a christian and used to cuss like a sailor until they ‘became a christian’ – but in the eyes of other people they are derided for other issues that the individual is no doubt spiritually blind to see. Others in this same group of people speak much more highly of another individual who’s life actually reflects more Christlike attributes, yet who’s language at times can be somewhat salty. Conventional christians might judge these two individuals one way – but the people who both of these people are trying to reach, judge and esteem them each in markedly different ways. Just food for thought…maybe something even to cuss about.

Response/Essay: Single and Complete? A proposed potential ‘idolatry’ of ‘vision’ September 2006

This is a response to a post by a friend – I assume that I ‘ran over’ the limit for posts (I seem to do that from time to time) and have thus tucked it way here with a link by which to both follow and reference it by. Comments are welcomed. This is not intended to be a compete and thorough treatment of the given issue (holes and gaps may remain in the presentation) but rather were thoughts ‘provoked in the instant’. Enjoy…

This blog is a response to:

http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=80548123&blogID=164911854&MyToken=bdbeae33-3881-47e6-b5f4-433a3297a8af

I am humbled by your transparency and honesty. You; one who should have been destroyed – and yet you live, you; one who should be so embittered – and yet you remain so meek. There is truth in what your mother says, but like so much truth, the opposite is also true as well; and when we separate the poles from their rightful opposites – we make a lie: these things are only true together. You should find someone who has a vision for spirituality – but you should not base the acceptance/rejection based on those critiria alone.

It is my contention (articulated on occasions prior; sometimes in frustration – others as merely comments) that so many great Christian women keep their heads so high in the clouds that they reject guys who’s “visions” are different from their own. Great guys who would serve them and be faithful and relentlessly attentive husbands; they are kicked to the curb. The dire truth is that a number of women later then go for that guy “who matches that vision” only to wake up years later in a state of perpetual self-loathment, having found themselves both using and being used sexually and emotionally by wolves; which they themselves, to their greatest spiritual detriment, have become – to their immense horror – like-kind unto; continually fighting battles to remain chaste, hastened into ever increasing temptation and resultant consequences by elements of creation God put hence to be answered sooner in his wisdom then in the latter wisdom of their own.

A young woman in a group of people I ran with years ago became synonymous with the catchphrase she was always heard to spout off when the relationship issue and the fact that she was still single when many of her friends were married came up: I’m single, whole, unique, and complete in Christ. Though never to her face – she was endlessly lampooned and mocked for it’s glib and idle use. It was true – but it was removed from certain knowledge that she was not whole, and not complete – outside of that which she longed for regardless of her self-deluded ‘passion’ for singularity – her personal motto was a lie. I believe that the word of God is true – that our holiness adorns the word of God – I also believe that it is true that God sees us as one person when we are joined with another. To tell the world that you are “ok” not being ever joined to what you were created to be a part of is a relentless satanic lie. The desire to be married is a wholesome and beautiful desire that should reside within the hearts and minds of all God’s sons and daughters and should never be tritely dismissed or isolated from the whole of the human spiritual/physical life journey. A single person should seek marriage just like they seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit; it is promised, it is to be prepared for, it is to be sought, and when it comes, it is to be treated with the greatest of care – all the gifts that it comes with; they come with the greatest of responsibility, power, and resource. Vision is important – but it is both the spiritual and physical mind and heart of a prospective mate that you should focus on; for it is within the depths of these waters that you will immerse yourself and find your sustenance for mortal love’s thirst. We seek relationship with God and the Holy Spirit; and the vision that we have for life, ministry, and love flows from those same rocks through and by it. Being that marriage is itself the living metaphor in the natural of a great spiritual romance between God and his church in the spiritual – it is no travesty of wisdom to say the same; that we should seek one who has a great passion for God, root and grow ourselves in that fundamentally common root; and the natural outworking of that synergy will be purpose, vision, and destiny; both creatures beheld in unrelenting unity by their creator. If we place ‘purpose’ and ‘vision’ above relationship, either in our own lives or a real or proposed marital unity, we create an idol – just as we would if we sought the gifts of the baptism over the actuality of the baptism itself -the gifts come from the relationship act/effect of the instance of baptism, to revert the causal relationship of event/gift is idolatry; and idols will always be cast down; it is my contention that this is why so many Christian marriages fail, they are built upon foundations that had great notions but where critically flawed. It really is simple – look for someone who just loves God with all their heart and mind and be vulnerable; guys: observe, ponder, decide, pursue – gals; observe, ponder, decide, respond. It’s just that simple.

The catholic theologian Hans Urs Von Balthazar saw pervasive singleness within society as an eventual eschatological sign; that if more and more people either failed or averted themselves to the act of marriage, it was a potential sign of the impending doom of a society; impending doom in terms of the abruption of all human societal fabric and the immanent return of Christ; that if large numbers of people either cognitively or in terms unawares prepared themselves for their ‘real bridegroom’ rather then an earthly mate – it could only mean that God was coming back soon to take his bride. I agree with his notion – but also see the presence of a brokenness in terms of marriage and relationships within the church. The current societal desire to remain single does not come from a desire to be consecrated to God – as Von Balthazar would suggest it will eventually when the return of Christ is immanent – but rather finds it center of gravity more so in just plain pickiness. In a world where you can download almost any song ever written to your ipod and mix and juggle them in any matter that you wish; we have done the same to love. And being that love is more then just artistry and science – but vulnerability and acceptance we have removed ourselves from certain foundations from which we were never meant to be cleaved. The second coming of Christ does not seem to be around the corner – Only the second, third and on and on comings of despair and frustration in the love lives of many of God’s beloved people.

Just my two cents…well 50 cents, ok – buck and a quarter.

July 21, 2007

(8/21/12: Slight rewording with significant spelling corrections)

Framewords: Culturally Reactionary Epochs Explicated

The Following is a Response to “Whence Hermeneutic Authority” from http://www.emergentvillage.com/weblog/whence-hermeneutic-authority-download-and-dissect?commented=1c001198

Framewords: Cultural Reactionary Epochs Explicated, With Concluding emphasis on the necessity of Cultural/Epistemological Framework Transcendence, and an avoidance of the eventual- Nihilism

I have a working theory that both the modern and the so called postmodernist churches are looking at each other from the wrong perspective and the failure to relate with one another is more of an issue of segmented epistemological frameworks in terms of cultural history, rather then one being straightforwardedly wrong vs. the other. Allow me to explain: Postmodernity is in revolt against Modernity, whereas Modernity is itself once and still presently in revolt against Premodernism/Classicalist (or perhaps the Mythological) Each are merely Cultural Reactionary Epochs that are revolting against the prior cultural understandings of openly valid and accepted epistemological appropriations of ideology/truth/experience that coopt “Framewords” such as Modernism, Postmodernism to illustrate their respective “World Views” or ideological assumptions of how to approach not just cultural but the entirety of knowledge and experience. Each reject the concerns and interpretive methodologies of the prior Epistemological Frameworks of the prior cultural Epoch. Each age or epoch potentially entails valid teleological elaborations and spiritual/mortal/cultural extrapolations that are prone to rejection by the proceeding epoch that declares it’s precedent epoch’s understandings foundationally invalid. The subsequent alienation compounds past alienations; and a valid argument can be made that Postmodernity is not only alienated from Modernity but also Premodernity as well. The only valid and comprehensively applicable epistemological framework is one that is transcendent across all Reactionary Cultural Epochs, and – with the strongest possible affirmation attending – this is the ONLY truly adequate presentation that can be made of the church and the Scripture: that it must be here that it gets it’s identity and foundation – it can be understood partially, but not comprehensively, through which ever culturally presently-modern mindset or epochal epistemological framework is currently in Reaction/Rejection of the Priors (for now, Postmodernism). The term “World View” is a potentially vague term that is usually used to reference one’s own limited Epistemological Framework which is usually limited because of the constraint of it’s attendant Reactionary Cultural Epoch under which it is accepted by the individual in question: Modernists only understand Modernism, Postmodernists only understand Postmodernism, and Classicists/Mysticicists only understand the Classical or Mythological. To constrain the voice of the Church and Scripture through the Limitations of one’s one cultural/epistemological approximation’s rapes the Gospel and violates it. The Gospel and subsequently the Church must speak above and through, not just Postmodern Mindsets – but also Modern Mindsets, and Classical Mindsets as well.

An example of this reactionary/rejecting process is Modernism re-appropriations of Classiciscism’s understanding of the Scripture’s Authority and re-interpreting it as authority=inerrancy; whereas inerrancy is a scientific term and not a spiritual terms. The scientific inclination’s of Modernism’s mindset assumes that there is no Authority without quantifiable scientific Inerrancy; and therefore is forced to tip it’s hat towards disbelief, in an affront to the true nature of faith and a subsequent march towards Natural Theology which much of Present Evangelical Theology has a crack-like addiction to. Postmodernity likewise has a revolt against Scientific/Spiritual absolutes because of it’s alienation from Modernism’s epistemological framework that entails the understanding of truth and absolutes in a concretely appropriated abstraction.

The logical outworking of successive epistemological alienations progressively weaken each generation’s epistemological groundings and while they are trumpeted as being stronger they are in fact more frail the frailty that preceded them, and it is not enough for adherents of prior Reactionary Epoch to mindlessly criticism them – for they themselves suffer from the same ideological reactionary/rejecting blight and can only further themselves by embracing a mindset, which is likewise the cure for those that both preceded them and proceeded them in prior and following Culturally Reactionary Epochs, that of a MetaModern or transecentently minded ideological mindset.

The answer is not another existing Frameword such as Classicism nor is it a return to Modernity – and, no, it is not Postmodernity. The neologism needed- is not another new idea -rather it it a re-embracement of prior rejected appropriations. The only valid and whole epistemological framework is one of a transcendent or Metamodern ideological framework that lives and embraces the ideological understandings of both Classicism, Modernism, Postmodernism and whatever ism that evolve in terms of further subsequent cultural reactions. Failure to address continued epistemological rejections/alienations will result in a complete ontological breakdown and the end result will be nothing less then complete and rampant Nihilism because when the next generation begins to also reject Postmodernity – there will be nothing left to reject.

Respectfully Submitted,
matthew lipscomb
myspace.com/winebibber

 

Sept 24, 2007

What is Submission?

This is a response to http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=46089030&blogID=265565350

There is a beauty in the cultural dynamic that is found in the South in term of how gents/ladies interact. I wonder if you cannot make a good argument that it is the best things in life that are the most often abused; and how men and women interact in the Southern tradition is no doubt one of the ways that this occurs. Being from the North and retaining a degree of the Yankee straightforwardness that is a part of my natural personality, I can reflect on the attitudes that are inherent in the South (Tennessee) where I mostly grew up. It is a commonly understood cultural assertion that a Southern man treats a Southern Gal with a bit more care and grace then perhaps the way that a Northern couple might interact. I think that a part of this dynamic is that his treatment of his mate is one of reverence and respect that operates from a position of graciousness and care for someone who is expected to be more subservient and serving of the man in their lives. That a Southern woman seems to live more under the shadow of her Husband/boyfriend then what might be expected in other cultural archetypes is something that is both beautiful (True Graceful submission is a beautiful thing when the one who receives that one’s love treats and receives it with equal or greater reverence for the fact of the gift) but it opens a Southern Gal to a greater range of abuses. Indeed – there is dark side to Southern culture in this regard – where calous men have abused the grace that was given to them by the ones who gave themselves to them in submission and service. A woman who gives herself to and serves her husband is a beautiful thing when the man looks upon that giving with reverence and does not take it for granted. I have seen a lot of both; the abuse justified from cultural assumptions – and the beauty that is there when the man responds by giving himself to the one who gave herself. There is something very Christ-like in this – and I think a beauty of both Southern Culture and Southern women is in their capacity to reflect this certain fragile glory.

 

 

 

Sept 29, 2007

Monastic Counter-Assertions; Consecrated Spirituality Necessitating Exuberance for Life

The following is a response to Away/Toward by Jamie. You can read his blog post for proper context at http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=944843&blogID=314396650

Do not take this as a meaningless criticism or counter-point, it is spoken by someone seriously praying about making the same commitment in the same paths you have.

If I could distill the entire instigation into, process thereof, and assertions thus far in my studies of theology – it would be this: what is the authentic embodiment of not just faith, but holiness? Far too often, I believe we accept lies as to what this is, how it is cogently/vibrantly lived out and authenticated in our lives. Some individuals make great hay of the concept of liberty and do just about anything without any fear or consideration of God and His Word. Others – conspire to cocoon themselves in a veritable shield of a condescension of physical reality in lieu of an emphasis on what is assumed to be the natural good of an emphasis on spirituality-, which is usually anything that is not physical.

It is my assertion that we forget that Christ speaks into two distinct dimensions within our lives; the first of which is the compositional essence of our existence – this is to say that He, being both wholly Spirit, and wholly Flesh – speaks to us equally in terms of our own existential base in these same regards. Put simply, Christ is not just a spiritual concern in terms of my own self-awareness, but the tangible, physical aspects of my life and being are no less negated, obfuscated or rendered inconsequential. The imperative necessity of a physical resurrection assures that my bodily existence carries equal concern to my spiritual, even if both the genesis of all physical reality and the redemption thereof both inhere in the spirit, the wholeness of their concurrent physical concern is unabated. The disingenuous disinvestment of a concern with physical reality is nothing less then the ancient foe of Gnostic Dualism reincarnated into the Doctrinal consciousness of Christianity.

In addition to addressing and affirming a concern with not just my spiritual dimension but also my physical dimension, there is the second proclamation that can be made – and that is that also tied back to the resurrection is the idea of what life and it’s aspects looks like as viewed through it. It is my assertion that there exists within the Christian mindset the continued Manichean machinations that continually process physical reality in terms of a subjugation in relation to the spiritual. This is simply not the question, nor the answer. The imperative affect of the Resurrection is a not just a reassertion but also a renovation of the physical. Where there was brokenness there can be wholeness, where there was pain – there can be more then just joy, but pleasure. We have accepted the blatant lie that the Resurrection can only be seen in terms of a spiritual dimension. When Paul speak of the mortification of the flesh, it is a false assumption to declare that he is someone only speaking to our physicality – the depravity and brokenness common to the nature of man extends through the entirely of not just our physicality but also our spirituality. I am apposed to any structure that seeks to affirm a redeemed spirituality and yet constantly demeans or depreciates the authenticity and importance of a likewise redeemed physicality concurrently present in an individual truly exemplifying the Risen Lord and Savior necessarily across the fullness of their own compositional state: all of their spirit and all of their physicality. This is why we are so firmly instructed that it is not enough to be merely spiritual, but that we must be the most earthy of all substances -we must be salt: for physical life is expressly impossible (both now, but much more consciously present as a faceable reality in the Ancient World) without it. This may seem like a contradiction in terms – but the opposite is both true and affirmable, and when seen correctly, what is commonly accepted in lieu of it is actually demonstrated to be the more sophistic of the two. It is an indirect lie to say, I love my Christ but deny my friends – because if Christ is loved authentically and completely – that love is best expressed in the tapestry of the friends within ones life and the love, sacrifice and service rendered unto them by the Christian in question. The foundation is not the friends – the foundation is Christ; but when that foundation is properly built – it is fitted and framed both within the physical and spiritual; condescension of the physical renders the whole organism impotent and inept. This is why Gnostic dualism is so loved by the Enemy – because it is such an easy lie to proffer, and on its face it seems so much to edify but in the end so greatly devastates. This is my great concern with the Monastic tradition: that it shares commonality with so much else within both spiritual reality and that of an economic or political ilk: that the more power there is within something or put better – opportunity – the likewise more opportunity for opportunity itself, and likewise also, the more potential for abuse. Put simply – the more power resides within a thing; the greater the potential for abuse therein. Monasticism is perhaps the greatest expression of this truth – that correctly applied it can be a veritable mine of spiritual learning and focus; but isolated from not just a disavowal of Gnostic dualist tendencies but also the full spiritual/physical implications of the Resurrection it is just bondage of meaningless spirituality cloaked in overblown piety. The trap of inauthentic holiness is one that even the most seasoned saint can fall into; as we are constantly desiring to express ourselves from within that framework; and we are constantly misrepresenting Christ as being the same thing as the spiritual – and I think that this is yet another false assertion. To borrow from Tillich; we have a God who is “above God” or a God that is truly beyond what we would envision or comprehend a spiritual reality to be. While God is in fact spirit – it is a mistake to assume that spirit is God. For God is both the genesis and redeemer of all spirit and physical, and to assume that a spiritual inclination is to by default affirm God is to make a big mistake. Millions of individuals practice devout spiritual adherences, sometimes emphasized by a full or partial abstraction from physical motifs or concerns – and yet they are completely lost. To practice spiritual dynamics outside of the question of “what does this look like as viewed through the Resurrection” is to almost always pursue error. By nature of the consideration of an integration of a Resurrection concern – it is my assertion that authentic spirituality will be inescapably existentially earthy.

I don’t care how much you pray – if your spiritual existential base is truly authentic it will by virtue of the reality mirror itself into the physical reality of your life. A true Christian will by nature of being a true Christian not flee from life – but will be fully immersed in it: and not life as the world knows it- but Life as we know it as redeemed and inescapably reconstituted from it’s brokenness by the Cross. The dynamic of Abraham and Isaac is the fundamental expression of the operation of all authentic soteriology – that when you truly surrender yourself both spiritually and physically; God in His sovereignty desires to give it back to you. This is the ultimate expression of His true jealousy – for it is not out of meaningless concern; but rather He is jealous for your full redemption not just spiritually but also physically. I believe that when one grows in authentic spirituality – that authenticity of that will necessarily be mirrored back into the physical ground of ones being. If this is not so; it is either expressly out of the sovereignty of God as in accordance to His will towards some purpose – or, as is more often the case, the true outworking is a false spirituality operating out of a lie. The consecration of oneself towards spiritual concerns necessitates attention towards one’s physicality – and a genuine spirituality does this – as emphasized previously. It must also be stated – that the subsequent, secondary brokenness of a false spirituality that neglects the physical dimension of one’s existential being/state is that that part of one’s compositional being will reassert itself; and that reassertion will almost always be evil. It is my strong conviction that this is the reason that so many Spiritual leaders fall prey to sexual iniquity; they were so busy being spiritual that they forgot to be physical – because how can being physical in anything be holy if holiness only comes from the pietistic expressions of some spiritual extrapolation? C. S. Lewis was aware of this – and he rode his bike everyday to speak energy and attention into his physical dimension. I believe that these concerns must be expressly addressed within the Monastic Mindset; you cannot hyper focus on pietistic expressions of spirituality that ultimately demean the physical component of who you are. A true monk walks the pinnacle of power and lives a deeply consecrated spiritual life – but by virtue of this state must live exuberantly and with immense passion for life and everything about it. The focal point being Christ and his resurrection: that the Glory and the power of not just a redeemed Spirituality is manifest in his or her own life, but also that of a redeemed Physicality. The denial of one or the other will invariably result in an existential dissonance – the causes of which comes not from human hands – but the divine – you were inescapably made to be both; never ever, ever forget that – it will be your undoing to ever allow that to happen.

 

 

Requiem For a Thug.

Jacquard M. Petty 1987-2008, RIP.
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If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

 

– Meditation XVII, For whom the Bell Tolls, John Donne

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I, myself, have lived a privileged life. I was born to upper-middle, college-educated, white parents with family fabric as thick as the Northern snows of my own big, dirty, steel-making hometown. When I was a kid, I was diagnosed ADDHD, and was subsequently enrolled and graduated through the best classes of a top-notch school system, complete with all the critical classes necessary for the education of a learning-disabled juvenile cyclone. Later – when I sunk a piece of my soul, and all my time, energy and money into a business – only to watch it slowly crater – I had somewhere soft to land. Essentially, I have not always driven the nicest car; but I’ve always had wheels. I may not have always had steak and potatoes- but I’ve never gone hungry. Essentially – I have never, really wanted for anything. Even in the depths of the ‘midnight of my own soul;’ that existential eclipse that is invariably, eventually common to the experience of all who share in experience that is humanity – I have always had to acknowledge the state of my own blessing.

 

I, myself, know an individual who was also born into privilege, such as that far exceeding the boundaries and capabilities of my own. However beneficial to my own comfort  – my own circumstances may have been – that which they were financially gifted with, was in no way equal to my own, to such a degree – that with even a modest amount of proper management – they should have never had to work and perpetually be tasked with the maintenance of a career. This person has totaled more cars  – in number then I shall probably ever drive, and in cost and make, then I will ever be able to afford. They’ve had everything and flitted it all away. I love this person, and I have prayed for their life to be spared, in many a midnight, intercessory prayer – from the savaging winds of the whirlwind that is the fruit of the self-destructive seeds that they have by their own hand sewn against themselves. My eyes are dimmed, even presently, by tears at these cursed words: but true are the still; few shall be my tears for this one  – who could have given so much – and was given so much themselves – when, at last, they take their own life at the hand of their own self-destruction.

 

Another’s eyes are filled with tears tonight; with thoughts of one who had so very little. Far, far less, then my immolating friend, and far less then I, myself.

 

I have a friend, who gave their heart, to the care and love of thugs.  A teacher – who spent years reaching those, and doing everything that she could, to make a difference in the lives of those that to most matter least. Inner-city hoodlums in the worst parts of the city – far from the gingerbread prep and Ivy league-bound educative halls: this is where she thrived. No parents, no future, no opportunities but drugs, and violence, and mental-slavery; to these she gave herself – for so long. To give some degree of hope to those trapped in poverty and hopelessness- this was what she tried to do. Thrice has come the news – another one is dead – and thrice I’ve heard the news, and heard the crack of a heart further break: for those who had nothing and never made it out.

 

I sing the song of a requiem for a thug. Another child, slain on his 21 birthday, by a hand as black as his own.  Cut down in the only streets he ever knew. Buried in the soil of a city, whose streets framed his own mental prison. I am ashamed to have been given so much – and, perhaps, done so little. What do I have to show for what I’ve been given? Have I given a hand to help the one who had nothing, was given nothing, and has had to try to survive on their own?

 

I have a well-worn checklist, of names attached to these children of the street. Sorted from the many prayer requests my friends offered up my own way, for me to likewise make on their behalf. “Pray for ‘such and such,’ they can write their own ticket – they are that good. Basketball or football, either way’s their way out – if they just work hard and stay straight.’ Some did – so many did not, the call of the street was greater.  Damned be those who celebrate a Gansta’s life – Black culture and hood culture do not an equal make. So many of these gutless, talking heads, would not a single, afternoon investment make. My friend spent years. And now the tears.

 

I made the list, for the sake of names – too many to remember in my head. So many prayers for those whom I never met; did I give all that I, myself, could give? What is prayer – without any action; was it my place to give much more? That’s a question that I ask myself – each time a bullet from the street makes its morbid score. But in thus I have, my own self given – so, in thus much – I also take. Prayers offered up for those who have escaped, those who have lived, and those that the violence of the hood their life did take. A prayer, this time, again, in tears, I make.

 

Jacquard, I did not know you – outside of the canvas my friend’s prayer requests did paint. Jacquard, I did pray for you, on your behalf, and so in tears, I grieve for your mistake. You could have found a way out, my friend – it can be done, I know it’s true. The drugs, the gangs, the lure of filth – your blood: the price you paid.  Some two-bit, yodeling rapper said; “get rich – or die trying” and you made his wager and did just such. Could it have been too much to ask – to just live? To just live? I can’t justify the way you wasted your life. But I can justify my tears. You had so little opportunity – unlike me. Cut down so soon. I weep for you. God rest your Soul, Jacquard: my prayer request from the hood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. 
Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. 
No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. 
If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. 
Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. 
Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

 

– Meditation XVII, For whom the Bell Tolls, John Donne

———————————

 

In Memory of Jacquard M. Petty – offered with respect and honor to his family, and with humble thanks for the God-granted peace, continued grace and unbreaking hope of all the forever nameless ones who work to give those who have so little, something more.

 

Jacquard M. Petty

Born: 7/3/1987

Died: 7/3/ 2008

 

http://www.chattanoogan.com/articles/article_131033.asp

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2008/jul/03/chattanooga-early-morning-shooting-victim-dies/

October 10, 2007

Work and Rest in Christ- a response to Not For Myself Alone

the following is a response to Dale’s blog, Not For Myself Alone (http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=21653650&blogID=317845445)

“Therefore it is impossible that he should take his ease in this life…” I am going to take partial exception to this statement; though I understand the context clearly and it is nonetheless true; still – I will perhaps counterbalance it or affirm a theological reality that speaks to it and assures in it’s voice that he who understands it, will save himself from a the potential pitfall of a “works righteousness” mentality or an otherwise concurrent legalistic mindset.

Throughout Fundamentalist Evangelical Protestantism (which is how I would roughly describe my own self) there is a fractured misunderstanding of the Priesthood of the Believer. The common Prohibitionist position is an augment that “priests did not drink – therefore I should not either.” It is upon this point that the fracture in the foundation begins and expands further on outward.

The reason that the Priests did not drink is because Alcohol represents a medium of relaxation or literal downtime. To relax in ones job or do something that represents the idea that “I don’t have to be at work at this specific moment” is a metaphorical anathema to the understanding of the work of a priest – who under the Aaronic order, administered the law to the people as was given – and as we understand, it was both exacting, virtually unforgiving, it was truly; quite literally really never really enough, and it was never ever done or completed. You could do the best you could possibly do- and it was never fully enough. Only when Christ came – was the work of a priest in any literal sense really done – and the truth is, that everything he ever did, every sacrifice and ritual entailed therein both pointed to and culminated in Christ’s death on the Cross. For the priest, otherwise, his work carried too much responsibility to relax either with or without something that insinuated relaxation – such as an alcoholic drink (hear o lemuel; it is not fitting for either priests or kings to drink, lest you pervert the law) and was never done in any sense that he could ever literally relax while engaging in the priestly duties. This is why when I priest was not “on his rotation” he could drink wine; but when performing his duties – he could not touch it – it was forbidden; because of it’s metaphoric offense in that it was essentially saying; the priest had somehow reached a point where he could relax in his duties, and as long as salvation came through the law – this could never actually be the case.

Today – we have a likewise metaphorical reality that we must be cognizant of; that is- that while we must work and do the work of Christ; in a very deep and profound reality -we do have not just the right, but the commandment to rest. This is the ultimate revelation of the Sabbath; as Christ himself became not just the Sabbath incarnate- but also the Law. So in Christ we have the embodiment of a true Kinsman Redeemer; and yes we work for Him but that work is not for Him – as it was through the law, but it is through Him. The work that we do is made complete in Christ – otherwise, when through the law, it was always there, but not quite, perhaps almost done, but you had to work a little harder, it was almost done – but not quite. In Christ, we have reached the fullness of everything that we can be or do or arrive at. And while I may work ferverently in the fields, I am working through Christ and not in my own endeavors. And if I want to rest and take a break either literally or metaphorically – that is not just an ok thing, but it is also commanded in due season and time – because just like as I am working through Christ when I am working- the position of Christ and my relation with and through him persists, even when I am at rest. And so I can rest; and I can truly say contra Luther, in at least this theological dimension Therefore it is necessary that we should take his ease in this life – in it’s proper time and place. To put oneself into a mindset that the work is not done, and that I am must work harder perpetually is an offense to the finished work of Christ in our lives – and in effect, it puts us back into the shoes of the Aaronic priest -which we are not called to identfy with any longer – rather, as Hebrews tells us, our Chief priest is Christ – and is of the Melchezedec order not the Aaronic. How often we identify ourselves either directly or indirecty to something that we think we are but we are not; and in doing so bring reproach to our position in Christ out pure, inexcusable ignorance.

I once had a friend who worked in the inner city schools. She and I are good friends and have been for many, many years. There have been many times that I have had the privilege of being the shoulder that she cried on; and many of those tears have been over her students. This year, one student that she tried so hard to save, was killed breaking into somebody’s home in an act of home invasion. This former student of hers; one that she tried so hard to get back on the right path; could have written their own ticked out of “the hood” but the call of the streets was more powerful then the love of a teacher, friends, or even family. In the end – he passed from this life under a hail of bullets from an utterly terrorized homeowner; guilty of the most shocking criminal acts perpetrateable against another citizen. I watched the tears roll down my friends face as she deeply grieved the loss of yet another child. And again – I told the story that I had told her many times before; so many times that I need not even finish it: the story of the man walking down the beach throwing starfish back into the ocean, and the young man who comes up to him and says ” you old fool – what are you doing, what you trying to do does not matter – you can only throw so many of those back and there and tens of thousands of them out here today, why don’t you do something that is not an exercise in futility?” To this accusation that old man turned to the child and picked up a starfish in front of him and just before tossing it back into the life-sustaining salty water, softly spoke to him saying; “yes, son – that is all true; but what I am doing matters to this one.

It is important to realize that we have a responsibility but that, responsibility also entails an necessary acknowledgment of our position in Christ; and the ramifications of that relationship that permeate throughout the entirety of our lives – not just in the work that we do, but also in the rest. And so in setting our hands to the plow and not looking back, we realize that the work really truly is already done, and we are not working in an of ourselves but through Christ, and we are enabled and empowered to not just work, but to also rest – and that ability to rest comes from the same source that makes any of our work even worthwhile, completeable, or even attainable: the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Nov 16th 2006

Essay: A Response to voiceofthesheep.wordpress.com’s “How Shall I Pray?”

I posted this essay – in response to a post that can be found at http://voiceofthesheep.wordpress.com/2006/11/14/how-now-shall-i-pray/ intitled “How Now Shall I Pray” in which Brian Thornton writes of a close freind, Gigi Locke, a mother of 4, who has recently been diagnosed with late stage colon cancer. You can read more about her and those praying, interceeding, and encouraging her at http://www.caringbridge.org/cb/inputSiteName.do?method=search&siteName=gigilocke I encourage those few of you who actually read what I put up here to really pray the blood of Christ over her and that God would heal her and use this trial to expand the faith of all those involved.

Dear Brian –

I wanted to thank you for posting your reaction and thoughts regarding your friend’s sudden illness; I can feel your transparency and honesty as well as your struggle to ‘find your feet’ in light of the revelation of your friend’s sudden illness. I want to be open and honest in these regards lest anything I say appear to imply anything else other then that; for who amoung us would not be literally thrown to the floor emotionally and not feel like we were also cast down there theologically as well – were we to find out any such prognosis had been cast over any dear loved ones of our own. Let no one say they would react any differently then you have in this present situation. I want to be open and honest with you myself, though – at the risk of being overly transparent – and admit that when I first read your words, I took on the expression that is best characterized by the proverbial picture of a pooch – who having heard a command that it did not quite understand, tilted it’s head to the side and furrowed it’s brow, as if to anthromorphologically express it’s state of canine confusion.

My reaction may have been eccentuated by the fact that several days prior, I had had a discussion with a Church of Christ friend who openly stated that he found the belief in supernatural healing in the modern day to be absurd and stated with annoying repetition, as a rebuttal to everything I said, “how many people have you ever seen raised from the dead?” This put me into a deep, contemplative if not reactionary mood wherein I mulled over this fact; as I have done in the past: the difference between I and many of my fellow brothers in Christ; having been raised in a church where – unlike Boice stated he believed – we believe in supernatural healing, Holy Ghost empowered prayer, and that miracles are all around us and take place everyday – whether we believe in them or acknowledge their existence or not. In the midst of this “mood” I came across your blog. I confess this to you – in hopes that my words are not sharp but rather, hopefully, give you some firm step upon which you may plant you feet theologically in this present journey you are upon – if not just firmly – but perhaps – radically. I have, on many occasions, to the dismay of my friends; who would rather gloss over and marginalize theological differences – thinking them not to be all that important; aggressively ‘locked horns’ with those of a ‘hyper-faith’ or “name-it-and-claim-it’ persuasion – because I see the whole idea of those who get sick and find no healing “because they are in sin” or “don’t have enough faith” to be deeply heretical notions, offensive to the cross of Christ. Having stated thus – I reserve equal desire to rebuke anyone that would marginalize or question the idea of a God who heals or a Gospel that has just as much power to turn the world upside down with Holy Ghost-empowered believers as it did in the opening days of the church.

I have always struggled with a sense of dismay when my “cessationist” friends just seem to throw their hands up and say “oh, well – we guess it’s just whatever God wants to do” and offer up token prayers to earth-shattering events. It is true that we seem to so easily forget that death really is our ultimate healing – and that that which might seem to be on it’s face a loss, for the believer, is really unimaginable, inexpressible gain; but may we never forget that our ferverent prayers and the power of a risen Christ give us more hope then any other belief system/false religion can ever offer. Buddha never had stripes for my healing put across his back; Confucius never took the keys of death and hell from the Devil – our God did. May we never reach a place in our lives where we fail to have radical belief in the power of prayer to affect radical results. If your friend enters into Glory – then I am sure that it is for God’s gain both here and in heaven: there is no way to fully know how many decisions for Christ might be made – how many souls might have their eternal destiny changed because of her testimony and life. We have all heard of people who came forward at altar calls given at funerals; and never thought twice that such additions to the kingdom came at too great a cost. But don’t allow that to somehow counteract a belief and desire to believe for God to radically heal your friend no matter how grave or bleak the prognosis.

It is my hope and prayer for you that in light of this dark despair and agony that you would, with clear resolution, have no doubt that you can and rightfully should believe and pray for your friends healing – that you can boldly go before the Throne of God and intercede for your friend with ferverent and effectual prayer. That though the Holy Ghost in Holy Ghost led and empowered prayer you can wrestle with the forces of darkness in both this situation and others as well. Yes, doctors – are used of God – but I believe that it is absurd to spend your time praying for doctors – that to me just seems to be a distraction if it is offered up as a core concern; rather pray the blood of Jesus Christ over your friend and know in your heart that healing is there and freely available! Believe with a radical faith for a radical outcome! Our God is a healing God. May we never tire of proclaiming His healing power in our lives; that the Cross is a source of healing – not just to our souls – but our bodies as well. It is ok to be “thrown for a loop” and wonder how to pray. But when you get back up on your feet know in your heart that you serve a living, radical God and be radical in your faith and in what you both believe and trust God for. Walk in the belief that He can and desires to radically impact both your world and your lives in radical ways that can Radically demonstrate the Gospel. Don’t allow yourself to mope about in a despair that “everything is eventual” and “come what may” – don’t allow your faith to degenerate into a formulaic ritual that you just trod through life with. God is real and His power in our lives is real!

I hope that my tone is not too harsh – it is my desire to encourage you and I hope that if you do come from a theological ‘cessationist’ background that you might be encouraged to believe in something more radically then you have ever believed or thought possible. I hope that regardless of the outcome of your friend’s trial, that the faith of all involved is expanded, strengthened, and affirmed in ways that can only be accomplished through such a present experience. You have struggled and wondered how to pray in this present situation. It is my prayer for you and all those touched by this situation that as a result your faith is made radical and your trust complete; that your vision for what God can do and be trusted for is expanded and the foundations of it’s affirmation deepened.

The whole issue of “despair” is one that I have spent a lot of time reading/praying/meditating on. I wrote a two part essay on it; and it is unforgivably verbose and long-winded and I originally wrote it with no intention of even ever having anybody else read it. After some arm twisting by some friends who said that they really enjoyed and gained from it (though I have the same before mentioned puzzled-dog expression when they say that) I put it online. It’s at my myspace account if you are interested in it.

Thank you for sharing your heart with transparency, Brian; as well as the other words spoken here as well by others. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to offer what I hope is strong encouragement to you. I will pray for both you and your friend.

In Christ,

matthew

August 28, 2007

Response to “Blue Collar Theology 5: Dangers of Theological Study”

The following is a response to: Blue Collar Theology 5: Dangers of Theological Study

http://timmybrister.com/2007/09/04/blue-collar-theology-5-dangers-of-theological-study/

Good points – I committed myself to a deeper study of the Word and theology about 5 years ago and have begun to answer the call to go back to school to lay the academic groundwork for entry into seminary, but it has caused me to see the world through different eyes in more then one way. I am constantly reminded to walk in humility and have a keen understanding of the brutal force that pride asserts itself with because I have seen it in the eyes of many “theological literates” and have followed some of them long enough to see the scattered brokenness in their lives that was resultant. I feel like I know what it is like to have opened a door that I cannot close, and to have entered into a place that I cannot leave – and to have learned a language that I cannot always communicate to others in; but the moment that I give myself any glory for that then I am farther behind then I would have ever been prior.

There is a tension between two opposites that we have a degree of disregard for; and that is that theology needs to be practical and applicable to the people of the church – but at the same time there is a bit of self-contradiction in the term “armchair theologians;” there has been historically and there should be today an emphasis on the study of theology as more then just a hobby but a lifetime commitment – in that if you are a theologian you have to look past the “ivory tower” accusations and commit yourself to studying Greek when everybody else is watching football. I wonder if the modern church is suffering from some form of an intellectual shallowness resultant from a shift towards seeing the office of a theologian as strictly emanating from the pastor’s desk. I think many great theologians started as pastors (Barth, Schliermacher) and many great theologians either reluctantly or engagingly became pastors later – but there should be a reverential hierarchy of sorts; in that the theologian is seen as not just an advisor to the parishioner as by pastoral position but that that individual is a pastor to pastors themselves. I have a concern that so many pastors want to shape the content and form of theology today that there is merely a cacophonous roar that in the end winds up with a populist, simplistic and potentially Manichean in nature and culturally-driven/defined/orientated theology, vs. a biblical one.

I also have a concern that the rise of the amateur theologian combined with the office of a theologian also being generally oriented pastorally in an exclusive sense has also contributed to a merging of the idea of what it means to be offended by another person’s liberty in Christ (speaking of Paul’s ‘deference of his offense;’ “I shall eat no meat lest my weaker brother I offend.”) and what it means to be offended by the Word (“others came challenging the liberty that we have in Christ Jesus, and these we did not countenance for an hour” – Paul). Pastors always have the weight of their support around them and their popularity and denominational/organizational concerns/oversight; which are good things – but have the potential to limit what a pastor might want to speak. If a Southern Baptist pastor was reading a biography of Luther and read a letter of his where he was extolling his wife’s beer making skills or where Calvin was asking to be paid in wine, or that the Moravians (precursors to the Puritans) brewed and sold beer to support their missionaries; and if that same pastor suddenly and with great clarity realized that the scripture indeed taught moderation and not prohibition; he would not be able to present those certain history lessons/that certain biblical truth to his parishioners that Sunday morning. He would no doubt formulate a seemingly cogent response that he as a pastor must defer his own offense towards himself and not offend his congregation in meat and drink issues; when in reality he is by nature of such a decision vacating his responsibilities to teach and preach the Word regardless of fear, favor or offense or what this or that currently popular culturally-mediated theological assertion might have to say about what he wants to speak in regards to. To me a truly great theologian should in some level live under the influence but not under the attachments of the rigor of a theological structure; as he must not just allow it to speak to him – but he must speak to it – for this is, after all, what defines a true theologian, as he or she is more then just someone who sits around debating points for the fun of it, but he is engaged in the sober task of contenting with and reforming the brokenness and affirming and strengthening the wholeness and truth of the theologian community that he or she is a part of – and it is crucial and necessary that such work be conducted either to the dismay or joy of those in his company. There is a danger in an individual having such power and influence – as the potential of disruption or reformation is greater with the greater the power in such an individual; but nobody ever said this whole business was safe to begin with – and that is also why we are warned that “teachers” will be held to a higher standard. Once we reassert this weighty responsibility towards what we teach but also in the outworking of how the teachings of a theologian are asserted in both welcomed and unwelcome environments, then the glory and allure of being a theologian is greatly diminished.

In today’s purple embroidered, HD televised, feel good, theology; everyone wants to call himself or herself a Prophet or a Theologian. If they realized the responsibility that it entailed, the potential for alienation and financial and relational impoverishment that will almost always at times accompany those who are used those ways – they’d pick another title and profession, rather then risk getting sawed apart in a log, living in a cave, and being despised and hated by everybody. And that just might not be all that bad a thing.