Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Conscious and in Pain

I sometimes bemoan God for alloting us both consciousness and suffering. One would be tolerable. Consciousness with no suffering would be great. Suffering with no consciousness would be acceptable too.

Someone shared this quote on Instagram: “Heartache, loss, love, healing, adventures, friends, family...I’d rather feel it all than feel nothing.” How we answer the question, “Would you rather feel it all or feel nothing?” may depend on what we are experiencing at the time.

In 1993, Lois Lowry wrote a novel, The Giver. In 2014, it was made into a film. The Giver is about a utopian community without war, pain, suffering, emotions, differences or choices. The community is a colorless world of conformity and contentment. It lacks memory, climate and terrain in order to maintain serenity. Like a tree, the community lacks full consciousness of reality, therefore the people miss out. But a young boy learns from an elderly man about the pain and pleasure of the real world. The man shows the boy powerful visions of heartache, laughter, evil, goodness, grief, beauty and wonder.

That begs the question: Are beauty, goodness and peace stripped of their meaning and potency without the presence of their opposites?

Someone said, “The end result from pain, sin and death entering the world is far better than if they never did. In the end, we have the most desireable set up."

The idea behind that is that redemption exceeds perfection- that pain and loss necessitate grace, which is sweeter than utopia or placid equilibrium.

OK, but I still sometimes protest our setup, which we did not choose. God did not ask us if we wanted high level consciousness coupled with pain, then death. God did not ask if we wanted to be a oblivious like a tree or star. Or, above suffering like an angel.

In a way, humans have the least desirable and most desirable position in the universe at the same time. We experience pleasure like no other. We experience pain like no other. We see, feel and experience potential like no other. We see, feel and experience the loss of that potential like no other. We think and feel things in our hearts about ourselves and loved ones, but our fate stamps out these visions. We are hardwired to believe we are immortal, but our bodies betray us. This is an atrocity.

Enter the Triune God who promises to treat both our bodies and minds. God appears to be our foe- the one who consigned us consciousness and allows pain and death- a horrific combination. But in the end God will eliminate our mortality and accentuate our consciousness. This is a best case scenario.

In the end, this beats placid utopia or unconsciousness. I just wish there was an easier way to bring these things about. God probably does too.

Friday, February 23, 2018

You don't know what He did for me

I recently wrote an email to two people. The emails contained the same message, but I chose different words and tones because they were aimed at the personality and taste of the recipient. One was formal, the other was sarcastic.

Hip-hop artist Trip Lee has a line in a song, “You don’t know what He did for me.” (“He” meaning God.) Someone might say, “Yeah, but we know exactly what He did for you. He made you, died on a cross for you, rose from the dead, justifies, accepts and adopts you.” But Trip Lee was talking about the particular things God does for Him- maybe he consoles him in depression.

While we may know the general things God does for someone, God does specific things that are unique to each person. Like when you buy a new car, God has standard features to His redemptive work and He also has specific, custom features.

We need that. We need God to meet us where we are. We need God to customize His emails and features and God does. God does not write the same email to a single mother in Pittsburgh struggling to feed her kids as he does the son of a billionaire in Hong Kong who is pondering suicide. Why? Because God treats us according to our inherent and unique obstacles due to our genetic makeup, disposition, location, era, experiences and position.

It’s crucial God standardizes and personalizes His work in humans because there are as many struggles and ways of life as their are people. I love that God is not above working in any one category. Henri Nouwen wrote, “To the compassionate person, nothing human is alien.” Nothing human is alien to God either. Nothing human is alien to God because God became human.

Our stories about God’s redemption are the same and they are different. We can say to each other, “You don’t know what he did for me." Yes we do and no we don’t.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Not Daybreak Daffodil

I’m in the part of town where people have propentisites for less respectable lives and types of crimes
The houses are close together
So are the sirens
And the sirens

There are two pills on a park bench, one portly like a pit bull
the other elongated like a caterpillar
Who left them
For me to wonder about

There are micro vodka bottles at the mouths of the alleys
I imagine their consumers waking up on couches yanked from curbs
Not ones fretted over by designers

The couches are bile yellow, not “daybreak daffodil"

The sun splashes through jumbo sycamores
Onto the yuren and trash
The hybrid of aromas is restorative
Like yoga

Don’t ask me why these are my quiet waters
Or why I’m more comfortable in a prison than a church
I don’t know
I just know hair products are dehumanizing
I just know when I’m here I see what I feel like- flattened cigarettes and unattended housing

Here, where iniquiety is proud-
Where brokenness is unashamed-
I sense the grace of the day

Here, where grace is not presumed upon-
I sense it’s lack of restraint

But this is just a fling- the caffeine is orating
I feel safer around white-collar crimes
And my hair looks better with product

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Out of Hiding

There are many things about me no one knows except my wife. Part of me is concealed in her. (Sorry babe.) Part of her is also concealed in me.

Our friends conceal fragments of us in them too. One friend might get a certain fragment, another friend a different one. Our fragments are as unique as the person who receives them.

At nighttime, Asha and I witness a spectacle better than a Vegas show. Our kids star. The program includes dance parties, racing, brawls and snuggling. When I think of our kids and the glorious things they do it makes me wonder where their childhoods and those precious moments go. Are they gone forever when they pass? If so, do our entire lives follow that pattern? I hope not. In a way, our children’s childhoods are hidden in their witnesses- Asha and I. But more than that, they are hidden in God.

The scriptures say, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3) That is abstract. But thinking about how our lives and their fragments are hidden in various people throughout stages of our life can put flesh on that idea.

Pretend you are a piece of paper and you are torn up and scattered. Parents, siblings, teachers, friends from elementary school, churchgoers, coworkers and neighbors each have a different piece of you. Imagine if everyone who had a fragment of you assembled and laid down their piece. That collection would give us a good idea of who you are. But everyone there would learn no one person saw all of you.

It is similar with God, except our entirety is visible to God. God is like a friend or parent who stores our lives in Himself, except God stores all of us, not just fragments. What God is storing is astonishing. And, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:4) Our long latent lives will one day be evident to the universe in a new way. God will bring us out of hiding.

God, please hide, transcribe, uphold and value our lives. Save them from deterioration. If you do not store our lives they disappear and everything comes to nothing. Thank you for making us count. Amen.

*Painting by Janet C. Moses

Monday, February 19, 2018


Of course I’m a feminist
If you say you are not
It’s like saying, "I’m sexist"
Because feminism seeks equality and that's all 

But feminism can go too far
Like a supremacist movement
Then the movement against sexism becomes sexist
But I’m a white man
Do I know how to forge a utopian defense against systemic injustice against me?
The white man's role is not to advise or critique the longtime oppressed
But to spurn the prejudice structure that benefits us 


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Lucky God

When I don’t trust you
Your people tote me
When you seem cold
The words of your people pacify me

When you afflict me
(or is that the devil?)
I have ocean-deep friends who treat me
You are lucky for their beauty, bodies and warmth
Because without them where are you?

When you don’t cure my anxiety but
Tell me not to worry
I am confused at who you are and what you do
You are lucky I have a collection of believable music that proclaims you

You are lucky you coddled me with lovers and gift givers since I had one tooth
In utero, they prayed for me- ripe with hope of conjoining me to your riches and mercies
You are lucky because their hospitality makes me think you are good

I will trust in your believers when I don’t trust you
You are lucky for their beauty, bodies and warmth

Maybe you made your own luck

Maybe you knew you weren’t enough