Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sometimes All-Pervasive

I've been a little busy to keep my posts flowing, but The View From Her has been doing an excellent job stimulating dialogue lately.  As I was visiting family this weekend I kept getting the probing questions and suggestions about relationships and women in general.  In all honestly, I'm just not at a place where that is a priority for me right now.  I'm in a very self-centered place with work and other things going on.  Being aware of this, I've been deliberately not thinking about the whole relationships and dating thing.  Having it pushed back in my face repeatedly, regardless of how good-intentioned, was more of a nuisance than I was ready to accept.

As I caught up on my blog reading, I noticed the theme of physicality and sex pervading the posts.  That's cool, I kind of expect it from a writer with as much focus on male/female relationships as Her.  But I can't help but wonder if pushing us to consider our views and perspectives on physicality and sex on a continuous basis is healthy.  Don't get me wrong, I find the posts and discussion on these subjects as interesting as the next guy.  But for someone trying to keep God at the center of my thoughts, and not be continually impacted by sexual desires, it frustrated me a little.

Can't the non-sexual aspects of interpersonal dynamics be as intriguing and frought with pitfalls?  Or is sex really 99% of the issue with the relationships even in the Christian community?  (That last was rhetorical, I'm not that naive.)

I guess the seed of my post came from asking the question to myself...  "She seems so savy and in the know, where's the depth I've so greatly appreciated in keeping my Walk matching my Talk?"  Rough I know, but that's just how I roll.

Perhaps I need to remember that even the ones who seem to have it so together still face the same struggles.  Or maybe, the reason they seem to have it so together is because they actually face the same struggles head-on. Could it be that addressing this area that is most troublesome in such a persistent fashion is the key to practical success for this area?  Maybe she's on to something with this...

Point taken, here's some slack.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Cycle of Salvation

We've all heard (or been a part of) the story about the believer with and unsaved friend. The believer prays for the friend every day, year in and year out, for many years. Finally, just when the believer is ready to give up, the friend has an experience and comes into the fold. Now hearing a soul saved makes my joy resound like it would for any Believer. My take-away from`the story, however, I find to be greatly differing from many. At least my hubris tells me this.

You see, for myself, the story is not a particularly great testament to perserverance or commitment or the power of prayer or any of the traditional bells rung from this tale. For me, it serves a clear counter-point to the not-by-works infestation of laziness and relativism that pervades modern Christianity.

It seems so often to me that the Church compromises the hard back-bone right out of our faith. If you aren't impacting the world around you, it could be that you aren't working at it. If you are constantly besieged by the trials of adultery, greed, or some such, then simply saying "Oops! Good thing I'm saved!" isn't an acceptable answer. Sure, the occasional mistep, the infrequent lapse in character is to be expected. Our failures are part and parcel of our humanity. They don't diminish the person we are or our Salvation in the least.  It is when we fail to keep striving, fail to remember that following Christ IS work, that is when we are defeated. Then our fruit will cease to bear, our actions become meaningless, and our hearts will harden.

Because we are saved, doesn't mean we stop reaching. The sweeping grace that gives us immeasurable freedom in no way removes from us the responsibility to perservere, to struggle, to attempt.

Salvation demands Faith.
Faith inspires the Walk.
The Walk requires Work.
Work succeeds by Faith.
Faith allows Salvation.

It's not quite the circle of life, but it's my immature way of expressing how these things are connected.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

An Undivided Heart

So I'm growing. I can deal with that.

During this process of self-examination I continue to be faced with the stark reality of my isolation. Walking by faith becomes a straight-forward exercise when you surround yourself with God-fearing counselors who will unabashedly bounce your commentary and actions back to you as needed. Working on the road, amidst the decidely unreligious, makes me strain against my relativistic leash.

One of the key things that I find help my walk align my talk is striving for an undivided heart. Perhaps I'm just helped by the visualization, but knowing my heart and my motivations is how I keep my clarity and sanity in the world gone mad. It is common today to rationalize ways to accommodate our faith to the culture we imbibe. This is contrary to our identification in scripture as "a peculiar people." As disciples we have been sent out “like lambs among the wolves.” I'm not sure about you, but that would sure be easier for me if wool didn't make me itch.

Living with an undivided heart and an open mind is hard but I've found two aids to keep the walk and the talk in sync. Be deliberate and be articulate.

Knowing your heart and motivations is crucial to keeping on the straight and narrow. It is a necessity if you want your mind to be open to the world around you. The early Christans had this same problem when their monastic and ascetic faith was suddenly overtaken by rich, successful Roman Christians. The Roman Christians really wanted to find a way to live their faith, without giving up their influence in the world that was enacted through money and relationships. The new Roman Christians wanted to party and be faithful and the figured if their heart was in the right place, why wouldn't that be okay? It's the same rationalization I've heard over and over. I for certain have used it myself.

For much of life I have no problem with this, especially when it comes to interpersonal issues. You have to have an open mind about style, taste, and comfort level. If you link your own ideals of behavior, dress, adornment, worship-style, or whatever to maturity and depth of faith then you remove your ability to be impactful on those around you. Simply put, you stop being in the world. There is no excuse for elitism or formality in faith and God-following. I'll save the extremes of this (tolerance, relativism) for another post.

The earlier Christians had a problem with this blind rationalization which Paul argued for them. The crux of the argument is that the rationalizations can't be done in a vacuum. You still have to be able to interact and communicate those things you are being deliberate about with those around. For example, Paul urged them to consider if another weaker Christian might be led astray by this action. He wrote, “by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.” I'm personally not too keen on destruction so this would be a side-effect of my walk I'd rather avoid.

Being articulate isn't just about being able to tell others your story, your intentions, or about your faith and reasoning. It goes beyond your actual communication and speaks to the transparency of your life. You shouldn't have to actually defend your beliefs and movitations, they should be crystalline and obvious even to the casual observer. Don't shoot me, I know that's incredibly hard, and it continues to be my challenge daily. Thankfully Christ understood this intimately and gave us Scripture and Spirit.

In my own world-view, it is being deliberate which keeps me impacting my world (living in it), but it is being articulate which keeps me seperate from the world (not of it).  Maybe as you stew on this, you'll find your own ways to express how you straddle this particular razor.

In truth, I could write and write about the undivided heart and about being deliberate and articulate ad nauseum. This particular post is just to start giving the concepts some structure and start some thinking. Future posts will address and expound on these topics. I'd appreciate any feedback to guide this study.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Really struggling.  I'm a very easy-going person and the interpersonal stuff usually comes easy for me.  Unfortunately, I've been choosing to grow.  Which always means self-inflicted pain of the highest order accepted by a smile wherein your teeth are clenched.
Can I relate to you the way you relate to me?
Can you help me out with my chemistry?
I don't want to be precieved the way I am.
I just want to be percieved the way I am.

- Chapstick, Chaped Lips And Things Like Chemistry
It's remarkable to me how easily we as humans deal with near-constant paradox and dichotomy throughout every facet of life.  We encourage people to deal with us in ways that are counter-productive and conflict-driven.  Then we stress over the fact that we are misunderstood or ineffectual in our relationships.

Sometimes I think the point of a friendship is to have those people in your life who will see past the image you actually present to the world and instead drink up the image you'd like to present to the world.  All the while, encouraging you that the person you actually are is valid, coherent, and suitable.