Pilgrim Notes

Reflections along the way.

Month: May 2006

[springlist] Kidney Update

Izaak Standridge, a young man in our church, has passed the testing and
qualifies to donate a kidney to me. The surgery is currently scheduled for
June 14. Izaak has been a part of my life for about 10 years. He is college
student with a passion for history and political science. When my kidney
first took a downhill turn this spring, Izaak immediately responded by
offering his kidney. This was a big decision and I didn’t want to encourage
him, but let him decide this compeltely on his own.

After discussion with his family, Izaak pursued the donor program and went
through a series of tests to check our compatiblity, his health condition
and his kidney funcitonality. After passing all the tests, the surgeons met
with Izaak this week and scheduled a surgery.

As an act of such sacrifice is hard to fathom, and I can only respond with
heartfelt thanks. Izaak has demonstrated a level of Christian action that
few of us ever embody. He acted in a way that demonstrates the community of
Christ and life poured out on behalf of others. I am grateful and honored by
his offering.

I aprpeciate all the prayers and words of encouragement, you have offered
and now I ask for one more prayer. Please pray for the surgery, for Izaak’s
health before and after the surgery, for my health and that my body will not
reject the kidney but will adapt and that I’d be able to wean off the
medications.

I will continue to update you in the days and months ahead. Praise the Lord!

Glory

As one of the tallest boys in class, I was expected to play basketball. So from the fourth through the sixth grade, I dressed, practiced and played in almost every game. In three years of play, I scored one basket. The whole school cheered: it was a glory day.

Of course, the actual accomplishment of one basket in three years could not begin to compare with the vast accomplishments in my mind. For in every game during those three years, I spent most of my time sitting on the bench and imagining that I achieved amazing feats of athletic prowess, bringing the whole school to their feet in admiration. In my dream world, I enjoyed endless accolades for one victory after another.

It’s nice to be glorified.

Whether for beauty or skills or intellect or performance most of us like to be recognized, to be lauded, to be praised. My overactive imagination gravitates toward new ways of winning esteem and glory. In fact, it seems that whatever activity is at hand, I suddenly become the mental hero in the midst.

If I am watching a spy movie, it’s just a matter of minutes before I begin envisioning my own escapades among the notorious enemies. Soon I’ve rescued the captive, captured the enemy and saved the day. A small parade in my honor might be appropriate.

When I felt called to preach, I imagined that I was being commissioned to launch a new reformation on the scale of Martin Luther’s project. Standing before a congregation of the faithful, I envisioned uttering such powerful words that people fell to the ground in tears. Like Taliesin of old, my words would clench the tongue of every person in the room, as conviction spread like wildfire.

Even sitting in the hospital room, I’m pretty good at finding glory. I see myself fading from this life and passing from this world to the next. As doctors and nurses and family and friends gather round the body of this poor dear soul who died so young, I suddenly come back to life. Light streams from my body and everyone trembles in the glory.

We live in a world that lusts for honor and glory. From jobs to church to family to the community, we want recognition. We want someone to say that we are of value and that we matter, that we make a difference. We yearn for a glory that others will recognize and acknowledge.

But the glory of this world is fading. The trophies tarnish, the memories fade, the light dissipates. As the poet reminded us, it is better for the athlete to die young with his glory still in tact than to die old and watch it gradually fade over time. Whether he dies young or old, it will fade. He will be forgotten.

Paul says, But he that glories, let him glory in the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:17). There is so much conflict, so many self-esteem problems, so much discouragement that comes from the longing, the frustrated craving for honor and glory here and now. But glory is due to the Lord alone. Outside the light of God’s glory, I have no lasting glory. It is all temporary illusion.

The truly free person can let go of glory. She can be overlooked. She can be forgotten. All claims to honor and glory and success can be stripped away and she can still rejoice. The human heart is so subtly evil that we can glory in anything. We cry out for revival and if revival comes, we glory in our accomplishment. As we fall before the Lord in humble repentance, we glory in our brokenness. Whether in disaster or in success, we can still find a way to glory in self.

The Lord strips us of all glory except his own. We have no true glory. It is all illusion. Isaiah was a prophet who used his tongue to proclaim the holiness of God, but in the presence of God, he realized he was a man of unclean lips. The very thing he offered as a thing of glory was unacceptable outside of God’s grace.

The only one worthy of glory is the Lord. It is the Lord’s work. It is the Lord’s love. It is the Lord’s victory. We glory in him alone. The mystery is that God’s glory, God’s love, God’s presence completes, sustains and will ultimately meet my deepest needs. Our need for significance, for acceptance, for value comes from His unconditional love.

Success and failure are temporary conditions. What looks like a success today could be disaster tomorrow. And what seems to be failure after failure after failure might simply be the prelude to a great achievement. Our challenge is to be faithful in what we are called to do and then rest, trusting God’s purposes, God’s love and God’s glory alone.

As I learn to rest in God’s glory alone, I can let go. I am free to embrace humiliation along with exaltation. Like Paul, I can say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Free Alaa

If you think blogging is an important form of free speech, you might
want to help sign a petition for a recently arrested Egyptian blogger.

http://freealaa.blogspot.com/

Moderate Islam

This is one of the more postive things I’ve read about developments among Islamic moderates. Dr. Ahmed Abaddi, the Director of Islamic Affairs in Morocco, has been in Washington explaining to America’s leaders how Morocco is fighting militant Islam. I know many Christians have used the Koran to suggest that Isalm is not a peaceful religion and that there can be no moderation. But I have to believe we should respect their voices of moderation just as we expect them to respect ours. One could misquote our Bible to paint Judeo-Christianity as a mighty violent religion, and couple that with our less than perfect history, and it would not be difficult to reverse the same arguments we use against Islam and apply them to Christianity.

Yet Christians will be quick to object and say this is not what Christianity is about, and when people act ways ways antithetical to our faith, we do not acknowledge that as Christian. And I agree. I just think we might give the same respect to moderate Islamic voices who say that radical Isalm does not reflect their faith. If we are to live in peace, we must find some places of dialogue and mutual respect.

[springlist] Bearing Witness

For the last few weeks, I’ve been ruminating on the following passage:

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. (John 1:6-8)

John the Baptist was sent to bear witness of the light. What does it mean to bear witness? In the fundamentalist churches of my youth, bearing witness clearly meant handing out gospel tracts and learning methods to convince people why they need Jesus. Like a faithful soldier, I attended all the witnessing training programs and learned the models for presenting the gospel.

On Saturday mornings, a group of the faithful would hit the streets, knocking on doors and taking “religious surveys” that would never be collated. These were just a front for getting people to talk to us, so that we could then show them why they need Jesus. I learned a variety of techniques and methods of asking questions and even body language that might help draw the potential converts.

By the time I was out of college, all of this seemed a little suspicious to me. Sharing the gospel seemed a bit like selling Kirby vacuum cleaners (which I also attempted). Our whole approach felt like Jesus was simply a product we were trying to convince people that they couldn’t do without.

Me, like many others in my generation, watched far too many mean-spirited people beat up their listeners with the gospel. I couldn’t help but think that these people don’t look anything like the Jesus I see in the gospel.

So many of us began to think that the best way we could bear witness to Jesus was to live like him: to respect people, to be faithful in the little kindnesses of everyday life. For many of us, St Francis of Assisi’s word became our motto: “Witness all the time and when necessary use words.”

Witnessing shifted from proclaiming a truth in words to living a truth through our lifestyle. I still believe this is profoundly important because our faith, if is real, will be embodied in our actions. But there is a danger to this idea as well. And this what has been on my mind lately.

If we reduce witness primarily to a series of non-verbal acts that reveal our life of faith, it might be easy to reduce Christianity to a form of ethics. And that is one step away from suggesting that aren’t all religions really same: they’re about how we treat people, about living right, and so on.

But Christianity is not primarily about ethics it is about a person.

Call me crazy, but I believe Jesus has been challenging and convicting me personally about this idea of bearing witness. I went to sleep last night and dreamed and dreamed and dreamed all night about a strange series of little pictures that would not make sense to others and I could not even fully replicate here. But the dreams awoke me, and I knew a person was speaking to me (Jesus) and I responded by getting up from bed and writing. So here are a few thoughts on being a witness to a person, the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of God.

Paul says that if Jesus really did not rise from the dead, we are of all men most miserable. In Christianity, we’re making the absurd claim to know a person intimately who lived over 2000 thousand years ago. The focal point of Christianity is not ethics, theology, or rituals. It is a person. We claim that Jesus of Nazareth, the man who lived at a particular place and time, was crucified at a particular place and time, and then overcame death and resurrected at a particular point in time. The resurrection was a vindication of Jesus’ claim to be more than just a man but to actually be God.

Jesus made claims about relationship within God (between himself, the Father and the Spirit), which altered the world’s understanding of God and over time radically reinterpreted the meaning of person for humans as well (that’s another essay).

We actually believe that the man Jesus is actually God and is actually alive right now and is actually capable of speaking to us and entering into relationship with us. We claim that his act in the cross directly addressed the problem of sin and evil in this world and made a way for humans to enter into a relationship with God that had never been possible.

If in our witness we fail to ever mention Jesus, there is something wrong. The woman at the well did not run back to the village and then act out a lifestyle that attracted people to follow her back to the well. She used words. She said “Come and see!”

The problem is that we live in a world that distrusts words and experiences. We fear using words for personal embarrassment or because we don’t want to force ourselves on other people.

But if I go with my wife to a party of my peers, she would appreciate if I introduce her. If I ignore her all evening and hope people will know how important she is by my actions, it is unlikely anyone will walk away knowing how I feel about her. On the other hand, if I talk about her, tell stories about her, show her picture, and reveal her to others then they will begin to meet her long before she is physically present. This is the same with Jesus.

The hang up of course is physical presence. We are used to meeting persons with physical bodies. So to build relationship with a person is not limited by their physical body seems hard to understand. While Jesus has a body, his primary means of entering into relationship now is not through that body but through his Spirit. This seems too far out for some people.

But in truth we meet and interact with many people beyond their physical body: letter writing for example. When a person writes a letter, they are present somehow in the words of their letter. And reading their letter (especially when it is written to us) is like being in their presence. I’ve read books by many authors who’ve been dead for many years, yet I feel as if I know them in their words.

Today we have telephones and emails. We can talk, tell stories, share our lives with people and never actually physically meet them. And yet, it feels as if we know them. And in some ways, we may know them better than the people we know physically. I’ve personally built some friendships online (with people I have never physically met) where I have come to know people on a deeply intimate level. (Of course one might argue, how do you know those people aren’t lying? And my response is trust. Just as I trust the person who is physically present is not lying as well.)

Just as letter writing, emails and telephones use words to convey the presence of persons and bring us into relationship, Jesus is present to us in the reading of his words: primarily the words of the Bible. Instead of reading it like some ancient musty text, we listen for Jesus the person speaking to us. This is not to deny the physical, concrete situations that led up to the writing of each Biblical text, but it is to suggest that the spirit of God inspires this same text and this same spirit reveals Jesus and has chosen to reveal Jesus in and through the text.

When I speak words, I impact you in ways that go far beyond simply acting. Acting, living, modeling may in fact give me a right to speak to you, but non-verbal is incapable of communicating specifics. If I want to meet someone, at some point, I am going to use words. Words pass through the outer world and somehow pierce our inner world in a profound and dramatic way. Words can incite anger. Words can bring tears. Words can surround us with good feelings. Words can bring hope. Words can clarify our feelings.

Words are fundamental to our expression as humans. The word passes through the ear to the mind and ultimately to the heart. Christians make the claim that Jesus does the exact same thing through his Spirit. He uses words, inspired words. The words in the Bible have inspired countless generations and touched people in their hearts with the person of Jesus. Before we discount this as some over emotional fluke, we must come to terms with those who have claimed such an experience: many hardcore rationalists like Thomas Aquinas and CS Lewis.

Some of the greatest thinkers in history have made such a claim. They claimed to meet and form relationship with the person of Jesus. The rich and poor, the intellectual and the simple minded, the educated and the illiterate—all make claims to know Jesus and experience his presence through prayer, reading the Bible, meditation, preaching, fellowship, dreaming, and even journaling.

We won’t meet him in quite the same way the woman at the well did, but the impact is just the same. And if he has not impacted us to the core of our being, then the question is have we truly met him? If he seems completely intangible and more like a concept than a person, then we should ask the Holy Spirit to make him known to us, to speak to us, to open our hearts to his presence. And we should set aside time to listen.

I fear we rarely acknowledge him, when he is speaking. We reduce our faith to ideas or feelings or actions, but his Spirit centers our faith on a person who entered history and yet lives now and is present to us.

Christianity can easily be equated with great ideas, beautiful rituals, personal improvement, ecstatic experiences, and while all these can be present, the heart and soul of it is the person of Jesus. We may perfect our ability to defend the faith through a variety of philosophical arguments, we may become exemplars on service to the poor and needy, we may have visions and see angels and have all manner of dramatic experiences, but we could have all these things and still never meet the person of Jesus.

And yet this is the great claim of Christianity. We believe he speaks to us personally. We believe he is present in the midst of his church. We believe he is transforming us through his presence. May the Spirit of God have mercy on us and open our eyes and hearts to Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. May we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

As we encounter the Lord and Savior of our souls, may he become so real to us that bearing witness will become much more than a systematic method or technique, may it flower beyond simply non verbal pantomime and eventually, we might not be ashamed to acknowledge him but like the woman at the well, joyfully exclaim how Jesus has blessed us beyond measure.

[springlist] Concert on Saturday at Spring of Light

For those of you living nearby, we have a band called Wake the Grace playing
at Spring of Light for Saturday night. The concert starts at 8 pm and you’re
welcome to come. Here is a little info on Wake the Grave:

Hailing from the mean streets of Claxton, Tn, Wake The Grave combines heavy,
pummeling riffs with melodic, heartfelt singing and screaming to make a
unique and pleasurable experience for your ears. We sing about our life and
a huge part of our life is our relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ. He is the driving force behind this band and we thank him for
gifting us in what ways he has. Things are just going to get better and
better!! Come check us out!!!

http://www.myspace.com/wakethegrave

If you want your ears pummeled with joyous sounds, feel free to join us!

Grace and Peace,

Doug Floyd

http://www.springoflight.org/

“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find
rest in You.”
St. Augustine

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