Unloading more personal baggage…

This is my second day of being a teetotaler or sobriety. I’m not sure which term to use, since I’m not sure the previous year of self-medication with alcohol for my anxiety and depression makes me an actual alcoholic who needs to go to meetings or a guy who realized that he was diving into some unhealthy behavior to mask untreated psychological problems and now that he realizes that is dedicated to making positive changes in his life. I

mean, I don’t have horror stories to share. Just that I went from a social drinker and someone who enjoyed a nice wine with a nice meal to someone drinking 2-6 drinks a night.

Anyway, special thanks to the doctor I saw in the hospital who was very patient and let me know that I probably wasn’t physically dependent and didn’t need to worry about the physiological effects of withdrawl if I quit cold turkey. I appreciate the peace of mind. And I definitely appreciate waking up with less anxiety and feeling dehydrated and stiff. Oh well. I’m in treatment now for the depression and anxiety so hopefully feeling happier and healthier will help me let go of something that was becoming a dangerous crutch.

So, there you go. If you wanted an insight into some of my character flaws, there’s a big one. But I feel better being honest about it.

Good Friday for us…

The Taking down from the Cross

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 andevery tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I don’t claim to be anything but a flawed human being with my own struggles against my fallen nature. Good Friday is more than an opportunity to make ourselves feel guilty and miserable because of our fallen nature and the sins and issues we struggle with.

Good Friday is another opportunity to look at the example of the man Christ Jesus who on this day culminated the sacrifice He had been making since His incarnation. He gave up His glory to become one of us. He gave up His time and energy to heal our diseases and teach us the truth. He gave up His life to promise us a share in Himself and ultimate freedom from our fallen nature and the struggles attendant with it.

The gospel of St. Rand

This is charming.

I’ll let St. James have the final word:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.

I’m guessing if St. James showed up in modern times, some religious folks just might behead the poor guy again.

Reflections after a panic attack

There are moments in your life where it’s natural to pause and reconsider your life. I’m turning 40 this year. And I just had what I thought was a heart attack that turned out to be a panic attack. I’m not unconvinced that the two were unrelated.

Mortality was never something I thought about until I got a call one day about my grandfather dropping dead of a heart attack. One moment he was here, smiling, friendly, the great man I had always loved. The next, he was gone from my life. I’d never get to travel up north for the holidays to see him again. I’d never get to call him and talk. I’d never get to introduce him to his great-grandchildren.

Christ’s statement that He is our resurrection and our life and that no one who believes in Him truly dies is a comfort, but it doesn’t change any of the above.

And it made me reflect, okay obsess, on the fragility of life and how quickly things can change from one moment to the next.

Now, my own ‘emergency’ was my body responding to years of my own mind keeping those fears to myself.

So I found myself in the hospital not quite knowing what was happening to me, but knowing it was bad.

It wasn’t.

I got out with a clean bill of health. Oh, I need to start taking anti-anxiety medication and they’re giving me a beta blocker to help regulate my heart beat which they assume is elevated because of the tricks my mind is playing on my body. But there’s nothing wrong with my heart at least from four EKGs, two ultrasounds, three blood tests, and a stress test.

So now, here I am, reassessing my life. Having my mid-life crisis, I guess.

Things need to change because if I had been facing heart surgery and the risk of death, I’m not sure I’m in the place I want to be when I head off to meet my maker, not out of fear this time, but out of a realistic self-assessment. I’ve got stuff to do and time’s wasting.

Anyway, I’ll post more later.

World Vision heads back to the closet

For those coming in late, World Vision earlier this week said that given the existence of gay people, Christian denominations that accept gay people as brothers and sisters in Christ, and gay marriage (some conducted in those denominations), that they would treat gay married employees like heterosexual married employees for the purpose of benefits.

After the Conservative Evangelical community freaked out, the organization has now decided that contrary to its earlier opinion, its gay employees don’t exist, gay Christians do not exist, gay marriage is back to being of the devil, and all denominations that accept it are filthy apostate heretics, and they fully recant, will perform the necessary penance, and promise never to challenge the conservative evangelical orthodoxy again.

A bit of hyperbole, but the whole thing is rather reminiscent of the tales from Medieval times when some soul would pipe up and wonder if perhaps the Pope might be wrong about something and would find himself in a heap of trouble with the Church and given a choice of recanting like a good Christian or dying like the devil-worshiping apostate he was.

In all of this, I think the most shocking thing about this isn’t that a Christian organization would try and acknowledge that some of its employees are gay and some are married and some belong to Protestant denominations that are okay with both of those.

I think the most shocking thing about this story is this:

“Heavy criticism from evangelicals may have prompted the reversal. Soon after its earlier groundbreaking decision, the Assemblies of God urged members to consider dropping their support.

The loss of child sponsorships may have also been at play.

Ryan Reed tweeted on Wednesday (March 26), “My wife works for WV. In today’s staff meeting Stearns announced that so far 2,000 kids dropped.”

Given a choice between the good World Vision does for the poor in the name of Jesus and their stance that accepting that not all Christians and denominations adhere to one viewpoint of gay people, there were enough Christians who chose purity of ideology over mercy to force the organization to reverse itself.

And that, is sad.

John 1:19-28

19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not [q]the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he *said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the [r]Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize [s]in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Back to it then. I can’t exactly say I’m excited. I haven’t been exactly that close with God lately. Mostly because I think I’m still struggling with my inner fundamentalist and equating that inner voice with God. That and I’m still struggling with uncertainty and doubt. Having believed what I was told to be the truth for so long and then discovering a world of other Christian theologies, writers, scientists, and good men who differed from what I had been assured was the ‘truth’ has left me feeling a bit adrift.

So back to the gospel of John. Maybe by continuing though this book, I can arrive at some idea of what being a Christian is really supposed to be like.

So we look at John. According to Luke, John the Baptizer was a cousin of Jesus’. Born to a priest and his wife in their old age through a miraculous intervention, John was a bit strange from his youth, running off to the desert to live the life of an aesthetic. John eschewed the life of a priest and the relative comforts and respect of the office to appear to the world as a mad hermit.

This is a guy who had a very clear picture of himself, his office, his relationship to the world, and his relationship to God. John would go on to have doubts in Jesus, as he faced continued imprisonment and execution for standing up for his beliefs, but he remained a humble man who refused to fit in with the world and its culture and expectations for him.

So his answer to the inquiries of his fellow priests makes sense. The Jews were living in a culture of messianic fervor. They were living in an occupied state under Roman rule. There were continuous clashes with the Roman authorities because of the conflict between the Jewish religious zeal and the Roman’s ignorance of their customs and a mutual lack of respect for one another.

So when a mad hermit popped up in the desert preaching a call to purity and rededication to God and everyone started to flock out to see him, the priests probably started wondering what the deal was and if they could expect another mini-revolt by a Messianic claimant and the trouble it would cause with them and Rome.

So the messengers the priests send start with the obvious question: “Who are you?”

John, having a clear picture of himself and no ambitions but to be faithful to his calling, admits up front that he isn’t the Messiah.

The messengers were probably taken aback by that answer. They had come expecting another cult leader. Now they weren’t sure what to do with him. So they go down a notch and ask if he’s Elijah.

There’s a prophesy in the Old Testament that Elijah would come again before the appearance of the Messiah. John says he’s not Elijah, at least not the literal Elijah come to Earth again. Jesus says later that John came in the spirit and power of Elijah, both were prophets given to the life of an aesthetic with an odd diet and a penchant for angering those in power. So John was like Elijah, but not in a literal sense.

So the messengers go down another notch. Moses had mentioned that another prophet like him would arise for Israel. It’s generally thought of in Christian circles that he was referring to the future Messiah, but in Jewish thought of the day, the two (Prophet and Messiah) were believed to be separate people.

John says, “No, I’m not the Prophet.”

Perplexed, the messengers finally ask him again, “Who are you? We need to tell the priests something?”

John then claims the mantle of a forerunner, citing an Old Testament passage. He was a messenger too, travelling before a King, telling the people to get everything ready for the King’s arrival.

The messengers don’t understand his meaning. They ask him by what authority he is out here baptizing people and teaching them about God. Though he is a part of the priestly tribe, he’s not a trained and accepted priest. He is, in their mind, illegitimate.

John goes back to his mission statement. He is a messenger. There is a King already among them. He is there. And John recognizes that it is from the King that he gets his authority and he is very conscious of his position in relation to the King. It’s a King they don’t know and don’t accept, so they’re left with what to them is a non-answer from John. And it sets up the conflict between the Son of God and his followers and the old guard religious establishment that runs throughout the book of John. It also reinforces the cultural dynamic of early Christians seeing themselves as outsiders called by God out of a corrupt establishment as part of a new covenant and the heirs of Judaism vs. the priestly caste of the establishment.