Saturday, February 28, 2015

Soul Power (date unknown)

  Driving down Missouri Ave. the other day, I caught (yet another) red light. There isn't much to do while waiting in traffic, except to fiddle with the radio, or look around at the other cars. In front of me was a pick-up truck. It just so happened that as he nudged forward a foot or two, and reapplied his brakes; another light caught my eye. "Interesting", thought I.
  When The guy's brake lights are on, so too a little chrome skull with red eyes lights up where the ball hitch mounts! As I think it over, it's not clear to me that the skull actually was the ball hitch, but I believe it was where the ball hitch should have been. I guess the winking skull kind of distracted me from noticing whether it really could have been used to tow anything. Have you noticed where you live, all the skulls; they are everywhere!
  There is nowadays apparently a death logo cottage industry out there. You've got your basic skull decals, then comes those skull coffee cups, and let's not forget skull tee-shirts. Skull jewelry, skull tattoos, and ball caps, why the symbol everywhere? I haven't checked to find out if underwear comes in lovely skull decorations too, but why not? Hey, how about skull dinner plates? Just as you finish off the tamale and enchilada plate; how's about a grinning death's head; looking right back at you? Do we look forward to skull golfballs, skull tweezers, and next, cute little skull children's building blocks? Skulls appear to be all over the place these days. Why is that?
  One needn't be a Sherlock Holmes in order to deduce that some sort of "death thing" is going on just now in our culture. I surmise thus; "If death is in; life is out". So then, the animating feature in you, that "soul"- thing is just now under assault in our world. To be "for life" (is that so very provocative a stance?) is to be deemed "narrow minded" at best. Babies in the womb aren't babies at all but a "tissue mass". Chopping them to bits and pieces isn't killing, but "reproductive rights" in our twisted world. And when the wheels fall off of the argument, and all the nice guy disguises are dropped; saving babies makes you nowadays "a Nazi". Never mind that Dolf & Co. likewise used the death's head logo. Never remember that in the 30's, euthanasia and death with dignity was "cool" (in Germany at least) and death renditions (skulls plus lots of black clothing) were also at that time quite "trendy". All of the visible evidence for just who best lines up (historically) with the pro-death National Socialism is something you're not supposed to notice, okay? 
  I've never been too awfully clear on the usage of the word "soul". I do recall that during the 60's; certain black folk constantly referred to "soul". Soul music, soul food, and other soul paraphernalia come to mind. But, soul itself, that vital animating "me" which can (due to death) be separated from body, is not an entirely clear idea. Body and soul, the two belong together, we know that much! But just what soul "is", remains difficult to say.  My best guess is that we do not "grasp" soul, because by soul, we grasp all else. One does not look at the telescope with the telescope.
  The new-agey folks, with their "ascended masters", chakras, chi and prana are ostensibly (by their own testimony) expert witnesses on all things soulish. I have my doubts. After all, even if we knew nothing at all about things mystic, we do have some good information on "expert witnesses". The east with their gurus and yogis, are the counterpart over here to psychologists, and statisticians, and those guys are all for hire! But neither flavor of expert, those steeped-in mystery soul guys,  nor our professional knowers can explain skulls everywhere!
  In my opinion, we are discussing four "power centers" within us. The Lord identifies heart, mind, soul, and strength as centers within us. All are to be engaged. We in the west are kinda batting .500. On this side of the planet, we are heart-mind oriented, and generally feel free to minimize or plainly ignore soul-strength. We westies speak of our "passion" (heart) as we seek "clarity and understanding" (mind). The animating feature (soul) we take for granted; except in the old or ill, to whom we "wish" health. Strength, we infer to be almost exclusively an outer and body thing; and so almost entirely disregard.
  Any opinion you care to "prove", can with expert opinion be established. The experts of the west with their flow charts and numbers "prove" that soul mainly does not exist. A whispery and insubstantial ghost in the brain; a lessor aspect of the MIND, mere emotion! Here, it's all about the cranial capacity, the neuron software, and all that "think" stuff. For instance, westerners believe that they possess a freudian "subconscious", a kind of unread substrate to the waking mind. And on a good day, they just might possibly grant that said inaccessible attic of half thoughts could correspond to rumors of soul? I have my doubts. Meanwhile, the east appears (to me at least) to be saying that the mind (if it exists) is a tacked-on and mainly deceptive sub routine of the real deal, the SOUL.
  So in our world, a lopsidedness keeps cropping up. One side of the equation is heavier than the other, and so is no equation at all. A see-saw with a 40 pound kid on one side, and a 250 pound man on the other is "an unequal balance". If either soul-only or body-only "wins" the dispute, we just built another un-fun teeter totter, it "works" but goes nowhere. We may be chasing our tails, but we certainly are doing plenty of laps while at it!
  A popular example of this sort of thing might be the Christiany idea (in some circles) that the entire point of living is to quit it! To speak as if living is all about dying, so to go elsewhere and be a glorious soul, to die and go be with Jesus, is the sound of it. We keep shearing off one aspect of things, in order to make the fraction equal to and then greater than the whole. Body was designed to go with soul. To teach that either body or soul as; "It; the truly important thing", is crazy. And contrariwise, on the other end of the scheme, is skulls.
  Aren't the guys dressed in black, with holes poked in their faces, and skull tattoos; basically saying that life is all about "stuff"? If it's a soul versus body question, their vote (apparently?) is body. All the big money is working against the little guy, the system is skewed, and basically, life sucks. If soul is about life, and life is pointless, then everything turns out to be all about bodies, and bodies die!. . . Hence the skulls?
  Since I'm not real clear as to what soul is, it remains difficult to grasp how a guy would go about loving God with it! I kinda get loving with strength. Hunker down, try already! I more or less grasp the loving Him with the mind. Think! Use your head. I even get a bit of the heart love thing. Put yourself in the neighbor's shoes for a minute, try a little compassion. But soul? Beats me. It is roughly akin to Paul speaking about warring upon spiritual forces of darkness in the air. Uh, what rock do I throw, and where do I aim? How do I go about busting a "power of the air" right in the chops?
  But, it's not like we know nothing at all here. For instance, I have noticed that in the N.T., our words "life" and "soul" are in the original, often the same word. "He who loses his life for My sake", is a familiar enough text. To our ears, "losing his soul for My sake" would sound creepy, but nevertheless, it is the same word. Let's hijack that idea, and run with it; eh?
  So, when modern folk say things like; "I've got to get my life in order", or maybe "Life is hard sometimes", we should listen. That might very well prove to be their version of soul-talk. If so, I would describe it as the tenor, the drift, the feel of things. Not necessarily the theme, but the mood, especially the mood at present. Whether flat or giddy, whether somber or exultant, it is via soul that we so deem our life to be at present; whether up, down, sideways etc., and that's my plumber guess for today.
  After the Superbowl, some reporter inevitably asks the QB; "How does it feel?". That is a soul question, by this estimate. Downcast, upcast, off the rails, the soul is all over the mood map, as a kind of inner estimator of just how well (or not) things "out there" line up with "in here" expectations. If so, emotion and soul both function as a type of "meter" to gauge "how things are", and are closely linked. And if this is even mildly true, then perhaps to love The I Am (That Am) with this feature of the person is to remember?
  We, with assistance are taught to "newly estimate how things are, by looking across time"; saying things like; "We remember Your kindnesses in the past, and how You have never once lied to us. You have never, ever made fun of us. We recall; You always have listened to our dumb rants, without rejecting! We remember the present, how we sleep warm at night, eat good food, drink clean water, sing glad songs and even have more than we really need. We remember the future, that You have sworn upon Your own honor to stand us up again, in a new world not polluted by treason and lies, clothed then with an immortal gladness, in new bodies all full of light.
  Loving with soul then might be the recalling to memory, so to be made willing to pass through the valley we are in just now. The "life sucks" idea is not new. The O.T. commands about grumbling and complaining were never established so that we become all pollyanna about grief and loss. Rather, grumbling was (and is) an improper forgetfulness, linked with a stubborn foot-dragging; so as to find some way or another to just not go through today's trouble! The soul announces a "bad" present, and the "solution" is the grumble, as a proposed escape hatch out of trouble. Grumbling is suggesting that trouble should best "go away" or be visited upon someone else. It is announcing a "thumbs down" review of "the Management Upstairs". Gospel is saying that there is no "escape hatch", or better; there is but one escape hatch, never two. If by escape we mean escape from death, there is none. But to enter it willingly, there is yet hope on "the far side of Jordan". And that escape is a confident walking right through the center of the meat grinder! Grumbling skull wearers never "get" this part.
  Jesus walked into Jerusalem, well aware that He would die there. He went in "with soul", firmly convinced He would stand up again on the far side of the trouble. The three cast into the fiery furnace, were joined in the midst of the fires by a fourth. It was very souly of them to refuse to bow before the image. The pattern was not to bellyache until the problem went elsewhere, or fell upon someone else. The pattern is good-life, bad-death, far-better-new-life. The skull folk are advertising for bad-life, good-death, pointless-afterward, that's the difference.
  Life after death was never about "getting to the other side" minus a body! That business is a strictly temporary affair. The kingdom is in our midst, it has come near. Life after death is to be entered here and now. We die (and are called alive again) daily! That small reality, shall grow and grow, and one day even creation herself will wake up again renewed, and made all glorious. Gospel predicts the sure coming of that bright morning, and the reality of what we've believed, will then be be plain and obvious to all.
  When the Captain of Life returns, His children shall come gladly at His Almighty call, so to stand up again out of their body breakdown. From the four winds, and from across the age, one congregation of the bought-back, shall out of soul say; "I remember You!".
  Or more precisely, we shall fully sense the rightness, the sheer wholesomeness, of His remembering of us back when we were still sleep-walking our way, all lost and alone. In our loneliest hour, it was then that He came to crash through our own prison wall to cheer the inmates. All the old images of fire in the eyes of skulls, then washed off our bodies, so to be transformed now to eyes alight with welcome at seeing The King in Person! The ex-inmates light up best and brightest, just for Him, they are very soulful indeed!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Those Men With Poor Taste In Hats

   These days, things have gotten so polluted, through the double-talk, the correct-speak and the twisted rhetoric of those in power, that simple truth appears "strange and extreme". The tortures, beheadings, sex slavery, arson and general chaos of Syria for example, is never, ever deemed to be "evil" by the talking heads. Tragic maybe, distressing yes, but wicked? Never!
  The calling of good as evil, and the calling of evil as good, is itself an evil practice. So, the bombing, looting, rape, murder and enslaving of one group is simply "overlooked", while simultaneously, the "dangerous" group consistently pays their taxes, walks orderly, is generous and goes out of it's way to not offend. Guess which is considered to be evil? Of course, it's those dreadful Christian fundamentalists!
  Meanwhile behavior that would shame a Viking berserker, is shuffled off, "understood", and promptly forgotten. Do you recall how the "media" mocked Reagan when he dubbed the U.S.S.R. as an evil empire? Do you remember when George W. Bush was ridiculed for his usage of the "E" word? So, American patriots which speak truth, love Jesus, and possess a backbone, are the "danger". And just at the same time, psychotic, murdering  criminals are "misunderstood"; and ought be given job opportunities? Uh, they already have a job!
  I sometimes wonder just what it would take to reverse the present pollution? If on Obama's watch, Iran ends up with nukes; just how many exactly must they first launch and detonate, prior to the reversal estimate of where to search for evil? Does New York City need to be inundated by a nuke driven tsunami first? Does D.C. need to be blown off the map first? Must we "understand" millions perishing at the hands of known murderers (the Iranians for example) before we are "allowed" to notice the correct location of evil?
  Is it really the butchered Copts in Egypt, and those Orthodox hounded from their homes in Syria who are the "dangerous"? This, our present administration keeps trying to link the Crusades and Inquisition back to a; "Well, nobody is perfect" type of indirect approval of Islam, while shedding crocodile tears over "extremist outrages". . . but never ever doing anything to halt or crush those chaps with poor taste in hats. When shall we be "allowed" to notice the little fact (truth) of the huge differences between Christian versus Muslim outrages? Are atomic mushroom clouds large enough to notice? For a Christian to be murdering, looting, raping and enslaving is wrong for precisely the reason that such outrages are diametrically opposed to Christian scripture, and church teaching. Not so, Islam!
  Just go read it for yourself someday. It is "sound doctrine" in the Quran to kill, maim, and enslave. Inside their teaching, to lie, is approved. . . if the lie is told to an "infidel". Gangs of murderers, those with poor taste in hats, uniformly assert that is they who are the true sons of Islam. The problem is; they are right!
  Do a little walk down memory lane someday. Just how many lands have been "converted" to Islam, by the heart warming truths and consolation offered by the "evangelists" of Islam? Uh, zero? History teaches that the spread all across Arabia, Africa and the attempts at Europe, were all military  conquests, bloody campaigns. . . very like modern day Syria! Executions, beatings, rape and slavery these are the standard operating  practices for exactly how Islam historically spread. The sword is their argument for the "truth of the Quran", and it always has been; those failing to wield the sword are simply bad Muslims!
  And yet, and yet for all of that, the Christian gospel has never (really) been about taking up arms, or militarized patriotism, nor deterrance. Our war in actuality, is not with the human slaves of the enemy; but with he himself and with that cadre of the monstrous which fell with him from above.
  Somewhere in the air, above Iran, and hovering over Syria, and likewise encamped over Nigeria, are malicious and powerful entities. They are the equivalent (and perhaps identical to!) of the "gods" which ancient city states in those very same areas once served. Hellish, deceitful and immortal, these foes darken the hearts and minds of men with lies and hatred. The human slaves are terrified to leave their cult, for they have been warned of hell for those who do. And it is precisely hell they go to by staying in the cult!
  No man is clever enough, or strong enough; nor fast enough to escape these fallen slavers. There is but One Deliverer from the house of slavery! We pray for our human enemies, not because we are too nice to hold a grudge. We pray, because we too, like they today; once upon a time hated for no good cause, the Only True Friend. As for the airish hellions, they are damned, and they know it! Their "goal" is to snag as many as ever possible humans to go down with them. Hatred is their path, lies are their method, murder is their means, and so they likewise teach their slaves the same things. You shall indeed know them by their works!
  It is precisely from these very things that "The I Am (Who Is). . . salvation" (Jesus of Nazareth) ransoms and redeems His own. Hats were designed not to cover, (darkness) but to uncover! At His return, all hats, crowns and halos are gladly removed, knees bent, to honor with our bodies the Victor! "Vengenance is Mine, I repay", says He. And until their very last breath, or until His standing again upon Earth, clothed this time in immortality and power, there remains hope! Perhaps, just perhaps before they are ever lost, the murdering sons of darkness might yet be turned!
  Beware! It is exactly when we come to think our foes to be scum, deem them vermin, and consider them garbage, that we adopt (yet again) their fallen slavers patterns. It is Christ plus nothing, Calvary plus nothing, faith plus nothing, grace plus nothing. . . and with that, comes everything!
  Peace be upon Israel.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Oath (date 28 Nov 99)

  Have you ever listened to Christian folk talk? I have, and there I note a strange phenomenon which I'd like to discuss.
  Everybody appears to want to hear "the bottom line" on dogma, doctrine, and Christian worldview. I say "appears to want", and by that; I mean that certain key verses of the Bible are constantly referred to, as "the answer" to life, reality, and everything else. You know the sound of it; "It's all about love, it's all about accountability, it's all about relationship"; and such like talk.
  Ordinarily, the biggie is a reference to Christ's teaching, namely "Thou shalt love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength". Here view the show stopper, the ultimate summary. It is "it". The final, final rock bottom issue. . . kinda leaves me flat.
  I personally have never been satisfied with the view, although I've had difficulty saying just why that is true. And, for quite some time, I imagined something.
  I guessed that folks were saying by the show stopper, that Lord Christ had somehow "reduced" the ethical standards of (say) the 10 commandments, to only two, and that these were "easier". I thought that they were saying; "The 10 were too hard to do, so He just lowered the bar", and thereby called shabby "good enough for government work".
  If life were a track meet, and the entrance requirement was the ability to high jump seven feet, then Jesus in this case would be saying; "If you can just jump two feet, good enough, we'll call it seven". I thought, "How utterly unlike Him to do so!".
  So, in this scenario, such "loving" would be a very weird kind of "ethic". An un-law, an antinomian righteousness is by definition wrong, and you say Christ Jesus (of all people?) is "for" it? Are Christians actually saying that He "abolishes" law in order to establish an easier version of "right"?
  That certainly is odd, and would fly in the face of just about everything else He says. This train of thought does exist in the church at large, and in some cases is prevalent. Love "taking the place" of righteousness, cannot (itself) be right! Two does not equal seven, and Jesus is not the crook to make it so in any case. Mushy thinking, if of this stripe forgets something, but it forgets the wrong thing.
  The interesting feature about love. . . just about everywhere else, is that it takes the form of self-binding oath before witnesses. . . and God! Covenantally, Ethic the standard, is guaranteed by Oath the word pledge. To break Oath, draws Sanction! That is what is forgotten,
  For instance; the oath in marriage "til death do us part" is the promise aspect of the standard "to have no other". Breaking that word, draws sanction, big time! See, in pledging yourself to the other, not only are you promising unto death, but also calling down upon yourself sanction (from heaven) should you violate the sacred trust.
  Or consider, everybody loves kids, the baptismal vow before man and God; similarly pledging body and soul to Christ. That vow too, is unto death. And to finally and actually step outside the oath, here again courts sanction. This is some serious stuff, this "love" business.
  Hey, everybody also loves eating. Yet, again we note the situation with the Lord's supper. Human witnesses, joined by God as witness; hear those verbal promises for the reliable and threats to those who take it wrongly. Originally called "love feast" the supper also, proposes a standard, involves an oath, and threatens violations.
  All around the world, the language of love is "love-unto-death". Hear them, even the unbelievers speaks of an "undying loyalty" but always from the fulfilled promise side. The bringing down of curse, the negative sanction is implied by betrayal, but rarely is spoken. But I speak this; one half of oath, includes the other, whether said aloud or not.
  The language of love is thus rooted in Oath, not Ethic! Thus Jesus was not changing the agreed upon terms of the treaty, but (surprisingly) allowing us to join Him in the taking of the pledge. Fulfillment of oath yields "blessing", breaking it brings the curse. This remains. He is not announcing righteousness to be "easier" than it used to be.
  Thinking this way then, the love-oath of baptism is to be applied but once. The promise and witness of the Lord's supper is to be applied "often". But is there an oath missing? How about a daily, or an hourly promise, with witnesses, unto Sanction? And unlike the sacraments, there remains a method, a means of grace. Love involves promises made, and the keeping of that word is a blessing, that itself; is love in action.
  The apostle Paul speaks of; "I die daily, for it is no longer I who live, but Christ in me". The language of love is all about the presenting of bodies as "living sacrifice". The giving of  our reasonable service of worship, speaks the language of love. Ordinarily, sacrifices are dead, in that the punishment, the payment required in the Oath to live up to the standard, has been violated. Paul, and Jesus are talking about love certainly. The three elements are visible. But the new thing in earth is not that righteousness has become "easier", it is that Sanction negative, has become (in Christ alone) survivable!
  The gospel is not about altering love to exclude an oath unto death, but welcoming it, in that life from the dead (the New "Thing") is begun! In his participation in the new thing; Paul is not arguing against "the wages of sin is death", he is embracing it!
  The daily "sacrament", the missing  element in the modern discussions of love, is Paul's "informing" on himself; of his violations of the promise. He daily "turns himself in, and rats on himself" to The Authority. Upon the basis of Oath violation, he is volunteering for the negative Sanction.  . . death! He says, "Come on in, the water is great!".
  Apply yourself to to death daily, for daily He shows mercy and grace. Death has been overpowered by His love, that is the new thing in earth! And all this, founded by, built, plus bought by, with and in Christ Jesus.
  Love thus, was never intended to be the method of ratification of the demanded standards of rightness. Love folllows the three steps, promise, failure and punishment, bringing survival and rebirth on the far side of death. Paul dies daily. . . gladly! "Falling asleep" in His care, the man is fully confident of awaking anew in his Savior's arms. The curse has been overthrown, not dropped. Let's play Q. and A.!
  Q. Is Paul justified by obediance to the standard or not?
A. Not.
Q. Is Paul justified by trusting that Somebody Else's standard keeping has been counted as if his own?
A. You already know the answer.
Q. Would it be fair to say then, that "love" has zero to do with our ratification of the ethic aspect of the covenant?
A. I would not say it that way.
Q. How would you say it then?
A. I would ask you, "Is love pledged unto death?".
Q. Yes, but so what?
A. Well, since love is sworn unto death, and is binding before witnesses, Paul is either utterly and completely loyal in oath keeping, or he knows something you don't.
Q. He cannot be utterly loyal, in that his own testimony is "I am chief of sinners!". Sanction applies and he agrees with the curse, what then does he know?
A. Love is always sworn to the death, and infinitely moreso when directed toward God. Death (in Christ) is what is now being mercifully supplied! And this can only mean one thing! The Fathers' love toward the Son, (and thereby to us) is stronger than death!
  So, to wrap up the essay, we are to (with Paul) welcome the negative sanction, (death) daily. God the Judge both condemns failure of oath, and in grace draws us to die; so to later awaken. Do this every day, til you get real good at it! We, from here rethink the "bottom line" on dogma, doctrine and worldview. The bottom line is not love! It is He, Himself. He, the object of interest, not "it"! He the new bridge to life-again, is Who we love. We don't "love love". Hope is real, because our Captain breathes.
  What a marvel, what a champ! He, "cut-off" for such as the likes of us? This can only mean, that in His glorified estate, He stands (today!) by grace!? He laid down and surrendered His own lawful rightness. He ain't got it anymore, and stands up again by grace, through faith. . . just like us! Gathered about Him are His family, those raised in and with Him. Heaven isn't some place full of the law abiders, it's the camp of the forgiven. Just like us, the Father turned His back on Him, and found Him on the far side of death.
  He, The True Believer; grants us a dab of His brand of "to the death and beyond", loyalty type of trust capacity. On the far side of death, is where He stands again, and us with. Love is the outworking of a grateful heart, so to be included. Those likewise "found again" are not outcasts, for He is the True Outcast. We, in and of ourselves do not belong! But truth said, we never were, are not now, nor ever shall be "in and of ourselves". He is the treasure "found buried" which the "Man" spent His all to gain. Through mercy, we were found-with Him! And even we say so.
  He's so good, it's scary!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Shoes And Such Stuff (date 25 Dec 98)

  Note to reader: I have been thinking for a few weeks now to try out a keyboard plus brain-phone to do a posting. Ordinarily, my buddy Gus allows the use of one of his computadoras, but chaos has erupted over at his place. In the middle of a move to new office space, servers are off-line, cables strewn willy nilly, and furniture stacked against walls. So, I thought I'd try using the phone plus keyboard, to see how unruly a beast that cyber combo is.
  Today, is the first day that the universe at large becomes aware that it was I; Mike Labor who actually coined the (dumb) phrase "shoe bomb". That knucklehead Reid (I am fairly sure) was not on my Christmas card mailing list in 1998. It was three years later that the goon tried to kill himself and others with my idea! The bastard.
  Re-reading a few old C.P.E.s, this one stands out a bit in my memory. It is kinda humorous, in a twisted sort of way, and entirely inappropriate as Christmas material! Enjoy; and on with it!

  I'm supposing over here, that we all know what a "shoe" is? It's one of those things that you put on your foot. Wearing the gizmo, you don't feel the sharp stuff on the ground nearly so much as you would going barefoot. Or perhaps for you, it's one of those things to stick somewhere in a closet because the durn thing doesn't fit anymore, and besides that; the color is hideous in any case!
  Now, supposing it existed, a "shoe bomb" might be a device that looked like a shoe, but in fact was designed "to go boom". This much is apparent to us all.
  If obvious then why couldn't there also be an "un shoe bomb" to consider? Very likely, such an artifact might well appear to be a "shoe bomb", but was never designed to blow up; a decoy to draw us away from the actual threat then! We may all feel quite confident that such a thing is an option here, don't you think?
  But, I am concerned. In terms of escalation, wouldn't creation of such things very likely spawn a "double un shoe bomb" next , for us to contend with? Such an object, clearly appearing to be (yet another) decoy, but in fact; a decoy of a decoy, and thereby explosive! What a truly terrible thing to have happen to any shoe; nicely colored or not.
  All this makes a guy wonder. Given this cold war type of escalation of footwear munitions to consider, wouldn't just this sort of series lend itself quite easily to the potency of a "non un double un shoe bomb" to consider in the future? I'm just saying. . . Could we predict then, the possible development of something that would appear to negate the simple old "double un", thus converting it back to a "single un shoe bomb" (thus a safe decoy)? But what if it (insanely) did not!? 
  What if our now triply redundant "non" feature is speaking not so much of the blast, but the footwear? I mean, seriously; wouldn't the generic "non shoe" portion correctly describe the vast majority of objects now in existence on the planet? Exactly just how many kinds of "un shoes" are there anyhow? Do we all grasp then, that such a monstrous invention would indeed prove to be a bomb, but (hideously!) not appear to be a shoe! Gadzooks, but such would be diabolically clever.
  I hereby propose the unilateral disarmament of all nations, forever banning the manufacture, or deployment of bombs, un bombs, and non un bombs, especially if any of the above even mildly resembles a shoe. This shall be duly filed in the United Nations charter, and our great grand children shall praise our wisdom. Thank you, have a nice day, and please do not litter.
   Those future generations may well be tempted to raise the ban we just now established, yet the prudent course before both they and us remains certain. We all feel very strongly about this, and for our children to be able to sleep peacefully at night, the spectre of exploding shoes, and things which don't explode, but look like they might, and things which don't appear to what they are, must never again be built!
  The so called "common knowledge" that none such as described, exists; nor is anybody stupid enough to begin even the design of such, we reject. Are you the one who is personally able to exhaustively prove that no single knucklehead on the planet is as of today, designing or building weapons of foot destruction? Isn't the responsible thing for us all to do, the simple and forever and forever guarantee (by committee rules) that he just doesn't begin? I mean, what if the man built a bomb which appears to be a decoy, but not a decoy shoe? Are we actually prepared for that contingency? Get real!
  Taking responsibility then, for what we've made, and owning up to what we've done, isn't it just this we mean by the descriptive word, "human"? Although we can (truthfully) say; "There is no such thing" when others point to what we have made, we yet fail to believe the testimony we just now gave of ourselves! That is to say; the twisted, and contrary things we build within ourselves, do in fact exist, but not visibly, not publicly.
  Uniformly, the things we make, are made because we thought it was "right" to do so, we adhere to principles. And even mad foot bombers believe (of themselves) bombing was the "right" thing to do! Are the inner principles wrong, or is it simply wrong to be a "principled" person? What if both sides of the scheme collapse?
  That is to say, our ideals we hold to be dear, and high. We would defend (we think) our freedoms to the death. Surely, surely our lofty ideals can't be wrong. . . can they? Yet it is just exactly by our ideal of humanity that we privately conclude that it is always, always the "other guy" who is nuts. Each of us privately conclude; "I am right, you are wrong", we just fail to say it outloud sometimes. We mean by it, "I am principled, you are not", but clearly such an assertion is insane. We are normally prevented from noticing that.
  Ever since our folks' eviction from Eden, we humans have done this very thing. We divide up, realists versus idealists, and whichever side you personally prefer, you are forced by the system to conclude; "We are sane, they are crazy, we wear shoes, they explode them, that is the simple reality". 
  But the actual factual here is that such formats as an insoluable problem, if we insist that we must solve from the inside of the set. We, rushing in to "fix" things, and to "cure" people of their mad schemes; is precisely that which blinds us from noting that it is I and we in need of repair. The unsolved aspect remains, in that we (privately) reserve the "rightness" of our own selves, and of our "side". Thereby, we are doubly damned, provably both unable to notice, and unwilling to seek aid, it is always always the "other" who must first change their tune! Thus and thereby, both as persons and as peoples we are similarly hung out to twist in the wind.
  Shall it be the needs and ambitions of the individual, or the good of the nation as a whole; which best guides us? Answer me! Is it "workability" or "principles" which must navigate the course? The inner division within us, is also manifesting "out there" in the world. We can never repair it, for the excellent reason that we believe that by it, we repair all else!
  Oddly thus, we as persons and also we as peoples are "in principle" opposed to our own best interests! We, of ourselves, we by ourselves, can never shake the madness out of things, out of others, or out of ourselves. Nor are we able to cease trying to do so!
  The broken Body, the empty tomb, the blast-off from the hill side, he is crashing in to our wrecked system, from "the outside". The responsible thing to do is to point our shoes (exploding or not) toward Him. The situation has never been good versus evil, with me-us as good, and you-them as evil. And our chronic pointing of that idiotic weapon at Him proves the point!
  Our parents never did voluntarily devote themselves to wickedness as an operating system. They proposed instead; "an alternate, a competing good"! The situation on the ground then, has never been good versus evil. Actually it is He The Good (One), versus our shabby assed imitation mock-up version of good. The reason we hold on to error, is because we think we are right! Sin in us, is formatting as a bizarre form of "excessive right-ness".
  The responsible thing for us to really do would be to verbally plead with the Almighty that His news of peace (with Him) be spread to the four winds. Our land, and all lands coming to "find" a new and freely given ability to admit that; "I, and we all, were only able, (of ourselves) to think we were right, and we were afraid to be wrong". It is just here, this fear of being found out as the wrong, which is the "secret" locking feature to our corrupted patterns. For Him to repair that flaw in us, "in principle"; changes everything!
  The new creation is begun, long live the King! The Eternal One is born, the ever Living One dies, the All Seeing Champion wakes from the dead. Everything is changed, He coming to dwell with the low, and is raised above all. And dig this, we are being drawn there!

Merry Christmas '98
Mike Labor

Monday, February 16, 2015

Shadow Puppetry

  So, sometimes if the pastor at Kirk asks me to, I will conduct a Sunday school class. Off and on over the years; classes for mid-high people, or occasionally for adults have been fun to do. When asked afterward, "How did it go?" my response is usually along the lines of understatement. "Well, no knife fights broke out!", is the typical answer. I ordinarily tell people at the beginning of the session something along these lines; "If this entirely collapses, and we are all just sitting around, staring at the walls wondering what to do next, we could always turn off the lights. We will go find a small lamp to put on this side of the room, so to cast finger shadows up on the wall. We could make "elephants" or "giraffes" with our hands, and the brain-wave would be to guess which animal is up there on the wall...". I (of course) have never actually done such, but since the idea for today's crazy pants essay is shadow puppetry, it kinda reminded me of my own low-ball estimate of what might someday happen in church on Sunday mornings. It also reminds this guy of C.S. Lewis.
  Having semi-forgotten that the movie about him was entitled "Shadow Lands", the link is that the guy was very impressed with Plato. Although it is a squishy non-specific type of "fact", there is an element to his writing which corresponds to "shadow". I never did very well "get" Plato's shadow illustration. The premise that those living in a cave, viewing shadows on the wall; were somehow being convinced that the shadows in fact; were the reality, has never much appealed to me. It seems clumsy.
  Lewis, running with that ball, tends toward an "intensity" of reality. The Narnia books posit a "realer", a "larger" world(s) ahead. In typical British fashion, the inside is larger than the outside. Think of an onion. As you peel off layers, the thing gets. . . larger? But not only a physio-spatial range is being discussed. He appears to be saying that a "harder and brighter" world, a thoroughly "realer-ness" comes into play, up ahead of us. The net result in his prose, is that the "is-ness" we are participating in just now, we shall one day look back upon so to view "this then" as a shadowy or mainly insubstantial thing. I hope I am being fair to the guy?
  Supposing that I am being fair in this estimate of Lewis's ontology, I have never been very interested in that kind of stuff. I prefer to assume that reality qua "is"; is not a slope gradient. Our problem with the Almighty has never been (to my knowledge), being held culpable before the bar of His justice on grounds of being charged with having a sketchy or flimsy existence. What would be the other option to "existing" anyhow? All entities are creatures of His. Our being, our "is-ness" is, was, and shall ever be a gift-derivative of His Being. What He is holding against the race has never been "insufficient real-ness", but rather rebellion and high treason! So, the short version of my disagreement with the platonic analysis is that the covenantal aspect of "Ethic" (or lack thereof!) as being addressed here, is what has gone wrong with human-kind. The Transcendental aspects of His Being/Existence, and the correlative creaturely aspects of our existence are moot to that dispute! Our basic error then, is, and remains our absurd "forgetfulness" (suppression actually) of His solitary positional supremacy. And not only that; let's not forget the rotten nature required of us to do so. He (and He alone) Was, Is, and ever Shall Be. He is not holding creation "against" us! The issue is that we fail (on purpose) to acknowledge His sole position as the morally Right-One. Saving, He is correcting the matter. It is after all, Law which is being written anew in human hearts. A restoration of the righteous-ethical, is precisely what has "gone missing" in us. This deficit is what changes from this-then, to that coming-then; not our being becoming more "is-ish".
  All that said, there is yet room in my thinking to accommodate the premise of "shadow". As an example, I was talking with my Sis on the phone recently. We were discussing a weird radio program which is on the AM band in the middle of the night. George Noory hosts "Coast to Coast", and all of those bizarre stories you recall from supermarket tabloids have a radio home. Are you curious about Bigfoot? Would you care to hear some "psychic" predictions? Hey, has anybody spotted a UFO anywhere? The type of material here leans heavily to the new age, and thus to the occult, it is wildly speculative (beware planet Nibiru!). I enjoy listening occasionally; if for no other reason than to use the opportunity to really listen as best as I am able, to people violently disagreeing with my own ideas. I often ask myself; "Why would anyone want to believe such stuff anyhow?". The short version for today's essay is "shadows". These, we operate as hand puppets, which are both "like" and unlike, "something". View then a (controllable) 2-d depiction of a 3-d actuality, a shadow!
  Shadows of the real act for us as "stand-ins", for another and more substantial "is". We do it all the time. As an example of a typical puppet, as Sis and I were talking; we covered UFOs. My basic premise on UFOs is that the observed phenomena (lights in the sky) has the popular interpretation of "visitors" from some other planet, traveling here by star-ship. Apparently, these guys traveled jillions of miles in order to come play peek-a-boo, and hide and seek with a gang of savages? It might be a bit like you in a row boat traveling to Australia, so that you can practice hiding behind bushes; such that the koala bears only sometimes notice you. Where is the margin here? Who wins? Who is financing these little jaunts anyhow?
  Picture a race "coming down from heaven". Uh, those guys would be demons, those ex-person-wrecks who were forcibly pitched out of heaven. Twisted in hatred, lost in deceit and murder; they are screamingly butt ugly! They would have an excellent reason "to practice playing hide and seek", heavy on the hide portion of the game! The testimony of scripture on demons is not socially acceptable, since it is "religious". The reality of the situation is too horrid for us to contemplate, so we deal with fear by substitution. A demon infested prison planet? Way too harsh, way too judgemental, so it is buffered, it is modulated "down" such that the premise of "a race coming down" is both kept, and distorted. It is become shadow, with the guts removed; only the outline is preserved. The outline of "a race coming down" is kept as a sock puppet version of a much worse reality. We normally forget that we are the ones operating the sock.
  So, shadow functions for us as a "shallow" 2-d representation of a "harsh" 3-d reality. The shadow is real enough in and of itself, but who cares about that? In my opinion, Plato "missed" just here. To view shadow rather than the object, in order understand objects; is a very Platonic idea, and entirely irrelevant. Thus, I infer, "higher" reality murders relevance. My point in all this, is to assert that; to make such a mistake in thinking is a willful dereliction, a purposeful obfuscation, never "an honest mistake". We are the ones operating the puppets, and we do so for reasons. True enough, we might well have also "forgotten" that we are doing so. So what again?
  This is what, there is an entire class of shadow information, most all of it of the forbidden "religious" nature. We were correct to class the information as new age and other "dark" perspectives. Consider for instance, the ever popular conspiracy theory market. Why do ideas like a cabal of mainly unidentifiable (invisible) "somebodies" manipulating events "behind the scenes" have such a purchase upon popular thinking? Or what of the "sinister-g.m.o." versus organic food dispute? See, a "something" we historically put in us; we now find to be killing us, versus a "something-else-wholesome" we are to commence putting in us keeping alive? But un-named evil forces don't want you to eat good food! Hey, how about the "great need for education"? There is something "we do not know" which remaining ignorant of, will gravely harm! Let's not skip the fear mongering over a "rogue power, with the power to incinerate from above" (launch a nuke), which "could be"? Shadow is used as an outline of the feared thing, it is a cloak by which we reduce, so to manage fear. Keeping the outline of a lessor; while forgetting it's actual target, it is difficult to recall that I am the one over here with the sock!
  I do recall several of these outlines as a boy, being palmed off as "concerns". They were not active fears mind you. They didn't even really qualify as worries; but we were to be "concerned" nonetheless. Do you recall the dreaded malthusian die-back coming? Or what of our using up all of the world's oil? Do you remember the killing of environment by pollution of air, land and sea? The entire cold war era of  somebody one day pushing the button? These and others were all at one time, taking up valuable brain space in my skull. And all of them appeared to be such huge (future) problems that only "all-of-us-together", could possibly deal with them. Therefore I infer that we prefer to approach the feared-thing as a group? Thus, we fear being alone? Possessing no puppet for that particular fear; we strongly prefer not to discuss it! Meanwhile, it is considered "bad form" to ask; "Which problems ever, have been solved by "all-of-us-together" anyhow? Just where or when has such group action ever worked?".
  The shadow which I have personally (and most frequently) preferred operating, depicts a "coming collapse". Details in the cranium remain slender, but whether we consider the collapse as an economic (the viability of the dollar), social (the death of the constitution), or some other end to our "national way of life"; the results in me are much the same. Like highness leading to irrelevance, the sock puppet of collapse yields inaction. I never end up ever really "doing anything" about the brain junk. It just sort of simmers "back there" somewhere in my thought. Yes indeed, there certainly does appear to me, to be a "threat to our way of life", located vaguely "ahead of us" (in time), in which "everything changes". Yet, note something odd. Nothing in me ever changes! The hazy-fuzzy imprecise "threat" creates a helpless do nothing attitude over in me-land. The shadow puppet threat just might be dodged if only we all stood together, or if we all protested in the streets, or perhaps if we all wrote our congressman. . .or some darned thing. The we-all proviso is what builds zero output. Shadow, as a means for us to manage fear, ends up generating emotional racket and motivational sludge. Worse, the inertial apathy in us tends, over time; to minimize both the actual threat, and our sock version of it!
  The actual threat remains, and the threat is real. Take for example my brain noise on an impending threat to "our way of life". That part is actual. And not to be overly hysterical about it; He is coming! Lewis has a great line to the effect; "When the author of the play steps onstage, the show is over". Him armed for war; at the head of a horde of holy and fierce champions, signals far more than an end to the American dream! The puny calamity I had in mind of a mere world-wide bankruptcy is a 2-d depiction of "something else".
  I don't know much about angels, but one of them whacked 180,000 bad guys. . . singlehandedly overnight? These cats are the ones who pitched the enemy-race out of "the above place" originally. On this go-round, they are coming (with Him!) to finish them off. He is coming, and they come-with to judge, to war, to shatter, and to burn not only the world, but as far as I can tell, reality itself!? Clearly, an end to all "ways of life"! So for instance to remain ignorant here (recall the education scare shadow) of this does indeed harm one's "future prospects"! Remember the malthusian fretting over a big "die back"? A slender hint, a whispered clue of the real devastation coming, can only mislead, as long as the shadow is treated as the only reality. The recurring "oil crisis" warns that our go-power will not last forever! Ya think? Our very power to live and breathe is actually what He is endangering. Oil is a shadow. Do you see my point? I hope I am being clear here, because it is just in this type of perspective, that (I believe) the N.T. gospel is presented. Background threat, plus foreground offer is the package.
  Contrary to this, nowadays, one hears plenty (too much actually) about how very strongly the one True God "desires a relationship" with us. Why? What's in it for Him anyhow? Where is the margin here? Are we to infer; "Apparently, the Chap is Almighty. . . lonely? Is it that he is so desperate for companions that we sociopathic liars are His only hope for conversation?". Of course not! And to be as charitable here to other believers as I am able; they appear to be saying instead that He is just so loving a Person, that He could do no other! But, it is just here that I suspect another stand-in shadow of our making. The entire salvific motion from Him to us, is nowadays presented as a "love affair",  and as shadow, the outline of love remains, but the center disappears! We've lost a dimension somewhere, and not noticed the difference.
  Really, it sounds as if I'm splitting hairs here, doesn't it? What is wrong after all with saying that God loves us? And, in my opinion, it is context, not content. It is a dimensional "flatness", an evident "irrelevance", which (motivationally speaking) makes it difficult to hold the interest of hearers which is being discussed here.
  For instance, suicide, as a way to die, is generally bad advice. Heroic death on the other hand, may well appear to be suicidal (to some) but there yet remains a dimensional, a relevant difference. Generally speaking, a depressed and manic man with a hand gun is an unwholesome development. Yet, a soldier leaping atop a hand grenade, in order to shelter companions with his own torso; is an entirely different kind, a "deeper" story. A stressed out woman with a hand full of pills, and booze, may not end well, but a Mom rushing back into a fire; to find her child is an alternate-kind, a "fuller" exit. We love heroes, and wish strongly we had "the stuff" of heroism, it would make our death, and so our lives more "meaningful". To posit the Cross as but a token of love, misses the Hero!
  He with His body and blood has become the only torso available, which could become the wall to shelter behind. . . in that day. The offer of the Cross is not some slender and nice thoughts about a floating; static and merely available love. It is the cry of the boatswain aboard the Titanic; "One lifeboat remains!".
  The Cross was never intended as some type of abstract statement concerning a dis-interested love. The relevant feature is the dire and impending threat, to which it, the Cross remains sole remedy. It is the life ring thrown to the drowning. Back in Noah's day, flooding is what caused drowning. In that hour, the ark of the living was the only safe place. The waters came, devastating rains from above appeared as judgement. On this go round, it is a flood of fire we're talking! But the motif of judgement remains uniform. The life ring in this case (even if stout asbestos) will not do the job. Even the very elements themselves shall be burnt up! Further, in Noah's time, it was not some puny life-ring, but an enclosed environ. The only safe place, that sealed up boat with the new head of the race as pilot, is the idea. Our idea here then, He (the true New Head of the race) is sheltering us. . .from Him! He, in Person is; upon the Cross, what the ark then was. This is what the Cross is, the only safe place from the Actual Threat. . . He Himself!
   The margin here, the gain is "glory"! He didn't morally "have to" do anything at all to defend His enemies. The relevance of the Cross is the Hero upon it. At the very minimum, He must have had to (by His own character) do justice; and He shall. But to go above and beyond, to extend oneself far beyond mere obligation, so to free us human traitors, forms the song of our praise. He is "glorified" by such as the likes of us! Real love helps us recall the danger, the risk, and the cost that the Mom, the soldier, the fireman pay, so that the other may live.
  We end up saying things like; "We give You thanks indeed oh Holy One, for this; Your fierce and undying love! You went way, way above and beyond the call of duty to build for us the boat which survives that day's storm-flood of fire! We thank You for the Cross! At that hellish tree, You have taught us to fear The Name, so to live". Fearing then no man, and no corrupt government, nor any economic crisis, we greet environmental disaster or social collapse. We, with Your aid; have come to dread no crisis, no devil of hell, nor his slaves, neither his future! We, freed by Him above; fear God alone! Nowadays and ever after, we the freedmen, us the rescued from fire and flood; are grateful from the heart!
   The actuality of the threat, that third dimension of fear, being freely acknowledged as legitimate and reasonable is what grants to us the meaningful, and relevant faith once delivered. To shrink the dire warning in the name of politeness, to depict the actual 3-d terror as a manageable 2-d shadow reveals not love, but cowardice. It was this very fearfulness in me which caused the problem, all that irrelevant inaction in the first place!
  It ain't "progress" to run away from fears. Rather, in Him, we are taught to run toward the object of dread. . . He Himself! And so, we come to laugh at lessor fears, so to gladly embrace them. We are being instructed thereby upon "how to love". Progress, means getting closer to the real goal. But since He is the goal, running away can never be the correct answer. We turn around and run to . . . The Dreaded One! And He frees us from all lessor fears.
  Now that my friend; is progress!