Saturday, January 21, 2006

Where is God?

It's a question usually asked from within the swirling chaos of pain, torment, bewilderment, and anger. It's often voiced with vehement emotion, and often demands a negative response. It can also be heard emitted from skeptics or mockers; again, a negative answer is expected.

How often is this asked by the eager disciple calmly enjoying the happy Christian life? This is my goal, my ardent desire: to spend my life asking this question. Not in an angry, derisive way, but in an honest, seeking, and worshipful way. And not just in the crazy, horrific, mind-numbing contexts (where is God when the little girl next door is raped nightly?) This is a question that is just as pertinent to the mundane tasks of everyday life. Where is God as I go about my job? How can I see God in this movie? What is God doing while I'm raking leaves on a windy afternoon? Can I even see God when I'm doing my taxes? My personal favorite is to wonder where God is when I'm having sex with my wife?

A friend of mine recently described a place full of committed Christians as a place were "God was everywhere." Those simple words keep rambling about in my brain, bouncing around, refusing to take their leave. I know the doctrine that God is everywhere, and I see Him often enough, I guess. But do I see Him everywhere? Do I wake, eat, sleep, work, think, play, read, drive, run, study, sneeze, kiss, breath God? Is the world I see as full of God as the Emerald City was full of green? If not, perhaps I should change my glasses... even the Emerald City didn't seem green with the wrong pair of glasses.

What an exciting challenge I've set before myself, what an invigorating, life-breathing attempt at constantly connecting with Jesus. The attempt to look at the world not through Tim colored glasses, but through lenses tinted with the Divine. Knowing me, it is also an impossible task-- my myopic eyes are too dependent on my old prescription. Lucky for me, I know a guy.

I know a guy who is everywhere.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Speeding Tickets and Liver Cancer

My Christmas vacation was slightly dampened by my getting a speeding ticket on Christmas Eve on the way to AR. I convinced myself not to worry too much about it, despite the money it would cost in both fines and increased insurance rates. Besides, I had Christmas to enjoy. And enjoy Christmas I did, and New Year's too--until today. Today I discovered how much this little speeding ticket was going to cost. Lets just say...The small town I was ticketed in likely generates 80% of their revenue through traffic citations. Perhaps even 90%. My heart dropped when I heard the amount.

Later on today I spoke with a friend whose dad is dying of liver cancer. His dad is on the waiting list for a new liver, and got the call early last Saturday that one was available. The dad rushed to the hospital while my friend scrapped his Saturday plans and raced to Houston. He spent the drive praying for a successful operation as well as preparing himself for the possibility of his dad's death. However, when the dad was almost to the operating room and my friend was nearing Houston the doctors were told that the liver wasn't viable after all. No liver, no surgery. The cancer is still there, though.

My friends' response? "Well, we're right back where we started--" I assumed he meant the agonizing wait for a liver that may never come, waiting even as the impassively deadly cancer continues to kill the man he loves most. Only, this was how he finished: "right in God's hands."

I got a speeding ticket and swore profusely. His dad, dying of cancer, was granted his most desperate wish, only to have it torn from his grasp just before his fingers could lace themselves around it. He praised God.

Faith. Hope. Love. All three are integral aspects of worshiping a God we cannot see in a world full of apparently meaningless agony (or, in my case, decided inconvenience). How do we remind ourselves of the reality of God in everyday life? Or, better yet, how do we tear the scales from our eyes so that we might be able to see God within the brutal chaos of real life? How do we embrace a Spirit?

Faith. Hope. Love.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

It's the craziest thing. I go on vacation, and everything just goes to hell. Sort of. In my regular life I've disciplined myself (in theory) to adhere to a rather strict schedule, with all duties and responsibilities penciled in. I wake each day conscious of what needs to be done, and then set about doing it. Then I go on break, and while I have countless tasks that would be great to do, few of them have a professor waiting on the other end. So I don't do them.

But that's actually not what I'm talking about. It's the craziest thing; I go on Christmas break to celebrate the whole birth of Jesus thing, and I find the best way to celebrate is to forget Him. I mean, it must be the best thing, because I do it every year. Paul once resolved to know nothing except Christ. It seems as if every Christmas I resolve to know everything except Christ. What to blame it on? The change in schedule doesn't help; playing with the nieces and nephews is suddenly inserted into a timeslot previously reserved for praying, that sort of thing. But that's not really what I'm talking about either. I'm not really big on the whole idea that you have to "do your devotions" every day to make God happy. I'm more referring to the complete absence of Christ from my casual consciousness throughout the last few weeks.

Funny how it progresses; you don't notice you've forgotten God at first. Then you notice, so you try to ignore God because you feel bad. Then it begins to affect the way you live. Mostly inside, but it always drips out onto the surface. Most noticeably in the area of fruits of the Spirit. I don't want to wait o anything (traffic, shopping lines) or I don't really care how I can make someone else's Christmas better. I basically increasingly revert to complete and total selfishness, all the while hiding it as best I can so that people will still like me.
I resolve while I was with you to know Christ and Him crucified. Or... to get me mine. Whichever.

So crazy how I do this every year. I even did advent with my wife this year to ward off the annual Christ purge. I'm not even talking about materialization of Christmas or any similar theme: this is not a matter of focusing on presents or getting selfish. The root is that I take advantage of the break from regular life to pretty much take a break from Jesus.

So weird...