Thursday, April 27, 2006

split second prophet

As I wrestle through the issue of being loved, and try to allow God to fill the void I have so often tried to fill with the love of others, it has become important to ask Him how He sees me. Some of the things He has communicated to my heart have been so personal, so affirming, they are too valuable and precious to write outside my personal journal.

But a couple things He said to me clicked together today, so I will share it here, 'cause I think it is cool.

Last Saturday I took a long, solitary time and just read and prayed and journaled and cried and pondered. Then I went for a walk. Along the way I noticed a plant with some tiny purple flowers.

I stopped and bent down to look more closely.

As I looked at them I felt a sense of awe and wonder.

Such miniature intricacy, yet designed to withstand the harsh wind and rain. So few people see them, yet God put them there. I felt blessed and loved to be able to see and share that with Him in that moment.

As I looked at them, (not really thinking about how I had asked Him to speak to me and tell me what He thinks of me; how He sees me) I felt God say
"You notice things. You notice beauty that no one else sees. Sometimes it is tiny like this. Other times it is right in front of their face but they don't see the beauty in it; don't see it as beauty. People have made fun of you for that, but I made you that way. I AM that way. In being like this, you are like Me. You notice beauty and point it out to others. If not for you, they would have missed it; would have missed Me."
I smiled and my eyes got a little teary as I thought of how much my Heavenly Dad likes me -- really really likes the way He made me. How easy it is to just be me sometimes.

Today I was at work and had been doing my own thing, but also listening to a conversation between two MDs. As one turned to me to begin telling me what the patient would need, I had the form in my hand and it was already filled out. He had a sort of deer-in-the-headlights look on his face, but I just smiled and headed off to give the form to the patient.

As I was walking toward the copier room, I felt a little euphoric. Like, a little rush or something. It was kinda cool. Like, almost on the verge of tears in joy. I began to think to myself how weird it is that I would get so choked up over that. It happens to me fairly often -- usually once a week or so, sometimes more: I have an interaction with someone where I anticipate something, simply by paying close attention to what is going on around me, then I use that info to help them. Then I get all giddy for a few minutes. WTH?

As I reflected on this, God showed me very clearly in my heart:
"It is like I said to you about noticing beauty, Keith. I made you this way. You notice things others don't realize you notice, then you use that info to help people and care for them. It is the gift of prophecy: seeing My heart and seeing into the future and then using that to bless others. Some people see years into the future. You? You see a split second into the future. And Keith, you know how you've sometimes seen yourself like the character Radar, from M*A*S*H? You're right. I made you that way. And you're good-hearted like him too."

Isn't that cool?

~ cob

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hello God, is that You?

Over the past few years, I have occasionally been awakened (for no apparent reason I can think of) at 3:00-ish am. Maybe it has been 3:30-ish am, I'm not sure. When it has happened a few times over a short period, I've wondered about it. Maybe I'm supposed to pray for one or both of my two friends who have both told me they sometimes wake up at 3 for no reason, sometimes with back pain, sometimes with worries, etc.

I think this waking up at 3:30-ish happened a few nights ago. And it happened again this morning, but this morning it was different.

I have some friends who know stuff about numbers and their meaning in spiritual things. They're often quoting number meanings, like "8 is the number of such and such" or "11 is the number of thus and so" While I have never discounted these concepts, I have also intentionally not delved into them at all. Not because I think they are bad or anything. It's just they are not "the main and the plain" of living wiith Jesus. I like to stick to the main and the plain, so I haven't gone looking for God in number meanings.

But what if God comes looking for me there?

See, this morning it was different because I looked at my watch and it was a little after 3:30. I don't have a digital watch, and I didn't look at the digital clock on the bedside, but I wonder if it was 3:33? Even if I had looked at the clock and it was 3:32 or 3:35 or something, that would not have mattered to me. What mattered was I felt God's presence with me. Not weird or strong or anything -- not dramatic. Just there with me.

I don't know what "3" represents. I think it is "completion" and so 333 would be "complete completion" or something (I'm hoping to edit this portion later after I'm informed more by my friends who know about these things. I did a little looking around, but came up with some trippy numerology mumbo jumbo that I didn't want to spend much time on -- although what this site says about people who identify with the number 3 does fit me pretty specifically, as none of the other numbers do at all)

A friend recently made a comment to me about holiness. He said it wasn't so much about being absolutely and forevermore sinless ('cause I can't really do that here on this side of heaven). He said holiness was more about being true to who I am. Like, becoming fully me. A tree is holy and worships God because it is what He made it to be, and does what He made it to do. So I become more holy as I become more like Jesus and become the person He intends me to be. I like that idea a lot.

Quick story: a guy lives in Alaska and has two dogs he takes around from town to town, entering them into dogfights with each other, for gambling. He sometimes bets on one dog, sometimes the other. But he always wins the bets. One day, someone asks him "how do you always know which dog is going to win the fight?". The guys says "that's easy:
"the dog I've been feeding all week is the one who will have enough strength to beat the one I've been starving all week"
I have been feeding my false self for a long long time, and I want to stop. I want to start feeding my true self -- and become the man God intended me to be all along.

It is known (from years of scientific research in the fields of medicine and psychology) that children who are in horribly abusive situations dissociate -- they somehow separate from reality in order to avoid pain. It is a survival tool, a defense mechanism. So the child being beaten "sees" himself receding into the wall behind him and, in this way, does not feel the beating. A sort of false reality is set up where the child retreats for safety.

I think all of us have pain, and we all try to retreat from it and avoid it. I am learning the only way to heal it is to feel it and move through it with Jesus. I think we all have a false self -- the sin nature inside us, or the "old man" Paul talks about having been crucified with Christ so the "new man" can be raised with Christ.

In Abba's Child author Brennan Manning describes a formational event in his own childhood:
"When I was eight, the impostor, or false self, was born as a defense against pain. The impostor within whispered, 'Brennan, don't ever be your real self anymore because nobody likes you as you are.'"
In The Rabbi's Heart he says this:
"Living out of the false self creates a compulsive desire to present a perfect image to the public so that everybody will admire us and nobody will know us."
Elsewhere, Manning writes:
"Sanctity lies in discovering my true self, moving toward it, and living out of it... While the impostor draws his identity from past achievements, and the adulation of others, the true self claims its identity in its belovedness. We give glory to God simply by being ourselves."

OK, so all that is cool, but the waking up part wasn't done. Recently in my journal I jotted down some notes about wanting to move away from "magical thinking" (a term borrowed from child psychology, not Harry Potter). As I woke up and lay there praying, a song came to mind. Not one I'd ever heard before -- a new song. It was a Taize style song. and went something like this:
Jesus lead me out of fantasy.
Jesus lead me out of lies.
Jesus lead me into Perfect Truth.
Jesus lead me into Life.

Another thing: a number of years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night (who knows what time it was) and sat on the couch and talked to God. I felt led to go read Samuel and was struck with the impression from God that He was saying to me "You are a Samuel". I had no idea what to do with that (it could mean so many different things!). But it comes back to me now and again. This morning it came back to me in light of the story of Samuel, where he listened for God.

I think if I wake up again at 3:00 or 3:30 or 3:33 or any time in the middle of the night, I'm not going to trip on what the number three means, but what I will do is grab my journal and bible and go sit on the couch and say "Hello God, is that You? I belong to You, and I'm listening..."

~ cob

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Pummelo, The Tin Woodsman, and Me

When I went through HeartChange in August 2004, one of the things -- the biggest thing -- God did in my heart was help me to like me, by showing me how much He likes me.

For a significant part of my life (pretty much all the years between age 8 up through now) I have believed a huge lie about myself:
I have no value: I don't matter. In fact, I have negative value:
I'm a burden on people because I am defective/dirty.
Because I of this, I have believed I need to keep myself away from others, so they can't hurt me. But at HeartChange, God spoke to my heart and helped me see how lovable I am; how likeable I am. And He showed me in my heart that loving means allowing myself to be hurt by others; it is unavoidable. If I keep myself so isolated and alone that I avoid hurt, I also avoid all love that could come my way.

OK -- so all of that took about 2 minutes for me to write, and 30 seconds for you to read. But it took 4 days for me to experience, and it has taken me over a year and a half of grappling and wrestling with it all to come to the place I am at today.

I am a Pummelo
I am the Tin Woodsman

I am tired of being both.

=-=-=-=-= I AM A PUMMELO =-=-=-=-=

I have come to learn how to show love and concern. I am an RN and patients and coworkers alike tell me I have a real knack for helping people feel cared for. But it comes with a price. I have become a pummelo.

The largest of all citrus fruits, the pummelo shares this characteristic with all the others: it comes in segments. One can neatly separate one segment from another.

In nursing school, I learned about a
Therapeutic Nurse-Client Relationship: Established and maintained by the nurse and the client as the foundation for providing nursing services that contribute to the client's health and well-being. The relationship is based on trust, respect, intimacy and the appropriate use of the nurse's inherent power.
In other words, the patient should feel like I am the best friend and advocate s/he ever had, but I am not really their "friend". We don't hang out and have coffee. We don't date. It is a professional relationship. Clinical, yet personal. Intimate yet distanced.

I convey to the patient (by my demeanor, language, & actions) they are safe in my care. The patient is able to become completely open and vulnerable and trusting with me...but it is not a two-way street. I see the patient in all sorts of compromising situations, but they don't know the first thing about me except my name, I am an RN, and I am trustworthy.

So I learned to segment myself. I learned to dissociate myself. In this way, and only in this way, I could be a 32 year old man washing the body of a 35 year old woman and not become sexually aroused. In this way I could be a 32 year old man inserting a urinary catheter into the bladder of a 40 year old woman and convey to her she is safe in my care. I could be a 32 year old man who, over the course of a few days, brings care and comfort and even washes parts of another person's body and then even if that person begins to think our relationship is becoming personal, I could stay professional -- even to the point of having compassion on them and walking them through it all when they become embarrassed at their misplaced assumptions about our relationship.

A friend once had shoulder surgery and found he might end up on the unit where I worked. He said "Hey Keith! Maybe you can be my nurse!" and I said "Hey Bob! No way! You are my friend and I don't want to put in your catheter or empty your bed pan!" He got the picture and said "Oh. Yeah. No, I wouldn't want that either."

It is true: sometimes friends do help friends in very personal ways. I had the privilege of helping care for my father-in-law when he could no longer do for himself, and also for a good friend who was dying of cancer. But those are special circumstances, and they are still one-way. My routine day-to-day friendships? They don't involve nudity.

This clinical distancing which allowed me to appropriately care for my patients also allowed me to come home to my wife and not treat her like a patient. To this day, when my wife says "can you look at this mole on my arm" or something it is hard for me and I try and tell her I don't want to be her nurse, I want to be her husband. I have a really hard time being both on a day-in-day-out basis.

Above, I said "...I learned to dissociate..." but I think it came really naturally to me, from childhood. In believing the lie that I was a worthless burden and that being alone was the only safe place for me, I set myself up for dissociation.

And I've practiced it and am good at it. But my fortress has become my prison.

=-=-=-=-= I AM THE TIN WOODSMAN =-=-=-=
tin man: "lllll cnnnnnn"
scarecrow: "did you say something?"
dorothy: "no, did you say something?"
tin man: "lllll cnnnnnn"
dorothy: "it was the tin man! but what did he say?"
tin man: "lllll cnnnnnn"
scarecrow: "i think he said 'oil can'"
dorothy: (holding oil can) "did you say 'oil can'?"
tin man: "lllll mmnnnnn mmnnnnnnth"
scarecrow: "i think he said 'oil my mouth'
After wrestling through the last year and a half trying to walk out what it means to like myself and allow others in, I feel as if God is beginning to open my mouth to express what has been wrong with me for so long.

I have become so good at being a pummelo I have become the Tin Woodsman. Standing outside in the rain, covered with leaves. Ineffectual.

Over time I have become so good at dissociating and keeping others out I don't even know what my heart feels like anymore. To paraphrase Forest Gump:
"I'm a smart man, but I don't know what love is.
My childhood tears rusted shut my mouth, and now my chest feels empty.

I watch a soap commercial and feel my eyes tear up. But I talk to a patient about their pain, and get distracted by eMail. I read a touching story and bawl, but a good friend and Small Group member is dying of cancer and my heart feels like Scrooge or the Grinch: uncaring, unfeeling, 3 sizes too small. But God has shown me that even if I don't feel His love flowing through me, others do. So if they feel it, it is still real. I take comfort in that. I am not Scrooge. I am not the Grinch.

But I am all confused about how to really really love someone. I'm all confused about what it means for people to love me, and how to experience that oil-can love. But I have hope.

My jaw is finally starting to loosen up and, as the story goes, my elbows and knees are next. I have a few close, dear, wonderful companions to walk with me, & keep me oiled. There's a big bright yellow road ahead of us. There may be perils along the way, but there will also be more companions to meet.

And rumour has it, at the end of the road, there's an Emerald City. And a wonderful, kind wizard who can give me back my heart.
~ cob

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What About The Non-Squeaky Wheels?

Ever played "Marco Polo" only to find out later no one was in the pool with you, and they've been saying "POLO" just to make fun of you as you splash around with your eyes closed looking like an idiot?

Ever go to give someone a handshake, or a high-five...and they just look at you, and leave you hanging?

Ever played hide and seek, and no one comes to find you?

Right or wrong, accurate or not, that's how I feel most of the time.

The old saying goes:
"The Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease"
But what about the non-squeaky wheels?

I guess no one likes to feel like they are a "high maintenance" person, but we all need a little grease now and then. It feels weird having to ask "Will you please pursue me and do things that show me I am loved?" but that is where I am at.

This is really really hard for me.

REALLY hard.

It is hard for me to even write about this let alone personally tell people who may be involved in my life. It is hard for a few different reasons. It is hard because:
  • I don't want to come off as self-pitying
  • I don't want to fish for compliments
  • I don't want to draw attention to myself
  • I have a hard time asking for help or communicating my needs because I don't want to burden anyone
  • I'm afraid I'm making a big deal out of nothing
  • Others have worse problems
  • etc
  • I guess deep down, I worry no one will care
  • I guess deep inside, I worry I don't really matter
I was going to call this post:
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Keith
But that would sound like I am equating myself with happiness.

Really all I want to do is vent a little bit. Maybe if I can just lay this all out there and say it multiple times in a variety of ways and get this off my chest I will feel better about it all.

Here goes: For a long time now, I have felt pretty much un-pursued by other people. I pursue others, they don't pursue me. I don't think that is OK anymore, and I need to say it hurts.

My wife knows I love her. She knows for a variety of reasons. But it is still right and good for me to tell her, often. I can't just assume she knows and never say or do anything again.

And it is good for me to be intentional about showing her in ways that are meaningful for her. The two main ways she receives love are through Acts of Service and Quality Time. Knowing this, I try hard to do thoughtful things for her and spend time with her doing things she loves to do. I'm not perfect, but I think I do a pretty good job. I think this on my own, but she tells me so as well.

It is really important for me to say here that she knows the way I give and receive love, and she does them. She tries to, anyway. It is hard, and we've both acknowledged that. But I want to say very clearly that we are working together on learning how to love each other better.

But my wife is just one of the many many people I know. She is just one of the many people I care about. She is just one person. There are others who also have told me that I do a good job of making them feel loved and cared for in ways which are meaningful to them. I don't hear it all the time, and it hasn't been a lot of people, but I think it is a representative sample.

I try to pay attention to (and sometimes even ask) how others feel loved, and then I try to do those things, along with the ways I naturally express love. I do it because it comes naturally to me. But even when it doesn't come naturally, I do it anyway because it is the right thing to do, and people matter. I don't do this to get people to like me (at least not consciously). I do it so they feel my love and care for them and so they know they matter to me and to God.

I just wish I felt the same in return. The two main ways I receive and express love are through Specific Spoken (or Written) Words of Encouragement and Physical Touch. But it often feels to me no one reaches out to me in these ways. No one comes up and gives me a hug or a shoulder squeeze just to let me know I'm loved. No one takes the time to look in my eyes and say meaningful things to me about how I matter to them or to God. And sometimes it is really hard for me to recognize the ways others do choose to show me love, so it feels to me like they are not. But knowing the hurt is sometimes from my inabiity to recognize someone else's expression of love doesn't make it hurt any less, you know?

I mean, I believe in my head people love and care for me -- I just don't, you know feel it in my heart. It's like, if I died tonight a lot of people would come to my funeral and say really really really nice things about what a great guy I was and how much they'll miss me.

Why can't they tell me now, in person, when it really matters?

Growing up I never felt a "part" of things -- always longed to be included but never felt I was. I remember my parents telling me (when I bemoaned my sister's lack of interest in playing with me) "You need to learn to play by yourself". That got old quick. If I was hurting emotionally, it got shut down, shoved aside, or belittled. What I learned from all this was:
  • "you don't matter"
  • "your soft emotions aren't OK"
  • "you are a burden to me/us"
I guess that's why I also learned early on how good it feels when someone does care; when someone shows me in a way that is meaningful to me that I do matter.

It feels good when someone says "how are you?" and they really mean it. And I guess that's why when I ask someone, I really mean it. When I do ask it, I listen, and really try to focus on the other person.

I was taught "If you want a friend, be a friend" and "If you want to receive love, you need to give love." So I try to do that. The Golden Rule says (my paraphrase of Jesus here) "Treat others the way you would like them to treat you" and all that makes a lot of sense. I think I try really hard to be compassionate and notice people's feelings. I try really hard to show them they matter; they're loved. It feels good to me when I experience someone else's communication of love and care, so I like it that I am able to give that warm-fuzzy feeling to others.

If I walk into a room and see someone standing by themselves, I am drawn to them, want to love on them because I know what it feels like to go unnoticed. I know that feeling because if I am standing alone in a room full of people, no one walks up to me. No one checks on me. No one shows care for me. No warm-fuzzies for me ("you don't matter").

Sometimes I feel so alone. It seems to me I am so often the one asking others about their lives and so rarely the one being asked -- or if someone does ask and I begin to tell them, they back off and disconnect emotionally. I can tell by the look in their eyes or their body language they didn't really mean they cared how I was doing, and now they're sorry they asked because they're getting more than they bargained for ("you're a burden").

I am the one pursuing others; checking on others to see if there is anything I can do or say to make them feel more loved and connected. But it is a lonely place. I mean, I love it when someone does feel connected and loved because of me. But I am tired of feeling alone; tired of feeling like no one ever comes to me to ask me how the heck I'm doing and then really listen and care when I start to talk.

Maybe my standards are set too high -- maybe I'm expecting too much.

Maybe I am being melodramatic, over-sensitive, and self-indulgent.

Maybe people care about me and they just don't know how to express it.

Maybe people care about me and I just don't understand their expressions of it.

Maybe I waited too long to say anything.

Maybe I put up walls that have signs on them that say "I'm fine, don't bother asking" or "I'm strong -- you don't need to check on me because I don't need anyone" or maybe the signs on the walls just say "go away". If so, and you care about me, please disregard these signs. The real me is dying to feel loved and cared for. The real me is dying to feel pursued.

Maybe God is leading me to a place where His pursuit of me is all that really matters.

I dunno.

All I know is I don't like hurting and I don't like feeling left out. I am tired of feeling left alone and un-pursued and unrequited and unloved.

~ cob

Welcome to the future

This is really cool, and is available from the UK, at iWOOT
~ cob

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Safe Place to Be

This is my sister Bobbi. She's ten years older than me. She's always been cool!

In the post I wrote about my sister Jo Ann, I mentioned a doll. The doll belonged to Bobbi.

I'm sure she was upset about her doll, but that is not my main memory of her from growing up. My main memory of Bobbi from growing up is that she allowed me a safe place to be; a safe place to be me.

I have a lot of other good memories of her as well. She and her boyfriend Scott took me in his jeep to play in the snow on Mt. Hood. And she was also was really good at putting up with my "annoying little brother" routine. Her bedroom was downstairs and she had a Persian rug on her ceiling. She worked at Nordstrom and had a poster for Famolares. She was cool.

Once when she was in High School and had moved out to live in a little house with some friends, I spent the day at her place. I remember they had a room full of black-light posters that was so cool! And in their back yard, they had a few large chunks of amethyst quartz. She let me take a huge hunk home and I used it as a door-stop for years. None of us knew at the time how valuable it was -- so if you were the one who bought it at the garage sale a few years later, good find!

Those are all fun memories, but the real thing which stands out in my mind is during the season when I was most frightened by the doll, Bobbi did something extraordinary -- she opened her home to me, repeatedly. On Saturday nights, my parents would go bowling and I would often be left home alone, since Leslie was babysitting a lot. The fear got so bad I would really freak out. I tried hanging out with Leslie while babysitting but that didn't always work. Once, I went to spend the evening with Bobbi and her husband. They lived in a mobile home a few miles away. It was great. We played games and hung out and she just was, I dunno, "normal". It wasn't like being babysat, it was like hanging out with a friend.

This began a pattern of spending Saturday nights at her house with her and her husband. Mom & Dad would drop me off on the way to bowling, and then pick me up Sunday morning on the way to church.

I guess Bobbi would consider herself the "black sheep of the family" but to me she was always someone I could let down my guard with. Like, she had been through some hard stuff, so she could understand my feelings or something. I liked being with her because there was no pretense. She was real.

Since we've all grown up and moved away, my communication with my sisters has been anything but frequent or consistent. But my visits and phone calls with Bobbi have always been fun to me. It is like so little has changed -- she is still very real. And I still feel very safe and loved.

Today Bobbi lives in another state. We see each other infrequently. But to this day I credit Bobbi with teaching me the value of accepting people for who they are; about relational warmth and love. And I credit her with teaching me about living life with passion and honesty about who I am.

So thanks Bobbi, you thought you were just helping your little brother get past some adolescent fear -- but instead you've helped lay a foundation in my life that persists in supporting me to this day!

~ Keith

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Like soup for dogs

Jesus is the consumate storyteller. He often uses parables to explain the various aspects of the Kingdom of God, saying it is like:
  • a mustard seed
  • a treasure in a field
  • yeast in bread
  • a net that catches fish
  • a king who wants to settle debts
  • a king giving a feast
  • a vineyard owner hiring workers
  • ten maidens awaiting a wedding
  • three servants given money to invest
  • etc!
I think another one He'd say today is this:
"How can I explain the Kingdom of God? Hmmm, what can I compare it to? The Kingdom of God is like soup for dogs!"
Ever wonder how dogs can eat the same thing day after day after day? I have. Part of the reason might be because dogs don't have as many taste buds as people do. Dogs have about 1,700 taste buds on their tongues, while we humans have about 9,000! We can taste things about 5 times better than they can -- since they have only about 18% of our tasting ability.

With smell it is a different story: people have only about 5 million scent receptors, while dogs have over 200 million scent receptors in their noses! They can smell things 40 times more sensitively than us, since we have only 2.5% of their sensitivity to smell!

To put that in perspective, if you and your dog walk into my home and I have a pot of soup on the stove, you'll be able to smell it. You may even be able to discern it is split pea vs chicken noodle. But your dog will be able to smell our cats, and the garbage that needs to be taken out, and the recycling bin in the garage, and while the soup on the stove will be something your dog notices, it won't be just the soup -- your dog will discern each ingredient in the soup, as well as the relative quantity of each ingredient.

You might think to yourself:
"Hmmm, smells like split pea soup!"
but your dog will be thinking:
"Hmmm, the ham is from West Virginia and the peas are from Trader Joe's, but Keith went a little heavy on the oregano. Mmmmm, nice touch on the cumin though, and also the nutmeg (although I am a bit disappointed it is powdered not freshly ground)"
I read an article recently where dogs are being used to sniff out cancer -- they can actually differentiate the smell of cancer cells!

I'm German on my dad's side, and Scottish (among other things) on my mom's side, but I don't remember anything specifically Scottish or German going on at home. No haggis, no schnitzel; to me growing up "ethnic food" was a corndog!

I grew up in Oregon, in a fairly homogeneous (read: "whitebread") culture. Oregon became a state on Feb 14th, 1859, with Civil War looming. New states were taking sides and Oregon was officially a Union State but, sadly, it was not until the late 1920s before a Black person could legally claim Oregon as a state of residence. By the time I moved there in 1970, the major cities were beginning to become more diverse, but in the suburbs like Oregon City it was all still very White. In 1983 there were 440 students in my High School graduating class. Of these we had 1 Black student and 1 Asian student. The other 438 were White. The school's total student population was around 1200 and each of the individuals mentioned above had 1 younger sibling, I think. 4 people of color and 1198 White people.

I may be missing a person or two, so the numbers may be slightly different, but you get the picture: As soup goes, that is pretty boring.

I now live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I really appreciate the diversity. We have good soup (and Ethiopian food, and dolmas and pupusas and phu, etc!).

I think the Kingdom of God is supposed to be more like that: diverse and interesting. *

In the textbooks I grew up falling asleep on instead of reading, America was often acclaimed as "the great melting pot"; which was supposed to be a good thing -- any ingredient welcome, as long as it became a "part of the soup". Over the years, this has been so convoluted it is shameful -- but that is another post.

My point here is to say there need to remain cultural distinctives to allow for flavoring -- variety being the spice of life and all that.

I think an authentic community of Jesus followers will, ideally, have a multicultural vibe, as well as representing multiple generations and socio-economic variations. Unity amongst that kind of diversity is not simply a result of tolerant and progressive human goodwill; it is a sign of God's Spirit of Love.

If I ate a handful of nutmeg I'd die. If I ate a handful of cumin or oregano, I'd get sick. But put 'em all in a pot with some water and then heat it up and stir -- and you have soup.

And Jesus cares about each and every ingredient.

~ cob
* Please understand I bear no ill-will toward Oregon or Oregonians. I'm not saying the Bay Area is more beloved of God or anything silly like that. I'm pretty sure there are areas of Oregon which are way more ethnically diverse than some parts of California. Rather than contrasting Oregon with California I am simply (if inelegantly) contrasting the culture in which I was raised with the culture in which I now live. That's all. Really. Sorry if my inability to articluate the above with more finesse ruffled anyone's feathers. Thanks. ~cob

Monday, April 10, 2006

A Life of Justice

I've installed AdSense ads by Google on my blog.

I have no idea how much money will be generated from this but it seemed like a simple and easy way to increase my charitable giving. I know there are plenty of people who could use some assistance; people in dire straits.

I'm not rich by North American standards, but I'm also not poor by those same standards. And I don't think it is right for the rich to get richer while the poor get poorer, so this is one small thing I am doing to try and live a life of justice. for nothin'...
Here's my plan for every $1.00 earned through AdSense:
  • 10% to my local church (which gives away 10% of all income to various charities, and also spends significant amounts of time and money helping people-in-need in our local communities and beyond)
  • ??% to Uncle Sam as required by law and good conscience
  • The remainder will be donated to a charity of my designation, and if/when I ever get any actual revenue from this I will also blog about the charity I'm donating to, and why I chose that one.
*Click away! Do the world a little good!

~ cob
* as per my agreement with AdSense terms, conditions, and policies, it is not legal for me to come to my own blog and click the ads there just to make myself money. Likewise, please do not come and click willy-nilly on random ads just to generate revenue for charity via my blog. Instead, please follow only relevant ads you deem to be interesting to you at the time. Thanks. ~cob

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I Have What It Takes!!!!

OK, so I know praying "God make me more patient" is a risky prayer, right, because the way He usually answers that is not in some esoteric way -- He often puts me in situations that test and refine and grow and mature my patience.

Yesterday I was re-reading Wild at Heart put out by Ransomed Heart Ministries. I read it a few years ago, but I'm at a very different place in my life right now. So I picked it back up. It is a great book for getting to know what makes a guy's heart tick (we're actually more complicated than you might think). I highly recommend it (and the awesome sort-of-sequel book delving into the depth of womanhood: Captivating).

In Wild at Heart the author speaks of how men long for adventure. I think that is true for me, in many ways. He goes on to say the reason for this is the basic question resonating in every man's heart: "Do I Have What It Takes?" Adventures, the author says, help test and refine and grow and mature the man's ability to "have what it takes".

So last night, I prayed and asked God to bring adventure into my life, to do just that: test and refine and grow and mature my ability to "come through", to really "have what it takes".

Simple enough.

Thankfully, today has not been like the set of Jumanji or Zathura or anything. But it has been an adventure!

I learned you cannot substitute regular dish soap for dishwasher soap.

And I learned to mop my kitchen floor.

For those who remember The Brady Bunch episide where Bobby puts way too much soap in the washing machine, and floods the laundry room with suds, you'll get the idea.

For those who didn't watch that episode, but know about foam parties you'll get some idea.

Well, OK, it wasn't that bad, but it was sort of scary for a few minutes. I froze when I first saw the puddle of suds forming. Thankfully I was standing right there and didn't walk back in to find the kitchen flooded.

But I settled down and figured things out. I'd tell you how I fixed it all, but that would spoil your own adventure if you ever decide to do something like this on your own.

It wasn't the end of the world, but it was also something I could not just walk away from and/or fix later. Here's how/why it showed me I "Have What It Takes":
  • I prayed and asked for God's help
  • I dealt with it immediately
  • I dealt with it efficiently
  • I dealt with it creatively
  • I had fun doing it
  • I dealt with it thoroughly
  • I learned from it
Here are some pix of the event and the clean up, and also a short video clip of the suds pouring out, so you can get a sense of the urgency I felt:In the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty small, I know. But it is something. It is a start. And I feel good about it. It feels really good to know my heart is alive, and that everyday ordinary things like this can be used by God to grow and transform me; that He is with me and cares for me -- He really does sweat the small stuff.

The music you hear in the background of the movie clip is, interestingly enough, Stevie Wonder singing:
"...where are you when I need you, like right now?..."
I think that was my soul singing to my heart. And my heart actually answered. It rose to the challenge and said "I'm right here. Let's do this thing!"

Now I'm looking forward to the next adventure!

~ cob

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Prophetic Voice?

I'm a Christian. Literally "Little Christ" or "Christlike". To me, that means I follow Jesus and try to model my life after Him. Not only after what He did and said, but what He does and says. Fundamental to my belief system is that Jesus is, in fact, alive and well. He beat death. That is, after all, what Good Friday and Easter are all about.

But there are people who use the name Christian in wrong ways, and that makes me sad. It makes me sad for myself that I am then identified with those people. It makes me sad for those people because I think they have missed the point. Mostly, it makes me sad for Jesus that his name is dragged around in such awful ways. He deserves a better reputation than that; He really does.

According to the Bible, Jesus' followers were first called "Christians" in a little town called Antioch, near present day Syria & Jordan. The name, at the time, was an epithet. Being identified as a "Christian" was bad for one's professional and social life.

This kind of persecution happens today in certain countries, especially in Access Restricted Nations in Asia (ARNA). Behind the "bamboo curtain", Fascism (masquerading as Communism) lives on in China and other countries.

Today, people are beaten and killed for being Christians. People's basic human rights are violated on a daily basis -- simply because they have given their life (sometimes literally) to following Jesus. To some people this may sound silly or alarmist. But it is true. I know someone who knows first-hand. This very close friend of mine has had personal friends killed or beaten & raped and left for dead. But not in America. This friend travels to other countries regularly in order to help people who are trying to follow Jesus in these places. I've seen pictures and video. It is real.

That's why it is so upsetting to me when I hear there are American Christians complaining about being "persecuted" for their faith here in the good ol' U S of A.

Pshaw. Rubbish. Not worthy of comparison.

It is like the whiny math nerd in 8th grade who blows away the curve which causes everyone else in the class to get a C or worse, who then wastes 30 minutes of class time complaining to the teacher about the 2 questions he missed. (I know, because I was that kid, but that is another blog). My point is this: American Christians know almost nothing about real persecution, at least not yet. Who knows what the future holds?

A voice recently sprang up on nationally syndicated television. This voice said it is wrong for American Christians to complain like this. The person behind the voice is, as far as I know, not a follower of Jesus.

When Jesus was riding in to Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, and the crowds were shouting "Hosanna!" and "Hail! Son of David!" the religious leaders of the day told Jesus He ought to make them stop; they were being unseemly and blasphemous. Jesus told them "If these people stop, the rocks will cry out."

There are other examples in the Bible of God using a voice outside the community of faith to call out the imposters among us -- and to call out to those of us who are really trying to live like Jesus too. These voices don't call us into a place of defensiveness or divisive I-Told-You-So-ism, but instead into a deeper place of humility and service.

I could go on, but this video clip speaks for itself. It is Bill Maher. I've included two versions (both in QuickTime .mov format). The first is 3:48 long and is 6.5 Mb. The second clip (containing the really really good part) is only 0:47 long, and is a smaller file.

Comment away -- I think this is good discussion fodder.

Well said Bill, well said.

~ cob

(nods and thanks to Jon and to Mike for the heads up about this)