Archive for August, 2009

22
Aug
09

Semper Fi

Semper Fi

 

 

 

Always faithful.  That’s what Semper Fidelis means- you may have seen it on bumper stickers “Semper Fi”.  It’s the motto of the Marines. 

 

I’ve never been a very patriotic person…and I know I have to be careful when I use that word- as you should be when you read it, because it means something different to everyone.  I believe there are things that people have done that should not be celebrated- sometimes those things can attach themselves to a nation’s history; however, there have been beautiful things to happen in all nations of the world.  Those things should be remembered – and celebrated.

 

Always faithful.

What does that mean?

I could vaguely see this piece before I painted it.  The elements were there, but they weren’t solid.  And because this painting was a private request from someone I don’t really know as a gift for a complete stranger, I couldn’t really make it personal.  This was my dilemma.  How do I paint a piece to commemorate a stranger’s years of service to our country?

 

As I painted, I felt good about how it was coming along, but it didn’t really hit me until I painted the dog tags.  You may not be able to see them in the picture, but they’re there- dangling in the wind, hanging from the rifle that serves as a makeshift grave.  It clicked when I painted the dog tags.  I first thought about whose name was on that metal.  Then, I thought about the mother of that person.  I could see her crying on a sofa in a well-kept living room.  There was a piano in the corner and there were white doilies on some of the furniture.  That women wept there, and I soon felt like a voyeur, because she did not stop- and in the movies when there is a scene like this, they usually show enough to convey the emotion, but then they switch scenes.

  

I saw a brother staring at a casket ready to be lowered into the ground, thinking of the unresolved conflict that separated them.  I saw a high school student walking into a schoolroom and meeting the eyes of some of her fellow students- walking to her desk to find some fresh roses there.  She meets them in silence and begins to cry.

I saw a lot of stuff like that- and I could hear those tags dangling in the wind.  They sounded cold.

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11
Aug
09

Apologies. (part 2)

The Banker's Gamble

Donald Miller was asked after one of his talks from an audience member why he stopped at Christianity.  The person challenged him with a gentle accusation: that he had narrowed the scope of his world- to only see it through the eyes of a Christian.  Why hadn’t he pursued other beliefs?

Don confessed- that yes, he had stopped at Christianity, and that even though he had done a little investigation into other spiritual perspectives, he did stop looking after he found Jesus.  Don told the audience member that if his Christian Spirituality were just a point of view, then it would be easy to continue to pursue various truths in other belief systems, but because Jesus was an actual Person, that it was not unlike being married to someone.  And would you continue to sleep with other people after being married just to see who else was out there?

So I thought about my wife.

            I live with her.  I eat with her.  I laugh with her.  When I hold her, I can bury my face in her hair and breathe her in.  After I kiss her, I can taste her.  I can yell at her.  Cry with her.  Hold her.  Be held by her.  I can do all of these things.  I know her better than anyone on this planet.  Yet she retains her beautiful mystery.  She is her own person- I could tell you about her, but never could I claim to predict her.  Nor could I ever speak like I fully understand her.

            Then it clicked.

            There was no mystery. 

“What would Jesus do?”…Hold on, I’ll tell you- he did it here, on page 743.  There’s your answer.  There’s the scratch to your itch.  Allow me to quench your thirst.  Ahhhh good- now doesn’t that feel better?  No more discomfort.  You can leave here now with another tidbit of knowledge- a better way to live.  And next week I’ll have another.

            If marriages are hard, why does this feel so easy?  So empty.  This is what my relationship with Jesus had become.

            I was waiting for another pill to swallow.  A quick fix- something to bring back the mystery, but for that that, there is no quick cure.  There is only waiting, and listening.  I have been doing this.  During the church services, I pick up some things here and there, but mostly I’m scribbling like mad in my journal.  I sort of… “open the airwaves”, and just write or draw what I see.  That’s what you saw at the beginning of the previous post.  They are some of my most intimate conversations with my Jesus.  I show you them because they aren’t really just mine.  They’re yours too.

 

I’m staring at the screen wondering what else to add to this thing…I don’t know.  I’ll just tell you that things are better now.  I’m eager to go to church. I’m eager to commune with my Jesus.  I’ll share future stuff here too with you all…when I’m prompted.

 

10
Aug
09

Apologies. (part 1)

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I figure I owe you all something good since it’s been so long.  Much has happened- I hope I can do it a little justice. The images above are from a small journal I use to use back in college.  They’re new (the images I mean).  I sort of picked the journal thing back up after some recent events.  It’s less of a discipline and more like a drug…a good drug.

So about a year ago, we had a really busy summer in ministry at the church…oh yeah- I work at a church.  Teach the kids.  They teach me too.  So last summer we had a really busy ministry season.  It’s crazy how infrequently I was attending the actual church service.  (That’s not a good thing).  Aside from the conditions of my employment, many things were being compromised.  I would say the greatest of these things was my approach in communing with Jesus.

            Only two months ago did I realize this. 

            Here I was- Ten years into a church family.  I had established many friendships.  I had been on staff for…5 years now?  The volunteer team I lead (people who I have invested into- people who have invested into me), teach anywhere from 200- 300 children in a weekend.  I was married at this church.  I baptized my wife while at this church.  My two daughters were born into the relationships of this church.  Amazing job- much freedom.

 

It felt weird.  Wrong almost.

Something wasn’t right- Wife was great.  My kids- great.  My church…?

So I started talking to people.  I talked to my department team, I talked to my Dad, I talked to the Senior Pastor, I prayed to Jesus.  At its core, this thing felt like a discontentment.  Mostly with ministry- the glossiness of it.  Programs crept into the space where the Mystery used to be.  I became a critic. (an expert critic)- and I was justified too, because I worked there- I could say things and think things.  I had a list of reasons why the church had failed me.

I was at a fork- and was seriously considering what my life would look like in some other congregation.  And then God used the convicting voice of a friend to switch my perspective.  Somehow in the past year (maybe longer) my relationship with Jesus became very systematic.  I would go to church waiting for the pastor to get to the point.  After reading scripture the first time, reading it again seemed less important because I already “had the gist”.  I was seeking the period at the end of the sentence, but after all of the cliff notes and shortcuts, Jesus wasn’t there.