Monday, August 13, 2012

A Sincere and Oft-Repeated Repentance

For the past several months, I've been reading through the Prophets and have found myself drawn to their pathos. I think I've gone through several iterations of reading such passages. In my adolescence, I read with an unbridled optimism and conviction. The words vindicated me, or so I felt. As an upper classman in college, I read with the young Calvinist's sense of superiority. These words proclaimed an unpopular truth, one that I had embraced whole-heartedly. But now, when I read the Prophets, I see a shadow beneath the waters. More and more, I feel a shiver because I understand that the promised Day of the Lord does not come to vindicate me so much as it comes to vindicate God.

A great example of this can be found in Hosea, where incidentally, I find myself today. Hosea begins with a rather dramatic object lesson. God tells Hosea to get married to a woman who is going to cheat on him. They have a baby together, but her next two children don't quite have Hosea's nose. Eventually his missus - Gomer - takes off and winds up in trouble. She's going to be sold as a slave on the cheap, so Hosea empties his bank account just to bring home the woman who ran away. He takes her back and loves her yet again.

I've been "in church" since utero and once dressed for Halloween (rather, a "Harvest Festival") as a preacher so by nature, when I read stories like this, I see myself as Hosea. I am the preacher of righteousness, calling people out and proclaiming judgment. But this trip through the Prophets has underlined a simple fact, and that's that I'm completely wrong. Only one person has ever been able to read Hosea and sincerely and honestly see himself as Hosea, and that person's name was Jesus of Nazareth. Hosea's made-for-Montel love story was an enacted object lesson for how the people of Israel treated God, their covenant husband. If we want to be part of God's people (like Israel) then we have to acknowledge how we've treated our God.

I would argue that not even Hosea could read his own book and see himself as the hero. I draw this, and the title of this piece, from chapter 6. He speaks in the third person and identifies with the rebel rabble:

“Come, let us return to the LORD;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3 ESV)

It is with hope and confidence that Hosea presses forward. He is not hopeful or confident in his own righteousness but in God's faithfulness. He speaks poetically and says that on the third day "he will raise us up." Commentators point out that this is not so much a direct prophecy of Christ's resurrection, but more so, a truth that Jesus fulfills on an even deeper level, as a type of it. God showed his faithfulness to forgive Israel again and again and again. In a sense, he constantly "raised them up." But throughout the Old Testament, we see that God never expected Israel to be righteous based on their own works or their own covenant faithfulness.  Explicitly, we see this in this very same passage. God practically sighs and shakes his head at his faithless, feckless people. He responds:

"What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes early away.
Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:4-6 ESV)

Israel is not capable by affection ("Your love is like a morning cloud") or ceremonial worship ("not sacrifice... [or] burnt offerings") to keep covenant with their God. Their (and our) love for God is not, and will never be, "steadfast." It is only in his raising up of his people that they have any hope. In Hosea's time, this was true of God's faithfulness to not wipe his people off the map, but ultimately, it was true of Jesus' faithfulness to rise from the dead and grant an irrevocable pardon to his adulterous bride.

Reading Hosea stings. It's been often said that God's word reads us more than we read it.  It removes my hope in myself and replaces it with a much better hope. My repentance is sincere and frequent and necessary. God vindicates himself through his holiness, through his righteous punishment of sin. For a sinner such as myself, I find my only chance not in good works that I have done, but in the good work of Jesus's cross and empty tomb. Reading Hosea stings, but the needle delivers the anti-venom that a self-righteous, prideful kid like myself so desperately needs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lent, Again

Seven hours out from my church's Ash Wednesday service, I could almost say that once again, Lent has snuck up on me, necessitating another 40 day period sans sweets. This time, however, it feels different. I find in this season a sort of desperation. This is not about asceticism, which is good, because asceticism is useless for spiritual growth. Rather, this is about life and death discipleship. This is about taking the war to the enemy's door. I have met the enemy, and he is me.

I find myself learning lessons about my heart these days, painful lessons that show me just how bad it is. It's a painful thing to realize that I've systematically and systemically patted myself on the back for supposed righteousness, excusing and justifying a pride more layered than a delicious tiramisu. I read Herbert's "Lent," per my tradition, today, and I was surprised to find I wasn't just encouraged - I was convicted.

It's true, we cannot reach Christ's forti'th day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
      Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Saviour's purity;
Yet are we bid, Be holy ev'n as he.
      In both, let's do our best.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Coming Soon to a YA Book Section Near You

While placing a delicious dish in the oven - well, it was tater tots, albeit Trader Joe's ones - I noticed that one of my roommate's baking stones was broken and a large piece of it was laying in the back of the oven. I thought, man, that shard must be flaming hot. (I had already preheated the oven.) I then realized that The Flaming Shard is the perfect title for a "paranormal romance" "book."

On second thought, maybe it should be a "saga." It could be set in a high school. Or a boarding school. Possibly in Oregon or British Columbia.  I think the flaming shard itself will be some powerful thing that some evil vampires want to get. Maybe they're fighting werewolves. Why don't orcs go to school? I digress.

Book one of The Flaming Shard will be The Dazzling Eyes. Book two will be The Perfect Hair. Book three will conclude the saga with The Burning Heart. As to further plot details, who needs that?!?

I'll let you know when the book signing at Borders is. First step: find a Borders.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Crushing Burden of Profundity

Another year has gone by, and yet again, I find that this blog has gathered cobwebs. It's not like I haven't had any grist for the proverbial mill, either. I wrote my last post on April 12, 2011. Seven days later, I went on a blind date that went rather well. Seven months to the day after that, I asked her to marry me. She said yes! And now, Lord willing, on June 3 of this year, Miss Katherine Elizabeth Cannava will become my wife.

So yes, lots of grist for the mill.

I could fill long posts with what I've learned about myself,  God, and the world over these past nine months. I could tell of things that have been done, good times that have been had, and ch-ch-changes that have occurred. I haven't written anything though. Time has certainly played a part in this. These past nine months have been, in a word, busy. (Two words: extremely busy.) Regardless, I think I know why I haven't written anything.

I have found myself crushed beneath the burden of profundity. It wasn't enough to think out loud, really. I wanted to think complete thoughts. I wanted to be right. I wanted to argue my position clearly and cogently.  Now, I realize that anything is better than nothing. I want to explore and think and grow. I want to write again.

I do realize that this has all the sincerity of a Krusty the Klown Comeback Special. I don't care. I'm back. Again.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Life of the World to Come

Since ancient times, believers have summarized God's revelation about our present and future hope with the words of the Nicene Creed: "we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come."  I love that phrase - "the life of the world to come." It's a very pregnant phrase and beyond that, the pregnancy metaphor works well here.  The expectant mother carries the baby inside of her; it grows inside her.  She feels a close bond to her baby - she yearns for it to come.  She wonders what the baby will look like.  Will he have his father's eyes?  Will she have that dimple that grandma had, that mommy has?  (The possibilities are seemingly endless.)

Waiting. Longing. Wondering. Certainty. Anxiety. Hope.

All these things are an apt description of the expectant mother as she looks for the arrival of her baby.  Likewise, we, the church-community, look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  It is coming, but we don't know when.  It will be here, one day.  Until that day, we are gripped with labor pains.

Six months ago today, my mother passed from this life to the next.  Today, I can't help but think about the great hope and great joy of the life of the world to come.  My mind is boggled by the thought of heaven. Paul tells the Ephesians that God can do more than all we ask or think. Han Solo spoke for me, when he said: "I can imagine an awful lot."  Consequently, I find myself in the tension of expectation, and now more than ever, I find myself looking farther ahead than my shallow contemplation does. Come Lord Jesus! "Oh come, oh come Emmanuel."

Saturday, April 02, 2011

His Royal Flyness

The day that Michael Jackson died, I experienced an epochal moment in my musical pilgrimage: I experienced live electro-dance music (EDM) for the first time.

Earlier in that day, I was on Facebook when I noticed that a friend who worked at 4th Street Live! [sic] - Louisville's lame attempt at having a club district - had posted a photo of a giant boom box.  It was the backdrop to a stage and that night, they were going to have a free concert.  The artist was one with which I was familiar, as my indie scourings of the intertubes were fueled by a passion to find new (and unheard of!)  music.  Beyond that, it was the summer of '69 (plus 40), and the mild temperatures only made for a perfect scenario to roll down the windows and blast electro pop.  Thus, when I discovered that MSTRKRFT were putting on a free show, I knew that I had to be there.

MSTRKRFT (the Web 2.0 spelling of mastercraft) put on a bangin' performance.  Beyond having a good time with friends (shout out to the BGGs), I came to a conclusion based on both MSTRKRFT and their opening DJ (who kept asking us to throw up peace-signs to give the King a "peace out"): white men with MacBooks were the future of sexy music.

Almost two years later, my enjoyment of EDM has only grown and we've moved from throwing dance parties with iTunes playlists to dance parties where we mix the tracks with professional grade programs.  I've taken the moniker of "His Royal Flyness," primarily because it was the most audaciously ludicrous name I could create.  Beyond the boom of bass or the whine of synths, there's something about very freeing about dancing with modest abandon.  I truly believe that that same something can be in perfect keeping with a God who gives humans wine to gladden their hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread to strengthen their hearts (Psalm 104:15) the same God who richly gives us all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:16).  As a believer in Jesus, my joy in him permeates these things and gives them an even better and fuller pleasure.

I'll see you at our next dance party.

Spring Cleaning

The first step to getting my blog back up and running: publishing all the comments that were awaiting moderation. From five years ago.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Live! From the Holy of Holies

I am writing this brief post from inside the Apple Store, Oxmoor Mall, Louisville, Kentucky, year of our Lord, Steve Jobs, 2011.  I have stood in line with a friend, who shall be nameless but not linkless, as he waited to enter the Holy of Holies (the aforementioned Apple Store) to buy the iPad 2.  We got here at 3:15, I left for a meeting at 3:50, returned at 5:30, and now it is 7:00 pm and after hours in line, he is paying for his iPad.  It truly is a marvelous toy er, tool, and I know he will put it to good use.

I was struck that many of my line-mates had bought the first iPad, just over a year ago, and now, they were back for more. By the time we were 30 minutes from the door, though, we found out that they were out of the AT&T 3G models, and dejected, they left.  As my friend was here for the bare-bones model, we kept waiting, with hope and expectancy.  Soon, we came to Temple Gates, and the Levite, Jason Spencer, made small talk with us.  We realized that if we had brought him a latte from Quills, we might have been able to bribe him.  However, the latte would have been very cold by now, so it's just as well.

I love my Apple products quite a bit, but it truly is remarkable to see this many people wait to dutifully fork over this much money for an attempt at happiness.  However the Apostle of God, Steve Jobs (peace and blessings of God be upon him), has promised us that this "magic" can be ours for a starting price of $499.  Allah ackbar!

It's funny how good things become God things so greatly. God tells us to subdue the earth, and we have truly made some fantastic machines.  However, we've also made some amazing idols as well.  Wisdom dictates that we use them in an open hand.

That said, I want an iPad 2 for my birthday.

Labels: , ,