Friday, June 26, 2009

Under The Volcano

I was reading a friend's post about the chaos in Iran, and he gently, but effectively put a face to the troubled people of Iran. This typically is the problem for us in the information age is that we don't see a face, we see multiple faces streaming past at a billion bits a second as we make our way through the issues of the day. While this seems on the surface to be a way of bringing the world together it is truer to say that, at its roots, it is having a more dehumanizing effect on us. It is encouraging to see the connections like my friends have to the people of Iran, or other friends of ours to peoples of diverse ethnic and ideological backgrounds, but there is still an ominous undercurrent sweeping away so much of what connects us.
While there is much talk and dialogue going on there is a sense in which we are constantly being asked to make a judgment call on all of these issues without ever having sat with the person involved to see who they really are. We are called upon to decide the answers for our generation and the next. We are called upon to perceive what we have not seen. Called to lay hold of what we cannot touch.
When I look around at the media we are surrounded with, so much of it is clamoring for our opinion. Reality television wants us to takes sides and decide for or against given the facts as we are shown them. News reports (they're unbiased???) purport to tell us like it is, and yet there always seems to be another side of the story that pops up somewhere else as the news hounds scramble for yet another angle to sell us. Blogs (including mine) seek to present what they feel is a more honest, in your face, take on things; a personal synthesis of all the stories and issues floating around out there. Even in the realm of the arts, there so many issues and ideas being presented to us with arguably the most powerful medium out there. Musicians, playwrights, actors, directors, and even their producers are pushing their ideas out there with ever more lavish trappings, and ever more subtle slants.
If your like me (mostly I pray you are not) your head gets spun around by all the 'stuff'. I end up emptied out of much of the empathy that is given me at the start of the day. Sadly all that is left for so heavy a price is a swiftly fading sense the rightness that shone out from the trail head of deliberation, discussion, and dialogue. The hope for justice lays down and looks me in the eye, voiceless by the glowing embers of today's news. Behind her eyes I see the faces of the people I passed on my way here.
We live under the volcano. We live with each other in the presence of our looming destruction. We live together.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Few Thoughts That've Been Knockin' 'Round My Bean

I've been munching on a few things for a week now and finally needed to write it down somewhere. Please remember that these are ruminations and not necessarily conclusions.
I have been coming across a lot of stuff from within the Christian community that has troubled me very deeply, and I have been trying to take it to the Father rather than just snap at it. There are so many blogs and threads out there that are so full of frustration and anger that it can be dangerous to head out into the blogosphere without a slicker and boots for fear of getting nailed. Admittedly I have shot some out there as well, but the cooler head I am married to always points me back to the cross and prayer, thankfully. I grew up in a Christian setting and early on I became aware of the dislike that some Christians had for each other, but for the most part these were doctrinal differences and the people involved just kept their distance. There were some watchdogs out there who had radio shows that would inform their listeners of the offending members of the body in great detail. These were the exception, though, not the rule.
Today with all the communication technology out there it has all changed so much. At the same time as I am seeing so many finding common ground and working together on the central themes of their faith, there are so many who are launching attacks at the ones who claim the same faith. Again, I must say that I am not free from this melee, as I too have launched out with my teeth bared. Again I am glad for a wife who tugs on the leash or at least tells me to pay attention to the tugs on the leash. (I'm not sure she would like either description)
Our posts and websites have become like badges that we wear and the means by which we identify each other and where we all stand. Perhaps we don't even like the image of being portrayed by what we are putting out on the web, but it does not negate the fact that it is our cyber-image. I admit I have not wondered enough about what people might think of what I am writing or thinking, but it has not caused me to be truly thoughtful enough. That being said I still find that there are certain things here which have tagged me in the eyes of many, oops, a few, let's be honest here, five followers are not a crowd. There are things on their blogs and links that have tagged them in my eyes and others as well. Not necessarily the right thing, but there it is.
These days the pressing thought for me is how does all this weirdness connect? Amidst all the blog-lashings and rhetoric it seems to me that there is a truth that is pulsing so strongly that we dare not miss it. It is a pulse that comes from the throne, and it pounds the ground flat where we stand. It pounds it flat because the whole point is to bring equity and a personal revelation of ourselves before our Father. In my mind, sometimes, it plays out like we are a bunch of unruly kids who have just had their dad come in the room. What is our reaction? My first reaction is typically to declare my innocence and say that whatever misdemeanor I am being charged with was precipitated by someone else's action. What is yours? In the end, does it matter? Or does it matter what the Father will say once all the kiddies have dropped their toys and really paid attention to what He has to say?
The ones who listen to this voice, these are the people that I am looking for in my life. I want them to help me and teach me the better way. I have found some of these people here in K-town and I am so pleased to say that I have met some in Hong Kong as well. I have seen something in them that has been able to retain the truth of the gospel and the joy of it as well. They have shown me a way that is hidden from so many eyes because it is too revealing, I think. It has revealed so much in me that I do not like, and yet has also shown me the deep desires that lie beyond the reach of those detestable things in me. They have graciously offered me a hand up out of the armchair. I hope I will take it.
If any of this is too vague I apologize. My words can come out very pointed, and I wanted to avoid that here, if possible. This was actually meant to be a pointier post at the outset, so perhaps it all ends well after all.

Monday, June 01, 2009

little things and a great God

I was visiting a friend's blog this morning, and as Rick MacInnes Rae on CBC's 'Dispatches' always says, it put me in mind of a dispatch of my own. Actually this story always comes up when I think on the monstrosity of this world, both in the sense of scale and the sense of tragedy, because it reminds me of the even greater scope of the God who is over all. I need this story because it helps me feel both frightfully small and immensely significant at the same time, like a child looking up at his Father.
This story came upon the heels of our first great adventure as a family and the beginning of the downtime in between. It was in the suspended moment when we thought the 'fun' would just keep going on and that the adventure was what it was all about, and the moment when we discovered that it was all about falling into the yawning chasm that is the deeps of our God. It was the reassuring transaction with a Father who wanted to take my hand and just walk together while I struggled to let go of all the 'doing'.
Appropriately the story happened out on the vast expanse of prairies south of Saskatoon where we sojourned for three months before returning to Kelowna to begin the sojourning in earnest. The lodge that we were staying at had a large field spreading out from the road where you drove in, and it had been mowed regularly to allow the owner's son to use it as a driving range. I found this to be a wonderful surprise as I had a huge golf obsession back then and had purchased some new clubs when we lived in Shanghai. The cost of using them in China with my one day a week off work, wife, and three kids meant that they had never been broken in; except for that memorable father's day round of golf at Bin Hai Golf and Country Club, Shanghai. This was as dissimilar a vista as could be imagined from the manicured fairways and greens of Bin Hai, but the stubbly grass of the prairies suited me just fine, and the hours whiled away whacking and searching became a meeting place with my Father. It may seem odd to those who do not know me (please refrain from too much chortling Steve), but God often speaks to me through numbers, patterns, and circumstances, and the thing with the golf balls was no different. It was during one of these sessions that I had been wandering about the field looking for my balls, and had my favorite pen, purchased from a little stationery store on GuYang Lu, tucked behind my ear. When I finished up and readied to head back to the lodge I discovered that the pen was missing. There was no chance of finding it out in the huge field of six inch prairie stubble, so I chalked it up as a sad loss and headed in.
The next day when I had a chance to sneak out to the field again to whistfully whack (read: spray) some balls out across the prairie the Lord began to do that thing with the numbers and such again, just to let me know He was there. I know this was the reason, because to this day I cannot remember what the number thing was exactly, but I do remember that lying right next to a particularly significant ball was my favorite pen. I was stopped in my tracks by a little thing that my Father was all too aware of. A little thing that was important to Him because it was important to me. A little thing that was not important, beyond telling me that I was.
I recently told someone some of the things that God has done to make a way for my family to return to China, and in the telling I realised that the story of what He did is why we are going. The stories are not about getting my family there to do exploits, the stories are about why I am going. The stories are there to tell people about this amazing God who fills more than Hubble's weak little eye will ever see, and to let them know that He will also gladly fill the smallest spaces we will ever occupy. The stories are the currency, the money is just the ticket.