Sunday, October 31, 2010

Broken, Not Defective

I don't it's too much of a secret that the Christian church views humanity as broken, which I agree. In Romans, it says "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (3:23) and goes on the speak about the redemption that comes from Jesus Christ and it was by grace that we are forgiven. Awesome. Completely onboard. Everyone can admit that we don't always live up to the standard of perfection of always loving other people and God. It is an inevitability that we will be selfish because there is a lot of time in our lifetimes where we can screw up.

I will also concede that even once you are a Christian and you are gung ho for being a better disciple, it is not necessarily easier to live a life of righteousness and generousity. We still have desires in our heart that lead us to make serve ourselves and will continue to have until the very day we die and we are likely to screw many times before that time comes.

However, I also hear a lot of talk that also makes it seem like humanity is incapable of being good. It is like it is in fashion for a Christian to have a heaping dose of self hatred and poor self image. That we are so flawed that anything good we do accomplish is clearly only because of the grace of God. I have even heard from a few people that wouldn't be able to love anybody without God. Really? You would not be able to love anybody?

Now, when I respond so incredulously like I just did, Christians will concede that "well, ok, I could love a little bit, but I couldn't keep it up and love everybody or for a long time". I sometimes wonder if perhaps we think that the standard is actually way higher than it really is. I don't love everybody in the world. It would be ludicrous for me to say that I do. I haven't met over six billion of them. I don't think God even expects us to because that is way beyond our capability. That's where I think some people think that we are broken and are sinful because we don't "love everybody".

I think that we are to love those who are our neighbour. Those that we have contact with and where we can impact people. Just because I don't send a care package to every one of the six billion people out there or pray for each one individually it doesn't mean that is why we "have fallen short of the glory of God".

I also believe that people are fully capable of loving others and I think that many do even without "Jesus being in their heart". Why? Because we may be broken, but we are not defective. I am aware that I may be arguing semantics, but what I am getting at is that there is a common thread in a lot of Christian thought that says that we are essentially fleshy garbage and that we can not do any good unless it is God working through us.

What happens because of this thought I think is that we start punishing and belittling ourselves for being garbage because of our transgressions and we actually don't move on. We cry to Jesus to forgive us, but we aren't willing to embrace that idea that we can be different and be people who love and live lives that are good. God has forgiven us, but we refuse to forgive ourselves. Paul even writes that when we follow Christ, our old selves died on the cross with Him, but in the same way, we are resurrected with Him. He gives second life and it is one that we share with Him. We are able to shake free of the burden of the law and always being worried about always having to give sacrifices, but rather focusing on becoming more what God wants us to be which is to love God, love others and transform lives. We recognize that we may still screw up, but let's not dwell on that. Let's just keep pushing forward and trying to become better. Trying to become this sort of heroic persona of ourselves.

We are not garbage. We are people that are selfish and hurt others and we get off track. We are also people who can love and be good and God wants us to move past those mistakes and become perfect even to the point of forgiving us at all costs as long as we are willing to change and follow the way of life Jesus exemplified and preached. Making Jesus our Lord.

The good news about this is that God doesn't actually think you are defective and terrible. The good news is that He wants us to succeed and be righteous or in other words perfect, willing to look past our mistakes through forgiveness given to us by Christ. That He wants to save us from ourselves that would lead us to the destruction of our eternal selves.

The hard part of this versus this traditional idea from the church that we are scumbags and that God should just wipe us out but for some inexplicable reason is willing to forgive us, is that because we are fully capable of being these heroic personas, we are obligated to strive to become that. It is not some magic prayer that lets us in, but actually us changing our attitudes and behaviors to be more outward focussed.

It seems like when we have this idea that we are scumbags, then it is somehow okay to continue on hurting others or ourselves or God because we are so dependent on grace anyways, that it's just all kind of a wash. That as long as we are perpetually groveling to God then we'll make it into heaven okay. If God believes that we are scumbags and are completely incapable of being able to live good lives, then all He is doing is redeeming garbage.

However, He knows us. He knows that we are able to live lives that are generous, benevolent, sacrificial and honorable lives and that we just need to turn away from ourselves and follow Him, then He is redeeming heroes who don't realize that they could be heroes.

I am absolutely tired of Christians hating themselves and others simply because we are human. We make kids believe that they are entrenched with evil and need to ask for mercy. This attitude is what I believe keeps people from Jesus and the church. This attitude makes people weak and afraid to stand up and become the people Jesus actually calls us to be. To be human is to struggle, but to be human also means to have potential.

It hurts so much because I know that a life that follows Christ is about becoming better people, not about how we're evil. Jesus came to break those chains that we seem to want to continue to carry. But people will refuse. They will continue to hate themselves in spite of the fact Jesus loves them.

"He floated back down 'cause he wanted to share
His key to the locks on the chains he saw everywhere
But first he was stripped and then he was stabbed
By faceless men, well, fuckers
He still stands
And he still gives his love, he just gives it away
The love he receives is the love that is saved
And sometimes is seen a strange spot in the sky
A human being that was given to fly"
- "Given to Fly" from the Pearl Jam album "Yield"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Theoretical Life

It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted and that's because I've been busy. Sort of. That's the excuse I'm going with. I have been given a variety of projects to work on and it will definitely take up my time which is good. I've felt like I have just been passing time reading "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and watching Chronologically Lost since I got here and now that the pastors are back, I have direction and am doing stuff.

My first video that I made to introduce myself to the congregation went over fairly well and I've been validated enough to know that at least some people appreciate it and get it. Which is a relief. This weekend I get to show the first of my videos that I shot with some of the youth from the church and I am super excited to see how it goes. It was one of the longest days of shooting I have ever done and it was good to see that my performers were with me the whole way. Mind you, they got to throw tomato juice at each other, so that probably helped them keep their attention. Curious? You'll have to wait. It consists of four videos that go along with the idea of God's will. Anyway, I'll talk more about the videos when I post them.

However, it also means I am a bit ahead of the curve. I have another youth worship night in less than a week that I have to get a monologue ready for and then I am essentially waiting for Advent. Advent, for those who are unaware, is the period of time in the church calender where you are waiting for the arrival of Christ (aka Christmas). So, I am basically waiting to wait. Actually, I have a lot to get ready for Christmas time with several sketches for the Sundays leading up to Christmas as well as for a couple of special events. If I have it right, it's about nine or ten sketches and/or videos I have to get ready. Which is a lot to present in a month.

The thing I have been debating is whether or not I should have a show for the end of November. I was originally thinking that I would, but if I did start working on something, then that may put me behind the ball on the Christmas stuff. I'll have to get on that as soon as possible if I want it to happen.

That's my ministry life right there and it's the thing that consumes my time. Working in a ministry as a major part of your life, such as the Camp Ministry Team or the Mr. Chapel tour is always a little strange because you spend so much of your day reflecting on things that you believe and your walk with God and theology and humanity and all that kind of heady stuff which is something that I already do quite a bit of on my own free time anyway, that it can kind of turns into this feeling of like you are detached from the rest of the world. I don't think it's unique to ministry, because it probably is common in the various creative fields or fields that involve philosophy or other high-minded careers. This is of course because unlike a trade or retail or other jobs, you leave your work at work. Meanwhile, I feels like I always am or always should be thinking about these ideas.

I don't know how common it is for other people to think a lot about their place in their world or reflect on their lives, but I do a lot. I mean, that's one of the reasons for this blog. I have noticed that this blog revolves around my thoughts and less to do with concrete events in my life. Usually, it's an anecdote that then lead me to think about something deeper. For instance, if I buy a pickle sandwich, I will go off into my little world and think about stuff like "what if I am like this pickle sandwich? Just waiting to be ordered and eaten?" instead of asking myself, "Why the heck are you ordering a pickle sandwich?" In other words, I am already way too wrapped up in my thoughts and mortality and garbage like that, that to now also have my job to continue thinking about that kind of stuff makes me think, "Maybe I need to get a life". By that, I mean, go and be with people and make sure I am grounded in reality and not so consumed with the theory of life that I miss the living of life.

Oh well. Maybe I just feel that way because I am still getting to know people and trying to make friends here. Maybe it's the change of the relationships I have that have become more distant and have a lot more free time than I'm used to. Either way, I should say that this is a relatively minor thing. I feel so blessed to do something that I really like to do and that's to entertain people and make them laugh.

Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Oh no. I'm being assimilated.)

"The Blacksmith and The Artist
Reflect it in their art
They forge their creativity
Closer to the heart"
- "Closer to the Heart" from the Rush album "A Farewell to Kings"

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Playing Pretend

On Wednesday, it was "International Suit Up Day". It came from Facebook, so I knew it was a legitimate holiday. Of course, any excuse for me wearing a suit is good enough and so I did my business that day in my suit. I felt very official and purposeful as I walked around in it. I felt it created a nice illusion of importance and direction.

It kind of did not work though when I headed to the local bank to set up an account. As I proceeded into the office and sat down with the lady (I don't know the official name of an account setter-upper) I realized how uncomfortable I was. I was fidgeting and moving around trying to find the proper sitting position so that way I looked comfortable and was clearly a man who was in control. Instead I felt more like a little kid who borrowed a suit that belonged to his dad and it was way too big for him. It was like I was playing pretend. Which I guess I was.

When I went to youth group that night (still in the suit) people often assumed that I must have had an important interview earlier that day. Nope. No, I didn't. I was just wearing a suit. I was faking. I helped out another fellow with the junior high boys group. In a lot of ways, it was like I playing pretend in there too. The guys were just excited to be there hanging out with their friends and not at all interested about discussing deeper matters. I can completely understand. A typical junior high boy who is put in the same room as their friends, they are there to mess around. There's no focus except for the focus on trying to find something to laugh at. Questions asked were given enough attention so to start a sentence before something hilarious was found to laugh at. It was hard. I didn't want to be there for an hour and a half and hammer through all the theological questions they may have had and explore the great struggle that is faith. However I didn't want to be there for an hour and a half and not be able to get any reflection. Yet, I couldn't resolve that then. I needed more time to be able to accommodate teaching to their headspace. I wasn't leading, but I was trying to help. I was a little frustrated because at least at that point, I had and have no idea how to be able to bring these guys to a place of reflection without making it seem like I am trying to punish them for being excited and wanting to mess around with their friends.

I kind of felt like I was just wearing a suit.

Last night, I wanted to try and take in some of the art scene of Nelson and went to a show at the Royal where Jen Lane was playing. I was amazed at the quality of sound from a bar stage. Usually, I expect for the mix to be off and sound "live", but somehow it sounded like album quality and you could appreciate the disciplined nuances to her voice. I can not really describe what I mean by that, but just know it sounded good. Anyway, as I was sitting there by myself taking in the show, I figured I needed to start reaching out to some of the people here in the town. I walked over to another table with a lone guy and introduced myself. We had a quick chat before the final set and after the show continued in our discussion. We talked about why I believed in Christianity, what does it mean to follow Jesus, Buddhist teachings, and pursuing a better life. An hour and a half past and I found myself outside the bar at 2:30am and realized I wanted to sleep. I also realized how far away I am in my spiritual perspective from the relativistic and universalist drug culture of this place. By the way, I know that not everyone is like that here and also that people like that exist back in Manitoba, but I was thinking how it was almost like I here talking to a people of a foreign culture to mine and that I am trying to connect to something I can't fully understand. Like I was just wearing a suit.

I am not as social as people assume I am especially in this place even though there are many people my age here. It feels like there is a lot of expectation from the people here and from myself that I am going to be the all-star here and as I'm facing it down, I am starting to get that feeling in my gut that I haven't felt since the early days of doing plays in high school. I have this nervous excitement that knows that this could be awesome and I could do big things and have the confidence that I have the ability to do it, but also have the lingering anxiety of how it could all fall apart if I forget a line.

I think if I can learn something from my many years of performing and perhaps I can take comfort in, is that I am really good at faking knowing what I am doing up there. All I need to do is find a way to look comfortable wearing my suit.

"All in the suit that you wear
When you're looking for something
It's in the suit that you wear
When you're hiding from someone
All in the suit that you wear
When you wear it
Hey you, you keep a-walking the razor
On the edge, you cut your feet when you stand in there
In the meantime, there's always someone to set you free
Hey you, will you ever get out of there?"
- "All in the Suit that You Wear" from the Stone Temple Pilot album "Thank You"

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Other David Rae

I have a doppleganger. His name is David Rae, he lives in Oregon, is involved with his fraternity and seems to have quite a few friends that love hanging out with him. How do I know so much about him? Because I frequently receive his email that gets mistakenly sent to my account. It's because there is a difference of one letter in our email address. It's a bit amusing because I'll receive an email from someone that I don't know and as I read it I realize this has nothing to do with me, I scroll to the end and find out that the person originates from the west coast which gives me relief that I don't have to put together some major event that I had completely forgotten about and I promptly forward it to the correct (and by the sounds of it more successful) version of David Rae.

Anyways, I recently received congratulations for my wedding. I mean his wedding. It was in the last few weeks and as I sent it off to him, I added my own greeting to it.

It's kind of fun to have these quick snapshots of another guy with my name. I don't try to snoop or anything, it's just that I have read numerous first paragraphs of his emails.

I was thinking about that a bit today as the girl I dated just under a year ago is getting married today. In fact, as I write this, she's probably at her reception or something. It's strange to think that I could have been married today and that those congratulatory emails would have been address to me and not the Other David Rae.

I know that it most likely would not have worked out with her (because she never could pick up on my apparently hard to follow sarcasm) but none the less I can tell you that I would not be sitting in my sweet Batcave-like office in Nelson writing scripts and books and doing something completely different with my life in a land that I don't quite understand.

It's like I am living in a parallel universe and every once in a while, I get an email that sent to the wrong one universe. Many people who know me know that I think about that other world. Maybe it's one of the reasons I am so fascinated with time travel as a literary device. The idea of what would it be like if things would be different. It might be a neat exercise in imagination, but ultimately it has nothing to do with now and who I am here. Apart of the aspects of having the inability to change the past is so that way we try to make the best possible choices. If I could go back and change things and make it the way I would want, I would also not be me. I would not develop as a person and gain wisdom and experience. All my time would be spent going back and perfecting everything that I am not really enjoying it.

I played Civilization a lot and in that game, I would save my game right before attempting to take over a new city and then attack. If it didn't turn out because I lost too many guys or my guys were simply not strong enough to take on the defenders, then I would just hit the reload button and try again or wait another turn when I would send in even more guys. However, in those war campaigns of mine, I would spent so much time trying to get the result I wanted that the game took so much longer and ultimately not that enjoyable.

What is more interesting is when people face conflicts and every once in a while fail and then become better because of it. I find that I have to keep reminding myself of that. I can't focus on what could have been or wondering if I screwed up, because it takes me out of the enjoyment and the development of where I am now.

Hopefully, after today, I don't have to keep looking over to the David Rae who could have been married right now, but rather realizing that the things that happened have made me who I am. If I would have reloaded the game and instead be the Other David Rae then I wouldn't be truly the right man. I would be the doppelganger.

"I wish I was a neutron bomb, for once I could go off
I wish I was a sacrifice but somehow still lived on
I wish I was a sentimental ornament you hung on
The Christmas tree, I wish I was the star that went on top
I wish I was the evidence, I wish I was the grounds
For 50 million hands upraised and open toward the sky

I wish I was a sailor with someone who waited for me
I wish I was as fortunate, as fortunate as me
I wish I was a messenger and all the news was good
I wish I was the full moon shining off a Camaro's hood

I wish I was an alien at home behind the sun
I wish I was the souvenir you kept your house key on
I wish I was the pedal brake that you depended on
I wish I was the verb 'to trust' and never let you down

I wish I was a radio song, the one that you turned up"

- "Wishlist" from Pearl Jam's "Yield" album

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

David Rae, Adventurer

I have come to realize that although I have talked quite a bit about moving to Nelson, I haven't really explained what I'm doing here. So here is the basic rundown. I am here for at least three months and probably longer (assuming that I am not tossed out for heresy or drinking too much communion juice). My responsibilities include creating sketches and videos for the church as well as helping with the youth group (which has around forty to fifty kids) at various events. In exchange, I am getting free room and board. I'm being called an intern and that is probably the most accurate description of what I am doing here. However, it was inspired by having a conversation with Pastor Arden earlier in the summer. He mentioned how he wished that there was some way to reach out to his community which is a heavily arts focused place. He and I were on the same wavelength when it came to art in the church which was "if you can't do it well, don't do it at all". After walking away from that conversation, I was thinking about the approach that the church used to have in regards to art in that they used to pay for resident artists. Churches would have composers on site to write hymns and artists painted murals and masterworks like Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel. My idea was inspired by the concept.

However, what really excited me about the whole thing is that it feels like I am a bona fide adventurer from all those role playing games. Like in Final Fantasy, where you'd go to a town and discover that there is something wrong going on and your team has to stop it and save the town and then move on to the next place. In a way, I feel like I am coming into town to help wherever I can for a little while before I move onto the next adventure elsewhere. I am actually looking for a variety of tasks to do. If I am needed to help out somewhere else, I'd be game. For instance, the house I'm staying at is in the process of going through renovations so I offered to help out. It's like I have a quest log and I am here to earn experience and do some good where it's needed.

After this Nelson adventure, I am seriously considering going back on the Camp Ministry Team which is even more like an adventuring troupe with it's continual travel and a many opportunities to come in and help doing a variety of tasks.

Life Together is another place I am considering after that. It would be different and has a unique vibe to it. Kind of like a version of a monastery. It's a house where people stay for a year or more to focus on discipleship and service.

I just like the idea of going from one opportunity to help to another. Maybe down the line, I'll do some missions work somewhere. Maybe I'll do another resident artist stint in some other church. I don't know what lies ahead. I don't believe I can do it forever, but for now with how things are for me this is the life that seems like the best path for me.

There have been a couple of comments from people that I am "sacrificing a lot" to come out here and do this which I guess is true. Sure, maybe I am not really advancing a career per se, nor am I really preparing myself financially for the future but I think if anything, it seems selfish. Only in the sense that I get to do what I really like doing and get to doing while serving others and doing something positive. So like a positive selfishness. Plus I get to be an adventurer.

"Though I keep searching for an answer,
I never seem to find what I'm looking for.
Oh Lord, I pray
You give me strength to carry on
'Cause I know what it means
To walk along the lonely street of dreams
And here I go again on my own,
Going down the only road I've ever known.
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone.
And I've made up my mind
I ain't wasting no more time."
- Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" from their self-titled album