Darkened

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I’ve recently been able to reflect upon myself, my writing, and I. I just pulled up some old files that held my  books and stories from years gone by. By no means am I old, but I do have a history, and in that history I wrote several small books, some complete, some incomplete, some lost in the cyber-abyss.

I re-read a few with a happy smile at the lack of punctuation and clarity. I struggle to remind myself what I was saying in certain sentences, but I laugh at my silly style of humor. I recollect the books that I was reading at the time, and I see the themes and phrases reflecting some of them. I grin when the story goes through the plot twists I vaguely remember installing. Then in the end I sigh and wish everything was so happy.

I dug around the bank of old computer files for another story. Sadly I only had half of the original draft. It was still entertaining because of the lack of quality. The plot was humorously flawed, and also hilariously complex. I can’t remember the half of it (and not just because the half of it was missing), but I loved seeing the difference from the previous book. In comparison I could see darker themes creeping in, and more complex characters evolving.

I saw growing. Just as I, a person, am growing, my stories are growing. For better or worse we’re both changing.

Then I compared the older stories to the work of fiction I’m currently writing. The contrast was stark. Firstly my plots were much more complex, but also coherent and cohesive. Secondly, my characters show life of their own, and also have real problems and real solutions. The stories have become real, and they convey the themes I find myself conveying. The theme that is currently being conveyed, wether I like it or not, is really just failure. Failure.

I’m not entirely sure why, but with the story I was writing I’ve not been able to find a happy ending. When I play around with the endings they always come full circle and fall back to the original ending of failure. It’s a spectacular ending (though not written in its entirety), but I did notice that’s not the ending Ian of 11 years would write. Or even Ian of 12 years.

Through a little virtual retrospection, I discovered that everything was a little darker. My stories, I realized, were slowly becoming darker and darker. I guess reality does that. Living life in a broken world is hard, crushing, and depressing. Everything–everything–is broken beyond earthly repair. Through exposure to “real” life a process of darkening occurs. Seasoning, as someone put it.

It’s sad, yes, but part of life. The devil broke the world with sin. Our own sinful nature feeds the brokenness, and lets it manifest. But that’s not the end.

Jesus died on a cross–a brutal death of a person who had done something wrong. He died while he was perfect. Not a blemish. Nails were driven through his wrists and ankles. He was murdered, willingly, to save our sinful souls. Our broken souls. Our darkened souls.

While I may be darkened, I’m still beautiful to him, and this life is not for keeps. I’m just a traveler passing through this earth. I’m thankful that someone gives me a chance at light. Something happy is still to come.

I  have the hope that like the flowers in the spring I will be renewed.

Who’s in Charge Here? Part 1

My extensive thoughts are as follows. Thanks for taking the time. Enjoy.

Acts 5:29 reads: “…Peter and the apostles replied, ‘We must obey God rather than human authority.’ ”

That’s what started this little research project. Peter’s statement that God > Man. To put it in context, Peter and the apostles have just been arrested, and are being told not to tell people about God. Peter replies, as shown above, and it ticks the people in authority off.

There is a fine balance between prudent resistance, and full-blown violent rebellion. The difference is clear. Prudently resisting authority is when the people in charge (at least the ones on earth) tell you to do something you know is wrong, or at least believe is wrong. If you have good grounds upon which to base your resistance, then you have your little resistance.

But, when you disagree with the government, leaders of the church, your parents (that applies to me :-), you can’t just barge into their room/house, guns blazing, and mow them down because you disagree. That’s only allowed in the movies. (Not so much the parents part, but…)

Authority is there for a reason. Whenever a collection of people gets together, wether it be voluntary, in the case of a church, or hereditary, in the case of a nation, or a family, there needs to be leaders.

In our country we get to choose our leader every four years. His name is usually Mr. President, and he serves his country by leading it into battle, around the block, or through tough times.

In the body of Christ there is a pastor, and other elders, that lead the church. In the modern age, where the church has become a building, they may do various tasks from organize the schedule, pay the bills, invent small money making schemes to balance out the winter heating bill, and also guide their brothers and sisters in Christ along their walk with Him.

In the family the Dad is on top of the pyramid, with the Mom coming in a close second. Then you have the kids. The Dad’s job, just typically, is to provide money for the family to eat, be clothed, and drink (water, of course). The Mom’s job (again, typically), is to raise the children. Not to say that the Dad can’t help, far from it, but while the Dad is working the Mom’s in charge.

The Kids’ jobs? Do what the parents say. (I don’t care if it’s unfair! Look it up! It’s in the Bible!) 🙂

With all of this in mind, what should we do when it comes down to God v. Human Authority?

I decided to try and find out.

Let’s figure out who we’re dealing with first. In the right corner!… Standing infinite feet tall, and 12 inches more!…Weighing a whopping infinite number of pounds, plus 16 ounces!… the master of all creation!… The creator of all creation for Pete’s sake!… the infinite!… the master of the universe!… GOD!

(Applause, please.)

And in the left corner! Standing anywhere from 4 feet, to 7 feet, tall!… Weighing anywhere from 100 pounds to 600 pounds!… the created!… the finite!… the very short life spanned!… the appointed by God!… man!

Not much comparison, is there? God > man.

In John (19:11), after Pilate tells Jesus he has the power to release him or crucify him, Jesus says to Pilate:

“You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above…”

That’s a big hint that God is in charge. The fact that people are only in charge if he allows it tells me he runs the show. Score one for God. 1-0

Then, right out of the gates in Galatians (1:1) Paul says:

“This is a letter from Paul and apostle. I was not appointed by any group or by human authority. My call is from Jesus Christ himself, and from God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead.”

Paul is saying his authority to write this letter is real. When Jesus calls and says, “Yo, Paul, I need you to write something for me,” Paul, and everyone else, knows that it’s important.

Because God’s in charge. Score another one for the Big Man. 2-0

Now, let’s check out 1 Peter. If you look up 1 Peter, chapter two, in your bible (or someone else’s bible) then you can see that there is actually a section on Respecting People in Authority. Here’s the section (1 Peter 2:13-17):

“For the Lord’s sake, accept all authority–the king as head of state, and the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish all who do wrong, and to honor those who do right.”

(Emphasis mine)

That last part is similar to what I was pointing out earlier. When any group of people congregates, it needs order. Cities have policemen. Countries have their military. The family has a large man with lots of PSE (Potential Spanking Energy) known as “dad”. So, someone has to be in charge, otherwise there isn’t anything to be in charge of. But, I digress.                It continues:

“It is God’s will that your good lives should silence those who make foolish accusations against you. You are not slaves; you are free. But your freedom is not an excuse to do evil [rebel violently, etc.]. You are free to live as God’s slaves. Show respect for everyone. Love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God. Show respect for the king.”

First, I would like to point out the part where it says, “You are free to live as God’s slaves. Show respect for everyone.”

Just to put a little bit of practicality in the mix, let’s play suppose.

Suppose you were God’s butler/maid. Your job is to please him, keep him comfortable, and agree with him. Suppose God has friends over (from what I here, God has a lot of friends), don’t you think he would want you to be nice to them? Don’t you think you would automatically respect them anyway? They’re God’s friends after all. So then, since God made, and loves, everyone, then shouldn’t we respect everyone as our superior?

Just something to think about, as we digress again 🙂

Another thing I wanted to point out was the part where it says, “It’s God’s will that you live good lives to silence those who make foolish accusations against you.”

Let’s play suppose again, shall we?

Suppose the government of your country is accusing you of praying. You have been praying, but it isn’t against the law. “Oh, yes it is. We made that law just last night, believe it or not. What a coincidence. I’ll be darned if I don’t have to haul you away to jail right now.”

First, you’d probably laugh in their faces. 🙂 “That’s ridiculous!” you’d protest. “You can’t do that!”

I think Paul’s point here is that regardless of what the other side does, our godly lives will save us. It’s a little packet of Freeze-Dried Goodness. Just add faith, and everything works out okay.

I’d say that just about evens up the score. A two pointer for man makes it 2-2.

While we’re talking about going to jail for God, I looked that up too: (Col. 1:24)

“I am glad when I suffer for you [Jesus] in my body, for I am completing what remains of Christ’s sufferings for his body, the church.”

That sounds like a pretty noble thing to do, doesn’t it? Suffer for somebody else. That is the single-most greatest thing a man can do. And in this case you’d be suffering for God!

So then why would we fight the government if they throw us in jail. We would then be acting as martyrs, would we not? (I know not technically, but in the case of Paul, and many others, eventually. This is a good place to put a plug in for Randy Alcorn’s Safely Home. It’s a good book. Go; read it.)

I think that if you found yourself in this situation, it would be wise to have a little faith. I’m am not saying that I would be able to have that faith, but I think it would be better than struggling.

God works all things for the better. (Psst. It’s me the scoreboard. I think that’s 2-3 man.)

And that’s the half! 2-3 man leading God. Don’t go away! Second half, coming up next.

Shame on Shame!

“A broken ankle gives one a lot of time for reflection,” reflected Ian.

Anyway, Ian’s reflections are being published. Yikes!

Shame. Shame is an interesting thing. I am by no means an expert, but I have opinions, and I am going to boldly share them.

From my experience/observance, shame is a result of sin. Sin is a result of us turning from God, and turning from God is a result of needing love. (Isn’t it ironic that God is Love? And yet we turn from him when in need of love. People aren’t very smart. Even our Ph. D.’s are typically atheistic. Harvard grads, etcetera. Some one with an IQ that high turns from what they’re searching for? Yep.)

Shame is the worst part of sin. It causes depression, self-righteousness, suicidal behaviors, all that stuff that is generally credited to amoral video games, movies, our whole amoral culture for Pete’s sake!

But it seems that it’s deeper. It starts with the conscience. I believe we’ve had one since the “Incident in Eden”. We took what wasn’t ours, and immediately knew it was wrong. When that happened each person has a little Giminy Cricket type spark in their mind. It alerts us when something is wrong, and tells us when we did a good job. It is what makes sinning a conscious thing. We decide to sin, rather than just do it accidentally.

As it is Easter, and I am currently munching on an chocolate Easter egg, I’ll use the chocolate egg analogy.

Let’s say (all great Analogists agree, those words are the key to a good analogy.), that you happen upon a chocolate egg. Not seeing any identification, and realizing this egg isn’t of great monetary significance, (or any other significance, for that matter,) you unwrap it and start eating.

Then you find that it was your friend’s egg. Thus you “stole” it from him. Unwittingly, and unmaliciously. I believe that because you didn’t know that it was wrong, it wasn’t wrong.

I completely understand that this conclusion from that is a dangerous rope to dangle from. But, if the  Egg-eater ate the egg, and then was told it wasn’t his, he wouldn’t be guilty of stealing, would he? He would most likely have to replace the object in question, but the effects of shame wouldn’t be the same.

Thusly, I think that shame is a qualifier for sin.

Let’s say, that the man had the intentions of stealing a chocolate egg. He went to his friends house, where his friend was fondly cradling his chocolate egg. He rips it out of his friends hand, and his friend trips and falls trying to grab the egg. He maniacally cackles as he munches the marvelous morsel, in his malicious manor.

Then, later, the shame kicks in. Did I hurt him bad. I didn’t ask if he was okay when he tripped. I shouldn’t have done that! God hates me. My friend hates me. Everyone in the whole stinking universe hates me, and I am never going to be worthy of God’s love!!!!

That last line conveniently sets up this next part.

God’s love is what fixes it all! So when we do something like stealing, the shame tells us, “You aren’t worth your weight in saltine crackers! You are a lousy failure! You couldn’t do a good deed if a good deed did you!” (If you said, “What the heck is that supposed to mean!?” so did the author.)

When that happens, I think the deed causing it (shame) should be classified a sin. Sin is what drives us from God, and when the shame tells us we’re not wanted, that ain’t exactly an invitation to God’s throne.

So then you get to the part where shame is basically controlled by your mind! (Or at least I do. And since I’m the author, so do you! Isn’t this fun 🙂 ) What I mean is, if I don’t think it’s wrong to kill someone, it isn’t a sin. I think that when you’re at that point, the rules of shame don’t apply.

When you can kill, you have buried conscience. Or you have a dead conscience. Thus, the rules of shame have no where to be applied, because there’s no shame to apply them to.

Let’s go back to the list of what happens:

Shame is a result of sin. Sin is a result of us turning from God, and turning from God is a result of needing love. Now, let’s go the other way. Shame results in inferiority complexes, and that results in more sin, because you still don’t have the love you needed, and it keeps going.

With an exception. If you can get past the shame, and admit to God you were wrong, then, it’s all good. God will forgive anything.

My dad has said that, “Almost nothing we do is bad.” He means that the only bad thing is the shame that is caused by us knowing something is bad, and then still doing it.

Shame kills relationships all the time. It’s what creates lies, and it’s what creates hate. Shame is overall not a very good thing.

Shame on Shame.

Chariots for China

Eric Liddell. Oh, Eric Liddell. Let me count thy wonderful deeds!

Okay, enough of that.

Eric Liddell is known for his racing. Albeit strange, his running style won him many a race. His formula was simple: Run as fast as you can for the first part of the race, and ask God to help you run faster the second part.

Eric’s decision to forgo a race that was held on Sunday was quite shocking to his countrymen. He chose not to race in the event he was favored in, thus giving up a chance at a “sure” gold medal.

Eric ended up winning a gold in the event he was the given the least chance in. He was held in great regard by many who had disowned him after he had “dishonored his country”. And many of the others had stuck by Eric through the whole escapade.

After Eric’s success at the games in Paris, he decided to go back to China, where he had been born as a missionary child.

He returned to his birthplace, and started to help his parents do missionary stuff. One funny thing is that the head of the Anglo-Chinese School insisted that Eric and his family live in the French concession, in a huge house. Eric was, in fact, a British hero.

Eric begin his work as a teacher at a high end school. The founder of the school started it because he realized the need for mission work to the rich. He saw the poor being helped, but not the rich. I personally thought this was pretty ingenious. You don’t throw your net over someone else’s net. (See “I don’t understand fishing metaphors!” Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs)

Anyway, after a while Eric married a Canadian doctor, who wanted to be a missionary to China. Her name was Florence.

Then they had two girls in quick succession. Patricia and Maureen.

After five years or so, Eric was asked to help in a town that was in a war zone. China was still in the middle of the Sino-Japanese war. (If you say, “Huh?” you’re not alone. The Sino-Japanese war is also called the Forgotten War.)

He prayed about it and decided that he would go and help the town. He was quickly enrolled as a nurse’s assistant, and quickly became busy.

He became proficient in first aid, and was able to treat minor injuries, and the like. He would also travel to neighboring towns in order to help others have access to the hospital. (It was the only one for miles, and the Japanese had confiscated most vehicle, carts, etc.)

There was one time in which he was to retrieve a man who had been slashed across the face and neck, nearly decapitated, by a Japanese soldier. Eric and a man who had come along with him, rode the man back to the hospital on Eric’s bike. Along the way, Eric’s convoy was shot at by some Chinese men who thought they were Japanese.

Eric realized then that they were in a real war zone. Riding a bike could get you killed, albeit a case of mistaken identity.

After a bit of serving in the towns, Eric was granted permission to return to the English concession, and continue working at the school as a teacher. He lived there with his wife and daughters, and then they went back home on the basis that it was too dangerous for a wife and children in China. The Japanese had already regulated travel out side of the concessions, and Eric knew it was time for them to return.

It wasn’t quite time for his furlough, so he stayed it out, but then was restricted from returning by the Japanese. They said that the foreigners would be aloud to return to their homes, as soon as they were notified.

But the foreigners were soon notified otherwise. The Japanese had decided to put them in an interment camp.

It was run so as to keep the Europeans happy, but it wasn’t perfect. They had to fix the sewage system, and there wasn’t a lot of space. only about a football field’s worth for a few thousand people.

Through it all, Eric led the discombobulated upper class through the hardships. Many of the interns were not used to the hard living as Eric was. In many of the small towns in China, he had slept on wood floors. Hay was a luxury.

Eric was always smiling, and organizing games, classes, and youth group activities.

Eric died in the internment camp of a brain tumor. He was 43, and the only consolation for his wife, was that there was no cure for a brain tumor in 1945, and she knew it.

In all of the written accounts of the internment, there is a reference to Eric, or Uncle Eric, as many of Eric’s little friends called him.

Many remembered him as “constantly smiling”, or “The best christian man I knew.” There are countless other accounts with similar praise, as Eric was truly filled with God’s love, and he showed it in every action.

Eric Liddell was remembered in Scotland, his native land, by an award, that went to the first place racer in the top collegiate competition.

He is, and should be, remembered by all, as a man who truly loved God.

He gave his life to him, all 43 years of it. That’s pretty special 🙂