We Were Created… to Create

C.S. Lewis stated the following in his book, Christian Reflections,

“In the New Testament the art of life itself is an art of imitation: can we, believing this, believe that literature [or art] which must derive from real life, is to aim at being “creative”, “original”, and “spontaneous.”  “Originality” in the New Testament is quite plainly the prerogative of God alone. If I have read the New Testament aright, it leaves no room for “creativeness” even in a modified or metaphysical sense. Our whole destiny seems to lie in the opposite direction, in being as little as possible ourselves, in acquiring a fragrance that is not our own but borrowed, in becoming clean mirrors filled with the image of a face that is not ours.”

This last sentence is a reference to 2 Corinthians 3:18.

“We with unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the glory of the Lord.”

I agree with Lewis in that our motivation for our art (our lives) should not be to glorify ourselves and that we should not think that we possess any sort of creative power that is unique and distinctive to ourselves. However, I believe we do have creative power within us and that such power is one of the gifts God endowed us with when He created us “in His image”.

Lewis uses the term “image bearers” referring to mankind as not only containing the image or signature of God as a part of our inherent properties as creations of God, but also as call to duty. Being an image bearer means that our purpose and our obligation is to act in such a way that God is glorified by our lives – that God’s goodness is manifested by our choices.

I believe that God endowed His own creative power within us and that we each have a choice to exercise that power in a way that points to God or in a way that points only horizontally to and about the world.  Taken as a whole, our lives can be distilled down to our choice to either fight against our created purpose – to struggle against the current that is trying to pull us to God – or our choice to surrender to that spiritual current and allow God to take us safely to the place He has prepared for us.

When we choose to exercise our creative power in such a way that points to God, projecting and reflecting to goodness of God, we act as partners with God in His on-going creative process. God finished His initial creation at the end of the sixth day, but by no means was God finished creating. The whole of history manifests God’s continuous process of creation – to make what was dark and sinful into something radiant, pure, a redeemed reflection of Himself for His glory.

When we exercise our creative power vertically we yield to the stream that carries us and reveal to the world “pictures of God” that point to His goodness, mercy and grace. We add new beauty to the world casting forth a light that brings joy and awareness.  As such, our creations are balanced with the divine creations God made and thus, reflect the same holy and sacramental quality that God’s does.

Our awareness of the endowment of creative power God gives us should put us in awe of His grace. To think that God would give us the same ability, like Him, to bring something into existence out of nothing should give us pause and be amazed at his generosity and faith in us. God past to us this spiritual genetic marker and this power connects us directly to Him as His offspring.

When we exercise our creative power vertically glorifying God, we do so not as ourselves, but as those who are redeemed and being ever transformed into the image of our Creator. What honor God gives us.  What great responsibility as well.

God is an Alien

“The God with whom I had become familiar while growing up fundamentalist, then evangelical, in a Baptist college and seminary was a God very much like us. The God I thought I knew made sense. He played by the rule – ours. I had to do some serious unlearning.”

– Timothy Stoner from his book “The God Who Smokes”

We humans have a tendency to create for ourselves an image of God that is likable. A God who always forgives – suggests, but never demands. A God who is always patient with us and supports us like a good therapist.  However, though this may be the God we want it is not the God we got.

The God we have is likable and kind and patient. He is soft and comforting like a lamb. However, he is also a lion and is anything but safe. We do not get to make God into our image. Rather, God has purposed that we be made into his. While God may give us comfort, we should not become comfortable with our image of Him. He is ever unpredictable. The moment we think we understand Him he will turn the tables and show us a different side of Himself. He will not allow Himself to be contained within a box of our design.

A few years ago, when God was guiding me through my own unlearning process (which will always continue), I was very confused. I didn’t know what or how to think about God. The image I inherited of Him growing up no longer made sense. I was distraught and in turmoil because I felt that if I didn’t have an image of God that I could wrap my brain around, then I didn’t know how to live. For a long while I was depressed by this thought.

When I was a kid, I loved sci-fi movies. Some of the aliens in them resembled me, while others were completely “other” and unrelatable. I began to consider what God would look like if I considered him an alien. Thus began my re-imagining of God. I began to see that while God displayed kindness, compassion, patience and all the other traits I was comfortable with, I also began to realize that God was also very unrelatable and unpredictable.

Strangely, thinking of God as an alien was comforting to me. I began to accept that God was so much bigger than I could understand. I realized that the emotions and traits I valued were definitely a part of God because he created them as a part of the universe. However, I also understood that the Creator would, of necessity, be a being “beyond” and greater than his creation. A created being has no ability to understand his creator unless his creator imbues him with that ability. And the God we have has chosen to remain a mystery.

All of this left me with a strong comfort knowing that God as creator could have done anything he wishes with his creation, but chose to setup a system whereby we can live joyfully with him forever. Yet, my understanding also created in me a greater respect and even fear of God because I now know that God, being sovereign can still choose to do whatever he wants and be justified in that decision.

God has chosen to bring me and the rest of the world to himself by refining us in his image. This refining process can be slow and gentle, but it can also be shocking and brutal. In either case, it is God’s will and we have no control over it.

Knowing this, I welcome God’s refining in my life, but with hesitation. For I fear what he has in store for me. Therefore, my challenge and the challenge for everyone else is one of submission. In order to be refined into God’s image, in order for his will to be done (with positive consequences for ourselves) we must continually surrender pieces of ourselves to God when He makes it known to us that they are obstructing his purpose for us. We must incrementally surrender our will and trust that the One who promises our salvation and life will be faithful and handle our lives with the love and gentleness (and sometimes harshness) that we need.

Being called to give up so much, isn’t it reassuring that God spent several thousand years enacting the stories of the Bible to convince us of His faithfulness? For He is faithful and true and will deliver on His promises.

Blessed be the name of the Lord
He gives and takes away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Loving, but not caring

My Dad had his kidney surgically removed this week because the doctor’s had found a tumor in it. They removed it and found that the tumor was malignant. My Dad underwent an invasive and painful surgery and will have a long time to recover. The week leading up to the surgery, I received cards, prayers, and good wishes from a number of people at church. I was grateful for these. However, in all this I found it very strange that I was not worried about my Dad. I knew that just a risky surgery could end in his death or that we could learn that cancer had spread. But I didn’t really care. I didn’t stay awake at night thinking about him. Until the day of the surgery, I never really thought about him except when I forced myself to pray (as I felt I should do).

The whole experience is confounding to me. How can I love my Dad, but not be emotionally affected by such a dire situation? My lack of worry was not because I “believed God would take care of him therefore, there was no need to worry”. Faith had no part of it. Rather my lack of worry stemmed from a seeming lack of caring. I really don’t get it. I know I care about my Dad, but I sure didn’t seem to act like I did. To add complexity to it, I think I would have reacted much more strongly if it was Tara needing the surgery. I know that my love for her is stronger than my love for Dad, but the degree of how much more causes me shame. I feel that I should have had a stronger emotional reaction to my father predicament.

If I was talking to a therapist, we’d probably be talking about emotional compartmentalization. I know that I have a history of compartmentalizing my emotions, but I really don’t think I was doing that in this case. It really seems that in ths case, I just didn’t care enough. That’s what bothers me because it seem wrong.

The importance of quiet

I have been so busy at work over the past few weeks. During the fall of 2007, Bruce McIntyre and I co-taught the Wednesday night adult class at Quail. During this time, I was forced to do a lot of reading and preparation for the class. Consequently, my spiritual life was more vibrant. But since the class ended, my reading has stopped and the pressures of work have escalated. I’ve been working longer hours – often 10 – 11 hours per day.

Last night, I took Tara out on a date to Cascata and to see the movie Atonement. Sitting in the restaurant (without Harper) I was able for, seemingly for the first time a long while, to be still and quiet. I was able to reflect more on my circumstance because my attention wasn’t being demanded by work, Harper, or fatigue. I’ll admit that I feel somewhat trapped in that I know I need to work hard, take care of Harper and Tara, exercise and get enough rest. More importantly I need to spend more time in contemplation, meditation and communion with God. But all this seems very daunting and near impossible.

My therapist and friend, Bill Spence introduced me to the idea of seasons of life. I know that people go through different seasons or phases in their lives. I am in the season where I am trying to build my career and grow my family, and that I should expect to be able to do it. That, however, offers me little comfort.  I want to do it all.  I’ve always wanted to do it all.  It was the way I was brought up.  Well, I’m clearly in need of more balance.  I just don’t know how to get re-balanced.  The easy answer is prayer and spending time with God.  But in times like now I feel far form God.  Gratefully, I do believe in him, but I just don’t seem to care all that much.  …I think I’ll continue this idea in a different post.

Angering the God of grace?

For so long, I have not been concerned with the concept of angering God (though it once very much concerned me). My lack of concern has stemmed from my emergent knowledge over the years that God is full of grace and patience. He is not easily angered.

On a seemingly unrelated note, quiting my tobacco use has so far been successful. I give credit to God for this. I have been attempting to explore the concept of a more holistic life of overall health. Michael Roach told me a few weeks ago that the Holy Spirit told him that God has big plans for me. This made me think a great deal. I could have discount Michael as a quack or I could choose to believe based on my intuitive impression as to the “rightness” or truth of what he said – the ring of truth. I chose to believe. 

Around this time, I was preparing to teach another lesson for the Quail Springs Wednesday night class on the Expressions of the Christian Faith. That week’s topic was the Evangelical tradition. I read about Aurelius Augustine’s struggle with lust and sexual indulgence. While imbibing on these thing Aurelius also sought the higher good and right and moral things. He realized his contradiction and also his inability to conquer his vices on his own. Soon after he was introduced to the Gospel and realized that it offered his a power that he had never been offered before. In Christ, Aurelius saw a power that could rid him of his vices – which he could not beat through his own power. Therefore, through the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit, Aurelius was transformed into the image of Christ.

This transforming power is the manifestation of God’s grace through the Spirit. It is the Spirit within the believer who uses his divine power to rid us of uncleanness. Perhaps a better way to say that is that the Spirit heals us, injects us with the essence of life, and transforms us in spirit, soul, and body ever closer into the image of Christ – to be more like God. This is the plan of God that he begin implementing the first moment after Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden.

Back to the original thought… it is because of concepts like this that I have not been concerned with God’s anger – primarily because I think that God is so patient that forbearing that he is rarely if ever actually angry. And this brings me to my vice – food.

Food. You must have it to live. After years of developing and enabling myself through bad eating habits, I am struck down by my inability to control my eating. This is truly a situation where the spirit is willing, but the body is weak. Interestingly, while I report success over many things through the power of God, I am having a much more difficult time dealing with my eating addiction.  On the days that I fast (cold turkey) I can stay pretty focused on keeping my will in control, but on regular days, this is much more difficult.

Why can I not allow myself to rely on God’s power to heal me if this affliction as well? Why am I not “waiting on God” to give me balance in spirit, soul and body? Am I angering God by being out of balance? I ask that as an honest question – not out of fear that I am angering him. I’m going to pray more and take it one day at a time. Praise God for his greatness and mercy. I love God and thank him for his revelations to me.

Death and Birth on October 2nd

Today Van Tran told me for a second time about his father’s death.  He died on October 2, 1960 (something).  I’m many previous conversations, Van and I have been discussing Yin Yang and the oriental concept of balance.  Yin is cold and dark.  Yang is hot and light.  These ideas are the same as the ones that I have been led to by the Spirit.  Everything in life has a balance.

Since I no longer believe in coincidence, I must conclude that there is some purpose behind my meeting Van.  His father died on October 2nd.  My son was born on October 2nd.  These two events would have no meaning if Van and I had not met.  However, we did meet and they have meaning.  Not on that, but one event is death, the other is birth to new life.  What does this mean?  I don’t know at this time, but it does fit in nicely with Yin Yang, and the merging of Eastern and Western thought that I have been pondering.