Saturday, May 22, 2010

An Egg is an Egg

A fictional scenario...

I made eggs for the woman living with me. She thanked me breezily, savoring their taste. I like putting a tiny bit of milk, salt, and cheese into a few beaten eggs. It brings out the taste. The next day, she returned the favor, making not simply eggs, but what might be called an omelet, for it had vegetables cut up into it. Pleased with the result, she made eggs again the next day, improvising a little more with extra spices and one less yolk. Over the next few months the vegetable component of the eggs she cooked increased. Once she discovered tomatoes, and how nice they tasted slightly warmed, that became the predominant ingredient. But tomatoes make eggs watery. Her solution, I noticed was to begin using a bit of flour in the mixture with the egg. (Yes, we were down to one egg, and mostly vegetables, which she would set before me every morning with the happy comment: “Here are your eggs.”)

The vegetables had to be sautéed before going into the mixture, and she began experimenting with a little meat. Meat in the morning, she said, could be a very helpful protein boost. She tried ham, bacon, ground beef, and chicken, settling on the chicken as the nicest, lightest option.

“Here are your eggs,” came the cheery greeting each morning. Actually, it was mostly chicken and tomatoes, with piles of sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, scallions, and red bell peppers heaped over the top. Oh, and an egg, mixed with quite a bit of flour in a cream sauce, to pour over at the end as a sort of gentle concrete. Except, without the yolk part. There was enough protein in the chicken, she decided, and getting rid of the yolk might cut down on some cholesterol.

But of course, cream doesn’t go very well with vegetables like those, at least not in my taste-bud world, nor in hers. So before another week was gone, so was the sauce. And, um, the egg white that had been in it.

“Here are your eggs.” She happily laid the plate before me, a wonderful conglomeration that reminded me of a chicken cacciatore.

I suddenly laughed. “Actually, this isn’t eggs. It’s yummy, but it’s technically not eggs.”

“Yes, it is.” Her voice carried a tinge of huffiness. After some back-and-forth she expounded on her thoughts. “The term ‘eggs’ is a name, really, for nutrients in the morning. It means breakfast, basically. This is eggs,” and she pointed again to the cacciatore.

“In the context of food, ‘egg’ is an unfertilized reproductive body of a chicken or fowl, consisting of an ovum – a yolk – and its envelope. Chicken cacciatore is not an egg.”

“You’re being offensive,” she said quietly and politely, restraining anger. “There is chicken in here – and those eggs you’re talking about come from chicken. Which makes this more truly an egg than your supposed egg itself!”

I looked at her in wonder, very surprised. This had been happening over the months, I suddenly realized, and it had never occurred to me to correct her morning “Here are your eggs” statement, for it had never occurred to me that a human brain would be capable of calling one thing, another thing.

I must confess, I think I stuttered. It wasn’t over the stupidity of the statement. Many stupid things are said every day. It was over the fact that she actually believed what she was saying.

I tried once more, kindly slipping to the refrigerator, pulling an egg from the carton, and bringing it back to the table. I laid it next to the cacciatore. “This is an egg,” I said. “An egg is an actual, real thing. Your wonderful dish is simply not it.” The red mass of veggies and meat laid in a great, steaming pile next to the cool, oblong, white shell I had set down.

Anger in her movements, she whipped the plate away from me and I had no breakfast that morning, whether egg or cacciatore. I was a bit preoccupied – concerned, would be the word – as I made my way to work. How was her mind when it came to other things? Was this some strange sort of senility? She was only 36.

A horn honked behind me. Oh – I hadn’t seen the light turn green, lost in thought as I was. As I looked up and pressed the gas, a grocery semi-truck turn left in front of me, having decided not to wait any longer. I slammed on the brakes. The car stopped in time for me to watch, in slow motion, the huge advertisement plastered on the side of the semi. A Beaver-Cleaver family, in retro dress, gathered around the kitchen table. With healthy smiles on their faces, and succulent heaps of red cacciatore on their plates, the caption read: “Every good day starts the right way. Eggs!”

* * *

Sounds like an episode of the Twilight Zone, right? Well – perhaps not as exciting. I watched an interview last night between Jennifer Knapp and Larry King, then went to bed thinking about the ridiculous hijacking of the Christian church. There really are people out there (a lot of them, actually) who are not followers of Christ Jesus yet insist on calling themselves Christians. There are multiple reasons, on Satan’s part, for using this particular strategy – I won’t go into them here.

What struck me last night, as it often does, is how unmovable truth is. Whatever is said, whatever is claimed, doesn’t change reality. One could keep one’s dead cat in the house for days and days after it had been run over, and continually say that it is alive. Tell your friends and family it is alive. Talk to it like it is alive. But that cat is dead, dead, dead. Sorry to say it, but no amount of make-believe on your part is going to change the dead deadness of that cat.

If God grants that His power would flow through me, I’ll be perfectly happy to come to your house and raise that cat from the dead. But until I do – that cat is DEAD. Truth doesn’t change depending on what’s in our imagination at the moment, or on our tongue.

I am looking for the day when the church as a whole will adhere to scripture. I’ve sometimes wished that we could call another of the great old councils, and let the Body of Christ at large publicly disavow as ‘Christians’ every institution, organization, and denomination that does not adhere to the basic tenants of Scripture. But as I think of it, I realize that this era of double-talk may naturally draw to an end when persecution of Christians arises. On the other hand, it’s possible the liberal pretenders to the name will succeed in utterly hijacking the word (Christian), and real believers will be prosecuted and killed as the ones pretending to the name. I can’t predict at this point. Which means right now there is nothing I can or should do except speak the truth – even if that requires boldness and a willingness to be hated for it. So here, friends is the truth (not from me, but direct from the Holy Spirit through the apostles):

1Jo 3:4-10 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (5) You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. (6) No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. (7) Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. (8) Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (9) No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (10) By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

I love Mike Bickle’s distinction between sincere believers who repent when they fall (which we often do) and on whose record of sin God presses “delete”, and fake believers who use “grace” as an excuse to cling in love to their sin and continue in it. (The word “fake” is mine, not his.) These are two very different hearts, and will be treated two very different ways in the final judgments, just as they are treated two very different ways in scripture. Read the above passage with that understanding. Let condemnation be out of the question for the former (believers), and let conviction be deep for the latter – those who are, according to this passage, “of the devil”. I’m sorry to call them such, but it is the truth, and if no one says it out loud, we will all be guilty of having watched them race toward a long and painful existence of separation from all they were made for, and of having done nothing.

Just the Facts

All I could think were the words: "Do not be deceived. God is not mocked."

I was cutting dead wood out of the rose bush out front, and in the process discovering why most women wear gardening gloves for such activities. But these dead pieces have been bothering me for a year, all interspersed with the living, green branches. I'd finished pulling out the creeping vines that keep trying to take over the front garden, and happened to stick my hand in among the roses, and once a dead twig snapped off I was all in - no stopping for gloves.

But that was not the genesis of the scripture running through my mind. I accidentally cut off two good roses in the process of pruning. One feels quite bad about accidents like that, and has to apologize to the rose that is and the little buds that will never be. It reminded me of why the Lord said he was delaying his judgment until the end (Matt 13:24-30) - so that none of those that truly belong to him (wheat and/or roses) gets accidentally pulled out of the ground along with the wicked (weeds and/or dead wood). Well, there was a huge difference between the dead and living branches, and the determination in me to get out all the dead stuff was unstoppable, even by multiple, painful thorn-attacks. I just couldn't wait until Fall, when no roses would be endangered by my prunes.

"Don't be deceived," I heard over and over in my head, mostly thinking about the gang of teenagers that has started to make our street their hang-out, "God is not mocked." What is dead will eventually burn. That's all it's useful for. Pride certainly makes our brains turn off, for people end up thinking (without ever getting around to verbalizing it) that God IS mocked, that He WON'T follow through, that choices for evil will have no evil consequences.

I think this gang is dangerous - there is a brazen sort of pride in the eyes they use to defiantly meet mine every time I drive past them and into my garage. And I'm sorry to say my imagination has a pretty good idea of what sort of havoc they might be able to wreak around here. But in the end, the stories will all be the same, and my general feeling is not fear but pity. The dead, stay dead. And if possible, get deader. And with those branches out of the way, the living will flourish. (You should see the bush now - very pretty!) Am I going to tell them this?

This all might sound rather harsh, but if we do not understand it, we become as lulled to sleep as the dead ones are. Two more craigslist people have slipped through my fingers without hearing the gospel today - it's about to drive me mad. I am desperate for God to quicken me with compassion over the lost's plight, and with the skill, energy, and words to engage them with the truth. This evening's bush-pruning was a bit of an answer, I think. The chaff will really be burned, the dead branches will really be broken off. The lost will really die. We all need to realize this - myself most of all.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Capacity

Waiting can either increase or decrease our capacity. It depends on what we do while we wait. Running amok, turning into intense self-focus, going blank and hopeless, or harboring a smoldering, quiet anger – all ultimately sabotage our own wait, shrinking our soul’s ability to fully experience and receive the thing waited for when it finally presents itself to be enjoyed. Why? Why and how, after a long time of dreaming and desiring, could it be possible that we actually are less able to perceive the joys of what we desired? It has to do with the way the human heart is designed. In our all desires, there is found one root. Each hope is like a beam coming off one overwhelming, irresistible orb. What we so want, if we were to look as deeply as truth goes, comes back each time and in each form or manifestation to one thing – one center – one great desire.

It is God.

We want to be perfectly loved, with no selfishness or self-righteousness involved. We want to perfectly love – someone who is worthy of utter adoration and worthy of our effortful attempts at it. We want to be fully ourselves, and no one in the world can tell us who we really are, and cheer us and help us all along the way to become that, except God.

A song I adore says it like this:

To be passionately loved
And to passionately love
To be naked, unashamed
And happy in one place
To have all of your attentions
Surrendered to the truth
And be bathed head to toe
In the blood saved for you
To be eager to release
And the first one to repent
And to never even notice
When hours are spent
To come boldly to the throne
While all of life ensues
And be helplessly in love
With the blood shed for you
To be held like a baby
And to hold on like a baby

And so it happens, that while we desire all the normal and good things God created for us, we can do it in such a way that either embraces or shuns Him. In our minds we think they can be two unrelated heart events, the subtle shunning of God and the constructive desiring of good. The Christo-platonic philosophy of our culture separates God and physics, God and the physical. But I propose that in shunning God, we turn to “off” the very source of the capacity we were given to desire and perceive good. The second flows from the first. With the first dead, is it any wonder that we see people receive their secondary desires (those things they believe erroneously to be their primary desires) and with those things gained and grasped in their hands, they themselves are sucked down into destruction and disappointment and bitterness?

Life can read like a French novel.

And if one can’t read French, a good translation of basically every modern movie out there will suffice. At the end of most, were we to be honest, once the hero and heroine have kissed or the world has been saved or all the orcs’ heads cut off, we find ourselves emotionally poised on the lip of a deep, and blackest of black, chasm. The finale is hollow, the package is empty, the heart is still yearning for something eternally good and eternally truth. And something for us, not for the fake people in the story.

On the other hand, if one spends the time of desiring (of waiting) on a quest to broaden the heart’s openness to the core One desired, to discover the voice of eternal Joy Himself, I believe one will find at the end of the wait that in increasing our heart’s familiarity with and capacity for ultimate good, we are more fully able to recognize, receive, and experience the temporal goods.

This is the exact opposite of the wisdom you find inside every newspaper, on the cover of every magazine, and in the minds of every American neighbor, so watch out. Telling such truths might get you labeled a fanatic, and using reason and intelligence to reveal God might be called mindless religion.

But that doesn’t matter. In the end, you’re happier, you’re whole, and you’ve an eternity to spend delighting in Delight Himself and in all His beautiful beams.