A Little Context For Me

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Let There Be Light

Picture from  Phys.org
The first ever photograph of light as both a particle and wave

As an artist, light has always been a fascinating subject. Light is the cornerstone of visual arts. Whether working in pen and ink or oils, I am trying to capture the interaction of light upon an object. In other words, I am not painting an object. I am actually painting the play of light upon the object by capturing highlights and shadows with my pen or brush. 

We all know that without light sight as we know it is impossible, but rarely do we think about how much we rely on light for our very existence. As one simplified example put it: Plants convert light into stored energy. When we eat plants we are in fact eating light. When we eat meat, we are eating the light they have metabolized through the eating of the plants that stored light. Without light all life would cease to exist, including our own. It is in the creation of light that the earth, formerly void and empty (Genesis 1:2), becomes capable of sustaining life. 

Despite the importance of light for our existence, the precise nature of light has long been a topic of much debate, centering on one question – is light made up of waves or particles? The correct answer is yes, sorta. Light is an electromagnetic wave that sometimes decides to act as a particle. Now, this is where things get tricky because when we think of particles we tend to think of mass, or matter. Basically something that takes up space in this universe and has substance. The typical definition of mass does not apply to light. Light has what is called relativistic mass which means that it has energy and momentum that allow it be effected by and to effect its environment. In other words, while you may feel the warmth of sunlight on your skin, you will never have to shovel piles of sunlight off your sidewalk because it has no resting mass. While all of this was pretty much nailed down by Einstein and his cohorts, until very recently science has only been able to observe light behaving as either a wave or a particle, but never both at the same time.

I know, you are all beginning to wonder if you stumbled onto the wrong blog, but bear with me, I am going somewhere. 

Light came into being because God said, “Let there be light.” There are two words to pay attention to here: said and light. When someone speaks they are creating sound waves, and waves transfer energy. They do not move matter, but rather they use matter as a conduit to for their energy. Now, I want you to think about God for a moment, you know the omnipotent creator God? What type of energy do you think he was transferring through his sound waves? Once your brain stops sizzling, keep reading. 

Before we go any further, let’s reframe this: God’s voice took on new properties. In the act of creation, the sound wave takes on new properties. It became more than a wave and more than particle, while remaining true to the behavioral characteristics of both. A new manifestation for the wave is given, but the original state as a wave is never surrendered. 

Let’s skip ahead about one and half millennia, and listen another fascinating statement:

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

There is a reason that Jesus chose light as way to explain himself to the world. In him we can see all the observable elements of light in play. His life, death, and resurrection is the transformative act of creation, we call it redemption, but how much more transformative do you want? (And I am working on a theme here.) He rules over all creation just as God created the sun, moon, and stars to rule over day and night, (Ephesians 1:20, Genesis 1:14-19). He is the first born of creation, all things were created for him, through him, and by him in his sustaining power, (Colossians 1:15, 16). 

In him we see the story of light, and in light we see his story as no other created substance could convey, but what the writer of Genesis could not know, what Jesus could not know if had not been more than a man, was how the dual nature of light expresses the greatest mystery known to all of humanity – how can a holy God become fully human without surrendering his original state? In other words, how does a wave become a particle? How does spirit become flesh? How do we explain an omnipotent God whose presence is only measured by the effect he has on our lives while never overwhelming us with his infinite greatness? 

To realize that this great truth was embedded into creation from the beginning is mind blowing. To me it speaks of a God who playful and profound, hiding but wanting to be seen, waiting upon our willingness to chase after him and unravel the mysteries that reveal his love and greatness for his creation. And as I find these little nuggets within this ancient book, I am overwhelmed that we have been given such a great in his Word faithfully preserved for us to this day.

Obviously, the illustration breaks down as all comparisons of Jesus to any created thing as Jesus was not created but the created. However, the use of metaphor is employed by Jesus himself as a means to help us understand his person, nature, and position within creation. The beauty of this metaphor is that it encompassed current scientific knowledge of light over 3,000 years before the dual nature of light was known. By choosing to identify with light, Jesus places himself in the center of creation and time by embodying all ancient understandings of light and concepts embedded within the science that will shape our future. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Desire That Leads To Destruction

But if we have food and clothing, with these things we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. I Timothy 6:8- 10

Did you catch that? Verse eight, did you see it? I don’t ever think a verse ever hurt me as much as that one did this morning.

“But if we have food and clothing, with these things we will be content.” It still stings.

You see my list was little longer. Okay, a lot longer, and I thought I was being all holy with how short I was keeping it. I mean, I don’t want anything too outrageous, a house with a big porch and bathtub, a new car to replace the gas guzzling truck I drive, a laptop that wasn’t a Toshiba, a piece of land with a creek and lots of hills and trees, a few new clothes, maybe a hot tub to soak away some of these knots in my shoulders, one of those fancy oil diffusers that can cure cancer and give me super powers, and a bunch of books. Alright, a whole bunch of books, so many books that even I knew I was boarding on intellectual gluttony, but I wanted them for the right reasons so it had to be okay, right?

But that’s not what my Bible says I need to be content. Just food and clothing, both of which I have and so much more besides.  No amount of self-righteous justification can negate what God has told us, and as much as my stubborn heart wants to cling to my supposed right to have more and wallow in the unjustness of being denied, I have been faced with the choice of obedience or rebellion with my attitude. Now any move I make from this point forward is deliberate faith in or denial of his word. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

It is easy to justify the desire to be rich. Do you know what I could accomplish with a million or so dollars? The good I could do with that amount of money? I do. I have played out the scenario a million times in my head, and I think of how please God would be with my generosity and vision.

But somewhere along the way, I fell into the trap of thinking that he needed me to be rich in order accomplish all this great and wonderful stuff. Slowly, my heart was turned away from his amazing ability to act despite circumstance or perceived resources and I began to think that success relied upon my financial status. My view of God became small, and my sense of self became far too great.

You see, the snare isn’t the money. It’s the desire that entraps us, for I know of no desire that is ever satisfied with what is before it, with what it has had. Desire always craves more – more money, more power, more significance, and everything else promised by our ideas of wealth. So we are tempted to lie, to cheat, to steal, to break promises, and even to betray those we love. Because in our twisted sense of reality it will be okay if we just have more, we can buy back the love we might lose, we can buy back the reputation we destroy, and we can buy back the relationships we have betrayed once we have more. But that is not how it works, not in truth, not in reality. For there will never be enough, we will always be found lacking in our own eyes, certain that our failure to have more is the same as the failure to be more.

Once we have crossed that line, we are rejecting the truth that God’s love for us is based in who we are and not what we have, then desperation is all that remains. Senseless and harmful choices will follow in close succession as we continue in a cycle that will consume all that we had and all that we are in the futile attempt to appease a desire that will never be satisfied. Destruction and ruin are all that will be left to us, not because God has forgotten or neglected us, but because this is the reality we chose when we wandered from the faith that once sustained us. The pangs we will endure, we inflict on ourselves, and there is none to blame but the one who chose to nurture the desire that God warned would bring our destruction.

But if we have food and clothing, with these things we will be content, secure in the knowledge that we are children of Father who declares us priceless and of unspeakable value. For that is riches that no power on earth can take away.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Facing My Hypocrisy

There is nothing like getting slapped upside the head with your own hypocrisy. In the rankings of unpleasant things it is somewhere above having your leg rotting away with methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and just slightly below being eaten alive by rats. However, while I strongly advise avoiding those two scenarios, honesty requires that I acknowledge not only the benefits but the necessity of having our hypocrisy exposed even when it hurts.

It is the temptation and joy of every believer to indulge in complacency about our faith. We like thinking that we have figured out. The rules are simple, the requirement light, and our lives fall into a pattern of convenient obedience. If you are like me, you build a world where blatant sin is hard to come by. Things like killing, stealing, adultery, even gossip, if you are good enough at the game, become more troublesome than being good. Outward obedience becomes easy, and in fact, outward obedience becomes so important that you recoil at the thought of doing anything that would threaten your image of being the good Christian.

But it’s a trap.

Over the past five years, I have spent a lot of time building a social network designed to give me a platform from which to speak. I have been careful with what I post, with what I say, and with what I reveal. People see my work and they say, “Oh, you are edgy!”, “You are so brave to say that!”, and “Wow, I cannot believe how honest you are about these issues!” I have got to be honest with you, I love hearing all that. I love being able to shake people up by talking about things that intimidate so many others. The affirmation is wildly addictive.

But I haven’t been completely honest in my work, at least not as honest as I should be. For a long time now, I have been resisting the prompting to go deeper. If anything resisting is too mild of a word, more like kicking and screaming my protests as I am trying to claw my way free of God’s grasp on my life, and I have been pretty good at justifying it to myself. So many of you know so much about my life already, about things I have experienced that most women keep covered up, and yet, I am the one who will stand in the middle of room full of strangers and tell you the story of how my life was destroyed by violence and deceit. I will tell you have the hard years of being the divorced woman in church, and I will admit to the times of destitution while trying to raise my daughters. I will recount those moments when I defied God, daring him to show himself to be real in the wreckage of my life, and how he met there.

I could do that because I locked down all the emotions. I cut them off and buried them deep so I could tell my tale without flinching. I “set my face as flint” because I did not want to feel the humiliating sting of pity. I would do lip service to my part in the story.  I could admit the pride – the sheer hubris that led me into those places. I could be so stinking spiritual about it all that I would even say that I was thankful for that time, and laugh about how it took something that severe to get through to someone as hard headed as I am. I could confess how I had been a fool and share with you what I had learned, but I never let the enormity impact me, not really, not deep down where counted. It was an intellectual assent to what I knew to be right and good, but there was no heart behind it.

You see, I knew all the answers. I knew which verses to quote and how to phrase things to that you would hear how dazzling my intellect was and never notice what was behind the curtain. After a while, I forgot that there even was a curtain, let alone that there was something behind it. I convinced myself that this was me, all there was to me, and no one needed to know that there was more, not even myself.

The thing is when you lock down your heart that tight, it can’t beat. There is no room left for it to function, and you slowly begin to die. I kept the pain at bay, and if you don’t feel any pain you don’t react. Emergencies and crises become your forte, because you they don’t rattle you at all. How could they? At that point you are nothing more than a robot who is carrying out the programming, a program I did and still do believe is right, but one I could never implement completely because the primary code is love. And acts of love can be performed, but if the emotion is not there then you are offering nothing but pretty lie.

The other problem is if you never feel the pain of a wound inflicted, you will never be able to forgive. You may be able to respond with the appropriate gesture or kind word, but the hurt is still there just lurking behind the curtain. The apathy that was once a shield will harden into bitterness, and the sense of satisfaction for your self-control becomes wall of pride and disdain for those who allow emotion to rule their hearts.

Love for God and reliance upon him erodes, as your ability to cope becomes the new god to whom you have erected your altars. Relationship becomes ritual, not because you derive any enjoyment from his presence, but simply because it is the proper thing to do and your delight is in your ability to do the ritual well. Prayers become perfunctory and empty repetition, as you are left to wonder if he hears you at all, but since when was God ever servant to the decrees of the mind? And how is he to respond to the cries of a heart you have strangled in a futile attempt at self-preservation?

Then comes the day when he places the choice before you, the one you have worked so hard to avoid, do you love him or do you love the life you have created? Do you trust him to heal the wounds you have denied? Do you want him or the walls of protection you have built around yourself?

The answer should be easy. For my mind knows the correct response, but my heart is still clutching at the curtain afraid to step into the light. I was hurt the last time I let down my guard. I still have the scars to prove it. The select few I allowed to peek in used their privilege as the means to hurt me further. I still bleed from those cuts, but I caught breath of fresh air and felt the surge of blood coursing through my veins once more. I remembered what it felt like to be alive once again, and something within me is crying out that this is what I desire more than the false security I have relied upon. The next step is not safe, but even as I accept that peace floods over me because I know that only when my heart is revealed that he becomes its true defender and king.  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Request

Lately, I have been finding it hard to write. I have no way to describe the craziness that was released into my world since the first of the year, or the massive amounts of craziness that still loom on the horizon. As the events that have rocked my world involve so many others, out of respect for them I am not comfortable sharing the specifics at this time. However, always the writer, I do find solace in the knowledge that I have gained enough material for no less than eight new books if life will ever permit me the time and mental space to work.

As most of my writings are based on what is happening in my world, issues brought to my attention by things I am experiencing, or studies prompted by my needs in that moment, you can see where all of this causes me to be wary of the keyboard lest I needlessly expose another to shame. I am left with a bit of a quandary, wondering how to maintain the transparency that I strive for in all my works while still being faithful in the obligations to the covenant of love that I have with each of these people.

Nor do I wish to forego the support and love that so many of you have expressed to me since starting this blog. Because now more than ever, I do need your support. I do need your love and encouragement in my life. I am faced with many difficult, almost impossible decisions, and I covet your prayers for wisdom and guidance I move forward. Perhaps that is selfish of me, but rarely in my life have faced such a difficult and demanding situation.

I am also asking for your prayers for time and energy. I have a book that is currently being edited, lacking just a bit of polish and the cover art before it is ready to meet the world. I have been working on it for almost ten years, and I believe that it is a significant work. While such a thought never crossed my mind in the initial writing phase, that has been the opinion of several who have been kind enough to read it in its roughest form, and as I have been met with resistance with every step of its competition, I am beginning to think that they might be right.

To record the number of straight up catastrophes that have occurred each time I believe the end is in sight would require the writing of entirely different book. The short version includes: illness, my own and of loved ones; financial straits, prohibiting me from covering the various cost associated with self-publication; various scenarios with Ty’s job that have stolen time and energy from the project; malfunctioning technology; the loss of friends and allies in ways that have broken my heart; and now I have been blindsided by another event completely out of my control that has left me without the myriad of resources required to finish this work. And I strongly believe that this recent event is just one more attempt to keep this book from finding its way into your hands.

If this sounds like whining, please extend a little grace, for whining is not my intent. I am simply in a situation where the only resolution I can see is divine intervention, and all I know to do is to ask that my brothers and sisters pray that God provide ways and means that I even my over-active imagination has yet to conjure up. I am profoundly grateful for the friendships that have been extended to me since the release of Scandalous and the starting of this blog. You have all been an encouragement and strength to me as I try to share the little that I know, and it is among my deepest desires to continue exploring this thing called faith together.

So I am imposing our friendship now to ask that you keep me in your prayers, that resolution will come to this circumstance and that I will have the resources necessary to continue with my writing – peace, clarity of thought, time, energy, creative solutions to tangible obstacles before me, and of course, abundant inspiration. I will be praying the same for you no matter what your endeavors may be, for who among us could not use more of these precious gifts from our King?