Friday, October 30, 2009

High All The Time ...

Bill Maher is an idiot. And I say that with the kindest affection. Bill espouses the joy of smoking pot while refusing another drug that is SO much more effective, longer lasting, and has absolutely no ill side effects. I understand you can make an argument for the legalization of marijuana. I get how a state like California might consider that the tax benefits from legalization might offset the budget deficit at least in the short run (or at least until the adverse health effects start weighing in on the budget). But I do not get the hypocrisy of standing behind one natural substance with known medical complications while ignoring another with none.

The essential problem with Marijuana, or for that matter alcohol, is the mechanism by which the feeling of Euphoria is produced – killing brain cells. In essence you have to dumb down, in order to get “happy”. I guess Solomon’s old adage that “with wisdom comes sorrow” proves to be true. Perhaps it is because Bill appears to be so smart, and thinks of himself in this way, that his brain requires stupification in order to achieve any measure of relief. Bill is smart enough to discern the problems, but unable to find the solutions perhaps. Whatever the motive, maybe just due to the chemically addictive nature of any drug, Bill continues to choose to espouse the virtues of this mind numbing process to the exclusion of a much better one.

I see this as a case of simple ignorance. If I could show you a method for getting high that worked in an entirely different manner would you be game? What’s the matter, think that is just not possible? Consider for a minute the euphoria that accompanies sexual orgasm. Granted there may a lessening of blood in the brain at that moment in time, which would reduce oxygen content a bit, but no brain cells die in the process. It can be an earth shattering event in terms of the magnitude of the feeling at the moment, but the longevity, at least for men, is highly reduced. Several seconds later, life as we know it resumes. Anticipation can be pleasurable, and can even help heighten the actual experience, but can do little to lengthen the state of intense euphoria. But my point here is that there does exist at least one method of “getting high” that is less damaging to the brain than marijuana.

And there is another way. Athletes can attest to the exhilaration the body experiences when massive amounts of endorphins are released. Again there is less blood in the brain during this process, which again means less oxygen, but again like sex, brain cells are not destroyed to achieve it. In fact muscles feel renewed, the energy level of the body goes up, senses are heightened. This would appear to be the opposite of dumbing-down, it is more sensory overload. Increasing the oxygen content in the blood can have similar effects but is also a fairly risky proposition, too much and permanent damage can result. The endorphin release process albeit lasts longer than sexual orgasm, and is far better for the body than any form of chemical drug like marijuana.

But there is yet another way. This one requires using you head for more than a hat rack. It is said that humans only use somewhere between 6 and 10% of their brains (depending on which study you adhere to). The point is that most of our brain power has been left largely untapped. Despite this limitation there are those among us who have perfect photographic memories with long term recall. How is this possible? It is because your brain records every stimuli that enters it on these brain cells we seem so bent on destroying to achieve euphoria. Those of us who can remember everything have only figured out HOW to recall the information on demand, we all record it using the same methods.

Then there are the autistics among us who are able to focus brain power in specific areas like “Rainman” who is able to count cards or perform complex math in seconds. There are the musically inclined able to hear a complex piano piece of music only once and then sit down and replay it perfectly without the benefit of written music. How are these folks able to perform these complex tasks but unable to carry on normal conversations? The truth is we don’t know right now. Scientists are studying the chemical compositions that facilitate and deter autism, as well as brain functions of many kinds. But the pursuit of this knowledge has already taken years, and may take years to come.

But back to being high all the time, think it is still a myth of future lore. I submit it need not be. Let’s face it the reasons we seek escape in the first place, is often to defer the pain in our lives. Truth be told, most of that pain is self inflicted. Ironically our self interest motivates us to act selfishly, ultimately leading us to even more isolation, and more sadness in a never ending cycle. Religion up till now, seems to have provided little if any relief to this process. Yes, there may be a mild benefit of forgiveness and the feelings that accompany it, but you would have to balance these feelings against the guilt that leads to forgiveness in the first place. And let’s face it again, there is nothing like Religion to point out our guilt right?

Therefore a purely logical comparison of the “religious” individual and the “non-religious” individual shows little emotional differences, little lifestyle differences, and therefore no compelling reason to be either one. But what if there was? Forget religion for a minute and just think purely in your own long-term true self interest. If Christ designed the entire plan of salvation to save you from evil, then what would your life be like without evil in it? The process is simple (but largely ignored by “religious” people, even supposed “Christians”). You accept the gift Christ offers. You allow Him to change who you are, change what you want, change how you think as He sees fit. You give up the “control” you never really had, and you gain a life with less and less self inflicted pain in it.

This is what REAL Christians are supposed to be doing, but they are not. I can say that because it is self evident. In general there still appears to be no differences in the lives of Christians and the lives of others, short forgiveness. This is NOT the essence or goals Christ intended for any of us. The goal was a NEW life. The goal was the removal of evil from us, i.e. saving us from evil. The only one who could ever accomplish this goal was Christ, we could not, and so He offered it to us as a gift. Christians who still refuse to allow Christ to run their lives are truly no different than those who still have not heard the name of Christ. The illusion of control blinds them both.

But for those who have experienced what being saved from evil really means, it is an entirely different story. It is getting high and staying that way, all the time. Forget being mesmerized by worship music, or flailing around speaking in gibberish nobody understands, I am talking about having your brain operate in a way you could not have dreamed of. It is a heightening of every sensory organ. It is like massive endorphin rush focused on your brain. You are able to see things you COULD NOT see before. No, I am not talking about seeing dead people, or details on Jupiter with the naked eye. I am talking about seeing truth. I am talking about discerning the error in the argument. I am talking about a complete reset of your perceptions on life as a whole.

You do not know, what you do not know. Only a mind activated and liberated by the process of salvation can begin to know what it is like to feel this feeling. And like sexual orgasm, the feeling is heightened when not dulled by chemicals dumbing-down our brain cells, killing enough to achieve artificial euphoria. It is heightened more like having higher levels of oxygen in the blood, endorphins in the system, and adrenaline in the heart. Unlike the effects of chemicals, sex, or even extreme exercise – these feelings can last for hours at a time. It feels like your brain has additional electricity powering areas you just have not used before. It is a sense of liberation and indescribable joy.

There is no financial cost for any of it. There is no risk of impaired judgment compounding the misery of your existence. There are no adverse medical effects. There is no danger you will put another at risk to feel this way. There is no danger your life will suffer in order to achieve this feeling. There is nothing but upside. There is nothing but the liberation of the soul as evil is finally vanquished by the only being capable of killing it. There is nothing but the death of self-interest and the rebirth of love, and selfless service to others. There are no limits to it. There are no restrictions on acquiring it, save those you put on yourself. How can marijuana or any other chemical ever compete with this? I say it is a simple case of ignorance, I can’t imagine Bill Maher is really that dedicated an idiot …

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Courage of Fools ...

We owe a debt we cannot repay. There are heroes among us who put self-interest aside and risk the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country, to their fellow citizens, to us. There are many reasons why they choose to do this, but what is asked of them requires the same measure of risk and resolve from each. There is legacy found here when looking back you can trace a lineage of service in the faces of prior generations, of fathers, and grandfathers, and pictures long since faded into yellow. It is a tradition of heroism. It is a task that requires bravery tested in blood. It calls for the daring, and the courage of fools.

“There is no greater sacrifice than for a man to lay down his life for his friends.” Christ knew what He was talking about. In this statement He reveals the sanctity of life, and the precious gift our soldiers, our policemen, our first responders, and our emergency services workers often yield for us. Their professions demand accomplishing mission over self preservation. Military commanders have often had to order men into impossible scenarios to achieve victory, knowing they ask their men to yield up their lives. The men understand the request, and follow the orders. Sometimes hope and against hope, they prevail, but when this does not occur, both accept what is required of them.

It is against self interest to take on a responsibility that may demand your very life. It is against the very essence of our nature to defy self-preservation to accomplish a greater goal. Thinking, men of reason, would call this foolish. They would say it makes no sense to yield up one’s life in the pursuit of any cause. But intelligence cannot defeat evil, sometimes blood is required. And thinking, reasoned men, have the luxury of analysis, because it is paid for by the blood of those “fools” who were willing to pay it. We owe a debt we cannot repay.

When asked why they fight, service men seem to always reply their primary reason is the brother who fights beside them. “Brothers in arms” means something when under fire. Policemen never earn salaries that even approach those of the drug dealers, and organized criminals they may encounter, yet their honor demands they continue fighting a battle against crime they can never hope to fully win. An EMT runs into the face of explosions, and scenes of horror of every kind, to seek out the dying, the injured, the helpless, and bring them relief. All risk life and limb to perform these jobs. All must find courage in the face of danger. All must face death in a moment’s notice.

I stand in awe at the courage of these men and women. I am speechless when I consider the depth of sacrifice that has already been made so that my life could exist as it does. How do you repay courage of this magnitude? How do you even begin to understand what someone else lost on your behalf? The fallen are heroes without measure. Those that serve still are titans on the earth. But there is one I admire most of all …

No, not my paternal grandfather who saw action in the Pacific theatre during World War II. He went from enlisted to a full bird colonel in the Army Air Force in that war from his leadership and bravery. He now rests in Arlington, next to his wife who joined him some years ago. Nor do I admire my maternal grandfather who saw action in the European theatre, working as an experimental airplane mechanic, fixing new machines, mid-air, risking death on many levels. He and his wife are now at rest as well. My father and many uncles served and they too are heroic to me, even though there is one I admire even more.

For me, I look back even further. I stand in awe of the courage and fortitude it took, to forsake the throne, and become a servant of all. I cannot imagine the restraint required when you have the ability to vanquish your enemies with but a word; instead you keep silent sealing your own doom, to accomplish the greater goal. I cannot fathom the courage it took to hold up under torture, ultimate humiliation, and then death by those who you came to save. How could He do it? What could keep Him resolved in the face of this insanity? Why am I so worth saving? Why am I so loved?

You see our current heroes that serve in the military, and on the front lines of danger, do not know me personally. They sacrifice for me, but only in the context of my belonging to the country, or the neighborhood, or the community in which they are familiar. While my debt to them is still real, and frankly unpayable, we speak in the language of the collective, not of the individual. I try to honor them by adhering to the laws our nation sets up, and paying the tax burden I owe to help fund their needs. But my feeble efforts at honoring those who serve cannot even begin to repay what so many, even in the collective, have done for me. In tandem, they allow me to live.

But where Christ is concerned, the collective language ceases to be relevant. It is me He came to save. It is my sin that needs to be removed from me. It is my death, my torture, and my separation from God that He paid in my stead. It is my sin He died for, so that I could live. And He would have done it, if only for me. Forget the Roman guard who nailed His precious hands to the uncomfortable cross; the hammer sits in my hands as with every fresh new evil I indulge in, I must pound away anew. His aching flesh must cringe under my hammer and my nails. It is me who puts the crown of thorns and humiliation on to His perfect brow. I push down on it. I see His blood flow from what I thought “necessary” in my life. Oh the cost of my decisions, of my actions, of my self-interest. I owe a debt I can never repay.

This is the primary reason why the entire plan of Salvation devised by God to save us from evil is a gift. It is because no-one would ever be capable of repaying it. Were we to purchase our redemption, no price could ever be enough. Were we to try to earn it, our efforts would look so pathetic next to the level of sacrifice He made. Just as we accept the sacrifice of our heroes today, owing them a debt we know can never be repaid – we can accept the gift and the sacrifice Christ has made for each of us. Our living heroes sacrifice to prolong our lives. Our Savior sacrificed to make the lives we live worth living. He died to free us from the self inflicted pain we have come to know as evil, or self-interest.

I serve no fascist Nazi figurehead as both my grandfather’s risked life and limb to defeat them, and prolong our freedom and way of life. And I need not serve the dictator that lives in my mirror whose history of trying to serve only self, leads only to pain; because of the freedom my Savior offers to me as a gift so precious. Christ longs to recreate the core of who I am, as I allow Him to. As I learn to submit my will to Him, I die daily, and a new creature is reborn within me – not of my design, but of His. In this we are capable of so much more than we ever imagined. In experiencing Salvation the good news of the gospel is reborn within us, not as words of a story, but as a life altering experience that removes the self-inflicted pain we have been slave to so long.

There is a courage I have never experienced but appreciate beyond the measure of my soul. There is a debt I cannot repay and a sacrifice I will never be worthy of, but I will accept. May we learn to embrace perfect submission to Christ, and in so doing begin to honor those around us, who have given so much of themselves for us. May we finally learn that in submission lies perfect service …

Friday, October 16, 2009

Robes Of Victory ...

How about if you put on the white Robes of Righteousness for me? What’s that, you don’t have them readily available in your closet yet? No worries, I know exactly what the problem is. Simply speaking they don’t belong to you yet; you can’t make them, you can’t buy them, you have to have them given to you by the singular maker of these Robes. The only Being worthy of creating the Robes of Righteousness, is the only one who can make you ready to wear them.

Just like everything else in the entire plan of Salvation God enacted, even our final set of clothing will be a gift from Him. The last set of clothes we will ever wear will be literal Robes made of light (Yes, I’m sure most people think “white” robes, but light includes a great many more colors than just that. I may prefer polka dots for example). I am certain these final coverings will be functional as well as practical. And best of all, like any other clothing we wear, they represent something. They represent VICTORY. Not ours, but His.

This is the reason why you can’t explain HOW the sin leaves you when it does. It is because you are NOT doing the work of removal, Christ is. He knows, because He does it. He does it FOR you. He does not need your help in this process, He needs your permission. And likewise with the Robes He intends to give you that symbolize victory, the victories will all be His, though you may well be the main benefactor of each one. As each sin is removed from your life, you experience an ever rising sensation of freedom, liberation, and joy. It is Christ doing the work of removal, but you enjoying what He has done FOR you. His victory - For you.

Notice scripture never asks you to make the Robes. Scripture never puts a price on them that you can pay. Christ paid it in blood. You can’t steal them, or fake wearing them. No counterfeit knockoffs here, only original designer models made as uniquely as snowflakes, retinal scans, DNA, or fingerprints. No two are alike, and yet each one has meaning. Just like the rest of His creations – no two are alike and each one has a special and unique purpose. Our final Robes will come with a few accessories, like a new unique name, a ring, a crown, and even a harp we will somehow know how to play. Sorry no mention of halo’s I can find anywhere, nor of clouds from what I can see.

The city itself is described as being about 360 miles square, or should I say cubed, as it is as high as it is wide. I imagine, God the Father sits on His throne at the city’s pinnacle, though I wonder how often He sits there and how often He is personally engaged elsewhere. The 12 pearl gates to the city bare 12 different names, and the foundation is layered on 12 different gemstones. The streets are made of Gold, and perhaps as U2 puts it, have no names. As we walk these streets of gold, we realize that Heaven sees our most sought after jewelry, as mere concrete. Worth no more than the gravel that accompanies our earthly streets of today, or the mud along the trails of yesteryear. But Heaven sure puts a premium on its citizens.

In addition to our clothing and accessories, we are each to have a mansion. Given our 21st century understanding of architecture in large cities, I would aptly rename this … a penthouse apartment. More than enough for any single individual while taking advantage of the height dimensions of the city as well. My guess is that we will store whatever belongings we acquire or build in Heaven in our homes there. But I would also guess the number of those belongings will be sparse, as the real interest in eternity will be in the people who surround us. Each one will have a unique story about how Jesus saved them from the evil in their lives. While unfallen angels have the advantage of never having had the cancer of evil, they also cannot understand the feeling of having been cured of it either. In this scripture states even the angels will bend their wings in awe of the love of our Creator.

It is poignant that while we wear Robes of His Righteousness the wounds in His hands, side, and feet will remain with Him for eternity. It is why we so often cast down our crowns at His feet as He alone is worthy. We know we wear only His gifts – nothing have we earned. We reap the benefits of His love, not of our efforts. Love alone redeemed us. Love alone saved us. And it is Love we will study throughout eternity ever mindful of the scars He carries that mark our freedom.

There will be no competition in Heaven regarding the style, originality, fabric, rareness, or uniqueness of our clothing. Each one will have what is perfectly suited to them, perfectly created by our Lord, for each individual. And I imagine like all human beings share certain characteristics with no two exactly alike, our clothing will be much the same. It will share commonality and practicality but still allow for the uniqueness of each person, each individual. And yet once there, I doubt we ever give it a second thought.

How often here on earth we put value in things that have no real value. How often do women lament over having just the right thing to wear to that special occasion. They want to look just right, and they are hoping their clothing will help them accomplish this goal. Net result: an entire fashion industry that fosters pride, and competition, and a hunger that simply cannot be satisfied on this earth. How much time, money, and expense have gone into trying to make women look their best here on planet earth. While in heaven our bodies are regenerated into the perfection God intended, removing the effects that evil left us scarred with. Perfect skin, perfect hair, perfect nails, perfect weight, perfect health, and perfect clothing. I suppose having achieved perfection it will be quite easy not to ever give it a second thought again, though I recon the death of pride may have more to do with that, than simply achieving the goals of perfection.

It is funny that Love is also much like humanity. It shares broad characteristics, but is uniquely applied. I believe that while we will all love everyone we encounter in the new world, there will still be a place for unique applications of love. I believe we will still honor the relationships we have with our parents, our siblings, our children, our spouses (post adjustments made by God), and our friends. Having a special love does not negate other types of love. Nor is it impossible to have more than one kind of special love. For instance, we love all of our children equally (in terms of volume), but differently because of the personalities of each one. I do not believe that relationships and models we have here will simply become null and void in heaven. Love is universal, yet love is unique, just like each of us.

I hope to one day wear the Robes my Lord has prepared for me. It will be my honor, to take on clothing that marks His victories on my behalf. I pray only that He conquers ALL the carnal nature in me, perfectly submits my will to His own, and in so doing, saves me completely both from evil and from me. I know there is no other way I can ever wear those Robes …