Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bits of Soul Runoff

Why do we so often fail to see the beauty that constantly surrounds us? We despise the familiar, and search for something new, just because we can.

We learn early on the thrill of acquiring that which we do not have; yet it turns to dust and crumbles between our fingers.

The days are long; the weeks are short; the years sneak quietly past. The chances we have to sit at the table and look into the faces of those we love are numbered. But still we find time to excuse ourselves from the table, to dig through the old crate in the attic. Our bony fingers tremble, moving gold coins and precious pearls out of the way as we search for plastic cups to hold our water. And still we go away thirsty.

I can't explain it, really.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm Not Hip

It's time that I face it. I'm just not hip.

In fact, I'm so not hip, that I still use words like "hip".

My friend Jim has made yet another entry about Twitter, mentioning again how he just doesn't get it. And I agree with him. I've gone to people's Twitter pages. I see what it does and how it works. But I just don't get it either.

I'm a hardcore geek at heart. My first introduction to a personal computer was a friend's Apple IIe in the mid-80's, where you would insert a floppy disk and wait a few minutes for the program to load. I was immediately hooked. By the early 90's, I was assembling hardware and installing operating systems on computers as a hobby, and operating a dial-up BBS.

Today, I work professionally in high tech. I build server farms, manage computer networks all over North America, and get to play with racks full of some of the coolest hardware you've ever seen in your life.

I have no problem "keeping up" with the technology itself, or understanding all the possible uses and functions it can provide. But for some reason, I feel like I've reached some sort of threshold of interest in continuing to follow each new technological fad or trend.

It's a wonder that I even have a blog. I only have a cell phone because my job wants me to be available if servers go down after business hours or on weekends. I don't text message, or snap photos with my phone, or browse the internet while away from my desktop computer. When I told my friend Seth that I wouldn't know what to do with an iPhone if I had one, he started telling me how nifty the interface was, and how it was much simpler than I imagined. I had to explain that it's not knowing how to work it that I didn't get -- that part comes quite easily to me. It's why I would want to in the first place. I just can't think of any practical use for it, and I would be creating new things to do, just to make use of it.

At this point someone will no doubt object that "I bet you never thought you'd find a use for [insert some common gadget or appliance I take for granted] at first, but now you can't imagine living without it." And you'd probably be right.

So yeah, this is quite an arbitrary and fuzzy threshold I've reached -- but I've reached it nonetheless. For the moment, I'm pretty content with blogging, using e-mail, viewing photos or watching videos, and occasionally staying in touch with friends and family on a couple of social networking sites, like MySpace and Facebook (though I've found that these quickly grow quite wearisome for me).

New things creep into our lives gradually. I don't think we'll even know it when we've become so invested in the use of gadgets that they are driving us, instead of the other way around. In fact, that's probably already happened, and we don't even realize it.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Every Heart Has a Story

Lately, I've been pondering the idea that every single person is a story in motion, still being written.

Each and every one of us really is living in a story, complete with interesting characters, fascinating settings, and twisting, turning plots that would make any writer's head spin. We are the characters in others' stories, and they in ours. And all of us in God's bigger story.

I feel like the Lord is trying to teach me how to listen to these stories. When I talk to somebody, I'm learning to allow myself to hear everything they are saying, and not to impose something into the story that isn't really there.

I've always had the bad habit of sizing a person up before I even hear the first word out of their mouth. If it turns out they are pretty close to the mold I had already set, then mission accomplished -- I've already got things basically figured out, and don't have to give it any more thought. If they turn out to be something completely different than I expected, that may interest me for a moment while I size things up again and look for the right container. Ah, there it is. Problem solved.

Do you hear how utterly dehumanizing that is? I'm sorry to have to admit that I function like this so much of the time. With the Lord's help, it's something I'm trying to change.

I'm finding that when I listen to the story, there are always unexpected elements there. I now understand why the person behind the counter was so curt, when I realize that her car was just repossessed, and her dearly beloved aunt died yesterday. People will generally not be forthcoming with this sort of information, but I think it's easy to find there, if I listen closely.

If I'm going to live this way, I'm going to need lots of time to listen. You see, we've been taught to be so busy, moving from one task to another, that we rarely take the time to stop and just listen to the stories all around us.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Prayers of a Young Man -- Part 1

I spent my adolescence looking for God. Like other kids, I had strong, irresistible impulses and emotions that led to lots of exploration and experimentation, much of it foolish and harmful. But the burning desire to know about the true nature of our very existence, and to understand the purpose of life (if there was one) was the strong undertow and recurring theme that drove much of my passion during that time.

I had rejected the Christianity of my parents early on in the process, and proceeded to give serious and sincere audience to just about every other alternative out there. Imagine my surprise when, at the age of seventeen, after a fruitless and wearisome journey, I ended up right back where I started; deciding that Jesus was not only real and alive, but was central to the very essence of Reality and Life itself.

My early years as a Christian were marked by a deep passion for what I had found. What I lacked in wisdom and understanding, I largely managed to make up for with raw enthusiasm and sincerity. I would fast for several days at a time -- no small feat for a skinny kid with hamster-on-a-wheel metabolism. I couldn't get enough of reading my Bible. The words there were alive and deep and meaningful to someone who had hungered so deeply for Truth, and had finally found it.

During that time period, I was moved and influenced by preachers, writers, and artists who emphasized compassion, holiness, death to self, love for lost souls, and love for God's people -- for example, Leonard Ravenhill, David Wilkerson, and Keith Green. I still remember some of the very passionate and earnest prayers that I prayed to God: That He would seize my life and use me for His glory; that He would break my heart and refine me with His holy fire to make me pure; that He would grant me supernatural understanding of His deepest and most hidden truths; that He would remove all the wicked and sinful tendencies that I was constantly struggling with and couldn't seem to overcome; and that He do all this even if it hurt, and even if my flesh resisted.

That's some pretty strong and heady stuff, any way you look at it. While some of my thoughts and motives during that time were amiss, and though I still had a lot to learn about life in general, the truth is that my heart really was in the right place. But I had no idea how deep or how wide the things I was asking for really were. And though I believe those were prayers that pleased God and that He was willing to answer, in hindsight I'm grateful that He chose to answer them in completely different ways and completely different timetables than I was expecting when I originally prayed them. (To be continued...)