Controlling the Narrative, Part 2: Discovery

(This is second in a five-part series of posts. To start at the beginning, click here.)

In Controlling the Narrative, Part 1: Dilemma, we looked at Paul’s agonizing over who was responsible for the shit (see explanation) he described in Chapter 7 of his letter to the Romans. He closed the chapter seeming spent, resigned. But Paul wasn’t someone to accept being stumped. Resign himself to a situation that he felt passionate about? Not this guy.

Paul the Resolute… (and a bit conflicted)

Although there’s a simple way to avoid taking Paul for throwing in the towel, I’ve never heard it preached from a pulpit or described in a theological work. It implies a determination and a radical unselfishness that suit him better. It also accounts for his telling exclamation, the one that you might have noticed I bypassed in the close of Part 1. If Paul was resigned to a condition that he felt was intolerable, why exclaim, “Thanks be to Good through Jesus Christ our Lord!”? Thanks for what — that he found no option but to lay down? I don’t think so.

Apparently, Paul was very grateful for a predicament that deeply distressed him. Continue reading

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Controlling the Narrative, Part 1: Dilemma

I’m trying to “build a platform” these days. That’s writer-speak for creating buzz around your work so that agents and publishers will take notice. In other words, marketing. I have less gag reaction to cesspools and eviscerated bodies. Well, maybe about the same as to eviscerated bodies. I’m finding ways to do the necessaries while avoiding the really repugnant stuff, trying not to feel like a greenback whore in the process. I’ve always hated self-promotion, and that was even before I found out that I suck at it.

Still, some things must be done. How can I do the nasty without denigrating my self-esteem in the process? The more I think about it, like so many other things, my quandary comes down to intent. What I mean is what matters. How it might be perceived is secondary. That helps. I wonder if it works retroactively?

What Did I Done Do?

The only way that we can know if we did x, y, or z for good reasons rather than bad ones is to finally, simply decide that we did them for good reasons. No one else should make that decision for us if we want to maintain self-respect. And in the final analysis, no one else does. Any authority we defer to is one that we prefer. Any amount of evidence that we cite one way or the other boils down to what we decide the evidence means. Bottom line, we judge and we choose one way or the other, shades of gray and all. What comes after that decision are mostly rationalizations that serve to mask the most important factor: who did the judging and choosing? We can Continue reading

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Expecting Miracles

A fellow believer took me to task yesterday about the presumptuousness of “expecting” miracles from God in his great response to my post Miracles On the Way to Truth. He and I have carried on a friendly debate about the state of the church and what we should expect from the Christian life for a couple of years. We “met” on another blog discussion where I started asking Christians there, “Where are the rivers of living water Jesus promised? Are you experiencing them, or do you know anyone who is?”

In his response to the Miracles post, he wrote that it would be “presumptuous and arrogant” to say that we “somehow KNOW the will of God and expect that He WILL” perform miracles in a given situation. He also objected to my statement, “A reliable indicator that you are not following the spirit of truth is: you have no need for miracles.”

Should we expect miracles?  I think so. If we have no need for miracles, does it indicate that we are doing something wrong? Again, I think so. A brief perusal of Bible stories about faith, Old Testament or New, will show that those who followed God often ended up in situations where they would have been goners unless God came through for them with a miracle. Far from being the exception, ending up in no-win, Catch-22 situations that require divine rescue is characteristic of what happens to followers of God. Maybe one reason Jesus said that there are few who find the small Continue reading

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So I’m “Back” — Greetings from England

Almost five months, now, since my last post. I’ve missed it.

A little explanation is in order before I start firing away again.

My Dad died in March. I notice that my last post prior to this one was just hours before he had his stroke, the day before he passed. Thanks to all who expressed their sympathies and, if this is news to you, thanks in advance for yours. I’d miss him if he didn’t seem so close. He feels close to me in the same way that my Mom does, the same way that Jesus, my Father in heaven, the Holy Spirit and, more recently, the heavenly hosts do. So, hoping I don’t sound frumpy, I feel like less than the customary amount of sympathy is needed.

If that wasn’t enough: the same week that my Dad died, I fell in love. Not just with any woman, but one who proclaimed herself (with more than a little relish) a witch. Not just any witch, but one who from the outset was unusually vocal about her passion for sex and all things sexual. Still not enough? It turned out that she lives in Bristol, U.K. Her name is Sarah.

Now you know why I’m in England.

I’ll leave the details addressing how, when, why, and the inevitable but spontaneously repressed, “WTF Millard!?!” (after all, there are Christians here, and they don’t ask like that–not audibly anyhow,) until another time.

It’s been quite a ride. One part of it is over. Sarah and I have decided that we are not a couple, but friends. We are in the process of figuring out our friendship. It won’t involve my staying here in England for as long as I originally thought. I plan to return to Seattle via Southern California in time to attend my nephew’s wedding down there in late October.

I look forward to getting back to my family and my friends; very much so. I’m glad I came here. For a while I wasn’t so sure, but I am now. I have a few months to take stock, come to terms, and get going in earnest on the next part of my ride. Like I quip to my boys that God knew only a woman could have gotten me over here. I can’t imagine a universe in which I otherwise would have granted myself permission to leave most everyone I care about 8 hours (time-zone-wise) and more than 5,000 miles behind. Yet, being here is exactly what I needed. I had neither the wisdom nor the courage to take a step like that unprompted–or maybe better put, undriven. Regardless, here I am and glad of it.

As to the getting here and the getting hereafter, I hope to explain and discuss them soon. Divine inspiration or mind fart of sadly bloated proportions? Unusual route, detour, or derailment; I’ll let you be the judge. It’s been very instructive. Until a few days ago, I’d have left it at that; but today, I say it’s been great. That’s how I know I’m finally starting to understand it. I hope you’ll follow along as it gets clearer.

Comments welcome. It’s good to be back.

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Miracles On the Way to Truth

Jesus talked about sending a “spirit of truth” and said it would “guide you into all the truth.”

A reliable indicator that you are not following the spirit of truth is: you have no need for miracles.

You might “believe” in miracles. You might even experience a miracle now and then. But you steer clear of situations where you would need one. When situations like that occur, you wish they hadn’t.

There might be some argument about those statements, but anyone who argues with them probably does not expect miracles to happen. Hope? Yes. Pray? Yes. Expect? No.

If we don’t expect miracles to happen, no wonder they rarely do.

How many “Christians” do you know who live lives daring enough that they expect miracles to happen, so that they risk “following Jesus” in ways that make miracles necessary?

Not many, I’d bet. Not hardly a single one. Hear about them? Yes. Read about them? Yes. Know one? No.

I’m going to change that.

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Proof of the Scientific Possibility of Miracles

Someone disprove this logic, please! I can’t believe that it was this easy. I must have gotten something wrong.

This is a proof of possibility, not a proof of occurrence in fact.

  1. Does science explain phenomena before they occur or after they occur?
    1. If before they occur, explain how (Hint: prediction is not explanation)
    2. If after they occur, go to 2
  2. Is science required before a feat can be performed?
    1. If Yes, explain most athletic feats, which are performed by non-scientists without a scientific understanding of the feat
    2. If No, go to 3
  3. Is it possible that science will figure out a way to walk on water sometime in the future?
    1. If No, what’s your proof?
    2. If Yes, go to 4
  4. Would walking on water be considered a miracle by today’s standards?
    1. If No, describe non-miraculous walking on water
    2. If Yes, go to 5

  5. If walking on water is possible, might other feats considered miracles by today’s standards also be possible?
    1. If No, explain why walking on water is an exception
    2. If Yes, go to 6
  6. So, to recap:
    1. Yes, feats can be performed before science can explain them.
    2. Yes, feats be performed without explaining them scientifically.
    3. Yes, feats be performed by people without scientific understanding of the feat.
    4. Yes, walking on water could someday be scientifically possible.
    5. Yes, walking on water is considered a miracle by today’s standards.
    6. Yes, if walking on water is possible, other feats considered miracles by today’s standards are also possible.

  7. Therefore, feats considered miraculous by today’s standards are scientifically possible.

Prove me wrong, I dare ya! 😉

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Children

We Are Not Helpless, Stephen Stills 1970

We Are Not Helpless, Stephen Stills 1970 (click it!)

This is now my personal theme song. It’s a declaration of fealty to children and war on adult stupidity.

When adults learn how to treat children, all the wars will die.

We were all taught in many ways–and most of us believed it–that the first thing adults must do to children is control them.

FUCKING, DEMENTED, SATANIC BULLSHIT!

The first thing that adults need to do for children is create safe, loving, supportive spaces in which they are free to learn and be themselves.

The fears driving adult repression of children are lies, and the repression is abusive.

When adults get a clue and stop abusing children–NOT just stop abusing their bodies, but stop abusing their dignity, their souls–in short order, probably less than two generations, wars will cease, crime will cease, addiction will cease, (especially our death-grip addiction to money,) health will skyrocket, and this world will become unrecognizable to us oldsters, if we are honored and graced so that we live to see it.

I’d say, “Damn the naysayers and everyone who willingly settles for this disgrace!” but they have damned themselves already by obstinately believing, “Thus shall it always be.” They are in for a surprise, but they can still repent: change their minds, turn around, and head in the opposite direction.

We adults were abused. We abuse each other. And we abuse our children. IT MUST STOP.

In not too long it will stop, with or without adult cooperation.

The only question is whether the change will be our vehicle or mow us down.

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One Day

One day, I will die. You will die.
We all will die.

One day, there will be no time left.

We will see life pass before us, or a long, white bright tunnel,
Or darkness.

One day, I will matter only in memory,
But not just yours.

I will be remembered in every place
Where my foot disturbed the dust;
Where the air I breathed returned, warmer;
By the body memories of those who met my gaze
Or averted theirs; none were untouched.

No kindness was too faint
Or harshness went unnoticed;
All felt me and carry me, however slightly,
Rippling wider, shallower as I blend–

Disappearing or uniting?

Choose; it changes nothing.

I remain. You remain.
We all remain.

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The Rock

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

— Matthew 7:24-27

How do we know when we’ve dug down far enough? How do we know if we’re building on rock or sand?

This is a great example of how much teaching goes on in Churchianity without teaching a blessed thing!

It’s simple:

  • If you can still dig and decide to stop, you’re building on sand.
  • If you dig and dig and hit stuff that’s so hard that you can’t dig any deeper, you’re building on rock, at least at this point.

Continue reading

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Proof of the Futility of Worry

And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
— Matthew 13:22

Test

  1. Make a list of things that you have worried about in the last day or week or month. This is your “worry list.”
  2. Make a list of painful, damaging, and tragic things that actually happened during that time period. The is your list of things that were worth worrying about.
  3. Calculate the probability of something you worry about actually happening.1

Continue reading

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The War on Christians

The February 13, 2012 issue of Newsweek was brought to my attention by a friend over the weekend. Its cover story, written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World. (The image is clickable, too.)

The Global War On Christians in the Muslim World by Ayaan Hirsi Ali Newsweek 02-13-2012

Ms. Hirsi Ali presents a series of cases that shows a disturbing trend: Christian minority populations are increasingly being brutalized throughout the Muslim world. She summarizes:

It should be clear from this catalog of atrocities that anti-Christian violence is a major and underreported problem. No, the violence isn’t centrally planned or coordinated by some international Islamist agency. In that sense the global war on Christians isn’t a traditional war at all. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.

In other words, this trend goes beyond politics, deeper than ideology. Rage does that. She suggests: Continue reading

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The Church

I’ve been loving NakedPastor.com lately. Here’s the cartoon I got today. Click on the image to go to the full-size version on David Hayward’s site www.patheos.com/blogs/nakedpastor:

Did Jesus found the church?
  © www.nakedpastor.com

The comments there are interesting. Today’s offering gave pause even to some of David’s regular followers, who are not your typical mainstream church advocates. How quickly we run to the defense of our long-standing institutions because… well… they’ve been standing there for so long. I guess we assume that counts for something.

“The Church” as we know it exists solely to provide a buffer between individuals and God. People join churches not to find God, but looking for a way to reap the benefits of association with God while avoiding the risks of direct confrontation.

Continue reading

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The Location of God

In my life, when I felt that God left me, I was right. He went somewhere, and I was unable or unwilling to follow.

As I look back, the reasons I was unable or unwilling boiled down to fears based on lies. Many of the lies were taught to me by adults in authority as I grew up. Many are ingrained into our societal norms and assumptions. Others seem to occur to me naturally, spontaneously, simply because I’m human.

As I work through the lies and discard them, I see over and over that I could have followed, and there was no reason for my fear. When the smoke clears, I see that God wasn’t so very far away, and I also see how to get there, where he is. The freedom to move feels good.

Continue reading

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The Bible

The belief that the Bible is the word of God suffers from gross negligence of chronological sequence.

Biblical writings were all penned centuries or more before the Bible was canonized. Canonization came after the fact and was not authorized by any writer of Scripture. No one responsible for canonizing the Bible wrote a single word of the Bible.

In other words, even if the writings of the Bible were God’s Word, canonization of the Bible centuries later could not possibly have been authorized by any of those writings, since it had not yet occurred.

The belief that writings in the Bible are God’s word is open to debate, but a logically valid possibility.

The belief that the canonization of the Bible was sanctioned by any writing of Scripture contradicts basic principles of time and causality.

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Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church

Last week, a cartoon and a flurry of related commentary brought Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church to my attention. Here’s the cartoon by David Hayward, “graffiti artist on the walls of the church,” showing Driscoll preaching from the midst of hellish flames:

Mark Driscoll In Hell

David Hayward’s take on the hard-ass preacher

Hayward explained: “…it acknowledges Mark’s arrogant, male supremacist, bullying, tough guy attitude that he flaunts and buttresses with his theology. But it also suggests that his ideas will not survive the testing fires of purgation.”

Hayward’s cartoon garnered lively, heated commentary, some of it supporting Driscoll and accusing Hayward of hypocrisy.

I don’t often single someone out for criticism. Our politeness-obsessed society frowns on personal attacks, although we give politicians in election races a pass. Go figure. This time, comments of an area father (which have since been removed from the cartoon’s page) pushed me over the edge. He wrote that his daughters got involved with Mars Hill, soon quit college, got married, and started having children, apparently part and parcel of Mars Hill’s regimen for young women. At least one of them cut off contact with her parents. (Memory is fuzzy; it might have been both.)

Those are standard sticky tactics for exploitative religious groups, like the one I used to be involved in. (Why are Churchianity’s soul-mills so often male-dominated and female-denigrating?) I was never a Mars Hill fan. Still, I’m very surprised that the church condones or encourages such shenanigans. I didn’t suspect that Mars Hill Church belongs in the “exploitative” category, until now.

It got me thinking…

Continue reading

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Happiness

The two most neglected arts of life, deliberately avoided by almost everyone, are:

  1. How to be happy being alone
  2. How to be happy dealing with evil

They are also two of the most critical arts we need in this life.

Why does NOBODY teach these things?

Good guess: Nobody knows how.

Just think. If we knew those two arts, this world would be the next best thing to heaven on earth.

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Money

By now, my boys might be tired of hearing me say that we were born upside down and raised backwards. I’m surprised that they didn’t get more mileage out of my admission. “You can’t tell me what to do! You said yourself that you have it all backwards!” Maybe by the time they realized that I included myself in my decrial, they were past that kind of manipulation. Or, maybe they realized that I was trying my best to counteract an inherited state of affairs without much guidance, and they cut me some slack.

I’ve been thinking for a long time about something we all seem to have upside-down and backwards: money. I like telling people that money is evil, just because it gets such a predictable rise out of them. Do I truly think that money is evil? For all intents and Continue reading

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Thin Places

My son and I attended a “Great Mysteries On Tap” last night, our biweekly habit for a while now. We meet with friends associated with Valley and Mountain Fellowship at an Ethiopian restaurant in the southeast corner of Seattle. We get our fingers greasy with a shared meal, drink our libation of choice, and discuss everything from sexuality and spirituality to the problem of free will.

Last night’s topic was “thin places, the holy, and the profane.” Celts believed that, in certain geographic spots, the veil separating the natural and extra-natural, the holy and the profane, was “thinner” than in other places, affording easier Continue reading

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Saint, Sinner, or Something Else?

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.”
— Romans 7:18

That’s quite a somber admission from a saint. In fact, it flat out contradicts our typical notions about what saints are like. We might think that, if a saint had made that statement, it would come out more like this:

“For I know that God dwells in me, whose will I love and do.”

As it is, Paul’s discussion of law, sin, and flesh in the second half of Romans 7 has long been a quandary for Christian theologians. Few want to read Paul’s statements there as the Continue reading

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Jesus the Progressive, Subjective Relativist

Jesus’ way of looking at things was radically relativistic. He set teachings like the Golden Rule squarely on subjective foundations. Doing to others what we want them to do to us makes our own desires the standard for our behavior.

Peter wrote that God has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness through true knowledge (experience) of him. You might think he meant that all the power of God is at our disposal. Potentially, that is true. However, we stubbornly tend to think backwards  Continue reading

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Spiritual Economics

If you look at spirituality as energy flows, we are either consumers or producers of energy. Production requires inputs. We can use inputs from other people and produce something with that, or we can use inputs from other sources. Novelty is instantly energizing. Introduce new material into a situation and people’s recognition and anticipation immediately spike. Rehashing old material can lead to novelty, but if it doesn’t the result is usually depression: people feel worse than they did before the rehash, because energy was expended without producing anything new.

People who produce more than they consume are in the minority. Producers who obtain Continue reading

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Call For Collaboration on Real Spirituality

I invite you to collaborate on this work-in-progress blog to articulate a practical, experience-grounded understanding of spirituality.

I hope to stimulate discussion by openly considering the teachings of Jesus and anyone else who made real contact with the divine, including you!

My posts here will favor substance over form. I am passionate about ideas and ideals that we can live. Grammar and style take a back seat here.

If we can’t live it, it’s probably beside the point. Life as we know it can’t be as good as it gets.

If you want better, join in!

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