*WARNING* I have been accused, not unfairly, of sometimes chasing rabbits. I blame this on my good friend Roy Williams, to whom I wish to offer 1,000 thanks. This post will be a brain dump. Proceed at your own risk.
Perception is reality.
Okay, sure, from a purely scientific standpoint, I realize that this is totally untrue, but I’ve never let the facts get in the way of a good story. As human beings, we interact with this existence in a 4 dimensional reality. Height, Width, and Depth are the first three, with Time being the fourth. I’ve seen some stuff on Youtube that suggests 10 or more dimensions actually exist, but that kinda stuff might cause a brain to explode. If we take seriously the thought that “time and tide wait for no man,” the fourth dimension becomes incredibly important, and is the basis for the existence of this blog, as it gives us a finite amount of time to truly shape the other three dimensions. Again, my friend Roy explains this better. I am flipping out due to the generosity of Roy, and my brother from another mother Daniel Whittington, who have invited us to spend a week with them and some amazing people we’ve met over past 15 years in the hill country on the outskirts of Austin Texas. If you find yourself out this way, you owe it to yourself to swing by The Wizard Academy. You can thank me later.
I’ve heard it said that opinions are like armpits. I’ve also heard it said that opinions are like something else, but I’m really trying to keep this family friendly. Our reality is shaped largely by how we’ve interacted with it. Lately, I’ve noticed something that really bugs me. Without sounding like a curmudgeon, which I might very possibly be, the easy access to “information” provided to us by the ever present technology around us, is slowly creating a new reality. The reality shaped by what has, or has allegedly happened to others. More and more, lives are being lived virtually, and often times vicariously through someone else. Perspectives formed and decisions taken through the eyes of someone we’ve never even met. Popular opinion. Group think. I’ve often been heard to say “I know that’s what they say, but I’ve never met them and I’m not sure that they truly have my best interest at heart.”
As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve begun to reconnect with my lifelong association as a believer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which when boiled down to it’s simplest form can be summed us as “love God with everything in you and love the people around you.” For many, the mere mention of Jesus creates an odd paradoxical response; the admiration and respect for a man who preached love and acceptance, the good prophet, colliding headlong with an overwhelming opposition to having anything to do with the judgement and condemnation that has become the popular version of the modern Christian and his church. To be fair, there is plenty of that to go around, but my experience has been quite different and is equally valid. I’ve got an armpit too. Here’s a quick example of how faith works for me. For our 15th anniversary, I surprised Wen with a trip to Costa Rica. We had been blessed with a trip there a year earlier by my brother in law and had instantly fallen in love with the country. I had no business taking this trip. I had no money and actually paid for the entire thing, planned as cheaply as possible, on a credit card I borrowed from my father in law. During dinner the first evening, as I sat quietly wrestling with the morality of even being there, the owner of the restaurant came up and presented us with a bottle of champagne. He had overheard that it was our anniversary and wanted to give us a gift. As I poured us each a glass, one of the strangest things that has ever happened in my life took place. It was the sound of a song on the radio. Not just any song, mind you, a song that was sung by a friend of ours at our wedding some 15 years before. And not just any song that could have been sung at any wedding 15 years before, a song by a Christian rock band whose popularity was at it’s peak all those years earlier. I wish I could sat that I was cool enough to have planned it, but I’m not, and I had not. There we were, sitting in an Italian restaurant in Costa Rica, on a tiny balcony overlooking the narrow intersection below, a glass of champagne in our hands and the sounds of Stryper gently wafting through the air. We stared at each other in disbelief, took each other’s hand across the table and cried. Coincidence you might say? If you have even a tiny knowledge of the laws of probability and can still bring yourself to suggest that, you my friend actually have more faith than I do.
And since I’m chasing rabbits anyway, that brings up another story of perception. Back in 1989 I had the opportunity to travel to L.A. for about 3 weeks. I met some incredible people, got to hang out with a great band, and even had even spent a few minutes in a recording studio with Oz Fox and Michael Sweet from Stryper. (later that night I got to go to Robert Sweet’s house, but that’s not what this story is about.) At the time, Stryper was creating quite a buzz. If you don’t know who they were, I won’t explain it to you and if you do, and you knew me then, you know what a big deal this was! It was a very weird time for them, due to the fact that they had been a popular target of Jimmy Swaggart, who had said all sorts of nasty things about them, and who just days earlier had admitted to having a not so Christian affair with a woman who was not his wife. When the subject came up and Oz was asked how he felt about it, I was blown away by his response. “I pray every day that doesn’t happen to me.”
Anyway, a couple days later we were watching a gorgeous sunset from the front deck of our tiny rental cabin tucked away in the mountains overlooking Dominical, and our conversation turned to faith. To this day, neither one of us can remember the specifics of the conversation, but our thoughts were far larger than any before. Having never partaken in mind altering substances, other than alcohol, which just makes me talk louder and get sleepy, I can only imagine that the effects are something like that. And then it was gone, we were back into our routine and the noise of “reality” drowned it out. We often talked about this moment over the past nine years and have wondered aloud why a life of faith can’t be like that all the time? It was incredible and I miss it. Maybe I’ll have to finagle an invitation from my new Facebook friend Robert. We can drink some beers, play some music and I can see if the same experience exists on the northern coast of that beloved country.
I like our new pastor Andy’s style. He really does have a style too. I’m not talking about the fact that he wears Toms, which is totally fine with me, since he and his wife actually adopted a son from Africa. I’m not talking about the fact that he has half jokingly suggested creating a group called “scotch and scripture,” which I think would be amazing and much like a modern day twist on the gathering of intellectuals (it took me three times to spell that correctly) such as JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, albeit with considerably less brain power (you can call me SP McNally if you’d like) I’m not even talking about the distinct delivery of his Sunday messages, which have a captivating cadence and rhythm like none I’ve seen before. All of that is really great, but what I love most about Andy is that recently he presented a series outlining the future direction of our church, and over the course of a couple of weeks, more than once basically said “if this doesn’t sound like something you really want to do, find another church.” (the whole thing is great if you’ve got 45 minutes, but if not, skip to 33:00) I think there was also a passing reference to “dead weight.” What church leader does this? This guy! Now, you may be saying to yourself, “see, just like I figured, just another pastor telling people it’s his way or the highway,” but let me tell you what the three points of his plan consist of.
- A deeper relationship with God.
- A deeper relationship with the people in our church.
- Getting off our butts and actually making a practical difference in the lives of people in our jobs, neighborhoods and places of influence and sharing the love of Christ that we say we believe in.
That’s a paraphrase, but I got the message. At the end of the message the first week, I walked up, shook Andy’s hand and said “I’m in.” “I know,” was his reply.
The deck of my apartment looks out over the ocean. Having lived this close to it, I don’t know if I could ever live out of it’s sight again. I’ve got the view, I’m rediscovering the faith and I’m expectant that big thoughts are on the horizon. In my chasing of rabbits while writing this, I came across an excerpt, appropriately enough from a book written by CS Lewis, which describes my current state of mind better than I ever could. I got excited when I ran across it… I cried when I read it to Wen.
It is hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this.You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking- glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different–deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean.
It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right forehoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried:
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!”
from The Last Battle – CS Lewis
What’s the view like from where you are?