To serve God for nothing is to voluntarily abdicate one's inheritance and sonship. It is to say, “Even if I may never be God's child, I will still be his servant.” It is that great and mighty Nebuchadnezrian "coming to senses." It is that shameless prince's abdication of his throne and acceptance of his chains which whispers in the ears of the King. To serve God for nothing surprises His eyes from afar. And suddenly He is near. And forever He holds His lost son and prince and heir and all the lost children of God, forever setting them free.
To serve God for nothing denies crowns and robes and rings, heaping them upon one’s head and shoulders and hands.
Jesus’ particular humanness changed religion from an impossible thing that man knows is impossible; to a thing that is possible that man knows is possible.
The biggest risk to a person of faith and religion is to walk into the trap of the rationalist. One with the same walls and bars as his peers. Walls made of rationalism and materialism; high, unreachable windows barred with adamantine determinism. Caught in the complex gears of a machine rather than strolling in the simple daylight of a miracle.
The biggest risk to a law abiding person is to no longer abide in the law, but die in it.
The biggest risk for the Christian is to no longer bear his cross but buck against it.
He took everything away from me—all the obstructions, all the accretions, all the cataracts and clothes and scales-- everything but the truth. And revealing it; raising it high enough even for me to see, I finally see I am hanging naked on a cross. The place I have always been.
The sight explaining so much: explaining the ache in my hands and feet; explaining the stretching rack in my shoulders; explaining the piercing in my chest; explaining the tired collapse of my unbroken bones; explaining the bitter aftertaste of every drink; explaining everything and everything and everything.
And I cry with relief, “It is finished!"
I am ready to go home. I am ready to be free. I am ready to let go of this cursed tree and leap into the air. And if ever again I land, I will land in a new life. I will love this world like Christ. I will walk through the petrified forest of crosses shouldering my own as I go. I will lay my hand on every bloody trunk. I will set up my cross and willingly scale to the top. I will hang there again, yet this time helping thieves see and understand and live. Thank you Father for letting me see the whole world!
"Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
What is the enjoyment of life? Where is it? Is it possible to see it and find it? Is it possible to find it today—suddenly—like suddenly finding you're in the middle of your own surprise birthday party? Is it possible joy is hiding right at this very moment, around the corner, breathlessly waiting for you—the guest of honor— to walk in and turn on the lights?
Shannon saw life in a different way. And this is key. All who came into contact with her looked and listened because a different way of seeing life is a different way of seeing God. And people may think they are busy little bees doing and thinking and seeing many things, but they are ONLY trying to see God. She understood something about joy and life. She understood what Abel was feeling as he presented himself before the alter of God: Life was funny. And funny things could be laughed at. Even God. And God and his cosmos laughed back at her and with her. To Shannon, life was something more like a song or a dance. So she sang along. Enjoying the harmonies. The high parts and the lows. And she danced. But not to get to the end, or get it over with, or get anywhere; she danced just to dance. Because it was fun. Life was a dance; a thing to be enjoyed for the thing itself. Which is love. She held God and He held her and they danced.
But the rest of us—the poor, blind rest of us— sit on the side. Waiting for something. Waiting in the wings of Elah. Waiting in the mouth of the cave for God to pass by. Always looking for him in the hurricanes, those rare and terrible things, but never in the gentle breezes; the daily, quiet voices. We see the mundane where Shannon saw everyday eternities. We walk outside occasionally reminded the grass needs mowing. Shannon walked outside constantly amazed that grass is green. She loved life. She loved the existence God gave her. She loved the bluebird that dropped briefly into her backyard as profoundly as she loved the grocer that briefly dropped groceries into her bag. These were not random events. They were anything but random. They were a rhythm and a melody to be enjoyed for themselves. They were the ever surprising spins and twirls of the dance.
Left and Right—the whole crowd is at fault.
(Parallelism to St. Paul in the Castle barracks in Jerusalem in Acts 22)
Even when the left has you by the scruff of your neck and the right has the gun at your temple, there is no more joyous place to be than directly in the center of God’s will.
Those who mourn and repent will be saved. Those who don’t will be destroyed.
Those who mourn and repent for all the detestable things going on inside the temple will be saved.
The one out of seven—the writer—the marker—will mark the foreheads of those who mourn. And they will be spared. The other six are warriors who will pursue and destroy everyone else.
Similar to Cain’s mark, in a way. Tied to Seven and Multiples of seven.
It also connects to Paul’s Road to Damascus/ lightening bolt experience. A question lurks within: Is it a curse or a blessing to be spared? To see. To see your blindness. To be blind. To live knowing of your murderous heart. It is to be Cain. “Why did I live?” It is to be Paul and suddenly know, as if struck in the head with one of Stephen’s stones, of the detestable practices inside your own temple.
It is to be marked in the head with a lightening scar. To be the boy who lived. To be this thing that cannot be killed from the outside. The mark brings with it seven-fold mayhem and seven hoarcruxes of death. The blood soaking in the earth moans and screams in your ears.
What is this mark then?
Is it a mark for life or death?
Both, in a way. The ego, my divine mark, as such, can not be killed from the outside. It may be flattened, squeezed, shattered, shrunk, and kicked; but it cannot be killed. Yet my strange invincibility also chains me to Death; brings death to the world; both the Death I cause and the Death I escape. What to do with this marked thing? This monstrosity of consciousness. Touched by hate, and love and choice. Marked in a place visible to myself in a mirror only. What now? This mark! What to do about it? What now?!
There is only one solution: Death.
Death to the undying ego--death to the undead.
But since the almighty God himself has protected the bearer of this mark, like Job, from outside asphyxiation by Satan, the only possible death left to me is death by oxygenation, conflagration, immolation, and explosion; death by life, death by Christ--a death by my own voluntary choice.
Only by laying down, only in letting go, only by a Way hidden in the pattern of flaming blades swirling over Eden, may the marked one become finally and forever accessible to his Savior—Breaking the chains of death. Bringing Life in the Savior. Bringing life to the world.
What is the mark?
It is a mark for redemption.
That is how forgiveness works.
Like life, the past is something you can choose to give away instead of keep.
To forgive is to give away a closely held past in the present moment. In a real sense, it is to walk into the past and release the poisonous link from the chain of your existence before it ever happened. And miraculously when you look down at the infected wound on your flank, it is healed. Just an old scar with the echo of something forgotten. The negative meaning, the pain, somehow unobtainable because you have finally chosen to let it go in the swift river. The injury and the wound set free to be spoken aloud with the tongues of angels in the mouths of man.
When you’re in the zone...
which is the proper mode of being...
which is the mode of Christ’s being...
...the target is huge. The bullseye enlarges to encompass all of you. You suddenly stand at the center of the magical fire. You can’t miss. Shoot.
I hate these bars.
I hate these chains.
I hate history.
Ok, but why hate? Why hate the thing you stand in the middle of?
Why not love? Or at least accept, which is the same thing since by any standard a good definition of love must include acceptance of a thing despite its limitations?
Bars, chains, and history just are. Limitations simply exist as a reality.
When Paul said—“I am exactly where I am supposed to be. How could I be anywhere else?”--
prison doors opened and chains fell off. This is the way to freedom.
When you hate your history you become the most hateful history.
Just ask the Bolsheviks.