Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Everywhere part 1

What do you think God is like? How does he feel? What does he think about? What does he like? What does he hate? Where is he? How did he get there? All of us have asked these questions at some point or another. Some of us have tried our darndest to come up with sensible answers. To the degree that we are locked into an answer to any or all of these questions is the degree to which we have developed a God-concept. A God-concept is a firm mental image of what you consider God to be like. God-concepts are not all bad. They almost always come with a measure of truth. Trouble gets to brewin' though when we lose sight of God for the sake of our ideas about him.

Up until last summer, I had a deeply rooted God-concept of my own. Over the years, and mostly unknowingly, I had built a statue of the Almighty within the recesses of my mind. I must say, he looked pretty doggone good. I kept him well-maintained, and chased the pigeons away when they got too close. By way of my God-concept, I found spiritual assurance. I pretty well understood God, and was rarely surprised. If ever a doubt crossed my mind, all I had to do was behold my omnipotent statue in all of its' concrete glory. Then the bottom fell out.

Disappointment with ministry. A realization of my own inadequacy. Those and a hand full of other things sent me headlong into a crisis of faith. What had always worked would work no longer. I could no longer answer the questions with confidence. I could no longer convince myself that I understood. The statue was wobbling, and soon it would come crashing down and shatter into a million pieces. I frantically tried to piece God back together, but the glue wouldn't hold. God, as I knew him, was dead. The silence was deafening.

Out of the ashes of my existential despair came a revelation. Now that I lacked a concept of how God was, I was free to experience him as he actually is. I found God by losing him. Through the painful, and sometimes unwilling relinquishment of my God-concept, I had a skin-on-skin encounter with the transcendent. Unbeknownst to me, God had been holding me the entire time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I recently returned from a week at children's camp. Allow me to sum up my experience via a little arithmetic. 6 black kids + 9 white kids + a duffel bag full of pharmaceuticals + 2 bed wetters + 2 fans + a quiver full of poorly aimed arrows + a snake that may have been an extension chord = Deer cabin 2010. With the race issue alone, there was drama from the get-go. There were times when I honestly wondered if I was at kids camp or playing a bit part in the prequel to the Longest Yard. Rocks were thrown. Words were exchanged. Tears were shed. And that was just among the counselors. Despite the apparent anarchy, we tried everything we could to salvage the week. Laying on of hands. Sad music and altar calls. Eloquent expositions on the harmony of the created order. Yet each new attempt to right the ship was ultimately dashed upon the same rocks that had heretofore been used as weapons.

When the sun rose on Friday morning, we had but one chance. One measly opportunity to rescue this week in the woods from the proverbial bowels of pointlessness. That one chance was the infamous Camp Relay. For those of you unacquainted with this ancient right of passage, the Camp Relay is a five-minute free-for-all across the campground that pits cabin against a cabin in a series of athletic feats. It demands an unbroken string of perfection, and a diverse array of skill-sets. As the race began that day, most leaders cheered their campers on with the predictable chants of " do your best", and " we're all in this together." We were slightly more ambitious. I personally ran the full gauntlet, screaming " for this you were created" into the pre-adolescent ears of my campers. It just so happened that it was our day. For one moment, we somehow managed to take all of the competitiveness, animosity, and malice and direct it squarely where it the direction of 100 and some unsuspecting church kids. Wesley Kelly's dizziness- defying performance on the bat-spin was unprecedented. The three-legged race was as graceful as a fresh foal galloping over the green hills of eastern Kentucky. Don't even get me started on the leap-frog.

Well before the last leg was completed, the celebration had already begun. As we hoisted our fifty-pound bifocled bed wetter into the air, the entire week was brought into perspective. Five days of treachery were made right as we received first prize. What was the prize? All the corn dogs we could eat and a fresh mattress for bunk #5. Sweet justice.