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Identity – Who Am I Really? Maybe Kind of Made in God’s Image…

How do some people look so good – physically anyway? Starting at 4 AM, some (read celebrities) have enough people working on them to fill a NASCAR pit crew. If we did that, out 8 AM classes wouldn’t resemble a convention of caffeine starved zombies mumbling and scratching incoherently through an hour-long lecture only to emerge with notes in a dead language nobody can read. Some of us marry people who know how to dress us. Not that we need help dressing but it’s downright scary how we end up looking when we’re done. But who dresses the inside? George Herbert, a sharp guy from a few centuries back, said, “Take some time to be alone and see what your soul doth wear.”

Do I have a soul and is it wearing anything at all? Some days, if it’s there, it doesn’t feel like it. Am I just a skin bag carrying around bones and organs motored by electric impulses from the tissue computer inside my head? Reaching the end of things, the bag droops to the floor like a helium balloon finally out of gas. If I was anything, who or what was that? Secularists (not only believing but some insisting there is no God) claim that’s all there is so what does it matter? Can I live with that? Does that get it for us?

I’ll bet not.

In the Bible, God comes out of the chute like a racehorse at the Kentucky Derby. He invokes a torrent of cosmic creativity. Even the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2) hovers over things as if to ponder, “Where do we make the first cut, paint the first stroke,  and write the first line?” Collaborative work usually falls out in layers (days or epochs) so after the sun, moon, heavens, earth, seas, land, sea slugs (among others), iguanas (among others), God says, “Let us make man in our own image…” (Gen. 1:26) God, as revealed in the Bible, ain’t no skin sack…so what’s this? First, it’s not literally a physical image. He doesn’t look like me; I don’t look like Him. Nobody would believe a God who looks like me…or you. Chew on these.

It means we’re hardwired to know and be known by God. We can’t get away from the spiritual. Sometimes it takes on weird shape and directions. We squeeze the things of our days to extract drops of it on our tongue. We get disappointed, burned, cheated, betrayed, disillusioned but sparks still flash under our ashes. Vince Gilligan, creator and executive producer of the hit show “Breaking Bad” and an agnostic said, “Atheism is just as hard to get your mind around as fundamentalist Christianity.” He still wants to believe that “there is more than just us out there. If there is no cosmic justice then what is the meaning of it all?” It’s good that Mulder and Scully are back because a lot of us still sense “The truth is still out there.”

It means we can give and receive love. The heart craves love more than our lungs scream for air. In love we find the perfect pitch to which our heart-strings must tune. Our culture resonates with its pursuit; our music and movies drip with it. How to find it, keep it, keep from losing it and how miserable I am now that I did. Or I’ll never have it so that makes me a tub of hot nothingness. Our best shots at love relationships implode often wounded by our own hand although we may not realize this until later. Maybe betting all our love chips on a person comes as a right move falling short. Michael Green once said, “Once we say we believe in God, it doesn’t matter what we think about Him. We’d better find out what He thinks about us.” What if, beyond time, there’s a Face, a Mind, a Heart that can hang the cosmos on His wall like a DaVinci  – and every time He thinks about us, He smiles?

It means we can manage our surroundings, learn and simply enjoy thinking. If human beings come as the crown of creation, then the human mind is the jewel topping the crown – the cherry on the sundae. This explains human magnificence apart from any belief in God or not. It explains Einstein, Lincoln, Frank Lloyd Wright, Aristotle and other monuments of human achievement but is not limited to them. Check out the men in our town library holding the New York Times with fingers protruding from worn gloves. People think; they just don’t always treasure it as they should. Something good swirls in us when we do. It can happen in a tractor seat chugging across a black soiled, newly thawed cornfield in an early Iowa spring. Grandma did it standing over a sink staring out a back window or while her fingers danced over what would be a quilt.

It means we can create whether we can draw a straight line or not. God is a creator and so are those created in His image. It explains Pablo Picasso, Duke Ellington and Johann Sebastian Bach. It also means that a security guard at a university art museum, invisible to everyone, can write a one man play about Vincent van Gogh and can perform it for his friends. It means that parents of an autistic son can defy all the nay sayers, can spend countless hours finding new ways to insure that their son learns, grows up to take a job while in college, goes on geological field trips all over North America and will earn a degree in what he wants to do. Problems make opportunities for being creative. We can find new ways to get papers done, squeeze work in around our classes, etc. The touch of a creative God knocks around inside us.

It means we can know satisfactions and happiness, although incomplete and often fleeting, in the midst of a broken world without indulging in naive narcissism toward that brokenness. After finishing all initial creative work, God proclaimed it “very good” and rested (Gen 1:31, 2:2). Unless our Bible is extremely thin, the story doesn’t end there. God’s knowing this didn’t stop him from experiencing genuine satisfaction with his work. We do not look at much in our lives proclaiming it “very good” – but it’s there. We’re too busy tearing ourselves down or pressing ourselves to do more, work harder. Even in a world with so much gone wrong, not everything is. But much is. And even our deepest satisfactions fade and rust. What then? Could even these be signposts standing in the debris field of a broken world that there is something else?  C.S. Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” It’s something to think about. If anyone would like to dig a little deeper on this, here is a good place to start. Hearts and Minds Books will give you 20% off if you say you saw it here. (Buying local is a Kingdom thing.)

So why am I not seeing and sensing all this? This isn’t all we are on the inside. There’s more and it’s not fun to look at; we already know this. That’s why we work so hard to keep it quiet, to not see it. Someone asked a friend if he’d ever removed that internal engine cover of his van. “Never’, he said, “nothing good ever comes from looking in there.” Worse can come from not looking. Next time we’ll look at why, if on the inside we’re made in God’s image (assuming I might believe in Him), it doesn’t show through more. Something else is afoot and we’ll track it down.

Got a question? I have answers. But if my answers don’t match your questions, I’ll make something up! Seriously, if we have questions about the following/knowing God thing, feel free to write at geezeronthequad@gmail.com. Any question. Any time. About anything. You don’t even have to include your name. I do reserve the right to reply with qualifying questions of my own so I can dignify your question with a decent and respectful answer.

If you think this might encourage a college student or someone who loves them, then share, Twitter, subscribe, “like” and all that social media stuff. If we already subscribe to geezeronthequad.com, then maybe we need to be part of Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for the blog. It’s mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, musicians, writers, composers, booksellers, broadcasters, pastors, theologians, business people, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs, a few campus rats and a Goth who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. It’s a sharp group and you will only make us better. Take a look.

Who am I? Who wants to know and who cares? I’m not really sure myself…

We walked up the stairs to the club where my son’s band played that night. A guy stood at the door checking ID’s. I walked up and said, “Would you card my wife? It would mean a lot to her.” He laughed but he took her word. ID’s might put a name with a face but they don’t always say much about who we are. And that’s a good thing. We can’t escape the thought that somebody’s knocking around inside our bones. Who is she/he? And just as we think we have a handle on this, the person inside us goes and changes. The current buzzword for this is “identity”.

Who am I? I mean really – not just what it takes to fit in with this group or that one or the face I wear to hide who I am or hide the fact that I don’t know myself. A young women penned her thoughts on imagining herself arriving at seventy-five. We are already working on that person right now whether we know it or not, whether we’re trying to or not. Our living now, intentional or unexamined, ripples out in front of us across the years ahead. Habits of mind, attitude and emotion set trajectories extending out into the decades of our future. So who I am now is important because we start there.

A lot of voices chip in with their idea of who we are. One is our past…but not our recent past. Graduating from high school takes care of that. Don’t see many high school athletic, music etc. jackets on campus. The freshman who comes home for Thanksgiving is a different person from the one who moved into a freshman dorm. The labels that stuck back there don’t count on campus. And that’s good for a lot of people who get the chance to become somebody new.

Material culture defines us on appearance alone. Jesus said, “…a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) Unless, of course, we need the jazziest new smart phone, clothing with the cool labels, jewelry and accessories (with the right brands in evidence). And the brands keep changing! How does one keep up?

Work will have more clout in our lives after we graduate. For now, it’s what we do to survive and stay in school. But we certainly judge others now by what they do and not always by who they are.

Sexual identity has certainly stepped onto front state in our culture. But we miss the obvious. Through illness, accident and/or aging, sexuality may not only diminish; it may be gone one day. And if my identity was my sexuality and its free expression on my terms, then who will I be? Besides, am I not more than that?

Political correctness. When we all have to think alike to not only get along but to avoid being marginalized, we’re no longer human but have become clones. Whoever I am only counts if it lines up with whatever ideological trends have their moment of fame on the postmodern radar. As long as we always align our lives with the prevailing opinions of the herd, the herd will live our lives for us. We’ll get to the end of things only to discover that we never got to live our lives; we allowed others to do it.

Emotionally based esteem. “Feel” comes before “think”, not only alphabetically, but as our default drive wheels as we engage life. A dirty little secret – “self” is the real underlying spirituality of America (even for many who claim to follow Jesus). We surround ourselves with people who only tell us what we want to hear and/or believe about ourselves. We find our psychological center of gravity on social media. All of this stirs up into a heady mulch feeding the narcissism (pandemic self-centeredness on steroids) of our culture.

Who am I? Could God or anything He thinks provide a key to this? If we’ve been trying to piece this puzzle together all by ourselves, the trouble might be that we don’t have all the pieces. Maybe He does. Are we open to that? The next few posts will take a look. A few clarifications. I will be coming from a point of view that, without disrespecting other faiths, embraces Jesus’ own thoughts that He is the fullest expression of God the planet has had. I’m not interested in why a side of mashed potatoes deluged in brown gravy started quoting T.S. Eliot in a Bob Evans in Fort Wayne. Therefore, I will put some things in front of us that I maintain will be true and living in us whether we know it or not. Or at least they could be. I will also suggest some things we can look at on our own if something yanks our chain.

Got a question? I have answers. But if my answers don’t match your questions, I’ll make something up! Seriously, if we have questions about the following/knowing God thing, feel free to write at geezeronthequad@gmail.com. Any question. Any time. About anything. You don’t even have to include your name. I do reserve the right to reply with qualifying questions of my own so I can dignify your question with a decent and respectful answer.

If you think this might encourage a college student or someone who loves them, then share, Twitter, subscribe, “like” and all that social media stuff. If we already subscribe to geezeronthequad.com, then maybe we need to be part of Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for the blog. It’s mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, musicians, writers, composers, booksellers, broadcasters, pastors, theologians, business people, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs, a few campus rats and a Goth who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. It’s a sharp group and you will only make us better. Take a look.

Please return your seat to the upright position and remember to hand the infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.

 

So We’re Home From Urbana, Passion 2016, the World Congress on Gospel Hacky Sack, etc.

It’s big conference time. This one and this one just happened. This one is coming up. And there are smaller ones all over as well. Conferences are great. Not only do we get to hear some of the most powerful speakers doing the gig today but it’s also a road trip. But now we’re back or heading that way. In a fairly short time, we’re quite likely to be the woolly headed, dried up pud we were before we left. Ever noticed that? The emotions of worshipping with thousands of others, hearing challenging talks and powerful stories will fade; they fly and bounce like bricks. And we can’t just sit there trying to hang on to the moment. They need the arena tomorrow night for a Monster Truck Rally. (Could be a mission field so pray about it.) But that’s okay because this following Jesus thing isn’t gassed by emotion. So now what?

A little help comes from a guy who had maybe the most powerful story in the Gospels. In Mark 5:1-18, a man filled with enough demons to baptize without recovery almost two thousand pigs assaults Jesus and had probable plans of tearing up the rest of the boys. Jesus casts them out unleashing a dead bacon avalanche into the Sea of Galilee. Jesus goes to leave and this newly freed man begs to go along. Well, of course! And he would have been the real deal, hard-core. (Cynicism alert!) And since we love to take new believers and prematurely throw them into the spotlight to jazz the crowds, he would have wowed them. Peter, measure this guy for a discipleship suit! But that’s not the way it played out.

Jesus said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:18) Whatever conference we just hit or whatever one is coming up, I say the same thing to you. Go home. This guy could be on the road doing the Jesus stuff with the boys – hanging with the guys, heady stuff. At home were the people he’d shamed and hurt. They would be glad but cautious. At home, they really know us; we can’t fake it. Nobody can sniff us out as the shallow phony we can be faster than the people at home. And home, by the way, can be our campus. When students start calling the campus “home”, it freaks out a lot of parents. Our center has shifted. And then our peers living around us will be watching and sniffing, test driving it in our lives, to see if this Jesus thing is real. William Wilberforce, known for battling slavery in the British Empire, first tasted Christianity through relatives touched by the First Great Awakening. His mother yanked him away from that influence telling her friends he’d gone mad. After a few months, his mother’s friends asked her how things were with William. Seeing him every day, she said, “If this is madness, I hope he bites us all.”

There’s another reason why Jesus told him to go home. Conferences bring powerful convergences of Christians, the
Word and the Holy Spirit. The evil one cannot do much there; he doesn’t have to. At home was where the evil one owned that demonized man. “Go ahead and jump up and down to the praise band, cry all those tears and savor all those goosebumps. We’ll see what you have when you get off the bus. Let’s see what you can show me on the turf where I can beat you down in a second like I always have.” At home (on campus) where we live, we’ve made all kinds of promises to God, new starts at the same good things and old failures over the same old junk lying flatter than old pancakes at the bottom of a dumpster. At home, the evil one thinks he owns us. Will that be true this time? We must learn to tend and feed the fires that God lights in our hearts at key Kingdom moments. Some thoughts.

Go back and read the notes we took. In class, we pore over notes because a test is coming. It’s surprising that we take notes at conferences and never go back to read them. (If we don’t take notes at these things, we should; it reinforces the important things God may be saying. If we didn’t do that, all the talks we were jazzed about are now online. Devote some online time to go back and watch them again with a pen in hand. Impressions at the time fade quickly or we get super spiritual and think, “I’ll just remember. God will do something like shoving a mango up my nose to help me remember. Won’t happen.) If God was boogieing on our rib cage and we just had to write it down, isn’t it worth revisiting and a slow chew?

Expect to run into that “I’m-just-as-flat-now-as-I-was-before-I-went-to-the-Global-Gospel-Hacky-Sack-Conference” letdown. Wise thoughts I read recently underscore solid truth; living the Christian life doesn’t require emotions. We cannot spend the rest of our life standing and swaying in time with the praise band, tears streaming down our face. Most professors will consider this an interruption of their class and we will creep out anyone who might want to room with us, including many of our Christian friends. The evil one uses emotional letdown, busyness, misdirection and resulting confusion to say, “You might have gone over the moon in St. Louis or Atlanta but you’re home now and this is pretty much all this Jesus thing’s going to be for you.”

Stay connected and do the basics – whether we feel like it or not. DO NOT SKIP LARGE GROUP, SMALL GROUP BIBLE STUDY OR FELLOWSHIPS … NO EXCUSES OR EXCEPTIONS. Nobody burns hot going solo for long. Sometimes we need to draft off the faith and strength of other Christians. When we cut ourselves out from the herd, we become prey for all kinds of nastiness. And read the Bible (duh!). One of Christianity’s dirty little secrets lies in how little a lot of us read the Bible. A leader of one of the faith’s most respected ministries went through a time of deep depression. Thinking about it, he realized he hadn’t picked up a Bible in six months. Don’t do this.

Start cultivating God’s heart over those separated from Him. Spend times through the week around populated parts of campus. We’ve been looking for excuses for sitting around in the union like many of us have been doing. Let’s redeem this. Sit alone and don’t let interruptions cut in. Just sit there and pray for the people milling through. And listen to them; people wear the wounds of godlessness on their sleeve.

“Whatever He tells you, do it.” (John 2:5)  A lot people at Urbana wore Black Lives Matter shirts. Now we’re home…where are the shirts? Will we wear them around our families? Will we wear them in the dorm, in our fraternity and sorority houses? On campus? Back in the 1980’s when you could viciously hate gays in public all you wanted, two friends knew of an all-lesbian volleyball team in the city’s public rec league. People turned out to spew hate, filth and threats of violence at the girls. Our friends looked for ways to demonstrate the love of Jesus to them. So they joined the team and played volleyball alongside the lesbians wearing a team shirt that returned the profanity raining down on them punch for punch. Some thought Christians shouldn’t do this. Some people thought Jesus shouldn’t eat with tax collectors, sinners and icky people. Where’s the shirt?

Now we’re home. Let’s live so the rest around us line up for a bite!

 

 

 

geezeronthequad: The Christmas Store 2015

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Forget Halloween…it is SOOOO yesterday. Christmas gear and stuff takes over store shelves like a creeping bread mold. So here we are with the first geezeronthequad Christmas Store. Students shoppers for Mom and Dad have already played out that large tin of popcorn, the sausage and cheese package from the kiosk at the mall or the another T-shirt from the campus bookstore where we can further deplete the money that our parents may have put in our campus account  instead of cracking into our own hard cash. Buying them a Christmas gift with their own money…it has a certain mildly admirable shrewdness but you can’t do this for four years.

I keep telling people that Geezer 1, the online playhouse for geezeronthequad.com holds a lot of sharp cookies and here they are. Browse around and don’t hesitate to pick out something nice for yourself. If you really want some fun…

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geezeronthequad – 2015 Christmas Store Signup

It’s moving toward the end of October and we all know what that means. Yes, it soon will be November but besides that. It will soon be time for the “geezeronthequad” Christmas store. Please know that this is NOT a cashing in on the commercial consumerism that gets out the Christmas trees in Wal-Mart in July. We are not shilling, schlepping or schmoozing for THE MAN. And we are not shoveling off on you any cheesy Jesus junk.

Everything in our Christmas store is craftsmanship of some kind by a lot of good people here in Geezer 1 – things done “unto the Lord” for His Kingdom in some way. Things that are the product of calling. A number of Geezer 1 people write, play, sing, sew, saw, paint, sculpt, take pictures and we feature their things to class up our gift giving.

  1. IF YOU ARE NEW TO GEEZER 1 SINCE LAST FALL, PLEASE EMAIL ME SOON @geezeronthequad@gmail.com SO I CAN INCLUDE YOUR ART/CRAFT/SKILL.
  2. IF YOU SUBSCRIBE TO geezeronthequad.com AND DO SOME CREATIVE WORK AS PART OF YOUR LIVING OUT THE KINGDOM AGENDA JESUS CHRIST HAS FOR YOUR LIFE (OR YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO DOES) AND WANT IN, PLEASE EMAIL ME AT THE ABOVE ADDRESS.
  3. IF YOU WERE ON LAST YEAR’S LIST, YOU’RE GOOD ALREADY UNLESS YOUR WEBSITE HAS CHANGED. IF YOU’VE DONE NEW WORK OR NEW THINGS AND YOUR WEBSITE IS UP TO DATE, YOU’RE IN.
  4. IF FOR ANY REASON, YOU’RE NOT SURE YOU’RE IN AND WOULD LIKE TO BE SURE, EMAIL AT geezeronthequad@gmail.com. Or check here.

If we can help others see what the Lord has gifted you to do and increase the scope of the Lord’s influence in that, that’s all we’re looking to do. As I said when many of you joined Geezer 1, “…if anything here helps to keep your spirit from going soft, your mind from going to mush and the fire God lit in you hot, then we will all be glad.” I also said that your coming on board would make us all better. It has and I’m glad about that too.

Get back to me soon.

 

When We’re Old and Yet Still Have Teeth and Memory, What Do We Want to Say About Our College Years?

Grandchildren love to ask questions about our earlier days. Why did Grandma ever marry you? Have you always been this strange? Has that long hair always been growing out of your ear lobe? (They didn’t really ask these.) Why do your teeth come out? (They did.) A few years ago, we had a brief encounter with the daughter of an old college friend. One of her first questions was “What was my Dad like in college? Was he wild and crazy?” Now while we’re on campus and at it as a student is a good time to start working on our answer. Cia Matthew thought so and penned this beauty for Cornerstone Magazine, a Christian literary arts magazine done by undergrads at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design.

“When I’m 75 years old with crow’s feet wrinkles around my eyes and arthritis in my knees, I want to tell my grandchildren that I was rebellious and counter-cultural. That I believed in the impossible, and that I talked about a scandalous grace. That I welcomed death… And that I practiced the most unusual sexual behavior – chastity and abstinence.”

“Being a 21st-century, American, Christ-follower in your 20’s is not the norm. I stick out. When most of my peers are passing joints and making jokes about Moses, I’m at worship nights and leading Bible study. When I’m 75, I want to tell people that my choice to pursue Christ made me different. And I want that difference to be something that turns heads and makes my friends question me – because with that I can point them towards a God that can satisfy them more than any substances, romances and successes of this world.”

“When I’m 75 years old, I want to be positive that God used me. I want to have been used for his Kingdom, and I don’t want to regret missed opportunities. My young 20’s is an age where I have few commitments (no family, no pets), I have a three-month summer vacation, and I can still ask my parents for money. It’s the perfect age for traveling and exploration, and the options to serve God are endless. I want to be 75 and know that I didn’t set boundaries for how God could have used me. Instead, I allowed Him to take total control of my life, and I took the backseat with assurance I was in unfaltering hands.”

How do we want our answers to read? Not just for years from now when our grandchildren ask, but for right now when we’re walking through those days. We will spend these days so quickly. And Jesus Christ has so much to write in the wet concrete of these years that will last a lifetime and beyond.

Could there be Christian students spread across the Christian ministries on campus who could launch a theological journal even there at your secular university? A journal that could address the big questions, review media, offer cultural critique, explore theology, explore campus life and issues and put up a decent cartoon once in awhile – all from a serious, thoughtful Christian worldview. Take a look at The Augustine Collective. Not only Cia Mathew but others on many campuses have these up and running. And they will help anyone get started, providing what you need to know except for the party hats and butter mints. Take a look and pray about it.

Maybe you have a question about something you read here. I sure do. Maybe about the Christian life in general or something in particular is chewing on a vital organ. Feel free to write me at geezeronthequad@gmail.com. No names have to be mentioned. I do reserved the right to ask clarifying questions to dignify your question with a good answer.

If you think this might encourage a college student or someone who loves them , then share, tweet, subscribe and all that social media stuff. If you already subscribe, then think about joining Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for geezeronthequad.com. It’s a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, writers, musicians, composers, booksellers, broadcasters, pastors business people, theologians, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs, a few campus rats and a Goth who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. All in Geezer 1 get the latest post from geezeronthequad.com as well as good things from the rest of the gang. They’re a sharp bunch; you will only make us better.

Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you leave. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.

 

It’s Time…

Not always do we stand on such a well-defined edge of a life-changing time. Now is one of those times…welcome to the campus.

geezeronthequad

It’s time (as some old friends would say) to get things started…It’s time…To cram a car, maybe rent a trailer or hit on a friend with a pickup and come back to campus… To see if we can negotiate eight flights of stairs clogged with three couches without dropping any of the stuff we carry but can’t see over…To buy stock in the Maruchan Corporation. They make Ramen Noodles and they’re stock is about to go on steroids; buy now and sell off next March before everyone goes home…To find out if the Christians we’re excited about rooming with this year are better than the fang faces the computers threw us in with last year. To take all the deep breaths we can. When the first professor in the first class utters their first syllable, our heads will drop and the note taking will start. Many won’t come up for air until…

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