Showing posts with label Self discovery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Self discovery. Show all posts

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Encountering Disagreement

Now comes the time in this Wandering Pilgrim's journey where he encounters disagreement and discord from others.  The names aren't the important thing, and as a courtesy, I'm leaving the names out of this essay, remembering well the saying from my Al-Anon days of "principles above personalities." 

As you may know by now, my journal - my weblog here on the 'Net - is called Wandering Pilgrim's Progress. That's for a reason: I identify well with John Bunyan (b. 1628, d. 1688), who was jailed in 17th Century England due to his beliefs concerning the Christian Faith.  He endured much more persecution than I ever have as yet, and his classic Pilgrim's Progress (found under "Links for the Journey" to the right of this page) originally published in two parts in 1678 and 1684 retells his spiritual journey as he wrote it in his prison cell. 

Bunyan used a lot of imagery in his writing, since his work was allegorical.  Christian, the protaganist in the story, leaves the City of Destruction and journeys towards the Celestial City, the New Jerusalem.  On the way, he encounters several different characters, some good, others not so good.  He also travels along to new places.  Here in this part of the journey in Bunyan's classic work Christian is found in what is termed Vanity Fair, having to do with the fluff and surface elements of this present world that don't translate - aren't found - in Heaven.  So Vanity Fair is a distraction from his seeking the Celestial City, as well as a return to whence he came: Vanity Fair is actually the City of Destruction in a new light, with spiritual growth gained by Christian to the point he no longer sees things as he once did at the start of his journey.  No, he sees his old town with new eyes, and so it is termed Vanity Fair.  

What happens to Christian and Faithful, his friendly sidekick (or myself, in this case) when they travel to Vanity Fair?  I found a great commentary that tells the story.  It's below the break.

*   *   *  

(1) They are treated as objects of sport.

As non-participants, both their unusual clothing and uncommon speech are mocked.  Following his arrest, Bunyan was derided as a tinker, a biblical literalist, a pestilent fellow, as one ignorant of Greek, as one being possessed by the Devil.

(2) They respond with blessing and good words.

With the Spirit of Christ resting on them, they exchange good for evil, blessing for cursing, patience for hysteria, kindness for malice (Matt. 5:44; Romans 12:20-21; 1 Cor. 4:12; 1 Peter 2:21-23). 

(3) They draw a sympathetic following.

Through the agency of discriminating grace, some observers prove to be less predjudiced; consequently, they oppose the brutality of the baser sort.  Jesus Christ encountered this same timid support which, when put to the test, did not amount to much (John 7:12-13).

(4) They promote violent disagreement.

While Christian and Faithful remain calm and sober as objects of blatant injustice, yet their righteous testimony stimulates bitter division between the two emerging factions.  Jesus Christ is the universal divider of men (John 7:43; 9:16; 10:19; Acts 17:4-5, 32-34: 28:24).   The two factions are:

(a) the moderate sympathizers .

     Like Pilate (Luke 23:4), they have a sense of justice that is able to discern injustice.  They know of thieves and pickpockets at the Fair who are far more worthy of this kind of condemnation.  However, like Pilate (Luke 23:23-25), they lack moral courage.   

(b) the militant antagonists.

Like the chief priests (Luke 23:10, 18), they are willfully blind to the evident godliness and innocence of the two pilgrims.  Their resulting fury knows no bounds; they even charge their neighbors with complicity; they physically abuse them so that worldly gaiety gives way to worldly savagery.  

*   *   *

The above is but a small excerpt of the following link, which is an excellent commentary on John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.  Read the whole chapter 21 Vanity Fair commentary at 
In fact, the information and resources at are wonderful and edifying.  I encourage my readers to partake of the knowledge and wisdom available there.

The excerpt above is from Page 335. 

This Wandering Pilgrim's update of the above goes like this:

(1) They are disrespected and mocked.

As aliens and strangers to the world, yet in and not of the world, Christian and Faithful are told how to speak - in politically correct terms - and derided as not part of the cultural or geographic elite.  Worse than that, they are told their beliefs and speech are wrong and reprehensible.  Power through written expression is exerted and grasped for. 

(2) They respond through loving God and loving people. 

Knowing how depraved the heart of mankind is, as Jesus did, and aware of their own sinful state before experiencing new life in Jesus Christ and becoming a Follower of The Way, They know they first must pray for the souls of those persecuting them.  Jesus said so himself (Matt. 5:44).  Beyond that, they reach out and let them know there was no personal offense intended.  If one is offended, it is because of the Cross of Christ, not any human individual.  They remember the time spent together in restaurants, hotels, museums, tourist areas, and the like, knowing generous practical hospitality is one of the marks of a growing disciple of Jesus.  Distance separating them, all one may do presently is to generate some discussion items on the topic at hand in the hopes of the true light penetrating the darkness, and hearts might become soft in wanting to know more about what it means to be a Follower of The Way. . . and not necessarily choosing  to become a Follower right then and there, but to understand what that perspective is like and what it entails as a legitimate worldview.  All of this is done as Peter said, with gentleness and with respect (1 Peter 3:15). 

(3) They are talked about, but without much impact to how people act. 

Water cooler talk and talk radio - as two kinds of examples - verbally repeat the good that these two have done, but no one is willing to stick their neck out and commit to what they are doing, becoming like them in word and in deed.  "Lack of trust in corrupt and poorly managed institutions," they cry.  "I'm not a joiner," retorts another.   

(4) Their testimony creates deep division between the group or crowd.

Calmly stating one's case concerning unjust behavior on the part of others, with gentleness and with respect, and leaving the results up to God is bound to create two opposing factions.  They are:

(a) The morally uncourageous.

These are the "go with the flow" people who don't want to see the boat rocked.  They don't want to reexamine their lives, or make any changes.  They tell themselves they are content. . . but if they are really transparently honest with themselves, theirs are the lives of quiet desperation.  True peace, love, joy, contentment. . . are not theirs to be had.  A false sense of "happiness" may appear on the surface, but if one looks deeper, one may see the tracks of their tears.  I know.  I came from such a place decades ago.  I know what it's like to live in such a place.  And the thing is. . . one doesn't have to.   But again, such a person must desire change to become what one cannot become on their own strength.  The change comes from outside the person.  I'll leave it at that for now. . .

(b) militant anarchists, New Athiests, practicing homosexuals, and various other Secular Humanists.

These are willfully blind towards any redeeming qualities of Christian and Faithful.  They are led by emotion first, facts (if any) second.  They alone know what is right, and they will force their beliefs, legislation, and social practices down your throats. . . "whether you like it or not," to quote the former Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsome.  Accuracy in naming people, places and things in a narrative of complaint means little to these furious folks.  As a result, coworkers, people sharing the same name, and neighbors get in the crossfire of their accusations.  What was once a healthy, growing workplace, school, or community becomes a place of fear, mistrust, and doubt as these misguided people take control of the institution or community.  Turnover becomes high, and morale sinks ever lower as the once blooming rose now simply stinks.   

*   *   *  

Well, there you have it.  Persecution, a rather common event in the lives of Christian believers in other continents, is alive and well in North America, though in a more subdued and oblique way.  Actually, there are believers in other parts of the world that are praying for persecution to come to believers in America.  It purifies the church - the body of believers - and makes them more ready for service, for one thing.  That is a good thing that pleases Jesus, so I'd say it's time for the church in North America to get ready for some more direct and in your face persecution.  God will help us. . . and he is always faithful and true. 

From Jesus' own lips in John 15: 

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

From the Apostle whom Jesus loved in 1 John 3:

13 Do not be surprised, brothers,[c] that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

The next passage, also in 1 John 3, is a real practical one that gets rubber to road really well. . .no time for hypocrisy!

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Well said words by the sage Apostle John towards the end of his long life.  May God help me to do them the way John said.  Until next time. . .


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thank You for Being a Friend

In a moment or two of spare time - such as that is for me at this station in life - I began to remember where I started out my walk with God, and how that all came about.  In large part this was prompted by a church membership application (my wife and I are joining the church we attend. . . Praise God!).  The simple question on the application is "When and how did you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord?"  I remember.  I remember all so very well. 

But I don't often have the opportunity to share those memories with those I know and love.  We get older, graduate from school, move away, find a job, and before you know it. . . you lose touch. 

This is the "magic" of Facebook: it reconnects you to those you remember - even those who have since married and now use their husband's name (who you might not even know at all) and allows you to "friend" them.  Reconnect with them and their lives.  Even after several decades of nonconnection and apparent silence.  Amazing technology at your keyboard's fingertips.  

I still have hanging in my house an old black and white photograph of my youth group performing as a handbell choir (five octaves) and vocal choir in our church's "Living Christmas Tree" program which was offered to the public free of charge at the regional shopping mall in the area, Plaza Camino Real in Carlsbad, California.  Always memories when I look at that photo, now framed in a simple wooden glass enclosed item which I found out after the fact may have ruined the photo.  The photograph is slightly too large for the frame!  I was told years ago I would have trouble getting it out of the frame, and to just simply leave it in.  I've done so.  

One of those friends from long ago was a tall blonde girl who was rather friendly and energetic, and was always good for a laugh.  I thought she was interested at the time in a certain blonde left handed bell choir member romantically, but I was wrong.  She married "out of the choir," but definitely inside that local church.  Solid catch from what I remember.  Solid family relations in that family, too.  Ones I never had in the way they did.  I secretly envied them back then.  What a neat family!  The dad oftentimes sang tenor solos before the sermon back in those days.  What a beautiful voice God gave him.  I enjoyed those solos very much, and still have a lot of music from that period rumbling around in my head.   

I found her (updated married) name on Facebook easily enough, and, upon being certain it was indeed her, pressed the "friend" button.  Not something I do everyday, especially to people I've not been in the company of for decades.  Worth a try.  "Up to you, God. . . " 

What do you know. . . in short order, she "friended" me back by accepting my friend request!  Wow. . . life, kids, grandkids, husband, boating. . . just wow.  That was very nice!  Nice to hear happy endings.  And the best part is from what I read, they all are still walking with God and keeping to that Pilgrim Way as I am doing as well. 

"OK," I say to myself.  "Let's see who she knows that I know" (or remember).  Wow upon wow. . . "Hey, there's that really zealous on fire guy with the funny wire glasses" (as I remembered him).  "Wonder if he remembers me?"

Sure enough. . . he did!  Pure wow!  And do I ever love what he said about the Internet and Facebook in particular: "Let's Redeem this thing called Facebook!"  Amen!  You got it, my friend.  Good to hear about your loved one making it through their medical situation and you staying steadfast with the Lord God.  Keep on sticking with Him. . . He is ever faithful and true. 

Bonus round: looking around again on his friend list, I came across the very one who invited me to church (not with her. . . not a date. . . just a friendly invite to be with others like herself).  This was immediately after I received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Wow!  Pure unadulterated Joy at this. . . and Wow!  And hey. . . you haven't aged a bit.  You look as I remembered you.  The older photos of you back when we were in high school or shortly afterwards add a nice touch.  Don't lose 'em, you hear?  (wide grin)

OK, let's try this thing again.  I typed in a name one night.  Next morning, I was friended back!  He moved with his wife to Oregon. . . never would have known them to be there.  They look and sound great from what I see and read.  Amazing. . . and wow!

My heart is filled with gratitude at your kindnesses, folks.  Thank you for remembering. . . thank you for caring. . . thank you for praying for me when I was nothing much to be pleased about and a real "work in progress". . . and thank you for being a friend despite the disconnections over the decades in our lives.  You are loved. . . but most of all by God for your kindness and willingness to identify yourself with Him first, and myself second.  Thank you for being such upright, faithful, Godly friends. 

Now let's walk this Pilgrim trail together.  Not exactly as in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. . . but you get the picture.  Let's go!