990 TO GO

990 TO GO

Steve DresselhausSilhouette-question-mark

Questions are good. They promote life and inspire change.  Asking questions and seeking answers is a primary engine for advancement, growth, exploration, and discovery.  Asking questions is a deliberate, conscious battle against the evil Angel of Death named Status Quo.  As my hair grays and gives up its fight to exist, I find myself asking  more and more questions.    However, every answer to every question only serves to  birth  a thousand  queries more, each possessing the potential to  complicate my life even further.  My mind is nowhere near big enough to hold all I want to know. Are my wanting to know and my desire to understand good? I seek to learn from the great theologians of the past and present but they agree with each other about as often as light and darkness exist in the same space, meaning that even the smart guys themselves are really no more sure of anything than I am.   Am I becoming one of those people who is always learning but never becoming godly?    Is my pursuit of understanding simply a modern day version of Eve’s reaching for the fruit? Maybe the bliss of ignorance is actually a  desirable state of well-being.   I can’t help but suspect that my desire to know is masking that which I really want and need: the simplicity of relationship and unity.    I saw a bumper sticker once that I believe hints  at the true human need and God’s strategy for meeting that need.    The bumper sticker said, “God’s original plan was to hang out in the garden with a couple of naked vegetarians.”   That bumper sticker exposes  what we most deeply want – oneness, simplicity, relationship, stress-free living, no life clutter, no competition to survive, no paperwork, no maintaining  of entropy-cursed possessions. However, until King Jesus returns to restore, renew, reconcile and redeem all of his creation,  life remains complicated; and  I have no option other than to learn how to best live in my current confused reality.

As I wait for the renewal of all things, I have some questions for which I would really like answers.  For most of the questions, I am able to  parrot back the memorized  platitudes which  serve as answers.  I am able to correctly answer any doctrinal test put before me by  any conservative church in America.   But I suspect the questions for which I want  answers  have deeper meaning  than can be covered by simple parroted platitudes.  Here are ten questions to which I seek honest answers.

1 – Has the traditional American belief in the Rapture produced  positive or negative  results  for planet Earth?

2 –  If I believe that all people are equal in God’s eyes  and that to him there is nether Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, is it wrong to  insist on  maintaining national borders?  Am I a bigot without knowing it?

3 – Is there an alternate economic system that is not dependent on growth and the increasingly  profligate consumption of material resources for its survival which will meet the needs of people without destroying the planet?

4 –  Why does the church in America so strongly condemn skin sins (adultery, fornication, homosexuality) but  through its silence give tacit approval to the sins of greed, pride, gluttony, hedonism,  celebrity adulation, racism and entitlement, those sins which are inexorably destroying our lives, country and world?

5 –  Do conservative evangelicalism and gnosticism ever intersect and do the lines between the two ever blur a bit?

6 –  Is the debate over young earth versus old earth really about that or is it about winning the argument?

7 – Since evil requires design and intentionality just as much as does good, who or what is its source?

8 – At what point do we who follow Jesus initiate civil disobedience against corrupt, unjust authorities?

9 –  When Jesus first sent out the 12 and the 70 to preach the Gospel (good news)  of the Kingdom, his death and resurrection were future events not included in the Gospel presentation.  What Gospel were the disciples to preach, and are we to incorporate that same message in our Gospel today?

10-  The Bible teaches us that  Jesus will return and establish one world government under his authority.  Is it wrong for us today to desire one world government and to work towards creating the unity that will prevail when that government is established by King Jesus upon his return?

These ten questions are but a minor sample of the questions that run through my mind.  Just when I think I understand something, I realize I am merely scratching the surface. Maybe the comfort of certainty  in all things is too illusive to attain in our current sin altered state.   Until King Jesus returns maybe I should just accept 42 as the answer to my quest for understanding.

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BLACK CLAMS – NEED I SAY MORE?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABLACK CLAMS – NEED I SAY MORE?

Steve Dresselhaus

“I will eat anything  and everything that is normally considered food by someone.  If I don’t like it, I’ll take seconds just to prove that I can do it.”  A more idiotic and foolish vow has never been spoken by anyone, other than, perhaps, a politician endeavoring to promise  his way into office.  But these words I did utter, way back in seventh grade,  at that life stage described by most social scientist as the crazy, unstable time of a male’s life that spans the years between  conception and age 57.

The underlying attitude  behind the vow is actually quite noble as it indicates  nearly unlimited potential, not just for culinary adventure but also because it fosters the opportunity to expand sensory  delights into new areas far beyond the mere temporal titillation of the taste buds.  It is this attitude,  the attitude of “Yes , I’ll try that,” that motivates humanity to  scale tall mountains,  explore distant jungles, test new architectural concepts and discover new activities like bungee jumping.  Trying new foods reveals a passion for adventure and excitement, and it reveals a way of life and an attitude that propels humanity upward and onward.  Seeking to experience  new things is a bold repudiation of the sucking black hole of death called the status quo.  Trying new foods is a tangible expression of the life-giving and life-enhancing concept of “What if….”

My life has taken a twist which often puts me in the position of  testing   the limits and probing the sincerity of my willingness to abide by  the vow I took in seventh grade.  I am a mission executive.  I travel the world.  As a mission executive who lives in the nonprofit world of tax-deductible contributions, five star hotels and their accompanying restaurants are not my normal lodging nor where I eat my meals.  The hotels in which I stay, if they utilize astronomic signage,  would  not be rated by the number of stars under their names.   They are more likely to be judged with  asteroids,  or perhaps a moon or two.   The restaurants in which I eat when traveling the world keep my guardian angels, whom I believe to be the heavenly equivalent of Seal Team Six, at their highest levels of readiness.

Last week in Lima, Peru, I was given the privilege/opportunity/curse of being offered a new food, something I had never eaten before.  It was a highly recommended Peruvian delicacy called “ceviche de concha negra.”  Ceviche is raw seafood.  Concha is any oyster-like bivalve, and negra, of course, means black.  So, were this menu item to appear in English it would read  something like “raw black clams.”  The locals claim the clams have  been “cooked” by marinating them in lemon and onion, which may be accurate  according to their loose definition of “cook,” but which in no way  eliminates the rawness factor any more than declaring that a day-old Texas road kill armadillo has been cooked by the sun.  Raw clams are raw clams; and all the lemon juice does is guarantee that any surviving bugs, bacteria, germs and viruses are the  strongest, most adaptive and most virulent kind, eagerly  waiting to swap intestinal tract hosts.

The word “black” forms part of the name for this kind of ceviche.   Black, when used in the context of food, is not necessarily a bad thing.  Black beans are good.  Mesquite-blackened fish at Red Lobster is good. Black Forest chocolate cake is a delight.  But black clams, let’s be honest, do not sound good; nor does the picture they present in the mind please in any way whatsoever.  When the words “black” and “clam” appear in the name of a dish, there really is nothing that can be done to soften the image.  Making this experience even more memorable was that the clams’ room temperature “water” was also dumped into my bowl.  Black clam water is dark.  Black clam water looks  like seepage from a shattered Sharpie.  Clam water  is raw  and unfiltered and contains whatever went into the clam and whatever should have gone out but did not.  Black chunks of raw clam soaking in black liquid – I’m not sure I’ll be able to erase this image now hard-wired into my memory.  Picture in your mind  eating chunks of a child-safe playground surface made from diced car tires marinated in puddled water from the service bay of a gas station in a slum area of a third  world nation.

The most difficult  part of the meal was neither the taste nor texture, neither of  which was  really all that repulsive.  Truth be told, it tasted pretty good.   The most challenging part of the meal was thinking of the living conditions of the clams immediately prior to their being plucked from the ooze at the bottom of the ocean and dropped into my bowl.  Had my lunch been filtering water next to a rotting seal corpse  only hours earlier?  Had a Liberian-registered oil tanker flushed its sewage holding tanks near my until recently  mouth-breathing lunch? Had my  raw lunch recently suffered from a mollusk’s version of a head cold? If so, how could I know if I was eating  a bowlful of raw clam or a bowlful of  clam snot, or even if it is possible to differentiate  between the two?   Honestly,  I would have preferred a nice juicy,  hot, bacon-wrapped, mushroom-smothered  filet mignon; but raw,  mud-dwelling, filter-feeding, pathogen-concentrating lumps of organic rubber-like substance soaking in a dark liquid not unlike the collected sweat from Jabba the Hut’s armpit wasn’t really all that bad.  I’m serious, it was an OK meal, likely one I’ll never choose to repeat, but it was not a gagomatic.

I will continue to travel, and I will continue to eat what is placed before me.  I will continue to search out new experiences  and will intentionally seek to expand my horizons and conscientiously  fight with all my might against the evil  destructive forces of the “status quo.”  But never will I leave my house and head overseas with anything other than industrial quantities of Pepto-Bismol.

For the story of a culinary adventure in Venezuela  that did not end so well, click on my story “BOTTLED DEATH”  https://macrochristian.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/bottled-death/

NO ARGUMENT HERE

Steve Dresselhaus

“My life is nothing but a string of failed relationship.”  Wow, that was harsh.  These were the words spoken by my seat mate during our 2 ½ hour flight  from Chicago to Miami.  Our dialogue, which lasted the entire flight, was sometimes fun and light hearted but sometime serious and thought provoking.  My seat mate had little in common with me. I’m a man, she is a woman.   We are from two different races.   She is two decades younger than me. Although she now lives in the United States, she is from another country.  English, which she spoke very well, virtually perfectly, was not her first language.  During the honest give and take of natural, normal,  conversation we talked about faith, unity, racism, American greed, human trafficking,  the pandemic loneliness of Americans caught up in the desperate pursuit of luxury and gadgets, whether or not Christians care about the environment and a whole lot more.  As we conversed about this that and the other thing we talked about our families.  Personal histories were shared.   Little by little she began to open up about her tragic string of failed relationships and how now,  in her mid-thirties, her biological clock is tick tocking  her dream for a stable marriage with happy children away from her.  Her pursuit of career and her quest for fun and adventure in her 20s she now sees as thieves which are depriving her of what she wants most and what she believes would make her happy but which she now feels  she is  unlikely to ever attain.

She is 15 years younger than the man with whom she is living.   Marriage is not on the table for discussion.  History indicates this relationship will fail as well, just like all her previous relationships.  I could have pointed out that her  being a serial fornicator makes her a less-than-ideal candidate for loving wife and gentle mother and that her current behavior pretty much guarantees she  will never attract any man other than the kind who falls for  serial fornicators.    I could have wagged my finger at her pointing out that she is living in sin and that God  in no way approves of  her sinful actions.  I could have pressured her into reciting a sinner’s prayer with the promise that God would make her dreams come true, or at a minimum,  he would give her the strength to stoically endure her miserable life until she dies.  I did not attempt to argue her into the Kingdom of God or into my church.  She asked me how I had managed to have a wonderful marriage, now in it’s 30th year and which is only getting better and better.  My new friend had already pieced together from our conversation that my wife and I had just gotten back from our anniversary get away, that I had two young adult children who were doing well, that I was faithful to my wife, that I am a follower of Jesus, that I am an ordained minister (although self-knowledge makes the title “reverend” too over-the-top arrogant to admit to), and that  I am an executive with a mission agency.

Because she asked  me directly, I was able to tell her my marriage works  well because it is founded on both my wife and me having been transformed and molded  by Jesus and because we are trying to live like him.  I talked about how we read the Bible and how that guides our behavior.  I mentioned that when I hurt my wife or she hurts me we are quick to ask for forgiveness.   We talked about the character of a true follower of Jesus and how that makes it easy to love and be loved.  We talked about Jesus’ last prayer before he died on the cross in our place in which he pleaded with God the Father for unity for us and what his answered prayer would look like in the context of marriage.

There was no agenda for the conversation and no direction for it to head.  Because of this, it was honest, it was natural,  it was relaxed and it was non threatening to both of us, even though we discussed some pretty intense topics.  There was no accusation, judgmentalism, arguing, or condemnation.  It was an honest conversation between friendly equals.  There was no pressure for me to perform to a standard nor was there a debate to win.  There was no need to programmatically evangelize her or convince her that I was right and she wrong.  She heard about Jesus naturally during the conversation as his name and what he did flowed in and out of the conversation.

As we taxied to the terminal in Miami, she thanked me.  She said I had given her hope.  She said she had learned some things she wanted to immediately share with her boyfriend in the hopes of improving the relationship.   I offered to do marriage counseling via SKYPE if she and her boyfriend are interested and I gave her my card.  Will I ever see her again?  Probably not.  But she learned a few things that will help her in her relationship, which I hope ends in marriage before her clock stops.  She also heard a lot about Jesus, but she heard about him as he relates to her in her life, not via a generic, one-size-fits-all, activity-interrupting, cold call, cookie cutter,  high pressure sales pitch from a results oriented salesman following a script while  trying to close the deal on the first encounter.

Did I gain anything from this experience?  I was rewarded with the satisfaction that comes from helping someone.  I was rewarded with the opportunity of talking with someone (not at them) about the most important aspects of my life.  I was able to confirm, what I already know, believe and attempt to practice,  that talking about Jesus comes naturally when we don’t set out to win an argument.   The Bible  says “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” –  if Jesus is “abundant” in you, you will talk about him.  If you cannot speak easily about Jesus it is likely because he is not “abundant” in your life or because you have been erroneously indoctrinated into thinking evangelism is mostly about giving convincing arguments and you are worried you don’t know enough.    I have also been given the opportunity, since you have read this far, to  encourage to stop letting guilt,  either self-imposed or  foisted on you by others,  be the  motivator for “personal evangelism”.  Unshackle yourself from the programmed, argumentative, step-by-step evangelistic strategies we Americans like.   I recommend a moratorium on reading all the competing “how to” books on evangelism which are promoting a method and not a person.  Jesus is not a marketable commodity.   All we need to do is talk about who we love and why. Marketing the King of Kings is not our objective.  If Jesus does not spontaneously pop up in your conversations now and again, not knowing how to evangelize is the least of the issues with which you must deal.

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I do not consider myself an expert on the subject of evangelism.   I am simply telling the story of a recent personal experience.  I have not always done a good job of sharing my faith.  To see the other side of the story click on  SHAME IN THE MARKET

If you care to follow my missionary journey  click on www.steveandlois.com