Part 2

I think the big issue to discuss is the great irony in the fact that I ended my last post with “to be continued,” and it’s taken me a full month or more to write again. What can I say? I’m a crappy letter writer. (You wonder why all my friends tend to go crazy?) Actually the great irony is that my mom (who is never wrong) responded to “to be continued” with “yeah, but when?!” And she was right. I was planning to continue my blog in about a week, at most. I guess it seems that, while nothing can separate us from the love of God, a great deal can separate us from the love of blog.

The truth is that my “Part 2” kept changing. Originally, what I was going to write about was my further difficulties in achieving my other dream of owning a Christian bookstore. Do you know that the average cost of starting a small shopping-center bookstore runs around $300,000 (plus one year’s living expenses), because it takes a minimum of a full year before you start running a profit? For a store on the scale of Borders, the price tag goes in excess of a million. In case anyone hadn’t noticed, I don’t have anywhere near $300,000 (or a cool million) at my disposal. I don’t even have enough money to buy a new car. A loan? You want me to get a loan for that kind of money? Mister, in case you didn’t know, I just got turned down for a $250 credit card. That’s right. I figured I’d start working on my credit by getting an ultra-low balance credit card that I’d use to cover my daily expenses, groceries, etc. The response? Insufficient credit history. Crikey! I’ve got more than that in savings! Needless to say, that dream also is on hold.

For a couple of weeks, my idea was to say that I’d put both sets of dreams on hold, and that I was just going to sit back and enjoy life for a while. Well, it was what I was going to say. I really was. Then work got to be unpleasant, and all kinds of political motives among employees started showing up. And so I woke up one morning with the sudden realization that, if I was going to be miserable, I might as well be miserable with a purpose.

I just don’t have it in me to sit around indefinitely and bide my time. I took a year off once before, between ministry school and going back to college. It was fun for maybe three months. Once I got properly rested, I got really really bored. I took a dance class; I took up guitar; I took up babysitting; I read 1500 pages of history textbooks. I don’t remember what all else I did, but none of it was particularly satisfying. I couldn’t make any of it into a lifetime goal. I don’t hobby well. I tend to be on or off. This putz around stuff doesn’t do me to well. As long as it’s carrying me to a goal, I can put up with an almost infinite strand of unpleasantness, but unpleasantness that moves toward no particular goal just doesn’t cut it for me.

So I woke up one morning and it was “pick a dream and go with it.” So I picked, and I didn’t pick business. The most direct path toward owning a bookstore at this point does not involve getting an entry-level job at my local bookstore (I wish people would quit suggesting that). There is nothing about running a business that I could learn from working customer service. In fact, none of the jobs I currently qualify for would teach me anything directly about business. It would all be a vicarious, sidward process that would take years to assimilate. Or I could go to business school and basically start from scratch, because I didn’t even take macro economics 101 in college. They’d stick me in undergrad classes, because an English degree has absolutely nothing to do with a business degree. However, an English degree is practically on the fast track to high scores in seminary. Frankly, what is the difference between interpreting William Blake and interpreting the book of Revelation? Not much, I can assure you (they’re both functionally impossible J).

So I’m going to seminary. I picked Gordon-Conwell. I’ll be enrolling as soon as I can get the darn application done. I’ve got a whole other essay to write about how difficult that has been. It has been unbearably busy for a month now.

I’m sure I have other things to say, but I’m going to be late for work, and I dare not put off posting this thing another day—who knows when that other day may ever be?

Toodles.
KB

Vision

Okay. Let me begin by saying that I’m a mystic. In modern psychological terms, this means that I’m a prime candidate for schizophrenia. I have delusions of grandeur all the time. It also seems that I am the envy of those who aspire to poetry and ecstatic religion. It is only with some great difficulty that I can distinguish between present reality and my imagination. I am constantly on the verge of either changing the world forever, or losing my mind. Again, it is only with some difficulty that I am able to make a distinction between the two.

Fortunately for me, having had my skills sharpened by reason of use, I am able to process this visionary impetus quite easily. Some revolutionary idea comes, I hash it out, check it for flaws, and keep it or toss it. As a result, it usually isn’t me who ends up going crazy. It’s everyone around me. I hash out these high falutin ideas by talking about them, and when any particular vision has me, I believe in it fanatically. To anyone who is an intimate part of my life, it looks like the world is perpetually crashing down around my shoulders.

It isn’t. It just looks that way. I do have a sense of perspective. I am confident that the truly God-sent ideas will have staying power. It is only that I am convinced that we must also process the bran if we are to retain the germ. There’s a lot of chaff out there for every grain of wheat.

There have been two visions for my life that have had particular staying power: one is a call to business. The other is a call to ministry. I tend to alternate between the two. I can trace this back at least to when I was fourteen. I had this really brilliant idea that I was going to open up a series of Olympic sized swimming pools in the town I was living in. Mostly I was frustrated to that the biggest pubic pool was about the size of what goes in somebody’s back yard. The only glitch in my plan was the part where my dad got a new job and we moved about 300 miles. The next thing I can remember is trying to manipulate God into calling me to be a pastor. It went something like this: “Don’t send me to Africa.” You know the saying, if you pray to God, “please don’t ever” that’s the one thing He’ll do. The obvious solution is to absolutely convince yourself that the one thing you never want to do is the actual calling God has on your life. I’m pretty sure there’s a flaw in my logic somewhere, but at the time I didn’t catch it. I just remember that I successfully put pastoral ministry completely out of my thoughts for nearly a decade.

When I was seventeen, the summer before my senior year in high school, I came up with a new grandiose vision for the ultimate Christian bookstore. I seriously approached my parents and asked for permission to drop out of high school, get my GED, and start this business immediately. I was also seriously appalled at my parents lack of vision when they insisted that I complete my schooling.

Having graduated from high school, it seemed the most natural thing in the world for me to be frustrated that they didn’t offer a bona fide degree in theology for undergraduates at the college that I chose, despite the fact that I never for a moment thought that a theology degree implied a calling to something like pastoral ministry. I don’t know what on earth I thought I was going to do with a theology degree, but I certainly knew I wasn’t going to pastor. I was so frustrated with my academic limitations that I dropped out of the school where I had an 80% scholarship and moved a thousand miles to attend a non-accredited ministry school (a move which, though I don’t understand it, I still believe was based on the genuine leading of God).

Having moved clear across the country, I discovered that I was ill equipped to fit into the mold that my new school had established for “ministry.” Even the stuff I’m good at became peremptory failures. I just sort of sat there for two years and generally looked stupid. Nevertheless, while I was sitting there looking stupid, I received the most astounding vision for a Christian bookstore. To this day I believe that the vision I received both needs to be done and will be done, in due time.

And with this long prelude, I come to the last few months. I’m not really sure why I majored in English. Oh, I have a few guesses, but they’re in the same category as guesses why I went to MorningStar school of ministry. The bottom line is God told me and I’m a mystic, so I can say that. So Nyeaah.

So I get out, and I’m just sitting here for about a month. And I get to praying. Remember, that I’ve completely abandoned the any pretensions to ministry since it all went up in smoke at the ministry school. So I say,

“God, I’ve graduated, and now that I’m through all that mess, what do you want me to do?” And He says.

“GO TO SEMINARY!” Well, okay, it was quieter than that, but it had the same effect. So I start laughing and I says, “After I am worn out… will I now have this pleasure?” and then it turned into this big argument about whether or not I actually laughed at God.

It took a couple of days, but I talked myself out of it. I had this big deal I wrote about putting out fleeces for God to manipulate around, a bunch of hoops for God to jump through… However, the only serious test I could think of was for God to give me a straight path. If I’m supposed to go to seminary, tell me how I’m going to get through it and what I’m supposed to be doing when I get done.

Then I started looking. I researched schools, I talked to people who had gone to seminary. I sought counsel from parents and pastors and chaplains and everybody else I thought might care. I got responses everywhere from my mom telling me that I was crazy, but that if it was God, I could do what I thought was best to my pastor telling me that, if I was going to be certain of getting a job at a respectable Baptist church, I had better go to school at a recognized conservative Southern Baptist seminary, such as his alma mater, some 300 miles away.

It was the “be a good Baptist” speech that scared me. I like my Baptist church. It’s a good church. I don’t know, though, that I’m ready to commit myself to “being a Baptist.” Being a member of a church of a particular denomination is one thing. Stamping myself neatly into the mold of a particular denomination is quite another. Basically, the line was something about, if I went to a non-Baptist seminary, then a lot of Baptist churches would be suspicious and unwilling to give me any position at their church. What I’m thinking is, “why would I even consider being associated with any church that had those kinds of sectarian issues?” But what I mumbled back was something about not being sure about the whole denominational thing. I’m not really sure about how all these large, supra-church structures work So he went into an explanation about how basically all denominations are like that, so I’d best figure out which one I wanted before I went to school. Then he went back into the push for a good Baptist seminary.

My brakes were officially braking. I don’t want to be a good little Baptist and preach the party line. I don’t want to concern myself with making sure I’ve jumped through the appropriate hoops to get a position that pays enough to do “God’s work” and still buy a nice house. If I preach, I want to preach the Truth that needs no accreditation. Seminary was officially on hold.

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(to be continued…)

For the Record

I just want to make sure that everybody knows that I’m not a blithering idiot with no plan. I had a plan. I had a very good plan. Seminary was about step 15 in that plan, not step 2. It’s the sudden shift that’s causing me irritation. As far as going to Seminary is concerned, I’m actually kind of excited. I’ve only been wanting to learn to read Greek and Hebrew for 5 years. I was very disappointed when they didn’t have it available at MorningStar

The biggest sheepskin for me is money. I don’t have any intention of going through the dirt poor thing any more. I can live off of $13 K per year. I have no desire to. If I go right back to school, I’m still going to want an income of close to $20,000 a year. That would cover house, car, food, a movie now and again, and hopefully something to pay off school money problems as well.

Another thing I want is a lot of people to tell me, “Yes, Kyle, I’ve prayed about it and thunked about it, and this is exactly what I think you’re supposed to do.”

I suppose if I was being a real Gideon, I’d ask for something extravagant, like snow in July or something, but I guess I’m not that interested in avoiding going back to school.

Yesterday I did my research and found that there were basically four seminaries in Charlotte: Two Presbyterian and two inter/non denominational. One Presby school was at Queens, and it was the liberal branch of the Presby church. I’m not that liberal. They also had a degree plan that fit neatly into six years. I’m not that liberal. The other was called Reformed Theological Seminary, and they were very impressive in their academics and mind blowingly conservative. They believe that the Bible is the absolute truth, dictated word for word from the mouth of God. I believe that all scripture is God-breathed, and that it’s all true, but word for word? If that’s word for word, then we’ve got a lot more to worry about than evolution and the ordination of women. If the bible was dictated verbatim, then He’s got major multiple personality disorder. I prefer not to believe in a God who is crazy. RTS also included a copy of the statement that every professor must sign every year. Basically if they have any misgivings about the Presbyterian creed that was established every year, they are required to notify the school immediately. I got the distinct impression that the creed was more important than the scripture. What if they found that a conservative interpretation of the bible necessarily contradicted the creed?

The third school was called Southern Evangelical Seminary, and they scared me from the get-go. Let’s start with the portable buildings for offices. Then we can move to the general… lack of affability… in the admissions staff. I got my admissions info and left. I never even looked at it. Later, a friend described them as the “fightin’ fundies.” Rigid fundamentalists. In my opinion, the fundamentalists have moved as far to the right of a plausible interpretation as the ultra-liberals have moved to the left.

The last one seems to be the zinger. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Interdeominational, the school has students who go on to minister with Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and a whole host of other denominations. It happens to be the same school that my good friend graduated from, and he highly recommended it to me. Good solid biblical background, he says. I was a little scared when I first found them—they were in a business park. But they were finishing their actual campus to open this fall, and the interior was much more comfortably furnished than the scary school. It seems silly to judge by the furniture, but you have to wonder, if this is what they consider appropriate to welcome students, what will they do after you start attending classes? The Admissions counselor at Gordon-Conwell was also the most helpful of any of the schools I went to. He was very encouraging, asked questions, gave helpful suggestions.

It was pretty easy to pick my favorite out of the schools. What’s been hard has been obtaining advice from qualified counselors. Friends and family have given me their input (Family has stood firmly on the side of getting a job before even considering going back to school), but pastors and school counselors have not been so easy to catch. I have an appointment tomorrow with my pastor. One day my school chaplain will give me a call. I think she may be on an international school field trip. I tend to forget they have those.

I also finally got my appointment with Adecco today. Someday, I’ll manage to get a job.

You should be proud of me. Only 1 ½ pages today. J

Voice of God

Okay, let me tell you a story. About six years ago, I was a lowly freshman at Oral Roberts University. I have terrible habits when it comes to picking schools. ORU is a pretty well-known religious school in the area, famous among charismatics, of the straight-laced, button-down shirt and tie persuasion. I picked it because it was eight miles from my parents house. I hate moving. I didn’t apply to any other schools. I got accepted, got a reasonable scholarship deal, and left it at that. I hated it. Oh the atmosphere was great, but the rules drove me crazy.

I’m trying to avoid backtracking too many times, but we’ll start with this: When it comes to hearing God for basic direction in my life, I’m as deaf as a post. Oh when I finally get it, I’m pretty confident. I know I’ve heard Him. But it’s usually about 15 minutes before I’m supposed to be there. I started looking at ministry schools. Bible schools. There were lots of them in town. But the two that really grabbed my interest were both over 1000 miles away. One was a Vineyard school for worship leaders in Langley British Columbia, Canada. The other was the MorningStar School of ministry in Charlotte, NC. I acquired brochures for both, and instantaneously settled on MorningStar. I still don’t remember why.

Well, that’s not completely true. The MorningStar brochures said they were planning to give their students a BA in Church History or something like that (Maybe it was Biblical Literature). But that plan never materialized. And yet I doggedly stayed at MorningStar, fully confident that God had sent me, despite the fact that I have never fully learned what it was I was supposed to get out of the experience.

As I was saying, I’m deaf as a post when it comes to hearing God, especially when it comes to personal direction. I mean, the clouds could roll back, I could hear an audible voice, I could write it down verbatim, and it would still be months before I got the message.

Folks, it could be years.

So back to my freshman year at ORU…My second semester, for whatever reason, I opted to take only 12 hours of classes, which left me optimal time for prayer and fasting, and that sort of fanatical behavior. Somewhere in there I got a really clear message to hide out every night for a week in a typically vacant study hall and pray for an hour or so and write down whatever God told me. It was a pretty powerful experience. God told me all sorts of things that I didn’t listen to. There was a girl I was kind of interested in, that I thought was seeing my roommate. The Lord told me that this girl wasn’t going to end up with anybody who was living in the state of Oklahoma. That should have included me and my roommate. I ended up dating this girl for about 6-8 months. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, and lo and behold, I didn’t end up with her. (Neither did my roommate.)

The big message that I got that week though, had to do who I was as a person and how He was molding me. I’ve lost my journal since then, but what I wrote down was something along these lines: The picture was of a earthenware jar that had already been fired. The potter, however, thinks that the pot just isn’t quite right, and decides to start over. He has two options. Either he can throw the old pot out and start over with a new batch of clay, or he can grind that clay back down to powder, add water, and start all over again. (Today I would make references to “a bruised reed he will break and a smoking flax he will not put out”). At that same time, I know I had been praying something along the lines of “fall on the rock and be broken, or the rock will fall on you and you will be crushed.” Except that I had the brilliant revelation that “crushed” is a more developed state of “brokenness” than merely “broken.” Since the highest state for a Christian is brokenness before God, I had been praying that He would go ahead and give me the advanced treatment and crush me down to powder.

Folks. Let me give you a tip here: Just go for “brokenness.” “Crushed” is generally more of an experience than you’re bargaining for. But no, in my pride of humbleness I was shooting for the big time. So I had a message. I was going to get broken down to powder and put back together again, completely from scratch. Yippie skippy! I don’t remember all of it, but He gave me a list of about 5 or 7 things that he was going to take away from me. Friends is the only one I can remember off the top of my head. Did I mention that I acquired almost no long term friendships my first four or five years in Charlotte?

So it’s six years later, and suddenly it’s occurring to me that those words (as best I can remember them) have been fulfilled to the letter. While the basic stuff I’m made of hasn’t really changed, everyone who’s known me will tell you I’m a completely different person. Do you know that in all the junk I went through, that prophecy never even occurred to me, to look at and say, “see, this is exactly what I’m going through!” Never. Not once.

Skip ahead a bit. Charlotte. Present day. I’ve just graduated from college. BA. English. Does anyone know why I chose to major in English? Me neither. Why is it that the only positions that have come up that seemed even remotely viable have all been ministry positions?

I just recently joined a Baptist church. This is pretty strange for me. I come from a very de-structured religious background so all the procedures inevitably attached to any kind of denomination always gave me the sense that I was bound to up and break a rule. But I joined for a number of reasons. The first one was that I pretty much decided that non-denominational churches on the east coast were too flakey for me, while most moderate to conservative denominations seemed to be about what I was used to from the midlands. It isn’t just in politics that they get more liberal on the coast. The second reason was that I have a friend that I love very dearly, and I’ve dragged her already through two churches that have zero order in the service whatsoever. I figured I owed it to her to try the Baptist route for a while. Mikey tried it, Mikey likes it, and that’s the life for me.

Immediately upon joining the Baptist church, my school chaplain starts handing me letters from Presbyterian churches pretty much begging for full and part-time youth ministers. With much prayer and thought, I decide not to apply, despite a promised glowing recommendation from the chaplain, because I just joined a church and I’d hate to immediately leave it. So what happens? The music director leaves and our church decides to replace him with two positions: A part-time choir director, and a full-time associate pastor position. I look at the job description for the associate pastor, and it fits me perfectly in all but two points: they want a Masters in Divinity and 3-5 years full-time ministry experience.

Nothing is catching my attention like these ministry positions, despite the fact that I know that pastoral work is the hardest and most underappreciated in the universe. Despite the fact that, after MorningStar I practically swore a vow never to return to any kind of attempt at public ministry. Despite the fact that I’ve been talking about getting a job in the business world for three years now.

I had a big long piece that I was going to do, discussing my charismatic non-denominational background and how it compares with the Presbyterian and Baptist denominations (the only two I’ve had any kind of real first-hand experience with). Essentially, the typical charismatic non-denom church has the government structure of the Presbyterians (plurality of leadership!) with the theology of the Baptists (no infant baptisms!). There’s a Methodist influence as well, but we won’t get into that. We’re getting close to my self-imposed 3-page limit, and I think I’m going to end up going over it this time.

My original point was to mention that I was actually considering going back to school for a theology degree instead of joining up the workforce like a real man. I was then going to point out that there were a total of 3 accredited seminaries in the greater Charlotte area, none of which are Charismatic. Then I was going to hash out all those details for your reading pleasure. But at about the 3rd paragraph of this essay, my hands started to shake. By the 10th paragraph, it was so bad, you’d a thought I was a strung-out addict. I had to stop typing. I thought maybe I had low blood sugar (you know, it happens all the time at 1:30 in the morning), so I got up and made me some toast. I could barely get the bread in the toaster. The more I tried to frame how I was going to say that I was looking at going to a seminary, the worse it got. The more I worked at it, the more it became less of a “how to discuss the issue of…” and more of a “Lord, do you want me to…” And then I started to cry.

I’ll be honest with yuns. It’s been years since God and I had a serious man to man. You know that whole “crushing to powder” bit? Incommunicado. That was His deal, not mine. By the time I got to college, I think I had given up, it was so rare. I was basically praying, “If you don’t like this one, just stop me, okay? Hello? Anything?” Every once in a while I’d see Him from across the room and he’d wave at me. Real friendly like.

And then tonight. 1:30 am. “Hello, God, are you—WHOA.” It was, uh, pretty intense.

I won’t say I’m really happy about it. I did have myself set on not going back to school full-time for a while, if ever. I also happened to have myself set on getting some business experience under my belt. I’ve always planned to go on to seminary, but I was thinking sometime around when I turn 50. As it is, I’ve probably got three months to figure this out, and I’m still pretty scared about it. I may be a mule, and only half a horse, but I know a hard road when I see it. Not to mention Somebody could have given me a little heads up about it. I spent a lot of time tonight saying “If this is the way you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you have so few of them.” Then I’d start crying again. He may seem capricious at times, but His presence is so good.

As far as I’m concerned, for the next little while, my name is Gideon. You will not believe how many sheepskins I’m going to be laying out. Before I start to do this thing, I’m going to know it’s God. I’m also not going to be flying it blind. As I mentioned before, there are at least three schools in the Charlotte area I could go to, and none of them are the same background I grew up with. I’m going to be talking to a lot of people.

As it is, please pray for me. I’m kind of scared, and I’m tired of this.
KB

Tongues

Acts 2:5-11

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they herd this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another “What does this mean?”

I pretty much grew up with “speaking in tongues.” I’ve never been one of those people who are fanatical about it, you know, where speaking in tongues fixes everything. But I grew up in a charismatic church, I’m spirit filled (or baptized) and I’ve been known to pray on and off, with words that sound, to the natural ear, something like gibberish. I’ve never really had a problem with this, and I still don’t, except for the verse that says, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding” (1 Cor 14:15).

But recently, I’ve been getting a bit of a revelation about the “gift of tongues” (believe it or not) from my literary theory class. See, one of the key concepts to, oh, Feminist criticism, post-colonial criticism, new historical criticism, and a whole host of others is the idea of “discourse.” Discourse, simply put, is a language. Actually, it’s a sub language. There are millions of ‘em. Every group of people, sub-culture, occupation, and clique has one. African Americans: “What’s happening, brother?” Computer programmers: “The key to Microsoft’s unparalleled success is not simply their impressive marketing program combined with hyper-aggressive business techniques, but behind it all lies the core of truly modular programming.” Bill and Ted: “Dude!”… “Sweet!” Britspeak: “Pardon me, would you happen to have any Grey Poupon®?” Critspeak: “The importance of the objective correlative is that it has the capacity to transfigure a simple objective consideration, either concrete or abstract, into a more broadening projection of personal, or even intimate, awareness.”

Yeah. Discourses. Everybody has ‘em. It’s what allows you to talk to the older people at church in one way, and the kids at school in another. It’s like one long series of inside jokes, strung together into a conversation. It just means that certain words in certain contexts have very specialized meanings. So, in a more liturgical church, I would talk about priests performing exorcism on a demon-possessed person, while in a Charismatic church I would talk about the importance of deliverance for those who are “demonized.” In a fundamentalist church, I would probably have to talk about the important influence of prayer in addition to psychiatric treatment and/or medication for the mentally afflicted.

Hopefully, you get the idea. Discourse is that special way of speaking that any group of people automatically develops to put as much meaning as possible into every phrase they speak. The thing that fascinates me the most, though, is that when those literary theorists discuss the nature of discourse, they don’t think of it as a kind of dialect, like where people from certain parts of the country say “pull the door to” instead of “shut the door” and the language doesn’t usually bleed from one part to the other. Instead, a discourse works just like a mini-language, and they bleed over into the culture at large. Which is why it’s cool now for anybody to say “you’re in denial” and it makes sense to people who aren’t psychologists. It fascinates me because I’ve always had a thing for languages. I’m always sitting around defining things, looking up words in my Bible for what they meant in the original Greek or Hebrew. I’ve always loved figuring out how the same word can mean different things to different sub-groups of people.

I’ve always had a bit of a gift for language. One of my biggest embarrassments is that, despite this “gift” for language, English is the only language I’m fluent in. That’s like being a math wiz who only does algebra. Something the Lord’s been showing me, though, is that my ability with words isn’t just going to waste on writing poetry. (Especially since I finally mastered the “discourse” that allows me to say nothing, but to say it in such a way that I win a bunch of writing awards—let’s just say that I’ve gotten really bored with impressing people with poetry) I’ve started to realize that the “gift of tongues” is both a spiritual and a natural gift, that is I can speak in the tongues of angels and of men, and that I have a very real calling to speak in these discourses, and to translate these discourses.

OK. I mean, I guess it’s pretty obvious. But it isn’t really. How many people aren’t automatically offended when somebody doesn’t talk their lingo properly? How many people argue over stuff when they’re actually trying to make the same point? How many people refuse to hear anything that isn’t being said in the language of their own sect? Frankly, this kind of “speaking in tongues” encompasses prophecy, teaching and evangelism. None of these callings can be successful if the people who are being spoken too are offended with every word because they don’t hear the message properly through the filter of the sub-cultures they’re familiar with.

I don’t know if that does anything for you, but I’m pretty pumped. It sort of pulls it all together for me: the poetry, the heart for teaching, the bookstore, the call to ministry… all of it. This even explains what the heck I’m doing signing up to become a member of the local Baptist church. I’ve got to learn the denominational language before I can do that part of my job. Folks, I’ve got a mission now, so you might as well call me a missionary. A missionary to America, but a missionary nonetheless. I’m excited. My whole life fits into one framework again.

Yippee skipe!

Thought to Ponder

I had just gotten back from doing breakfast for Room in the Inn with Janusian Order. It was 6am and I was debating whether or not to change my alarm to 9 instead of 8 when I fell into a half doze and began to dream.

In my dream, I was in a room full of people trying to decorate. They were moving furniture, trying to carpet the floor, put things on the wall, etc. I was trying to get them to stop or leave. When they wouldn’t, I realized I was in a dream and tried to wake up; I couldn’t.

I tried singing praise songs, like “Shout to the Lord,” that proclaim who the Lord is. The workers sang too because I had said, “anyone who works in my house, sings praises to the Lord” before I started to sing. I was actually confused that they sang because in my semiconscious state I thought I was being held captive in a dream state by demons.

Next, I started to ask individual people a couple of questions, “How do you worship God and know that he is the one worthy of your worship?” I started to get muddy and wrong answers. I received answers of pluralism and answers that had twisted views of what the bible said.

I then stated singing “Thy Word” and the people stated to get mad at me. I then tried to force them to leave my home. I stated praying as I tried to herd them out, “Lord, help me to live my life according to your word and not to be persuaded by arguments that are close to the word but wrong. Let me keep your truths close to me.”

The next thing I remember was curling up on the floor and sobbing. I was so sad and all I could do was cry and try to keep saying my prayer. Through blurry eyes, I watched as one of the workmen stated leading some of the people out and letting some stay behind in the room. I realized that while I was arguing with the decorators, this worker had been building my home around me. It was then that I woke up.

It’s not enough to have a firm foundation on the Word. Each support, wall, window, and door needs to be placed according to God’s will and design for your life. Don’t let other people try to decorate your home according to their desires and what they think is the right way; always check what is being said to you against what you know to be true, which is found in God’s Word. If you base your faith on the Word, you will have a strong faith that can stand the test of time. Guard your heart and only let God’s truths enter in.

“Oh, God, you are my God,
And I will ever praise you.
Oh, God, you are my God,
And I will ever praise you.
I will seek you in the morning
And learn to walk in your ways.
And step by step you’ll lead me
And I will follow you all of my days.”

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Addenum: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” – Psalm 127:1

You have shown

You have shown me mercy when I was looking for despair.

Please forgive me for the long delay. I have a pretty good size list of excuses, including the ever classic, “I don’t have internet access,” but I don’t think I’ll bother you with those. Life is busy and I was learning how to breathe again. For the moment at least, I think I’ve caught my breath. I have written some new poetry and things, but today at least needs to be a personal entry, and a long one at that. I want to share what’s been happening with me, get everybody caught up, so to speak.

It’s difficult to know where to begin. I think it’s pretty common knowledge that I went through a particularly stressful semester this fall, but I don’t think that was the root of the issue. It was a little bit more complicated and a little bit more philosophical, so please forgive me while I go there a bit.

I guess I’ll tell a straight story, so I’m going to back waaay up: six years ago I moved to North Carolina (is that far back enough for you?). It was basically one giant big long bad experience. It would sound like a pity party if I told you about it. Basically, God sent me here, halfway across the country, and I’ve yet to get a clear answer why. Every time I thought I was heading in a direction, I ended up going somewhere else completely. I wrote a short story about it, called “A Day’s Journey,” where the key phase was “Lord, You lead like a drunken man,” because that is what it has felt like, one giant misadventure. If the Lord had not been on my side (let Israel now say), if the Lord had not been on my side, the raging waters would have swept me away. I would have given up and tried something else. But one thing I was convinced of was that this was where I was supposed to be.

Enter college (Queens University now), one giant liberal experience. Let me just say that it is not for the weak in faith for those of a conservative upbringing to go to a liberal school, or probably vice-versa. I go there and I’m surrounded by what seems like every possible point of view but one I agree with. It has probably been a very good educational experience. Not one I would deliberately force on anyone, but an effective growing time nonetheless. It wasn’t so much that I was surrounded by Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Democrats, and Athiests. That part I could deal with. You just pick the set of beliefs that you believe is true and then stick to your guns until you’re convinced otherwise. The people who got to me where the ones who could listen to two people arguing about whether heaven exists and turn to me and say that both positions were probably completely right, without batting an eye. Relativism is scary, because under that mindset, the only position that can always be wrong is the one that believes in some kind of consistent truth.

Nevertheless, it was into this whirlwind that I was dropped, started looking for a church, and started trying to relate to a huge group of people who, instead of believing in nothing, or in something that was demonstrably incorrect, believed in everything. I was prepared to share my faith with hadn’t heard, or defend myself against any active disbelievers. But what was I supposed to do with a bunch of people who say “Oh, I believe you,” and then go merrily along living according to some other set of principles that are “equally valid”? Do you know what group of people I found consistently were willing to reduce their beliefs to first principles and argue consistently according to them? Athiests. I don’t mean agnostics, a group of people who don’t really know what they believe, but the don’t believe in God, usually because of some terrible thing that happened that God should not have allowed, or even agnostics who are really atheists, but unwilling to admit it in a rabidly religious world. I mean a set of people who honestly believe that there is no God, no originator of the universe at all, who can explain their beliefs in a clear, logical, consistent fashion, and manage to live decent, moral, upstanding lives in accordance to clear ethical principles that happen to lack any absolute enforcer telling them to obey. Frankly, give me a true atheist any day than all that other mush. And that was my problem.

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (10:25). I hadn’t deliberately “forsaken the assembly” but I had allowed myself to become isolated. Our school does have a Campus Crusade group and a regular chapel service, and I did have a church to attend, but the CC meetings, like many student-led religious services, always struck me as particularly shallow, like Christianity lite or something. And as I got more bogged down in school, a lot of these meetings began to seem to me to be more of a waste of valuable time than anything else. Social interaction wasn’t productive. Never mind the fact that to relieve stress I instead spent several hours a day playing video games, because, see, video games aren’t people, so I can’t offend them if I just cut them off in the middle of something. Only, I didn’t cut them off. I played until my stress level went down or I became so exhausted that I had to go to bed, whichever came first. But the Bible doesn’t say to forsake not the playing of video games, it says to forsake not the assembling together. Video games are simply ineffective in relieving the real problem. Not that they aren’t a delightful amusement, but they are not the best medicine for frustration (which leads to worry, which leads to anxiety, which leads to fear and doubt). We need to come together to “stir up love and good works,” and I would add faith and hope because there always come dry times in people’s lives where it’s just hard to get our minds clear enough to experience the living God. He may be showing up, but we’re too dense to recognize him, too distracted to cherish the memory long after the experience. In that time, we need community to lift us up and constantly remind us of the things we ought to remember: that He is real, and that he is there for us. He remembers that we are but dust, but sometimes we like to forget and pretend that we are self-sufficient.

So there I was, by degrees distressed, discouraged, and despairing and for the most part isolated, which prepared me for the next step: deception. I think it’s Rick Joyner who says that when people are thirsty enough, they will drink poison, just to get a liquid down their throats. That’s probably about where I was. I pretty much define myself by worship. It’s what I was made for. I was born only to worship Him. I believe that. But when you can’t get ahold of Him to save your life—what am I supposed to do without a purpose for my life? So I began slowly slipping into a kind of practical atheism because it was the only other totally consistent worldview that I knew of that didn’t require the one thing that I was missing: the presence of a living God.

Now, I’m not stupid. I didn’t go around confessing my atheism. Atheism is internally consistent, thanks to Darwin and Nietzsche and a whole host of others who have managed to facilitate people running from the one thing they need most. People have an incredible ability to be logical and thorough when they wish to. So Hinduism is internally consistent as well as a geo-centric view of the universe, but they are sometimes inconsistent with what we perceive when we gaze into the heavens. Athiesm may be internally consistent, but it is not consistent with my experience. I can point to specific improbable prophecies in scripture and show you how they were fulfilled hundreds and thousands of years later. I can tell you of times that I myself have prophesied and spoken accurately into people’s lives with no natural knowledge of their situation, and I can tell you of the things that God has spoken into my life, that resonate so profoundly within me that I don’t believe I could help but accomplish them. Nevertheless, in the process of being miserable, my mind began making plausible excuses for the way I was behaving. We are furry little mammals, pretending to be gods, making order everywhere. In one sense I was moving toward atheism, failing to seek the Lord, living my life almost as if He didn’t exist. In another sense, I was by default worshiping the great god Nintendo: we always worship something.

Now this is the hard part: Repentance. It’s easy to talk about sinning because, hey, everybody sins, and there’s nothing new under the sun, so I can just talk about it in really general terms with these nice theological diagrams that talk about the steps that Satan leads us down. But when you talk about repentance, you have to own up to it: It was my sin. I was screwing up my life. It was somebody else who caught me going the wrong way and got me to turn around. There goes my pride. Maybe if I was Catholic. Then I could cheat a little: I could go to one church for confessional and to another for mass. But in my life at least, I’m like an unruly dog being housetrained. I have to get caught with my business out in the open, dragged to the scene of the crime, have my nose rubbed in it and then get bopped on the head before the idea of changing my habits crosses my mind. (You can see now why maybe it’s a good idea for me not to have a dog…) Steve Thompson once compared repentance to getting in your car planning to go to New York and getting on the highway headed straight for Florida. You go a couple of miles and pass a friend who knows you were headed for New York. He sees you and immediately starts trying to wave you down. After 10 minutes of honking at you, he finally gets you to pull over and tells you that you’re headed straight for Florida. There’s no need to get all emotional about it. You were just going the wrong way. Get back in your car and turn around. But that’s only partially true. Anyone who thinks they even remotely have a sense of direction would be absolutely mortified that they were going the wrong way, and that they had to be pulled over to learn about it.

That person who pulled me over was my mom, and I thank her for it. I wasn’t happy, but I am grateful. I went home for Christmas break with 2 papers still left to write. All the research was done, all the texts selected, and I knew the basic direction of the papers. All that was left was to make an outline and write the darn things. After about 2 weeks, I had finished one. I would do everything imaginable to avoid working on those papers. All in front of a computer, mind you. I spent three weeks total in front of a computer, working on a measley 2 papers. Mind you, the total length of those papers was just a little longer than this confessional, which I wrote in one night. Somewhere in there, though, my mom and I had a conversation. Eh, let’s call it a fight. I don’t remember exactly how it all went, but she basically wanted to know how I thought sitting in front of a computer, freaking out about work I wasn’t doing was supposed to coincide with getting it out of the way and finally relaxing. I guess my arguments weren’t very convincing (and yes, I did try to defend my behavior), because at the end of one of my lackadaisical defeatist statements, she said something along the lines of, “well if that’s the way you think, you’re not who I thought you were.” And I just broke. I made some sort of blithe comment and went to another room and had me a good cry. I’m sure it freaked her out. In fact I know it freaked her out because she came in there asking me what she said that had hurt my feelings and trying to make me feel better. There was no way to explain to her that what she said didn’t really have anything to do with what was going on inside me. I just sort of got a Holy Spirit download of where I was at and what I was doing and why it was all messed up. All the things I explained at the beginning of this article just suddenly fell into place and I got this huge revelation of all those things that sound so blasé until you actually get a revelation of them: That God loves me, and that he’s there for me and that I need him to survive. It just sort of went on and on and on. And here’s my poor mom. I think I did manage to get out the part about it being so spiritually dry there for me, but nothing to explain why I was all weepy for the next hour or so.

Don’t tell anybody this, but I really do appreciate my mom. If there’s something wrong, she’s going to do whatever is necessary to find out what it is and fix it, no matter what the cost to herself. I can pretty much guarantee that I was an unpleasant person, especially when a certain person started trying to fix the problem. But if she can’t do it with a surgeon’s knife, she’s willing to go in there with a mallet, even if there’s a pretty good chance the patient will grab the mallet and use it back. So, yeah. I really appreciate my mom, and everything she’s gone through for me (and from me). Just don’t tell her, okay?

It was sort of a huge reality check, my little encounter. Who I am, what I’m here for, that sort of thing. And since then, for the first time in a long time, I’ve felt like I’ve really been able to worship. I mean, really worship, where it doesn’t depend on the songs and the circumstance, where you could worship to the tune of Old Macdonald in a Communist re-education camp. Because He is real, He is here, and when you have Him, you have everything. For the first time in a long time, it’s not about the form or the other people: it’s about Him and me. The rest of you people can go play cards in the back for all I care. I’m ready to worship. In every circumstance, I’m ready to worship.

Of course, I say that now, but if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I can’t put much faith in myself. Left to myself it would be a progression from catastrophe to catastrophe instead of from glory to glory. As far as it is up to me, I could be back in the same slough of despond tomorrow, but I have hope in Someone who will guide me if I will only acknowledge Him.

Incidentally, He’s still leading me like a drunken man. Even with that big experience, it’s still a process. I’m now moved into my nice new apartment, three miles from school, taking only 13 credits, and I am having the hardest time keeping up and looking for a job and finishing moving in. Mostly it’s the fact that I don’t want to do much thinking after a three hour jog/run/bike ride. But sometimes it’s the same frustration about being able to get started in the morning. Also, Valerie and I decided that, while MorningStar is good for many things, intimacy and gentleness are not their strong points. Some of us aren’t used to jumping and dancing and rock and roll music for church, let alone all this about prophecy and miraculous healing. So we found a very nice Baptist church about halfway between my apartment and MorningStar to go to on Sunday while we still go to the crazy church on Friday nights. It’s a very good church, probably the best I’ve been to in Charlotte for maintaining that holistic community feel. My only concern is that I haven’t been a Baptist in about 15 years. I’m scared to that I might talk in tongues or pray for somebody in the wrong way and offend the entire congregation en masse. They’re a small church. They don’t need that. However, they are a small church. Big enough to have programs, and small enough to need volunteers. One of my biggest problems at MorningStar is that, no matter how hard they try not to make the whole thing a show, they’ve just got more volunteers than they know what to do with. You have to start your own ministry just to make yourself feel useful. But at Woodlawn Baptist… well, we’ve already signed up for the choir and I’m looking to figure out how to get involved with the youth, and would to God that somebody knows somebody who help me find a job!

Blessings on all of you
KB

Goals

You know, it’s amazing how predictable people are. The job market is pretty crummy right now. I have heard more people tell me this semester that I ought to be an English teacher than ever before. The argument goes something like this: One day, Kyle you’re going to realize how important stability is. You’re going to realize that it’s much safer to have a guaranteed 30K a year than to risk everything for a job that’s fun and pays well, but where you could actually get laid off. I just don’t get this mentality. I once knew a lady, who had an adopted daughter, who was unwilling to take a day off from her minimum wage grocery store job to apply for a job that paid twice as much.

Now, understand, I believe in stability. I understand that it’s necessary to prove that you have a steady income before you can get a loan to buy a car or a house. I understand that most places frown on faith in God as a form of ready capital. I even understand that it is necessary for a Christian to be able to demonstrate stability in their own personal walk in order to be a good witness. But, “I have never seen the righteous forsaken, or his seed begging bread.” And, for that matter, “All things work together for the good of those who love Him and seek his commands.” There is a distinction to be made between stability in your actions, and fear of instability. Fear of instability leads to looking for stability in a place where it can’t be found: in your employer, or in the government. True stability comes from the God who ever watches over you, who wants to live inside of you. True stability is important, but to make it the number one priority in your decision making process will cause you to achieve something else: mediocrity.

In my own mind, at least mediocrity is one of the ultimate evils in the world. Mediocrity means fear. Mediocrity means a lack of trust in God and an insistence in achieving only what you know you can accomplish. Mediocrity means gradually giving up on goals, dreams and ambitions, giving up on a little bit of those things that God has given us to separate us from the animals. Mediocrity means taking the little setbacks in life as punishment, as a sign to stop, instead of as an opportunity, as a chance to learn and excel. I believe that all things work together for the good of those who love Him and seek his commands. In my mind, that means that everything always works out to my advantage. I always win. If, in any occasion, I completely and horribly fail, I believe that the Lord will so arrange it that I have an opportunity or a chance to learn, so that at the end of things I will be able to say that I could not have been so successful had it not been for that failure.

All that to say, I have no intention of becoming a school teacher. Not that I have anything against school teachers. I know some really great people who are, or plan to become, teachers. They have a divine calling to teach in school. I don’t. I love knowledge, and I love spreading knowledge, setting little hearts on fire. Some people have even told me that I have a gift of teaching. I plan to teach my children. But for me to teach in a classroom, as a kind of career…? My only motivation for doing such a thing would be a kind of fear. Life is hard right now. Next semester I’ll be going to school part time for the last nine credits of my degree. I’ll be living off campus in an apartment where half of the lease is covered by school loans, and the other half will have to be covered by a job I don’t have yet. I just earned the lowest grade I’ve ever gotten in a class since maybe grade school. (Same basic reason too: The final essay, worth 60% of the test was “What are the most important things you have learned in this class?” The professor was very lenient too. The only answer he wouldn’t accept was the one I wanted so badly to give: “This class was totally irrelevant.”) But I am confident that even now, all things are working out to my advantage. Once again, the righteous will not be forsaken, and His seed will somehow manage not to be out begging bread.

Our school internship/career office puts out a weekly newsletter of all the new job offerings in their database. In this week’s list, fully fifteen of them were clerical positions that required an undergraduate degree and several years clerical experience. Nearly all of them practically described my resume before I sent it to them. Perhaps clerical work sounds like a step down from teaching. It probably is. But if you want to be a businessman, you’re better off doing grunt-work at a business than a higher paying job somewhere else. The issue isn’t the money; the issue is the dream.

On a personal note: Having miserably failed my ethics exam and been completely blindsided by a music history exam, I was reminded yesterday why I am an English major. I drastically reduced the effort I put into the other classes in hopes of getting somewhere with this ethics class. The ethics class I still did poorly on. I went in completely blind to the Chaucer class. I don’t think I had even done all the required reading. I am absolutely certain I aced that test. God is good, and He gives us grace in unexpected ways.

Blessings, all!
KB

Watching and Waiting

I would like to rest here for a while
If I could only keep my heart from rising up
But I can see the mountaintops
And eagles on the breeze
And I can hardly keep myself
From yearning…
Oh me! Oh my rising heart! But down!

Sometimes it is difficult
To constantly have to remind myself
That now is not the time
I want to stretch my wounded wings
And fly.

This poem perhaps requires some explanation. I’m trying to think of the best way to go about it, and it seems to me that the best way is the long way around.

I wrote this poem while visiting one of my favorite churches. It appears that right now, once again, I am looking for a new church. It’s difficult and time consuming to explain exactly why I’m leaving one church and looking for another, but: I’m looking for a new church, and I have fond memories of this church. I went to ministry school here. Ministry school was probably the most unpleasant experience of my whole life. I can’t really explain why things were unpleasant, except that “things fall apart/ the center cannot hold.” Sometimes everything just works out badly. Suffice it to say that three or so years ago I realized that I was working in the children’s church every service, not because I like children (which I do), but because I didn’t want to go to the main service. It actually hurt to go. It was painful to watch people doing the very things that I knew I was good at, but that I also knew that if I put my hand to them, they would fall apart. Everything that I did that might be recognized was a flop. Everything that I did in private was an amazing success. It was as if the hand of God was against me. Imagine trying out for the school basketball team and being a complete klutz. You can’t run; you travel; you can’t shoot, and when they throw the ball at you, you instinctively duck. Then when you’ve completely failed your chance for the team, you stand in the court after everyone has left, and make three-point shot after three-point shot. Three kids from another school show up and challenge you to a scrimmage, you against all three. You play them and you totally walk. They can’t even hold a candle to you. So you show up for tryouts the next day and you forget how to tie your shoes. You get on the court and you fumble; you trip; you travel. You don’t make a single shot. You run off the court in complete embarrassment before the tryouts are even over. And the next day you come back, when nobody’s there. You pile up the balls beside you, and just stand there in the evening heat, sweating, making three-point shot after three-point shot. That’s about what it felt like.

So now I’m visiting this church again, thinking, “gee, wouldn’t it be nice if I could end up here.” It really is an amazing church. There’s a certain kind of raw edged freedom there. Their stated goal (and they’re slowly achieving it) is to get every member to find their niche in active ministry. Creativity seems to just come flooding into you during the services. It was while I was going to school there that I got into my mind a solid plan for what I want to do with my life. I have this idea, see. I want to own a Christian bookstore. But not some cute little boutique. I want a religious version of something like Border’s, only better. I am firmly convinced that, if the Christian God is real, then Christians should be the most creative people on earth. In my mind, the only things that could be getting in the way are religious structures that don’t encourage creativity, and economics. I can’t really do much about the religious structures, but I can work with economics. So I want to create a business that searches out Christian art, literature, and music and gives financial backing to it. (This is the part where I go off the deep end and get really excited about it, and foam at the mouth and stuff.) But I’ve got everything on this long-term plan. I’m going to college for an English degree. Then I’m going to work in the business world for a while, both to pay off debts and to get some hands-on experience in planning and running a relatively large business. Somewhere in there, I plan to get married and have kids. (The I’m dating right now plans to become a doctor—this could take a while.) So sometime in the next 30 years or so, I plan to achieve this dream.

I have a point for that last little bit about my goals for my life. There’s a I knew at this ministry school I went to. She herself doesn’t draw, but she started an art in worship workshop as part of a ministry project her second year there. Similar my second year project was a poetry workshop. It was a flop. I had one person attend from another church, who never came back. Her project didn’t flop. It was a smashing success. This year she’s expanded to poetry and dance. I was there when she told the workshop people her goals. She wants to have these huge conferences for Christian artists and poets and musicians and stuff. They are planning on incorporating aspects of her little workshop into everything that the church does. I could feel the bile rising up in the back of my throat. She’s doing now what I hope to start (at the earliest) maybe in ten years.

Every time I go to that church, it’s so wonderful. I really love it there. I feel so much at home. But it always comes back to mind that other people are there doing the very things that I plan to do, only their doing it bigger, faster, better and they’re doing it now. It’s probably good for my pride, and maybe I’ll eventually get on that basketball team, but it’s still so hard to consider whether I want to go back there, because I’ll constantly have to remind myself that now is not the time.

What I was trying to say was…

My Uncle John put up a very interesting response to the last important post that I put up (no not the one about the snow). I realized that I had probably not completely made myself clear when I read his first line, “Your anger concerns me.” Oops. I did not mean to sound angry by any means, a little upset about a flaw I perceive about the medical system, but not angry. Instead of simply copying, pasting and responding to what Uncle John said, I decided to simply write a follow up in response to the issues he brought up. So here goes.

First, I would like to say that I do not want to reduce the amount of choices in medicine. On the contrary, I want to increase choices for everyone involved. Continue reading “What I was trying to say was…”