Subversion of the Day- Prayer, a Series: Part IV

 

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Wow, its been quite awhile.  A lot has happened over the last month in my life, which has been the reason for the absence in posts.  But I have now gained some power, love, and sober-mindedness from living in the love of the Spirit of God.  And so, it is time to be intentional about this being a blog with a legitimate focus on subversion, you know, everyday.  So with that in mind, lets get back to subversion through prayer!

Returning to the passage in Matthew 21, we see that as soon as Jesus got done Hulk-ing out on everybody, he did the very next thing you would expect a pissed-off saviour to do: he healed people.  Wait, that’s not what you would expect.  But this was what Jesus was about; afflicting the comfortable, and comforting the afflicted.  And the religious elite did exactly what you would expect the religious elite to do: they were pissed that He did amazing things.

Wait… Oh, wait, that is what most people expect the religious elite to do.

I don’t say that with joy.  It is unfortunate that many of those who represent the “one’s who got it right”, at least in America, are the one’s who you could imagine in this situation getting mad at Jesus for healing people, muttering that they only came to get healed.  Or getting mad at kids for yelling “Save us, Son of David”, cause they’re kids.  They need to wait until they are older and have something of substance to contribute instead of just being loud.  Please take them to Children’s Church.  So like some today would possibly say to Jesus, they say “Do you hear what these are saying?”  I can imagine Jesus saying with a you-really-don’t-hear-what-you-are-saying tinged “Yeah, yeah I do.”  And then he quotes from a Psalm which says out of the mouth of babies you have prepared praise, and then leaves.

Cut to the chase.  What’s this got to do with prayer?

Right.  The Greek translation of the word praise is ainos, and it means a saying, proverb, praise, or something said out loud.  So easily, you can see that Jesus, by defending the blind and lame by healing them (these disabilities were typically attributed to sin in their lives) and defending the children, he was saying that in My Father’s house, a house of prayer, even the ones you don’t welcome are welcome.  In prayer, we must consider and defend those who are pushed down and oppressed by others.  To further show this, when you look at this passage that Jesus quotes as translated in the Psalms, it reads more like “you make strength come from babies that silences the enemy and the avenger.”  God’s strength resides in those without strength, and by defending those without strength in prayer and in action, we silence the oppressors.  Subvert the powers today.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
The words of Jesus, Matthew 5:5

Movie Review- ‘Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain’

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So, I thought it would be a good idea to take a little break from the discussion of prayer to review a movie I saw recently, though we will probably be talking about prayer by the end of this.  The movie I recently saw was “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain”; a hilarious and poignant documentary/ surrealist-film/ standup show that portrays Hart’s signature self-deprecating-yet-cocky style to highlight issues in his own life.  Now I will forewarn you, this is not a typical review.  If you would like that, there are many other outlets for that.  Like my previous movie reviews (here and here), this is an attempt to tease out the truth that Kevin speaks in this film.  So hang on, and let’s get into it.

Kevin really lays down some amazing relationship advice in “Let Me Explain” which stems from his own admitted fault of marital infidelity.  I have heard the claim from other reviews about charges of misogynistic tendencies directed towards Kevin, and I would have before said the same thing.  But, I have realized that a lot of the issue here is a difference of socio-economic language, and though I am making assumptions here, I would assume that Kevin comes from a predominately African-American, lower income community, and I would assume that many of those that accuse him of being detrimental to women come from a predominately white, middle-upper class community.  These two segments of society speak different languages.  So when Kevin uses the word “b!+ch” (censored for sensitive eyes), I do not think that his intention is to tear down women.  On the contrary, I see a great support of females that many would not give.  Here is an example- one of the jokes that Kevin presents stems around the idea that if you are in a relationship with a female, and when she gets mad she contorts herself in ridiculous ways and looks at you sideways… it is your fault.  He literally blames men for the “craziness” of the females in their lives.  How accurate!  From my own marriage, I have seen where my actions, whether intended or not, have been able to really push my wife to the edge.  I am at fault.  Thanks for that one, Kev, I needed it.

Also, Kevin hilariously deals with the issue of deceit in one’s life, and how lying becomes a way of being, and overtakes us.  To illustrate this, he describes a situation where to defend his 5 minute tardiness to work, he tells of seeing a running baby on the road, adopting it, then seeing a deer-zebra hybrid (deerbra) capturing it, taking it to a zoo, then finding out the baby was actually a man with “Benjamin Button disease” who rode the zebra.  I was crying from laughing so much.  But this and other jokes highlight the futility of lying in our lives, that it becomes a defense mechanism for us.  But it doesn’t really defend us; it paints a clear picture of who we are to those around us, and alienates us from those we love… because they can’t trust us.

To close, the movie was great.  Yeah, there was a lot of crude language.  Yeah, there was some immodest humor.  Sometimes, you have to learn to interpret tongues, even if you don’t speak in the said tongue.  Go see Kevin Hart’s “Let Me Explain” with open eyes and open ears, and subvert the powers today.

Subversion of the Day- Prayer, A Series: Part III

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As the firework smoke clears, the streets begin to be cleaned, and many slowly open their alcohol-coated eyes, we can look to the next aspect of subversive prayer, which is repentance.  Now, before you roll your eyes and roll back over, I know that that is not a very popular word.  And I want to assuage you of any feelings you may now be having that this blog is the ranting and raving of some strange radical-fundamentalist hybrid who thinks the world is full of sin and that we got to do good or else God is mad at us.

Assuage… Yeah, I don’t know if that is going to be happening.

The thing is, i think there is some truth to that for almost all of us.  Though God sent His son to die to free us from the totalitarian grasp of sin and death, there are actions still taken that hurt others and destroy the world around us, which brings us to the weighty part of this conversation.  In Matthew 21, Jesus has first triumphantly entered Jerusalem and the whole town is in an uproar, and most are excited that the Messiah has come.  So, what does a good king do to continue to gain the respect of those adoring him?  He enters the temple, and begins making people and animals leave, and starts flipping tables over.

Wait… what?

Though at first this sounds like schizophrenia acting up, what is happening here is first an act of true worship, because it is second an act of social justice.  Jesus didn’t just send them out ‘just because’, but because the system that they were partaking in was corrupt, abusive, and harmed the poor.  There were people buying and selling animals at the temple because many traveled a long distance to get to Jerusalem for the upcoming Passover and could not bring livestock with them to sacrifice.  So there was a place to buy them… but at an exorbitant price.  Same with the money changers: they were taking foreign currency in exchange for appropriate temple money… but were taking a little more than necessary off the top.  Those selling doves may have been the worst, because that part of sacrifice was reserved for the poor who could not afford cattle, yet they still had to pay.  So, Jesus was rightfully pissed that people were being abused in the name of His Father. 

So Jesus was a social activist.  What does this have to do with prayer?

Everything!  Haven’t you figured this out by now?  Sometimes there are restrictions that we have placed in our own hearts (which those who follow Jesus are referred to as temples of God) that put an unnecessary weight on those around us.  We have made our hearts a den of thieves where we steal the dignity and the image of God from others around us, when it was supposed to be a place where God resides.  And because of that, we need to drive out the things that have made it hard for others to come to God.  We need to repent.  We need to see that cleansing ourselves shocks and disarms the powers and principalities because they don’t know what to do when we change the rules and only live based on love.  And when we reclaim a desire for doing what is right, one that we will starve and dehydrate without, Jesus says we will be satisfied.  Repent in prayer, seek to make things right, and subvert the powers today.

 

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
    for they will be satisfied.

     The words of Jesus, Matthew 5:6

Subversion of the Day: Prayer, A Series- Part II

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What better time to talk about prayer, and celebration in prayer, than on a day when many people across the United States are celebrating the moment that they received independence from Britain… or at least celebrating a day off work?  And that is the Subversion of the Day: celebration in prayer.  Once again, to a seasoned activist or a civil organizer/disorganizer or a monkey wrencher (which i am not yet any of these), this may seem like folly.  What would being celebratory in our prayers do at all for subverting the powers?

More than you think, obviously.

To answer this, and to move along through the topic of prayer, i want to take a look at a portion of Jesus the Christ’s life that is represented in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 21.  In the beginning of this section, Jesus was coming to Jerusalem on a mission that he had already been explaining to His followers- he was going to die.  But to lead up to that moment, there were opportunities to teach, heal, and fulfill Hebraic prophecy along the way.  In this first case, Jesus makes appropriate arrangement to enter Jerusalem in a pretty powerful way- as a coming king.  And it seems pretty apparent that they people agreed because as he rode in on a borrowed donkey, they shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Hosanna in the highest!”  So what does hosanna mean?  It meant save, savior, or emphatically, SAVE US NOW!  These people celebrating His arrival believed that He was the promised Messiah who would return Israel to it’s former glory and save them from Roman occupation.  This is further verified when they call him Son of David, which was to say he was the true heir of the throne of David the great king, as opposed to the person that was currently on it.

So… what does this have to do with prayer?

Oh, yeah.  In our prayers, as we come face to face with God through Jesus (see the post from the other day), we must celebrate the Savior that came, that is present, and that is coming again.  We must celebrate that he came as the savior, but not to give Israel earthly power again, but to free the whole world from having to wear the chains of sin and death, to be able to choose life and love.  When we pray in a celebratory fashion, it begins to destroy the foundations of a world that wants us to mourn, and says we refuse to cry anymore about the evil you propagate, but we choose to celebrate the One who has freed us.  He said that we will be comforted, so lets believe Him now, and celebrate.  Subvert the powers today.

God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

-The words of Jesus, Matthew 5:4

Subversion of the Day: Prayer, a Series

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Yesterday I preached a much-too-long-winded sermon at The Salvation Army Richmond Citadel Corps, and the sermon was about the nature of prayer, what it is, how we go about it, and a few other things.  So I thought that this week that the Subversion of the Day could be a series of thoughts on prayer, broken down to highlight how this activity, often seen as merely contemplative, is in actuality one of the greatest subversive acts that we could do, and should do daily (and more often than that).  So before we get into the real thick of what this word implies for action, I thought it would be good to examine what it actually means.
A commonly used word in the New Testament meaning prayer is the Greek proseuche.  The gentleman here goes into a good amount of detail explaining this word, but for our purposes, it is a combination of two words- pros, meaning face to face or intimate; and euche, meaning wish, request or vow.  So when put together, this word means to be face to face in an intimate relationship with God where we ask for or give over something.
There is an old Victorian era toy called a thaumatrope that had a disc with a picture on two sides, and a string on both ends.  When one would twist the string, it would make it appear to the viewer that they shared the same side while in motion.  In a way, this is a good way to view how prayer works- two beings, God and us, seperated deeply but brought together through the thaumatrope, which would be Jesus, and the act of spinning, which would be the Holy Spirit.  When it spins, the boundaries between us and Him become so thin, that it looks like we are melding.

So what does this have to do with subversive behavior?

Everything.  To really be subversive, you have to break the bonds of the way that we have been taught by the powers and principalities to see the world- division, aggression, violence, and sin/ego/desire/.  You have to choose to love, to let yourself be a vessel for the Holy Spirit to love others, and then, the thaumatrope gets spinning.  When we love everyone we see to the point that we would die for them, we begin to break the chains of a world that shoots first and asks questions later, and we begin to see heaven get a little closer to earth.  When we pray, we come face to face with God, and He then can use use to pierce the darkness.  Pray to love others, and subvert the powers today.

The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.
James 5:16

New Song: Wanted/ Unwanted Man

I sure hope you are having a wonderful Saturday.  This is a song that I finished writing on Thursday about a trip I took to Kentucky, and it probably is about other stuff too.  Let me know what you think, and expect a Subversion of the Day coming soon based on the trip.  Blessings.

I was raised to worship Jesus in cathedrals made of stone.
Skin and skeleton weren’t tabernacle cause they chained my flesh and bone.
Now you know I ain’t like the foxes, cause I ain’t got a home,
And I decided to cut my losses and let the dead bury their own.

It all started like a spark but wound up like a flood.
There were words and thoughts trapped in my heart
And coursing through my blood.
So as soon as I looked westward, naturally that’s where I steered.
I had to drain my corpse of the poison, I had to get my head clear.

Chorus-
Oh dear God can you help me?
I’m a wanted/unwanted man.
Should I build a house on rock or sand?
Precious Lord, please take my hand.
Take my hand, lead me on, help me stand, take my hand.

Well I drug this bike all over the Bluegrass and Appalachia.
It’s only eight hundred fifty cc’s.  You know I hope that don’t displace you.
I met angels of wind, I seen messengers of fire.
The latter helped to get the thing lit, but the former took the flames up higher.

Chorus

When I got back it was at sundown, or maybe it had already set.
I was shaking from the beating, I was shaking with regret.
I heard and felt the Weight of my mistakes, and maybe it will pass.
Or maybe that place burned down long ago and I was sleeping with the ash.

Chorus

Subversion of the Day- Relational Fire

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Let’s just pretend there is not an eight month gap between this post and the last.

The subversion of the day relates to relationships and the darkness-defeating act of choosing to spend time with someone who may not be very much like you… or may even be a person you don’t like.  I feel like this deserves a name, maybe a working title.  Let’s call it… relational fire.  I don’t know how I feel about the term, but I will take suggestions.  The idea, ultimately, is that you intentionally build a close, personal, intimate relationship with a person who is on a completely different spectrum than you.  Why?  We’ll get to that.

The rumblings of this idea came from a sermon that I heard recently from a very eloquent, biblical pedagogue (my wife) on relationships between the young and the old in the community called the church.  She pointed out that we make distinctions too much, and gave one of the greatest examples of this- the holiday dinner table.  Adults have a place that is well prepared, nice, pleasant… while children are pushed to the basement onto toy furniture with haphazardly strewn plate ware.  Separated, and not equal.

I feel like the church, and America, has struggled with that issue somewhere else before.

At any rate, she closed her message with a call to action… in the form of little pieces of rope.  She challenged older people (and older in the faith) to seek out people they would commit to mentor, and she challenged younger people to seek out older people to mentor them.  I responded, as did others, and I felt a strong conviction to prioritize this.  Now, one person I sought out to mentor (which I haven’t done great at) and I are quite different- he is African American, raised in more of an inner-city area, without a father, and likes sports.  Just those things are miles away from me.  However, the more difficult, relational fire situation is with a person that I asked to mentor me.  We divide in some very drastic ways- I am a pacifist, he is a Vietnam veteran; I believe in operating sort of outside of government, he loves America; I like to listen to others and sometimes let others inform or change my opinions, he is committed to staying where he is; I have what some would describe (maybe) as liberal views and non-traditional theological views, he is a staunch conservative and orthodox Christian.

Anybody ever watched the Odd Couple?

There are issues that exist that we are tempted to (and might in the future) fight tooth and nail over.  However, I see him as a man who loves God and is committed to serving his community of faith, and I think there is a lot I can learn from him, and maybe he can learn a little from me (though he might not want to).  So why is this all subversive?  It is because our ‘natural’ inclination is to move away from the things that are different and difficult for us, and by natural I mean an effect of our living in a world infected by death.  We are afraid of death, and pain, so we run from anything that looks like it.  But Christ has called us to do something else to break the strongholds of this world- to walk head on into the relational fire, as a living sacrifice, and stay there with a deep trust that the consuming fire that is our God will not let us be consumed.  When we put ourselves on the line, we take a step to destroy the bonds of darkness around us, and invite light into our world.  Get close to someone very different from you, and subvert the powers today.

 

Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

Song- Where the Stars Don’t Hide

I seem to be blending more of my escapist songwriting with love songs.  I am pretty sure this is a good thing.  Here it is:

 

 

Well I’m tired of trying to look at, the constellations you know

Through all the light pollution, and the industrial glow

It’s like the neon’s are nebulae, and gas lights are galaxies

And the moon don’t shine the way we know it should be

And even in the day time, you know we can’t get far

Cause their sun’s burning out, and Lucifer’s their lodestar

We need to get going, where we can plunge our skin

Where the real heaven’s shine, as we dive right in…

 

I could float here with you, baby all night long

We could let the water drowned out the highway songs

Those lonely steel belts hum and the diesels whine

You know it will wear us out, it’s a matter of time

So grab your bag, honey, grab your coat

Grab anything you need to help you stay afloat

Just leave everything that reminds you of here

We’re going to sing a new song to heal our weary ears….

 

I want to go with you where the stars don’t hide

Where there’s only outside

And the only high rise

Is the hills we look to

To get us through the night…

I want to go with you where the earth and sky meet

Where we run in bare feet

Where we kiss under leaves

That drop the rain they’ve caught

That’s where we come alive…

Where the stars don’t hide

 

I say we go get lost back in the woods

We can help each other remember everything that’s good

About being in love, and falling in love

About love when it’s rough, when the going get’s tough

Cause even out there your life is still with out ease

You can get pecked by the birds, and stung by the bees

But we can escape in the river deep, or climb the mountain high

We’re going to look at view, to revive our blinded eyes…

 

I want to go with you where the stars don’t hide

Where there’s only outside

And the only high rise

Is the hills we look to

To get us through the night…

I want to go with you where the earth and sky meet

Where we run in bare feet

Where we kiss under leaves

That drop the rain they’ve caught

That’s where we come alive…

Where the stars don’t hide

Subversion of the Day- Have No Fear

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With it being Halloween, I thought it fitting (like I am sure a thousand other people) to tackle the subject of the day.  Though this may end up sounding a little bit like a past post, I want to take it in a new direction.  The Subversion of the Day is to have no fear.  On Halloween, fear and fun, or trick and treat, rule the streets.  I want to be clear on the onset of this that I am not out to bash Halloween.  I think that is kind of a fool’s errand, and there are much greater, much more evil of social institutions to throw my weight against… like Christmas or Easter (I kid… sort of).  But there is that common theme of fear that is associated with this holiday, or holy day to some.  When the night creeps in, and strange noises began to tear a part your mind, thinking that some crazed maniac, some ghastly specter, some evil-possessed entity is about to descend upon you…

But how often does that actually happen?


I think there could be something cathartic about the fear induced around Halloween, if we allow it to challenge our desire to flee from things that cause us fright.  But the fear I am speaking of is much more sinister, much more insidious, much darker.  Everyday we go through life carrying certain fears and doubts and uncertainties.  Fear of the unknown, fear of those different than us, fear of change.  We are often crippled by this.  And this is the realm that I think the real evil, the real darkness, the real demonic finds the fruits of it’s labors.  This Halloween stuff is chicanery, slight-of-hand.  The real powers of darkness want you to look the other way, while they are convincing you to walk through your life in fear of really living.  Because when we do that, we disconnect from relying on the God that truly loves us.

So how do we fight the real darkness?

 

I good place to start in subverting the darkness is not to wage an all out war on all things scary and Halloween-like… but maybe just take it out of your life.  Don’t watch so many movies, read so many books, think so many thoughts that relate to terror.  Instead, think about things that are good, holy, of great worth.  Think about how Jesus changes the world, and brings light to cause darkness to hide wherever He goes.  And then, when you are really ready to tackle the true strong holds of darkness, question the fear that society, and yourself, implant in you:

Fear of other nations/ ethnic groups

Fear of other religions

Fear of other orientations

Fear of other ideologies or political affiliations

Fear of failure

Fear of loss

Fear of death…

When we question fear to its face, it usually doesn’t have much to say.  When you carry the light of Christ with you, the darkness, and fear, has no other option but to flee.  Subvert the powers today.

PS:  I may talk big game, but the picture at the top of this page gives me cold chills every time I think of it, lol.

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment.  So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.

 1 John 4:18

16 Ways I Blew My Marriage

In continuance of the idea of consistency and commitment being an effective tool for subverting the forces of darkness, a friend told me about a great blog post by Dan Pearce.  This post, which is the above title, delves into some serious issues that create division between people, and it has helped me to look at my relationship with my wife in a more proactive, pursuing way.  Check it out:

http://www.danoah.com/2012/10/16-ways-i-blew-my-marriage.html