Friday, December 24, 2010

#213-Nativity Scenes and Glossy Christmas Cards with Smiling Faces (and why Johnny Mathis music makes me angry)

Editor's Note: Welcome to my only post in the month of December. But know that much of my chaos that has stopped me from posting much is officially complete. And I got some tutu parties to talk about and other fun topics like speaking in tongues...

Here is my favorite Christmas song. Sufjan Stevens-"Come on! Let's boogey to the elf dance!" (yes it's as fun as it sounds)

I hate movies or plays that paint Nativities as some Hallmark Moment (see above). You know the ones. Where Jesus is the center of attention. There are glorious lights from Heaven shining down on the Baby Jesus like light beams that give you the illusion that either the Baby is about to be abducted by a UFO tractor beam or (and more likely) the reverse is occurring whereby the UFO light-beam has deposited perfect, pretty, white baby Jesus in his comfortable manger as he lays rested. Outside of the amazing lighting provided by the scene, you get the animals staring at the Baby Jesus like they know what's up and they are there to adore Jesus Himself because He is after all, The King.

And in the Nativity scenes as they are basically presented the audience somehow loses the entire purpose of the Nativity Scene. The fact that after all, and as my pastor pointed out, God forgot to reserve Mary and Joseph a room to birth Jesus in . And thus in the stable, where all the animals are...we get a room full of hay. We get a room full of annoying animals. Most noticeably absent from the Nativity scene as typically presented is the excrement. Yes, the animals pooped. And yes I don't think that point should ever be overlooked from the Nativity Scene. The stable smelled terrible. The Bible talks about a star noticed by astrologers alone that knew about the Birth of Jesus. The idea of a light-beam, was rather concocted by those who wanted to hide the animal poo that made the Nativity what it really was: The physical setting to show just how low Jesus would go in order to reconcile us to Himself in love.

Let me repeat: Joseph had to watch where he stepped as he set up shop in the stable as to make sure he didn't step in cow feces. Of course I am being overly simplistic, but the point is that the Nativity Scene was incredibly vulgar from the human perspective. And I would argue that this is what God intended it for. It was not planned as so to be the scene of pretty lights, happy smiles, and self-aware animals that stare upon the Messiah that we have made it out to be. Such a "cover-up" can become slightly irritating to me in regards to Christmas.

Christmas is about God as a baby. Not for an "awww, isn't that cute?" moment, but rather to hammer home the concept that when God was most fragile as a human being, he was sleeping as the lowest of society amongst animals. The baby who should have been killed by Herod, was indeed alive, but it was not some happy ending. Rather, the beginning of the story of Jesus amidst all the cow dung and hay was a rather positive one, only in relation to the ending of the story of his humanity which was that baby all grown up dying in even a more humiliating manner than how he entered into the world.

And i'm not even going to comment on the mess of the birthing process itself. I mean in the 21st century, they still are quite painful to even think about, and the mess involved is extravagant to say the least. Lord knows how much worse a first century birth is when it is performed in a stable and the baby being born is no less than God Himself. Poor Mary.

That is why i cringe at Pretty Christmases now. The ones with the perfect family with the perfect Christmas card with the perfect smiles looking at you saying "such is life." The same Christmases with the Johnny Mathis music playing in the background. And there are trips to the soup kitchens too because there is an agonizing guilt we want to get off our shoulders knowing that we are living a relatively comfortable lifestyle and there exists the lowest of men who are not as spoiled as us.

It is not that Christmas is not a time for the family or a time of thanksgiving/celebration.  It certainly is. But it's as if somewhere along the way we have stopped thinking about the smelliness of the Nativity and what it means to be family and replaced each with focusing more on viewing Christmas as an image of neatness/wholeness and then trying as best as we can to replicate that image of what Christmas should be like.

And we can all sing Christmas Carols with the snow falling all around us outside. And have shiny trucks drive through our town that endorse sugary beverages:

And in such Christmas seasons, we want to live up to an an image of being pretty. Spotlights on the Nativity, Christmas specials on TV, etc....

But love, as I understand it, doesn't revolve around building an image of perfection and loving that image. As if the Baby Jesus can only be Jesus if the scene is presented so perfectly.

No, love is entirely opposite. Love penetrates the "cover up." It's not that there is this whole "everyone is fake and we need to be more authentic" kind of rhetoric. For surely we are all trying to cover up wounds and secrets that we ourselves are too ashamed of to even confront ourselves.

Love does not exist "in spite of the weaknesses" (as if they need to be excused), but rather love is what it is when it takes the imperfections and the weaknesses as an extension of who you are and still loves you all the more.

Let me give an example...

I have one side of the family whose Christmases I attend that I do not enjoy going to. Words and smiles and hugs are exchanged. Pictures taken. The "How Are YOUUUUU?" questions are plentiful. The cordial responses are given. Presents are exchanged which neither side really liked receiving and as you leave, you say to yourself "thank God that's over." And everyone here are Church Going Protestants. And my sweater looks neat.

 Because, the reality is,  for that Christmas Party I played every part except the part of playing myself. If I were to be myself at that Christmas party, I  would have been thought a monster. If I told you how I really am, or the problems in my family, or that this past month has been the most confusing of my life, they would have thought of me as being a depressed Debbie Downer to the whole spectacle of magical Christmas happiness that was going on in the Christmas party. So I covered up and played the part you wanted me to play in this family Christmas.

And then there are those Christmases which I miss dearly. They no longer happen. They usually happen on Christmas Eve (I write this on Christmas Eve), They revolve around the other side of the family. A few of the crucial uniting members of the family passed away in recent years, so the celebrations have ceased.  But the celebrations....there was always fighting. Cursing. Scandals. The most intense games of trivial pursuit you could ever imagine. Insults are thrown. And even one time there was a real fight between two of the sisters over a flirting boyfriend. Mind you they are all adults too. And I loved this Christmas dearly because in the fighting, there was never anything personal at stake. At the end of the night fighting sister would be sleeping on the shoulder of passed out brother and all was right with the world. This was real love. 

This was a Christmas where the drama was never hidden and each person acted as they really were and since everyone really did really love each other, the Christmas messy fighting almost had to happen to be able to really love each other. If one uncle did not voice his complaint about the insult of his receding hair line his sister had mentioned, he would have covered up his resentment and would have went home bitter because he wasn't able to be himself, and thus if someone were to love him that evening (where the cover-up happened), they weren't actually loving him, but an image of him that kept his real feelings hidden. 

Thus, to me, the ugliness of the Nativity scene is what Christmas should be about. The messy scene of the animals and the smelly poo that Jesus was born amongst...perhaps that was a radical image God wanted to portray to us humans of how he saw us in our sinful state from Heaven. Thus the Nativity  is Jesus saying "I know exactly what it is like to be human and the messiness that is implied with all the confusion and loneliness  And it's precisely because I love you with this mess included that I have come down here to be born in the "thick" of it as an indicator that I LOVE YOU and not an image of who you think you should be to me." It wouldn't be that we are to live in the mess, but rather that we should not hide the mess from ourselves or God. It is only when we confront the mess and it's frustration and bring it before God and say "This is me" that we can begin to experience God's love.

I don't know if any the above makes sense. I know that in the past month a lot of mess has come to the surface in myself and those in my family. Initially I wanted to hide some of it. Ignore other aspects of it. Live in denial of the mess. Because Christmas was not about the mess. "Can't this wait until January?!?" But I can also say that I have found love amidst the confusion more than ever with my family. Sure the confusion is still there. But being honest and not "covering" the mess has made me see that perhaps all my Christmases in the past were mere illusions since family member X was dealing with problem Y but told no one about it, and so what I thought was family member X last year was actually just an image of family member X. But now with Problem Y acknowledged and being warred against, family member X can be family member X for perhaps the first time in a long time at Christmas.

In the movie The Christmas Story, the entire film is about this concept of trying to cover up the pains of living and trying to insulate humanity from being itself in order to "enjoy Christmas." Yet when the family tries to be as American and Happy as possible living up to an image of what Christmas should be, more and more gets hidden underneath the surface of each member in the family so they can't be themselves....

See Exhibit A where the main character is obligated to where his pink bunny suit that his aunt made him for Christmas where upon Ralphie finds his entire freedom taken away from him in order to appease the image his  diluted aunt has of him:

"while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

He died for us in the most wretched of  states wherein we were drowned in the horrible excrement that sin is. And because of the messy Nativity and the painful crucifixion we know all the more that whoever we are today with all the loneliness and chaos that lives inside of us that we can't tell anyone about, Jesus died for that person too. Because that is you. And when you begin to realize that Jesus still loves us with this mess included we can begin to confront it, and fight, and get better....

At the end of the Christmas Story the family has finally resigned itself from trying to live up to the image of "perfect Christmas family." Their Christmas dinner was even stolen and eaten by the neighbor's dog. So the family takes whatever courage they have left and descends to the local Chinese Restaurant on Christmas Day (Chinese Restaurants are for the most part open in reality on such a day)... 

There the family partakes in the most American of Christmas celebrations: a celebration where the Chinese employees are singing "Deck the Halls" complete with foreign mistranslation. What happens next is the dinner is actually brought to the table and it is none other than a duck whose head is still on the body itself. The dead duck that they are about to eat is "smiling" at the family. Whereas for most families such a Christmas dinner would be depressing...this family has lost all pretensions of living an image of what Christmas should be and has decided to accept the irony of life as is and laugh at it. Instead of being offended at the duck with the head on it, the family points out the horrible reality to the cook who simply cuts the head off  and expects the family to be completely at peace now with the duck. And they are. They begin to if now for the first time, the family is living life without the insulated comfort that seeks to mute the awkwardness of reality without illusions. Thus love/God/family/Christmas cannot be lived until we see the dead duck head attached to the duck to fully enjoy the duck itself. Translation: We need the awkwardness of what it means to love each other in all it's abnormalities back in our Christmasses to fully enjoy the reason for the season.

Friday, December 17, 2010

#212-Perfection with a Microphone

For those who don't know, that's Taylor Swift. I actually don't really like Taylor Swift, but I figured her picture would do for this post.

I have decided that Joel’s rants about women are usually quite legitimate and understandable…but they are rather, I feel the need to defend all the ladies. Hence this post.
I had my hopes and dreams shattered at a very young age. I was all of the age of nine (or thereabouts) when I was told I could not carry a tune. Ah! At the time, this made no impression, but I was to soon learn that was the ultimate cause of all my failures in life…and would be the ultimate reason why I would never find an Apostolic mate.
You see, in Apostolic World where I grew up, being able to sing is one of the Unspoken Commandments. Much like having an amazing wardrobe and naturally awesome hair, the ability to sing is coveted by all and, I have to admit, possessed by many. Except me. I am the ultimate failure, the one mistake God created! Here I sit in my tone-deaf glory, wishing desperately that I could carry a tune!...but alas, I am relegated to the back of a choir and forced to sing alone to myself in my car.
This actually does not bother me. I do worry about finding a future husband, however, because we all know that the only thing an Apostolic male wants is a hot blond with the voice of a black woman. This would appear to be an impossible combination, but apparently many women can manage that, especially if they want to grow up and become a Pastor’s Wife.
Illusory thing, the Perfect Pastor’s Wife.
It always amazes me the number of Apostolic guys who have such impossibly high standards for their future mate. Not only must she be beautiful and skinny, but, she must possess a gorgeous, modest, holy wardrobe and must be endowed with musical talents out the wazoo. What strikes me as even more remarkable (ridiculous!) is the number of girls who try and meet these standards.
Heaven forbid! It pains me when I see girls who spend massive amounts of money on their wardrobes, countless hours on their hair, and painful hours in their heels, all to impress a young man who can preach for 20 minutes without breaking a sweat.
I really do not know the logic behind the demands of the Apostolic man. Yes, I suppose it’s nice to have a living, breathing, singing!, dressed-to-perfection being next to you at the minister’s banquet, but come on. What are you going to do the next day when the clock strikes twelve and Pente-Ella’s hair comes down and she steps out of those gorgeous high heels? Exactly. Can anyone say rude awakening?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

#211-Vanity, vanity

First off, I would like to thank Joel for allowing me to ramble on his blog. He took a big leap of faith in letting me do this, and I appreciate it.
Second, I would like to begin making my excuses (of course!). It’s finals week(s) and I am a senior in college. If I were in high school, none of this would matter to me. But since my GPA actually does count now, I’m devoting my life to what’s left of my studies. Therefore, my time is going to be filled with notes and books and other awful nightmare-ish things that take precedence above everything else. Long story short, I’m holding off on writing until I throw my cap in the air. (12 more days!) But before I temporarily hiatus, I have another post in the bag.
(Note: I hesitated about this post. Not because it's highly controversial or anything but because it's one of the many gray-standards-issues that I don't really quite understand... and thus am compelled to write about.)

Today’s topic has to do with the fascinating and delightful topic of nails. No, not the kind of nails you hammer into wood, but the kind that are on your fingers. To narrow it down further, I am talking about fake nails. Now, the reason I bring this up is not because I have a desire to wear them and I can’t and so I am therefore subconsciously letting off steam. Although that would be an understandable excuse, it’s not the case. Instead, this idea came to me several years ago when I was at camp and noticed that the cool thing to do was to get a French pedicure and wear flip-flops to show it off. And of course, one had to have a matching French manicure. Of course obviously, this French tactic was used to combat the dilemma Pentecostal girls have about nail polish. Since we can’t wear it, the next best thing is to get some stuff that looks unnatural but is labeled as natural. Although what’s so natural about blinding white tips on one’s painfully pink nails I leave you to discover.

This is just an extra-long aside, but Pentecostals seem to find a loophole that allows them to commit just about every sin the world has to offer while still technically maintaining standards. For example, can’t dye your hair? Just put some “Sun In” on it and voila! Blond streaks! No makeup? Wait for Halloween! It’s excusable then. Can’t cut your hair? Get a perm – they usually fry off about five inches worth. It’s easy! As someone who has grown up in this, you can tell I have learned just about every loophole there is (and every time I go to a “district-wide youth function” I learn a few more).
Anyway, back to my main point. The biggest excuse I have ever heard for wearing fake nails is that they are more “natural” and not as sinful as regular colored nail polish and therefore they should be allowed. Here’s the problem with this: aside from the previously mentioned unnatural yet “natural” color, fake nails are just that – they are fake. Meaning unnatural. Meaning bits of plastic you glue to your fingers, all for vanity’s sake. In short, that argument is ridiculous, and I still do not see the reason why Pentecostal girls feel fine wearing fake nails.
I hope this post doesn’t offend people, because that’s not what I intended. Personally, although it probably seems like I have a problem with fake nails, I actually do not. It just seems to me that the justifications for wearing them need to undergo some modifications if they are to hold up to anyone’s scrutiny, especially that of a new convert. (In Pentecostal world, New Convert is the ultimate trump card of the game, kind of like Helen Keller is in Apples to Apples.)
Note: to all the guys out there who don’t wear fake nails – I’m sorry. I hope this post did not bore you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

#210-That Extra Material that Keeps You Holy

Editor's Note: Ladies and Gentlemen, a new blogger, Marissa Cooney. Give her a warm, round of applause as she writes during these horrid days when i have no time to write (I have topics I swear!).  Also any other people who want to blog for the site? e-mail me with sample article. 

(a side note: I do not know the girl in the picture. It most definitely is not me. But I do know some girls who would wear her tights. Nay, they would ENVY her those...glorious leg coverings.)
Today’s weather calls for hibernation. However, given that this is a civilized, capitalistic society that requires all its members to enter the world and produce something, hibernation is not a viable option for the American. So despite there being a teenage temperature outside (ha – who am I kidding? I’m from Texas and this happens maybe twice in a decade) all of us (from the North) have to face the cold…including…wait for it…the female Pentecostal.
Faced with an unrelenting dedication to modesty and an unrelenting cold snap, both equally demanding attention, Pentecostal women are faced with three options: one being wearing a pair of boots, the other consisting of the ankle-length jean skirt approach, and the last and most formidable being multi-colored tights!
Yes, tights. They are an amazing solution to all winter’s problems – excluding snowdrifts and imperfect snowmen. That is why you will see Pentecostal women going to their local Forever 21 or Target and spending fifty dollars on itchy, scratchy material that doesn’t necessarily provide warmth, but provides a defense against the agonizing question, “you’re in a skirt? Aren’t you COLD?”
Sigh. Internally I always debate on answering with the following: “the fire of the Holy Ghost keeps me warm both inside and out, all the way down to my legs! That’s the true secret of it all. Come to church and you too will see!” Unfortunately, answering so honestly will probably never help me win someone to the Lord.
…I hate that question.
Tights explain how, when winter comes, Pentecostal women suddenly show up to church looking like a fluorescent light show has happened on their legs. I suppose sobriety in apparel does not apply here.
In addition to providing a solution for leg warmth, tights also provide yet another loophole for sin. This particular naughty deed involves wearing a pair of tights and then buying a skirt two inches above the knee. And why not? No skin is showing, after all! No, instead a nice two inches of sensuous kneecap is displayed covered by brightly covered material. No problems here.
The issue of tights also explains why you will see Pentecostal teenage girls wearing fishnets to church during the winter despite the stereotype that fishnets belong on strippers. Subjects of this kind have been slightly covered already (the hooker boots post), but I feel that the prevalence of fishnets in church is something that should be expanded on…perhaps in a later entry.

Monday, November 29, 2010

#209-Going "Deeper" (or to Another level or to another dimension with God)

Okay, sidenotes-it looks like we may be adding another blogger here shortly (this means the posts should be more frequent...give me two weeks of spontaneous 1-2 posts a week and we should be up and ready back to the usual 3-4 posts a week...apologies for the stagnation...excuses: School, Work, Females, etc...)

Also let me preface by saying I may have done a post similar to this a long time ago, but i couldn't find it if I did.

Post: What is up with the Apostolic Infatuation of this strange "other-world" wherein if we prepare ourselves for by adding proper Holy supplements to our lifestyle (e.g. prayer, Bible, etc...), then we will be rewarded by God a la an all-expenses paid vacation (On Him) to go "deeper" with Him.

Seriously, the earlier parts of my 12-15 year old awkward stage were seen by me trying my hardest to go deeper with this obsessive reality of "GUYS, GET YOUR JUNK TOGETHER! WE'RE GOING DEEPER, AND IF YOU AINT ON BOARD, YOU'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM!" ..


And it was all so incredibly weird..we'd sit there on like Sunday nights before church trying to pray ourselves into a semi-trance because in this weird escape from reality,  we hoped God would show up in a tornado and be like "YOU ARE SO DEEP RIGHT NOW...SO DEEP RIGHT NOW THAT I'M GOING TO TELL YOU THE FUTURE!"

And when a few lucky ones did go deeper with God, their "revelation" was never in regards to telling us the Super Bowl winner for next year which would have made us all was all about how another one of us, if that person will go deeper, he will be a huge preacher preaching to millions of starving Africans...

I never, no matter how hard I jumped, could get past level one:

Dear God,

Hi. It's me Joel. I love you. Thank you. Sorry I watched that TV show with a girl in a bathing suit. And if possible, let me go deeper.  I hate people. I shouldn't hate people. Let me love them. Revival soon, okay? TTYL!



(and as I wrote that, i can say that more or less, outside of a speaking in tongues in counter here or there, that this above prayer has been about all I have prayed my entire life with myself expounding on various elements of the prayer to elongate said prayer).

And one time, I decided to see what the Bible says about this stuff about going deeper...


Nothing about "New Dimensions"

Nor about new levels...

Nothing about going "deeper"  in prayer (unless you count Paul's Third Heaven experience, but that is a far cry from it actually being a declaration that the "Third Heaven" experience is to be sought whatsoever, and if it is, the "third Heaven" is to be sought by weakness)...

And when you read the book of Corinthians....and how Paul condemns them for claiming a "higher Wisdom" and how much they were infatuated with speaking in tongues in church, you kind of get the sense that "deeper" is really a means of arrogance to "One-up" people...that

or an escape from facing the reality God has providenced them for.

But then the question is...why...why are we still aiming for this "mysterious unknown  zone" where few have traveled and fewer have returned?

Next time I hear about a church going to another level, i will kick the entire building in their shin..Because all their deep infatuation for something that is not even discussed in the Bible, is not only an escape from reality, but also in a sense saying "this" isn't good enough...and I don't mean our sinful selves, because we are never good enough...but more so, reality isn't good enough...

The Cross, the resurrection, Acts 2, etc....none of those things are good enough, so we need more God as a Holy Ghost pleasure machine to which weird things happen and we are told weird thoughts....let's let such a concept die soon...

Monday, November 22, 2010

#208-Cupid Jesus

First, this post was recommended by Laura Del Vescio. We should all be thankful to her. She used her own life as a testament to the following argument (well parts of it).....

Secondly, one of the greatest features of our movement is the admiration of blooming romances of loving young ones amongst our movement. The hand holding, the cute picture on facebook (with a photo album dedicated to the two in love), the overly-involved in-laws to be (Are not the apostolics the worst at the concept that when you date someone you are also dating their family?).....

The thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars spent for the Apostolic wedding in the name of the bride wanting to have a "wedding to remember" which will be forgotten except for the photo album that the bride/groom spent 300 dollars on that will sit under their couch and be looked upon by the Apostolic wife who mourns the loss of such happiness as the wedding and in this mourning takes out the wedding album secretly and wonders what went wrong in their marriage...

except for maybe she hasn't come to grips with the fact that her husband isn't a 108 year old vampire or Ryan Gosling and if she accepts that her expectations for marriage weren't as low as they should have been (she picture her husband climbing ferris wheels for her and throwing cars over to save dying children in the name of her!) then the whole torment of how mundane and boring marriage is wouldn't be there...

O no....cynical rant that has nothing to do with this post....apologies...

 Here is who God is for Apostolic Females: A Giant loving cupid who will give you a preacher husband if you pray enough and don't cut your hair...EVER...and if you obey authority.In fact, I would argue that an Apostolic Female's true Christian walk can never actually begin until after she has gotten married because, frankly, much of the female's interest in God is to get married and praying that God would provide her a Strong, praying, preaching husband who challengers her and makes her laugh and understands the feminine mystique completely.

And oh the insanity...just below the surface of the apostolic female who finds herself unmarried at 25....You can see it in her eyes...the looks she gives....the horror of her reality. She is over a quarter century old and God has not provided her THE ONE! Is it her? Is it her looks? Why do all the stupid girls seem to get more interest than her? And to oppress this bubbling insanity, the girl tells herself that God has chosen her especially capable of being tested and thus if she has more patience God will reward her with a king.

I am so sexist right now.

Let me explain my stereotypes as follows: I sincerely believe we need female ministers/preachers/licensed ministers/pastors in our movement. I really do. I think the fact that equality is not given to females in ministry in our movement is a very direct cause of why we see so many females as incomplete (in their minds) without a husband (her will hopefully have a strong ministry himself).

Okay...but there is a missing aspect of relationship within our movement: God's Will!...

If you have ever been part of any kind of sensible Apostolic relationship, you will know "God's Will" is a very critical matter in regards to romantic Apostolic relationships. A boy or girl could be madly in love in a relationship....but for Apostolics, there is a triad relationship: Boy, Girl, and God's Will.

"I love you." -She Says
"I love you." -He Says
"But, does God's Will know about us..." -She says
(awkward silence.....boy scratches top of head and looks towards ground)
"You haven't talked to God's Will about us?!?"-She Says
"Well..."-He Says
"Well... what! Are you ashamed of me, is that it?"-She says
"No! I have brought it up here and there to him in conversation."-He Says
"Did he hear you?"-She Says
"Well God's Will has not said anything back. Let's put it that way." -He says
"Then let's ask him!..."-She Says
"The relationship is not God's will." -Pastor Says
"(Shrugs shoulders)Okay, good bye then. Fun while it lasted." -She says...

God's Will is the mystical character that is appealed to as the out of a relationship. If there are no bumps in the relationship, then it must be God's will. When one in the relationship starts to have hesitations about the relationship,  God's will is appealed to as the ultimate source of the problems.

And then when man or woman are single....

God's Will is prayed to and for without hesitancy but rather with boldness. When  a boy or girl who is single starts to develop a serious crush on another potential mate...God's will is appealed to not as the "Should I or shouldn't I?" but rather is sought as..."Listen God's Will, I love that girl over there. You need to pull some strings to make this happen. Shoot in arrow full of romance juice at her or something...."

And "God's Will" instead of the out (as when one is in a relationship), is now the Strong, Impeccable Force  that will cease at nothing to make a romance happen. God's will then is ultimate matchmaker.

And as we mentioned, ultimate Breakup-Maker.

And the awkward thing is we never want to think it is our flesh distorting God's Will. "Those butterflies that make me feel good when I see the girl I like....those can't be from me...those must be a result of God's Will. God so wants me to marry that girl."


"The fact that I realized he doesn't have as good of a personality as i imagined and my sudden fickleness is without any other explanation...this must be God's way of showing me, He is not the one."

God's will becomes a giant excuse to seek destruction by breaking up or a giant magnet that forces to unknowable boy/girl innocent creatures to fall in love.

I had a friend who was constantly told by  various girls growing up that God had showed them it was His will for my friend and the girl to marry. As if the girl was really saying "look, I know where we are ending up...because God told me...and it just so happens that god told me I am to marry you because I think you are devilishly attractive and you sing good. Which works out for me (though maybe not for you since I'm not very attractive and you haven't spoken more than 3 words to me before this conversation). So don't fight...let's just get this romance moving, okay?"

That same friend of mine even once had a girl's mother go up to my friends mom and let her know that God had confirmed with the mother that her daughter was indeed supposed to marry my friend.

So not only does God's will reinforce crushes....but then there are CONFIRMATIONS!

And at the end of the day, my shallow friend will telly you, "yeah, she's ugly and she laughs quite annoyingly. Skip it."


And then the girl goes off to bible college and gets married to some other dude within a year and she nonetheless finds "God's REAL WILL" in the process...

How does Jesus feel?

Let's thinkabout it...

Jesus' first miracle as recorded in John? Well it was the whole turning water into wine thing...

But let's think about this a minute...when Mary first asks Jesus to do something about the wine that was consumed....Jesus' response was...


In other words...Jesus teaches us it's okay to call our mother's "Woman" and also...he really hates weddings so much he would rather not intervene with anything. A miserable wedding without wine is a wedding Jesus is much more comfortable at (YAY! Apostolic Weddings!)...

And then Mary prepares for the miracle anyways because she doesn't know how to obey God....

And Jesus is like "This is cruel. Weddings are miserable places. And I'm God and I can do anything, like make this place a lot more lively and less like a funeral...."

And Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding. Because, the reality is....he doesn't really care who is getting married, he just likes to use a wedding as the perfect setting to make Apostolics feel awkward that Jesus' first miracle was after calling Mary "Woman" and then proceeded to turn precious water into tubs full of wine to keep the party going...

So next time you are wondering about God's will in regards to a relationship and wrestle back and fourth remind yourself...Well how does Jesus handle this? And the only time he is at a wedding in the gospels....he doesn't care to do much (or speak for or against the married couple)...he just makes sure the DJ sticks around and wine is served...

(AND PLEASE DON'T GO INTO THE "BUT BUT BUT.......the WINE BACK THEN WASN"T REALLY WINE.....THE ALCOHOL WASN'T NEARLY AS MUCH, etc....that is such escapism. Why does Paul encourage us not to be drunkards many times over if this was the case?).

Monday, November 15, 2010

#207-Not Post-modernism:....When God died...Royal Tailor... uncertainty, and Cynical Apostolics (Me!). Soundtrack by Cat Stevens

Preface: If I hear you preach about post-modernism or do a conference or seminar on it. PLEASE KNOW ABOUT IT BEYOND READING ABOUT IT FROM A CHRISTIAN BOOK YOU GOT FROM THE BOOK STORE. or you will risk me, the cynical post-modern throwing a pew in your general direction... *Wink Face*

 We can preach about loving our neighbor and embracing difference. We can have a discussion about shorts and movie theaters and no one will get hurt. But the moment standards or disciplines are discussed (hair, skirts, etc....) we tense up. That is not up for negotiation. Because standards (or what may be called "holiness" so that when we go to discuss standards, it looks like we are attacking holiness, and who wants that?) are too certain to be up to be discussed. God likes standards. Why would we want to upset God?

Right, who wants to upset God? But that's not what we didn't like. We didn't like the attacks. Because we had questions. Because we were showing uncertainty about the things that you thought certain, we were somehow the bad guy? But they were questions. Simple questions. Based in the Bible. But you didn't want to look at it. Listen to it. End the conversation with just saying "I have my convictions from God and I am being true to them, and it's stated plainly in the Bible and you emergents, you just need to submit, etc..."

Cue Chesterton:
The mechanical optimist endeavors to justify the universe avowedly upon the ground that it is a rational and consecutive pattern. He points out that the fine thing about the world is that it can all be explained. That is the one point, if I may put it so, on which God, in return, is explicit to the point of violence. God says, in effect, that if there is one fine thing about the world, as far as men are concerned, it is that it cannot be explained. He insists on the inexplicableness of everything.

The truth is, when we postmoderns started asking questions and had to admit gray when we dearly wished it was black & white as you told us, we started looking at everything else. And it too became gray. And certainty gave way to uncertainty about everything. Uncertainty became my god.

 I don't talk about whether or not a certain standard is biblical anymore. I will if you want, but I have heard the same arguments far too many times and i have said the same counterarguments far too many times and no one is listening to anyone and we are just justifying what we want to be true, and won't concede anything. It's become a game of whose a better arguer without anyone actually caring for the truth, because in the discussion each person assumes the position of truth when the point of discussion is not have the mindset of "let me tell you" but rather have the mentality of "let's find out together"  Seriously, it's probably been over a year since I was in a serious discussion about them. The whole process made me apathetic. Mostly because I realized how it was impossible to tell if we were deceiving ourselves. If i was deceiving myself. Was I just Calling something true when I really just looked for the right arguments to appease my mind so it wouldn't sit in tension. I HAVE VERSES. SEE HERE! THIS SHOWS EVERYTHING! And then YOU HAVE VERSES! AND THEY SAY THE OPPOSITE!

So I became dejected. A postmodern apostolic without hope. Because no one was being sincere. Not me at least. And there was my friend who was a piano player at his church and one time he was playing during altar call and he told me while playing that "now i'm going to make everyone cry by what I play" and then sure enough he played a few minor chords and everyone at the altar started balling, sobbing. Snot down the nose. I mean there was no one singing, so these emotions were dependent on the chords of the piano player

Then after a few minutes, he said "now watch, I will get them dancing." And within two minutes the tears had stopped after he changed the chords again and tempo and people were jumping and freely  waving their handkerchiefs like they were the newspapers that announced the end of the Iraq War. I was so so dismayed. The piano wasn't his fault. He was a good man. He was just honest enough that humans were more involved in experiencing the divine in a church service than we are comfortable admitting.

 Was there anyway then of finding truth?

And God Loved us all. That is what mattered to the individual. The one person would tell you they know they are right because they felt right, and i will tell you I felt the same, but yet "this God" is telling us different things in the Spirit of what is right.... What a mess.

And I just became almost a mad man over all of it.

And so did most of us. Because no one was paying attention to anything outside of wanting to tell each other about how correct they were in what they were saying. Forgetting the whole time that we are human. Humans can be wrong. A lot.

And i have been there anyway out? A way out of our inability to know since after all, we are humans who have a lot of contradictory opinions all claiming they are right and God approves of them more than you? And while some people get heartbroken and torn over the loss of a loved one or a break-up, i get torn up over a philosophical mind crisis like this. 

Madness: it's what's for dinner.

And Suddenly I don't hate you So Much

But today's a new day....And there's an unbelievable noise. A shout. A hurray. Twirling Batons. Fist Pumps. Masculine Chest Bumps. "Yo Adrian!!!" ...AMERICA! That kind of stuff. There should be a parade today at the very least. Today, after last night, I'm doing one of these numbers.....

Because I read an essay. From an atheist: Slavoj Zizek. He's a philosopher too. He wrote an essay about Christianity. It changed my life as of last night when I read it. Easily the top 5 best descriptions of what Christianity is and who Christ was that I have ever read/heard. No joke. If you can get past the density of the article that confuses many, the reward is infinite.

Istha said  of the essay (frequent commenter on the blog): "i even feel silly talking about this idea that has been born in my mind because it is like it will be reduced to some "from now on, i will do things differently God" moment. how can an atheist even have such an awesome revelation of God in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself? it's sheer insanity! and i love insanity! and i think i want to be insane now! *yay* this isn't making sense anymore..."

I think in the article I glimpsed the escape from the cynicism that I have been wallowing in here on this blog for far too long. The cynicism that those pyromaniac internet blogers have thrived in because we have been trying to find a way to not abandon our faith but act as the symbolic violence to our movement that all is not alright within ourselves. Cynicism was/is our friend. We are trying to be the rupture...a geyser....a crack in the let you know that we aren't such pretty pretty people....

Pleasure Machines and other comparisons of what the Holy Ghost has Become to Us
So what's the essay about? Well I won't go into detail Because I would just have to do an essay commenting on the essay to do it any kind of justice. But once I read everything, a moment came to mind, one that I thought I had forgotten about.

I think it happened in 2007 at IBC Live Recording though all of this is pretty speculative at this point. Tauren Wells (of Royal Tailor Fame) wrote a song called "Broken" and performed it with the IBC choir. And by "wrote a song" I mean he basically "dropped a bomb" on Apostolic culture telling us to get our act together and start being creative in our songwriting instead of relying on the same 3-4 "charismatic" artists year in and year out and the songs they would write. 

Here's the performance....

I was was so touching. The song is wonderful. Lyrics were simple but impacting. Except there were things amiss. Like there were a few girl's in the choir who started sobbing before the first note hit to the song simply in anticipation of the tear-jerking sing session that was about to occur. I'm sure by the end of the song the mascara had welled up into an oil spill of sin underneath their eyes and the snot underneath their nose seemed to resemble the texture of a chicken noodle soup more than anything human.

Because here....Here we were confessing that our lives were INCOMPLETE. We were Broken. And that's okay. Because it's God's strength is sufficient.  In the acknowledgement of our incompleteness, and the confusion and anxieties of life that we may or may not experience, we could as individuals close our eyes....and feel the minor chords of the piano give us goosebumps and tell God "Lord I am broken and my life is in pieces but your strength is perfect in all of my weakness." And we'll cry. And cry and make promises to God about things changing and have confirmations from the Lord that we aren't supposed to be with that significant other, and how....well....that time when you texted that picture of yourself....God knows about that too and He's ain't mad. He understands. Just cry now and make promises. Repent. Trample on his mercy again in the distant, unforeseeable future.

Because in this song, perhaps more than any I have heard written by an Apostolic, we are not assuming anything.

We are not assuming our great value to declare things...For instance, we say "Lord you are worthy..." Worthy of what? Our praise? Like Our praise is of any value? Oh we think the highest of ourselves and our truth...I would rather suggest the line should be always "we are unworthy" but to even say that denies the cross and what he displayed as what is worthy.

But here, in this song Something untypical is happening  We are not shouting how great God is (and thus how great we are because we are invited by Him), but rather we start with ourselves...and we are nothing more than broken as humans.

But theologically, and this is where Zizek's article comes in....I would argue the song still (despite it being light years superior than most Christian songs and happily look forward to seeing what Royal Tailor comes out with in Nashville), theologically  I would say the song still comes up short...

Postmodernism allows for selfishness and ego to thrive. It allows for us to be the center of the world, and we don't have to look past anything past ourselves except for when we want to be cynical about any time a group of people come together to do something great. Then we can criticize their foolishness (i speak as a confessed postmodern)....Postmodernism though is where everything came to be about "Relationship" and "Me and Jesus" and a disdain of religion in general. Cue the terrible line in a facebook info section-Religion: "Not Religion, Just Relationship."

Seriously, think about the most popular songs at conferences and conventions....:"Freedom" (though Romans 6 tells us to be slaves), "Oh How He Loves Us!" "I am a friend of God" and "The More I seek you." Think about what they are saying and the kind selfishness the songs our telling you to shout about....the songs are all about "YOU YOU YOU" (God) Loving "ME ME ME!" And the lyrics, some times approach descriptions of an erotic relationship with important you and a loving God (Sloppy wet kisses/Wanna sit at your feet, lay against you and breathe/

You narcissistic self-obsessed creeps.

And Christianity became very direct. About You and Jesus. About me and Jesus. Everything else was secondary. Sure we were sinners. Everyone was sinners. So judging is bad. You don't know about me and God. So don't say things about my relationship with God. And church becomes a giant game of hoping to hear the right message preached or hear the right song sung so that special little me can feel God get all important inside me. And if we feel God get important enough inside us during church, we will pray a little longer this week and try reading our bible this week! 

Preachers will tell you postmodernism is trying to get into our movement from "The Emergents." I posit that the worst of postmodernism has been part of our Apostolic DNA for some 15 years now...Where Christianity becomes this vainglorious thing where Special, Indispensable Me is loved by a Special God. And I speak about this in regards to my generation and younger... 

My problem with postmodernism in regards to Apostolics is that in our emancipation of willing submission to anything and everything the pastor says that was a mainstay in our movement in the 80's (no matter how biblically corrupt it is), we have made Holy Ghost and Acts 2:38 and even Holiness in a sense a tool to approve of ourselves. And thus church is a giant meeting place to feel really really good about ourselves, or if the service is sad, we then get to lay our burdens down. I think we have been to services that teeter on the edge of just becoming giant "pleasure meetings" where we praise God not to praise him, but in hopes that we will somehow in our praise create a kind of rain dance that will cause the Holy Ghost to rain down on us that will make us feel Good and squirt some tears. Do not get me wrong....I am not speaking about what our movement is as a whole. Nothing like that. I am simply saying that there are symptoms of postmodernism in each one of our churches beyond simple "questions"  that show up from time to time. And we are too scared to talk about it, because we have begun to think so highly of our Apostolic selves, that we fear that if we speak up and preach about I Corinthians 14 and how the purpose of the Holy Ghost is anything but a pleasure machine, that somehow we think we may be insulting the Holy Ghost.

Read the New Testament. Read it. How much are emotions a part of the Gospel message? I am not saying it's not in there, but it's certainly not the focus. But yet, ask yourself, what is the purpose of Church for us? To save souls? certainly. But is that all church is for? So people can go through the Acts 2:38 process? Of course not. That's part of it. So then what is church again for those already saved? 

And I fear that outside of it being a biblical command, we may be without an answer. Because it's become in our minds a giant machine to walk up to every Sunday, hit a button and have "Emotional Impact" come out of the machine dispenser and we eat it up.

I am so off right now.

And in the midst of all my cynicism that i just wrote about, let me go back to the "Broken" song at IBC.....The problem was not with the song. It was with what was going on with the song. People were saying they were broken. they were confessing. Saying how rough life is and how messy they were. And oh let me tell you, each one of them was completely broken and messy. You should see their bedrooms. You should see their drama. Their "mess-ups." And even the perfects ones, they were messy too. And they were letting us know in song.

But my question was, if the emotion wasn't there with the song. And the lyrics weren't so simplistically and beautifully written, if it wasn't about the minor chords....Would you say you are broken?

And we all tell ourselves yes. And so do i.


But here's the real dilemma of it. Where zizek really hits homes. What i think may be an answer to the obsession of self that postmodernism has catered to. In that song, in those words, everyone in that building looked to God as the Out. In spite of our weakness, he is so loving that he will make us whole. We don't like the mess. We are repulsed by it. WE don't like the pain. The confusion. We want to get out and forget about it as soon as possible. We want to live pretty. We don't like being messy monsters.

And God, in this song, during that moment at the recording. Was our escape. He is the healer. This is all true.

For a few moments we can forget everything and escape our mad world and the internal destruction of our own lives. And we can say "Wow God, you are awesome. So loving. So merciful. So Peaceful."

But it's all so limiting of who God is.

God is not what we make him out to be if that's who we want to say he is. the whole, loving, merciful, peaceful thing....

THat's only part of it. And It's all we want to focus on. And postmodernism allows us that freedom.

Because let's be honest...What is the cross for most of us? What is the Incarnation? It is the story that Jesus came down and suffered and never sinned in order that we may resurrect with him one day...and thus the Cross shows how much He loves us. And how now, we can receive salvation. 

And all that says is Jesus and the Cross...are vehicles. The transportation Machine to get us to heaven. And the HOly Ghost allows us the pleasure of knowing this in our emotions. So we thank the transportation machine (the cross, resurrection, Acts 2:38) and want to tell everyone about our Magical Salvation Bus and that God is one. And also you get to participate in God's invitation to be Holy.

The Most Violent God I Know 

But what about the other part? The Murdering Jesus? The one who kills billions in Revelation and seems to be eager to do so. The one who did not come for peace but came to divide with a sword. The Jesus who tells us to leave our own mother and father and follow him (the actual word I think is "Hate" your own mother and father). Violent, humanity killing Jesus. The one who wants you to be his slave.

And since God is about the 6 millions Jews. My relatives. Talk about the Old Testament and the screwed up stories of God ordering the slaughter of thousands (some estimates say millions) in the Name of God so the Jews can have the promised Land (The book of Joshua is a giant "HERE COMES GOD" parade and any Canaanite in the way of the procession essentially killed)...And we can blame the Fall of Man.

But God created Adam. Knowing that Adam Would Fall. 

And God created Satan. Knowing that Satan would fall.

And God Must have Put Satan in the Garden. Knowing the temptation would happen.

God created it and could have rearranged things as so, so that the Adams and Satan's didn't have to be the cause of all of this.

Humans may die because they have sinned. But babies? Babies that were put in ovens? thousands of them. Because of modernity and Hitler...And stuff like that....Babies who did nothing wrong. They were killed too. You say they get heaven? But they didn't even have a choice like we do...

Where is that Jesus in all of the postmodernism emotional "God is relationship" speak? Where is the violence on our own selves? If we are broken and we know we are broken, why are we so settled with it? With the questions....The "Woes" of humanity that should be staring us  down at every corner telling us life is furthest thing from settled.

The violence of God has left our movement.  And i'm not talking about the angry red-faced preachers who yell about people like me at conferences. That's not the violence of God, that's just men who are victims of post-modernism itself that allow leaders to have a false sense of being "super-human" and thus can speak with such passion about things that they know not about.

So where is God? The violent God? And don't say "that was the Old Testament" because we have Revelation to deal with. Jesus is not just love and mercy. He is the one saying horrible monstrous things that if we took seriously, would have us devastated four times over. 

One side of Jesus is that warm, bearded man hugging little children in a blue sash and white robe on a Sunny afternoon. We like that Jesus. That Jesus is thriving in our movement. Because all is alright with that Jesus. He is okay with me when he's so nice. But the other side of Jesus....the one who talks freely about sending people to eternal hell for a few short years of sinning. So we must choose one or the other right?

And my generation has settled on serving the Jesus who loves. Which is awesome sometimes.

But it also means when things are bad, and there is confusion, we want an out and an escape to our Heavenly Love Daddy whose strength will make everything Okay, if only for a few minutes during a song at IBC.

But what if those bad things and the confusion and the brokenness we talk about....what if that is the point?!? We should not be aiming for heaven here on earth. Heaven is for heaven and there is a reason it's not here on earth. jesus could have fixed everything here on earth by now if that was the case. And besides if that is the case, we should just be converted Jews because that's what the Jews were doing before Christ. Trying to live as heaven here on earth. Representatives, etc....

But there is something bigger here...the Jesus who is Puppy Dog and the Jesus who is Monster.

They are both one. Not that Father is the angry one and Jesus the kind mediator trying to make daddy not angry. Rather there is a oneness about it. Jesus is both Violent and Love.

We are Like Him.

In our brokenness we know we are not Saved in it's fullest sense yet. So we are incomplete. 

But we don't like admitting we are incomplete.

So tell yourself, go ahead...that you are made complete in Jesus because you have the Holy Ghost....

I do it.

When I wake up and feel God.

I know I am whole. YAY!

And now I can shut my eyes to the torn world and the dying babies and the poor homeless men that we can just consider lazy and the fat woman down the street with cancer. We can ignore it all because we, perfect we saved by the blood, are on the way to the SWEET BY AND BY!

In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side
   -Bob Dylan

But then why are we here still? Here on earth? Suffering? getting sick? Watching others get sick? Watching the torment? The horror. All of it. Why are we here still? Just to live and witness about how complete we are in Christ to our neighbors? But surely then, while here God would protect us better....something....improvement for His children...

And why, if i put a gun to your temple...why on God's earth would you be shaking? Shivering? *Imagine this with me...imagine, cynical, angry me with a Gun to your Head*

Where is your Truth Now?

Why the fear? Is it that you don't want to leave your family?

Oh if they are saved, we can kill them to.

And if they are unsaved....why haven't you done more...why did you wait until the Gun was here next to your temple?

Heaven is on the other side of that Gun? And yet there you are....scared.. Petrified.....

And I can't figure out why for the life of me you would have such a reaction...

You sick narcissistic creep who is scared of the death that will result in eternal salvation.

You don't even believe it do you?

Oh postmodernism, you demon child....

Because that gun at your temple. The one that you are imagining at your head. It's the reminder.....You aren't whole. You aren't complete. It's not perfect. Perfect as you would tell yourself....

You are broken and the gun has reminded you how fragile you are. Where are your angels to protect you at such a moment? 

You aren't broken so you can learn God's mercy. Because you could learn that all the quicker if I pulled the trigger and killed you.

Then what?

I suggest...

Christianity...It's not for the escape. It's not for the salvation thereafter...sure that's part of it. But that's not all of it.

Nor is it to know that God will forgive your sins (because...we are trampling on God's mercy more than ever)...

It's not really about you...

For if I understand the Cross....

Or the moment about "My God My God Why have you forsaken me?" That line which Jesus says twice as his last words (Matthew and Mark))...We like to say, if it's God there is no way he is actually abandoned. No. He is just using that as an example for us. Or maybe we say "while God wasn't forsaken (abandoned), He just felt that way and was quoting the Psalmist to show how He felt. Of course He wasn't abandoned." 

Oh? And you are going to tell us that Jesus didn't really mean what He said? Sure he said it...but he didn't really mean it...

Because that wouldn't work well with our theology and how we understand the Incarnation, and all that.... So I guess, then you are saying....You know Jesus more than Jesus knew Himself and He really didn't mean what He said...

And Jesus didn't really mean what he said when he told us to hate our mother or father?

And Jesus didn't really mean the whole thing about going to hell if you don't provide a bed to the homeless?

And Jesus....while he does cut with a sword...He cuts with a sword and divides...So we can live in peace?

Dear God, What is going on?

Jesus can not be so perplexing....and confusing. We want Him pretty. Understandable. Coherant. The suffering is man's fault. God didn't do that. God is perfect, etc....Perfection never gets abandoned...

And the struggle...the confusion...

Jesus, I suggest (or as Zizek would suggest) is God Himself....And when He's on the cross...and says those lines that make us cringe and run away and ask questions to which the answer we get is not satisfactory "My God God..." IN that line..Jesus really means what He says about being abandoned ....and that moment...the point He went His revelation to us....From Heaven to  Death...Even though He was sinless...

It doesn't make sense....but that's the point.The  Perfect Infinite God....What is His Revelation to us? In the Bible? In the entirety of His life? In Acts 2?

The most exact point He reveals Himself to Us is on the cross, when He's thirsty calling for ABBA......There is God at his fullest...All of these ideas about God being so infinitely deep and  us seeking the deeper parts of Him in prayer.....

All of  that is an escape...from the moment that is too monsterous for us to acknowledge....When Jesus Himself, not only Feels abandoned, but since I am in the business of taking Jesus at His word....(even though it doesn't make logical sense)....The monstrosity of Christ is the moment when Jesus Himself is abandoned. That's how broken He was...

And there..he showed us...Where Christianity is at....

The brokenness. 

Not waiting and looking for an escape from the confusion and brokenness of humanity....And bettering our position...

But rather all of those questions...the things that don't make sense...that person in the church who didn't get healed....all of these things....there is God.

And in the brokenness and imperfection, that is why we are here. Not complete until the End. And not seeking the end. But rather facing the struggle. The brokenness. And LIVING in this!

A sinful life tells us we are so complete that we can live as we determine and one day can go back to repentance. It tells you, that broken you is not so broken.

A life of complete separation detached from reality ignores the point that you are still here, and no matter how perfect you want to feel or concentrate on how Much God Loves You (which He does Love you)...,.there is another aspect...murdering Jesus that enslaves you too....and also that He suffered unto both these that He wouldn't be the vehicle to Heaven ("Thank you Jesus for Dying for My Sins") but rather that He came not to be the vehicle to escape...but that He came to show you Himself in His fullest sense on that cross, abandoned, so that you too...can face the brokenness...and you too can have the comforter....guiding you through torment......

Postmodernity may be here for a while..I think the cross is our biggest escape from the cynicism and ego it breeds..But the questions of postmodernity...the the struggle of it....i would argue the God is there more than "Out there" in a heaven that wants us forgetting our broken selves and improving upon our position (in health, wealth and revival)...Rather Salvation is in the brokenness and the confusion....and the Holy Spirit, our Light....Not an escape, but rather the light that shows us our brokenness and the confusion of the world, and that if there is in order to our lives, it's  in the suffering Jesus who reconciled the Wrath of God and the Embrace of God at once...which is none other than what is to happen in each one of us.