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(sigh)

"Well, it was a nice dream."

I just got back to Iraq from my 15 days of required leave.  I got to attend the wedding of my dear friends, D-Rock (former roommate) and D-Boy (who is actually a woman).  I hung out with J-Town and Randalf pretty extensively (both former roommates/ future hopefuls).  And, of course, I spent most of my time at the house with the fam.  I planned on doing very little, almost nothing- and almost did it.  I wasted time wonderfully, and that time only proceeded lazily.  My goal wasn't to maximize the time, or look for any other kind of efficiency, but to forget about time altogether.  It was blissful.

On the other hand, being off-base is miserable.  I discovered that as long as I am still in the army, or at least until I become an official non-combatant, I will be restless.  I am wrought with anxiety and guilt whenever I have to explain that I am in the military.  And I always have to explain myself, because I am a very open person, and my friends know that and rightfully expect it.  But the worst, by far, is the airport- the only place wherein I must wear the uniform but am surrounded by civilians.  There I avoid eye contact and hate myself to the fullest.  There I am so occupied hating myself that I have no opportunity to respect the people who try to "thank [me] for [my] service."  I hate them as well, and do not hide it.  There I feel Christ's hate upon me, and I do not ignore it.  Going on leave and intermingling with the civilian world always make me want to return to base and finish addressing this issue before trying to move on with life (and vacation always feels like an attempt to "move on with life.")  I feel at a loss for words trying to describe this experience.

So in that sense, it's good to be back with my unit.  And hey, it is good to be back on LJ!

eHarmony Update


So, at the dawn of this deployment-to-Iraq, I decided to sign up for a second round with good ol' eHarmony.  I figured it would be partiuclarly helpful for maintaing perspective.  I had made all the payments for the year (which are non-refundable) by the time I realized how foolish I had been for spending my paycheck on anything other than necessary bills (since, afterall, I don't believe in using money gained from a business I don't believe in.)  I could cancel the account and simply let the money be a donation to eHarmony... but I have so far decided to utilize this resourceful opportunity.  Perhaps I am wrong to do so.

For the record, I have gone through about 1,500 matches on the website (including my first subscription and this one), and have arranged to meet with only 2.  Mary, from West Virginia, was so different then I had perceived over the internetz.  I've scarcely even talk to her since (although I would enjoy a conversation with her, on some subjects of mutual interest in particular...)  Keilah, from Texas, left me hanging twice, so I never did meet here.  She ended up saying (over the phone) something in the spirit of, "I understand that I should be equally-yoked, and, given where I currently am, that is not something desirable."  I had been at the same place when I was her age, so I naturally gave my blessing.  I recall us sharing one great, lengthy, friendly conversation after that.  But, for the most part, she doesn't respond to my attempts to communicate.  And so I've tried to contact her less and less, until now, where I do nothing more than (seldomly) make light, passing comments on her facebook musings.

Even when eHarmony doesn't actually get you into any relationships, the insight it offers is very useful (to me anyway).  Using the website has given me a great opportunity to see what I need, what I want, and what I offer.  I don't think the few hundreds of dollars I spent were wasted at all; it's a solid investment in the romance that belongs to my eventual wife (Lord willing).  Having said that, I don't know that I'll purchase another subscription, if this one expires and I'm still unmarried.  I think I've learned most of what I should learn here, and should use future monies for more efficient causes (not more efficient romantic causes, just more efficient causes).  The internetz do offer unique opportunities for meeting people to whom you would otherwise never be connected.  However, that disparity in natural community means:

1) you won't start off with any mutual friends (which can be a severe tragedy if a lot of relational work is not applied to embrace one another's historical comrades),

and 2) miscommunication abounds.

I won't lie in that I am particularly excited about one of my matches right now (and that excitement is having a positive, if short-lived, effect on my daily living.)  But I am also quite equipped with skepticism.  It's not that I'm not letting myself suffer in hope, for suffering in hope is a fundamental joy of the life God demonstrates.  Rather, I am striving to suffer in good hope, not self-absorbed hope.

My Current Situation and 1 Peter, Pt. 5

Here's a summarization of the last chapter of 1 Peter.
I'll try to conclude the study with one more post, to follow.
Chapter 5 breaks down a bit more finely...


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5:1-4 concerns the conduct of Christian leaders.
Peter encourages the elders, among whom he identifies himself merely as "your fellow elder," to uphold "the flock of God among you" with cheerfulness and humility, as an example, and as a subordinate shepherd to the coming "Chief Shepherd."

5:5-7 concerns a conduct of humility.
All are instructed to be humble toward each other, especially the youth toward their elders.  God is appealed to, as are both the reward and the comfort He affords the humble.

5:8-9 concerns a call to vigilance, concerning Satan.
The dangerous patrol of Satan is noted, calling for sobriety, alertness, and resistance in the form of conviction in the good faith of both God and the whole body of brethren.

5:10-11 concerns the close of the text's main body.
5:10 mirrors 1:6-9, similarly describing a suffering to be had "for a little while," but resulting in glory and in God.

5:12-13 concerns administrative notes.

5:14 concerns the final blessing.
"Greet one another with a kiss of love.  Peace be to you all who are in Christ."


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Yours,
Jake


My Current Situation and 1 Peter, Pt. 4

A three-sectioned summary of 1 Peter 4...




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4:1-7 speaks on how suffering in the flesh allows one to live in the spirit. "he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased to sin..." Further, it is demonstrated that we have already wasted enough time investing our behavior in "the lusts of men," and that as we refuse to continue in "the same excesses of dissipation," the "Gentiles" will be "surprised." 4:6-7 read, "For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgement and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer."

4:8-11 speaks on the conduct of love, and emphasizes such love as a foundation, beginning the section with "Above all," and ending it with "Amen." It is noted that "love covers a multitude of sins." We are told, "Be hospitable to one another without complaint," and to use our received gifts in service to one another for the cause of "the manifold grace of God." Conduct in the sharing of such gracious gifts is elucidated, that Christ might be glorified: "Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies."

4:12-19 is a reminder of suffering to come and further instructions on conduct under suffering. We are told, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you... as though some strange thing were happening to you," which is for "your testing." We are told to rejoice "to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ," and are told further that this will eventually lead to more rejoicing "with exultation." We are told, "If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you." We are reminded that a Christian cannot be "a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler," and that to suffer as such is meaningless. We are told that this judgment for "the household of God" will be much worst for "the Godless man and the sinner."


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Yours,
Jake

 

Profile Overhaul

I think I'm finally done editing my profile, for a while...




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The BIOGRAPHY is now...
- slightly less bulky of content.
- more tightly organized it, including  an overall division into two separate sub-sections.

The FAITH CONFESSION is now...
- a new section in my profile.
- an extensive outline of Trinitarian relationships from the wondrous Jürgen Motlmann, accompanied by an awesome watercolor from Deviant Art.

The QUOTATIONS are now...
- divided into fifteen thematic groups of three.
- accompanied by sixteen pictures from various media.

The INTERESTS are now...
- things I embrace, rather than simply things that intrigue me.
- less often specific, more often conceptual.


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Yours,
Jake


"Time is an interval in eternity, finitude is a space in infinity, and freedom is a concession of the eternal love.  God withdraws himself in order to go out of himself.  Eternity breathes itself in, so as to breathe out the Spirit of Life."

-Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom

Corrections For the Church

In my experience of the Church today, it seems to me that the following items need to be stressed...




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1) Spirituality.  People are more important than materials.  Relationships are more important than ideals.  We should be soulful, not mechanical.  Things like rights, capital, the scientific method, sexual expression, and freedom of one's own body, are all infinitely less important than people and relationships.

2) Faithfulness.  Our knowledge of God's revelation is climaxed in Jesus Christ, but it is not yet completed.  None find a specific answer to every question of faith in this lifetime.  But we all know enough to be faithful to what we do know, and we all know enough to live for.  Single persons should be as monogamous as married persons.  One mate for life (save for the unexpected, such as death, divorce, etc.) begins upon lifestyle confession of monogamy, not upon its culmination in an historic marriage.  We always have the opportunity to express real devotion.

3) Suffering.  Avoiding suffering for the sake of avoiding suffering is un-spiritual.  Detachment is opposite of God's will.  He came into the world, suffered as no one else could, and "became sin" for our sake and our deliverance.  Suffering is not necessarily a sign of evil, but rather one of free love.  Suffering as a result of being and doing evil is to be avoided, but no more than the evil that causes it.

4) Empathy.  We must strive to feel others' joy and sorrow alongside them.  This is a broad concept that does not require tolerance.  Tolerance, as it is commonly understood, is respect towards all ways of life.  It is not loving or empathetic to respect all ways of life, as many ways of life are ultimately self- and other-destructive.  People should be tolerated and respected; ways of life should be judged, to the appropriately limited extent (is there ever absolutely no degree of approriateness?)  If there is no judgment there can be no empathy.  If there is no empathy there can be no community.

5) Community.  We must mimic the loving union of the Trinity and be wholly invested in one another.  We must forgive as we are forgiven.  We must love others as we love ourselves.  We must lay our lives down for one another.  We must freely and actively share all that we have.  We must never let the communities of gender, ethnicity, culture, or politics ever supersede our community of divine imagery.

6) Order.  Order is impossible to avoid, and rightly so.  God ordains the establishment of order.  Evil dictates are nonetheless common in our human institutions.  These dictates should never be carried out.  Rather, we should be willing to cooperate in government as righteously and as actively as possible.  Yet when the order is set on evil, as it often is, we must be willing to suffer the consequences of breaking the order in order not to sin.  This breaking of order is not sin, but the punishment brought upon by it maintains order.  Order is worth dying for, as it is in testimony to the lordship of God.  God established order, and the Son of God was obedient to human institutions even unto death.  It is by God's order that all shall be raised from the dead and judged.  Our eagerness to morally and ethically cooperate with the powers of the world is faith in that resurrection and that Lord of resurrection.

7) Critical Thinking.  Reason serves Truth, who is the Lord.  We should then not fear reasoning.  Objectivity is essential, although it is somewhat subjective in nature.  This is because truth flows from the Triune God, thus truth is always Personal.  And yet the Triune God is Three Persons who are in perfect consensus.  Thus truth remains objective because it surpasses the Individual.  And yet it remains subjective because it is only the consensus of the Union of mere Persons that is God.  And so, critical thinking is a spiritual practice.  And therefore, fearful and coercive thought is not only betrayal to its own philosophical structure, but also to the very Being of truth.  Given the depravity of we foolish creatures, and the manifold deviations from this divine truth, relative skepticism will often serve objective perfection.

8) Fantasy.  Fantasy is good so long as it serves reality.  It obviously must differ from reality, in order to be fantasy, but it must always compliment the superiority and perfection of what is actually real.  Given the sovereignty of creation, let subcreation multiply.  Let it stretch in every direction, providing far-reaching paths back to its Source.


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Yours,
Jake


My Current Situation and 1 Peter, Pt. 3

A Note on Submissive Roles

Notice the admonishments not to be afraid. It is issued to both the women who are submitting to their husbands (3:6), and to those who "suffer for the sake of righteousness," who face "intimidation" (3:14). It is interesting that the calling given is one of not being afraid. Isn't fearfulness a requirement for subordination? No, for the text demonstrates that the sort of humility we are pursuing is that which Christ demonstrated. It is subservience as an effective and self-sacrificing leadership model. It is a humility that is selfless enough to bow before unjust human rule, precisely because it is self-confident enough to rest in the ultimate justice of God's rule. This is not a careless neglect of one's self; the Father holds his servant. Nor is it a morally compromising task; Love remains the highest command, at all times. It is simply the attitude of responsibly positive servitude.

If Caeser demands from me what belongs to God, I must respectfully decline. But I can freely offer more positive services, and I can always accept legal punishments with the cheerful concession that it is right to maintain order, which God has ordained. To do so is to honor all but one's self, like Christ, whom the Father raised from the dead and elevated to the highest position. Likewise, if any husband tells his wife to do something sinful, the wife must obviously not do it. But she might cheerfully and creatively offer something redemptive instead. The husband, on the other hand, is impliclity told to be afraid, as his prayers will fall on dead ears if he does not honor his wife. The text is not emphasizing that these roles in marriage are to be upheld throughout the progressions of history any more than it is emphasizing the continuity of kingship as the national governmental model. So it seems anyone who demands the marriage model, as reflected by the mere cultural period within which this particular text was written, must also demand monarchy. Having said that, we can reference Pauline texts to provide a more timeless argument for these gender roles. Then again, we can reference Paul for arguments of timeless genderlessness. So we shall stick to Peter, for this study. It appears that in much of Western culture, there is no social expectation for these marital roles any longer, rendering some of these commands fulfilled. But it is easy enough to find one's context for subservience (whether it be as a younger generation, as a junior employee, as an uncharged school student, etc.) and to reasonably translate the command to submit. For the text's sure purpose is to inspire gentle, relative submission to what establishment of order is then in place.

This counsel seems neither particularly conservative nor progressive, politically. We could use the text as justification to neglect societal progress in favor of focusing our priorities purely on sharing this Jesus who makes any political system bearable. That would be a relatively justified cause. Similarly, we could use the text as justification to progress societal norms for the sake of socially manifesting the equality that ultimately Jesus provides, since the text makes no timeless appeal to its given, now outdated models. That too would be a relatively justified cause. Both ways serve the Gospel when rightly conducted. So again then, what the text is primarily saying is simply that helpful subordination to the rule one finds him or herself under is always appropriate in the work of Christ. When we are truly following Jesus, the suffering that comes from submitting to questionable authorities is a satisfying sort of suffering, by the love that enables it and makes it fruitful. Just as Jesus lived a rewarding-ly sacrificial life among us, bearing we ourselves in eternity as his fruits. This is why the calling given to the persecuted and the married woman, the ones who are particularly under the thumb, are commanded not to be afraid. It is a double-negative-- a positive command, that which is often afforded to the the marginalized, the weary, and the troubled. What is commanded is peace and courage, borne on the liberty of Christ's salvation. These are no burdens.

Quotes from Guys I Admire

"Bear in mind, children, that they listen to you because you're kids, not because you're right." -Rich Mullins, addressing adult children of God

"This is the disobedience of the 'believers;' when they are asked to obey, they simply confess their unbelief and leave it at that (Mark 9.24).  You are trifling with the subject.  If you believe, take the first step, it leads to Jesus Christ.  If you don't believe, take the first step all the same, for you are bidden to take it.  No one wants to know about your faith or unbelief, your orders are to perform on the spot.  Then you will find yourself in the situation where faith becomes possible and where faith exists in the true sense of the word." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

"Most people would rather tell you what they do in the bedroom than how much they make.  With these things in mind, you can see how the church is being destroyed by the privatization of individual lives, by the American ethos.  If you want to know who is destroying the babies of this country through abortion, look at privatization, which learned in the economic arena."
- Stanley Hauerwas, Abortion, Theologically Understood

I have three things I'd like to say today.  First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of stravation or diseases related to malnutrition.  Second, most of you don't give a shit.  What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said "shit" than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night." - Tony Campolo

My Current Situation and 1 Peter, Pt. 2

In my last entry I reviewed 1 Peter 1-2.  In summary so far, 1 Peter establishes the precious, perfecting grace found in Jesus Christ (1:1-2:11) which calls us after him (2:21-25), out of the world, and yet as examples to the world (2:12-20).  Now I will continue, at a great length, with Chapter 3.  I'll keep anything beyond summarizing interpretation to a minimum, although there will be some notes.

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1 Peter 3Collapse )

I'll get into a deeper interpretation of Chapter 3 and its harmony with Chapters 1-2 next time (Lord willing).  But in the meantime I sit on this thought:  ethics seems to play a paramount role in the discipleship of Christ.  The institutions of the world (government, marriage, gossip) are ever catered to, in light of the unique and satisfying gift of Jesus.

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His Peace,
Jake

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