Tuesday, August 18, 2009

God What Do You Say?

(as posted on by the way's blog)

When I started preparing for this Thursday's Bread for Your Journey, I really had no idea what I was going to talk about, as I found this week's Ephesians verse very hard to understand:

Ephesians 6: 10-20 (New Living Translation)
10A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

13Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
19And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. 20I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.
Coming from a contemporary context, isn't it sort of difficult to rap your head around at first? I've always focused on the more practical aspects of Christianity in some ways, and very rarely have ever thought of a personified "Devil" or evil demons flying around, etc. I've also always seen Christianity as a religion of peace (even if it hasn't always acted that way), and thus I was surprised by much of the author's imagery. I started looking around the web for different interpretations of the passage, and this one by William Loader really made the passage clear: Ephesians 6:10-20.

In his interpretation, William Loader talks about how God calls us to a spiritual struggle, but one of peace rather than a violent one. Even more importantly, God calls us to an internal spiritual struggle, to put on the "belt of truth and body armor of God's righteousness" and fight those personal devils that we all have as human beings.

Amazingly, right after I read Pastor Loader's interpretation, a good friend of mine sent me a link to this quote:

"A Native American Elder once described his own inner struggles in
this manner: 'Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean
and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all
the time.' When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and
replied, 'The one I feed the most."

While this exact wording was published in Experiencing the Soul by Elliot Rosen & Ellen Burstyn, it's supposedly derived from an old Cherokee saying, and it really fleshes out what we all go through internally on a daily basis.

When thinking about the dual internal/ external implications of the Ephesians passage, it made me consider how the traditional, non-fundamentalist Muslim notion of jihad is really quite similar, especially concerning the "greater jihad," or internal struggle. This of course, is a really interesting correlation considering America's current worldly external struggles.

As an end to my long train of thought, one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs came to mind, called "Marker in the Sand:"

While I don't necessarily agree with all of Eddie Vedder's lyrics, the song really does touch on a key issue: when taking up God's call to the external spiritual struggle (whether as a Christian, a Muslim, or of any other faith) it's easy to "walk tightrope high over moral ground," and forget the internal struggle. Without that internal component, God's call to peacefully spread his Good News can easily become judgmental and violent. Well I hope that gives you all a lot to think about, and I can't wait to hear your opinions this Thursday at Bread for Your Journey.

God's peace,

Monday, August 17, 2009

To Hike A Mountain, You've Got to Wake Up

I had a very interesting weekend. Both days I planned on going hiking, which I haven't done yet all summer because of how much I've been working. Both days, I didn't go hiking and slept till about noon. It's partially because of my insomnia for sure that I slept through my alarm, but I'm sure it's also partially because I didn't have the enthusiasm/ will to get out on the trail. I did still get to see a sweet (and free) Wallflowers concert at LL Bean in Freeport, ME on Saturday, and got to go to the beach yesterday evening, but I still missed out on a lot.

With what's been going on in my life as of late, I've been doing a lot of thinkin about the Divine. What I experienced this weekend really ties into what I've been thinking about. So without further ado, I present to you the beginning of an ongoing blog series entitled...

What Dustin Thinks God Is, At Least for Today
I've come to see God as a REALLY big mountain, with a lot of different trails and paths that frequently cross each other to get to the top. The different paths are different faiths, religions, beliefs, or whatever you want them to be really. The top is full realization of your relationship with God or the Divine (personified or not). Much as human relationships must always evolve and change to prevent them from becoming stagnant, one's relationship with God should always be continually explored and evolving. Thus, I don't think the point is to get to the top of the mountain, or what trail you take. Instead, I believe the only thing that matters is whether or not you've woken up and are on the Mountain.In my own life, I've spent most of my time on a Christian/ Lutheran trail, and occasionally have left it, but have always come back. My time off the Christian trail though was still very valuable... my exposure to other faiths (particularly Theravada Buddhism) has added a lot to my understanding of God, and has helped reinforce my Christian faith as well.

God's peace,

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bad Insomnia

Despite almost falling asleep on my way back from bread for your journey, a service put on by a Christian faith community I hang out with called by the way, I have some really bad insomnia. The worst part of insomnia for me is that I always feel like I want to be productive, but only in things that its not particularly productive that I do...I've spent the last two hours reading wikipedia articles on Hellenistic-period mystery religions for instance... WOW.

I haven't really been able to sleep particularly well for the past couple nights though... life is a bit wild nowadays. It's an intense story and I'm too mentally worn to tell it, but over the last couple weeks I've felt one hell of a call to go into the ministry a lot earlier than expected... and the hardest part is that I'm trying to follow that call. Maybe that's why I'm not sleeping that well... all this "following God's call stuff" I guess can keep you up at night.

At bread for your journey tonight, it was funny how pertinent our Bible passage from Ephesians was to my current predicament, particularly verse 5:17 (CEV):

Don't be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do.

I spent my first half of college just trying to have a good time. I spent my second half of college trying to build a great resume. I spent my last year trying to quickly pay off all of my student loans from having that college experience. I want to spend the next few years actually discerning what that Big Daddy in the Sky wants me to do, and not being stupid anymore :) Maybe that is something to lose a bit of sleep over. At any rate, you should check out by the way's blog to read a bit more about what I experienced tonight. Also, if you're up really late reading this, I highly believe Sigur Ros is the best insomnia music:


- Dustin

Thursday, August 13, 2009

No Cash for My Clunker.

Everyone knowadays is talking about the Car Allowance Rebate System, commonly known as the 'cash for clunkers' program. Some people love it, some people hate it, and some people like my grandpa just got a brand new Toyota Corolla for around $500 using the program, combined with other deals. For those that know me, you know I definitely have a clunker... it's a 1994 Buick Regal Custom, and it sucks. It's so much of a "clunker" that my family's long time mechanic recently told me that it would last another month or two at best.

Still, despite the fact that every time I turn the car on I'm afraid that I'm going to explode like that woman in The Godfather, the "CARS" program doesn't consider my old Buick a clunker. To check out if your car is a clunker, click here.

When I found out my car wasn't a clunker, I immediately decided to blame our president, Barack Obama... I mean seriously, who else's fault could it be? I mean, researching an issue before taking a side and assigning blame would be unAmerican right? Don't get me wrong, I love the guy... I worked for him in four different states, got to shake his hand after the South Carolina primary, cried during his inauguration... the whole deal. Still though, I've been working a lot lately, and haven't been watching the news nearly as much as I would like. This whole "cash for clunkers" issue really made me start to reflect on what else my beloved hero was up to that I didn't support. To be honest, I need to catch up on the real issues, but here's a few others things so far that I don't like about Barack Obama:

1) Obama's Choice of Beer w/ Skip Gates

This was a huge political blunder. If you're going to host the most famous White House happy hour in history, at least have some good brews. Instead, President Obama decided to drink Budweiser (unspecified whether it was Light, Heavy, or Ice)... WOW! Does Obama think he's a frat boy the first semester of freshman year? Get some class... perhaps a nice Red Hook or Smuttynose from the great state of New Hampshire would have served much better. And of course, if he did have to go for the cheap stuff, Obama could have at least followed in the footsteps of a great American like Walt Kowalski and had a PBR.

2) Minor Issue with the Stimulus Package
Great program I think, at least as much as I can tell so far. There is one issue though... for a guy who's job depends on driving all over New England, it's kinda a pain that every road in New England is getting paved at once. Furthermore, not only are some interstates being repaved, but some are being widened. One late night while driving up I-495 on my way home to New Hampshire, I saw like twenty big construction vehicles ripping trees out of the ground... talk about a shovel ready project. Seems like good human progress or something right? There were a whole lot of trees being killed though, so I was afraid the Lorax might pop out of somewhere and start 'speakin for the trees.' It was late, and I wanted to get home, so I was moving pretty fast in my "clunker." I like the Lorax a lot... it's one of my favorite books. If Barack Obama's stimulus package had resulted in me running over the Lorax while he was "speakin for the trees" on I-495, I would have been pretty upset.

3) Barack Obama WOULD NEVER DO THIS (which is really funny):

Frankly friends, that's all I could think of. I still love Barack Obama, despite the fact there will be no cash for my clunker.

God's peace,

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Like the Title?

Ya know, I'm really surprised no one snagged "It's Only A Northern Blog" for their own blog title yet... all the kids are online nowadays, talkin' about all sorts of mumbo-jumbo, and frankly I was afraid there wasn't any good real estate left. But yeah... the title was pretty clever huh? I was trying to find something deep sounding for it, to make up for what I assume will be the lack of any real substantial content here, but who knows... maybe it'll be great!! In pursuing a good blog title, I listened to a bunch of Dylan songs, looked at a few Bible passages, and read some intellectual-ist beat poetry... really dug into my leftist-group think roots ya know? I couldn't find anything! How are you supposed to be a big cool cat in the blogosphere without a good title?

Next, I thought of my favorite Beatles song as being a good title, but then I realized "I'm Only Sleeping" would indicate to my readers that I was fairly lazy, which isn't something I wanted added to my online persona. My second favorite Beatles song is "I've Just Seen a Face," but by using that I figured people would think I'm a stalker or something... even worse than being lazy in most circles. Thus, I came to the third Beatles song in line, and it actually worked pretty well.

So here's the deal... it's only a northern blog. I'm just a guy living in New Hampshire with a few ideas that I think a few other folks might be interested in. I like things like religion, music and politics a lot, so I'll probably write about those things a lot. Also, a close friend recently told me I was cartoon character. I, on the other hand, would consider myself a "former hippie, former yuppie, current freelance life artist", but who needs titles anyway? Whether or not I am like a cartoon character, I guess I do tend to fall into some pretty wild stories fairly often, so at least when it won't ruin whatever future I have in this world, maybe I'll be able to tell ya some pretty great stories too!

At any rate, I do think I communicate best through citing songs, so I'll always end each of my posts with a copyright-infringing YouTube clip that really does dig a bit deeper into what I'm talking about and how I'm feeling at the moment. For right now, life's pretty confusing and a little bit wild, so I think this new blog's namesake will do the trick. God's peace.

- Dustin