The Wary Ramblings of a Reformed Tumbleweed

Spamalot, a Broadway play that was an adaptation of Monty Python’s Holy Grail, is quite hilarious. It’s traveling right now, so check it out if it’s near your place of habitation.

There is a song in Spamalot called “I’m All Alone”, the lyrics are funny in the context of the play, but there is a line in the song where Author (and Patsy) sing: I’m all alone, (He’s all alone) all by myself (except for me); I cannot face tomorrow (he cannot face it). I’m all alone (Though I am here) so all alone (so very near) no one to share my sorrow… It’s a funny song, but it kept running through my mind this week. It started on Sunday.

A series of events happened and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and picked up my phone and was about to phone a friend when I stopped myself. I looked at the potential numbers, I turned away. It was a feeling akin to being alone in a crowded room. I wasn’t certain if I would have the attention of anyone, nor was I certain what I wanted to say, or what I could say, so I went to sleep instead. I’d like to be clear, I love being alone, there are many times that I crave solitude, and fewer times that I seek company. However, I also think there is a distinct difference between being alone and being lonely and sometimes this difference is defined by circumstance.

The tumbleweed syndrome. My tumbleweed syndrome is simple, it’s something that I have experienced all my life, social roots are formed and then, for one reason or the other, I break away and flee – this happens for many different reasons, never one in particular. A few years ago I decided that I needed to have some more meaningful relationships, that I needed to stop being a tumbleweed and be rooted. I tried that; there were some successes and I started to feel the roots take hold and grow. It felt great, my tumbleweed days were over. But, this past week as I looked at my phone, as I sent one email to a few undisclosed persons, as I chose to go to sleep or to read instead of reaching out, I felt like the roots were beginning to break, like the wind was calling and the pull to flee reverberated through me. I don’t want to be a tumbleweed anymore, but there is something that I thought of, as I sat thinking about these things, on one hand the breaking and fleeing were intentionally done by the tumbleweed. But what happens when there is nothing left for the root to hold on to? Can you become an unintentional tumbleweed?

Are you there, God?

Today’s post is a little later than usual. It’s been a long week so, I took a nap around 2pm and got up at 8. I would have turned around and gone back to sleep, but in my head I heard, “you have to do BEDA” so, I dragged myself out of bed to write this. BEDA motivate!

I read this book a while ago, Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey, it’s very thought provoking and it leads to questions like, “Where is God when bad things happen?”

I read this book about 4 years after I moved to the United States, and now, 9 years later, something connected in my head. That something was about the night we moved here and how I could have been disappointed, or taken it as a bad “omen”, and why I didn’t.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that God doesn’t leave us unprepared. Before we left Guyana we were cleaning out the bookcases and I found this old book, Will the Real Phony Please Stand Up? by Ethel Barrett, I don’t remember what grabbed my attention, maybe it was the name, but I decided to read that book on our flight.

The book touched on the life of Job and one of the things that stood out for me was Job, crying out to God, wanting to know why he had fallen so low. His children were dead, he was poor, his friends had forsaken him, his wife told him to curse God and die and his health was affected. Job didn’t have a clue as to why these things happened, yet he still trusted and believed in God. When God replied to Job, he didn’t tell him why he did what he did, he didn’t clue Job in, saying, “Well done, Job!” and though Job was healed and restored, he was never aware of why the bad thing happened in the first place.

I say that God doesn’t leave us unprepared because, that night, we lost the majority of our money and all of our records, the only exception being our passports. It happened at the airport, when we were meeting our family, when we were celebrating our reunion. We were robbed, it was quick, and they took the most important things. My siblings won’t remember, they were very young, 5 and 7 year olds, but I remember. I remember this event with a clarity that I rarely experience when remembering the past. I remember my emotions and I remember that, upon realizing what happened, the first thing that popped into my mind was, “remember Job”.

I could have felt a negative reaction to the entire thing, “How could you God? Where are you? Are you even listening to me?” or, I could have gone the path that comes easier to me, the apathetic path, “Well, obviously God doesn’t take care about his people, so who cares about him?”. However, I found myself taking a different and unexpected path, “Since I am not privy to your ways, God, I’m going to let this play out and trust that you have it all under control. That you will take care of your people.”

I cannot tell you how I would have reacted if I hadn’t read that book, I feel like it prepared me to face that experience and many more after that. The fact is, bad things happen all the time, to all kinds of people; we live in a fallen world and just because I’m a follower of Christ doesn’t give me a pass to a trouble-free life. The thing that determines my faith is how I react when bad things happen. After that experience, whenever the question comes to mind, “Where are you God? Are you there God?” I always hear him say, “I’m right here. Trust me.”

Why I Am A Christian

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. – C.S. Lewis; Mere Christianity

I grew up in a Christian environment, my parents were active in church, my dad a preacher, my aunts and uncles all leaders and teachers in the church. We went to church many times a week, I’ve been involved one way or the other, a part of the Sunday School, youth groups, singing, I was involved in the Christian culture. However, that phrase, “in not of” didn’t apply to me, I didn’t really live IN the world, I lived in a Christian bubble.

As a child, when I decided to give my life to Christ it was an easy decision because that was all I knew. I was young, I thought about it, it felt like the right thing to do and I did it. Then, I moved to New York.

Moving to NY was a culture shock. For the first time I was exposed to a different culture. Life in NY is faster and harder than life where I grew up. The lifestyle we had there could not fit into the lifestyle of a NYer and in the process of adapting I met people who had no religion, many because they never grew up in any religion, and many more because they grew up in a church and decided it wasn’t for them.

With the latter group, I have asked questions, why did you leave the church? There were many answers, too strict, burnt out, but a big one was never really believing what was going on because their parents send them or took them to church. Some believed that Jesus was real, but they don’t believe that he is the Son of God, be it historical reasons – many leaders were called Sons of god during that time – scientific beliefs or personal reasons. One other thing that I found amazing was that they thought he was a good guy, or just another prophet. However, I can’t really think of anyone who told me flat out that Jesus was a madman or a liar and I wonder about that. Was it that they were being polite? Or did they just not think it through?

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The Music in the Chaos

Supposing you hear a cry or help from a man in danger. You will probably feel two desires – one a desire to give help (due to your herd instinct), the other a desire to keep out of danger (due to the instinct for self-preservation). But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help, and suppress the impulse to run away. Now this thing that judges between two instincts, that decides which should be encouraged, cannot itself be either of them. You might as well say that the sheet of music which tells you, at a given moment, to play one note on the piano and not another, is itself one of the notes on the keyboard. The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys. – C.S. Lewis; Mere Christianity (pg10)

Strictly speaking, there are no such things as good and bad impulses. Think once again of a piano. It has not got two kinds of notes on it, the ‘right’ notes and the ‘wrong’ ones. Every single note is right at one time and wrong at another. The Moral Law is not any one instinct or set of instincts: it is something which makes a kind of tune (the tune we call goodness or right conduct) by directing the instincts.– C.S. Lewis; Mere Christianity (pg11)

I recall reading Mere Christianity a few years ago. I was in a cabin in a remote area, a friend and I were on a retreat of sorts. I was sitting in the loft area, reading these passages and then it hit me. God is the grand composer. Sweet music doesn’t happen randomly, an intelligent being puts notes on staves in such a way that they sound melodious when played together. I thought of my favourite classical pieces and the complex way the musical notes intertwine, dancing around each other, complimenting one another. These things don’t just happen, thought and time goes into each piece.

I thought of earth the trees growing in the backyard, the deer that walk across the lawns, even the squirrels that ran up and down the trees looking for food. The complexity of each animal, the way trees grow, the water cycle and the fluffy clouds, I thought of these things, could they really have all happened by chance?

I thought about myself. My body, the blood the runs through my veins, the complexity of my brain and I wondered, how could this have all happened by chance?

I thought of how we are all connected as though derived from a similar place and I wondered, is it not possible that an intelligent being saw something that worked and then reworked it, making it better and better at each iteration?

Then, I thought of the notes. The music. The melody in the chaos of black and white. Left alone, things decay, spoil, die, but intelligence begat order and life.

A Goodbye Note to Fair-Weather Friends

I am sure they exist in your life too; the people who seem to be there but only when they are in need. The ones who are too busy to talk to you, who never ask about your life, who give vague answers as you question after theirs. But that blinking window on your screen flashes whenever they are in need. And you answer. You give. You hope. Then they are gone, in a quick thanks and a flurry of shoes.

When is it enough? What clues you in to their game? Is it the nagging feeling that you’re being used? That feeling of frustration when you try to speak and find their fleeing backs? Is it the disgust that you feel towards yourself when you realize that they just give you crumbs and a pat on your head like a special pet that they keep around for rainy days? How about the maybes, because you aren’t important enough to be an absolutely?

Or, do you realize when they runaway when you are at your lowest, not bothering to be certain that you are fine. Not asking, not caring? Do you realize then that they never think after your well being? That you are as far from their thoughts as east from west?

What do you do? Do you speak to them? Well, they didn’t care thus far, would they care if you talk to them? Perhaps in this case it’s better to just walk away. So, goodbye fair-weather friend, I wish you well …