The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb

To my faithful readers and dear friends:

I’ve been in large churches, small churches, tweeny-sized churches. I’ve done a stint in Baptist churches, non-denominational churches, and now, the Anglican church. In my elementary-school days, I even attended weekly mass at the ornate Catholic church on the corner of Rogers and Garrison. I’ve worshiped next to old ladies chewing gum and old nuns wearing habits. I’ve knelt, stood, even prostrated myself once out of some odd holy compunction. I’ve run the rails–communion and prayer alike–and I suppose what I can say with some certainty is this: I’m a church guy.

There are so many who’ve been busted up by the church. They’ve had their knuckles popped by Catholic rulers or heads bashed by oversized Baptist bibles. They’ve been shamed with and without cause–pre-marital sex, dancing, sneaking a nip of whiskey, whatever. They’ve been excluded from leadership because they asked the wrong questions or because they wore a bra. They’ve been pushed into corners–singles groups, over-the-hiller groups, you’re-not-my-language groups, whatever. They’ve been on the blunt end of power, and they can tell you, the blunt end of power leaves mark.

You know this; yes?

I’m a church guy, but I see the fundamental disconnect between the call of Jesus to his followers (divest yourselves of power; become a child) and the all too familiar call of the modern church (solidify power; build your influence, your numbers, by being excellent). Enter the prophets.

Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin have written a book that’s changing me. In The Way of the Dragon or The Way of The Lamb, they interview the church-sages of our day, sages like J.I. Packer, Dallas Willard, Marva Dawn, John Perkins, Jean Vanier, James Houston, and Eugene Peterson. Along the way, they find the most beautiful truth: the way of Jesus, the way of divesting yourself of power, is the soul-freeing, healing way to wholeness.

I don’t often pop in here to encourage you to buy a book, but today is that day. It’s my sincere hope that every deacon, priest, pastor, minister, or church member–anyone in the church with a pulse–will purchase this book straightaway. It’s my hope that you’ll share a little about it with your friends, that you’ll start a church book club, or an online reading group using this book as your discussion fodder. It’s my hope that it will change you like it’s changing me, and that in turn, it will change the church.

A modest hope; I know.

Would you like to grab your copy? The Way of the Dragon or The Way of The Lamb releases today. You can find it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

For the record, I received no compensation for writing this post. These are my honest, genuine, free-of-charge thoughts, so you know I mean business. Do you see my serious eyes? I mean business.

In all things peace,

Seth

 

***TINY LETTER***

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What Is Light?

This is my continued exploration of the senses. Enjoy.

***

What Is Light?

Behind the eyelids I see things:
a fluorescent flicker; two tiny dancers;
hazy tracers; an aurora borealis.
In the moments before sleep,
my eyes hunt and gather
the last photon trickle of night,
bend it into quantum illusions
of beauty without meaning.
I’ve known these lights since
I was a child, and once
they spoke these words: Pure dark
is the true illusion, at least
for those who have eyes to see
or to conjure seeing.

 

***TINY LETTER***

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An Invitation

I’ve found myself in lighter days, days with shining, luminous edges. Silver linings are real, I’ve found, and I can say this with some certainty–this life ain’t so bad.

I suppose I’ve found my way through a hole of sorts. It’s a hole that took a while to dig, one that involved a marriage, a career, the slow realization of the unimportance of a life, a little sickness, a little liquor, and a hell of a lot of my own stupidity. The odd thing about the hole I dug was that I dug it–for the most part–without realizing it. Is this the way we all do? Does anyone set out to lose themselves six-feet-under, buried by their own ambition, or pain, or penchants for addiction? I don’t suppose. I suppose most of us die by way of involuntary diggery.

You know this, right?

There’s an equal and opposite truth, though. I don’t suppose I pulled myself back into the light. Sure, I showed up; I did the work–yadda, yadda, yadda. But how was it that I climbed up the slickery, mudden sides of my own hole? If I’m honest, I feel as if I were pulled from it, predestined as that may sound. I feel scooped, maybe like the way God scooped the first man from the earth. Who knows. And though I call this the hand of God, a few of you might not believe in God the way I do; you can call it the long reach of the universe, or karma, or whatever, so long as you realize that I’m writing of the transcendent grace, that grace I find myself incapable of. Wherever you are and whatever you call this pulling, this grace, doesn’t so much matter to me. What matters is that I extend a little invitation to you. (Please know you’re all invited.) The invitation goes something like this:

Come and see. 

That’s how all the good stories start, and I started telling this story yesterday in my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. Here’s the introduction:

There is a disquieting stillness when you sit with a holy man, a proverbial oracle. There—in his office, on his back porch, in his bedroom, wherever—stillness is acute, sharp, maybe a needle point. It’s the stillness that pushes through skin, muscle, bone, and marrow into the very center of something (The heart? The soul?). The holy man, the oracle, he knows who he is, and he rests in the way and shape of his life. The student, or novice, or receiver (in this instance, me) does not know the way or shape but instead fumbles to hold the weight of any wisdom. Holy men and oracles smile at this fumbling. They know that fumbling leads to holding, at least over time.

“Remember the child?” they ask.

I could have started the first Newsletter of 2017 two thousand and seventeen different ways, but this is the only way that seemed right. I broke words for weeks before scattering them on the page like breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs seem about right. How else should I lead you to my friend—my friend—John Paine?

If you’d like to meet the man who’s acted as a sort of rope and pulley in my life, I hope you’ll read the full piece by signing up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. I’ll be letting this story unfold in serial fashion over the coming months, and only my monthly newsletter subscribers will have the opportunity to follow along. I hope to see you there.

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

It’s a noisy world, a world in which it can be difficult to find rhythms of quiet, restful, prayer. In this five-day email experience, I’ll provide you with prompts designed to lead you into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers that push out the noise, worries, and anxieties that can so often haunt. Sign up below receive this daily email plan, and you’ll also receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter.

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The Confession

In the silence of this house
there is a frequency humming,
needle sharp. Piercing
electric madness, it sings
from

where?

The refrigerator?
The air conditioner?
The morning stars of all
the universes shining
through these walls?
This mole has tunneled
somewhere past my brain
every morning for three years–
these bone-dry mornings.
There are days, I confess,
I miss the dull thud
of drunk veins throbbing

in my ears.

***TINY LETTER***

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Sense over Significance

Today, I’m continuing an examination of the senses. Come along?

***

What is a man’s life? 

A man’s life is a few thousand breaths of time, a unit of history, at best a memory though usually forgotten within a leap-year’s cycle.

What does a man want from life?

To reach past his given breaths, to be certain of his purpose, his life, and his death.

What is certain?

The only things that are certain are the things that can be measured by the senses–tasting, touching, hearing, seeing, smelling. Significance and purpose–these things cannot be measured with any certainty. They are illusions at best.

 

Can man find what he wants?

If a man plots a course for significance (i.e., transcending his few thousand breaths), no. If a man sets his sights on certainty about his legacy (or bank accounts), no.  If he wants to truly experience life, to let the tasting, touching, hearing, seeing, and smelling leave their mark on him, yes. If he wants to take the information of the senses in, interpret them, and draw some conclusions about what might be eternal, perhaps, yes.

What does a sensory life give us?

The senses give life to emotion. You feel the kiss of your lover, and you sense love. You hear the wind through the autumn oaks or the patter of the rain on the tin roof; you smell the decay of pine needles or muddy banks of the mountain lake; you touch the curve of your wife’s spine, see the shape of her hips; you taste the earthy coffee or the fatty slab of aged beef–these things give you great joy. In that love and joy, a man is left with this question–could all this be a happy accident? (The same holds true for pain, though that might be an altogether different conversation.)

What are these emotional interpretations of the senses?

These emotional interpretations are guideposts. They point us beyond the present sensory experience and into something more. Joy and love–don’t these things leave you believing that there must be some guiding force? Don’t you feel that there must be some grand Gift Giver?

Our emotions teach us to search beyond the temporary–meaning, significance, purpose–for what is eternal. They are the tendons connecting those things we know with the hope of the things not seen.

What is there to fear in the full experience of the senses, then?

Nothing, especially if we push past pagan experience and search for the seeds of something more eternal, especially if we allow that Something-More-Eternal to guide our experience of the senses.

What have the senses shown me?

The senses have lead me to the seat of my own emotions. The emotions have led me to the search for the Giver. The Giver has given me the person of Jesus, who lived a sensory life, and whose sensory life led him into the expression of perfect anger, sorrow, anticipation, trust, joy, and love. My attempts to understand his life, the way he interpreted the world and pushed into the perfect expression of his emotions, has led me into healing and wholeness. This healing and wholeness–partial though it may be–has become the stuff of my faith.

The senses scared me, once-upon-a-time. (Weren’t they the seedbed of sin?) They scare me no longer.

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

It’s a noisy world, a world in which it can be difficult to find rhythms of quiet, restful, prayer. In this five-day email experience, I’ll provide you with prompts designed to lead you into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers that push out the noise, worries, and anxieties that can so often haunt. Sign up below receive this daily email plan, and you’ll also receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter.

And, if you enjoy this website or my Tiny Letter consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.

 

 

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