On a whim…

Life without whimsy is not much of a life at all; without it, a walk in the dark is no laughing matter.

Archive for the ‘theology’ Category

Balancing the Books

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When God made Mr. Harold Dempsey’s face he used silly putty. Harold’s face consisted of one rolling wrinkle after another. Shaking his head, we watched; a classroom of  fascinated boys. His heavy jowls waved in counterpoint as he uttered a familiar declaration, “Boys, I would rather God ‘took a mill stone and tied it about my neck’ than to cause you any harm.
I couldn’t imagine what possible harm he might do. Could he infect us and reduce our faces to a similarly drooping state?
“Now boys,” his eyes drooped joining the general sag of his cheeks, “you are innocent today. But someday you won’t be.”Remembering his words today they seem more coherent than they did to my ten year old ears. Innocence was something Perry Mason dealt with. You couldn’t be innocent of something until you were accused of something and, apart from repeatedly misplacing my father’s tools I was clear of all charges.I wanted to move on. Any distraction from the looming lecture would do. Perhaps we could divert his attention to one of the pictures in our illustrated King James bibles. One favorite was Moses with what looked like fresh baked loaves in his arms. Even though lunch was still a few hours away I could look at the picture and smell the bread. Heck I could taste the melted butter and grape jelly.
Yep, it would have been fine with me if we had moved straight ahead to one of those pictures but it was revival season and Mr. Dempsey was duty bound to press his point. “Yes sir, boys, you may be innocent today but soon, maybe sooner than you think, you are going to have to explain yourselves to God.”
By this point I was probably investigating the picture where Delilah was cutting off Sampson’s hair. There was something about Delilah that I couldn’t figure out. And it started near her neckline and I was making progress when Mr. Dempsey’s next words pulled me back to the classroom.“Boy’s! if you don’t give your hearts to Jesus… well I don’t know how else to say it… if you don’t you’re goin’ straight to hell.” There was something about the phrase “straight to hell” that disturbed my “intense” examination of Delilah. I jerked my head up, the bible fell to the floor and Mr. Dempsey looked at my glowing red face.His next remark was a cinematic event. “Well, that’s something you don’t have to worry about… ” the lighting shifted, silence surrounded us and his baritone shifted to bass. He continued, “’til you reach the-age-of-accountability.”Ah, “the-age-of-accountability”, I didn’t know what it was but it was clearly associated with hell. Not that I knew a lot about hell either. I must have known enough. I wouldn’t eat deviled eggs because they were, well, Devil-ed. And I certainly didn’t want to go to hell by any road, curvy or straight.Maybe “the-age-of-accountability” was like ear wax or tooth decay. Maybe it was something that could be avoided, or if encountered, could be undone. Avoided. Undone. If only the weight of our failures could be so easily remedied.Somewhere in my growing up “the-age-of-accountability” snuck up on me. Mr. Dempsey’s warning seemed opaque when I was ten. Now, having begun what is likely the last third of my life, I find myself accountable. I do not fear hell but I recognize that an answer is due. I must account for things done.Even more, though, I must account for things not done. Sartre once suggested that hell is other people. I can’t say I know his hell. The one I know consists of undone kindnesses, unexpressed grace, unstated affection, under appreciated love. This is a hell I know well. It is for these that I can offer no reasonable accounting. It is from this hell that I most deeply yearn for deliverance. 

Written by David Wilkerson

6 January 2008 at 7:59 pm

Posted in grace, hope, theology

Heading to Epiphany

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In the provencial naivete of my youth I was curious why, while traveling in Spain,  they still had Christmas lights up in January. Having no familiarity with Epiphany and only vaguely aware that the “Twelve Days of Christmas” had some basis in fact left me clueless.

 Since then I have aquired an affection for a theological understanding of the term and I have adopted it as a frame of reference to explain the unexpected intrusions of good ideas into my otherwise mundane life.

 Epiphanies, if not ‘the’ Epiphany, are intrusions in fact. I imagine being seated in a comfortable chair quietly assimilating the characteristics of a potatoe when an idea, a good one, lands somewhere above and to the right of my hippocampus. My rapid transformation into barely sentient starch is halted by an immediate, if not always welcome, reaction.

I find, as years pass, that the frequency of these intrusions has not abated but my ability to resist them has grown. My resitance to these is unfortunate for some but as my epiphanies have not produced any vaccines, life transforming technologies, or even a particularly good sermon, the declining number of reactions has hurt no one other than myself.

Realizing this leads me to think that it may now be time for me to pursue such moments rather than wait for them. I need to hitch myself to a team of verbs and ‘go’. Of course I recall my preferred cliche for explaining my inaction, “My get-up-and-go got up and went.”

Why don’t I want to ‘go’? Is it because those with whom I would most wish to share are unaffected or, worse, alienated by my experiences? My children are generally disinterested in the things that interest me. This is as it should be, I suppose. Their epiphanies may have another source and, in any case, another direction.

As for me, I find myself aware of God’s presence, or more often God’s absence. I find myself seated in church and keenly aware that God seems to have taken a long sabbatical. Maybe “The Almighty” is looking for new material or is engaged in the plight of more interesting parishoners.  I can’t say where God is, but I feel pretty certain of where God is not.

 God seems to have little relevance to my children which is a shame because I am certain despite God’s prolonged absence it is a temporary state. Perhaps their generation has confused God with church? Church, temple, mosque, shrine, mantra, etc, as expressions of religion, are not synomyns for God. But that is an epiphany for another day. The point here is that sooner or later God will come looking after us whether we happen to be looking for God.  Surprise!

Someone, a friend now estranged by distance and time, recently called me. (An epiphany?)  He found my number in the debris of abandoned letters and called. “How are you?” came the question to which I replied, “I get up. I eat breakfast. I go to work. I come home. I eat supper. I go to bed. I start over.”

Even as I complained about the grossly mundane nature of my life I realized that it is far more complicated than that. “How are you?” “Oh, well, I am on the road to Epiphany.”

I know not when, where, or how but the day is closer now than ever, the day of my greatest Epiphany. It is not simply a matter of ‘the great sleep’ that awaits us all. It is the moment of final wakefulness when some of us, at least, find our conscious minds alert to the reality that the road has reached it’s end and the moment of transition has come.

 Whether it is simply a transition from sensibility and intent to decaying matter vaguely familiar to the bereaved (“Oh, he looks so natural.”) or something more I cannot say. I do not know. It is a mystery. The most avid athiest can be no more authoritative in this regard than the most ardent fundamentalist cleric. It is a mystery but I hold to the notion that in that moment there is a cosmic ‘surprise’.

I am on the road to Epiphany. I hope I have a ways to go; A long ride down a bumpy road loaded with smaller ephanies. And I hope, in the meantime, to be more vigorous in response to the little epiphanies of each day.

Written by David Wilkerson

26 December 2007 at 11:51 pm

Posted in death, epiphany, theology

Tagged with , ,

What I know

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Not much. I was interested that when my grandson, aka my buddy, asked a clerk if it were possible for someone to open the mouth of a mounted moose head she replied, negatively, and then added, “I can tell he is going to be a scientist.”

Later I heard someone refer to a particular science as the purveyor of questions and answers.

Whence did theology become the pervue of the ‘already asked and answered question?”

Written by David Wilkerson

15 November 2007 at 1:48 pm

Posted in theology

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