Something better than minimum wage.

I’ve been poor lately. Quite poor actually. Despite having a masters and multiple years of experience in my field, I left my career and went back to grad school. The result was, of course, relative poverty.

Relative poverty isn’t necessarily being kicked on the streets. This kind of poverty does mean a significant lifestyle adjustment. It meant rice and beans – if that. It meant going without health insurance. There’s gotta be something better than minimum wage, though, granted, I chose this life.

I was reading ancient literature this morning. The sort that people fight wars over and give up all they own to follow. The literature was written by a physician of antiquity, as a letter to a contemporary who was questioning whether he had been told the truth about some events recent to him. Despite being a letter, it’s really a historical account of the most influential person of all time: Jesus of Nazareth.

In the account Jesus makes a startling statement about poverty, and suffering. Whether he is right about poverty and, well, everything else he said and did, makes the difference about whether there is something better than minimum wage.

Jesus says something which makes modern American Evangelicals queasy:

Blessed are you who are poor,
because the kingdom of God is yours.
21 Blessed are you who are now hungry,
because you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
because you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you [now],
when they exclude you, insult you,
and slander your name as evil
because of the Son of Man.

Luke 6:20b-22

I sat down for coffee with a fellow server at a Thai restaurant I work for. He left what he understood Christianity to be for atheism. One of his genuine struggles was why so many faithful people would suffer so greatly and remain in such poverty, if Jesus is on the throne, reigning as a king. I mean, if as Kanye says, JESUS IS KING, when why do the faithful followers of Jesus suffer so? Are all the blessings kept for later?

Jesus highlights a hard reality of his present kingdom: It’s present glory is hidden. While there may be a few churches with multi-million dollar budgets, the vast majority have far fewer persons and expenditures. Most Christians worldwide have it much rougher than Joel Osteen.

Thus, in my poverty now, I am blessed. Why? Because one day I will not be. In my hunger now, I am blessed. Why? One day I will be fat and happy. So the question is, what is that one day?

An anonymous work within the same ancient compendium as the previous passage has the answer:

1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.

13 These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. 14 Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. 16 But they now desire a better place—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:1, 13-16 respectively.

There is a church called Sojourn. They take their name from the concept of the people of God wandering through a wilderness. God’s there with them, sustaining them with miracles and food… but they can’t stay there. It’s not home. So it is with those who follow Jesus. This ain’t home – but we’re headed there.

Until then, we’re blessed from a distance. That’s better than $15 an hour.

7-Up, with Lithium!

It started as a tonic for hangovers in the 1920’s. Charles Leiper Grigg from the Howdy Corp. decided to market the stuff as “Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon Lime Soda.” Today the product is better known as 7-Up.

In the 1940’s Australian John Cade discovered a new use for lithium carbonate, known today as lithium: a mood-stabilizer for severe depression and bi-polar.

While working at a mental hospital in Melbourne, Cade experimented with guinea pigs by injecting them with the urine of manic patients to see if mania would develop in the guinea pigs. Because Cade used lithium to disolve the uric acid (what he assumed was the toxin) for injection, he noticed the GPs became docile, and quite mellow for the species’ baseline.

As a result, lithium was recommended as a treatment for mania. Many thousands have benefited from this strange experiment. May the guinea pigs which were lithiumized forever live in peace.

Note: 7-Up is now lithium free.

Guineas Pigs,

how science has grown from your broken brains

and forsaken wheel runners.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Depressives, Manics, and Big Pharma

Bibliography

Tacchi, M. & Scott, J. (2017). Depression : a very short introduction. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Have you heard this song??

There is a glory to finding a new musical artist or band. When perhaps everyone but you has heard of them, but their album or song came at exactly the right moment – when life is mundane, when suffering breaks you and your ability to enjoy life – suddenly the heavens split and your ears, yea, your soul rejoices at the glory coming through your speakers.

Certain groups, artists and pieces have been like that for me: John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Explosions in the Sky’s “Birth and Death of the Day,” Handel’s Messiah, just about everything Josh Garrels has put out. Each of these has broken glory through at a time when I was lost in the wilderness of affliction, broken hardheartedness, or a multitude of other burdens and trials.

You know, that’s what Christ was for me. I was an atheist, pretty happy with where I was in life aside from occasional depression. All the sudden an awareness breaks in – there’s more to this world than materialism, biology and an endless cycle of life/death/birth. Indeed, each of the things which the philosophy of the day – materialism, postmodernism, enter-your-ism proclaimed – was quite wrong. I cried out to Jesus at a momentous time, during an accidental overdose of my antidepressant, and I for the first time experienced the glory behind the glories I saw in sunsets, amazing albums, and poetry. Yes, Jesus is the power behind those glories. I experienced him for the first time May 4, 2010. Things have never been the same.

Do you know this glory? I tell you every enjoyment, whether it is sanctioned by the church or not really finds its origins in Jesus. They are messages in the bottle – even the vilest of sins – calling you home.

When that tremendous artist, in tune with the joy all around us, reaches your ears – remember that there is a great King mighty to deliver you from the endless burdens, monotony and brokenheartedness.

Christ, O Thou, art all I want

More than all in Thee I find...

Raise the fallen, cheer the faint

Charles Wesley, Jesu Lover of My Soul

Jesus’ Passion With Wit: George Herbert’s The Sacrifice

What if the gospels (accounts of Jesus’ life) recorded his internal dialogue, which were – hypothetically – full of wit? George Herbert’s The Sacrifice is that hypothetical account. It’s at once striking, beautiful, and painful. The first time I read it, my jaw was on the floor. It became, and remains, my favorite poem of all time. Following is the text in full.

The Princes of my people make a head
Against their Maker: they do wish me dead,
Who cannot wish, except I give them bread:
Was ever grief like mine?


Without me each one, who doth now me brave,
Had to this day been an Egyptian slave.
They use that power against me, which I gave:
Was ever grief like mine?

Mine own Apostle, who the bag did bear,
Though he had all I had, did not forebear
To sell me also, and to put me there:
Was ever grief like mine?

For thirty pence he did my death devise,
Who at three hundred did the ointment prize,
Not half so sweet as my sweet sacrifice:
Was ever grief like mine?

Therefore my soul melts, and my heart’s dear treasure
Drops blood (the only beads) my words to measure:
O let this cup pass, if it be thy pleasure:
Was ever grief like mine?

These drops being temper’d with a sinner’s tears,
A Balsam are for both the Hemispheres:
Curing all wounds but mine; all, but my fears,
Was ever grief like mine?

Yet my Disciples sleep: I cannot gain
One hour of watching; but their drowsy brain
Comforts not me, and doth my doctrine stain:
Was ever grief like mine?

Arise, arise, they come. Look how they run.
Alas! what haste they make to be undone!
How with their lanterns do they seek the sun!
Was ever grief like mine?

With clubs and staves they seek me, as a thief,
Who am the way of truth, the true relief;
Most true to those, who are my greatest grief:
Was ever grief like mine?

Judas, dost thou betray me with a kiss?
Canst thou find hell about my lips? and miss
Of life, just at the gates of life and bliss?
Was ever grief like mine?

See, they lay hold on me, not with the hands
Of faith, but fury: yet at their commands
I suffer binding, who have loos’d their bands:
Was ever grief like mine?

All my Disciples fly; fear puts a bar
Betwixt my friends and me. They leave the star
That brought the wise men of the East from far.
Was ever grief like mine?

Then from one ruler to another bound
They lead me; urging, that it was not sound
What I taught: Comments would the text confound.
Was ever grief like mine?

The Priest and rulers all false witness seek
‘Gainst him, who seeks not life, but is the meek
And ready Paschal Lamb of this great week:
Was ever grief like mine?

Then they accuse me of great blasphemy,
That I did thrust into the Deity,
Who never thought that any robbery:
Was ever grief like mine?

Some said, that I the Temple to the floor
In three days raz’d, and raised as before.
Why, he that built the world can do much more:
Was ever grief like mine?

Then they condemn me all with that same breath,
Which I do give them daily, unto death.
Thus Adam my first breathing rendereth:
Was ever grief like mine?

They bind, and lead me unto Herod: he
Sends me to Pilate. This makes them agree;
But yet their friendship is my enmity:
Was ever grief like mine?

Herod and all his bands do set me light,
Who teach all hands to war, fingers to fight,
And only am the Lord of hosts and might:
Was ever grief like mine?

Herod in judgement sits while I do stand;
Examines me with a censorious hand:
I him obey, who all things else command:
Was ever grief like mine?

The Jews accuse me with despitefulness;
And vying malice with my gentleness,
Pick quarrels with their only happiness:
Was ever grief like mine?

I answer nothing, but with patience prove
If stony hearts will melt with gentle love.
But who does hawk at eagles with a dove?
Was ever grief like mine?

My silence rather doth augment their cry;
My dove doth back into my bosom fly;
Because the raging waters still are high:
Was ever grief like mine?

Hark how they cry aloud still, ‘Crucify:
It is not fit he live a day, ‘ they cry,
Who cannot live less than eternally:
Was ever grief like mine?

Pilate a stranger holdeth off; but they,
Mine own dear people, cry, ‘Away, away, ‘
With noises confused frighting the day:
Was ever grief like mine?

Yet still they shout, and cry, and stop their ears,
Putting my life among their sins and fears,
And therefore wish my blood on them and theirs:
Was ever grief like mine?

See how spite cankers things. These words aright
Used, and wished, are the whole world’s light:
But honey is their gall, brightness their night:
Was ever grief like mine?

They choose a murderer, and all agree
In him to do themselves a courtesy:
For it was their own cause who killed me:
Was ever grief like mine?

And a seditious murderer he was:
But I the Prince of peace; peace that doth pass
All understanding, more than heav’n doth glass:
Was ever grief like mine?Why, Caesar is their only King, not I:
He clave the stony rock, when they were dry;
But surely not their hearts, as I well try:
Was ever grief like mine?

Ah! how they scourge me! yet my tenderness
Doubles each lash: and yet their bitterness
Winds up my grief to a mysteriousness.
Was ever grief like mine?

They buffet me, and box me as they list,
Who grasp the earth and heaven with my fist,
And never yet, whom I would punish, miss’d:
Was ever grief like mine?

Behold, they spit on me in scornful wise,
Who by my spittle gave the blind man eyes,
Leaving his blindness to mine enemies:
Was ever grief like mine?

My face they cover, though it be divine.
As Moses’ face was veiled, so is mine,
Lest on their double-dark souls either shine:
Was ever grief like mine?

Servants and abjects flout me; they are witty:
‘Now prophesy who strikes thee, ‘ is their ditty.
So they in me deny themselves all pity:
Was ever grief like mine?

And now I am deliver’d unto death,
Which each one calls for so with utmost breath,
That he before me well nigh suffereth:
Was ever grief like mine?

Weep not, dear friends, since I for both have wept
When all my tears were blood, the while you slept:
Your tears for your own fortunes should be kept:
Was ever grief like mine?

The soldiers lead me to the common hall;
There they deride me, they abuse me all:
Yet for twelve heavn’ly legions I could call:
Was ever grief like mine?

Then with a scarlet robe they me array;
Which shows my blood to be the only way.
And cordial left to repair man’s decay:
Was ever grief like mine?

Then on my head a crown of thorns I wear:
For these are all the grapes SIon doth bear,
Though I my vine planted and watred there:
Was ever grief like mine?

So sits the earth’s great curse in Adam’s fall
Upon my head: so I remove it all
From th’ earth unto my brows, and bear the thrall:
Was ever grief like mine?

Then with the reed they gave to me before,
They strike my head, the rock from whence all store
Of heavn’ly blessings issue evermore:
Was ever grief like mine?

They bow their knees to me, and cry, ‘Hail king’:
What ever scoffs or scornfulness can bring,
I am the floor, the sink, where they it fling:
Was ever grief like mine?

Yet since man’s sceptres are as frail as reeds,
And thorny all their crowns, bloody their weeds;
I, who am Truth, turn into truth their deeds:
Was ever grief like mine?

The soldiers also spit upon that face,
Which Angels did desire to have the grace,
And Prophets once to see, but found no place:
Was ever grief like mine?

Thus trimmed forth they bring me to the rout,
Who ‘Crucify him, ‘ cry with one strong shout.
God holds his peace at man, and man cries out.
Was ever grief like mine?

They lead me in once more, and putting then
Mine own clothes on, they lead me out again.
Whom devils fly, thus is he toss’d of men:
Was ever grief like mine?

And now weary of sport, glad to engross
All spite in one, counting my life their loss,
They carry me to my most bitter cross:
Was ever grief like mine?

My cross I bear my self, until I faint:
Then Simon bears it for me by constraint,
The decreed burden of each mortal Saint:
Was ever grief like mine?

O all ye who pass by, behold and see;
Man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree;
The tree of life to all, but only me:
Was ever grief like mine?

Lo, here I hang, charg’d with a world of sin,
The greater world o’ th’ two; for that came in
By words, but this by sorrow I must win:
Was ever grief like mine?

Such sorrow, as if sinful man could feel,
Or feel his part, he would not cease to kneel,
Till all were melted, though he were all steel:
Was ever grief like mine?

But, O my God, my God! why leav’st thou me,
The son, in whom thou dost delight to be?
My God, my God –
Never was grief like mine.

Shame tears my soul, my body many a wound;
Sharp nails pierce this, but sharper that confound;
Reproaches, which are free, while I am bound.
Was ever grief like mine?

Now heal thy self, Physician; now come down.
Alas! I did so, when I left my crown
And father’s smile for you, to feel his frown:
Was ever grief like mine?

In healing not my self, there doth consist
All that salvation, which ye now resist;
Your safety in my sickness doth subsist:
Was ever grief like mine?

Betwixt two thieves I spend my utmost breath,
As he that for some robbery suffereth.
Alas! what have I stolen from you? death:
Was ever grief like mine?

A king my title is, prefixt on high;
Yet by my subjects am condemn’d to die
A servile death in servile company;
Was ever grief like mine?

They gave me vinegar mingled with gall,
But more with malice: yet, when they did call,
With Manna, Angels’ food, I fed them all:
Was ever grief like mine?

They part my garments, and by lot dispose
My coat, the type of love, which once cur’d those
Who sought for help, never malicious foes:
Was ever grief like mine?

Nay, after death their spite shall further go;
For they will pierce my side, I full well know;
That as sin came, so Sacraments might flow:
Was ever grief like mine?

But now I die; now all is finished.
My woe, man’s weal: and now I bow my head.
Only let others say, when I am dead,
Never was grief like mine.


Get Herbert’s The Temple, where “The Sacrifice” is found:

Original Free here.

A Love Supreme: Celebrity Conversions

From the epoch of Christianity, there have been celebrities with stunning conversions. Members of the Sanhedrin were among those who took Jesus down and buried him in their own tomb (Joseph of Arimathea & Nicodemus), Paul was an up-and-coming Jewish leader whose conversion changed the church forever, Constantine, Augustine, and countless others have come to faith under dramatic circumstances. But despite the wide publicity these conversions brought to the faith, for the most part, the church has looked like Paul’s description of the Corinthian church:

26 Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. 27 Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. 28 God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, 29 so that no one may boast in his presence.

1 Cor 1:26-29 (CSB)

Recently, a celebrity conversion has garnered lots of attention among Christians and unbelievers alike. One hardly say the name to know who it is, but Kanye West has been the sort of pop culture phenomenon whose personality seems to demand attention because of his, at times, bizarre behavior.

As an unbeliever I went to Bonnaroo in 2009, a large music festival which brings tens of thousands of people to hear some of music’s biggest names. Kanye had been there only a few years before and his late-show on the concert floor way into early morning had caused the festival goers to chant “[explitive] Kanye.” Graffiti subsequently adorned the festivals wooden fences for years after, including the 2 additional times I went after.

Despite the antics, Kanye has thrived in the midst of criticism, he’s launched successful fashion brands and worked in the music industry. For years, he’s even included Christian references in his music such as “Jesus Walks” in 2004 with his album College Dropout.

But despite lyrical nearness to Christian doctrine, his life hasn’t lived up to the Christian ethic taught by Christ. His response at the 2008 Bonnaroo festival was less than gracious. But a few weeks ago came reports that Kanye had been “born again” and was claiming to be a genuine convert to Evangelical Christianity:

While many Christians have heard of spurious conversions by celebs but soon came the announcement by a rather Reformed Evangelical pastor that he had spoken with and counseled Kanye and believed it to be genuine. Further, Kanye announced that he was releasing a new Gospel Rap album and would no longer make secular music.

As one of my friends said, the new album, Jesus is King, is like a baby Christian album. For now, everything is new for Kanye. Life in Christ, life in the Spirit – all new and exciting and enjoyable. Yet, if Kanye is really Christ’s it’s going to be a hard road, as he admits in his song “Use This Gospel:”

Use this gospel for protection

It’s a hard road to Heaven

May God have grace upon Kanye. May he also have grace upon the nameless multitudes who will never make headlines, but are fighting the same battles he will face against the same enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil.

Spurgeon’s darkened sermon

Spurgeon once preached a sermon in the dark. Here’s the account from Lectures to My Students.

“At New Park Street, I once passed through a very singular experience, of which witnesses are present in this room. I had passed happily through all the early parts of divine service in the evening of the Sabbath, and was giving out the hymn before sermon. I opened the Bible to find the text, which I had carefully studied a the topic of discourse, when on the opposite page another passage of Scripture sprang upon me like a lion from a thicket, with vastly more power than I had felt when considering the text which I had chosen. The people were singing and I was sighing. I was in a strait betwixt two, and my mind hung as in the balances.

I was naturally desirous to run in the track which I had carefully planned, but the other text would take no refusal, and seemed to tug at my skirts, crying, “No, no, you must preach from me. God would have you follow me.” I deliberated within myself as to my duty, for I would neither be fanatical nor unbelieving, and at last I thought within myself, “Well, I should like to preach the sermon which I have prepared, and it is a great risk to run to sotruiktea new line of thought, but still as this text constrains me, it may be of the Lord, and therefore I will venture upon it, come what may.” I almost always announce my divisions very soon after the exordium, but on this occasion contrary to my usual custom, I did not do so, for a reason which some of you may probably guess. I passed through the first head with considerable liberty, speaking perfectly extemporaneously both as to thought and word The second point was dwelt upon with a consciousness of unusual quiet efficient power, but I had no idea what the third would or could be, for the text yielded no more matter just then, nor can I tell even now what I could have done had not an event occurred upon which I had never calculated. had brought myself into great difficulty by obeying what I thought to be a divine impulse, and I felt comparatively easy about it, believing that God would help me, and knowing that I could at least close the service should there be nothing more to be said. I had no need to deliberate, for in one moment we were in total darkness — the gas had gone out, and as the aisles were choked with people, and the place everywhere crowded, it wa a great peril, but a great blessing. What was I to do then?

The people we a little frightened, but I quieted them instantly by telling them not to be at all alarmed, though the gas was out, for it would soon be re-lighted; and a for myself, having no manuscript, I could speak just as well in the dark as in the light, if they would be so good as to sit and listen. Had my discourse been ever so elaborate, it would have been absurd to have continued it, a so as my plight was, I was all the less embarrassed. I turned at once mentally to the well-known text which speaks of the child of light walking in darkness, and the child of darkness walking in the light, and found appropriate remarks and illustrations pouring in upon me, and when the lamps were again lit, I saw before me an audience as rapt and subdued a ever a man beheld in his life. The odd thing of all was, that some few church-meetings afterwards, two persons came forward to make confession of their faith, who professed to have been converted that evening; but the first owed her conversion to the former part of the discourse, which was on the new text that came to me and the other trac his awakening to the latter part, which was occasioned by the sudden darkness. Thus, you see, Providence befriended me.

I cast myself upon God, and his arrangements quenched the light at the proper time for me. Some may ridicule, but I adore; others may even censure, but I rejoice. Anything is better than mechanical sermonizing, in which the direction of the Spirit is practically ignored. Every Holy Ghost preacher, I have no doubt, will have such recollections clustering around his ministry. I say, therefore, watch the course of Providence; cast yourselves upon the Lord guidance and help. If you have solemnly done your best to get a text, and the subject does not start up before you, go up into the pulpit firmly convinced that you will receive a message when the time comes, even though you have not a word at that moment.”

https://www.mat.univie.ac.at/~neum/sciandf/spurgeon/spurgeon1.pdf

P102-104 of Lectures to My Students found at the above link.

Pain and Glory

If the Spirit of God does not animate me, I am a dead man walking.

The men of God throughout the ages who were of any use did not obey the Scriptures in their own strength. Rather they leaned hard into the power given from above. Howell Harris endured numerous beatings; George Whitefield would preach thrice daily and then return to his quarters to intercede for hours more; Francis Asbury would travel through the American Frontier to preach to little shacks of people gathered. These men could never have done what they did without that divine influence which enlivened their bodies with a usefulness beyond themselves.

I have experienced recently such death within myself that no human help will do. I have spent too long living in my own strength. I cannot endure the trials of this life in what strength I have of my own life. Nor can you believer.

Some day there will be such trials upon the world as have never been known to this earth before. Have you considered that your life is being prepared for such days if indeed it is being prepared? Have you pains, and toils and broken heartedness beyond every energy to endure? Take heart that you are not alone, a divine influence and that alone can lift you above your pain and pour into your life such strength as will keep you sustained in your pain.

It is given to the church to experience not only green pastures and quiet waters but also that deathly valley where there is no light but the occasional rays from the Shepherd’s lamp. Do you know that valley? I assure you, the church is about to become acquainted with that valley and its only comforts will be the Shepherd’s staff of guidance, rod of protection and presence. That alone. There is no other well of living water.

Is your heart shattered, dreams dashed, and plans foiled? God help you to trust him with your plans and dreams and hopes. If he fulfills them, they will be in his time. Should he delay them, he will do so with the eye on the greater glory of our eternal happiness and earthly good.

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and he will do it.