Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, April 30, 2010


Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head — Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. — Ephesians 4:14-16

His head, however, was by no means cherubic in the sense of being without a body. On the contrary, on his vast shoulders and shape generally gigantesque, his head looked oddly and unnaturally small. This gave rise to a scientific theory (which his conduct fully supported) that he was an idiot. "Manalive" — G.K. Chesterton

On the high, dry ridges of the Central Plateau in the heart of summer, last fall's leaves are an unavoidable crunch and crackle underfoot. I was fascinated by the thought that skilled woodsmen like Kenton, Boone, Crockett, or their native counterparts could move in absolute silence. After much effort and experimentation, I concluded that the woods those worthy souls moved in were pine. My endeavors, though, were not entirely in vain. I learned that there is a rhythm to advancement under the worst of conditions, that the very nature of a hardwood forest floor is a camouflage of sorts. I learned that the way to a relative silence was to move slowly. This is no sidewalk and I'm not so much going somewhere as being somewhere. What I'm hunting is a lot more likely to come to me than I am to find it.

Hunting truth is the same way. In fact, I'm not sure that stalking squirrels isn't as much a hunt for truth as reading Ephesians or Aristotle.

The "winds of teaching" — now there's a complicating factor. Is that stirring of the leaves a six-point buck? Is that bouncing branch a bushy-tail? Or, is it just the wind? I could say the more teaching the less truth, but a wise and silent hunter can detect the true from the false. Again, it is the rhythm or perhaps the aroma of it.

For a time I thought I had a "sixth sense" when it came to finding deer. I would be moving along, and I would suddenly think that a deer was close at hand. Almost invariably when I had that spidey-sense alarm, I would jump one or more, or they would walk out in front of me. One day I was walking slowly with the wind in my face up a steep hill. I caught a whiff of something. It turns out my sixth sense was just the subliminal work of one of the original five.

Just because our ancestors had their noses full of tobacco and woodsmoke — not to mention less pleasant scents, doesn't mean that our modern, more open olfactory organs lack discernment — once we get away from the smell of exhausts for a day or two. So, too, if the Church at various points along its path of growth was dulled in its senses, it doesn't mean it will not regain them — sharper and more discerning than ever.

The Body of Christ is growing, from the Head to the Head, and we are growing together. More and more we see ourselves in unity. I'm not a Roman Catholic, but when someone attacks the Pope, I am attacked. I've never had my left foot say "Thank God it wasn't me" when I stubbed a toe on the right foot. In Christ, the pain of one is the pain of all, and it is the Head who understands that pain most thoroughly, communicating it to the other parts that appropriate action might be taken.

What is true of our pain is true of our joy. We all dance together or we don't dance at all.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Practice, Practice, Practice

Effortlessness is the end of effort
On a sea smooth as glass the sail is filled
Wing-weary eagles glide that climbed above
Foot-sore dancers laugh at gravity

The gift of grace unearned descends on thee
When thy work exhausted cannot harvest
Thy unknowing comes only in knowing
This is the end of thee, Thou awaits

Monday, April 26, 2010


For it says:

When He ascended on high, He took prisoners into captivity;

He gave gifts to people.

But what does "He ascended" mean except that He descended to the lower parts of the earth? The One who descended is the same as the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son, [growing] into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ's fullness. — Ephesians 4:8-13

Ascending doesn't happen without descending. There is no rising apart from being down. There is no exaltation that is not proceeded by humbling. The concept of ascending and descending as two aspects of a single, full process is familiar to all reader of One Cosmos. His thirty-three year stay on earth was, for Jesus, just the passing through, as a cliffdiver must pass through a medium or two on his way from the heights to the bottom in order to rise in triumph.

The dive Christ made into hell opened a way out of it for those who would follow Him. We'll have to cast aside the cliffdiver image. Once the dive is made, it is a long climb back to the top of the cliff. For our Last Adam, the Ascension is a given. He must rise. For Him, the plunge was the hard part.

This is the essence of the gospel. When you are at the bottom, there is no where to descend to. The only way out is up. I have struggled with "crucifying the flesh", with putting self to death — admittedly with little success. Oh, wait, doesn't it say somewhere something about my being "dead in trepasses and sin"? For us the hard part is not getting to the bottom, it is realizing we are already there. The triumphant ascension of Christ from the abyss of death did not liberate only the physical dead. Some teach that Jesus moved paradise from a compartment in sheol (hell, the grave) to heaven. It seems to me to be a poetic depiction of all spiritually dead humanity being set free from their chains. As we need to realize we are dead apart from Christ, we also need to realize that we are, with Christ, risen indeed.

I think I understand this but I may not be able to say what I know.

Christ rose to "fill all things". He "fills" all in a sort of topdown way, having ascended back to heaven. He is in all and through all, as we noted in an earlier verse from this same chapter. He is readily available to us — something that was not the case before the Cross.

Let's go back to the idea of a being rising bouyantly above a water surface, breaking through the surface tension, shattering perhaps an otherwise calm layer of reality, throwing bits of it here and there like a leaping dolphin. Imagine that being growing ever larger as it rises. Now much more of the surface is disrupted and disturbed. Now it seems to be a mountain pushing ever higher and wider. Water runs off the sides in great frothing rivers. There is no longer a body of water, no longer depths, rather the depths have become heights.

That is less a picture of Christ than it is a picture of His Church. As Christ descended, so His fullness descends giving us a matrix into which we are able to, and may, ascend in order to fill.

Mostly we have not attained that mature stature. God knows that. We don't grow simply in numbers to fill the matrix. We grow into unity — each of us — and all of us. Christ provides the template into which we are to grow, and He provides, through all the gifts He liberated, the means for us to grow.

What are those 'gifts'? Our brothers and sisters — some of whom are apostles, others are prophets. Some bring us good news and words of encouragement in dark times, others teach us who we are and how to live, or they stand watching over us to lead us, to give us direction and to battle the rulers of the darkness on our behalf while we grow.

And you and I, we are gifts to someone else, or to one another.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ridin' With Roy

On Saturdays when I was a boy,
I lived to ride the range with Roy.
Rollin' rivers, golden hills,
Stick horse races and cap gun kills.

Shoot the bad guys, rope and ride,
I'd play on even if I died.
I knew just how to wear my hat
When I was stalkin' the neighbor's cat.

I went off to school, went off to college
Filled my head with useless knowledge.
I already knew everything worth knowin'.
I learned from Roy about cowboyin'.

To ride, shoot straight and speak the truth,
Are the things Roy taught me in my youth.
Never fear, always be bold,
Stay young forever, never grow old.

There are no wranglers here in the city,
No golden palominos, more's the pity.
Lots of bad guys runnin' around
Dressed in suits and workin' downtown.

I ain't herded no cattle for many a' year.
I been writin' code from this office chair.
Trigger, Roy, and even Dale are gone.
All us cowboys are left on our own.

But I know Roy's ridin' high,
up there on Trigger beyond the sky.
For me there's a little more work to be done
Before I ride off in the settin' sun.

Late some evenin' when the fire is low
I'll hear the Boss call, "It's time to go."
I'll mount a white horse that's waitin' for me,
We'll cross the Divide and there we'll see
Crystal river and golden hills,
Plenty of adventure and endless thrills.
I'll look into the Boss's eye,
and ride with Roy when I die.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Weakened Warriors

Be sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him … -- 1 Peter 5:8-9

It irritates me to give the devil his due, to recognize that evil is capable of overcoming good if good does nothing – and especially if good underestimates evil. It also irritates me a little to have to deviate from my planned series of posts, but a blogger’s got to do what a blogger’s got to do, and there’s nothing like reading the wrong books to throw a wrench in the works.

I think the resistance to acknowledging evil’s power arises from a sense that evil is stupid. When I do something bad, I usually think of myself as having “done something dumb”. I think that helps me minimize my culpability, if you know what I mean. It’s my cloak of stupidity. I suppose, then, I have a tendency to project this idea of stupid evil onto others. We want to think the best of people so we assume they are just doing evil things out of a lack of knowledge. This is reinforced by stupid criminals – like the people who robbed a convenience store, fled on foot then came back for their car while the police were interviewing witnesses at the scene.

But not all criminals are caught, and some are caught only because of a minor blunder or perhaps being double-crossed by a confederate. Many criminals are quite intelligent, and many are very clever. It's the same with evil politicians. We should never have underestimated Bill Clinton’s intelligence just because he was a low-life, redneck scumsucker. We have put the Republic in danger by underestimating the intellectual power and cleverness of Barack Obama, his advisors, and fellow-travelers.

The devil, in whatever guise one chooses to think of him, is a real entity with incredible intelligence along with knowledgeable, malicious intent, and a degree of authority over the worldlings who either ignore him (the vast majority) or willingly collaborate with him (a small but potent minority). Those who follow the occult are not, as I am often inclined to characterize them, a group of deceived, goofy misfits with no power. There are some goofy followers to be sure, but there are among the occultists a few who are genuinely in touch with the rulers of the darkness of this world. There are “spiritual forces of evil in the heavens”.

In spite of all that, Peter does not tell us we should be afraid. He warns us to be sober – to take the threat seriously, to keep our guard up. James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” But first you have to know there is a devil and that you are facing him.

I usually don’t refer to Lonesome Dove, because, as near to the heart of Texans, adopted and native, as that mini-series is, I just dislike Larry McMurtry. I do respect, and appreciate his tremendous talent as a writer. Like him or not, though, he is such an artist that he cannot help but convey truth. The mythos of Lonesome Dove is undeniable.

Gus and July ride into the bad guys’ camp to rescue Lorie leaving the three members of July’s party behind. The incompetent adult male, a girl, and a young boy are brutally murdered by Blue Duck. They lack the awareness and the vigilance to avoid or thwart the attack. Actually, it’s a funny thing about Blue Duck, though he purports to be such a deadly and vicious adversary, he seems to be very good at avoiding direct conflict with Gus -- the one person who appears to be both capable and alert enough to give him any trouble. At the river, when he rides up on Gus and Lorie before the kidnapping, he is reluctant to start a fight. When Gus pursues him, Blue Duck tries to use his minions to kill Gus rather than confront him himself. When Gus rides into the camp, Blue Duck is gone, sneaking around to prey on the weaker and more vulnerable. You might think that, for all his big talk, Blue Duck fears the aging Ranger.

For his part, Gus clearly is not afraid of Blue Duck, but he also understands the renegade is a formidable opponent. He does not look for a fight until he is forced into one. He goes against Blue Duck, not on his own behalf but for the sake of the innocent and the weak. Blue Duck’s intention at any point is simply to do as much damage as he can without facing anyone who might be his equal in a fight. As such, Blue Duck is very much a type of the devil.

The Adversary is capable of doing great damage. He prefers to work in darkness and shadows, by stealth, subterfuge, and back-stabbing. He will never expose himself in open combat with a child of God if he can avoid it. He likes to attack us via proxies. If we fail to stand up to him, he will run over us. He will steal, kill, and destroy as long as we deny, avoid, and retreat.

We need to acknowledge that we are in a fight whether we want to be in one or not. There may have been times when this was not true, but those times are past – if, indeed, they ever existed. I tend to think we got to where we are by living in denial. Taking the adversary seriously means we are sober and vigilant toward him. Since he prefers shadows, we can shine the light on him and expose him. That alone will weaken him and cause him to back off.

As He pronounces the Great Commission, Jesus says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” He then gives us the authority to carry out His will as His chosen and commissioned ambassadors. We have ALL THE AUTHORITY WE NEED to thwart the devil and his plans.

We need to stand firm in faith. Here’s how Peter finishes the 9th verse – “Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your brothers in the world.” Don’t freak out and think God has abandoned you because you are having trouble. Stand up to whatever comes. Plant your feet on the truth: This I know: God is for me (Psalm 56:9).

Recognize that the enemy is real, that he is effective, and that he knows what he is doing. He is smart, powerful, and utterly without mercy, decency, humility, shame or conscience, but he cannot defeat us if we stand up to him and face him down.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Holy Wholly

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope at your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah's gift. – Ephesians 4:4-7

Victor Frankenstein took pieces of various bodies and put them together in one larger, more powerful, transhuman form then animated it through some chemical process to create his monster. The Body of Christ appears to have been chopped up, though each piece still lives and thinks that it is the whole body as it wonders why its functions are often frustrated. As I first thought of this, I felt pretty pessimistic. It sounds as monstrous and macabre in its own way as Frankenstein’s creature. God is certainly calling us to unity under one Lord and one King without which we are a mockery of the Kingdom. Yet He said where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I. Each piece really is a whole. Each one of us is part of the Body of Christ, but we are also the Church locally.

It would be ideal, of course, if there were only one “brand” of Christianity, if there was just the Church at Dallas or the Church at Peoria as there was the Church at Ephesus to which Paul wrote. The word “church” arrived in the English language by way of Germanic from a Greek word that meant, originally, “of the Lord”, or “belonging to the Lord”. It’s too bad we couldn’t keep it clean and free of the taint of buildings, hierarchies and organizations. We are supposed to be the called-out, consecrated property of God. Instead we have become a plague of competing corporations with politics, schemes, and programs. We market our “product”. We advertise.

The corporate marketing model may work out all right for the men and women who are effective in their efforts and are the leadership – I can’t quite call them the shepherds – in those churches. Even that isn’t always the case as the leaders’ lives are often wrecked in the process. Individual members of the congregations of these monster churches may find rewarding ministry opportunities, just as individual students may occasionally get a decent education in government schools. But in both cases they are doing it more or less on their own. The marketing model is great for building facilities and/or monuments, for holding big events, concerts, and outreaches. It will fill auditoriums, but does it fill hearts? Sometimes, no doubt, though mostly it is a superficial religion of works and self-sufficiency.

On the other hand, I am just about as put off by small churches and intense “fellowship” with believers in cell groups or men’s prayer breakfast groups. See, I got this crazy idea that when Jesus said, “Go, and make disciples of all nations …”, He meant something like wherever we wind up going, we are to interact with the people around us, living as disciples and witnesses while doing whatever it is we do. I don’t think I need an evangelism program or a college degree to teach me how to do that. I think that’s what the Holy Spirit – that One Spirit mentioned in the verse above – does in believers. I’m the clay pot to carry the Water of Life around. He flows out of me to those I meet. I really don’t have much to do with it.

It’s not that I don’t need to know how to live myself, but that’s also part of what the Spirit does – teach me and guide me. It’s good to have a Communion, to gather with others in Christ and get the occasional fresh rush, but that’s not to be our primary focus. The inflow is a given if we have the outflow.

We were not all given the same calling, but we were given the same hope when God called us. And we should have no doubt that God has called us. That’s the only way we can get here. We enter the world, and He calls us. Perhaps He even calls us into the world in the first place. We have heard something that stirs us and draws us. We respond to a hope of wholeness, a hope that our lives are more than meat and drink -- that our relationship with the Lord will make us whole, but also that we will find our place in His wholeness. We have a hope that, as we are redeemed, we are catalysts or elements in the redemption of Creation. We become part of the transforming of the fallen into something even greater and more glorious that it could have been had it never lost its first state.

Man’s best efforts at unity are burdened with stumbling and laden with danger. I don’t put much faith in ecumenical councils or moves to bring us all back to Rome or to reunite East and West in some great single, worldwide Church. I do, however, trust the Holy Spirit to bring us all together in a way that turns barriers into connections. In that unity our diversity of gifts and understanding will no longer separate us but we will regard them as the hand and the eye regard one another.

Our Father is above us all, but He is also through all of us to all of us and in all of us. The unity of the Body may not be obvious but it is surely evident. As we are filled with and led by the Spirit, we are doing each the small part that moves the great whole.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Today the Pits, Tomorrow the Wrinkles

I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. – Ephesians 4:1-3

Paul did not see himself as a prisoner of a government but as a prisoner of Christ. Though he no way of understanding fully all the possibilities radiating from his imprisonment, he accepted that he was where he needed to be at the moment. He had made a nearly identical statement just a few paragraphs before, then going on to urge his readers not to be discouraged by his troubles which were, in the long run, for their benefit. As best I can tell, given the statement that follows, the ‘therefore’ in Paul’s statement refers back to his discussion of unity in chapter 2. The third chapter of Ephesians is a sort of parenthetical set up for moving from the spiritual facts to the material application as the Apostle returns to his call for unity among all in the Body, including Jews and Gentiles.

The mystic thinks of unity as oneness with Christ and that is true. Carried just a little further, it would seem obvious that unity with Christ means necessarily unity in Christ. If Christ is in us and we are in Christ, then we are all unified one with another – many branches perhaps, but one Vine. That’s easy enough to grasp and envision, as an ideal, at least. Where I may run into difficulty with my persistent individuality is confusing my inclinations and intentions with the greater purpose of my existence in the Body. Further complications arise from my very limited ability to put all cause and effect into an understandable formula. In the material world of individual physical beings, if I do A, B is supposed to happen. If I press on the gas pedal, my car goes faster. If I eat Oreos, I get fat. If I watch CNN, I get lonely. It carries over into the spiritual realm where I think if I am a good person, good things will happen to me – forgetting that good is the end rather than the means. Good is the fruit borne of obedience to the life of the Vine flowing through me.

We have received a divine summons, and we should order our lives so that they are consistent with that summons. It doesn’t mean we won’t ever get what we want. It does mean that our wants and desires may change over time. It means an end to arrogance and the sense that our lives are solely under our own control – or solely for our own benefit. It may also mean not saying, “I told you so” when it’s true, for example. One of the hardest things for me is knowing what is right and watching someone – especially someone I care about – ripping himself apart doing wrong. I so often want to grab people and shake them while saying, “If you would only LISTEN to ME!”

Sometimes I do know. Sometimes I am right. But God always knows. The worst thing I can do for people is get between them and what God is trying to do with, for, or to them. That doesn’t mean you or I don’t get to play the part of prophet now and then. “How can they hear without a preacher?... Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word”. It means, though, that I play my part with humility. I enter into the role fully, burying myself in it. I must operate humbly, gently, and with patience.

Damn, but I need more patience right now, and that acceptance, too, I need more of that. And I will grit my teeth and pound the desk until you understand just how patient I am being.

I’ve tried knocking sense into people – including myself – both figuratively and, a time or two, literally. It may even work for a little while. But, as much as I may hate to admit it, the royal road is humility, patience, love, and peace. If somebody doesn’t “fit”, if somebody is rough and sharp-edged, it’s up to me to compensate for that, to accommodate the rough spot, to give a little of my space – to maybe let them knock off a little bit of my own sharp edge. Like stones in a wall, we have to fit together or the wall will never rise.

It is all from the Lord. The poking and the pruning, the banging and clanging, all is an extension of His hand – just like Paul’s chain and the Roman centurion that guarded him. It’s not always comfortable, not always “logical”, but it is always logos, according to the Word -- perhaps, like words in a great poetic cycle. And if it doesn’t quite make sense, it could be that the end is not yet seen.

It had occurred to her to imagine those two – the old woman and the poet -- watching the last act, themselves its only audience, as if it were presented by the imagined persons themselves, and by no planned actors. But what would happen when the act came to an end she could not think, unless those two went up into the forest and away into the sounds that they had heard, into the medley of which the only unity was the life of the great poetry that made it, and was sufficient unity. – Charles Williams, Descent Into Hell

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Return

You ascended to the heights, taking away captives; You received gifts among people, even from the rebellious, so that the LORD God might live there. – Psalm 68:18

Here is how Paul quotes that verse in Ephesians 4:8, “When He ascended on high, He took prisoners into captivity; He gave gifts to people”.

I did not read Gagdad Bob’s incredibly powerful post on Holy Saturday until this morning, but it coincides with the fact that I started reading Charles Williams’ Descent Into Hell last night.

I think I miss the evident for the obvious. Which is the forest – evident or obvious? How many trees does it take to make a forest? If a tree is a fact, is the forest an interpretation or an extrapolation? While talking to my wife yesterday, it occurred to me that a phrase in the Epistle to the Ephesians was of far greater significance than I could understand. He says, “Till we come … to a perfect man, to the measure of stature of the fullness of Christ” – that is to say until we reach maturity as measured by comparison to Christ. The Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ must come of age. He calls us to take His yoke upon us, but we cannot be unequally yoked.

Most of my relatives are not tall people. We range from short to average. Dad was about 5’7” and his nephew Clifford was about the same, maybe 5’6”. They had a neighbor named Tom who was well over six feet tall but slightly blunt on top. The three of them were cutting some logs together. When they carried the logs out on their shoulders, Dad took one end, Clifford took the other, and they suggested Tom get in the middle. Tom thought those logs were a little heavy. If you’ve ever seen a “Ma and Pa Kettle” movie with Marjorie Main, you might recall Pa’s rather mismatched team hitched to his wagon. In that case, it’s the little horse that has to work much harder to do what the big horse does.

The gospel is the “death, burial, and resurrection” of Christ. As we just celebrated, He liberated and despoiled hell – or as one local preacher puts it: Jesus razed hell. After descending to liberate and deliver, the Lord ascended to pour out the Holy Spirit with His myriad of gifts upon us. These gifts are not baubles for our adornment or playthings for our amusement; they are the means of our growth in wisdom, maturity and beauty.

The Lord has “ascended”. In this case, the obvious is that Jesus is no longer in this world, in the stream of time. He is, as it were, hidden from the Bride. He has given us the Comforter, the “earnest of our inheritance”, but He has left us in time while He waits in eternity – already perfect and unchanging, “the same yesterday, today, and forever”.

And then there is the evident. For what is He waiting?

For us, the Bride, to grow up.

Friday, April 2, 2010


I never played much in the way of team sports or what most people think of as sports or games – like tennis or golf. I very briefly tried playing basketball in eighth grade, and I boxed and wrestled a little in high school. Mainly I did my schoolwork, did our farm work, did some target shooting, hunted, fished, and rode horses, a bicycle, or a dirt bike. None of this involved much cheerleading. Personally, I never understood the need for cheerleaders. Either you are giving your best effort or you are not. No amount of “support” from the sidelines is going to change what a person is capable of doing.

This kind of thinking probably indicates some sort of character flaw on my part.

Then they all deserted Him and ran away – Mark 14:50

It’s a verse worthy of committing to memory, though it is probably rarely quoted. All the cheerleaders were gone. His teaching, His wisdom, His love and compassion, even the miracles they had witnessed could not hold them. They all deserted Jesus. They left Him to face His doom.

But He was not yet alone. Through the rest of those dark morning hours, the Lord continued to do what He knew He had to do. He had been born for this ugly, painful, humiliating day. He had known all along this was where He was headed. He had, in His humanity, no doubt wondered if there might be some other way of fulfilling the prophecies, perhaps a more figurative, allegorical understanding. Even at the last in the garden, He had beseeched the Father for another path to follow, but when Judas arrived with the soldiers, He knew that was not to be. Still, He knew He was doing His Father’s will in the kangaroo court of the Sanhedrin, before the petty, cynical Roman governor, in the decadent presence of Herod, under the lash at the whipping post, and, stumbling under the weight of the cross, all the way up the hill.

The blood didn’t shake Him. The pain didn’t move Him. He was doing His Father’s will. It had to be done, and He had to do it.

And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice … “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Mark 15:34

Then He was alone.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Love You Long Time

As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? – Psalm 42:1-2

For the vast majority of man’s time on earth, the main concern must have been lunch. At least that’s what Maslow’s hierarchy of needs postulates. The physiological needs, such as air, water, and food, form the base of a typical pyramid. The base includes all the “animal” aspects of life like sleep and sex. As best I can figure, sex is the only thing in the base that we can live without for very long. Of course, if you assume that the reason for animal life – including humans – is reproduction of selfish genes, then those that do not have sex to pass along their DNA do not live as long as those who do.

Some critics of Maslow’s pyramid argue that the hierarchical structure is a false. While all the listed needs may be more or less legitimate, the idea that sleep is more basic, somehow, than friendship or security is misleading. In real life, most of us have given up a lower level need for a higher level need. Morality is on the capstone of Maslow’s pyramid, implying that morality only becomes important when all the lower level needs are met. In a coherent, sensible society, the satisfaction of lower level needs is controlled by morality. A desperately hungry man may violate his morals to eat, but he knows he is doing something extreme.

God is trying to make us whole, to put us back together, to defragment us. If we are only a body, then we are mainly concerned with satisfying animal needs. If we recognize that we have a soul, then our needs change to emotional and relational objects. At the innermost is the spirit man who recognizes that the most intense hunger and thirst we can experience physically are but a mirage compared to that which gives us true satisfaction in life -- that gives us life.

For the person who seeks after God, hierarchies become meaningless. Needs are more like ripples in a pool, concentric circles leading us back to the point of origin, created by our entrance into material existence. The only thing that matters is His presence in our lives, His voice speaking to our spirit, His life flowing through us and out of us.

“… out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water …”