When a Noun Becomes a Verb

I sent an email out to the ‘Parish Group’ saying that I might not be able to attend the parish and that I wished them a great time of ‘fellowshiping’ and debating. After hitting ‘send’, I realized that the properly-spoken English language didn’t have the word ‘fellowshiping’. I had just made up a very odd sounding verb of a noun. Not that I am a stickler for grammatical correctness, I couldn’t care less. Technically, ‘fellowship’ is itself a verb. But still, I sort of felt embarrassed and wanted to salvage my pride at least by trying to find some seemingly insightful rationale behind it. Or may be, it is a week since I have written anything on my blog and I needed an excuse to ramble on something.

So I started thinking… When ‘google’ became ‘googling’, a noun had become a very odd sounding verb. Whenever a noun becomes a verb it signifies a very powerful paradigm shift in how people perceive life. When noun becomes an odd-sounding verb, it morphs into something much BIGGER – in google’s case worth billions of dollars too. 😛

In order to find a way to restore my fallen (vain) glory, I had to ask myself what paradigm shift the word ‘fellowshiping’ signified? Was it worth at least 2 cents? Two thought tumbled out… 1) Young urban progressives living in the midst of a very ‘fragmented society’ have a deep need for fellowship (as a replacement to real family-ties). 2) Friendship/fellowship was never meant to be an end in itself. Any good friendship is always a means to something MUCH bigger.

C.S.Lewis in his book, ‘Four Loves’ talks about friendship as a relationship in which two people stand side-by-side and look at the same thing admire it the same way. They are not preoccupied with each other (as in the case of romantic relationship), friends are preoccupied with the beauty of ‘something’ MUCH bigger than each other, ‘something’ that could potentially be earth-shattering. In fact, the famed circle of friends that C.S.Lewis was a part of , the ‘Inklings’, also had another prominent writer, the great J.R.R Tolkien. The Inklings shared many a conversation over many a night. C.S.Lewis even read the original manuscript of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and discussed it with J.R.R Tolkien.

What C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien shared was the friendship of the highest order. Tolkien was very influential in C.S.Lewis’ conversion. It is impossible to overestimate the impact of the Inklings on either writers and a thousand other writers that try copycat, the greatest among these being J.K.Rowling who makes no bones of the fact that she owes so much to the above mentioned writers. When noun becomes an odd sounding verb, when fellowship becomes fellowshiping, eventually, there is bound to be something spectacular.

Having thought through this I was sort of happy. I had managed to use the names of some legends using some circuitous logic and reasoning to salvage the damage that my vain ego felt at having coined so queer a word as ‘fellowshiping’. Nevertheless, my ambition knews no limits. I was still thinking about how I could further salvage my pride by finding other uses for this inadvertent mistake… Lo and behold! another context came to my rescue. It happened at the parish meeting which I eventually made it to…

The question on the table was about how to engage an ‘urban progressive’ culture with the Gospel. I made my customary (slightly) long-winded speech about using artistic inclinations of people as a contact point to engage the culture. Kyle, a sharp guy in the group said, “so what you are saying is we need to something like – invite people and screen the movie ‘Tree of Life'” (Kyle and I had just had a deep conversation about movie ‘Tree of life’ and how it related to the gospel). I replied, “precisely! and we need to talk about how the movie is so godless even though it appears to be FULL of the idea of God”.

After the meeting was over, I told Kyle, “You know what, we shouldn’t JUST screen ‘Tree of Life’, we should MAKE one like that”. Kyle replied, “Yes, something that is deeply metaphorical”. My rejoinder was, “Precisely, something that a few will understand, but when they do, their hearts and minds would be on fire!” This conversation made me feel even better about the impulsive coinage of ‘fellowshiping’. After all, fellowshiping can have BIGGER goals…

When a noun becomes a verb, it is powerful. The MOST powerful example of this is when the Lord of the Universe changed the meaning of the word ‘love’ on the Cross. He SHOWED in real-life ACTION how the noun becomes a verb in a very powerful way. When the world go about ‘petty ways’ of making loads of money off of changing nouns into verbs, there is a huge lacuna for Christ-like ones to step in and SHOW the world how POWERFUL verbalizing a noun can be really be, as in ‘fellowshiping’, or better still ‘truly loving’ as Christ loves us! 

Courage Crazy VS True

It takes courage to live a good life, but it takes ‘crazy courage’ to change the world. For better or for worse, it is the crazily courageous ones from Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Inc. to Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy Inc., that can’t help but change the world around them.

Most Christians don’t usually see themselves as being particularly courageous. Courageous Christianity is often relegated to the ones that get the ‘special calling’ to go to the frontier and work in some remote tribal village or somewhere in Iran or Egypt or Somalia. Other times, courage is associated with witnessing or going on short mission trips. What the movie ‘Courageous’ does best is to bring courage back into the everyday aspects of running a family and living a ‘normal’ Christian life.

When Howard Schultz thought he could sell a cup of Coffee for $4, when a gallon of gas was less than $2, people said he was crazy. Yes, Howard Schultz was crazy indeed. But, he was not JUST crazy. He had a crazy COURAGE to pursue his idea. Lo, and behold! Starbucks was born! This ‘crazy courage’ that the Howard Schultz-like high-stakes achievers have, is premised on the fact that they SEE something others don’t. Schultz’s ‘crazy idea’ has been successful because Schultz correctly diagnosed that urban progressives living lonely lives in a ‘fragmented society’ would gladly pay a premium for the ‘third space’ – the (pseudo-)community experience. Schultz courage was based on the fact that he could SEE something others couldn’t.

Likewise, the Christians in the movie ‘Courageous’ are courageous because that they SEE God in ways people in the Godless society don’t. What is this special way of seeing God that makes them stand out? 

The one attribute that all the men in ‘Courageous’ share is that, they SEE God as the ‘Sovereign Judge’ of all of life. In the movie, this idea keeps recurring often taking multiple forms in the life choices of the Christian men in ‘Courageous’.

1. Nathan admonishes David that he better be ready to face a Just God who’ll see to it that the hurt David caused the girl he impregnated and then dumped, is paid for. (This becomes the segway to present the Gospel – that David did not have the capital to pay for his crime and so Christ lovingly paid it on the cross). Sadly, none told Steve Jobs this truth when he did the same to the mother of his first biological child, the now Ms. Lisa Brennan Jobs.

2. Adam makes the tough call to incarcerate his pal, Shane, who has lost his integrity. Adam then reconciles with Shane explaining that it is not about them but about the Holy God who will judge them all.

3. Seeing God as the Sovereign Judge gives the financially broke Javier the ‘spine’ to not fall in line with the Boss’ crooked plans, even when it meant he would lose his long sought after dream job, and eventually his home too.

4. Seeing God as the Sovereign Judge, who is full of mercy and knows what He is doing, gives Adam the courage to raise his weak hands and thank the Lord for having given him 9 years with his sweet daughter who was hit by a drunk driver (if this scene in the movie does not make you shed a tear, there is probably very few things in life that will make you cry).

Often, SEEING God as the Sovereign Judge causes the modernized to bristle because the word ‘judge’ is often associated with the word ‘judgmental’ which rankles in the ears of the egalitarian society we live in. Ironically, even Christians don’t like to see God as the ultimate judge. Many find it disturbing. During a discussion about God being the judge in a Bible Study group someone said something that amounted to, “I think of God as love. I don’t find it useful to see God as the judge.”

Unfortunately, Christians often forget how God being the ultimate judge makes us truly courageous. Courage, is one’s willingness to relinquish something near and dear. God being the Sovereign Judge, means that God is the ultimate ‘valuer’ of life – God judges the ‘true value’ of people. In the movie ‘Fight Club’, Brad Pitt says, “What you have, will own you”. Even people who agree with this dictum, still have an obsession to possess things. Reason? Possessing things gives them a ‘sense of value’. A Christian who SEES God as the one who ultimately ‘judges’ his personal value, can courageously relinquish his yearning for processions, prestige and power, which non-Christians crave after. This relinquishing is ‘true courage’.

When a Christian realizes that God judges his ultimate value, he will, like Javier in ‘Courageous’, be willing to lose his home and remain poor, instead of colluding with the crooked and get rich. SEEING God as the ultimate judge of his ‘personal value’, gives Javier the courage resist the temptation of illicit riches. The materialistic moto of life, “Get Rich or Die Trying” is a total farce. In the Bible, Joseph saw God as his ultimate valuer which is why he was gladly willing to forgo the chance for illicit sex. Joseph depicted courage in ‘everyday living’ that landed him in prison. He lost something ‘near and dear’ – his freedom. But isn’t this courage to not succumb to the flesh, the greatest sort of freedom? A Christian needs to live everyday lives, by this sort of true courage. This sort of courage shouldn’t be relegated to just mission trips and witnessing to non-Christians.
A Christian who SEES the Lord and the Lord only as the judge of his ‘personal value’, will be freed to be truly courageous everyday of his life. Consequently, this Christian will not care for success in this temporal world. This Christian’s philosophy is the exact opposite of crazily courageous Steve Jobs when he said in a 1984 interview, “I don’t care about what is right or what is wrong. All I care about is success”. The ‘truly’ courageous don’t shoot for success in the eyes of men, they yearn for success in the eyes of God – they see God as the judge of their success. The ‘crazily’ courageous change the temporal, the ‘truly’ courageous affect eternity. Christians belong in the class of the ‘truly courageous’. The movie ‘courageous’ shows how. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1630036/

A Man! A Son of the King!

(Disclaimer: Even though the verbiage is explicitly masculine, the spirit and the underlying theology is androgynous)

Life moves
Through a heaviness
Sharp edges
All around

Can’t help
But move
Always forward
Always onward

Where’s Meaning?
Where’s Delight?
Distant Mirages
Rock underneath

Get cut
Get broken

Heavy life
Edges, razor sharp
Rock is hard
Cob webs confuse

Take a punch
In the gut
Bear a bullet
In the chest

Oh, the meaning
Oh, the delight
Of being a man
With a spine 

Back up, Standing
With the King’s Spirit
Brave and Strong – A man!
A son of the King!

Oh, What do We do With Burdensome Kids? Simple, Don’t Have Any!!!

I met a guy who had just become a father for the second time. I was inquiring on the health of his infant son. I was a surprised when suddenly he said, “you know what, babies are costly”. Of course, babies are ‘priceless’. But he actually meant, “kids are ‘high maintenance'”.  I replied, “Oh, well… of course, kids cost money. But kids are what we live for… at the end of the day”. He replied, “Yes, that is a good way to look at it.”

Sometime back, I was talking with a guy from Church. He was well employed and married. He said that his wife wanted kids, but he wanted to postpone it. He said he might be able to hold out for another two years before acquiescing to his wife’s wishes.  Once upon a time, I think kids were seen as a ‘blessing from God’. But now, by default, kids are seen as a ‘liability’ to be avoided as much as possible or accepted as the last resort.

Why do we live in a world where kids instead of being seeing as ‘blessings’ are seen as ‘liabilities’ monetarily and more. Broadly speaking, pre-modern values dictated the man lived for the sake of his progeny. In the book ‘How Then Shall We Live’, Francis Schaeffer says that, in contrast to the pre-modern values, the ultra-modern man see two primary values worthy of pursuit, ‘affluence’ and ‘personal peace’. Kids are a threat to both. Today, if you would go and tell an urban ‘progressives’, “you live for you kids”. He/she will probably wonder, “Wow!!! So my life is not about who I want to be? It is about the kids?”

I was chatting with a childhood friend of mine. She had been married for about 4 years. She said that her husband did not want to have kids yet. I asked why. “Oh well, he thinks he is still in his teens and wants to enjoy life more before having kids”. Pre-modern man saw marriage as a means to have children. Ultra-modern man sees marriage as a means for ‘personal fulfillment’. He’ll have kids only as long as he see that as a means to ‘personal fulfillment’ of some sort.

The young Steve Jobs is a case in point. He impregnated a girl (I believe in his early 20s) and refused to own up to it for 2 years. His court documents state, “that he couldn’t be a father because he was ‘sterile and infertile, and as a result thereof, did not have the physical capacity to procreate a child.'” Later on in his life, he adored his kids he “procreated” with a different woman. This goes to the point that in the early part of his life, the kid was too burdensome to be fulfilling that he was willing to do anything to disown it, even call himself infertile. Most modern men wouldn’t go to the extent of disowning their kids, but they’ll do quite a bit to not have them in the first place.

I recently read through Genesis in my daily ‘quite time’ routine. One thing that really stuck me was how much of Genesis hangs around the idea of offspring. It is almost all of life’s meaning is drawn from the life of kids. Right at the beginning God starts talking about ‘multiplying’ and filling the earth. Then the story is about Adam and Eve and their children. Then Noah and his children. Then Abraham waits so long for a kid. Without Isaac’s birth, Abraham would have been a blip in the radar. During the time of Isaac, Isaac does not have kids. He prays and gets Jacob and Eusa. Then the story is more about Jacob and Eusa. During Jacob’s time it  about how he gets to have 12 kids and then it is about Joseph. This focus of Genesis on the offspring makes a lot of sense, because, at the end of the day, the baton has to be passed so that the Name of the Lord is ultimately glorified and His blessings is carried forward through all the Nations. Christians of this generation don’t appear to be doing enough to pass on this baton.

Sociologists say that for any culture to thrive, each family on an average has to have about 2.5 kids. If it goes below this, then the culture would begin to die slowly. In fact the reason why Islam is spreading much faster than Christianity is because Christians have a lot fewer kids than Muslims.

I, being the disinterested observer, it is easy for me to say people should have more kids. It is easy for me to raise thorny questions. God has given us mandate for procreation and for preservation, and there is a balance between the two. I realize there are no easy answers. Life is hard work. Life is complex. Life is confusing. Nevertheless, I think unless we STOP seeing marriage primarily as a means to ‘personal fulfillment’ and start seeing it primarily through God’s intended purpose of procreation, there is very little in this world to encourage people living in individualistic cultures to have kids. Living in consumerist societies, we want everything cheap, Kids being priceless is something that is out of our league. Sadly so! 

My September Posts in Facebook

Well, Steve Jobs is ok. He is still the Chairman of the Board. Techie journalists – please STOP eulogizing…

A lady and a gentle man with a heavy British ascent stopped me to ask for directions to their destination. The man kept repeating, that he recalled that ‘there was a BIG parking space’ next to the destination. I wanted to say, “Buddy, that does not help. I don’t know about Britain, but in Texas all parking lots are BIG.”

I would rather be remembered as a failure than not be remembered at all, for in the scope of Eternity even failure has a purpose.

A warrior that has nothing to worship outside of himself will end up warring against his own self. A man who isn’t drawn outside of himself in worship and war will end up self-obsessed and consequently self-destruct.

Life is filled with choices. With choices come multi-pronged ‘tensions’. Man, puny as he is has to trust in luck or in God’s Sovereignty to ‘work it ALL for the ultimate good’. Trust in God’s Sovereignty gives a better framework to make brave choices, after all a man trusting in luck will be hard pressed to embrace Martyrdom.

Isn’t it a blessed day when you get back from work after 00:00 hours but you still feel so full of energy because work was so exciting!!!

Hedgehog or the Fox – I am Happy to be the Hedgehog

A dear friend of mine commented that it was impressive that I found different ways to say the same thing in my blogs. She meant it as a compliment. It was a compliment that sort of made me self-conscious about all that I write about.

When I look back at my writing, I do realize that I start from different places, juggle disparate ideas but always end at one ‘all unifying’ theme – – the supremacy of the Lord, His Word and His Work. In fact, I think this started very early in my life. I clearly remember the comments of some of my friends during my college days, that I took everything and turned it into something about God. Later on, I came to know from some a friend that my  tying everything back to matters that have to do with God was pissing off some folks in our class. I toned  down my expositions, but now with the blogs I feel free.

As I thought about this further, I realized the reason why I always tied everything back to God is because I can’t help it. It is the one thing that makes me passionate. There was a time when I was sharing my thought about God in emails to people and one of my good friends suggested that I start a blog in stead of bothering people with emails. So I start blogging in addition to bothering people with emails about my thoughts on God.

On the other hand, this realization that all my posts almost have monolithic themes made me feel like I was dumb. There was a point at which I started wondering if I should rather just stop writing and do something more worth my while. That was when I came across a part of Isaiah Berlin’s essay ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’. The ancient Greek Poet Archilocus said, “a fox knows many things, a hedgehog knows one big thing”. Thinkers have historically fallen under two categories – Universalists and the Paticularists. Universalists come from the Platonic school of thinking in which they are always trying to synthesis ideas to bring it up to one BIG universal idea. Paticularists follow the Aristotelian way of thinking in that they allow the paticulars to remain as they are, categorize them separately, instead of trying to find the Universal idea that ties them together.

Berlin goes on to say that by this classification, Shakespeare was a fox and Dostoevsky is a hedgehog. Shakespeare let things be as they are, was content explaining them as they are without any need to find a metaphysical unity. On the other hand Dostoevsky was always trying to point to something high up above, trying to say there was more to it than met the eye. Shakespeare’s work is like a masterful painting. Dostoevsky’s is like a towering peak that one had to climb to have the panoramic view of the world from this higher vantage point.

So this meant that I don’t have to be apologetic that almost all my posts have one central theme. Foxes have their place. Hedgehogs have theirs. If I am to be a Hedgehog, I’ll be happy to be the Hedgehog. I’ll continue writing about the central theme of supremacy of the Lord, His Word and His Work!

Not Tired of Steve Jobs… Yet! Ok, But What NEXT?

Last week today, I went home, logged onto facebook, read my friend’s status update ‘Black Day – Job died’ and got warped into a timelessness capsule. I had to add that surreal moment to the will-remember-where-I-was-when-I-heard-it list. The last one on the list was Michael Jackson. (/emmanuelreagan/2009/06/michel-jackson-timeless-or-timeless.html).

Since then, I have spent quite a bit of my time, reading about Mr. Steven Paul Jobs. Even today, a week after his passing, I still can’t resist a news article that analyses and praises his deep passion for technology, his prescience in uncovering the deep needs of human nature, his sense of aesthetics etc… It was today that I wondered, why I do not get tired of Steve Jobs? Is it just curiosity? Of course, I am a ‘curious cat’. But even when I read things about him which do not add to my knowledge-base and consequently cannot satisfy my curiosity, I still happily read on. Why?, probably because I admire him.

The Christian reads the Bible for similar reasons. We don’t just read the Bible because it satisfies our curiosity (which it does by the way, at multiple levels), but because it is about someone who is to be admired – the One Sovereign God who is the most beautiful person ever. There are times when I have said in some Bible Study groups, “God is the most beautiful person ever”, and have gotten the Dude-you-are-weird looks from others. I don’t care that I look weird, not just because I know I am weird (everyone is weird to some extent, some more than others. God creates diversity. :P), but because I know when it comes to matters of admiring the Lord’s beauty, I am in good company .

Psalm 27:4 This only have I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

It behoves me to note that this sort of seeking to gaze on the Lord’s beauty is not easy for fallen men, which is why in the first part of the verse, David pleads with the Lord to make it possible for him to only seek after the Lord… ‘This only have I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after’

David’s reference to ‘House of the Lord’ and ‘His Temple’ refers to life in Heaven as well. Imagine living forever and ever doing nothing but gazing on the Lord and inquiring to know more about Him. Would it be boring after a few days? Heavens, NO! Why? Because the Lord is the most beautiful person ever. He is worthy of all admiration. If a finite man by the name Steve Jobs can inspire me to spend so much time reading about him, how much more can an Infinite God inspire me to spend an Eternity trying to know him more and more and more and more and more… and a thousand, thousand time more!!!

When a Christian reads the Bible and get on his knees to pray, he is just having a foretaste of that Eternal pleasure of getting to know Him, which is what makes the ‘Quite Time’ the most exciting time of the day. To call the time spent reading the Bible and Praying as ‘Quite Time’ is I think, a terrible misnomer. I would rather call it ‘Pleasure Time’ or ‘Delight Time’ or ‘Exciting Time’ or ‘Gazing on the Lord Time’ for that is what it is.

When we read the Bible and Pray we don’t get get into some laconic, dull, comatose state. Rather, ‘kindled’ by the Holy Spirit, we get to do the thing we most enjoy to do – admire the Lord. We get excited – like a jock watching his favourite star play Football – like a nerd reading the Lord of the Rings – like a non-philistine listening to Beethoven’s 5th.

Christians are excited to gaze upon the Lord and this is one thing they’ll do it in this life and continue doing to a greater extent of pleasure and contentment in the NEXT one too. Steve Jobs did so much towards making this life meaningful and exciting. He famously said, “life is short, don’t live someone else’s”. But honestly, I wonder how much thought he put into the flip side of that exhortation – finding excitement and meaning in the NEXT life after this short one! If Jobs doesn’t find his NEXT life exciting and meaningful, this may be the first time his much admired prescience to anticipate future needs and improvise upon it from the present, has let him down. But then death stumps even the Strong!!!

Ps: ‘NExT’, by the way, is the name of the company Jobs founded after he was originally dumped by Apple. NExT was spectacularly idealistic. It was true to ALL of Jobs’ perfectionist visionary ideals of creating the NEXT revolution in computers. It made great products, but wasn’t that successful. NExT was bought by Apple and its OS became the core to Apple’s successful OS X. But the biggest asset that Apple got with the NExT acquisition was the legend Steve Jobs… Reverting back to the point of this post, having an unbiblical perspective of life makes even the longsighted, short-sighted, the strong, weak and the brilliant, foolish. Steve Jobs famously said in a 1985 interview, “I don’t care much about what is right or wrong. I care for success”. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, I guess success doesn’t matter as much as wisdom from the Lord!

Not Ultimate, But Important

I made a case in my blog on ‘Lion King’ that this world is NOT ultimate and that as Christians, for us the next world is the ultimate one. This is true, but this does not mean that this world isn’t important. This world is important because Jesus Christ inaugurated the Kingdom of God in this world and we are a part of the Kingdom of God. In this ‘Kingdom of God’, each of us human beings have an important part to play and we need to fulfill that role.

As I noted in an earlier blog about Horses and Christians, Christians need to go out into the world and start building hospitals and corporations and orphanages and make good movies, paint beautiful paintings etc… But all of this apart, the most important goal for Christian living is to be conformed to the Image of Christ. Whether you are building a hospital or a corporation or orphanages or good movies, or great paintings, the Holy Spirit is working in you to conform you to the image of Christ and that is what truly determines success in life, this is why this life though isn’t ultimate, is important nevertheless.