A Fear of Whales

A Fear of Whales

A Creed

posted by rgaffney

I’ve been working for a while on a new kind of creed. I want to figure out what a belief statement would look along the lines of the Apostles or Nicean creed, that focused less on the historical facts, and more on the teachings of Jesus and living as a christian. This Is what I’ve come up with, It’s a work in progress, this is my third draft in as many years.

I Believe in the Christian Life

In the depravity of mankind.

And in the desperate need of every human being for love

 

I believe that the world will be a better place if everyone who was asked to walk a mile, walked two, and everyone who was asked for a hundred foreskins gave two hundred.

I believe that is more productive to respond to someone who has hurt me by allowing him to hurt me again, than it is to hurt him in turn.

Though I often fail, I believe in loving my enemies.

 

I believe that more can be accomplished through peace than through violence. That wars can be won by laying down to die. And that under the right circumstances victories can be earned only by admitting defeat.

 

I believe in truth

I believe that truth is always better than falsehood, that it should be sought after, fought for, and protected

 

I believe that everyone everywhere is important, and that the things that separate us mean less than the things that unite us.

 

I believe that men are supposed to cry. And so are women. I also believe we are supposed to laugh, and sneeze and live life,

 

I believe in life, in love, in hope, in faith, in sacrifice

 

I don’t believe I should hide, and pretend like I’m the same as other people, but sometimes I wish the televangelists would.

 

I am a Christian. This is what I believe.

 

Oh Yeah, I also think some stuff happened in Jerusalem a long time ago.

Not Exactly My Fault

posted by rgaffney

I was going throughDallas Airport Transportation my phone tonight. Particularly the notepad app where I store little tidbits of information that I don’t want to write on scraps of paper lest I lose them. Contact info, driving directions, ideas for books, those sorts of things. Once in a while I write down a lesson I’ve learned or a thought to ponder, so as I went through my phone tonight, I got an opportunity to remind myself of things of some life lessons I’d forgotten.

One note I found was about a time a little over a year ago when I was at the Dallas airport with Don, on my way to a gathering of evangelists who specializes in apologetics so see if I might have a future in their organization. Don was, and persists to be one of the kindest and most sanctified men I have ever known, and he had mentored me for a year or so in his ideology of ministry, this trip was a sort of a culmination of that.
As we were waiting for the layover in Dallas I got myself distracted and lost track of time. When I eventually returned to the Gate, Don was there waiting for me, with a smile on his face, to inform me that I’d missed my flight, and that he had waited so I wouldn’t have to fly alone. Then he rescheduled our flights and took me out to dinner.

That however, despite being awesome, is not what the note was about. I had written it down to remind myself how I felt afterwards, as we continued to travel. It was a tremendous amount of personal responsibility.

I had caused Don to miss his flight, and in so doing, I sent us into a contingency plan, after that, No matter what went wrong, I felt it was at least partially my fault. If I hadn’t of missed the flight we wouldn’t even be here.

And I realized. Isn’t that always the case? No matter what you do or where you are, or what goes wrong in your life, In some ways it was only able to happen because of you and the choices you’ve made to impact the world. If things were different, things would be different.

In my phone The line in the note said:

“This helps me take responsibility for things which aren’t exactly my fault”

What a lesson! How often am I accused of something falsely and I curl up and get defensive and look at everything else that caused it. The fact is everything might have been different if I had done different things, and I can own that. And if there’s even a low percentage of responsibility that’s mine, well then I have to admit that if that percentage weren’t there, it probably wouldn’t have happened.

Now I can say it “I’m sorry about that”

I got out of a relationship a few months ago and I was totally exhausted. My girlfriend and I had been fighting to make it work for months, and both of us are really good at fighting. She became generally unsatisfied with me and I felt there was nothing I could do to change that. Anything she asked me to do or change or improve about myself that I succeeded in doing, in my mind only reminded her of 10 more things she needed fixed about me.
As a result when it finally ended, I got this breath of fresh air and self justification. I felt, and with considerable support, that she was simply unsatisfiable, and that no matter what I did to please her it would not have been enough. After all I had bent over backwards in many ways and it didn’t seem even to help, let alone solve, the problem.

I felt perfectly justified to say “It’s all her fault. If she would have been satisfied by anything I would have found it, I would have climbed any mountain for her, but even if I had she would have just coldly told me that she wanted me to climb a bunch more. There was nothing I could do, It’s her!”

There was another note in my phone tonight.

It read: “Plumerias, Gladiolas, Jasmine, Garden Roses”

Those were her favorite flowers.

There was a time in our relationship (or, as happens to be the case, a time just before our relationship) when I was so enamored with her and excited to surprise and please her, that when I happened to overhear her mention her favorite flowers I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget.

Shoot man. I barley got her flowers at all near the end. When I did I got her regular roses. She liked garden roses, with the vines. I forgot!

Something somewhere in me that was there in the beginning of the relationship left. I stopped caring enough to surprise her with flowers. I started to feel imposed upon by her.

And it’s true that forgetting about flowers, that my losing that lovin’ feeling isn’t what finally killed the relationship, but it’s also true that if things were different, things would be different.

So now I can say it “I’m sorry… It could have been different if not for me”

And I hope I can learn to be sorry more often for even those things that aren’t exactly my fault

Freeeeeedom!

posted by rgaffney

BraveheartThe lesson in church today was out of 1 Peter, and it began with a discussion question for the tables we were seated at “If you could be free from anything what would you want freedom from, What would that do?”

it was pretty clear where the pastor was headed bless his heart. We were all supposed to name silly things like freedom from weight gain, or

punishment, or busyness, and then he was going to flip it on us and show that what we really need freedom from is our sin.

Would you like some milk with that colostrum?

Meanwhile we at the table were playing the small group game where we go in a circle and each say the same right answer in a different way so as not to make anyone feel like they already answered it because it’s a stupid obvious question. “Temptation” ,no for me it’s “doubt” I’m saying “the flesh”…

But there’s actually something that’s really good here. I don’t know if it was by design or not, but this becomes really interesting when you leverage wish fulfillment.

If you could choose, which would you rather have: Freedom from the responsibility to righteousness or freedom from sin nature?

If God approached you and said “Tell ya what, I’ll give you a free pass, You can love me while doing whatever the hell you want with no moral consequences, or if you’d rather, I’ll take away your old self so you won’t be tempted anymore” Which would you take?

Obviously the correct church answer is the sin nature but would you really rather have that? I for one think a very strong case could be made for the freedom from righteousness!

Knowing God, It’s better to love him and serve him then rebel against the world the way he made it, obviously. But if he was willing to give you a let you off the hook, and say “Don’t you wish I made it this way?” I might be tempted to say “yes I do!”

Put another way: If pleasing God was not an issue, would you rather live in sin or righteousness?
Sin really has it’s advantages!

I still pick righteousness.

I know, I’m sorry I’m landing with the right answer people. But I do really think that’s better. That virtue is it’s own reward if only I could get past this stinking flesh.

I believe that it is a more extravagant gift to free me from what I want than to give me what I want.
Do you believe that?

Don’t just rightanswer me and say you believe that because you’re supposed to, think about it for a sec, there’s more here than meets the eye.

You could have what you want, still worship God, still go to heaven, no guilt. Or you could die to the flesh. Do you want that?

Ok now here’s my next question. Do you think the world wants that?
I kind of think they do.

The Car Accident Incident

posted by rgaffney

A strange thing happened the other night… I was out for a walk late at night, and I found that the intersection by my house was all blocked off in police tape because of an accident, walking by I could clearly see two cars involved, and a body in the street covered by a tarp, somebody had died. I walked by slowly, for once appreciating the opportunity to see how collisions are  handled  without holding up traffic, and noticed one of the parties involved was being questioned by the police with her family. I decided to continue with my walk, musing as I went about the fragility of life and the fact that at the moment this happened, I was less than a mile away telling jokes with my neighbors.
By the time I returned en route back to my house, one of the lanes had been cleared, most of the shrapnel had been cleaned up, and the family was sitting on a bench outside the police line, One woman who had clearly been driving, was bent over in tears. My heart went out to the woman and her family, she had killed a man that night, she knew it, and she obviously felt the full significance of that. I heard someone way "Well, they say we're free to go" and the woman looked up from her tears and choked out the words "You mean, they're not gonna pit me in prison?" almost in unison the family responded "NO! you're okay it was an accident, the police know that" As her they tried to comfort her I quietly and politely walked by, or at least I tried to.
This is probably a good time to mention that I'm pretty skeptical as Christians go, I don't do a lot based on emotion or tradition, I like facts and figures. This translates poorly into certain doctrines and certain spiritual experiences. For instance, I have never been "slain in the spirit". I don't speak in tongues, I hate it when people investigate first dates in terms of "God's will for their life" and I have never, ever, felt supernatural pressure to talk to, pray for, or evangelize a stranger. Ever!…until the other night.
So God and I had this argument in my head that went something as follows. (if you're reading and you're not a Christian, The voice of God sounds to me much like a thought in my head. Sometimes I get the two confused, but in situations like this where I'm apparently thinking things I disagree with it's easier to tell)
So In my head I said  "Boy I sure hope God puts some people in her life that can help her through her grief" and the idea arrived in my head that went something like "I just did"
This all happened very fast, and I'd love to say that at that moment I realized that it made no sense to be arguing with the almighty in my head and proceeded to make the right decision, but i didn't have time to think that through before I retorted back "No I mean like a grief counselor or something, someone who's an expert in this…" and almost as soon as the thought was formed it dawned on me…" You're a Pastor"…
"Shoot, missed opportunity, I'm already passed them now"
"You could go back"
"I can't go back, that's awkward, that's weird, this person does not need another stranger who…"
"What did you think you were on this walk for anyway?"
…Well now that shut me up. I don't know, I had just felt the need to take a walk, It's not normally my style to leave a social environment to go for a walk but sometimes you just need a walk, and now I'm here, and there was this accident and this woman needs someone to comfort her, and I'm arguing with myself that I need to go back and…Got it, I need to go back.
So I turned back towards them, the oldest son caught my eyes and I felt completely creepy, I was a total stranger, younger than anyone there, wearing  jean shorts and a cotton green sportcoat from a thrift store, walking towards them… barefoot…
"Hi… I'm so sorry to but my nose where it doesn't belong, but… Is there anything I can do To help?….I'm a pastor, Can I pray for you?
The man didn't pause "Yeah!" he said nodding "That's okay ma?"
She looked up at me "Yes….I'm Jewish, but…"
I smiled, "That's okay" I said waving my hand
The group gathered around in a circle there was about 8 of us, I put my hands on the backs of the women to either side of me, the driver was across from me, her name was Fran, and we all prayed together, a Christian pastor, a Jewish mother, certainty some people who hadn't prayed in years if ever. It was a simple prayer, lasting no longer than a minute, I called on God as Father, to hold us closer in the wake of this tragedy, and to help us to life out our days in this fallen world, I prayed specifically for Fran to be filled with a sense of his love and forgiveness of her, that she'd know she is always loved and always accepted.
When the prayer was over she looked at me, holding back tears. "Thank you! Thank You….thank you." and she gave me a hug and then headed to her car to go home.
As I left another woman approached me "You're a pastor?…Where do you work." I briefly explained and she said "I mean where can I find you? I'm a lost lamb, I need a church" So I have her my contact info to help her find a place locally.
And that's the story, that's it. No fire from heaven, no spirit descending like a dove, she didn't accept Christ that night, she just prayed with me, and I think it helped.

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