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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pity.


Pity., originally uploaded by Christopher Rauch.



  My neighbor is getting a divorce for Christmas.
     My heart breaks. (For some reason, people talk to me, and I am amazed repeatedly at the level of disclosure individuals communicate to me casually. There is a post in there somewhere, but I digress.)
     I remember my divorce. It nearly killed me, and even today- 4 years hence, I get a little funny, slow to let a woman get to know me.
     My parents divorced when I was eleven, and my sister was two. I think of this, when my neighbor's children speak to me. The call me Mr. Chris, or in the case of the little girl, Mwistah Kwis. I get along with children, though I have none of my own. I wonder about this sometimes, what these two find winsome about me. I have been told I appear intimidating, and that I am arrogant. Nonetheless, my neighbor's kids have taken to me like fish to water. I actually have had to be a little firm. The little shits began to just walk up in my house, without so much as a knock on the door, like they owned the place. This is not a good in today's world, when a man lives alone. I liked it though. I was a little sad that I had to put a stop to it.
    The kids know something is going on, and they say hello as we bump into one another in the driveway, spectators... watching mom and dad dismantle the family they have grown up thinking of as their world, an integral part of themselves. People come help Dad, and take some stuff to one place, and other people come help Mom, and take stuff to some other place. It's like we're are watching the amputation of a limb, but they are too anesthetized to fully comprehend the import of this operation, and the fact that it is happening to them. They will never forget this Christmas.
     The teenagers are a little more distant. It's the young ones that think of me as one of their peeps. The kids I'm talking about are maybe four and six. I've taken pictures of them. Let them disrupt my schedule. Packed up bottles of water and  taken them for a walk. They are delighted with my dog, Suzy. To watch her catch a frisbee is a huge treat for them, and Mr. Chris is a magician, or a prophet. I wish I had had children, and I am angry. I grieve. I wish they were gonna have a better Christmas. I remember being in their position...
     I walked home from school, to the first house my family owned.... less than a mile from where I live today. (actually, my parents bought a house previously, before we PSCed, but I was too young to remember.) Someone, either Mom or Dad told me to come to my room, downstairs. There, my mother explained to me that she would leave, as my father remained silent. I imagine this was negotiated. I think the deal was: "This is your idea, YOU tell him." My mother was crying, struggling to speak, explaining details beyond my comprehension. I began to cry.
     Everyone was crying.
     I'm not gonna go too far down that path in this post, but of all the things where I may bear some slight resemblance to my savior, my feelings about divorce are probably as close as humanly possible to the divine benchmark. God hates divorce, and so do I. Donald Miller tells us that some 80 percent (I think... don't quote me) of our prison inmates grew up without a father in the house.
     I wonder what went through God's mind when he divorced Israel. I second guessed. I agonized. I wondered if I was giving up to soon. At least I had someone I could pray to. That staggers me. God went through a divorce, and he had no one to pray to. I know today that divorce is distressingly common, and these kids won't stick out like sore thumbs, the way my sister and I did, but still my heart goes out, and I am sad for them.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Playing with Fire...


Playing with Fire..., originally uploaded by Christopher Rauch.


Of each the work shall become manifest, for the day shall declare it, because in fire it is revealed, and the work of each, what kind it is, the fire shall prove; 1 Corinthians 3;13
Do I really want to drag my feet with this? No, I don't think so... I need to redouble my efforts. I have been blessed to feel like I've been spoke to, and at times months, years, eternities have gone by when the foxhole prayers of self-centeredness have bounced off the ceiling. This daunting challenge is a good thing.
    
 "I have a plan for you. It's not gonna be entirely what you think, but I have shown you in dreams a shadow, a translucent abstraction of the potential life that awaits you, should you do your part. I will not force you. and I will not make everything easy for you. You tend to get a little childish when you get blessings without effort. My Grace is yours. Take it, run with it. Tighten up. 
     I want you to do a few things... I want you to quit smoking. Some people smoke all their lives, and die of natural causes. This will not be the case with you, and you approach the point where procrastination will sign your death warrant. Obey me in  this, and see what I do. Quit rejecting the directive to make an attempt at a task I put in front of you, out of fear of failure or loneliness. This, I will not reward. I want and expect you to TRY. 
     You  must remember Zombieland rule # 1 (cardio). Do not let my lenience mislead you. Though you are in amazing shape considering your lifestyle, harsh reality awaits around the corner,if you don't get a handle on this. Irreparable damage may have already been done. You have your father's genes, and have been denied his quality of health care all your adult life. My pity will only carry you so far.
     Tell yourself no. Much more often than you have the habit of doing. You take solace in the fact that you have had many bad habits taken from you, and feel like you deserve to relax. It sounds suspiciously like you are taking credit for how far I have brought you. Beware.
     Stay single for a season. This is not something I will require of you forever, but you are busy, and  broken. You carry this liability into every romance, damaging yourself, and my daughters. Become the man I have given you the ability to be, first. You have ignored my gentle persuasion and it has littered your past with broken hearts including your own. Be careful, lest you die alone, only half of the flesh I intend for you to be. Do this and see how I amaze you. Has my fingertip upon your life not left you awestruck many times in the past? Trust me.
     Handle your studies to the best of your abilities. Your self-pity, and worry will leach success from your future. Do your part, and I shall do mine. Talk to me. Every day, spend at least a few brief moments with me. This will improve your concentration, which you desperately need. You should stop running away from your feelings with writing and photography. You abuse these skills when you do so. This little thing you do is not what I gave you these skills for. Prioritize. Learn to manage the things you need for the future I have waiting for you, and see how much space I open in your schedule... remember I invented time. 
     You've cut it pretty close, but we can do this. With your honest surrender, I can pull this off."



I think what He's telling me, in other words, is: 'You've come a long way... don't fuck this up.'

Friday, September 2, 2011

Intimacy with God... The Hierarchy of Desire


Intimacy with God, originally uploaded by Christopher Rauch.


     Can reverence coexist with intimacy? are respect and reverence on the same continuum? I remember fear going hand in hand with respect, As in my early relationship with my father, but this was hardly reverential. A popular (it seems) statement is that "fear" in the bible can be more accurately translated as reverential trust, but it seems to me, that contextually, this can not always be the case... for instance there is a passage where Jesus admonishes his listeners to not fear who can only kill the body, but rather, sensibly enough, to fear or fear more, the one who can destroy the body as well as the soul. Also, there is a passage where he warns in the parable of the servant who is forgiven a great debt...of the wrath that awaits if we do not forgive others. To substitute reverential trust for the mainstream concept of fear, makes both of these passages unworkable, does it not? I have a yardstick in my relational concept of the earthly father/son relationship that provides a basis for me to intuit/remember fear and intimacy side by side, though most definitely...the more fear... the less intimacy. 
     It is difficult to reconcile reverence with intimacy...I associate intimacy with words like comfortable, relaxed, and familiar. I do not associate these with reverence. Can a man choose his feelings? We can act reverential, but this seems religious, and legalistic instead of relational. I seem powerless to choose my feelings. I cannot even choose to feel fear, but simply act wary if I think I should be cautious. My God, the God of the Bible, is so difficult to pin down and to understand. For so many years, to feel like I know someone has been equated with having a feel for their character, a knowledge of what they may say or do in certain situations. I am comfortable with the notion that paradox is inescapeable when considering the Maker of All Things, but still...Reverence is a form of Awe...or is it?
     This is difficult to think through and duty calls (sleep calls, too). Perhaps it is like a father who requires his sons to call him "Sir" (my own father did not do this, though for a brief period I addressed him as "Sir" because one of my friends did this with their dad, and I thought it was cool.) Resolution eludes me... but I feel that it is perhaps arrogant, this angst I feel. To insist fruitlessly that God interact with me according to the template of my experience and expectation.


Good Night.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I am Stepping up...


Stepping up., originally uploaded by Christopher Rauch.  View the LARGE version

to the plate.
     In soooo many different ways. Dat's whats up. Tonight, on the Starbucks patio, I have coffee at my right hand, and a good cigar in my left. I have been in constant motion for days and tonight I have chosen to sacrifice a little sleep to get my bearings. I am taking stock. I am evaluating a few priorities and taking a personal inventory. 
     I have been accepted into the nursing program. It has taken me over three years to get here (really it's taken about eight... I needed a few years before I could even find the balls to listen to that quiet little voice in my head, and look at the picture I kept seeing...) When I began this journey, I wasn't even a high school graduate. Now, three years hence, I have graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Georgia Military College, and I am awestruck when I pause to consider the sheer enormity of what God has accomplished with an attention-deficit dyslexic who left home at seventeen without ever having learned how to live. I have a degree today, and I am engaged in seeking another one. I dream of one day being able to provide for a family, and impact my world in a positive way for the glory of my God. I also hope like hell that this is not entirely my idea, but my faith in this grows stronger with every miraculously opened door, and I have finally come to a place where I am at least a little bit comfortable with letting God handle his end and concentrating on mine. Concentration is not my strong suite, especially if I am distracted trying to handle God's business.
      As soon as I decided to go back to school, my dying marriage took a nose dive, and I ended up getting a divorce. As I was driving across town to have my wife sign the papers, I got a phone call. My father had died. The next forty eight hours were incredible, and I have never been the same. Depression seems to come and go, and returning to school after a twenty five year break has been indescribably stressful. I got more than a little crazy, and still have a difficult time remembering how I managed to get through school with the grades needed to make it into the nursing program at my college. Several times it seemed that someone else was in the driver's seat, and I am grateful. I have also become aware of how unlikely my success was, in the face of my lifestyle and attitude. The stakes are now much higher, both financially and emotionally. I really don't want to deal with the consequences of dropping this ball, and it has become important to come to clarity about my big picture, what I have been doing wrong, and what needs to change in order to pull this off.
     A little over nine months ago, I heard the clue phone start ringing, and when I answered it... it turned out to be for me. Whaddya know. The voice on the line basically said: "You're fucking up. Not only do I have a much better life prepared for you, but I have a job for you to do, and you're not doing it!"
     I argue with God often, (though he has yet to strike me dead, obviously.) This time, I took the divine asschewing without complaint. I knew I had it coming. I was miserable. I was wallowing in self -pity and had fallen into depression. I was drinking daily, and had returned to some old ways of thinking, which I've posted about earlier. In my anger and disappointment, my prayers became arrogant, accusatory, and infrequent. I began romantic involvement immediately, and began to take several hundred pictures a week. Anything to avoid dealing with multifaceted grief, grow the fuck up, and learn how to live. My life was a mess, and I was ripe for the divine wake up call. I had  gotten off track, to say the least. I am among other things, a mystic. Many of us pray. If the surveys are to be believed, even atheists pray, but as Andy Stanley says, a mystic is someone who believes God talks back...or talks period, I forget which. 
     C.S. Lewis tells us that God "whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, and shouts to us in our pain; It is his megaphone to rouse a dying world." My world was dying, and I heard the shout. I have, along with the every other living creature, experienced my share of pain. I have slowly, stubbornly learned to recognize the voice of my God in these instances, and further- have been growing ever more sensitive to the speaking and whispering. Still, he must shout at me from time to time, because, like D.L. Moody, the sensitivity to God's voice leaks out of me, through the many holes in my character.
     Anyway, I heard the message and made the decision to return to habits and disciplines that had brought me so far, and helped me so much in the past. I began to again seek personal growth, and the struggle to redefine and rebuild my life, this time with a commitment to surrender to God's design for the life of Chris Rauch. 
     Now, a decision is one thing, and for the most part, an indispensible prerequisite to intentional progress, but it is in the theatre of practical application that the rubber truly meets the road. In my resolve, I must answer the question: “How do I do this?" For me, the renovation of life is a process, and it begins with constructive action. I work out before I develop muscles. My inclination is to lose weight, develop muscular definition, and then start going to the gym, but things don’t work this way. I have to figure out what to do. To obtain knowledge I must go to those who profess to have it… and if I am wise, I will go to those professors who are actively engaged in ongoing practical application. The best hospitals are research hospitals, and the best universities are those that research the frontiers of knowledge. 
     Self-actualization, as defined by Maslow, is when the desire for fulfillment drives us to reach our maximum potential. When our life is lacking joy/fulfillment, this absence drives us to grow. So the question for me is "Who is busy today, taking practical action to reach self actualization? Who is doing the research?" 
     I find upon reflection that it is usually not the politicians, not the proponents of religious piety, and not the millions of couch potatoes that claim Oprah Winfry as their guru. In all of these cross sections of western society, those who actively seek personal growth are a tiny minority. Honestly, there is no demographic that that is not dominated by apathy, but there is a global community represented my members of all areas of humanity where the minority seeking to actively improve their lives reaches the point of statistical significance. This is the recovery movement. The Twelve Step Programs. It is the alcoholics, the addicts, the codependents, the gamblers, and the compulsively promiscuous, that are driven by the pain of their dysfunction, to apply spiritual principles in their lives and strive toward their maximum potential. These people with all their failings, are my teachers. 
     
     I'll post next on the twelve steps programs, and my take on how the steps operate, but it is late, and this post has gotten a helluva a lot longer than I intended. 


"Now, With God's Help, I Shall Become Myself" ~ Soren Kierkegaard.
   


       Good Night. :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Fear of the Lord


Easter Sunrise on Lake Joy, originally uploaded by Christopher Rauch.

     Long ago, someone told me that fear, when used in the Old Testament, is best translated as 'reverential trust'. After a little critical thinking, with an average IQ, it becomes apparent that this can't always be the case. Of course, if you read in the original languages, you already know this... hopefully. Fear of the Lord can simply be trepidation over a divine ass-kicking, but  it occurs to me that divine revelation of myself can also be a fearful event, even when my faith that God loves me is strong. This is because I may have to deal with something. To discoverer things about myself that are deeply dysfunctional, self- destructive, or shameful generates dismay. On one level I would rather be a couch potato than mentally get off my ass and turn my awareness toward something that robs me of my potential, and degrades my self esteem. My house can deteriorate around me, but lets see whats on the tube...
    The point of this is that I'd forgotten something that I knew, something I was taught long ago. Tonight I remembered it. Exhaustion can facilitate self-honesty, and tonight... tonight I am freaking exhausted. My work schedule has been demanding and it seems as if someone else is driving. The sleep deficit has increased, and with it my reserves of self control in the little decisions of life... go to bed, clean up, do your paperwork, call  people you have relationships with... Contemplate the next stretch of road on your path. My exhaustion can hobble me, slowing motivation and impacting the decision making process. On the other hand, my exhaustion can be a stone upon which to sharpen the tools of self assessment. As the mind grows weary, it begins to conserve energy, and the effort directed toward self deception is arrested. Sometimes, there is a magic place, a relatively thin slice of the fatigue spectrum where we catch glimpses of our inner reality before fear can shield it. Our true agenda is spread out before us, and the still small voice whispers what it sees of our character into the silence. Will I accept this gift of clarity, or will I choose to reject Gods help, remaining where I am or (shudder) returning from whence I came? When I can see the picture of myself, my conscience wrestles with my awareness of grace. I see the flaws and take my identity from them, rather than the Me I wish to become, my true self.
     It takes balls to continue in my brokenness, to  reach out and grasp treasure I feel unworthy to recieve. The absence of testicular fortitude can lead to sabotage, or defaulting into familiar patterns of self- destruction and self- defeat. The alternative is to pray for courage, commitment, and divine care. With these, I can walk by faith.
     I have been angry at God, and disappointed in him. The death of my father, coinciding with the death of my marriage, three years ago last month was a terribly bitter experience. I had been actively pursuing personal growth, and I walked away, turning my back on many values, and relinquishing behaviors tailored to make me a better servant of my father. As time passed my anger dissipated and I began halfhearted attempts to reconnect with my God, though something was missing. Further into the future, my resolve stiffened, and I began an earnest attempt to recapture my perspective, relying on my own resources. I tried to know an to allow myself to be known, to love again... twice. I have been fooled, taking stated intentions for facts, and believed briefly, that I would have a child of my own, a family. It amazed me, the blindness that accompanied hope. When it shattered, I felt no anger at my Lord this time. Finally, I released my dream, and stood humbly before God in imperfect surrender, my anger and disillusionment directed at mere mortals. What is this hope I have now? Where does it spring from? My fear I cast upon him, counting on his support should heartbreak come to pass. I am sorry for my anger and arrogance, and I hope I please my God.
     I have repented.


"But if he says, I have no delight in you: then, here I am; let him do to me what seems good to him." -2nd Samuel 15:26
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