Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chasing Phantoms and Living in Reality: 4 of 3, The Congregational Response

You would think that an architect would be better at math than to be writing part four of a three part blog series, but here I go, lol. Supposedly, this is the post in which I talk about how God is calling me to respond to the things He’s been teachin’ me, discussed in the previous three posts. Having begun to learn not to be angry and judgemental toward myself, to be a bit more gentle and kind with myself (and others too, then), I’ve also begun…through my processing of exactly what’s going on in my relationship to the capitalist system that ruins my profession…not to DWELL on that as the god who so determines my thoughts, my emotions and my actions.

Of course the centerpiece of all this learnin’ stuff of late is the contents of the first post. The life of my heart is with God and His ways, rather than with my own desires. So, if my wonderful audience was hoping to find out whether I shall remain an architect…sorry. No decision. After having struggled with this for a week now, I think I’m just being called to baby steps. Simpler, smaller things. I don’t need to jump to conclusions. But maybe I should pay attention to just how much time and energy I’ve put into “capitalism.” No wonder its given me so much trouble; I’ve given it so much attention! If there comes a time in my life when a radical change of course is needed or appropriate…well, so be it…then. For now…I’m just learning what I’m learning.

That, however, does not change my honest admittance that there’s something whacky going on in our loose and foolish system in which “all things solid melt into air” (no I'm not a Marxist; its jut an ousiological observation). When God says (in Proverbs 14: 7-9): "Escape quickly from the company of fools; they're a waste of your time, a waste of your words. The wisdom of the wise keeps life on track; the foolishness of fools lands them in the ditch. The stupid ridicule right and wrong, but a moral life is a favored life.", He’s not necessarily calling me to a different profession. The same foolishness of capitalism exists in the church as out, believe it or not. No, what He’s calling me to is union with and trust in Him.

What He’s calling me to, then, is…when I feel devalued, manipulated and exploited by our empy and airy system, to call on Him, to go to Him. I was struck between the eyes recently from reading in 1st and 2nd Chronicales. When David and Samuel experience something painful, hurtful or fearful…they GO TO GOD. That’s the kind of intimacy and trust that they had established with Him. That’s amazing.

Although its not my habit, I actually did this once; so there is some precedent in my life to which I can turn. I had mentioned previously in this series that I get angry at those especially particular times when I come to realize that previously recognizedly ugly and stupid aspects of a building I’ve been working on (but that I did not design) have been DETERMINEDLY ugly and stupid by the “market.” This happened one day a couple of months ago during the course of a two hour conversation with one of the project managers in my office.

I asked why the owner of the firm didn’t do it in a more orderly and traditionally architectural way, which would leave a more powerful and meaingful impression upon the audience once the project is built. My project manager very cooly, consciously and straightfowardly answered that the designer of the building (the owner of my firm) had relized quite well that such alternatives existed, but had deferred to the power of the marked (and the will of the “client”) in his design of the building. I was so full of anger and fury that I began to loose control of my thoughts. I began to notice my mind go to the fantastic places to which it likes to go to make itself “feel better,” and I thought…”wait a second…this isn’t going to help…I should follow in the footsteps of David and Samuel.” So I did.

I prayed to God that I wasn’t sure exactly what all was going on in my soul, but that I was really f@#%ing pissed off at “the world” at that moment. I’ve learned that when it comes to the question of God’s direct and verbal answers to prayers, He usually responds to the really genuine ones. Well, that being a rather frank and genuine prayer from me, then, He responded: “My love is greater than your sin.” I was a bit flabberghasted and surprised at His response. But then, upon reflection, it made so much sense! God has a way of saying so much with so little. Basically, in one sentence he told me that the world’s trouble’s weren’t my fault, but that I also wasn’t so innocent as I might like to think, but that He loves me, redeemed me, and is in the process of saving me…and all the same stuff goes for the “world” at which I was so bitterly angry just a few moments prior.

The following then, to which I feel I’m being called…the way in which I feel I am being called to “respond” to the lessons discussed in the first three posts…applies both to my life, my prayer life, and to “the world” (Proverbs 10: 8-11):

”A wise heart takes orders; an empty head will come unglued.
Honesty lives confident and carefree, but Shifty is sure to be exposed.
An evasive eye is a sign of trouble ahead, but an open, face-to-face meeting results in peace.
The mouth of a good person is a deep, life-giving well, but the mouth of the wicked is a dark cave of abuse.”

"Escape quickly from the company of fools; they're a waste of your time, a waste of your words. The wisdom of the wise keeps life on track; the foolishness of fools lands them in the ditch. The stupid ridicule right and wrong, but a moral life is a favored life." (Proverbs 14: 7-9). This isn’t a call to run after some fantasy from the profession that so aggrevates me at times. Sheesh, I love it too!! It is a call, however, to take the simple steps, one at a time, in God’s direction. Proverbs 12: 8-11 "A person who talks sense is honored; airheads are held in contempt. The one who stays on the job has food on the table; the witless chase whims and fancies."

Someone recently referenced C.S. Lewis to me. Lewis said that every choice that you make is a step in the direction either of your freedom and salvation or of the mirey clay. This person referenced this thought of Lewis’ in the context of Revelatinos 7: 13-14: “Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’” They are the saints; they did their own scrubbing of Christ’s blood onto their own freakin’ robes! Christ is the pure white Lamb who does the bleedin', but we saints do the scrubbin’.

This discussion of my elbow grease, BTW came in light of a conversation about a warning dream that I had from God. The enemy will always be there trying to take over the most inner and sacred sanctuary chambers of my heart. When I am wronged by “the world,” he will always be trying to convince me that I AM WHAT’S WRONG. And when I am what’s wrong, the will always be there to help me convince myself that everything’s dandy and I’m more perfect and innocent than Jesus himself!

And in that same conversation with a pretty smart dude about this warning dream from God, this same smart fella’ helped me to discipher another dream, as well. This one doesn’t have a whole heck of a lot to do with anything that I WILL DO (so my “response” is sort of irrelevant here anyway…this being a post about “my response to what I’ve been learning”). I had a dream in which I was in the back seat of a car…a good and respected friend who has taught me much was driving on a road right next to the beach. It was a nice, peaceful and relaxing drive…until the ocean started to wash up over the road. The driver…always cool, calm and collected as he is, says, “Don’t worry, I got it under control.” Just then, he sees a road to turn down away from where the huge mass of water is approaching. As soon as we turn onto that road to avoid the water, however, we splash down into it. The car begins to sink, the windows begin to cover with water, and eventually the car is filling up with the now-clear water that had just a moment ago been a big beautiful blue body washing up over some bright luscious-green grass.

Needless to say, I awoke that morning a bit frightened. I didn’t freak out too much, though, because such dreams have become regular occurances lately. I’ve learned not to freak out. Usually God has something completely different in His own mind from what I have in mine at first, so I’ve learned to just shush and wait on Him in these instances. I might hate marketing, but I can still get something from His Word (Proverbs): 11: 23 - "Prudent people don't flaunt their knowledge; talkative fools broadcast their silliness." So I shushed, waited, and worked through life, until I had time to talk to my smart dream discipherer. Proverbs 14: 23 “Hard work always pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table.”

Sure enough, my smart dream discipherer wasn’t afraid of my dream. This wasn’t a “warning dream,” but a “good dream.” The blue of the water represents prophetic revelation that occurs in the overwhelming presence of God. My dream reader says that I will eventually be a part of some ministry, or some activity of the Holy Spirit, in which I will be some sort of vehicle of Him and His Word (hence the “revelation”). My smart friend also says the dream means that I won’t necessarily even recognize this activity as that of God…to the degree that I’ll be freaked out and try to get away from it. But then it will just flood me all the more.

So…apparently…here I’ve been struggling for a week on how to wrap up my blog series with how God is calling me to “respond” to the Word that He’s been speaking into my heart…and I can’t even get away from it if I try! Further evidence that God has a sense of humor.

Proverbs 13: 14
"The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
so, no more drinking from death-tainted wells!"

Hello Jason,

To the joys of working for capitalism there is also the joys of working for a massive impersonal bureaucracy in the form of government service where you can feel like a lost small cog in a vast uncaring machine.!! I appreciate your willingness to share your personal thoughts/experiences in such an open manner on your blog. still reading church and pomo blog - idle question : do you think adrian is a priest?

all the best,

Rodney ( deceased man in the pew)
Hey Rodney,

Thanks for stopping by. And you're welcome for sharing my experiences on my blog. That's a meaningful "thank you," actually. After writing this, I wondered if it would really mean much to folks.

And I don't think Adrian is a priest. I think he's Catholic, with a background in philosophy. He might even teach philsophy, I think.

What does "deceased man in the pew" mean?


Hi Jason,

dropped by for a read and I'm impressed with your catharsis. Not only John is in transition, you're in it too, it seems.

Thanks for stopping by. Glad to hear that you are "impressed." Although I have to admit, I don't feel like I'm in a very "impressive" position at the moment...
In arts classes teachers keep telling me the parts of paintings I'm messing up and working on so hard are the most interresting bits.
I'm impressed at your writing about your anger.
I tend to be impressed about immaterial life on this planet. :D
Oh, you "drew" me in. Gotcha. But I feel like I'm trapped in a painting the whole of which is characterized by disorder and ugliness, trying to decide onto WHICH PARTS to try and haphazardly glue some order and beauty...or to jump out of the painting. And not just a disorder governed by chance either, like a Jackson Pollock. More like a very intentional disorder characterized as such because of its order of priorties. More like, simply, a bad painting that no one ever would have heard of...except that its the society we live in!
...or that I live in, at least.
Jason, I enjoyed reading your post an agree with Odile.

Immanuel is what Jesus is with and to us. The hard part is that we are called to participate in His sufferings, to also ientify with and take upon ourselves the pain of this world.

I think you are already on this path and that's perhaps what is part of the discomfort. You are feeling the pain, now you have to take that to Jesus an let Him carry that burden with you, not easy but there's also no escape!
I had to look up Jackson Pollock, as I realized my lack of knowledge about American culture.

Your emphasis on order or wrong order makes me think of escaping the rule of the farao's. :)
There is some possibility of escaping!
Sam - wise words, but difficult to digest. Its easier to digest the idea of suffering with Christ...in relation to the childish emotional sufferings that had been left over from adolescence and before. These are different...and more difficult, I think, in a sense.

Odile - American culture...you aren't missing too much, I don't think. As for "jumping out of the painting"...sorry, that was a bit obscure. I was referring to leaving the profession of architecture. But I would regard that as more of a giving up than an Exodus.

As for escape, in general...interestingly I talked with two older leader figures yesterday about the whole thing. One suggested that I go back and re-read the Psalms to help me find expression (to God, and not just to my friends) of my anger at God...he suggested that I, in a sense, mourn the loss of a dream onto which I had been holding for my life, my vocation, and for architecture.

Then the other older leader figure tried to "fix" it...I don't think that really helped (althouhg, Odile, I don't think that's really what you are doing, is just trying to "fix" it by mentioning pharo and escape). On top of that, he was suggesting, basically, that I do precisely what he does, except in the field of architecture rather than education. He was suggesting that I go into academia, then serve as a consultant to practitioners (thereby actually "extending my reach of influence" and "multiplying my talents"...and also thereby not ONLY living in the world of "theory" - he mentioned that, because I said I would regard leaving the PRACTICE of architecture as a "give up").

Thanks guys (and gals :)

How did you take the other guy's advice? (About escaping from reality by doing more theoretical work.)
just read my earlier comment and it sounds so trite!

i think what i meant, though knowing nothing about architecture, is that at some level the pain of the imperfection of 'being in' this world has to be identified with in order to be conquered and that is a conscious and self sacrificial act.

I didn't read your earlier comment as trite. It rang true to me. Just difficult.

Your latest comment has me thinking about how such "identification" with the pain...and conquering it through that...can be, is or has been expressed in the language of architecture.


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