Holy, holy, holy

“Holy” is not a word we use in conventional English…but I think the concept of holiness is one that we use all the time. The closest categories we articulate are: “worth” or “beauty,” maybe even “glory.” So some people who really like a particular brand of computer attribute great worth and beauty to it…. J.J. Abrams said in a TED Talk that his particular laptop inspired him, ‘what will you write that is worthy of me?’ I like computers too, and I think there are computer geeks who can relate. But what he’s really articulating is not about “beauty” or “worth” of the laptop, but a sense of what was to him, its holiness…

I happen to have that same brand of computer, and I like it, and it cost a lot of money (more for me than for him because it’s a greater portion of my income), and I too think it is well designed, etc etc…. BUT, to my middle-aged self, right now, it’s just a computer. Mine has crumbs on it, buggars (not mine), cat schmoo, the works; my screen has finger prints on it. I have a stack of old laptops gathering dust in the closet. I see it’s worth and “beauty” but it’s just a thing… What Abrams’ computer had meant for him at that time was something more…. I’m not saying this to criticize him, I’m a LOST fan too; but to point out that the concept here is not really about appreciating “beauty” or “worth” but holiness.

Check out the picture.. You may not know what this is… It’s is an aluminum valve stem for a motorcycle…it’s the part of the wheel where you put in the air… A regular valve stem costs a few cents, but a nice aluminum valve stem can cost around $20 depending on the make (this one cost maybe $4). But for people for whom a motorcycle is not JUST a motorcycle, but something… holy, and special – then a regular $0.50 valve stem just won’t do. Of course if you ask someone who spent $20 on a valve stem, they’d tell you it is precision machined and superior to the $0.50 valve stem found on virtually every other vehicle. But the real reason doesn’t have to do with logic or performance, the real reason has to do with a sense of the thing’s (in this case, the motorcycle’s) holiness. It is set apart, it’s not like the others, it is…holy.

Now because we are spiritual creatures we always hold something(s) holy in our hearts: I hear the way people pronounce the name of certain companies they would love to work for, or schools they’d love to attend, or things they’d like to own…. It’s the sound of our tongues pronouncing holy names… there’s often a pause right before you say it… Harvard. I went to [pause] Princeton. I have an interview at [pause] Google. I had to get gas for my [pause] Audi. If you are indoctrinated into the religion of this world, you cannot help but hold certain things holy, you’ve been trained in these religions all your life.

What happens in the life of a Christian is, we start to see God as Holy, Holy, Holy. In Hebrew that is literally Holy x 3; the word repetition intensifies its meaning. It’s not that I don’t care about your month in Paris or your Louboutin shoes – I still see the aura of what the world thinks is holy, but God becomes even more so. You wouldn’t go to an interview at Harvard or Google without being well rested and prepared – even if it was just a casual meeting with some higher ups, most people feeling the holiness of those names would go and put forward their best effort. In the same way, people who see God as holy holy holy treat the things of God with utmost importance: like they’re meeting their favorite celebrity, like they’re meeting a recruiter for their favorite company, like they’re meeting the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with, like they’re going to pick up their new car, like they’re going to meet the one who is their dream come true. The crazy thing in this backwards upside down world of ours is that we value things of no value and lust after them – meanwhile God is free for the taking.

The Sins of the Fathers (and mothers too)

Your parents were sinful. Both of them. They were flawed, broken, not just imperfect, but actually capable of wickedness and wrong…that is what the Bible tells us. Many people who had good loving parents have a problem with that. “My mom was a saint, everyone knew it!” “My dad is my hero!” Oftentimes people over-revere one parent and blame the other. Yes, God also tells us to honor our parents and to care for them when they are old. But if you cannot accept that they are sinful then you can’t really grow. Many of the people I know who are smart and clearly committed to “Christianity” yet do not grow, or distort some aspects of Jesus while rejecting others, seem to have this in common: they can’t see their parents as sinners. As a result they can’t grow.

Why do you need to believe this to grow? The most difficult sins are the ones that you did not consciously choose. The ones that have been passed down from your parents and grandparents and their parents before them. Racism, classism, selfishness, emotional immaturity, disrespecting personal boundaries…these are some of the things that get passed down. When your parents, who love you, and whom you love, do these things, it does not seem wrong. Certain sinful things can actually seem loving to you: abused children equate punishment with devotion. People who remain in abusive relationships often feel that the abuse is evidence of how much the abuser cares for them. In a way it’s true. If your parents beat you, it was because you were theirs and not someone else’s child. But it does not mean that the beatings were right, or good. In the same way if your parents had certain attitudes about people of certain ethnicities you probably feel the same way. Whether we are shaped by nature or nurture, our parents are both. As a result they pass on the sins we don’t even see as sins.

Growing in Jesus means you will have problems with your parents sin. It will hurt you and shame you and frustrate you. Growing in Jesus also means you will honor and care for your parents just the same even though their sins pain you. Treating them, not as their sins deserve, but as Jesus deserves. Their sins won’t be an abstract idea, but a painful reality of the truth of God’s Word, and the depth of His compassion.

Our amazing secret ability…

Random graphic novel Grace used to love – that I have to remember to give to David before Momo starts reading them.

In the Matrix, people find out that their world is an illusion, that there is another world and another reality. They have a literal awakening… Then they go into the real world knowing that everything in their old life was basically an illusion, a dream designed to keep them enslaved. Along similar lines, there’s a cheesy Korean drama from a couple of years ago called W, where a comic book character comes to life in the graphic novel world and starts making his own decisions in the story (against the will of the writer). When he finds out that he’s a character in a comic book, time stops and he is able to walk out of a portal to the “real” world. The story then gets all convoluted because the real world stuff becomes part of the graphic novel… but he winds up back in the comic world along with an evil antagonist who also becomes aware of the real world and starts causing all sorts of trouble.

When the protagonist of W finds out he’s a comic book character, he realizes that his money and wealth in the story mean nothing. Later he’s framed for the murder of his family and sits on death row. Everybody thinks he’s an awful person. But even then he realizes that what people think of him doesn’t matter in the way we normally think it does – because he knows this is all just part of a story, and these things can be easily corrected later on. He finds he can sometimes travel to the real world – and so he makes plans to escape the novel and live in the real world when the story ends. He leaves all his money and his foundation to his best friend, because on the one hand he doesn’t care about the money, but at the same time he knows that it can be used for good in that world. He intervenes in the life of another friend so that she doesn’t disappear from the novel world, but go on to live another story of her own. It’s not that the comic world doesn’t matter – it still matters, but in different ways. The “rewards” of that world no longer matter, because he knows they are not real, they are just pieces of a story that will disappear when the story ends.

Anyway… so what’s your amazing secret power? It’s amazing, but it’s not uncommon – in fact most of the people in the world have this ability — they just don’t know they have it. They use it, but don’t see anything amazing about it. But it IS amazing… but not in a good way.

Your amazing power is: you have the mind boggling ability to find out that this world is fake, that there is another world, that money doesn’t matter here in the way people think it does — that everything here is coming to an end very very soon (one way or another)… and you can even sometimes get up close experienced of the other world – or get heavenly messages – and someone from the real world can come into your world and show you things, tell you things — and all these things can make perfect sense to you…

AND YET, unlike the characters in the movies, you will be able to go on living just the way you were normally living…

You will go back to your old comic book life. Every now and then you’ll feel discouraged in your story and think “yeah this is all BS” but as soon as things get better you’ll be back at it, living your BS life. I don’t mean “you” personally, I mean “you” in general. We all have this amazing ability. Unlike these characters who get awakened in these stories, we are not as rational.

My favorite mind bending picture book.

Most of the people who read the Bible and get it who hear great sermons and are moved – who feel something and know that it’s real – who get a glimpse of what love and heaven is – and realize it’s not how this world works — most people will wake up, then close their eyes and go back to their old lives. But God knows those who are His. Most people can hear great sermons for years and years and then go back to living for things like “the desire to be better than others” to get: more money, better degrees, better life, better resume, better Instagram, better experiences.

But God knows those who are His. And there are some people who hear just a tiny little bit – who never hear the really cool preaching – just get a little bit of some country bumpkin preaching, and yet figure out that there’s something there – and they seek and they search and they find Him and never let go. Their lives change from the inside out – and they live here completely differently, on a mission, to get ready for heaven and wake other people up too. So which kind of person are you? Are you going to wake up or go back to the fake life that imprisons your soul? Am I being too dramatic?  Maybe a little 🙂 Or maybe not enough?