Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: March, 2010

Two Passions

I just finished watching No Impact Man. You should, too.

The hero decides to go for a year without leaving any sort of ecological impact on the world. No pollution, no cars, no non-local food, no TV, no buying anything new, no electricity and on the list goes. The neatest thing is that he takes his wife and daughter along with him on this crazy project. He’s passionate. I get that.

His wife didn’t really get it. I mean, she was supportive, but she didn’t own the project. She was just along for the ride. So when she had to say goodbye to coffee and shopping and reality TV, it hit her hard. The first half of the film was very tense.

And then there was, for me, a revelation. She had a passion that her husband was not sharing: she wanted another child.

Now, I don’t know much about marriage. I’m no expert and I have nothing to offer you in way of credentials. But I have some interesting opinions on marriage and, since I have a blog, I get to pour them on you.

Question: Why was Michelle frustrated for about half of the No Impact project?
Matt’s Answer: Because it was not possible for her to own her husband’s passion while he refused to own hers.

It wasn’t the coffee. It wasn’t the TV. It was the ownership of passions. How do I know? Because after the husband smartened up and owned her passion, she turned into a different person.

Ruth has some passions that are her passions. Without her, they would not be a part of my life, I think. But since they are hers I choose to own them. They aren’t mine, really, and Ruth does not expect them to be mine. But I own them. That is, I completely support, push and work toward making her passions realities. And she does the same for me.

You’ll never be able to will yourself into being passionate about what your spouse is passionate about. And You should never expect that from your spouse, I think. But if you own what is hers, she will own what is yours. And that makes things good.

It’s made my marriage good.

And how good it is!

Another Week

What are you going to do this week?

I intend to do something glorious. I intend to take steps toward changing the world for the better. I intend to enjoy as much of this coming week as I can. I intend to pull on the ear of the Almighty and ask him to do things for me. I intend to bask in said Almighty’s glory. I intend to enrich the lives of those around me. I intend to have my own life enriched. I intend to fight against the corruptions in my soul. I intend to see everything around me as beautiful. I intend to wage war on the status quo. I intend to exit the week a better person than when I started. I intend to dance. I intend to sing. I intend to create.

What are you doing this week?

Words Undefined

You know what’s neat? How many of our most sacred words are actually common words. Wanna see?

  • Angel (Gr. angelos [32]) – Just the Greek word for messenger. Made holy because a lot of the messengers in the New Testament were supernatural.
  • Apostle (Gr. apostolos [652]) – The Greek word for an ambassador. Made holy because it was attached to holy people.
  • Evangelist (Gr. euggelistes [2099]) – Someone who gives out good news.
  • Evangelize (Gr. euaggelizo [2097]) – To give good news.
  • Gospel (Gr. euaggelion [2098]) – From the Old English: god + spel (good story/news).
  • Christ (Gr. khristos [5547]) – The Greek word for someone anointed. A related word appears in John 9:6 – Jesus ‘christized’ the blind man’s eyes with clay.
  • Hypocrite (Gr. hupokrites [5273]) – The normal Greek word for an actor in a play.
  • Deacon (Gr. diakoneo [1247]) – A waiter.
  • Church (Gr. ekklesia [1577]) – Strangely, our English word for this is based on the Greek word ‘kurikon’, Lord’s House. Neat idea, eh? But not what ekklesia means. It means a group of people gathered in one place. It appears in Act 19:32 to describe the angry mob.

Is that neat? It’s neat to me. Makes me wish that we had translated more than transliterated, then we would have less religious lingo.

Video and a Table

1st, here’s a neat video from Carl Medearis.

Favorite quote: “It’s okay to make sense.  It’s okay to make the good news sound like good news.”

2nd, I was preaching this weekend and I had one of those great moments when I was really shaken by what I was talking about.  I want to share a little of it with you.

In Isaiah 58 God is talking about how people fast in useless ways.  After pointing out how stupid a purely ‘religious’ fast is, he goes on to outline what a real fast looks like and what the result of real fasting is.  I chopped the passage up and tossed it into a table for you.  Check it out:

Proper fasting is when you…
If you do it, then…
  • Loosen the bonds of wickedness.
  • Undo the bands of the yoke.
  • Let the oppressed go free.
  • Break every yoke.
  • Bring the homeless into your home.
  • Cover the naked when you see him.
  • Don’t hide yourself from your own flesh.
  • V. 6-7
  • Your light will break out like the dawn.
  • Your recovery will speedily spring forth.
  • Your righteousness will go before you.
  • The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
  • You will call, and the LORD will answer.
  • You will cry, he will say ‘Here I am.’
  • V. 8-9
  • Remove the yoke from your midst.
  • Remove the pointing of the finger and speaking of wickedness (lit: panting, uselessness).
  • Draw out your soul to the hungry.
  • Satisfy the soul of the afflicted.
  • V. 9-10
  • Your light will rise in darkness.
  • Your gloom (misfortune) will be like midday.
  • The Lord will always guide you.
  • The Lord will satisfy your soul in scorched places.
  • The Lord will give strength to your bones.
  • You will be like a watered garden.
  • You will be like a spring whose waters don’t fail.
  • Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins.
  • You will raise up age-old foundations.
  • You will be called: Repairer of the Breach.
  • You will be called: Restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
  • V. 10-12

I love how the right hand side is so much bigger than the left!

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A Long Time

For more than a year, I think, I have had a commitment to post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  For more than a year, I did that faithfully.  For more than a year I gave on every day I intended to give.

And, in the last two weeks, I failed twice.  Bad.

As Ruth was leaving both of us tried to think of the amazing productivity that would come from the trip.  Ruth would be totally free to engage and help the people in Pakistan.  I would be totally free to write and work and visit.  But it hasn’t turned out that way, has it?

It’s almost as if there is a shaking of motivation.  As I sit down to write, the environment is perfect.  There is silence in my house.  Or, if I’m going to the library, there is no need for me to be home anytime.  There is nothing to pull my attention away from my work.  And, yet, I seem slightly less productive than I am with a house full of wife and children, each deserving their due amount of attention from me.  Why?  Why am I not winning amazingly?

It almost seems like a problem with motivation.  Time to work!  Why?  Why should I work when there is no Ruth, Joe or Asha in my life?  Why produce?  Why benefit others?  Why?

Funny, eh?

But we’ve recognized the issue.  And now we’re moving forward.  Each part of life is a test, yes?  So I’ll pass it, eventually.  And, I think, by the time I’m really doing well, my family will drop from the sky into my lap again, the reward of my labours.

Peace, and sorry for the lack of Friday posts these weeks!

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Keeping Your Options Open

A while ago a great poem was posted on one of my favorite blogs.  Here it is:

The small man
builds cages for everyone
he
knows.
While the sage,
who has to duck his head
when the moon is low,
keeps dropping keys all night long
for the
beautiful
rowdy
prisoners.
Basically, the poet is saying that small, insignificant people make it their business to disable and contain others.  Maybe they do this so others won’t notice how small and useless they are.  But the great man, the sage so large that he needs to duck when the moon is low, makes it his business to set these people free.  Nice thoughts, eh?
You know who is a great man?  Jesus.  So why, then, do people assume that follow him means a limiting of freedom?
We’ve all heard people say stuff like, “I wish I had had more fun before I became a Christian.”  Implying, of course, that being a Christian is no fun.  And people have reason to say that, don’t they?  They way many religious people talk, you get the impression that following Jesus is about refusing to do fun stuff.
But I think it’s not like that.  It seems to me that following Jesus actually opens your options.  Jesus frees you to do wild things.  Jesus freed Ruth to get a bunch of cash, head off to Pakistan with two little kids and throw the money and love at widows and orphans.  Jesus enables us to create and enjoy things in such a better light and for such a better purpose.  Jesus adds depth to all our relationships and fun.  Jesus frees me to be unconventional and counter-cultural as I try and figure out how to show him off in the way I live.  Jesus is the ultimate great sage, dropping keys that open the cages of every single problem we have created for ourselves.  Yay for Jesus!

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Uh oh

I miss my wife and kids.

Funny how that’s the only thought that seems to form as I try to get a blog up.

I always used to say that family life, while much better than single life, is hard.  I think I might have been wrong.  I’ve been alone for a week and it’s not nearly as fun as I remember it.  Nope, it kinda sucks.  You know those wild vacuums with the turbo cyclone thingys in them?  Sucks that much.

If your married and have a family, don’t long to be single again.  I mean, sure, your wife is probably not nearly as cool as mine and there’s no way your kids are as great as mine.  But still, the potential good that lies in even the darkest marriage seems to be so much greater than any other relationship, no matter how unique or crazy it may be.

Yeah.  So I miss my wife.  This post was originally going to be a top ten list of things that suck because your wife and kids are gone.  But it was getting too long.  And a little depressing, too!

But it’s all good.  She’s over there doing wild, great things for Jesus.  How can I complain?

Pray for us!

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The Eyepatch

This is something I wrote in response to a writing exercise once.  It’s been sitting on my hard drive for a while.  I thought I’d share it with you. 
            The package came earlier than I had expected.  There was no return address, but the Eagle seal confirmed what it was.  I took it from the Deliverer and walked back into the den.  The Deliverer stayed in the open doorway, watching me, its video cameras sending my reaction to whoever was watching.  I tried to smile as I opened the package, though my hands trembled.
            A note lay inside, its Eagle crest gleaming and shining up at me, a beacon of a hope and a freedom defined by other men.  It read:
           
Valued citizen,
                       
            Our records show that your Media Inlet Device (MID) has been misplaced and/or destroyed.  This is your replacement.  You will be pleased to know that it is an upgraded version and has already been calibrated to your unique Citizen Code Number.  For your own safety, peace and protection, be sure to inform the Deliverer of your intention to wear the MID and, as soon as possible, follow through with that intention.  If you happen to lose your MID again we will authorize you for a Secure MID (SMID) which will be irremovable.
                                    Peace and Safety,
                        The Ministry of Homeland Security and Entertainment
            I looked up through the doorless entrance to my apartment and forced a smile at the Deliverer.  Its mechanical eyes focused on me, reading my expression and probably registering my stress levels and temperature and the like.
            “Oh good,” I said.  “It’s finally here.”  I looked down at the box again and pulled the packing insulation aside.  And there it lay.  That thing.  The fact that it looked just like an old pirate-style eye patch struck me as tragically ironic.  It conjured up images of swashbuckling adventurers, leaping from plank to plank in glorious freedom, willing to risk an eye for that that freedom.  But as the eye patch was a symbol of the price to be paid for freedom, so the MID, made in its image, was a symbol of the price to be paid for…for what?  Safety?  A type of peace?
            The Deliverer twitched, mimicking impatience.
            “I’m putting it on now.”  I told it, picking it up.  It had no strap and felt like cheap cloth.  Without daring to hesitate I placed it over my right eye and felt the familiar vacuum seal as it attached itself to my face.
            It was stupid, what I had done.  I realized that even as I did it.  Completely illogical, really.  But I think it had to be done anyway.  We’re not defined only by reason and logic like the Deliverers are.  It’s our ability to work contrary to and even above our reason that makes us truly human.  I think I’ve written about that in the past, before privately run publishing companies were banned.  So I had done the stupid thing.  I had thrown away my MID.  I could hardly sleep the night after I had done it.  I was so used to the damned programming that I couldn’t relax without it.  The very fact that I had depth perception again was almost nauseating.  A sign of the growing dependency on dependency, I suppose.
            The programming began almost immediately, after a brief flicker and a security check.  The MID sent the images directly into the retina of my right eye.  I saw The Man again, with his plastic grin.  I cried out, in spite of myself.
            “You missed me?”  The Man asked.
            “Yes,” I sniffed.
            “Be sure not to lose your MID again,” he warned.  “Some might think you did it on purpose, that perhaps you are not completely loyal to the cause of liberty.”
            “It won’t happen again,” I said.
            “I’m sure it won’t.  Now, how about some News?”
            “That would be nice.”
            The Man faded away, replaced by the government-appointed newscasters, telling me glorious things about the War on Terror, the economic boom and the utopian society we lived in.  Things were back to normal, I realized.  A very comfortable, safe and lifeless normal.
            The Deliverer rolled away.  I stood and watched it go down the hall.  It faded into the distance, rolling past open doorway after open doorway.  I sat down and wept.  The newscaster tried to cheer me up by telling me about the thousands of people killed that day who were somehow different from me.
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The Eyepatch

This is something I wrote in response to a writing exercise once.  It’s been sitting on my hard drive for a while.  I thought I’d share it with you. 
            The package came earlier than I had expected.  There was no return address, but the Eagle seal confirmed what it was.  I took it from the Deliverer and walked back into the den.  The Deliverer stayed in the open doorway, watching me, its video cameras sending my reaction to whoever was watching.  I tried to smile as I opened the package, though my hands trembled.
            A note lay inside, its Eagle crest gleaming and shining up at me, a beacon of a hope and a freedom defined by other men.  It read:
           
Valued citizen,
                       
            Our records show that your Media Inlet Device (MID) has been misplaced and/or destroyed.  This is your replacement.  You will be pleased to know that it is an upgraded version and has already been calibrated to your unique Citizen Code Number.  For your own safety, peace and protection, be sure to inform the Deliverer of your intention to wear the MID and, as soon as possible, follow through with that intention.  If you happen to lose your MID again we will authorize you for a Secure MID (SMID) which will be irremovable.
                                    Peace and Safety,
                        The Ministry of Homeland Security and Entertainment
            I looked up through the doorless entrance to my apartment and forced a smile at the Deliverer.  Its mechanical eyes focused on me, reading my expression and probably registering my stress levels and temperature and the like.
            “Oh good,” I said.  “It’s finally here.”  I looked down at the box again and pulled the packing insulation aside.  And there it lay.  That thing.  The fact that it looked just like an old pirate-style eye patch struck me as tragically ironic.  It conjured up images of swashbuckling adventurers, leaping from plank to plank in glorious freedom, willing to risk an eye for that that freedom.  But as the eye patch was a symbol of the price to be paid for freedom, so the MID, made in its image, was a symbol of the price to be paid for…for what?  Safety?  A type of peace?
            The Deliverer twitched, mimicking impatience.
            “I’m putting it on now.”  I told it, picking it up.  It had no strap and felt like cheap cloth.  Without daring to hesitate I placed it over my right eye and felt the familiar vacuum seal as it attached itself to my face.
            It was stupid, what I had done.  I realized that even as I did it.  Completely illogical, really.  But I think it had to be done anyway.  We’re not defined only by reason and logic like the Deliverers are.  It’s our ability to work contrary to and even above our reason that makes us truly human.  I think I’ve written about that in the past, before privately run publishing companies were banned.  So I had done the stupid thing.  I had thrown away my MID.  I could hardly sleep the night after I had done it.  I was so used to the damned programming that I couldn’t relax without it.  The very fact that I had depth perception again was almost nauseating.  A sign of the growing dependency on dependency, I suppose.
            The programming began almost immediately, after a brief flicker and a security check.  The MID sent the images directly into the retina of my right eye.  I saw The Man again, with his plastic grin.  I cried out, in spite of myself.
            “You missed me?”  The Man asked.
            “Yes,” I sniffed.
            “Be sure not to lose your MID again,” he warned.  “Some might think you did it on purpose, that perhaps you are not completely loyal to the cause of liberty.”
            “It won’t happen again,” I said.
            “I’m sure it won’t.  Now, how about some News?”
            “That would be nice.”
            The Man faded away, replaced by the government-appointed newscasters, telling me glorious things about the War on Terror, the economic boom and the utopian society we lived in.  Things were back to normal, I realized.  A very comfortable, safe and lifeless normal.
            The Deliverer rolled away.  I stood and watched it go down the hall.  It faded into the distance, rolling past open doorway after open doorway.  I sat down and wept.  The newscaster tried to cheer me up by telling me about the thousands of people killed that day who were somehow different from me.
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Why I am not a Christian.

In Pakistan the third question new people generally ask after meeting you is, “What is your religion?” In the beginning I would tell everyone I was a Christian. But I quickly found out that this wasn’t the best way to describe what I am. In Pakistan Christians have the (mostly earned) reputation for being drunks, swindlers and promiscuous. I can remember walking into a video store and, once the owner found out I was a Christian, being offered porn.  Something was wrong.

So I stopped saying I was a Christian and started saying that I followed Jesus.  Same thing, right?

Maybe not.

In forcing myself to use different words to describe myself I found that my brain started noticing subtle differences between following Jesus and following Christianity.  Or maybe, to be a little more fair, a difference between the brand of Christianity that was given to me and following Jesus.

  • The cry of Christianity is, “Obey!”  The cry of Jesus is, “Love!”
  • Christianity says, “Hold these opinions, never let them go.”  Jesus says, “Hold these people, never let them go.”
  • Christianity’s enemies are silly little things like movies, books,and people.  Jesus’ enemies are serious things like sin, poverty, sickness and death.
  • Christianity has destroyed the lives of many.  Jesus only fixes lives.
  • Christianity helps Christians.  Jesus helps everyone.
  • Christianity offers you religious satisfaction.  Jesus offers you your heart’s desire.
  • Christianity accepts you when you start looking good and helps you to look better.  Jesus accepts you at your worst and makes you really better.
  • Christianity fills your life with religious rituals.  Jesus fills your life with the omnipotent power of himself.
  • Christianity makes excuses.  Jesus makes change.
  • Jesus suffers the little children.  The children of Christianity suffer.
  • Christianity limits your options.  Jesus gives you options.
  • Christianity damns.  Jesus saves.
  • Christianity commands you to defend it.  Jesus defends you.
Jaded?  Maybe.  But there is a time and a place to be jaded.  Am I a Christian?  That depends on what you mean.  The word is so vague that I see no need to cling to it anymore.  So I follow Jesus.  Because following a living God is always better than following a religion.

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