We live in very curious times for the child of God. We live in an age in which the body of Christ has taken on and absorbed the philosophy of the world and put great stock in the pronouncements of psychiatry and psychology. We live in an age in which your every twitch and glitch has been given an acronym and a diagnosis by Christ-rejecting pill-dispensing doctors. It's a dangerous age.
Assuming that people have always been people, and that since Adam walked out of the garden mankind has been plagued with heartaches and sorrow one cannot help but ask questions about previous generations. How did the body of Christ get along before all this? How did we survive the Inquisition, and the Black death without Valium? How did Susanna Wesley raise over 20 children without Prozac? How did we survive the fires of Nero without Abilify? Could it be that Christians did the unthinkable? Could it be that they actually relied on God and shunned the vain babbling of the witch-doctory of their day as unfit for a redeemed child of God?
When questions like this get asked, usually the reaction is quite telling. People will defend their dependencies. People will say things like "You don't know what you're talking about." or "You don't know what it's like." or "You've never been through a storm like mine." Be careful with your assumptions. But truly, life is full of tragedy and sorrow and I haven't borne one tenth of the burdens some have borne. But that's not the point. My storm versus your storm isn't the point. My heartache versus your heartache or my craziness versus your craziness isn't the point. The point is that Jesus Christ is sufficient for ALL our needs.
The Bible says in Isaiah 61:1 that "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted , to proclaim liberty to the captives , and the opening of the prison to them that are bound ; " That means that Jesus Christ has a ministry to crazy people, to broken hearts and sons of Adam that are mangled and marred by sin. If you choose to deaden yourself by whatever means, then you miss out on a chance for Jesus Christ himself to minister to you.
We all have baggage, and we all have issues, and we also all have a choice in how to deal with them. You can rely on the Lord, or you can rely on something else. Jesus Christ is either sufficient for your storm, or he isn't. The Bible says in Colossians 2 "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:" You are complete in him, which implies that , as simplistic and bumper-sticker-ish as it sounds, all you need is Jesus. The world offers you a counterfeit in philosophy and vain deceit, and its a foolish Christian who trusts in the wisdom of this world when he can trust in the Author of life itself.
The Bible promises in Isaiah 26 "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." The New Testament reminds us in 1 Cor 15 that "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." and commands us in Eph 4 to ".. henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk , in the vanity of their mind...".
The weaknesses of your mind and the frailties of your flesh and the storms of your life provide an excellent opportunity for God to minister to you and to show his strength through your life. that's why 2 Cor 5 says "Of such an one will I glory : yet of myself I will not glory , but in mine infirmities.
For though I would desire to glory , I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear , lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure .
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak , then am I strong. "
I have seen the ravages of modern psychiatry destroy the minds of people in my family. I have also seen the saints of God go through unspeakable, horrific circumstances with tears, and weeping, and the power of God on their life. With such clear contrasts available, it has always seemed so strange to me that the same crowd who would condemn me for seeking solace in a whiskey bottle for my troubles would seek solace for their troubles in a pill bottle. I wouldn't go to a lost person for advice on trouble with my spirit, so why would I trust an unregenerate psychiatrist or psychologist or therapist to help me with my problems, especially when Jesus Christ has promised that he would help me? After all the Bible says in Galatians 2 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live ; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. "
As a word of testimony, I can tell you , without hesitation that my mind is held together with god's help and by God's word. Outside of God's upholding hand, and preserving grace, I am as crazy as a bedbug and would probably destroy my entire life with foolishness. Knowing this, and knowing that the world offers no real help forces me to rely on God, and allows him to minister to me. I don't write this as someone who has no issues. I write this as a redeemed sinner whom God has helped beyond my ability to explain. I know a thing or two about this.
In closing, let me say that if you are trusting in some sort of medicine to make it through the day emotionally or mentally, I'm not mad at you, and I don't consider you a lesser Christian. I just think that you are missing out on a glorious opportunity. I'm not telling you to go pour your pills down the drain. I am just asking you to take a long, hard look at what the word of God says, and try to align your life to it. It's completely worth it.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
On the issue of the Christian, and the role of government, I have friends on both ends of the spectrum and most points in between. I am probably going to leave out various important nuances in their positions, inadvertently constructing straw men. This is not my intent. but here goes.
I have friends that consider themselves stateless libertarians or will even go so far as to call themselves anarchists. Their position (perhaps oversimplified) is that liberty is a gift from God and that since governments tend to curtail liberty, the government cannot also be a gift from God. These anarchists will say that ,scripturally, the kingdoms of this world are satanically run, and satanically owned. The state, they would say, is the very citadel of Satan, and as such so we owe it no allegiance. They would point to the power grabs and abuses of the state (regardless of who is in charge) as proof of this malfeasance, and say that government power is the enemy of humanity. They oppose the initiation of force against any individual, and since that's pretty much all government does is make people do things by force, they must oppose the government. That's one extreme.
I also have friends that consider themselves 'minarchists'. They hold that government is a necessary evil and begrudgingly support some basic government functions as long as those functions support and protect their natural God-given rights. I personally think that Thomas Jefferson would probably qualify as a minarchist.
I have friends who consider themselves 'constitutionalists' and think that a person who opposes the government opposes God. There is some pretty significant scripture for this position. And rounding out the spectrum, I have friends who cite Romans 13 as their proof text that whatever the government says goes, and we ought to be happy about it. Pay your taxes with a smile on your face and thank God it isn't any worse. There is a subset of this group that don't even vote, since, by their logic, a vote against an incumbent is in itself an act of rebellion against the power God has placed in your life. That would be, in my estimation, the other end of the spectrum.
Perhaps its an intellectual glitch of mine that I can experience a certain amount of sympathy for all these positions. It's an issue I think about quite a bit, as a public minister, and by the time I get done exploring this, you may be as confused as I am about what I think, but here goes:
Governments are instituted by God. Scripture is clear on this, and the pattern, in scripture appears that bad government is a punishment for a wicked populace. Liberty is indeed a gift from god, and when that liberty is misused, that liberty is withdrawn. In the meantime, barring some sort of national repentance, we are commanded to submit ourselves unto every ordinance of man for the gospel's sake. The world systems and world governance are at the moment, satanically controlled, but even under those conditions, the Holy Spirit wrote to the churches to obey them and pray for the human representatives. It's a complicated idea, with tricky applications that must be universal to be of any use whatsoever. What in the world is a freedom-loving person who wants to obey the scriptures supposed to do?
I wont be doing a blow-by blow dissertation of Romans 13, which was the original idea for this post. I won't claim, as some have, that Romans 13 is mistranslated, but rather that Romans 13 must be understood in light of other scriptures. I won't waste one minute of your time ( at least not today) bogging down into the nuances of what is and is not legitimate government. Instead, I want to highlight three principles that should help establish what exactly our attitude and actions should be as citizens of heaven who are, for the time being, stuck here.
The First Principle: Non-Distraction
I think the first principle that needs to be covered is the principle of non-distraction. I am a stranger, and a sojourner here; a pilgrim and an alien. As the old song says "This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through". That doesn't relieve us from obligations to our fellow man, but you must understand that the world is horribly broken, and has been for quite some time. Our emphasis has to be on the spiritual since our ultimate accountability to God won't be based on whether we got this ordinance passed or this law repealed; it will be based off of what we did with the the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no crown given out at the Judgement Seat of Christ for 'sticking it to the man'. Whether you live in North Korea, or Hong Kong, or the United States, Jesus still saves, and long after the empires of the world have crumbled to dust, he will still be all that he claims to be. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have lived their entire lives under tyranny and have fulfilled the Great Commission and led very successful Christian lives despite never having owned an AK-47. We cannot lose our focus squabbling over the things of this world. I could campaign to dismantle the TSA and succeed, but if that's all I ever did and my neighbor never gets the gospel, I have wasted my time. That's not a cop-out, that's a matter of keeping perspective, and keeping that principle in view will give us a way to keep our perspective amidst the clamor of application..
For example, let's say I'm opposed to taxation, which I am. Let's say that I believe taxation to be theft, which I do. Let's say that I believe there to be scant difference between the highwayman and the Congress, which I do. I do not gloss over that the state is stealing from me, but the same state is stealing from my co-worker who is lost. My attitude should be that, as abhorrent as the theft is, I may need to tolerate it for the bigger picture. In other words, it is better to have had a portion of your income consistently and systematically stolen from you, than to rail against it and lose your testimony. As a reviewer of this post pointed out, life very rarely is an either/or scenario. If you can do both, then by all means proceed.
The Second Principle: For the Lord's Sake
But in the meantime I do still have to live here and I do have to function under a government that is increasingly restrictive and hostile. It's a common mistake in Bible exposition to quote only part of verse, but the oft cited "submit yourselves to every ordinance of man" isn't the whole verse, and it certainly isn't the whole sentence. Looking at the whole sentence gives us our second principle.1 Peter 2:13-16 says "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme ; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God" There are caveats and qualifiers given for your obedience to wit; you are to do it, not for your own sake, but for the Lord's sake. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 goes into various inconveniences and restrictions he put on his own life "for the gospel's sake". You are required to obey the government and treat it as if it was performing it's legitimate functions if doing so gives you more opportunities to put the gospel out. If obeying the government hinders the gospel , it seems clear to me that you are free to disobey, and the Acts 5:29 principle ("We ought to obey God rather than men.") comes into play. Paul went to prison and never once complained that he was wrongly imprisoned, even though he was. He suffered, and suffered well, and that put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Paul understood that his imprisonment enabled him to reach men with the gospel that couldn't be reached any other way, so he endured tyranny for the Lord's sake.
Here is an application. I despise the TSA. I believe them to be wicked, and a violation of all that used to be America. I have, on purpose avoided flying because of them. But soon I hope to be traveling to the Philippines to preach. I will probably have to submit myself to their degradation, but I do it not because I think they are right or legitimate; I do it for the Lord's sake, and for the gospel's sake. I honestly can't see any way around it. I also maintain that , as I will give an account to how I handled it as his representative, they will give account for being perverts and horrible instruments of a corrupt state.
The Third Principle: Prayer
Moving on to another oft-half-quoted passage of scripture, we arrive at 1 Tim 2. It is often said that we are to pray for those in power, but looking at the whole passage ,we see once again, conditions and caveats. 1 Tim 2:1-4 says "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved , and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.". I am not obligated to pray for Mr. Obama's drone warfare to succeed or for the continued inculcation of socialism. I am supposed to pray specifically to God that Mr. Obama will leave me alone. Left alone, I can live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. Why would I want this? According to verse 4, I should want this so that the gospel can be put out! There obviously are some other benefits to being free, but the main advantage of being free is not that I am free to do wrong, but that I am free to do right!
There are obviously many facts to this, and I don't purport to be smart enough to explore them all, but let's take these three principles and apply them to an extreme scenario.
You are a Christian living in Nazi Germany in the the early 1940's. You are commanded by the government to turn in your Jewish neighbors. Are you obligated to obey? They are, after all, the government. If they take your neighbors and haul them off to a death camp, they will probably never hear the gospel. You are obligated by the gospel to disobey, and when the men come with stick and guns to thump you in the head you will be suffering for righteousness sake.
This same Nazi regime is taxing you to pay for the death camps. I think you are justified in hiding your income from them by any means possible without lying, committing fraud or losing your testimony. If you do any of these things, be aware that the men with sticks and guns may come for you and put you in jail. You must weigh out if it is worth it and if you are going for the right reasons. If you must go to jail, go to jail for the gospel, not for tax evasion, but if a mugger tells you to empty your wallet, you are under no obligation to tell them about the money hidden in your sock.
You are also allowed scripturally to flee persecution if possible. If Jesus' mom and stepdad can skip town to avoid being killed by Herod, rest assured you can too.
In the meantime you are to pray that God will turn the hearts of the Nazi overlords and that they will leave you (and your neighbor ) alone so that you can continue to get the gospel out.
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Friday, April 4, 2014
|The Burning of an Anabaptist by the Church of Rome|
A few years back, a friend of mine started digging around in his Bible, and he found something. This particular something flew directly in the face of everything he had been taught, and ran contrary to the position both of his denomination and of his church. But there it was. He couldn’t pretend he didn’t see it. He kept looking, and found out that he wasn’t the only person that believed this. But it still was an unpopular position among his immediate ministry circle. Some would even call it a heresy. So what is a guy supposed to do?
He talked to his pastor about the ‘something’, but was unsatisfied by the answer. The ‘something’ was so obvious; he couldn’t believe he had missed it so long. He kept looking, and kept digging. He didn’t want to make waves, so he was very select in who he spoke to regarding this ‘something’. I was one of the select few, and I disagreed with him. Sometimes loudly. We hashed the issue, and its various sub issues back and forth over the next couple of years, and the more he looked, the more convinced he became that there was ‘something’ there.
His pastor was concerned that this heresy, with it’s various implications, would get a foothold in the church and cause a great disruption. Such is the job of a shepherd. He promised his pastor that, although he would continue his own private investigations, he wouldn’t share his findings with anybody outside of the people that already knew. As far as I know, he stuck to that. His pastor recommended that he write his thoughts down. The pastoral intent , I believe, was that once it was all written down and out there for him to look at, the error in his ‘something’ would be obvious. My friend began to dutifully take notes and write.
From his continued research, he concluded that the common teaching regarding the ‘something’ was in error. To stand by what he now believed would put him at odds, at least privately, with virtually everybody he fellowshipped with, both home and abroad. My friend is an excitable guy by nature, and he began to be very excited about this. The implications of the ‘something’ began to cause him to rethink some of his other theological assumptions. That made him run even more contrary to his peers, and his long-suffering wife worried that his passion over this subject and its ancillaries would cause great division among the people they both knew and loved. One day, he looked down at his notes and realized he had the makings of a book. What’s a guy supposed to do?
He wrote his book, and self-published it after enduring the scourging of his manuscript by friends of his in the ministry from across the country. I was also part of this scourging, and bled red ink all over my paper copy before returning it to him. We continued to disagree, though I tried to be not so loud about it. I felt that eventually he would see his own error and I saw no point to make a return to his previous position any harder than it had to be. We all have goofy ideas now and then, and the less people know about them the better and easier it is to outlive them.
Unfortunately, it got ugly after that. The sentiment was while it was acceptable to have a doctrinal disagreement with your church leadership, it is open rebellion to publicize that disagreement. The sentiment was that such an open proclamation drew more attention to this issue than it deserved, and made it appear that he was disloyal to his pastor. People equated disagreement with disloyalty. I can honestly say that I don’t think he meant any of that. But now it was out there in the big bad world, and various people felt the need to confront him over it. Some esteemed ministry figures weighed in on the book. They wrote letters that were pointedly personal, and tried to make a connection between this book and some family issues that he was having. He was accused of being subversive and an enemy of the truth. Like I said, it was ugly. He spent his evenings with his stomach in knots and his wife in tears. Was the ‘something’ really that dangerous?
I watched all this from afar, and tried to learn something from it. What I had already learned was that it was very difficult to not get emotionally wrapped up in this issue. I learned that I am way more petty than I give myself credit for. I saw, revealed in myself, great chasms of immaturity. I found it difficult to disagree without being disagreeable and equally difficult to contend without being contentious. I backed away from the issue, and avoided the topic. I even told somebody that I wouldn’t discuss this topic until I could discuss it like a grown-up, and I wasn’t even sure if that would ever happen.
The end of the story was this; he pulled the book. Keep in mind that he hasn’t changed his mind about his position; he simply decided that it wasn’t worth his wife’s tears and his pastor's blood pressure to continue publicly in this position. I asked him if he had learned anything from all this, and his answer spoke volumes; “it’s better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
Let me tell you what I learned from all this. I learned that our ‘crowd’ who pride themselves on individuality and soul liberty are capable of just as much blind groupthink as anybody else. We count ourselves as being the independent crowd yet when somebody displayed independence, we turned on him. I learned that NOBODY handled this the way it should have been handled. I learned that personality is as much a factor in the ministry as truth, and those of us that claim we live by ‘faith not feelings’ get our feelings hurt surprisingly easy when somebody disagrees with us. I unfortunately, didn’t learn anything that made me happy, just things that made me very sad.
Knowing things like this, why would anybody in their right mind glory in their church or their pastor or their denomination when they could glory in the perfect Son of God and his perfect substitution death on the cross? Why put your faith in people who apparently don't even know how to handle themselves when you could put your faith in Jesus Christ who always handles everything correctly? Somebody once told me that they didn't think I could ever disappoint them. They said this despite the fact that I disappoint myself all time. The old songwriter was right when he said "The arm of flesh will fail you, you dare not trust your own". The smartest guy you know is a fleshly idiot if you catch him on the right day. The most spiritual man you know is a big bag of dirt who will not only do the unthinkable, but justify it under the right circumstances. We are as grass, and we need God's help more than we have any idea. Not just for the big things, or the big somethings; we need God's help not to devour each other with our reactions to things. Maybe that was the good that came out of all that. Maybe those of us that were willing to see it needed to be reminded what a bunch of chuckleheads we are. Maybe people like me needed to be reminded that we are still people like me.
Thank God for Jesus!
Thank God for Jesus!
Monday, March 31, 2014
Keep in mind that the human race does not exist in a vacuum. The Bible presents us with the idea of an adversary; the devil. He was the "anointed cherub that covereth" and now he is the "accuser of the brethren". Though not omniscient or omnipresent, he is proclaimed to be, in scripture, "the god of this world". In Ephesians 6:12, our warfare against the spiritual forces is said to have its theatre of operations the "high places". Furthermore, the devil is said in Ephesians 2 to be the "prince of the power of the air". These lights in the sky could very well be the manifestations of the one that the Bible says masquerades as an "angel of light". Since Genesis chapter 3, his goal has been to delude, confuse, and pervert men away from the service of God. He uses every trick in his arsenal, including bad doctrine and anti-biblical philosophy to blind the eyes and hearts of men and thusly deny God the worship that is his due. It seems hardly surprising then that, among the pile of bankrupt ideas of the New Age movement, we would find a reverence for these enlightened visitors that borders on worship. This particular subset of New Age literature props up the narrative that a warring, polluting self-destructive humanity needs the intervention of these space brothers who will then usher humanity into a period of peace, prosperity, and universal brotherhood. None of this should surprise the Bible believer who was warned of "seducing spirits" and "doctrines of devils".
Much as there are people who claim to channel the spirits of the dead, there are New Age practitioners who claim to be able to relay messages from space men. These messages, assuming they are genuine, are revealing in themselves. You see, if these visitors are actually enlightened beings further along the evolutionary trail than us, as they claim to be, then surely they would have outgrown the narrow-minded precepts of religious thought. One would think they would give no more heed to the Bible than a modern man gives to cave drawings. But quite the opposite,these beings seem veritably obsessed with the person of Jesus Christ. Though odd behavior for an alien, it falls right into line with the character of the one who claimed "I will be like the Most High.".
In the book Alien Contact: The Messages they Bring by Bonnie Meyer these visitors take credit for a great deal of God's work. "a UFO moved in the sky to Bethlehem and then placed itself by a star in the sky. and also a UFO helped to part the Red Sea..by lasers...the UFO's were working for God...These UFO's provided the manna from heaven. No, I'm not saying that God did not do this, but God worked through the UFO's to produce this. Also , God used a laser to write those things on the tablet, the commandments. These UFO's also parted the Jordan river."
Furthermore, these beings when they communicate manifest many of the same characteristics of a poltergeist with the occult phenomena that typically surround a haunting or a possession. Strange noises , unexplained marks, lost time, television or radio interference are all hallmarks of a poltergeist and also accompany a visitation or an 'abduction'. Frankly, these abduction stories are not for the faint of heart. They often involve torture, and only appear to happen to the unsaved. One doesn't have to read far into the alien abduction to see that, as Dave Hunt quipped " The same people in charge of haunted houses are in charge of flying saucers."
A recent theme that has surfaced is the idea of alien-human breeding program. This isn't particularly 'recent' though, as the same stunt was pulled back in Genesis 6. As usual, your Bible runs decades ahead of current events. Missler and Eastman, in their book Alien Abductions write "A recurring theme in the abduction scenario is the delivery of detailed messages to abductees . The messages delivered to abductees are typically done by telepathic (mind to mind) conversations..In some cases, abductees report being shown scenes or messages on large screens within the alien craft. These messages are usually horrific prophetic scenarios about impending cataclysmic events on earth and the destruction of Earth due to environmental degradation. In some cases overt religious messages are given to abductees. These messages can include the notion that he aliens are our creators, that they are trying to advance our evolution through these breeding programs, and that mankind must unify- with their assistance- into a system of global governance and religion in order to survive the future cataclysms."
Dr. Jacques Valee wrote in Confrontations ; "The medical examination to which abductees are said to be subjected , often accompanied by sadistic sexual manipulation, is reminiscent of the medieval tales of encounters with demons. It makes no sense in a sophisticated or technical framework; any intelligent being equipped with the scientific marvels that UFOs posses would be in a position to achieve any of these alleged scientific objectives in a shorter time and with fewer risks."
John Ankenberg and John Weldon ask the obvious question in their book The Facts on UFOs and Other Supernatural Phenomena. "Further , in light of the messages given by the UFO entities, how credible is it to think that literally thousands of genuine extraterrestrials would fly millions or billions of light years simply to teach new Age philosophy, deny Christianity, and support the occult? And why would the entities actually possess and inhabit people ( as in Walk-ins and channeling) just like demons do if they were really advanced extraterrestrials? Why would they consistently lie about things which we know are true, and why would they purposefully deceive their contacts?"
As the final nail in the coffin, I give you a quote from the esteemed Carl Sagan, who, though an opponent of Biblical Christianity his entire life, became a Bible believer on December 20th, 1996. In his work Intelligent Life in the Universe, Dr. Sagan asked "What might an advanced extraterrestrial civilization want from us? One of the primary motivations for the exploration of the New World was to convert the inhabitants to Christianity -peacefully if possible-forcefully if necessary. Can we exclude the possibility of an extraterrestrial evangelism?"
Note: Anyone interested in a more detailed coverage of this topic should read this. It's the least I can do after 'borrowing' his graphic.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
As I have mentioned before, I love books. Much of my reading is either Biblical in nature, or doctrinal in nature, or historical in nature, or all three at once. I read more church history than anybody else I know (three or four books a year on it, and there aren't even that many out there), and to be honest, most of the time it's like chewing rocks while wading through peanut butter. It seems there is always some weighty matter grabbing my attention,or my opinion and perspective is being sought on some point of doctrine or history and just as some people never read anything that's heavy, I hardly ever read anything that's light.
However, having made my way through 'History of the Baptists' and having semi-completed the notes for a Bible class, I was in the mood for something light. I wanted a break. I wanted a novel. I have a stack of books given to me by a friend that had belonged to his minister grandfather and had been merely sitting in plastic bin in a musty garage for years. In that stack was a book written in 1911. The cover said simply, in black letters "QUEED: A Novel by Henry Sydnor Harrison".
Now for me, there is an entire process of reading that involves multiple senses. I sat there in my bed and looked at the faded cover. I ran my hands over the threadbare cloth. I opened up and saw that this was a 1927 reprint. I put my nose in the book and smelled the yellowed pages ( try that with a Kindle, I promise you'll be disappointed). I perused the table of contents and then I started to read. An enjoyable book so far, but in the middle of reading it, a thought struck me; when was the last time this book was read? Not just when was the last time 'Queed' was read, (if Amazon reviews are any indicator, never) but when was the last time this particular copy was read?
I am an author, and I understand the process of distilling the brew of your imagination and trying to put that vision on a printed page. I know about creating characters. I know about research. I know about rewrites and rereadings, and moving things around in a manuscript. I know about spiral notebooks crammed with notes written in pencil. I know about putting months into a work and then deciding to abandon it. I know about asking people to look at what you've done. I know about he fear that they will think what you have written is as insufficient as you suspect it is. Creation for consumption by another is a frighteningly intimate act. If you write, or create in any way, you know exactly what I mean. I must assume that Mr Harrison knew about it as well.
I will never meet Mr Harrison. He'll never even know if I liked his book or not. I will never have the chance to sit down with him and find out what sort of person he was. Yet here I was, holding the essence of his imagination in my hand. He had written it, and published it, and now he lies somewhere moldering in his grave as I sit in my bed over 100 years later, and the chasm of time that separated us had been closed by this wonderful and marvelous conglomeration of ink and paper and glue. I had as much access to the inside of Mr Harrison's head than I would have ever had if we been contemporaries. His words retain as much life as they ever possessed. Ink on a page has the ability to evoke images and passions, and skillful words can endear you to people that don't technically exist. That is part of the wonder of the printed word.
The other side to that equation is that Mr. Harrison's words were typeset, committed to paper, bound in a book, and sold. That book was purchased and then, after some unknowable time and circumstances , became resigned to a plastic bin in somebody's garage. The creative sweat of Mr. Harrison languished in unappreciated anonymity for decades. That seems horribly tragic to me, but at the same time, somewhat inevitable.
There is only so much time in a man's life and he can only read so much. You couldn't read everything ever written, nor should you feel compelled to do so. There are printed works that frankly aren't worth the shelf space in your brain. To qualify as 'well read' you have to literally be at least passingly familiar with hundreds of works written over thousands of years. But there is a certain amount of wading and sorting that one must endure to find those little treasures left behind by the minds of the past. When you rescue the contents of another man's heart from the plastic bin in the musty garage, and put those contents into your own heart, you have returned a small flicker of life to someone who once wondered if what they were writing was ever going to be read by anyone. You have confirmed and given credence to those hours spent writing and rewriting. You have validated the time spent, which was just as precious to them as yours is to you, and you have literally stepped over centuries in a single bound to commune with someone you will never meet.
Isn't that absolutely amazing?