Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mario not Bombs

We were going to buy souvenirs. Quick in-quick out trip to a souvenir shop downtown and then a drag race back to the compound to avoid the Ramadan late night traffic that the Kingdom is famous for. The traffic in Saudi Arabia is usually like ants scrambling to rebuild an ant-mound if the ants all had chainsaws and were on fire, but during the nights of Ramadan it is doubley murderous.
We went in to the shop and quickly found the things we were going to buy, and then paid for them. I wanted ot walk upstairs and get coffee from the coffee shop I had seen plenty of times, but never when it was open. I wandered up there and an Arab teenager made me a macchiato. Another Arab teenager asked me where I was from and what I was doing there. I told him I was from near Dallas. So was he, apparently. Born and raised in Irving, TX, this young Saudi had moved back with his family to the homeland only a year prior. The world in so small it can fit inside a marble. 
The coffee shop was crowded. Jeremiah, my work associate, asked why there were so many young dudes hanging in a souvenir-shop's coffee house and we were told there was a Super Smash Brothers tournament on the Wii taking place that night. Of course there was. Why wouldn't this coffee shop in Saudi Arabia be the perfect setting--and these young men the perfect hosts--for a nintendo game tournament? 
Sometimes international travel exposes your preconceived notions of people groups. Sometimes it shows you that--no matter how progressive you think you are--you really are a prejudiced and racist son of a gun. And sometimes you play a Smash Brothers tournament in a coffee shop drinking Italian espresso in Saudi Arabia at midnite in Saudi Arabia and nothing on earth makes sense. 
The internet has broken down walls wars and "spreading democracy" never could. The internet is the greatest export the West has ever given the world, and is responsible for the spread of culture, communication, information, and the quest for freedom across every continent on earth. We are in a great and magic age of our planet's history as every person on earth is growing more and more connected each day. As this growth happens, we are seeing the growing pains. We are seeing the old ways of doing things continue to rear its ugly head. We are seeing bombs and guns still being thought of as "redemptive" and "peace-making" instead of Love, understanding, and compassion.
The Middle East is in the middle of a rebirth. The more the wars and fires of hate rage on in the region, the more the youth gathered in coffee shops playing video games will demand a different recourse. These kids will see the West in a different way than their grandfathers. They will be able to interact with people and find it hard to hate them. 
I got destroyed in the first round of the tournament. I hadn't played that game since college, so I wasn't expecting much out of my entry, but I was demolished in minutes. The guys shook my hand and Jeremiah and I left the shop and risked our lives driving back home. Meanwhile, Israel and Palestine were beginning another round of violence miles away. Hate and ignorance were ruling the region that was once the home of the Son of Man who asked us to "turn the other cheek." The words of the Prince of Peace were muted in the ears of so many that night. I pray we can find compassion, understanding, and love for people who we view as different from ourselves because war and violence are ALWAYS so far removed from the will of Jesus, they aren't even in the same building. 
More mario, less war. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

One Good Thing

The world is absurd, if we are to believe Camus, and no meaning can be found in existence. There really isn't a difference between winning and losing and any narrative of meaning is a forced construct of our selves attempting to synthesize meaning on a life devoid of purpose. Nihilism is the only proper reaction to the evil and darkness we see in the world.  This is a totally logical response to life, and I can't fault anyone for having the belief that evil is proof of the meaninglessness of life. However, I subscribe to a different school of thought.

You ever work with glitter? Of course you have. You probably loved it as a kid, because everyone loved glitter as a kid. We all did, because GLITTER. Now we don't like it as much. In fact, I can't stand glitter and when I grab something that has glitter on it, I drop it immediately because I don't want to get glitter on my hands because it will literally never come off of them. Glitter is resilient and magic in its ability to leap from objects onto other objects and then cling to them like a tick on a dog. I can be in the same room as something with glitter on it, like a Christmas ornament decorated by a child, and then five days later I will have glitter on my face somehow. 
I will look at my face, which may not be the best looking face in the world but is decidedly mostly non-glittery, and I will immediately see the shimmering glint of a microscopic speck of glitter on my cheek. Glitter just rubs off on everything.

The world is full of terrible things. It may have been created perfect, but is decidedly mostly non-perfect. There is violence inherent in the systems of government we love and the ones we hate. There is death all around us--literally everyone we love we will have to mourn one day. Kids get cancer. People are kidnapped and sold into slavery. There is a reason the "problem of evil" is a problem. There is a reason why we jump through philosophical and theological hoops trying to explain how a good God who loves us can allow such terrible things to happen to people--how our Father's world can seem to be full of misery and heartache. 
Why do bad things happen to good people? 
Are there good people?
What if there aren't?
What if there aren't good people and 'good' is merely an illusion created by the relative goodness of some people compared to the evil of other people. 

What if....

There is just One Good Thing in the whole universe.  This One Good Thing is spinning and moving and holding the other things all together and is so big It runs into stuff all the time and pops out to say hello. The One Good Thing is so good, so amazingly good It can't do anything but good things. It is The One Good Thing after all, and these good things It does are merely pieces of Itself left like glitter on stuff. The One Good Thing is so big and so good It is leaving Its goodness-glitter all over the universe and we can see this goodness and it confuses us because it stands out so much against the evil everywhere else. We can't describe the Good Thing without talking about the good things It does and good people stand out because they have the most glitter on them--the One Good Thing has rubbed off on them the most. The only way to get the One Good Thing to rub off on you is to be close to It, to touch It, to get glitter on your face and then watch as that pesky glitter keeps showing up in the strangest places. On a table where there are fifteen things without any glitter on them, and one thing with glitter on it, your eye will be drawn to the glitter. Eventually, if you move the glittery thing around the table, shaking it over the other less-shiny stuff, there will be glitter on everything. Glitter has to get on stuff, it has to make things shine. Goodness is not the norm, but the One Good Thing is rubbing off on people, making them carriers of the One Good Thing to the evil and dark world in which they live. 

God is the One Good Thing in the universe. He is so good He can only do good things all the time, always, forever. He invented good by His existence because good is predicated on what He is because good is, by definition, God. Nothing good is done without God being a part of it. No child can laugh without God existing on the sound waves of the pure and undefiled joy that laughter carries. No lovers can kiss without God existing in the micrometers between their lips, holding love in His being because He is LOVE. He is everything good, everything beautiful, everything that makes birds sing and flowers grow. He is the giver of good gifts and the bringer of stars into darkness. The One Good Thing is good enough to overpower a broken world because glitter shows up where you least expect it. The One Good Thing is big enough. In It we live and move and walk around covered in love and glitter and good things. 

About Drew

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A follower of Jesus, trying to build myself and others up from the inside out.