Video

Fin

edit: http://www.ctcasberg.com is where the hip is hopping.

It’s the end of the road for this particular project, for I’ll soon be putting on some snazzier duds. New look, new URL, and perhaps… a new book?

I leave you with the grandest farewell song ever sung by four Irishmen who tuck their shirts into their pants.

I am the Ass

A poem on occasion of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem

I am the ass, clop clop
Big dumb teeth and long dumb ears
I am the ass, clop clop
And I don’t cry no tears

I am the ass, clop clop
I snort and kick and bray
I am the ass, clop clop
You curse me every day

I am the ass, clop clop
I’m unfit for any king
I am the ass, clop clop
But the king has chosen me

I am the ass, clop clop
Sinners sing a victor’s psalm
I am the ass, clop clop
On this road of cloaks and palms

I am the ass, clop clop
The meanest and unwisest
I am the ass, clop clop
Hosanna in the highest

Gnosis and the Drone Strike God

In spiritual studies, it sometimes seems to be hardly of any importance whether or not a man has heard the name of his savior in this temporal life, yet it also seems in our present cultural environment that the mere recitation of names and phrases comprises the bulk of our spiritual life.  “Unless you confess his name!” they say, but speaking a word alone is not a reconciliation with God. By itself, it’s only incantation. We forget we do not summon God- he summons us. We worship Christ as the highest because there can be no alternative; it is not as a favor to ourselves, an “in” to a powerful circle of supernatural friends, entering the good graces of the godfather above all godfathers, but the admission of an elementary truth: He was, and is, and shall be, the first, the highest, and greatest. Two is always greater than one, and the infinite is always infinitely greater than the finite. When the Lord draws a man or woman or child near to his bosom, a glimpse is given of this unending majesty, and having seen the Truth the person shouts the Truth from their lips, a reverberation echoed from the heart’s deepest well: “You are God, my God!”

Today some parts of the evangelical church are afflicted by a predilection best described as Gnostic. What else can we call this preoccupation with mere utterance of words and the retention of facts? How many times have we heard the likes of, “Lord, I pray that our enemies will know and confess your name!” As if the name itself will do much for or against them. It’s an easy prayer, too, because it is a weak one. Try, “Lord, I pray that your gentle Spirit descends on my enemies and that they will know quiet peace, smiling contemplation, and holy rest.” A good prayer, though it’s insufferable to a small part inside us to think “they” should get to know our spiritual joy, which we, of course, earned.

The Gnostics were an early (and formidable) rival to the early church, and they taught that the souls of men were saved by possessing a secret knowledge, the gnosis, passed down from Christ himself. The particular “knowledge” itself was esoteric nonsense, and the movement gradually tore itself to pieces as rivalries and divisions cropped up between sects claiming theirs was the “correct” knowledge. It was not a life of individual spiritual unity with Christ, but a jealous guarding of concepts to be lorded over outsiders. Their absurd cosmology may be all but extinct (followed only by the rare sort of individual who might also worship the Greek deities he found on Wikipedia), yet I fear there’s a constant danger of the method worming its way into the church.

Now, is our God a name, a truth, or a being? All three, I suppose, but the name and truth spring from the being, a person(s) that knows and wants to be known. Are we praying for ourselves that God finds a suitable home in our tabernacle and thereby dwells, speaking to us daily, and that we have ears to hear? Or are we satisfied with our gnosis? Say the words, and heaven’s yours! Do we pray the same for others? Or do we ask that our friends and family would also gain the secret knowledge, rather than encountering that terrifying face of the holy?

Worse yet, I sometimes hear the name of Jesus invoked against a rival or foreigner, like a spell being cast, or like a soldier calling for air support on the radio. Send in the drones! Dispatch that unmanned, person-less, cold and unknowable weapon in the sky to rain down ‘fire from heaven and destroy them, even as Elijah did.’

‘But Jesus turned and rebuked them,  “…for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”‘

Spiritual truths are synonymous with uncomfortable truths (an oft misused phrase), and I think the uncomfortable truth here is that our God is not a chant or verse or weapon, but a thinking, conscious person, to whom we owe all because he is all and has given all for our sake. I think many of us, in some way or another, have “Vote for Jesus!” signs prominently on our lawn, yet we tend to overlook the fact that the man himself is living in our house. Let’s chat up the guy, over breakfast maybe. I heard he drinks coffee.

1 Corinthians 15:31

I protest, brethren, by my pride in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!

I find that my day is remarkably improved by dying first thing in the morning. When the “crust of self” is mortified and shorn away, a thing much more like life (because it is life) springs up where my corpse had fallen lifeless and useless.

A little Protestant love for Pope Francis

Just as the organic unity existing among the virtues means that no one of them can be excluded from the Christian ideal, so no truth may be denied, the integrity of the Gospel message must not be deformed. What is more, each truth is better understood when related to the harmonious totality of the Christian message; in this context all of the truths are important and illumine one another. When preaching is faithful to the Gospel, the centrality of certain truths is evident and it becomes clear that Christian morality is not a form of stoicism, or self-denial, or merely a practical philosophy or a catalogue of sins and faults. Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no circumstance can this invitation be obscured! All of the virtues are at the service of this response of love. If this invitation does not radiate forcefully and attractively, the edifice of the Church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options. The message will run the risk of losing its freshness and will cease to have “the fragrance of the Gospel”.

I’ve been making my way through Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, and I must say that it is absolutely wonderful. He’s taken fire for things like suggesting Christians should stop shooting their mouths off 24/7 about issues like abortion and gay marriage and whatnot. Some critics have gone so far as to suggest the Pope suffered an ideological disconnect from the scripture. This document should prove the absurdity of that thought. Francis reminds his flock that the mission of the church is nothing less than embodying, revealing, and sharing the elemental joy and blessedness of Christ’s bodily resurrection, and that all her actions must stem from this indisputable and irrevocable fact.

Too quickly, I think, are we to lay the heavy burden of the law on others and “not lift a finger to ease them.” What use is it to bicker about same-sex marriage with someone who does not know the beauty of the marriage between Christ and his Bride? Who does not even know Christ? When we lay “burdens hard to bear,” that is, legal requirements, on those who have no inkling of the Gospel, we also sow resentment in their hearts. What use is that? Why not sow the Gospel instead!

The “Ah, Nuts” Moment and an Overdue Explanation

Yesterday I had lunch with friends, and we got around to discussing my book. I told them I didn’t think the idea of retelling the narrative of God’s promise of salvation to mankind throughout the Bible as a zombie story was particularly novel. While I didn’t know if someone else had done it yet, I really didn’t think it was that creative. I mean, the Bible is all about the dead and the rising thereof. It was only a matter of time before somebody got around to making that into a good zombie story.

Turns out I was right. Googling around today, it looks like someone actually made zombie lit out of the Bible: Stant Litore. Here’s the Amazon tagline:

Stant Litore’s The Zombie Bible retells biblical tales and ancient history as episodes in humanity’s long struggle with hunger … and with the hungry dead.

You can practically hear my face falling. On the surface, it’s similar enough to make me worry about the prospects of my work being published without criticism of originality. Reading the descriptions, however, it’s clear we’ve taken the idea in entirely different directions. From the outset, “Light of the Dead” (super creative working title!!!) has been a zombie comedy framed on Pauline theology that loosely recaps the arc described in covenant theology. I’m frankly not sure what Litore’s end goal is. I do know that my story is obnoxiously and unapologetically Christian.

Anyhoo, since I’m talking about the dude, I’ll link his Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Stant-Litore/e/B006AC98GY/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

I don’t plan on reading his books anytime in the near future, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. (I really, desperately, very much do not want to plagiarize, accidentally or otherwise. Also, strange as it sounds, I’m not that big a fan of zombie fiction and media.)

I guess while we’re here I’ll share the description of my project that I shared with a friend and mentor:

The book is basically a zombie story framed on Romans 5:19 (“For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”) The idea came from Colossians 2:13 (“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses”) and Ephesians 2:1-2 (“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…”). In other words, unredeemed man = zombie, or the walking dead.

My goal is to help a particular type of people break down their biases and reluctance in reading scripture by giving them an accessible, light-hearted narrative that nevertheless talks about man’s fallen nature and his hope for life in Christ.

And there you go. That’s the whole secret project. While I had this all in mind months before I’d heard of the guy (not to mention tens of thousands of words on paper), I don’t think either Stant nor I are being original. I’m quite surprised it’s taken this long for someone to write these kinds of things, to be honest.

Come on. The linchpin of our religion is that a man very literally rose from the dead, and that we, bound to death, have hope in him that we too may rise from the grave.

Alrighty. That’s all I have for now. While we’re talking Paul, we may as well end with the guy.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Cor 10:31

So whether you eat, or drink, or write zombie novels based on the Bible, or read blog posts about writing zombie novels based on the Bible, or shave large dogs for a paycheck, do all to the glory of God.

Conduct

When we blame a man for being “a mere animal”, we mean not that he displays animal characteristics (we all do) but that he displays these, and only these, on occasions where the specifically human was demanded. (When we call him “brutal” we usually mean that he commits cruelties impossible to most real brutes; they’re not clever enough).

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves.

Flash Fiction: The Xenophone

The following is an absurd piece of flash fiction that nobody likes except me. It is my beloved ugly son. It’s about an impossible musical instrument known as the xenophone, which is only available on Amazon.com yesterday, perpetually. I’d like to include it in a larger piece someday, but for now, it is what it is.

The Xenophone

“I beg your pardon sir, but could you do me the favor of drawing back the veil of darkness enshrouding this odd contraption?” asked the man.

“The light switch is behind you, my good man, and it is, in fact, already engaged,” grumbled the wizard.

“I suppose I meant if you could tell me what it is.”

“Then I suppose you should learn how to properly ask a question, but very well. That is a xenophone, a rather curious musical instrument.”

“How does it work?”

“That is a very good question. No one knows.”

“What does it do?”

“Why, nearly everything you want it to do.”

“I would very much like to hear it play music then!” exclaimed the man.

“Oh. It doesn’t do that. Not normally, in any case.”

“Can you play it?”

“Anyone can play it! However, like all instruments, getting it to do what you want requires a man trained in its nuance. It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that the only man in this world that could play it is now deceased. Only a quantum musician may master its music, and ours has passed. Alas!”

“So there was only one quantum musician? How did he learn to play it, if there were no others? It takes two to learn a lesson; one to give, one to take.”

“Quite wrong. There are trillions of quantum musicians at the very least. And a quantum musician, being of both all musical possibilities and impossibilities, needs no introduction to the xenophone, an instrument that both is and isn’t.” The wizard paused a moment. ”It also helps that he invented it.”

Another pause.

“I often suspect that the xenophone also invented him.”

The man opened his mouth to speak, but the wizard help up a single, crooked finger. The man seemed incapable of uttering anything other than a question, and the wizard had detected this pattern.

“There is a quantum musician in all realities, of which there are as many as there are stars in the sky. Ours has passed away, but there are many, many more still alive and kicking. I know this because a fellow xenophonist from a neighboring dimension stopped by to have coffee while I visited our dimension’s maestro some years ago.”

“I believe you’re pulling my leg, sir. First an instrument that plays no music, and now you say there are millions of dimensions. Not only do they exist, but you’ve met a man that’s traveled from another! Come now, this is poppydash.”

“Forgive me, for I was not clear on one point. There are an infinite number of realities, and my comparison to the skies was merely for poetic effect.”

“I find this preposterous, but my curiosity is piqued. May I try to play it?” asked the man.

“Certainly. Might I suggest that you do not put it in your mouth? My lab assistant, Wilfred, tried that yesterday with a rather unfortunate result.”

“What happened?”

The wizard pointed at a bar of soap on the table.

“He… cleaned himself? I don’t understand.”

“This is Wilfred. He used to be six feet tall.” The wizard scratched his beard. “And not a bar of soap.”

The man simply shook his head in disbelief and leaned over to inspect the xenophone. It is impossible to describe the instrument for you, the reader, because as it is infinitely probably and improbable, its status of pure being is questionable at best. Imagine a toy piano that is simultaneously the size and shape of a basketball as well as a harp the size and shape of your mouth, teeth included. The man, understandably perplexed, merely tapped the nearest metal protuberance with a fingernail.

It emitted no sound, and the man remained quite unsoap-like.

“Well, sir, I must confess I am somewhat disappointed. After all your wild and fanciful stories, I was beginning to believe that something mysterious might actually happen. I was only being foolish, of course… What? What is it?”

The wizard was staring at the man with a playful grin.

“Were you married when you came in this evening?” asked the wizard.

“Married? No. Why?”

“Look at your hands.”

The man looked at his hands. On his left ring finger sat a plain, gold band. He gasped.

“This…. This isn’t mine! Where did it come from?”

The wizard’s smile grew wider. “Perhaps you should check your cellular speaking device for recent activity?”

The man thrust his hand into his pocket and yanked out his cell phone. He nearly snapped the screen off when he flipped open the phone, and his fingers frantically stabbed at the buttons. He let out a sound that, to the wizard, was remarkably similar to a mouse’s squeak.

“’Wifey?’ ‘Wifey?’ Who the hell is ‘Wifey?’”

The man sobbed.

“Congratulations, my good man!” said the wizard, positively beaming. “I’m sure you’ll both be very happy!”

The man looked at the wizard with a face best described as utterly terrified.

“What? How? This can’t be real,” he stammered. “I’m in some absurd dream.”

“I’m sure your bride is waiting for you at home, and all by her lonesome!” chided the wizard. “You best be getting home before she starts to worry.”

The man, eyes wide in confusion and disbelief, left through the front door. He didn’t even bother to shut it. The wizard closed the door and turned his gaze on the xenophone.

“A wife, huh?” he mused. “I wouldn’t mind having some more help around here!”

He approached the instrument. He paused a moment to replay the man’s interaction with the device, hoping to reproduce his exact movement. Once satisfied with the mental game plan, he bent over and tapped a metal protuberance. No ring appeared on his finger. With a dissatisfied grunt, the wizard turned away from the xenophone, only to find Wilfred sitting on the table with a dazed look in his eyes.

“Oh! Wilfred, you’ve returned. How are you feeling?”

The tall, lanky lab assistant shook his head about for a few seconds. He stopped and attempted to speak. However, when he opened his mouth, an orange kitten fell out and landed in his open hands.

“I see! Well, good to have you back, Wilfred.”

The kitten mewed.