The other night we watched the movie "Waiting for Forever" about a boy who had been in love with his childhood girlfriend since they were 10 and officially lost touch when his parents died in a train accident and he and his brother moved to their grandparents. As he grows older, though, he follows the love of his youth wherever her professional career takes her, himself making a living of 3 dollars a day ("on a good day") as a juggler dressed in pyjamas.
Although this wasn't the best film I watched of late (for instance, there was the excellent 2010 film "Fair Game," which gives further insight into the insanity that's still being perpetrated in Iraq), "Waiting for Forever" moved me most. Not so much because of the plot, but because of the fact that I was watching it with my 28 year old wife who might never get to know the kind of culture that grants a fellow the liberty to make a very unstable living on 3 bucks a day as a juggler, traveling wherever his dream would take him.
Although the boy in the movie was met with heavy criticism from his older brother (a banker), and was being called a stalker, and despite the fact that his kind is a dying breed in the West, at least we have come to know that sort of a culture, while other countries, such as the one I'm currently residing in, probably never will.
Though the culture whose hospitality I'm currently enjoying is by no means an exclusive example of what I'd like to call the "imposed realism" that not only political leaders, but even more so cultural and traditional elders seem to feel obligated to circumcise their offspring's dreams and ideals with, it is definitely an outstanding example.
You cannot just marry the man or girl you love. Any man that intends to marry is expected to have a house first. My wife has told me of an experience in a Shanghai park where she watched hundreds of elderly couples looking for suitable spouses for their daughters (or sons) with a list of criteria in hand that any potential candidate would have to live up to; criteria primarily based on income.
A juggler making 3 bucks a day wouldn't stand an chance in hell to get married under that set of conditions. It might me hard in the West, but just about impossible in the East.
Of course, when I was a young lad back in Germany, I got to hear much of the same tune from my folks. Not that they would have expected of me to be able to buy a house before I started messin' round with the opposite sex, but I was repeatedly advised to "get a good education" to secure a "solid existence" for myself. When I came home one day telling them that I met a group of people who were "foolowing Jesus," and that one day I would like to do the same, they were naturally horrified.
In the meantime they have accepted my somewhat loose, though not entirely carefree life-style, and my father, having seen his own supposedly "solid existence" and career go down the drain due to fluctuations and instability in the economy has told me since that I made the right choice when I set out to do what I did.
In the West, though, parents have their existence taken care of by retirement insurances, and both my parents are currently better off with their pensions than I am as an English teacher in the Far East, where the only old-age insurance elderly parents have got are their children and their respective incomes, so it's somewhat understandable that they want their kids to be able to care for them. Many young people live under a lot of pressure because of that responsibility.
Then again, my reasoning is that many things in life are simply beyond our control. Everything is potentially subject to drastic and unexpected changes: death, illness or financial and economic disaster can hit anyone at any time, and what power does anyone really have, to effectively impose their own little reality on anyone in the long run, even their kids?
When Jesus went around luring established young men with flourishing businesses away from their homes and responsibilities telling them He would make them "fishers of men," certainly He wasn't met with strong enthusiasm on behalf of those men's families. For all we know, some of them (like Peter) were even married and possibly had children. What an irresponsible thing to do, to just walk off with a perfect stranger of questionable reputation, Messiah or not...
And from a "realist's" point of view, that criticism may well be justified: 10 of those young men ended up as martyrs, one committed suicide, and only one died of natural causes on an island where he exiled by the Romans.
Their philosophies and beliefs as expressed in their writings are questionable to this day, and even most "believers" only accept those parts of the Gospels that they can reconcile with the consensus of the imposed realism of our day and age.
The first rule and law is not "to love one another," but to secure one's own existence, which, as the Founder of their faith claimed, is no different from what unbelievers adhere to.
So, what would be making a difference then? - Trust.
The people who really made a difference throughout history were those who despite all the seemingly rhymeless reality all around us never ceased to trust that there was Someone ultimately in charge Who not only knew what He was doing, but was also going to take care of them, provide for them, and help them through this mess somehow.
In my own personal experience, I can only confirm that to be true, and I would strive for nothing more than to go down in history as one of those trusters who refuse to accept the artificially imposed realism from those around us - even our loved ones - no matter how justified their reasoning may seem; a person known for the belief that there is a greater Mind than even the wisest of our parents, how ever strange some of the things may first sound that this Great Mind may ask of us - much like a Parent Himself, asking His children to trust Him for the things they do not know, which basically is the essence of faith - the one currency that will outlast any of our existing ones.
Maybe I would have broken out into laughter, or started to feel severely dizzy with a troubling pain between my ears.
But fate has its twisted little ways at times, and since my wife was denied entry to what I have since come to call the “Schengen zoo” twice, and my dream of forming an acoustic trio consequently had to be put on ice, after 3 decades of raking in a living with my guitar I’ve had to change professions, along with continents and locations, and have since become an English teacher in China.
Sometimes we get to a point of stagnation in our lives where we think we know and have seen it all. But then the great Celestial Wizard (I have to be more careful with religious sounding vocabulary these days…) waves His magic wand, takes us out of our familiar environment into a totally new & different one (my definition of China: same earth, different planet) and sits us in front of His great big celestial record player to the sound of the 70s tune by the Canadian band Bachman, Turner, Overdrive, “You Ain’t Seen Nuthin’ Yet.”
Mr. Know-It-All becomes Johnny Clueless, and has to prove all over again whether he ever really meant a thing about all the things he preached to others about learning from life, leaving it all behind and the whole “follow-the-great-Celestial-Wizard” sort of spiel.
Things can get awfully silent around folks like that in these situations, and that’s why you haven’t heard from me in a while.
Besides, life is a lot busier for English teachers in China with a fraction of the wages for musicians in Europe, especially during rainy season.
My wife told me today (and as every man would, I love it when she does), “You’re my hero.”
Not that I actually feel heroic, but in this case she was right: I had just approved myself as a super hero. Remember “Aquaman”? - The superhero who commanded the element of water?
Well, that’s who I felt like today (for the second time this month, by the way), after just having been drenched within seconds during a sudden torrent while riding my e-bike home from College. Drenched to the bone we found shelter under the roof of a hotel entrance (along with other unlucky bikers like ourselves), and were soon off to get a little more soaked before we finally got home…
Getting drenched in China is a great thing to happen to folks who used to be fed up with their semi-organized, neat little lives in way too organized countries…
It’s as if Big CW (Celestial Wizard) grabbed a gigantic bucket of water and emptied it out on your head, saying, “Wake up, dude! You were only dreaming!”
Yes, I once dreamed that I knew something about the world I live in, and have waken up to the refreshing fact of my utter ignorance in a part of the world I knew next to nothing about.
So, if you should ever feel intellectually bloated and feel as if there were no more challenges, no more new worlds to conquer, don’t be fooled! You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, and there’s always room for another “super hero” in China!
At least from my good intentions to stay or become politically correct earlier this year, as I unfortunately will have to prove with this post.
A few years back we still had "once-a-week Christians:" Even if you didn't see or hear any sign of your fellow brethren throughout the week, you could be sure to meet them somewhere among the pews on Sundays.
That Christianity may be in somewhat of a decline again may be assumed by the fact that the surge of "once-a-year Christians" is becoming alarmingly evident.
Folks you never heard of for 364 days straight, now will at least send you their Christmas emails as a reminder that there was something you had in common, namely the celebration of the birth of Baby Jesus.
The notorious party pooper I am perhaps, I was never all too fond of that sort of relationship, religion, tradition, or whatever you'd like to call it (since it couldn't possibly be called anything like genuine friendship)...
While it is probably better to hear from (some) folks once a year than never at all, what takes a bit of the magic out of the whole thing is that it does come across as somewhat stereotype.
Blame it on my distaste for any type, shape or form of ritualism ever since I got an overdose of Catholicism as a boy that quickly drove me to atheism (if God was like that: no thanks!), but I just can't get warm with people using the same words over and over and over again to express something which seems to represent the very role you played in their lives over the previous dozen of months, the equivalent of which, in numerical terms would be zero.
So, here's to all the zeroes of the world who are only remembered by their friends and relatives on that special day on which we celebrate the event that marks the year Zero...
And if you feel like a zero, cheer up! The Guy born that day didn't amount to much more in terms of bank accounts, Facebook friends and followers on Twitter, either, latest by the time He hung on that cross 33 years later, when He was able to count the friends He still had left that day on the fingers of one hand with room to spare...
So, nevermind if I'm not sending any of you any Christmas greetings this year: I only mean to do you a favor.
If I didn't write you all year long, then shame on me. But I certainly wouldn't want to make matters worse by sending you a mass mail equal to the ones from previous years, not to mention those of the dears who had exactly the same idea... or lack thereof...
I might send you a note on Holy Friday, though, to remind you that even when you don't have a friend in the world left, there's always Someone Who knows exactly what you're going through, and that that was the purpose for which He had been born: to be there for you when no one else will be.
The time may come. You may not see it now, but at the rate not only (true) Christianity, but things like lasting friendship and interhuman relationship are on the decline, don't be too shocked if it might even happen to you one of these days...
The main part I’ve done for a living over the past 30 years, ever since I left my mother’s home in 1980, was even more outrageous and less believable that “play music.” What I’ve mostly done over the past 3 decades to sustain myself and my families, was to trust the Lord.
Often I’ve been trying to get away from that, and been looking for ways to be able to do just like everybody else: be comfortably relying on my own strengths and wit and fend for myself, as opposed to depending on some obscure, invisible Supreme Being we really know rather little about to be trusting Him with all our bills, our meals and a roof over our house.
Oddly enough, obscure and invisible or not, He has chosen to do so anyway, and has just been doing it (seeing to it that our bills were paid, moths fed, etc.), despite my own often less than appropriate skills and abilities to provide, and even the shocking fact that most of what I do in order to make it happen when I do, is play music.
It was outrageous enough, but infinitely less difficult back 30 years ago, in 1980, when I was young, optimistic and the world had not yet been drowned in the type of plastic entertainment that has managed to make them practically allergic to actual handcrafted music in the 21st century.
The doors were open wide, and it was easy to be optimistic that things were going to just keep getting better.
There were situations that looked desperate, yes; like the time our car broke down right on the main transit street through Barcelona, and we had to unhook the trailer, park in a tiny little side niche on the side of the road which became our home for the next few days. Me and my American partner Phillip took our guitars to the streets and did what we could to little avail, except for the pity of some merciful old lady that would occasionally toss a tiny coin in our guitar case. But at one point, some guy came up to us, interrupted us in the middle of a song, and after a few minutes we found ourselves booked for a whole week in an exclusive club called “Incontro.” A week later, our car was fixed and we rolled on southward.
A year later I found myself having to fend for myself in Vina del Mar, Chile, a place where the familiar luxuries of Europe were frighteningly absent, but even there God did what I couldn’t and supplied abundantly for all the needs I ever had.
Years later I found myself with a family, kids to feed and bills to pay, and God kept doing it.
Lately I’ve found myself having to fend for myself again, and it’s 3 decades later and the world has changed into a state that sometimes makes me wonder, “Alas, is the Almighty still going to manage and keep doing IT?”
Well, as of the news I got from Him this morning, He obviously intends to do so. Good news for me, since I’m just about as clueless about the business world and the art of making money as I’ve ever been – and that in the middle of the world in which just about everyone else does that and absolutely nothing – or at least not much – else.
The good part about it being that God, over the years, has become a little less obscure and unknown to me, even though I admit, it’s still sometimes a little hard to see Him in all the hubbub and confusion all around me, and every now and then it does cost me a little effort to trust that He’s really serious or in His right mind about it all – or whether I am, until He assures me, as usual, that everything’s going to be alright.
In fact, He’s not crazy at all, nor does He want me to believe that I am, but actually encourages me to let others know that He wants to take care of them and their needs, too, as unbelievable as that may sound.
When it all comes down to it, He already provides all we need in the first place: every breath of oxygen we breathe, every swig of water we drink, along with all the raw material for our food, nourishment and fuel to keep our vehicles moving and out houses warm and lit.
It’s just that instead of granting Him the credit for it, we prefer to ascribe all that benevolence to an even more obscure and questionable deity, namely coincidence or chance, that brought about all that opulence simply by itself. Man, are we one lucky species to be alive!
So, what do I do for a living? Well, mainly, I trust the Lord. I’ve done it yesterday and 30 years ago, am doing it today, and will keep on doing it tomorrow and for as long as I live. I can do no other. I simply haven’t learned anything else.
I can't get over the loyalty thing. Compare it to someone who has never wasted a second thought about trucks until one fine day he gets run over by one, or about terrorists, until he is being abducted or something...
Something you never devoted attention to, all of a sudden becomes paramount.
If you look at it from a spiritually historical point of view, all the evil in the world falls back down onto a loyalty issue, namely Lucifer's. If he had remained loyal, there would be no sin, and accordingly, most likely, no evil.
But I guess that wasn't the plan. After all, those lessons on loyalty must be learned eventually...
Another issue I never wasted a second thought on for decades, or that I had simply put in a mental drawer of "does not exists" or "there is no such thing," is that of soul mates.
A year ago or two I met a Christian couple who told me they believed they were each other's soul mates. "Interesting," I thought, but as far as I was concerned, there couldn't really have been such a thing. (In my particular situation, it was always, “Maybe you’re not; maybe you are…")
Relationships were just bound to be messy, that's all, I figured, and the "Soul Mates" thing was a nice thought, and I was happy for them, but my personal reality was a different one.
Strangely enough, God often uses the darkest nights in our lives only to bring about a sunrise as bright and golden as you had never before thought possible in this earthly life in an, after all, often questionable world, obviously temporarily run by His adversary.
I know now there is such a thing as Soul Mates, because lo and behold, I've found mine. Not exactly where I would have been looking for her, but then, life is always full of surprises. Maybe you'll hear more about this in the future.
Yet another topic my mind is currently dealing with is the sin of avarice.
Imagine you were the Creator and Father of every living soul and would have to watch how over ten thousand of them were starving to death daily because their richer brothers and sisters were simply too stingy to share even a fraction of their overly proportionate wealth with them, making it their philosophy that the world would actually be better off with a significantly smaller population. I bet it would certainly become an issue to you.
Living in a country where big corporations even advertise their relatively low-priced goods with slogans like “Stinginess is cool!” (“Geiz ist geil!”), as usual I’m probably a lone voice (of widely considered insanity) in the wilderness even wasting a thought on such issues, let alone web space, but I simply cannot leave any potential serious seekers of truth dwelling in the illusion that everything is just fine with us and our world.
People always blame God for the suffering of the world, when it becomes clear, after taking off our spectacles of self-righteousness, that it's really largely the evil in our own hearts that's responsible for it. Maybe some day we'll find out that even natural disasters are being caused by our own bad vibes that we're spewing off into the ether. I wouldn't be a bit surprised.
Anyway, these are, as always, just a few thoughts from a mole who's just breaking through the end of a long dark tunnel into the light, in an attempt to cheer up any of those out there still digging: Folks, there's light at the other end, and it's worth it!
I've always believed in the power of two. Well, nearly always. Sometimes you're actually better off alone than with the wrong company. But basically, when you've got 2 souls with more or less the same vision and goals, according to the Old Testament, it quintuples a person's strength in battle.
The problem is that when you've gotten used to this modus operandi of two-by-two, when one of your "motors" flunks out, and you're stuck again on your own, it reduces your power back to one fifth of what by then you might have gotten used to. So, you feel pretty much reduced to a sausage. Folks who've undergone separation will know what I'm talking about. The others won't have a clue, just as I didn't until it happened to me.
The power of two is great, but don't necessarily rely on it as infallible, because as long as there's another human involved, you simply need to take into consideration that this is only a temporary arrangement, even if you happen to be as lucky to have found someone who meant what they said when they swore, "Till death do us part." - There is still that uncontrollable death factor. But even that is probably not as painful as when someone you've fought life's battles with for many a season deliberately makes the choice to turn their back on you.
Christ was supposed to have been tempted in all things as we are. Unfortunately we don't know enough about His 30 years of life prior to His public ministry to tell whether there was ever physically anybody in His life whom He loved so much that they broke His heart when they decided to live their life without Him. All we know is that throughout history He's had a wife (also referred to as His Bride) that probably put Him through the same thing time and again, which is vividly illustrated in the act of God commanding His prophet Hosea to take a prostitute for a wife as a metaphor of the unfaithfulness of His own Old Testament wife.
Later in the Book of Revelation we find similar metaphors of whores and churches who "sit like a queen," apparently lacking nothing, and yet not knowing that in God's eyes they're naked and destitute of the things that apparently really count to Him.
So, to which degree we as God's wife and bride have broken His heart is hard to tell. One thing is for sure: when you've gone through such pain yourself, you wouldn't ever want to inflict it on anybody else again. Loyalty all of a sudden becomes paramount, when previously it may have been quite irrelevant. Not only the loyalty of others toward ourselves, but also our own toward others and especially God.
How loyal have we really been?
The only explanation for God putting us through the wringer at times like that, where it seems as though He deliberately devastates us by simply withdrawing the person that meant most to us in the world is that we don't really have a clue about loyalty, especially not our own, as far as He's concerned. It's simply not enough of an issue until we learn to appreciate it by the excrutiating pain that can be caused by the absence of it. Only once we realize what pain can be caused by broken loyalty are we able to begin to relate to what it means to God, and do we even begin to realize how often we haphazardly switched loyalties for the sake of some advantage, some shiny fruit on a tree, some compromise for the sake of our personal welare or benefit, some temptation we couldn't resist...
Perhaps that's why it often takes quite long for the pain of betrayal and desertion to linger on: It's only the beginning of our personal lesson on loyalty. We're only just starting to see how guilty we have been of the same crime that now we feel we feel we can't forgive someone else for, and not just once, but probably innumerable times.
Loyalty, like so many other values that used to mean something before our society was taken over by the universally accepted as politically correct Western do-your-own- thing dogma, has gone down the drain in this strange new world order, where the only loyalty that counts is to make sure that you don't move an inch from the place you're assigned in the Machine. The System needs to continue to function, and that is your foremost responsibility. Human relations, by comparison, are irrelevant.
"Rubbish!" you say - (Or, if you're American, you might be prone to use another word that starts with "bull....!")? Well, good for you, if that's your reality, and if human relationships still mean enough to you to value them above your personal rank, position or economic advantage. But realistically, you're part of a shrinking minority. And if you've got loyalty and you know what it means, for the sake of God and all that is dear to your own soul, hold on to it with all your might and never underestimate it for a moment. In the end, it may be all that determines whether you lost or won your personal battle in this war.
Or, as the Eagles put it in their song "In A New York Minute" which so aptly portrays what can be the fate of all of us at any time:
"If you find somebody to love in this world, you better hang on tooth and nail!"
There is that first, perhaps more energetic, but somewhat less mature half during which we're prone to act a lot on our impulses and make a bunch of mistakes accordingly, and there's the latter half, during which we mature into a ripened personality and hopefully have learned some lessons from the former and tend to do things differently than we used to.
Oddly enough, the same principle seems to apply to God's church, body, or, as it has also been referred to, His bride. There's an Old Testament way during which God's people tended to call down fire and brimstone upon their opponents, sometimes drowning them in a universal flood and at others devouring them with fire, and then there's the New Testament approach of love.
Sometimes you can tell that a movement really is anointed by God when it shows those same signs of maturation.
While folks are often criticized for their opinions, it is usually so, that those opinions are really only the result of the input those folks have been fed. Once the opinions of the folks at grassroots level become too embarrassing for their leaders to want to be associated with them, some serious brainstorming takes place (in movements that are alive and flexible enough to do so, that is), about how best to avoid unwanted politically incorrect attitudes spread from among the followers.
Thus it can happen, that a once "radical," "white-hot," "revolutionary" and somewhat militant movement can mature into a wiser, more diplomatic one, just as it can happen that a once young and perhaps slightly overly zealous hot-head can finally come to his senses and calm down a wee bit and realize that it might be better to just live and let live instead of being a constant prick in everyone's side.
Of course, it helps if the leadership makes the first step and adjusts its own approach first and makes it clear that, "That is the way we used to do things, and this is the way we do them now."
Well, after one half-hearted attempt earlier this year to roll a new, more politically correct leaf over that sort of petered out, I'm happy to announce that I hereby officially will bury all my differences of opinion I may have had with my fellow believers around the world, and I shall carefully try not to utter any more criticisms of any of them any longer.
There's a thin line between being not of this world, as Jesus told His disciples they were, and the fact that God so loved that world that He gave His own Son for it, not to condemn the world, but to save it. Perhaps even God Himself has gone through a process that made Him change methods and approaches somewhere along the line...
In any case, you won't hear anymore rants about "lukewarmness," "half-heartedness" or proneness to materialism or any other sicknesses of society on this blog, nor any other judgmental statements that might only create further barriers between parties, instead of eradicating them.
Sometimes God gives us more relevant things to worry about than trying to figure out how we can take on and challenge the whole world at once.
It's not as if the entire experience would have been useless. After all, we still do read the Old Testament. But the New One is a whole lot more relevant, and when it's time for a change and a new direction, it's just simply that. Sometimes it takes half a life-time to get there. Sometimes more.
In the science fiction TV series Deep Space 9, one of the offshoots of the Star Trek saga, one of the most significant parties in the plot is a mysterious master race of shapeshifters called the Dominion, also referred to as the Founders, who all live together in a great sea called the Great Link in their liquid state, making up one collective conscience, except when they happen to be on some mission to suppress and dominate their quadrant and its inhabitants, for which purpose they can take on whichever form and shape they like.
In order to protect themselves the Dominion created a genetically engineered race of warriors who live for nothing else but to fight and die to protect the Founders, their creators. In order to ensure their loyalty, the Founders equip their specially created species of bodyguards with an addiction to a drug which is provided by them and their henchmen, another race of diplomats who do most of their political dirty work for them.
It's interesting to what extent some of these stories represent our reality, many times without our even being faintly aware of it.
An increasing number of people are becoming aware of the fact that we are indeed, manipulated, dominated, exploited and enslaved by a diabolical group of people - who are themselves subject to the demonic powers which the apostle Paul said are governing our world (Eph.6:12) - and in order to ensure our "loyalty" to them, they have artificially equipped us with addictions that have been enhanced scientifically to get us to a point where we will only ever break free from their grip by nothing short of a miracle.
While we have all been equipped from birth with certain needs and appetites by our creator: we all need food, clothing, shelter, and are driven to some degree by our natural urges to procreate, our modern society has enhanced these needs to a degree where what once used to be natural desires, have morphed into downright full-fledged destructive addictions.
Our once natural appetite for food for many people has been transformed into addictions to artificially altered foods, "enriched" with chemical substances, refined sugars and flavours that cause them to crave them to the point of obesity, which is rapidly becoming a natioanl disease in some of our "developed" countries.
What was once a generally natural drive to ensure the procreation of the human race has over the past 6 decades turned into every kind of perversion thinkable under the sun by means of bombarding us from the cradle to the grave with imagery aiming at triggering and feeding our lust, brainwashing us from pre-school age into accepting sexual perversions as the norm and getting us all to think that sex is the most important thing in the world, right after money, of course, that is.
Probably most of us never even realize that we are addicts until we get to the point where the object of our affection is being taken from us, and only then do we begin to realize how subtly but thoroughly the "Dominion" has performed their work on us. The deadly, venomous and highly addictive substabce has been pumped into our veins practically from the cradle, so that none of us would dare to veer from the straight and narrow path of obedience, obeisance and slavery to their cause.
Every now and then, one of us is awakened to the graveness of their state, and when it happens, we're usually shocked and anything but ready to deal with it. It's certainly helpful then to have Somebody by your side to help you combat the demons that pull your strings, and - if possible - to cut them loose. The withdrawals will be hard and painful, but still better than a continued life on the planet of the race of addicts much of the developed world presently constitutes.
Think about the "Dominion" and their addict warrior race and ponder whether you'd want that to be your fate, or whether you shouldn't rather develop the strength of resistance and the ability to say "no" when temptation threatens to get you hooked.
Everybody else around you may be a junkie, too, and it may look normal that everyone's addicted to something. But, by God, it isn't.