30 December 2014

A Modern Christian Looks at Blasphemy

This post is because of Uncle Buck. (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xEt5dEOcW0I)
In an effort to find the "have a rat gnaw that thing off your face" line I was reminded of the teacher raising his ruler at Mazzie and yelling "Blasphemer!"

Watching that I thought, "I have no real idea what that word even means."

I mean I know what it means...kinda. But it's so old, so archaic, I can't say that I have any clue about why it might be a sin except in the broadest, most legalistic, sense. And yet, if I'm looking at scripture honestly, blasphemy is a big, big deal. In Leviticus, it's a capital crime. Mark says blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the only eternal sin. Aquinas says that if we compare blasphemy to murder, blasphemy is the worse sin because it is a sin directly against God. So it doesn't get much more serious than this and I, quite literally, think it's a joke.

For the sake of this post let's say that I can understand the personal aspect of this sin and why it's at least a kinda big deal. After all, most of the time what comes out of my mouth is a reflection of what is in my heart. If I'm talking trash about God it's likely my heart is somewhere west of devoted. But if my heart is true - it's likely that my words will reflect that too. So in that space I can understand blasphemy in a kind of diagnostic fashion and not unlike the way Jesus talks about murder or adultery. Yes, the outward action is sinful, but more importantly it's indicative of an inward condition and that's the real problem.

But I'm not at all clear on the corporate aspects. And they trouble me...a lot. I think the first time I ever gave a second thought to blasphemy was just after I left high school. Salman Rushdie was accused of blasphemy by the leader of Iran and there was some significant fear that a zealot from overseas would assassinate the author. In fact, the only places I've seen the charge of blasphemy taken seriously in my life time is by Muslims and if I'm honest those riots and executions and trips to jail all strike me as desperately backward. 

But what if I'm wrong.

Wikipedia tells me that the last western execution for blasphemy was a Scot in the 1600's, so it would seem that roughly coincident with the Enlightenment, the west dropped blasphemy from a felony to a misdemeanor and these days, it's just good ol’ fashioned fun like in Uncle Buck. Even the concept of blasphemy is something to be mocked and jeered at, or perhaps scorned when some other (more pious?) culture takes it seriously.

This isn't the first time I've been struck by the relative punishments for crimes in the Bible compared to today. The OT law often reverses the severity of crimes from what we see today. For example theft is a fairly minor crime compared to adultery, dishonoring your folks, or - again - blasphemy. My best understanding for this inversion is in the relative value for, and protection of, the community over the individual. If community is everything then a thief is a rouge individual who can be dealt with. But adultery strikes at the very fabric of the society, it undermines and threatens the family unit not just of that one couple, but of all who come in contact with the couple. Theft may change what I have, but blasphemy may change the way I think, the way I understand the world. It's been said that the most powerful thing in the world is an idea - and that's exactly what blasphemy is: a conception of God and of the eternal that is seditious.

Now of course the bible is equally vivid in its depiction of how we can become heresy hunting morons and Jesus is the central proof. If blasphemy is to speak disrespectfully or dishonesty of God, we watch the Pharisees hopelessly bungle the job and repeatedly accuse God of blaspheming Himself - because they lack the ability to tell the difference.

As an American, and I assume most westerners are the same, to see things like blasphemy and heresy treated as actual crimes only makes me think of the worst chapters of church history where conformity was required and you could literally be hanged or burned at the stake for daring to disagree with dogma. I certainly don't want to open the door to that kind of abuse again.

But - then there's the scripture.
I still can't shake the feeling that I'm missing something...that we've lost sight of something important.

To be clear, I'm 100% comfortable with the notion that some Levitical laws were culturally and generationally conditional. The Law says my house needs to have a flat roof with a parapet so  when we entertain guests I won't be guilty if someone falls off and dies. A flat roof in CO equals a collapsed house where everybody dies...so I'm pretty sure that law doesn't apply. But I'm not comfortable saying blasphemy is like that. I'm not willing to say the concept is outdated or doesn't apply to post-enlightenment westerners because we're so good at free-thinking now.

Let me be equally clear about something else - none of us live in a theocracy. That's a good thing and I'm not advocating we change that. So a federal crime against blasphemy is a very bad idea. So don't accuse me of going all sharia on anybody.

But...here I am again with this contraction...
But what am I missing?

If we only consider what blasphemy does and how it might be treated solely in the consensual context of those who claim to follow Christ, what then? Because if I'm honest I'd have to say that it's not something I even think about, it's nothing that I'd even notice much less be upset by. A short time ago a video was going around the Internet where Joel Osteen's wife said some things on stage that several people say just might rise to the level of actual blasphemy or heresy. (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=00-6OyXVA0M) but my response isn't to be offended or angry, it's to laugh or dismiss, partly at her but also partly at those tens of thousands in the audience who listen to that silliness. Full-disclosure: I suspect Mrs. Osteen is guilty of a poor choice of words rather than genuine heresy but given their reach, idle words can have a big and genuinely damaging impact.

So I've written now for a while and I don't think I've really concluded anything, except to articulate the fact that I'm aware of this sense of an incomplete thought. I don't have a place to fit the ideas of blasphemy, particularly the way scripture treats it with what seems to be disproportionate severity. So I'll sign off now with just that - an open question. And I pray that God gives me wisdom and revelation on the mater, and for anybody else who might want to understand this once grievous, now ignored, bit of scripture. 

07 December 2014

Chosen Mortality

If we choose to join Christ, and accept his offer of Life Everlasting, then we are, as they say, free indeed.
After that point we can, and sadly do, choose mortality again and again.

Said another way, it is within our power to let any specific "death" be permanent or not.

We might look at any significant loss as being too big for us to handle and thereby accept that it has killed us so to speak. A child dies to cancer, a marriage withers and dies, a dream long fought for is ripped away...how do we deal with such things?

I've taught several classes on spiritual warfare and one core premise is that all spirits, ours and the woolyboogers, are eternal. Fleshly warfare always comes down to one irreducible: whoever is dead has lost. But not so with spirits. There is no "death" in that kind of (seemingly) permanent sense. Instead, spirits suffer and they have the capacity to suffer endlessly. The spiritual response to suffering is, generally, suppression. When a spirit suffers it may go to sleep, check out. It may fold in on itself, seek solitude...and find it.

I don't mean to imply by the start of this post that the Christian has a different kind of choice than the non-Christian (or the demon for that matter). We all have the choice to check out when faced with trauma, Christian or otherwise. We all have the choice not to. In that way we all choose life or death all the time, every day. We all know people who are walking around this world but are "dead inside." Behold a spirit dead, asleep, and absent.
As we counsel those ghost-men we look for some glimmer of their heart, some ember that can be blown upon and woken up, some trace of a living human who can be encouraged to choose life once again. Spirits are eternal, and that possibility of spiritual resurrection is always available. But we do well to also recognize that the opposite is also true. It is always within our grasp to choose death and it is remarkable to look back on life, both distant and recent, and see just how often I've done exactly that.

Pain, Expression, and Age Appropriate Behavior

I've been involved with Boot Camp Northwest now for close to a decade and I've seen a lot of men come through and experience some really profound emotional and spiritual healing.
One of the core tenets of what we do is that healthy and open "hearts" are central to living a life of freedom and strength. While that concept does not simply mean "emotions" our feelings are certainly part of the definition.
A key aspect to this is that we do ourselves harm when we stuff our emotions, especially surrounding a traumatic event, as westerners are so prone to do. Stuffed emotions only come out later, somewhere different and typically much nastier and toxic for their time spent in the bilge of our souls.
Morgan Snyder, a key member of the Ransomed Heart team and in many ways a mentor to me on this ministry, tells a story when he (usually) talks about God and living as His son. In it he remembers being a young boy, less than 10 I think, and somebody in the family has passed away. If memory serves it was his paternal grandfather. Young Morgan watches at the funeral as his father breaks down crying at the loss of (I think) his own father. As Morgan tells the story as an adult what he remembers from that day was this, "the strongest thing in my world, my dad, wasn't strong enough" and he continues to tell how that experience shaped his own sense of abandonment and fatherlessness.
It's a powerful story, really powerful, and I totally get it.
But it has deeply troubled me since the first time I heard it many years ago.
Here's why: our ministry, one that Morgan shares in, would teach that Morgan's dad was most likely "doing it right" in the sense that he was being honest, true to his heart, letting himself feel what was totally normal and natural and not stuffing it. But that moment of honesty turned out to be a moment of wounding for young Morgan. This has me troubled.
I realize that this is a snapshot - one moment among tens of thousands - of the experiences between young Morgan and his dad. If this emotional response was totally uncharacteristic of their normal then that alone would be at least confusing.
Still, it's been odd for me to hear this story come to me as ambiguous all this time. There's probably little point in expecting young Morgan to understand something that emotionally charged and complex at such a young age. But I doubt we would ever want to advise Morgan Sr. to stuff his pain.
So where does this leave us?
One thought is that we do well to be aware of who's watching. Kids in particular may not be equipped to understand our "honesty" even though it is generally good.
But I think the better answer lies in interpretation, specifically a parents role of actively interpreting events for our kiss so they can get a grip on the confusing world around them. I wonder if Morgan's father might have had the chance to come alongside his confused son shortly thereafter and explain what he saw, let him ask questions, let him process. A child is unlikely to seek that kind of interaction - they don't know what they don't know - meaning parents must pay attention to see those moments of confusion and what we can to bring context and interpretation, especially for the weird, scary, and threatening stuff.
I wonder if Morgan's dad had done that, would that wound have been healed, or at least reduced in depth.

...that's all I got...

28 October 2014

Two Weeks of Years

Seen through the steam of my steeping tea
She seems sylvan -
Flashing Freya in the flame of her hair,
A warrior, a wood nymph, a woman
And she knows not that I’m watching.

Seen through the years of our wedding ring
She is mystery -
Still a sphinx in a coiled repose
Her riddle beguiles and beckons,
Each read page reveals reams unknown.

Seen through the light of the one we worship
She is life -
Manifold meaning and manifest breath
Her contingent consequences uncounted.
Wonderfilled, I woo in the hope of her wink.  

12 September 2014

Sustainable Game Development

Some quick math...
A:60,000 x B:5 = 300,000
300,000 + C:15% = 345,000
345,000 X D:5 = 1,725,000
1,725,000 / (E:15 - 30%) = 189,560.44
~190,000 / D = 38,000 (Avg. units sold)

Why do you care?

I am a video game developer. I talk to a lot of video game developers. I speak in various high schools and what I hear pretty often is all the people who want to be video game developers. This guy, whose job is to photograph naked women, he wishes he was a video game developer. So yeah, it's a cool job and I get folks saying, "you're living the dream!" which I confess is pretty cool.

Here's the thing: pretty much without exception the (indie) developers I know want only to keep on doing it.* As a group we just plainly love what we do and would like nothing more than to keep on doing it as long as we can. I don't see folks highly motivated by fat paychecks (though they are great) or C-level titles or any of the more typical corporate ladder, upward mobility things. It's creative, it's challenging it's fun and it's easy to achieve a "what more could I really want" state of mind.

So I'm wondering what it would look like to build a business model around sustainable indie game development and I came up with the numbers above. Given 5 people at a modest wage and modest expenses it take less than $2m to make games for 5 years. If you can make a game a year and average ~40k sales on a platform like Stream, you can keep on rolling.

I realize that the numbers are incomplete and don't include a lot of traditional expenses like marketing budgets but I suspect that by making a few deliberate (though atypical) choices about location, priorities and business models it really seems pretty doable...once you can get be ball rolling of course.

It also makes me think about indie studios combining into some kind of co-op for mutual benefit. Some highly valuable resources like musicians and sound designers can really make a game shine, but it's not likely to be a full time gig in an indie shop. But if five shops were 'sharing' that resource then everybody might be happy. If one lean shop could run for five years on $2M, then 5 could run on $10M...which is not a big investment if that were to create a constellation of 25 interconnected, cross-promoting games. The likelihood that one of those 25 titles was even a modest hit makes the likelihood of recouping that $10M seem like pretty reasonable math. 

Taking a page from the VC handbook, if we assume a 1:10 ratio of hit to bust, and say the 2.5 hits generate a >10X multiplier, then we're looking pretty good and we're set to give everybody a fat bonus and sign up for anther slate of 25 games.

* minus the BS that can come with the trade like unending "crunch" and typical corporate lame-sauce.

12 August 2014

Possible Sci-Fantasy Concept

There's an Albanian legend that says when a snake lives a long enough life without ever being seen by a human it turns into a dragon.

Some more recent experiments (http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/the-reality-of-watching) seem to have removed the anthropomorphism from the quantum observation effect but for the moment lets keep it in there...

When the world was young and men were few there was a higher chance that a creature could spend its entire life without ever encountering humanity. What if this dearth of humans beyond the frontiers mathematically facilitated the existence of dragons, unicorns, ettins, elves, etc. Imagine a whole world of fantastic creatures that spring to life out of time, isolation, and the uncertainty principle. The more unpopulated the world is, the more weird it is. More than by our actions, humanity "subdues" the world by our very presence and observation.

That article above talks about an experiment where they distinguished between what was actually known and measured and what was only measurABLE and said that the was no difference. That one in particular suggested that it wasn't an observer (certainly not a human one) that was critical, but a system that contained genuine uncertainty. I'm not sure how that dovetails with the Weismann experiment that follows since the effect happens only when the sensors are active but whatever. Anyway, it makes me wonder about the difference between what's knowable and what's conceivable. In this world where fantastic creatures pop up literally out of human ignorance it begs a question of where those creatures get their seed. Does a snake turn into a dragon because there exists a seed of a dragon in the minds of those closest by? Local myths and legends create the seeds of these creatures and thereby account for a kind of local variability. Why doesn't this snake change into a football or a sack lunch? There's a certain kind of logic that runs from snake to dragon - maybe it's a little like an evolutionary tech tree. Baked into the reptilian DNA is this sting of potential mutations. From the more mundane to the more fantastic the chances of this mutation are smaller and smaller and the presence of humanity acts as a dampener on these numbers.

Something in here could make a set-up for a cool Sci-Fantasy story...does that genre exist? I remember a concept from Shadowrun where the elves and dwarves and Orc were always with us but as the force of magic retreated from the world, those races sort of integrated into humanity. But when magic returned they started to differentiate again. I found that idea just wonderful and fun and full of potential.

Anyway, that was the idea, who knows if I'll ever get the chance to play with it.

19 July 2014


"Hear me!" she rages, at a turn between turbulence and torpor.
"See me!" she pleads, surging betwixt sullen and sanguine.
Waxing from helpless to hopeful, waning from intention to inaction
She is weary.

Weary like the warrior who wrestles with war
Long years after the shooting was stopped.
Weary like the woman who flinches at the flesh
Of her lover who's touch reminds of the rape.

"It was." claims the mind, the friends, the wishers of well.
"It is." says the wound, the Id, the secret scar.
"And always shall be." Quotes the unquiet ghost.
Pronouncing his permanence, defining her dearth.

02 July 2014

Learning to be Carried

When a person goes though some physical trial like an injury or some test like climbing a mountain, we all understand that his or her body needs rest. They need time to recover, to heal. And during that time we don't expect them to be at 100%. We have a smidgen of that idea with our minds where we recognize the need to unplug and veg after some tough mental trial like a BA test or giving a speech.

But I don’t think we have any context for a spiritual analogue to this idea. I reckon we all know of times where our hearts are broken or weary or just under assault but I don’t see that we accept a kind of decreased capacity as a result of those trials. We seem to act as though our spirits have no real need for rest or healing.

It’s been a tough season for me lately and as I was going to bed the other night I felt bad because I’d had so little energy to pray or seek God. Even just soaking was more than I had the oomph for and I was starting to feel guilty. The message sounded something “Prayer is the thing you know you need most right now and look at you – a spiritually lazy scrub who just watches Netflix or plays Portal in your inconsonance.”...but my heart was heavy and the best I could do was shrug.

But I think increasingly that that message came from the enemy. Not from me, and definitely not from God. In fact the only way that idea makes sense is if I buy the line of thinking noted above – that my spirit needs no rest, no succor, no time to heal, regardless of the trauma it faces. I hear the Spirit say something like ‘Give yourself a break man – you’re going through a lot right now. Hang in there, endure, fight the good fight – yes to all of those things. But you can’t do everything at once.’

In this frame of a weary spirit it’s definitely true that my head is down, I’m just trying to get through, and I loose some of my capacity for ‘depth’  in that state. My ability to commune and hear his voice gets attenuated. But I realize that over this last  month I’ve been riding on other people’s faith, cribbing from their insights...and it seems like the next best thing. It’s hard to ‘find God’ when you’re stressed but I can go to books or prayers, or clips like the guys making “Killing Lions” (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkw0sKw3xJTfV6T57cfCZgg) and I can feel like their faith is carrying me along...exactly as much as I allow that. And it’s not like a second-best experience or somehow a flattened vicarious thing, but it feels like a way to let somebody else bear my burden and to allow other parts of The Body compensate for my own season of stress and weakness.

That’s a neat lesson to learn.

It makes he enemy’s accusation of failure seem false. Specifically as I embrace the weakness that he’s pointing at – a weakness that’s real – I can thereby reject the condemnation he’s trying to slip in with it. Suddenly the weakness and weariness, the heart break and the hurt all seem holy, or at least human. And truly His strength can be made perfect.

20 April 2014

I Dreamed You Dreamt of Me

I dreamed you dreamt of me last night,
And in that dream you smiled.

Your dream, I dreamt, was warm and pink
And you murmured in your sleep.

I'm my dream, I watched you sleep,
Awake, abreast, and adored.

Drowsy sounds of sweetness
Made me smile at your smile.

In my waking I was reaching
And learned that I was dreaming.


Purify my heart.
Make me as gold and precious silver.

Baptize my soul.
By water if you will, by fire if you must.

The loaves, when whole, feed a small boy.
The loaves, once broken, satisfy the thousands.

10 April 2014

The soil, the seeds, and those frakking birds

In the middle of writing a long post about Sand and Sky and as part of that I've been going back through old journals and blog posts. Tonight I read this one : http://the-m-blog.blogspot.com/2007/03/kids-with-mad-healing-skills.html
(Which has nothing at all to do with S&S BTW)

And I'm reading this just a couple of hours after I was part of a fairly straight forward deliverance prayer.

Reading about miraculous healing, fresh off a scrap with some woolybooger, and I'm struck by something. Why is it that I feel the most ambivalent, the most doubtful, almost directly after a kind of victory? Like I've been feeling that a fight was inbound for weeks now (and this may have just been a skirmish - we'll see) and my faith has been building. Tonight at BCNW we jumped into a really cool prayer time and I felt the Spirit show up big time. Then there's this deliverance thing - we hop to and the dark air clears.

You'd think I'd be encouraged, vindicated, or something like that. Instead I'm brushing my teeth and my head is like "Did that even really happen? Was that all play acting and demon-drama? And even if it was real, did I really have any role there or was I just a bystander?"

So that conversation is going on in my head and then another part of me is thinking the "why ambivalent now" thought and God speaks plain as day. "He's trying to keep the seed from taking root." And suddenly a lot makes sense. First, that's not me asking those depressing questions. Second, these are tech birds of the Good Soil parable. Something cool, powerful and faith building has just happened - a spiritual seed has been planted in my heart but for a while it's vulnerable to the frakking birds.

So my immediate prayer goes like this:


26 January 2014

The Comeback of Blogging

Several years ago I was regularly entertained, encouraged, challenged and tested by a circle of friends and acquaintances, including myself, who were regular bloggers. We we all just sharing what we were thinking about or going through and the posts rang from one paragraph passing thoughts to long essays on deep and difficult things. But more than the writing was the reading, and the talking. The comments and the follow ups and the strong sense of community that I felt with fried all over the country. And in addition to personal friends there were blogs by strangers or admirees that I kept tabs on. I remember randomly finding the blog of a guy who had left a Pentecostal church and was blogging about his experience of studying ordination for a Greek Orthodox priesthood. Another stranger who was a mom wrestling with CP in her child and all that it entailed in her life. All of that felt rich and right and deep. It was a format that suited both my temperament and my schedule. It s never hard to catch up on blogs when time permitted, whether that was weekly, monthly, or occasionally after long terms of unavailabilty.

Bot somewhere in there, seems like it might have coined with the economic mess of 2008 but I not sure, folks just stopped writing - including me. Well, to be fair, we didn't stop writing all together, we more accurately stopped writing blogs and started tapping like buttons or composing 160 character comments. To be clear, I was the same. My blog was fallow for a long time with only occasional posts.

The thing is, whatever the cause something that I was really enjoying seemed to wither and fold in a very short time and I was subtly mourning that loss for a long time.

But - I think that may be coming back and I'm happy. Sluss-the-Taller has recently started a brand new blog that I'm very excited to see as he makes a pilgrimage from Mexico to Canada, Raven&Emerald has been keeping a fascinating blog about her inner journey, and I just found that KrisB started a new blog that is off to a wonderful start.

I'd be very interested to know, in hindsight, what happened back in 2008-2009. Dd mounting financial stress leave less time for reflection and reading? That seems like a reasonable answer. Did the convenience of Facebook and the illusion of interaction tempt us all for a season? That also seems true enough for myself though the illusion is broken now and I find FB to have a different role than blogging. Or maybe something else entirely. Regardless. I'm encouraged by the nascent reawakening and I sure hope we get back to what we had and I dearly loved.

18 January 2014

A Few Thoughts on Healing Prayer

Heads up - I'm way out in the weeds here today, just speculating, but some thoughts I didn't want to forget.

I was thinking about the way I, and lots of folks I know, pray for the sick. Specifically the way that I tend to see one specific problem and pray to that point. You have a pain in your leg? Let's pray for that. You have arthritis? We can pray about that. And I reckon that's largely what I see modeled in the Bible too. It's prayer for a blind man's vision, a lame man's legs, a sick woman's sickness.

But we don't really exist like that. At any given moment there are probably several things going on in my physical body that are off. It's not just that I'm coughing but I also have a sore back and high blood pressure and this and that and whatnot. As we get older, that list of things just gets longer. Similarly, there are things that I'd never consider praying for, even though they are clearly things that are out of warranty on the human body - baldness, obesity, allergies, or the need for reading glasses.

There's an assumption that lays behind most of my prayers for healing and it could be summed up in Jesus' prayer "on earth as it is in heaven" I often start from a mental space that asks what I think it'd be like in heaven and pray for that truth to override the local earthly truth. Ergo, if there's no cancer in heaven, which seems like a reasonable assumption, then it's legal to pray that cancer gets lost here.

Starting from there though I see a few things that I need to chew on.
1. I don't pray for folks "holistically" I pray for them symptomatically. It's not that I pray for their health, I pray for a particular symptom or ailment to end. There's a lot to be said for praying with specificity and I admit that a general prayer for "health" seems vague but I suspect that it's more about my mental model than anything else. I want to try to get a firm thought about divine health that is comprehensive and specific.

2. I suppose I don't generally think to pray for things that my mind might place blame for - which sounds terribly judgmental but I think this is what happens. Obesity, as an example, is something that my mind attributes to bad choices. I think of it less as a condition or ailment and more of a consequence. And somehow in a way that I'm not fully conscious of, that changes things. But then look at, say, lung cancer. I wouldn't stop to ask a lung cancer patient if they were a smoker and pray differently based on their answer. So something is off in my head here.

3. And this one has me really wondering...can we legally pray for youth? I mentioned things like baldness or myopia as things I wouldn't think to pray for but it's deeper than that. My prayers for a young person tend to be more...not sure how to say it...incensed than praying for older people. Fair or not, a baby with cancer seems more unfair than a 90 year old with cancer. I sense injustice more and pray from that awareness that a thing isn't "right" But somehow my brain crosses a line where cancer seems less unjust and more...what? Unfortunate? I see that in me is a whole scale that works on age. I expect older people to be sicker and it feels normal so prayers have less energy on my part.

But what if age itself is properly understood as an ailment, and all that other stuff is a list of symptoms?

Hear me out - on earth as it is in heaven right? Don't we expect that heaven is full of young men and women? People in the prime of life? We don't expect spry folks with gray hair and reading glasses we expect 20-30somethings or maybe even teens. If there's anything too that would it be fair that "age" at least in the sense of a steadily declining body, doesn't exist in heaven?

I was thinking about this on Friday when the guy leading morning prayer bust out Psalm 103. We know v 3 pretty well because "he heals all your diseases" but v5 also says "your youth is restored like the eagle's" - well now...perhaps there is some scriptural meat to this idea too.

Is anybody of aware of any literature on this idea? Praying for youth to be restored? I'd be curious to hear what other folks have thought on this topic.