Pink Floyd and Refracting Light: The Tension of Worldly Ego and Kingdom Unity

As I continue working through Georg A Reisch’s Pink Floyd and Philosophy, I find numerous themes relevant to the Kingdom of God as an emerging – already-but-not-yet – reality. That is, there are components of the Kingdom that have been and are being realized in the here-and-now while its culmination rests entirely in the future return of Christ.

One such theme is highlighted in the eighth chapter, “Roger Waters: Artist of the Absurd,” by Deena Weinstein, a professor of Sociology at DePaul. Weinstein analyzes Waters’ lyrical contemplations of the tension between the human desire for connection (i.e., unity) and the draw of autonomy. Water’s, in alignment with the Albert Camus’ existential frustrations, presuming an atheistic point of view, is reduced to only voicing the frustrations of that tension. That is, he is reduced to an absurd view of life (and therefore of expression) given the futility of trying to overcome a seemingly perfect balance between these two realities: those of alienation and ego.

Water’s ultimate futility is likely captured most succinctly in the bewildering and morale crippling fade at the end of “Time” (Dark Side of the Moon):

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English* way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I’d something more to say.

[Author: I would have to substitute “fallen human” here.]

Any real value to Water’s reflections are now made void, trailing off into the mind-numbing loss of coherency. Finding and offering no answers, there is nothing for this lost soul, still alone in trying to make connections while simultaneously clinging to individual personal identity, to wrap his mind around as a truly unifying factor in human experience. He is frustrated by his aloneness (“It is not good for the man to be alone.”) while creating the very walls of his own isolating and alienating prison. Unfortunately, having never seen over the walls, he does not realize that there is any reality outside them.

He is, so to speak, blinded by his own ego and will, simultaneously unwilling and, therefore unable, to trust in anything outside himself and his own ability to perceive truth (reality). This is the ultimate act of hubris because it disallows epistemic humility. Perhaps the artist would be better served to step back long enough to realize his frustration is not with externalities but with his own capacity which is far too limited to grasp “everything under the sun” in its completeness. On the other hand, I believe Water’s is honestly wrestling with his own internal discontinuities (which Weinstein points out) but still cannot see the necessity of making himself vulnerable to overcome the hurdles he cannot see over. He needs an external answer (God) but wrestles on, seeking the closing line to the last verse that still eludes him, his “something more to say,” for his own sake as much as for the listener.

Here then I would address the significance of his dilemma for the Church and, therefore, the mission of God (the mission Dei) and the advancement of the Kingdom of God. It is the very same blindness of the artist that cripples the Church in its pursuit of serving God. It is the blinding power of ego that voices belief yet continues to live (act) in unbelief.

This is the impact of Adam’s sin. Not that God could not have spontaneously changed Adam to “fix” his failure. He easily could have. What God did do however was to put Adam out of the Garden and curse the ground to harden the task of Adam’s existence. It would seem Adam, finding himself outside of God’s intimate grace (though still the recipient of his life-giving and sustaining grace), would have immediately humbled himself to re-enter the security, the shalom, of that former intimacy.

What Adam did, however, and everyone since (except Jesus), was to allow his circumstances to drown out the call of God to humble himself. Adam became autonomous and self-reliant. His sweat and toil were the products of his own desire to be like God outpacing the blessing of being with God. Adam chose disunity with the divine in hopes of making himself divine. In the aftermath of his sin (his disunifying choice and action), God chose to let Adam’s race experience that disunity in the hopes that the despair of autonomy (attempting to fulfill oneself and the inner re-calling to communion with the divine) would drive them to seek God’s fellowship once again. But that fellowship demands releasing one’s autonomy.

The disunity of the Church is a function of this same fear of vulnerability. We tend to trust our own theological evaluations and valuations of a long litany of doctrines more than we can bring ourselves to trust others. Our mistake lies in wanting to put our trust in the evaluations and valuations of others (and ourselves) before we place our trust in God. This is not unlike the dysfunctions of marriages. As the bride of Christ, we refuse to release ourselves entirely to the groom. We distrust because our ego disallows trusting God’s goodness to the point of overcoming the fear of vulnerability. “What if,” we ask subconsciously, God (my Groom) cannot fulfill all that I desire? What if God is not sufficient to meet all my needs?

This distrust then is misdirected to our peers who also suffer the same malady. Sadly, to even admit the malady makes us vulnerable and exacerbates our fear of being abused. Our wariness is directly a function of our lack of faith because, knowing history, we fear reliving it in our own experience.

Storm Thorgerson, heading the Hipgnosis graphic art group, was the creative mind behind several Pink Floyd album covers. The prism cover of Dark Side of the Moon is likely the most famous. The human desire for unity, represented by the singularity of white light, gives way to the spectrum of disunity in the refraction of that light into the bands of rainbow colors. The point behind the cover art is that autonomy leads to alienation in the recognition that we are different one from the next – red and green are forever opposites and cannot abide with one another.

Sadly, we tend to focus on how to overcome the refraction while remaining unwilling to make ourselves vulnerable to “being absorbed” into the unity in fear of losing our personal identity and the ability to fulfill ourselves by our own definition. If anything, our unity in Christ celebrates the fact that all those colors, all the uniqueness of individual identity, are present within the singularity and are what, in communion with the divine, ultimately reflect what is pure and holy – the perfect light, the fulfillment of God’s desire that all of God’s people be of one mind and Spirit.

The Bible consistently calls for us to humble ourselves before God. And we believe we do. But similar to the intertwining reality of loving God specifically by loving others as the fulfillment of “all the Law and prophets,” our humility before God must also entail recognizing our own limitations and ego in making ourselves vulnerable to others. There is no small risk involved in following Christ and more often than not that includes real world risks in our daily life.

In embracing those risks, we exercise faith, trusting God for outcomes above what we might expect of others or contrive in our own thinking and doing. God asks for us to “count the costs” which is nothing short of wholesale abandonment to self. But he also promises, as Kenneth Cain Kinghorn’s book title suggests, to make us fully human (Christ Can Make You Fully Human, Abingdon, 1979), the perfect fulfillment of self.

Faith, especially walked out in the community of the universal Church, in unity of Spirit and the calling to glorify God, risks looking absurd to an absurd world. But faith leads to a revelation of God’s glory both through and within us, and faith comes only by the sacrifice of the ego.

The true beauty of the pure Light is revealed imperfectly in the rainbow of refraction. There is much deeper beauty, a place of spiritual, emotional, even of temporal, shalom, within the singularity. Contemplatives and theologians through the ages have touched on it though no one has completely or adequately described it. St. Thomas Aquinas is attributed with stating:  “Everything that I have written seems like straw to me compared to those things that I have seen and have been revealed to me.”

As Aquinas’ intimacy with and knowledge of God increased, he simply reached a point of being at a loss for words, even recognizing the inadequacy of all the words that had come before. His ego was crushed in the winepress of God’s refining love. Aquinas could see the beauty of the rainbow as a reflection of God’s image but now could see how the subtle alienations of the spectrum fell so far short of the purity and unity of the true Light.

Aquinas had nothing more to say but, unlike Roger Waters, his was a silence of stupefaction in the presence of God rather than hitting the limiting walls of his own construction. Life is not absurd. It only seems so to an ego rejecting the reality of God. Perhaps that is why Scripture tells us “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm14:1). To the proud fool, all is absurd. To the humble, all becomes Light.

 

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Pink Floyd and the Kingdom of God

Okay, I will admit that this essay has little to do with any direct connection between Pink Floyd and the Kingdom of God. However, sometimes the random rabbit trails we follow end up awakening some interesting thoughts.

I recently acquired a copy of Pink Floyd and Philosophy: Careful with that Axiom, Eugene! (Open Court Publishing, 2007), edited by George a Reisch, a graduate instructor at Northwestern University. The fourth essay in the book, “Pigs Training Dogs to Exploit Sheep: Animals as a Beast Fable Dystopia,” was written by Patrick Croskery, an Associate Professor in the Department of Religion & Philosophy at Ohio Northern University. This is some heady stuff!

Croskery draws parallels and discusses the similarities between Pink Floyd’s Animals and George Orwell’s 1984. As a Christian, endowed with the Holy Spirit, I cannot help but to “hear” God’s voice in relation to the subjects before me and reflecting on God’s take, so to speak, on those subjects.

What jumped out at me most was Croskery’s succinct capture of the three dominant forces at work in human culture: government, the marketplace, and community. He makes an excellent point that (what I consider) the “powers and principalities” within societies are always in tension. The government polices human behavior. The marketplace provides for human material well being. The community dictates moral direction.

Unfortunately, as Croskery points out, only the government and the marketplace have well-ordered power structures in place to exercise their will. The community, unless riled to strong unified action, like governmental overthrows or large-scale boycotts, gets pushed around a lot by the entrenched directors of the other two institutions for their own advantage. Communal moral authority tends to degrade as it slowly succumbs to the seemingly indomitable corruption of the power drive and elitism of government and the greed that too often fosters bottom line thinking at all (human) costs in business.

What struck me was that these three institutional structures emanate from the community of the Trinity, which predicates both governance and provision on communal moral authority. That community is founded in love, the essence of both Spirit (philosophic personality as inward, guiding motivation) and divine character (manifest behavioral personality as outward, action orientation). As 1 John 4:8 says: God is love.

Thus we can see the corrupting effect of sin in that social mores are subsumed (pushed away from divine order) and culture (and therefore all overarching institutions) suffers separation from God’s will, ways, and plan, driven by the overt entrenchment of human self-determination and self-interest.

As we participate in bringing God’s Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven, we must first take on the mind of Christ, that is, to accept and then act on a guiding philosophy of altruistic being. God does not relish material sacrifices for their own sake. He wants all people to function from a heart of justice which entails willing sacrifice as a manifestation of divine character (Proverbs 21:3; see also my essay “On Justice and Righteousness – mishpat & tsadaq” at http://wp.me/p1Z8Bv-3L).

Consider if government was not the realm of “halls of power” but truly administered as if the elected were “public servants,” serving the good of as many people as possible while risking their own displacement in the next election due to making decisions unpopular with power brokers from other social quarters. Or imagine business owners (even absentee stockholders) demanding and ensuring all workers received a living wage, compassion in discipline, and facilitation for re-training and finding new opportunities before layoffs occurred. Both sets of actors would need to see “the other” as more deserving of consideration than their own well-being, or at least in league with it. It would take overcoming risk aversion as an act of faith, trusting that God is faithful and that righteousness precedes prosperity, and accepting whatever form of reward (and outcome) God dictates.

The central problem is that such a system has never been adequately demonstrated nor have enough hearts been transformed by seeing such a model at work. Words are powerful for proclamation but deeds speak much more loudly. If the claims we make do not align with our own behavior, how can we justify our faith to any unbeliever? How can we portray the Kingdom of God as more attractive than the world as it is if our behavior endorses the current structures and distributions of wealth and power?

It is clear that Jesus suffered not just for our individual salvation but for the redemption of the world. That includes the reformation of meta-institutions toward reconciling human life with God’s heart and created order. George Orwell critiqued the emergent oligarchy of socialism after the Bolshevik revolution. Pink Floyd critiqued the same types of rule in the marketplace (“Welcome to the Machine”) that endorse riding  the “gravy train” and in Western educational systems (“Another Brick in the Wall”) that program students toward conformity that will keep the current governmental and economic structures in place.

The Church, as a single community, needs to critique both of these, but better by example than simply decrying the sins of the world in the public square. God’s mission in the world is to turn the existing power structures upside down such that public morality (a function of community) leads government and business rather than succumbing to them. Christians should be intentional in seeking influential roles in both institutions to re-order them toward the original order of creation (see Howard A. Snyder’s Salvation Means Creation Healed. Snyder’s book has a strong emphasis on environmental redemption but is clear that the doctrine justifying that focus is universal as it applies to every aspect of human life and experience, including the redemption of institutional roles).

This means Christian business leaders will need to take large risks in light of prevailing business philosophies, perhaps even running the risk of losing their businesses. But money is not the primary focus of business in God’s creation. The division of labor and exchange are anticipated in Eve’s introduction as helpmate, a co-worker, in the Garden of Eden. The self-interested drive for profit (i.e., toward self-preservation in distrust of God’s provision) was not on the horizon until after Adam’s Fall from grace.

This also means that elected and appointed officials will need to do “what is right,” pursuing an universal morality, applicable to all without demanding a theocratic (or otherwise overtly ideological) agenda (though “what is right” is guided by theological and ideological considerations). Such a pursuit is obviously a slippery slope given innumerable public views, ranging from the extremes of varied fundamental religious cults (whether Christian, Muslim, or otherwise) to the guilt-driven political correctness of godless humanism. But Christ suffered willingly for us all and made no promise that our ministry to the world would be any easier.

Outside the Garden, every man since Adam, save One, has operated to varying degrees as if he is alone in the universe. But Christ established his Kingdom on earth in his teaching ministry (by proclamation, Word) and obedience to the Cross (demonstration, deed). We are called to do likewise. Unfortunately, just as Jesus was tempted in the desert, Christians in positions of influence are faced with a myriad of temptations, most especially that of being conformed to the world in the form of pragmatism. To submit to practicality as the final answer in decision-making is having no faith in the character, promises, and leading of God. In both governance and business, Christians need to be adventurous and fearless risk takers, trusting God before others and even before our own assessment of surrounding circumstances.

Pink Floyd’s songwriters, especially Roger Waters, wrestled deeply with the major issues of the human condition – evil, alienation and isolation, power and greed, etc. The angst at the heart of the driving melodies and lyrics have been popularized as much by the sense of identification of listeners with the writers as the beauty of the music itself. Pink Floyd stands out as a strong representative of all the poetic philosophers who have emerged through the music industry of the last half century. Waters et al sadly offer no answers to the questions that so vex them. But they give new and very popular voice to a lost and dying world seeking, though ignorant of it, the Kingdom of God and the shalom it affords to all.

 

 

 

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Transitions and Transformation

After a five year hiatus, I have recently re-entered a marketplace vocation. Some readers will know that I have owned three businesses, all together spanning forty percent of my career life. I have never had a particular career plan thus my income history has been something of a roller coaster ride. But I have no complaints. I seemed to have done well enough generally to stay fed, clothed, and housed.

Many of the jobs I have had and the businesses I have started presented themselves along the way, almost arbitrarily it seems. My businesses occupied very different commercial spaces – technology, niche retail, and homeowner / small business services. My other jobs, starting at a very early age, have spanned nearly a dozen sectors, including public utilities, hospitality, media and communications, warehousing and distribution, entertainment, retail, manufacturing, academia, and others.

Across my career, I have worked as an engineer / CAD designer and cartographer, (not bad for an English lit major), a writer (now there’s that degree in action!), and in sales, management, production, planning, service, supervision, etc. ad nauseum. To say my career has been eclectic is undoubtedly an understatement. I have found the most satisfying work, however, where I was met with the most challenges. That would most significantly include the simultaneous wearing of innumerable hats as an entrepreneur and the two engineering positions that required learning new technologies and performing technical design work.

I do believe, however, the highlight of my career life has been the years dedicated to theological education and writing, especially where it has spilled over into application through charitable work. We often downplay our volunteer efforts as outside our career picture but that work is the most rewarding especially as it matches up with the skills and experience we have developed professionally.

As eclectic as my career has been, including my theological education and self-led studies on a number of sociological, anthropological, and business topics, one can imagine that what has accumulated in my head (and my personal library) covers a broad range of material (though that cover in many areas is none too thick!). My interests seem to interact in a chicken and egg-like way: I enjoy the particulars of a myriad of subjects but I more enjoy the big picture and how all the parts of varied disciplines fit and work ecologically. For example, my most ambitious writing was on marketplace theology, two topics most people would not connect, at least not intuitively.

But most of all, I enjoy thinking (and praying) and now find myself reflecting on my latest career moves. After a five-year hiatus from wage earning (thank God my wife has had a really good job!) and sneaking up on retirement, I have sought to re-enter the marketplace to achieve some financial goals. But I hoped for a position that, again, presented some new challenges. In October of last year, almost by happenstance, I was hired by a family-owned manufacturing company where I was to learn how to operate two very expensive pieces of fabrication equipment – a CNC (computer numeric control) table and a plastics welder – and create CAD (computer-aided design) drawings.

I had never worked in a manufacturing setting as a machine operator and it had been nearly two decades since my last venture into CAD work. Beyond the challenges of the machines I was to learn, the CAD work has also pushed me over the threshold from two dimensional to three dimensional drawing. But all three functions are coming together in their own right and I am comfortable now that I can handle all three to a satisfactory degree.

The more interesting part, however, has been prayerfully reflecting on this career move, especially the last few days. I ask of the Lord, “Why this?” and “What can I learn in this situation as part of my spiritual journey?” and “What part do I have to play for the sake of others here?”

I have no delusions to finding pat or complete answers to these questions any time soon but a recent event, in light of other recent thoughts, put a finer edge on “seeing.” A friend, just a day or two ago, posted online a snapshot definition of holiness attributed to St. Augustine: “Holiness makes a person gentle, so they do not revel in controversy.”

If one has been a regular reader of my blog posts, they may have noticed a dramatic fall off in my productivity in the last few months. I have never been prolific in my blog postings (even postings on social media) but have written a fair number of essays along the way. But last summer, my trip to India had an unforeseen impact: I found myself with less to say.

I have wanted to write on a number of concerns, especially on the woeful decline of the American church, but find most online discussions and debates tiresome. My most painful reflection is that failure of the American church is due to the way the Gospel specifically and the Bible generally are handled so poorly, resulting in a form of religion without power.

We live in times, though likely no less so than of eras past, of great controversies – racial tensions, conflicts with Islam, economic upheaval and inequities, political divisions, social repression, and so on. I simply do not want to join in most conversations because I see that too many have already done so (especially Christians weighing in on the topic of American politics), effectively to little or no end.

As I have prayed, I have wondered why I suddenly seemed to have so little to say, or at least feel so little compulsion to say it. It would seem that each us has little more than a microscopic role to play, if any at all, and more often than not adding our voice to the din amounts to no more than a clanging cymbal. Perhaps our greatest roles are to intercede in prayer as Christ often did and piously manage no more than our own direct spheres of influence.

As I pondered these things, my friend’s post appeared and I wondered anew as Augustine’s sentiment immediately brought to mind St. Paul’s hortatory in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands…”

My career has been one of multiple professional re-inventions. My current job has inspired me to think ahead as to what I will do when I (technically) retire, or at least semi-retire, in a few years. I like working with my hands, making or fixing things, but I especially like the creative process of designing things. I am looking forward now and am starting as a hobbyist, to a new, though far less ambitious, new business designing, making, and selling my own creations.

I have a couple of friends in the community where I hope to retire who are of similar age and situation who I hope to entice to work with me, at least to some degree. I am looking forward to hours in my someday workshop, drawing, crafting, and chatting. I am ready for the quiet life.

Though I hope to continue to work on some outside projects, especially in Christian missions, I find myself less and less concerned about provision. I have chosen Psalm 23 to read daily this year as part of my devotional time. God has always been and shall ever remain a faithful and generous provider just as the first verses of that psalm affirm. Perhaps my workshop is to become both the green pastures and still waters of my future.

I do not know what tomorrow will bring. I may write more (or even less) than I have in the past few months but too often our writings are for little else than our own vainglory. I want to avoid that, though there within me still that desire for recognition. In any case, I want to be available for those God calls me to be available to and do everything I can to do as he guides. But I have a growing appreciation of the lifelong enjoyments I have found in just being productive and in spending time with those I love, both family and friend.

I am gratefully entering those years where sociological studies find we grow in contentment, even joyfulness. And I thank God for the opportunities to grow in being still that I might know him.

Shalom.

 

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The Spoiled Children of the World

<rant>

Frankly, and I say this unapologetically, Americans, like their European counterparts and the citizens of a handful of other highly-developed countries, are the spoiled children of the world. The analogy to children is apropos because our nation and culture are barely moving out of the toddler stage even now by comparison to nations and cultures that have been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

The spoiled part is evident by the level of unconscious entitlement to which we have risen collectively. There are specific issues, like tariffs on imported peanut butter that protect a very small portion of our population, the peanut farmers. At the same time, we are prohibiting global peanut farmers from being able to sell their peanuts on the global market as well, since we push our global partnering nations to buy our products there as well. So, because we can, given the political and economic power that we have, especially through global financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, we force some of the global poor to either 1) be poorer, or 2) try like the dickens to find some other way to survive.

By the way, this backfires in our own backyard since those same tariffs force American citizens to pay a much higher price for peanut butter than what it would cost if we actually took part in a level global playing field. And it really backfires when we consider it is a government mechanism (import tariff) that pushed those higher prices onto lower income families in the United States since they are far and away the largest consumer block buying peanut butter in this country. It also exacerbates the drain on our food stamp programs since peanut butter is a staple for lower income families.

Okay, so that’s one example. Trust me, the United States, much like it does militarily, bullies small nations economically through trade negotiations in many, many more ways, just so we can maintain our lifestyle while neglecting investment in the world’s poor. What is saddest is that we have become so shortsighted as to not understand that investing in the global poor, either directly, with capital funding, or indirectly, by lowering trade barriers between the United States and poorer nations, will benefit us all as, to borrow the rising tide analogy, all boats will rise together.

I guess that brings me back to the child analogy since we are, as a population, largely ignorant of what our own government and trade associations foist on the rest of the world. We also choose to turn a blind eye to the plight of the global poor. We need to grow up, and especially so if we call ourselves Christian and still think we should grant our government carte blanche to treat the marginalized around the world in ways that benefit us while robbing them. Read about the King of Tyre and the unrighteousness of his commerce sometime in Ezekiel 28. And keep reading long enough to see the judgment God decreed against him, effectively equating him to the fallen Luciferian character by calling him the “anointed cherub” (v. 14) “in Eden” (v. 13) bearing “the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (v. 12).

As anyone who has visited this site and read more than an essay or two will know, I am an open market advocate. But I will not support crony corporatism (and the politicians that it has purchased along the way) or ignore the abuses of mega-corps like Monsanto. For an eye-opening look into the impact of that one company’s impact, rent ($1.99) or buy ($5.99) the documentary, “Behind the Label,” from Amazon. Central India has experienced about a quarter million farmer suicides since 2000 and Monsanto has been an evident contributor to the financial burdens that pushes them to abandon their wives and children and life itself.

The Bible speaks more to the issue of economic justice than any other in its considerations of and God’s heart for the poor. We as a nation have taken it upon ourselves to wallow in our wealth (currently representing about 22% of global GDP but only about 4½% of global population) while ignoring the plight of others. We have achieved much of our growth by leveraging our economic strength to retain access to resources, especially oil, vital to our growth and maintenance, at the expense of the general populous of many oil-producing nations. We have poured our money into the hands of autocratic leaders in those nations then wonder why the citizenry dislikes us. It is the plight of the bully to be an ignoramus, not knowing what he is doing.

Economic injustice was an enormous failing of Israel repeatedly and the abuse of the poor was the meat of the prophets’ enduring admonitions and laments. We will answer for our own neglect and abuse of the poor.

</rant>

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Through the Eyes of God

by David Doty

I have had one distinct experience in my life that I would call a vision from God. It did not last long, maybe a second or two, but the visual image of what I saw and the impact of what I felt will, I am sure, never leave me.

This event was triggered by a very particular set of circumstances. My wife, Teresa, and I were relaxing in our living room, she sitting on the sofa, I in a recliner. We were listening to the Christian music CD, Freedom, by Darrell Evans. We had only had it for a week or so and I was still somewhat unfamiliar with the lyrics. But there was one song that had already touched me, though, up until then, I could not explain how.

As that particular song started, I told my wife there was a special moment in the tune when I almost felt as if I could reach up and get hold of God. As we listened, the song proceeded through the first verse or two and came to the beginning of the chorus. It was at that point that, sitting back in my recliner with my eyes closed, I actually did reach up and grasped the empty air above me, as if I could get hold of God. What followed I will never forget.

In my mind, I was suddenly at Calvary. But it was the combination of the words of the song coming to life, specifically in accord with the perspective I had of Christ on the Cross. I was peering along the length of Jesus’ right arm, looking toward his bleeding arm where the spike secured it to wood. It was as if my perspective was precisely seeing the scene unfold through his own eyes.

The oddest thing about the experience was what, in that briefest of moments, I felt, and the emotional rush that was my undoing. One would expect to feel the physical pain, or perhaps to have some notion of confusion – Why hast Thou forsaken me? But there was none of either. No, what I felt was an overwhelming sense, an electrifying jolt, of the most intense joy, beyond any I could ever imagine or expect or even describe.

In that instant of the lyrics of Evan’s song mixing with the scene before me, I was undone. Teresa can attest that I was unable to speak and literally sobbed for twenty minutes. It would take a long while to calm down enough to begin reflecting on what had just happened to me. In retrospect, I can understand some of that “getting my head straight” simply because the event was so vivid, so starkly real. It was if I was there, as real as the living room, the recliner, and the house around me in the very same moment.

But it was the lyrics of Evan’s chorus that drove home to me how Jesus ultimately felt when he said, “It is finished,” and passed into the presence of his heavenly Father.

To quote the first two lines of Evan’s chorus:

Spread wide, in the arms of Christ

Is the love that covers sin.

Now, and I am getting chills again, remembering even as I write, I understand the sentimental power of what those words mean in relation to Christ’s atonement for our sins. But three things occur to me whenever I take a moment out to reflect on what I experienced.

First, I felt, I mean really felt what Jesus felt. I saw through his eyes and thought what he thought, even being overwhelmed by sharing one aspect of his awareness and heartfelt reflection on exactly what was transpiring in those last moments of his earthly life. I cannot explain it, but I was there, firsthand, inside his head! It is a bold claim to make and I am sure there are those who will accuse me of grandstanding or blaspheming or whatever as such a claim may deeply offend them. But, I saw what I saw, I felt what I felt. That cannot be taken from me.

Second, that overwhelming joy! Jesus could only have felt this as he experienced his Father’s love washing over him for the depth and breadth of his obedience. Though there was that singular moment of despair, in the end he knew he had accomplished what he was sent to do: to atone for the sin and sins of all humankind. Jesus found himself, amidst all the very real pain, perfectly centered in the redemptive plan of salvation. I am convinced that at the very end he knew, in great depth, exactly what was transpiring.

And finally, there is that universal reach of atonement, not just in the temporal realm as we understand it. This was the central event in all the history of the cosmos. This event would not only make the way open for the reformation and restoration of the entire universe to God’s original intention and design, but it would lead to the most compelling demonstration of the power of God’s love: the Resurrection, the very defeat of death itself. That’s the ultimate goal of atonement, the eradication of death that would otherwise separate God’s creation from its Creator. Jesus’ sacrifice reached into the spiritual realms to “set right” even the heavenly places that had been corrupted by the sin of Satan, to the end that the utter destruction of death heals even the heavenly (spiritual) realms of creation.

Is it any wonder, the joy he could experience knowing that through his suffering, he would ultimately bring an end to all suffering? We still see his atoning work working out in our world but we can be assured that for his obedience, his prayers will be answered – that we all would ultimately be one as he and his Father are one, that God’s will would be fulfilled on earth as it is heaven. We may not see all those things accomplished in our lifetimes. It has already been many generations since that dark day outside Jerusalem. But sharing in such joy as could only emanate from the perfect holiness of the heavenly throne, Jesus knew . . . and he asks simply that we trust and obey, believing and acting according to his new commandment, to love one another.

It may be still many generations before he returns but we know this, that following Christ, growing in him in grace and mercy, showing the world by serving it sacrificially, witnessing in Word and deed, we can share in his joy.

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Just 18 Days to India!

Friends –

The time is at hand! I am just eighteen days away from my departure from Atlanta on August 9. I will get to spend eight days with the Dongerdive family and Life Light ministries in Aurangabad, India. I have been working with John, Life Light’s Executive Director, for ten years, ever since we met in seminary.

Life Light is a multi-faceted indigenous Indian ministry. They operate an orphanage, operate two schools (which are bursting at the seams!), directly oversee nine church plants (plus they have thirty missionaries to their own people who have planted 74 churches in their region), offer an annual pastors conference for up to 200 attendees and a correspondence course in biblical and theological training, conduct street ministry to lepers, and are growing their microlending program. They now have a staff of nearly 150 people.

John, and his brother James, the Director of the St. John’s Schools, asked me two years ago to serve on their U.S.-based board as Director of  Organizational and Staff Development. And now they have asked me to come and see and taste that the Lord is good. During this trip I will offer a one-day conference to local pastors on marketplace theology and ministries. I will also be meeting extensively with members of Life Light leadership and staff, local pastors, and local business leaders. I know that I will learn far more than I will be sharing with them. But the gist is to help them in any way that I can, especially with strategic planning, as they move forward in their reaching Maharashtra state for Christ.

I have two needs for this trip. There is far more riding on this trip, for myself as much as for Life Light, than I can imagine. I want to see and celebrate all the work that God has done through the Dongerdive family over the last 24 years. I also want to clearly discern how I can help them reach their city (3.7 million metro population) and their state (114.2 million), of which, less 3% are Christian. Please pray for my wisdom, for eyes to see and ears to hear what God intends in this region and for Life Light Ministries.

The other need is financial. I have raised more than 80% of the costs of this trip but am still about $500 short of my goal. I have my plane tickets but still need to cover my hotel, meals, and incidentals. Please pray about making a contribution. Eden’s Bridge, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3), not-for-profit so 100% of your gifts are tax deductible. Gifts can be given through PayPal by using my davedoty@edensbridge.org email address, or checks can be mailed to me, c/o Eden’s Bridge at 991 Lancelot Drive, Norcross, GA 30071.

Thank you for your friendship and encouragement through the years. I am looking forward to reporting some amazing things going on in the heart of India.

Shalom,

Dave Doty

Eden’s Bridge, Inc.

859-621-3636 (mobile)

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No, You Can’t

William Wordsworth was right in his poem “The World is Too Much with Us.” We allow ungodly influences to overwhelm our pining for God. Perhaps one of the largest flaws in secular thinking in post-modernity is the idea is that we are all uniquely special, that we should all win trophies just for showing up. We are setting ourselves up for a rising narcissism in society when we try to convince children that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up. To shift that notion immediately to the absurd, I may be able to become a lot of things but becoming a member of another ethnicity should be a clear example of my limitations, and that is just the beginning.

When God was creating the earth and its inhabitants, he declared that is was not good for the man to be alone. One of the reasons was the obvious limitations of capacity one person possesses. I know that, given the fragile status of my lower back, that I cannot safely lift and carry 100 pound boxes. By working with others or machinery, I may be able to accomplish the task.

But a far more important human limitation is the individual capacity for collecting, retaining, and collating knowledge. We are finite beings, living in the presence of infinity. We cannot know everything. We are also, by extrapolation, subject to our own limited wisdom. There is a famous adage that tells us that knowledge is power. But knowledge alone is powerless. It is inert. Power comes by way of wisdom. That is, power comes when we know what to do with knowledge.

As said, knowledge is inert. It requires the catalyst of wisdom to derive any value inherent in the information we have collected. One of the reasons it was good for Adam to meet Eve was that they could not only pool their collective knowledge base, but they could reason together to discern the best uses of that knowledge. That’s called collaboration.

The reason I say “No, you can’t” is because none of us exist in a vacuum and that none of us has limitless power to do whatever we decide what we want to do. We co-exist within the network of all humankind. If the Internet has proven anything, it is that we cannot even begin to organize collective human knowledge. Coupled with the shifting sands of the changing dynamics of daily events, we are sometimes fortunate to even find our car keys, let alone solve global poverty or sex trafficking.

Yet we cling to our dreams of autonomy. We want to believe that we each decide how and where we will live. We refuse to believe that we are not in control. But if we are wise, we not only should pursue an ever-increasing knowledge base, we should also pursue collaborative opportunities to make the wisest decisions possible at every turn. Perhaps the four most powerful words in the English language are not “I do not know.” Rather, I think they are “what do you think?” Probably as powerful of a question that should always be forefront is “what don’t I know?”

One underlying problem in human endeavors, and the one that likely claims the most victims in organizational failure, is ignorance. It is more likely to undermine us than the decision making process itself. We all arrive at our decisions, whether consciously or unconsciously, by pursuing what we believe will best resolve our problems or advance our current standing. Some people make really stupid decisions simply because they do not understand the power of applying wisdom to knowledge. They can draw on their own experiences, limited as they are, or they can take a big step up and draw on the experiences of others. Greater knowledge may, if one refuses the egotism of denial, lead to greater wisdom. More information coupled with humility means better decisions.

Wise organizational leaders hire consultants or recruit advisory board members with a diversity of experience. One hopes those leaders will also look at the historic behavior of those consultants or board members to make an assessment of their successes and failures and what they have gleaned from them. Have they demonstrated growing in wisdom through both the good and the bad things that have come by their decision making through time?

As a joke, I recently ask some friends what they thought would be an appropriate hourly fee if I were to begin marketing myself as a professional conversationalist. The best answer was that I would likely have to pay someone $25.00 per hour to listen to me. Joking aside, I have updated my thinking, given my marketing experience through thirty years of business management and ownership, to think I should advertise myself as a collaborationist. It is not good for anyone to be alone and especially when faced with the seriousness of daily decision making in organizational leadership.

I know that I can bring value to the organizational operations of others simply by being present, asking pointed questions, and offering alternative thoughts on what next steps might provide desirable outcomes. I do not claim to have all the answers but those with whom I spend such time have already admitted that neither do they. But we can likely come to better solutions together than they may find in isolated contemplation. We all have something to offer and that something can be developed if we understand collaboration as an intentional pursuit. We all have unique experiences and interest, and have gained some measure of unique wisdom. But all our particularities never completely coincide with the particularities of any other single person on the planet.

The first company I co-founded with a friend was a tech pursuit. I used to encourage our employees that I wanted them to spend between ten and twenty percent of their work week away from the mundane tasks of their regular job duties to allow themselves room to think creatively. I have come to the decision that this is a good place to expand my own thinking and invoke the 80/20 rule. I do not know of very many people, at least outside very routine work settings like operating a press or assembling products, who work at their work 100% of the time they are on the clock. Sometimes they just need a mental break to step away from their computers to allow their brains to go through a refresh cycle.

If business leaders actually saw 80% productivity within the paid time of all employees, I suspect we would see a significant rise in global output. But what if we could find a way to help make that 80% more productive by making it more pleasurable and rewarding?

Here is my proposition. It contains both challenge and opportunity. The challenge: What if we required workers to complete their normal tasks in 80% of their work time to allow that 20% of their time could be spent on work and professional development? That 20% would be split evenly between isolated thought development (without electronic distractions including their own cell phones, their computers and social media, and incoming phone calls or co-worker disruptions) and focused collaborative discussions. In the first half, they could read industry or even job or skill-specific materials. Or, they could spend that time simply sitting with old school technology – a pen and paper. The questions to guide this time would include two concerns: what would make my job better for me (job satisfaction) and what would make my job better for the company (productivity gains)? Whether from quiet reflection or gleaning from their reading materials, notes would be taken on how their thoughts or the thoughts of others might be applied to advancing those two concerns.

The other half of this development time would be in intentional conversation with others to focus on fleshing out their thoughts. In some cases, workers would benefit from working with those with greater experience and broader knowledge in a mentoring mode. This works out because, for other employees, they could refine their own clarity and focus by helping those with less experience and knowledge . . . in a mentoring mode. Sometimes such sessions may prove most help in peer-to-peer conversations, working with those who most closely work in the same thought areas and facing similar challenges. In other cases, someone with a completely different perspective, from an entirely unrelated discipline, may be able to bring freshness to otherwise isolated “tower” thinking.

The collaborative conversations should be limited to two or three participants to allow each to bring the material from their thought development time to the table. The participant groupings should change from week to week to avoid tunnel vision and clique-ism. This is not just friends hanging out. And the last hour of the collaborative time would revert to isolation that each worker could tabulate their thoughts and ideas to pass up the management ladder . .  confidentially to someone other than the workers’ direct supervisors.

For one, this last piece would put some quality and performance control in place to ensure better outcomes than simply allowing people to hang out all afternoon without accountability. The second advantage is this would allow for candor, since direct reports would not have to fear retribution if their ideas are disagreeable to their supervisor. Employee inputs could be tabulated and passed to the heads of operations, accounting, and human resources for management accountabilities. And third, management would likely be surprised by the value of some of the operational, product, and service concerns, suggestions, and ideas that emerge from the process.

The opportunity is actually threefold for the worker with a bonus for the employer. For employees, they would be able to spend time thinking about what it is about their job they do not like and how to improve it. This will only work long term if management is serious about employee engagement and willing to work with the workers to increase job satisfaction. The benefits of employee engagement are already well known, especially in the direct value of employee retention through reduced recruitment, selection, and hiring costs and increases in productivity gained through the outputs of more experience workers; the one’s who have already learned more tricks of the trade.

Another benefit, which simply adds to employee job satisfaction, is significance. Most human beings have a strong desire to make a difference and to be recognized and rewarded for it. This is a psychological advantage for the worker but it would have a much more powerful impact if employers would agree to share the economic gains (at least 25%) of increased productivity that come about from the workers’ reflections and collaborations within a bonus system (the third benefit).

The obvious bonus for the employer is financial strength whether it comes from increasing sales or operational efficiencies gained from the workers’ suggestions.

To incorporate such a program would require strong leadership, one that is unafraid to run some risks, capable of carefully planning and implementation, and willing to challenge their employees to optimize their own potential. It may be that a single department could be set as a test case wherein performance could be measured over a six or twelve month period, kinks in execution could be worked out before broader implementation, and employee satisfaction (and therefore, things like retention) could be observed both objectively and subjectively (are income statements improving and is there more laughter in the office?).

Workers tend to appreciate increasing rewards, whether monetary or in other perks. But they thrive on the opportunities of becoming more significant in their work and expressions of their value to the organization. I have observed a multitude of organizations of every ilk – not for profit, for profit, cooperatives, educational and religious organizations. The two most common elements are that they all operate on the derivations of the same hierarchical organizational structure and they all live or die according to the quantity and quality of workers’ productive outputs.

Hierarchy is universally inevitable and can be modified only by degrees. Workers can be engaged or disengaged. The value of employee engagement is the key to success. No one can accomplish much alone. But organizations have the opportunity to tap into the collective knowledge of their entire workforce and to leverage that knowledge by releasing the collective wisdom of that same group.

Alone . . . no, you can’t. Together, we may have a chance at greatness.

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