Game Of Thrones: Family Sandwich

What would you do to keep your family safe?

In George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, Ned Stark goes to great pains to protect his family. He takes his youngest to the court of King Robert, leaving his eldest with his wife in Winterfell. This way, none of his children could be wiped out in one fell swoop. His older sons could learn the ropes of leadership in his absence while his younger daughters experienced the world of Kings and, more specifically, Queens.

Did it work? Read on, friends.

Family SandwichI’ve been interested in this passage in 1 Samuel for similar reason: 1 Samuel 14:47-52. There are three parts of this passage: Saul’s heroic narrative of freeing Israel, his sons and daughters and Saul’s growing army. It’s easy to look at this and get distracted by the militaristic nature of the first and last paragraphs. But if we look to the middle…we see a family.
A family protected on both sides by war; a family sandwich.

Why did Saul relentlessly pursue his enemies? Check the middle.
Why did Saul push north, south, east and west? Check the middle.
Why did Saul seek revenge on those who invaded? Check the middle.
Why did Saul hold the Philistines at bay his entire lifetime? Check the middle.
Why did Saul draft strong and heroic men into his army any time he saw them? Check the middle.

It was for his family.
He did all of this for

He did all of this for

He did all of this for
Ahinoam, his wife
He did all of this for
Abner, his cousin
He did all of this for
Kish, his father
Ner, his uncle and
Abiel, his grandfather.

As much bad as can be said about Saul, this passage paints a picture of a man who cared for his family. He pushed it to the Nth level. He took it to the hilt for them. He never took his eye off their safety and well being.

He was a family man.
He knew his priorities.
He loved his family sandwich.

Keep this in mind as the Game of Thrones goes on.

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A play about…the conversion of Saul?

break of noon“God is talking to me at that moment and he says, ‘Don’t move. Stay where you are. All will be well and tomorrow go spread my gospel of goodness. That all men should work at this, that goodness is all that matters.’”

Last year, author-screenwriter-playwrite Neil LaBute debuted a new play, The Break of Noon. The Break of Noon takes a hard look at the emotional burden of extreme violence and the escalating occurrences of violence in the American workplace. It’s not a news piece or even an external one. This play is about the inner workings of a man who is the sole survivor of a workplace massacre by the hand of what he believes as divine intervention. While the main character, John (played by David Duchovny in New York), is evading the gunman he has a miraculous experience:

“I stop and hear a voice call out to me. Using my name, and it says to me, ‘remain here and you will be safe, John. Stay where you are and you shall be saved.’”

What I find quite wonderful is the parallel(s) between this play and the conversion of Saul. LaBute’s drama is a contemporary illustration of Acts 9 (which shades of ch’s 22 and 26). The play begins in the recall of the event and as the character develops, we learn that John, like Saul, was moving in the wrong direction. In terms of people the Junior class of Jesus High would nominate most likely to proclaim the gospel, he wasn’t one of them. In his words:

“I was not a good person. In my life. That must be obvious to you by now. There was no reason for God to single me out, use a man like me for any reason other than it being a part of his almighty and infinite plan.”

This song sings like 1 Cor 15:9-10, “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.”

Hear Paul as he reframes his testimony for the church in Galatia, “You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors (Gal 1:13-14).”

Paul was not moving in the same direction that God was. Even though, in the apostle’s case, he thought what he was doing was what God wanted him to do…it wasn’t. Sometimes we do the work of God, without God, don’t we?. Sometimes our own preferences empower our zeal to produce ecstatic results. But God isn’t part of that. For Paul, it was using the Law to destroy Christ. It’s almost impossible to imagine that Paul would be the person that Jesus chose to proclaim the gospel and write the score, as it were, to the New Testament. But he was. That’s the indelible bewilderment that characterizes the emotional uncertainty of LaBute’s main character.

He’s trying to figure out what to do with the knowledge that God chose him.

That question is common to the journey of all who follow Jesus.

“Will the thirty-seven dead ever be worth the lives I’ll change or any good I might do? Impossible to say. But I do know that a life half-live is better than one not lived at all and what used to be my unrepentant heart is now awash in the love of Christ.”

[By the way, if you are looking for a good book on life half-lived, might I recommend Half-Life: Die Already, by Mark Steele?]

I realize that the author isn’t trying to write a religious piece, he says as much directly in the preface. It’s just nice to see a writer put something onto the stage that wrestles with the same material that I try and put into the pulpit. Take the wacky 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 witness, “I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows — was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.”

John articulates something similar. It’s not that people don’t have this kind of experience, it’s that you seldom hear about it and here is a mainstream author trying to work his way through something so mystical and mysterious. I’m grateful, truly I am. Listen to his words as LaBute attempts to describe the undescribable:

but I was steadfast…the voice of God was there and I could hear the…sound of angels from above. And for a moment – the briefest of tiny moments in my lifetime – I was free. No past to regret and no future of worries. Just the moment, hovering there, filled with tears and love and golden blessings. And I began to fill up…to be filled up with the goodness of a thousand tomorrows and, my God, I was floating…there I was in my suit and my tie but I was floating above it all…”

Drama has astounding potential to make us think and feel things that we normally won’t or don’t allow ourselves to. Language seldom captures the intent of faith or the experience of it. To his credit, I think LaBute really understands this. The Break of Noon is filled with ellipses and stammers, likes and really’s, inaccurate language for precise phenomena. But that’s honest. And engaging. And what I’m entirely used to and comfortable with. A real, credible witness is difficult to explain. But we have to try; to keep trying to make words do the work. That’s The Break of Noon and the conversion of Paul.

“I have a testimony now. I’m converted in a way…I don’t know! It was, like this flash and bright things or whatever. It was…this’ll sound just goofy but for a moment I felt as if I’d been lifted up…I mean, literally off the ground…like Saul on the road to Damascus, or, or…you know?”

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shoveling lava into your brain

Reading Watchmen Nee is like shoveling lava into your brain through your nose. I can read a whole paragraph of his writing before I have to reassess my whole approach to The Way (Acts 9:2-3). There is something so visceral and austere, if you will, about the way he describes the life of faith…of Christian faith. I respond to it in little bites, Neelets.

Today, our prayer reading came from a compiled Nee quote out of the NLT Mosaic Bible (this is a fantastic Bible and meditation material). Before I read it, funny enough, we were talking about a Presbyterian’s inclination to place thinking and analysis over experience and understanding. Thought I’d share:

This matter of the…Trinity of the Godhead is one which we cannot use our mind to comprehend. When the Lord was in the flesh, He told the disciples clearly that at that time He could not speak much with them, for they could not bear it; but when the Spirit of reality would come, He would lead them into all reality (John 16:12-13)…He could not come into them. He could only be outside of them. He had already told them much and if He were to tell the more, their mind would not be able to comprehend. But when He would rise from the dead…the Spirit entered into them, He would then be in them and bring them into all reality to enjoy the Triune God. We cannot…simply use our mind to understand the mystery of the Father, Son and Spirit; The conclusion of mental analyses is certainly that the Father is one, the Son is one and the Spirit also is one; thus the Father, Son and Spirit are three Gods! This is the reasoned judgment of your mind. But if you check with your own experience, you will declare that the Lord who dwells in you is surely one…If you follow your mental understanding you will be puzzled, but by your own experience you are clear that the Father, the Son and the Spirit are the three persons of the one God.

Proverb 1:7 makes a similar affirmation, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

Fear is experiential; it is rooted in memory and imagination

It is thinking and analysis that move a person beyond fear; as in, “take some deep breaths.”
It is possible that thinking and analysis can move a person beyond Fear of the Lord.
And so oftentimes, it does.

If you were to put Fear of the Lord on your emotional spectrum, where would it fall? Right next to zombies and vampires? Feathers and ladybugs? Can your mind ascribe fear that is appropriate a cosmic, life-giving, soul affirming deity? Probably not. Like Nee writes, experience informs the way we relate to Christ. We can’t begin to fear him, to live in constant awe and heart stopping reverence, if we try to think our way into it.

This is why we need to experience the Lord.
To imagine.
To remember.
To confront him in Scripture and in community.
To be confronted by him in all his fullness.

Luke tells this great story in Acts about a man named Saul who encountered Jesus on the open road. He was confronted, confounded, blinded and converted with a panicked heart. It took the full reality (as Nee puts it) of Jesus to shake him from the grip of a false reality in order to experience a more real one.

Think on these things (2 Tim 2:7)

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