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Demons

I’m downtown for a lunch meeting, standing at a street corner… I look across the street, see his huddled frame lying against the side of the building… Lying there. On the street. A bed of concrete. Just lying there. Even from across the street, I can see that he has black hair, brown skin…

Is he sleeping?  Passed out?  Dead?  Does anyone see him?

Car after car drives by, like so many priests and Levites.

Just another drunk Indian downtown…

I’m waiting for the light to change, wondering what this will require of me. My first thought—Christ have mercy—is, “I hope someone goes to him before I get there.” Because I am a priest and I am a Levite… Because I don’t know what to do and I don’t want to know what to do… Because it’s so much easier to just walk by…

I see a young man approach him… The light still hasn’t changed…. The young man shakes him violently… No response… He reaches into the man on the ground’s back pocket, pulls out a bottle, looks around, sticks it in his jacket…. I keep watching… The light still hasn’t changed.

A man and a woman approach… She’ already on her phone, dialling for help… The man tentatively leans over the guy on the ground, trying to make sure he’s breathing, I think… The light has changed… I make my way over… “Is he alive?” I ask. “Yeah, he’s got a pulse,” the one man says. “But he doesn’t respond…”

The young man moves toward me, wild-eyed. He’s probably not even 25, but he’s missing a lot of his teeth… Long black hair, hockey jersey, glassy eyes… He’s got another bottle in his hand. “Yeah, man, this guy’s alive… But he’s f*%#’’ed up, man!”

I swallow.

A city bus stops in front of us…  The door opens…  The driver looks disdainful as she motions me over… “Has someone called the cops?” she demands to know…  “Yeah, somebody’s called,” I say.  “It’s taken care of.”

Taken care of.  What an interesting choice of words, I thought.  If only…

The woman’s voice in the phone is in the background… “yeah, yeah, he’s alive… I don’t know, maybe late forties, early fifties? Yeah, aboriginal… There’s another guy here, too… No, he’s not moving… Recovery position? OK, well we don’t have any gloves… Ok, we’ll try… Yes, we definitely need an ambulance here… ”

“Do we need to move him?” I ask. “Yeah,” the man who came with the woman says. “Let’s see if we can get him in the recovery position.” I grab his legs, the other guy tries to shift his shoulders sideways… He’s limp as a rag doll… Every time we try to prop him up on his side, he flops back into the contorted position he started from. Finally we get him propped up… Kind of…

The cops have just showed up… The young man starts to look nervous… We’re still hanging on to the guy on the ground, trying to make sure he’s in a safe position…

Suddenly the guy on the ground’s eyes pop open and he’s thrashing around… The young man laughs loudly, extends his hand and helps him up… He’s up for a few seconds before falling down again… The cop looks bored… Now the guy is up again staggering around with a wild, angry look on his face… He stumbles out on to a street full of midday traffic… The cop puts on a pair of black surgical gloves… The young man runs out into the street after him, laughing, grabbing him by the arm, trying to steer him back toward the sidewalk as the cars drive by…

I think of the Gadarene demoniac in the gospel of Luke… Were his eyes wild like this? Did he have this kind of crazed, confused look on his face as he stumbled around among the tombs, far from towns and houses, the chains that couldn’t hold him clinking together as they hung from his wrists and ankles…?

Is this what demons look like?

I look back at the scene in front of me… The man is yelling loudly now…. He doesn’t sound angry, really, just disoriented or distressed or… Something. The young man is hanging all over him, trying to calm him down… I can see the bottle that the younger man took from him hanging half out of his back pocket as he follows him around…

I think about the demons that torment this man, the demons that harass and harry him, that refuse to leave him alone, that flog him down all kinds of self-destructive roads… I wonder how many they are, these demons. Are they “Legion?”  I wish they would leave him the hell alone…

I look around helplessly, wishing for Jesus-powers, for a herd of pigs and a cliff or… something.

But there are no pigs or cliffs. Just a bored cop and the back of a police cruiser for this Legion.

The young man laughs and wanders down the street with his two bottles.

The cop takes off his surgical gloves and lazily talks on his radio.

I stand silently on the street corner for half a minute or so.  Then, I go to lunch.

41 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cheryl O'Donnell #

    Reality is oh too real sometimes !!
    Demons, Priests, Levites, Samaritans….in all the countries of the world – I saw them in Thailand.
    God, help me to be a Samaritan……always…..before I go for lunch. Way to go Ryan. Most will not stop.

    May 28, 2014
    • God, help me to be a Samaritan……always.

      Amen, Cheryl.

      May 29, 2014
  2. mike #

    This is both a deeply profound and poignant post, Ryan. I can relate to and appreciate the human response (” Because I don’t know what to do and I don’t want to know what to do… Because it’s so much easier to just walk by”) to such a nowadays disturbingly common situation as this is. I’m equally impressed that you would inject yourself into this most unpleasant scenario, on behalf of Humanity and Alcoholics everywhere let me say “Thank You,Ryan”.

    “Brothers, do not be afraid of men’s sin, love man also in his sin, for this likeness of God’s love is the height of love on Earth. Love all of God’s creation, both the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love animals, love plants, love each thing. If you love each thing, you will perceive the mystery of God in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin tirelessly to perceive more and more of it every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an entire, universal love…

    – from a homily of Elder Zosima in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov

    May 29, 2014
    • Love that passage from the Brothers K… Thank you, Mike.

      May 29, 2014
  3. Do you feel comfortable, “laying on hands” and/or praying in tongues?

    May 30, 2014
  4. Paul Johnston #

    Yes, it can be a difficult, “leap of faith”. Maybe in time. 🙂 It just might be the most powerful weapon at our disposal, especially within the context you describe above.

    May 30, 2014
    • It’s not so much that I have trouble making the leap of faith, I’m just not convinced of the merits of such activities (I’m thinking specifically of “praying in tongues” here). I don’t doubt that there are examples of these gifts being used well, but in my experience many Christians view these sorts of activities in quasi-magical ways that, in my view, do not square with how I understand God to work and who I understand God to be.

      May 30, 2014
  5. I think if a person prays in tongues, or lays on hands humbly, faithfully, sincerely, as nothing, more or less, then a conduit of the Holy Spirit,….well…let us not limit God’s options. 🙂

    Perhaps when we are at our most helpless, when there seems no rational choice we can make or commit to, these prayers are their most powerful…… If we have faith. 🙂

    Personally, I’m ok with a miracle being referenced as, “quasi-magical”.

    May 30, 2014
    • It’s not necessarily that I have a problem with viewing miracles themselves in quasi-magical ways (genuine, unexplainable miracles certainly seem “magical”), it’s the relating to God in quasi-magical ways that I have a problem with. It’s the idea that God can be summoned with the right invocations, the right performances, the right whatever…

      For me it comes down to how we understand God and God’s character. I worry that sometimes our practices give the impression that we think of God more like the prophets of Baal thought of their god—if they could just perform correctly, Baal would be bound to act!—than like Elijah with his simple trust in YHWH.

      I’m not denying that these gifts and practices are found in Scripture or that they can (and have been) used responsibly or anything like that. But I think that they are perhaps uniquely open to being abused, and this has been demonstrated amply throughout history.

      As you say, though, “let us not limit God’s options.” As if we could 🙂 .

      May 31, 2014
      • Maybe it isn’t so much a, “pray or act a certain way and we get our desired outcomes” but rather a sincere and contrite heart opening itself to the ever present mercy and healing, that is Jesus Christ. The kingdom can be now, if we welcome it in. Anything we ask of God, if inspired by a true spirit of love, will be granted to us. His generosity for good is infinite.

        May 31, 2014
      • a sincere and contrite heart opening itself…

        Yes. This is surely the place we must always start.

        May 31, 2014
  6. mike #

    Then there’s this~

    May 30, 2014
  7. Paul Johnston #

    Haven’t watched the clip, Mike and not likely to. What would be the point? Be careful not to denigrate what is sacred and true because you perceive some to have misused the gifts. Are not the “laying on of hands” and “speaking in tongues”, scriptural? And what if this is a fraudulent expression of healing? What then? What would be left to us, in any domain, religious or secular, if we discarded the processes simply because they had been abused?

    May 31, 2014
  8. mike #

    Your right, Paul. I knew that I shouldn’t have posted it when I did it, I apologize.

    May 31, 2014
    • Paul Johnston #

      Though no apology is necessary it is a very humble and classy action on your part. Thanks, Mike. 🙂

      May 31, 2014
  9. Larry S #

    I read Ryan’s post a day or so ago about how he helped deal with a drunk while heading out for lunch. Good for Ryan I thought. I returned to his blog this morning and was puzzled as I read the responses which somehow seemed to have meandered into a theological conversation about the laying on hands coupled with speaking in tongues. Puzzled, I skimmed the post two times trying to see where the laying on hands/tongues idea could have came from.

    I think I found it in the part where Ryan helps to put the man into “the recovery position.” I took Ryan’s musing a demons to be entirely metaphorical. At least in terms of actual demonic possession. Surely we aren’t going around thinking that demons are at root of every drunk? Perhaps in a meta-narrative, world structural way. But one to one demon possession?

    I’m now trying to imagine how it might have played out. As I think in the context described in the post it would have been exceedingly bizarre for Ryan to “lay hands” and “pray in tongues” over the drunken person (before or instead of the “recovery position'” instead of calling the police?). At most perhaps a “Christ have mercy” sounds good. Although, I imagine the other people who were also helping would have thought Ryan was swearing :). What would the desired outcome be? Do we think or hope laying hands, praying in tongues over the unconscious drunk might wake him up sober and in his right mind (with or without a hang-over?). Since he is in active addiction and has been an unwilling participant in all this won’t he just want another drink?

    Perhaps I am demonstrating my lack of faith. I often have little faith. Perhaps I am demonstrating my lack of prayer, speaking in tongues, laying on hands of random people (who may be demon possessed?) But it seems to me, that Ryan showed a kindness to the drunk, participated with strangers in showing care to some troubled soul. No need to get “all spiritual.” Or just perhaps in stopping and assisting Ryan was being profoundly spiritual.

    Larry

    June 1, 2014
    • Yes, Larry, I intended the “demons” language to be read in a metaphorical way. I certainly don’t think that every drunk is demon-possessed! I think many addicts experience of addiction is almost like possession or oppression of some kind (you certainly get this sense in some of the self-descriptions of addicts), but I don’t think the guy I saw on the street had a demon or anything like that.

      Thank you for your kind affirmation.

      June 1, 2014
  10. mike #

    “Look around you. You can tell: homo sapiens are a sick species, deathly sick. We have the potential to become conscious of the very God who breathed life into our lungs yet we sit empty, idle, tragically trapped in the physical world, spiritually-muted.
    In order to forget this tragedy we fill our veins and stomachs and lungs with artificial peace, fill our heads with distractions and egregious,violent entertainment, trying desperately to find a balance within these spinning minds, our best and brightest falling to the grave with a violent whimper and a needle hanging out of their arm. We are quickly becoming a barbarous species nearly immune to the violence bleeding over into our lives. We are quickly becoming just another animal on the planet.” ..”Seeking God in Violent Times” by Peter Haskins.

    June 3, 2014
    • Hard to argue with Mr. Haskins…

      June 3, 2014
  11. Paul Johnston #

    I don’t see demons as metaphorical though you might, Larry. I understand that Ryan wrote of them in a metaphoric context, that makes them no less real. I believe that every addiction/self destructive behavior, has it’s root in demonic possession. If the “truth”, the over arching meta-narrative of existence, is the redemption of humanity through Christ, just exactly what are we being saved from? What principality or contingency threatens our existence?

    If Jesus is the way, the truth, the light, then the devil and demons are the enemy. However dissonant that sounds to the modern ear, that conclusion is inescapable.

    “No need to get all spiritual” you say. Larry, I couldn’t disagree with you more. Were Ryan’s actions spiritual? In my opinion, not at all. They were honest and awkwardly kind. More than good enough to satisfy the court of public opinion, but nowhere near sufficient to win a war.

    June 4, 2014
    • My actions may or may not have risen above “honest and awkwardly kind,” Paul, but I resist the sharp distinction you seem to be making between “spiritual” and “unspiritual” things. Jesus said that anyone who gave a cup of cold water in his name would not lose their reward (Mat. 10:42) and that ordinary acts of practical service to the “least of these” are counted as service to Christ (indeed, are the criteria for salvation, if Matthew 25:31-46 is to be believed). Jesus evidently thought that very simple expressions of help to vulnerable people were full of spiritual significance.

      Jesus often seems to have different ideas about how wars are won than we do, and we need to pay careful attention to this.

      June 4, 2014
    • Larry S #

      Paul, greetings

      What Ryan said = I agree with his response.

      My question to you is, do you really think that going up to unconscious people you may find on the street, laying hands on them while you speak in tongues is “biblical.” Can you point me to the biblical text which shows anyone doing those two things?

      And as I mused in my post would laying on of hands/tongues replace other interventions.

      Also, I don’t think my quick little post was meant to delineate my understanding of demonology. I merely question the notion that every unconscious drunk is demon possessed.

      The “don’t get all spiritual” comment was meant as a little joke. I don’t see a dichotomy between spiritual/physical (but it’s hard to express all this as I type with two fingers on my IPad before rushing off into my work day).

      Blessing, Larry

      June 5, 2014
  12. mike #

    This conversation is getting so Good that I can’t help myself, not so much for the sake of arguing a particular point but for the arduous yet necessary exercise of intellect in applying logic and reason to views and beliefs that I so quickly adopted and cling to now as Christian Truths.
    I’ve practiced both Tongues and the Laying on of Hands in the past, so I understand the Charismatic perspective from where Paul is coming from. I’m not interested in arguing the scriptural validity of “Gifts” or the ‘evidence’ of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit here, but rather to further develop a working Gnosis of the intricacies of this Physical/Spiritual world(s)we exist in. My experience and understanding at this point is of 2 separate Dimensions/realities, yet both intermingled and over-lapping one another, appearing in conflict as Good versus Evil, unseen spiritual forces at work clearly influencing us in the physical world, and visa-versa..that which is done by us in the physical realm having an impact on the unseen forces of the spiritual world. Science itself-String Theory,Quantum Physics and the Butterfly Effect would seem to somewhat endorse this point of view.

    ” do you really think that going up to unconscious people you may find on the street, laying hands on them while you speak in tongues is “biblical.” I can find nothing from existing scripture to support the specific combination of using tongues while laying on of hands, but since when does an intentional,heartfelt and sincere act of loving kindness(religious or not) require a Proof Text. Strangely, though I never hear a sermon on it, Mark16:17-18 in your Words of God book does seem to clearly support snake handling and drinking strychnine as a witness. “they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (New International version)

    Can an unwanted compulsive addiction(of any kind) be labeled as a demon possession? I don’t know, but it sure felt that way to me.

    June 5, 2014
  13. Larry S #

    Mike I look forward to an ongoing conversation.

    Let me clarify my question a bit. I am poking at Paul cause as I read his post he is claiming that going up to unconcious drunk on the street / laying on hands-speaking in tongues is “biblical.” Those are the two things the non-participating drunk + the religious activity I’m looking for some biblical warrant. (I still seem to have traces of fundy in me that are hard to shake at times and when people claim an action is “biblical” sometimes I try to figure out the basis for the claim.) I admit to trying to have a bit of fun with this. And hope that Ryan doesn’t mind us parsing his experience. Taking over his blog a bit.

    How is this as a little story. “Back when I hung around the Federal Pen trying to be a chaplain. I heard about another chaplain who would go around doing exorcism type activity prior to using the chapel because it had been the location of inter-faith religious ceremonies like Wicca, Buddist, etc. He felt he had to pray away the demons and retake the chapel for Jesus.

    I think talking through our understandings of spiritual/physical realities is a worthwile endevour and trust that Paul isn’t too annoyed by my light-hearted approach. I know all about the dark side of life and fully recognize depravity and evil.

    Larry

    June 5, 2014
    • mike #

      Thanks for clarifying, Larry. On more than one occasion I’ve felt that Paul was being ridiculed for his weird belief’s. :/

      “..And hope that Ryan doesn’t mind us parsing his experience. Taking over his blog a bit.” He won’t mind, Larry. I do it all the time..

      I love your example of the cautious Chaplin, and although I do frequently burn Frankincense and Myrrh both at home and at work, it serves more of a complex psychological need than anything else. I wouldn’t pretend to chase away demons with it *anymore.

      I once attended a Demonology seminar taught by Derek Prince, the foremost authority on the subject at the time. I was sorely disappointed in him when at the end of the class, he proceeded to cast the Demons out of the whole class room(Christians and all) in one fell-swoop, all the while encouraging us all to cough-up/out the demons. That may have been the beginning of the end of the Charismatic phase of my Journey, no disrespect intended.

      June 5, 2014
      • Larry S #

        “no disrespect intended”

        in my view (and in the way I run my life) not every experience or practise needs to be afforded respect.

        in my view, that experience you describe at the seminar sounds like looney tunes time and doesn’t deserve respect.

        and again, in my view, and no personal disrespect towards Paul intended, the notion that dealing with the unconcious drunk (as per our friend Ryan’s opening post) by laying on hands/speaking in tongues over him is likewise looney. again, that is my view of the idea – trying to imagine it happening in real time on the street would be an exceedingly wierd/inappropriate thing to do.

        June 5, 2014
  14. mike #

    I was hoping others, regardless of their position, would chime in on this discussion .

    I agree with you Larry about how it looks (weird and looney) to passersby, It’s a turn-off, and in most cases it totally ruins a witness IMO, but I wouldn’t totally discount it’s possible effectiveness either (as a sincere request for God’s intervention) however misguided the method might be. I’ve come to believe in the Power of Intention regardless of whether it’s In or Out of a religious context, much the same Love.
    Are Tongues of God? maybe the answer is yes and no, I’ve seen an awful lot of bogus stuff perpetrated on those who WANTED/NEEDED to believe….it might be better to ask: Are Tongues and the Laying on of hands a needed outward sign of faith in God for some people? ..it most definitely was for me *at that time in my journey.

    June 6, 2014
  15. I am enjoying tracking the conversation here, and certainly don’t mind if others “take over the blog.” That’s what it’s here for 🙂 .

    Having said that, I don’t feel I have much to contribute to a discussion about demonology or spiritual warfare. I have little to no experience in this area and not a great deal of desire to speak from a position of relative ignorance.

    When I think back to the guy on the street, I don’t think in any way of demon possession. I think of a man who has probably had a very hard life in many ways and whose people have been through a lot of abuse, historically down to the present.

    June 6, 2014
  16. Larry S #

    In an earlier post Mike wrote the following: “My experience and understanding at this point is of 2 separate Dimensions/realities, yet both intermingled and over-lapping one another, appearing in conflict as Good versus Evil, unseen spiritual forces at work clearly influencing us in the physical world, and visa-versa..that which is done by us in the physical realm having an impact on the unseen forces of the spiritual world. Science itself-String Theory,Quantum Physics and the Butterfly Effect would seem to somewhat endorse this point of view.”

    I’ve been thinking about “spiritual” and physical realms, the two dimensions, earthly and heavenly which appear to intermingle and overlap one another. Some Church traditions speak of thin spaces or sacred spaces where the distance between the spirit/physical doesn’t seem so great. What do we think about this?

    I ask because I write this post in a “Bible Camp”. I’m on a deck over the lake at the beginning of a men’s retreat. I’m alone, I arrived early because I’m the anal, obsessive organized type. I come with an agenda that has nothing to do with the content o the retreat (although the retreat will surely be filled with theology, “spiritual” moments and all that). I’m exhausted from my work week dealing with people who are in pain and acting out against the laws of our fair land; I’ve not slept well all week as I’ve processed issues around my extended family that have flared into red hot turbulence. I plan to spend hours away from the group this weekend planning the agenda for a meeting which will attempt to deal with issues that have simmered in my extended family for years and have now bubbled to the surface…..

    So I’m kind of hoping this bible camp (where in the next few months kids will pray to receive Jesus into their hearts thus guaranteeing their ticket to heaven) …. is a kind of “thin space.”

    Are there such places? Like the high places under a tree that the Old Testament patriarchs went to meet with God. Or is it just that we in our need, when we stumble across an unconscious drunk on the street or face deep ruptures of relationship and malidaptive behaviours in the family that we love, desprately hope for some wisdom, some special burst of power that will sweep away the cobwebs and dirt and crap that we are tasked by providence and our gifting to try to at least mitigate some the damage we see.

    June 6, 2014
    • mike #

      Beautiful.. I deeply honor your openness here, Larry, and I suspect that you are standing at such a thinly veiled threshold just now.

      June 6, 2014
    • I absolutely think there are such thin places, Larry, and, like Mike, I suspect that you might be in the vicinity of one this weekend.

      I also absolutely think that we are desperate hopers for wisdom to deal with all the crap…

      In my (limited) experience it can be the thin places that lay some of our hungers bare or it can be our desperation and need that drive us to discover them. They go together somehow, even if it’s hard to say how or why.

      I wish you much grace and peace as you seek the thin places, wisdom, God.

      June 7, 2014
      • mike #

        “…it can be our desperation and need that drive us to discover them. They go together somehow,”

        Your so right, Ryan. In fact, I’ve noticed a pattern, that I seem to occasionally NEED a crisis or painful situation of some sort, substantial enough to bring me back to that sacred space where I am once again crying out to God, totally Dependent on Him for Help or rescue. My Sacred Space is a place of surrender, a “letting go” once again of my Will and (re)submission to the idea of my utter helplessness to control people and outcomes.

        “The balance of events in our lives is much like the balance of nature. The pendulum swings; every extreme condition is offset by it’s opposite, and we learn to appreciate the gifts….of the bad times as well as the periods of rest. On occasion we’ll discover that our course in life has changed direction. We need not be alarmed. Step 3 has promised that we are in caring hands. Our every concern, every detail of our lives, will be taken care of, in the right way, at the right time.” (Each Day A New Beginning- Hazelden Meditations)

        June 8, 2014
  17. Paul Johnston #

    I think that my intuition, spiritually inspired or otherwise :), to withdraw from this conversation for a time, was the right choice. if for no other reason than the conversation that has evolved without my participation. :)….. I’m actually leaving for the “blessed sacrament” an RC chapel where we silently convene with the presence of the risen Christ. A blessed and joyful experience to be sure for those, “with eyes to see and ears to hear”…it comes highly recommended from a certain weird and occasionally ridiculed ( not without some justification) corner… 🙂

    A couple of quick thoughts…. I sense in this post and often in others, that Ryan views his pastoral contributions as insufficient and conflicted….I may well be wrong….I think if I were to fairly analyze my own contributions to my neighbors welfare, I might come to a similar conclusion…at best. 🙂

    It is this “spirit of pride” certainly mine and perhaps your also, Ryan that I am “pushing back” on. In the end, the actions of healing and redemption are God’s actions. God’s power. We are potential mediators, nothing more or less, if we have (mustard seed 🙂 ) faith. We need to
    put on the armor and be be bold in our action. Mostly we need to leave thoughts about our own obvious inadequacies on the scrap pile they belong on….get out of our own heads and out of the way of God’s healing graces. God can and will work miracles through us. It is His way. Why he chooses such a wayward species is beyond me, :)…but that is an argument for another day.

    Larry, laying on of hands and tongues are scriptural and proven. I waste no time on claim/counter claim and what usually devolves into mean spirited exegesis. I leave that to the “Pharisees” of all Christian traditions.

    Within the context of this post, as I understand it, I would reject my personal feeling of inadequacy and ask the man found in the doorway if I might pray over him, if he would be willing, if he would allow it. I would explain to him that the touch was spiritual in nature, something we could facilitate if we were both open to God’s grace. The tongues, I would explain, reflect both God’s power and allow us both to focus on the communion with God taking place rather than on the challenges, ego and distraction of our own conversations.

    I would think that a native person might be open to this kind of spirituality given their own cultural experiences. I could imagine that it is precisely this kind of Christian expression that might have made sense to our native brothers and sisters when we first encountered them. I think God would honor this type of intervention and great things could come from it…Ya gotta believe….. 🙂

    June 9, 2014
    • mike #

      I’m glad your still with us, Paul. This group needs you.

      June 9, 2014
    • Larry S #

      Paul, I hope you have a great and meaningful time at your chapel.

      Perhaps you should read Ryan’s post again. The drunk was non-rsponsive. The drunk isn’t able to answer any of the good questions you suggest. Which of course is the basis of my questioning the rational and biblical basis for the laying hands/tongues on a comatose person.

      But perhaps I am reading Paul far too linearly. Perhaps, Paul is saying if Ryan were to have hands laid on him and speak in tongues Ryan would do far less navel gazing, introspection blogging about his pastoral actions. Perhaps our dear friend Ryan would then have absolute certainty! What do you think, Ryan? Is that what Paul is suggesting?

      Back to thin spaces. if we believe in thin spaces where we can position ourselves to experience God, I’m musing that there are other spaces where we can position ourselves to experience the dark side. Probably true – both literal spaces / and literal activities.

      June 10, 2014
      • @ Larry… Re:

        But perhaps I am reading Paul far too linearly. Perhaps, Paul is saying if Ryan were to have hands laid on him and speak in tongues Ryan would do far less navel gazing, introspection blogging about his pastoral actions. Perhaps our dear friend Ryan would then have absolute certainty! What do you think, Ryan? Is that what Paul is suggesting?

        I’m not sure if this is what Paul is suggesting, but I have little doubt that this could be one of the side benefits of laying hands/tongues 🙂 . God knows the world could use a bit less navel-gazing and introspective blogging… 🙂

        I agree with what you say about about thin spaces working both ways, incidentally. Maybe this is at least in part what is going on behind all of the “for those with eyes to see… ears to hear” language that resounds throughout Scripture. So much depends on how/where we position ourselves.

        June 10, 2014
    • Paul, I would be lying if I said that there aren’t times where I feel that my pastoral contributions are “insufficient and conflicted.” Perhaps it is because I am well-acquainted with prayers for others that have gone (apparently) unanswered, times when no matter how fervent or frequent my prayers might be, heaven is silent. I am hardly alone here, I know. Many pastors and priests have the same experiences. It is built into the fabric of life between Christ’s advents, of a kingdom that has not yet come in its fullness. Part of my hesitation to pray comes out of the accumulated weight of (apparent) divine silence in the face of human pain.

      I agree, we are potential mediators of the grace of God, that we need to be open to allowing God to work through us in more ways than we might be inclined to consider. At the same time, I would want to always be careful that we don’t back ourselves into a corner where the absence of deliverance is somehow a sign of unfaithfulness or lack of belief or whatever. Could I have prayed for/laid hands on the guy in this post? I suppose I could have. I’m not sure what it have accomplished in his initial state of unconsciousness or, later on, when he was so agitated and disoriented that my asking him if he would like me to pray for him likely would have been ignored or not understood. Perhaps I should have tried these approaches, I don’t know. At the time, it seemed like the thing to do was to keep him safe until “help” arrived.

      But yes, I certainly left feeling that my contributions were insufficient and conflicted, not necessarily on a pastoral level but on a human one. It grieves me that some people must suffer so…

      June 10, 2014
  18. mike #

    @Paul: You make a good point concerning the” spirit of pride” that we all are so prone to when we are tempted to “own” the credit for our spiritual work/contributions that ultimately belongs to God alone.

    @Larry: I think anyone living in the “thin space” just this side of Hell as the Alcoholic does,deserves any and all manor of prayer.

    Ryan: Making a career of taking care of others is wrought with sorrow.

    June 10, 2014
  19. Paul Johnston #

    Thank you for your kind words of support, Mike. 🙂 Likewise, I enjoy your participation here. There is a sincerity of heart to what you write. My personal belief is that before Christ can infill us with what is true, we must first be honest. You strike me as an honest man. 🙂

    Ryan, we have come a long way, my virtual friend. The tone between us has become a godly one, I think. No small feat, given my periodic bouts of challenging communication. I sometimes don’t understand or care to understand all the nuance of a conversation. I trend towards getting the gist of things and making a decision. Sometimes my choices are good ones, sometimes not so much. 🙂

    I tried living in the “small spaces” earlier in my life, with very little success. I found it very discouraging and incapacitating….always another thought to consider, another reason for inaction. Time is limited, surround yourself with good people, good uplifting thoughts and ideas. Have faith in all things, pray often. Praise and worship regularly….God is good, all the time…. 🙂

    All the prayers of the righteous are answered, as God understands righteousness. You are a righteous man, my brother, leave the timing and scope of God’s righteousness unto Him and keep praying! :)…You are in my prayers…. 🙂

    Larry, I suspect you are having a little fun at my expense. No problem, truth be told I need, “the piss taken out of me” fairly regularly…..and the “blessed sacrament” is your place of worship too…. 🙂

    June 11, 2014
    • Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and advice, Paul. I appreciate your contributions here in this space.

      June 12, 2014

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