Russell and Duenes

Archive for June 2014

God Means to Make Me Dependent

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“Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not go on trusting in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”

I do not think I know what it feels like to be afflicted and burdened excessively beyond my strength. But I do know the experience of great disappointment, despair, frustration, confusion, unfulfilled longing and loneliness. I know what it’s like to be in the throes of my own self-pity, pride, envious rot, fear and anger. I have felt the power of putting my hope in the prospect of some earthly enjoyment – wife, children, job, house, friendship, praise from others, prestige, leisure, to name a few – and finding my hopes dashed and my heart reduced to a ruinous mass of pain. Is there any strength for my heart in such times?

I believe there is, and I think I have tasted it in some small way. It helps me, at least, to remind my heart that God has good purposes for this world, and for me within it, which I cannot now know. He means to do something with me, something toward which I am not naturally inclined. For my own good, and for the accomplishment of His purposes, He thinks it best to press me into a place of dependence “on God who raises the dead.” As the old hymnest put it: “These inward trials I employ, from self and pride to set thee free, and break thy schemes of earthly joy, that thou mayest seek thy all in Me.”

The failures, trials, “closed doors”, difficulties, uncertainties, confusions, pains and longings are meant to cast me upon the God “who works for those who wait for Him.” (Isa. 64:4). I’m not saying this in some kind of pious way. The trials hurt. The unfulfilled longings are agonizing. The uncertainties and anxieties about the future can be entirely heart-rending. Nothing takes that away.

But if I believe God is good, that He “works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose,” that “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly,” that “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing,” that He “delights in the welfare of His servant,” and that “all things belong to [me],” including “the world, life, death, things present and things to come,” then I have a hope, an inward resolve to go on, and rope to which I might tenaciously cling. And I can find the strength then even to move beyond myself, to the love of others.

God means to make me dependent on Him because that is the best place for me to be, and the place that magnifies His worth and love in a world without hope, a world that is passing away. But I need constant reminding.



Written by Michael Duenes

June 14, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

Here Today, Tomorrow in the Oven

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“Yet I tell you Solomon in all his splendor was not arrayed like one of these”

I was about town the other day and chanced to stop by the rose garden here in town, and decided to pull in and look around for a few minutes before the roses die in the summer heat. The varieties were stunning: Orange, yellow, purple, bright red, dark red, and other hues in between.

And my mind went to Jesus’ words of reassurance: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you Solomon in all his splendor was not arrayed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

I’ve been trying to bank on this promise lately, what with being in the midst of a big job search. I often wish my heart responded with more confidence and peace, for if Jesus’ promise is true, there’s not much that could be more comforting than His words here. But I’ve been in this place before, and Jesus has indeed not failed me. Rather, He has generously given me far more than I need or deserve.

So consider, consider, consider. If the flowers are so beautifully bloomed in God’s good providence, will He not much more take care of us?


Written by Michael Duenes

June 13, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Posted in Duenes, Russell

I Worship RIA!

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I had another piece ready to go about a particularly virile god, but it was too sanctimonious, mainly because I too worship deeply at the altar of this false god. What right have I to write about her? Maybe none!

Her name is RIA.

Radical, Individual Autonomy. Think about her name. Ponder her power and influence, even over the saints of God. Consider the length of her reach. Mull over her leavening extension into every area of our modern lives.

What seducing powers has she over us? Over the 20-year old college woman who is powerfully attracted to her boyfriend and conceives his child? Over the married couple who believes that anything more than 2-3 kids is at least undesirable, if not irresponsible? The manner in which the young Charlie is pursuing his career aspirations? Over the lesbian, Genevieve, who wants to get “married” and raise children with her partner? Over Joe who wants a “sex change?” Over Sue who wants to be “involved” in church? Over Michael who does not really want to know his neighbors too well? Over the older divorced Richard who wants to enjoy his sexual relationship with girlfriend without all the “baggage” of having to marry her? Over Jimmy who thinks that anyone over the age of 30 ain’t worth listening to, much less a person long dead? Over Sally who wants some “nice stuff?” Over Tim who just wants to be happy? Over the suburban family that loves the anonymity of the suburbs? Over ten thousand things? Over you? Over me?

Consider how RIA is explained in Daniel Yankelovich’s famous words? “If you feel it is imperative to fill all your needs, and if these needs are contradictory or in conflict with those of others, or simply unfillable, then frustration inevitably follows. To Abby and to Mark . . . self-fulfillment [i.e., RIA] means having a career and marriage and children and sexual freedom and autonomy and being liberal and having money and choosing non-conformity and insisting on social justice and enjoying city life and country living and simplicity and graciousness and reading and good friends and on and on. The individual is not fulfilled by becoming ever more autonomous. Indeed, to move too far in this direction is to risk psychosis, the ultimate form of autonomy.”

Can calls by Christians for more sexual restraint or less birth control or less materialism or greater holiness/ discipleship avail much without prolonged and repeated calls for and exertions toward the death of RIA? Somehow, it seems to me, RIA must be killed, her altars torn down, her temples smashed. How is it to be done practically? I don’t know, or don’t know very well. But I wonder if it might begin by naming her, describing her in all of her multiple tentacles, exposing her falseness and futility, also exposing our rather insatiable hunger for her, and commending life without her, such that we may pursue such a life. I don’t think it will happen if we continue trying to “live the Christian life” with RIA still in the driver’s seat. But I keep trying.


Written by Michael Duenes

June 7, 2014 at 9:46 am

Posted in Apologetics, Duenes

Misreading Our Lives

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Misreading Our Lives

The story of which we speak is, perhaps,
not even a story, rather it is
a semblance of a story, just a smudged
invitation to help you pass the time
as you travel quickly from paragraph
to paragraph, mispunctuating as
you go, taking meanings and contorting
them into strange lumps that lie heavy in
your hand. Fix these images before your
mind, so if you should ever find yourself

on a street corner, say, in hard light, you
will remember, that was it-a picture
for their suffering. But in other times-
there will be others-completely forget
the plot, that it is barely linear,
hardly contained by margins, that even
the gutters run with words. You will find, then,
the story is really an old story,
worn with tears and stains and brittle pages
that shudder as your hands pass over them,

so that you wish it were someone else’s
story, that you could inscribe the flyleaf
with a stranger’s name, or conceal the depths
of your ownership in boxes. Give it
away, this anxiety-the words are
hardly there. They are somewhere else, obscured
by the absence of light where the words are
no darker than the page. Don’t be afraid
to pull the covers higher in that moment,
to imagine a burning light when it happens.

-Shawn Sturgeon

Written by Michael Duenes

June 4, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Poetry, Russell