13 December 2007


I find myself in an interesting frame of mind.

It’s part exhausted, part exhilarated. I’m partially overwhelmed, and somehow anxious for more. I’m living in a moment that is powerfully spiritual but almost cloyingly material.

There is so much to say about the last few months. Simply telling the stories would take several pages and yet even these few words seem premature in some way.

Perhaps that’s wisdom – maybe writing everything now is just to soon. It all needs time to germinate.

But for the simple purpose of relaying a few facts:
  • The Bontrager family moved into my house at the beginning of September
  • Instead of three days (you know, like fish) they stayed three months
  • They moved out last weekend into their own place and we deeply miss them – the house seems empty.
  • We had the best month ever in my business in September
  • I was within a hairsbreadth of loosing my business last week
  • God is still God
  • God is always good

...presumably more to come.

03 December 2007

Another New Sermon

Yeah so I actually got the opportunity to finish the thoughts I had started in the last sermon on authority, obedience and submission. So this sermon (see Strange Fire part 2 in sidebar) and the last should be seen as a single...very...very...long thought.

02 November 2007

New Sermon

New sermon...and new section added to the sidebar. See audio links on the right.

24 September 2007

Quick Link

Some folks have asked for these, so here’s a link to the stuff I’ve been saying when they give me the mic:

Sober Smiles

You know, I was just about ready to not mention this to any broader audience, but now that Botrager has sent out an announcement to several people, I see that I'd get busted if I failed to at least mention this here.

I've been given the true honor of being selected as an elder in my church. The elders occupy a somewhat ambiguous position in a four square church as they have no voting role, and in fact don't even need to exist. The group is conveened by, and serves at the pastors convenience. We act as a sort of non-binding advisory group for the pastor...at least that's what the bylaws say. Functionally, elders have the role of acting as role models in the body, serving as spiritual thermometers for the pastor and other leaders, and we act with the explicit written Biblical authority to pray for the sick. Pretty heady stuff really. From the biblical perspective, they are one of the few 'offices' that get any ink in the Kingdom and Paul makes the establishment of elders a priority when he set up churches.

While I'm pretty excited by the whole thing, I'm also quite humbled. It's a serious responsibility in my mind and I really don't want to take the whole thing lightly. So please pray for me that I don't bollocks this up or serve poorly. The fact that teachers are judged by a different standard is a sobbering thought and as different folks shake my habd and say various things about what they think of this appointment I'm really made aware of the fact that God is no respecter of persons...

23 August 2007

Wonderful News

Just a quick post to share some wonderful news.

Odin was in the hospital the other day where he took a swallow test to check the interior diameter of his throat. For anyone not in the know, he’s been going to the hospital about every three weeks since he was born to stretch that point in his throat where they had to sew everything back together. The procedure itself isn’t terribly tricky, it’s an outpatient thing for an adult, but every three weeks for a year has been incredibly taxing – particularly on Rebekah who is the person with him most of the time.

Anyway, that now appears to be behind us. Almost a year to the day and we have no more dilations scheduled and the doctors expect he’ll be just fine from here on out. There is still a minor chance that his throat will start to constrict again, and we’ll forever want to take extra caution about taking too big a bite of food, but aside from that – it’s over.

I can’t tell you how happy that makes me and how it feels like the sun finally breaking through the clouds. What a crazy, brilliant, tortuous twelve months we’ve lived through...and I have this beautiful, wonderful son to show for it. Without question it’s all been worth it.

05 August 2007

Oh my gosh...it's all real!

See: http://the-m-blog.blogspot.com/2007/07/denial.html

There’s an elderly woman at my church, let’s call her Tina.
Tina has a granddaughter who we will call Suzy.
Suzy is pregnant.
Two weeks ago, Suzy was told by her doctor that her 20 week old baby was dead in her womb.
Suzy scheduled an appointment for Thursday the 2nd to have the corpse removed.
One week ago today, Tina asked the TFC prayer warriors to pray for her understandably depressed granddaughter.
One such warrior had the audacity to ask not for God to comfort Suzy, but rather to resurrect the child.
Three days ago, at her scheduled appointment, Suzy was told that her baby was – unexplainably – alive and apparently in excellent health.
Today we (TFC) hear the news and celebrate.
God is good – all the time.

Now in the spirit of full disclosure, let me say plainly that I am not the prayer warrior mentioned in the story. Nor am I Tina or Suzy in case that wasn’t clear. In fact, I wasn’t part of this prayer and only heard the story today. However, I am part of the growing group of folks at TFC who have been pressing in to God in the last few months specifically asking for miraculous healing to be a functional part of the TFC ministry and for that I feel like I can at least share the news as a victory with some back story, and the result of sustained prayer – as opposed to one of those random things that happens without precedent or follow-up, and always ‘elsewhere.’ As a matter of fact, while the ‘Denial’ post mentioned above might suggest that the idea was new to me as of a month ago, that’s not really accurate. I think the bell really rang for the first time back in February at BCNW’s advanced camp where I received an addendum to my name – healer. But none of that is really the point.

Regardless of me or any of the other prayer monkeys at church, beside Suzy, or Tina, or even the second life of this tiny baby, the point and the person to notice is Jesus...hence the title. Not like I needed more evidence, but this is the kind of thing that makes all my doubt and reservation seem so patently ridiculous.

And for you who think to yourself, “That isn’t what happened. The doctors simply got it wrong the first time. The real miracle is that modern science was able to catch the oversight before something horrible was done.” For you I have pity. Jesus mentioned you when he said ‘For [some] not even a man raised from the dead will convince them.’ Your incredulity is no inoculation against superstition, it’s instead a prison that keeps from any truth larger than your own parochial experience. But for the simply, and understandably, skeptical, let me remind you that we’re not talking about the kind of thing a doctor would be at all careless about for the risk of a gigantic lawsuit. Suzy had the death or her child checked, double-checked, and triple checked by various methods. All of the medical documentation is there to see – two weeks ago that child was dead beyond a shadow of a doubt.

And today...
Do you have space in your mind, or in your theology, for an American baby in 2007 to be resurrected in her mother’s womb for all the medical establishment to see? Does the thought of that kind of reality excite hope or fear in your heart? Do you find yourself longing to believe or longing to rationalize? If 99 identical cases end with a routine D&C but this one ends in a miracle do you conclude that God heals, that even now He has and uses the power of life and death in His hand...or that He doesn’t?

Listen closely dear reader, do not think for one moment that I seek the healing more than the healer. Healing of anybody’s body is only a temporary thing. This miracle child, just like Lazarus, will one die die again (if the Lord tarries). So this is not an eternal work. In fact the scripture makes it clear that healing and working miracles is a lesser gift than teaching. But I am also painfully aware of how the Western church has so completely forsaken the power of the Holy Spirit that almost none of us can relate a truly unambiguous story of Heaven elbowing its rude way into the earthly. We don’t even look for such things.

We’ve been praying for the kind of healing that silences all doubt – this is that moment. We’ve seen several other healings and miracles that are great, and we believe in their reality, but they were also of the sort that any scoffer could easily brush away. A prayer for a woman’s barren womb to be opened – was it prayer or just good luck that brought that woman’s daughter to church last week? A long broken family suddenly and unexplainably restored within 48 hours of starting a special (and secret) fast for that purpose...coincidence? Paralysis from a stroke, 90% lifelong deafness, debilitating addiction to pornography – all of these things healed in direct juxtaposition with authoritative and focused prayer to say nothing for dozens of smaller cases. And yet, all of them also open to debate as to what really happened and what the effective agent was. The people who prayed saw with spiritual eyes and knew what had happened, but the world could easily brush these things away. Not this time. This indeed is a touchstone and worth making a big deal over.

Let’s be honest, we’re all human and subject to doubt and despair. We NEED these kids of events to shore up our faith and get us to  call on God for more of what he is already doing – in this case, raising the frakking dead! Maranatha baby! I want to remind you of Paul’s exceptionally eloquent defense of the gospel at Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:16-34) where the story concludes with ‘Now when they heard of the resurrection from the dead, some began to sneer...’ and Paul’s brilliant words were only able to reap a meager crop. But next he goes to Corinth. Imagine Paul disappointed in his own success in Athens, coming to Corinth to plant a new church and he says to them, ‘...when I came to you, brethren, I did not come to you with superiority of speech...my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.’ (1 Cor 2:1-5). I know that most of the folks who read this blog are the types who read more than we believe. We think about faith instead of acting on it. But my gut tells me that he time is rapidly passing for that mode of life, at least for myself.

In my heart of hearts I know that I will see the glory of God in the land of the living for one reason – because He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

I implore you – seek and seek big, big things. Ask for the keys to your Father’s car, His house, His very Kingdom...and keep on asking. May this report of a documentable miracle, no doubt the first among many, break every chain of apathy and doubt and I pray it gnaws your gut as profound hunger for more in your own life, your own church, your own family.

26 July 2007

Getting It

I only have a moment here, but allow me to direct your attention to a dear friend of mine:

Fish is...well...effusive in this post but if you don’t have the time to read it her point is so fresh, and so ancient and so incredibly important I just had to pick it up for a moment.

God loves me.

I’m amazed at how much time and energy we (as regular ol’ people) spend avoiding, fighting, doubting, dismissing and disregarding this wonderful fact. Please understand, I’m not trying to criticize anybody who wrestles with this. Lord knows it’s my daily bread as often as not. But in the good days I see that my best, most profound epiphanies all settle down into one of two things.
A: God is good.
B: God loves me.

Reading Fish talk about the overwhelming sense of being loved by her friends and family, and by immediate extension – loved by her Creator...man that is no small thing. And there is a part of me that almost snipes at her with a kind of ‘well duh’ expression. But another (and I think more holy) part of me says to that first part ‘Shut the hell up!’

If I could get to that point where I no longer had any doubt about God’s love I’d be half way to paradise. If I could really call my Lord Papa without feeling like I was somehow presuming upon his patience, or pray without the myriad of affectations I employ to try and move his hand...if I could only accept that he isn’t disappointed in me somehow...

Perhaps the thing we most need from Jesus’ example, and perhaps the thing we almost entirely miss, is the way he lets others love Him, particularly his dad. I think more and more about how easily Jesus received love totally without pretense, or shame, or desire to earn it.

God loves me.

God loves me.

God loves me.

11 July 2007


I heard something on the radio the other day and it got me thinking.

How much is my life with Christ hindered by fear of living in denial?
How much is it hindered by my fear of other people thinking I’m living in denial?

I remember an entry a while back that I wrote that fear had suddenly appeared to me as the mother of all Christian hang-ups. In Dune they say ‘fear is the mind killer’ but even more, fear is the faith killer.

What if I’m wrong? What if it isn’t God talking to me at all? I mean we are talking about ‘hearing voices’ aren’t we...what if I’m going absolutely mad and I can’t tell the difference between straight-jacket grade crackerdom and a spiritual nudge...if indeed there is a difference.

Ever since I read all those Lovecraft stories in high school with Jeremy O’Kelly I’ve felt like insanity would be perhaps the most frightening thing I could imagine. And yet, my last several years with God have been characterized by an increasing sensitivity (and conforming) to invisible things. Without equivocation, I am moving farther and farther away from the rational, materialistic worldview that is supposed to be my birthright as a child of the Enlightenment and approaching...no, not just approaching – racing, longing, reaching for a worldview that could easily be assailed as superstitous at best, or flat out bonkers at worst. Demons? C’mon now Really. Angels? Miracles? God TOLD you to do that? You know they have pills for that sort of thing now (since electro-therapy is out of style).

But that said, I still am dragging a very heavy ball and chain called denial. It’s this little, unobtrusive word that sort of haunts me whenever I ponder another leap of faith. There is a ‘nontrivial’ fear in me still that I’ve bought some bill of goods with all this God stuff. I fear the possibility that reality is one way, and I am imagining it to be another...in other words, that I’m living in denial.

Even more scary is the thought of sharing my crazy processes with others. It’s one thing to wonder in my own little brain if I’m losing it. It’s quite another to have that fact pointed out by somebody else. And as painful as it might be for Slusser to say to me, “Dude...are you holding it together?” it would particularly distressing for some random passerby to speak up. As if the dreadful and obvious nature of my psychosis was so compelling that the milk of human kindness insisted they offer assistance to whatever shred of sanity remain in my noxiously rotting melon.

...and I realize that it is also at exactly that moment that I recognize the ploy for what it is.

When I lay it all out like that I can see how exactly backwards it is. What could possibly motivate me to care for the opinion of a stranger more than for the heartfelt and contextualized feedback of a friend? A friend knows my story and sees my current step as only one step in a longer journey. A friend knows my past and is far more likely to know what deeper motivations (crazy or sane) lay under my actions. In short, to care more what ‘they’ think than what you think is simply inaccurate thinking. Even more so, and no offense to my friends, but nobody knows every nook and cranny of my psyche like I do and if Shakespeare's best advice is “Know thyself” and “To thine own self be true” then I am compelled to be true to my own heart, regardless of what even best friend's concerns might be. (Which is not to discount good counsel...I’m making a point here).

So suddenly, ‘Denial’ shows itself to be a kind of shadow monster, cast on the wall by hands trying to manipulate me. As Lewis puts it in Peralandra – it’s the empirical boogey. This unfocused anxiety about facts and numbers and the implied pressure to conform in thought and deed to what the Bible calls the World.

Going forward: I declare here today that I don’t give one flying fig what the world has to say about my life. They can all go to hell.
Second: I will not let fear of men, especially not the men and women I hold precious, to check my willingness to share my life with them.
Third: I would much prefer the uncomfortable uncertainty of a mystery than to force a ‘rational’ filter onto a transcendent lifestyle.

So with that, I’m reminded of something Jesus says: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons – full stop.” Mat 10:8

I’ve spent some significant energy in the last couple of years in learning to drive out demons. I’m working on healing the sick next.

13 June 2007


overhead we see the dove
now I am you and you are me
one flesh, one life, one love
You are my word for Jubilee
as summer reigns
you are my fun
my one, my love
my breath, my smile
my life

as autumn longs
you are my hope
my tomorrow, my many more
my still to come
my now but not yet

as winter falls
you are my gratefulness
my accomplishment, my final sigh
you are my evidence, my regretlessness
and yet my regret for breathlessness

within us now we house the dove
now He and you and me
our me’s below, our we above
your ring, your vow, you share with me
you are my year of Jubilee

13 May 2007

Li was right

Li prophesied I would get Woof - she was right.

Your results:
You are Worf

Will Riker
Mr. Sulu
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Beverly Crusher
Jean-Luc Picard
Deanna Troi
Geordi LaForge
Mr. Scott
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
You are trained in the art of combat
and are usually intimidating.

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Test

04 May 2007

First draft

This blog was named M because I hoped to use it to post drafts of chapters in a novel I’d love to write – a novel named M. However, I’m pretty sure this is the first and only piece from that story that I’ve ever managed to post. Perhaps I’ll get back on the ball.

“Couldn’t we do this somewhere else?” whispered Donlon nervously.

“Why? Are you afraid the scarecrow will give us away?” Keris snickered under his breath. “This place is perfect.”

Donlon licked his lips and tried to swallow but his throat was too dry. He looked up at the Avatar’s face again, so perfectly human and lifelike and yet somehow unlike him and Keris. It sat stoically on its throne, silent and still, in exactly the same way it had for as long as anybody could remember. But Donlon couldn’t help but wait for it to move, to twitch or shift its weight. Crouching at its side, trying to squeeze into its insufficient shadow, he was only a few inches from its exquisitely detailed hand. Even in the dim moonlight, every conceivable detail could be seen; freckles, hair, pores, you could even imagine that this Avatar had a bad habit of biting his nails. And yet, despite the perfect reproduction of every human imperfection, it never seemed an image of an ordinary man. As Donlon’s gaze moved up the Avatar’s arm to its shoulder, earnestly searching for any telltale mistake that would assure him the thing was only an artifice, he remembered the first time he had seen an Avatar.

* * *

He was a child of seven and his family had ridden three days to visit relatives in Ehllay. The center of Ehllay had shifted over the centuries and its Avatar was now atop an overgrown hill that was rarely visited. Donlon’s father, Dotah, made a hobby of visiting Avatars, marking their locations on a hand-drawn map and sketching their portraits in a notebook. After lunch one day, Dotah stood over Donlon, pushed a daypack onto his shoulders, and said they were going on an adventure.

New Bishop was a tight cluster of homes and markets, but Ehllay was a sprawl of ancient ruins that spread out for hundreds of miles. Scattered throughout were several small communities like the one his uncle lived in. Despite the fact that some were separated by as many as fifty miles, each village was still called Ehllay, as if they considered themselves distant descendants of the ancient metropolis. Donlon still had vague memories of sweeping concrete ramparts, gigantic, glistening towers that stood beside gutted shadows of themselves, and the wasteland of Holly Hole Crater, a haunted vale of sulpher, smoke and skulls that would tell their dreadful tales if you had the courage to ask.

The walk through the ruined city was long and full of pleasant side-trips. Dotah played hide and seek with his son and filled his mind with legends of Ehllay in its former glory, sobering tales of its judgment and the trials of its resettlement. Every so often, they would find some other wanderer, usually a treasure hunter or an historian, and ask how to reach the Ehllay Avatar. Invariably, they pointed west.

By the time the sun was low and orange, they could smell salt on the air and hear the cries of seagulls. A narrow gravel path led up a steep hill covered in brambles that often encroached on the aging and poorly maintained stairs. Donlon raced ahead of his father, climbing the wide steps in tireless leaps.

At the top, the brambles opened onto a long, narrow alley of red clover. Donlon could hear a low, rhythmic rumbling. He looked back at his father who was slowly laboring up the path. “That’s the ocean you hear - its endless caress of the coast.” Unable to wait for his father, Donlon raced up the alley toward the sun that was starting to sink into the sea. Still twenty yards from the cliff, he suddenly noticed that he was not alone. Squinting into the setting sun he saw the sharp silhouette of a woman, sitting in a low, delicate chair. She was peacefully watching the sunset and Donlon came up short, hoping that he hadn’t disturbed her. There wasn’t much room between the hedges but Donlon was anxious to see the crashing waves, so he quietly slipped beside her to the edge of the cliff.

Standing at the precipice, he kept glancing at her from the corner of his eye, but he was too shy to introduce himself. Wave after wave crashed on the rocks below and the sun sank lower and lower. After counting several sets of twenty-seven waves, the highest he could count at the time, his curiosity got the better of his courtesy and he turned suddenly announcing, “My name is Donlon. What’s your na…”

There was only a minute or so where the last rays of that day’s light fell upon her face but the image caught in Donlon’s mind like a fish hook. The woman’s features looked slightly younger than his mother but her eyes were immeasurably older. She stared full-faced into the setting sun wearing a slight smile. Her hands were folded casually in her lap and a necklace of some kind was concealed within them. A long braid of thick, black hair lay heavily upon her right shoulder and one bare foot was folded up beneath her and hidden under the simple white dress that she wore. At first glance, everything about her was kindness and gentleness, but otherwise unremarkable.

Looking at her, waiting to be acknowledged, his eye caught a faint glimmer on her forehead. Twinkling in the sunset shades of roses and rubies was a tiny diamond set into the very skin of her brow. For a moment he was simply amused by the unusual decoration until he recognized the gem as a Star of Rachel.

Suddenly, he seemed to perceive a second woman, overlaying the first. Her kindness was mingled with tenacious strength and her gentleness seemed supported by the kind of confidence he was used to seeing in his grandfather. Though her eyes never glanced in his direction, Donlon was certain that she was somehow gazing at him intently and he felt an urge to tell her that he’d lied about feeding the horse, that he’d squashed a frog with a rock this morning, and that he had called his younger brother a baby girl.

As all of this rushed through Donlon’s mind he staggered back toward the edge of the cliff. From what felt like another world, he felt his father grasping his sleeve as he said, “Easy now. Don’t go off the edge.” Donlon looked up at his father with searching eyes, unable to give voice to the dozens of questions he had. “She watches over Ehllay, Donlon. This whole valley is under her protection.” Donlon continued to stare at Dotah, unable to make sense of what he’d been told. “It’s not like before son. She’s one of our elder sisters. You have nothing to fear from her.” Dotah gestured and nodded and Donlon looked back at the woman, the Avatar of Ehllay. To Donlon, it seemed again to be an ordinary woman, gazing silently over the darkening waves.

* * *

Unlike that peaceful looking woman, the Avatar of New Bishop was an image of a man, and notably older in its appearance. Not that it appeared aged or weak in any way, but the wrinkles around its eyes and the graying hair above its ears led Donlon to guess its ‘age’ to be about 50. It sat stiffly, formally upon a heavy stone chair, peering tirelessly across the valley that held New Bishop between its grass-covered slopes. Overall, the Avatar of New Bishop was more impressive but much less likeable than its counterpart in Ehllay.

“C’mon Keris. Let’s get up into the trees and do this. We’re out in the open here.”

“Quiet!” Keris snapped. “Just shut up and hit him hard. Besides, we can’t move now, he’ll see us.”

Glancing up over the armrest of the Avatar’s throne, Donlon spotted a horse coming up the road. Above the dull clop-clop of hooves was a high-pitched, rhythmic jangling from a pair of saddlebags. The man atop the horse was a rancher from
Wrenright who had spent the previous week in New Bishop selling cattle. Keris was the son of a butcher and if he was right, there were hundreds and hundreds of aggies in the man’s bags. Regardless of the treasure he carried, he rode up the hill slowly, calmly, singing under his breath, while Keris pulled his scarf up over his face.

“Keris! This is stupid. Anyone could see us here!”

“Who Donlon!?” Keris’ voice was sharp with spite. “There’s nobody here but him and us! Now stop talking and get ready. He’s almost here.” Keris turned back to the road with a frustrated sigh and dug his toes into the turf for better traction.

Donlon ground his teeth together, as much in anger as in anxiety, and he glanced tensely between the approaching rider, his crouching accomplice and the quiet Avatar above him. His grip repeatedly tightened and slacked on the staff in his hands as he tried to steel his nerves. Forcing himself to focus he rose up on his toes, coiled, and sought to press every inch of his body into the Avatar’s shadow.

A tense eternity passed as Donlon listened to the horse getting closer and closer. Unwilling to risk another peek, he twisted his head this way and that trying to hear what he couldn’t see. When he could finally hear the horse snorting between hoof beats he drew in a deep breath and held it. As he did, Keris’s hand came to rest softly on his shoulder. Donlon nodded to indicate that he was ready, but when he turned to face his partner he saw that Keris had both hands on the ground, preparing to sprint.

A frigid lightning bolt raced up Donlon’s spine and the hair on his arms stood on end. The hand on his shoulder grew steadily heavier, and hotter, but Donlon was unable to move. His throat slammed shut like the door of a tomb and every muscle in his body made a vain and painful attempt to run, flail or fall.

Just as the rancher came alongside the Avatar’s dais, Donlon’s legs become his own and he leaped forward to escape the mysterious grip. He rolled to his back in midair, desperate to see the Avatar, and expected to find a great flaming sword raised above its head. At the same time he screamed, “He touched me!”

Donlon’s flying body crashed onto the road with a dusty thud where the rancher’s horse, a few bare feet away, reared up with a frightened whinny. Keris, as surprised by Donlon’s outburst as the rancher, and still hidden in shadow, saw that the moment was lost and immediately slipped behind the Avatar and away into the night. Donlon scrambled backward across the road on his back staring up at the Avatar. The rancher quickly regained control of his horse and rode off toward Wrenright leaving Donlon alone and sweating.

Slowly regaining his breath, Donlon stared intently at the Avatar, looking for any indication that it had changed its posture, shifted its weight or batted an eye. Laying in the road, propped up on his elbows, an intense fear of moving fought with an equally intense urge to run away, but as the minutes passed and the Avatar remained as still as stone, the terror passed.

When he finally convinced himself that he had imagined the hand upon his shoulder, he got up and beat the dust from his pants. Shaking his head, wryly laughing at his own foolishness he reached up to brush the grass from his shoulder when he noticed four distinct fingerprints burned into the leather of his coat.

First Thing In The Morning

I don’t get up at 6:00am. I never get up at 6:00am. I make webpages for a living and one of the reasons I chose that career was because it never ever requires me to get up at 6:00am. But there I was rubbing my eyes and envying my still-snoozing wife. Dressing in the near dark, layering fleece over flannel over cotton and hoping that it would be enough in the frigid November air, I fought against the bulk as I stretched to tie my shoes.
My new uncle-in-law lives in northern Washington alongside a slow, chilly creek. The steep-sided valley of scattered lodgepole and aspen was covered in shallow fog and mile upon mile of tawny dry grass as I slipped from the guesthouse and headed for Dave’s front door. A tiny wisp of smoke rising from his chimney told me the coffee was ready and Dave was probably struggling to tie his own oversized shoes.
Dave had drawn a late-season tag in a unit adjacent to his own front yard. It was his first yard in three years and by inviting his inexperienced, suburban nephew along he was taking a certain risk. Nobody ever said so in as many words but it was implicit that my role was to carry binoculars, stay behind the rifle and not ask too many questions.
While I’d grown up in a rural setting, there were no hunters in my family. I was familiar enough with deer but only as highway hazards and I couldn’t tell you if we were dodging whitetails, mulies, or saber-tooth deer on Route 18. I didn’t grow up with any aversion to hunting, no moral conflict over the steaks I ate; but neither did I understand the motivation to hunt. There was a stereotype in my mind, born no doubt of Southern California politics, that hunters were Bud-pounding, monosyllabic Neanderthals, when in fact, that’s a more accurate description of surfers.
By 6:45 Dave and I were climbing a steep dirt road in his pickup. The rising sun lit the western ridge with brilliant hues of gold and rust while most of the valley still slept in the shadows of the eastern peaks. When we stopped the truck and stepped out into the stiff breeze, I felt as if I’d never seen this country before. Adding to the otherness of it all I stood not in soil but in several inches of fine powder. Fire tore across this slope fifty years ago, thinning the thick pines, making room for the newer aspens and covering everything in a deep blanket of ash.
With a silent nod toward a distant shape, Dave shouldered his 30-06 and headed north. The doe he had spotted was patiently waiting for her sisters to climb a steep gully she had surmounted. With no pretense of stealth, Dave and I approached to within a quarter mile before the group of females casually sought higher ground. For the next half-hour we continued in this way, following one group of females or another at a good distance, looking intently for their mates. Dave was giving me a crash course in outdoorsmanship by pointing out details I should notice: the wind, the clouds, the faint deer trails. He would periodically raise his binoculars and survey the sprawling hillside while I dutifully copied his actions, trying to see what he saw. By the time the sun had climbed high enough to light the valley floor, we were approaching a thinly wooded saddle with sunlight streaming through the trees in long, dusty blades. “Look for the sunlight glinting off an antler,” Dave instructed. “That’s the easiest way to spot a buck.”
I was fascinated with the trees, with the light, and with the tracks we found. “See how the toes are splayed out, and the impression of the dew claw?” To me it looked like a pair of quotation marks but I nodded respectfully. “That shows the animal had to be carrying a lot of weight. Probably a buck and a good sized one too.”
 From the driver’s side window woods are woods. I could identify a half dozen varieties of trees, recognize various geological formations but here I was getting a glimpse of something far more, far deeper. This wasn’t calculated environmental science but wood-wisdom. A druidic knowing of the land and its inhabitants that could only come from sharing the space with fir and fox and the day’s first breath. As much as I was being instructed, I was being mentored.
As we crouched there over the tracks I caught a sudden movement out of the corner of my eye. Bringing the binoculars up, I scanned the hillside and spotted another doe lying in a patch of rabbit brush, twitching her ears and rolling her neck. Following her gaze I quickly spotted four other deer slowly moving up the slope.
“There’s a buck over there,” I whispered to Dave.
“Where?” he said.
“See the dead tree? Look just to the left of it.”
There was easily a quarter mile between us, probably closer to a half and almost no cover. “If we get behind that knoll we can close in without any of them seeing us.” I said.
Dave looked at me a long moment, his eyes squinting in an unreadable expression. “We could do that,” he said, “But then we won’t be able to see them either. If they move we won’t know where they went.” I nodded, just a little crestfallen. “Still,” Dave said, inhaling sharply, “it looks like our best chance of getting a clean shot.”
Without another word he stood up and started toward the tree line. Walking calmly and deliberately he stopped now and again to watch the distant deer. Trying not to rush, stopping whenever a head would turn or an ear would twitch, we moved behind a small hill. Quickly now we crept across its base toward the dead tree that had helped us spot the buck. Not quite sure how close this detour had brought us; we eased quietly to its crest and took a peek. No deer – just another, lower hill between the courting buck and us.
Darting between rocks and pines, painfully seeking to make each step on the dry pine needles as silent as possible, my heart was racing. Above us was a large outcropping of basalt and the point of no return. If we reached that rock and found the buck on the other side, the shot would be clean and short and simple. If we poked our heads out to find nothing but sage, the day would be over and Dave would try again tomorrow, without me.
Those last fifty yards seemed like a mile. Every twig that snapped sounded like thunder, every sniff of my nose seemed like a hurricane. I couldn’t believe that I could make such a racket; and it seemed impossible that the radar-dish ears of these animals could miss it. Step be step we closed the distance and I dared to glance around the crumbling stones.
The whole group was still lounging around, completely unaware of our presence. I literally gasped and in that instant ten gigantic ears swiveled to face me. Dave’s rifle wasn’t ready and any motion on his part would undoubtedly be seen.
Gradually, the deer went back to their munching and Dave lifted the Remington to his shoulder. A moment later a sharp crack echoed off the hillside and a four-point buck fell among his escorts. The does stood, bewildered at the sound and only moved off when we stood up and approached them.
I won’t deny that the process of cleaning the animal soured my stomach just a bit but in hindsight it’s the detail that I remember least. The impression of that extraordinary day continues to be the glory of an autumn morning, the wonder of sharing that hillside with wild animals, and the discovery (or re-discovery) that the wilderness is not the border that surrounds and threatens my home and my life, but rather an older, more patient home that has simply grown unfamiliar. Dave seems to think that I brought him good luck and promises to invite me on his next hunt. I don’t know if I’ll carry a rifle next time, or just binoculars, but looking forward to another morning like that gives me a comfortable rumble of anticipation.


It’s Saturday and a lazy, late morning has aged into a warm, quiet afternoon, the kind where you walk past a mirror and catch yourself wearing a smug grin without really caring why. We drove up to the mountains last night. His parents keep a cabin here and I almost couldn’t fall asleep in the rural silence. Getting up from the first novel I’ve had time to read in eight months I wander softly to the kitchen window where I can see him in the back yard. Earlier, he decided to cut the deadwood from a pair of old plum trees and now he’s turning fifteen-foot tangles of fallen branches into fuel and kindling for the fire ring. In my mind, it seems like such a boring, pedestrian task but to see his shoulders work with his back and work with his arms in smooth, natural arcs instead of the tightly regulated rise and fall of health club circuit training makes me wonder why I’m here.

For twenty-eight years I told myself, and anyone who asked, that I did not like body builders. I would tactfully discourage the muscle heads at the gym who offered to help with my technique and then secretly gag and giggle with my friends. Standing in front of the newsstand, pointing at the fitness magazines and discussing why nineteen inch biceps were disgusting seemed a legitimate way to kill a few minutes at another time in my life. I loved telling my friends that there were two kinds of iron pushers: the dumb ones and the violent ones.

Now I’m watching him through the window, spying on him and remembering how he beat me at Trivial Pursuit last week. He doesn’t belong on a magazine cover or anything like that, but in the real world, where I suck my belly in when he lifts my shirt off, he is something to behold; tall, handsome and strong with a physique that has been nurtured without being pampered. I’m watching as he uses a pair of gardening scissors to remove the hundreds of small sticks and twigs that clutter the fallen branches. The tool is a bad choice for him. About every fifth twig is too thick for the delicate shears but too thin to discourage him. So his hands squeeze the blades together in a way they aren’t meant to be squeezed and the branch is cut, but not severed, as the blades twist away from each other. His right hand is darting gracefully around the knotted branch, sending a shower of tiny boughs to the ground as his left hand deftly twists and spins the awkward branch like a baton to bring the next tender shoot before the shears.

He finds the work relaxing. I can tell by the way he’s breathing. His back is toward me but I’m positive that a satisfied little grin is perched on his lips. Working with computers, he rarely gets the chance to use the arms he’s built and this opportunity is being savored, paced and memorized. His shirt is off and I’m watching the corded muscles on his back shift and wave each time he manipulates the wood. I’m trying to memorize the strong line from his neck to his shoulder and I’m trying to remember why I found a muscled male so uninteresting before.

At some point in the past I made the assumption that any man who would spend a significant amount of time developing his body, must do so at the expense of developing his mind. If a man ever had to seriously consider the size of his arms when he bought a shirt I classified him as a moron at worst or abhorrently self-absorbed at best. It never occurred to me that I met these men while I was at the gym, narcissistically devoting hour upon hour to the shape of my thighs. They were a sort of character type in my mind. Body builders were like an entire class of human beings, defined by that single trait, who were thoughtless, boorish and arrogant. I would castrate a man who looked at my hair or chest and then offered me a piece of bubble gum, but I would routinely direct a man with a thick neck to the picture books.

I was raised in a culture that had abandoned woman and womanhood. As a female I was expected to be just like a man that could bear children: ‘could’ being the operative word. In the bright glare of that understanding I came to find men who acted like men offensive. Instead, I was attracted to men who were, in fact, women who could get an erection. They were sensitive, peaceful and meek. Calmness and passivity were associated with creativity where masculinity was associated with Hemingway machismo or domestic violence. Only the first trait had to be displayed, and the secondary traits were assumed. If a man was aggressive, assertive or, God forbid, strong, I called him a pig and often pitied his wife.

There is sweat on his shoulders. He has finished with the clipping and is beginning to change the long, naked branches into pieces short enough to fit in the fireplace. My hand has drifted up to cup my chin as my little finger is playing softly with my lower lip as I watch. With a nasty looking bow saw near his feet, he grabs each end of a large branch and bends the wood until it snaps. Some are greener than others and he grunts through clenched teeth as the wood bends to an impossible angle before separating like an old rope. These are the pieces he has to wrestle with in twists and pulls before the two halves finally jerk free from one another. The freshly oiled saw sitting unused on the ground.

He is enjoying his own strength. The sweat across his chest, the sunburn on his shoulders and the lattice of tiny scratches and cuts across his arms are all trophies. For a moment he is able to put aside the tools and conveniences of modern life in exchange for a celebration of clean, honest power and he is wearing his battle scars with pride. In his heart of hearts this chore has become an act of survival and his mind has decided to quietly watch from a distance.

He found me in an airport terminal when our common flight out of Chicago was delayed by snow. From behind his copy of the Journal and a winter jacket I couldn’t see the size of his shoulders, or the breadth of his chest. He made me laugh for forty-five minutes before mentioning that he thought I looked familiar and asked if he had seen me at the gym. My guard immediately went up and he must of seen it because he began joking about how we all go there to look better for the sake of meeting attractive people but actually meeting someone at the treadmill was strictly taboo. He read my mind, or perhaps recalled previous experiences, when he mentioned how he tended to classify every woman on the Stairmaster as a bimbo without ever talking to her just because of the stereotype. He then chastised himself for being so shallow. After all, he confessed, he considered himself an intelligent man and there he was at the same club, sometimes on the same Stairmaster. Peeking out from behind my emotional fortress, I agreed that it was inappropriate for him to have such a blatant double standard and suggested he should at least get to know some of the women he had wronged in this way. A tiny smile passed between us and I gave him my number. That was nine months ago.

Even though he hasn’t seen me in the window, something inside him knows I am here. Something ancient and visceral in him, something born on an endless savanna with a stone tipped spear in its hand is trying to speak to something deep and primal in me that was born wet and cold into an antelope skin. The thick branches splinter and crack in his powerful hands and that irrational, incontrovertible something tells me that he would rip a grizzly bear limb from limb to protect me. With the next sharp snap, the rational and often fickle part of me concedes that even if that weren’t exactly true, he would die trying. At another time in my life, I would have found this sort of revelry in brute strength barbaric and crude, but today I find it flattering. I know that at a certain level it’s for me. Today I find it affirming, compelling, even arousing. I think of the many times I’ve suggested that he try to “regain contact with who he really is” and begin to wonder if he ever lost it.

When the last branch has been quartered and stacked he stretches his arms high above his head. His chest fills with air in a deep, satisfied breath and as the stretch pushes his bloodied hands toward Mars every muscle in his body flexes with joy at the completed work. The human race can continue unhindered. For that moment his body stands in silhouette before the low, lazy sun with the beads of sweat lending a momentary aura to the vision before he exhales and the figure looks terrestrial once again. The work has filled him, soothed him, completed him. As he turns back toward the house I see the dirt and the sap and the blood that he’s wearing along his arms and chest. He sees me in the window and stops to look at me. He knows how I feel about anything macho and he decides his best defense is to make fun by posing like some Olympian statue. He’s wrong though. I realize that one of my most basic needs as a woman is to feel safe and even if I’m unlikely to face a ravenous cave bear in the city, he makes me feel safe. I laugh back at him through the window and he smiles warmly. Despite the smile, his eyes tell me that he has been tested by the job behind him. He continues toward the house and I can see that he’s tired. Not too tired I hope as I move to meet him at the door, slipping my shoes off along the way.

02 May 2007

Another Boot Camp in the rear-view mirror

Well, we’ve run another boot camp and I’m again gobsmacked by God’s bigness.

My experiences surrounding these events is approaching a point where I feel compelled to be careful about what I say. There are things that cross the fuzzy and frankly scary border into mystical and while I trust the spiritual maturity of my friends who read this, I’m cautious of presenting too much weirdness to the casual passerby.

So please forgive me if I’m vague, but the events and the struggles surrounding Boot Camp Northwest seem to be steadily, well, escalating. And on both sides of the trench if you get my drift. The opposition is becoming more obvious, more determined, and dare I say more corporeal. But likewise our allies ratchet up...becoming more luminous. To whit, I suspect an honest-to-goodness angel may have been seen. Not by me, so I must point out this is hearsay, but the sources are beyond reproach in my mind, and multiple, so I’m confident they saw something – what they saw becomes a matter of deduction that leads me to the conclusion noted here.

But the Word said clearly - “Don’t celebrate that the demons obey you; celebrate that your names are written in the Book of Life.” The paraphrase reading “mystical-schmistical.” The truth is that our real and stated goal is clear – set men free. And holy-cow did that happen. This was, in my experience, the most tuned in and hungry audience we’ve had at BCNW, not the least of which was my own father. Of course only time will tell whether or not these seeds find good soil but I know that after the camp my dad was dramatically more talkative, and about really deep things, then he usually is. Even better, the day after he arrived home, he contacted his estranged sister who he hadn’t spoken to in over three years. That alone would be worth the price of admission.

For the record, God was very gentle to arrange circumstances to where there was no opportunity for me to ‘hover’ over my father during the camp – I had too much to do, and he was better off having ample time to himself. So that part went swimmingly. As for performing – I don’t think I acted differently than I would have when I had the mic. I did, however, make my dad cry (in a good way) when I told a story about him being a firefighter and all – so I got that going for me. :)

Also, God’s been really good about coving my home base while I’m gone. As the spiritual warfare ramps up for, by, and against me I tend to get increasingly concerned that it will somehow spill over onto my family, my home, or my business. Frankly, it’s a significant point of distraction and anxiety. But God has really shown himself faithful to cover those bases while I’m on mission. I have this tornado of a weekend and come home to find the biggest drama to be Odin’s mucus and as Gandalf says “That’s an encouraging thought.”

Also in the words of the Grey Pilgrim – I am a servant of the Secret Fire...
...and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

09 April 2007

Answer to prayer!

So I could use all the prayer available from those who read this. My dad just called and let me know that he’s coming to Boot camp at the end of this month! Yippee!

Of course I don’t know, nor should I, what God may have in store for my father at camp. It may be life-changing...it may just be a long weekend in the desert. But it means a lot to me that he’s coming up here and to share another thing that means a lot to me, BCNW, with my dad is really, really cool.

That said, I want to surrender all of my own expectations up to God and entrust my father’s heart with those of you who would likely be better intercessors than myself right now. In short, I’m too close to the whole thing and know that my tendency would be to get too involved and try to make something click by my own strength as opposed to getting out of the way and letting God do whatever he might do.

So I guess that’s that.

Next stop – to get #3 out here as well.

27 March 2007

Check this out...

Psalm 149

1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song and His praise in the assembly of saints.
2 Let Israel rejoice in their maker. Let the children of Zion be joyful in their king.
3 Let them praise his name with the dance let them sing praises to him with the timbrel and harp.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.
5 Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud on their beds.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth and a two-edged sword in their hand,
7 to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishment on the peoples;
8 to bind their kings with chains, their nobles with fetters of iron;
9 to execute on them the written judgment – this honor have all the saints. Praise the Lord!

I don’t know about you, but this idea of the saints being ‘honored’ to act in vengeance...

18 March 2007


I just saw 300..again..this time with Rebekah.

In a word: wow.

No matter any other evaluation of the movie, it is a remarkable piece of cinema. Visually it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen, both modern and in the fashion of old melodramas there is so much to see.

But I was really fascinated with the movies themes of freedom vs. slavery, honor vs. corruption, good vs. evil. I know there is a lot of buzz about the movie, and one particular question is whether or not George Bush is best cast as Xerxes or Leonidas. But c’mon, I don’t care how much you might disagree with the particular politics of the movie, but the movie makes very clear that this a battle against Xerxes, who is in name and history an Arab (Iranian) and Leonidas who in as many words sees himself as defending the world by defending the west. It takes some serious America hating mixed with some massive twisting to see Dubya as Xerxes. Like I said, you don't have to agree with that vision, but at least let the film speak for itself.

I also noted that film actually portrays an incarnate Satan as living in Xerxes tent. He’s never given that name, but no modern Westerner can see a black, horned, bipedal goat playing the flute to be anything but the Devil as portrayed in Anton Levay’s living room. And he’s presiding over a tent filled with more temptation, abomination and perversion than you can shake a hunchback at. Again – the writer’s goal to portray Xerxes as not only the antagonist, but as supernaturally evil is almost impossible to miss.

Anyway, I don't want to review every aspect of the film here, but if you can stomach a lot of stylized violence and a little skin, then you really must see this movie. There is a lot of water cooler talk for a reason.

16 March 2007

What Odin is teaching me

From when Odin was only four hours old, and his tiny hand reached up to grasp my finger, I’ve been struck by the intensity of the love I’ve felt for him. It’s like, “I don’t even know you and I’d kill or die for you already. Stop that!” The instantaneous nature of the experience has really made me think about the way God might experience love. With Odin, it was if a whole new storey had suddenly been added to my ‘love house’ if you’ll pardon the phrase. If my capacity to love was an 800 sq.ft single-level condo, Odin’s arrival suddenly changed it into a two storey townhouse with 3 beds and 1.5 baths.  I know I’ve made similar observations about Rebekah, how it hasn’t seemed to me that I love her more, but instead that her presence in my heart pushes out the walls to make more room for love...room she promptly fills but of course that’s the point. So it makes me wonder if God has a similar experience whever a image bearer is born. Is God’s space-love-time continuum constantly expanding with each new spirit that takes it’s place on the stage?

Anyway, what’s also struck me is the difference between the way I love Odin and the way I love Rebekah. With Re, our love has grown over time as we’ve spent time together. It started out, and largely continues to be, a consensual act. I agree to give her a part of my heart and accept a part of hers. Not that I want or intend to, but there is always the option to withhold or reject love, and I confess that at times that occurs despite myself. But Odin grabbed my heart with both hands without ever asking. He reached up to my hand and instead took a hold of something so deep inside of me that it took my breath away. Likewise, I am virtually powerless to withhold my love from him. This is what makes it so ridiculously easy to spoil a child I imagine. The impulse to address every discomfort, every whimper, every moment is overpowering. Many people have suggested that it’s good we had a boy, because a little read-haired daughter would have me so completely wrapped around her finger that I’d be useless as a parent and worse than useless as an authority figure.

But what I really wanted to talk about is the purity of that love for Odin, it’s completely unburdened nature and how sadly that is not the way I typically love my wife. With Odin, there is no sarcasm, no hidden agenda, no expectation, and no fear. Not once has it crossed my mind that he’s spitting out his cereal in order to irritate me. I’ve never thought him careless with my neurotic sensitivities, or fretted over what that glance really meant. I never tease Odin, not even ‘in good fun’ and I never make pointed comments to him out of my perception of his best interest. I never worry that Odin is secretly harboring some grudge, I never approach the door to my home wondering if Odin is in a good mood today.

In short, I never project my own petty insecurities on my baby boy and I have absolute faith in his pure heart toward me.
In Odin I see only goodness, hope, promise, and hear me now – I see those things even if they are not objectively true. In my son I love without baggage or hesitation or fear of rejection. I receive his love and seek to draw more out of him, with an almost reckless disregard. In Odin I see only the divine spirit smiling back into my life, blessing my heart with the pure and simple reality of another image bearer sharing this house, this time, this life, with me.

Odin seems to me genuinely Holy – and that inspires no fear.

Now I understand some of the whys and wherefores. Odin and I have very little history – there is no list of previous faux pas and offenses. Our relationship is truly tabla rasa. There is also the clarity afforded by a very obvious parent-child relationship, while clearly muddied like everything else in this world, the roles in that relationship are much clearer than most which allows me to act with far less hesitation. Odin is also defenseless. He’s too young to have developed the layers of emotional self-defense that even a teenager has, so in that sense he is also an open book, unclouded by the long list of polite lies we’re supposed to tell, unable to withdraw to his own sullen mind, much less his room. And so his vulnerability encourages me to be similarly vulnerable to him.

The thing is, with a baby, all of the above attitudes and action make perfect sense, or are at least reasonably defensible, because a baby lacks the kinds of quills any adult has, the kinds of barbs that I have. I would never even think twice about turning the other cheek to Odin, to going an extra mile or forgiving another time – because it never occurs to me that he deserves anything less.

It all has me thinking about how I might love Rebekah better.
I should always think the best of her, regardless of whether or not she is at her best.
I would do well to be recklessly vulnerable to her, knowing full well I’ll get hurt.
In Rebekah, I want to focus on the Holy within the human and let my son teach my how to better love my wife.


I was paid a tremendous compliment this last weekend.

A dear, dear friend finds herself weary from work and at a crossroads in her life. And in that state, she deliberately took time away from her life, drove across a state and a half, and came to my home for rest.

One way top look at that is simple enough – Chris had a visitor this weekend. Whoop de freaking do!

But I see something else entirely. For one thing, when Rebekah and I first moved here, we were both told that the house was specifically given to us that we might share it with others as a refuge of sorts, and over the years these walls have seen many of friends come and stay for short stays or long. It truly has been a place for many folks to unwind or find their feet or just get away. But for the most part, that effect has been more accidental than not. As if it turned out to be  a place of rest when all anybody expected was a simply a place to crash. Like expecting a cave and finding instead a warm bed.

But I feel like this weekend was something of a different kind – I don't want to read too much into her intentions, but how it felt to me was that this friend sought out this home. She had no need to go anyplace in particular, but at significant inconvenience to herself, she came here. For me – what a gigantic blessing! What a gesture of confidence and trust! Heck, I don't if she got much out of the weekend or not, but I was soaring.

There are scads of ancient traditions that place tremendous importance on the sacred relationship between a host and his guest. There are elements of sanctuary and protection and a host is obligated to treat his guest almost as if he or she were family. Something about this weekend gave me a momentary glimpse into what that’s all about, and a glimpse in Imladris...Lord, this house is, and remains, truly yours.

05 March 2007

Kids with mad healing skills

I wanted to write something else down here, more for the sake of recording it than for anything else.

A couple of weeks ago I went to my very first healing/revival service. To be blunt, I’ve never really seen anything like that before and I’ve been pondering the whole thing ever since.

I want to be careful about how I speak on this topic. The Word says that we can tell a tree by its fruit, and I don’t have any significant doubt that I was in the presence of genuine miraculous healings, so I want to be sure I’m not slandering a move of the Holy Spirit – but I also was puzzled and a little unnerved by the whole thing.

A little background: as I understand it, there is a church in Redding, CA that has been having a significant healing ministry there for some time now. And I understand there are a long list of well documented, miraculous healings coming from that church (Bethel) for everything from the flu to cancer. At some point, they also started a “school of supernatural ministry” for high-school ages and up. Some time after that, they started sending out teams, largely made up of high-school aged believers, to offer this ministry to others. Some time after that...I’m almost there...one of those teams wound up visiting McMinnville, OR which is just down the highway from me. Following?

So one Saturday about three weeks ago I found myself in the community center with what must have been 500-600 other folks waiting to see what this was all about. This is a ministry characterized by something known colloquially as ‘Holy Laughter’ in which the kids pretty much act like they’re nine sheets to the wind. It’s sort of cute, mostly endearing, but I also found it pretty disruptive when I wanted to hear what the (older) pastor was talking about. Part of their ministry is to share this laughter and they come around touching folks in the audience – some of whom follow suit and start laughing drunkenly. I also went up to be ‘blessed’ in this way and though I did not bust out laughing it was undeniable that the touch of these kids had a palpable electricity to it. You could feel...something...in their touch, something big. Did my doubt and reservation prevent me from participating? That’s a fairly reasonable conclusion I think, but I can’t say that I really regret it. I see in myself a certain weakness where ecstatic experiences, even Holy ones, could lead me to seek the experience more than my Lord so maybe this also passed me by simply because I wasn’t ready for that kind of thing. But I digress...

When the laughing thing had sort of built over 45 minutes or so, and the crowd was pretty awake, then the healing prayers started. It was pretty chaotic really. With a crush of people pressing into the stage area and these 15 or so teenagers praying and prophesying and speaking in tongues. A few years ago I would have been very uncomfortable but this night I really wanted to understand something about healing because it’s been on my heart for years (ever since Carol Austin died if you want to know) and if this is what a healing service looked liked, I wanted to see it. But it’s hard to say what I really saw. I know there was an old blind woman right in front of me who came to be healed. A young man with a partially bleached fin of hair prayed for her in earnest...she was not healed. But other folks right around me were announcing significant success - an apparent full recovery from a torn ACL, instant delivery from bi-polar disorder including a man who was at the home church a few years ago and was healed from the same thing – three years and no medication after 20 years with it. Arthritis, lupus, emphysema...unless I want to call all these people bald-faced liars then I was in the immediate presence of genuine healing...and I was curiously underwhelmed. :(

I confess that there is it least some doubt in my mind. How do I know emphysema guy didn’t make the whole thing up? I never saw him before his healing – maybe he was never sick. Lupus? A disease for hypochondriacs! Bah! Humbug!

Healing remains for me a subject that rests comfortably in my mind, but not yet in my heart, which is odd because I was ‘the hand’ in at least one healing...I think. It’s additionally odd because God routinely pings me on the topic. He’s often asking me to pray for somebody’s healing, just this weekend I prayed for Jim MacIntosh – a man in a wheelchair, and I try to be obedient even though I strangely ambivalent. It’s like that guy in Mark, “I believe. Help me in my belief.” And it’s not bitterness or anything ugly like that – I’m not envious of those laughing, healing teens, but something is definitely not connecting in me.

When Odin was in the hospital, I prayed fervently for his healing...and it didn’t go anywhere. When I talk about the miracle that he survived at all, I mean it, but I’m also disappointed. And perhaps that’s at the root of all this. I mentioned Carol Austin earlier. Rebekah and I were in this small group with Carol and her husband who were both (by all appearances) some of the most faithful and solid Christians I’ve ever met. Before Carol knew she was sick she had a vision of Jesus approaching her in church and saying, “Don’t be afraid. You’re healed.” Her response was something like, ‘That’s great Lord – healed from what?” A few weeks or months later she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. For about a year and a half, we prayed in agreement and in faith for nothing more than that Christ’s words to Carol be true and seeing her faith made it easy to agree with her. But in the end she died and I don’t think I’ve really processed that very well. Healing is so mysterious and so long as nobody we love is sick we can sagely ponder the inscrutable nature of God.

But when your son is dieing...
Mysterious seems capricious.
Inscrutable looks a lot like fickle.

I don’t know, maybe I’m a little (a lot?) pissed that Carol died. Maybe I’m sorely hurt by the un-answer to my life’s most earnest and desperate prayer. I’m told that the pastor at this church in Redding started this ministry because his own son is deaf and he longed to see healing there. Something like 1000 healings later and his son is still deaf – in fact, his son has prayed for several other deaf people...who’ve been healed.

I’ve taught that our ability to fight and defeat the demonic rests solidly on both the authority granted to us by Jesus, but also and perhaps more immediately our own ability to believe in and appropriate that authority as valid and real. Do we have the same kind of authority to heal? It would seem the 70 did...and yet if I went to church on Sunday and found that crippled Jim HAD been healed, would that cement my belief in miraculous healing or would I check my calendar for Odin’s next outpatient esophageal dilation and remain ambivalent?

02 March 2007

Advanced Camp

So we (boot camp nw) held our first "advanced camp" last weekend.
In the W@H vernacular - there is a lot to unpack. Like, I mean...a lot.

From the strictly BCNW perspective I think it was a real watershed. Simply taking this step was a big one for us all by itself, as far as we can tell, we are the only organization in the whole country doing this material, even Ransomed Heart has stopped doing it because (I think) they're wanting to see who will step up. That aside, we all came away from this weekend feeling like it was us who were being initiated into something. I mean I'm sure the attendees had a good experience, but I really think that the real work was being done on us and on a number of different levels, both personal and corporate. I think I mentioned in a past post how I entered 2007 feeling like major changes were in store for BCNW and that seems to be coming true. It's still very unclear where we're going...but we are certainly going.

It's a funny thing in my head right now. I wanted to hook up with these guys because I believed in what they were doing. They touched my life 2 years ago and I thought that was a very cool thing. But I realize that I have no pre-defined context in my mind for being a part of a real-life ministry. It simply never entered my mind even as I was deliberately looking for some role to play inside of a ministry. And so I'm having a kind of "well I certainly didn't see this coming" feeling when it comes to BCNW. To be reaching so powerfully into so many men's lives has a certain out-of-body quality to it, almost like I'm watching myself from a respectful distance. It's pretty hard to describe what I mean by all this. It's not bad in any way, and I'm not exactly feeling disconnected...I guess for a guy who's generally used to pre-visualizing my life, this is feeling a little surreal and serendipitous (Re - is that a word?)

So, in case it wasn't clear, this weekend was also very powerful for me. I got to speak on a topic near and dear to my heart, spiritual warfare, and I actually had multiple peopl say "The Spirit of The Lord was upon you."
I'm sorry, what did you say?
To be honest , I don't really know how to take something like that. I mean, I know it's meant as basically a compliment, except I think they really meant it and to be candid I'm a little weirded out by that idea. It would certainly go a long way to explaining the disproportionately positive response I got to a speech I thought was too fast, too random, and maybe too ornery, but my biggest response to that comment is, "Really? You think so?"

I also feel like my session may have finally established my cred with the BCNW core team. Up to this point I felt as if I were something of a hanger-on, like a blue-badge at Intel; needed for daily operations, but still on the outside (as opposed to the employee green badges). As shallow or as needy as that might seem, I felt really good to be accepted and respected in a new light among a group of men who I deeply respect...it was a very cool feeling.

But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this weekend was the very real, and very powerful spiritual warfare that we (the team ADN the attendees) experienced. This was heavy Satan mojo on a level I'd never seen before, and to be candid it almost broke BCNW apart. You know that scene in Fellowship where they're at the council of Elrond and Frodo puts the ring out on the pillar. Next thing you know you see everybody reflected in the ring and they are all fighting over issues that boil down to hurt feelings, suspicion and pride...that EXACT thing happened to the entire BCNW team on Sunday morning and that hammer stroke fell HARD. In a matter of minutes we found ourselves on a greased pole to dissolution. To be honest, if it weren't for the fact that we were up against a hard time break where "The Show Must Go On" - it could have been way worse.

There was a whole lot more to the weekend, but this moment was the apex of the enemies assault on the team and we escaped by a hair. With a few minutes break for everybody to clear their heads, we realized what was really happening and by God's grace we were all willing and able to put out wounded hearts down, to ignore the insults (real or imagined) and chalk every bit of that conflict to the enemy and therefore not worthy of further consideration or discussion. We rallied together and spent the next 90 minutes in the most intense warfare prayer and song that I've ever participated in. And it was bare-knuckle stuff. We'd be fighting back this incredibly oppressive spirit and start to grow in unity and confidence when you would see a guy in the group physically collapse under a massive feeling of guilt, or a feeling of insignificance or rebellious rage - instant and overwhelming emotion that had no "real" connection to what was happening. So we'd rally around that guy, hold him up, lay hands on him, sing over him, etc. This went on and on for several rounds until we felt a solid breakthrough and it was over. We stood in that cabin, the eleven of us, totally drained. The struggle took everything we had but God got us through.

Then in what I'll remember as one of the most beautiful moments in my life, our leader began to pray for the Spirit to rain down on us all to wash away the horrid feeling of having been violated by foul spirits - and rain it did.

Before the words had left David's mouth there was the strongest cloudburst of rain and hail that we saw all weekend - that little cabin suddenly sounded like a drum and we all ran outside to raise our hands to heaven! Standing in that downpour, victorious and united with these brothers, shouting a victory cry back to heaven and our Omega - it makes me choke up just to think about it.


One more thing. In the whole weekend, there was something happening that I wasn't able to put into words until today and it is perhaps one of the more profound things in the last several years. Through everything (most of which I haven't gone into here) I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
I had a deep sense of place and of purpose and a clarity about what I was supposed to do, and what I was not supposed to do, that I rarely if ever feel. Not just a sense that I belonged...but I belonged exactly there. That I was exactly living out one of those "good deeds ordained for [me] by God since the foundation of the world" And that is proving to be a very, very, deep water experience.

02 February 2007

The Way of The Wild Heart

I recently finished the latest book from John Elderedge called The Way of The Wild Heart and...wow.

It's no secret that I've been very interested in the things that guy has been saying over the years and how books like Wild at Heart and Waking The Dead have been catalytic to the things that have been happening in my life, but I think this book may be the most powerful yet, at least for me.

Let me first say this though - this book is like a 400 level course. To be quite candid, I wouldn't suggest it to anybody who hasn't read and really understood what's being said in W@H. Without that, there are concepts in this book that might do more harm than good to a man without the right context. The reflections on desire and calling in particular could come off as cruel if a reader isn't already familiar with the groundwork laid for having a good heart. That having been said...

The central theme of the book is "initiation." He suggests that over the course of a man's life there is a path that leads us through a series of stages: The Beloved Son, The Cowboy/Ranger, The Lover, The Warrior, The King, The Sage. Each stage has it's own purpose in God's plan and roughly describe maturation and fulfillment. However, while this path was the primary way in which boys have been raised into men throughout history, we've almost entirely lost it in the last 100 years.

And so really, when it's all said and done, the book is about fathers and how absolutely critical a father's role is to his children. And alas, how many, many men of today are essentially fatherless. Whether through divorce, or death, workaholism, or fathers who simply check-out, we live in a world of unfinished men - basically boys in men's bodies who feel utterly lost and unprepared for the life we find looming over us on the other side of our diplomas.

As mentioned in W@H, there is the idea that masculinity is bestowed, not learned or discovered. Boys become men in the presence of, and through the investment of other men. There is no other way. And this is a process of years, probably decades, as opposed to just a week in the woods or an 18th birthday ceremony. Not that those things are at all bad, but they aren't enough. And to throw a boy into the maw of the world with no more than a pat on the back is like that dreadful scene at Helm's Deep where swords and helmets are being handed out to 13 year olds who can do little more than stand in line to be slaughtered.

The book focuses much on the purpose of each stage, how we enter and pass through these stages in a series of initiations, and how these stages usually get wounded, polluted, or squandered.

But the good news is GREAT news. When we take the time to listen, we find that regardless of the failings of our earthly fathers, our Heavenly Father has never left our side. Where there may not have been anybody to initiate us into the important things of a man's life, God is always in the business of initiating us into his plan for us. And each and every stage we may have botched or had stolen from us, can and should, be redeemed.

Anyway, I don't really want to write a book report, but I really liked this book and suspect there will be a lot of things to think about, and blog about, as it unfolds.

06 January 2007

Odin who?

It’s early in the morning and I find myself sipping coffee and listening to a frog sing the ABC song. Rebekah remains in bed, hopefully asleep and not fretting over her week, because I try to take care of Odin on Saturdays so she can have at least one day off. But I see that I’ve written almost nothing about my son here or in my journal aside from the emotional venting surrounding his stay in the hospital.

It’s not that there haven’t been scads of things worth recording. It’s not that my first five months of fatherhood haven’t been awash in things to ponder.

The reason I’ve been so silent about Odin is that I’m not quite ready to share.

This recognition hit me like a brick over the Christmas break. Not like a bad thing, just a sudden insight into my own heart and motivations. Nothing has been nearly so dear and precious to me as these last months with my newborn son. I don’t usually think of it these terms, but his candor and sincerity, his innocence and his petulance – it’s something that defies the gaze of my typically analytical eye.

Odin simply is.

And I am profoundly blessed to watch him, and be near him, and sow what I can into his life. The Word says that we should be thankful for our trials, which has always been such a troublesome concept. But I can honestly say that I’ve found myself crying at the Throne, thanking God for all that this experience has been. I’d always been somewhat ambivalent about children, even up to the day he was born, but the whole episode in the hospital focused me and required me to engage with Odin in a way that I might not have done had he been ‘normal.’ Surely we grow in the good seasons, but when we’re honest we have to admit that our biggest growth usually happens through hardship – and the Bible isn’t coy about that fact even if we would be. When we can look at a thing that for all the world seems like a test, and yet truly see that thing as a blessing from Heaven – something mighty has occurred.