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.