16 March 2008

Seven Pillars of Society

I just heard this from Kris Voltron.
There are seven pillars of society:

  1. Justice
    • The law is a facilitator of justice.
    • The law only has purpose in bringing about and sustaining justice.
    • When a society looses its grip on justice, the law begins to serve itself and taking on a life of its own.
      • This creates a culture where peace officers become law enforcement officers and justice courts become magistrates of the law.
      • Judges and juries are now charged with determining if someone broke the law, rather than if someone performed an injustice.
  2. Peace
    • Peace is the foundation of government.
    • The purpose of all government is to facilitate peace.
    • When peace is removed from government, the government begins to serve itself.
      • The goal of its officials becomes staying in power rather than extending the borders of peace.
    • Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of wholeness.
  3. Love
    • Love is the purpose of fatherhood.
    • Fathers are facilitators of love.
      • When fathers loose love, fathers become bosses and families become his subjects.
      • Caring and compassion are replaced with sexual perversion and abandonment.
      • Happiness is no longer the fruit of loving relationships, but instead becomes the purpose of them.
        • ‘I’m not happy’ becomes the purpose of my actions.
  4. Honor
    • Honor is the element in society that allows people to be empowered rather than controlled.
    • Honor is the responsibility of sons. They exemplify respect that results in order.
    • When honor is served instead of serving, it causes leaders to demand honor even when it is incongruent with their character.
      • This results in a culture of control that is manifest through fear.
  5. Truth
    • Truth is more than honesty. It is the embodiment of reality.
    • The fruit of truth is life and the word of god is the facilitator of truth.
    • Teachers are the stewards of truth.
    • When truth is absent from a culture, the bible begins to served instead of serving.
      • This consequently leads to people learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.
        • Resulting in rules of religion being exchanged for the realities of relationship.
  6. Righteousness
    • Righteousness is more than an accumulation of good character choices.
    • Righteousness is the visible expression of the habitation of an invisible yet holy god.
    • Righteousness is the personification of the very nature of God being manifest in His creatures resulting in his likeness emanating through his people.
    • When divinity is absent from a culture, Godliness is reduced to goodness which is attained through discipline instead of a pure heart.
  7. Wisdom
    • Wisdom is the ability to rightly apply knowledge in a way that builds for the future that which is envisioned by the creator so that the divine ecosystem of heaven yields life.
    • Rulers are the stewards of wisdom.
      • They are to lead in a way that creates an environment that draws out and facilitator the destiny of people both individually and corporately.
    • When the definition of wisdom is reduced to the gathering and recalling of information it results in futility.

Holy Cow.

Fleeting Thought

There’s been this thing rolling around in my head recently. It’s a thought that has yet to really resolve but I really want to jot down what I have so far because I think it’s important...and God asked me to put it here instead of my journal.

In the story (in John I’m pretty sure) where Jesus is talking about how the sheep hear his voice and they follow him, he also says something to the effect that we (Christians) will ‘go in and come out and find pasture.’

It’s the in and out thing that has snagged on my gray matter. In and out of what? Well the sheepfold of course, but what does that represent and what the hell is a sheepfold anyway. Webster says it’ a shelter or pen for...wait for it...sheep. So it seems like he’s talking about our coming in and out of His shelter? Doesn’t the word talk about God’s peace being like a shelter? You know, the secret place and all of that.

The last few weeks have felt like I had stepped out of his peace in many ways, not like I was bad or anything, but there was stuff going on here and there that ruffled feathers or made me anxious or whatever. Anxiety always has a way of also making me feel more distant from God. Worship is more work, prayer seems hollow – you know what I’m talking about. And that has always made me sad. I don’t want to leave God’s presence – I like it there. I’m increasingly hungry for his spirit and his input and it bugs me when like takes me away from all of that.


Maybe that’s pretty normal. Maybe ‘going out’ is either necessary to keep us from getting flabby, or just part of the almost-but-not-quite life we lead until he returns...maybe both. The Final Quest tells the story of he Christian warrior who climbs a mountain to eventually find himself in a kind of new Eden. The tree of life is there, Jesus is there, the demons can’t get in...it’s paradise. And yet Jesus tells him after a while that he can’t stay there. As important as it was for him to reach this place, it’s at least as important that he return to the front – the battle rages on and he’s needed.

I’ve noticed something over the last few years as spiritual warfare becomes more and more normal in my life. Attacks that used to take me out for weeks at a time now roll off in days or even hours. It’s like when the enemy gets a goo shot in, my recovery time has become shorter and shorter. If the kind of frustration or depression that happens in such a case is like ‘going out’, I find that I’m far better equipped these days to get back in. If chasing hard after a man’s heart is the current mission, and all the risk and warfare that it entails is another kind of ‘going out,’ I find myself more able to get back in when I need to.

It’s like this sheepfold, now that I’ve found it (and come in by the door), is never more than a twinkling of my heart away. And so it seems to me today as if I’ve been going and coming fairly regularly in the last few years but always feeling pretty crummy about the going, like I’d failed somehow to find myself outside of that garden that always renews my spirit. But I think I see it differently now – like Jesus has removed one more of those guilt arrows from my back just by reminding me that going and coming should be part of the experience...and he will always be there to show me the pasture.


08 March 2008


The following story is totally true, at least as much as I remember it. However, it’s lingered around in my drafts folder for these years because I really don’t know what to think of it...

In my life, there have been a few...um...let’s call hem mega-goals. Not mega as in particularly huge really, but mega in that I really see now real way in which they might happen. Maybe long-shot goals is a better phrase. Anyway, as I was leaving high school I got the mega-goal of going to Kenya someday and shortly after I arrived at GFU, like ten years later, I found myself thinking, “Wow. I’m really at college. Cool.” Going to college in the Pacific Northwest was another kind of goal, something genuinely challenging but achievable you know. “What would be a good goal to replace it now that I’m here.”

Before I go on, let me say that I’m not your typical goal oriented guy. I tend to have loosey-goosey goals...sometimes...but I’m not at all driven by them. So I don’t want you to picture me flipping in my day planner to October 12, 2019 and making an entry, I was just looking forward with a comfortable sense of “cool. I made it.” Anyway, as I thought about what might be next God distinctly said, “You always wanted to got to Kenya.” and I smiled. “Yeah.” I thought sort of whimsically. “Kenya would be cool.” The next day in the student paper was an offer to go to Kenya for a semester, already paid for by my tuition, which was already paid for by the Navy. I was the only person who applied.

Fast forward about 18 months and I’m again thinking about mega-goals and He says, “You’ve never seen the Aurora Borealis.” - and that’s how I get to today’s story.

I’m not certain of the date, but I’m pretty sure it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, 2003...give or take a year. I’m up at my mother-in-law’s house and somebody at Alice’s church realizes that the pastor wont be around on Sunday and instead of doing a potluck or something they think, “Hey, Becky’s husband seems like a nice guy. Maybe he will preach.” How this idea came to them I can only speculate, but I blame God.

At that time I don’t think I’d ever done anything even remotely like preaching and the last time I’d been on a stage was playing a wizard in a college play...not exactly preacher-man stuff. But you know, when the offer came across my bow I guess I figured what the heck. And while I was pretty nervous I think it went pretty well all things considered. And they even gave me $100 for the trouble which is interesting since I’ve never made a dime at that since then even though that was the smallest group I’ve ever ‘preached’ to...

Anyway, later that night Re and Alice and I were walking home in the dark when I noticed a faint shimmer in the sky. I stared for a moment thinking it was light from the dam reflecting off low clouds but another little shimmer told me otherwise. No these shimmers were barely visible – just dim, soft whispers of light, but I reckon I realized what I was seeing because it really couldn’t be anything else. I was seeing the far southern vestiges of the Aurora Borealis. I told Alice and Rebekah, who’d both seen the aurora before, that I’d be along later and I laid down in the sage to watch the slow, lazy waves of sun fed electrons.

The sky got darker and darker as it got later. The aurora got marginally brighter as my eyes adjusted to the dark and there was less of the failing sunlight to compete with and I began to see, more or less, what I expected to see. Long, sinuous filaments of pale yellow light undulating in the sky like some kind of slow motion sail in the wind. You almost never get the colors below the arctic circle so I knew this vanilla pudding yellow was the ‘right’ color. I probably laid out there for an hour and a half watching the slow dance and smiling from ear to ear. I was well aware of my five year old mega-goal and how it was being fulfilled not in some exotic locale but in my mother-in-law’s back yard and I felt deeply loved by God. I felt as if somehow this light show were a kind of ‘well done’ or ‘thanks’ for having thumped my Bible that morning and it was wonderful.

Not thrilling, but wonderful. The thrilling part comes next.

In time, I became aware of an increase in the tempo of the aurora, if I can use that word. Instead of the slowly waving sails of light, I starting seeing what looked more like thin clouds that would start near the horizon and move up toward the ‘center’ of the sky where they would dissipate. In the space of about 15 minutes, this new presentation had completely replaced the previous one and I thought, “That’s odd...maybe really odd.” I’ve seen many video clips of the aurora from Alaska websites and astronomy websites and even Art Bell’s website, but nothing I’d seen there looked like this. It was still, without question, the Aurora Borealis in its essence but it’s behavior had turned to something I’d never heard of nor seen. Still, I’m obviously the new guy so I thought it might be something that Alice had seen and anyway, I was getting cold. So it seemed like a good time to go inside, grab a coat, and grab my family.

A few minutes later the three of us are out on Alice’s deck and the sky is dancing. Now that I’m not in a dark little hollow I can see that these ‘aurora bolts’ are manifesting across the whole horizon. Every compass point is sprouting these increasingly fast moving blobs that silently cross ninety degrees of sky in a rush and it’s as if they are all racing toward a single point in the sky...directly over us. I want you to remember the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Nazis open the ark and all the ghosts start floating around the scene. Not the ones that coalesce into recognizable shapes, but the more vague white spirit blobs. That’s what we were seeing, but magnified thousands of times since each sheet must have been hundreds of miles long.

We watched this frenzied show for a few minutes when Alice says, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.” with notes of both awe and anxiety. Like maybe this was cool, but also a little scary. Me, I was just having a great time. Sure, I knew this was atypical, but it was my first and to date only experience so I was just enjoying it. But Alice’s tone made me wonder...what are we seeing here? I thought about that earlier sense that somehow God was showing me this as a kind of reward or something – like a little Scooby snack for Skaggs – and now I started wondering what else might be going on here. Not scared or anything but starting to sense that  might be witnessing something bigger than a light show.

As we stood there in the cold, and the spirit shapes were coming so fast there was no longer any break between them, the point at which they were all meeting was now becoming a kind of empty hole above our heads. A ring that was only perceived as a gestalt of the space never violated, the invisible line that was never crossed, and I’m not kidding you, it was almost directly over Alice’s house. Now if it were directly over our heads I would be more inclined to think it was an an optical illusion, like how fireworks always look like they are ‘facing’ the observer. But this hole, this empty zone, was ‘placed’ just slightly to the north and east, maybe directly over Mansfield which is the next town. We started commenting on this hole – this space where the otherwise ubiquitous aurora bolts, which had also increased dramatically in brightness and intensity (still no color), never went.

Then there started a kind of final movement of the sky symphony. Where the last 30 min or so were characterized by these shapes rising from random points along he horizon and racing to the hole where they broke upon its border, it all suddenly changed to where we would see multiple shapes emerge at once along the perimeter of the sky and race up in lock step to hit the border in unison. In this way the beautiful accident of swarming shapes quite suddenly changed to something regular and just outside of predictable. It was now as if the sky were pulsing or breathing, like we were somehow seeing the beat of a heart and the blood that beta pushed heavenward. It was breathtaking.

Then comes the part that suggests peyote. As we stood watching this celestial breathing we started to see light inside the ‘free zone’ and we each wondered if we were alone in seeing it. With each ‘breath’ the racing shapes would tear from the horizon to the top of the sky in about 1 and a half seconds. As something like a dozen bolts would meet at the ‘ring’ I saw other...distinct...shapes flash to life in the center of the ring. This interior shape would stay lit or just a moment, like a face lit up by a camera flash. It was just long enough for your brain to think, “Was that what I think it was?” but not long enough to be sure. But in the four or five minutes that followed, maybe it was much shorter than that, I saw a a series of explicitly Christian images: a crown, a dove, and yes a cross.

Now I’d be more than happy to conclude that the events of the day put my mind in a certain way and I saw what I was prepared to see. That would be fine with me and still be a cool story since the experience remains interesting and fun without the crown. I’d be equally willing to say that God had given me some kind of vision, albeit mysterious, for his own purpose. Again – it makes a good story and has a neat kind of Jesus spooky to it. But when the dove appeared in that hole I had a moment to say out loud, “Did anybody else just see a dove?”...and they both had. They had also both seen what I am calling a crown, a moment before but there was not a consensus on what he shape had actually been. In another moment, all of us saw the cross – as plain as day – and basically unmistakable for anything else. So with the confirming testimony of my wife and my second mother (third?) I’m forced to conclude that it really happened and probably in the physical world as opposed to some kind of group vision (other people in the following days remarked on the very unusual aurora that night, but nobody mentioned the images...including us).

And then it ended.

The whole thing mostly petered out over the next ten minutes. When I went back inside there were still lights in the sky, but they looked a lot like what I’d seen in video clips – cool, but not really comparable to what we had just seen.

Four or so years later it remains a truly wonderful experience, but it also remains profoundly enigmatic. The circumstances make my brain want to find meaning in it all but the whole thing seems to inscrutable, at least to me, and at least to date. Does something like that properly get the label of miracle or mystery?

Like I said, apart from telling a story that’s pretty neat, I’ve had basically no ability to reflect on it or draw any meaning out of it. I think I’m fine with that though. It doesn’t HAVE to have meaning. I’m OK with it just having been a really memorable event that I got to witness. And yet...there’s a part of me that can’t help but think there is something deeper there, maybe something that won’t make any sense until heaven – but still the meaning of it is in there even if imperceptible in this world. It makes me wonder about the star he magi followed. Surely other people around the word saw that star, but almost nobody recognized what they were seeing. Wise astrologers of the day probably drew all sorts of meaning from the new star...but what percentage were thinking things 180 degrees from what was really happening.

It’s such a strange story, one that seems obviously laden with...something...

02 March 2008


Several nights ago now Odin had the distinct pleasure of eating sausage for dinner - one of his favorite things. And by the time it was over he was crying in great heaving sobs.

Allow me to ‘splain.

I had made the mistake of cutting up roughly half a sausage into bite size bits and placing the small pile of meat on the high chair in front of him. In what is a relatively new behavior, he started playing a pork filled version of chubby bunny - stuffing bits of sausage into his gob as fast as he could without bothering to chew or swallow. Seeing the approaching problem I put my hand between his and the additional meat, effectively stopping him from choking, but also breaking his heart.

The incident would be sort of laughable except for the very real pain Odin suffered through the misunderstanding. In his mind I had put a good thing before him (what's better than sausage?) and then arbitrarily kept him from enjoying it. In his mind I had taunted and betrayed him in that moment. He didn't understand that I was protecting him. He didn't know his zeal was leading him rapidly toward the Heimlich maneuver. He just saw the sausage that he wanted and me stopping him from eating it.

I quickly recognized what had happened and tried to tell him 'slow down' as I lifted my blocking hand, but that only caused him to dive into the pile with renewed vigor as if it might all disappear entirely in a moment - which caused me to intervene again - which lead him to burst into bitter tears...and start to choke on the first raft of meat he still hadn't bothered to chew. Now he's sobbing, and choking and Rebekah is there looking at me like 'what's going on here?' and I'm both trying to keep him from still more sausage as I try to comfort his clearly wounded heart and none of it is working. I barked at Rebekah, glared at Odin, and dropped things all over the floor. It was horrible.

Eventually he calmed down and in an ill advised effort to salvage the moment I set his food back before him. But now he looked at it and me with a kind of suspicion that I've never seen on his face. It was like for the first time in his life, my son didn't trust me. He'd asked for bread bread and I'd given him a scorpion so to speak...at least that's the way he saw it. He reached tentatively toward the sausages again as I nodded in encouragement, but once he got one in his mouth his hell bent mission to get every stinking piece in his mouth simultaneously resumed at double speed. Needles to say, I had to intervene again and dinner ended with Odin wailing in emotional misery, deeply wounded by my efforts to save his life from himself.

Between this incident and a discussion with #5 I've been thinking about disappointment and God. Yes, there is an obvious object lesson here in how we can sometimes find ourselves deeply resenting the hand that acts to save us from ourselves, totally missing the help and only seeing that something we want desperately has been striped from us, but that's not really what I wanted to talk about here. Yeah, Odin misunderstood what was happening - but he's 18 months old, that's to be expected and it happens every day. What really got me churning was the distrust that rose up later - the fear if I can use that word - fear of being hurt again by his daddy.

A while back I was musing on how I had started to glimpse how powerful fear is but at the time I was thinking in he context of how fear can stop us from stepping out when God’s invites us forward. What if He doesn’t catch me? What if something goes wrong? What if I didn’t really hear His voice? It’s that ‘what if’ fear that paralyzes us and turns faith to inaction. This incident with Odin was in many ways the converse of that. It reminded me of how fear can also drive us to rash action. In Odin’s case you can see that urge we get when things look dire and feel compelled to grasp at something for fear of losing out. This would be like Satan’s first temptation for Christ in the wilderness. “You’re starving to death. Provide for yourself. Take what you can because clearly God is holding out on you.” Poor Odin got scared that I would take his precious sausage away again when in fact I wanted nothing more than for him to eat it, but his fear and mistrust literally put his life at risk and in the end he was unable to have what he most wanted because of that fear.

Needless to say, the other place we se this is when fear drives us to ‘get to safety’ as quickly as possible. It’s the fear of abandonment when we find ourselves in unknown and threatening territory. “God has forsaken me. I’m on my own. I must find whatever safety I can...anywhere but here.” It’s the brand of fear that makes us quit school or a job, the kind that makes us turn from relationships that cause us pain...come to think of it, maybe it’s best understood as the fear that makes pain intolerable, unendurable. We can endure great bolshie buckets of pain, physical and emotional, so long as we believe there’s a point to it. But when this kind of fear creeps in it whispers that MacBeth was right – life is just a tale full of sound and fury...signifying nothing. And from that precipice, devoid of any larger purpose, we feel like getting away from pain is indeed the highest and most natural calling.

I recently heard a pastor say that the largest barrier stopping folks from experiencing a deep and powerful walk with God lay in unresolved disappointment. The thought punched me in the gut as I started to ponder the implications. In essence, we all experience things in our life that feel as if God has let us down – a prayer for healing that never happens, a personal tragedy, or just the daily erosion of minor disappointments from tension in our marriage to the promotion that never comes. Of course we deal with things in several ways but if I’m honest with myself I have to admit that at least some of those linger long after. I may be unwilling to openly accuse God of failing, but my mind returns over and over to wondering why Odin’s throat wasn’t healed when I prayed my hardest prayer. I think that unless we make a very deliberate effort to settle those kinds of things in our deep hearts, that disappointment can’t help but morph into a kind of subtle fear.

It’s not to suggest that God abandons us when we fear, by no means! I certainly won’t abandon or chide my son the first time he backs away from a diving board...or the second time. But it’s when our trust in God is undermined by those disappointments, especially by long patterns of disappointment, we can turn away in fear from the very best things God has for us – and we learn over time to be satisfied with far less than He wants to give us. We decline the offer or glory He gives because we fear it can’t be true, or that He can’t be trusted, or that we just can’t abide the cost. And so we cling to the crumbs under the table and wonder why our lives seem decidedly less than we had hoped they would be.

It reminds me of a thought about adventure. I’ve been encouraging men to seek and accept the adventures God has for them because, you know, adventure is cool! It’s fun! Who doesn’t love adventure? And yet in that Hurrah moment we generally fail to remember that Sam and Frodo suffered great sorrow, endless days of hunger, insurmountable risks, all on their journey to Mordor. It’s like Sluss II says, people don’t actually want to have an adventure, they want to have HAD an adventure. Something under glass to put on the mantle and wax nostalgic about. We want the memory, but not really the experience. And I’m not saying that’s wrong in any way – to seek after pain is creepy in a whole different way. But the unavoidable truth is this: to walk with God is to expect heartache. Bonheoffer says the offer of Christ is “to believe and to die.” (or something like that...)

OK, I’m hopelessly rambling now. The point was just this: I’ve seen a lot of examples recently where fear lead folks to do things they didn’t need to, and in many cases really shouldn't have. I’ve always thought of fear as a kind of secondary sin but I’m starting to wonder if it isn’t more foundational to the way we screw our lives up. And I’m increasingly aware of the ways in which I’ve stuffed disappointment with God into deep holes where it festers and turns putrid instead of approaching the throne of the father who I KNOW loves me to say, “I know that you are good, but right now it looks from here as if you let me down when I really needed you and it hurts so very, very much I feel like I’m going to die. Please help me understand this so there isn’t any weirdness between us.”
...and then patiently...
Wait for Him to speak and heal.

Please welcome...

It is my distinct pleasure to announce the late but always fashionable arrival of my love, my life, my wife.
Rebekah: http://travellingmouse.blogspot.com/