23 September 2009

Just thinking...

One of the things many people have asked me in regards to healing goes something like this:
“If there were people being miraculously healed of anything, anywhere – even one genuine case of a broken arm being fixed – it would be all over the news.”
In other words, “I’d already have heard about it.”

My response is something like this:
“Not so. The news reports what it is interested in and the church in general is something they are deeply uninterested in. That’s doubly true about God himself, especially anything that smacks of a present, supernatural God who is active in daily affairs. It’s not that these events go totally unreported but you have to dig a little beneath the networks.”

Check this story out
http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=110605

60 THOUSAND Christians flooded Time’s Square on 20 Sep to do nothing but sing and pray. This was a purely ‘human’ event in the sense that there was nothing woo-woo about it. And yet the news basically ignored this gigantic event...

19 September 2009

Reflection

One of the most shocking ways ways we can get insight into our lives is to have somebody close to us make a matter-of-fact observation or comment that is so incongruent with our internal vision of ourselves that it sounds as though the comment were about some stranger. Rebekah, wife, love of my life, bearer of my churlin...this post’s for you.

Talking about jobs and careers and that kind of thing Rebekah said something to the effect that she could not imagine me spending any time whatsoever in a scholarly setting. In as many words, “I can’t see you spending your time reading or studying for a living.” It wasn’t meant as any kind of a dig or really even a note of commentary. For her it was a statement of factual observation about as deep as “you would make a poor hair model” but it popped me in the mouth in a way that made me think, “just how DO you see me?”

I wanted to point to the house and a half full of books I brought to our marriage. Shelves overflowing with classics, epics and poetry; Shakespeare and Mallory, Homer and Plato. I wanted to tell her of the days and weeks spent squatting between shelves in Just Browsing or B.Daltons with Jeremy O’Kelly, or the inappropriate sums of money spent on leather bound Easton Press editions of literature’s great works. Surely my love of words and language (and the love of study that implied) was manifest in our own flesh and blood – Odin’s obvious and oft-noted verbal acuity – must suggest a scholarly pursuit has SOME believability!

But then I thought of the dust. The piles of books that sit in #3 unshuffled and undisturbed since we moved them there nine years ago. I realize that I’ve probably read fewer than six books a year since we’ve married and most of those have been non-fiction and very specific to the spiritual journey of the last several years. Good books to be sure (most of them anyway) and profitable...but nary an epic or romance in the mix. In short I realize that despite certain indications that I may have once been somewhat scholarly there is no hint of it left in 2009 Chris.

Re’s comment is reinforced by the (non-fiction) book I’m reading now, The Narnian. It’s an odd kind of biography of CS Lewis in that it’s really more about his mental and spiritual development than it is about the events in his life. And by the end of chapter four I’m watching a precocious young man, who at four tells his family that he will no longer be called Clive but will only respond to Jacksie, come to conclude that the bookish life is the only one he’s suited for. In watching Lewis I’m reminded of a part of me that’s been put on hold for many years now, a part that loves nothing better than the smell of yellowing paper; a part that would sip tea and crack leather spines in cold, silent, upstairs libraries for days on end hoping only to avoid being disturbed.

In the years between high school and the Navy I saw parts of me making a certain kind of pact. I wanted to study at a certain kind of liberal arts school but I knew I’d never afford it. So I decided I’d join the Army and get school money from them. There was a certain Faustian angle to the whole thing, and only a few weeks before I was set to ship out Dead Poet’s Society came out and the romantic/ivory tower part of me rose up in protest. I went back to the Army and said, “On second thought, I’m not the right guy for this.” In hindsight it’s remarkable that they were willing to cancel my contract but only 18 months later I was enlisted in the Navy. I was basically willing to sell my body (soul and mind remain with me thankyouverymuch) for four years in order to go to school someplace with ivy on old brick buildings. It’s an interesting parallel with Lewis as well. As he’s approaching the end of high school WWI is in full tilt and he decides that he will join the army and postpone Oxford.

...sorry, off on a tangent I think.

In my mind, that part of me has never even come close to dying but Rebekah’s comment makes me suddenly and painfully aware that in ten years of marriage it might as well be that she’s never met that Chris if indeed she even suspects his existence. Still, I’m not willing to say that the last ten years have somehow been a mistake by that yardstick, only occupied with other things...mostly really good things that have awakened and cultivated other parts of me that are now integral parts of my personality but would likely stayed latent if I’d gone full-bore into the whole academia thing.

More to the point, her observation comes at a time when I think that side of me is feeling a little neglected and put off. A time when I feel like God is fanning some long dormant coals though I hadn’t realized what was happening until I’ve just now started to think about it.

A dusty leather-bound pat of my heart misses long silent afternoons filled with nothing but reading and reflection and I’m sensing that maybe life will be shifting to make that more possible once again. Perhaps more than anything I miss the peacefulness of the life of the mind, though I confess the solitude runs a short second and that seems generally incompatible with small children. The last several years have been a lot of things, peaceful isn’t one of them.

Rebekah, for the record – a few years of reading, walking and writing sounds to me like one of the best possible things to me right now though I realize you have no reason to believe me save my assertion.

11 July 2009

On Healing

Since shortly after the birth of my son I’ve found myself on a kind of extended quest to explore, critique and even to experience the phenomenon of miraculous healing in the context of modern Christianity.

It’s been a heck of a ride.

Healing touches on a lot of different things in our lives and there’s no space (or desire) for me to write a book here. But I did want to create a kind of summary for what I’ve come to believe on the topic since I know several people who read this blog have been part of my journey. And to give the punch line away at the very beginning, I’m convinced beyond my own reasonable doubt that God heals people today – and He likes it.

I know that my first impulse on this journey was to do a lot of reading because the most obvious thing to me when I started was the glaring hole of stories. If something like this were going on today then it should be something I’d have heard about. I mean sometimes that crazy stuff maybe happens in distant exotic lands, but not here – right? Well one of the most shocking things I found, and it still blows my mind, is that the reliable records of healings are massive and always growing. I mean serious and voluminous medical record stuff, newspaper stories, video, on and on and on. It’s staggering. But is equally staggering how quickly some people dismiss this evidence because they really don’t want to know about it or simply don’t know what to do with it.

The truth is that I’ve never seen a topic with so much potential to divide people, particularly inside the church – something I found rather shocking. For me, I was doing research but I really didn’t have a dog in the fight so the often extreme reactions I saw from people really took me by surprise. I think I understand some of that in hindsight, but it remains shocking to me that something so obviously present in Jesus’ ministry could be so volatile to the folks who follow him lead.

After and during the search for evidence, I was reading a lot of books, listening to a lot of sermons, even visited several places in person to try and get my head around this thing. To be candid, I’d say that the slight majority of folks seem at least slightly unbalanced in one direction or the other. But there is a group of folks who strike me as comprehensive and thoughtful, able to successfully walk the uneasy seam between mystery and knowledge, theology and common sense observation – there need to be more of these people. But as noted before, healing has a way of making people rabid.

There’s an old saying that a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. As I read more and listened more I started to think that knowing was one thing – experiencing was another so I made it a point to start praying for the sick people around me and ask other to pray for me when something was wrong. I’m no John Lake, but I know that there are now multiple times when I prayed for somebody and they were immediately helped. Likewise I’ve seen my own pain and illness respond to the prayer of others. (Just to be clear, the majority of my prayers have gone unanswered in this regard. I’d say something like 25% get answered these days, but I only note that as a point of reference)

Anyway, those are the ‘summary’ results of my journey, but I also wanted to share a few thoughts on what I’ve seen. I expect I’ll continue to reflect on these things, and this list is by no means exhaustive, but here it is if you’re interested.
--------------
But It’s So Unfair
In our limited vision we can’t help but have a sense of priorities when we see suffering around us. It’s a kind of built in triage system that we all bring to the table. As a result, healing has a tremendous potential to offend our sense of fairness when it doesn’t happen the way we want it to, or doesn’t happen at all. For example, we can easily find ourselves saying, ‘If God feels like healing, He should head over to Ronald McDonald House.’ It’s very difficult to keep our hearts humble here and keep ourselves from accusing God of being fickle or mendacious. Because in all honesty the whole thing does look unfair from my perspective, or at least to display a set of priorities so different from mine as to be unrecognizable...and I think that’s the way off the dilemma. God’s ways are higher than my ways and as a necessary result...I don’t get it.

The thing here is to accept the enigma of it all in a way that refuses to judge what I am patently incapable of understanding. I don’t demand that God do it the way that I would do it. I don’t take offense at how it happens and instead I watch to see what God is up to in the hope that He’ll reveal his face in this, not just that he’ll solve a physical problem or ease a physical pain. The ‘unfairness’ of healing is entirely an issue of my own limited and biased perception.

That Long River in Egypt
God never asks us to lie and call that faith. The person who gets prayer for their illness and then ‘claims it’ when there is no evidence that the prayer was answered...nine times out of ten, they are simply in denial and in time risk great damage to their walk with God, and often make the whole topic of healing look silly for their obviously false claims. Don’t get me wrong here, there is clearly a place for faith in this and I know many cases where healings take some time to work out (they aren’t all instantaneous) - that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the person who many of us have seen on TV – the person who wants it so bad that hey have a kind of “fake it ‘til you make it” kind of air about them and an enthusiasm that we can sense is an affectation.

There’s also the other side of this coin that looks at healing prayer with a kind of polite tolerance that I think mostly comes out when folks have seen to many of the people above. One place I see this is when I pray for somebody, let’s say for a sprained ankle, I’ll ask them right away, “Any better?” Many times I get this shocked look from the person like, “What? You want to know right now?” Yes, I want to know right now – if your ankle gets gradually better over the next three weeks, that’s not a miracle, that’s what happens to anybody with a healthy body that repairs itself. And to call that kind of thing a ‘healing’ is disingenuous and often misleading. Yes, I know the human body is ‘miraculous’ in many ways, but I think we all know that that is not what we’re talking about here. We don’t help the faith of Christ’s body by calling a natural healing by supernatural names.

Healing and Medicine
For some folks there seems to be a built in tension between the notion of God healing and going to the doctor...honestly, I just don’t see the tension here. Medicine is a blessing from God that saves and improves countless lives. That said, it is by definition a work of man’s hands and clearly incapable of curing everything. If we fall into the humanistic trap and wind up thinking that doctors take God’s place...well that’s just folly. But to shun doctors and medicine and insist that God heals us miraculously or not at all...that’s again trying to force God to operate on our terms. Odin lives today because of a long series of medical blessings. And I don’t thank God any less that his life was saved by talented and gifted doctors and nurses anymore than if there was a magical poof of healing.

For myself, I want to make sure that God get’s first dibs on everything to act in his own special way. If the prayer for healing fails (and typically I try several times) then I have no problem going to the doctor and seeing what they can do. I always want to make room in my life, and invite God to act supernaturally – but if He declines that invitation I see no problem in looking to the other opportunities and blessings that He’s given us in skilled medicine.

Anchor Point: God is good.
This might seem a strange place to wrap-up this post but I’m convinced that this one statement does more to clarify the topic than any other. It’s contrary, though never actually spoken, rests at the center of many of the doubts folks have on this topic. To expand on this we might add, ‘The devil is bad’ and ‘mankind is fallen’ - There is a necessary tension between these statements that does magnificent work to clear so many theological fogbanks, but maybe here most of all. Always keeping God’s goodness in mind helps keep me from the major pitfalls here like blaming God for the healing that doesn’t happen or saying prayers like “If it’s your will God...” that actually belie a deep doubt that he wants us healthy.

I’m convinced that God heals primarily and simply because He’s just that kind of guy. He loves us so very much and wants to see us thrive. And I must say that the most common reaction from folks who are healed of something is the far more potent awareness of His goodness and His love.

In the spirit of full disclosure I should mention that I write this post from a hospital room. My unborn daughter is in significant jeopardy because her water water broke when she was only 24 weeks old. The truth is that I really want a miracle to restore what’s been damaged and allow her to come to full term. As such, we are praying all the time for this pregnancy to be restored. But we are also in a hospital like 30 feet from a top-notch NICU. I want to give God all the room in the world to heal our daughter’s amniotic sack, but I bear no animosity or disappointment if modern medicine saves her life as a preemie – either would be a blessing and I’ll shout ‘praise the Lord!’

Still – I’d prefer a miracle because my experience to date is that they are incredibly fun and I hear God laugh when it happens.

28 June 2009

Home From Bethel

So I got back from my trip at 4am on Wed. morning...long drive. When I came back from MorningStar last year, I think it took me something like three months to process what I’d seen. No, that’s not quite right, I’m still processing parts of that, but it took me three months to write anything. I was just dumbfounded. This trip to Bethel was in some ways less dramatic, in many ways far more personal and in the end...somehow more familiar. Which leads me to be writing so soon.

I want to say something outright that people were asking me about last year, the idea that we should have to go to a specific place to see God really rubs some people the wrong way, but that response is simply pride wrapped up in religious happy talk. Every story in the Bible, and every story since then, happens in a specific place at a specific time. To see where God is moving is easy and any child could do it. To be offended that He’s not moving at your house and refusing to go meet Him is arrogance. I always hear it go something like this, “If God wants to heal/speak to me, I shouldn’t have to go to Israel/Bethel/the corner revival tent. He can move right here just as well as He can move there.” Of course the sentence is true in it’s factual assertion but it presumes that God should go out of His way to seek you instead of me going out of my way to seek Him. It’s a feeling that accepts God only on my terms instead of His and the result is like a kid who wont go out to the ice cream truck until it parks in front of his house...it might happen, but in the mean time you’re missing a lot of good ice cream.

More to the point for some though is something Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his home town.” There is something very good that happens in out hearts when we open up to the value of a pilgrimage. Among other things, the value of a pilgrimage lies in the way it asks us to step through the ‘veil of inconvenience’ and follow hard after God in a very deliberate and practical way. It also makes a crystal-clear picture of the old saw that the journey is the point of life and not the destination. Regardless of where God is or isn’t, each time I take one of these trips I have my heart open and expecting in a way that is almost impossible to be at home where everything is familiar.

Anyway, I guess I’d just say that I would recommend this kind of journey to anybody, and if you can listen to God about the where and the when that will be so much the better. He says that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. For my part, I’ve seen Him to be abundantly faithful on that part.

21 June 2009

Juxtaposed

I may have witnessed the most remarkable miracle of my life this weekend...but then again I may not have. A member of Bethel opens his house for visitors like me and there was a family in the house with me with a 28 year old daughter who needed help. In short, this lovely young lady had a heart with only three chambers and it was on the wrong side of her body. She’s dying. After prayer yesterday she and her family swear that they can now feel her heart on the right side...meaning the left...you know what I mean. It’s the kind of thing that you can’t confirm from the outside which is why I say I ‘may have’ witnessed a miracle, but she’s headed to a doctor today to verify what would be a pretty darn fantastic miracle...or not. But regardless of this particular healing, I’ve been seeing many other less dramatic cases including a woman who says she’s never had rhythm but was doing the human beatbox thing yesterday...um, that’s an odd one but way cool.

I’m now sitting in In-N-Out about two miles from the church and I’m struck by the paradox of miracles. People are coming to Bethel from all over the world and thousands of people have been touched by God and released from everything from back pain to terminal cancer to missing limbs (yes...God heals amputees). And yet here in Redding, which isn’t a very big town, most of the folks have no idea what’s happening a short walk away.

I don’t really know what to say here except the overlay of the profound and profane is striking. At noon I was watching miracles and feeling God’s presence, at 3 I’m eating cheese fries, and in another hour I’ll find more God, and probably see more miracles. It’s just weird.

20 June 2009

So far...so much love

I’ve tried to keep my expectations in check or this trip. I’ve wanted to come here to Bethel for a good long while now but I didn’t want to load the thing up with all this pressure that it had to answer any particular question or be some certain thing. I just wanted to come. If there is one thing I am looking for it’s an interpretation of my soto ensei dream, but frankly I’m not too worried about it.

I hit the road yesterday and got to Ashland where a friend’s dad owns this ski lodge and he agrees to put me up for the night. The place is like one of the ski lodges I grew up around in Big Bear or Lake Arrowhead but this one is less than a year old and you can still smell the saws on the wood. My first thought was how much this place reminded me of home; the pines, the ski lodge, the giant mountain of red road cinders... At dinner is this monster pork chop that’s been soaking in pear brandy for three days, the guitar player is doing Neil Young and the Beatles and there are frogs serenading me from outside my window. It was so perfect.

As I’m eating dinner I hear god say “Savor” as in – take this in, enjoy it, don’t let anything escape too soon. Along with that came the verse from Psalm 34:8 – Taste and see that the Lord is good.

In the morning, driving down I5 is so pretty and Mt Shasta explodes into your view all of a sudden with glaciers and encircling clouds – it’s really impressive (not as good as Mt Hood though if you ask me). When I pull into the house I’m staying at, I’m introduced the various guests and the guy in the pool looks exactly like my dad maybe 15 years ago – spitting image as they say.

...you know, there’s more to tell but it’s after midnight and I’m bushed. If I try to write all of this now I’ll botch it.

For the moment I’ll just remind myself of this post
http://the-m-blog.blogspot.com/2006/06/incoming.html
The event it describes happened three years ago tomorrow. But since then, the ‘incoming’ part has yet to come in.

19 June 2009

My song

Your love is better than wine.
Draw me after you and let us run together.
I am my beloved's and He is mine.
...truly, He is mine.

Sent from my iPhone

17 June 2009

One more time...

So after several delays it looks like I’m taking another shot at visiting Bethel church in Redding, CA.
There’s no conference that I know of or anything like that but I’m going just to see what God does.
Whatever that is, even if it’s only to turn me around again, I’ll try to stay current here.

14 June 2009

Invitation

There are times when life seems to be cruising along just fine when you find yourself suddenly reeling from a wound that you didn’t know was there.

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine was invited to go to a kind of nationwide get-together for the people who are working in various W@H ministries around the country. When I heard the news I was really happy for for all kinds of reasons but when he came back and we were sitting in a Best Buy parking lot with him telling me about the trip I felt like he’d inadvertently tripped a wire in my heart that I didn’t know about.

I was hit with jealousy because clearly it was me who should have gone not him.
I was hit with...um...whatever it’s called when I patronize somebody...because he needs that kind of affirmation but of course I don’t.
There was anger, coveting, envy...all those red and green emotions.
And I think if it had been those things only I could have walked away from that moment knowing that it was another wrestling match with my flesh and/or the devil – perfectly human stuff.

But bearing the weight of all that other crap was a foundation of something like despair – and that one really caught me off guard.

As he talked about this trip and all the things that happened, really cool things that I would have really enjoyed, it was bringing me back to 7th grade at MPH. I was a clumsy 13 year old who was too big for his shoes and who (to his unending shame) wore jeans sized “Husky.” I distinctly remember gym class where we were playing dodge ball and Gary Aberg was one of the captains picking players for his team. Pick after pick after pick and it’s eventually it’s just me and Bruce – the kid with cerebral palsy. As a small mercy, Gary did pick me and the other team got Bruce, but I’m sure you can see that was no great comfort.

Now it would be tempting to close that story with something like, “I’d never been so humiliated in my life” but that’s not really how the memory plays. As I remember it, I had come to expect the outcome after many similar days in gym class and by the time this memory was formed I had long since given up any sense of pride. In my mind at that time there was no dog left to kick I had so completely owned my failure. In fact, I also remember a gym class as a high school freshman where Grant something-rather  picked me third for his dodge ball team because I had found my feet by that time and was a damn good player. But that memory rates a dim two on the ‘vivid and formative’ scale where Gary’s team is much higher – and perhaps even higher than I thought three days ago.
  
I suspect everybody goes through some variation of the ‘didn’t get picked for the team’ thing so I don’t think I’m at all unique in that regard but as I was reliving that moment in the car I saw something in me that has been hidden (from me anyway). I don’t really expect anybody to invite me into anything. In fact I very strongly expect that any good thing’s I want to happen, I’ll have to do myself. I’m not invited – I volunteer. Good things don’t happen to me, or for me – I make them happen myself.

Now anybody who’s kept up with this blog should realize that in many ways this is just a variation on the same kinds of wounds I’ve talked about and unpacked often over the last several years and that’s true. For myself it was really surprising to find this abscess of untouched bitterness when I thought I’d dealt with most of that. But when I started to share some of this with Rebekah her response was something like “well duh” but she was much kinder about it. :) Still – to her this bend in my frame was pretty self-evident even if she didn’t quite have the words to describe it until I gave them to her.

It also goes back to something John Eldredge said about a  month ago when he was on a book tour in Portland. He spoke about the way we tend to live as though we were fatherless. When he said that it was like catching just a tiny glimpse of a tall peak shrouded in clouds...there was something big under there but for the most pat I couldn’t perceive it except in fragments. And so this particular comment has stuck in my mind and God’s been expanding it to show me more...but slowly because for the most part it hurts.

God self-identifies as ‘father’ and the uncomfortable truth is that I have some pretty deep seated ambivalence about that idea. Even the word feels chunky and formal and cold. Calling God daddy...I am so NOT comfortable with that. ‘Lord’ is my general address but I don’t like what I find when I start asking why I use that term. For one – it’s feels safe. It’s appropriately deferential and speaks to an authority structure that I least feel like I understand – maybe like when a boy comes to call his dad ‘sir.’ I can my earthly father ‘dad’ or one of a few affectionate terms like ‘pops’ or ‘old-man’ but I’m still not really cool with there either, in the end I’m pretty darn afraid of seeming disrespectful. Even as I type this I’m conflicted – fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom and all that. A desire to be respectful seems like a good impulse – but I’m missing the warmth, the connection, the intimacy that I want so bad and yet am also terrified to face.

It might not be clear how this is connected to the early stuff and to be honest, I’m not sure myself – but somehow they are. This boy waiting to be wanted, to be included in the game is resigned and his spirit is long since broken, he’s in my heart somewhere feeling alone in the world. There is no one there to interpret his sadness, to give him context, to explain what’s happening – he’s fatherless.

...bah...that’s not coming out right. I told you I’m only getting glimpses here and maybe this post is premature, but I wanted to write down what’s in my mind and this seemed like the right place to start.

28 March 2009

The journey so far

When I thought I would make a pilgrimage to Bethel, I figured on basically going with what was on my back (or in the back of my Jeep anyway). I didn‘t have anyplace to stay, I didn’t know anybody, and I had basically no available funds. And this week, as it started out with some interesting developments has continued to develop – though still on a path that is much different than expected.

I should note that the house thing has had a number of things that required immediate and personal attention to handle – additional confirmation that this was the wrong week to be on the road, but everything does appear to have been settled appropriately and positively including this little wrinkle that I only recognized as a blessing when #1 pointed it out. You’ll remember I need to cough up $3500 when the guy started everything on Saturday? Well for some reason he gaffed his paperwork up and the deal was never completed on their end. So when I call on Tuesday to say ‘Hello...where’s my paperwork? You know, the stuff you were supposed to fax or overnight?” they had totally lost it all and had to start over. And for whatever reason their little calculator, or further consideration, determined $2500 would be quite sufficient...so that’s awesome. :)

I also had another friend contact me out of the blue on Tuesday. This is a guy who I thought for sure had, or soon would go out of business in this economy and I hadn’t heard hide nor hair from him is months. Anyway, he rings up and wants to get together. Beside a very cool catch-up session it turns out he and his church have some really deep contacts down at Bethel including several of their church members who are attending Bethel’s ministry school. I don’t want to count an egg as a chicken but he seemed to feel that he could find me at least a couch to crash on during a visit...but potentially much more. For example, rumor has it that Bill Johnson (the guy in my dream) is a huge Apple fan and talks about how much he loves his iPhone during his sermons. How cool would it be to get Bill Johnson to pray over G and Soma?

I also suddenly realized that in another 10 minutes I turn 38...and if that isn’t a journey I don’t know what is. :)

Anyway, as it appears, the pilgrimage may be reshaping before my eyes even as it’s been delayed – but I’m totally confident that God is up to something in the clutch here.

One thing that did come up this week on the down side was the news that “Soma” may be a no-go with regard to that particular trademark. It seems that Marc Ecko of Ecko Unlimited owns the trademark but in some dark, dusty ‘intent to use’ sense. As far as we can tell, there is no actual company using that name but years ago it was registered as if somebody, someday, somehow hoped to use it and now it lingers out there in this legal gray area. (it’s gray because I was actively using that name at least 18 months before it was registered, but I’m no legal guy so it never occurred to me to register that trademark.) Anyway, it could be an issue that would force us to change our name which would be a huge downer. Mostly because I’m convinced that that is the name God told me to use. Finding a name with the same meaning...wouldn’t be the same. Still – I’m sort of going on the theory that if it is indeed His idea, then it’s sort of incumbent upon Him to make this work somehow. It’s not as if me and my $99 legal zoom trademark form can challenge a billion dollar fashion firm on some kind of common law basis so it’s not like I can play tough. So I’m thinking the the best course is really to pray and fast...and then just ask if we can have it.

24 March 2009

Update

Well today was a very interesting and very important day...not at all what I had imagined for my third day of pilgrimage, but pivotal and undeniably providential.

First – the whole house thing is taken care of. Until I could say that, I don’t think I realized how much that’s been weighing on me. I’ve been able to keep a good game face on or the last several months and I truly had faith that everything would work out...but now faith has turned into physical, legal reality and I’m deeply relieved. This house has come to mean so much more to me than I expected when we bought it. Nine years ago, Re and I moved into this 100 year old project house when the previous owner was foreclosed upon...hmmm, I hadn’t thought about that until just now...anyway – we really thought we would be in it for three to five years, fix the thing up and move on. That seemed like a pretty reasonable plan given my upwardly mobile career with Aquent. It was an investment property, not a home. But now we’ve been here for nine years in April and I absolutely LOVE this house. It has totally become home despite its warts and dreadful proximity to the highway. We’ve hosted so many friends here which is at the core of what we both sensed when we bought it – it was a gift from God, but it was explicit that we were supposed to share it. Two families and three individuals have lived here with us over the years for extended periods (and we’re about to have another long term guest) plus an unknown amount of more temporary guests. And at every turn, we’ve been more than happy to do it. We’ve never felt imposed upon or jealous of our space (OK, hat’s not 100% true, but mostly) - that darn guest room is almost as used as our bedroom!

The dreadful thought of losing this place was probably the most heart-sickening thing of 2008, even more than thinking I’d lose the business. Those stupid unfinished cabinets are MY unfinished cabinets! But today – that threat went away when CRB told me the funds were available right away. And while I recognize the tradition of not speaking too soon...crappy economy and uncertain future in mind, I feel confident that the threat is gone for good.

[Insert deep sigh of relief here]

But where I basically knew this day was coming, today also held a totally unexpected surprise...

The other overwhelming misery of 2008 was the loss of a very dear and precious friend. (see Baldur the Beautiful is Dead from early last year) It’s not like he died, but honestly...it felt like that. Our parting had so very much pain for me. It was a long drawn out thing that seemed like it just kept hitting me over and over. I haven’t had grief like that, maybe ever. Even when Odin was in the hospital, that was intense and awful for a couple weeks but there was a happy ending. This was slow and lingering and every week seemed to bring a new and deeper layer of hurt.  And there was no happy ending, if indeed there was any kind of ending. The whole thing kind of boiled away until everybody involved was exhausted and bruised beyond recognition. (By the way, I’m well aware that I was in no way the only person hurt nor the most hurt...but like this is my blog...)

This man was one of my best friends and in al of that I didn’t know if I would ever see him again, much less if we would ever speak. I remember that point about six months ago where the grief of a traumatic event finally catches up and overcomes your ‘everything is fine’ face and I was screaming and balling in front of all the monkeys as I had to give all of that to God...poor monkeys.

So yesterday this guys calls me as my pilgrimage has been put on hold due to a bum alternator. (OK – he texted me...come to think of it, I’m not sure that he ever actually uses his phone for talking). I hadn’t heard a peep out of him in about 14 months and he calls/texts yesterday. ‘Hmmm’ I think, ‘could this be the Lord?’ and I think, “well I don’t know what’s on this guy’s mind. Could be good...could be bad.” but in the spirit of taking the adventure God was giving I managed to meet with him this afternoon.

Without getting into all the gory details – it was good.
We were able to make peace, and I think it’s a genuine peace not just a paper job.

[Insert deep sigh of relief here]

There’s a lot more to say about that, but at the moment it seems premature – like talking out of school or something, so you’ll just have to settle for the notion that the meeting went well.

So today the two deepest hurts of the last year, which was full of hurts, were set like broken bones. And they both have this feel to them like I don’t yet comprehend how important today will seem in a year or five years. Like things happened today that will have major implications in the future. But time will have to tell because for me...it’s just a dose of good medicine that I really needed.

Was this part of the pilgrimage that God called me on? Was this part of his plan all along? I don’t know.
But I am confident that both events were directly created by Him and for his purposes and glory. So either way I’m a happy camper (or non-camper since I’m home and not in the back of my Jeep...)

Still – the rest of this week was set aside for His adventure and I plan to be faithful to that. A few things come to mind in how I might still wing a trip down there and I may still decide to do something of a long shot, but I first want to wait and see what happens next. Rather than force my agenda or my destination, I’m happy to play this by ear and hang on for the ride.

23 March 2009

Pilgrimage: Cont.

Pilgrimage day 2: location: home

Um...yeah, so this isn’t exactly what I had in mind but here I am at home on Monday evening trying to se what’s next. It’s worth recounting an interesting chain of events that got me here, some will just have to go without explanation for the time being.

  1. On Thursday, I’m thinking it would be good to take that pilgrimage I’ve been thinking about and God has been talking to me about. Alice will be in town all week so it works out that way instead of leaving Rebekah home alone with her crazy husband chasing the Wild Goose. It’s a good idea, but really there are no funds to do that kind of thing – not even to buy gas really. I mean we could do it if I had to, but it seems frivolous and unwise.
  2. On Friday a friend gets it in his head that he’d like to kick in $150 to he weird idea his friend is having...and I am suddenly reminded about how things worked on the last trip God sent me on (to Fort Mill SC) - namely, if it’s his plan, he picks up the tab. So this is a good start, but not enough to make the trip.
  3. On Friday, on a hunch, I jump the jeep which has been abandoned in my yard for six months and drive it to AutoZone – turns out all that is wrong is the battery is shot. $150 may not be enough for an extended trip or a rental car, but it’s enough for a new battery. $60 later and the Jeep is running fine.
  4. Friday night I’m in Seattle as part of a BCNW detachment talking about spiritual warfare. The prayer team hears a specific word: ambush. But the event goes well with nary a hitch and I forgot the ambush part until just now...still don’t know if it fits in here somewhere, but I may as well record all the details.
  5. On Saturday I FINALLY get some good news form our bank about our house. (yes, we (like a lot of other folks) were in significant monetary distress from the infamous year of 2008). They were able to put us up on a repayment program to get everything back in line but on the stipulation that I cough up $3500 by Thursday. That’s not a trivial amount of money, but nor is it a gigantic amount of money. I’m pretty sure we can wrangle it all together...but there’s the rub – wrangling while on pilgrimage is less than ideal.
  6. Also on Saturday, Wane and Alice arrive – Alice hands me a birthday card fro Pat who insists that I get it right away, a week before my birthday – it’s $200. With that and the $150 I think that car camping in he Jeep is a doable scenario and I start planning to leave on Sunday.
  7. I hit the road at about 10:00 Sunday morning and head south – I figure I have an eight hour drive and maybe I’ll make the 6pm service at Bethel.
  8. The Jeep is running fine and while I’m not 100% sure, I could swear the little battery gauge was at 14 where it belongs, but regardless – just south of Albany the thing suddenly dies...less than a mile from the off ramp to my friend Tom Smith’s place, who’s 6 year old is having a birthday party in 20 minutes, to which my other friend John Bergquist is basically driving right past me on the way to Tom’s. AAA tows the disabled vehicle to Toms place and we stick a battery charger on the thing to se what happens.
  9. Several interesting things happen at he party, some of which may fall under the ‘trying too hard’ category but one is a ‘vision’ as  Carrie (6) is opening her presents – an old-fashioned plow over her head. A little later I tell Tom and ask, ‘Does that mean anything to you.’ And he says, ‘Oh yeah. Carrie desperately wants to be a farmer. In fact she’s saving up for her own farm and has been for years.’ Now while this is interesting...I’m not sure of anything more compelling than a kind of confirmation that I wasn’t sniffing glue...again...already.
  10. Contrary to the advice of many I decide I’m going to take the adventure God gives me and continue south – broken alternator or not. I get another 50 miles of so to Creswell and the dying car just barely makes it to a diner/motel. It’s dark now so I decide to stay the night here. (corned beef hash and eggs were great)
  11. The counter guy at the hotel has acute laryngitis. I offer to pray for the guy and he says (whispers) ‘I’ll take anything I can get’ - Monday morning he has his voice back.
  12. After lots of praying and counsel from friends it seems like I should head home. If I’m meant to get to Redding, it will have to be some other means than this Jeep as I don’t want to drop another $100 on an alternator and then maybe the next thing, the next thing, the next thing...you know the old-car-get-fixed cycle. Anyway, getting home is a trial - basically drive for 30 min, pull over to charge the battery for an hour, rinse, repeat. But God is good and twice, including the last leg to my driveway, the car sputters and dies just as it rolls to the place it needed to be with not another 20 yards left in the thing.
  13. Remember the $3500 I need by Thursday? Today, at least $2200 showed up unexpectedly, (plus a planned for $7500 gets in the pipe two weeks early)...so it looks as though that part of the equation is settled and with basically no wrangling. (w00t!)
  14. Totally out of the blue, as I’m headed north from Salem, I get a text from an old friend who's been estranged for over a year. I haven’t had a single word from this guy since like last January and he wants to have lunch...tomorrow.

So...as far as I can tell the Jesus gears are rolling at a full clip. It’s not really the trip I expected, but the thing all pilgrimage rites include is a notion that the journey is the important part, not so much the destination. So at least I seem to be on a journey...even here at home...which is a funny concept now that I think about it. Right now, I don’t know what else to say. I would still like to get to Redding this week but God will need to provide a way, and I have to be back here NLT Saturday for baked Alaska.

19 March 2009

Scenes From The "recession"

This is pretty powerful:
http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/03/scenes_from_the_recession.html

File under: ‘val.picture=1k*word’

It maybe only that for the fist time I’m old and involved enough to be aware of these things, but this is the first time in my life that I’ve ever sensed any meaning to such words as depression, recession, downturn, etc. And honestly it’s a strange experience. I think the biggest thing that has caught my attention is an awareness of the world-spanning nature of this economy. I’ve certainly read of things going sideways in localities before, but nothing like this.

I also know I’ve heard MANY people say things like : “if folks would just stop being so scared and spend some money this recession would be over”
And while I admit a certain logic to that train of thought, in the end I think it’s a misdiagnosis. While fear is certainly operational, that’s not really what I hear in people’s voices these days. Three months ago, sure – but today it sounds less like fear and more like a hangover. Where a lot of people are waking up to an awareness that they drunk way too deeply from the credit bottle and this pain, in the final analysis, is at least half self-inflicted. I know that’s a big part of my thinking and that’s led to a kind of sobering up that was really uncomfortable at first but feels increasingly good in the pain=gain sort of way.

I mostly just wanted to comment that I feel as if the whole world feels like it’s shifted in the last six months and in the end, my sense is that it will be for the better...or for the antichrist...which is maybe the same thing. :)

17 March 2009

Unexpected update

So I wasn’t expecting this but I had a friend offer to kick in a few bucks toward the pilgrimage.

It’s not what I was expecting (nor hinting at) but it reminds me of previous times I’ve felt God call to me specific places. It seems, now that I think about it, that he always provides for those things in his own way and time. In fact, that might be seen as one of the pounded in lessons of my trip to SC last year.

I’m feeling like there is a principle here that I need to apprehend but I guess the scope of this trip seemed within my ability to cover myself...

“...give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” Prov 30:8,9

15 March 2009

Pilgrim? What's that?

First, to get something unrelated off my chest: Facebook is cool and everything but if it winds up taking the place of what was a rich and vibrant blogging culture then I’ll be sorely soreified (...that sounds pretty gross) What I mean to say is that no number of status updates and photo tags is in any way as deep or as meaningful as the way most of these blogs were going for a good long stretch. And as I look around I see a lot of blogs where November or December is the latest entry. >sigh< And I’m pointing the fingers back at me here as well. I know I’ve been totally dragging my tail in the same regard. But...I feel much better now.

OK – moving on to the ‘real’ blog.

For something close to three months, I’ve felt God gently nudging me toward what He’s calling a pilgrimage. I already laid out the main idea in my last post but that was pretty brief and I guess I’m not done chewing on this. Last year, the word God was kneading into my heart was ‘priesthood’ and some really neat stuff came out of that. So far, ‘pilgrim’ is the word or the season and again I’m at a loss to make any kind of emotional connection to the word. I’ve got just a few notions that seem archaic at best, silly at worst. I’m pretty sure God isn’t asking me to wear a tall black hat with a buckle...but you know, He’s known to ask some strange things.

The dictionary tells me the word stems from a Latin word meaning ‘foreign’ and of course explains a pilgrim as somebody on a long journey to a sacred place for religious purposes. But there’s got to be more to this than just a trip – it’s a tradition that has deep and ancient roots and we Christians are by no means alone in the process.

Certainly there is something here about understanding the journey as equally important (if not more so) than the destination. This root of ‘foreign’ reminds me of the thoughts about us being strangers in a strange land – citizens of heaven and not this earth...that all makes a certain amount of sense, but it also seems like there is a lot more to fill in here. I don’t know what to expect from this journey to Bethel. I’m intrigued but somehow less than excited (which I sort of expected I would be). And I have a feeling that over the next week God will explain more of the thing to me. I’m not sure how it will work out financially either. Not like I plan to stay in some sweet resort while I’m there but with things as tight as they are, even the gas is a stretch so I’m praying that God provide for this trip – it might be a good diagnostic to determine if this really is him, or if I’ve manufactured this in my head. In the past, waiting on his provision has been a great way of confirming as well as a faith builder.

Anyway, I expect to go...but frankly I’m not yet certain. Nothing at all like the trip to MorningStar. Maybe that’s part of the pilgrimage too. It has some sense in my mind of being an essentially aesthetic ascetic experience (is that the right spelling Kathie?) You know, the whole ‘deny the flesh’ thing. So driving my jeep down there with a sleeping bag doesn’t seem too out of the way.

Uh...ok I don’t know how to end this post. So – I'm done

13 March 2009

Pilgrimage

So I’m feeling led to take a pilgrimage which is an interesting thing to me. I really don’t have any context for that word beyond vague references in history classes and an awareness that Gandalf was known as the Grey Pilgrim.

Also, I’m specifically planning on going to Bethel Church (www.ibethel.org) in Redding, CA.

Right now the very vague plan is to show up...and then stay until I feel like I’m allowed to leave. Good plan eh? Tat said, I’m especially waiting to see what God provides in way of lodging and perhaps transportation. I know I can’t afford to stay in a hotel for a week. Renting a car...maybe that would be OK, but not ideal.

Anyway, prayers appreciated...and if you know a friend in the area who would be willing to host a pilgrim, let me know.

27 February 2009

New Audio...um again.

I suck. I haven’t had a single entry on this blog in over a month and there has been so much to talk about. >sigh<
On the other hand, who needs a blog when I have facebook... ;)

Anyway, I did want to drop this new audio clip (see sidebar) on the blog. It’s a sermon I did at TFC earlier this month and I’ve had really good feedback on it. It’s really about hearing God’s voice and how we balance that with the black and white wisdom of scripture.

Summary: Get wisdom! It will save your life...but ultimately wisdom is only half the picture. We need revelation as well to really live in God’s calling for us.

27 January 2009

New Audio

I just wanted to drop two new audio links here.
The first one is a recording from our Spring boot camp (2008) and it is my Spiritual Warfare session. This needs to be seen as part of a larger 4 day event, but it stands OK by itself.

The second is a sermon that looks at the way our seniors operate in the church and how much we need them.

Check them out in the right column.

21 January 2009

Perspective

I’m ruminating on a thought here and I’m not sure what to make of it yet – but it seems like something that I ought to write down for the sake of articulation and as defense against losing it. (loosing it?)

I’ve heard many people say something to this effect:
The miracle of restoring a person’s soul (AKA: salvation) is far greater than the miracle of restoring sight to the blind, seeing the lame walk or even raising someone from the dead.

I think that the statement is doctrinally true – salvation is an eternal event where a resurrection is merely temporal. I can really get behind that thought...but there is also something about it that bothers me. Because in some way that I can’t quite put my finger on, the statement feels somehow like an incomplete picture, like something really important is missing. As Morpheus says “like a sliver in your mind...you can feel it.”

Yesterday, a solution to this vague dilemma struck me and I’m honestly a little uncomfortable with the implications.

What if the reason even a relatively minor healing feels bigger than an alter call is because I’ve come to expect virtually nothing from salvation?

Like I don’t have any expectation that a person ‘dedicating their life to Christ’ will be at all noticeable. What if I’ve come to swallow a picture of salvation that is so watered down as to be virtually undetectable, so ‘private’ that any public indication of ‘dead to sin but alive to Christ’ is too much to ask, and so ‘progressive’ that thirty years of ‘wrestling’ with the same sin is accepted as appropriate sanctification?

01 January 2009

"...forgetting what is behind, I press on."

The snow has been falling all morning and I've been sitting in my mother-in-law's basement room watching the miracle of fluttering frozen flakes. I love the snow.

It's also the first day of a new year - Jan 1, 2009 - and I have this feeling in my heart like something truly new and powerful is budding up in my life. (see my last post about Soma).

Over and over (not sure if I've said it here) I've said that 2008 has been like a Dickens novel - both the best of times and the worst of times. Where the professional and financial aspects of life have been hard, the spiritual aspect of life has been redlined and off the charts. Crazy, mad stuff like I only used to read about in book...now I write about them on my blog.

But I know that I still have so far to go, so much more to press into. I recently found a blog called Violent Grace and I think even the name is just a brilliant sum of the way I feel about my hunger these days. Anyway, on that blog I found the following clip and I was dumbstruck by the plain spoken words in the proclamation to live a life for Christ without compromise and without excuse. (the video footage seems only partly connected...but maybe I don't get it...)




A whisper to a scream.