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.