15 December 2012

Simon The Leper

“Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper...”
Mat 26:6*

If you were in need of something really, really bad, maybe money, maybe wisdom, maybe healing, and you invited somebody over for dinner who was completely aware of and capable of meeting your need, how would you treat them if the night came and went and that person left without so much as an encouraging mention of your situation?

I was reading this passage here when I noticed this phrase “Simon the leper” and the story goes on as if that’s a non-issue. This is the story of the gal who anoints Jesus with expensive oil for your reference, but it takes place right in front of a guy who has a pretty obvious need and as far as we can tell, Jesus doesn't even notice.

“Hey guys, never mind me. I’m just the guy buying you dinner...the guy with, you know, this horrible disease that Jesus heals in other people all the time...”

There are lots of things going through my mind on this passage and from several angles. Like the way we can all cozy up to people insincerely if they have something we need.

But what first came to me was actually something in the other direction, a kind of heart where we see Jesus’ simple presence as more important and more important than any of the things He could do for us, or any of the things we thing we can do for him. Just to hang with him because we want to. No agenda, no manipulation, no clever arrangement of my prayers to achieve maximum scripture density.

There are times, this week has been one of them, where I go to God more out of exhaustion than anything else. Where life has simply been hard and I retreat to that secret place for badly needed rest. Those can be the prayers of desperation too, the “all we can do now is pray” moments. I don't see anything wrong with that, but in those moments I am going to the throne because I need something, even if its only to be somewhere other than in my own head.

But I think about Simon here. There’s reason to believe that Jesus stayed with this guy more than once. Did he keep having Jesus over hoping that sooner or later he’d have his leprosy healed? Or was he perfectly content and mightily honored to have God under his roof and well able to look past his own need to the bigger picture? What did Simon get out of it if not health? Did he expect anything? Or was presence enough?

I know that I want his presence to be enough for me. I know that there are times when it really is. But I also know that it’s hard to stay there and I think that part of that is the orphan heart that expects that Jesus is just visiting and He’ll be gone soon, so if I need something I better get it now. It’s a fear that what might be good today wont be good tomorrow. That fear that somehow God is temporary but my need is forever reminds me of an old saying: Ignorance can be educated...but stupid is forever.

I hope that this ability to stay with Christ in his circumstance, his reality, can grow in me and that need to always ask him to come down into my circumstance can ebb.

* I’m aware of the discussion out there on whether or not Simon was still a leper at this story or even if ‘leper’ is an accurate translation of the original text. For the purpose of the post though – it seems irrelevant.

24 November 2012

A Thanksgiving Poem

When the freezer is full, when we fly for fun
He is my vine, my cup, my wine.

When copper is all that’s left in the pocket change jar
He is my vine, my cup, my wine.

When pizza seems a splurge, when a diamond seems disposable
He is my vine, my cup, my wine.

A toast, a hale, a lifted stein
To the Door, the Star, the Risen Lamb,
My need, my fill, be not germane
To thanks well due my King, I Am.

12 June 2012

Acorns and Oaks

A couple of weeks back I attended a retreat in Colorado with Morgan Snyder he called “The Intensive.”

(Morgan – I love you man, and the event was awesome, but the name...it’s gotta change.)

Anyway, it was a powerful experience and I expect to be chewing on it for a long time but rather than play that out here on my personal blog I started a new one where I can stay on one particular topic and also collaborate with a few other folks on the same topic.

So take a look at http://acornsandoaks.blogspot.com/ if you’re so inclined.

I’m not abandoning this blog by any means so I’ll keep posting here on my own stuff, but “Intensive” stuff will be over there.

29 May 2012

Heaven and Infinite Dimensions

I had a thought as I was drifting off to sleep last night that I want to capture someplace – and this is it. Pure speculation but I thought it was worth writing down.

  • Any object we can see exists in at least four dimensions at once. (Length, Height, Depth and Time)
  • Superstring theorists tell me the universe is probably made of at least ten dimensions, perhaps more.
  • It seems reasonable to think that the same 4D object mentioned above does, or at least could, exist in those other dimensions at the same too.

All of that is only to say something pretty straightforward – that the things I typically know and interact with are multi-dimensional be their nature. I point this out because I have been trained by Sci-Fi movies to think of ‘alternate dimensions’ as wholly distinct worlds. Like some other 4D universe that is parallel to ours as opposed the more mathematical description of each dimension representing an additional ‘direction’ of freedom or motion. To that we can imagine the Flatland people who for some reason are limited to their 2D world (3D if you count time) where they are unable to move off their plane of existence even though we could look at and observe them without fear of being noticed. Likewise, if we are bound to this limited subset of dimensions, someone with even one additional degree of freedom could easily hide from us simply by moving in that direction.

This is connected to one possible understanding of little-h heaven. By ‘little-h’ I just mean something like ‘the spirit world’ or whatever you might call the place/ dimension / existence in which angles and demons do their thing as opposed to ‘big-H’ Heaven which is the whole God’s throne room paradise thing. Going back to superstrings, heaven could be nothing more or less than those six+ extra dimensions we suspect are there. For some reason, perhaps because of the fall, they are mostly inaccessible and imperceptible to us – but by no means are they illusory.

Up to this point, I’m just summarizing what other people have written as a starting point. What I was thinking about last night was building on these ideas.

  • Quantum mechanics tells us that in some profoundly weird ways reality is shaped by our perception. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schrödinger's_cat).
  • Now add that to some interesting imagery and concepts in the Robin Williams movie “What Dreams May Come”

What if every soul that gets created, or perhaps every soul/spirit that remains ‘alive’ in Christ, somehow creates an additional dimension in the whole big manifold of creation. This dimension could be understood as going ‘into’ that person perhaps in the way Christ and the Holy Spirit dwell ‘within’ us. Within my dimension I have the ability, conscious or unconscious, to shape what it is like there. It is as responsive to my will as my attitude – and for that matter it may be as resistant to my will in the same way. There could be skill, training, and experimentation involved as we get used to this kind of ‘self-control.’

Also, if these are dimensions that stack into reality as opposed to self-contained and parallel worlds, then an object like a tree could exist in many. If not all, of those dimensions simultaneously. Then, just like walking around a car to see it from all sides, I could move from layer to layer to layer to see how that tree appeared in a multitude of ‘selves.’ How you saw the tree could be different than how I saw it and that perception would be realized within ourselves. Some ‘lesser’ objects, like a tree, may be limited to a subset of the existent dimensions/people – maybe I have to ‘opt in’ for it to appear in my space. Other ‘greater’ objects like the New Jerusalem appear in all dimensions as part of the ‘default kit.’

With every soul, a new world is born and yet all worlds remain part of God’s interwoven creation. We move between worlds or perceive many at once as we explore our degrees of freedom.

That could be pretty fun.

18 January 2012

Hero Friendship

Because I decided to walk the half mile between the hotel and the restaurant, and because both traffic and parking turned out to be more difficult than expected, I actually arrived first by about 20 minutes. The three of us were in Colorado for a retreat and since Colorado Springs seems to be verily awash with Christian authors, speakers, and celebrities we took the opportunity to ask for a meeting with a man who I deeply respected from his writing and speaking – and he had said yes.

I can’t say that I‘ve ever been the star-struck kind of person. It’s probably born more out of my own pride and stubbornness than anything else but I don’t generally look at anybody as a ‘special’ and instead presume fundamental equality. But here I was chit-chatting with a guy who had made a real impact on my life and I was more than a little spun up. Once Dwennon and Rande arrived I was able to find my center fairly quickly but for a bit there I was a little giddy and I have to assume it showed. But more interesting (to me anyway) is that a year later I know this man on a first-name basis. We trade email and text-messages and I count him as a friend. It’d be a stretch to say we’re buddies but we’re more than acquaintances and contrary to that old saying that familiarity breeds contempt, I respect him more now than I did then, and that has got me thinking.

Staring up at the ceiling in bed last night, thinking about this post, I asked Rebekah, “Do you think we can know our heroes personally or does the nature of a ‘hero’ require some distance?” Something that was slippery to me seemed crystal clear to her. “No. Of course not. Parents are their kids’ heroes all the time.” And of course she’s right and of course parents are only one example of that kind of relationship – so I kept thinking about this new friend from Colorado.

Somewhere around 2003-4 I read Wild at Heart and I got totally rocked. I’m not really very good at keeping authors and their books together in my mind but folks had been talking about W@H and so I knew John Eldredge’s name. I didn’t have any sense of celebrity there but if I’d bumped into him in the airport I’m sure I would have smiled and said something positive...though unlikely I’d ask for an autograph. In 2005 I attended my first Boot Camp Northwest event and there I got really rocked. It’s odd to look back on it now but by the end of that camp I thought of the speakers as ‘special’ and approaching them was an act of courage. Of course now I look at all of those guys...as just guys. That’s not to say I think less of them, I only mean that I know them to be human, with flaws and fears and quirky senses of humor – and I haven’t lost any of my deep respect for who they are or how they impacted my life.

It’s that feeling, that experience, that I’m trying to roll out in this post but I’m looking for the right words. It’s been a singular experience to come to know a man first through his work, to respect and admire him on that basis, then to meet him and build a friendship and still hold him in high esteem. As part of BCNW I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some really great men and women who are talented, powerful, anointed – and also silly, hurting, uncertain. The reflexive egalitarian in me asserts that we’re all just people, those folks are really no different than me but isn’t it true that we typically experience that reality when our heroes fall? When we find out that someone we once respected is flawed in a way that disappoints us? In those moments we don’t want them to be human really. Perhaps we want them to be different from ourselves because we’re far too familiar with our own weakness and we desperately need to know that at least somebody is NOT like us.

Over these last several years I’ve had the pleasure of meeting folks like John Eldredge, Gary Barkalow, Craig McConnell, Bart (Does Bart have a last name?), Morgan Snyder and other fellow sowers in this ‘men’s ministry’ thing, but also a broader circle like Kris Vallatton, Michael Hyatt, Bill Johnson, Aimee Semple McPherson, Rick Joyner, etc. etc. Some have been little more than a handshake, others have become genuine friends, most somewhere in the middle. My goal isn’t to drop names here though, what I’m pointing to is a set of experiences much different than the one where a hero disappoints us upon closer inspection – and instead remarking on a place where I can meet these people, learn that they are just as human and imperfect as myself, and come away not disappointed but holding their person and character in even higher regard than before – and I’m trying to understand how that’s happened.

I think the heart of it comes from something Dwennon says all the time, that ‘One man’s glory should not diminish another man’s glory.’ There is a way in which I see these people talk about one another that conveys a kind of honor and respect that isn’t competitive and I see them act in a way that seems to genuinely seek and speak about the things God has done in that person’s life and far less about the things God has yet to do in their lives. The result is a kind of atmosphere of mutual support even if only from a great distance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m under no illusion that some perfect unity of the spirit is going on but to even TRY to act that way is a fair bit more noble than most of the world. Going back to my star-struck dinner (and a stunningly good bison rib eye...with garlic butter and peppered squash...and crème brule...)


What I was saying was that I look back at my evolving relationship with this man from stuttering and trying to be clever to where I’m yucking it up on the phone with the guy this afternoon in front of a bunch of other guys I know of as mighty warriors for the kingdom...and it feels perfectly natural.

That speaks to another part of this process that I’m just beginning to be aware of – part of this process has been in my willingness to let down my own guard and expectations. I have to allow these people to be human, releasing my own sense of their heroic identity, and in so doing I’m able to take a step closer to them as friends. They take the risk of making themselves available and vulnerable and I have to take the step to allow them to be flawed. You might say that when I accept their step ‘down’ I wind up taking a step ‘up’ - only to discover that the elevation difference was in my head all along.

I suppose I also ought to learn an important lesson here. Speaking at BCNW I’ve come to see how easy it is for people to conclude that somehow you must be a ‘spiritual elite’ in some way. After all, the microphone is our modern equivalent to the scepter, it denotes authority. But just like the scepter, the folks holding that thing know its nothing more than a stick. I’ve seen people approach me after a speech with a kind of star in their eye and I’ve always been weirded out by that but I think I see something that I’ve missed in the past. My impulse in those moments is to say, “Dude, don’t look at me like that. I’m just like you.” and I seek to equalize the situation by removing any sense of the ‘special.’ I want to ‘come down’ so to speak...but perhaps I’d do better to instead invite them ‘up.’ Not to say, “I’m just like you.” but rather “You’re just like me.” To validate whatever it was I may have said that inspired them.

Bill Johnson has this great line. Ever seen somebody sing a song really well and you go to congratulate them. They say, “Oh it wasn’t me, it was the Lord.” to which he’d reply, “Well it wasn’t THAT good...” Joking aside I understand the desire to give credit where it’s ultimately due but to close my loop here. What I‘ve experienced as I’ve walked with these men and women is where they are aware of how Christ has worked in their lives but instead of feigning humility they might say “Thanks. I’m glad God spoke to you through that. That was Christ in me...and He’s in you too.”

BTW – Aimee Semple McPherson is long dead, or ‘on to glory’ as she might have said. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. ;)