Friday, December 24, 2004

i love to fly

Now planes are nice, but what I really like is to fly through the air with my own body, all by myself, under my own power. I have recurring flying dreams - have had them since I was a child. I believe all of us are born with this same kind of inner urge, some soul-cry for freedom, a deep longing that we cannot adequately express in our everyday, mundane lives. And if you look closely, I believe all of us will find evidence of it seeping through in our subconscious, our uncensored words, our day and/or night dreams, our playtime activities, in fact, any time we let our guard down and allow our childlike ability to unabashedly desire great things take hold for a just a moment.

You know how kids are…they will just outright ask you for what they want, no matter how ridiculous it sounds to the rational adult mind. Like chocolate cake for breakfast, or staying up all night to watch the stars, or sending their favorite toy to a poor child in Africa, or learning to fly by donning a blanket cape and jumping from a rooftop. They are not afraid to ask. To dream. To desire. To wish.

And one of my greatest dreams is to be free, untethered, not tied down to this motley earth with its restrictions, its festering sickness of decay, and its gravitational pull towards mediocrity and self-centeredness. Yech!

So I fly…up, up and away, facing the sky, free from fear, worry, pain, and law. But really, how much freedom can I experience in my everyday life as I toil, eat, sleep, and interact with other less than perfect beings, all inflicted with the same malady of sin? Way more than I ever thought possible, I am discovering. Having just read through Galatians again, I was struck by the adamant insistence of Paul (the author) that the great gift of grace that Jesus procured at incredible cost was for FREEDOM, and we so easily toss this gift aside for the four confining walls of rigid righteous regulations. Is that what really makes a person good? Doing the right things? Sticking to a diet of bland “safe” activities? Bah!

Putting on the appearance of righteousness is nothing, nor is being seen to have the appearance of evil – neither has any substance. The only thing that matters is if we have indeed under gone the metamorphosis from a dead soul into one who has had the breath of God infused into their spirit. Everything else is still death. Bondage. Restriction. Out of the realm of love. And I am tired of residing in that substandard claustrophobic state.


As you can tell by my rambling, somewhat random thoughts here, I am still working through this freedom thing, but I have climbed onto the roof, clutched a bright red cape in my left hand, and begun to edge my feet closer to the edge. And having seen the wide open expanse in front of me, I will not turn back.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Oh, Look!

Every Christmas, I ask God for a focus point, a theme...something that makes the season and the story of Jesus come alive for me once more. The problem with traditions, at least for me, is that I get bored with them. I have heard the story before, the songs are oh so familiar, I know what happens in the end, and though the truth can be amazingly profound, I loose my sense of wonder all too easily when there is repitition involved. So I ask the One who is never short on fresh ideas to show me a new angle, another dimension of truth, a divine revelation of the neverending depth of Love personified.

And this year, I was struck with the necessity of looking. Those shepherds would never have found the One who changed the course of their lives if they had not abandoned their work and went on a midnight treasure hunt. Wise men spent years poring over writings and watching the skies, and when all the signs lined up, they packed their bags and started on a lengthy journey to another part of the world, searching for someone they were sure was a King of the highest order.

Jesus is not always easy to find. You have to be looking, searching, wanting, longing, hungry for something of eternal worth. He does not parade His greatness or flaunt his authority. He waits to be recognized, and sometimes even hides himself for reasons I cannot fully understand. He appeared in unlikely places, in obscure locations, in situations where no one expected to find him. But those who were determined to find him, always did. Those who were content with the status quo, often busy with their systematic beliefs and traditions, all too often overlooked the beauty, mystery and simplicity walking right in front of them.

So this Christmas, I am choosing to bypass the obvious and instead, turn over a few rocks, pull back a curtain or two, and perhaps even gaze into the face of a stranger. What will I find?

"When you come looking for me, you'll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." God's Decree from Jeremiah 29 (the Message)

Friday, November 19, 2004

NO? YES!!!

I can be a very negative person sometimes. And I don't particularly like that character trait. Why does the first word out of my mouth so often turn out to be "No?" So today I decided to engage in an exercise of thankfulness and affection. An uncensored stream of words reflecting delight instead of disappointment. It goes something like this...
I like being able to run.
I like to jump.
I like the sun.
I like my car.
I like my cats.
I like eating.
I like to sleep.
I like breathing.
I like Dean.
I like talking to my cool friends far and near.
I like laughing without knowing why.
I like good stories.
I like learning new things.
I like a whole day in front of me with endless possibilities.
I like pretty skies.
I like loud thunder.
I like being warm.
I like being liked.
I like surprises.
I like to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste my world.
I like me.
I like you.
I like God who thought of something like "liking" in the first place.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Parlez vous...?

I am learning a new language. It is an exciting, challenging, frustrating, neverending process that leaves me ecstatic one moment when I understand a new phrase and feeling totally stupid the next when someone addresses me and I realize that I have no idea what came out of their mouth. What were those people of Babel thinking? Ever since that catastrophic building project we have had to live with miscommunication, misunderstanding, ignorance, lack of interaction, unresponsiveness, and alienation.

Children often ask, "What language does God speak?" I have heard it said that he speaks to each of us in our own language. How comforting, how convenient, how little effort required on my part. I don't need the universal translator of Star Trek fame to understand and communicate with God. The universal mediator, Jesus, is hard at work making me acceptable to God. The universal Spirit is hard at work making our prayers heard. The universal creator is hard at working communicating his love. And I just continue on in my ignorant state? I think not. If I truly am desirous of being known as a resident of the kingdom of God, and not just on a student visa, or a visitor's permit, or even with resident alien status, then perhaps it behoves me to learn the language and customs of the culture of God. Why? The look on my friends' faces when I utter a simple phrase in their native tongue is worth all the hours spent conjugating verbs, and I believe my childish utterances are removing the cursed tower of division known as Babel, one brick, one verb, one sentence at a time.

What language does God speak? I believe it is a divine, direct, diverse, pure, and unlimited expression of his very essence. Naturally it is way beyond my ability to understand, but supernaturally...well that is another matter. And how does one go about learning a new language? You submerse yourself in the sound, you surround yourself with the culture that defines the language, and you get a very good teacher.

Lesson #1. the verb "to be." Let us start by looking at "I AM."

Thursday, October 07, 2004

This is just a test...

If you could say just one word and the whole world would listen, what would it be?

Okay, I know I ask some pretty insanely ridiculous heavy-type questions in my head sometimes, and more than that, I actually think about them for hours and attempt to answer them as well. It seems to be a particular quirk of mine. Go ahead, try it, it doesn't hurt, and it may actually lead you to discover some cool things.

Soooo...let's see. That one word, can I have two? Please? Okay, since I am asking permission from myself, I will allow it because I am quite lenient and after all, not trying to take advantage of myself in any way. My first thought was "Fear not!" That's a cool one because angels say it a lot and so does God. So it must be important. But if all the fear were wiped out in the world, what would that really accomplish? We'd feel better and get more stuff done. Hmmm. Nice, but I want more. So, let's try something more positive, like "Love others." Now that's a pretty profound one, and if everyone in the world listened and did that, wow, I do think we would have a whole different scenario happening. I don't know if you can get something more effective than that. Really. So why does it still not feel like that's the thing that would come from my lips if I was honest; it just feels like the right answer that you give in Sunday School - true, but not something I have sweat over, cried out for, and hungered and thirsted for it to be evident every day in my life.

And what, exactly, would that be? That one thought that, if I could just get it through to people, I would be happy to expire from this earth, knowing that I had accomplished all I could hope for and all I was meant to, because those words would be the very essence of me. They would live on and speak of everything I had tried to accomplish, to change. Well, I know it's a bit of a hard task to boil it all down to such a small snapshot, I mean, even God has a whole collection of books to tell us what he deems to be important. But remember, it's just an exercise, something to challenge the mind; it is not the final exam on judgment day.

Okay, I just sat here for 15 minutes trying to come up with something and this is hard! But I did hear a phrase in my head that begins to come close to approaching what I think I might want to say...

There's more...

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

One Hour...

"Do not exchange one bondage for another and mistake it for freedom." That was a phrase that rang through my head at the end of my hour-long walk home from school today.

I like walking, especially when the sun is shining, the breeze gently blowing across my path, and I know there is an ice cold Diet Dr. Pepper waiting for me in the refrigerator when I get home. But mostly I like to walk because it is when I dialogue with God. I start things off with a question or comment, and away we go...we discuss issues, we argue about why things are not as they should be, or rather, not as I want them to be, I ask a lot of questions and wonder about a lot of situations, and sometimes I just listen. Often I talk out loud. I have even been known to weep, wail, and groan on occasion when words just did not seem adequate. So today I was asking why something I did that seemed like a good idea at the time with the most noble motivation, turned into an unhealthy obsession. And this phrase came into my mind, "Do not exchange one bondage for another and mistake it for freedom." Now somebody famous probably said that somewhere, sometime, so I am sorry if I am not giving anyone credit here, but all I know is that it applied to me.

There are a few things that are very precious to me, and clutching onto them tightly seems so much more secure than letting them go free; being surrounded by a small, familiar, predictable environment seems so much safer than the wide open field of boundless liberty; trying to manage (control) my circumstances seems like a wise move in order to ensure my well-being and ultimate happiness. Wrong! My most valuable treasures can in fact become idols blocking and distorting my view of truth and limiting my experience of the white-hot holy, jealous presence of God. What am I so afraid of that I will clutch onto anything BUT God? Or perhaps I will convince myself that I am clinging to God AND the precious, so that makes it okay. I have had to unclench my hands of some big things. Painful. All the more so because I saw how much I had relied on them to sustain me. There is only one source of life - Jesus said "I am the Life." Oh God, don't let me settle for any shiny substitutes.

I am glad I did not ask for a quick ride home after class, but instead, chose to take the long way home, for today I came an hour closer to freedom.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Things I want to learn from my cats...

1. Sometimes I get waaaay too serious about things. Enjoy the moment, be it the bug in the window or the ray of sunshine on the chair.
2. If you are hungry or in need, meow, and meow again, and don't stop meowing until the person who has the power to do something about it actually does something about it.
3. Cuddle, get close, lean against, sit on top of, lie stretched out on, and purr for the one you love.
4. Sitting next to someone for an hour just listening is a good way to spend an afternoon.
5. The dark is not a scary place. All you need is a tiny bit of light to see ahead of you.
6. Some things are worth getting up from a nap from, some are not. The secret is to be able to tell the difference.
7. Even though the dish is empty now, there will be food in it at supper time. There always is.
8. Don't get too comfortable in one position, change your perspective often.
9. There is a definite advantage to seeing things from above, get as high as you can.
10. You are responsible for your own cleanliness. Bathe often.
11. Never forget where the front door is.
12. Jump. Leap. Run. Tumble. Explore. There are an infinite number of hiding/sleeping/playing places in 1200 square feet.
13. Use your claws only if necessary.
14. Shedding is a part of life.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

playing with fire...

I started a small fire in my toaster oven this afternoon. It was no big deal. The flames soon subsided when they ran out of breadcrumbs and the only harm done was that my toast had that outdoorsy flame-broiled smoky taste which I didn't mind at all. It was a contained fire and caused no panic or fear in my life whatsoever.

How can the sight of such a powerful force only squeeze a bemused smirk from my face? Because it has not been unleashed. It is safely restricted to a small box and turned on and off at my convenience. It is tame. But fire, real raging fire! Now that's different! When I see that, I grab all my valuables, the two cats, and run!

Our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12), yet I find myself too often not impressed by his presence. Perhaps this is because I have relegated him to a nice safe distance. He serves a certain purpose, but I do not fall on my face in awe and fear everytime I sense him. Perhaps that is because his nearness is in reality, rather distant, and I feel more at ease without his hot breath on my neck. Yes, he is comforting; yes, he is loving; yes, he is a friend to sinners; yes, he is compassionate. But let us never forget he is holy. The very nature of fire is to consume everything it touches. We cannot suppose that we can come close to a holy God and not be affected: our frail humanity will be singed and any part of us that harbours evil will be totally obliterated. It is the mercy of God that we are not all consumed. I have become so accustomed to being clothed in mercy that I forget that underneath it all I am poor and naked and wretched. And afraid to come close.

They say that those who play with fire will get burned. I suppose if no one had ever played with fire, I would not be enjoying my toaster oven or my gas grill or my heating system today. Someone dared to come close, and changed the world. Why not me?

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

S*FFERING

Yes. It is a bit of a b*d word in our politically correct but spiritually stupid world. A sure conversation-staller or worse yet, due to a lack of understanding, a topic that can sometimes bring alienatation between good friends or cause even the most hopeful of us to succumb to the sigh and slump of a defeatist attitude. Even in religious circles where we all claim to adhere to the undeniable value inherent in that very thing, I find that we do our best to avoid it at every turn. We want to be successful, comfortable, happy, a wonderful and shining example of how Jesus can make your life so much better, so much fuller. Full of what??!?

I will venture to say that anything you have in your life right now that is of any real value came with some measure of s*ffering attached ot it. Think about it for a minute. I am. Marriage. Friendship. Children. Contentment. Healing. Joy. Love. Patience. Progress. Long Hair. Playing music. Writing a book. Peace. Winning a medal. Building a home. Abolishing slavery. Learning confidence. Walking. Strength. Authority. Faith. All these things do not come cheap! So I am determined to put the word back in my vocabulary and not flinch when I say it. Come on, you try it, too...s*ff-...ssuf-...suffe- (help me, Jesus!)...suffering!!

"Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want." from 1 Peter 4 (The Message)

Friday, August 27, 2004

I'M HUNGRY!!!

The cats woke me up at 5 am to remind me that breakfast was a mere 4 hours away and I must be sure not to miss this important event. There is something to be said for hunger...it is a persistent master.

Imagine your life without any pangs of emptiness to remind you to eat and no parched throat to make you reach for that glass of water. Come to think of it, what if there were no yawns and droopy eyelids to urge you to sleep, no bloated bladder to rush you to the bathroom for relief, no shivers and chills to ensure you put on a jacket and boots in winter, and no sharp pain to make you pull your hand away from the fire. All these sensations, some of them not the most pleasant, serve their purpose...to keep the body whole, healthy, functioning, growing, and alive.

I am forgetful. I forget to pray, I forget to make an effort to be kind, I forget to be thankful, I forget to repent, I forget to ask for miracles, and most often, I forget that God is really, really, truly in control and has promised to take very good care of me. Have you ever experienced an emptiness in your soul, a desire for brighter colors in the world around you, an ache for love, a ridiculous urge to be generous or show kindness to a stranger, or a need to sit and be still? These are spiritual hungers and thirsts; big and little reminders that are meant to drive me to action that will feed my spirit, that will change the atmosphere around me, and will ultimately result in infusing me with true life.

The cats got their breakfast at 8:53am, 7 minutes early, partly because I was tired of the meowing in my ear and the endless pacing past my head, but I must admit, to a large extent because I admired their relentless detemination not to miss out. Thanks to Jazz and Tea for being my reminders today.

What are YOU hungry for?

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Coping vs. Overcoming

I have been dealing with a frozen shoulder over the last year. It is not a pleasant condition, for your body just refuses to move in perfectly normal ways for its own undisclosed reasons. After much prayer, six months of treatment, determination, and continuing exercise, it started to move again. Thankfully, the only problem I have had in the past few months has been occasional stiffness which is relatively easy to work out.

The word I heard often in my discussions with my osteopath was ‘compensating.’ My body had been through some injury and overuse (which we were never able to pinpoint) and legitimately compensated for the inflammation by limiting movement in the affected joint. However, it got stuck in that coping mode, mistaking it for the new ‘normal’, and by its stubborn refusal to move, spread its atrophy and twisted way of doing things down into my ribcage. The chain reaction of coping and compensating became an immobilizing disability that tried to redefine how my body moved, or rather, force it to remain static. And it is a long process to convince the muscles and joints that, yes, they are capable of so much more; if they have done it before, they can do it again. I am sure you can see where I am going with this.

Because of the wretched state of our world, we all experience pain, trauma, and injury. And God has developed wonderful coping mechanisms that enable us to be protected while we heal, but we cannot let the coping BECOME our healing. It is a very poor substitute, and will result in the withering of an area that God has intended to be filled with life and movement instead of walled in and shut down. I am determined to pursue total healing. I do not want to stop short, even when my body or emotions or will say it is impossible to go any further because the trauma has changed everything. I will let the creator be the definer of ‘normal’, not my experience. He said I could be more than an overcomer and I will settle for nothing less, for he who made me is abundantly able to sustain, repair, heal, and invigorate my being. He is life.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Hope

It is more than a wish.
It is stronger than a desire or longing.
It draws my soul to things greater than myself and my small existence and dares to dream bigger than life.
Hope does not get tired of the wait or disappointed at the current state of things.
Hope makes you turn your eyes from the ground where you are plodding to the sky where you want to be flying.
Where do you go to get hope? I can't pull it up from within me, I must ask God for it.
But it is a gift that requires discipline to maintain.
So what kind of day is today?
Is it a day where I partake of the gift of hope as I sense it in abundance around me, or is it a day when I must fight to keep it alive?
Whether is it easy or hard is not the point. Is it right, is it true, is it honorable, is it loving, is it worth it?
Then just do it. Don't give up!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

PURPOSE

This has been an interesting season for me. In the last four months my identity has shifted somewhat as I have endeavoured to get back to the person God had in mind when he created me. Somewhere along the way I managed to deviate from that true and simple path – it happens to the best of us. We encounter people who reject us, situations that disappoint us, and dreams that seem inappropriate and unattainable when we look at our present state or surroundings. So we adjust, and add, and subtract, and tweak and finally come up with a way of living that will allow us to function reasonably well with minimum discomfort and only the occasional twinge of guilt. But, thank God, he was not willing to let me stay in my carefully constructed lifestyle adapted to fit the demands of the world. Instead, he challenged me to cultivate the high calling of being a child made in the image of God and to live by the principles of the kingdom of heaven instead of earth.

One of the side effects of this undressing has been a sense of un-belonging, of not knowing how or where I fit in anymore, especially in the area of being a productive member of society. So one Sunday as I was taking the cat for a walk in the park (yes, I have trained my cat to walk on a leash, and we do get quite a few looks!), I asked God what my purpose was. The last few weeks had seemed empty and two-dimensional as I grappled with my desire to make a world-changing contribution in my lifetime and yet could think of no way in which that would be remotely possible at this point. And the immediate answer that came to me was, “Enjoy the moment.” I repeated the phrase to myself several times before I began to understand what it meant. By seeking that one, illusive, great thing that I must do in my life, I have relegated any of my experience and my time that does not fit into that narrow category to the realm of unimportant. I have become a time-killer, always in a perpetual waiting room counting the minutes until my appointment with destiny, and the passivity that this mindset has allowed to sprout in my soul is downright crippling!

Enjoy the moment! Every day, every minute, every second is a gift from God, never to cross my path again. These are the building blocks for incredible things down the road if I will just seize them and appropriate their unique offering into the grand scheme of things. This moment matters, I dare not waste it. And what did I want to do at that moment in the park? I longed to resurrect all those old, childish dreams and heartfelt desires that seemed so silly to the worldly wise, and take a good look at them to see if there was any hope left. And when I looked at them with the eyes of a child who knows nothing is impossible instead of a cynical adult who has seen too much disappointment and pain, those dreams and desires quickly awakened as if the hibernation had never happened.

What is the wildest, most imaginative dream you had as a child? What is the craziest, most wonderful thing you could imagine God making out of your life? What is the thing that would make every molecule in your body and soul tingle with life? Grab onto it, plant it deep in your spirit, offer it to the Creator to breathe life into, and don’t turn back. I am making a list: at the top, I am writing all of those improbable things that are not impossible after all when you know Someone incredibly powerful; and beneath that I am listing anything and everything I can do in the next few months to get closer to seeing these things come true. If I want to see people healed from every disease, I must find the sick and begin praying for them. If I want to write a book that will change the world, I must begin to set aside a few hours every day to write. If I want to become a philanthropist, I must look for opportunities to be extravagantly generous with what I have now. Enjoy the moment. Suck every bit of life that you can out of every second that God has given you. Make each day count. Invest yourself into things that mean the most to you, the things that excite you, that make you giddy with joy when you think of the possibilities, or that wring tears of hot emotion from your eyes when you realize how precious they are.

So if life seems a little flat and unremarkable lately, why not ask God, “What is my purpose?” and then listen for that still, small voice that resonates deep inside you; or perhaps it will be a thundering shout that shakes your whole world. Let the words of the Father once again define who you are; let him call you by your name and tell you what it means. Let the adventure begin again…

“I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out--plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. When you come looking for me, you'll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed. - God's Decree from Jeremiah 29 (The Message)