Category Archives: Christian

Tohu-Bohu

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Today, August 5th 2015.  In the midst of drought both external and internal, I place my pen to the page and I write for water.  I write standing in the cracked river bed of belief and search for the truth that remains when barrenness has gripped the heart.

I write for wellsprings of promise, wells of heritage, rivers that don’t run dry, I write in desperate thirst for truth.

I write to create something from nothing.  Tohu-Bohu….out of nothing something

 Genesis 1: 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

 

tohu wa bohu: Numerous interpretations of this phrase were made by various theological sources, though it is usually translated as “waste and void,” “formless and empty,” or “chaos and desolation.”–Wikipedia

I believe that in the midst of the swirling pain of blackness you are ready to speak light.  So I hold on and listen to my life.  I listen to the rhythms of ebb and flow. I listen for the brush of angel wings and the sound of the dove.  I listen for the hurricane and the thunder.  You will not leave me formless and void.  

Living On The Circumference

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”  The recognition that one’s life is meant to be lived from the inside out is a milepost on our spiritual journey.  In a society which lays such great stress on outward appearances, labels and symbols of success it will take an earnest concentration on our part to free ourselves from this highly touted living on the circumference. “–Bob Benson, Disciplines For The Inner Life

Living on the circumference.

By definition:  the enclosing boundary of a curved geometric figure, especially a circle.

By association:  synonyms:  perimeter, border, boundary, edge, rim, verge, margin, fringe
By etymology:  This word comes from the Latin, it means to carry, or bear around or about…
As I sit gazing at these words, I realize I am beholding the place where lepers dwell.  The social misfits, the spiritual outcasts, the religiously impure, the broken bodies, minds, spirits of the strangers… the ones no one gets…the angry ones.  The deeply soul sad, the fearful and cautious ones who look for stones behind every passing cloak.  The thought comes to me of Yeshua The Rabbi’s response to the walking dead.  What was His interpretation of Leviticus?

The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, `Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp.

Leviticus 13: 45-56

Matthew 11:28-30The Message (MSG)

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

 Grief can make you live on the circumference.  Feeling like an electron slowly moving around a nucleus of sorrow that won’t let you go.  Pulling you ever inward.  I am discovering in my orbit an internal language for loss.  I never knew such words or phrases existed until I found myself walking ragged through the ashes.
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and again:
saudade
 I turn to the Rabbi’s invitation and question whether it is for me.  What is the garment of mourning supposed to “fit” like?  at the moment it is tight and constricting and I can’t breathe most days.  But I can’t take it off.  It is like being strapped into a dress that the zipper has broken on.  To tight to go over your head, to small to slide over the hips. Only way out is the scissors-but the price tag keeps my hands at bay…I have paid so much for this dress.
No one ever told me that grief would feel so much like fear.

The Way Of The Pierced

 Religious contentment is the enemy of the spiritual life always. The biographies of the saints teach that the way to spiritual greatness has always been through much suffering and inward pain. The phrase, “the way of the cross,” though it has come in certain circles to denote something very beautiful, even enjoyable, still means to the real Christian what it has always meant, the way of rejection and loss. No one ever enjoyed a cross, just as no one ever enjoyed a gallows.—A.W.Tozer

Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.Matthew 10:38

Not worthy.  Anyone who is not beaten, bruised and bloodied in this life….is not worthy.  Now there is something to consider.  How often do we base our ‘worthiness’ to partake of the table of the Lord, to share in His Kingdom, to minister to his Body, on things like, past sin, current failings, poor choices, lack of credentials, lack of affirmation, wrong color, shape, size, gender.  Here it would seem the qualifications have nothing to do with accomplishments or lack thereof, and having everything to do with a choice to live a pierced life.   To make the choice to pick up the rejection and loss and carry it with faith to towards the one who bore it all.  To follow the lead of the shepherd of the cross even if it means, as it did for the 21 Christians who faced the gallows of the Islamic knife recently, to lay our very life down in the following.  As I begin this Lenten season, I am looking at my hands…are they smooth?  Or do I have splinters from the carrying?5-simon-of-cyreania-helps-jesus-carry-the-cross

Waiting For You

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Dedicated to the mothers of daughters, waiting by windows

Tonight,

A circle of heart

Mothering,

Wet tears falling,

Threatening to become an ocean

No one caring,

Linking arms to stay afloat-

All for you.

You. 

You who are every daughter lost-

To the needle

The pill,

The lovers,

The lights-

The darkness.

We wept for every daughter dream

We dreamed for you

When you were catching butterflies,

Or fly balls

Or air over the hurdles.

You.

You who fill our nights with aching memory of laughter

A sound of innocence taken too soon.

We prayed for you.

We prayed for us.

You are us.

We rattled dungeon doors tonight with mother love,

Sent an ocean to cover a desert

We wait now by the lamp post,

Expecting. 

Expecting you.

-Christina Dammerman

The Dangerous Prayer

I experienced the dangerous prayer last night.  You know, the prayer that begins:  “God, set her free…”  Freedom is messy.  You start inviting people out of dungeons of shame, and caves of guilt and into the radiance of identity in Christ…there will be some heaving and trembling, anger, laughter and a lot of tears. We get uncomfortable with that.  Sure we want freedom we say, but the process?  That should be relegated to behind closed doors, not in the public assembly of the righteous.  It is too clumsy, and makes us feel strange and unsure.  Or is it that when the Liberator breaks into the bondage, and the soul is invited into life, the Soul is seen in all of its imperfections and celebrated that we question our geography?  Are WE free?  are We alive?   I am amazed as I look at what God says about it, in the life of his Son.  He wasn’t afraid of getting messy.  He wasn’t afraid of poor public opinion polls from his crusades as a result of letting a woman wash his feet with her tears, and undo her hair to use as a towel. He doesn’t pull her aside and question her motives, or her actions.  He accepts the lavish outpouring of love from a heart once enslaved. He wasn’t too overly concerned with dressing the part of preacher when children romped around him destroying his freshly pressed robed because they insisted on sitting in his lap and touching his hair.  They hadn’t really been allowed to play in the hallowed halls of religion, so “The Delight of Torah” came to them on the grassy fields where lambs were raised.  It seems this Son of Heaven that only did what Dad told him to, or only said what he overheard Dad saying was constantly banging on cell doors, and moving boulders every where he went.  He wasn’t ashamed of tears, or emotion, or joy or awkward attempts at displays of affection, he let people come to him in all of their mess and he celebrated the movements of the heart from death unto life.  His inaugural message to the world he had come to save was in answer to the question his Dad had asked of the prophet:  What is it like when I fast?

free   Isa 58:6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

In The Empty Moments

Thinking tonight about the empty moments.   You know, those  time-scapes where you are truly alone with yourself. What we do with ourselves in those times are very telling.  Are they filled with accusation?  Shame? Guilt? I am watching those I love process a life lived full and yet, they sit in empty silence, and the echoes are driving them mad….I have often read and re-read this poem by Oriah called:  The Invitation.  Tonight I find myself wandering in the words again, as I am praying for my Dad who is losing touch with today, and stuck in the pain of past hurts and poor choices and soul woundings.  I ache to reach inside and help him out, all the while longing for the silver moon of my youth when I could stand in it’s light and shout” Yes” to the pale glow and know that I am ….and that is enough. I share these words with you tonight, perhaps you too are wandering.  May they bring you comfort and light, and a sense of being.  Thank you Oriah Mountain Dreamer, for penning these words and touching my soul with truth sparks for the darkness.

The Invitation by Oriahwoman-with-moon1
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

A Place Prepared

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I am sitting here in the overflow of a beautiful encounter with the heart of God.  Over 100 men and women gathered in our small sanctuary to sit before the Lord and hear him sing over us.  So many hands prepared food, and tables, wiped tears and held up the weak.  Hands that lay limp were gathered into hands that had felt the strength of the waiting…the Kabod…the glorious intertwining of God, and…we…waited.  We waited and were woven as individual threads in a grand tapestry of grace.  It was then that I heard it, ” I go to prepare a place for you”.  Abba is all about space, all about place and placement.  In his upside-down inside-out kingdom where the wisdom of this world is foolishness, and the weak are strong, he has made room for me, in him and through him.  Room to live out of his life and into the everyday in vibrant abundant joy.

Lord, help me to go with you to the caverns of my heart and let you fill the empty places with all of you, that my life might be a place prepared for the fullness of your love.

Burning Boxes

Mar 8:37  

For what can a man give in return for his soul?

Yesterday we burned the past.  Box after box was hauled from the back porch to the burn pile.   Boxes we had crated and stored with every move we have made.  Boxes of lives we were a part of, dreams we helped build. Boxes of stories.

The Gardener and I gazed through the smoke reading the bittersweet expressions on each other’s faces as years of our lives and hundreds of thousands of hours were emptied onto the flames.  Bittersweet.  Bitter because of the demands our business put on our relationship, our parenting, our friendships.  Bitter because of the chasing of fame, and fortune which consumed so many of our days now reduced to dust.  Bitter the reality of poor choices made, compromises considered, risks taken so costly.   Bitter the yearning for opulence and the clanging of coins in the purse.

Yet, sweet in a melancholy sort of way. Sweet the way hearts were turned into homes.  Sweet the talents and gifts of skilled hands, loyal laborers, artisan craftsman.  Sweet the way we helped a community to prosper and flourish and change.  Sweet the strength of vision and the longing for place.  It was just the wrong place.

As I sat under the candlelight of the evenings Lent service, the words of Mark 7 echoed through me.  I realized there is nothing I would give, no treasure that would tempt me from this place of soul.  There was nothing this world could offer me to trade for this new Shalom.  Though I am poorer in state than in the days of the boxes, I am richer in presence.  Richer in love. Richer in peace and vision.  I have pulled up the stake, and followed hard after the lover of my soul.  I do not long for the boxed life.  The life that was eaten by strangers, and given to other people’s children in the worship of culture, and power, and greed.  I long for my soul to be broken bread and poured out wine in the ministry of life-the life of Christ.

The boxes are still smoldering tonight.  It seems the boxed life does not die easily.  I think I will go stir the pile and resurrect the flame.  I think I will smile at the edge of the ashes.  Smile at the choice to not trade the freedom of living this God breathed authentic moment for any gilded box of earthly treasure.

You oh Lord are the anchor of my soul.  In you I delight.  In you I will never be put to shame.  Hold me close to your heart in these days to the cross.  Hold me as I gaze upon your choice and love you in the midst of suffering.

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Sifted

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,
 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Luke 22:31-32 ESV

I have been sifted.  I know the Riddler’s voice in my head.

“You aren’t strong enough, brave enough, good enough, righteous enough, you aren’t enough.  No one sees, hears, knows, cares, loves you.  He doesn’t love you…He isn’t even real.  What if this is all a lie?  What if this is all there is?  What if they are right? What if you are alone? How could a good God-”

I know what it is to stare at a black canyon at midnight at 70 mph.  I know what it is to not believe the spark of life inside of me is worth fanning into flame. I know what it means to take my hands off the wheel and just quit.  I know the selfishness of self-absorption.

I know what it is to make grand declarations of allegiance to a Savior I wasn’t so sure I would die for.  I know what it is to wrestle with the whisper of “is this real” and “is there really a God who loves you anyway?”  I know what it is like to run away from the fellowship of hand warming when a babe questioned my walk. I know Peter, he is my brother.

“…but I have prayed for you”

Those words.  Some of the most powerful words to encounter my life became for me a living stone.  A God made flesh, incarnation of love in me reality.  A memorial of the way I was spoken back into existence and caused to stand upon feet firm and solid in faith.   He prayed for me.  My Intercessor asked for me to receive strength to not lose heart. To not give up. To find true faith. He made a way in me to Him in the middle of the dark forest of my wandering. Because he scattered crumbs from the table of his presence I did not die in my rebellion. When I was his enemy, he fed me. He prayed for me.

“and when you have turned again-“

I know what it is like to have sunlight pierce midnight.  To have words form inside of my spirit blast against darkness.  I know what it is like to hear the footsteps of love approach my wretchedness and  transform the hanging ropes of despair into ribbons of grace.  I know what it is to come groping into the light blindly waving my hands in front of my face to catch my stumbling steps, only to feel the steady grip of acceptance upon my shoulder.

“strengthen your brethren”

Can you really heal wounds if you yourself have never bled? Can you give hope when you know nothing of darkness or the pressure of the sieve? Can you lead anyone if you yourself have not turned resolutely to life? Can you teach anyone to pray, having not felt the posture of humility before the greatness of His love? Can you war, if you have never lost?

I know the sound of tempered steel.  I know what it is to be weighed on the proving grounds, and waged in battle.  I know now the treasure of  whom I have believed.  I know the way of narrowness and I have light for midnight. I know the fight of faith is a good one, a noble race run. I am at last able to say, I follow Christ because I know Him.  I know as I have been known.  He lives in me. I live in Him. I know the life I live is not my own, and I know he will finish what he has started in me.  Be of good cheer, He has overcome the world.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 ESV

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Kidron Crossing

John 17:26

I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” ESV

And when he had spoken these words, the clock by which he lived his days tolled midnight for his soul and he arose immediately.  The days of “the hour is not yet, my time has not come” were over.  Now was the hour at hand.  Now was the moment when the cup was delivered into his hands. In this place, as the moments of his Passion begin, he prays that love would remain in them.  He knows that darkness can rob a person of love, that tonight the hearts of many would grow cold, and they would betray each other-unto death.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. John 18:1 ESV

To my casual glance this is just sensory details, setting the scenes to come in place and environment, but the wind of the Spirit blows around these words and I am drawn to enter the setting.  Why here?   Why this place?

Because it is family property.  It is a familiar place of suffering in the lineage of our Lord.  David, King of Israel crossed here, barefoot ,weeping and running like a criminal from his own son.  Tears streaming from his eyes, his heart aching with betrayal and loss wondering if he will ever see Jerusalem again he crosses this brook to the Mount of Olives.

Now, The Son of David, crosses this same brook as the full moon of Passover shines upon him.  He too has been betrayed, about to be led from Jerusalem.  He turns his face to this crossing over as the battle to drink the cup the Father has prepared begins.  Deep anguish will pierce his soul, but there is not a company to weep with him.  He is alone.  His companions are asleep.  Above him on the Mount of Olives are two cedar trees, under which according to the historian Westcott, four shops are located where the sale of objects legally pure, and enough pigeons for the sacrifices of all Israel would put coins in the priests pockets.  He writes:

“Even the mention of Kidron by the secondary and popular name of ‘the ravine of the cedars’ may contain an allusion to a scandal felt as a grievous burden at the time when the priests gained wealth by the sale of victims by the two cedars.”

 

The Lamb of God sold for thirty pieces of silver prostrates himself before the King of Heaven for the eternal profit of all who would believe in him.  When the blood has spilled upon the ground and his will is weaned and quiet, He rises to the sound of the approaching mob, and declares his identity with all the authority of son-ship. “IAM HE”!  The soldiers fall to the ground and the Lamb gives himself into their hands.

I leave this passage with questions.  How do I view those who accuse my standing before God?  Do I see them as instruments in the hands of a loving Father crafting in me the quality of son-ship? Or do I like Peter, grab for swords and begin to violently swing at ears, and eyes and noses? Worse yet, do I shrink back from the direct inquiry of my life, denying such close proximity to the radical God made flesh, who threatens every establishment that hinders perfect love?

Oh Father.  Keep me steady as I face my own Kidron.  Hold me close to the cross, let me not be ashamed of the sufferings of Christ, but rather may I glory in my bonds. May I say with zeal and truth in the inward man:  I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…and the life I now live…I live by FAITH, in the Son of Man.