Category Archives: Religion

I Pledge Allegiance-

I pledge allegiance to the Lord

Who gave his life for mine,

Who receives the sinner’s broken plea

And makes his face to shine.

I pledge allegiance, to the Lord

Who lives to intercede,

Who shields the smoldering, flaxen heart

Not breaking the bruised reed.

I pledge allegiance to the Lord

The King of Justice, Truth and Love,

Who calls the weary to find their rest

Declaring us Beloved.

I pledge allegiance to the Lord

Whose reign will never end

Whose anthem dispels the darkest fear,

Whose voice the heavens  rend.

Come Lord Savior, King Sovereign

Bring peace to this fractured land,

Lead us into life eternal

By your great and mighty hand.

–Christina Dammerman 2016

 

 

 

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The Sum of 77 years

I added up my mother’s life today.  Tearfully categorizing piles of cancelled checks into tax deductions, filing her worldly identity into a plain manila envelope.  It should have been pink, or turquoise or purple.  Her life was so full of color and sass and passion that the last years seem to be a dim reminder of the vibrancy that followed her. Yet, in the midst of a life haunted by sickness and chained to insurance premiums, was a powerful stack of receipts with the memo:  “For the poor widow of Israel”

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.–James 1:27

There in her shaky handwriting lay moments of worship as she paused to consider others in their plight of distress.  Worship as she reached across the world to bring another woman aching the loss of love and laughter and marriage a warm smile, and a shoulder.  Her small offerings each memo-ed with care and intentionality.   “for the poor widow…of Israel”

She believed The Lord when he said of his friend Abraham from whom his people Israel would come :  ” I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you ” Genesis 12:3

I sat there staring at the pages and realized with pride, my mother practiced pure,faultless religion.  This revelation would have brought her great joy I think.   She lived so much of her life in shame and fear trying so hard to please everyone and her God.  How fitting that this tender act of monthly mercy, unseen and unsung would be what the Lord would highlight to me as the summation of her 77 years.

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We Are All Just Squatters-

You know how everyone is always telling you to listen for God in the everyday?  You know in the grandeur of a sunset, the promise of a sunrise, the awe of a storm, the gentle whisper after the rain?  Well, the other day, I got yelled at by the chicken lady.  She waved her arms and shook her stick at me as I maneuvered past her hundred chickens trying to cross the road.

“Slow DOWN!”

I wasn’t driving fast, the chickens were just walking slow.

They say she is just squatting there, that she doesn’t really own the place, she is carving out a life off the grid from an abandoned trailer and an old camper, a dog on a chain and at least a hundred chickens.  It must be like Easter every day come egg collecting time.   She held off the wild fire this summer, and refused to leave her plot of earth.  Brave, or   desperate?  I smile politely waving at her angry face and chuckling at the chicken jokes in my head when it hit me.  God just yelled at me in the face of the chicken lady.

“Slow…Down!”

I have been on the run lately, finding it much easier to busy myself with stuff, and plans and doing, than to sit quietly in my sorrow and learn how to walk in the empty spaces.  I took a deep breath and told myself the truth.

“You have lost both of your parents in a matter of months, you have permission to grieve.  You can’t run from this.”

The tears came then as I felt the weight of their absence and the weight of my existence.  The longing to share moments, and jokes, and how Dad would love the chicken lady.   I could hear the Holy Spirit nudge me to re-examine the encounter.   We are all just squatters here really. The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, and this is not our home, not really.  We may be brave and we may be desperate but we are all looking for the eternal city where  The Lamb is the light.    Mom and Dad are citizens finally.  No longer wanderers in a world full of hardships, toil, and lack.  It is my time to sojourn and leave the plots of earth better than the abandoned wrecks I found them.  I am to make my space matter in the moments of Earth time I am given.  Love carries on.  Nothing else.

I am the squatter now, herding my chickens off the road so some clueless motorist doesn’t smack them with the front end of their vehicle while driving blindly past a lesson from God.

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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.

 

Psalm Of The Branch

He said-

 “I am the true vine,

and my Father is the vinedresser”.

She Said-

Hear my cry to understand the dressing of the vine.

The Son who through obedience learned-

“Your will Father, never mine!”

He said-

” Every branch in me

that does not bear fruit

he takes away, and every branch

that does bear fruit he prunes,

that it may bear more fruit. ” 

She Said-

Hear the heart that yearns toward fruit

Teach me the way to drink from the root.

I am the branch, you are the vine

I am the cup  you are the wine.

He said-

 “Abide in me, and I in you.

As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself,

unless it abides in the vine,

neither can you,

unless you abide in me.”

She Said-

Hold me fast to your flaming heart

Bind me close, that I depart

never from your living side

Always, ever to abide.

 

-Christina Dammerman (c) 2014

*John 15:1-4 ESV

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