The Wind Is Coming

“The wind is You, every shade of cool and hot. The wind is You, every brush of breeze or gust, and I, sitting here (sort of sweating but not quite) breathing in/ breathing out nothing other than You.”

 

We’re in that time of year (September) when summer is drifting ever so slowly away into the past and the fall, an impending storm of wind and change from frivolity into slumber, has yet to show its face. I’m reminded of this by the pile of dead, brown leaves strewn out along a street I drove past this morning. Fall is approaching but we won’t see it until the signs are already there.

One day soon, I’ll awake to the trees already seemingly days into their transformation, and I’ll have read the “signs of the times” in the leaves and refreshingly cool gusts of winds after the fact. Experience has taught me that despite my diligence and desire, fall will begin its transformation without me, and I’ll be a little disappointed in myself.

So, I take a moment and think, “what else will I miss?,” or “what else have I missed?” The presence of the Holy Spirit, the giver of peace, can’t be seen but can be felt or maybe more accurately, noticed. I want it in a larger way than I even want to see the beginning of fall. Yet, watching for it doesn’t improve my chances. What I’m getting at here is what CS Lewis calls “the surprise of joy” and what I’ve called in other places “joy out of nowhere,” that surprising moment when the presence of the Spirit, which was already there comes to my attention. Like the fall in full force, there’s that moment when the Wind blows and my whole mind and spirit has a freshness blown into it.

This is not a “teaching moment.” I can’t teach myself, let alone others, how to anticipate this gift. I’m always surprised by it and it rarely lasts for long but it reminds me that I’m not alone. I guess it’s the first few hints of fall that has me thinking and anticipating that which I can’t capture. The Spirit is as untamed as the wolf roaming the outskirts of town, and there’s no point in trying to capture it. What I can do is pray, reflect, and read the Word, and I can rest in knowing that once again, the wind will come and refresh me whether I happen to see it coming or not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

God Is Mercy

Today. This evening, I wonder at the words of Martin Luther, who cried out in surprise and joy when he first unlocked the truth, “God must be mercy, God is mercy!”

“Yes, God is mercy,” whispers an eternal breeze blowing through walls and souls so quiet and easily one can miss it. If the will of God is unstoppable and Jesus came to set the prisoners free and our captivity is sin and death and the will of God is supreme, then “God is Love” must mean some thing unbreakable.

Just what did He do for those three days underneath the as of yet unrolled away stone? He did not ascend to the Father, that came later. He did not go to Starbucks for coffee.

If to obey the command to relax rests on the grand notion “that the truth will be preached to all prisoners,” then can we not believe all the legalists wrong? New Pharisees return to the law like a dog returns to its vomit, and forget that Christ died to kill sin and death once and for all. And yet, I sit here questioning the mercy of God. No, not questioning maybe more asking for justification, which of course, I want on my terms.

“God loves me, but He doesn’t like me.” I don’t think it’s my voice (even though its sounds familiar) that repeats these lines over and over at the most inopportune times.

“When I am weak, He is strong.” At this moment, I think I know what this phrase means. When I feel most weak in spirit when my flesh aches to be held, to be caressed and comforted, I’m often overtaken with a warmth flowing over me that I can’t explain. A supernatural warmth that comforts as if unseen arms sense the cold wind of descent and slumber, encouraging me to embrace despair.

It feels like a sort of holy invasion. Not like the wages of sin are death but like the gift of God is grace, not eternal sleep but eternal life, not like God is hate like the New Pharisees tell me but like God is love like holy men tell me over and over that “God is mercy.”

 

 

 

An Appeal To Desire

Before time began, or rather before what we call time, a vast black void filled space, a place called Chaos by makers of myth, desire drove God to speak light into dark.

All that we know, night & day, water & land, beast of ground & air, man & woman, life & death, good & evil co- exist. Some should and some should not. Night & day, partners keeping time, help those few who notice such things take note of its passing, or rather its moving forward.

Man & woman, ah yes, man & woman desire many things. Often each other. On occasions poets call poetic, one particular man desires a particular woman who, by fate or chance, or whatever it may be called, happens to feel desire for that one particular man who desires her, and that is the circle called love.

God became man to reconcile himself to Man. If that claim is the highest crest of love (and it is) then the Passion Play needs no other name. If an artist desires to take on the guise of his art to walk among his art, will he not laugh & cry (as it does) will he not fix & teach, lead & preach? Will he not then desire that the love he gives be returned?

If we follow the Lord because desire compels us to, out of love, then we will, feeling somehow that to laugh & love is real, real in a sense that chance existence is not, in a sense magnified by the surprise of joy. The Lord our God, who made the rules, who put the color on the dark canvass, who appealed to our better nature, on the cross, then later, in the resurrection, for our reconciliation, leaves us with one unopposable conclusion: that He is a God of desire.

 

The Old Bone Revival

“You can feel the breeze as it stings blood shot eyes, squinting in the desert wind, though cool against hair attached to sun burnt skin. You know it is there beyond the haze of floating sand particles agitated at the arrogance of the wind disturbing their rest. The cold of moonlit, cloudless nights brought sleep like death for days on end to the bones of those who accepted its offer. But the Wind!, who like prophecy, fills the land with an expectancy of Pentecost, does not care. Dust, wet with the changing air, marries dust. You can feel it.”

I’m thinking, today, about how many of the psalms were lamentations of pain, frustration, and despair. It’s OK to show that side of ourselves to God. Someone once noted that the psalms always have a happy ending.* The interpretation here is that no matter what: everything’s OK! But a day or moment in my life is not a song or psalm with a set beginning or end. The story will continue on.

Yes, there is a happy conclusion to this journey if we stay the course but days don’t always end up happy nor do many of our experiences. Dry bones will will be revived, metaphorically speaking, when we meet our Savior in the sky at the end of the story (read about it in the epistles of St. Paul). To use another image, this wilderness I’m walking through doesn’t promise a happy end to my life on Earth or even an occasional happy trail. It merely promises to block or hinder my journey any way it can.

There are days, let’s admit it, that we’ll go to sleep without the happy conclusion having arrived or even the happy moment, the joy out of nowhere, as I’ve referred to it elsewhere. This is one of those days for me. Sometimes the bones feel so dry and brittle it takes all my effort to keep moving toward the revival of body, mind, and soul I’ve been promised but can’t yet see. Some days, the wind just doesn’t seem to be blowing. At least I can’t feel it for any number of reasons.

This is not the end to a happy day, nor an ending at all, it’s another day in the battle of our lives. I do feel strong enough to admit it and accept that its part of the war we find ourselves in. Tomorrow, I may wake to the caressing of a refreshing wind, or I may not… but the journey continues. I am the Runner,** and no matter how weary I get or how cold the dark of the wilderness becomes, I will continue to run the path I am on. Even if it feels more like a stubborn determination than a rallying cry.

 

*Incorrectly, I found out later.

 

 

 

Anyone Interested In Taking A Walk?

“The moonlight arrives late in the long, hot days of August. There is that often unnoticed world between sundown and starlight called dusk where deer and other night creatures dare to emerge from forest and foxholes to watch the sunset with poets, prophets, and lovers. They come in silence, alone not alone, to the edge of what we call the civilized world: a land of traffic lights and flashing neon signs.”

I’m thinking about journeys right now. It’s really just one journey we’re on, though. We’re heading somewhere. The question is will we all end at the same destination?

Sometimes, I relish in the fact that it seems like it’s just J and me on this journey. But that’s kind of selfish. OK, not so much selfish as there is nothing wrong with having quality time with someone you love. Still, I didn’t start writing this to talk about my quality time with J.

I’m on this journey, with all the love, drama, adventure, and even comedy that comes with it, and I want everyone to join me. I don’t have any profound words right at this moment to convince those not on this journey but it’s important. We’re all on a journey heading toward the end of an adventure. What if we had a chance to end that journey at the same place? That could only mean joy for all, right? I believe in that destination (see my blog “What The Heaven?” even though I don’t think much about it because the journey itself demands most of my attention.

Today, it’s on my mind again: the journey I’m on and my desire to share that journey with others. Not the day to day struggles and victories, though I think we don’t want to go through them alone, but the grander experience. The experience that is not only the feeling that there is something bigger going on here but the knowing that something bigger is going on here. I think I will end here if for no other reason than that day to day obligations are calling, and also, I don’t want to ramble on (too much). The weekend is upon us, and if nothing else, I have given myself some homework to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Baseball Metaphor

The much welcomed rainstorm, though ephemeral, lasted long enough take the sting off of the heat of the afternoon. The sun, though actually heading in the opposite direction of the rain clouds, has reemerged with a more early spring like feeling in the air. It has brought with it a literal lazy, hazy Sunday afternoon as well and the day’s in danger of slipping away.

Meanwhile, I heard a great sermon this morning from Pastor Dave. I really wish I could channel just a portion of the excitement he brings with him wherever he goes. Why? Because there seems to be a certain amount of energy I need to feel in order to feel like I can accomplish something other than laundry. It’s a voice that says, “work on it tomorrow when you’ve got more time and desire to get something done.”

I’m not a big baseball fan, but I’m familiar with the term “trying to hit one out of the park every time.” That’s a problem/ desire I can relate to quite frankly. I have two ideas for blogs that I’m looking forward to writing/exploring from what I heard/learned this morning in Pastor Dave’s sermon. But I’m tired, and the clock is ticking, and hitting a feeble single doesn’t seem worth the time to bother with. And I don’t want to strike out swinging, either!

The monster called Apathy is throwing knuckle balls at me, trying to force me out of the inning. That’s fine. The rain delay was refreshing, and I’m leaving soon to have dinner with a friend who is one of my spiritual strength and conditioning coaches. The day is not lost because training (ie church, fellowship, the Word, etc) helps me to be stronger when it’s imperative that I have to step up to the plate and deliver for myself or someone else.

The great home run hitters like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and so on didn’t hit home runs every game or even every week, I’m sure. Even without checking their career stats, I can be sure they played a lot games and made impacts at different levels in those games where they didn’t hit a home run or even get a hit at all. They’re remembered by history for the number of homers they hit but they’re Hall of Fame members because they gave all they had to the game even when there was no glory to be had for hitting singles or making a routine play with their gloves. It’s the unnoticed routine plays that prepared them to make the big plays when called upon.

How does this fit my walk of faith? It’s been said elsewhere that character is defined as “doing the right thing when no one is looking.” I think there’s a lot of truth in that statement. Doing the little, or rather, little noticed things that are a part of our faith, like loving others, striving not to sin, just live a life of commitment makes us strong enough, or prepares us, when we are called to do the greater things. Keep swinging and a midst all the singles, the occasional ball will find its way out of the park. Not when I’m swinging for the fences necessarily but when that home run is needed for someone else even if to my eyes it merely looked like a blooper to left field.

Calling Hungry

A week or so ago, I woke up from a dream where I was writing a song called “Calling Hungry.” That’s happened to me before, both in dreams and when awake, I’ll hear what I think is potentially a great song in my head, and I end up disappointed because I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever. Fortunately, some friends of mine who do have that talent have turned a few of my poems into songs, so I guess I can call myself a songwriter. I also had the good fortune to collaborate with a guy, whom I would call a “musical mad genius” to create a progressive rock concept CD, The Eyes Of Ezekiel, back in 2009.

“Calling Hungry” the song will likely never get written but the idea won’t quite leave me alone. In my dream, I was trying to decide whether it was a romantic song or song of faith. Now that I’ve had some time to think about what it’s getting at, it feels kind of like a psalm. I feel like I’ve been running through the kind of dark forest we read about as kids in the old fables and fantasies for sometime now and can’t seem to find my way of escaping.

Yes, there are those days when the sun breaks through and brings some respite from the trials and tribulations that come with living a life that is opposed, but those days seem rare right now.

“Calling Hungry.” That’s what I’m doing when I’m reaching or calling out to J as I run through or from the wilderness. I know I can’t make it to the end of the race on

my own. CS Lewis wrote somewhere (probably Mere Christianity) that God is the fuel we were designed to run on. If we ignore him then we run the risk of spiritual starvation; and we are spiritual beings after all. I’m calling/ crying out to J precisely because I’m hungry. Spiritually hungry.

Perhaps, I am at my best when, like Dickens’ “Oliver,” I hold up my empty hands to God and ask “sir, may I have some more, please?”

 

 

 

The Parable Of Farmer Jesus

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, then you know the concept (probably the wrong term) of the Kingdom of Heaven has been on my mind a lot lately. In an earlier blog, “The Kingdom Of Heaven,” I was thinking in terms of how it applied to J wanting us to have abundant life here on Earth. Yet, as I’ve gone back and looked up the various references by Christ, I’ve become even more convinced that the Kingdom of Heaven, while very important, was not intended to be simple.

Today, I found myself in the parables in the Gospel of Matthew and they all seem to be about the nuances of the Kingdom of Heaven. The one that jumped out at me today in particular was the parable of the weeds. In it, the good sower plants good seed and an enemy follows behind him sowing in bad seed to contaminate the crop (see Matthew ch. 13).

It’s a familiar parable that’s not hard to understand: good people and bad people are living side by side with the bad ones trying to corrupt the good ones. The eventual outcome of the harvest is one of comfort for the good seed and horror for the bad.

OK, so what’s this got to do with my understanding something of the Kingdom of Heaven? It comes in J’s explanation of the parable to his disciples. The parable compares the kingdom to the sower of the good seed. J explains that it is the Son of Man (ie himself) who is the sower who sows the good seed, which he explains are the “sons of the kingdom.”

This is the aspect of the kingdom of Heaven that I’m hearing today, it plants “good” into the world, which is what J did at the beginning of the world and reaffirmed or reasserted with his life and work on Earth. I remember a live recording of a song by Resurrection Band called “Jesus Is All.” J is, indeed, all in all, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find the Kingdom of Heaven within all that he is to us.

One final thought on this parable: J describes us as “sons of the kingdom.” It’s a very subtle reference to our adoption as children of God. We are part of a kingdom that has been invaded by evil and this very short parable gives us a quick overview of a war we’ve been born into and our quite special place within it.

The Kingdom of Heaven is a big universe and I’m looking forward to continuing to grow in my understanding of it. Wow, this is one aspect I’m going to have to spend more time on! Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

 

 

 

 

Oasis Or Frivolity?

“I’ll take the enchanted forest tonight, follow the lone doe as she drifts back into the familiar neighborhood of ancient trees, their struggling saplings, and their fallen grandparents. I feel your heartbeat as you follow along through the leaf and limb covered pathway, my friend, a little unsure of why you feel compelled to join me in this quest for who knows what.”

 

I’m remembering how I felt when I was writing the above paragraph. I was feeling hopeful, the journey at that time, if not exciting, was at least fun. Things were going well, and I had ample time to engage with my creativity and create new worlds. The forest beckoned with the promise of hidden worlds and creatures yet to be explored, and more importantly, enjoyed. So, I entered.

Not long after that, the forest turned into a wilderness. Mythical creatures gave way to very real monsters. The wilderness implies adventure, but it also implies imminent danger. Those ominous sounds we hear behind dark tree limbs are being made by things we can’t quite see. It’s as if the bright, full moon lighting the path and highlighting the trees, also darkens the regions on either side of the path behind the trees.

I’m not feeling under any particular assault today. Or any feelings of frivolity, either. It’s a Saturday, and I have a few moments where I have nowhere in particular to be. The sun will fade behind the horizon in a few hours, taking with it much of the oppressive summertime heat. Will the evening sky bring with it “fairies dancing with lightning bugs on and around the near autumn- clothed leaves” or “desolate coal chalk arms outstretched against the somber, silver sky?”

Now that I think of it, it may be neither. It will, at least, be a part of the journey. Two weeks from now, I may not even remember it. Kind of nice not worrying for a few hours about having to have a profound moment, which in itself is an important moment. There’s something, dare we say, biblical about being still. About resting so we can make it to the finish line, scarred as we will be from assaults past and still to come, with knowing smiles on our faces.

 

I Sea Eternity

I didn’t see the ocean until I was thirty years old. I was on tour as the audio guy/ driver for a Southern Gospel group called The Cumberland Boys a few years back, and they knew I’d never seen the ocean in person, so we took a detour while heading south for our next concert, so I could get my first experience. The stop was Morehead Beach in North Carolina. We couldn’t see the ocean from where we parked, but I could hear it. It was as if I could hear eternity in the distance.

I jumped out of the van and ran across the parking lot and down the beach to the edge of where the water stopped before it receded back into itself. I remember staring out across the water that seemed to vanish into eternity. It was peaceful. There was an immenseness about it that seemed to affirm the presence of a big God. A steady God.

That’s what the ocean means to me. The steadiness of God. The peace of God, you know, that kind of peace that surpasses our understanding. I haven’t had the opportunity to go and meet God in this context in over two years, and my soul feels the absence. I could try to substitute the experience by going to an isolated lake. If it’s a big lake like Lake Michigan it can almost feel like the real thing, but it isn’t. I need the real thing.

I see where this is going now. I can listen to Christian music when I’m depressed and it helps, a lot, sometimes. I can put “Passion Of The Christ” in my DVD player, and I’ll definitely feel it until it’s over. Like lakes, these point to the real thing, but they’re not the real thing. I need the ocean. I need the overwhelming presence of a God that’s there waiting for me. To give me peace.

 

“If I hear the wind howl, if I hear “hallelujah” in its cry, have I heard an angel sigh or sing the song he was born to live? If I hear a low rumbling in the river while I walk along its shores, if I hear it whisper “I AM still here” have I heard nature speak the truth?

“If I hear the ocean’s timeless tides, whispering up and down the shoreline, “future, past, and present, future, past, and present,” will I finally know I’m not alone?”