The Trench

In prayer I saw You
I knelt at the altar
Weak, in pain, sick
And weeping from anxiety

You said, “It will be beautiful.”
“What will be?” I asked.
“My ministry through you.
Do you want to see it?”

My heart struggled
I felt so lacking in will.
I felt no desire
Only the tendrils of Your grace
Still holding me

At length I said, “Yes.”
Though it was not fully my own will.
Then He said, “Go ahead and look up.”
I looked up at the ornate covering of the altar
And looked through them.

I saw a grey landscape before me
Surrounded in white mist
And the path was delved into the ground
Like a trench waist then chest high.
On either side a wall of shallow ground.

And I saw You.
You were white clad
Though I could not see Your face.
Your arms were outstretched.
Hands open, above the trench.

I suddenly felt this aching truth
Leap with tears from my heart.
Not only was my path on either side marked out for me
You moved onward on the path facing me
You invited me forward.

The single truth is hard to put in words.
I found myself longing to go towards you
Weeping with longing to be in Your arms.
All the while You guided me forward.
The way forward was simply getting close to You.

Melting

I visited the Welder’s house, and I received instruction.

He showed me a weld that was poorly done. It had sags. It had fish eyes. It had lumps. And it was not structurally sound. So either it would suffer abuse and afterward fall apart in 2-3 years, or it would nee to be ground down again. If it was done again smoothly in a structurally sound way, even after abuse it would last at least 10 years instead.

I understood: This is why God takes his time with us. And often has to grind us down and have us start over. Because he knows if he does not, then when we suffer abuse, we will be struck down to the core of our being, and will fall apart much quicker, unless he takes his sweet, steady time preparing His vessel according to the need only He can foresee.

He also showed me a weld with cracks, and he told me, “Cracks always propagate!”

I understood: any issue that is not dealt with before the Lord will continue to be an issue. Arrest smaller issues before they become larger ones.

He told me that welders often go fast because they get excited. But when that happens they only lay half of the load down. It takes a steady hand that has insight into the true nature of the particular metal who has a successful weld.

I understood: As God prepares his vessel, the vessel will be tempted to speed up the process any way he can, because he feels the Lord’s power, but he does not yet possess the true insight into the material which He is being welded into.

 

Bride

There is a bride
Who’s paralyzed.

Her under-developed body
Is cold, weak, shoddy
From lack of Spirit’s animation

Her imbecile consciousness
Is slowed by dimming influence
From lack of Spirit’s illumination

Her frame too frail
To through travail
Give birth to Spirit’s progeny

Her heart cringing fear
She curls up to look “in here.”
Closed up to the Spirit’s guidance

Clothed in dirt
Worms her dessert
Mixing sin with Spirit’s holiness

Precious daughter
Where’s her father?
Where’s a lover to romance?
Where’s a coach, trainer, or brother?
Where’s the Savior?

Here comes a minstrel
His song is sweet,
Her ears receive
Her mind perceives
Her heart conceives
Her body breathes.

Then comes a play mate
His games are fun
Her feet can run
Her eyes see sun
Her heart has won
Her chains undone

Then comes a father
His name is hers
His words she heeds
His strength she needs
Her mind he feeds
Her heart he kneads.

Then comes a lover
He gives up Himself.
Her face beams
Her eye gleams
She races streams
Her heart sings.

Then the Spirit and the Bride say:
“Come!”

Famine of God’s Revelation

Hearts harden under dull ears
And dim eyes
The eyes and the ears are purposed
To explore the very nature of God
Visible to us and audible to us
During this short life we have on earth.

“The eye is never satisfied with seeing”
“Nor the ear with hearing.”
“Rivers running endless to the sea,” the preacher says.
So how can our eyes and ears adequately explore
This very nature of God visible to us
Even though it is spiritual eternity in pragmatic time?

Well, perhaps one way is to avoid the trap
Of the insatiability of the eye.
The eye in our technological society
Has more than enough to see in picture and video
The ears are deafened by the machinistic murmurings
Of everything man has made incessantly drumming.

And somewhere the simplicity of God’s nature
Is lost to a thick and overpowering web of Man’s devices
Noise and flash,
Song and dance,
Light and music—
Are not all of these things the diet of our eyes and ears?

A famine! A Great famine! Devestating and ruthless!
Storm-forced winds tear away all peaceful stillness
The glaring desert sun scorches the bare ground.
The rain is not permitted enough time to gather
The ground is cracked and dry.
The seeds within wait to be sprouted by just one word from the Lord.

A single drop of His truth
To cool the burning thirst of our souls—
A quiet whispered hush
In which veracity can settle—
One candle in the darkness
When all pseudo-lights are extinguished.

Pray the Lord of the Harvest
Send the rain that brings real life.
Clear the ground of its towers of Babel.
Let the eyes close in sleep and wait til morning.
And then, once you’ve tasted of the voice of Heaven.
Do not forget He who speaks and shows Himself to you every day
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, and call on Him while He is near.”

I’ve Glimpsed Him. (Scoffer’s Response)

If you have seen Him, please tell me about Him.

You already know about Him. You have already heard much about Him. You do not need me to tell you about Him. What you need is to see Him for yourself. I can describe the effect of seeing Him, on my heart what’s left of it. I can point to the scars on my body where I have been branded for the Lord’s service. I can point out to you the truths and glimpses of Him that you can see if only you had the heart, but as it stands now, your heart is like heavy lidded eyes. And you would not see Him, even if He stood before you. It is not those who see who have the heart, it is those who have the heart who see.

Fine, so describe him.

Holy.
Related, dissimilar.
More familiar than anyone or anything.
Utterly overpoweringly enormous.
In his presence, all life within me surges to my breaking point.
I die, and come back only if He brings me, but remolded in fire.
Words are like clumsy children.
Trying to grasp with hands what’s too big.
He is good and kind.
Terrifying.

Is that all?

It is an honest and true drop from the ocean for you.

How about another “drop”?

There will be not even one drop for the tongue to cool you where you are going.

Come now, if this God should wish to reveal Himself to me, He should come and show Himself. 

Your judgments are like the reasoning of a small child telling his parent why he should get a bigger allowance. What have you done with the little of what God has given you? You do not value one drop, why should you be given more? You aim only to cast off and ridicule your Maker and your King because your proud heart has not submitted to His rule.

You claim to know a lot about me. Did “God” tell you this, or are you just speculating?

The fool has said in his heart “There is no God.” I do address you, as I address myself, because I too in my folly wish to say there is no God. I do not claim power or understanding, only acquaintance with the One who is more worthy than I to wield the power.

You’re stalling. I want you to show me God right now.

Do you not see?

No, I don’t see Him.

*silence*

Well?

*silence*

See? You can’t show me God. You claim to have seen God, but you can’t even prove that he’s real.

For whose judgment?

What do you mean?

You want me to show God so that God can be subject to your scrutiny. God does not submit to human scrutiny when the heart is proud. He is the one sitting in the judgment seat. You are being warned by one who has seen Him. HE is judge. He is going to condemn all sinners, except those who turn back to serve Him.

You are claiming a reality that has no basis in our reality. All you say is conjecture.

You can judge whatever you wish, but your judgment will be confined to a temporary life and a limited consciousness. There is a Judge who rules over all, and will repay everyone according to their deeds.

Thanks for the warning. I’ll believe it when I see it.

The sight of God will do one of two things to people: It will either utterly consume them so that they perish if there is only wickedness in their heart, or it will shatter them and all that will remain is what belongs to Him.

Interesting thoughts. I don’t care to live my life any differently.

By your own judgment, you either approve or condemn your own life. I could resort to the ways of the world to show you have fallacious your judgment is, but that will only point out the error in your logic, and the fruitlessness of your reasoning. Remember then this final thing, “God stands against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble.” May God save you from your own pride, or there will be no one to save you when He comes to requisition you.

I’ve Glimpsed Him. (Poem)

It takes faith to believe that God is.
Once you have this, you can see him.
I do not promise that you will
Because He must decide to reveal Himself.
It takes a pure heart, with no guile.
Some believe that this is impossible,
But all things are possible with God.
How will you recognize him?
You won’t be able to ignore.
No more than a stick can ignore an all consuming flame.

How did I see Him?
I waited.
He spoke.
I looked.
He stood.
I bowed.
He is.

Music purged my heart of unexpressed filth.
Writing arranged my thoughts according to biblical specification.
Love set my heart on fire for another.
Joy surged in my creative freedom and pleasure of wisdom.
Peace quieted me in His approval.
Translation laid sticks of explosive dynamite end to end.
The Holy Spirit’s voice was the match.
The prizing and valuing of His own personal being.
And Jesus the Living one of all my life came.

T. Austin-Sparks~ “God’s answer to strengthen His people for Suffering.”
Is a new unveiling of the glory of the person of Jesus Christ.”

“What is the answer?
A new grasp of His greatness
That’s all.
And then if we are suffering
If we are knowing adversity, trial
And the clouds seem to be gathering, Accumulating, increasing.
How will we get through?
Only thus: by this:
Getting away
And asking
And seeking
And pursuing
In prayer
A new heart revelation–unveiling
of Jesus Christ.
And I am sure that will do it.
God give it to you.”
~T. Austin Sparks

 

Senses Alike

I like the smell of a shotgun shell
Right after it is fired
I like the feel of bedsheet’s peel
When I am feeling tired
I like the sight of warm sunlight
When I am feeling worried
I like the sound of watered ground
When feet run fast and hurried.
I like the taste of tomato paste
When on the cheese-stuffed crust
I like the song that rights all wrong
When I just wait in trust
I like the knowing of all that’s growing
When I look with peering mind
I like the being of all that’s freeing
When I choose to be kind.

And a musical staff for an epitaph
When my opus must be signed.

The Idea Cycle ~ The Rock Cycle

This one hasn’t had much time on the inside, so it may be colder than other epiphanies.

My beautiful wife is in school, in a geological science class, and I sat with her as she read her textbook and came to understand something about our planet, which for me naturally led to revelation of how we are like the earth.

I have a great fondness of ideas. They are my joy. I got the blessing to paraphrase what my assistant Head of School was saying today about Christian Education Curriculum. He was saying how if we cannot find what we’re looking for out there, then we will have to create our own, and I worded it this way, “When we can’t adopt, we give birth.” While a curious reversal of the common order of child-bearing, I have found this generally true of me. I rarely find I can adopt ideas being dissatisfied so often with how they are organized, so I am often forced to give birth to new ones.

But new Ideas are merely old ideas remixed. In the same way, rocks. I was studying Exploring Earth Science by Reynolds and Johnson, and the Rock Cycle shows how rocks are formed on earth. According to Reynolds and Johnson these steps can happen in any order, but this order is the best at demonstrating them in action.

  • The first step of the Rock Cycle is weathering, where rocks are broken down by natural forces.
  • Second, Transportation, where rocks are transported across great distances
  • Third, Deposition, where the rocks minerals and nutrients settle on the ground and cease to move.
  • Fourth. Burial and Lithification– The process by which Rocks are covered up and become layers of rock.
  • Fifth, Deformation/Metamorphism, where the rocks are changed by extreme pressure and heat into different compositions.
  • Sixth, is melting where the rocks are scattered in the intense heat of magma and broken down to their simplest elements.
  • Seventh is solidification, where melted rocks cool and solidify beneath the surface.
  • Eighth is uplift where Rocks are lifted by volcanic forces to the surface.

When I read them, these eight steps made perfect, delightful sense to me as a bit of an idealist. I deal in ideas. And these eight steps make for a very helpful way of understanding how ideas are formed and take new shape anytime they come back into the world again. We ourselves are geologically like  idea-factories.

I will begin the metaphorical “Idea Cycle” with what Reynolds and Johnson classified as the eighth step in the cycle. Ideas can start at any point of this cycle and may skip steps.

  1. Inspiration (Uplift) Where ideas are born anew from deep within us, and are raw and full of life-altering force.
  2. Talking (Weathering) where ideas are expressed thoughtfully and dialogued about. They are hashed out, broken down, smattered and shattered in this phase of ideas, but it is very important when it comes to shaping ideas.
  3. Writing (Transportation) This allows ideas to be communicated over a wide distance and left to sit on their own once they have reached the reader.
  4. Reading (Deposition) Where ideas come to rest before the eyes of a reader as he or she takes the idea into their consciousness.
  5. Understanding (Burial/Lithification) This is where the idea becomes comprehended and a part of a person’s mental internal dialogue.
  6. Deconstruction (Deformation/Metamorphosis) When ideas are comprehended, they then are to be broken apart and figured out how they all work. What makes this idea tick?
  7. Emotion (Melting) This is where ideas take their most melted and scattered fiery passionate form.
  8. Values (Solidification) The idea has been fused into the bedrock of your person and you are become a person with deeply held values, and are then ready for them to inspire your every action, deed, thought, and intention.
  9. Inspiration again arises, from (according to this cycle) our values.

There is much I learn about this cycle even as I write it. For one, ideas are not set in stone. (Shameless pun.) Even if they were, stone weathers, transports, deposits, lithifies, deconstructs, melts, solidifies, and uplifts again. Notice, two, that ideas have life internal to the person and external to the person, just like rocks to the earth. The external life comes about in talking, writing, and reading. The internal life an idea is deconstructing, emoting, and valuing. The bridge between these two lives of ideas are inspiration and understanding. Inspiration is the idea trying to get out. Understanding is the idea settling in.

If you too deal in ideas, learn from these steps in the cycle. If you are not feeling much inspiration, perhaps you need to move between different steps of the cycle. Perhaps you need to feel something you’ve deconstructed, or express what you value, or write down what you have only talked about, or deconstruct what you understand.

And let Rocks have their humbleness communicated to you. We see rocks on the surface, but they have been through a lot. Your ideas may also have plenty of interaction on the surface, but they have been through a lot of personal digestion. And the ideas of other people belong right alongside yours because ideas do NOT last forever without being settled, understood, broken down, felt, valued. “The making of books is endless.” Solomon said so in Ecclesiastes. Some books need to be out of print because the ideas have already been recycled. The key is to let your ideas burn with the fire of the soul which birthed them, and live in the humility that Christ lived with when he walked among us as a fellow human being.

Thoughts and discussion welcome. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[No] One

[No] One

The problem isn’t God’s willingness to teach
It’s our willingness to learn.
No one wants a course in suffering.
No one wants a diet of hunger.
No one wants a hard road of obedience.
No one wants the hill of difficulty
No one wants the splintery cross on their back
Only to be suffocated when you have carried it long enough.

No one wants to learn humility or compassion
The fear of the Lord or the depravity of his own soul.
No one would be utterly dependent on God
Knowing that God is not subject to our fleshly wants.
No one wants to give up everything to have nothing but God.
No one wants to leave behind their job,
Their home, their family, their hobbies,
Their possessions, their favorite things,
So that all they have is a heart to know God alone.

No one wants to pay the price to know God.
No one wants to forgo opportunity for the necessity of waiting.
No one wants to cease from their work
Until God Himself arises to work through them.

How endless, yet how tireless His search
For just one with a heart to know him!
The one to whom the Son wishes to show Him.

Mark the man of mean estate
Who holds for sin that powerful hate
And bears the scars of loss and shame
So not in vain He can bear His name.

For such a price, God can be known,
For such a cost, Christ’s pain is shown.
And only to the fire-purged heart
Will God His glorious life impart.

Humility and Pride

I would like to introduce a way of thinking about the human composition. I understand that to discuss humanity is a grand subject unworthy of such oversimplification, but I hope you will forgive the philosophical implications of this picture. I’d like to view the soul, the heart, the mind, and the body at four levels. The deepest level is the soul and that is the essence of who we are, where the spirit lives and moves in and out. The second level up is the heart, where it is deeper than thoughts, though the thoughts can try to express it, it is the place where all stored information from the mind resides sub-consciously and cultivates emotion and mood and temper. The next level up is the mind, where thoughts are understood in a conscious sense, information is taken in and formed together into the simplest and most complex interpretations, often in an environment created by the heart, which assumes it’s stance of being at the soul and spiritual level. The Top level is the surface where the body is, where our mouths intake food and output words. Where our mouths breathe, and where our hearts pump life, and where our minds control us consciously and unconsciously to act. So there you have this pattern: four levels. Topmost is body, second is mind, third is heart, and fourth is soul.

Two other features of this pattern, I give you: The Spirit moves through all of them. The spirit moves through the body as energy to act, it moves through the mind as inspiration, it moves through the heart as emotion, it moves through the soul as the life principle that animates the whole  being. The Will is also something that moves and, if you will directs, the spirit where it decides to go. It is an elevator that reaches down to the level of the soul. It reflects the state of being just as it also reflects the state of the heart, and of the mind, and is visible in the human body.

These attributes, these building blocks can be seen as making up the human person. Now, I’m sure we can all think of other attributes that could be added to this basic 6 part composition, but I want to make a point about pride and humility.

C.S. Lewis is quoted to believe that the fundamental sin at the root of all other sins is Pride. I was in Starbucks talking with my wife and the man who was best man at my wedding, and he said, “I’ve always wanted to understand that emotion better.” “Pride? An emotion?” I said to him. I understood that pride is a matter of the heart, but it goes deeper than the heart in this word picture above us. Sometimes it’s frustrating when different cultures put the seat of the emotions at different places. In English it’s in the chest, in Hebrew it’s in your intestines, where will you put it next?

The point that my friend was bringing up, and I think it’s a valid one, is that pride is something deeper than the thought, and I agree with him. He and I are likely descended from the kings of Ireland and Scotland respectively, which doesn’t seem to matter to me all that much, since we are all descendant from the first King, Adam, but anyhow. Pride is a fundamental problem of sin. And even if you’re a King, or a knave, a prince or a pauper, a scoundrel or a scholar, you still can let pride rule your heart, because it is seated deeper than your emotions.

That’s exactly the point I want to make here. Pride is central. You can Stand haughtily like you’re high and mighty, that doesn’t make you proud. You can think grandiose thoughts of yourself that doesn’t make you proud. You can feel about yourself a sense of self-sufficiency in appreciation or deprecation of yourself, that doesn’t make you proud. All of those are symptoms of your pride. Your pride is at the level of your soul. It’s the impulse we have to crawl off the altar upon which we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. It’s the living principle of self-serving that naturally refuses the submission of the will to God. Pride is more formidable than any other state of being except one. Pride is more sturdy than confidence, more insistent than anger, more devious than mistrust. It twists the noble sword of truth into a dagger of division. It kindles a flame on the tongue that ignites the course of our lives according to our own being, rather than based on God’s own being. The Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life. These three, but the deepest of these is Pride. Lust of the flesh and lust of eyes are like two greedy hands feeding this impudent self-destroyer at the core of each of our very beings.

Pride is the opposite of humility, but even if humility is not grasped at the deepest level, pride can swing humility by the tail. Humility is pride’s sack-cloth it wears whenever it feels the need of ingratiating that part of all human beings where God intended for us to reserve our devotion and fealty to Him. Pride needs only an inch, and he can live in out-right rebellion against God. All Satan, the Proud One, needs in us, is the tiniest ledge—the smallest shadow he can hide in, and he will succeed in marring the glorious image of a holy God stamped on each one of us.

As I sat there with my friend talking about how Pride can be beaten. I wrote down this phrase on my phone when I went to use the bathroom: “Perhaps the will is the only vehicle that can deliver the nuclear blow of humility to the deeply subconscious and central issue of pride.” If the Will is like the Spirit and it can be like an elevator to all four levels of a person’s being (assuming again, my word picture is a good one) Can Humility be a choice of the Will?

Well let’s think for a moment. The Will is like the steering wheel for our whole life. If we don’t have much strength of will, it simply means we do not have much grip on the steering wheel, but we each and all have one. The Will is the place of decision. The Will Moves with resolve in action, in mental affirmation, in heart solemnization and soul “becoming.” The Will can deliver true humility to that deepest level.

Now, some of you, who I’m sure have already thought this out, may say to me, “Ah ha . . . but if you by your own will choose humility at the level of your soul, aren’t you able to take pride in that?” Well, I suppose so, if that’s what you were deciding. It’s not a serpent eating it’s tale though. It’s not a never ending cycle. All the soul needs is to choose to love God. How do I know?

Because in Numbers chapter 21, the people were complaining out of pride, so God sent serpents among them. By the way, He says in Deuteronomy that this whole time He has them in the wilderness is to test what is in their hearts. Deuteronomy 8:2, says, “You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” So what is he doing here in Numbers 21? He sends the serpents among them to test them, to humble them, to see if they had a heart to keep His commandments. And what was the test? All they had to do was look at the serpent that was lifted up. That’s all they had to do. “Look!” Look! It is perhaps the most profound and simple movement of the body, but that’s not what saves a person. It is perhaps the most passive thing a mind can do to take in the information of a snake on the pole, but that’s not what saves a person. It’s perhaps the slightest nudge inside a person’s emotions against the organ of their acceptance, but that is not what saves a person. What saves a person, is the disposition, the humility to seek to see their salvation from the same hand of the one who afflicted them for example. It is the humility to seek salvation in God, not claim it for yourself. Humility gives it’s life at every level. Pride keeps back some part of it for himself.

To write about Pride is to do it an injustice. It doesn’t deserve this much attention, but because he has already done so much damage, I don’t need to convince you that it exists. You may need some convincing that it is in you. I know I did. I have a healthy does of the most unhealthy disease every man suffers from.

So how do we choose humility? What hope can we take that Pride is not incurable? Fear God is the beginning of wisdom. Fear God is to depart from Evil. Fear God keeps us from evil. Fear God is man’s all. Fear God is the antidote for pride. At least it abates it for a time, the way light abates a shadow. But should that flame ever flicker and die down, the shadows of pride will enshroud the soul evermore until the day when the Devil and all his works are totally and completely cast down. Fear God is the beginning.

This is an attitude of the Will, to transfer this Fear of God to all levels of our humanity. At the surface it is seen in obedience to God, and physical posture of submission before Him, and words which reverence Him. Fear God at the level of the mind is occupying every thought with him, seeking him and knowing Him. At the heart level, it is loving Him, and rejoicing in Him; thanking Him. To Fear God is for that fantastic word –which post-modern Christianity has all but retired—piety to permeate every part and parcel of us until we are no longer parts but we are one whole living in the Fear of God.

If any of you would give objection to this saying, “There is no need to fear God now that we have the Cross and Jesus Christ.” Or say, “’There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear,’ doesn’t the Bible say?” Of course you are right, except that you must examine more closely the meaning of Love as it is shown in the person of Jesus Christ. The attitude toward God, the soul’s position before God, the heart’s emotion toward God, the mind’s thoughts of God, the body’s posture toward God as seen in Jesus Christ was never irreverent or flippant. This lack of reverence we have for God is the very smell of Pride in a human soul that rises before the God who smells what is in secret, and cannot stand it. If Love be without reverence, it is not love, just like if love be without truth, it is not love.

So Pride versus humility. I am convinced that the answer to beating pride at that deepest level is from the deepest part of us, we decide to humbly and totally submit and fear the Holy God who fashioned us and created us in His image to rule and bless and fill the earth.

One way to test whether we know the fear of God, is if our hearts can feel the terror dripping from these words of the author of Hebrews 10:, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” If you do not feel the dread of this truth in your heart, you do not yet fear God. The emotions are not everything. They are a good thermometer. How hot is your heart at the knowledge and obedience of God?

As Paul said to his Philipian beloved church, I iterate, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” When Adam sinned, he sinned by mouth, by mind, by heart, and by soul. And when Jesus had the opportunity, “he did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. But he emptied himself.” This is our example for how to repent from our Pride. “And he took on the form of a servant.” The answer is to be a servant who is “obedient to the point of death even death on a cross.” This is the Salvation of the human soul, seen in Jesus’ humility and humanity, which we too are called to have the same mind. And this is how we as God’s servants, can know true humility when we smell it.

I close with this for now: pride and humility are like the odors of our soul. Pride is the smell of rotting flesh. Humility is the warmth of justice submitted to God as good. You can see the body, you can hear the mind, you can feel the heart, but you can smell the soul. And humility is the only perfume that is acceptable in God’s nostrils.