The Four Captains

Four ship captains set sail to go to sea. One captain let the wind and waves carry him and did not steer, and he ended up crashed on the rocks. Another Captain being nervous about the strong winds, rolled up his sails and made his men row the whole time, but the men grew tired, and the ship quickly turned back for home. Another captain had no compass, but he steered his ship towards any visible or imagined points on the horizon, but he ended up getting lost at sea. Still another captain steered his ship into the winds with sails unfurled, and used his compass to guide him, and he sailed to his destination over the horizon pushing through every wind. He reached his destination and all of his men and his goods made it with him.

The Scar Chapter 3

After a while of lying on her bed, she now stared over the edge of her pillow until her Mom came in the room. She immediately felt like her Mom could not help her, so she stiffened.

Her Mom sat on the edge of her bed next to her daughter, and like nursing a wilted sapling she stroked her daughter’s back.

“I’m so sorry, honey. I know it hurt terribly what your father did to you.”

She said nothing.

“We both been trying so hard to protect you, and he went too far.”

“Yeah, well he’ll never want to protect me again.” She said bitterly.

“Why?” asked the mother.

“Because I broke his mold around my hand. I know he felt it. He’ll never forgive me for causing him that kind of pain.”

“Oh, I think you don’t understand your father at all.”

“And you do?” shot back the daughter and hugged her pillow and turned her back toward her mother.

The mother lay down on the bed beside her and reached her arms around her jagged daughter.

“Your father does love his creations. But there’s no creation He loves more than his child. He feels like he has hurt you so badly that you can never forgive him.”

The daughter was surprised at this. “Do you think he would forgive me?”

“I know He already has.” She said. “And if there’s anything I have learned about your father being married to him, he is usually willing to admit when he’s wrong. It just might take him some time to see it. Now, if you want things with your Dad to be fixed, I am going to tell you what you need to do.”

Meanwhile, the dad had called the ambulance to come pick up the man at his house, and the man had just left on his way to getting some help in the hospital. Inside though, his heart was like an iron ship that had been sunk. He knew his daughter was hurt more than her hand. Her heart was in her hand. . . and he had burned it. How could she ever trust him again? He worried that maybe he would hurt her worse with an apology, as if it would take away the meaning of what she had suffered. But he also knew that he was wrong, so he got up and walked toward Zoe’s door, when suddenly, he stopped.

The doorknob slowly turned, and Zoe stepped into the living room toward her father. Her hand was badly burned still. Slowly and with a slight shudder she walked up to her father and slowly lifted her eyes to look into his face. The father was mystified. Her daughter was not angry. The look in her eyes was more unbearably breaking. Her eyes were full of trust.

She reached out both her hands toward him and said, “Papa, I know you love me. If you want to rockify my hands again so that I never heal another wound, I offer them to you. I promise I won’t break the rock again.

At this, her father sank to his knees. He held out his hand to take her unburned hand. She gingerly held it out, hoping that he would not encase it in rock, but still trusting him. When he took her hand he gestured to her to kneel with him on the floor. She did.

With difficulty he got the ability to speak again. “With your confidence in my love and your trust of my goodness, you have overcome me, my amazing Zoe.”

He took her into his arms and embraced her, and she cried as they squeezed one another. He released his grip to look her in her eyes, and he said, “I do love you, and I confess I was so wrong to hurt you and to hinder you as I did. Your heavenly Father gave you this gift, and I was a wretched fool to use my gift to keep you limited to the life that made sense to me.”

Then he clasped the burned hand that was still balled up into a fist in his two hands and said, “By the grace of God who gives gifts to mankind, I will not hinder His work in you. I will never rockify your hands again. Will you please forgive me for hurting you so badly?”

Zoe nodded, a bit unsure of what this could mean for her if her father was going to loosen restrictions upon her and her gift. Did this mean he would not protect her anymore? Did he not love her anymore?

The father smiled as if he could sense her nervousness, and said “I will go to God for how best to protect you from now on, instead of trying to do it on my own. I ask that you please trust me keep doing this for a little while longer.”

She nodded, “I will try, Papa.”

“It’s going to be hard. I don’t intend to, but one day I will fail you again. I have much selfishness in me. But when I fail to love you rightly as a father should, I have a way that should make easier on you.”

She nodded, “Yes, sir?”

“When I fail you, I need you to go to your Heavenly Father, who loves you more than I ever could, and seek His healing from the wounds that come from me.”

She shuddered, “How do I go to Him?”

“Open your hand.”

“What?” She said confused.

“Invite God into the wound and wait on Him, counting on His love, and let Him speak life into you.”

“What if He doesn’t?” said Zoe her hand still clenched.

“He will. You will find Him when you seek for Him with all your heart, especially the broken pieces. And His love is the only fire that can bring all the broken pieces together and give it back to you whole again.”

The Scar Chapter 2

A week later, they were all eating dinner together, when a desperate knock came at the door. Zoe’s father went to the door, and spoke to someone out of sight of Zoe sitting at the table. She looked over her spoon as she sipped the vichyssoise her Mom had made. Her dad came back carrying a man in uniform with one arm around his shoulder. The uniformed man looked wan and frail. The mother got up and hurried to clear the table. Zoe backed away as the adults pushed everything off the table to make ready. Her father gave her a knowing glance which they exchanged with previous understanding: Do nothing.

“I barely got away.” said the man in uniform, who up close looked to be clad in the garb of a park ranger, though he reminded Zoe of a soldier from the Revolutionary war. The warm light of the chandelier above gave it that feel. Zoe’s eyes were transfixed on the man. He was middle aged and stared blankly at the light of the chandelier. She could see he was in a state of shock. The father and the mother talked with the man, and found out that this he had been attacked by a bear, and his bowels severely injured by the claws.

“Zoe,” shot out her father, “get some water.” She started for the door to go to the stream, but he said, “No use the water we’ve already boiled!” He said motioning to the refrigerator. She looked inside the opened refrigerator and located their carafe filled only half-way. The mother poured water on her own hands and did what they could to clean up the man. His breathing was shallow.

Zoe ached to help. Her mother was not picking it up, but her dad was. He kept looking from the man he was caring for to Zoe whose eyes remained glued to the poor man.

She got lost in a memory triggered by the sight of her father leaning over the man, but powerless to help. One time, little Zoe played with a little rocking horse her Dad had fashioned from with him of Micas polished. She tipped it over, and the side collision landed on the stone fireplace, and the head split off. It was the first moment when her world shattered, as children’s world’s often do. She didn’t know it, but her father’s outcry was not because it couldn’t be fixed, but because he felt what happened to it in his innermost being as if it were happening to him, because it had come out of him. She saw her dad seize with anguish for a moment that twisted his face, and then he looked at the girl’s face. Huge tears were just starting to gush forth, when he reached out and clasped her close to him in a comforting embrace. She did not mean to do it. He patted her on the back gently and rubbed her little head, and told her not to worry. He took the rocking horse with its shattered head into another room. She waited for him, turning over this new feeling of anguish that was not her own, but it was her dad’s. A short while later he came out of the room, and held wide the rocking horse remade. She ran up and gasped. Her daddy fixed it. He could fix anything.

But not this. She said to herself. I can fix this. Then she saw the man’s head tilt back unconscious. She could feel something was wrong inside him. Hope was waning, though she stood right there.

She begged her dad to do something. He did not look at her. Instead he said, “Be still.”

“He’s dying.”

“Silence!” he cried, still staring at the man.

The urgency of the situation swelled inside her. She had to do it. And so, she stretched out her hand past the adults toward the man.

What happened next was shattering. Suddenly, Zoe’s arm was caught in a flash of flame, and the unconscious man faintly heard the outcry of Zoe in pain. The father’s hand had turned molten pale yellow like lava hot in the mantel, and had grabbed the wrist of his daughter whose hand burned under his touch. She sank to her knees as the burning continued. Her screams startled everyone, except the man on the table who was barely conscious. The mother screamed and yelled, “STOP! Stop it please!!”

The firelight died down, and a thud was heard as a sizzling, darkening orange bracelet and glove of rock thudded to the ground with Zoe’s tender living wrist cuffed inside it. The mother’s face was fixed in fright and amazement. The mother’s face burned with tears and anger at her husband.

Zoe was still on the floor sobbing and holding her arm now with a warm but solid black mitten. Her skin was still tender from the burn. Thus her father found her and stood above her. She looked up with eyes pleading and crushed as she looked through the strands of her hair. “Papa?”

Her dad’s heart softened til it broke, and he sank to his knees beside her. He reached out his hands to her, but she pulled her arm away and started away. He reached further to embrace her, but she pushed him away.

“How could you?”

“I had to protect you.” He said softly.

“What about him?” she cried pointing to the man on the table, “I was given this gift for a reason, and you . . . you punish me for using it?”

“You have to trust me. Sometimes we parents do things that don’t make sense. Please, you have given me your heart.”

“Well, maybe I was wrong.” She fumed, and then she passed briskly to the wall and took her black stone-gloved wrist, and lifted her arm with a back hand thrust and smashed it against the stone wall. It had the desired effect. Her father’s face was torn by that familiar anguish. Tears started down his cheek as he felt the house’s pain and the bracelet’s destruction within him, but more so, his daughter’s repulsion of the very one who brought her into this world.

She saw his reaction and blackly accused, “You care more about your own creations than you do about me.”

“You are the BEST thing that ever came from me!” Roared her father in a sudden burst.

“Well, I’m not you!” She said.

She screamed and stormed out and slammed the door, threw herself onto her bed, punched her pillow for a while, then sobbed. She felt both the shattering truth that she had broken her father’s heart, just as much as he had broken hers.

The Scar Chapter 1

“Why do you feel like you always have to reinvent the wheel?” She asked him.

“Because,” he said, “I want to experience the wheel. If I don’t make the wheel, I don’t know it.”

This was said one time by a man who had special volcanic powers. He could generate fire and even pour of himself and it became as lava. As it cooled he fashioned it into shapes and stones, and as his skill grew, he could make anything. When he made something, he knew it through and through because it came from him, and was of his inner fire. He made a table, and knew that table because it came from out of him. When he was full grown, he made a whole house of various types of volcanic stone: obsidian, granite, and the pumice all shaped according to the desire and design of the craftsman.

One year there was a terrible flood, and his house was right in the middle of it, but it held fast because its foundation was fused by his lava to the bedrock. When the water receded, he saw that the water had washed away parts of the stone. He knew that weathering over time was going to destroy anything he made. So, he re-melted and replenished the stone where the water began its decay, and if any mold or mildew showed up on any of the rock, he would melt it away and patch the stone.

As the years went by, he met a woman who had hair the color of lava flowing down her head. He fell in love with her and invited her to his home. She looked around and found the stone work impressive, but a bit grim. She was not like him. She had the ability to nurture plants. Under her watchful care, she could cultivate living things to their full potential. Soon, they agreed that they wanted to live together for the rest of their lives, and so they got married.

They moved into the stone house, and soon the plant-loving woman had made space in the home for living things to grow. She moved things around in the house, and she did not understand that the lava-crafting man felt intently everything that she moved around, because he knew each thing, and why it was where it was, and how it was inside. She came to understand this over time, asking similar questions to the first question of this story. But, over time, both of them took ownership of what he made, as she was able to use his stone-work for her plants. Any time she needed a pot, he would make one for her, or planters, or wall-hangings—he fashioned them all for her. They were very happy together. The plants were protected, soil-enriched, and warmed, and the house looked much more like a home, and the air inside was fresh and less fumy.

However, the woman was unhappy after a while. Such a place was great for a house made of stone, but she wanted to move near the water so that she could nurture her plants more easily. At this, the man halted, because water was the very thing that would wear away at what he made, and compromise it. They sought a compromise, and when they had found one, they moved to that spot. The mountain they moved to in a very green country they built near a mountain stream. This suited the man fine because he had plenty of rock, and the water was being channeled down the stream which in the winter swelled to a river.

Then they had their first child. This child was gifted like his father and his mother but different. She had the ability to impart life to someone. One time when she was three years old, she found a butterfly that had been stepped on and lay still, but she picked it up, blew on it, and it came to life in her hands and it flew away. Her parents discovered soon that this priceless gift came with a price. She would grow ill, hurt, or deathly sick in proportion to the amount of life that she would give out. One time, she healed another child at school who skinned their knee, and she limped on her own leg for a week and then she got better. Word got out in the school that this girl was special, and the parents feared for her, so they left the mountain stone-home by the stream and got into a covered wagon and drifted from place to place. They home-schooled the girl, whose name was Zoe.  From her father, she learned that structures are first fluid, then they must be solid, but if need ever arises for them to mended or amended they can be melted and renewed. From her mother, she learned that life could only be given by something that life itself had grown.

Zoe understood that her parents were trying to protect her, but she longed to share her gift with the world. She did not know yet how precious a gift it was, or how terrible the world could be to such a one with such a gift. She became familiar with the stories of the Bible. In them, Jesus from Nazareth healed people, and the people ended up crucifying him. She wondered if maybe that might happen to her. She found in the Bible, the same fire that her dad said helped him to create things, and the same life that grew the things her mother cultivated.

As time went on and as she used her gift, she collected two sets of scars. One set was resulting form the wounds that she incurred, the second set was from wounds of others she had healed. This second set was her favorite.

One day, fifteen-year-old Zoe sat beside her father on the edge of a cliff staring out over the woodlands in the evening.

“It’s like I can get inside what people are feeling and experience it myself.” She voiced to her father.

“Yes,” he said, “When you let it happen to you, it becomes a part of you. I would encourage you to do something: learn from your mother. What she knows is probably more important than what I know.”

“But Mom,” she said haltingly, “It’s like she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t get inside things the way we do.”

“No, she doesn’t. But she values that which is outside herself. That is the lesson she can teach you better than I can. Perhaps one day, you’ll meet someone who will teach you this lesson even more.”

“Have you ever gotten to know her from the inside? You know what I mean.”

The Dad smiled and said, “Your mother is self-less in a way that I am not, and yet she gives of herself all the time. . . like you.” He said patting her on her shoulder. “You’ve been given two very different parents, but you will never fully become like either of us. I know you, because you came from me, and yet, I know that somehow, God is going to make you, something more than either of us, something different. And He’s the only one who can.”

Then he gave her a side-hug pulling her in close and kissing her head.

The Enemy’s Scheme

In the spirit, I presume, of the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, let me share what I think is a glimpse into one of the schemes of the Evil One of which we should not be ignorant:

“Let the nation burn with the fires of sex. As it leaves the fireplace of marriage, that which He meant for light and comfort will destroy their homes, and their shelter will be lost. Then people will consume each other for fuel to keep warm.” laughed the Evil One, “And all the while their hearts grow more unfeeling; and they quickly forget His likeness found in sexual union, and those ‘images of Him’ born from these unions will be brought up in a place where, in His very blessedness that bore them, He is completely unrecognizable.”

Why should It Use Up the Ground?

The Hook

Some of Jesus’ parables are frightening.

The Book

His parable in Luke 13:6-9 certainly is. The owner of a vineyard was seeking fruit from his fig tree, but when he came to it he found none. He told the Gardener, “Three years I have sought fruit from this tree, and still I find none. Chop it down! Why should it use up the ground? The Gardener says, “Let it remain for a year, and I will dig deep and put in fertilizer. If it grows fruit then it is good; if not, then chop it down.” ~Luke 13:6-9. This parable Jesus told is alarming when you realize the tree is given to mean you.

The Look

The Vineyard owner does not merely like trees for decoration. He wants fruit, sustenance, profit, continuation. He does not want the earth gone to waste. Indeed the word in Greek for “use up the ground” gives the idea of taking all its usefulness so that it is wasted and useless afterwards: like a soiled tissue, or a an empty pizza box. Another important thing about the phrase “use up the ground” is that the ground is the word for Earth. In Hebrew and Greek the word for earth, ground, and dirt art synonymous. A possible rendering of Genesis 1:1 in Hebrew is “In the beginning, God created the [ground] and the [sky].” It is much less a rendering of a material planet here and now and an immaterial place somewhere far away where God’s throne is, as it is talking about the concrete and immaterial reality that makes up life today around the world. In the Old Testament this idea of Heaven and Earth is vital to understanding the whole story, and God’s plan for a new Heaven and Earth in both Testaments.

The Took

Jesus gives a a story about what life is worth and what is worth ending life for the sake of life. The Gardener and the Vineyard owner in this paragraph demonstrate the Justice and the Forbearance of God.

JUSTICE: says “This tree belongs to me and it is not doing what it is meant to do. It must be removed and extinguished because it is using up the good and making it bad!”

FORBEARANCE: says “This tree is worth investing in and waiting a little bit longer to see if it is fruitful, so that this good thing may produce more good. If however, after further investment and patience it does not improve, then we will know for sure that the problem is with the tree itself, not the soil or the owner. So then it will be right for it to be removed.

“Behold the Kindness and Severity of God.” ~Romans 11:22. God is true, and requires a good accounting; He is also loving and gives all he can. In the end, all glory goes to His name, and all creation be filled with the glory of His goodness.

Application:

  1. That being said, I believe this parable is meant to draw our attention to the earth, the tangible concrete reality in which we live. “Why does it use up the ground?” is another way of asking, “Why does this even exist?” God has poured out his blessing on Humanity, and made a good world, and has charged mankind with the task of making making it good extremely! (See Genesis 1:28-31). This is part of what has been called the cultural mandate given to humanity. All humans are called to continue the growth of God’s good world.
  2. Specifically for Christians, God has called us to be the salt of the earth to preserve it. We are to take the good and make more good of it in concrete tangible ways. As the Holy Spirit guides us, He breathes life into all the the dead and dying things and from them creates new things through which His life can nourish others. Believers must learn to be led by the Holy Spirit so they can be a part of this preservation of Life.
  3. Specifically for Christians, God has in mind for us to invest and make good those things which will last unto eternity. This does not negate the need to accomplish physical restoration and healing of our concrete tangible reality. Jesus after all did not only preach about the life to come, nor value purely the souls of humankind, but also their physical needs he met and their infirmities he restored. All this he did with a view to the praise of His Father who expects a good harvest of Earth and Heaven before he makes all things new. So then, believers must not work for temporary ends of the kingdoms of men, but rather for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ which is filling the whole earth, starting in the hearts of men, and flowing out from them in all that they touch.
  4. For all Humanity, we must learn to fear the God who made us, planted us, owns us, and seeks results from us. He is forbearing and kind, and He is also exact and just. His patience will come to an end, and He will act for the good of His beloved people and creation, and the sake of His name, so that all the world may give praise to the Lord, “for He is good, and his Love endures forever.”

Sacred

I stood in a room of lilac walls with three doors. I opened the golden door on the right and the light inside was glowing red. The walls were red. The man inside the door shouted, “It is horrendous to kill an unborn baby, to rip it apart in the womb!”

I closed the door and walked over to the other golden door. I opened it up and inside it glowed blue. The woman inside cried out, “It is insupportable to deny a woman’s right to get an abortion, because what she does to her own body is her constitutional right!”

I closed the door and walked to the third door. This door was wood and white but smeared with dirt and green vines crept along the wall branching out around it. I moved slowly, silently toward it. I reached out my hand and opened the door.

Inside there was no light, but the vines were very green and thick trailing back into the black within. I crept forward and was instantly struck by how silent the place was– as if 1000 ears were listening and none dared to utter a peep to disturb what was being heard. I entered in further away from the lilac-walled room and my eyes began adjusting to the black. The walls were green, but by no paint, purely made up of the things living in this room. Where do they get their sunlight? I wondered. This room looked long-forgotten.

I stepped on a small, leafy sapling twig, which broke making a tiny keek. The effect rippled through the vines of the room and myself concurrently. Both shuddered, calamity filled my heart with ache, and the vines gently pulsed.

But then it returned to the quiet. Something was different. I knelt down to examine my offense. The little leaf was dangling. There was nothing I could do. I shed a tear from my eye which I dribbled with my finger down the stem. It seemed to accept my contrite offering with an unassuming nod.

I looked around the room again. The vine below me was as thick as a sledgehammer-head and ran along the ground to the far wall. And as I looked I saw that a shoot came off from it and increased in length, though much thinner. As I looked, it was clear where the thick vine stopped and where the thin vine began, and yet both were the same vine.

But the answer to the riddle in my heart was not to be found here. My eyes followed the thick vine back into a dark corner of the room. Then, for the first time since entering the room, I started to see traces of light through the thickly-packed growth of the vines clogging every wall. I stepped carefully, and with gentle hands pried close woven vines apart, until I could see: there was a window! And not merely a window but a corner of two glass walls! It had been growing so long that the inner part of the room was deprived of sunlight, but it was still very much alive!

Then I knew where I was. Here was a room with no floor; it was planted in the earth. And all around there was life and beauty and expansion even into the lilac colored room. Here was a room that needed more sunlight to see its beauty.

Then I understood: this vine is living and filling the whole space with its stalks and off-shoots. And yet, it needed care, cultivation and someone to stay here and make it beautiful. Someone who loved the plant could decide how it was best to be kept. It was rightly owed to the root, to the planter of the seed, and the owner of this multi-directional sunroom, for his plant to succeed in its design: full growth. The root decides what will grow, and the wise caretaker must decide once the sapling has had a chance to grow how it will aid the master plan.

I stayed there and received instruction. And I asked my Friend who was with me:

“What do You think?”

“There is more.”

I worked gingerly, painstakingly, and boldly to make room for more sunlight. The effect was unimaginable. The light peered in an ever-widening beam through that dark jungle like a sudden brass solo out of a silent orchestra pit. The vines all reached their tendrils in the direction of the light. The light peered past me into the lilac room, and the vines followed. I kept directing, braiding, organizing, and feeding the stalks around to allow light to shine through. The doorway to the lilac room soon became so overgrown I did not know if I could enter back the way I came again. This however was indeed where I had come to fight the battle for life, and I could see that life was winning again.

Soon, the vines which had sought to wrap around me many times suddenly started popping with life. I turned and looked and saw the lilac room floor, wall, and ceiling was well-lit and now beautified with jasmine, and the fragrance filled the whole room with the sweetness of new life.

All except for the Red and Blue rooms. Their golden doors did not open to let the plant nor its fragrance enter in.

I stepped carefully back out of the room now swarming with life, and as I wiggled my way back into the lilac-colored, now flower-covered room, I turned to the door and started to clean away the dirt smudges on the front of it. As I did a word became clear, one letter at a time.

“Sacred.”

I Have Seen Enough–Part 1

And the one who stood to the East said:

– I have seen Your life and it is good
– Each day begins with light and hope
– Each tree bears fruit and sweetly carries
– The glory of the tree for a while tarries
– The Man also, his life is good
– Each birth is a bright sunrise of hope
– In his offspring Heaven’s joy is sweet
– And the prime of his life is sacred.
I have seen enough.

And the one who stood to the South said:

– I have seen frailty and emptiness and loss
– Poverty sweeps the world like a flood
– Broken relationships twixt all things bringing sorrow
– And when all is done, if it matters none can know.
– The Man also, is weak and fraught with loss
– His injustices strip him of his dignity.
– He fights his neighbor and both are filled with sorrow
– His life is fleeting, and if it matters none can know.
I have seen enough.

And the one who stood to the West said:

– I have seen the end of all things.
– The Past: the receiver of all that lives in time.
– I see Darkness deepening where once was light.
– The stop is sudden. then all is silent night.
– The Man also, his end is near
– His works may out last, but only for a time.
– His heart is dark staring into that night
– The end is inevitable whether wrong or right.
I have seen enough.

And the one who stood to the North said,

– I have seen both wealth and power.
– They course through the world like a poisoned flower
– They rob the weak many and feed the rich few.
– They kill the righteous and boast against You.
– The Man also, is drunk with wealth and power
– He raises his glass, toasting himself man of the hour.
– He squashes the poor and praises the brutal
– He slaughters the righteous and wars against You.
I have seen enough.

And the One who was above them said,
– “There is still more.”

Depths of Understanding

Through translation and the molten nature of meaning in language, I have recaptured in my imagination something pleasantly sober the way even the hardest truths can be. No matter how hot the fire burns or how brutally it breaks down constructed things to irreducibly simple forms, it still brings warm life to the cold and reminds us of deep things intrinsic to human existence.

Consider the earth, with only the surface inhabitable, and yet beneath an entire world un-trodden by man’s body, where only his dreams and musings may go. Understanding goes deep with a person deeper than their body, but it also comes forth from within a person in ways that effect their tangible livelihood. There are lightnesses of understanding which men contemn, and there are depths to which some men go that many who go there seem stuck upside down with their bottom sticking up in the air: completely un-comprehensible to the surface mind. The lightness does the heart good, like the sea air does the deep-sea diver’s lungs good. But the Ordinary alone is not enough to maintain a profitable life. The ordinary life in which we live– that layer of reality in which we move around, make decisions, and react with decisions and chance far greater than our own control– is ruled by other layers of reality. And the deepest layers are the Highest layers. Let me lay out these layers as I see them.

-1. Humor. Humor is the level of understanding to which one person goes, to make another person exert greater understanding than himself. It makes the ordinary feel that he is indeed sane, and this fool who prates on and on makes him who is listening feel that he is sound. It is the humble gift God has given humanity to encourage and comfort the world with its ever-precarious, ever sobering, ever deepening conditions of decay and uncertainty and trouble. Well-crafted humor is the very fragrance of understanding rising up from the vents of that which is deeper than us. But, when used effectively, humor raises us to great heights, then either sets us down again, or plunges us into the deeper understandings into which we must dive. O the thrill of the hammer swung backward through the air, only to rush forward to drive the nail home once more! O the exuberant and silly breath we take to dive once more to the depth of understandings!

0. Ordinary Reality. The realm of the real and clear. Here far is far, and near is near, a spade is a spade, and a cigar is a cigar. Do not read between the lines. Words are sufficient. Listen to what is said. Read what is written. See what is shown. Many find this simple life good. It is. And yet the corruptions beneath the surface have far too often twisted the surface to that which is not simple. Look around you at the dishonesty of man’s hearts. A simple weight well-calibrated is true and good. It is the plethora of dishonest weights that make this level of understanding a dangerous ground. “Don’t believe everything you read” say the wise, and wizened. Solomon also said, “The simple believe every word, but the prudent consider their steps.” ~Prov 14:15.

1. Joy— Ah the pledge of good faith! There is truth beneath the surface! The Promise of a better surface life comes from digging a deep foundation and a roomy storehouse where the temperature is cool year round. Such cools calm the temperamental flares of heat which spring from a lack of reserve. The deep waters of life flow beneath the surface, and cool water is a nourishment to every soul seeking shade and sweetness in this broken desert of life. A man of understanding carries within him an oasis in any desert! He is the happiest of fellows to embrace the streams of truths that water all of the plants up on the surface. Indeed, for many this results in a nerdy withdrawal from all things surface and ordinary, and thereby leaving those without refreshment feeling abandoned, ignored, and deprecated. Nevertheless, these ordinary folk gain the hearty laugh of staring at people up-ended, bottoms in the air seeking some sort of treasures and refreshment that would otherwise be bought with a great cost underneath the hard sun.

2. Weight— The pledge is sweet, and the collection of waters tastes good, but there is too much water to carry around with a person. A man’s canteen, strength, stomach, and mind can only handle so much. Eventually, the immovable and inescapable nature of what is understood leads many to shy away from the responsibility which is thrust upon those who have understood it. Not only are there many who are in need of the life here in encased, but the one who knows of it comes to see the real predicament at the surface. The pressure and weight of all the understanding comes to sober the one once drunk with the pleasure and raucous laughter of understanding, and he comes to see his own face in the water, and in that face recognize his own makeup of water, and his resemblance to the owner and supplier of all the water in the world. These are those who are stuffy and self-absorbed and feel impregnated with the grand self-importance of that which they hold, lest they give way to the deeper levels of understanding which require greater courage.

3. Sorrow–Fingernails grind on a chalkboard, and a bone fallen out of joint is a deep pang of something wrong in the world. Understanding brings grief, that depth of the weight of all the world crashing down on broken supports. Seeing people in reality slip off the edge into oblivion unnecessarily just because the scales are tipped out of favor of real justice. It is heartbreaking to know not only the problems for so many, but the connection of the problems to other problems both cause and effect, and to see this web of impossibility, like the web created by a mirror shattered and fragmented from some point of impact. Understanding in people who face the deep underbelly of the world have one of two directions they can go now. It is too thick to explore here, you cannot go left and right. You can return to the surface with your sorrow you have learned, and boast over your understanding as deep as you went. You laugh at those who revel in new discoveries, because you have forgotten the pledge of good faith, and have seen heartbreak the more understanding you have grown. You can return jaded. Or you can go down deeper.

4. Surrender— The point of impact, where the real world we live in was shattered like that mirror is the brokenness of humanity which must be acknowledged and dealt with at the source of the problem: me. G.K. Chesterton understood this when asked in a Newspaper, what is the problem with the world.” He responded with these two words, “I am.” This is the moment to which Understanding leads a person: will you seek to preserve your life, or will you lose it? Here again, the man who has understood– who has “stood under” the reality of life and seen it’s fractured-ness and fractals and fractions–has two choices. He can lose self in annihilation or an inglorious manner that utterly rejects the goodness of understanding he learned at the beginning. Or He can entrust himself to the wise One who led him down this far on his journey of understanding, and commit the unpardonable sin against self: surrender to someone greater than yourself who requires your all with no caveats, no reservations, and no exit strategy. This is the “Lose yourself” that Jesus spoke of when he said, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel will find it.” It is a risk. It is very much like death. It’s like giving up, except it’s more like “Okay God, you win. I won’t keep fighting you anymore. I will actually submit to you, and accept that You are the Savior and not me.” This is the decision to which your journey deeper into understanding has been leading. There is Reality, Joy, Responsibility, Sorrow, and ultimately Surrender of self to the One who has proved how worthy He is through his impeccable track record.

This is the end.
Of the old life.
Of the New life
This is the beginning.

5. Peace

“There are depths of love that I cannot know, til I cross the narrow sea. There are heights of love that I may not reach, til I rest in peace with Thee.” ~Fanny Crosby

Understanding brings a person to the core of all that is, and he discovers the need to surrender, and once there is surrender, suddenly, from the very core of a person’s existence to which Understanding has led, a life is born anew. A life that is never-ending because it is begun by the One who is Never-ending. A life that is not your own, but belongs to the One who truly owns all things. A life that is set not on a broken platform, but the deepest possible foundation: to the core of reality itself: The Maker, the Word, and the Resurrection. This is where Understanding can bring a person, but only with humility, love, grace, and courage–honesty with self and God. He is there at the center of the layers of reality. And in His presence is the FULLNESS of the joy the understanding of which one found hints at the beginning of his journey. He is there, eagerly awaiting those who will take up their cross, and lay down their lives for His World-saving cause.

The Depths of Understanding
Illus. by Aner327

These are the Depths of Understanding as I have seen it. And I hope that God gives you the heart to go to this depth with Him. Remember: “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” ~Hebrews 11:6.” If you find yourself at any point of this journey and you have stopped short of the Self-Loss Surrender that leads to life, go back to the last point you found yourself, and seek God. After all, “He who seeks God understands all things.” (Prov 28:5)

Fire and Stone

Is the earth rock solid?
Scientists know
There is fluid flame
In deep places below.

The rock is so good
It does not move
The world stands fast
Until rock breaks

The fire is so good
It only moves
The World expands
And shatters the rock

But lo the mystery:
Fire takes good stone
And forges it anew
As one solid piece

And from that solid piece
New life grows
And foundations are laid
For the time it is given

What is stone does not last
Unless fire melt it
What is fire cannot settle
What ignites if fire touches it

God is good: true and living
His word settles the future.
His word is ever breathing
Right now in your hearing.