Monday, June 25, 2012

In a Dyslexic Universe

Earlier today, I lived a common routine.  Me eating my oatmeal breakfast as my dog humbly waited at my feet.  Not out of the ordinary for any dog people out there.  As she looked up at me, with the eyes only a devoted family member could give, I thought about God for a moment.

I’ve heard it said that the dyslexic atheist said; “There is no Dog!”  And to that I’d say you’ve not experienced Dog for yourself.  I actually believe in things beyond myself and beyond what I can see with my naked eye.  And I further more believe, like my dog, God must be experienced on a personal basis, to even begin to grasp the power, majesty and eternal love He exudes.

Like my dog, you may not know her, but I can tell you she has a tender soul.  She is devoted and loves unconditionally, even when I’ve been a rascal towards her or neglected her for hours at a time; she still loves me.  And some would say it’s because she knows who fills her bowl with chow.  I say different.
In a Dyslexic Universe, everything tends to be reversed, but is no less real.

As you seek to know God from the scriptures, or even from personal spirit interface, there is one thing that for many of us becomes a noticeable conundrum.

From the beginning God said, yes you may, but no don’t.  God said, go, but don’t.  He said, live, but you must die.  If you live by the sword, you’ll die by the sword, but carry one anyway.  He said, “I AM”, and you’re not, but you can be in Me and I in you.  He said, let there be light, and there was, but also that from darkness, light would emerge.  He said, nothing shall be impossible for you, yet all things are impossible without Him.  He said, His desire is that all be saved, yet few will be.

Maybe you didn’t catch, the language of God, but I did.  In a transient universe that is ever expanding, He says all spirit and matter lasts forever, but an end to all will soon come.  Confusing?  Only to those who know not Dog.

When I looked into the eyes of my dog today, I was reminded of how complex the things of God really are and how some days I don’t have a clue, but other days something hooks my soul and I just get it.  When I have those moments of uncertainty, that are likely to be proprietary to me alone, I speak out into the air that appears to have no one there, but I know I am heard.  And I listen for that Voice.

I am convinced my dog has ESP.  Or at least she is convinced she does.  But in the long standing debate, whether dogs can communicate with humans or not, I believe they can.  I believe I’m linked to all creation, and from time to time I grown with it, as I await the arrival of the sons and daughters of God; or my own confirmation of such a noble title.

The next time you think there’s no God, look into the eyes of your dog and stop to consider what’s going on in the heart and mind of such a devoted one.  Just an animal?  I think not.  I think not.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Good Betrayal

Many months ago, maybe even a few years ago, I came to a conclusion in my life.  It was a conclusion that led me to a better understanding, but not always a better outcome, at least at first.  That conclusion was this; To live in truth you must betray error.

Let that soak in for a moment.  The betrayal of error may initially sound simple and quite Christian in nature, unless the bulk of what influences us are lies believed to be true about ourselves, God and others.   Put it this way, for me to betray error in myself, I must be willing to accept the fact that error or lies and deception may have been woven into my very being, my very life context.

Born again, saved and sanctified by the blood of Jesus, does not immediately expel error or blindness.  Now granted, I know some people, who’ve had power encounters with the Living God and they come away like a completely different person, but their number are few.  As it stands, most of the people I know who’ve encountered God in a saving manner through Jesus Christ seem to take months, years and even a lifetime to arrive at the place of living fully in the image of God here on earth.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that God is unable, nor His Spirit and Word powerful enough to bring about progressive and permanent change, but one key component in this process becomes the fulcrum on which the entire transformation rests.  That is the fulcrum of my will released to His will.

It is my decision, a decision of the heart and will that says; “I’m ready to recognize and betray the errors I’ve believed”.  The errors or lies I’ve lived.  All of which may sound simple, but often it’s not.  I should say, the process of freedom and truth is easy, but arriving at the point of being ready to face down lies with truth, can take time.

If my eyes have been opened to the powerful truth and grace that comes alone from God through faith in Jesus Christ; then I daily stand at a fork in the road.  I must daily engage my will and decide that I will pursue truth over error, at all cost.

When that choice is set before me, to choose life or death, death tends to look more appealing.  Appealing in the sense that my flesh sees it’s choices through the eyes of lies and error, and so death masquerades as viable life.  And when truth and life are presented, the flesh often becomes suspect or paranoid or mistrusting of life and truth.   Therein lays the struggle, but that struggle must be waged if freedom and peace are to come.

If I really desire to live in truth, to face the mirror of self and to surrender my will to His, I must betray error!  I must become the corporate whistle blower of my soul.  I must become the fearless tattletale willing to stand against all odds that mask lies believed to be true.

The only way for me to live, day in and day out in truth, is to betray everything that is erroneous and stand alone if necessary on the grace and truth He alone can provide.  And that’s not always easy, but it is doable.

To live in truth you must betray error.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Just Me!

When I was young, (younger than 51) I somehow believed that my well-being was subject to someone else.  You know, like the government, the district office, my church, my family and oh yeah, loved ones.  But can you guess what?  I was wrong.

Oh yes, I can quote the passages from scripture that show our need for each other, our need not to seek independence from other organs in the Body, but this thing is way different.  This is about what Jesus died for.  This is about, why He came.  It’s about the one on one connection between me and Him.  The connection that can’t be found elsewhere; nor can it be blamed or gleaned from elsewhere.  It must come from Him the Author of Life.  My life.  Your life.  Our Life in Him.

When it comes to making a commitment to jump from a bridge with a bungee cord tied to your ankles, you really need to trust the one who ties the knot.  And I’m not sure if I know the guy who’s tying the knot.  I mean, maybe he wasn’t a Royal Ranger?  Maybe he never knew how to tie a clove hitch or whatever?  Can we trust the one who ties the knot of our faith?  Can we trust the one who tells us it’s okay to jump and don’t worry?

Seriously, were they there for the quiz on Wednesday night?  When we tested on knots?  Wow???  I’m not sure.

When I finally do decide to bungee jump, or base-jump from the Seattle Space Needle, I swear I’ll know who packed my parachute or who tied my cords.
Just today, my daughter said something about base-jumping from the bell tower above our old 100 year old church.  Now I’ve never base jumped but, 65 feet just isn’t enough.  J

You’re next…

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The First Night Out

I had this amazing wave hit me earlier today.  It was a moderate sense of foreboding, maybe even some holy fear?  I was meditating on Kingdom warfare, listening to a bit of Switchfoot (you know those music cycles you get into), and contemplating the unseen combat we all experience, often and even unbeknownst to us.

As I was musing about these matters, I had this vision of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, and night was falling.  As I held that picture in my mind, I saw in a panoramic way, what appeared to be a beautiful track of land.  Lush vegetation, thick like a rain forest and picturesque mountain tops peeking out above the tree tops.  The Garden of Eden, of course!

Yet what immediately became unsettling was the fact that the picture, looked as if someone had turned down the lights.  It looked as if dark storm clouds were hovering over the entire area.  No sun was shining, and very gusty winds were bending trees low.  It made me feel like I did when I first saw Dorothy trying to get back to her aunt and uncles place, while the twister bobbed and weaved in the black and white background.  I sensed panic and futility.

It was Eden.  It was Adam and Eve.  It was The First Night Out of the confines of God’s protection and presence.  It the first time they cowered alone.  It was the first time they heard the fearful sound of wind, night creatures, and yes even muffled growls of now hungry carnivores.  Not to mention, their sense of darkness was now different.  Never before had they been alone in the dark, not knowing what the tortured days ahead would bring.  Wow!  What a heavy and fearful time that must have been.

Now jump ahead many thousands of years to June 13, 2012.  At this present moment, even at this very hour, we live with the undercurrent of isolation and abandonment.  Oh I’m sure we’ve never really considered its origin nor outcome, but it quietly hums in the back of everyone’s mind.  Some more than others, but all can feel it.

The First Night Out of the garden must have been so terrifying.  Even beyond imagination.  And the reason most of us can’t even touch with our imagination this moment of pain and fear, is because it’s been in our DNA from that moment.  It’s been woven into our consciousness and our sub consciousness.  It’s become such a familiar component of who we are as humans; some have hypothesized that it’s evolutionary survival of the fittest.  I disagree.

For the very life of me I cannot imagine what that couple felt the night after their eviction from their safe and beautiful home.  I know that underlying feeling is built into all humans, but man.  That first night must have been such a precursor to hell, I shudder to think how they really felt.

Here’s my point: That undercurrent of fear and abandonment, can be overrode with a genuinely powerful experience in His presence.  No longer do we have to be governed by that creepy sense that we’re somehow all alone and without a Fathers helping hand.

Oh granted, we still labor because of the curse placed upon this earth.  There still are thorns, thistles, carnivores, blood, sweat and tears affecting our very lives and each days harvest, but we ARE NOT ALONE!  We are not cowering under the fear of storms unknown, and recourses yet found!

By no means whatsoever are we left for total self-reliance.  We have an advocate.  We have a counselor and friend.  We have tools, keys and even weapons at our disposal.  We have promises that are yes and amen, in Christ Jesus.  We above all creation have a HOPE.  We have a Voice that calms the wind and waves.  We have a means by which we access all that is good and right.  We have a Savior and Lord.

I’m so thankful that vision is no longer a reality.  No more are we huddled under the shelter of a bush, cowering in fear as to what our Father may be thinking or doing, nor are we at risk from a creation gone rogue.  On the contrary!

We are free, safe and well provided for in the aftermath of the worst eviction even known to humankind.  I for one am glad it’s no longer The First Night Out of the garden.  I’m grateful that another story has been written and lived out in the person of Jesus Christ, and I as the object of His love can write and live the next chapter of a story that ends well.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Window Pains

It’s curious how MS Windows and Apple’s Macintosh GUI concepts changed communication and how we engage with machines and other humans outside of our 15” LCD screens.  Millions of people, well frankly billions of people every day, turn on their computers or their media devices and click, page, scroll and swipe their way from window to window, searching for business information, entertainment and yes even social relationships – all of which can become dangerously addictive.

Proverbs 29:18a says; “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  I like the King James Version of this passage because I think “perish” is ultimately what happens to us when we do not see as God sees.  Unless you were born blind or suffered an injury or disease that rendered you blind, all of us no matter how myopic we may be – see something.  We all have vision.

Albeit my vision isn’t what it used to be, I now use bifocals and actually need a new prescription even as I type and squint.  But regardless how many more checkups and new prescriptions, I still have vision.  And I am grateful every day I wake and reach over to find my friendly black Ray Bans sitting on the night stand.  With my glasses I can better interface with the world around me.  I can use my vision to actually live life.

I had this thought yesterday.  Windows are a nice feature to have in a home.  They’re a nice feature to have on the front of a store so passersby can window shop.  They’re very nice if you’re fortunate enough to have one in your prison cell, I guess many don’t.

Yet if I could find one thing not good about windows it’s the fact that when you are inside and want to be outside and cannot get there, the window is simply a means by which your tortured desires are held at bay.  That’s really why I don’t do the Mall thing unless I absolutely have a specific piece of merchandise I’m going to purchase.  I don’t like browsing and looking at stuff I cannot afford.  I don’t like to torment or tempt myself.  There’s just no reason for doing such a thing, in my opinion.

My point is this: Windows can be good, because they allow for glorious views of a beautiful world beyond that where we stand.  Yet windows, like any vehicle for vision can become painful reminders of the things just beyond our reach.  Those things beyond the glass that may never be reached or even touch.

Now granted, most of us, upon seeing something of interest or desire beyond the glass, we simply find a door and go engage the images as seen beyond the glare.  For most of us, we don’t think twice or even consider Window Pains; the pain of something outside your grasp.

These pains are produced when vision is unfulfilled.  These pains are ones felt when a God breathed vision is delayed by the dereliction of human indecision or ill-decision.  These Window Pains are what drove Abraham and Sarah to crash the glass of God’s time table and act upon impulse to actuate what clearly became painful and sublime.  Although God promised, the waiting became the glass that separated them from their lofty desires.  Window Pains are when we’ve seen the Promised Land but have a Jordan deep and wide between us and the bank of desire.

If we’re not careful, Window Pains can mask the alternative – that is death.  God has told us that without vision, a divine revelation, heavenly view of life, or a seeing-things-as-He-sees-them outlook; we run like blind men through a wooded glen.  It’s dangerous and often deadly.  Frankly, if we refuse to see things God’s way, we will ultimately and eternally die.  Oh we may not know it right away, but we perish nonetheless.

As we look out of the windows of our life, as we look to the ever changing horizon of our vision, may we understand that Window Pains are just part of the journey.  Having His promises delayed, may bring a measure of pain, Window Pains, as we look out to what we believe is ours yet not received.  We reach and can’t touch.  We see but can’t know.

Window Pains; it’s what Proverbs 13:12 describes.  When hope is deferred, the heart gets a sick feeling.  But when desire and longing of His greater good for our lives is fulfilled, it’s like a tree of life.  It’s a place where pain abates and gain awaits.  It’s a place of peace and satisfaction.

The next time you feel some Window Pains, know that it’s all part of His plan.  It’s all part of the process of growth and obedience.  In the moment of Window Pains, know that Father knows best.  All pain will cease as we finally encounter the truth of connection – in His perfect time.

Window Pains?  We all have them!

Monday, June 4, 2012

What is Revenge About? But Self.

Seriously?  Too often we read the word “revenge” or even “vengeance” and run from it like the plague. As any good Christian should.  Right?

But what if we really understood what it meant?  What if we really understood the culprit for justice or the lack thereof was us?  That’s right.  Me, myself and I!  What if we finally got the reality and truth that the whole battle is within?

I was surfing the net for definitions of motivation, motive, and the like.  At the end of the list of alternative derivations was this word: revenge.  Are you kidding me?  I’ve always prided myself in being one who did not seek revenge.  If I were, there would be a wake of bodies spanning 51 years and counting.

But as I began to understand the language and what motivation was really all about, I realized; the death of self is at the heart of motivation.  The revenge of sloth and apathy sets the true core values of any and all motivations and visible victories.

Regardless of how noble or spiritual, I got saved because I DO NOT WANT TO GO TO HELL.  I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, full well knowing I’m a sinner, without hope except in Christ.  But, let’s be honest.  I was keenly aware of my own skin.  I was sharply aware that without a way out, I was toast.  Now I may be the only Evangelical Pentecostal Assemblies of God Ordained Minister who admits that, but if so please take a number.  Or leave a message of complaint on my cell phone: 515-491-8285.

Since I was raised in a middle class Christian family, work ethic was part and parcel to who I am.  I’ve worked hard since 1974.  My first tax related job was at McDonald’s cooking fries on Sundays.  And that was way too much pressure for the rosy cheeked-puffy-lipped-fair-skinned-kid-in-a-hairnet from the northwest side of Des Moines.  Plus it interfered with my church life.  And for that I would not bend.

Then Captain Hanks Fish & Chips restaurant was my next place of employment.  Thanks to Jac Perrin, my dear brother-in-law (Love ya Jac!).

Not long after the stench of fish got the best of me, Sears Roebuck Co. called me.  Because a friend of mine, Kevin Ullestad gave me a job lead in the Paint Department; thanks Kevin!  We won’t even speak of our youthful activities.  For the sake of our former District Superintendent and their next door neighbor Rick Lang, I’ll ignore the mid 1970’s.

Anyway, as I understand it, revenge is something akin to self-deprecation.  Well actually it’s more about killing yourself in the name of hurting others.  So as I studied motivation, I realized motivation was really about self-preservation with a self-destructive twist.

I mean, if God’s will was that I die, so as to find Life in Him, and that were to be my “motivation” for forward moment and advance; then revenge against myself would be the answer… right?

The Apostle Paul wrote of dying to self.  Jesus even spoke of crucifying one’s self if we we’re to follow Him into eternal life, but can I say, nobody ever fully explained that process to me while growing up in church.  I grew up on the northwest side of Des Moines.  That should explain a lot.

But what is at the heart of this pursuit is the intrinsic nature of motivation.  What causes us to “go for it” or to run for the prize?  Hunger?  Thirst?  Nakedness?  Shelter?  What?

For almost 52 years I’ve been a resident on this planet.  And only now, am I coming to realize that motivation is deeper than a check book balance or clear skin.  Only now am I realizing that motivation is about self-depreciation while elevating the very substance of who we are.  Get it?

I am nothing – but I am everything as the object of love from an eternal God who pursued me as I ran in the opposite direction.  That’s so crazy and counter intuitive I’ve got to take a break.  I’ll return later when my instant coffee kicks in.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

If Life Were a Nerve

If life were a nerve, mine would be that pesky little one that runs behind the crazy bone.  I would have never called myself Ulna, but I guess had my parents known of my tingly irritation brought to those around me, I may not be called Russell today.

There are days that seem like my mental crazy bone is controlling life’s GPS.  Guiding me into knocks and bumps almost as if it were deliberately trying to give me the painful willies of a damaged Ulnar Nerve; causing tremendous confusion and chaos at any given moment.

It seems that the only thing I can be certain of these days is uncertainty.  Now some might say that’s a wonderful place for my faith to grow, and I wouldn’t argue with them at this point.  Not because I agree, but because I’ve come to believe that my shoes are my shoes, and my path is my path, and Father God is the only one that knows the cause and effect of every aspect of my life.  And not anyone else, including me.  Uncertainty as an exercise in faith building is clearly an understood component of one’s spiritual growth and development, but what about the influence of outside forces?  What if any, are the motivating factors, or for that matter, the demotivating factors in any given life?

What moves any of us off the comfy couch of apathy and from under the snuggly warmth of our familiar blanket of atrophy?  What?

For some it’s nobility.  For others it’s humility.  For some it’s pragmatism and panic, and for others its idealism and calm.  If I had to choose an honest reply to my motivation in life, I would have to say humility, idealism and calm are my motives.  Meaning, I look out of my little mental control center and believe that humility and gentleness are most often needed above all things.  Which would explain my idealistic desire to be calm and at peace with God, self and all those around me.

Some might say that’s “pie-in-the-sky” thinking.  Or liken it to an ostrich with its head in the sand, ignoring reality, but I would argue otherwise.  As a matter of fact, I just might go so far as to believe that anything other than my motivations mentioned above, are straight up anathema to the theological convictions I base my salvation upon.  But who am I but that little nerve behind the crazy bone.  What do I know about things beyond the leading edge of an unexpected collision of an elbow?

My point is this: many days I feel like my very existence is an unexpected pesky irritation just waiting to ruin someone else’s day, or entire life for that matter.

If Life Were a Nerve, what nerve would you be?

Blaming the Wicked for My Orbit

Once in a great while, I find myself feeling as if I’ve been backed into a corner by circumstances beyond my control, or even beyond my wildest fears.  But usually a mild spiritual awakening occurs and I realize I’m not that cornered rodent with fangs and talons blazing, but I’m just a simple man in a complex reality governed less by coincidence than by providence.  That should be peace enough, but some days it’s not.  I guess I’m the only one waiting for the next train home?  At least the platform looks pretty empty from where I stand.

As life rises and falls with every oscillation of distant solar flares and creeps along over every speed bump that some wannabe-know-it-all-safety-guru-plants to keep us from racing through life’s parking lot so we don’t run over someone while aiming at the finish line, it can be way too easy to blame others or things for our internal and external ebbs and flows.  I tend to think in run on sentences, sorry.

Taking control of my own destiny is a holy privilege and a divined ordination.  Yet sometimes the road seems way too long to enjoy the journey.  As a matter of fact, like my childhood vacation memories taken on a meager teacher’s salary, where cold cuts eaten in the back seat had to suffice because McDonald’s was too expensive, or where cedar wood souvenirs and trinket desires were just not in the budget, there were times I knew somehow I was getting short changed.  I know, that pretty pathetic.  My life really has been enormously good and blessed compared to so many others, but you know sometimes you can lose sight of those facts.  And a misstep with words can take you there.

Over and over opportunities are given and squandered, but most of us live life with so much unforeseen grace that when life’s pages turn we really don’t grasp the gravity of His loving provision.

Each and every day I face the choice.  Will I live life standing still, letting all things become relative to me, or will I ignite the afterburner of my passionate heart and imagination and rocket into orbit around a God who causes all things to be relative to Him and His purposes?  Orbits around such a Being can produce such a whiplash affect, especially if you’re looking the wrong direction when you swing into the closest orbital trajectory; it’s easy to forget His gravity is what’s doing the pulling.  Not chance.

As we orbit God, whether we realize it or not, His love and kindness are so gravitational, that they produce such a life momentum, we can find ourselves shot way out into a distant orbit; usually forgetting that it was actually His gravitational pull to Himself that gave us our initial speed and life.

If we ever dare to interrupt that course; we discover that we alone have the power to overcome a body in motion.  Contrary to what Newton’s First Law tells us, we are more than just solid objects waiting for an outside force to act upon us.  We are first and foremost spirit beings.  We have souls that are empowered with free will.  We’ve been stamped in His image and have been given the power of yes and no, up or down, right or left, black or white, life or death.

Please keep in mind; the next time I begin Blaming the Wicked for my state of being, I need someone to remind me of Psalm 73.  I need time in the sanctuary of His presence.  I need to accept the fact that by the loving grace of God, have been given keys to the Kingdom.  I have been given the title deed to The Promise Land.  There is a way set by God if I so choose to travel it.

It’s up to me.  I am free to orbit knowing that He is my gravity.