Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This good day

I must apologize to those of you who have missed my blogs the last few days. I’ve been in PA over Thanksgiving weekend…enjoying the people and scenery, connecting with some friends. And, spending time in the woods hunting whitetail deer! :-)

I spent a glorious day yesterday…walked into the woods in the pristine, pre-dawn darkness, vast canopy of stars overhead. My eyes ‘prevented the dawn,’ in wonder and majesty…sitting in the darkened woods waiting for dawn. My mind went to that phrase of the psalmist, where in worship he confessed that his prayers ‘prevented the dawn,’ i.e. ran before the dawn, waiting the Presence as creation waits dawn.

And then, in the gradual lightening…as the pink dawn painted the Eastern sky, shining down the valley in a towering skyscape of changing clouds. I soaked in the scene on my mountain perch, high above a valley…in inner praise for outer glory.

And then to watch the sun in its chariot, running ‘like a bridegroom burst from his chamber,’ across the sky, burning chariot and fiery horses, crafting blue sky and then mountain shadows of clouds…then, later in the afternoon, casting elevation shadows like a master painter, playing off lighter and darker hues in majestic effect.

I watched as the sunlight hues highlighted the brown of the winter trees, merging these in distant hues of gray, then blue, and purple…framed with distant mist over the creek, thousands of feet in the valley below. What glory!

Calvin says that a reverent heart can look at nature and say, “Here is God!” My mind remembered this phrase on the mountain… Of course, this is not at all to say that “Nature is God,” but rather, in full devotion to look at nature and say, “Here is the Artist!” He has displayed something of His majesty, His glory, in His vast creation…something so true and powerful, that to encounter it honestly is to encounter a desire to worship Him in higher degree: mountain cathedral, ocean call!

I waited on the mountain until dark, and walked out with silver moon in the sky, early evening stars hanging nearby…human lights blinking on like beacon fireflies in the distant plateau far below, evening dance starting all over again…

And I gave thanks! This good day…it is a gift from Him. Twelve hours alone in His creation, but exponential hours of lessons and worship.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

An eagle takes flight

This is a good day, that He has made. Give Thanks!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Hebraic table prayers for Thanksgiving

Deuteronomy 8:10 When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which He hath given thee.

Advent begins in Thanksgiving

How does the Lord appear? The prophet Isaiah tells us that the glory of the Lord will be revealed…as the rough places of our lives are made smooth, our mountains of hardness of heart brought down, ‘every valley shall be exalted and the mountains and hills made low.’ Then shall the glory of the Lord be revealed!

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’

Historically, Christians have emphasized Advent as a time of leveling the mountains, making smooth the rough areas of our hearts. But we have forgotten that such prophetic preparation comes straight out of our Judaic roots. And, little do we realize that it all begins in Thanksgiving.

Hebraic table as pattern of Thanksgiving

The Second Temple Jews understood that unless God was thanked in practice, He wasn’t thanked at all. So they would prepare their lives by bringing God to their very table, at formal meal in the evening. And this is one of the most moving things I’ve found in all my studies…

They would begin this “advent meal,” or meal of preparation, with a blessing prayer, praising God in creation and provision. Then they would bless the food to each person as it was passed, and the cup, praised to God for the fruit given of the vine, and then to the health of the family by name.

Following the meal then, after being filled, they would praise God in a three-fold pattern: a blessing for God filling the world with good things, a thanksgiving for God’s law and inheritance, and then a prayer for God’s city, God’s people.

Listen to a portion of early Jewish table liturgy, where the Holy God is welcomed into the home, at the sacred table…in accordance with Deuteronomy 8:10, et al.

Leader: Friends, let us bless.

Group: May God be praised from this moment through eternity.

Leader: May God be praised from this moment through eternity.
With your permission, friends, let us praise God for we have eaten of God's bounty.

Group: Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten, Whose goodness is our lives.

Leader: Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten, Whose goodness is our lives. Praised be God and praised be God's name.

The Table Leader would pray: Blessed are You, LORD our God, Ruler of the universe, Who sustains the whole world in goodness with grace, kindness and compassion. God gives food to all creatures because God's mercy is eternal…Blessed are You, LORD, Sustainer of all.

Thank you, L
ORD our God, for this good and spacious land that you have given our ancestors as an inheritance, and for the food that sustains us always, every day, every season, every moment. For everything, LORD our God, we thank you and praise you. May praise of Your name always be on the lips of every living being, as it is written, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God Who has given you this good earth.” Blessed are You, LORD, for the earth and for the food.

Early Christians understood this table aspect of the presence of God…obviously, since they were all Jews! The first Christians understood that the real meal of faith was a communal meal in the presence of God. And they followed this pattern of table thanksgiving, powerfully.

What would happen if we recovered this integral aspect of thanksgiving, and again allowed God at our tables…not just in some rote prayer drowned out by the roar of TV football – Detroit Lions or Dallas Cowboys! – in the background…followed up by people gorging themselves beyond common sense, and then leaving the table not thankful, but overly-satiated and selfishly fed.

This Thanksgiving, could we actually begin a real preparation for Holy Advent by thanking God at our table? In my heart, I visualize what would happen if hundreds and thousands of families across America turned down the TV and again allowed the Holy One to feast with them in conscious remembrance at Thanksgiving…

A recovery of Judaic-Christian prayers

And to that end I offer a recovered 1st century Jewish-Christian table liturgy.

Here is a pattern of table liturgy faithful to the Judaic ‘meal of prayer.’ These come straight out of documents recovered from 1st century Christians and Jews. The basic pattern here is simple: communal prayers before eating, and then prayers following the meal. [The meal can be elaborated, as individuals are blessed by name at the pouring of the drink, and during the meal, but the simple pattern is shared prayer before and after.]

Table liturgy from 1st century prayers

Prayer before Eating

Leader: We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for this drink which you have provided us -- through Jesus Christ, the holy Son of David.
Group: Thine is the glory for ever and ever
Leader: We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for the life and knowledge which You bring us in this meal -- through your Son Jesus our Lord.

Group: Thine is the glory for ever and ever.
Leader: As Jesus Christ has come down from heaven to be the Bread for the world, so feed us now on this bread taken in your Name, through your Holy Spirit, blessed God forever, Amen.

Group: Thine is the kingdom, and power, and glory forever, Amen!

[individuals may be blessed by name during pouring & after eating]

Prayer after the Meal

Leader: Friends, let us bless.

Group: May God be praised from this moment through eternity.

Leader: May God be praised from this moment through eternity.
Friends, let us praise God for we have eaten of God's bounty.

Group: Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten,

Whose goodness is our lives.

Leader: Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten,

Whose goodness is our lives.

Praised be God and praised be God's name!

Leader: We give Thee thanks, Holy Father, for your holy name, which You have made to dwell in our hearts, and for the life in this food, given through your Son Jesus.
Group: Thine is the glory for ever and ever.
Leader: Thou, Almighty Master, didst create all things for Thy name's sake, and didst give food and drink unto humans for enjoyment, that they might render thanks to Thee: so we give Thee thanks, for Thou art great;
Group: Thine is the glory for ever and ever.
Leader: Remember, Lord, Thy people to deliver us from all evil and to perfect us in Thy love; and gather us into Thy holy kingdom --
Group: for Thine is the power and the glory for ever and ever.
ALL: May grace come though this world pass away.

Hosanna to the God of David! Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, Amen.

Here is the beginning of repentance, preparation for the coming of the King! Here ‘every valley will be exalted, every mountain and hill made low.’ Here will ‘the glory of the Lord be revealed.’

For here is Thanksgiving!


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Like the murmur of the dove's song

Psalm 62

Who is the defender of our cause? It is the Lord, the Most High God.
The King, the King’s Son, and the Spirit of the King: Blessed be God forever!

And so we wait, in silence, for Him who brings salvation. He is our Rock and stronghold.

For God alone my soul in silence waits;
from Him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold,
so that I shall not be greatly shaken.
How long will you assail me to crush me,
all of you together,
as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall?
They seek only to bring me down
from my place of honor;
lies are their chief delight.
They bless with their lips,
but in their hearts they curse.
For God alone my soul in silence waits;
truly, my hope is in Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold,
so that I shall not be shaken.
In God is my safety and my honor;
God is my strong rock and my refuge.
Put your trust in Him always,
O people, pour out your hearts before Him,
for God is our refuge.
Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath,
even those of low estate cannot be trusted.
On the scales they are lighter than a breath,
all of them together.
Put no trust in extortion;
in robbery take no empty pride;
though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it.
God has spoken once, twice have I heard it,
that power belongs to God.
Steadfast love is yours, O Lord,
for you repay everyone according to his deeds!

The Dove, the King and the King’s Son

In Scripture, the Holy Spirit is linked with the dove: Three symbols, fire, wind and dove, show forth the Holy Spirit in revelation. And why these three symbols? Three aspects of the revealed Holy God: Purity, power and love.

Herein is the presence of God made known.

This is why Scripture also links the dove with true love. Only in the presence of the True God, is true love. Divinity transcends the human states of selfishness, to unity. Purity of heart is to will one thing; purity of love is the unity of one thing: The descended dove which forms two hearts as one, not for each other, but to each other, for the King.

Like the murmur of the dove’s song

Words: Carl P. Daw, Jr.
Tune: Bridegroom

Like the murmur of the dove's song,
Like the challenge of her flight,
Like the vigor of the wind's rush,
Like the new flame's eager might:
Come, Holy Spirit, come.

To the members of Christ's Body,
To the branches of the Vine,
To the Church in faith assembled,
To her midst as gift and sign:
Come, Holy Spirit, come.

With the healing of division,
With the ceaseless voice of prayer,
With the power of love and witness,
With the peace beyond compare:
Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Come, Holy Spirit, come: With this Thanksgiving feast, high King of Heaven, Christ our King, prepare us for your Advent here.



Tuesday, November 15, 2005

To Anonymous from Selma...

Dear Anonymous from Selma, now in Detroit,

You who posted here several weeks ago regarding the article “Have you no scar?”

In your post you mentioned a man name Albert Turner, and a quote that Turner gave you. In answer to how he continued on amidst sorrow and adversity, Turner told you:

John the Baptist is entering the Kingdom with his head cradled in his arm. How can you go to the same kingdom as he when you have no scars?

A very evocative and moving quote! And I wanted to follow up with you regarding some of your Selma experiences.

If you would, could you contact me via email? My email is on the info page, just click below my picture on the right…

Thank you so much!

With gratefulness,



Ballad of the Goodly Fere

Reading Allen's blog the other day I was impressed by this poem of Ezra Pound, written from the perspective of Simon following the Crucifixion, in the idiom of Scotland...which only adds to its power and personal nature. So moving! "Aye, He sent us out through the high crossed spears, yet the scorn of His laugh rang free...!" Enjoy this work of art and power -- and may you eat o' honeycomb wi' the Goodly Fere today!

Ballad of the Goodly Fere

by Ezra Pound

Simon Zelotes speaking after the Crucifixion.
Of his Divine Fere -- his Friend, Companian

Ha' we lost the goodliest fere o' all
For the priests and the gallows tree?
Aye lover He was of brawny men,
O' ships and the open sea.

When they came wi' a host to take Our Man
His smile was good to see,
"First let these go!" quo' our Goodly Fere,
"Or I'll see ye damned," says He.

Aye He sent us out through the crossed high spears
And the scorn of His laugh rang free,
"Why took ye not Me when I walked about
Alone in the town?" says He.

Oh we drank His "Hale" in the good red wine
When we last made company,
No capon priest was the Goodly Fere
But a man o' men was He.

I ha' seen Him drive a hundred men
Wi' a bundle o' cords swung free,
That they took the high and holy house
For their pawn and treasury.

They'll no' get him a' in a book I think
Though they write it cunningly;
No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
But aye loved the open sea.

If they think they ha' snared our Goodly Fere
They are fools to the last degree.
"I'll go to the feast," quo' our Goodly Fere,
"Though I go to the gallows tree."

"Ye ha' seen Me heal the lame and blind,
And wake the dead," says He,
"Ye shall see one thing to master all:
'Tis how a brave man dies on the tree."

A Son of God was the Goodly Fere
That bade us his brothers be.
I ha' seen Him cow a thousand men.
I have seen Him upon the tree.

He cried no cry when they drave the nails
And the blood gushed hot and free,
The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue
But never a cry cried He.

I ha' seen Him cow a thousand men
On the hills o' Galilee,
They whined as He walked out calm between,
Wi' His eyes like the grey o' the sea,

Like the sea that brooks no voyaging
With the winds unleashed and free,
Like the sea that He cowed at Genseret
Wi' twey words spoke' suddenly.

A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea,
If they think they ha' slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.

I ha' seen Him eat o' the honey-comb
Sin' they nailed Him to the tree.

Yes, I've seen Him eat o' the honeycomb since they nailed Him to the tree!

What a Table, where our Goodly Fere waits for us...

Watchman, tell us of the night

Watchman, tell us of the night
Words: John Bowring, 1825
Tune: Aberystwyth

Watchman, tell us of the night,
What its signs of promise are.
Traveler, o'er yon mountain's height,
See that glory-beaming star.
Watchman, does its beauteous ray
Aught of joy or hope foretell?
Traveler, yes; it brings the day,
Promised day of Israel.

Watchman, tell us of the night;
Higher yet that star ascends.
Traveler, blessedness and light,
Peace and truth its course portends.
Watchman, will its beams alone
Gild the spot that gave them birth?
Traveler, ages are its own;
See, it bursts o'er all the earth.

Watchman, tell us of the night,
For the morning seems to dawn.
Traveler, darkness takes its flight,
Doubt and terror are withdrawn.
Watchman, let thy wanderings cease;
Hie thee to thy quiet home.
Traveler, lo! The Prince of Peace,
Lo! The Son of God is come!

God is faithful

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.

That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him [or her], and s/he in God.

Whoever keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in them.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

The loyalty of a dog II

A love that conquers fear of death

There are more things in heaven and on earth, Horatio
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet, act I, scene v.

Recently, I’ve read some stories about Civil War dogs – the bravery, loyalty and courage of dogs who accompanied their masters into battle. Sallie, a dog adopted by the 11th PA regiment, followed the men into battle that fateful July day at Gettysburg. On the first day’s fighting, the regiment was decimated by Confederate fire and overrun. Despite the confusion of the Federal retreat, Sallie made her way back to her fallen comrades, and there she stood sentinel, licking the faces of the dying until they passed into another world...and guarding the bodies against looters, refusing to leave. Days later, after the Confederate retreat, a member of the 12th Massachusetts found her still on guard, weak from lack of food and water, but still alive. Today, her monument graces that glorious field at Gettysburg…

Another story is told of Confederate Brigadier General William Barksdale’s dog. Barksdale led his Mississippi boys into battle at Gettysburg, only to be cut down on the second day’s fighting. Following the battle, Barksdale’s wife journeyed to Gettysburg to exhume her husband’s remains and return to their home in Mississippi. It was a trip that broke the heart of Barksdale’s dog. Troy Taylor tells it this way:

She was accompanied on her trip by the General’s favorite hunting dog. As the old dog was led to his master’s grave, he fell down onto the ground and began to howl. No matter what Mrs. Barksdale did, she was unable to pull the animal away.

All through the night, the faithful dog watched over the grave. The next day, Mrs. Barksdale again tried to lure the dog away, but he refused to budge, even though the General’s remains had already been loaded onto a wagon to begin the journey back to Mississippi. Finally, saddened by the dog’s pitiful loyalty, she left for home.

For those who lived nearby, the dog became a familiar fixture during the days that followed. He would occasionally let out a heart-breaking howl that could be heard for some distance. Many locals came and tried to lead the dog away, offering him food, water and a good home. The dog refused all of their gestures and eventually, died from hunger and thirst, still stretched out over his master’s burial place.

Wow! What a story of loyalty and love! Can we ever fathom the depths of true dog and human love? It is said that on the night of July 2, the anniversary of Barksdale’s death, an unearthly howl echoes across those silent Gettysburg hills -- a witness of a faithful dog who still grieves from a place beyond this world…dead from a broken heart.

In another story of love, the 102nd Pennsylvania Regiment named their large black and white dog “Jack.” Jack fought with distinction ‘through a score of battles’ and finally took a bullet at Malvern Hill. He recovered from his wound only to be taken captive with his comrades at Salem Heights, and imprisoned for six months at Richmond…

York, the dog of Federal Brig. General Alexander S. Asboth, fought with his master throughout the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. He ran beside the general’s horse, refusing to leave his side…one eye-witness was so impressed that he sketched a picture of the dog which ran in Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

Just a few stories of loyalty between dog and master, fortitude under fire, for the sake of love…

A love that risks itself for the other

Upon reading these stories, my mind went to a time where my dog Wyatt almost killed himself to be near me…and then, in turn, where I had to risk myself to rescue him.

On this gorgeous spring day, a friend and I were exploring, looking for campsites and potential fishing spots. We walked several miles, roughly following a large creek through a mountain pass. A tributary, smaller creek formation caught my eye on the other side, and I decided to cross the large creek for a closer look. I knew better. It was a dangerous creek, more like a mini-river, a favorite of local kayakers…the second fastest creek in Pennsylvania.

In the back of my head lurked the images of four children drowned the same day by this creek, neighborhood children buried by my father, who offered their funeral services years ago. And, I was also warned by the knowledge of a kayaker killed that year on the creek. So I took caution…I thought.

I picked out a section where the creek broadened out, a gentler section where the deepest water wouldn’t even reach much above my waist. Downstream, the creek narrowed through rock walls into twisting vortex of undercurrent and whitewater…but I wasn’t going down there! No way! Not a chance…I was here, many yards upstream, where it was safe to cross.

So I asked my friend, Joe, to hold my dog Wyatt while I crossed. I cautioned Joe not to drop the double-rope leash at any cost: “Whatever you do, please don’t let him follow me!” I couldn’t take the chance that Wyatt would be swept down into danger. So I charged Joe with the task of holding him, and started across.

I balanced myself, walking with care across the rocks and into the deeper parts. It all went well…until behind me, above the roar of the creek I heard a shout: “Loy...Wyatt!” I turned to see Wyatt dashing into the creek, leash and all. He would not be held. It was too much for him to see me crossing alone. He had to be with me!

He wrenched himself free by pure force, and braved the creek. Several leaps and then he was swimming…swimming, and then gone. “Wyatt! No!” I shouted! “NO!” But it was too late. The current grabbed him and swept him down toward the vortex. Only seconds, but it seemed forever: I watched, stunned in horror…as my dog swept faster and faster toward death, struggling for his life. “God, no! Please!”

Suddenly, something caught Wyatt. There, a large single, large rock jutted out of the stream…swept to that exact spot, he clung for dear life. Drenched, and visibly afraid, he looked back at me, pleading to me for help. “Stay, Wyatt, stay!” I cried. I held up my hand, giving him the hold signal…and with all the power in my lungs and body, I commanded, “Stay!” If he tried to move, he was done.

I only had seconds to make a decision.

The current swept by him on both sides, there so deep and powerful that it would take both of us. Vexed in my spirit, I could not leave him! But I had no answer. Even the rope I brought would just hang me in the current…but I had to do something! He couldn’t hold on forever!

Immediately, a voice said: “Approach the rock from directly above. Let the current take you to him, and then trace the exact steps back up to lower water, directly against the current.”

And just as immediately, I acted. “Stay, Wyatt!” “I’m coming!” I took a deep breath, and positioned myself directly above him. Gingerly I walked…then deeper and faster the current caught me…but it only pushed me to that same rock! Wyatt’s fear-filled eyes looked at me with hope, and I carefully took him in my arms…a full-grown, large dog, but he felt as light as a baby to me. And he rested as gently as a baby, too, trusting me implicitly, as I turned back and faced the current. He did not struggle in the water at all…he instinctively realized his life was in my hands, trusting me for the outcome. And I trusted God, and prayed…a step at a time, straight against the current, one more step, not fallen yet! Another step…another…another…gradually less depth, and gradually less current…and then…free from danger!

Just like that, the ordeal was over.

A hint of Love greater than all loves

I put Wyatt down on the bank. And he looked at me with incredible understanding, and licked my face. I’ll never forget that look. He was trying to thank me, in awe and gratefulness. He knew. And I knew too, that should I ever have need, he would die for me in a second.

I hugged him, grateful that we both were alive. How was I to scold him whenever he only wanted to be with me?

And I looked at my friend Joe. He hung his head: “I couldn’t hold him,” he said. “He tore himself free.” And I shook my head. “It’s ok.” “It’s over.” “All’s well that ends well…”

And, it was well!

We made our way back, each a little richer for the experience. I gave thanks to God for clear intervention, for the still, small voice of power and peace. I also gave thanks for the bond between this man and dog, which mirrored, if but for a moment, the infinitely higher bond between human and Creator – a Creator that is never at loss to rescue His loved humans.

I prayed then, and pray still, to be a child that would not fret His control, nor tempt His hand. “It is written,” said the Lord Jesus. “Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test.”

Indeed! But thanks be to God, those times I’ve walked that edge of testing Him, He has been so faithful! And to think that He loves me and you far more than I loved Wyatt, or Wyatt loved me! And yes, He has risked far more to free us from the vortex of our days...

Such incredible, infinite Love!

For those of you hanging on by a thread, in the threatening vortex of life…may the loyalty of a dog renew you again in the loyalty of the One who holds you safe in His awesome hands!

Trust child, trust. Stay, and release yourself to His care…


Monday, November 07, 2005

Discipleship transcends comprehension

Discipleship not limited to understanding

Martin Luther presents a high view of discipleship, through the eyes of Jesus, as if Jesus is talking to all of us. Jesus speaks to us:

Child, discipleship is not limited to what you can understand – it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own understanding, and I will help you to comprehend...

Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. In this way Abraham went forth from his father, not knowing where he was going. That is the way of the cross. You cannot find it in yourself, so you must let Me lead you as though you were a blind man.

Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire – that is the road you must take. It is to this path that I call you, and in this sense that you must be my disciple. [1]

Not uti, but frui

When religious professionals tried to put God in a box, Jesus replied, “God is not the God of the dead, but the living.” He is the ever living God, transcending our categories of thought and even our rote religious observance. He will not be put in a coffin of human control. We try to contain God, to manage God, but God ever and always breaks our categories: God will not be managed. As Augustine said, ‘God can never be uti [utilized] but must always be frui [enjoyed and related].’ Uti brings despair and self power, eventual emptiness. Frui brings abiding fruition.

Why? The ever living God shatters our little preconceptions and worlds: He is infinitely more than we would contain ‘in freezing coats of mail’ [Theilicke].

God can only be experienced and related to, not grasped.

He calls us, like Abraham and Sarah, to a land which we know not of: It is here that following God gets uncomfortable. But when we embrace it, as a child, we enter such beauty and such meaning as the world cannot comprehend...

Ever Living God

Perhaps it is best expressed in art form, this dance with the Living God! Tonight I praise Him, with Darlene Zschech and Hillsong:

Ever Living God
Maker of all the earth…
Everlasting King
Our eternal praise belongs to You!

All of the honor
All of the glory to You!

You are wonderful, marvelous, forever
Beautiful, Prince of Peace, Faithful One, forever…

Ever Living God
Maker of all the earth…
Everlasting King
Our eternal praise belongs to You!

All of the honor
All of the glory to You!

You are wonderful, marvelous, forever
Beautiful, Prince of Peace, Faithful One, forever…

Take the place of all honor,
Take the place above all thrones,
Take the place of all power:
You are the One

You are wonderful, marvelous, forever
Beautiful, Prince of Peace, Faithful One, forever…

Take the place of all honor,
Take the place above all thrones,
Take the place of all power:
You are the One


In worship and obedience

There is a place, by the seashore of life, to dance in grace, to release constriction, to release the need to manage God, the need to control Him in safety, to release the false categories of comprehension and social wisdom that we put on Him...and just embrace His greatness, worshiping Him in utter freedom.

In Perelandra, C.S. Lewis presents human temptation as a choice between a fixed land or a life-land that moves with the waves, at the will of Creator. The Tempter tempts the lady to choose the fixed land, where she can manage her next day, her person and wished and wants. But in her spirit she knows that she is called to the wave, to cast herself on the waves and let her Maker bring her to the king, her chosen. And after great battle, she wins out…to the wave and calling…to her intended, great glory!

We can only know God [and destiny] in worship and obedience: two sides of the coin of divine relation.

Thus, the Living God calls each of us to the dance, the wave, with Him. And yes, Jesus still speaks in 21st century calling!

Child, discipleship is not limited to what you can understand – it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own understanding, and I will help you to comprehend.

May we join Him there…on the waves, to destiny! Further in and higher up...


Friday, November 04, 2005

A parable of the wood dove

Behold the birds of the air
by Soren Kierkegaard

Once upon a time there was a wood dove. It had its nest in the fearsome forest, where wonder and apprehension dwelt together, among the erect, lonely trees. But nearby, where the smoke rises up from the farmer’s house, lived some tame doves. The wood dove would often meet a pair of these. He would sit on a branch that stretched out over the farmyard, not far from the two tame doves on the ridge of the roof. One day they were talking together about how things were going and about making a living. The wood dove said, “Up until now I have made my living by letting each day have its own troubles, and in that way I get through life just fine.” The tame dove, not without preening itself, answered: “No, we manage differently; with us, that is with the rich farmer with whom we live, our future is secure. At harvest time, my mate and I sit up on the roof and watch. The farmer brings in so many loads of corn that I know we are secure for a very long time. We two are well provided for and have our guaranteed security.”

When the wood dove returned home he pondered the matter. It occurred to him that it must be a great comfort to know that one’s living was secure for a long time, and what a wretched thing it was to always live in uncertainty. “It would be best,” he told himself, “to gather a great stockpile and store it here or there in some safe place.”

The next morning the wood dove woke earlier than usual.

He got to work right away and was so busy gathering and storing that he scarcely had time to eat. But as fate seemed to hang over him, every time he had collected a little supply and hidden it away, when he came to look for it, it was gone! Meanwhile there was no actual change about making a living. He found his food every day as before. And yet a great change had taken place. He did not suffer actual want, but he had acquired the anticipation of need in the future. His peace of mind was lost.

He had become anxious about the necessities of life.

From now on, the wood dove began to worry. His feathers lost their glint of color, his flight lost buoyancy. He was no longer joyful; indeed, he was almost envious of the rich, tame doves. He found his food each day, ate his fill, and yet he was not satisfied. In worrying about his needs he had trapped himself in a snare in which no birdcatcher could have trapped him, trapped as only a free creature can trap himself. “This securing of the future is constantly on my mind,” he said. “Oh why am I a poor wood dove and not one of those rich ones?”

He saw plainly that anxiety was taking its toll on him, and so he spoke seriously to himself, yet not so seriously that he could drive away the worry from his mind and set his heart at rest. No, he only spoke in such a way that he convinced himself that his care was justified. “I am not asking anything unreasonable or impossible,” he said. “I do not ask to become like the wealthy farmer, but only like one of the rich doves.”

Finally, he contrived a scheme. One day he flew over and sat between the tame doves on the ridge of the farmer’s roof. He noticed a place where they flew in, so he flew in too, because surely the storeroom had to be there. But when the farmer came home in the evening and shut the dovecote, he discovered the strange dove. He immediately put it into a little box by itself until the next day, when it was killed – and released from its worries about the necessities of life! Alas, the worried wood dove had not only trapped himself in worry but also in the dovecote – to its death!

The wood dove is like us silly human beings. When a person is content with the dignity of being human, then he understands that his heavenly Father feeds him. This he learns from the birds of the air. He does not live like the tame birds in the house of the wealthy farmer, but in the house of him who is richer than everyone, for heaven and earth are the house and possession of God, and humankind is his guest.

A person must be content to be as he is; a dependent being, as little capable of sustaining himself as of creating himself. If we choose to forget God and look after our own sustenance, then we are overcome with anxiety. It is certainly praiseworthy and pleasing to God when a person works for his food. But if he forgets God, and thinks that he himself is supporting himself, then he becomes burdened with the necessities of life. Let us not foolishly and small-mindedly say that the wealthy are spared this anxiety, while the poor are not. On the contrary, only he is spared who is content with being human and understands that his heavenly Father feeds him. And this is as possible for the wealthy as is it for the poor.

Worry about making a living, or not making a living, is a snare. In actuality, it is the snare. No external power, no actual circumstance, can trap a person. If a person chooses to be his own providence, then he will go quite ingenuously into his own trap, the wealthy as well as the poor. If he wants to entrench himself in his own plot of ground that is not under God’s care, then he is living, though he does not acknowledge it, in a prison. When the farmer shut the door on the wood dove, the wood dove believed himself to be safe, when in fact he was caught. Or to put it another way, he was shut out from the care of Providence and trapped in a life of anxiety. In a spiritual sense he made himself a captive – trapped himself unto death.


Lord, let me be like a wood dove that trusts you, living every day, open to your rain and sun, drinking in your loyal sustenance without fault. And let me live in this trust, open to you as a child that loves and traces the face of Abba in the clouds, seeing you in every sunrise and sunset, in daily details and brilliant evening stars above! In the name of Jesus the Christ, and in your Spirit, I pray...



Soren Kierkegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard, Compiled and Edited by Charles E. Moore. Reprinted from www.bruderhof.com. Copyright 2002 by The Bruderhof Foundation, Inc. Used with permission.

A paradox of unity and individuality

To draw souls out of isolation
Fyodor Dostoevsky

In his Christ-soaked novel, The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky relates this enigmatic truth: He says that ‘true security is to be found in social solidarity,’ that even though sometimes a person ‘has to do it alone,’ s/he will do so in order to ‘draw other souls out of their solitude.’

Everywhere in these days people have, in their mockery, ceased to understand that the true security is to be found in social solidarity rather than in isolated individual effort. But this terrible state of affairs must inevitably have an end, and all will suddenly understand how unnaturally they are separated from one another. It will be the spirit of the time, and people will marvel that they have sat so long in darkness without seeing the light... But, until then, we must keep the banner flying. Sometimes even if he has to do it alone, and his conduct seems to be crazy, a man must set an example, and so draw other souls out of their solitude, and spur them to some act of brotherly love, that the great idea may not die.

When Dostoevsky says that ‘true security is to be found in social solidarity rather than in isolated individual effort,’ doesn’t this contradict Kierkegaard, who says that the highest goal is to be an individual in the truth, a true person before God?

Not really. Taken in context, both Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard are saying the same thing: only a true individual before God can offer the masses a real path to God. Kierkegaard approaches it by exposing how people hide in the crowd -- perhaps fragmented or isolated in their inner person, but using ‘the family,’ or ‘the church,’ or some other manifestation of the group to deny personal calling. And Dostoevsky approaches it by showing that the goal of the true individual is salvific social solidarity.

In both cases, it is the individual who opens him or herself to the high calling in Christ, who can then show a family and ‘group’ the path into greater glory. In no case does the individual go there for personal glory. And this is the paradox of true individuality: one never becomes an individual to remain alone. S/he seeks then the light for others

The story of Heliopher
The lover of the Son

Hardy Arnold recounts a Russian legend as told by Maxim Gorky, it is the tale of Heliopher, the lover of the sun, or lover of light, who leads the crowd out of darkness.

Once upon a time there was a race which was lost in a great, dark forest. The trees stood so close together that the light of the sun could not penetrate the thickly entwined branches. There were also numerous wild animals which fell upon the people, especially the children, when they wandered too far from their parents while they were playing. So everyone lived in a constant state of fear of death and destruction, and a hopeless despair took hold of the hearts of the folk.

Continuous…darkness had strangled all the light in their hearts. They could not love one another any more. They even hated and murdered one another in their rage. Yet they were forced to remain together, for it was impossible for any single man to defend himself against the attacks of the wild beasts. They had lost all hope of ever finding their way out of the forest. Many of the young people did not believe in the light they had never seen, and they mocked their elders, when, with a last weak light gleaming in their dim eyes, they recounted tales of the festive, sunny days of their youth.

Among the people however, there was a young man called Heliopher. He was very much alone, grieving over the misery of his people, and seeking a way of salvation. He bore in his heart an endless longing for light and love in the desolation which surrounded him. Heliopher left his people to seek the sun. For many months and years he wandered through the dangers of the forest and of his own soul, and often, very often, nearly lost all hope and confidence. But Heliopher bravely withstood his enemies, whether within himself or around him, and at last he reached the edge of the forest and saw the light of the sun. In terrible amazement he fell into a swoon, and when he awoke he saw in the twilight that he was watched over in his slumber by beautiful people. In the green meadows stood the simple huts of the sun-people, and Heliopher lived with them in peace and endless joy as the most beloved amongst living men.

Then Heliopher went back to the forest to seek his people. “Come, brothers and sisters,” he said to them, “I will lead you to the light.” At this there was murmuring and frowning, wavering and hesitation, wonder and questioning, incredulous laughter, and finally a jubilant “Yes!” And then, at last, the longed-for departure.

Then the light of the sun shone in Heliopher’s eyes, but the way was long and difficult, and demanded much suffering and sacrifice, and murmuring arose among the people. Some spoke and said, “Let us murder him, the betrayer of the people!” And the dark glow of hatred was in their eyes. Others were wiser and said, “No! let us judge him in the presence of all, for it is dangerous to give the people a martyr.” And Heliopher spoke to his people, and talked about light and love. But the wise ones answered, “You lie! There is no light, there is no sun, there is no love. Let us be darker than the forest and more cruel than the wild beasts. Then we shall be masters of the forest!”

Heliopher answered in great pain, “O believe not, ye wise men, that ye can be victorious over darkness by being more dark, that ye can overcome the wild beasts by being more beastly. Only love is stronger. Only the light of the sun can drive away darkness.”

“Be silent!” said the wise men. “There is no light, there is no sun!”

And the people shouted, flinging their arms about in raging despair, “There is no light, there is no sun!”

But Heliopher called out, “Follow me!” Then…he tore open his breast, and his heart burned with love, and it glowed and shed its beams through the dark forest. He took it in both hands, held it high over his head, and strode forth in front of the people.

In reverent wonder and silence the multitude followed the burning heart.

As they came out of the forest, the people ran in jubilation towards the sun, dancing in its loving rays, and loving one another. But Heliopher knelt down at the edge of the forest, and with the last strength of his outstretched arms he held up his loving, pulsing heart to the light of heaven, and gave his last smile to his people.

Alyosha Karamazov

A true individual gives the unity of hope

The story of The Brothers Karamazov is the story of one brother, Alyosha, who goes into the light, following Christ where others will not go…offering his brothers and his world the new world of the Son. Tragedy occurs, yes, but not until the Light has won out. The story ends with Russian street orphans surrounding Alyosha, and crying out, “Hail to the Karamazov!” “Hail to the Karamazov!” But what they really mean, in their own broken way, is a tear-soaked song of faith and hope: “Hail to Thee, O Christ the Lord, who has shown us light in this Karamazov!”

Therein is the meaning of the novel, the meaning of real life, brilliantly summed by Dostoevsky. It is tantalizing. It is existential, and invites each one of us into the story…to be Alyosha in our own stories, and for our world.

For the street orphans are still there. Recent figures put Russian street orphans at 1 million. [1]

And yet, the ‘light has gone out into the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.’

Will you be part of the light, the unity of Christ, by becoming a true individual in Christ?

Will you call your people into the Son…by being who you were meant to be?

May it be, may it be!



[1] This is not to mention the orphans of other Eastern European nations. Nor the vast orphaned millions of India, China, Africa, South and Central America...
But the ‘Light has gone out into the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.’ How? In you, and in me...in every person who lives his or her potentiality in Christ...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A spacious place

He is wooing you...to a spacious place free from restriction!