26 September 2008

treading on mystery

building an ark when there's never even been a drop of rain

going out without a destination in mind

holding a knife against the throat of the life that was promised to you

leaving a life of privilege for one of perceived disgrace

stepping into the flames

offering praise in the lion's den

"This is what the ancients were commended for."
Hebrews 11:2

16 September 2008

resistance & strength

We've been talking about and thinking on this idea of standing lately, how standing matters when the only other option is to bow your knee to a false god. Standing is glorious when all the evidence says that to stand up is to invite your own demise, and you stand anyway. I heard a line in a song recently where the singer was asking God for the "strength to stand." Standing requires strength; it demands that we hold ourselves upright even when our strength is assaulted and challenged. It requires that we encounter and engage with those things that resist us.

Standing also means resisting the enemy. We plant our feet firmly, standing strong and erect in the face of his onslaught. He shakes the earth we stand on in an effort to topple us. He brings the elements against us: a strong wind to knock us over, heat to make us faint, or the cold to cause us to fold in on ourselves. He surrounds us with big-mouthed and sharp-clawed creatures who threaten to devour us. He does everything he can to get us to crumble, or to turn coward and run the other way.

Speaking in simple physiological terms, remaining in a standing position requires dynamic balance on part of the stander. There is nothing static about it. In order to stay standing, she has to contend with inner shifts and perturbations (like respiration) and with external ones as well (like wind). She must make adjustments, respond to those shifts and disturbances from within and from without in order to remain upright. To be static means she will fall, that the shifts that occur inside her and in the surrounding environs will ultimately render her unable to maintain an upright position.

Paul is rather emphatic about this image of standing when he discusses the armor of God in Ephesians 6. He speaks of "taking your stand against the devil's schemes" and exhorts believers to put on the full armor of God "so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" (v. 13). Can you hear the strength and the victory pulsing through Paul's words? The believer is to be covered in armor, battle-ready and standing. The believer, whether or not she knows it, is engaging in battle simply by standing. And she really incites the enemy's anger when after stumbling, she bravely picks herself up, daring to resist him again.

In resisting him, she becomes stronger. Make no mistake: getting stronger hurts. It is a slow process. If we look at this from a physiological point of view again, getting stronger requires that we deliberately engage our muscles against the weight we are lifting. It requires that we repeat the motion of lifting or pressing, engaging our muscles repeatedly to the point of fatigue. In so doing, muscle fibers are broken down and we become sore as a result. In the days of rest that follow, the fibers are built back up, stronger than they were before. And we do it again and again.

What does this mean for us? It could mean any number of things, really. But I think it means that when the enemy comes against us, we remain vigilant and aware, engaging our strength and the power of God in us. It means we deliberately and intentionally don the armor of God to defend ourselves against the enemy and use the one tool of offense that we have in our arsenal with cunning and skill: the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (I have to wonder: could this also be the Word of God -- Christ Himself?). It means that it will happen again and again; there is no line we will cross in this life which, once past it, signals an arrival for us or a total defeat of the enemy. He will flee from time to time, but he always comes back. Sometimes it will mean that it will feel like we're being torn apart, that we will need to wait on God to tend to our wounds and rebuild us, making us stronger.

At the end of the day, I think remaining upright will mean staying attuned to the movements within ourselves and the disturbances outside of us, to balance ourselves dynamically against them all, engaging ourselves in such a way that those movements and perturbations won't make us fall. Even though we don't appear to be doing much, standing may require every ounce of strength we possess.

I had a dream last night, something like the one I had about six months ago. Though this one was not nearly as intense, it did bear a resemblance. The enemy came against me while I slept, pushing and pressing hard against my body and trying to move me by force out of my bed (why he's so fond of my bedroom, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something to do with the vulnerable state of sleep?). I knew it was him, even with eyes closed. I resisted with all my strength and even in the depths of sleep, my spirit cried out Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! In truth, it felt more like worship than it did like weapon-wielding. The enemy kept at it for awhile, but eventually he left.

There was nothing particularly noteworthy about the encounter, nothing dramatic. The enemy came, I resisted, he left. It happens with us every day and it will happen again. But it struck me this morning: that was standing. That's what Paul enjoins us to do in Ephesians: stand your ground, and after you have done everything ... stand. We've said it before, but it bears repeating: standing is victory. It's Christ's victory in us and ours over the enemy. It's not the final word, but it is something, isn't it?

Standing is victory.

And so we keep standing. You are among the strongest and most beautiful women I know and I'm thankful to be sharing in the journey with you. I'm proud to stand with you.

To God be the glory forever and ever.

11 September 2008


We've been talking a lot about the victory that comes through standing. I think we've all echoed our thanks to God that, sometimes, all we have to do to beat Satan back is stay on our feet through the storms and the wind and the rain that he uses to bring us down. Sometimes, just doing that feels like doing the impossible.

On another note, I've been thinking some about the Bible verse from which we culled the "even if" part of this blog's title. The fact that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went into the furnace knowing that God might not save them there still blows my mind. They knew they might die, choking and writhing.

In light of these thoughts, I'm sure you can all imagine my surprise when my pastor told us to turn to the book of Daniel for our sermon on Sunday night. "I've heard a lot about Daniel lately, " I thought. "I wonder what part he's going to teach on."

"Oh...that part. It figures."

You know how, sometimes, when God really wants you to get something, he repeats himself? And you say, "Yeah, God...I got it now," and he says, "No, I don't think you do." Well, that was the case here. My pastor spoke on the three men in the furnace, just like Kirsten's pastor did three weeks previously, in Bellingham.

As I listened to the story this time, the "even if" rolled over me without so much as a stir. Though it fascinated me before, that message wasn't for me that day. Instead, something else hit me.

Do you know how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego overcame Satan?

They stood.

First, they stood when everyone else bowed down to the idol. In refusing this bow, they acknowledge God's rightful place. Satan found himself beaten there before he even started. I can see his fury in the king's choice of punishment for not bowing--death in that horridly hot furnace. "You think you can stand?" Satan says. "Try standing here."

And then, through the grace of God, they call his bluff and remain on their feet in the face of heat that killed their guards.

The king looks in the fire and sees them standing, walking and talking and having a grand old time. Someone is with them, one who is clearly not of this world and who is sustaining them when they should be overcome. He stays until they step out of the fire, by their side the whole time, helping them stand when they should fall.

When I look at this story through this lens, I see how clearly our victory comes in standing. Sometimes we do it for him and other times we do it with him, but the standing is the victory and indicates our victory to others looking on.

Keep standing, friends.

09 September 2008

Humility Required

A couple days ago, I posted about "birthing Capri." I wrote about experiencing increasing intimations of a coming birth and of the entity God is creating through me slowly separating itself from the birthing wall of my insides. I felt God gently touching my hand so my fingers would slowly release their grip on what is coming, choosing a loss of oneness for the health of its life.

Then yesterday happened.

Yesterday I read a book by Ronald Rolheiser called The Holy Longing. The first chapters of this book explore the human conundrum of pathos. We are, each one of us, he says, carrying an energy, a fire, a passion, an eros, even a madness that fires our insides and propels us forward through our days. It is a longing we seek to fill, through good or ill means, to create a meaningful life.

How we channel that energy is our spirituality, Rolheiser says, and all of us has a spirituality of some making because we all, by virtue of living and making choices each day, channel that energy in some specific direction that is continually forming us into integrated or disintegrated beings.

The trouble is, we underestimate the power of that fire. When we play loosely with it, it can burn us. Destroy us, actually. He uses the example of Janis Joplin, who was full of life and passion to experience as much of life as she could . . . and died of exhaustion and a drug overdose at age 27.

The remainder of the book is an exploration of what it means to have a specifically Christian spirituality.

I guess the experience thus far of reading this book has really sobered me. I think about Storychange and what I have imagined it to be: a channeling of inner longings toward some sense of understanding and resolution about who we are and what we're made for. But if that is undertaken lightly, what kind of damage could be done? And if it is not done in a specifically Christian context, will I lead people further into their own destruction?

I'm not sure. I guess right now, all I have are questions, an increasing humility, and a gratitude for this path I'm walking that will, at some point, begin to help the clouds clear away so I can see God's gracious face without obstruction.

07 September 2008


This quote has been knocking around in my head ever since I read it the other day.

When the time came to leap in faith, whether you had your eyes open or closed or screamed all the way down or not made no practical difference.

It comforts me to think that it's the leaping that indicates faith, not how you leap. Of course, how you leap says something about the faith, but the faith is there no matter how you leap.

Sometimes, continuing to stand, or even putting one foot in front of the other occasionally, feels a lot like leaping. If I didn't believe, I think I'd just sit down and curl up or run away and anesthetize myself until it was all over. I stand up, putting my head into the darkness I don't know, or I walk forward when I can't see where I'm going, because I trust that there's something more out there.

Maybe when we stand or walk, no matter how slowly or how much we struggle, we have more faith than we think we do. It's easy to say, "Where are you, God? I can't see you and I can't feel you and I may as well pray to the wall," but when we keep standing and keep going in his name, there's faith underneath all that doubt.

06 September 2008

Birthing Capri

Lately, the birth pangs of this season push hard against the birthing wall of my insides, the new heart birthing out of my own heart moving closer to the surface of this life. Thoughts swirl, feelings surge, revelations alight, and then I wait. Birth pangs.

The song below by Colbie Caillat voices my experience of this unconventional motherhood: of carrying a growing life with gentleness and tender intentionality, of trusting that this life grows toward a life that is all her own, of shepherding her with love and someday releasing her to the world.


She's got a baby inside
And holds her belly tight
All through the night
Just so she knows
She's sleeping so
Safely to keep
Her growing.

And oh, when she'll open her eyes
There'll be no surprise
That she'll grow to be
So beautifully,
Just like her mother
That's carrying.

Oh, Capri:
She's beauty.
Baby inside
She's loving.
Oh, Capri:
She's beauty.
There is an angel
Growing peacefully.
Oh, Capri:
Sweet baby.

Things will be hard at times
But I've learned to try
Just listening

Oh, Capri:
Sweet baby.
Oh, Capri:
She's beauty.
Baby inside
She's loving
Oh, Capri:
You're beauty,
Just like your mother
That's carrying.

05 September 2008

Things I'm Thinking About

This morning I finally finished Brian D. McLaren's More Ready than You Realize: The Power of Everyday Conversations - an excellent book, by the way. In his afterward, he quotes (and this may get a little convoluted) Thomas Merton (trappist monk) from Jim Wallis's book Faith Works: Lessons from the Life of an Activist Preacher. Here are the pertinent parts:

"Do not depend on the hope of results," Merton said. Being involved in God's work requires us to face the fact that our work will at times appear to achieve..."no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect." Far better than being obsessed with results, then, whether in social work or evangelism, is to focus on the value of the work itself, and on the value of being genuine friends with those we serve....

Merton has it right: "All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God's love." With this in mind, we can stop trying to prove ourselves, and instead be channels of God's power, which can work through us without our even realizing it, Merton affirms.

So neither a dependence upon results nor loyalty to a cause nor the need to build an identity for ourselves can motivate us and sustain us over the long run. Rather, he advised, "If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ's truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments."

...Merton concludes, our hope is "not in something we think we can do but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see."

McLaren is writing in the context of evangelism, but the quotes from Merton, especially the parts in bold, made me think of our Wild Goose chase. I find freedom in thinking this way. Freedom to just pursue God's calling without the weight of expectation.

I am also reminded of God's calling to Ezekiel. God basically tells Ezekiel to go tell Israel God’s word, whether or not they listen. In fact, they are not going to listen, but he is to go tell them anyway and God will equip him for the task. (cf. Ezekiel 2:7; 3:4-11)

Second, here is the passage I am currently working on memorizing:

May grace and peace be lavished on you as you grow in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord!

I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love. For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately. But concerning the one who lacks such things – he is blind. That is to say, he is nearsighted, since he has forgotten about the cleansing of his past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to be sure of your calling and election. For by doing this you will never stumble into sin. For thus an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be richly provided for you.
2 Peter 1:2-11 (NET)

I am currently just working on verses 2-3, but I am struck by the entire passage. I love the language of the NET Bible - "may grace and peace by lavished on you." I don't know about you, but I need a lavishing of grace and peace. I am also struck by the way grace and peace are tied to "the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." I take this to mean knowing God leads to grace and peace.

Also, I find courage and comfort in knowing that God's divine power has already bestowed on me “everything necessary for life and godliness.” I know I've been taught this concept before, but there is something more in the reading and meditating on the passage itself. Anyway, there is much more there there, but I will leave it for another time.

01 September 2008

For a New Beginning

A new friend of mine shared this poem on her blog, and I couldn't help but see how true it is for all of us here who are embarking on this new part of our journeys, where the questions that have been silently hidden in the folds of our hearts are surfacing, where we're taking small and tentative steps forward in the fuller embrace of our lives, where we're feeling more alive even in the thick of self-doubt and fear. Walk on, my friends. Let's walk on together.

For a New Beginning
by John O'Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.