Our Backyard

Often, we are not sure how to think of or describe ourselves, and it feels like a real identity crisis. It’s as if we’ve been taught to be afraid to think well of ourselves but to also regret our negative internal narrative, creating, yet another cognitive dissonance. We want to step up and out as the Lord would ask but we are truly terrified someone will see all the junk we keep hidden in our backyard.

We fear they’ll see that the pristine front yard doesn’t match the ship wrecks hidden in the back yard.
They might see the old sagging boxes of ideas that didn’t work right,
strings and strings of old burned out Christmas tree lights,
they might see the never replied to well wishing cards,
maybe just burned up ground, the grass is gone near and far.
They may see the old hope-a-lumps which moved in from the dumps,
the 3-legged hashlets,
4-eyed tagets,
and a line of dirty old dancing rats.
And let’s not forget the aging broken cars
which never went far,
all hidden in the backyard.
If people go into our secret spaces, we believe that somehow….somehow.. everyone will know, we are not who they thought we were.

Friends, God has another view entirely. Just because we have a different calling doesn’t mean we have a lesser calling. When we hide and build fences, it hinders our forward movement and our being able to come into the destiny God has for us. Secrets build fences, and confession builds bridges. -c

Looking In The Eyes of God

i met a man who said he had a dream of going to God’s house. He said he walked through a beautiful green wood where the trees whispered goodness, and the little flowers softly trilled at him in their tiny flower voices. As he came to the edge of the woods, there, across a short green field was an immense mansion with many, many windows and many, many rooms. He said it had a one of a kind carriage court, and beyond was the grand external entrance which led to another grand internal entrance. He said for some reason, although he knew it was very impolite and inappropriate to peep in someone’s windows, for some reason he felt invited to look in the windows, into the Eyes of God. With great courage he went to the tall, double hung, ornate sash window close to the the main entrance, and there… inside… was a huge room with pictures hung all around, on the wall high and low, over the great fireplace, in the window sills, just everywhere. In the middle was a small desk supporting the book of remembrance and a good pen of precision laid across the pages. In the dream he was made to know all those pictures, framed with bright verbs, adjectives, and descriptive phrases in gold, were God’s favorite snap shots of the past, and of favorite memories of things which had not happened yet. He told me it may seem odd to say, but in the moment, he didn’t think it strange because the Lord knows the end from the beginning, so He’s already been to the end and gathered favorite memories, if that makes any sense.

He said as he was looking in the window, far above him, up around the tracery, between the elaborate flying buttresses, one of the high ornate windows opened and a very large flock of brightly colored birds flew out and to the east, each carrying a glowing jewel. He said he figured it was the Lord pouring out a blessing from the open windows of Heaven. In the moment the Lord spoke in the dream, with a voice like bells in the distance and giants laughing for gladness with a shout in the middle, all at once. The Lord said, “My blessing is sent at my discretion. You can’t tithe the windows open, beg them open, fast them open, nor hate them shut with bitter drinks, unbelief, and disappointed brooding. My outpouring is because I send it, not because any man pry’s it from my hand.” The man went on to say he then moved to another window far around the side, and upon looking in God’s eye, the window, this time he saw an impossibly large kitchen with expansive work tables, many ovens and stoves, where the daily bread was kneaded and baked.

In God’s kitchen was every good thing beyond imagination for those who would but ask. He could see stacks of delicacies wrapped and ordered with people’s names on a little tag, he realized they were piles and piles of blessings which had not been asked for, just waiting for the person who’s name was on the tag to ask, seek, and knock. He was sad because he knew people had not asked so their blessing and provision simply sat there. He thought to himself, “If only they would believe and ask.” Near one long kitchen table were vats labeled wisdom to the mighty, honor to the brave, integrity to the courageous, and hope for the poor. On nearby shelves there were large containers of refreshing waiting to be tapped for those faint of heart, having grown weary, stumbling in the heat of the day. As the fellow woke up he said he was thinking about Eph2:10, where God says we are His workmanship, and poetry.

He spent the morning looking out his windows at the passersby, pondering the extreme dream. He thought…… from my windows, inside looking out, i see the people going their way, and in my opinion, they don’t look much like poetry.
Poetry sit’s neatly in a line,
with meter and rhyme,
and the people i see don’t sit neatly in a line,
they have unidentifiable meter,
and profoundly don’t seem to rhyme.

But from inside God’s windows looking out, He sees a very different picture. Which one is more true, that we are poetry with beautiful meter and rhyme, or we are thinner than faint shadows, no more than a smudge on a white wall?

i think it is profound that God loves us who seem so inclined to find nothing loveable of ourselves. In fact, as C.S. Lewis implied, more often than not we see ourselves as no better than a sooty stain on fresh air, as shades with no substance. But from God’s windows, He sees all our potentials, calling our probablies, and more than likelies as yes and amen. From His window, He thinks we are beautiful, like God-poetry, bright and luminous. Now there’s something we’ve really got to get into our heads. c

The Blue Cool Of The Evening

In my dreams,
i see through windows with earth eyes,
but sometimes i feel as though i’m seeing thru
the Eyes of God looking out the windows of Heaven.

i see beauty beyond compare.
Seeing as He sees, my heart grows tender.
He knows where visions of the early times are stored
and allows me to look in the window to the room of memory.

Fondly, through His eyes,
He remembers walking with Adam and Eve,
together,
in the blue cool of the evening,
thru the garden always fresh with flowers
after the benediction of the rain.

Out the open windows,
as seen through the Eyes of God,
He inhales the perfume of April and the early discourse of new things,
like the in breaking of spring that is new every morning.

From His windows He sees we are not alone,
for there are other lovers who walk in the cool of the evening.
Stars sit together and sing softly,
the moon casts his light,
here
and there
casual strollers pass a patch
of subtle turquoise and silver
to step
in step,
languishing in the garden of God.

Upon awakening, i too walk to earthly windows and watch outside with my earth eyes.
i watch first thing in the morning, and last thing in the evening.
Today, out my window at the settling of the day,
children play down by the pond,
the neighbor’s cat sits on the porch waiting
for something else to happen,
a misty haze comes to settle on the mountains
as it always does.
Seeing out my windows,
the days of long ago come to mind.
i ponder about how soon we lose heart in our fascination with shiny things.
Funny how sometimes
around the edges of the memories,
there is a nudge of disappointment over
…things which once were shiny,
but were rarely all we fancied them to be.

When we take it upon ourselves to look in the windows of God’s house,
the Eyes of God,
He invites us to peer into the rooms
where the fruit of righteous judgment is stored,
where the bright imagery of His promises play
in a continuously looping movie,
which extends to us all the invitation
to join Him in the celebration of “more” and rightness of character.
i am convinced darkness is SO wrong, that the mere presence of rightness causes inky darkness literal pain.

i imagine,
what if i looked closely
in the Eyes of God,
what would i see?

In my imagination
i think i would see the occasional lightning flash,
paintings of victory and intricate sculptures of His righteous army,
fearlessly marching,
led by the Famous One on a white horse.

In the mirrors in the hallway
i imagine i could see the reflection of His eyes
overseeing the campfires of the righteous
waiting for their call,
and bands of warriors
praying in the evening,
in the late dim light
of solemn tents of meeting.

At the trumpet call to arms,
not one praying warrior would retreat,
not one foot turned away.

Through the windows of God’s house
i’m certain i would see,
although i personally have not seen it,
a living book on the Fathers writing desk,
about the Lily of the valley,
His beauty born among thorns,
with glory in His heart
the righteousness of the Son,
like the glow of sunrise transfiguring the whole landscape
of eternal possibilities forever. c

Windows: Somewhere More

i never knew that my eyes needed to be opened, until my eyes were opened.
i didn’t know i was searching, yet i was searching
i needed something but didn’t know what that something was
until i found the most unique someone who was more than a mere something.
i didn’t know i was nowhere until i was somewhere,
my eyes opened by the power of THE someone who is not just anyone.
Sure i thought i was here
and there
but it was really not where
i dreamed somewhere was,
until my windows were opened.
i thought they were open, truly the vision was only a dream.
When the Lord liberated my soul, i realized my windows had been shut,
tight,
with no light or fresh air entering, not even a crack for more to slip through.
i think i always knew there was more or else i wouldn’t have been looking for more,
it just wasn’t apparent what more meant.
The concept of more, from God’s perspective,
is likely different from ours, in light of the idea
that no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
not even has the heart of those who love Him even begun to imagine
what the Lord has prepared for us.

Unless the Lord unshutters the ports to our soul,
our windows,
no one’s windows
are enough for the soul gripping comprehension of His glory.
When God gives us more,
and His more takes us into the real somewhere,
into the beyond of the beyond,
only then do we grasp the magnitude of His testimony,
that it is genuine
by the vision,
at His disclosure,
we know positively what He speaks is true.
Jesus is the true true, for reals.

Everyday

It is an odd thing these days.
Everyday i am glad to walk 3 miles round trip,
and everyday at the half way point,
i am momentarily irritated that i have walked way out here,
and now i must walk back.
Silly man. Ha!
Everyday, i think, i could just not walk so far,
and everyday i imagine how disappointed i would be
to allow myself to be cheated by my laziness.
Everyday i am glad to leave on foot,
and everyday i am glad to get back,
and everyday, i have the same silly conversation with myself,
even if it is just fleeting.
Silly man! Ha!

c

The Substance of Certainty

In the last years there has arisen a resurgence in interest concerning the supernatural. Kids cartoons are no longer kids cartoons….watch and see for yourself….most of the “cartoons” involve superpowers being used or invoked somehow with the implication that it is the person who is supernatural and possesses powers beyond regular people. Also, it seems a lot of people are interested in demons, witches, spiritualists, and other occult phenomena. Here’s a good question to answer to ourselves: Why is it easier for people to believe in the power of the devil and evil than it is to believe in God? Those demonic images seen in horror movies? Where did people get the idea that’s how it all looks? Who told them that? Where did they get their information?

As pertaining to faith, one big difference between natural faith as the world sees it and the Holy Spirit gift of faith is between that which is bound by the limits of this world…. in contrast to the substance of belief in the sphere and domain that is above and beyond the reach of what is found in simple nature. Our faith in Christ is supernatural in and of itself without even speaking of the gift of faith for miracles, it is above and beyond the reach of what is found in the world around us.

At the heart of faith is the idea of certainty and firmness. Faith means not seeing in order to believe, but resting in the strong arms of a parent who supports the child.
The very root Hebrew word for good faith is the word Amen or ah-man, which we use often meaning truly, steady handed, on good footing, and high fidelity.
The Lord and His faithfulness is the pillar which we the children of God rely on. The same Hebrew word used of believing and trusting God is the same word used in 2Kings18:16 for pillars, which paints a picture of faith as a pillar which supports the house. And maybe that is what is alluded to in Isaiah7:9 when Isaiah spoke the word of the Lord saying “if you will not believe and trust the Lord, then you haven’t got a leg to stand on” (my paraphrase). Unless we stand firm in our faith in God, we are unstable and on poor footing….or “not a leg to stand on” as Eugene Peterson puts it.

In John11:43, Jesus called out, “Lazarus, come out of there!” Even though Lazarus had been dead and was decomposing in a hole in the ground, life came back to his body and he was restored. He came out still wrapped in the grave clothes, only now, by the power of the Lord, he was alive. Many believed in Jesus that day. !But! in an unbelievable display of hard heartedness, and overwhelming blindness there were others who ran to tell the Jewish leaders what happened, like a bunch of childish tattle tales, possibly for the reason of gaining favor with the local leadership: “Rabbi, Rabbi! Jesus is down there raising the dead! What will you do Rabbi, this is really scary?” “Just go home to your family little flock, we will take care of it. Lock your doors and windows and rest assured we’ve got it all handled. Thank you for your time, we will consider your report carefully.”

…. rather than acknowledge their unstable ways, they renewed their efforts to kill Jesus. To me, that is simply amazing. Jesus told Martha in John11:40 that if she believed, she would see the glory of God. From what He said, we can surmise that believing results in seeing. Verses 45-46 reveals there were others who witnessed the same incredible miracle and did not believe. Seeing is NOT believing, believing is seeing, because, again, if we don’t stand firm on our faith in Christ, the truth, is we don’t have a leg to stand on.

The fact that we believe God and take Him to be faithful and true is, in itself, supernatural. Our faith is because of God and not based simply on events that are experiential. You know, even if people don’t believe God it doesn’t mean He isn’t who He is, it just means they don’t believe Him and don’t have a leg to stand on. We believe Him against all odds; we believe Him when things don’t go well; we believe Him when what we thought would happen didn’t; we believe Him when life is good and when it’s not. There is the substance of certainty in us which testifies of God’s reliability, causing us to be sure, and we know that we know that in Him we are established. We are stable and always have a leg to stand on because He is stable and is firm in His footing.
Heb11:1 says that faith is a substance, it is the evidence of things not seen. As much as my flesh may scream that what i believe is not real, my heart says my faith is strong and sturdy. The Greek word for “substance” means the “concrete essence or reality, and assurance”, and the word “evidence”, means the proof and conviction.
Here’s a sticky statement:
Faith is our woven together material composing the concrete essence and conviction of reality.

Our faith is real and productive….and according to Heb11:1, our faith is actually the greater reality…it is no rainbow illusion or a fancy daydream. It is the reality of all realities, so much so, our lives have been reshaped around our faith, causing us to align with the divine.

Ahhh, but faith, supernatural faith, as spoken of in 1Cor12 is hidden in us like “leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”, the more we do it, the more we do it until eventually, that supernatural mode of operation is just the way we are…..i can no more stop being supernatural than i could decide to not look like myself anymore.

At the heart of faith is the idea of certainty and firmness….. and the sound of faith is the sound you make before you actually make a sound….it is about intent, how you lean in your heart toward God. From faith comes a flowing fountain of wisdom, making us stand up right before God. Friends, by faith the glory of God is in us, when we speak we have weight, and without faith in the Son of God, our words are like voices in a vacuum, and everybody knows sound does not travel in a vacuum. Sound in a vacuum is something so faint it doesn’t even cast a shadow…that’s us without faith, weaker than shadows with not a leg to stand on.

Secular Drift

A bank teller handles lots of money everyday….how do we think they learn how to tell a counterfeit from the real thing? Is it by handling a lot of fake bills? Actually, no, they learn to recognize the counterfeit bills by handling the real thing, and the more they handle the real thing, the more obvious the counterfeit is. Are we any different when it comes to the Word of God and hearing His voice? We learn to know His voice and understand scripture, not by looking at the lies, but by looking at the truth, and the more we handle the truth, the more obvious the lies get. In the same vein, we recognize spirit-killing-religiousness, not be being part of super religious churches of that type, immersing ourselves in all that’s dead, but by being part of what’s alive where the presence of God is….and the farther we get from religiousness, the more obvious and unattractive it is.

Secular Drift…. how the world has invaded the church and we’ve allowed it…. and The Weight of Secrets – there is a relief which comes when we stop participating in lies, stop propagating wrongness of character and hiding it in front of our peers so we appear righteous but, honestly the weight of our secrets keep us bowed to the ground. There are two kinds of secrets: the ones i hide from you, and the ones i hide from myself.

What do i mean by secular drift? In your mind, what do you imagine by that term? Take a moment and imagine with me….see yourself standing by a calm lake in the early morning before the sun comes up. It’s just getting light…there is a stillness over everything that is intoxicating. From the lake begins to rise an ever so faint mist and the air starts to move every so slowly from the lake to the shore. As you’re standing there, drawn in by the serene beauty of the landscape you don’t really give attention to the mist which has gotten thicker around you. Suddenly, your eyes see that the landscape has become obscured and now all you can see is a few yards in any direction because the once faint mist has gotten thicker, you are in the midst of it, and by now it is thick enough that your skin even feels damp. Before you know it, the mist has drifted in and you’re in the thick of it.

The world and it’s godless ideas have invaded the church in a similar fashion. We are often swept away by lesser problems, a mere crumb tossed to us by the enemy of our souls in order that we don’t address our own permissiveness, we don’t read God’s word but prefer to read a book about the book, the Bible which is God’s exclusive counsel and revelation of righteous life, hope, and salvation….we don’t notice the heart postures we have adopted in order to just “get along” in society, there by losing our grip on what is right and wrong and where our real focus should be. Secular drift has clouded our reasoning and thinking, and many no longer see a clear path to Christ like they use to.

Secularism says that the world, especially past and current human existence, is without any objective meaning, purpose, or essential value. To have secular thinking annunciates that all we do goes no where and does nothing. Yea, isn’t that ugly? What has invaded the church is this subtly invasive idea, almost running parallel to the gospel, that there is no reasonable proof of the existence of a higher ruler or creator, no need of God or “right morality”, therefore, life has no truth, and no one action is known to be preferable to any other.
All too often, especially in the younger generation, when you can get a straight answer, on one hand comes this socially acceptable church-ianity answer, filled with all the right Christian-eze, just sticky sweet and all about Jesus. But if you continue the conversation, asking some potentially pokey questions, suddenly there starts appearing a very opposing viewpoint from the same people which says “You can believe what you want and it’s correct for you, and if you really believe eating tuna everyday is what gets you into Heaven, then, for you, it probably will get you into the presence of God forever more, eating tuna and being happy.”

James 3:11, “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?” Think about it. A while back, in a couple programs, i asked the question, “Who’s side are you on? God or the devil?” i didn’t ask that question for nothing. It was asked for us to carefully consider and come to a conclusion, are you going left or right? One way leads to Christ and the other leads to hell….how do you choose? …and choose you must.

I have come to the conclusion that there are believers in the church who say they are Christians, while, at the same time, upholding and even defending value systems that are secular. Friends, there is no such thing as “secular Christianity”, it is totally contradictory. It is like saying “righteously evil”, or “positively negative”….both are a total contradiction, like “secular Christian” is completely contradictory. To be a “secular Christian” is to be sugar-coated with spirituality and outward peace but have foundations that reflect we don’t need God and we are sufficient in ourselves.
The secular view says we are our own beginning and end, our own mother’s and father’s, and this “secular drift” which has invaded the mind and heart of the church, is slow moving like a morning fog, just drifting along, appearing innocuous, inspiring people to become passive sheep being led to the slaughter, all the while loving their getting along, being nice and agreeable ad naseum, or till the stomach turns. The church suffers from “false-consensus” which is derived from our desire to conform and be liked by others, and within our own church group, because no one disputes our perception, we tend to think everybody thinks the same way. We’re watered down, clouds with no rain, we’ve become real milk toast about God, deceived about the enemy of our souls. Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Jude 1:12-13, “These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” Does that sound like someone you want to be? Who in their right mind actually wants to be “twice dead” with no fruit, pulled up by the roots? Nobody, not even the worst of us! Let us turn back to the word of God and take Him at His word. There is nothing God says which is an idle word which just fills space while He thinks of something else to say.

“Secular drift” turns our “God said” into something which isn’t all that important; it turns our “God did” into “maybe not”; our “never leave you” into merely “probably never leave you” and our “always with you” into just “mostly with you”. It turns God’s “I will give you rest” into “I might give you some relief”, and our promise of tomorrow into only a wisp of possibility.
In our “selfie” obsessed culture…. appearance, status, and popularity with friends is often chased after more than understanding the heart and fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
When we care more about what people think of us than respecting the ways of God, then we are secular. Often we harbor perceptual errors that lead to biased interpretations of the Bible, allowing public opinion to validate us, causing us to cease trusting our internal, Holy Spirit inspired moral compass….once we start down that path, devaluing ourselves quickly becomes our constant default position, and then we over-value ourselves to compensate …..we play “wish-craft” games, assuming we are more powerful than we are. Oh, and heaven forbid anyone should disagree with “secular Christianity”…oh man, then the claws come out and the vicious comments just roll, many seeming to automatically assume that if someone disagree’s with them, they, yes, they must be defective somehow. i think more than a few church folks suffer from two phobias: Atychiphobia, which is a fear of failure or of being wrong … which is absolutely pervasive in our society, and Socialphobia, fear of being closely watched, judged, and criticized by others. Those two invasive fears are instant gateways for the “secular drift” to just ease on in and find room and board in your ever so available mind. This ought not to be.