Sunday, May 31, 2009

Love for a Sunday Visitor...

It may sound a little weird, but I want to say that I love you. I sense you aren't ready to hear that yet, and I'm sure you'll never read these words--let alone believe them if you did. No matter how little you think of yourself (and I can tell by the way you act that this is very little), the One who made you thinks you are amazing.

You've slipped into church a couple of times now. You come late and you leave early so no one will bother trying to speak to you. You can't smile, but I see you try. You can't believe things will be better (whatever it is that is wrong), but you come hoping. You can't help the shadow that darkens your dreams.

I hope that somewhere in our words or music or smiles you sense how loved you are. I fear you might not.

Whoever you are, whatever your name is, please know that you are loved.

Grace and peace to you...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Light Dwelling

The sun is coming up. It's been at it for a couple of hours now...a slow crescendo of light. Our cabin doesn't receive those unimpeded beach sunrises. Instead, as soon as the glow strikes the horizon to the east, a filtered green begins to weave its way through leaves and branches. The filter-surviving illumination is a magical, velvety green; dark and light hues and all shades in between blanket our home and our yard.

Somewhere late in the morning the sun tops the oak forest and spills its intensity. Those garden plants which require "full sun" begin soaking up their daily, if abbreviated, supply of glow. And so do I, if I'm here on the hill. And then, before the afternoon is gone, shadows cross the lawn once again. Shade-loving plants sigh their relief, and the filtered light--now from the west--lays like some life-giving fog over our home.

I'm trying to learn the ways of light. I want to live in it, and I want to appreciate its nuances. When the sun is up, yet filtered green, it is still daylight on Sam's Hill. And somehow, this sea of green tempers into a kinder form, what can be a powerfully depleting day-long shine.

Sometimes you feel that God is distant, and other times you wish there were some God-filter to temper holy light. I'm trying to be patient with whatever form of light I receive. And I'm trying to appreciate the nuances.

Peace to you light seekers...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ministry and Beard Trimmer Batteries

Sorry no new stuff yet. This week I expected I'd be flying high. I'm fresh back from vacation, and yet already feel pooped. Recharging my batteries seems to take longer than it used to. And the charge just doesn't last for very long. My soul is no longer an Ever-Ready Bunny.

I have a beard trimmer that is much like me. When I first got it, months would go by without the need to recharge its battery. But now, the tool is aged and on constant life-support. Often it fades into a torture-inducing, whisker-tugging instrument before it can even finish one complete trimming.

I need to replace my beard trimmer--its battery is shot.

But I keep on trying to squeeze just one more use out of it. The good news is, I can get a new one...

I'm counting on Isaiah's words, that if I strength will be renewed. But maybe someone someday will just make the call, and do the replacement thing with me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dry Well, BREAKERS on Hold and RUNAWAY News

I was hoping to hit the ground running with more of BREAKERS when I returned. But my schedule and my brain have not cooperated: the well is dry. And I don't want to put really poor stuff out here.

It seems that I can write with ease and creativity when I'm not in the grind, but when I came home this time, my creativity dried-up. So, I'll try and get going again.

I spoke recently with the agent representing The Runaway Pastor I think I'll have some news to you by the end of the summer. I'll go out on a limb here and say that I believe Runaway will be available for your Christmas shopping this year. Hope you'll want to add it to a stocking or two.

In the mean time, I'd love to hear from you.


Monday, May 25, 2009

World Salve

Sometimes I marvel at how any of us flawed human beings can coexist for even a little while. We are such passionate beings, or dispassionate. We are angry, lonely, ecstatic, lost, treasonous, paranoid, loyal—and all on the same day. We fear communicating our deepest needs, and chafe at our others when they go unmet. We blurt out our every complaint—from rain to mistreatment; and then our discontentment is lessoned and now hangs like a cloud over another.

You’ve met the selfish and the selfless, and found them both to be both. You’ve met some holy and some evil, and found them each to reflect each. You’ve held absolute confidence in another, been betrayed and wondered at how you could have judged so poorly. You’ve been the one believed in, and wondered why…if they only knew.

Angst invades our inter-relationships like fossil fuels in an automobile engine—both toxic and necessary. And in this week when yet another nation has tested yet another more powerful nuclear weapon, I shake my head and wonder from where our restraint has come? How have we not blown our world and one another away by now?

And onto the stage walks grace—perhaps behind the set where it is unseen. And she rubs a shoulder and irons a shirt. He changes a diaper and cares for the elderly. She doctors or nurses or counsels or he befriends or opens scientific mysteries to entertain our minds with truth. She dances a dance we can all feel, and gives us reason to pull our hands from the button that could waste it all.

Sometimes I marvel at how well the world gets along. We go to our jobs and classes—frustration overshadowing our attempts at accomplishment—and come away better and holding hands. We contract and we marry; we fight and we bring lawsuits. And somehow at the end of the day (for the most part) we smile and put it all away for the night—and some have the grace to drop it forever.

Perhaps there should be a God invented who would take the worst the world could give, and come out loving its people anyway. Maybe we could start a religion where God becomes one of us, and leaves unblemished by our weakness, yet moved by the experience. Maybe we need a faith that teaches that God sends his own stuff—his own, well, “spirit” let’s say—to saturate our lives and living. Maybe such a faith could hold the world together…

Vacation Journal: Bear in the Woods, Part 3

We scrambled for our shelters. It was nine-twenty at night, and the sky was black. Lightning allowed us brief and shimmering silhouettes of whatever was outside of our thin tent walls. Thankfully, all we saw were branches and pine needles, and the leaves on surrounding brush.

And through the miracles of crashing thunder, and the loud pattering of rain, there was no way to listen for breaking twigs or other sounds indicating the presence of a killer bear.

That night passed in complete safety. And that night passed exceedingly slowly. The first time I recognized anything like sleep overcoming me was right after Paul called my name quietly, and when I answered, he asked the time. "11:30." He had hoped it was later. I--the one with the watch on my arm--knew it was not. 12:30, 1:15, 1:45, 3:00, 3:25 were all duly noted. And then 4:45...not long now.

At 5:45 AM, an hour before sunrise, the sky had lightened and the rain was no more. I crawled past Paul and out of the one-man tent. I sat on a log bench outside the tent and prayed, and took an alcohol swab bath. (When backpacking, I carry a very small bottle of rubbing alcohol and some cotton disks to use for makeshift bathing. You'd be surprised how effective twice a day alcohol swab baths can be.)

How Paul had endured the odors of the night, I'll never know. We had hiked a hard, fast, mountainous five miles to get in last night, and I had known nothing better than back-woods alcohol swab baths since five mornings earlier. And both of us--in our hurry to escape the rain and the dread of being alone--had fit ourselves into my one-man-tent. My head tucked into the narrow foot end--right next to his feet, and visa-versa. During the scramble for cover the night before, I had not been interested in passing the night alone, and I don't think he had either.

There is a lesson to be learned here. In the midst of fear and danger, there is no substitute for camaraderie. And any friend you have or any spouse you've chosen, is sure to "stink" in one way or another. But stink and all, there is no substitute for a good partner when old "Otis" is circling the camp.

Vacation Journal: Bear in the Woods, Part 2

I quickly stepped-up to tell the other campers--who were in the opposite direction of the bear (at the moment--that we'd seen it). And then the guys and I headed for the river to filter water for the night. We took turns getting water, watching for "Otis,"--as Paul had already named the bear--and discussing our options.

Back up top of the hill, we saw him again. And as long as it remained light, we saw the bear, circling our camp, steadily pacing the perimeter.

We opted to skip dinner. Even after the long hike we weren't all that hungry, and we didn't want any bodily need to leave our tents in the night. Besides, we wanted to keep any food smells far from our campsite. So we hung our bear bags--which that night included everything we had packed that might in any way interest a hungry bear.

As Matt and Paul walked back up to our tents at our ridge-line campsite, they came face-to-face with "Otis." And it was not a humorous moment--at least not then. The bear turned to face them, took a step forward (these are NOT good signs when meeting a huge bear in the wild) despite the fact that they were making lots of noise (as you are taught). Then the bear sat back on his haunches and looked at them--thirty feet from where they and our tents stood. (They got a couple of fuzzy--no pun intended--pictures, and one that shows just two glowing eyes staring back at them.) After plenty of more noise, soon the creature carried-on with his reconnoiter of our night's home.

As the last of the day's light waned, we realized our desperate need for fire. The rain had soaked that pine forest as it had us. Nevertheless, we began combing the forest for scraps of bark, pine cones, pine needles, and my favorite, dead lower twigs on pine trees. Yet the moisture in the kindling and the air made a fire most reluctant.

Being the socialite of our group, and being highly motivated by the bruin circling our darkening camp, I started walking up toward our neighboring campers. "Marco!" I called out. He responded, and not seeing the bear and knowing he was waiting for me, I closed the distance and asked how they had gotten their fire going. If they had some fuel they'd used? Now, if toilet paper is called "trail money," what Marco handed me should be called "trail gold!" A miniature fire log. A guarantee of thirty minutes of strong, bold flame. Our moist kindling would have no choice but to surrender!

Even though the moist air made lighting our treasure a bit of a trial, soon flames were crackling, and branches broken and arranged were ablaze and illuminating our hungry faces. Paul and Matt, with their high powered hand lamps did occasional "perimeter checks," and no glowing eyes were reported. (Though I did jump at the sight of a few weird glowing moths flying near our fire in pairs of two--just about the right distance apart to be a set of eyes...)

For about ten minutes, we studied our wood supply and contemplated sleeping next to the comforting fire, on the ground, under the stars...which were blocked by clouds...that began to rain...hard.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Vacation Journal: Bear in the Woods, Part 1

Hey everyone, it is good to be back from vacation. I thought I'd use some of my journal writing to get the blog started back up. I'll post this entry in 2 or three sections. Here is Part 1.

By the time we reached our trail head, it was 5:15 PM. We had three hours and 10 minutes of daylight to hike 5 mountain miles, set-up camp, filter water, make dinner, hang our bear bags and start a fire.

Temperature was in the mid 80's and humidity was high. Matt's pack was broken when we arrived, and it rode his shoulders painfully the entire way.

Late start, some forgotten supplies and threatening rain didn't dampen our spirits. However, at the halfway point of the hike, rainfall dampened us. We covered our packs and largely ignored the rain gear because of the heat...

The trail is more difficult now. Our maps leave us somewhat uncertain as to our place in this wilderness. The guys oriented well, however, and we trudged and splashed on until arriving at the camp area we had chosen.

The trail lay between the large camping area above and to the right, and a rushing stream, below and on our left. We needed to filter water for the night, but decided to find a place to make camp first. We passed a group of four guys and walked on to an area with its own bear cable system--about one hundred yards through the pine forest beyond them.

Paul saw it first. In his casual voice--as if he were pointing out an interesting tree on the side of some road--he said: "There's a bear. It's right there." He was pointing out in front of us, and we were at full attention.

Directly in front of us was a bear. A large black bear walking in a path perpendicular to our own. And though his large body was sideways to us, (we estimated that on all-fours, his back was around four feet high) walking on all fours, his face was on us...of that there was no mistake.

Paul caught a brief shot of him on video. And then he was hidden from our sight, at least for a while. I suppose if we had seen no more of him that night, we would still have been wary.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Vacation, Breakers, Brokenness and Writing

Many of you ask me the same question: "How do you seem to understand the different people you write? A runaway pastor, a lonely wife, a single woman...etc? Well, I'm learning about me, and I think I have a bit of an answer.

I'm weird. When someone tells me their pain, joy, panic, passions, sins, fears, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, treasons, etc.-- they go inside of me, and I not only feel them--I live them. I've not only held the pan while a woman vomits out the drugs she took to kill herself, I've been her. (Don't miss understand, I've not tried suicide, but) I've deeply co-experienced the dread and fear of many, many successful and non-successful attempts.

I've held the spouse who's love just ripped his arm from hers as he left her for the last time. And I've experienced--later in prayer--grasping with her, and escaping with him. I'm plagued with a heart that is empathetic, compassionate and therefore often heavy.

I'm leaving Sunday evening, May 10 for a hiking retreat, then a vacation with the family. I'll not be back on here until May 23rd. Sorry if you stop by and find nothing new. I am leaving without having been able to do any more work on Breakers, and for all of those who have been asking--I'm sorry. Don't give up on me. I've also not completed a book review I'd hoped to finish by now. Oh well.

As I go away on this trip, I'll try and leave behind many heartaches, cancers, struggling relationships, fears, and general sins I've been told of. And I will do a semi-decent job of it. But in the night, in the mountain forest, I may flashback to a broken friend, and I will pray.

Yep, I'm weird. I'm weak. And I need these times of being away. Thanks, those of you who know me, for loving me anyway.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday Musings: Love, Justice and God

You ever wonder how the God who wipes out entire nations in the Old Testament, stoops to welcome a sinners in the New Testament? I have.

To be specific: Lot's wife is turned to a pillar of salt for turning and looking over her shoulder. The earth is flooded and wiped out because of evil. God's warriors are told to kill every living thing in a village--including women and children--as they conquer it. And then there is the eternal punishment in Hell for those who refuse God's grace. These are just a few examples of what we are told is the JUSTICE side of God.

The LOVE side? When we are permitted a front row seat to God's presence, we see a different sort of picture. He bends down and forgives an adulteress lying condemned in the street. God loves the one filled with demons who lives in the cemetery. He invites cheating, conniving tax-collectors to be on his team. He forgives soldiers who are killing him in the most agonizing of ways. He tells a criminal he'd see him in Paradise that day.

Have you ever struggled with the juxtaposition of these two portraits of the Almighty? I have. And so, instead of a cliche answer to this question, I'd like to ask if anyone is interested in commenting on/discussing this quandary?

I think it is cogent to the theme of Breakers. How would God deal with Kenna? Why? How would he have Cam involved? Would God have Cam involved? Why? Why not?

In the world where you live, how would God interface? A flood? Salt people? Genocide? Invitations to represent him? Get down in the dirt?

No matter how you answer, where does your picture of God leave the other picture of God? How do we deal with that? How do we explain it to the one in a hotel room, suicidal and grabbing the nearest Gideon Bible, then reading about the flood--or Lot's wife...?

Hmmm. Felt like asking you to think today.

Grace and peace to you.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

How to Lay Down a Life, When Life Has You Down

The garden needs planted. There's cleaning to do. Next winter's wood is not cut and split. You can't afford the electric bill. You're behind at the job. The car needs an oil change. You're concerned about your children. The lawn needs mowing. You may lose your job. Your savings are gone. You're wondering about your marriage. You wish you were married. You wish you'd never met him/her.

We are told: The flu is spreading. The recession is scary. Children are kidnapped. Big business is corrupt. Pirates are pirating. Stock market is plummeting. Our government is corrupt. Murder is highlighted. Terrorists are terrorizing. Newscasters are smiling--casting fear like a treble-hook lure, seeing who they can reel-in and clean for dinner.

And scripture tells us to lay down our lives for each other? Seems like life already has us face down on the living-room floor...enough already! What's left to give?

When they get home, hug them. When they cry, sit with them. When they laugh, laugh with them. When they're hungry, feed them. When they're thirsty, give them something to drink. When they are in prison or in the hospital, visit them. When they are naked, clothe them.

When you're hungry, admit it. When you're lonely, tell a friend. When you're happy, share it. When you are sick, accept the kindness. When you are in need, welcome gifts gracefully. We really do need each other!

Watch him pull out his wallet and lay down dollars for the family's daily bread. Watch her place her check in the collection box. See as he loves that bad girl. Don't miss it as she befriends the ugly duckling. There's Dad going to the factory with a limp and a fever. There's that neighbor spending the night at the bedside of her dying friend. And there's the single Mom working and sweating and giving and serving and missing a companion.

Love one I have loved you. Jesus