Thursday, December 30, 2010

Morbid Thoughts

So I was watching a movie this evening that involved the collapse of the United States by a foreign power, which is not an odd theme these days, but as usual I found myself hoping that the outcome would be in favor of the antagonists. This has not been an odd response to this particular theme I must admit. Cartoon villains are easy to root against mainly because they are tragically humorous, but the more realistic threats find a foothold somewhere inside that tug at undeniably sinister heartstrings. It isn't a desire to see people dying that has me hoping that Jack Bauer will fail. Even this evening's tale of Russian sleeper agents setting off a bloody jihad with American nukes leaves me cold. I don't find the thought of anarchy appealing personally, and 9/11 sent the same chills down my spine as anyone else watching that day. The fact is, though, I was quietly cheering for Ted Winter in "Salt", which we watched tonight. He turns out to be a Russian agent, but, of course, he dies on the very brink of achieving his nefarious plans.
When I have been watching the news over here about what is going on in North Korea I am also curiously drawn to wonder what a conflict between these nations would look like.
Overthrows, downfalls, conflicts and their like send an odd tickle down the recesses of my thoughts. A tickle that is morbid, but at the same time tinged with hope and desire. There is a hope that this kind of man made disaster would wake people up to the reality of the temporal world around us and a desire that they would begin to ask the right questions. After 9/11 churches were full for months, because people were asking, they were waking up. Unfortunately after not so long of a time the seats began to empty once again as the next waves eroded the writing in the sand. The same sand that so many lives are built upon.
The other desire that fills me is that people would understand that they need to turn to God. Their countries, governments, media personalities, and cultures will not stand forever, but to rest in the eternal presence of the Father is the only true solace we can find. While He continues to hold His saints firmly in His power all other pretenders to His throne are being smashed down, washed away, or simply slowly eroded away by time and circumstance. Psalm 2 speaks of the way that God sees these things, and I so desire that we would see it this way too.

Friday, December 17, 2010

But I'm Scared!

Sitting up late with too much chocolate coursing through my system seems to be a good recipe for a blog post. It has been a while since my last one, but I'm hoping this one will be a little bit different from what I have been putting out there. You see there are levels of honesty we reach when we write these things that make it appear that we are letting you into our lives. Of course, in all honesty, it has always puzzled me as to how we have gotten here when we all know that there is barely a glimmer of the truth to that notion. The internet and all of our other touchless means of communication have left much of our lives as digital residue on the millions of neurons these messages have passed through as they go whizzing around the planet. They don't actually follow the line of senses to be filtered in a sensible manner, they just randomly collide with our grey matter at the speed of light. I am still gazing at a glowing screen in the night, and you'll pocket your smart phone, and get on with your day.
Honesty. I know what the word means. I struggle to live my life according to its bounding principles, and promises of peace. I have suffered under its gaze when the acrimonious bile of its nemesis has seeped from between clenched teeth. I've also known its cooling touch restoring the scorched recesses of of my burnt psyche like a mountain cataract flooding a septic city alley. Seeing its power I have thought to hold it in my hands like a tool at my will's disposal only to find it pressing upon my upturned palms like the weight of the pages written by heaven's very blood. I turn from tool and page to see the substance of their mettle; the form they aped in mere reflection. I see Him.
It was in fact this revelation that finally brought so much freedom to my life. The revelation that these principles we aspire to are not actually disembodied ideals that we can just pick and prod like produce in the day olds section. We didn't come up with them as a convenient way to structure our societies. No one sat around a fire for dinner only to choke on a bone when the 'aha' moment struck, and they realized that we had been going about this all wrong. Hammurabi may have hammered out his view of the reflection he saw, but if he never knew that it was only a reflection then there stands in the Louvre a sad testament of the blindness that takes us as a species. Just as the other pieces of art testify to our desire to grasp at the dissemination of the visual record of the divine character, so to do our ideas and ideals grasp for the intangible. In the recognition of this there is freedom no lawmaker, nor law keeper will ever attain. You've gotta know the Truth.
Here is the hand that both settles heavy on my shoulder and stays my weary, faltering gait. I realize that I do not wield honesty as a tool any more than I forged the truth of the words I profess to the heavens. Truth is the tool that rings in the quarry of my heart to hew out crack and crevice that the promise of flesh may be seeded. Truth is the tool, the hand, the power, and will. Truth is the very Person. Truth will not relent.
Today I awoke with the smell of fresh quarry dust lingering past the falling curtain of morning dreams. He has struck yet again. He has found a place where I have attempted to find some solace that bears only a resemblance of His beauty. Like a child hiding beneath blankets from the deeper comfort of the parent's countenance while fearful thoughts lock little eyes tight. Safety is felt only in the protection from evil rather than the banishment of its very presence. Like this child I too have found a weak and beggarly principle to pull up over my eyes when the boogyman whispers his dark lies. When all my worth is being held ransom I will reach in my pocket and set my fingers about the one currency my abuser must exchange. I will hold out my work ethic. My silly little patch of blanket that was woven against the very curses this tormentor is hurling even now. A work ethic to tell me I'm not lazy. A reference letter to tell me I'm not that same guy anymore. Not the guy I used to be.
How did that happen? Where did the frail cloth come from? Like the child I have forgotten to ask myself where the bed, blanket, and home came from in the first place. Like the child I hear a gentle voice asking me to come out. Come out not to comfort the worries of the Father, but to allow the child to see the eyes of Love. Come out not to give, but to receive.
I only came by any kind of work ethic in my life because of the continuing promise of Philippians 1:3-6 . It only happened because of Him. Were I to pull away the blanket I would see this. If I were to turn away from the schoolyard bully I would see Him standing with me. I will even turn because of Him.
I guess in the end the Louvre can't be blamed for its beggarly reflections, there's no room in the most lavish hall for anything but reflections. As for me I think I'm gonna step out for some air. Peace.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

NWFF Take Me Home

My wife and I are sitting on the 5pm fast ferry back to Cheung Chau after an afternoon wandering around Causeway Bay. We picked up a few items for Christmas and basically enjoyed each other's company for a few hours. It is so cool how you can be in an environment that could be high stress, and yet with the right person everything just seems to shine instead. It's like that with me and my wife. We really enjoy these little outtings where we just toodle around some areas that we already know, or maybe even a new area, and we have no set schedule or specific destination. The time is there for each persons little rabbit trails to be explored, because the time with each other is what really counts.
When we sat down for some ramen at Ajisen Noodlehouse our conversation turned to some of the spiritual doldrums I have been finding myself in of late. We have both been through them so she has been very patient and prayerful during this season for me. This allows me to process through the issues with her very constructively rather than always having to beg for the time to talk. A good bowl of spicy Tom Yum ramen doesn't hurt either.
Perhaps it was exactly this setting that helped me reach a critical realization in my ponderings about the "out of season" funk I've been grooving in. The reason for all of this peacefulness and ease is the love that my wife and I share that has been forged through some great and some not so great seasons of marriage. It is because of this love that we can flow together. Love has made a way for us. Love too, desires to make a way with me. Love personified in the Trinity.
I stopped at this thought for the rest of our meal, and have been ruminating on it ever since. First love. First love is what Christ called the perfect church back to in Revelations 2:1-7. First love. True love. The love that sprang out of a heart that knew there was no way it should ever taste forgiveness even as it overflowed like ice cream on a toddler's chin. True love that caught its breath when the lover's eyes filled its gaze. The days when being called a son of the Living God made me feel like I could do anything. The days when all of this was so much more than just a chant or resitation at the beginning of a prayer, and I could know it with only a thought.
I feel that I have let much of this first love cool. I think I have traded much of its worth for the position it first offered in places of service, like the artist working for the bottom line who wonders where the passion went. This isn't a difficult thing to do, and it can happen in so many different ways.
If you are like me it may cool to an ember. If you are a more choleric person it may manifest in a lot of doing without a lot of loving. Either one is wrong, just look at the letters to the church in Revelations. The real question is how to get to the heart of loving my God once again. The obstacles are all those things that want to get me doing it for the wrong reasons.

Simple Connections

Simple connections tend to be the lifelines that keep us from floundering in the rough patches that following our Leader will run us through. The simple love of those who know us the best. The smiles, and tears of those who have walked this way with us. The ones who will keep moving their feet one in front of the other as they put their arm around our shoulder. Those precious souls who will lift our eyes back to the triumphant Lamb upon His throne, and remind us of the prize for which we strive. In John Bunyan's classic “Pilgram's Progress”, Christian had his companion Faithful to keep his feet falling in the Way. Who have you in this way you find yourself?
It seems that when I survey the narrow way there is only room for a small handful to walk abreast, and in this life there are many I know, but few with whom I have truly traveled, travailed, and prevailed. This in no way diminishes the walk of the others I know, but rather leads me to pray that they will find those ones who will step into the fray and the narrow way with them even as I have.
I write this as a public thanks to the ones I hold responsible for holding me on my journey. I also hope that I have in some way returned their fair graces to me. My thanks yet again are given with honor and respect to Mr. Kerry Donovan who first taught me to walk this way by actually getting me out of the map store and walking it with me. My deep love and thanks also go to my wife who has traversed waters deeper than any other has gone through to remain at my side. She has put her back to mine and raised high the sword to lay into the foes that have beset us, and has always offered her hand when I have tasted the dust.
I write this little post to say thanks, and to remind those of you who pass by here to say your thanks where they are deserved, and to remember to raise your sword and your prayers for those who have set their way beside yours.
Grace and Peace

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Not Sure....

Sometimes I am leveled by the things that seemed so elementary just a few days earlier, and as I lay there trying to shake it off the question arises of why I thought I wouldn't have to deal with that particular attack again. Rolling over to get back up is like an escape dream, every motion finding its energy being sapped by the jeers being delivered to my mind as spittle from reviling lips. Jeers founding themselves on the truth of the situation; I failed. Taunting faces in the crowds leering out like mirrors showing me playbacks of times when I spoke of overcoming, mockeries of revelations shared to bring hope to others. They lunge from the dark periphery, because the spotlight is on the now, burning down from the nosebleed seats to scorch the canvas I have kissed. The noise, like static, relies on its cacophony even before its volume for maximum effect. White noise. A penetrating spiritual tinnitus tearing away thoughts like so much parchment. The noise, though, like all things, finds in its greatest strength the dark shadow of its greatest weakness. The discordant chorus cannot help but to juxtapose itself against the small still stream of order and purity flowing to my ears. Flowing from my corner. Words of such tangible substance they splash across my very vision. Flowing from my corner. My eyes settle there. They settle upon the eyes of the one who is in my corner. They see no teary eyed sop, but rather are gripped by the ferocity of the passion and fire burning within those regal orbs of glory. My Lord is there, and there is no towel to be seen. He is in my corner!
He bids me to look past the mobs amassed in the shadows, He bids me to raise my gaze above them to the cheering throngs of heaven. He reminds me.
He reminds me of why I need a lawyer; an advocate. The crowds tell me that I need Him to plead my case with the Father. They hurl every substantial accusation they can claw from the dirt of my flesh into God's face. Every one of them twisted, but true at the core. The crowd tells me that my Advocate stands to sprinkle blood over every accusation, because every new sin brings a renewed need for shed blood. This flies in the face of the totality of the sacrifice of Christ. Everything from conception to death is finally, and fully covered. Hebrews 6: 6 states this quite emphatically. (love to go into Hebrews 6 more in depth, but not right now) The crowd tells me that Christ stands there dispiritedly spilling His blood over every renewed transgression. They tell me that He knows I'm a failure, but He'll do it anyway.
The picture of the Advocate that scripture gives us is one who comes alongside to help and to console:
(Gr. parakletos), one who pleads another's cause, who helps another by defending or comforting him. It is a name given by Christ three times to the Holy Ghost (Joh_14:16; Joh_15:26; Joh_16:7, where the Greek word is rendered “Comforter,” q.v.). It is applied to Christ in 1Jo_2:1, where the same Greek word is rendered “Advocate,” the rendering which it should have in all the places where it occurs.
Easton's Bible Dictionary

The question that arises in this imagery is why does Jesus need to remind the Father about His blood sacrifice every time I transgress? Does the Father have a bad memory? Is He just itching to let me have it? No. The memory jog is meant for the accuser. Or is it? Consider a courtroom drama where the accused stands beside his lawyer and the verdict has just been read. It comes back as a resounding 'Not guilty!'. The defendant turns and heartily embraces his advocate, but the accuser, rather than hanging his head in defeat, begins to hurl further insults and accusations. He is restrained by the bailiffs from physically assaulting the pardoned criminal, so he uses the power of his voice to rob the joy of this victory day. To whom will the advocate turn his attention? The judge, or the defendant? He needs not address the judge because the verdict has been handed down and the accuser has no more power over the outcome. He turns his attention rather to the one who has been pardoned by his defense. He consoles him, and reassures him that the judge will see to the accuser for being in contempt of court. He leads him from the courtroom in freedom.
See, the picture I was given before had me in a courtroom until the day I die with Jesus repeatedly telling the Judge that He had forgiven me. Court was always in session. The days were long, bleak, and insidiously repetitious. I don't know if this picture is the one you have, but let's do ourselves a favour and pitch it in the rubbish bin. In the courtroom shown by scripture the verdict has already been read. IT IS FINISHED!!!! Finished. No more haggling and drama. No more bloodied bulls and gore drenched priests. Only the victorious Christ leading us from the courtroom, and a bound accuser with no more rights to us ever again! Our Advocate speaks not to the judge anymore on this case, because it is completed. He speaks rather to us to comfort our minds and bring us peace. He speaks to each accusation reminding us of His victory over each and every one. He reminds us of the overwhelming totality of the power of His blood. He reminds us to walk from the courtroom with heads held high, not bowing and scraping. He reminds us that we are BELOVED!!!
Today I needed to be reminded of this, and His voice came through a television program I normally would have ignored for its flashiness. Today the clear stream of His voice came from another servant. Today I will stand.

PS I will apologize here for the seeming incongruities between the metaphors here, but the former image is based in blind feelings and emotions and the latter is based in unseen fact. If you search it out I'm sure the connection will become clear.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Context Is Everything

It's interesting to be sitting here and relaxing after watching a good movie. Interesting because of the surroundings, and stirring because of some of the dialogue from the movie. It was “Good Will Hunting” that I watched in the dark of the staff room while the brothers watched their movie in kwongyeh (wilderness), as they affectionately call the main assembly area. If you haven't seen the movie, and you can stand a lot of South Boston expletives being thrown around, it tells a very intriguing tale. In it the character of a psychologist, played by Robin Williams, confronts a brilliant young man, played by Matt Damon, regarding his lack of true knowledge about the world he could so blithely quote and critique at a comfortable distance. He had never experienced anything outside of his hometown. It made me think again about where I am, because as a friend of mine once said, “Context is everything!”

Context in this case is strangely inescapable, and even more so strangely familiar. I really have to focus on it before it seems out of the ordinary. Reflecting intentionally on my past will show the odd juxtaposition of my current situation, but it cannot sustain the sense of oddity. Like pushing on a minor obstacle, it falls away with little effort leaving only what was before my eyes to begin with. The only thing that is sustained is the sense of belonging that comes not from being in an environment where I am the eternal stranger, but rather the rightness of being wherever I am with my Father.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hope That Stands

The most difficult aspect of faith, is faith. The aspect which demands that we place our trust in that which is not seen, nor will be seen until faith is thrown in the pot like dye in pure water. As it swirls through the transparent purity of hope then there is some form lent to the unseen. When it curls through the liquid current hope makes sense, but without faith there is no substance given to hope. The interesting thing about faith is that it will only mix with purity. If there is mixture then all we get is mud. If it is a worldly commodity it will simply dissolve. If it is a person it will only disfigure them. Faith only mixes with heavenly things. Faith never apologizes for this either, just as oil will not utter a word as it drifts across the water; it knows no other way.

This is wonderful as we set our thoughts on things above as we are entreated to do by scripture. All of glory opens up before our longing gaze as we sweep the light of faith across the invisible realms of promise. Light, life, and love pour out upon us as fluid music, and our feet are found to be on immoveable bedrock. On the other hand, our gaze will turn to fear, remorse, and despair as we witness the crushing weight of faith settle upon our earthly dreams, grinding them to dust as their insubstantial forms are proven.

I would love to report here that my eyes have beheld the glory of the coming of the Lord, but today I am wiping some dust from my eyes. It will be a good thing in the long run, because it is teaching me about the things of the kingdom, and the benefit will be peace. Yesterday it felt horrible, but today will be better. Today my Father will remind me that faith is all about Him. He will remind me that the hopes that I have in Him will never be crushed by a faith that was given by Him. He will remind me of His love.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Up In The Air

It feels a little weird to be writing this from 31500 feet above the Bering Straits, but that is just how fast life can change for a person. I’m not lucky enough to be doing this with my thumbs. I am, however, blessed enough to be doing this on a laptop that was purchased with funds forwarded to us from Dad. Our Dad that is.

It all seems a little strange because if you have followed this blog at all you will know that I have been having some real issues with the institutions that Christians have established in my homeland. Strange because it was while attending a service at our particular institution that I was handed some white packets (not red, but white) with a substantial amount of cash in them. We were told that the money was to be used for personal items and not ministry unless specifically instructed to by Dad.

The cool thing about that is that before we left we were trying to decide whether to put out a request to see if anyone had an old laptop that we may be able to have for home schooling and for my work. This took a while to work through though since we have already been working through where we stand with the whole institution thing. In the end we both felt that it would not be right to be feeling the way we do and then still expect to suckle up to the mothership, if you know what I mean. So I left it in Dad’s capable hands. If He put it on someone’s heart then that would be fine, and if He didn’t that would be fine too. It seemed much better to trust in Him than in my ability to pull off the puppy dog eyes.

It was also cool how Dad did the hand off. You know how you are usually expecting the play to go to the star receiver from your particular team. The one whom you’ve played with forever. The one who knows you. The one who it would be easy to run the play with. Not so with Dad. He is always using import talent to shake things up on the field. That’s what He did to me. When I decided to hand the playbook back to Him he took the least likely player to pair up with me, and put exactly what I needed in my paws. It wasn’t a laptop, but of course He wasn’t done yet.

When we came back to the Fraser Valley the focus was on two things; a sleep over for the kids, and our final packing for the trip home. I was not really thinking of doing any more shopping because of the issue with bringing back extra luggage, which means more stuff to haul home on foot from the ferry. I could say that it was a need for pit stick (hard to find good stuff in HK) that sent me to Costco with my mom, but now I’m sure it was HS who was giving me a push. When we arrived the first thing that caught my eye, after the flat screens ;) were the laptops. When I went over to check them out it didn’t take long to realize that there was a good deal to be had there. I didn’t jump at it though. After all I am still part of a team. After going home and running it by my wife, and checking on prices back in HK online, I realized this was the way to go. I also realized that I had asked Dad about a laptop. Hmmm.

A number of years ago someone looked right into my financially stressed out eyes and told me,“God is your sugar daddy.”. I still carry this with me. Now I can also carry along a means to write to all of you about it. Cool.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I QUIT!!!!

It is all over the web now that Anne Rice, author of "Interview with a Vampire" and many other works including a series on Christ the Lord, has given up on Christianity. Not Christ, just Christians and Christianity. A friend of mine posted a short piece to his blog from author/speaker/theologian Brian McLaren regarding Mrs. Rice's announcement. I think that anyone who has regularly read this blog will have a good idea of how I feel about this, but I, like my friend, am interested in how others feel about it. Perhaps I should rather say how others think about it. Anne's renouncement is nothing new these days, so feel free to broaden the discussion.

My only input at the outset of this discussion will be that we remember, as we speak and write, those who have gone before us.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

That's Life

Life is so interesting in how it moves by us while we watch from behind these eyes. Somewhere it is all being recorded and stored away in the most amazing computer ever conceived, an organic web of cells that contains not only sights, but true 4D. It is not designed for access at will though, only certain events will easily coalesce in its lightrooms. Events written in emotion will often lay like a projection on water's surface, clearer images cast by the light of love and hate, lesser visions cast their recollections ever deeper below the surface. Our retrieval, like our lungs, has limitations. We can only go so deep.
This is one reason that I want to teach myself to feel things. I want to remember those things that should remain. This post will be a brief listings of just some of the things that I hope will stay with me:

- Friday morning we took some students to Tung Chung for a friendly basketball tourney organized by the police. The tourney was cool, but the ride back was amazing. We bused to Mui Wo and took a sampan across to Cheung Chau. Sampan rides are everyday for me now, but a night cruise is a rarity. A night cruise on a clear night even rarer. I sat on a chair on the bow and drank it in the whole way back. The stars above, and the city lights of Hong Kong in the background off our port side, beyond Hei Ling Chau's glowing prison lights. All it takes is remembering back to who I was, and where I was not even so many years ago. How did I ever get here! So sublime.

- Got the call late in the day early last week to go with one of the brother's as an escort to his mother's birthday dinner. English is not on the menu. He is Thai and Chinese. His family is wonderfully warm and inviting to this necessary stranger who must come with their son. As we sit in their little store with the aunts, one uncle, some cousins, and a genuinely gregarious grandfather I am fed some pre-dinner desserts of Ferrero Rocher© and a refreshingly sweet mango coconut dish. This eased what I anticipated to be an uncomfortable forty-five minute wait before we left for the restaurant. When we did sit down at the restaurant the uncle went after his young nephew with a merciless ribbing that entertained everyone at the table, especially the young cousins who gripped their sides as they laughed. I couldn't help but laugh even though I didn't understand a word. Grandpa kept making sure that my bowl was loaded up with abalone, prawns, crab (with egg and Chinese wine), and he wasn't even sitting next to me. It was an absolute blast.

- This morning I had to go into the city early to get some stuff for my son's birthday party, and while I was waiting for the fairy back I sat and ate a quick breakfast with a coffee at the Star Ferry pier in Central. Buddhist monks frequent this area, because just like sharks at the edge of a reef, they know there'll be food here. Food in the form of pasty white foreigners too travel giddy to know that this guy is just a religious scam artist without a cable show. He hands them some little trinket and then tells them that he needs money for his monastery, which they usually hand over. The guy I watched today didn't even try to fake humility, and clearly was agitated with how long it took for the gwai lo (鬼佬) to figure out that he wanted cash. The usual 100HKD (~$13CAD) was handed over and off the respective participants went. By his attitude I figured this guy needed the cash for his morning coffee fix. I wanted to yell,"You know the guy's a fake, right!?". Couldn't bring myself to do it though. Maybe next time.

- This one I did not witness, but my wife and daughter relayed it with such intensity that I had to include it here. When my daughter came to the dormitory to drop off some clothes for me she saw our elderly neighbor whacking a bamboo pit viper into Nirvana with a long stick; probably bamboo. These brilliantly fluorescent green visitors are venomous and aggressive, but no more so than our aged neighbor who stands right around four feet high when she can straighten up, and that last happened on her 80th birthday. My oldest ran back into the house to tell my wife, about the goings on outside and when they arrived back at the scene granny was still whacking the thing. Apparently the buddha had not yet confirmed the viper's arrival in bliss. When she was finally satisfied that the reptile was no more she picked it up and disposed of its carcass, which my daughter said was dripping blood from its crushed cranium. I'll have to remember to keep the hissing to a dull roar the next time I saunter by her house.

There are more that I could write, but I'm gonna save them for a different glass of wine and free time. Thanks for reading. Cheers!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

God & A/C

We are truly blessed to live where we do. It comes with its challenges to be sure, but the sweet upsides cover a multitude of 'sins'. One of these is the fact that we live five minutes from Kwun Yam Wan beach.
It was on my journey there today that I had a really cool thought. The short cut to the beach takes us through the grounds of one of the numerous temples on our little island. I grew up in the bible belt, but we had nothing on this place where there are temples littered on every path and byway with hundreds of little shrines to boot. As I walked past the open doors I thought I heard the hum of an a/c unit busily chilling the interior of the building. The first thought that struck me was that these gods may need a/c, but my God does not. After this the next thought was about all the nicely air conditioned churches all around the world where Christians gather in comfort to meet their God. This actually caused me to laugh, because our God truly does not need a/c, but we do. The only reason we cool the building is for our comfort, yet for some reason we still think that we come to the building to meet with God. It got me thinking about how messed our thinking is regarding Sunday mornings, and how much detox we need to go through.
Now I don't think that anyone really thinks that we set the climate control to please God, but our view of the sacredness of these places that we meet in definitely hint at a subliminal doctrine that I believe is undermining our true foundations. The importance of the building and the Sunday morning program has in many ways taken the place of the importance of the people who are gathering in the building. I guess that my first thought when the a/c breaks down would not be about how many people in the building can't even afford a/c in their own homes, it would be a thought about my personal discomfort, and how it will distract me from the experience that I came to enjoy. I know this to be true, because it actually happened once.
God was with me when I climbed out of bed on Sunday morning. He was there with me in the shower. He heard all my conversations with my family. He saw the look on my face as I missed yet another green light. He knew my thoughts. None of this changed when I walked through the doors of my local church. The one thing that did change was that there were a whole bunch of other people who were (and are) known by God there at the same time. Why is it then that in my mind, whether consciously or subliminally, I felt that something changed? I may have even said something as silly as,"Wow, the Spirit is thick in here today!". Huh? Did I think He was contained in this little building? Did I? Do you? Not any more.
This is why people who come to a new church may feel ignored. The other people who are there came to meet God, not them. Meeting these folks is meant for the foyer if we have time, not during the service when they may distract me from my 'experience'. I have got to be kidding me! I say it that way because I discover this thinking in myself all the time. I see it at the school where I work when they have a morning worship service with the students and I kindly bow out because it is all in Cantonese. Our head staff member, who was a student once himself, will unfailingly invite me to join, and try to get someone to translate for me. He doesn't do it for any other reason than that he knows that the fellowship is what it is truly all about. I tend to forget that with my oh so western, churchified mindset. I need to detox so badly.
Church is not about comfort. At least not the kind that comes easily. It is about the comfort we receive as we give it out. It is the comfort of the nearness of God who draws near in the fellowship between broken people. Sure you may get a warm fuzzy when you shut everyone else out and go "into the worship zone", but that pales in comparison to the filling that happens when you embrace someone in need, or a stranger, or actually find someone who isn't afraid of really hearing how you are doing, because they have prioritized their Sunday lunch date in a Spirit led fashion. Think about it. Has any of those things happened to you? How long did it take for the glow of that to wear off? It may have been emotionally, and physically draining, but there is nothing like it. Maybe the reason that restaurant servers say that the church crowd is the worst part of their day is that we come out of church feeling smugly superior from our "personal encounter" with God. Think about it again; Jesus went off by Himself to spend that intimate time with the Father. The rest of His life was about engaging people, and it was exhausting not refreshing. So what am I doing? Why am I going to church to be refreshed? Why am I not refreshed when I walk in after being alone with the Father like Jesus, and ready to engage?
I have a long way to go.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Simple Thoughts From A Simple Mind

Just got home early in the morning from a very late night out that spurred a fury of activity in a recently dormant mind. Bought what is so far a phenomenal book from and Irish author and watched Inception which had an Irish born actor as a central character, which may explain the happy melancholic mood I seem to find myself in. This evening brought so many thought s to the surface like shoots from fresh seeds after a spring rain. Tonight I felt frsh earth between my toes as I went out to see the verdany green of the new growth. The intoxicating scent of wet soil taking hold of my mind like a drunken sailor offering a tour of the evening's highlights.
Though there is a lightheartedness about how I describe all of this there is a certain weight to it as well. The book is about a conversation between a man digging his own grave and the man who is appointed to see him fill the hole in the cold earth of a European winter. The movie also bears a weighty message of the power of our own memories upon the course of our souls. In the book there is a wonderful statement from the protagonist when the invading armies come into view of his home in the shape of a tank:
What a terrible sound, that rumble. My house was paper, my skin water, my life transparent all of a sudden. I thought, I am going to die.
pg. 18 "Schopenhauer's Telescope" by Gerard Donovan
When I read these words I knew that I had a small taste of what he meant. That tenuous grip on a frail mortality in the face of imminent extinction is a place I have come across on occasion, both in imaginings and reality. Many evenings as I have struggled to slip into natural unconsciousness these thoughts have played out in my mind, leaving their tangible touch in the beads of sweat dotting my brow. Many times I have replayed the evening when I saw my life's blood spilling relentlessly from a facial wound inflicted by the steering wheel of a totaled Ford Pinto as I crawled away beneath the lamplight of a deserted onramp in the wee hours of a morning many years ago. The fragility of my life, and the foolishness of how I treated it has sent numerous chills through me. At the end of these thoughts there is, thankfully, the grace that has lead me to the safe harbor of my Father, but the trip easily grips my thoughts, and arrests spurious speculations of other, darker, possibilities.
This lead me to pondering the sparse crowds that populated the wee morning hours of a return trip to Cheung Chau after the movie. Pondering where their paths are taking them. Pondering what they have done with the knowledge the Father says He has given to all of us. Pondering as I looked out the window of the fast ferry at the barely slumbering city rushing by. This city rolls fitfully in a shallow sleep as it dreams, lusts, and clutches for the spoils of the next day, never reaching the rem realm where the Spirit seeds revelations into passing souls. Perhaps this is why it is the poor in spirit that Jesus said are blessed, they have relaxed their grip on the insanity of a somnambulist's dream in the face of an unrelenting reality. These are the ones who lift their eyes and see the door of heaven swung open wide on blood stained hinges. These are the ones who surrender the illusions for a taste of the real. These are the ones who light up like beacon's at Christ's invitation to come and find the eternal quenching of their thirst in Him alone. The surrendered ones.
Oh to be more fully surrendered and forever leave the delusional meanderings of this world. To embrace the knowledge of the grave as Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 enjoins:
1A good name is better than a good ointment,
And the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth.
2It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.
3Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad a heart may be happy.
4The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning,
While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.
Fearsome words in a slumbering age. Cold water to a parched soul.

The Starbuck view where I delved into "Schopenhauer's Telescope"

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Evolution Of My Thoughts

Not even sure where to go with that initial thought. Not even sure why it is such a charged subject sometimes. I do understand why most of the time, but today is not one of them. I was reading a book called "Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism" by James Rachels, which is an interesting enough read if you like scientific/philosophical books. I enjoyed it to a point. That point was when I could no longer stand the obvious bias in all the arguments the author presented both on his own and the arguments of Darwin's he regurgitated. The one that I found the most humorous was the argument of Darwin against the existence of God based upon the presence of evil. The argument goes that if there is an all-powerful, all-good God out there, and He is responsible for all of creation then why is there so much evil, and why is there so much perverse evil? This was a strong reasoning of his against the existence of a god, and particularly the God of the bible. It is understandable why this made sense to him. It is understandable why so many educated people will also buy this line of reasoning. The simple truth is that the implications of the presence of God in the universe are to overwhelming to consider. The loss of a personal godhood for these people is a horrific thought, tantamount to suicide in a physical, soul-ish, and intellectual sense of the word.
The argument of the presence of evil makes no sense whatsoever, because without the presence of God as a plumb line there is no true evil. Whatever is evil to you may not be evil to me. Pol Pot certainly didn't see himself as evil, and even if he did there was not enough power in this realization to stop him. There have been many people who have steeped themselves in what we would term heinous evil, but have not seen their actions as wrong. If evolution is true where is the plumb line? Mr. Rachels says that Darwin even felt that the evil suffered by nature was too much to accept that there could be a god allowing all of it. Of course if there is only evolution then where does the idea of suffering come from? Are we to weep about survival of the fittest? What about diseases and blights that wipe out populations thereby allowing another species to thrive? Is this evil? Is it suffering? How could it be? If the universe is as evolutionists say it is, then please don't tell me that there is real evil, or even real good. There is only existence, and what you can get out of it. If I am stronger, smarter and well armed I can take whatever I want from you, and evolution will not support me, or admonish me, because it is a simple process not an entity. There is nothing moral about the universe apart from God, so please don't explain away God by one of the very measures of His presence. Even if that measure happens to be the presence of evil.
I have always said that I don't mind someone saying that they want nothing to do with God. To me that is an honest assessment of their true position. What I have always hated are the ludicrous lines of reasoning people want me to swallow in their attempts to explain away the God who terrifies them. At least then they wouldn't have to sound so silly.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The title of this post is actually intended for me rather than anyone who may stumble across it. There is a need within me to wade out into some deeper waters than have run through here for quite some time, and I know there will be a ruffled feather or two. The key for me though is to try my best to avoid all political correctness and just let 'er rip. My only real political ties are to the Kingdom anyway, so I won't be betraying any allegiances or sneaking 'round under the cover of night.
You see, I just got through watching yet another video report about the plight of a homosexual youth who has experienced discrimination at the hands of someone in the faceless establishment. It was not a case of physical violence, thankfully, because that stuff is a crime against all of us. Rather this was a crime against someone's rights and their expectations of how their life should play out in a just society. The details are not truly important to what I am going to write, but if you want to check it out just click the link. The point of this post is not to try this case in a one man courtroom, but rather to look at the bigger mosaic of which this is just a piece. The place that homosexuality has won in our society and collective thinking continues to expand to the point where stories like this are not really about the valiant struggle of the downtrodden. They are stories about the twisted, conservative minds that will not yield to the onslaught. If you do click the link you will find it very difficult to miss the long panning shot of the street sign in a small town which I am certain is not the focal point of anyone else in the town but those who are visiting journalists looking for an angle. The street sign is 'Church Street'. Wow, not to hard to miss the bias in this story from that point on is it? I actually went on Google Earth and Google Maps to find this street and sure enough, there it is. The only problem I have with this is that the context is way off. The school that is in the law suit with the young woman is her former high school 340 kilometers north in Fulton, Mississippi, while the street sign is in the town of Wesson where she now lives. No mention of that as they pan by the sign, nor any panning across the street sign for Martin Luther King Drive which is actually in the same town as the school. I guess it pays to do your own "Digg"-ing instead of letting someone else blindly link it for you, eh?
I don't actually mind the dig at the church that much. In reality they should know that it is the church that stands against this rising tide. The church does stand against the tide of broken sexuality and homosexuality along with all the other hellish things that are devouring humanity. The real church that is. I'm not even going to go into all the politics circling around the North American church like toilet water. The bible is far more plain than we like, and leaves us no place to hide in the face of those who do not like what it says. Honestly this post is about those things we don't like. It is about the things I don't like. The word of God is a mirror, and anyone who takes a good long look will come away with a burning desire for a Merle Norman makeover. We are just downright ugly. Nobody likes that. I don't like that.
There are many things in my life that I would love to just paint over. It would be even better if I could get a whole bunch of people to agree with my point of view, people who would tell me that it is okay to be the way I am. People who had huge legal warchests like the ACLU wouldn't hurt either. It would have been great if I could have gone to them when those church folk confronted me on my addictions. I could have hung that church, that pastor, that truth out to dry, and even made a few bucks along the way. What right did they have to say that my addiction was wrong? What right did they have to say that it was destructive? What right did they have to say that I couldn't lead a simple little thing like an artist's group? What right did they have? They didn't have any right, except that which scripture gave them. It didn't matter whether they handled the whole thing correctly or not, scripture stood as the final authority on the matter. That meant my only option was to accept what it said, and deal with the excruciating work of letting the sword have its way, or slap a fig leaf on and run like hell the other way. There was no other way.
Of course I just had an addiction. Homosexuality is a genetic predisposition these days. Hmm. After a 43 year lifetime of dealing with a highly addictive nature I would beg to argue that addiction is also a genetic predisposition. Of course that all winds down a very slippery path, so I will leave that for you to ponder as you wish. The bedrock I want to set this on is the word of God. In the scripture I see no debates over what is sin and what is not. If there were such debates it would take a crane to lift the book for all the pages it would fill, kind of like what you would have if you had to move the ACLU's files to a new office. What I do is sin, and what you do is sin. Period. No one would tell me that it is ok to continue on in a lifestyle that will ultimately destroy me. I say ultimately because it may be possible to escape any kind of devastating ramifications in this life, but we are talking scripture here, and it makes it very clear that there will be a reckoning for all of us. It would be wrong of me to tell someone that they can deny God and go their way just because their urge to follow that path is so incredibly overwhelming, or even if there is no urge against a God they do not even know. It would be wrong of me to hide God from them simply because it will introduce them to a battle they didn't even know they were in in the first place.
Like I said early on, I don't like looking in that mirror. That is until I see the other face reflected back at me, the face of Jesus. The face of the one who died to stand at my side in this battle. The one who lives to see me redeemed from all that would devour me. How dare I rob someone of the presence of the God of all the universe standing at their side in the fight for their life? Just because I don't want them to be offended? Or perhaps just because I don't want to be offended? This is so much broader than just homosexuality. This is the battle we are in every day. Fighting our way through the fiery darts to make someone else aware of the deadly siege they are right in the middle of. Maybe we would be more effective if people saw our armor instead of just another person riddled with bloodied darts. Don't forget, Christ IS our armor!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The In Between Times

The title for this post is a suggestion of where I am right now in many ways. Physically I am in between trips to the commode as I and my wife struggle through a bout of Cheung Po Tsai's revenge. At my age I am pretty certain I am somewhere in the middle of my life if I make it past 80. Spiritually I am in the in between spaces as well. There is not a lot of flash and splash right now, and in many ways it feels like a bit of a lull before something happens, one way or the other. This is giving someone who spends a lot of time in contemplation a lot of time to contemplate. The place that I am in has also formed the materials for the framework of my ruminations. There has been a lot of searching about what all this is really about. Like a man on a journey I have reached a point where I am wondering if I really want to be carrying as much stuff around as I have been. This has certainly been true in a materialistic/financial sense, because our move to HK had very little to do with fiscal reasoning as do any of the future options we have considered possible (That is up to Dad of course!). It is also true in a spiritual sense. The baggage of things that I have hung on to need to fall away if they serve no needful purpose. I am not a man of many options in life, so everything needs to be considered from a very pragmatic view. When you feel yourself heading swiftly for the eye of the needle you really reconsider what you have a grip on, and what has a grip on you. Either way it will be ripped off when you go through, and if you are hanging on then part of you will be ripped off as well. Not fun.
Much of what is falling away is the stuff that has been flapping in the breeze anyway, but has remained attached because there was a lack of desire in doing away with it with such a finality. You know the things that we say we don't believe in and yet that lack of belief doesn't really manifest in any tangible way in our lives? These are the things that are flapping around like the tattered remnants of sails and rigging after a storm. Their substance was tested by the tempest and found wanting, but what if I just might need them for some reason in the future? What if I liked how my boat looked with all that beautiful canvas stretching in the wind? What if someone else said they liked those sails, and that they too had ones just like them? What do I do?
I haven't had any inclination to fix those particular sails. All they have been doing is hanging on and bashing against my ship. The noise has raised a few eyebrows, as have the dings, dents, and scrapes on the hull.
Time for a reality check. The sails and rigging I am referring to are my beliefs in the fabric of the church. The beliefs that I used to hold regarding big names and big events. This is a sacred cow in North America, as anyone who has raised a voice about it can attest. Right from the Emergent Church to the pulpits of the TV preachers there will be an immediate line of defense formed if someone confronts the dynamism of the dynamic one at the front, or on the cover of the book or CD, or the conference brochure, or website. There will be a deep loyalty and scriptural reasoning behind every rebuttal. There would have been from me as well not that long ago. I had my favorite preachers, and in fact the daughter of one of them is actually an acquaintance of my wife's here in HK (too weird). I had my favorite musicians who were just sooooo anointed. There were authors whom I felt were way ahead of all the others.
Not any more. I want to cut this off of me. I am tired of its useless bashing against my mind and spirit.
The realization I had today was that this is much of what has been hindering the body of Christ in the west. How on earth are we going to see an effective body rise to meet the challenges of the days we live in when we continually abdicate our place in the body to someone with "credentials" and fashion sense? What do they have on the guy down the aisle from me? What do they have over anyone else in your local body? Nothing really, but the position that we give them. Who questions what they are being taught. I see so many notebooks out, but when I have been able to peek at the contents it is just a shorthand of the message being given. Dictation basically. Where is the critical testing of these messages, and more importantly the lives behind them, that the church was commended for by the resurrected Lord? Many will say that we know these people because they have been recommended by other people, but who has really spent any time with them? The star culture we have nurtured puts up a near impenetrable wall around those who being allowed to speak to thousands, and if something goes wrong they run off and huddle away by themselves while the spokesperson tells you the latest filtered news. Filtered because,"YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!" (read: Nicholson in A Few Good Men).
Where also is the testing of the people like me out in the pews, chairs, or bar stools? If I am too never leave the nursery, and always live in the shadow of these "greats" where is my sense of personal destiny and purpose? If I am meant to just sit and consume these pre-chewed meals, not cause any waves, definitely not ask any hard questions how will I find a path to a meaningful maturity? At best I may become a respected servant of a Sunday morning machine at some church down the street.
The funny thing is that most of these voices are telling us that we need to be the effective salt and light in our world, but not at the expense of their position, airmiles, or general thunder. Just ask yourself how easily one of those people will relinquish their death grip on that sacred conch called the microphone. This is when you see that they really don't trust you not to screw things up for themselves and everybody else. My question to that is why is it that if they are called to train and equip me, and I have been under their weekly tutelage, why can I not be trusted with what I might say? Anyone else out there asking that question??? I am not a dynamic speaker, nor do I covet the sacred conch, but the question remains. You may be trusted to speak to a small group in a cell church setting, but don't you think about striding up those stairs to the platform and give forth on a Sunday morning.
Enough ranting, now for the practical aspect of this for me. Cutting this stuff free in my life will look like honoring and respecting each member of the body equally. Considering whatever gift, message, etc. as equally worthy of consideration as anyone else. Testing each person by the Holy Spirit rather than just taking someone's word for it. Enjoy messages, music, fellowship and other things by His guidance as well. Encouraging every seed no matter where it has fallen. Finally, it will also include the possibility of more of these rants, because if I truly believe this stuff then what I would have to say by the guidance of the Spirit would be as beneficial as what Paul said when he spoke this same message to the Corinthians. Look it up for yourselves:

1 Cor 1: 12What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 14I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.
and again (must be important, huh?)
1Cor 3: 1Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?

5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Frustrated Again

I don't know about you, but I get regular cycles of frustration. They are not at all predictable. They are not at all fun. They are the kind of thing that I think, in the good times, should be so easy to avoid, and yet here I am.....again. They are also not connected to being in ministry, because even when I was working 9 to 5 those cycles still appeared.
It becomes a time when I feel like I am tied to a dart board and the enemy can just hurl away with the darts. I feel like I am a million miles away from the Father. I feel like lifting my eyes to heaven is like lifting weights with my eyelids. I feel like I am failing.
There was a program on TV tonight, and it was an interview with Che Ahn. I have never seen him before, but I have heard the testimonies like his before. The power testimonies. You know the ones. They get you all charged up on God and then you end up wondering," Where is that power in my life?". The cycles I go through have a lot to do with exactly this phenomenon. After a while I will finally tell myself that the Father loves me. He is using my life for His glory as He sees fit. This brings on a long period of joy and overcoming, but after another season of seeing the sick unhealed, ineffectual preaching, no real prophetic insights, it begins to get a bit depressing. All it takes then is to hear one of these testimonies or even to remember them. he wheels begin to come off.
I talked to a fellow man of faith who is doing spectacular things for the kingdom in a difficult place. I would have thought that he would have "arrived" in the circles of those who go out to preach the kingdom. During a time of prayer for him and his wife he asked if we could pray for the power of the Spirit for him. He desired to see healing for people rather than just sending them to the hospitals. Of course they were supplying the funds and transport for the people to go, but he still felt that acute lack in his testimony. I know how he feels. I hold on to promises that have not yet seen their fulfillment. There are many more things I want to see by the hand of my Father than what I am seeing these days.
I guess that is all I have to say for now, except that the picture below reflects the fact that I still believe for more.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What Kind Of Power Do YOU Want?

They say that knowledge is power, and for once “they” and God agree. Knowledge of God is the power of life. The question is what kind of knowledge? This is a very important question too, because all of eternity rests on the answer. The kind of knowledge we bear into the eternal results of every decision we made while our vaporous existence quickly dissipated here will weigh upon every echo there. Will they reverberate with ever increasing joy or will they resonate with gnawing regret?

The knowledge I believe that will carry with it the most visceral sting is the empty knowledge of God; the demonic awareness of His presence without any of the sustaining power of intimacy that that awareness should produce. It is the knowledge that accedes to the existence of the One from whom the heart is withheld. To be simply blinded by the irrational desires of the sinful nature will carry with it the knowledge of a folly beyond words as the items we traded for fall from our failing grasp, but this cannot compare to the folly of intentionally withholding our heart from Christ. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is death. So what kind of knowledge contains so infinite a power as to see wretches like us through to the presence of the Holy One of Israel? The knowledge that is born out of the tests and trials that inevitably come when one actually sets the soles of their will upon the unseen reality that the initial facts pointed to is endowed with such dynamism.

After the first footfall upon the Rock that is the person of our Lord Jesus Christ such joy reverberates through our being that we are drawn to take the next step and then the next, and so on ad infinitum. This wondrous journey may be punctuated by times of sinking into the roiling waves of life’s turmoil, but every step preceding it tells of the trustworthiness of the hand that is extended to lift us back into the way. The firm grip of that powerful hand has held us before. The voice calling through the din has unerringly drawn us to safety. The features of the face lit by flashes of revelation in the darkness has consumed our gaze and lit our hearts with an all-surpassing hope. The simplistic purity of the love offered has undone us. This love that is no small rock placed in a vast expanse of overwhelming adversity, but rather the eternal Rock stretching in every direction beyond these fleeting trials, has shown itself too many times to be doubted anymore. Folly may briefly take the eyes of one so captured, but the barest glance will never fail to retrieve the heart that has been truly handed over. And all the power rests not in the heart, nor the will of the one surrendered, but in the scarred hand of the One who unfailingly receives it, and unerringly preserves it unto eternity.

Yes, knowledge is power, but only when it is acted upon. Anything else will be but another volume of learning in the library of hell.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cycling Through The Seasons

Ever since moving to Hong Kong I have missed cycling to work, or taking some time during a late summer evening to grab my camera, and my bike to head out for some clicks and clicks. Cycling was always an enjoyable way for me to unwind. The cycling that I am doing now is not that kind. I’m not meaning that I am riding a bike here on Cheung Chau, which would be tantamount to suicide for the uninitiated; this is a whole different kind of cycling all together. This is a cycle of a spiritual nature.
Working at Zheng Sheng College is all about sacrifice. Sacrificing time, comfort, expectations, and even personal space is the norm here. It is good spiritual disciplining. It is also something that I thought I desired more than I am finding in reality. Of course this is not unusual because we all find this truth when we go after the truest desires of our heart. We find that there is the dream which lights our eyes and sends our hearts soaring, and then there is the very real work of obtaining that goal. One pastor told me years ago, when he took me under his wing to disciple me, that there was an NFL football coach who told his players that he was going to make them do the things they didn’t want to do so that they could become the players they wanted to be. This is very much what many Hollywood movies are about, especially the true stories. They tell of that person who overcame all those obstacles that life, society, and particularly they themselves put in the way of obtaining the dream. This is also very much like Jesus. He is constantly pushing our buttons and boundaries so that He can release the things that we dream of in the spirit. I know for myself there is a constant stream of visions within me that portray the man I desire to be. I will see myself lovingly devoting myself to my family, passionately pursuing activities to better myself, and pouring myself out for the sake of the gospel at the school. This, though, is the stream of consciousness that flows side by side with the stream which is filled with the debris of a life spent serving myself. This is the analogy I will use in place of Paul’s analogy of being tied to a corpse.
I cycle through seasons when I am able to turn to God to find the power to do those things that will bring Him glory, and also, as happens in God’s economy, fulfill my deepest desires, and seasons when I cannot seem to pry my eyes out of my own navel. These last three days were like that for me. I spent much of my time bemoaning the lack of personal time I get these days, and then becoming upset with those around me who are also in a deficient place, feeling the lack of my presence due to my work schedule. It was a tug-o-war the whole time. The rationalizations didn’t change anything either. In fact, they became like a shovel to just dig the hole deeper. Nobody wanted to hear rationalizations from a grump, but they probably would have appreciated an apology.
None of my feelings are culturally unacceptable these days. We are told all the time that if we spend time on ourselves then we will be happy and healthy. Product advertizing keys into this all the time, whether it is the spa getaway or even just the humble dish soap that will degrease your dinnerware quicker so that you will have more time to yourself, they all tell you that more for you is better for everyone. The only ads I remember that were telling me something different were actually from the Mormon Church, which is really frightening. They may be sailing on a Titanic of doctrine, but their focus on family values is spot on.
The reality of scripture faces this down in no uncertain terms. Losing our lives is the only certain way of finding them. Giving up my “me time” to make sure that my kids know they are loved and valued will always pay a dividend to my emotional stocks. Acting on my wife’s requests for me to plug into some books on homeschooling and parenting will pay off on those date nights when we can really connect about things that are a daily part of her heart. Working past the cultural, and linguistic barriers between the brothers at Zheng Sheng College and I always brings the reward of relationship and trust.
The real key to all of this is trusting God at His word. Two verses come to mind right away when I consider these things. The first one is the one about saving and losing your life, the other one is Psalm 37:4,”Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee all the desires of thine heart.” If I truly trust this then I will spend all my time to delight myself in God and trust in the surety of His reciprocity. This certainly sounds like a good thing, until I come home fried from a long shift, and then the burning smell of rubber on asphalt fills my olfactory orifice. This is where the real simple matters of trust come to bear on all my well intended platitudes spouted off about how much I trust God. Sure, I’ll take my whole family across the globe to serve Him, I’ll live and teach in some very rudimentary conditions, but will I serve the little ones at the end of the day. Will I serve my wife or wait for her to see my needs? Whom will I serve?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Well, I gotta say this guys' post has been rattling around my brain for some time now. Not that I read his post a while ago, just that I have been trying to learn Chinese and what he says about Dashan (see link in the title) is so true. Chinese is an annoyingly difficult language to learn, and seeing someone, smug smile and all, spewing it out better than most mainlanders does nothing to assuage this. Top of the list of annoyances about learning Chinese is the underlying belief of Chinese people that white folk cannot really learn their language. If you do speak something to them that they understand their face lights up like you just did a magic trick. If I did that to someone learning English in Canada I would be roundly slapped in the head with a copy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms wrapped in a bow of multiculturalism, and left to bleed out my biases on the sidewalk.
Whew, glad I got that out. Anyway, now that I feel better I should get back to finding some materials for learning this Putonghua.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


Another night descends on Ha Keng, and I am left with much time on my hands and many thoughts on my mind. Today one of our staff finished his three year tenure here at the school, and we bid him a fond farewell at the pier. He was very close with many of the brothers and one young fellow was shedding tears as he headed back up the hill to the village. Watching him leave made me consider how long I will be here, and in what ways this time will change my life. Evenings like this afford me a lot of time to reflect on things of this nature.
As I was attempting to do exactly this, nature itself wandered into the office tonight with a cool distraction for a mind pigeonholed by its own logic. It was as simple as a little gecko-like lizard crawling across the walls of our portable office in search of dinner. I spotted him while I was on the phone with my wife telling her about all my mental meandering, and he meandered his way across the wall securing a brief commentary from me each time he wiggled a little further. My wife became convinced that he was indeed hunting me, and that he was perhaps related to another little fellow who, in a moment of obvious distress, hurled himself at us from the top of our shower door as we closed in to see what it was he was doing there in the first place. It seemed this was indeed probable when the gecko left the wall for the inverted environment of the ceiling. At the same time he changed his heading for a more direct line to the patch of ceiling immediately above my bald spot. We had a laugh as we considered what kind of sound this would make seeing how the distinctive smack of his bare body hitting my bare head would be mixed, I’m sure, with a scream much like that of a schoolgirl. By this time I was far too distracted by the gecko to continue to offload my other distractions upon my dear wife’s psyche and so bid her a good night.
It was not long afterwards that my greenish little buddy set up between the two fluorescent lights right above me to see if he could snag one of the winged creatures that frequent them in the evenings. His patience was soon rewarded when he spotted a good sized moth a little ways off from his position. He stealthily made his way along the ceiling tiles to a place where his lightening speed could be brought to bear upon his prey, and settled cat-like into position. Unfortunately the darting grab he performed did not pay off as a rather relieved moth fluttered out the office door. Not to be put off, my friend made his way to the other light where a moth that I had scared landed within his line of sight. I watched in amazement as he crept into the shadow that the light fixture cast to continue his approach towards the pudgy little moth. The lizard’s technique was so careful and patient that I could not help but be drawn into the unfolding drama. As he inched ever closer I found myself verbally coaching him, and hoping the moth would remain oblivious. Indeed the moth did remain still right up until his head was trapped in the gecko’s mouth. It was quite a battle as the moth furiously fluttered to wrench itself free, but all to no avail. After a few minutes the wings ceased and the swallowing began. It was a super sized meal for the little guy, but he choked it back none the less.
He is still sitting up there as I finish this, and, thankfully, my Father set my mind at ease once again as only He can.
Good night.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Phoning Home

Sometimes I forget how young my children really are until I hear them on the phone. Suddenly their voices sound so small, and almost every time I find myself remembering that they are still just children. When I thought about it tonight it occurred to me that it may even be that way when they are my age, and I am in my seventies. I thought perhaps it is more than just their voices. Perhaps it is how they talk, what they consider to be important to a phone conversation, or just the fact that they are my kids. I do not know exactly. What I do know is that at this age it is quite adorable. For example, my youngest has this thing about passing the phone to the next person after he is done talking to me. He will tell me, as he is passing it to them, “They will be on riiiiiight noooow.” He says this as he presses his head next to theirs so that the phone is never away from someone’s ear long enough for the call to be lost (at least this is our best supposition). Then there is my daughter, who is already rehearsing for her early teens by practicing the art of the extended goodbye. It won’t be too long before we are hearing, “No, you hang up first!” emanating from under her bedroom door. My oldest son seems to be the most secure in talking on the phone, and displays a certain maturity, or at least a desirous emulation of it, when I talk to him. With each one of them though there is this gentle reminder; they’re still children.
This evening it caused me to think just a little further, and I found myself wondering what it sounds like when I call home to my Father. From my end of things I feel that I have a fairly decent grip on the whole prayer thing, even though consistency has always suffered, and I have even read a book or two about prayer and its practice. There has been prayer group participation, small group prayer times, and even the odd prayer on a mic from ‘the front’, and at no time did someone say, “Wow, you really belted it out, but maybe you should read up a bit more on this whole praying thing.” There have even been times when I have prayed for someone, and afterwards they said that God really spoke to them through the prayers. Hmmm. Those would be the times when I know it was God and not me. All that aside though, I still wonder, what does it sound like to the one who created heaven and earth? What does my little lost voice sound like in His courts? Scripture says our prayers smell good; like incense actually. What I have not come across is a description of what the prayers of the saints sound like.
If, in fact they sound like my kids do on the phone this would revolutionize my prayer life. Gone would be all those attempts at loftiness, and grandiose language. Where is there place for that kind of posturing when you are talking to your Father? Gone would be the endless contrivances meant to assure me that I have said the right thing, so that I will get what I have asked for. I know I appreciate it when my kids get to the point, and the little manipulations they try are actually rather annoying because I want them to know that I am approachable; that I love them. Gone would be so much of the physical posturing. Not all, mind you, just the song and dance kind of stuff. I have a really hard time seeing that impressing Him anyway. Gone would be my current sense of what it means to travail in prayer, replaced by a true wrestling with my Father. Anything short of that will simply look like whining from this perspective anyway, wouldn’t it? Wrestling with God is a time when we finally come to terms with His power, sovereignty, holiness, and love. Daddy gently powers us to the ground, and we submit; perhaps with beads of blood on our brow, but we submit. The imagery is not referenced lightly, because Jesus wrestled more mightily than anyone ever has, or will, and for a far greater request than any of us can fathom, and in the end He yielded to the Father.
All of this also leaves me with the question of what actually gets through to the throne, and what is left wriggling on the prayer room floor after we are done. Would I even recognize it from my old perspective or would I just think that all the sweat and effort was true soldiering for Christ and glory? Would I be nearly as impressed? If I truly saw things from this perspective would I perhaps laugh harder; and cry more sincerely? Would I leave with a sense of achievement, or understanding? Would I be threatened by that much boldness, and nakedness? Truly, much would change for me, if only I knew that I was a child.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Who's Your Daddy?

It is a strange thing to set your feet on the land you have dreamed of for so long, even if most people here do not consider Hong Kong to be part of China. The PRC government says it is, so that is good enough for me.
We waited for five years to be back here. During those years we went through many times when we just wanted to chuck the whole thing and see if we can simply make a life for ourselves in Canada. I had a great job with a premier renovating company where I was one of the lead hands. The town we lived in was a beautiful place to live and many people would have considered us lucky to be there. Of course there were also many times when the desire to be back in China was excruciating. For all of those years we felt a certain sense of inner loneliness as we struggled to make ourselves understood to those around us. This included family and friends, all of whom let us know that they loved us, but it was always difficult to connect in that place of dreams.
Being here now seems much different from how I thought it might look. It was to be expected, because following God is always full of surprises, but some surprises really cause you to grab Daddy's hand, if you know what I mean. Part of being here that is really hitting home for me now is a deep loneliness that takes hold every so often. I knew times of this back in Canada, but this is different. There is nothing truly familiar to take hold of, and no one familiar to really talk to. Worse yet is the fact that I have never been a man of many friends, always I have sought deep friendships over surfacey acquaintances. This causes issues because the surfacey stuff is actually necessary for getting to the deeper things.
All this is just to get to this one point. Tonight I was feeling particularly isolated, and decided to do a little bible reading. This evening I was in 1 Samuel and the passages were telling of David's fleeing from Saul. Something stood out to me this time. There was one time when David ran to find Samuel, and when Saul sent men after him to bring him back for execution the Spirit of God fell on them , and they all began to prophesy. This happened with the next batch of soldiers, and eventually with Saul himself. The strange thing that happened next was that David ran from that place. He ran from the place were the abiding presence of God manifested in a supernatural gaurding of his persn. He ran to find Jonathan.
I believe I am also running to try and find a Jonathan. Perhaps I should not be. Perhaps it is time to stay with the presence of the One whose eyes can search my every depth. The One whom I cannot fool. Not to be too cold, but perhaps I should be looking for the Spirit of the living God to fill me instead of a human friendship. This is truly the most difficult hurdle in coming to this land of dreams.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lingering Thoughts

I am constantly amazed by how easy it is to become distracted from looking at Christ as I am commanded in Colossians 3:1-3. It is a constant source of concern for me. Here at the school we end each day, and begin each day with scripture reading, which has the effect of realigning my focus. It has been an invigorating exercise for someone who always struggled with this kind of routine. The only issue I have is with how quickly I change gears from arranging my thoughts according to God’s word to organizing my day, worrying about tomorrow, or just simply wondering off in my mind looking for distraction. This is actually quite disturbing because when I catch myself drifting away it is nearly impossible to draw my thoughts back to where they belong. Disturbing because of the peace I relinquish every time my focus shifts. Disturbing in its obvious hostility towards the desire of Holy Spirit in me. Disturbing in the fact that it is my choice to whom I will submit.
My nature has always been to avoid authority through determined rebellion, and self-destruction, and this has carried through all of the deep work God has done in my life, resurfacing almost daily. While there has been an immense amount of change from who I used to be, the general makeup of who I am remains as a stranger to the mind of Christ. It is that part that will always resist the forward work of Holy Spirit in me as Paul wrote of in Romans 7:23. It may be that this should cause me to rejoice in Christ, esteeming His infinite grace, which enlightens my eyes to even perceive this malady, but I cannot seem to help harboring a quiet despairing within my thoughts. This familiar little creature has been closeted away in my mind for many years. It may also be that this little creature of despair is something that I stubbornly cling to, so that the cycle of reasoned rebellion can be fed.
Despair and rebellion are connected in a parasitic symbiosis from which there is no rational escape, the only way is to ignore it. That is not a typo. This may sound like a descent into heresy and defeat, but the truth is that I cannot keep my eyes trained on this thing while setting my eyes on things above. Every ‘rational’ fiber in me strains against this simple revelation. It just makes no sense. To win I must cease struggling. To win I must admit defeat. To win I must finally concede. To win I must ignore the war and set my eyes on the Victor.
It was a number of years ago that God gave me a vision of a huge, broad valley populated with masses of people who were wandering about aimlessly. The general direction of their meandering was towards the valley’s end where it ascended up into towering mountains. At their feet was rain soaked earth inundated from the dark clouds swirling above. The feet of the people were caked over with thick muck as they slid and slipped about. The primary thing I noticed about these people was that none of them ever looked anywhere but at their feet, and from their lips came only words of defeat, and hopelessness. This is when I heard the voice of the Lord calling for the people to look up, and when I, as one of those people, looked up everything changed. I first saw a brilliant rainbow arcing across the clouded skies that held my gaze from returning to the ground. The sight of the rainbow also made me begin to look about for the source of the sunlight. Turning my eyes from the valley’s end I saw in the sky that the dark clouds ceased their dominion only s short distance away and bright, sunlit sky cut across them like a fiery barrier. It was then that I realized that the rain was actually a blessing from God, and that all I had to do was stop looking down and lift my eyes up. This had the automatic result of turning my head and thus the direction of my travels. This did not remove the mud from my feet, but continued travel towards the light would by degrees accomplish this feat. If I stopped to wash my feet in the rain I would never leave the valley, but rather lift one foot to wash while placing the other into the mire, which meant I would have to lift that one to wash it and place the clean one back in the muck. This would be a pointless, cyclical exercise in momentary glee.
I believe that this struggle will become easier as the years go on, if I continue to make my focus and upward one. If, on the other hand, I continue to either look down at how muddy my feet are, or continue to try to wash my feet clean I will never cross that dark boundary into the dry ground. The mud is simply a gracious reminder of why I need to keep looking the right way.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

We All Live In A.......

There was a time when I never thought I would know what family truly meant, nor what it would mean to be a member of such a thing. My family, like too many others, was broken early on in my life, and left me with a constant awareness of lack. This was a lack that it took years to realize could not be filled with "stuff" no matter how pretty, or powerful. In fact, stuff just tended to erode away the edges of an already abysmal hole that lived like a sucking wound in the midst of my chest. The opening line of this post, however alludes to the fact that these things no longer elude me, and that is simply because the grace of God reaches much farther than I could ever run. His mercy also reaching through more time than I could imagine living that way.
The place He led me to to begin the healing process was a church that existed as a kind of spiritual hospital for myself and many others like me. Fortunately it smelled more like incense than high test floor cleaner, and the food, at the backdoor food bank was not even near kindred to actual hospital food, but in the spirit it was most assuredly a hospital. The thing about this hospital was that it wasn't all about drugs and surgery, but rather it was about renewal.
Now "back in the day" if I were to have said renewal everyone would have understood it to be a euphemism for a Holy Spirit outpouring. While this was the power behind the renewing I am talking about it was not heart of it. The renewal that I saw happen was the kind Paul spoke of in Romans 12:1-8. The renewing of the mind is at the core of true change of any kind in our lives. Without a change of mind no change of heart is lasting, nor transforming. The change that happened for me, and many others, was a change in our understanding of what it meant to be family. The intersection of the two aforementioned meanings of renewal would manifest (hehe) in our meetings when Holy Spirit would begin to powerfully fill people to minister to one another. When this happened I became a witness to people pouring themselves out sacrificially to help bear up one another with whatever God gave them to do it with. Many times this sacrifice was a simple one of time, and the clock on the wall was completely forgotten as we gathered around to uphold a brother or sister in any way we could. Other times the sacrifices ran much deeper and the commitments extended far past a simple evening of prayer and fellowship. These were my first tastes of family the way God intended it to be, and it was truly intoxicating.
The sad thing about this story, though, is that I saw this all dwindle away over the course of a few short years as the people began to enjoy the rush more than the people. Many of them honestly thought that the power of the Spirit is what had been bonding them together when in truth it was the binding love (Colossians 3:14) that was releasing the power of God's Spirit. People began to jostle about in the importance of their relative giftings. People began to feel rejected all over again as their own particular apportionment from God was weighed in the scales of human conceit, and only by these scales were they subtly judged to be less. Of course no one would have the brass to actually speak of this belief out loud if they actually recognized it in themselves, but all the signs were clearly posted. The unspoken, and wholly unbiblical hierarchy of God's favor settled over us like dark clouds at a summer wedding. The party was officially over.
There were many spiritual divorces, and physical divorces as well. Family lost the sense of holiness. Once again it became a label for these biological unions we have with each other through marriage and reproduction. The larger spiritual fact became nothing more than a fridge magnet. There were, as there always are, remnants of God's gracious revelation here and there, but they became the exception rather than the norm. These days there is a tremendous hunger for the power of those days, but there is a very limited understanding of the nature of that power that once flowed so richly. I do believe that by God's grace and mercy, so amply poured out to one such as myself, He will restore all that has been lost, but just as He did it with me it will be on His terms not ours.
This is a long lead up to my real, and final point for this blog which is that family is what this is all about. All this "church", "para-church", "emergent church", and even"underground church" stuff is really about family. It is about a love that binds us together in a fashion that raw power never could. A love that will bind us when all these gifts are laid down, and we finally dwell forever in the eternal presence of love Himself. These gifts we are given have nothing to do with some kind of hereafter hierarchy. They have nothing to do with personal merit. They have nothing to do with us at all. They are given to be given away so that others know that they are highly valued and esteemed in a family whose only creed is love. To some there are great measures poured out, which is balanced by great requirements. To some there are smaller measures poured out, and these are balanced by the inverted system of honoring that is foundational in God's kingdom. To neither is there given anything earned, but only that which pleases God, and brings glory to His name. This gives us all the latitude we need to not only get over ourselves, but to also get over the others we rate ourselves by. The only true measure is Christ, and we had better never start to suit up for that comparison test.
Be blessed in all you have received. Bless all with all you have received.

PS This goes out to one particular family member that I particularly highly value.