Thursday, September 29, 2011

Meditation On Isaiah

My leather chair squeaks a bit as I try to get comfortable and put my legs up on the footstool. The leather feels good against the skin on my arms and neck. The volume on my music is just loud enough for my failing hearing to distinguish the notes. I don't need to hear the words, those I have memorized years ago. In fact, the words to that hymn have done so much in my soul I could never calculate the impact.

The movement of the music begins my meditation, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty."  Words echoed by millions of human beings and untold numbers of heavenly beings. Cherubim and Seraphim's, each in unison proclaiming the unreachable depth of the truth of His Holiness. But, hearts and spirits only have words to try express that which is not fully understandable. Many times we sing with voices that try and express the experience of God's visitation with us. At times there are tears, at times silence as ears listen to others attempt at real expression.

As I listen to the music the story of the prophet and his vision of the Most High comes to mind. Isaiah, a priest, a man dedicated  to serving God, has a vision that is beyond words and human understanding. Oh, if only I could sense the movement of celestial air from the wings of fiery angelic servants. Feel the air move past my face, hear the movement from ears to soul. What did their voices sound like? Even the prophets attempt to describe them must have seemed trite or impotent. How would you describe the anthem that heavenly creatures put voice too? At that moment the prophet must weep for the very weakness of his expression.

The prophet reacts to the scene before him, not in praise, song, worship, nor some noble sounding prayer. He cries out to the host and the endless universe, "Woe is me, For I am undone. My eyes have seen the Lord of Glory." His confession continues and every self-righteous motive in my heart must be consumed. My spirit knows the story so well. The fiery hosts brings the coal from the altar and sears the lips of the prophet. The heat of the coal destroyes every unclean word and intent.

The prophet again must try and describe the voice above all voices, using impotent words that will never be able to describe the scene and sounds. How do you describe the voice of God, His voice that is filled with such power that stars, planets, galaxies to the edge of the ever increasing universe, are brought into present simply at His command. The prophet understands the message from the Almighty. His response indicates that he did not contemplate the message, think of the impact upon his life, he voiced in human terms what the divine revealed to him. "Here Iam Lord, Send me".

In my soft leather chair my soul longs to feel the brush of the angelic wing, the movement of celestial air. My ear longs, strains, yearns to hear that voice. Oh, I have felt the coal and heard the voice many times and I hope my prayer will always be, Lord, let me feel the wing and air and experience the coal till I die.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Risk Taking

As a kid I used to jump at the chance to do something dangerous. I remember climbing to the top of the backstop in a park and jumping off with a parachute made from a smuggled sheet. It didn't work, but that did not stop my enthusiastic pursuit of the crazy. A Flintstone type push cart zoomed down a hill off of Valade street, only to be run into the grass and roll over. The two or three sticks designed to hold up the roof didn't work very well. The plunge into danger that almost cost me my life, according to my dad, involved stealing a rather large motor from an abandoned riding mower. The mower was in an abandoned barn on the outskirts of town. A Riverview policeman noticed two bikes in the tall grass, not well hidden, upon finding me and my accomplice in the act of removing the awesome go cart engine, he asked us a simple question. The question, "Boys what are you doing with that engine?" My reply revealed my stupidity, "We're looking to see what makes it work".

I escaped death that day, because I had an early morning paper route and every cop in Riverview knew my dad and all of my uncles. My zest for risk taking took a small vacation and I walked the boring and dreary path of complacency. Gladly the days of boredom didn't last long. Soon my brother and I were in the fields across Pennsylvania Road playing in the pond and catching frogs and germs. That is, until Todd almost cut his foot off from an old can that on the bottom of the pond and not seen. To this day he credits me with saving his life, I carried him on my back for a while. I used to remind him of how much of a favor I did for him.

Moving from my hometown to a small one bedroom cabin for my senior year was a risk the entire family took. The impact was greatest on the five of us who made the move. I left Riverview with one year of high school to go. At the time I didn't think much about it. We loved Northern Michigan and had talked often about living in the woods. So, a small one bedroom cabin with a kitchen and screen porch became home. That time of risk taking was done in ignorance and desperation.

The move to Zambia was a great risk, yet it was in a way, no risk. We were following the path that had been opened to us after ten years of waiting. A young American family moving to the bush of Zambia, facing the unknown with zeal and an adventurous spirit. Yes, there was a lot of risk. Every time you drove down the roads you were placing your life in peril. I witnessed cars driving down the roads with no windshields, doors and even rubber on their wheels. Mammoth trucks would drive at night with no tail lights. Road accidents claimed hundreds of victims each month.

Taking a risk can be costly. Insecurity lives within every risk decision. The fear of the unknown, or the known, awaits all risk takers. After our time in Zambia my desire to take risks was pretty well gone. The Zambian risk almost cost a daughter and wife to be swept away. Four years after returning to the states I took another risk, resigning from officership. The doors opened for us to buy a small apple orchard near Hubbard Lake, Michigan.

Donna and I both found jobs and I thought, "Genesis Farm" would indeed be a place of new beginnings. The fact of the matter is quite simple. I decided to resign from ministry based on a flawed institution. Isn't everything run by man flawed? My resignation did not mitigate God's call and impress upon my life, nor Donna's life. Some years after our move I stepped out of my secluded acreage and pastored a small church. That risk was richly rewarded by the blossoming and determined life of Ana. For five years that little girl caused quite a stir in Lily white Alcona County. Her basketball and track prowess brought love from her friends and families and vile statements from bigots and haters.

The time in Alcona came to a close when I was rushed into the hospital for emergency spinal cord surgery. The surgery went as well as could be expected, the recovery, well, it did not go so well. My spinal cord suffered permanent damage and left me with partial paraplegia. Seems like my risk taking days would be over. I fought that idea and want to continue fighting it. I began writing a book as part of my own personal therapy. The book, "A Mother's Heart Moved the Hand of God", chronicles the life struggle of Ana and the events that surrounds her miraculous journey.

I have sat, not really, on that manuscript for a few years. As I hate rejection I have just given lip-service to publication. I know that there is a powerful message of inspiration and challenge to individuals and the church within the pages. A number of people have told me so. I know that a major publishing house is not the route for this book. I have tons of information on self-publishing and also tons of information on how much it costs. Any and all routes will demand taking a risk. I know and understand that the risk will be worth it as the rewards will be the accomplishment of completion and the unknown blessings that would come to those who would read the pages and understand the message.

Please pray for me that I would take the risk and get off my rear, which I can't feel anyway.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Protection for the Heart

His helmet is designed to give him maximum protection from falling debris and hot ashes. His boots, leggings, jacket and gloves are all designed to withstand extreme heat. With an oxygen tank on his back he can attack the flame and escape the great danger of smoke.

His training and equipment is maintained to the highest degree of readiness. Every man and woman who wears the uniform and attacks the enemy stands proud, determined and ready. At the sound of every siren self is stripped away as boots, leggings, jacket, gloves, coat and helmet are donned and trusted. Fear of the unknown and the known enemy is overcome with courage and determination to face whatever is around the corner.

Courage and peril are connected in his life. Scenes of great peril call for greater courage. Countless scenes of destruction and great peril have witnessed courage beyond words. A structure near collapse finds a fire warrior searching for a missing child. Frantic and panic stricken parents stand in horror as their child is no where to be found. And then, he emerges from the flames as they reach high into the night sky, child and Teddy Bear in his arms. Placing her into the mother's arms, she sobs and her tears leave tiny streaks through the dirt and ash covering her cheeks. He stands quietly for just a moment, knowing that every warrior who battles smoke and flame would do the same.

What protects the heart of the warrior who faces flame and smoke, debris and destruction, despair and death? The smoke and ash are washed down the drain and forgotten. The hoses and equipment are cleaned and put at the ready, ready to jump at any call. The imprints upon the heart of the warrior fill him with pride, satisfaction, horror and the unimaginable. His comrades share the same scenes etched deep into their minds. Strength is found in comradeship, the glance of understanding, the fleeting connection of eyes, all provide the infusion that keeps them going.

The bond shared is deep and lasting. These brothers and sisters would place their own life in peril without a moments hesitation. They would sacrifice their own safety in an instant, a sacrifice of self to save a fellow comrade. When hardship and suffering attack like the flames, they stand shoulder to shoulder and back to back. One in need is treated like family. The one who is blessed shares with all. Laughter is loved by all and tears appear in every eye.

Today ladder trucks park on opposite sides of Main Street. Their extension ladders reach fifty feet into the sky and the platforms cross high above the street. These machines, used to save lives and property cross their swords in final salute to a fireman being laid to rest. The county dispatch gives a final call to the fallen warrior, as his badge number is called no response comes forth. The fire bell on the old ladder truck sounds three times and the warriors ready themselves for action with courage and determination.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Any Excuse Will Do

Their Glowing, it was slowing,
as the Old Law they were towing.

Their Light, hard to trace,
as they seemed to forget His grace.

God is intensely personal and intimate. He has always been that way and as He is God I guess it is His prerogative. Some of us do not believe that, I did not for a while. All of the doubt in the world can not change His character. His intention has been, since the beginning with Adam, to be on a first name basis with every human soul. Remember, He called Adam by his first name, as He did with Abram, Moses and His New Testament friends. The New Testament goes into intimate language as His followers are known as adopted children. Sonship and heirs are common themes for the followers of Jesus.

Human nature complicates God's design of simple faith. He tells us to be like children and we revel in our wisdom and education. He tells us a child can move a mountain and we want to measure the mountain and form a committee to set a plan to determine if the mountain can be moved or is in fact God didn't really mean what He said. We turn the simple into the almost impossible. After the Council of Jerusalem, simplicity of relationship was burdened with social expectations. The expectations had been in place for the Jewish people, now the Jews were placing them on their gentile siblings.

After the last of the apostles died rules and expectations began to increase. The expectations were based on customs and tradition, not necessarily on sacred truth. By the end of the third century the fellowship of believers was dealing with factions and institutionalism. The conversion of Constantine and the ensuing political and ecclesiastical marriage caused difficulties. Some time around 325 A.D. Constantine called for a council to meet at Nicaea to have the church agree on certain tenants of faith. Around 1800 bishops gathered and set into motion the reference to the Nicene Creed.

The bishops of the Eastern Church and the Western Church now held power to determine what was the accepted faith in Jesus Christ. The leader of the Western Church bishops became known as, Papa, or Pope. In time, absolute power in governance over the church rested with him. His voice was God's voice. As dependence upon creed and Papal Edict increased the personal relationship with God would naturally decrease. People, as we are, found it much easier to give voice to religion. Dealing up close and personal with God made people uncomfortable and demanded relationship.

The corruption found in human nature ran rampant in the church and the ignorance of the common people provided but another link in the chain of bondage. For almost a thousand years the church was kept alive by devout men and women who kept close to God. The dark ages threatened to snuff out the lamp of the church. The scripture was kept from the common people as the religious leadership deemed them to ignorant to understand God's Word.

Two events would be used to bring light back into the church and the surrounding lands. The invention of the printing press threatened the Papal powers as the scripture was put into the hands of common people. The reading and understanding of divine truth removed the cloak of deception the church had used. Church edicts, once used as divine law, now were questioned by those honestly seeking the truth. The other event, the Reformation, allowed lights to blaze and God's children to rejoice in the truth of their relationship.

The church has come along way since the dark days. But, today we use righteous rules to discern true believers from false. Can a really committed Christian smoke? No you say, they sin against their body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Do you over eat, swear, have anger problems, swell with pride, get envious or jealous? The hypocrite in each of us is not hard to find, but very hard to confess.

It is our responsibility to keep our relationship with Christ intimate and tender. God is my Father and Jesus is my brother in-love. I must not allow any church denomination or creed to have priority over the very personal and intimate relationship I have with the Triune God. The Holy Spirit knows my heart, Jesus talks to our Father for, and about me, my Father, Abba, will one day usher me to my new house.