Friday, October 30, 2009

come home, hillbilly boy!

I just finished writing a the story/play for our halloween party. Here it is in full:

(for a follow-up to the evening. There was much spiritual warfare throughout the night. There was one time in the evening, after the play, that there were three groups ministering in prayer to different individuals. I had an opportunity to talk with each of these young people. One of the girls was trembling with inward pain. She would groan repeatedly, "I hurt so bad." She has secrets that she told me would keep me from loving her, even if I was a christian. I was firm, "I love you--we love you here. We will protect you." We cannot make such promises because we are strong, but because One who is strong dwells within. The night ended for me at 1 o'clock. The next day (the day that in which I am now writing) I went on a hike up to a favorite lookout in the area. On a clear blue day, the kind you wish for when taking a picnic, you can see all the way to Seattle. But Seattle is only a toy city in this view. Immediately in front is a valley down the edge of the cliff you are standing on that rises again onto a mirror mountain. It was a needed time to sit and pray. It is so good to "cast our cares" on the Father. Join me with whatever you have.)

Title: Come Home, Hillbilly Boy!

The beauty of the farm -
Most stories begin “once upon a time,” but this could truly happen anytime. Did it happen at one time? Sure it did, and I will tell you that story. But what makes it a good story—like every good story—is that it could happen to me or you just the same.
I don’t know if your familiar with the area. This is the Appalachian Mountains, which stretch from the Great Smokey Mountains of South Carolina through the Catskill Mountains of New York and on North. The Appalachians are rugged and beautiful. It is not only the endless landscape of tree steepled mountains and loosed beasts that make these mountains rugged. The people do their own part to add to the unwelcoming legend that has grown here. If you got on your fastest horse and traveled due East from New York City you would eventually ride right up the mountains. Then once you start heading right on down the other side you would be sure to hit the Father’s farm. Of course it goes by a different name, but to separate it from all others farms we will give it that simple title. Set in a lush valley between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean—which if you paddled a boat across would set you down upon the desert sands of Africa—the Father’s farm was all that one might consider perfect as far as farming goes. I have been told you can hear whispers of His wheat harvest on the steamships that travel up and down the Mississippi and tales of the wild mustangs that are tamed there as far west as the gold rush towns of southern California. I would tell you more, but there is not enough time.

The characters -
The Father who lived on the farm had two boys. One Old and one Young—and for the sake of time that will also be their names. Old had graduated college by the time that the Young was graduating high school, and was planning on returning to the farm to continue the family legacy. There was opportunity for both of them there for the ranch, as we have mentioned before, cannot be measured by the eye for it spans over hills and across rivers; however, the younger son was not like the older. He didn’t want to go to college, work on the farm, and if we are going to be honest—like all true stories should be—he was not always excited to live in the same house with his family.

The discontent of the farm -
You might not find this difficulty unusual, but it must remembered that in farming and families it is sometimes hard to tell which one has been around longer—the bloodline or the dirt. The Father’s farm had been around for a long time. Some say, since even before the world began. So it was a big deal the Younger wanted to leave. He felt limited by the boundaries of the farm. The world was big and that meant that there must be something better out there. Poor reasoning, but mixed with earnest desire even the poorest reasoning affects the mind like a tonic.

Leaving home -
So one day, not long after the return of the Older from college, the Younger gathered the courage to approach the Father. Even this act might seem surprisingly undefiant, but above all the younger could not doubt that his Father was a loving man. He told the Father his desire to live in the world. “Over those mountains are places where building rise higher than trees and people ride machines like horse drawn carts,” the younger explained. The Father was not na├»ve to any of this. You see, the Father’s farm was a thriving place. Not only was there premium beef served in skyscraping restaurants from New York to New Delhi, but their crops supplied markets around the world with a rare quality of fruit. Knowing this the Father did not smile. He only replied, “Son I love you. I will not force you to remain. From what I have you may take. Only take what I have knowing that I love you.”

The early beauty of the road -
The road seemed fresh to the younger son. New things usually do. In no time at all he saw new birds and trees that he had not seen on his side of the mountain. And for a while things seemed to blossom before him. The sun shone seemed to follow him over the mountain top. The road went on for quite some time and the younger grew tired. Being tired enough to sleep he dropped down beside a crossed street sign.

The meeting of a jovial friend -
What felt like only moments later he awoke to the bright whistle of another person coming down the road. The younger was what one would rightly call innocent. Never being outside the Father’s farm he thought of everyone as being connected by mutual kindness and respect. So he happily grabbed the oncoming fellow and gave him a hearty greeting. Without waiting for a response he told the other young man his whole history and his plans to see the world and of the ability he had to do just that, revealing all the wealth that was given to him by the Father. To this the new fellow then replied, “Ha! Well my friend you have met the right person. I am a sailor. I have seen the world (giving the Younger a slight wink and nudge with these words) and will be your guide. With what you have and what I know we will rule New York.” The Younger knew neither what the wink or nudge meant, but thought him very friendly so responded, “I don’t know New York, but I am done with the old, so let’s go my friend.”

The city -
The Younger had not completely picture New York wrongly. It was all he imagined, yet more. The light were brighter, building taller, and cars faster than he had described to all those back at the farm. Being sure of the rightness of his decision he settled down at once. Since he had always been taken care of before one of his concerns was managing his money. To his delight his new friend offered to help him with that and so he entrust all his inheritance to the capable hands of his first friend. The first of many I should say. In no time at all the Younger was a popular name in upscale New York. He learned that a “party” meant more than a barn and a fiddle. Here party meant people—lots of people—and twenty flavors of booze. At first it made him uncomfortable, especially the other things that came with this loud and fast environment. He had never kissed a girl before. Once he had winked at a girl the pretty redhead in the country church before, but it was nothing like this. As we said before, it was not comfortable at first, but with a little encouraging from his friend, “come on man, I thought you wanted to see the world. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge),” he finally slept with a girl who seemed to like him enough. She was really pretty and it was nice to get attention from her.

When our means end -
This went on for a quite a long time. The Father had given him a lot. Then one day the house was quiet. It was nice to finally have a quiet day so he thought nothing of it until the evening. By the evening the quiet was almost unbearable. It is hard to be alone when you have carried on for so long. He went out alone for the first time since he had entered the city (you know someone is familiar with a place when they just call it “the city”). The buildings did not seem tall anymore and the street lights seemed dull compared to the rays of sunlight that spanned across the silver lake back home. Home! It was so distant now, even hard to imagine. “Oh well,” He thought, “I would not be welcomed back anymore. Imagine telling Father what I have done. And Older brother always thought that he was better than me. Just think what he would say.” It was completely dark when he returned to the apartment without a yard that he now called home. His key didn’t work in the door, so he tried another. This evening does not allow for a complete retelling of the following events that would leave the Younger even more alone than before. You see, his friend (though it would be a disgrace to continue using that word for such a person) had indeed taken care of his money. He had paid the rent for exactly two months, with the rest he made the connections that he himself wanted and boarded a one way flight to Mexico.

Dejection -
To tell the truth the Younger looked quite silly sitting on the curb in his pajamas. He had not thought of changing when he went out for his evening walk and now that was all he had in the world. Being as resourceful as he could he rode the bus to the end of the free zone and then made it to the edge of town by hiding under the seats and then running off the bus. Despite his distance from innocence he still felt bad for doing such things. If you have ever walked further than from the bedroom to the kitchen in slippers you might find a little sympathy in your heart for our lonely boy. Dirt roads were made for pick-up trucks and boots, not the thin clothing and cloth shoes that this young man wore.

A cruel master -
By watching the boy walk you might have thought all he had known was hardships. If his shoulders were not attached to his neck you would think they would have fallen to the ankles.
His hands remembered the work that he once knew so well so he headed back into farm country. Still on the waterless side of the mountains he found a pig farm and applied for a job. The master of the farm spoke in grunts and points. It is all you can expect from a man who lives alone with pigs.

Pigs of despondency and a hope beyond -
The man was not used to society or companionship—he too had been hurt by the world— so he made the boy sleep with the pigs and treated him little better than the animals that he fed. It might surprise you what the depressed heart can put up with. But there was something too familiar about the dirt to make him forget a memory that now seemed to be almost too distant to hold. It was a small thought, but a thought nonetheless. It was a moving picture of a loving man who owned a mansion. All his servants lived in the mansion with him and his table was never without food. One day it came to the young boy in a flurry of wonderful thoughts, that that man was his Father! His own father! “I know what I will do,” the boy spoke to himself, “I know that I am not worthy to be a son, because I did not listen to the loving words of my Father, but knowing his love I will ask for forgiveness and beg to be his servant. Oh how wonderfully he treats even his servants.” Fearing the wrath of the cruel master he currently worked for the Younger escaped in the middle of the night and upon finding the first road he headed due East back over the mountains.

A Father’s run -
Soon enough the boy began to see familiar things. The refreshed mind is an amazing thing. As he walked he remembered the names of trees and the songs of familiar birds. He rejoiced to be in this strange country that seemed so wrapped in love. How had he not understood this before? How could he think there was a better place in the whole universe? The place was so familiar now that he knew he was within shouting distance from the house. Then as if some unseen hand had grabbed the collar of his raggedy shirt he came to an abrupt stop. Could he really do this? Had he not taken advantage of the Father? He was not worthy and he knew that well. It seemed to be the greatest truth in the universe at that moment. He was not worthy to be loved. A terror filled his heart. Not a terror of the Father or this beautiful place, but a terror of all that he had done and become. He was not worthy and that was it. Numb and emotionless his body turned itself around and moved slowly back towards the dark trees and nothing. Then there was noise. A rustling and commotion, the sound of panting and running feet, and then an embrace. The Father had come!

The exchange -
It was the Father who finally turned the son around. “Ha! You do not think I would let you go again,” the Father spoke through bearded smile. The son, to overwhelmed, fell and could not lift his eyes or his hope for fear that it was not true. For hope is easy to lose and hard to regain. “Sir,” began the son, not daring to call him Father, “I am not worthy to be called your son. Please forgive me. Please, please just take me as your slave. I don’t even need to stay in your home, just let me stay in this beautiful place.”
“Son,” returned the Father, “I forgive you. Do you not remember what I told you when you left? From what I have you may take, because I love you. Be my son. That is what I want.”

A feast -
The Father and son returned to the farm arm in arm now being more aware of the beauty within than the beauty without. That night the whole farm feasted together like never before, because the son who was lost had been found.

There is more to be told. But I will leave that for another story.

But I will add this: There is a moral to be had from this story. The boy was lost. We can only be lost if there is such thing as being found—a place to be that once you are there you are found. Our hearts long for a home. They feel lost. The moral of the story is that there is a Father and you are a child. The moral of the story is “come home, hillbilly boy or girl!” Your spirit longs for it, but for a long time you have played in the city of sinful desire or sludged in the in trough of the pigs of depression and despair. “Go home, hillbilly boy or girl!” What awaits you is “foundess,” what waits is home. I do not pretend that all have memories of home for you are fond memories. Home may equal hurt for you. You have found pigs as companions even in the place you grew up. Perhaps you even grew up with the mean farmer as a father. Now that you have heard in this story of a good father and a warm home, I will tell you that it is true. You are loved and have been loved. God waits as a Father to welcome you home.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

go away

There is a sad reality with age: minutes shrink. I feel like I have less of them. Sometimes it takes a trip or a drive--a purposeful stretching of a moment--to elongate them again to pleasantly abide rather than hang-on and survive. There was no "in-betweens" today. You know what I mean, no between this and that to do little things. And it is not a problem of busyness. It is the problem of "The Busy." Perhaps you are lumped in that hurried group. Again and again I read in books how Martin Luther would not go a day without praying two to three hours. Proportionately the average christian spends more time telling people that they need to pray, rather than actually spending time in purposeful and violent intercessory prayer (a guess, not a statistic). "God use me." Here is my prayer. I don't want to use myself. I will exhaust me. God wants to refresh me. Jesus asked his disciples, "Come away with me for awhile." Only He knows how to fix and refresh our inner part. "As some of the poets have said, 'In Him we live and move and have our being'" (Acts 17).

Monday, October 26, 2009

His body a bridge

Much ado over the weekend, but I will leave the details to your intuitive prayer. One part of the weekend was Living Free classes at Destiny City Church in Tacoma, WA. We took 24+ to a three part class on living by the power of the Spirit, because of the victory Christ won for us. Another part of the weekend was starting "Sunday Lunch" at The Solid Rock Cafe in Port Orchard, WA (also known as Coffee Oasis III). 15 people showed up to eat chili and cornbread in a restraunt setting. We are partnering with New Life PO (and other churches soon!) to provide a meal every Sunday for those who are in need or homeless. The idea of being "in need" is so general. For some the need is no more than the ache for companionship or (most likely "and") to hear about Jesus who loved them and gave himself for them--an ever-satisfying water and food that they have not known or heard of (O but how many know and yet do not drink!). The majority of the people that came were homeless, but some also just wanted to share a meal. Please pray for these lunches as they take of and we look for more churches to fill the Sunday slots.

Great joy in the Spirit over the unblushing romance of God in Ephesians this morning. Hallelujah in the morning for the fog between the trees!

Here is a song a friend emailed me and I appreciated so much I thought it should be passed on (I recommend clicking on the youtube link and reading the lyrics as you listen to the song):

I crewed on a fair golden ship that
Went down at the dawn of the world.
We mutinied and sentenced our captain to die,
‘Fore our sails had barely unfurled.

We sank shortly after our riot;
Wanton flame and our powder kegs met.
While I swam for my life there came voices aloft
-Joyful, unearthly, and dread -

Singing of a violent, tireless mystery:
That one would give his life to save his enemy.

Too bone-tired to keep my arms moving,
To swim or even grasp after straws.
The undertow drew me down into its cold
And infinite indigo jaws.

I heard singing of a violent, tireless mystery:
That one would give his life to save his enemy.

I thought I must be dead or dreaming,
When my captain - still battered, betrayed -
Pulled me up, laid me over the beam he’d clung to,
Breathed his last, and sank under the waves.

Your body is a bridge across an endless sea.
Your body is a bridge across an endless sea.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

11 o'clock waters

I watched the movie Bella tonight. It made me want to adopt. A quiet evening after a long day. Like the stillness that settles over 11 o'clock evening waters. We saw more homeless today than usual. Tent? Sleeping bag? "I just want to stay warm tonight..."

Friday, October 16, 2009

help for thanks

"It is better to lose your live than to waste it. If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full. This is not a book [Don't Waste Your Life] about how to avoid a wounded life, but how to avoid a wasted life. Some of you will die in the service of Christ. That will not be a tragedy. Treasuring life above Christ is a tragedy." - J. Piper

(After making this post I spent the evening with a close friend that does not have the hope of Jesus. After rock climbing we spent the evening talking about poverty and compassion. After graduating from college with an engineering degree he began working a job that pays very well. People that get pay well are very aware that they are also being taxed well, and because they are being taxed well they feel that they are contributing. I told him that we cannot function on this capitalist view that money buys you an opinion on matters concerning the poor and hopeless. There are people that will never understand their poor neighbor because they do not have a correct view of material wealth. They have made it their salvation. "What can a man give in exchange for his soul?" If we learn anything from the story of the Good Samaritan it is that compassion equals taking the time to invest yourself and not merely resources. Reading John 3:16 we learn that God loved and gave. After we talked, I was able to read him the above passage from John Piper's book define the sharp edge of the line dividing our perspectives. In the end my dear friend, who I love, told me that he cannot think of giving up his weekends to expend himself for the needy. "Not all of us have a hope beyond this life...this life is all I have and I need to have fun." Could I judge him? How often that is the pleading tug of my own heart. Keith Green has a song "I find it hard to just ignore a billion starving people." The truth is that I find it too easy to ignore the starving. I grow accustomed to valuing my life and my heart and my pride. "He who tries to save his life in this world will lose it; he who loses his life for my [Jesus] sake will find it." Jesus present a new value system not as a means of guilt, but as a means of freedom. In Him we have the first-hand benefit of knowing the Creator and understanding how to be the created Imago Dei.)

By only looking I could probably only piece the story together half better than you. His mouth was only half full of teeth. His ripped 50 gallon black trash bag was filled until it was too heavy for his own arms to carry. Jacob and I met him at our table during out free meal at Salvation Army today. We know a good number of the attendees and it provides and opportunity to both reconnect and connect. This is the first time I had seen Donny. It is possible that we had met before, but the story is that Donny, now bald and baby-faced, had all his hair shaved off by his "girl" while he was sleeping. I told him the story of Samson. Donny is homeless. As we sat down Donny began to mumble barely audible words. The food at Sally's usually gives reason for mumbling even if it is free. As lunch let out at Sally's Jacob and I followed the exodus with Donny in tow, walking a few paces behind while I carried his awkward and heavy bag, filled with clothes and bread and apples. We had promised Donny that if he came back with us that we could replace his broken tent and give him warmer clothes for the onsetting winter. Like many who climb the stairs to our clothing closet, they come down with more than they expected. I don't know how to say "no." We have been given to very generously. My only question is how to encourage a thankful spirit. Out of the ten lepers that Jesus healed only one came back to say "thank you" and that was the one commended. The tent we live in will perish (2 Corinthians 5). How do we point beyond the excitement of finally having one warm night of sleep towards an eternity of safety. Continue to pray for wisdom and grace for us as we live open-handed and open-hearted.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

blushed in blood

To shame our sins He blushed in blood;
He closed His eyes to show us God;
Let all the World fall down and know
That none but God such love can show.
- Bernard of Clairvaux

"Let him who cannot be alone beware of community....Let him who is not in community beware of being alone....Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

a cure

After dropping my car off at Firestone for four new tires and an alignment Titus and my mother met me half way back to their house on Bledsoe Ave. Titus had a grumpy day. There are a few things that cure a grumpy day for a 1 1/2 year old boy. One is the Bosch bread mixer. He is fascinated by machines of all sizes from garbage trucks to bread mixers. He points and directs his carrier--being me--to the bread machine and hold on tightly, terrified to hear the roar that follows a slight flip of the on-off switch. Another thing that cures a grumpy day is being tossed around. He enjoys his uncles becoming a small-scale fair ride that twirls every which way, always landing him with his feet flat on the moving ground. Another cure for grumpiness is talking on the phone. Tonight Titus held the house phone and I called it on using my cell phone. Only he understood our conversation as we followed each other around the island counter at my parents house. Us poor adults with worries and cares can learn from these cures for grumpiness. Adult depression is often a form of childhood grumpiness with an added dose of personal responsibility, leading to despair. I believe God made things to excite us just like Titus is filled with terrific excitement at the whirl of the bread mixer. I am certain that we were meant to be tossed around by loving hands. To feel a playful nudge or be be jostled by a loving hug. And to talk. God made us hungry for communication. To hear and be heard. Remember that "God's ear is not too dull to hear...but your iniquities have separated you from your God" (Isaiah 59:2). God is your Father--a far better relationship than an uncle--and wants to add all these three elements to his and your relationship.

The whole day was not spent with Titus. Actually a very short time of the day was spent playing with my nephew with a blond mullet. After dinner I visited a friend at the Kitsap Mental Health Adult Inpatient Unit. I cannot tell the details of why he is in inpatient, but ask that you pray for him. I had an opportunity to pray with both him, his girlfriend (also visiting), and his roommate. His roommate was in KMH inpatient because he believed Jesus was angry with him and so he decided to jump off of the Manette bridge. Despite the fact that the Manette bridge is 80+ feet and that he could not swim God preserved his life and I was able to share with him the true Jesus. All of them will be coming in within the next week. Pray for God's healing and restoration of minds and souls.