As I Gather [The Incompletes Collection]

I’ve had a small… realization.

My realization was this, as I sat in a wall-to-wall filled workshop at Youth Conference today. We were asked to think of a moment of happiness we’ve had.

And I could not remember one. Not one.

It isn’t that I haven’t had happy moments; I know I’ve had happy moments. But I could not dredge one thing up. And immediately my mind goes to all the speakers who have talked about being free from bondage and I want to say “Yeah, I’m free…” while half of me comes back with “No you’re not…” and the other half of me says “What bondage?”

Because there are obvious things – things I’ve shared – that have been sources of bondage to me, but the truth is the obvious ones aren’t the ones sticking out; I don’t even know what, or if I’m in bondage–but I cannot remember one single moment of happiness in my life. I hear this question echoing over and over in my head, ‘Think of a moment of happiness…’ and my mind just goes completely blank.

And it still does. Maybe it’s just my extreme idealistic biased mind but no moment I can think of really fits the bill, and frankly I can’t think of very many specific moments. Like uh.. am I even alive here?

The truth is I’ve always been reclusive, but over the course of the last few years I can feel myself drifting further back into those ways; still sociable–now more than ever as my comfort levels have expanded–but much less engaged. I can point to times when I was well-engaged in my relationships–now those were good, happy moments–but my circle of close friends has waned to little more than a mud puddle. It’s not good to be alone.

Father whatever sort of season this is, I don’t much like it.

But I guess this is what they all meant when they said some people are only for a season. But I digress. Perhaps the only bondage I have is wishing for more.

*                               *                                 *

I bumped into someone recently who I’ve been acquainted with most of my life, but like so many others, haven’t seen in quite a while.

One thought that often comes to me is, those people that I know from a distance, who I’ve grown up around and some of whom have had impacts on my life–when I see them now and then around (driving the opposite direction on the road, two customers ahead or behind in line in the grocery store, passing through my workplaces, etc.) Do they recognize me?

I mean if I recognize them, it would be ridiculous to suppose they wouldn’t recognize me–but…do you recognize me?

Do you ackowledge my presence–that it is indeed….me? (And that you have known me?) I know it has been a few years, that I have grown and changed–somewhat–and maybe you can’t imagine approaching me as you might have but…do you see me?

This time, this person that I bumped into answered the question for me with a, “Hi, how are you? … I haven’t seen you around in a long time.”

*                               *                                 *

As the minutes tick on into the New Year, the gathering is nearly over. Today I drive back home after a three-day ‘weekend’ to start work again tomorrow; until the next holiday brings us all back together again, this is it for me.

I know I’ve written about this before, but something came to my mind again through the holidays, it’s a song my family used to sing occasionally at the dinner table; a casual ritual from days gone. But when it sprang back to my mind (and I realized that I could actually remember all the words although in all those years I never really knew them) I realized again what it has always meant to me.

As our family gathers ’round this table / Where this meal has been prepared

Let all our hearts be grateful / As we offer up this prayer…

Our Father in heaven / For this meal we’ve been given

We want to say, “Thank-you, thank-you,” from our hearts

Bless the hands that prepared it / And now as we share it

Would You stay with us, and be our guest of honor

Would You stay with us, and be our guest of honor

Amen.

If my parents ever did anything to teach me the values of prayer, family, and the connection of the meal table, it was all wrapped up in this simple song.

*                               *                                 *

Meet Lexi;

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This gorgeous calico joined my little furry family a couple months back and settled right in happily. She is the most friendly cat I’ve ever met, and adorably cuddly–she chose this position herself.

And tonight as I’m listening to her soft snore-purr next to me I’m thinking about one thing.

Lexi is a rescue kitty. I discovered her at work one day (I won’t even begin to surmise how a stray ends up at a landfill in the winter kilometers from the nearest home) when I noticed muffled meowing under the floor of the cabin serving as our office–and upon investigation, noticed tracks outside in the snow. After two weeks, although I had not seen even a glimpse of her yet, she was responding to my voice with the most pitiable meows, and I finally coaxed her into the open with a few bread crusts from my lunch. This was within the first 60 seconds of our officially meeting:

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She was badly matted all the way around her neck, she was starved for want of food and she was starved for want of human contact.

I don’t mind telling you, I don’t really like cats – but how could I say no to that? So the next day, she came home with me.

It took a few weeks, both to get her back up to a normal weight, and to cut all the mats out of her fur, she being obviously relieved by the freedom but most impatient with the process which usually involved scissors and a lot of squirming on her part. But here she is, a now well-fed, mat-free cat with a warm house to live in and an obnoxiously huge pup who never gets tired of being swatted on the nose and hissed at. This might just be the life, and if those contented snore-purrs are anything to go by, I’d say she agrees.

I’m thinking about rest tonight–ironically, because I’m losing sleep with every word I write. Ironically because I’ve felt so un-rested and overwhelmed and I asked Father for one thing – rest.

And I look over at Lexi, peacefully sleeping next to me and that’s the kind of rest I want; the kind that isn’t worried anymore about the next meal because all she has to do is meow her most piteous meow to get a top-up; that isn’t curling up on the cold ground under an unheated shack; that isn’t skinny and starving both for food and love. A rest that is cared for and confident. And I realize, I’ve already had it.

I realize, I couldn’t have left a steady job (that I was actually content at) to move back to my hometown with zero work certainty, without that rest. Not with the amount of anxiety I normally carry around. I couldn’t have spent this last summer completely

29511016_10156324690062053_7210513218408941391_nunsure about the future of the part-time work I did acquire knowing that it was all coming to a certain end in the fall without that rest. And it’s not just that I’m not easily phased, because I am. And I’m normally anxious about things. But for the last two years of uncertainty I haven’t worried one bit and I was so at rest that I didn’t even clue in to the fact that I wasn’t worrying about things that I should probably be worrying about. And listen, when you only work 2 days a week you are not short on time; I had all the time in the world to worry, I certainly wasn’t preoccupied. But I didn’t and I can’t credit that to any kind of stolidness of my own; I found my rest.

 

The preceding are short and/or unfinished drafts written over the span of the last year, each containing a drop of very deep meaning and emotion for me, experiences which are wordlessly poignant, and therefore much more brief than what I typically publish stand-alone. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve gleaned something of these.

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Christ-Sensitive

I’ve been desensitized.

The image fills my mind of a newborn foal, seconds old in the world; it is being toweled off and rubbed down–imprinted on and desensitized to human contact.

It is the only way I can explain the realities, and the unrealities of my world. And you, I think, have been desensitized, too.

You see, I’m beginning to wake up to a bold state of things: if I believe the Gospel then I cannot deny that the incarnation means that God in Christ is in all; that in being birthed into our world Yhwh Elohim baptized himself in our human existence; that at the cross the Son spread his final, eternal “No!” to the Fall across the universe and redeemed Adam. I cannot deny the writer of the book declaring that this Son ascended to the right hand of the Father–though never having truly left the great trinitarian dance even at the last–carrying all of humanity with him, seating us in heavenly places.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. -Ephesians 2:4-7

I cannot deny this Son’s own word declaring that anyone who believed in Him would never die, or that He is the source of a wellspring the drought of which he who drinks will never hunger or thirst again.

So why does my experience disagree? Somehow Yhwh Elohim himself lives inside of me. Somehow I can never die, even though the evidence surrounds me that one day–barring the ever-nearing coming of the King of Glory–I will die.  Somehow, God is in every person and every person is in God and still evil persists in the world. Somehow.

I’ve been desensitized.

The True Reality is that since Jesus took me into himself, I’ve never gone a day without him. And the truth is, that didn’t happen within my lifetime or at my choosing; it happened within his, and by his choosing. I’ve never lived a day outside of Jesus.

“But if the Spirit were literally in me, wouldn’t my life be radically different?” You may ask. Your life is radically different; you’ve been desensitized. 

And on any given day I can touch it, too. I can peel back the layers of callous and feel something awakened within me. The playful breeze, the joyful birdsong, the billowing clouds and the trees rushing and creaking in the wind suddenly all has the breath and voice of Yhwh in a moment, I get goose pimples and I say I’ve “experienced” God. But the True Reality is I am always experiencing God. I’ve been desensitized, but the glory goes on; the Bush always burns, and the glimpses of what we might call ‘glory‘ are fleeting touches to sensitivities intentionally honed by religion to make a God who is powerful enough, but with a short attention and largely uninterested.

Some time back I was asked the question, ‘How do you practice the Presence?’ And my answer then was that I have been learning to see the Presence in the mundane moments–in the boredom, in the empty. The Bush burning in the middle of the desert.

My answer now is I don’t need to practice the Presence any more than I need to practice breathing; sure if I think about it I can breathe better in certain high-energy situations–jogging, for example–but the reality is that I am breathing every minute of every day without a single second’s thought and so too the Presence. I didn’t decide to begin breathing.

So too, the Presence.

He’s around me constantly,” as the song playing in the background declares.

I have been desensitized. And so have you.

Because you see, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you have come from; you are in Jesus. It does not matter your ethnicity, your gender or your political position; you are in Jesus. It does not matter whether you identify as a Christian, or what particular brand of Christianity you cleave to; you are in Jesus. And it doesn’t matter what religion or the church has told you about prerequisite prayers and human nature – you are in Jesus.

And you are not in Jesus as a sinner saved by grace; you are in Jesus as an heir of the Second Adam. You can’t even identify with the first Adam because his lineage and the curse thereof was redeemed in Jesus before you were ever a twinkle in your momma’s eye. You can’t identify as a sinner saved by grace because you were not born in sin but in righteousness. 

Can you believe that? Or am I getting too fantastical for you? You’ve been desensitized. You’ve been desensitized to the Wonder of the Gospel, to the Eternal Mystery of Eternal Christ in you, the hope of glory. You’ve been desensitized to the Lamb slain from the foundations of the world to the definite and complete perfection of all.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. -Hebrews 10:11-14

You were born into the lineage of Jesus–Yhwh in the flesh–not because of a choice you made to follow Jesus later in life–not because of a choice your parents made–but because of a choice Jesus made 2000-some-odd years ago; ‘I have come to do Your will, oh God’ (Hebrews 10:7) You were born into the fate of the Son of God because He placed Himself into your fate, and in-so-doing He overcame your fate and wrapped you and all of the rest of humanity into His fate; ascending to Father’s right hand.

But you were born and from the moment you took your first breath you were rubbed down with a broken philosophy, a broken religion and a broken reality that told you one thing: “God” is too distant to be the life flooding your lungs, imprinted on a false reality. But there is better, and He is all around you. You do not have to look for fantastical things, for all you must do is look: there is nothing you can see, feel, touch, taste or hear that is not bound up in the fate of the Incarnate Christ. Good, or bad; and that possibility should resound with nothing but joy and peace if you can see the bigness of the Risen Jesus. All creation groans waiting for its redemption in the revealing of the glory of the Sons of God–not the adoption, but the revealing; yes the adoption–the redemption of our bodies–is ahead of us, but the glory is now; it is the mystery–Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1) We’ve been desensitized.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. -Romans 8:18-25

And you see, I grew up with a faith taught me that said that Yhwh was only present in those who made a conscious decision to follow Christ, and that additionally Christ himself would only benefit those who lived a faultless life before the scrutiny of his eventual judgement, the atonement for sins remaining incomplete till the end of His righteous judgement–the scrutinisation of those worthy of salvation by merit. And you might laugh but the organized Christianities I have seen elsewhere are all underlied by similar mythology. “You must do this to be saved! You must be this kind of person to enter eternal life!” And for a first-century world born under the curse of a recently deprecated Law, a firm and definite transition had to be realized and cemented in memory, and this is why there is so much instruction written in the Bible to people ‘born in sin’. But post-cross? You were born free.

And you were born into Jesus, the Last Adam. You were born in his freedom, not into the first Adam’s bondage. Ishmael was born into slavery, but Isaac the child of promise was born in freedom, and he was the promise of the Promise, the Son risen in freedom with all humanity in tow with no ‘if’ or ‘but’, not up to you or me or any one but Him, the Preeminent Christ. So what then are the requirements?

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven …  -Colossians 1:15-23

Believe it.

Believe Him. 

Believe He did it, and believe it is true.

And now, I am re-sensitizing. I’m seeing slivers of the glory in everything around me – it brings me such immeasurable joy to know the all-encompassing bigness of Jesus. And it gives me such peace to know that I have always been secure in Him; it gives me such peace to know that all humanity is secure in Him. And it gives me sorrow amidst great expectation because every single human walking the face of the earth has Yhwh God knitted into the fabric of their being literally and they have been born in freedom but… they are desensitized. And Christianity gives me the most sorrow–especially the brand I came from–because Christianity professes sensitivity. It professes knowledge of the Gospel. But so great a crowd yet live in bondage to the un-realities of religion which are so easily debunked by the Biblical record, because they are desensitized; how could it be true?

Do you want to be free? You already are.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i]against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

-Romans 8:31-39