Friday, March 19, 2010

America was aflame with foreign tumult on March 17 when I boarded my plane for New Zealand. The second my frame found its seat, my zeal collided with reality, and I was left with the prattling raucous that played out between my ears. There was certainly no undoing my decision, and every unguided hour left capacities vacant where anxiety was exposed. Plans began in their unfolding as sure as the sun does rise, and it seemed all heaven bowed to escort me into the unknown. Surely, each day we are one step before the shadow, as darkness removes its veil, but never before, nor since, have I walked so blindly as then.

I learned abruptly that my American life had been largely systematic, and one based entirely on "plans, purpose," and "principle." Any "faith" I may have claimed before, suddenly became taunting banter which raged and ravaged my soul. Each step I took revealed my pitiable existence in an entirely immense reality. It was as if the mountains that had held and lulled, transformed as giants to expose, crush, and consume me. Their enormity seemed to accuse me in the pride of my heart. Perhaps the hills of my youth had beguiled me into thinking I was something much grander than reality protested. Regardless of what brought about the change, the affect was undeniable. The sun set on my soul, and an opaque and damp fog enveloped me into a cloistered existence that seemed to span eternity as the companion of myself.

I'd nearly lost my mind some years back, and weeks before I left for New Zealand, an old family and childhood friend took his life. It seemed altogether probable that if I was unable to uncover and correct my soul's own defaults, I'd be forced again to consider the same fate as his. This in the back of my mind, my travels thus lead me down dusty sheep-stained roads, up steep, slick, rain-smeared ravines, into ranchers homes, ferriers cars, loud bars, sand-fly beaches, solar hostels, wet tents, high mountains, lower valleys and on many a roadside; bewildered, alone, and lost. My trip teaches me this day, and I am out reaching for the same truths that guided and sheltered my weary soul those years ago.

The details of my sojourning would bore the masses, and they will be spared for now; other points are seeking to poke through. I purchased a most exquisite watercolor there, and have been considering it now for some days. The painting is of an unfurling fern frond set in a deep green matte. I have loved it since my eyes laid it claim, and have only now discovered our affinity. I have felt so akin to this little thing these past days as I retrace my roots, walk back through my loves, and tug at the hems of my heart. It seems I've walked this nomad's road leaving parcels of my heart in places improbably retracable. I carry my roots around tucked up and tender, and wonder when the place will be reached when they might unwind and grow into the soil of the city whose builder and architect is God (Hebrews 11). Each field seems to undergo a screening as my olfactory system plays its tunes through every nerve of my sensory being. I am so fully alive in this blasted existence and curiosity keeps striking the hammers in this little soul-box, reverberating the wonder that propels the chords to meet in the frequency of their design. It is so, and as that little fella unfolds, will you pray that I might as graciously and tenderly allow the works rolled up in His scroll to unravel, drop down, and take root in any, and all of the capacities therein planned.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted" (Proverbs 29:25).

I dreamed last night of an old friend. It seems my dreams reveal most about what is in my heart, and in them I am able to navigate through my fears without the inhibitions my reality presents. Upon waking, I am thrust into the world of silent fears and idle pleas, and my heart is presented with a superfluity of choices. Matthew Henry's commentary on this verse says that the fear of man either opens a man to various and unnecessary temptations, or subjects him to the contempt and sneer of others.

We can sense one another's fears, and credibility seems to drain through the cracks of a man's doubts. The fear of man sets us on a course whereby we are snagged by every criticism, despairing of other's doubts, and generally subject to every opinion offered our way. We herein ride the tumult of the vicissitudes of our lives, and we try our best to defend ourselves from the most precarious situations. This life becomes lived for, and by everyone else, and we generally slip further into our demise. I write this as an exhortation for myself, for if I never again outwardly accomplish a single thing on this earth, but am daily knowing more of the infinite love and grace of my God, than I have gained the world, and lost nothing. I need not shrink back when asked of what my life has brought, or what my hands have accomplished, for all is done within me, and the results are not my own. I say we must be emboldened to speak of the inward things, the works of grace in our souls, and forget about the rest; leave it up to the One who works it all according to the counsel of His plan. Be bold friends, whether in the company of saints or otherwise, for the work that takes place in the heart is of eternal magnitude and wisdom, and never ought be overlooked.

"We are encouraged to depend upon the power of God, which would keep us from all that fear of man which has either torment or temptation in it. Whoso puts his trust in the Lord, for protection and supply in the way of duty, shall be set on high, above the power of man and above the fear of that power. A holy confidence in God makes a man both great and easy, and enables him to look with a gracious contempt upon the most formidable designs of hell and earth against him. If God be my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid." Any hallelujahs?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I received word two nights ago that the workers in two orphanages in Morocco were deported in mass numbers to their home countries. They leave behind their lives, and the children over whom they've been caring. The charge brought against them was "proselytizing," and the judgment severe. I feel weak in that choked-up-sort-of way when answers do not come, and comfort for the mourning seems so far away. I think of the verse last recorded, and await the unfolding of the plans He has formed long ago.

I dreamed last night that myself and one or two others were climbing up the side of a tremendously ominous crag of rocks. At some point a horrendous purple snake was discovered and the other with me began pulling at it. The contents of my mind are fuzzy, but the more she tugged at it, the more was revealed of this creature. In my recollection, I was not in this battle, but was whimpering off to the side and onlooking with complete terror. Somehow the head finally emerged; grotesque and seething, and she somehow reached out to it. It was obvious that her actions were miraculous, for then she was able to remove its head, and defeat it. I was a completely uninvolved and paralyzed onlooker, and I've spent this morning unconsciously shuddering over the night's terror. Moments ago I realized what implications this could have for me now.

Fear is a twisted shelter, under which we seem to assemble in masses. It offers no protection, and certainly no deliverance, but somehow its weight seems familiar and comfortably binding to us. It is so akin to our existence that we don't even realize its presence. So many fears lie crouched in my life, and I hide from those things; cower, tremble, forgetting the victory has already been one. I stumbled upon this scripture this morning:

5"The departed spirits tremble
Under the waters and their inhabitants.
6"Naked is Sheol before Him,
And Abaddon has no covering.
7"He stretches out the north over empty space
And hangs the earth on nothing.
8"He wraps up the waters in His clouds,
And the cloud does not burst under them.
9"He obscures the face of the full moon
And spreads His cloud over it.
10"He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters
At the boundary of light and darkness.
11"The pillars of heaven tremble
And are amazed at His rebuke.

12"He quieted the sea with His power,
And by His understanding He shattered Rahab.
13"By His breath the heavens are cleared;
His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent.
14"Behold, these are the fringes of His ways;
And how faint a word we hear of Him!
But His mighty thunder, who can understand?"