The Last to Know

The Last to Know

Indiana Jones, you’re not the man I knew ten years ago.”
”It’s not the years, honey: its the mileage.
— Raiders of the Lost Ark

More than four years have passed since the last entry in this digital "journal" of musings from along The Road that my best friend and I began calling the Warrior's Path nearly a decade ago. Recently we have received a few messages from some far-flung corners of the globe - some old friends of the original blog - wondering where we are at, lamenting how they miss those old words of encouragement.  So for their sake, for ALL our old allies, and for the sake of a new generation of questing souls, we decided it was time to break the silence...

A few months ago David sent me an inspiring quotation in a text message (we pass old quotes back and forth via text from people like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Spurgeon, John Eldredge, etc. on a pretty consistent basis). I don't remember now exactly what the quote was, but I clearly remember that the words on this occasion rang so deeply true for me, that I quite literally found myself stunned, stopped short, taken out of myself - out of my current life that is - and drawn back to an earlier time: a time of great hopes, holy enthusiasms and heroic longings.  I felt that whichever of our spiritual mentors had written these words must have been steeped in a wisdom I could only dream of attaining some day. I felt called out, humbled, and encouraged all at the same time.  The words came from the sort of place that I longed to attain to.

 And then, after a pregnant pause, I felt my phone vibrate again. I picked it up off the couch beside me to see David's next text:

"Do you remember when you wrote that?"

And something deep inside me went: Whoa

And I didn't mean that in a good way. It wasn't a "boy, am I a good writer" kind of a 'whoa'.  It was a "I can't imagine I was ever in the place to write about such deep truth with so much faith and hopefulness," kind of a 'whoa'. Which thought was immediately followed by the next logical one: "When did I let all of that slip? When did I get to this place where my own words sound utterly foreign to me, like they were written by someone else?"

When we are young, our lives are marked by pretty much a perpetual state of growth. Throughout infancy, childhood, and adolescence we are experiencing a steady increase in every motor skill, intellectual, emotional, and relational capacity.  Most obviously of all, year by year our physical bodies become larger, stronger, more mature and capable.

Now we realize that for someone in their thirties, those "growing up" years can feel like ancient history at this point. But you have to remember that almost ALL our education and our deep internal agreements about the nature of our own existence are rooted in these formative years.

And so, deep inside us, in a place that is hard to be adequately uncovered and logically analyzed is this sense that, regardless of our own efforts (or lack thereof), regardless of whether we think we deserve it or not, in spite of all the dips and valleys we might experience in isolated moments, ultimately, ultimately, the overall trend of our lives is towards improvement.  Things grow. They just do. It's inevitable. Universal. The inexorable rising, swelling crescendo that all things experience. 

Or so we imagine.

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And we are wrong.

C.S. Lewis pointed out that regardless what you believe about evolution as a biological theory, the MYTH of universal evolutionary progress as a universal trend that applies to all facets of life and human existence is nothing more than wishful thinking and pure unfounded fabrication.

  Simply put, things, systems, organizations, nations, cultures - and most especially individual souls - do not by necessity improve.  There is no law, no contract, no magical power that makes an upward trend simply inevitable.

Think about it in terms of your own experience. When you look at the people you have known over the years, are they all the best version of themselves that you have ever known them to be? Would that describe even most of them, enough so to suggest that the outliers who have not continued to grow in maturity, wisdom, goodness, strength, passion and holiness are somehow severely malfunctioning exceptions to the rule?

Other people aside, do you find yourself right now, this very day, to be the best version of yourself you have yet known?

At the risk of being looked at like abject failures unfit for Christian service, let us just confess (I think we've already spilled the beans on this one anyway) that in our own experience life has long appeared to be a tightrope walk between growth and decline. Nor is growth by any means guaranteed to somehow ultimately get the upper hand. (There's the deep seated evolutionary myth sneaking back in again.)  The fact is that we, and those around us, are making choices on a daily basis that have long term consequences, for good or for ill. 

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“Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself...   Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.” 

C.S. Lewis

It would seem that the stakes are much higher than anyone in "polite Christian circles" would lead us to believe...

And still, the persistent myth that we are older, ergo somehow by necessity wiser, hangs on.

It would seem too obvious for words, but it may be said anyway that we all have an endless supply of defenses and justifications stockpiled against the slightest suggestion that we ourselves have missed a vital turning in the Road somewhere along the way: that we have surrendered some dream, some purpose, some high sentiment, some moral absolute, some good habit, some innocent and trusting frame of mind, that has made us a smaller and poorer soul for the loss of it.  And it is because of these instinctive defenses, this incessant need to reframe in the best light possible these less than ideal paths we have chosen, and their resultant impact on our deepest selves, that we so often fail to see what is so obvious to those around us. When it comes to the slow gradual decline, like the proverbial frog in the kettle, we so often are The Last to Know. 

Friends, as we say so often in agreement with the words attributed to the Greek philosopher Socrates, the unexamined life is not worth living.  It is an easier life, to be sure. But people walking the Warriors Path don't do easy.  As John Eldredge has lamented about our fleshly desire for ease: "We choose the path of least resistance, and that is rarely the correct path to take."

 But what, you may reply, is the good of such an examination that is sure to lead us into shame, disappointment, and sorrow over lost time? Well, if there was no hope for recovery, that would be a valid concern worth considering. But there IS hope for recovery, hope for change, hope to regain what was lost, and reawaken what has slumbered in ashes for too long. There is hope not only of regaining the heights of our earlier devotion, passion, clarity of purpose and vision -- but of pressing on from there to peaks beyond even the scope of our present vision. 

We invite you to begin taking back the lost ground today. Do it now.  Find some old journals; review some past conversations with God; revisit some of your youthful dreams for a glorious, purposeful life; reread the books (or blog posts!) that once inspired you.

 Sometimes - often - to move forward, we must first go back... 

The Powerful Play Goes On



You’re not just anyone. One day you’re going to have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, is going to change the world.
— -Jonathan Kent, from Man of Steel movie trailer, 2012

 

Yes.

Change the world.

You.

You, reading this line at this very moment.  You, despite all appearances to the contrary - you. You, sitting down at the computer after a frustrating day of long hours spent doing absolutely nothing of great significance - earning money, chasing personal successes, satisfying small wants and needs that begin and end with yourself, that never radiate beyond the four walls of your own home, and that will be forgotten even by yourself come tomorrow's dawning light...

Yes, you. 

You've got choices. 

Choices about what kind of man (or woman) you want to be.

And those choices can change the world.

Don't we all long for that to be true of us? To matter?  To be significant? To be powerful enough to make a some sort of difference in the world? Who among us sits down to watch one of these increasingly popular films about superheroes like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, and walks away afterwards thinking, "I am SO glad I can live a small, insignificant life that doesn't radiate with strength, purpose, and heroic impact on the world?" Ridiculous. No, we leave the theatre awash in a mixture of bittersweet longings, with the scab ripped away from one of our most ancient wounds: the loss of any sense that our lives really matter.

We know, we know: what about humility? What about giving God ALL the glory? What about being nothing more than a sinful wretch in the sight of the All-Powerful?  What about Jesus saying to his closest friends and greatest disciples, "Apart from me you can do nothing?" How often have you heard a preacher remind you to be encouraged, because God likes to use failures, losers, and nobodies...just like you?

Well, our guess is that you've had more than your fair dose of that side of things. And don't get us wrong - there is certainly truth to all that need for comparative humility in the presence of God. A whole lot of truth.  If we wanted to we could, in all honesty, sit around day after day trembling at the thought of our complete frailty, our precarious position clinging to a biological life threatened in a thousand ways by a thousand possible deaths, aware that the hope of new life on Eternal Shores is even more beyond our control than the preserving of this fragile biological life that can be extinguished like a candle's flame in a mere moment.

Yes, before the sheer power and magnitude of God, we are certainly as dust. Here today, gone tomorrow. Desperately dependent at every turn. Small, weak, insignificant creatures compared to the might and power of our Creator.

But we just aren't sure how helpful its going to be to focus on all that at this point in the story...

Because there is another side to all this, and contrary to what you've probably been told, it is not a battle between "humanism" and "true Christianity", where the one side believes Man is powerful, capable, and creative, and the other argues that Man is dust, and evil, and a worm.  The truth is - hold your breath now and get ready - the truth is that all of it is True...depending what you happen to be focusing on at the moment.  Ever since right near the very beginning of humanity's story, we have been a race that has Fallen. What does that mean? Well, the obvious thing that you hear talked about in Christian circles the most is that this means we now have a nature that is a slave to evil and imperfection.  That is where the Race has fallen to.  But equally important is where the Race has fallen from, and what exactly the Christian "gospel" promises in regard to God's ability through Christ to restore us to the place from which we have fallen.

It's all a matter of what piece of the overall picture you want to be focusing on. And right now, in most of our lives, the thing we need more than anything else is a renewed sense of significance, because that's what most of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, are mostly living without.  We may be dust, but it is a priceless dust, and God has dared to call that dust His sons and daughters. We may be frail, short-lived creatures, but those creatures do matter. To God and to the universal movement of restoring all things to the way they were meant to be. To the mission that has been appointed to us. To the people that need us - our love, our good news, our courage, our strength, our intervention, labor, and sacrifice on their behalf.

Yes, Jesus told his closest allies and friends that apart from Him they could do "nothing".  But that was merely a warning, not the focus or heartbeat of His message to them.

The central thing you find as you read the gospel accounts is what Jesus says about what these young men should expect to be able to do with Him.

They can heal the sick. They can raise the dead. They can wield supernatural power to defeat forces of evil from another world. They can calm storms, walk on water, throw mountains into the sea. They can bind up the broken hearted and set the captives free.

They can, in fact, change the world.

And so they did.

Will you?

The question - O me! - so sad recurring - What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer: That you are here. That life exists, and identity.
That the powerful play goes on,
and you may contribute a verse.
— Walt Whitman

The Invitation

The Invitation

Come in, man! Come in and know me better!
— - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Ultimately the Christian world is divided into only two groups: those who believe that this invitation is at the core of the heart of God (and therefore all human existence), and those who do not.

Or did you even know about the first group?

We believe a great many things about God, but, for the most part, topping the list is not the belief that He is offering Himself to us in an open, present, engaged, knowable way.  

If there is anything that is deeply(if unconsciously) believed about the God of all Creation, it is that He is unsearchable, that He is unknowable.  "His ways are not our ways" we are constantly reminded, and after all, "Who can understand the mind of God?"  Not that we needed any theological support for this feeling that God is, well, hiding from us.

How different would your take on Life be if you thought the One who designed the whole shebang...well...wanted you to find Him? To know Him? Intimately, like a friend, or like the kind of Daddy you wish you had but never really did?

It was during the Christmas holidays (not surprisingly) that during some time alone in prayer, I felt this phrase from the Dickens classic leap to mind: "Come in man! Come in and know me better!" If you are a fan of the George C. Scott film version, you will have the same mental picture I had of the Ghost of Christmas Present, in all is warmth and jocularity, practically laughing out his lines as he summoned the terrified, self-centered, lonely old miser Ebenezer Scrooge into his happy presence.

Sure, I could have conjured up the words out of my own memory cells. Maybe I did.

But, oh, the thrill in that moment of thinking that this was what God was saying! 

Really, Father? You really want me to throw open the door and come closer? You wont snuff out the light and disappear into the darkness like elves caught unawares in the forest at night? Could I dare believe it?

Do you?

In the midst of all the hustle and clamor of your life, what have you come to believe - not in theory, but deep in the unspoken places of your heart - about God's attitude towards intimacy...towards drawing close and becoming increasingly knowable...towards sharing Himself with you?

Oh, I know a lot of people who are growing in their theoretical knowledge about God. 

But who do I know that is living out this invitation to "come in and know Him better?"

Who do you know that's living like that?

It's arguable, you know, that if this Christian thing is remotely accurate, then the whole purpose of our existence is to know God. Personally.  Intimately.  Increasingly. 

The fact that this is just about the last thing happening in most people's lives is one more VERY BIG claim for the worldview that fuels the Warrior's Path:  quite simply that spiritual warfare is the context of our Story; that, like it or not, we are at War.   Assailed.  Besieged.  Opposed at all costs from discovering all that God is offering.

"Come in man!" (Said with cheery welcome and abundant mirth, you'll remember!)  "Come in and know me better!"

Or, as Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him..."

When I think about all the lies about God that I have come to believe in...

 

While It's Still Called Today

May 18, 2012       

But this I will say to you: your Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains, while all the Company is true...
— Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings

 

Sometimes the most astounding and distressing thing about our lives as Christians is the lack of a sense that there is really any urgency connected with how we move forward into whatever lies before us in the Story that we have fallen into.

Sure, I understand that our first thought is, who would really want the pressure?  Our lives are already awash with anxiety, panic, the never-ending, overwhelming tyranny of the urgent.  Those bills have to be paid NOW or they're going to shut off our electricity or repossess our car. If the grass isn't mowed THIS weekend, it'll be too tall to get through it with that lawnmower that's put in good service, but has seen better days.  If we don't get that project in the mail TODAY we are going to have some very angry clients, maybe jeopardize the whole business.  If I don't come up with an incredibly romantic date SOON, that relationship might be headed for the rocks.

And so it goes...

There's no question that we understand the need to "git 'er done".  Whether it's human nature or not, it certainly is the spirit of this Age in first world cultures worldwide.  We are keenly aware that in almost every area of our lives, choices come with consequences, and as a result we live with a sort of emphatic urgency about the things that seem to matter the most to us at any given moment. Of course some of this is incredibly unhealthy and mistaken, don't get me wrong. But it is, for the most part, the way we have come to view the world. 

So then the question has to be asked, what are we doing wandering through our spiritual journey like it's one big invitation to spend an afternoon at the mall, or the zoo, or the beach?

Sure, Grace is a pretty big deal in Christianity. There's plenty of it to be had, and most of us don't mind standing in line as often as it takes to get all that we need and then some.

I get that.

But even though it is "grace that leads me home", and grace that carries us so often along the Way, there are still other components to our creation as image bearers, made in the likeness of God. Even in the midst of our addiction to grace, we never fully extinguish our longing to have something expected of us.

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"Oh how we long for this -

for a great endeavor that draws upon our every faculty, a great 'life's work' that we could throw ourselves into."

- John Eldredge

 

And your heart says, "Yes." 

That sentiment is not the sort of thing a preacher has to exhort you to do your best (with the help of your accountability group) to manufacture.

 It's just there.

 It's in you.

Your soul, in fact, leaps at the suggestion.

I think it's safe to say that we were made to feel that way.

So who do you know that treats the next 24 hours in their relationship with God, with Jesus, and with the whole Unseen Realm like it is something more than a walk in the park, a past-time, a hobby for the 'good' people of the world?

Why, for the most part, is our Spiritual Journey the last thing on our list of what really needs to get attended to right NOW

This is why cultivating an 'epic' mindset is so vitally important. Because, to some degree, the Quest does stand upon the edge of a knife.  Ground is being won or lost right now, today, that has HUGE implications on the Journey ahead -- both for you and for those that need you.

"Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all..."

May we all inject our spiritual lives with some of that sense of importance and urgency...

An Unexpected Journey

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"A very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain. If you have a pipe about you, sit down and have a fill of mine! There's no hurry, we have all the day before us!" Then Bilbo sad down on a seat by his door, crossed his legs, and blew out a beautiful grey ring of smoke that sailed up into the air without breaking and floated away over The Hill.

       "Very pretty!" said Gandalf. "But I have no time to blow smoke-rings this morning. I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone."

       "I should think so - in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and I have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can't think what anybody sees in them," said our Mr. Baggins, and stuck one thumb behind his braces, and blew out another even bigger smoke ring.       --The Hobbit, page 13 

The beauty, the genius, the near universal appeal of Tolkien's writings are summed up in this man of great imagination's ability to recreate in a world of fantasy the very truths that permeate our own Reality - though we know them not by the names with which he has named them. Indeed, he has haunted us with visions of the Truth that have more vivid clarity than that with which we approach our own lives, and if we have the heart to listen, we are certain to find ourselves in the silly, self-indulgent creatures with which he has populated 'The Shire'.

John Eldredge has said that three ultimate longings found in the heart of a man are for "an adventure to live, a battle to fight, and a beauty to rescue."  Women too, he contends, long for the same thing, with an added relational angle - it is for "and adventure to share"  that their hearts equally ache and yearn. 

A thirst for adventure, set deep within the hearts of us all.  A key ingredient in bringing our hearts fully alive, our lives fully awake, our waking full of purpose, our purpose full of joy.

So why is Adventure the last thing we seek in the way we choose to live our lives? Why have we settled into our own self-indulgent routine of comfort and avoidance of anything that might be classified as 'nasty', 'disturbing' or 'uncomfortable'?  What sort of an evil enchantment has been cast over us that we, 'a stem of that victorious stock' which dared to create the Universe, and then gave His life in a daring raid to rescue it,  should yet ourselves, choosing against our own hearts, choose the monotonous boredom of safety over against the daring of a truly great Adventure?  What Power holds sway over us to teach us to lie to ourselves so?  To gratify the appetites of our stomach at the expense of the longings of our heart, the very nature of what we were created to be?

What madness is this? Have we forgotten who we are? If comfort, security, and being well-fed are the greatest pursuits a Man can aspire to, why is it that there is more depression here in our comfortable Western "Shire" than in any other corner of the globe?

"As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and a jealous love...Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick."                       -- The Hobbit, page 22

"And wear a sword instead of a walking-stick."

Oh, how that speaks to our deepest hearts! Can you feel something welling up inside of you even now - a longing to break out of the monotony of the life-long habit and culture of self-preservation and fling yourself headlong into a Great Adventure?  To leave hearth and home and your provincial little sphere of knowledge and strike out into the Wide World on a journey full of risk and mystery?

'But think of the danger!'  whispers that same cold voice that has chained us to our lives of quiet desperation for this many years.

         "So Thorin went on: 'We shall soon before the break of day start on our long journey, a journey from which some of us, or perhaps all of us may never return.'

         ....Poor Bilbo couldn't take it any longer. At 'may never return' he began to feel a shriek coming up inside, and very soon it burst out like the whistle of an engine coming out of a tunnel...the poor hobbit could be seen kneeling on the hearth-rug, shaking like a jelly that was melting..."                                          -- The Hobbit, page 23

Who can deny it? With bold and unblushing strokes, Tolkien has painted us well, and captured the inner struggle that we all face.  We are, above all else driven by Fear - and so accustomed to its ability to seep into every thought, consideration, venture for the future - that we don't even recognize it for the work of the Devil that it is.

                           "God is love...there is no fear in love..."  I John 4:16,18

The horns of a dilemma indeed. The voice of fear is the voice of a Liar, and yet we have been trained all too well to listen to it as the voice of wisdom, the voice of reason.  We desire more; we fear the cost will be to high.  

What then, shall we do?

(to be continued...)

 

Missing the Mission

Always have an objective. Know your end game before you lift a hand...the most important thing is that you understand your motivation: always know what it is that you want.
— - Gabrielle Gray, "Heroes" NBC Feb. 2009
What I do is me. For this, I came.
— Gerard Manly Hopkins

                                                                 

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, the exclaimed, "Everyone is looking for you!"

Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else - to the nearby villages - so I can preach there also. 

This is why I have come.
— Jesus, Mark 1:35-38

We live in a world starved for any sense of the "end game".  For most of us, the days of our lives progress in the most disjointed manner imaginable, lacking any sense of cohesiveness, direction, or mission.  Work hard, earn enough money to make it to the end of the year, try to avoid pain and suffering, do your best to deaden the longings for more Life, return to step 1, repeat. We don't live: we exist, we survive.

But to what end? What is the goal of our survival? To not die? Is that it? To keep doing what we are doing - going around in this endless cycle of simply existing - for as long as we possibly can? Do we even still hope that something, some day, will change?

Remember the story of The Count of Monte Cristo?  Edmond Dantes spent fourteen years imprisoned in the hellish Chateau D'If for a crime he did not commit, betrayed by his own friends. Do you think he survived that long because he thought his life of imprisonment was better than death? Not on your life. He survived because he had a motivation. A mission. He knew his end game, and it wasn't to perish in a stone cell, agonizingly forsaken. No. He would live to breathe the free air again. He would live to see the star-studded heavens once more, to sail the mediterranean sea and feel the salty brine spraying his sun-drenched face, to feel the soft warmth of his true love's kiss. He would live to see injustice overturned. And if all else failed, he would live to have his vengeance. 

But he never would have bothered to keep himself alive if he thought the Chateau D'If was going to have the last word, would turn out in fact to be his everlasting and eternal destination.

Edmond Dantes was certainly far wiser than you and I. And strangely enough, probably far happier, because he lived with purpose. In fact he lived with nothing else. We are drawn to his story, captivated by it because we see the great romance of the undistracted life - even in the context of horrible pain and suffering, we know that we have been confronted with something better, stronger, higher, more desirable than our lives of aimless dissipation.

But is this confusion, this lack of purpose and mission, this life lived without any firm and resolute grasp of our "end game" simply what it means to live under the Curse that fell on the race of Man once upon a time in that Garden back at the beginning of the Story? Maybe so. But even if we grant that this is exactly what we are dealing with, isn't there more to that Story? Wasn't the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Savior supposed to have some impact on all that? Some counteracting influence? 

"For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ."  - Romans 5:17

Jesus came to Earth to do a lot of things, some perhaps more important than others. (Wont every different church, denomination, and theologian make it very clear which ones you ought to place higher than the others? But that is why we say perhaps. We doubt very seriously ourselves  that God sees holes, weaknesses, or incidentals in His Great Work). But certainly one of the things He came to do was restore a man's (and a woman's) original gift of living a significant life. Of finding answers to the questions "Why me?", "Why now?", "Why here?" "Why do I exist, and what is expected of me?"

Jesus actually was quite specific in answering the last question you know. Much. He said much was expected of you. "To whom much is given, much will be expected".

Of course, you will hear that message in plenty of Christian circles. I remember hearing that in my youth and feeling like I had just been assigned a 40 page research paper, with end notes. Just one more guilt trip. You better watch out. No skating into heaven on a free pass.

But there's another way to look at Jesus' words.  To the one walking the Warrior's Path, these words are not just heaping one more duty on our burdened lives,  they are the invitation to a magnificent gift. 


The gift of a mission.

So, that's what God wants from my life? Much? Hey - so do I!  You see, He's not the one behind the monotony of an insignificant life after all. We can choose to live one, certainly. But the offer is for something more. We can have the purposeful, driven, missional life that Edmond Dantes had - and we don't have to spend 14 years in the Chateau D'If to discover it.

In other words, we can live like Jesus.

Don't miss this. Don't rationalize it away, don't subordinate it beneath some favorite theological scheme that dismisses it as "optional". If we are to take Jesus as our Lord and King, then We must take Him as we find Him, not as we admire the parts of Him that reflect our own wishes. Jesus knew exactly who He was, exactly why He had come - like no other human before Him had ever known these things. There are some stirring images in Chesterton's writings about how Jesus marched towards His destiny with unswerving determination, and swept across the Jewish countryside like a whirlwind and a clap of thunder. 

When you love Jesus, you are loving the kind of man who set out to do so much more than grow in His personal relationship with His Father while living at peace with his family and neighbors. You are loving a man who set out to save the world. 


And then He invited us to walk that same path. To join Him in saving the world.  To be drawn forward into the days ahead with an unquenchable sense of purpose, to live with "a touch of destiny" about us. To be so completely His that we, of all people who have ever lived, be the most completely our true intended selves.
 

What is your motivation for what you are going to do with the rest of today? This week? This summer? Do you know your mission? Do you know your end game? Do you know why you have come? 


You can.

Really.

Yeah. Life can be like that. 

image credit:
http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+from+Heroes+tv+shoe&qpvt=images+from+Heroes+tv+shoe&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=FAED3A6A55BD1EF613F1B81885455B832C74A2FE&selectedIndex=56

 

The Will to Rise

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Rise, and Rise again,
until Lambs become Lions
— from Robin Hood, 2010 film version

A NEW SEASON.

A NEW BEGINNING.

A new chance to fight a little tougher, hang in there a little longer, rise a little higher, become more like the person we've always wanted to be. 

No, this isn't just some kind of self-help mumbo-jumbo meant to psyche you up for a challenge that you are destined to lose.

Yes, God does play a crucial role in this whole "becoming something more" thing we call growing into the image of Christ, growing into restored humanity.

But come on - you're the one living your life: all the theological arguments aside about what part God plays and what part humans play, you know what happens when you let yourself slip into complacency...when you stop chasing this thing called holiness...when you stop fighting for abundant life and intimacy with the Father and power through the Spirit.

YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.

NOT MUCH.

There just aren't a whole lot of 'free passes' in the Christian Life. Most mornings God is not going to leave a message for you in your email inbox, so if you run straight into checking your mail and all the rush of the day, He's probably going to let you.  It's not that He doesn't care. It just seems to be the rules that govern this particular fairy tale that we have fallen into.  There's just a whole lot that's up to us.

More than we are comfortable admitting, for the most part.

Creation seems to be delegations through and through. For He seems to do nothing of Himself which He could possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly, and in the twinkling of an eye.
— C.S. Lewis
Without God, we cannot. Without man, He will not.
— St. Augustine

 

Again, this isn't about 'theology'. This is about what happens when you try it.  Spend an hour a day getting alone and quiet and attempting to access the presence of God, and you are likely to find Him...with varying levels of success, admittedly. But spend your whole day on the run from one thing to the next with no time for God and, well...we both know how that works out.  It's like the whole supernatural reality can fade into non-existence, begin to feel like a farce and a fantasy.

So what are we to do? Regardless of the unseen theological mechanisms at work behind the scenes, here at the level of our experience we can't deny that so much appears to basically be up to us. What will we do next? What will we do with this year? With this day? With this moment?? Will we develop a Warrior's spirit? A dogged refusal to stay down in the mud, no matter how many times we've fallen flat on our faces? A unyielding commitment to our own transformation - to the long and brutal training that it may require to turn us from lambs to lions?

We'll be honest with you: if last year felt like you spent more time with your face in the mud than on your feet, you are not alone.  We're right with you on this one.  No worries that we think anybody who feels like its a fight just to keep moving forward is some sort of failure who just needs to understand their 'victory in Christ Jesus'.  No, we know it's not that easy.

Will you walk with us through the season ahead?

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His Arwen 5 years ago

   

Thank you Derrick. 
I needed the pick me up just now. Even though you wrote this in December, I was very encouraged reading this. Yes, it is easy to become complacent. Praise God I have a band of two other ladies who with myself and Jesus by our sides, keep each other going strong in the battles we are facing and that are coming. 
I write a Weekly Scripture Reading letter every week if you are interested in my own encouragement from God.
It's at graciousencourager@blogspot.com

Blessings, Tricia
His Arwen

 

anonymous 5 years ago

   

I really miss you guys. How can we pray?

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Stir it up

From the label of a certain familiar protein drink: 

Shake Well,
Settling is Natural

How's that for a deep spiritual truth popping up in the unlikeliest of places?

It's a great motto, really - serving as both a reminder of our current predicament, while at the same time offering an incredibly practical solution to the classic question of "How then, shall we live?"


Shake well: Settling is natural.
 

Yes. Settling is natural. By natural we mean that it is the natural state of affairs. When things are left to themselves, settling occurs...

...in a protein drink...
...in a pond.... 
...and especially in our lives.
 

Oh, if only we believed that! If only we accepted fully and unequivocally that, if left unwatched and unguarded, the most natural thing in life is to settle. That unless we are actively doing something to prevent it, settling simply happens!
 

It's as unavoidable as the Law of Entropy, as cliche as the old admonition that "if you aren't growing, you're dying." (Believe it or not, as distasteful as cliches are to most of us, on occasion they turn out to actually be true.) To stand still is to stagnate. To do nothing is to lose ground. And what's even worse: even trying to maintain your last level of effort wont be enough.
 

Settling is natural.
 

There's another somewhat annoying cliche that says: "The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint." Pretty safe bet you've heard that one. Not ever having been a world class sprinter OR any sort of a marathoner whatsoever, I can't really vouch for any of that. I know it is a terrible thing when that cliche is used as an excuse to tell young, exuberant Christians to "slow down", as if slackening one's pace in the Christian life will somehow make it easier to finish the Race in the same
way it might help a runner finish a marathon. 
 

But that cliche aside, there is one truth that a recreational runner can vouch for: if you set out at a particular pace on the first lap, and do not progressively increase your effort on each successive
lap, you will, before too long, lose your original pace. It will feel the same to you. Only the stopwatch will alert you to what is actually happening. 
 

That's the law of entropy in action: things tend to wind down...come undone...fall apart...settle.
 

If our assumption of the spiritual life was that it followed the same rules and natural tendencies, if we decided that the only positive sign of growth and health was not maintenance, but rather a steady program of ever-increasing effort...

...what would the honest analysis of your personal spiritual health be?
 

Settling is Natural.
 

Do you see some "settling" in your life at the moment? Are you settling for a life of busyness when you had really wanted to live a life of Purpose? Are you settling for "okay" relationships when you once believed that "amazing" relationships were the greatest pleasure in life? Are you settling for time alone with the Lord where you haven't the slightest expectation that He is actually going to meet you there? Are you settling for the kind of person you have become, so far below the Christ-likeness you originally set out to possess?
 

Settling is Natural.
 

So....Shake well.
 

Change things up a bit. Change them up a lot. Take a trip. Get out of Dodge. Get out of that negative relationship that's holding you down. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Get desperate. Get a "this has to change NOW" attitude. Re-evaluate your goals. Repent of the places you've been settling (it's a derogatory shot at God's character when we settle. It's saying that mediocrity is His plan for us.) to Confess your "settling" with a brother or sister who might just be crazy enough to join you in your desire to shake things up. Do something unpredictable,
unexpected. Go on a mission trip. Go on a spiritual retreat (we've got one, if you're interested!) 

Yes, settling is natural.
 

That doesn't mean you have to put up with it.
 

SHAKE WELL.



 

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andrew 6 years ago

   

Very well written and so true. Thanks for the motivational words.

 

Where The Streets Have No Name

I want to run, I want to hide,
I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside;
I want to reach out, and touch the Flame,
Where the Streets Have No Name

I want to feel sunlight on my face
I see the dust cloud disappear without a trace
— U2 - Where the Streets Have No Name

 

 

The Warrior's Journey is not a child's game - not something to be embarked upon lightly.

Even in the best of times it is staggering how quickly a "dust cloud" of doubt, disappointment, abandonment and confusion can rise up and envelope our horizon in a suffocating haze. In but a moment the sunlight that seemed it would never fade can suddenly feel years away...like something from a beautiful dream that was never quite as real as the present cloud.

In those times we find our entire outlook on our lives redefined along the lines of numerous subtle agreements. We don't speak them.

We wouldn't admit to them to even our closest friends, because they attach themselves to our hearts at a level lower than conscious thought, and most of the time we do not even know they are there.

Sure, we know that we are currently thinking something different about God than we were a month ago, or five years ago -- but it almost never enters our minds to think that the issue might be that we have made an agreement with a lie. No; we're just calling it like we see it. Don't you dare turn this back on me, we shake our fist to the Heavens, the problem here isn't with me! If I've got some serious doubts about some Scriptural promises, it's only because You haven't been coming through! I'm only responding to the reality of the situation I'm in here!"

It hardly seems fair. Trust me - we know. God's goodness, His heart towards us, His involvement in our small little affairs, His concern for our ultimate joy...most days the bulk of the evidence seems to fall against such wildly happy hopes that this is the fabric from which the Universe has been woven. And then to be told that our lack of faith and trust is only increasing the desperation of our situation seems...well, a little unfair...and that's putting it politely.

So what are we to do?

"We're not indestructible baby better get that straight

I think it's unbelievable how you give into the hands of fate

Some things are worth fighting for, some feelings never die

I'm not asking for another chance, I just wanna know why?

There's no easy way out, there's no shortcut home

There's no easy way out giving in can't be wrong."

Robert Tepper, "No Easy Way Out"

A great song...with a terrible conclusion. Despite admitting that there really is no "easy way out" from underneath certain dust clouds, and certainly not formulaic "short-cut home" to Life and joy and restoration of spirit, the one thing that our Journey along the Warrior's Path has taught us that can be of help to you in your own Journey it is this:

Giving in is ALWAYS wrong.

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the whole earth that He may strongly support those whose hearts are completely His.”
— II Chronicles 16:9

There can be no agreements with the dust cloud, no agreements with the "walls that hold you inside." You were meant to tear down that wall; you were meant to reach out and touch the Flame; you were meant to feel the sunlight on your face again. And the process of getting there begins with the breaking and repenting of all the subtle little agreements that have clamped onto our hearts like barnacles.

And that is...so much easier said than done.

There's a reason this Road is called The Warrior's Path.

(In case you've ever wondered...)

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Dangerous

But you speak of him as if he were a friend,” said Gimli. “I thought Fangorn was dangerous.”

”Dangerous!” cried Gandalf. “And so am I, very dangerous: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet, unless you are brought alive before the seat of the Dark Lord. And Aragorn is dangerous, and Legolas is dangerous. You are beset with dangers, Gimli son of Gloin; for you are dangerous yourself, in your own fashion.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers


Dangerous? That’s about the last thing most of us feel these days.

Incompetent would be closer to the truth.

Superfluous, even.

Vitally necessary to the successful completion of…well...nothing, really.

Who me? dangerous? To whom? Myself, maybe. My friends and family, probably. My church and my ministry, heaven forbid. All the people I am supposed to be bold enough and strong enough and dangerous enough to protect…and the ones that will be hurt the worst through my failure.

And what of the Enemy? What sort of danger do I pose to Satan and his Kingdom? Do the agents of Evil shudder when I am mentioned in their Councils of War?

...Or is that laughter I hear rising from the Abyss?

If the Accuser was passing out nicknames, would "Dangerous One" enter his wildest imagination? Or would "Toothless Pussycat" be more to the point? Or worse still, might he go with "Laughingstock", "Court-Jester", or even "Village Idiot"?

Yeah, I'll bet a healthy percentage of you reading this right now feel about as 'dangerous' as rabid chipmunk.

Now lets be clear about something: much of what is True about our position in Christ simply, across the board, IS True, whether we feel like it is True or not. For instance: We are Loved. Very few people have a solid grip on this fact, and we are all at some different stage of learning to believe it completely and allowing it to recreate our core selves. The love of God truly is one of those Great Things that can be taught in an instant and yet somehow remain the study of a lifetime. In our more transparent moments we would not show the slightest condescention to a man or woman twenty years into their Christian journey who confessed to an imperfect trust or understanding of God's love. It's simply too big, too incredible, too wonderful. Mostly we just don't get it. We either fall into one fallacy of thinking that God's love is not a very big deal, or else we move to the other extreme of fearing that it is far too good to possibly be true.

But no matter how we feel about God's love, the bedrock fact of it doesn't change. It's there. It's true. And there are a great many other parts of our faith that work the same way: what is True in these instances is not contingent on what we are feeling, or even, for that matter, how we are living.

But this isn't the whole story. Not everything works that way. It's no good having some sincere, dear-hearted Christian remind you that "Satan shudders" at the very mention of your name because you have the power of Christ within you.

There is a world of difference between potential and actuality.

Make no mistake: You could be Dangerous. Powerful. Heroic. A Force to be reckoned with. A formidable foe and an immediate threat to the Kingdom of Darkness. You were intended for such a role. You have access to all the help you will need to live that sort of life.

Yes, it's available. But it's also conditional. You can't sit on the sofa every night watching Seinfeld re-runs, growing sleek and lazy, and yet make some sort of claim to being a dangerous and skilled weapon in the hands of the Lord of Hosts.

Dangerous is good, by the way.

Did you know that you had permission to be dangerous?

You do.

Did you also know that the rather rag-tag collection of believers that you are wandering with through this journey we call Life are dangerous as well, in their own fashion? Or could be, if someone woke them up to who they have been called to become? Did you know that you were meant to live and laugh and work and battle in the company of a small fellowship of dangerous warriors - strong, bold men or women who will call you out when you start to lose your "edge", embolden you when you lack the courage to stand, sing your praises when you experience victory, stand back-to-back with you when the battle intensifies and all hope seems lost, wrestle with principalities and powers for your joy, your heart, and your soul as if it was their own, lay down their very life for you?

If you thought that walking in such a brave company was your birthright in Christ, and if you thought that sooner or later you were going to need someone to play all of these roles described above in the story of your life that lies ahead...would you be content with what you currently have?

You want to feel more dangerous?

Be like Gimli and walk in dangerous company.

Can't find dangerous company?

Then be like Gandalf and kindle a fire in hearts that have grown cold. Call others out. Give them permission to be dangerous. Let them know that that's how you see them. Allow them to begin to dare to believe it could be true.

Find it, or make it. But don't settle for anything less.

You are only as strong as the man on your right.
— Leonidis, "The 300" film

Eyes to See

Open up your eyes
and see these warning signs
Breaking through your heart and all the reason of your mind

Open up to find
your action leaves behind
The very hope that’s given for the world to feel alive
— Jeremy Camp, "Open up your Eyes"

We live in the most affluent, comfortable, entertaining culture in the history of our planet. Our lives are marked by an insatiable pursuit after our definition of success – that which we call “the good life”: the best job with the best pay, beautiful pain-free bodies and short-term pain-free relationships…in short, ease and pleasure of every legally acceptable kind.

And yet, even as we have pursued our priorities with ever-increasing zeal, studies tell us that on the whole our current value system and the particular ways we have conditioned our minds to think about our world and our role in that world has led towards unprecedented levels of depression, frustration, loneliness, isolation, addiction, stress, worry, anger, insecurity, confusion and crisis.

Apparently our particular vision of what it means to exist as humans on planet Earth has created a state of mind that is inherently at odds with its own environment. We have analyzed our place in the Universe using a certain lens, or frame of reference, and have as a result come to some basic conclusions.

And those conclusions are slowly killing us.

Which ought to bring us to some new conclusions:

Either the world is a horrible place…or we’ve got this thing called “Life” horribly wrong.

The problem isn’t with our execution of the plan. The problem is with the plan itself. As others have said, it’s not that we just need to climb higher on the ladder of success - it’s that our ladder is leaning up against the wrong building.

Call the problem sin if that works best for you. But really we are talking about a whole mental mood, a worldview, a lens through which we interpret our lives, our experiences, and what is expected of us. We are talking about an error at the systemic level. At the level of our assumptions concerning the shape of Reality.

It is finally spring here in the Midwest. For a few short weeks the entire landscape will explode in a kaleidoscope of colors and aromas. Trees that look identical to one another for 11 months out of the year will for a moment blaze with individual glory: snowflake white, cole slaw, pink, rose, magenta, fuchsia, and burgundy, to name a few. Today the magnolias are at their summit, and they are magnificent.

And do you know what the “relevance” of all this extravagant beauty is?

It’s allergy season.

That’s the main “fact” that most concerns us.

That is what is “relevant”. (For I think it is safe to say that the working definition of 'relevant' is "what I consider to be important to me."

Can there be any doubt that there is something inherently wrong with our ability to perceive what is actually going on here?

"Open up your eyes..."

We are the recipients of the most dazzling, magical, incomprehensible gift ever imagined in this universe or in any other possible universe.

And for the most part, we are missing it.

Do you ever have that experience, that moment of clarity where you suddenly realize that you are "missing it"? Time is rolling over you as inexorable as the ocean's tide, life is passing, and you are missing it? Your college years? The springtime of love's first bloom? Your wedding day? The birth of your first child? A home full of toddler's squeals of joy? The day they will leave home forever? The loss of your parents?

And amidst all these landmarks as well as through all the quieter moments of possible joy, do you feel just a little less focused, less "present", less aware of what a wonderful thing this life is? More like you're going through the motions than "sucking the marrow out of life"? At times barely less than openly bitter at the life you've fallen into instead of bursting with thankfulness?

To walk the Warrior's Path is to believe that when life seems "common" and "plain" it is not because it is common and plain, but because we do not yet have eyes to see.

Each and every human being you passed by today without a second look was in fact the most wondrous impossibility the universe has ever seen.

Speaking to the men here -  you know some tattered remnant of that truth, though I'll bet you weren't aware that 'wonder' best described what you were experiencing in the way that the female race can paralyze you, hypnotize you, leave you spellbound and amazed.

"Open up your eyes."

The flowering trees are a direct insight into the mind of God Himself, the God of all adventure and mystery and romance, the God who thought of palm trees and sunsets and balmy Caribbean breezes; the God who invented the kiss and designed us to respond to it the way that we do. The God who knows no depression or anxiety, no confusion or doubt.

The God in whose image we were created. The God who we were meant to be like.

Yes. Either this world is a horrible place...

...or we're looking at it all wrong.

God, grant us Eyes to See.

 

A Seat at the Table Round


"You are well aware that since the advent of Jesus Christ the world has seen Three Great Fellowships. The First was the table of Jesus Christ, where the apostles broke bread on many ocassions...thereafter was instituted another table in memory and in likeness of the first. This was the table of the Holy Grail...that table was suceeded by the Round Table: for from every land where chivalry resides, knights are seen flocking to the Round Table. And when by God's grace they are made companions, they count themselves richer than if they had gained the whole world..." 

(The Quest of the Holy Grail, 13th century)

Fellowship.

The way it was meant to be.

Not as another religious duty. Not even as a matter of mere survival.

Not because you should.

Not even because you must.

(Although for most of us, even this is the eye-opening step that we have long needed to take. To move from the churchy "I should" to the Epic "I'm dead if I don't" is a great step indeed - a step we will certainly take when we begin to see the world from a epic perspective).

You awake to find yourself in the midst of a great and terrible war. It is in fact our most desperate hour...You are given a quest, a mission that will take you deep into the heart of the kingdom of darkness...Of course you will face many dangers; you will be hunted. Would you try to do this alone?
— John Eldredge, Waking the Dead

As we said, it's a big step, and already much is beginning to shift. Using our Epic Imagination, we are able to perceive our true situation in a way that we haven't ever quite received from the pulpit or the pew. Something BIG is happening here, and we've been thrown smack into the middle of it. Surprisingly to a dyed-in-the-wool individualist, it turns out that we don't have much of a prayer of surviving against the firepower that's been marshaled against us if we try to take on the kingdom of darkness alone.

Granted, if your version of the Christian life is still about 'hunkering down' and minding your own business, then it may be that the life you have set for yourself IS something you can handle alone. "Who me? Take on the kingdom of darkness? Why would I want to do a silly thing like that? Isn't that God's job anyway? Besides, things are just beginning to 'settle down' in my life! It's all finally beginning to come together for me. Can't I just be happy about that? I'm no fool: I'm not about to paint a bulls-eye on my chest! Me? Pick a fight with the devil? And risk messing up all of this?"

Thankfully, those of us who are treading the Warrior's Path have begun to awaken from that deadly enchantment, that heart-breaking bad dream in which we are destined to live insignificant lives in the midst of a meaningless and story-less universe.

Instead we are coming to see that we truly are embroiled in something deeply significant, and the opposition to our discovering a full life of purpose and joy is heavier than we can even put into words. To borrow one of Eldredge's favorite historical examples, our lives feel for all the world like God's promises and the fullfillment of our heart's deepest desires are right there before us waiting for us to grasp them...only it's D-Day and all the might of Europe's fiercest war machine stands between us and the "day at the beach" we were hoping for.

And so it is that the religious appeal to pursuing "fellowship" as an act of obedience now turns into something much more elemental, vital, a matter of survival.

Just look back through the ages: in Romantic, historical, and fictional example after example we learn again and again that it will only be in fellowship that good will overcome evil...

Arthur has his Knights -

heroes one and all, but more eager to hold second-billing in a company of great warriors than to be a Prince alone in some distant land..

Robin has Little John, Will Scarlet, Allen A'Dale -

a small band of merry men who would rather be outlaws with Robin than free men making their way in the world alone.

William Wallace has his oldest friend Seamus, a half-crazed but loyal Irishman named Stephen, and a handful of Highlanders -

ready to follow their friend on the most hopeless of adventures.

D'Artagnan has Athos, Porthos, and Aramis -

and when the Three Musketeers become Four, all of European history is changed by their acts of loyalty and heroism.

Frodo has Sam and 7 others that comprise the Fellowship of the Ring - 

nine unlikely souls brought together as the world's last hope against the gathering darkness in the East of Middle Earth.

And what of Jesus?

He has 12 that he calls out of the crowd to "be with him" through all the ups and downs of three years of public ministry....and tradition tells us that all but one of them suffered and died a martyr's death as a result of that fellowship.

All these stories - and countless others - that grip you with a longing to share in something similar - they are telling you something about yourself. About how you were designed. About what makes you come alive. About God's plan for how life ought to be.

"And when by God's grace they are made companions, they count themselves richer than if they had gained the whole world...You have seen this happen in your own particular case. From the day you left your mother and were made a companion of the Round Table, you had no wish to go back, but fell at once captive to the sweet intimacy and brotherly love that binds its members." 

(The Quest of the Holy Grail)

Here then, is the final step, the one we are all to some degree needing to yet take - from religious duty, to vital neccesity, to last of all: the desire of our heart.

We walk in sweet companionship and brotherhood because this is Life at its best.

Honestly: if it were somehow possible for you to receive an invitation to join any of the fellowships listed above, would anything in the world hold you back? A seat at the Table Round? A King's Musketeer and entree into the inner circle of binding brotherhood of Athos and the other noble souls? Handpicked to walk, eat, sleep, heal, study, laugh and cry with the Son of God and his closest friends?

.If a longing and an ache for such a sweet fellowship isn't rising in your chest at this very minute, then either we have not communicated well enough, or you simply aren't really listening to your heart.

The church says you ought to have this.

The days of our lives tell us we need to have this.

Our hearts (if we dare to listen) tell us we long to have this.

.And what does God say? In Waking the Dead, Eldredge tells of his pilgrimmage to the ruins of an ancient community of Celtic warrior-monks who helped to keep Britian a Christian nation during the Dark Ages. Standing there amongst the wind-worn stones between the northern sky and the crashing sea, he thought he heard in the deep places of his heart God saying these words:

"I'm doing this again."

May your heart be alive, your eyes on the horizon, and your bags packed when He does begin to do this again.  You might only have one shot at this.

You aren't going to want to miss it.

 

 

I Still Believe

I Still Believe

 

"Been in a cave for forty days
Only a spark to light my way

I wanna give out, I wanna give in
This is our crime, this is our sin

But I still believe
I still believe
Through the pain
And through the grief

Through the lies
Through the storms
Through the cries
And through the wars

I still believe..."

The self-proclaimed Ragamuffin singer/songwriter/poet/philosopher Rich Mullins used to sing a song that began:  “There’s bound to come some trouble to your life...”  The opening sentence in M. Scott Peck’s classic The Road Less Travelled states with equally depressing matter-of-factness“Life is hard.”  It seems just about everyone who’s not trying to sell you something is in agreement on this one. Charles Dickens begins A Tale of Two Cities by exclaiming “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” William Shakespeare, through the voice of his tragic hero Hamlet ponders the question “Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or by opposing (i.e. suicide) end them.” The author of the old Jewish lament Ecclesiastes bemoans that bad things happen to good people, seemingly without rhyme or reason, and the suffering is utterly meaningless. And to top it all off, right there plastered to the rear-end of the car stuck in traffic in front of you is the deep wisdom of our generation, “Life sucks. And then you die.”

“There’s bound to come some trouble to your life…”

Yes. Without fear of exaggeration, that is probably about as True a statement as could ever be made. The Road is long. The Journey frightfully uncertain – at times terrifyingly so. In between the (sometimes all to brief) moments of glorious sunlight out on an open Road blessed by soul-satisfying companionship with other pilgrims, and sweet communion with the King Himself, there are often so many fearsome trials to be faced - trials that in the moment seem to far outweigh the now-forgotten good times. Without warning we find ourselves wandering in places we never hoped to go. Water-less deserts where all the world is nothing but endless dune and sky and slake-less thirst. Death-filled dungeons where cutting chains bind and unseen terrors lurk in shadow. Trackless wastes and pathless forests through which our way becomes hopelessly lost. Shadowy vales lit only by the yellow gleam of stalking eyes shining forth from the pitch black of deepest night. Insurmountable peaks that somehow, against all odds, nevertheless must be assayed. Stinking, festering marshes that choke out the memory of all things good and beautiful. Day upon day and night upon night without light of sun or moon or stars to guide the way Home. Loneliness. Disappointment. Betrayal. The Silence of God.

“There’s bound to come some trouble to your life…”

Why? Why is there bound to come so much trouble? Why is the Road so long, the Journey so difficult? Doesn’t God know that we are being pushed to our wit’s end here? Doesn’t He know how hard it is for us to hold onto our faith, our hope, our joy, under these impossible conditions? Life feels for all the world like what Frodo and his fellowship experienced in the woods of Lothlorien: 

03.jpg

"The Quest 

 stands upon the edge of a knife: stray but a little, and it will FAIL, to the ruin of all..."

 

The Darkness seems more powerful than Light, our strength is utterly spent, and exchanging this childish trust in God for a bravely humanistic effort at keeping our own head above water seems to be our only option at survival.

Wouldn’t now be the perfect time for God to step in and save the day? What is He waiting for anyway?

“There’s bound to come some trouble to your life…”

Those aren’t Rich’s words, you know. Not ultimately. Ultimately those words come straight from the mouth of God. Which means they are more than an observation of how things seem to be turning out: they are part of how the whole thing was designed.

From the Garden of Eden straight down to this very afternoon, there has been a central theme running through the human experiment, a theme contained in this one question that God has been asking each and every one of us since the Dawn of Time…

“Will you Trust Me?”

Think about it. If we're right - if this is THE question that our entire earthbound Journey was designed to answer - well, it all begins to make an unexpected sort of sense doesn't it? We can almost understand why - when we take the story of our lives as a whole - it mostly seems like the deck is stacked against God, like the odds are totally against our retaining our childlike faith, like we've been set up to give up...like the most unlikely of all logical responses available to us is to really trust Him.

Consider the ramifications of the possibility that the material universe was spawned, our terrestrial home formed, an entire race of creatures brought into existence, so that they might be put to this test.

It is so incredibly helpful to understand that this is where we are at - that this is the Story that we were born into...that this test is what so much of what you are experiencing is all about. Your marriage just fell apart: Will you trust Me now? You just lost your job, your home, your future, your hopes and dreams: How about now? Can your trust withstand this storm? My promises to you seem like they'll never be fulfilled: Will you trust me even through this? You haven't felt or seen any experience of Me in forever: How about now? Will you trust Me when it doesn't seem that I'm there for you? When it looks like I've let you down again? When your prayers go unanswered? When the Enemy is sifting you like wheat? When Death comes to call at last, and the great mystery opens wide before you? Will you trust me?

This, by the way, is why the recent post-modern pre-occupation with doubt is the complete antithesis to Christianity. Yes, doubts come. But we are not to stay there. Doubt comes when we begin to waver in our trust, and since trust is pretty much the whole test...well, you can do the math. Doubt may feel "intellectually honest", but if we begin to fail the test for which we were brought into this life all for the sake of "intellectual honesty", it would seem that our priorities need an overhaul.

Remember, the stage has been set against trust.

You can expect that at times even our "intellect" will be recruited to conspire against it.

The Journey is going to be an edge-of-the-seat thrill ride through some pretty heavy stuff. Now, we aren't pretending that by changing your mindset about them that these dark trials are suddenly going to become fun. But we are saying that living from a Warrior's Heart, and remembering a few key points will make a world of difference: This is the test to end all tests.  The sheer weight of the pull towards losing faith is to be expected, but holding on against all odds is a trial by fire that all must pass sooner or later. And most of all, remember that of all the noble, heroic, and praise-worthy qualities a man or woman can possess, trusting God's goodness and God's heart is the greatest of them all.

Miss this, and we may well miss everything.

I'll march this road
I'll climb this hill
Upon my knees
If I have to

I'll take my place
Upon this stage
I'll wait till the end of time
For you like everybody else...


But I still believe
Yes, I still believe
Through the shame
And through the grief

Through the heartache
Through the tears
Through the waiting
Through the years

For people like us
In places like this
We need all the hope
That we can get

Oh, I still believe

(Jim Capello, "I Still Believe")

A Far Green Country

PIPPIN: “I didn’t think it would end this way.” 

GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take... The grey rain curtain of this world pulls back and all turns to silver glass...and then you see it...”

PIPPIN: “What? Gandalf…see what?”

GANDALF: “White shores. And beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

PIPPIN: (relieved) “Well, that doesn’t sound so bad.”

GANDALF: (smiling) “No. No it doesn’t.”

(The Return of the King, film version)

The siege of the White City of Gondor is well underway. For many long, weary hours Gandalf has marshaled the troops of Gondor against the siege, but all has proved an exercise in futility - there is no strength in Gondor to match the tens of thousands of enemy soldiers that have poured across the River and swarmed the Pelennor Fields. The relentless tide surges against the beleaguered city: the gates are breached, the lower levels of the city fall to the Enemy, the last defense is pulled back toward the citadel of Ecthelion.

There is a moment of respite, a brief chance for Gandalf to catch his breath and ponder the fate of Middle Earth. Beside him sits the young Hobbit who has endeared himself through many misadventures to the old wizard. The expression on Pippin's face tells it all, and he utters the sad words of an unfulfilled life:

“I didn’t think it would end this way.”

Didn't think it would end what way? Alone? Separated from home and all he held dear? No chance to hold his loved ones one last time and say a proper goodbye? Or more generally, was he referring to the "story" itself: he never thought that hate would ultimately triumph? That the Dark Lord would eventually destroy all the good that was left in the world?

Have you ever spoken words like this? Or made subtle agreements that life isn’t turning out the way you thought it would? That you had to say "good-bye" too soon...or didn't get to at all? That your chances to become the man or woman you wanted to be are gone beyond recall? That you’ll never accomplish all the things you wanted to, or thought you would?

“I didn’t think it would end this way.”

And then there's Gandalf. Sitting peacefully beside Pippin, with no hint of fear, despair, or sorrow. Responding to Pippin’s questioning statement, he speaks - not with hope - but with complete authority and calm certainty. His eyes gleam as he looks back into the distant reaches of his memory to a time before he had been clothed in human form, before he had become the one we know as 'Gandalf'.

“End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take.”

Death holds no fear for Gandalf. He knows. He has seen what awaits.

Granted, Gandalf has a clear advantage over us. According to Tolkien's myth, Gandalf walked in the twilight along those White Shores that kiss the Far Green Country of the Blessed Realm long before the first sunrise, long before the Race of Man awoke.

On the other hand, that was a few thousand years ago now. He's certainly seen a lot of hard life since then, and there's been plenty to dim and darken his memory of such a Place.

But all inequal comparisons aside, the question for us really is just how real is our Heaven? How often do we think about what awaits? How often do we allow our imagination to sweep us away to Eternal Shores, to the new Earth, to sitting around a campfire with your loved ones and the great heroes of the faith? To the limitless time you will have to do all the things you ever dreamed of doing? To become exactly the person you’ve always wanted to be? To the time when you will be Free indeed, to the time when you will taste at last the complete and utter relief of Holiness? To the time when the best part of the story finally begins? To the happily-ever-after that seems far too good to be true?

“The grey rain curtain of this world pulls back and all turns to silver glass...and then you see it: White shores, and beyond, a Far Green Country under a swift sunrise!”

What do you see when the curtain is pulled back? Nothing distinct really? Just a dim sense that it is going to be better than ceasing to exist, and better than that Other Place?

Why is that okay with us? How is it that we, the products of such an extremely goal-driven society, don't seem to spend much time considering our ultimate destination? It's like hopping on a 747 without asking where the plane is bound...and even going so far as to try to convince yourself that there is no destination: that the plane will just keep circling up there at thirty-eight thousand feet forever and ever. Yes, life is a Journey, we agree. But every Journey must be going somewhere. It really is an oversight with no logical explanation. (Of course there is an explanation - but we don't want to hear it: we're not really sure Heaven is real, no matter what our religion has told us)

Gandalf's calm assurance revolutionizes Pippin's attitude toward their dire situation. Death, if that is what awaits them, may be painful, and it may be full of sorrow and parting and loss...but only for a time. It will not be the end.

You do know it's okay to spend a good bit of your time envisioning it, dreaming about it, living your life with one eye always looking toward it, don't you?

It's not escapism.

It's Reality.

And It's coming.

The glorious Reward that awaits His faithful followers is getting closer every day. But you must focus on it, keep it before your mind's eye as a daily exercise, or in times of despair when all hope seems lost you will be deceived into thinking the end is here.

The end isn’t here. In fact, there is no end for followers of the King! And that is what always gives hope to those on the Warrior’s Path.

“But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.” (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle)

With longing for the White Shores,

 


D&D

 

 

 

From the Ashes

The battle of Helm's Deep is over. (sorry - you might need to read our last post, RIDE, to catch up!)

Against all odds the world of Men has survived to see the sun rise on a golden morning after all, thanks in no small part to the heroic ride of King Theoden and the last surviving Captains and Lords of the house of Eorl - the ride, as you'll remember, that wouldn't have happened if not for Aragorn's strength of heart, his courage, and his willingness to call the King out of his passivity and despair. Fast forward several days to another scene: the mustering of all the armies of Rohan at the ancient refuge and gathering place of Dunharrow, as they prepare to march into the South and fight beside their beleagured neighbor in the kingdom of Gondor.

Although as king Theoden continues to rule his people, there is no question that Aragorn is the true hero of the Battle of Helm's Deep, and much of the hope and courage of the horse-warriors of Rohan is built upon the confidence his presence brings. Despite his gratefulness, Theoden is riddled with self-doubt and self-recrimination. Actually, the situation is quite similar to one found in the ancient writings of God's redemptive work in our own world, when Israel's first king found a young warrior far braver than himself, and the people greeted them after their victories with shouts of: "Saul has killed his thousands, but David has killed his tens of thousands!"

But then suddenly, inexplicably, an unforeseen blow to the might of Rohan: Aragorn deserts his new brothers-in-arms. In their great moment of need, the Sword that was Broken must choose a different, darker path - one that the armies of Rohan cannot follow.

How will the King respond? Hasn't he been living vicariously off the courage of someone else ever since Gandalf arrived at Edoras with his rag-tag companions and released him from Saruman's power?

As Aargorn disappears into the mists that shroud the entrance to the Paths of the Dead, Theoden's men turn to their King with questioning, doubting eyes.
 

"Too few have come," his Captain says, referring to the armies gathered or conscripted from the far corners of land. "We cannot defeat the armies of Mordor."
 

Defeat drips from his voice, and all the men witnessing the confrontation nod in agreement. For one breathless moment Theoden freezes. The fates of two kingdoms hang on his next words.


"No. We cannot."
 

The King sighs in agreement at last. In his heart no doubt he hears the echo of his own words to Aragorn at the moment of his despair at Helm's Deep: "What can Man do against such reckless hate?" It's going to be the same story all over again.

Relieved that their King has accepted the bitter truth of their plight, Theoden's men look up with new hope in their countenance. This war is far away in Gondor. Surely this hopeless quest can be averted, at least for a time?

And then...

..a fire begins to smoulder beneath the King's bristling brows.
 

"No. We cannot. But we shall meet them in battle nonetheless!" 


Yes. The circle is complete. The self-doubting Victim has chosen to play the role of Valiant. There are no words for retreat or surrender left in the King's lexicon.

His mind his made, his course set: as extreme as his past passivity so now will be the fame of his boldness and courage.

Oh, the restoring power of one brave heart upon another! The armies of Rohan no longer need to look to the courage of Aragorn to lead them. His example at Helm's Deep has done more than save Roahn: it has awakened the heart of the King. Now at last shall all witness the great leader, the mighty warrior, the true son of Kings that Theoden was always born to be.

Brothers and sisters, a Warrior's role is to be strong for others, to fight for those who cannot yet fight for themselves, to bring victory into situations that otherwise would have turned to defeat.

But along the way the Warrior must always be looking for those who have all the latent strength and courage to stand as great Warrior's in this battle against darkness in their own right -- always looking for great potential smouldering just beneath the surface, waiting to be fanned into new flame.

You can count on the fact that there is someone you know - and whom you see as a "victim", caught in a circle of self-doubt and passivity - who was meant to do great things for God and for His Kingdom.

Don't assume that they were born to play a lesser role.

None of us were.

 

From the ashes a Fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring...”
— J.R.R. Tolkien
And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds...”
— Hebrews 10:24


 



 

 

The Heart of a Lion

Rachel, all this: its...it’s not me...inside, I am...I am more...”
”Bruce...It’s not who you are underneath: its what you do that defines you.”
— From the film Batman Begins

Bruce: "Rachel, all this: it's...it's not me...inside, I am...I am more..."

Rachel: "Bruce...It's not who you are underneath: it's what you do that defines you." (- Batman Begins)


The high and holy distinctive of the lives of those who set out to walk in the Ways of the Warrior is that their devotion to the Christ is marked by decisive Kingdom action rather than merely by orthodox thinking. Yes, orthodoxy (right/correct belief) must be the foundation from which all truly good action springs. Without it we may be full of wind and vinegar and perform all manner of mighty feats...but at best they will be performed for the kingdoms of this earth. The greatest warrior, if acting under the impetus of false beliefs, may become a danger to those whom he ought to protect - becoming more a Horror than a Hero. Right belief is paramount.

Nor do we advocate that all-too-familiar reversal of priorities that would turn us into "human doings" as opposed to "human beings". Close on the heels of Right Belief must come our commitment to the spiritual life - the inner man - above and before all things. It is increasingly popular in Christian circles to refer to this aspect ourselves as "the contemplative life"...which even while trying to encourage it, somehow marginalizes it as merely an option for those who have the time or inclination to pursue habits of contemplation. Often you are left feeling the same way that you do when considering a health club membership: of course it would be a wise and healthy decision, but life will go on whether you get in better shape or not. Popularizing this title, "the contemplative life", is perhaps one of the great errors of the Church in our culture today.

The inner life of the Christian, the sweet (or agonizing) hours alone with his Maker and Master - this is to be the least "negotiable" thing in all of life. It is not merely a good idea, a healthy alternative for well-rounded living...

...This IS Life.

You and God. That's the main point of the story. Miss that, and well, you've missed just about everything that ever really mattered.

So the Mighty Man of God must begin with Right Belief - knowing what he is fighting for and what he is fighting about - and he must also know that the Battle is never more important than the Romance - that the Lover of our souls longs for us to walk in daily increasing intimacy with Him, and will continue to desire so, long after the Last Battle has been fought and every foe defeated.

But after all of this right foundation and proper prioritizing, there has to come a moment when the young hero, the "stem of that victorious stock", must spring into physical action and begin to make courageous choices. There comes a point when your realize that the vast chasm between who you imagine yourself to be in Christ (a son or daughter of the King empowered to advance His Kingdom with authority) and how you present yourself to the world (nobody important, really) must be bridged...or become little more than a fantasy. It is that moment when you realize that your claims of total surrender and availability to God that you have sworn to on your knees at sunrise simply don't seem to be playing themselves out throughout the rest of the day...that moment when you realize that you really couldn't intend any better than you do, but each day ends so far short of the glory you had envisioned...that moment when you know that "who you are on underneath" is never going to be enough, because it is "what you do that defines you".

This chasm between who we want to believe that we are and how we are actually impacting the world is a chasm that can only be bridge by Courage. How highly have you been valuing courage in your life? Look back on some of the recent moments when you did not say what needed to be said, did not tell someone a painful truth (about yourself or about them), did not stop to help a stranded motorist, did not strike up a conversation with the stranger in line next to you, did not offer to pray for the child in a wheelchair you just passed in the mall...

...what was your heart's true desire in those moments?

You really wanted to break out, to lose your inhibitions, to do the right, the kind, the heroic thing...didn't you?

So what stopped you?

A lack of Courage. Also popularized, especially among men (thank you, Adam), as Passivity.

 It is the curse that haunts us all to one degree or another - the Enemy's favorite tool for keeping us down even after our hearts have been restored and circumcised unto God, even after our desires have been made holy. We desire; but we do not act. And in the end we are perhaps worse off than before, because who can live in the daily shame of their own cowardice? Who can live two separate lives and not be broken, not be driven mad by the inconsistency, the confusion, the failure to be Whole?

But where shall I find courage?” asked Frodo. “This is what I chiefly need.”
Courage is found in unlikely places,” said Gildor. “Be of good hope!”
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Yes, Courage is what we chiefly need. And where shall we find it? We can begin by bringing it out of the murky landscape and putting it into focus, by making it a part of our daily awareness. Do you journal already? Why not try keeping a "courage journal"? Look for that moment that comes to you each day when a choice lies before you, and you sense that one option feels easy and natural, and the other option feels awkward, difficult, scary.

Rather than simply letting your instincts take you towards safety and comfort, try turning into the scary choice - if for no other reason than the training of your courage.

Look back at the end of each day and ask: did I do one single thing today that required courage to do, or did I just do what came naturally and comfortably? (At the beginning, if you're anything like us, you'll be surprised that most days don't contain a single act of deliberate courage).

Train your Courage. It is one of the cardinal virtues of a life dedicated to the Warrior's Path. For the lack of it we have missed so many chances to fight God's battles and to share God's love.

Don't let it hold you back any longer.

Pursuing the heart of a Lion,

Derrick and David

Don't Stop Believing

sunrise-2.jpg

Don’t stop believing

Tonight we are remembering why we ever thought it would be a good idea to publish this journal of our wanderings along The Warrior’s Path in the first place:

Because of you.

Yes, you.

You with the hungry heart that just won’t stop aching for Something More, no matter what tactic you take to drown out the cry of your heart. Believe me, I’ve been there, and I know in some small part what you are feeling.

Hungry - yes...

...but scared too.

Scared?

Yes. Scared that this ache for More isn’t a holy longing; that is not, at its core, something God intended you to feel. Scared that you just want too much – that God is not really offering you as much as you hope for, that His best is going to fall so far short of fulfilling the yearnings of all that your soul craves. Scared that the wild wonder of youth that once filled your heart with passion and your soul with awe is already slipping, slipping –never to be recaptured again for all the weary long years that lie before you. Scared that with the loss of Innocence some great piece of all you were meant to be was lost as well – and that all hope that God is still, in any practical way, on your side is gone as well. Scared that you stand dangerously close to the precipice of becoming someone you cannot bear to live with; and scared that the person you once hoped to be will soon be buried alive beneath the weight and burden of a life you never meant to have.

Do any of these words touch the inconsolable secret that haunts you every evening as you tumble into bed, stalking you through the restless dreams of a black night, waking you in the small hours with a rising terror, whispering that just about nothing in your life is going to turn out the way it should have – especially your relationship with God?

Is it you?

Are you the one that is just one more day away from losing Hope? From killing the restlessness in your heart the only way you know how — by killing your heart?

If so, God has something to say to you tonight:

You are right.

You are right.

Your heart is right.

architecture-beautiful-building-547125.jpg

There is More. And it is beyond your wildest dreams.

Stop letting the world, your parents, or your friends tell you to lower your expectations and just get on with life. The longing in your deep heart does mean something. It is leading you “further up and farther in”. And no, you haven’t been “shut out” based upon where your life has taken you thus far. Your Father, whose image you bear, loves you with a blinding passion, and He is calling you back to Him.

Listen.

Do you hear Him calling you back? It’s not as a second-class citizen with a dozen black marks against your name that He’s calling you back. No - it’s as the beloved son (or daughter). The son who gets His best robe. His best ring. The best feast the Kingdom has ever seen. The FULL inheritance. A co-heir with Jesus of…well, of everything that’s ever been made. A co-heir of the Universe. Every promise ever made to ANYONE still stands - for YOU. Nothing will be held back from YOU.

(We didn’t say it was beyond your wildest dreams just to sound cool or to merely take advantage of the author’s privilege of poetic license…)

Just come home.

It’s not too late.

Everything can change.

Tonight. No matter where you have been, tonight things can be different.

And tomorrow?

Nothing will ever have to be the same again.

To your Journey Home…