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Dancing With Bruises

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Bruises seem to be part of life’s package to us. Some will be serious, most minor. But each are noted, and some will just have to be endured.

Dancers are some of the most wonderful people I know. Their gracefulness can be seen both on and off the stage. A dancer’s training is far from easy. By choosing to become dancers they have made a decision to absorb pain. Their toes and feet are blistered and bruised; they take constant abuse. Some must live with chronic tendinitis. Their feet bleed sometimes, and pain is their constant companion. Two things to consider.

  • They choose to dance. Dancers have an iron-will and a elegant grace. I suppose that is why they can dance.
  • The scars and bruises often become “badges of honor.” And they wouldn’t have it any other way. They would rather dance in pain, than not to dance at all.

Someone once compared depression as a “mental bruise.” I understand this. As depressed people, we must choose to walk out our lives from this pain. I know what it is like to bury myself in my bed for several weeks. My own mental bruise was simply more than I could take. There was a sensation of sinking into blackness, a sense of total and complete despair. I felt completely lost, and completely alone.

I prayed. I groaned, and I prayed. My sense of being totally lost was beyond comprehension. Dear reader, this was something quite real, and you must become aware of these things. Some of your friends are suffering. And it is a hellish and desperate depression.dancer-feet

To my Christian friends. Yes, I believe Jesus died for all my sins. He has forgiven me of much evil, I know that will live for eternity (with you). But mental illness is real, and like other illnesses it seldom is caused by evil or Satan. We would never say that diabetics are that way because of the enemy. Now the dark one will surely exploit it, but I think you give him far too much credit if you suggest he was able to initiate it. Satan just doesn’t have the spiritual “voltage.”

So, inspired by my dancing friends, and the Holy Spirit– I will make the choice to dance again. I’m pretty bruised, but I will try to ignore the pain. I would exult in my God, walk in His love, “leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture” (Malachi 4:2.)

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”

Isaiah 42:3

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Barrels of Monkeys

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“My problems go from bad to worse.
    Oh, save me from them all!”

Psalm 25:17

If you are over 40 or so, you would’ve known about this simple toy. Today, a little girl came up to me to show me her singular monkey. She insisted its origins were from the animated movie “Toy Story.” I told he she was suffering from delusions and began to instill the real story. She basically told me that I was the one who was thoroughly nuts, and she quickly became very skeptical of anything I would say next. (It’s hard to connect with this younger generation, lol.)

In my mind I achieved a moral victory, but it was short-lived. It wasn’t enough to do a “fist-pump” or a touchdown dance I craved to do. The way I figured things, old age has to count for some bonifide wisdom. My gray hair reminds me that I can speak with supreme authority about toy monkeys without recriminations.

Sometimes God gives us a barrel of squirmy, tricky monkeys. He watches what we do with them. This barrel could be a marriage, child rearing, a job, sickness, addictions, physical or mental illnesses. There are a lot of barrels out there. You could easily triple this list, and still need to add something.

The antics of monkeys, their tricks and misbehaviors are well known. Barrels of monkeys are embarrassing, they throw their own feces for God’s sake.  But they are still the elite masters of physical comedy in the animal kingdom. They are the Jay Lenos and Robin Williams of the zoo. You can’t subdue them, except with a tranquilizing gun, or some fermenting bananas.

Monkey barrels are tough. We usually are not steady enough, or patient enough to play the game. I submit it takes guts to play with the whole barrel, and taking short-cuts violate some kind of rule somewhere. Our faith should steady us. But the barrel only baffles us.

But the Spirit has come to assist us.

His presence helps us get by every barrel and every chimp, but we have to ask for help. I encourage you to get desperate. These monkeys can be tamed, and you need to do this. Time is never the issue. But how you behave is the true evaluation.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”

Romans 5:3, NLT

 

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His “Irresponsible” Love

“Nothing in the church makes people in the church more angry than grace. It’s ironic: we stumble into a party we weren’t invited to and find the uninvited standing at the door making sure no other uninviteds get in.

Then a strange phenomenon occurs: as soon as we are included in the party because of Jesus’ irresponsible love, we decide to make grace “more responsible” by becoming self-appointed Kingdom Monitors, guarding the kingdom of God, keeping the riffraff out (which, as I understand it, are who the kingdom of God is supposed to include.)” 

— Michael Yaconelli

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Often there can be a frustrated hostility simmering just below the veneer of a religious person.  It can be seen in sudden outbursts of irritation that seems to come from nowhere.  It is often encountered when they feel the ‘spigot of grace’ has been open too long, too much water is being used, and the people are getting a little wild in showing their enthusiasm.  “They’re acting like ungodly pagans.”

Regulating the watering hole becomes a compulsion, and a necessary work of the “Church.” Jesus’ love is for all is a confirmed fact, but we must have some standards of decorum and appropriate levels of conduct and respect.  “We the keepers-of-the- spigot are called to take some responsibility in this,” we end up saying.

Celebratory shouts of joy are simply not acceptable.  Dancing in the mud is way ‘out-of-line.’  But there is an outrageous element to grace.  It is preposterous and disturbing.  It is untamed and wild, and not at all logical.  “We definitely prefer the thinking side of our faith,” we say.

Judas rebuked Jesus as he was getting a foot massage from the ungodly woman.  She had no business to be there in the first place.  And secondly, she has just poured this incredible fortune on the feet of Jesus!  Judas said, “way out-of-line!”  But there is a irrepressible love that always pushes its way forward.

For those of us who have first experienced God’s love and grace we must keep an alert out for our hard hearts.  First, He is in charge of how the water is utilized.  Second, [and we MUST believe this] when a man or woman connect with the water, there can be spontaneous displays of joy!

The dance of grace

We must change our thinking, e.g. repent, and insist that we ‘cease and desist’.  Our attitude is not acceptable or true to the Spirit of Christ.  We are the ones way “out-of-line” and we have not been good witnesses about his grace and love.  We had better turn from this sin, and ask Jesus to free us again.

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  John 8:32

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God’s Authentic Artisans

photo: aalmarkllc.com

Sculpture is 3-D art. It can be made with marble, glass, metal, wood, plastics. It can be carved or cast, welded or painted. There can be sculpture using light, sound, water, kinetic (moving), land art, and environmental enhancements. It’s just one way to be creative, with many applications.

Sometimes we can define and confine sculpture far too simply or narrowly, but there are so many ways to communicate visual art. There are so many ‘cutting edge’ efforts, showing the creativity of people who are themselves created in the image of God. When we create, we emulate the Creator. It’s something worth pondering: God creates beautiful snowflakes, and we make ‘Styrofoam’ cups. (Hardly creative.)

There are over thirty uses of “skillful” people in the Old Testament alone. The Hebrew word used is carries with it the idea of “excelling at a task– an artisan.” When both the tabernacle and the temple were constructed, the Holy Spirit directly commanded the selection of artists and artisans to design beauty right into their work. There was nothing that was prefab or shoddy. The work done was meticulous and took patience.

13 And King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. 14 He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze. And he was full of wisdom, understanding, and skill for making any work in bronze. He came to King Solomon and did all his work.

1 Kings 7:13-14, ESV

I’ve come to the place where I see talented people, with enhanced skills in many places: they are mothers, fathers, mechanics, plumbers. They are teachers and nurses, lawyers and accountants. They all excel at what they do, and it’s great when they are acknowledged and honored. They are creative in their work, “and full of understanding.”

When they go to work, they will carry out their duties with a flair. Some will have an awareness of God’s presence– some may not be aware. I was hospitalized a few years ago, I remember quite clearly a lady who came in and mopped my floor. She was skilled at her task, thorough and even artful. Tears came as I thought about her working. I felt humbled by her kindness. She was truly a minister of God’s grace on that day.

There is a line from Bernandos novel, “A Diary of a Country Priest.” It’s at the very end of the book, and the protagonist is dying. His attendant was disturbed by his inability to get a priest to come and minister the Sacrament of Last Rites. The dying man, looked at his friend, “What does it matter? Grace is everywhere.” Looking at the housekeeper, that same line came to my mind– grace is everywhere!


The man who carved the flourish above is a master carver. He is also a pastor and lives in Florida. His website is at http://www.aalmarkllc.com/ and he has posted a short video on YouTube,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTIuxKz5joc&w=640&h=360. He is a true example of a great woodworker.

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It is God’s Glory, Not Ours

 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

 1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV

We are to make distinctions of all that passes by us.  Making the decisions based on value and content and worth is the correct way to go about deciding what is worthwhile.  The radiance and brilliance are not our way of sounding poetic about something.  It is the real core of essential nature.  It’s like watching a doctor perform a biopsy.  They extract a tiny speck of organ tissue with a long needle.  A biopsy will give the physician a real understanding of what is really happening inside.

The Bible tells us ‘taste and see, that God is good’ [tasty].  This is what real faith does, it reaches out and takes a sample.  Often in a big grocery store the management sets up a card table.  A person attends the table, and offers passing customers samples.  Of course, they do this so you will buy this new product.  (Sausage and cheese samples are my favorites.  I generally try to avoid the cole slaw, as a general rule).

I guess God made us humans with an adventurous and inquisitive nature.  We climb mountains, and eat Korean food.  We have this built in curiosity that leaks out all over the place.  Some really need a taste of danger, or to be creative, or competitive.  The point is this– we are created in God’s image.  And only God is majestic enough, and big enough–  to be enough.

We are learning that all our activity, and all our passion is to contribute and build His Glory.  In order to do this we need to amputate our passivity and stretch out to a muscular faith.  Flabby and flaccid discipleship won’t be able to give God any real glory, or give us any real joy.  We were designed and built specifically to give God immense glory.  There is nothing better to do with our lives.

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Putting It Simply

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“But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42, ESV

I tend to over-think things a lot. Everything gets so darn complicated. Often there is ‘a paralysis of analysis’ that gels into something stagnant and murky. I am definitely not the decisive person I admire from a distance. My illness is such that I can easily become “immobilized” in making simple decisions.

But I am aware of my desperate need of Christ Himself. My many issues demand a ‘heavy duty’ Savior, one who is capable of handling them. I guess I have tried many ‘gods’ and I haven’t found any of them who can take the load like Jesus can.

All that He has done in the Gospels, and all that He does presently declares to me his trustworthiness and power. My admiration for Christ as my Savior and Deliverer is written on the pages of the Bible. His present day ministry to me (and many others) is consistent with what I read about him in the Word.

And it is amazingly simple, when you think it through. He lived, died, and rose again for those ‘rebels’ who deserve death. The simplicity is profound. I do not have to be a Nobel Prize winner to understand. Without cheapening ‘redemption’ He has reduced things to a straightforward idea. He dies in my place, and now gives me his life to live.

I want to listen to Him. I want to come so close that I can hear the very inflection of his voice when he does speak to me. You see, we are built as communicators, and that is the part that ‘small gods’ can’t provide. They’re merely ‘dead idols.’

I so want to please him, even if he corrects me.

I want to learn at his feet, just as Mary did at her home in Bethany. Often I feel like I will probably be ‘the least of all the disciples’, but I’m okay with that. After all, it’s all about Him.

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“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Revelation 3:20

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The God of Coincidences

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“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”

1 Corinthians 15:25

In the spring of 1995, I was taking my family across the border into Mexico to live. All we owned was what we could pack in the trunk of my old Chevy. We were flat broke and unsure of where we would spend the night. But we heard from the Lord; we knew he was leading us into a situation where we must walk by faith, and not by sight.”

We were caravaning with missionaries who were to be stationed about 40 miles south of our ultimate destination. But we had separated two days before in Arizona. We knew we would see them a bit later. The evening before our crossing, we managed to scrape enough money to spend one last night in San Diego.

I’m ashamed to say that I was not the man of faith and power that I should of been. I cried out a desperate and short prayer, “Help me God, show me that this is really you. I need to know that your hand is in this.” I was taking my wife, and two small children into Mexico, and we didn’t even know where we were going to spend the night.

I was pretty stressed the morning of our crossing, and hearing nothing from the Lord. We merged into the heavy traffic for our inspection when we heard a horn behind us. I just thought it was part of the process, and ignored it. But it kept honking. I looked in the mirror to see what the problem was.

Directly behind us was the couple we had been with in Arizona! Suddenly I knew this was God speaking directly to me. I was staggered as I extrapolated the odds of this happening, it was unbelievable. We had left them behind two days ago and now we meet up at the very precise time, in the same lane of traffic.  The odds of us converging at the same time had to be astronomical!

The Lord spoke to me right then and there, “I am in control.” All my anxiety, all my fear just lifted– I knew deep down He was leading us. I could trust Him, even though life seemed so very precarious. We were in His hands! This would be a faith booster in some hard times to come.

You may have had an experience like mine. When God touches a heart and makes it peaceful– it is a beautiful thing. But it can be something different. The Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road was stunned when Jesus spoke to him. Paul’s companions heard a voice but saw nothing (Acts 9:7).

We must become people who insist that every believer have their own experiences with God.

It is the spiritual privilege of every child of God. When “it” happens, it will be something to be treasured. Looking back I see that moments like this enable one to go through a great deal. Someone once said, “Coincidence is when God wants to remain anonymous.”

When we hear his voice or see his handiwork, it is truly then we become his disciples.

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