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Leaving a Wilderness [w/ A Lot of Help]

Stranded by Snow
The bitter cold was intense in the car.

“Who is this coming up from the wilderness,
      Leaning upon her beloved?”  

Song of Solomon 8:5

 _________________

Once while stranded in the Alaskan wilderness I almost froze to death.  It was cold, 20 F below zero.

About 30 years ago, a friend and I felt directed to bring in Bibles and discipleship materials into the village of Minto, very near the Arctic Circle.  We were driving in a little red Datsun through about eight inches of snow late at night. Suddenly, the car just quit running.  We looked at each other, and we started to assess our situation. No cell phone, on a very remote road with no heat.  We both knew that unless God made a direct intervention, we would never survive the intense cold.  We prayed, and waited and thought. We had to fight the panic.

There is a wilderness we all must traverse.  It can be as difficult and extreme as an Arctic landscape.  The Shulamite girl in Song of Solomon knew this terrain.  It is a desperate place to be.  This world is a bitter place, and provides little in the way of solace and comfort.  We are called to be “pilgrims and strangers,” making this journey of faith to a heavenly city.

The opening verse has witnesses or observers making a declaration.  They seem to be shocked, and amazed by what they see.  The Shulamite girl was spotted, making her way, slowly threading her way up from the wastelands.  The path has been difficult, it would’ve been easier to quit.  It has taken everything she could muster up.

But the crescendo in this verse is the declaration, “she is coming up…leaning on her beloved.”  She found the help she had to have, at the side of One who loved and beloved.  He had come, at just the right time to lift her up and lead her out her extremity.  She has found that He is her strength.  It is He who has come to deliver her.  The verse suggests that it is the bridegroom that is the determining factor.

His presence changes everything.

We were miraculously rescued after about 20 hours.  How we survived in that frigid isolation is beyond me.  Freezing to death was truly imminent.  I remember squeezing through the car window when it became first light.  The snow had completely covered the car, and as I surveyed our surroundings, I remember thinking how desolate it was.  We had stalled on a high ridge, and it seemed like the loneliest and most isolated place on Earth.

This afternoon I sat out on my deck, looking and thinking.  This verse entered my brain like a bullet.  Walking with Jesus through my wilderness has challenged and wearied.  I have fallen more times then I can count.  Each time I have picked myself up.  Do you know why? Because when I’m with Jesus, I know I will be fine.

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How Close Can I Get?

“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” 

Psalm 34:5

Thirty-three years ago I became a believer in Jesus.  There were a number of things that connected with me.  One of those most influential of those was believers who radiated a presence of our Lord Jesus.  This was as meaningful to me as any dazzling apologetics or astute Bible study.

These Christians seemed to “glow in the dark.”  They “shined” with Him, and were ‘exhibit A’ of the reality of Christ in the real life of the believer.  I couldn’t shake their peace and their transparency.  Witnessing their countenances, I knew that Jesus was real and that He could transform us in a profound way.

In Psalm 34, there is an indication that believers should be radiant.  We cheapen the Gospel when we turn our “dimmer switch” down.  I live in Alaska, and the winters here are gray in the most incredible ways.  I once tried to count the different hues of gray.  I counted at least 20, but I’m sure that there was more.  Walking later I came across a child’s sled, it was florescent orange, and it was incredibly bright and very obvious.

We are called to be ‘fluorescent.’  We are to shine like stars in the night sky.  We stand out to all who are honest enough to observe.  I think of Moses when he descended Mt. Sinai.  He had been in God’s presence, and his face glowed.  Moses attempted to hide this phenomenon by wearing a ski mask on his face.

Those who move close to Him will be altered. Touching Him will forever change you.

Christians who draw close to the Lord today, become ‘fluorescent believers.’  God’s glory descends on them.  They receive this touch, without seeking it directly.  The fellowship they have with “the Light” impacts them, and they are changed on a fundamental level.

“Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.” 

Daniel 12:3, NLT

We really shouldn’t be surprised when this process takes place.  (Perhaps we should be more amazed when it doesn’t happen.)  It’s critical for us to note this–being a Christian is a supernatural activity.  It’s not just changing your mind about certain facts or presuppositions.  It just so happens that my favorite activity as a 6 year old boy was sticking nails into wall outlets.  I loved the jolt. The resulting shock would hurl me across the room (as you can imagine.)  I guess I loved smelling the ozone. (God preserved me even after several experiences.)

Contacting the Holy Spirit is a profound thing.  His voltage  just lights us up.  We are changed as we connect with Him.  Supernaturally.

“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” 

2 Cor. 3:18

 We really should make the decision to seek the Lord more intentionally.  As we do that, we are given a key that will open up Jesus’ presence to us, in ways we only have begun to really understand.  Reflecting His glory is our real purpose.

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Tightrope Theology

As a person with a mental illness, it seems my issues are a matter of extremes.  Life seems uncontrollable; the wheels seem to always ready to come off of the wagon.  It strikes me as a semi-crazed place to be.  I look at the “norms” with envy, as their lives are crisp, healthy, and strong.

I once met a man that had a prophetic ministry who was speaking at a local church here in Alaska.  When I met with him, he looked at me intently.  He said many things, but the most significant was this. “You are an unstable man; you are like water.”  This was almost 30 years ago.  It has been an accurate prophecy and assessment since I heard it.  At first it stung, I hated it; but now, all these years later, I find a certain comfort in it.  God knows me; He understands.  I haven’t found any reason to be condemned for being Bipolar.

Those of us who walk the tightrope of sanity and insanity have One in heaven who not only knows us, but is on our side.  Hebrews 7:25 declares:

“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

I must realize that I am not the “bad apple in the barrel,” nor am I cursed.  Rather the opposite is true.  I am the richest of all men, because of His radical grace that gets extended to the weakest. Those who “touch” my life are blessed by their contact with me, and since I have been so unnaturally “graced,” they become blessed by His presence through me. WOW! I simply need to be me, and they are drawn to you.

The issues that a mentally ill person (and those who are often a struggler and a rascal) faces are formidable.  But without His promises they are impossible.  The secular view is just to create a “zero sum” game.  It is to bring a person to some stupefied place of stasis.  Not exactly up–but not down either.  Stable, sort of.

It is very good to be stable.  But my goal can not be stability, but an obedience to a supernatural God who loves me supernaturally.  I simply can’t live without knowing that.  However, when I know it, I can handle the tightrope.  I will start to walk a “supernatural” walk.

You could say that God has a hobby, or a specialty.  It is weak and handicapped people.

He loves working with us and in us.  And I have become very much convinced that He pours out special favor on those of us who struggle so difficulty, those of us who will never fit in or be ‘normal.’

We need to come to that real and authentically holy place where we see God. But also in that place, and at the same time, we need to see ourselves as well.  And actually, both are most critical.  They are done imperfectly— but both must happen, nevertheless.

I exhort you to take on your tightrope.  You will only stay upright and cross it if you are aware of His grand love and presence.  It is an amazing thing to balance and walk, and if we fall?  Well, we drop into His net.  Get back up, and get in line again.  Secure your heart into the love of God for your soul.

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Fire or Blackberries?

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In some odd way, our lives seem to be always getting interrupted by God. And it can happen a lot. We need to see the invisible. When we can, it can be quite amazing. Our night sky here in Alaska is wonderful. (And I’m a “sky guy”, it means I’m always looking up.) But the most phenomenal night skies were in Mexico, while camping on the beach. As I laid there I looked and the Milky Way was on full display. It really was as good as it could be. It seemed there was 10x more stars than ever before.

Once as I gazed up, a weird sort of fear gripped me, it was almost a panic. I started to tremble and shake. I got up and ran to our tent. I just couldn’t handle the incredible universe with no buffer. I was completely undone, and reduced a quivering speck of dust. I tried to tell my wife Lynn what had just happened to me, but I couldn’t. I was too scrambled. I couldn’t speak.

Reflecting on this, I realize now what I had experienced was “awe.” It was something much more common a few generations ago. There is a kind of existential crisis which we side-step in these more modern times. We rarely contemplate the night sky. We seldom, if ever, have seen fire in a bush.MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

It seems we have traded our awareness of an Almighty God, and in turn we get to pick all blackberries we can haul. We reason it out, and we feel that we have made a better bargain. But when we extricate this from our souls, don’t be surprised if we suddenly find that we have become spiritual paupers.

Maybe we should learn to see through things; each of us have the opportunity now to see the spiritual world that swirls around us. Why wait for heaven? Ask our Father to reveal His glory now in this present moment. Learn to see that which can’t be seen, but by faith.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made.”

Psalms 19:1, NCV

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Crane Song and Common Grace

They sing to God

“And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.  The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.” 

Hebrews 1:2-3, NLT

There is an idea of an existance of a ‘common grace’ that touches every person on this rock called Earth.  What is suggested with this, is that every person has access to grace; at least on a basic level, such as nature, government, medical, education and judicial.  We all are sharing in common grace whether we are saved or not.

Common grace explains a great deal, He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45) They both benefit from His care, whether they believe or disbelieve.

On the other pole, lies ‘special grace.’  It is different.  It is grace that is given to those who put their trust in the promises for salvation, deliverance and healing.  These promises can only be enjoyed by a Christian believer.  Special grace is grace that God gives to each one who is in a covenant relationship with Himself.

I got up early the other morning, with a cup of coffee in hand and went to sit out on my steps.  I have to tell you that mornings are truly delightful here in Alaska.  As I sat looking at the trees and watching the clouds,  the sun was caught by the trees and they began to glow.  (I always think of the burning bush of Moses and secretly wonder if trees don’t remember and try to emulate their ancestor so long ago.)  I hear the cranes from the lake.  And all of this touches me.

Just as I physically awoke 20 minutes ago, I now awaken spiritually. Common grace makes this all possible.  When I first became a believing Christian, I was quite amazed at how blue the sky was. The grass seemed greener. I remember feeling amazed that I hadn’t noticed these things before. I guess I was full of joy over the special grace that I had just been given.crane1

Common grace curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art, and showers untold blessings upon the children of men.”

–Louis Berkof, Christian theologian

I love common grace.  It makes it possible to enjoy my coffee in the sunshine on the deck.  Common grace allows me to hear the crane’s special song.  People everywhere are drawing from the common well of common grace. “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” (John 1:4)

 

 

 

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Traveling Mercies, [The Journey]

Things can get pretty grim just living life.  But add a disability, and suddenly blam! It gets worse.  A mental illness intensifies life, and the weird concoction of symptoms and hospitals, therapists and medications and family/friends is a bit daunting for anyone. Imagine, that it’s a bit like running through the wilderness slathered in ‘bacon grease,’ trying to stay ahead from the bears (I’m writing this from Alaska, hence the bear imagery, lol.)

My walk with Jesus has extreme variations (at least, on my part.)  I’m up, and then I’m down.  I’m on fire and then I’m cold.  I struggle to attempt at least a modicum of consistency, wishing I could just put two ‘good days’ together.  I am ashamed by this volatility.  The apostle Peter, or David are probably the only guys in scripture I can really understand.

The impulsivity of my mental illness has driven me to turn my credit cards over to Lynn.  I try to avoid liquor stores, porn sites, and urges to strip off my clothes and run down Pioneer Avenue.  I definitely try to go to Church, read the Bible and pray.  But I have been known to hallucinate, I hear things, and get awfully paranoid.  I’m always, it seems just one step ahead of my psychiatrist in avoiding the hospital.  (And I want to keep it that way.) And suicidality is an almost real monster– always lurking for me under my bed.

But I have also learned many other things from being a mentally ill believer:

  • When its really dark, His love always comes through. He understands me. He intentionally ‘looks’ for me. He’ll never quit on me.
  • My discipleship is not about the externals of my theology, but it’s about romance from my heart.
  • In my pathetic brokenness, He is my strength and my shield. Always.
  • Worship and prayer are more like invasive “medical procedures” that keep me alive.
  • Love. I’m learning to be kinder and more aware of others then ever before.
  • I want to live in the Light and respond to others in Christlike way. Never out of my fallen sinfulness.

I suppose I could add more, if I thought about it.  Ultimately, it all comes down to the presence of Jesus Christ coming to meet me, to forgive me and to change me.  This simple blog is saturated with posts that other Brokenbelievers can wade through, and some just might help, lol.

The title of this post alludes to a quote I found. I’ve gently modified it. Not sure where I found it. But it gives the explanation for all that I’ve said:

“Life should NOT be a journey to heaven with the
intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well
preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways,
with bruises and band-aids, and some tears as well, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming… “WOO HOO what a ride!”

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She Makes the Difference, [Lynn]

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Thank You, Sweetheart!

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:

If they fall down,
they can help each other up.
But pity those who fall
and have no one to help them up!

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I wish the very best to my single brothers and sisters, and only hope you’ll find the joy of a God-given marriage that will most certainly enhance your present life. When you discover your mate, there will come an awareness that exceeds all that you can work out. I want to exhort you to “trust, and obey.” But I have to insist that there be three strands, not two.

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