Unsatisfied By Average

The Musings of a Stubborn Believer

Category: cross

Ten Years and What Matters

Something stirs and I turn left at the end of the paved pathway flanked by lawn in winter colors. A left that takes me right away from my accustomed quiet corner. Away, but towards something strangely and warmly familiar…

I think I might find it… Through wispy grass and a forest that’s since been thinned.
True as the sunrise, there it is. The top stones have tumbled down the hill a way, but the foundation is still here. It only takes a moment, and a ten-year old altar has been restored.

Ten years.

Ten years ago I encountered God for myself on this hillside as a boy, and we struck up a friendship that has become the reason I breathe.

Much-Afraid gathered homely little stones.
I just build the altars.
At every page turn, I’ve turned, built another.

I stand and look, thoughts afar. Reaching back for what sort of prayers I prayed here, who my friends were when last I knelt here, what my goals were when I left here to build new…
And I remember. I remember the next…

I stop to count.
Seven altars. Ten years.
I’ll find them all today.

There’s something priceless about the remembering. The whole trek will take me an hour and a half. To all the places witness to the forever moments in my experience. The hallowed ground where God was always waiting to keep an appointment, where I trembled and triumphed, and learned to trust Him absolutely.

I wander and emotions sometimes flood, but after I’ve been up and over, down the draw and past ground I haven’t covered in a decade, one question throbs–

Not whether or not I found my dreams.

I want to know whether or not I’ve fulfilled His.

Take it from me, 10 years later.
This is all that matters. 

Sleeping Before Gethsemane

In my mind I think that nothing would have persuaded me to sleep that night…
I should think I would have been too afraid. 
They watched Him, walked with Him. He, having just given what He knew to be His last words– His last will and testament. Now He is gripped by a sadness such as they have never seen before. The Healer stumbles and sways into the garden, and more than once they have to hold Him up so He does not topple to the cold ground. 
Can you enter in to just how frightening that must have been?
Cold night; stricken Savior. 
He, who’d never stumbled? Not once?
Perhaps the 8 of them were glad to be left near the gate of the garden. Maybe sleep would erase all memory of this dread they could not understand? 
I don’t know, I wasn’t there.
What I do know is, they slept. 
The three closest ones, they followed Him till He told them to stay. But did anybody look unreservedly into His face? Did anyone dare ask why He was sorrowful unto death? Did no one cling to Him and insist He share the burden that was crushing out His life? Did any say “I’ll watch with you. I’ll go with you. Wherever. Only entreat me not to leave You…”
Or with pounding hearts did they pray, for a few minutes, that it would just go away…
I wasn’t there. 
But these two things I know: they neglected to share (or shrank from sharing) His heart because its burdens were unknown, awkward and fearful. 
And when the moment of truth burst upon them, they scattered.
Might I venture to say that had they stopped and just looked into His face, accepted the dreadful reality written there in bloody sweat, and sought to share its grief, 
they would have read there the truth about the moments to come? 
Or at least, they would not have been shocked by them. 
Jesus knew. 

I wonder: Could not they have known a little too?
In my mind I think that nothing would have persuaded me to sleep that night… 
I should have been too afraid. 
But then, what of His burdens in the overflowing eyes of this people His flesh and blood? His bride?
Don’t I sometimes neglect to share them, or shrink from them because they are fearful, awkward, unknown?
Do I ever pray, rather than that I might share them, that they might just go away?
Oh Jesus… Perhaps I would have slept too? 

PC and post: Nathan Lee Westbrook

Her Name Was Mary

“Ok, tell me everything you know about this girl.”

I’m on a quest of discovery. And I’m after everything my friend might know.

“Well, she’s a really pious woman.”
                                                “Or… wait.”

–  –  –

Yeah. My thoughts exactly.
Almost without exception, her contemporaries thought differently.
For after all, she was the girl who’d been robbed of parents before she was ready to stand on her own, and had subsequently turned to find love where it can never be found. She was the one who, whether intentionally or accidentally, had thrown away her innocence, her youth, her purity, her piety in the crime-soaked business of human flesh for sale. And to boot, seven times she’d bowed to the dark side, and become a currier for the worst kind of darkness.
She was.

But then, then there was that awful day when she was caught in the act… Dragged from the bed to the street, and thrown in a cowering heap before the Lord of Glory.
And there was that beautiful moment when her broken shame, her stripped-bare necessity, appeared in the shadow of the undiluted Love of Infinite Eternity.

And she got it.

She got it.

Of course the pharisees would always maintain that Jesus regularly ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at a prostitute’s house.
Of course they’d say that what was could never be fully erased.

Of course, we say the same of others. We say the same of ourselves.
You know, that a crippling past must necessarily have a strong effect on one’s usefulness future. That this girl should never know as she might, what it is to trust. Or that, at the very least, it might take a lifetime to learn. And love? Well…

Yes. We often say those things.
And of course, there is an element of truth to them.

But there’s a reason this girl named Mary (which name means “Rebellious,” by the way) is my new favorite Bible character.

Because her story is the story of the power of grace to overcome, and to turn my past into my greatest advantage.

Let me gently remind the world that the home she shared with her big brother and sister was the place Jesus always came to when it was time to rest. That these were, apart from His very own, His best friends on earth. And that after her turning, this girl gained eyes for things everyone else missed.

Because the brokenness of her past was the richest possible backdrop for the truth about Grace, and the power of Love.

Remember that in the midst of the noise of a traditional Jewish party, while everyone was consumed by the festivities, one girl had the presence of mind to anointed her Lord for burial. That when everyone else was consumed with the protocol, this one girl sat at the feet of the Desire of the Ages, and watched Him, all ears, all eyes, all heart.
Remember that on that dark friday, she was there. When they carried Him to the tomb, she was there.

And let me remind you that on resurrection morning, Jesus appeared to one, and only one friend. And that friend was neither Peter, James, nor John.

Her name was Mary.
And she was a former prostitute.

I can’t help but wonder, might it be because she understood something about Love that everybody else missed?
And might that be because God makes “all things work together for good…”?

“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”

 “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Ro. 5:20

–  –  – 

Shoes kiss the pavement over and over. Rhythm of breathing and stride. We push miles behind us one at a time, while the truth is soaked in silence.

And I? I’m so taken.

“So, you see why this story, this girl . . .”. . .

The Blind Cannot Lead The Blind [Glorious Fast – Part II]

“…to loose the bands of wickedness…”

If hacking chains is exhilarating work, it is also gut-wrenching. Tear jerking.
Soul taxing–

And full-filling.

It is neither for the faint-hearted, nor for the half-committed…

But it is brilliantly, brilliantly rewarding.

Little wonder then that many an eager recruit has taken to the field with clumsy grip and misfit armor to seek fame in such brave exploits. Only, without first counting (or even knowing) the cost.

These first six words betray one of the best-kept secrets of the dark side.

As regards [im]morality*:

License is bondage.

Lust is an iron chain.
And many, many beautiful people are wearing such fetters.

But these, my friends,
These are the first chains to go.

Only, they will never fall helpless before the faith (or the fervent fuming) of the faint-hearted,
or the half-committed.

From these same six words rings out to every soldier sharpening his sword for such a battle, this thundered imperative- a charge commanding every anguished drop of a soldier’s undying commitment:

Be. thou. pure.

Be thou pure.

Because only purity is stronger than vice.

*Strongs: [“wickedness” from 7561; a wrong (especially moral)…]

Thoughts Made Visible

“The more men learn of God, the greater will 
be their admiration of His character.”
–last page of The Great Controversy

Sitting cross-legged by the hearth in the dark, those words ring in my ears. I flip to the best-selling biography of the Man that was God.

And I read:

“His name shall be called Immanuel, … God with us.”*

God with us.
God. Given.
Not just for then, but forever… “For God so loved the world that He gave…”
Not loaned. Gave.

Grapple with that for a moment.

I read on.
“By coming to dwell with us, Jesus was to reveal God both to men and angels. He was the Word of God– God’s thought made audible.”*

So this Man Who was God came to be the Song of God’s heart, that the world might hear God’s thoughts, and understand
And He, in a human frame like mine.

I wonder…
Are not the men & women who are God’s, called to much the same thing, human frames notwithstanding?

What if we were to take His thoughts (made audible) and live them…

And become to the dying world,

God’s thoughts made visible.

–*first page of Desire of Ages

“Don’t Be Ashamed of My Chains…”

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I suddenly hear in his words an agony of earnestness that makes my heart stop. I breathe. Heave breathe; roll onto my side to get the weight off my chest. But it will not leave…

– – –
– – –

An old man, bent and nearly blind* is pressed down the corridor.
The step that once was firm and free is encumbered by shackles, the joints beg for mercy from the damp cold. This man is innocent. One look at his face is all it takes to prove it. But he is going to die.

You are in Rome. And this, is Nero’s dungeon.

Ruthless hands. Ruthless hearts.

The steps of the guards fade into silence and in my mind I am there.
There to see the great man grope about his cell; call out for his companion.
He calls for parchment, but he can’t see to write. Faithful Dr. Luke will write for him, this last will and testament. His hands tremble, his voice trembles, but this heart is strong.
Stronger than the Roman Empire.

It is Nero’s heart that trembles upstairs. (AA chap 48, “Paul Before Nero”)

But his frame is tired. And with the knowledge that he has not long to live, highest priorities becomes only priorities.
He wants to see his boy.

I do not know how the good doctor took the dictation without soaking the parchment with tears.
I couldn’t have.

I read the letter now, this last letter ever written by the Apostle to the Gentiles, this last will to the world, this letter to his boy, and I want to weep.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Tim 4:7)

Indeed you have, sir. Indeed you have.

I hear his chains rattle. And I hear a cry that is half audacious challenge, half daddy’s heart.
I can almost see the hand upraised, silhouette of shackles against cold stone. And my heart stops…

Don’t be ashamed, my boy.
Oh, don’t be ashamed of my chains

And don’t be ashamed of the Gospel. **

Luke writes. I read.

My heart leaps, as Timothy’s must have.
Timothy, who most likely did not make it back to Rome in time…

I hug my pillow. Pray

Oh my Father
let me never be ashamed.

*Many scholars believe the “thorn” of II Cor 12:7 was in fact near blindness…
**See II Timothy 1:8

See. Change. See change.

Spent last weekend in the wilderness… One of the most refreshing in my memory.
Since then I’ve stopped only to tumble into bed for what feels like a few fleeting hours before getting on the move again.
But each morning, when my iTunes playlist heralds the coming of day, it seems I’m back in my sleeping bag, miles from nowhere…  

And I close my eyes again, but I do not sleep. Instead, I cringe at what I can almost see through my closed eyelids:

An immaculately robed high priest, rubbing his hands as he watches Judas go.
A man in the agony of death, ignored by his sleeping friends.
A kiss, of all things.
Wrists tied hard.
Lawless judges.
Strong man’s shoulders heaving with sobs after he realized he’d done the unthinkable, and cursed his Friend.
Blood drops on Pilate’s portico.
Frenzied, frenzied rage.
Roman rulers with pale faces, and trembling hearts.
Tears running down salty on the face of the Condemned.
Parents screaming curses on their own children… (His blood be upon us…!)
The King raised up to die.
His best friend (just a boy!) upholding His mother…

In the tent when I first (at random, I thought) decided to hear out all four perspectives back to back, I didn’t know what I was getting in to…
But I’ve learned why we’re counseled to spend “a thoughtful hour” daily contemplating these themes…

Sin loses its hold after you’ve watched Him die…

People Cry

I have one question. 
And my question is why.
Beads of sweat glistening on my brow, three-fourths of the way down the field on a mission to plunder noxious weeds– I stop. I stare horrified at nothingness as the agonized words of my friend pound home. 
“Why!?! . . .  People cry over little stories of cats and dogs–“


“But there’s no weeping over the cross.” 
“No sorrow over the sacrifice.”
“Right. Why?…”