Unsatisfied By Average

The Musings of a Stubborn Believer

Category: gifts (page 1 of 4)

Australia in Retrospect [This is My Confidence]

The highest heights are often to be found in the least expected places…
Least expected, that is, to a world quantifying success with finite formulas.

I’ve been to the heights. And not standing on a stage before thousands. Nor on some glittering crest of conquest. (As high as those honors are…)

One thing is always the same. I’m always shorter on the highest heights… By the distance of heel to knee.

PC: James Tregenza doanddare.org

This time, it was on a dusty bit of ground surrounded by benches, throbbing hearts, deep attention.
I have never climbed higher. Never seen the world wider than I saw it then. Never looked smaller in my own eyes. Never felt closer to Heaven.

No surprise.

To those who have found eyes for higher glory, though the beauty of the high places always surpasses our dreams, it is never entirely unexpected…

“As long as I live, I will remember his words– 

‘…Mostly, I’ve met God properly.’

That broke me wide open As though standing on holiest ground, I was filled with a smallness; a trembling… How is it that I am even allowed to touch what is this holy?“*

Though every memory fades at least a bit eventually, my wonder will never cease.
Nor will love for new friends with a beautiful foreign accent.
Nor will firm faith that we’ll meet again, if not on this round earth, then inside pearly gates.

“Hey– remember when…?”

Yes, I remember.

morning stars: checkout | PC: Jasmine Tregenza

Before it was over I had the opportunity to try to crunch the essence of 40 pages of worship notes and days and days of prayer and pondering onto 5 minutes of film. 

This is my confidence.

morning and miracle bend
later: snowy mountain living
friends in Victoria

*journal entry, January 20, 2014

Holy Ground

My steps slow at the threshold of this little hollow around which two trees hold their arms like parents in a perpetual embrace. This space between, this sheltered cove, like their child, eternally living in the safety of their shadows. Wind sings through needles and boughs, and I bow.

History holds in her hands the tales of two classes of men. 
Those who have given their souls away to be used and abused by Darkness in exchange for a little gold, a little lust, a little glamor…
And those who have given their lives away so someone else could live.

Like a man spilling his life blood for someone paler, to find it filled again, or not.  

I press palms into mat of pine needles and press my soul into the door.

I want to be the second kind of man. I beg You to make me through and through, the second kind of man…

–    –    –

I rise, back slowly away from the place. Look down for my shoes.
I sit to slip them back on, and while I do, I steal a glance back towards the cove embraced by the cedars.

And that, is when I thought of you.

And this warrior in me, this fighter that is sometimes a stranger and doesn’t fit in my skin, this thunder that must come from elsewhere because I don’t have the spark to ignite it, it suddenly flashed and roared like the end of the world. And then it was gone. But it left a burn, a throbbing ache. And a breathlessness, and a racing heart.
And this prayer:

Let each of us find in this life ground so holy that shod feet never step there.  

Never, oh never be satisfied till you have found your burning bush.  

Words With the Father

That moment when the endless empty makes you realize how small you are, how big the world is, (much less the universe.) and how unreasonably kind God is for still having eyes for me.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

(Psalms 139:7-12, 17-18, 23-24. ESV)

A Gift Called “Together”

We heave and breathe and pour sweat, and bump fists.
And we chant audacity (in the form of “oh yes you can!”) and mouth corners upturn under flaming cheeks. And we cut another minute off the mile, add another mile to the course.

We flop down in green grass and laugh.

And I realize that what I once said would never be, is.
What I always said I’d do only for the sake of relentlessness, I do now for the love of the doing…

That changes everything, you know?

I soak up blue sky and run fingers through grass while we stretch; listen to the student of strides give us the latest science; quip that we need a team dietician.

And running isn’t anything like it used to be.
It used to be heart-pounding, step-sounding solitude where the only one there to believe I could was myself.

But it isn’t the love or the running that strikes me so deep.

It’s that together word.
That’s the gift.

Apart, some are fast, some are slow.
Others never try. Never know what they’re made of.

Oh, and don’t get me wrong. There’s a place for solitude. I was born a loner, after all…

But I’ve been given a gift I hope to spend the rest of my life passing on to people around me who’ve never tried. Or who’ve quit believing.

And I dare you to do the same.
To be the same.

To the lonely soul; To the trembling child; To the one who wants, but is afraid to dare; To the one who would, if one soul would care–

I want to be together.

Because together, everyone gets stronger.

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 Gospel

It’s not just a story.
It’s what we live and breathe.

The gift. The giving.

How simple. How utterly, overwhelmingly profound and powerful.

And if I really believe it, then I will necessarily live it out too.

I stand with eyes closed and smile soft as the first rays of the morning sun warm my face, and my office.
And it strikes me that this warmth cost the sun some fuel.

A star’s slow death powers life for a race. –for an entire system of whirling planets and moons.

      “…Life to the receiver; death to the giver.”
                   “But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”*

The Gospel.
The Giving.
The way God lives.
And for our part, the way of living fully alive.

Of being honored to pass to others, through choosing death to myself,
the very Life of God.

Oh, I choose.
I do.

*Jackie Pullinger; John 12:24; 

Love With Your Eyes [Glorious Fast – Part VII]

“…and that thou bring the poor that are [afflicted] to thy house?
When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, 
and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?”

There are times, many times, when answers are not enough.
When the most eloquently chosen words are still a mockery…

Because what are words when I am dying of leprosy, and you are not?
What are words when I am naked, and you are warmly clothed?
What are words when we could have been siblings, when our fates could have been reversed, but you turn away because you’d rather not see my open sores?

I’ll tell you exactly what words are then. Even, at times, the well meaning ones…

Shame. Shame and mockery…

Ok, whatever. So I won’t talk.
Oh, but what is silence!?

–  –  –  –  –

Many feel as though they don’t have the words anyway.
I’m here to go on record saying that that is no limitation.
You can still “bring,” you can still “cover…”

You can still open your arms and wrap them around the neck of a dying, reeking, sick child the Highest, and hold them to your heart, unguarded.
You can look steady and strong into the eyes of the naked and afraid, and prove to them that love can see past their lack.

Oh, and you might get the stench of death all over you.
But you might also release a soul from the grip of shame.

Dirty work? You might call it that. I don’t.
You know Jesus touched the leprous skin to make it whole.

Oh, love with your hands, your arms, your eyes…
And if your hands get covered in grime, no matter.

Have you ever, have you ever watched darkened eyes light up?

If You Have a Crumb [Glorious Fast – Part VI]

“…Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry…”

– – – –

Arms open wide, I try to embrace them all.
Canis Major, Aries, Lepus, Orion, Columba…
All in their undimmed glory against the blackness.
And Venus and Jupiter, brightest of all.

Head tipped back, I spin; take it in.
Try to grip infinity while the earth grips me, twirls me through the universe like a daddy does his child.

And it’s just me. Me and my dog.
On a 36 degree morning. At 8,000 feet.

I break into a smile.

And I whisper to myself; to Him–

No sooner has a child of the Highest yielded to transforming grace, than he is made an ambassador among men.*

No sooner!

– – – –

“But I have nothing.”

If you have a crumb of bread, you have enough.

It doesn’t say you must be a wholesale broker of baked goods.
Nor does it say that those goods must be the finest pastries.
Nor does it say that you’ll need a flawless record of lifelong fidelity to be trusted with the job…

Because no sooner has a child of the Highest yielded to transforming grace, than he is made an ambassador among men.

What it does say, is that this bread, this simple fare passed down to sustain life–

It’s not just bread you picked up somewhere for general distribution.
This was yours.
Your next meal.

“…Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry…”

Beautiful is this truth. A terrible beautiful.

If you have a crumb of bread to eat, (and most people do) you have enough to give away.
And if you would see men free, and full, and overflowing,
you must.

– – – –

At hill’s top I turn, greet the dawn.
Embrace the empty expanse with my whole heart.
This is fullness.

*See page 2.1 of Mount of Blessings…

Chained by Fear [Glorious Fast – Part IV]

…and to let the oppressed to free…

There is nothing in the world to fear, but fear itself.
–words to a trusted friend those.

Fear substantiates the false claims of every captor.

Because when I fail, this jail I find myself in is horrible…
But even more horrible is the fear.

Fear keeps thousands in prison, when the door is wide open.
Because worse than jail itself is fearing “how God will treat me” when I get out

But to say that God is anything like fear describes is as wrong as calling the devil a savior.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The truth is, God loves.
only. loves.

But the fearing can scarcely be blamed for disbelieving that at times…

We’ve taught them to.

Yes. You and me.
We teach the weak to fear.
By our actions. When we’re supposed to be representing Jesus Himself…

And that keeps them in prison even when the doors are open.

“…and to let the oppressed to free…”

Not just by getting the door open.
By helping them believe they’ll always find open arms on the other side of the threshold.


Trophies of His Mercy [Glorious Fast – Part III]

“…to undo the heavy burdens…”

I love that word.

I love that word.

Schoolmaster holds up a bony finger and rants of paradises lost. Of opportunities wasted. Of moments, talents, thrown to the wind. Or worse.
Of the train of mistakes so long it takes an army of engines to pull them.
And that army of engines is me.
(And so, we get nowhere.)

Of the crushing weight of another failure.
Another moment I regret the second it is gone.
Of the shame that no one can understand because they know nothing of its source…

Schoolmaster’s voice shrieks this madness,
this madness that is real,
and I cover. cower. cry.

And then in the midst of this shower of burning brimstone a hand is raised.
And teacher’s tirade ceases on a goldfish-gulp of air, for sheer shock that someone might want to speak…
And the voice is quiet, but it is as solid as a rock.

“Is there no way to undo?”


–  –  –  –  –

I love that word too…

And it does undo.
The Hebrew word means more than just to untie one’s shoelaces.

It means to utterly confound, baffle, unravel…

I know.
I know, in the present-progressive.
Because I pace too, lion-like. Fists doubled up. Star-studded blackness outside french doors to bookshelf, and back.
And I dry my eyes, drop exhausted. Only to cry some more.
And I whisper–

“He restoreth my soul… He restoreth my soul…”

I have heard it said that “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.”*

I believe it.
Yes, there is a way to undo.

Oh, but schoolmaster shrieks again that the scars will always remain.

Yes. And even scars are trophies of His mercy–
A scar is infinitely better than an eternally open wound.

Thank you Jesus.

–  –  –  –  –

And so the soldier gets up from his face forgiven. Again.
Pure. again.

But only as he remembers what he himself has learned on his face will he be qualified to help undo burdens himself.

This is why we must never forget…

Be thou merciful. 

*Richard Sibbes

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