Unsatisfied By Average

The Musings of a Stubborn Believer

Category: grace (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

Sympathy with Humanity

I wasn’t complaining. Though it sounds a bit like it now…
On a peninsula of rock jutting like a castle between a gorge and a vale I stood, breathless from the scramble. Hands in my pockets and with eager step, if heavy heart.

Perhaps a few will understand when I say I carry on my heart at any given time a thousand reasons to laugh, and a thousand reasons to weep. Most all of them with first and last names.
Such is the cost of loving humanity, I suppose.

Anyway, this post isn’t about me.

I’d just gained the crest, just finished a brief review comparing the power at my disposal with my far-too-often dismal performance, just realized afresh how deep mercy reaches, and

It’s not fair, You know? I deserve the lot of the criminal, but here I stand in converse with The Infinite, while people I love slowly die in the clutches of fear….

Can you see why happiness means nothing to me when it’s mine alone?

…So, it’s all or nothing.

Either I am to be completely at Your disposal to help the weak, comfort the wounded, and actually lift, and heal, and effect a lasting change, or…

Or, I want out right. now. 

Because it hurts too much to be in sympathy with humanity.

Ever have you been in that place or time when suddenly every tree in the wood seemed to drop its jaw and gape? and you wonder:

what did I do. What did I just say?

The only answer is this electric silence.

I glance one way and the other. Wait.

He never says. But suddenly it’s as if every snowflake has recovered from shock and found a voice.

He would know.

He would know just exactly how much it hurts to be in sympathy with humanity. And He chose it, over the alternative, not because there was no alternative. For Him, there’s no “out.”

For Him, there’s no wanting out.

“For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.”  Hebrews 4:15 

And What If The Sun Didn’t Rise?

It’s a corner of the neighborhood that I don’t spend much time in.
Some folk endure worst case scenario whether or not it is an accurate reflection of reality. (It usually isn’t.)

You know, “what if…?”

Well, I’m going to step out of character momentarily, and ask you to dwell on a what if for a moment. Really go there.

What if the sun didn’t rise tomorrow?

I know, I know. But enter in with me. I have a reason.

You keep looking at your watch, your computer, every clock in the house, for they surely must be wrong. But hours tick by and the stars don’t move. The moon doesn’t seem to move either. Truth be told, the earth has stopped spinning.
Oh, and panic strikes. And crime spikes. And governments crack down to try to control fear so deep it abolishes reason. But their fears run deep too, and they can’t help themselves, much less their citizens. Power plants churn out the megawatts at max capacity, to fuel a world which is accustomed to sleeping at night. And people sit huddled in their houses, trying to get cable. But every satellite in the heavens kept spinning when we stopped. So there’s no telecom. Every flight in the air, and every ship in the sea wanders till there’s no fuel to wander farther. Because there’s no GPS either.
After a week, those who have survived fear’s urges to self-destruction start counting the days until the sun will rise. –In six months, when we get around to the other side of the sun.
Oh, but we’ll never get there. It’s already so cold. So cold. The middle of this night is becoming like a wind-swept antarctic. Every green leaf is withering, and with it a planet’s life-giving supply of oxygen. We’ll run out of air, and then freeze white through, before the sun shines again.

What if the sun didn’t rise tomorrow?

Those in eternal noon fare little better. Over there it’s oh, so hot. They can breathe this steamy atmosphere, but they are broiling alive. And the steamy part will only last so long…

Stop there.

I take it for granted that the sun will rise tomorrow. And I don’t have the foggiest idea of all that would ensue if it didn’t. I live in full confidence of the fact.

The sun will rise. That’s what matters.

And something else will happen too, something even more certain.
In the morning when you rise, God will be awake, waiting for you to stir.

He always is.

But let me ask you another question.

What if He wasn’t there tomorrow?

I’m not even going to go there. That apocalypse would make my above description seem like yogurt for breakfast. Utterly routine.

He’s always there. That’s what matters.

But wait, really? 
Is that really all that matters?

We rise and run into our day, shoot something that is supposed to be gratitude His way, while taking Him utterly for granted.

Perhaps partly because we’ve never stopped to consider what would be, if He disappeared.

If some morning He failed to knock on your heart’s door when you woke up, would you even miss Him?
Or did you skip Him this morning anyway, so it wouldn’t make a difference?

And what did you say would happen if the sun didn’t rise…?

He’s there. He’s promised always to be.
Always reaching His beautiful hand towards a stirring creation.

So, one more question:

Am I?

The Stuff of the Brave

Consumed as I’ve been of late with strategies to arm next generation’s young heroes with this generation’s arsenal of lessons learned, I think I’m justified in my excitement.

Aren’t you? Maybe you didn’t read what I read this morning.

…About the way stone walls can either make us slaves, or make us like themselves. Invincible.

“It is written of Joseph in the dungeon that ‘the iron entered into his soul.'” – (Streams in the Desert, September 8)

The let us neither bemoan the ruggedness of the way, nor the apparent strength of the enemy.

Let us rather gather always strength from our surroundings. And let the battlements we break through become in us the stuff of steel that the brave men and women of the cross are made of.

We can’t lose.

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

God of the Open Door

Good morning world.

This one thought has me tingling this morning, so I’m here to shout from the [blog]top before I run out the door.

I’ve spent much of my week working the problem of addictions. (as is my business.)
One big, scary word, little scientific consensus within the mental health community when it comes to definitions and limitations.

And I’m not about to jump into the ring and argue what is and what isn’t.
Anyway, definitions have never made anyone free.

Here’s the word of the day.

“Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it…”

The God creative and redemptive, merciful and authoritative, sacrificial and strong, fearful and wonderful, perfect and beautiful, righteous and wroth–

He’s the God of the Open Door.

If there were no other reason to serve Him, that one would be enough.
It’s enough for me.

Strong to Save [When God Goes to War] Part I

I have no tolerance for the idea that defeat must be regarded as at least occasionally inevitable. Absolutely none.

As if every third day or so the angels trade sides for an hour and evil somehow becomes omnipotent. Really?

I think it would be good if we all made it a habit to regularly review Psalm 18. To me it’s the ultimate drama of faltering servant, and faithful God. No wonder it’s one of my favorites…

But I guess you realize it requires more than the simple existence of Omnipotent God to keep me from falling… Well, herein lies that secret too. In the first four words of the chapter. The spark that heralds a storm of Divinity.–

“I will love Thee…”

I Will. My little part to play. So simple, so absolutely necessary. Whole sermon right here…
Love. Because love will move my heart, my head, and my hands. The way work won’t…
Thee. Because love is actually inevitable. You were wired for it. It’s not if, it’s who. And only this Master has life to give away…

In other words, I’m Yours. Head, heart, and whole.

And then do you see what happens?
Hear a few verses later when David bleeds out this distress of sorrows and death–

The servant cries, and the whole earth reels in the thunder from his chariot wheels.
Hills and rills run out of the way, because He is wroth.
Breath of life and creative Word come out of mouth and nose as smoke and fire.
His chariot is alive. An angel with wind for his wings.
He arrives at His war room –a secret pavilion carved out of darkness– in the midst of the earthquake.
Walks in under escort of raining fire and ice.

He stands in the midst of His council of war, utters words that cut atmospheres. More thunder…
And His speech gets the whole host moving.

Next thing you know, “his arrows,” the very best of His fighting force, they shoot out from the place, wreak havoc on the enemy.
Seemingly out of nowhere.
And when the scattering seems complete, He sends lightnings after them.

Then all at once the agenda, the fortifications, the vulnerabilities of the enemy are laid wide open.
And He calmly walks in and picks up His servant, and carries him out.

“With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful;
with the upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
with the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure;
and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.” Ps. 18:25, 26

I’m not making it up. That’s what the Book says.

I have no tolerance for the idea that defeat must be regarded as at least occasionally inevitable. Absolutely none.

Perhaps I must be regarded as at least occasionally (or much more often) failing to call for help, or surrendering my arms voluntarily…

(to be continued…)

The Power of the Personal Gospel

“There are some themes, some messages that stir me to the depths of my soul, and cause me to be gripped with a great quiet… Almost immobilized by the weight of truth; driven to my knees to simply be before God, utterly silent. 

There are themes that bring silent tears to my eager eyes, make my soul soar as if on wings of eagles… 

There are some themes that call forth an exultation so overpowering my fist shoots up and it is all I can do to get it down again.

And then there are those themes that awaken in me at once a passionate dissatisfaction, and a steel-clad resolve; words that invariably get me out of my seat to pace back and forth like a caged lion in my office. From french doors to bookshelf and back, on my knees, on my feet, on my face…

And I’m just warning you, this is one of those.

You see, I have this thought: (overly simple as it may seem–)

That God has a right to that which belongs to Him.

That after all He has suffered, after all He has lost, He’s worthy of receiving His own with interest. 
That His beautiful dreams– (which are all for the happiness of others, by the way) –there is no reason why He should be denied them; 
Why the universe should be denied them….

But you know, God is often denied what is due Him. 

Perhaps most notably, by those who call themselves His friends…”


I don’t preach anything I don’t first love. 
But this truth is my absolute all-time favorite. 

Triumph [Like a Pearl]

It is the triumph of the Christian faith that it enables its followers to suffer and be strong…

To maintain a grip of steel, then willingly give.
To love, and lose, and dare to love again.
To believe in promises while relinquishing the right to personal claims.
To accept tears as glittering gifts.

To believe that I am perfectly loved, even when suffered to drink anguish.
To perfectly love what (Who) I don’t understand.

It is triumph.
To suffer softly. To remember that His feet are washed best with tears. To remember He has never once made a mistake. To remember there is a reason I am trusted with every sorrow.
To remember His name is made great when His children love Him anyway.

–  –  –

Now it’s my turn. My turn to stand in the bottom of the grave and help tuck in the treasure. Me thinking this is the worst kind of personal loss– watching some of “my people” lose something beloved. We work in silence. Wind blows and dust flies, and just like her name, around a speck of a thought layer after layer of luster is laid, while I contemplate Love.

I remember the last group ride; remember my turn on the brilliant beast while the trusted friend worked a kink out of her older sister. They’re both gone now, the Diamond and the Pearl, sister jewels black as stellar space.

Like a little boy about Christmas time my mind scratches at the cold blast of circumstances has build on the windows– the windows of my heart. The boy might be wondering the price of the Christmas Lionel caboose. I’m looking for the same thing I always look for first. Searching for where love might be hiding its best, right about now.

Silent and strong as always, friend-more-like-brother works on the other side of the cavernous hole, till the job is done.
Our girls, out little sisters; they’ve lost their friends, also sisters. (is that what makes us family?)

Later, after thoughts and words and prayers and tears have finished their work for the day, what is left is a lesson worthy of the gift through which it came.

But of course; Faith doesn’t mean that if I believe hard enough, pray hard enough, I’ll love the outcome.

 Faith is believing I’m loved, regardless of the outcome.

Thanks girls. For all kinds of beautiful memories, and for standing up tall and graceful.
And trusting Merciful God. Again.
And thanks friend, for letting me love her too.

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 . . .”. . .

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