Unsatisfied By Average

The Musings of a Stubborn Believer

Category: triumph (page 1 of 3)

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.

Gift of Bravery

But I’m afraid.

Oh, but why?!
It’s fear, you know, that gives these giants (my enemies) all their strength.

Destroy the fear, destroy the giant.
They’re made of paper anyway…

– – –

I cross rocky hillside to a favorite old spot. The boulder sits just where it did last time, warmed by the mountain sun.
Some things never change.

Years change though. And ages.
And I’m here both to ponder and to give thanks.

It’s strange how much birthday wishes can move a soul. (or is it?)
I give thanks for them. And for the friends that gave them, and for the promises they have claimed over this little life.

But even more, today I’m thankful for one thing:

For blue-green eyes more than a fist full of years my junior, brave enough to stand up to me and say they expected more, better, higher, from me their friend.

And I reel and wince, and then I melt. Because I know they speak the truth.

For a little voice, rarely heard, barely raised in the babble that broke my stressed-out reasoning into pieces.
That broke me into pieces–

“In brokenness we find blessings.”

And I stop and stare, and then smile. Because I know they speak the truth.

For another, strong and quiet, warning me of my own fearful power to destroy while I treck across western plains.
Half “I’m right here with you,” half “you have absolutely no excuse.”

And I realize, I need more of this. I crave more of this.
I might need it more than the rest of the world put together.
I need to be pushed, challenged, reminded.
And not just by my critics.

I need it from my friends.

I need more brave friends.

These three? they’re keepers.
And they’ve given me the best of the best this birthday.

thanks guys.

To Finish the Job [Glorious Fast – Part V]

“… and that ye break every yoke?…”

This is no halfway freedom we’re talking about.

This is undeniably the most audacious face of the conflict–
It’s grace, returning to finish the job.

Because “if the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

So it is that the trembling (but oh, so happy) child of God (only recently in chains) awakens one morning to a flurry of activity, and while yet rubbing sleep from the eyes an angel brushes by and says the Commander is waiting…

“For what– 
        For me??”

Yes. Because just getting clear of the door of that prison is’t enough for this General.
Today they’re going back to crush the fortress to a thousand pieces.

And He wants to take me with Him.

So we set out. Me with my little coil of rope, and Him, strong as ten thousand times ten thousand bulldozers. And I look up in awe while we trek– still thinking this is a dream. The One, the Invincible Soldier. The other, the admiring little boy, still in his pajamas…
And He looks down and smiles.

He doesn’t need me.

But He glories in making the weak, strong.
            –in setting them over their enemies.

And after all, don’t I know where the pillars in that place rest, better than most?

When I Forget…

I simply cannot tolerate disconnect anymore… Not now that I know what it feels like to be full and free. I don’t care what I’m in the middle of doing. When I need to drop everything, I do.
I just do.

My thumb swipes left then right across glass, taps “Reminders.”
Check, check. Check. I scroll for the next thing.

These are days unbelievably full in this house. Unbelievably full. With not one, but four young minds straining over plans for the honor of God in Houston next week, (hours a day) there is never a dull moment.
Or a relaxed one.
But we’re honored to serve… Honored to go to war with darkness, as indeed such it will be.

But I glance around my room, across my desktop, through my inbox(es) for the next most pressing emergency. And I suddenly become aware of an emergency of a different character altogether.

It’s this little heart of mine. Something’s not quite right…

I don’t brush past a call anymore. I can’t tolerate being disconnected from heaven any more… It’s the worst torture. I glance at my watch. Almost noon.

I pocket my iPhone, tell my mother I’m going out for a while, take my little sister by the shoulders and ask her if she’s prayed today…
And I go out.

And what I learn on the snow-covered hillside I expect to take with me all through life.

–  –  –  –  –
Whether my days are full or empty, my greatest danger is the same…
To forget my calling.
To forget, to neglect, to lose under a pile of other stuff… same thing.
Because the moment I forget my calling, I lose track of God’s claim on my life.
And make no mistake, God’s claim is the purpose for living. Lose sight of it, and direction is gone, and meaning is gone. I’m at the mercy of my passions and whims–
At the mercy of my merciless enemies. 
But when the claim of God is understood, and the calling of God embraced, then I am alive. And I can fold my arms and stare massive losses in the face with perfect calm. 
Because my side wins either way…

All at once, I’m ready to work again. 
I’ve been up the mountain, through the valley, across the creek… on my way to Zion.

Love Stronger

I thought I understood forgiveness.
Then the anguished cries of a heartbroken hero filled me first with wonder, then with hope…

–  –  –
–  –  –

Mahanaim, Land of Promise.

A king and a father await word of the battle, from the safety of the city’s gate.
At long last the runners are seen. The pacing ceases. The king must know the state of the nation. The father longs to know the state of his son.

The report arrives, breathless.
King listens. Father waits… Then:

But what about my boy??

Beg your pardon?

What boy?

You mean the one who killed your eldest son? That cold blooded barbarian who sought to steal from you everything you had, ending with the crown? The one that this very day launched a campaign to end your life? That boy?
The one who so slowly, so slyly turned the hearts of your friends against you? Turned your influence to ashes from the inside out? Shamed you? Defamed your character before your counselors? Unravelled every thread of trust in the fabric of your rule? That boy?
The one who won the hearts of the kingdom’s greatest talent, greatest beauty, greatest skill? Split your family in pieces, then laughed at your sorrow? That one?
That boy?

Yes. Exactly that boy.

And when the king-father hears that his son has fallen, he breaks in pieces.
He breaks into bitter sobs; looks for a place to hide his grief.
The guard tower above the gate will have to do. He stumbles up crude stone stairs meant only for soldiers. Breathless messengers and stalwart guards watch him go, hear him sob:

O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Sam 18:33)

–  –  –

I blind with tears even now.
Lord of Glory, teach me the heart of forgiveness

Don’t misunderstand me. I am known as a merciful man. But this has pushed the bounds of my conscious duty.

How in the world…?

It isn’t complicated.

Forgiveness is simply love, stronger.
Stronger than death.
I mean real love…

Until days ago forgiveness was mechanical in my mind. Simply a releasing of hate. Almost an aloofness that says “I’m fine, you’re fine. I’m not hurt by this.”

But forgiveness isn’t finished with the releasing of hate. It needs the (re)embracing of love.
Real love.

I can feel from here the throbbing hearts of readers that will never comment on this post. Hearts that cry because trust has been broken, shame has been dealt out. I sense tears, even in the dark. Your soul sinks, because you’re sure there’s more to this I can’t possibly understand.

I don’t pretend to fully understand, but my heart throbs with you. Nor am I so naïve as to believe that healing is always as quick or simple as a choice.
I have a Master’s degree in counseling. And I know and love more broken people than some will meet in a lifetime.

But please, oh please my friend… Listen to me. And then pass the word to every hurting soul you know.

Whether you’ve been defamed, distrusted, shamed, violated, exploited, stolen from, crushed, then laughed at…

David was wounded by his own flesh and blood. His family. And it is those closest that have the greatest power to harm, as well as heal.

But David had love. Love stronger

Love is stronger.
And to love is to be free.

Tell, oh tell the hurting world…

“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

To Fight or Not to Fight, That is The Question

Consider this Science of Temptation, part 2.
I was born to be a warrior.
So were you.
Trouble is, most warriors today are in confusion over titles and job descriptions.
If grace and faith are really sufficient, what need have we of war?
–   –   –
–   –   –

I pace the floor of my basement office, from french door to bookshelf and back. 
It’s cold in here. But my mind works best that way.

My finger runs past scores of titles on the shelf–
Past my Greek New Testament, Waggoner’s commentary on Isaiah, 11 journals…
Testimonies to Ministers, Conflict of the Ages, and great Christian classics.
Leather bound, paper bound, hard bound…

I find the one I’m looking for. 

And I pace again, my whole posture insisting on an answer. 

Temptation’s power is utterly insufficient for the man or woman who takes God at His Word, and denies the tempter’s underlying lie:
“I’ve got something better.”  *

End of conversation.

But if the power of temptation is truly thus neutralized, is there no need of war?

Ahh, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

The promises are completely (and exclusively) sufficient to vanquish the enemy. The money is in your pocket already. (Do yourself a favor and depend on it, because no other currency of your own earning will pay the debt, either.)

But we are soldiers. We wrestle.
Oh, but why??

“Conversion. . .does not put new flesh upon the old spirit; but a new Spirit within the old flesh. . . Deliverance and victory are not gained by having the human nature taken away; but by receiving the divine nature to subdue and have dominion over the human.”  **

Paul was surely talking of a wrestling match when he said “I keep under my body…” [better english word order would be, “I keep my body under me“]

Yet he speaks not of wrestling with the tempter… Christ Himself would not do that. ***
The tempter is to be dismissed by the Word.

But to wrestle the flesh is the work of the will.  

To receive the power of the engrafted Word, we must align ourselves (read: obedience) with that Word. 
And there is nothing easy about that.
But if being a soldier were easy, there would be no honor associated with the title.

This room is still cold. 
A mild allergy to gas flame means I awaken more alert with the heat off. 
The flesh hates 50 degrees in the morning. Every morning
But I have only three choices. Stay in bed and lose Gospel battles, turn up the heat, wake up groggy, and lose Gospel steam…

Or get up anyway.

I’ll take the third. 
* * * * *

The book slides back into it’s place on the shelf. 

We must fight. White knuckled and sore armed. Discipline. Sacrifice. Self-control. 

That is our battle.

There is no substitute for obedience.

Fight, soldier. Fight.

–  –  –
–  –  –

*  “The tempter can never compel us to do evil. He cannot control minds unless they are yielded to his control. The will must consent, faith must let go its hold upon Christ, before Satan can exercise his power upon us.” DA 125.2

** A. T. Jones, Review and Herald, April 18, 1899

*** “Though Jesus recognized Satan from the beginning, He was not provoked to enter into controversy with him. . .He would not parley with temptation. . . Jesus met Satan with the words of Scripture. ‘It is written,’ He said. In every temptation the weapon of His warfare was the word of God. . .So long as Christ held to this position, the tempter could gain no advantage.” DA 120

Science of Temptation

Victory is not about resisting temptation until we build enough spiritual muscle to beat it in an arm wrestle.
Victory is about unraveling temptation before it starts.

Let’s back up.

Satan deceived angels not by leading them to concede to the viability of evil, but by offering them a counterfeit good.

He entered the garden, and offered Eve freedom when she was already free.

He offers us love, [insert: happiness, peace, fulfillment…] when in fact, we are already loved.

The fundamental principle of evil is calling into question the sufficiency of the genuine.

That’s the great controversy in one sentence.
And that’s the science of temptation.
First, causing you to question the real, then offering a supposedly viable alternative.

That is why faith makes us righteous, (ever heard of Righteousness by Faith?) and free.

When the child of God believes that all the promises are “Yes, and Amen!”
When he believes that every word of God is creative– just as creative as “Let there be light.”
And that the promises are not stored in Heaven for our aid someday, but are already in our pockets
Already acting in the lives of those who believe them…

Then the very fundamental principle of temptation is shattered.
Temptation is neutralized before it gets off of the ground…
Unraveled like a rotting sweater.

When we believe (with our hearts, not just our heads) that the promise is all sufficient,
Temptation suddenly becomes utterly insufficient.

You have a billion dollars in your pocket. Why are you falling for the enemy’s penny?

Only because you think you’re poor.

Read part 2 here.

Consuming Treasure

I sit on black leather watching the day wake up past curtains drawn back on french doors. My thumb in the COL on my lap, my other hand behind my head… Countless yellow flowers sing “September!” in the morning sun’s first glow. 
My mind is far away.
I know God gives back. You’ve heard it said He never closes a door without opening a window– Never takes anything away without giving something better in its place.
I know.
But what of the times…

You know what I mean? Sometimes God grants that the fire should burn through our lives, and take away the dross…
And other times God grants that fire should burn through our lives, and completely consume the treasures.

And He doesn’t give them back.
I’ve had my share of fire over the years. And I’ve held on to more than my share of promises.
[The sun creeps across the floor and up the side of my desk; warms the cover of my journal.]
And I’ve probably written miles of ink lines in those books.

But this week, this morning, I’ve learned something. 
Something that gives me chills up and down my spine… and makes my blood surge jubilance.

The times when the fire burns through and takes treasures, leaving nothing to hold on to but memories of fire and smoke–
God has still given. 
He did give you something better. 
He gave you the fire.

My soul tingles.
If I am a soldier, if I am a victor, if I am free…

It is thanks to the treasure of losing everything, and never getting it back.
I sigh and smile.
I am free.
Blaze, Spirit blaze. Set our hearts on fire…”

Aim Higher

Seems like these days, to be a “Christian” is to try resist temptation (most of the time),

to try to figure out how to be the same while being different,
and to make pilgrimage plans based on the weather report.
I’ve had enough of that.

So I aim to reclaim the name Christian. 
To reclaim a life of perpetual resistance, and perfect obedience.
To realize that to make a mark one must be different… 
And instead of waiting for fair weather, to run into darkness. 
Because that’s where shining makes a difference.
And because that’s what Christians do.

“Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. 
And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land…” (Is 32:1,2 Emphasis added)

Above the timber line: looking down from Arizona’s tallest peak.

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