Unsatisfied By Average

The Musings of a Stubborn Believer

Category: victory (page 1 of 2)

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

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

You know the story isn’t over.
It could be. I mean, wouldn’t it be enough if He swooped in as the Hero of every rescue mission, and picked up broken pieces again, and took them home to heal?
That’s already more than we deserve.

But that’s not the end of the story. Or the chapter.

He is the Hero of every rescue mission. And there’s a reason His exploits come first…

But keep reading till the end of the tale.

He saves the afflicted, simultaneously putting the adversary in his place.
And then!–

He lights a candle. A little flame of light atop a stick of wax strung out.
Fresh home from the smoke and dust of battle, He shares His life.
He puts in the soul a fire, out of Himself, a part of Himself, and with that fire comes all the power that is His. Power to live. Power to overcome. The same power that just sent hills and hoodlums scurrying.

And watch the servant. Watch the flame suddenly catch on, as if he was all oil inside. Watch him fly into the darkness, like an arrow himself. Burning as he goes, consumed, but . . . not consumed.

Watch him run right through the midst of the garrison of darkness, setting the place ablaze. Watch his enemies come to their senses, pick themselves up to follow hard in the trail of smoke. Watch him get to the end– the dead end. And just when the pursuers think they’ll have vengeance at last, watch him leap. Watch him sail over what should have been his death sentence. While his enemies remain, confined by their own fortifications.

Watch him stop on the far side, catch his breath, raise one hand to heaven and say:

“As for God, His way is perfect:
the word of the Lord is tried:
He is a buckler to all those that trust in Him.
For who is God, save the Lord?. . .

It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet. . .
He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. . .

Thy right hand hath holden me up,
And thy gentleness hath made me great.
Thou has enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.

I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them:. . .
I have wounded them that they were not able to rise:
they are fallen under my feet.

For Thou has girded me with strength unto the battle. . .”

(Ps. 18:30-39, emphasis mine.)

How can it logically be said that even with unlimited access to unlimited power, we must accept the prospect of limited progress, and perpetual setbacks?

I don’t get that.

What I do get, is that when I am His, then I am strong.
And under no other circumstances.

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. 

This is No Mystery [Born to Fly Free]

What if I told you that every time I’ve ever found myself spinning my mental wheels in spiritual mud;
every time I’ve found myself wondering where my happiness disappeared to;
every time I’ve flown in my dreams only to wake up in the morning and find myself once again mercilessly tied to reality;
every time I’ve found myself confused;
every time I’ve been afraid to try, because I knew I’d fail;
every time I’ve gone ahead and tried, and, sure enough, failed;
and every time my confidence has been replaced with questions

Every. time.–
It’s always been for the same, simple reason.

What if I told you that?
Would you believe me?

And what if I followed that sweeping statement up with this one:

One, single, highly uncomplicated little word has always brought me back to joy.

Would you, could you believe?

Well, [giggles]
guess what?

–  –  –  –  –

I’m more than a bit ashamed to tell you this. But it’s the truth, and I’m going to tell you because every time dreams come true and I fly again (even while I’m awake) I find myself gripped with this desire to pass the gift of free flight to you. And this is the only way I know how…

So, I walk. Duck under and around, pick through muddy patches on the forest floor just undressed from it’s cloak of fluffy whiteness. I stop by one secret sacred spot, then turn to visit another. I’d rather walk than sit today, restless as I am. 
I tussle with this emptiness. This emptiness I hate, especially since I know what it is to be full. And the gnawing drives me soon beyond words, and rather than ask, I simply listen. And quieter than a whisper on the wind, this God Whose voice I’m learning to recognize better and better, He marshals silent words and they press into my mind one at a time–
“There is. no. substitute. for obedience.”
Uh. What to do when God “quotes” you?
I sigh. He speaks only truth. 
I don’t argue. But I am silent for a long, long time. 
but it cross-grains my personality, 
and my values, 
and my family culture, 
and my preferences, 
and my conventions.” 

“And your convictions?”

Silence again.
“Can’t I just…just…”

“Few things in the world are more dangerous than a soldier with a mind of his own.
And I know it crosses you. But I still ask it of you.”
How petty are the things we cling to, when compared with the joy of flying free.

I stop my pacing, straighten up to my full 5 feet 6, look steady at the open sky and with a twinge of fierceness born of resolution re-born, and answer:

“Yes. Yes.”

And I feel myself take flight again…

–  –  –  –  –

This is not rocket science. There is no mystery.

I spent the latter half of my prayer walk plotting against my enemies.
Namely, the three that are one, that make my dreams impossible. That limit my reach to that which is earthly. That confuse, confound, and cause to fear and to fail…

They are simply, Conditional Yes, Deferred Yes, & Incomplete Yes.

And all three of them are just fancy names for no.

I have learned that to negotiate, (that is, to plead for a compromise or conditions) to hesitate, (that is, to wait even three seconds before actuating obedience) or just plain letting the discussion trail off, robs me of life and joy.
It robs me of communion, and confidence.
It robs me of my wings.

And failing to answer yes to the seemingly insignificant blinds me to the realities of the significant…
And vice versa.

One word. Would you believe? It always takes me back to joy; makes God’s dreams come true.
One word.


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?

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

The Anointed


I love that word.
David says they’re the strong ones, and the free… (Ps. 28:7, 8)
The kings and queens, and priests… Royal. Privileged.

I personally can’t get over the fact that they’ve been touched, prayed over, blessed by God Himself.

The rabbit trail I took through Strong’s landed me in a familiar place, quite possibly the single most memorized chapter in scripture.

But familiar words took on unfamiliar meaning as I saw in them the God that is everything, increasingly (the everything that has no end) to me.

I know the words in english. But if Strong’s is correct, (my soul believes it is) then those words are deeper than our contemporary use of them, by far.

I read them, speak them, love them. Eyes flit back and forth between the open page, and the Strong’s app. And my heart sings something like this–

The LORD is my Shepherd;
And He? He is absolutely everything I need.
His home is my home. 
He leads me (literally: “to run with a sparkle”) towards peaceful waters.
He returns my soul to joy…
He walks right with me in the path of righteousness, 
because that’s the kind of Person He is
And even when I walk through this deep abyss–
This deep gorge where death lives and reigns,
I fear nothing. Absolutely nothing.
 Because God is here too. And He never leaves.
Because of Him, because of His comfort and support,
I thrive even in the presence of my enemies.
He anoints my head with oil,
while my joy overflows

But not for a throne. Not in this verse.
This one is a relatively rare word, used 12 times, and only translated this way once.
Go look it up.
The reference is to ashes… Ashes, and fat. And “acceptance”…

He prepares me for sacrifice,
And all the while, my joy overflows.

Surely… Surely, this is the best life. 

“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

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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