Sunday, January 27, 2013

Walking the Labyrinth

Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing: God alone suffices.
-St. Teresa of Avila

I am not big on travel. I hate packing. One place I want to see is Chartres, France. There is  labyrinth in a cathedral there that I would love to walk. I may have to settle for its twin in San Francisco. A friend was there recently and took pictures. A walk through the Gates of Paradise, Ghiberti Doors and then into the silence and a stroll with Christ would be such a pleasure.

I am saving my change and my air miles. But why wait for it? Might I  have the appetizer now? Might you? I am thinking so.

In the middle of my living room is a soft oriental rug. When I am home alone (yes, I know friends with kids that is a rare occurrence for you...sorry) I put on soft music that slips into the background and does not make me want to dance,or I use a nature tape of water or birds very faintly,  or no music at all and I step into my imaginary labyrinth.

Now there are different kinds. The sectioned off, back and forth as you go from center outward kind in churches and the simple spiral ring you find often in open air. For my purposes it is easier to imagine the spiral. I also favor it because God seems to like it owing to His frequent use of it in shells and galaxies.

I wear my most comfortable clothing that is also appealing. I always consider that I am spending time with someone I want to look nice for.

I begin outside and move inward to the center in a circular fashion if I am seeking a deeper place in God. I begin in the center and work my way around and out if here is something I need to lay down and walk away from. I start in and move out when I am ill or praying in this way for someone who is ill.

Today is a deep day so I begin at the outside and move inward in a spiral using the points of the compass as my stations. I make two revolutions which accommodates the size of the rug. (Small space? Just use a circle and go around x2 with 4 stations.) I start from the west station (just a comfortable place in the room) and begin by taking three cleansing breaths as I try to empty my mind of whatever is in there. I ask for forgiveness of all sin.

I bring with me a scripture I wish to hold in my mind. There are two I favor and I pick one.

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. Psalm 143:8

You will keep my mind in perfect peace, for I trust You. Isaiah 26:3

I do not hurry. Something in us makes us want to hurry but I ignore it. I take several minutes at each station repeating from memory my verse and then I wait. Listening. Being empty. Each station I repeat, maybe adding my love in simple terms always listening as I work my way to the center.

Many times I complete the spiral and arrive at the center refreshed and having given thanks, I depart.

There are other times when half way around I become aware of God's tangible and weighty presence. He will have seeped in and rested at some yet imperceptible point and gently fallen into step with me. I ask for nothing. I listen, I soak as in a spring rain and I wait motionless once I am aware of Him until He indicates by a lifting of Presence that I may moves on.

St. Teresa's prayer captures it, "Patience obtains all things. He who possesses God lacks nothing: God alone suffices."

It will not be a "Let God arise. Let His enemies be scattered moment." I crave those and will paint my soul with His colors and step into the battle with that as a war cry. Just not at his moment. This is an "I give myself to you for you keep me in perfect peace," deep moment of spiritual satisfaction. This lingers and draws you back again.

Open the Gates of Paradise. Open your heart. Lay all else aside. Step inside. Meet Him in new ways He is longing to share with you.

 If you have a rug, an imagination and a desire you can begin.

Instructions for Walking

Grace Cathedral

Labyrinth Locator

Cancer Center Labyrinth

Saturday, January 26, 2013

No Ornamental Silence

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theater,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings,
with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facades are all being rolled away...
- T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Different people know me differently. To some I am forward and frank and occasionally funny. To others I am a voice at the back of the room. Some know the easygoer but others know if they injure those I care about they had better not be bringing a knife to a gun fight.

I have friends with whom I never seem to run out of conversation. I have a husband who is comfortable with my silence. I have a soul that worships stillness even as I applaud God and dance in His Presence.

The real Kathy is a quiet, solitary person which may be a revelation to some and a cause for disbelief in others. The real Kathy is not overly fond of the sound of her own voice (I would rather write than speak) but treasures times when God talks. Perhaps the origin was a child who ran off to the woods to build secret altars when there was war at home.

I am not desirous of an ornamental silence, the absence of genuine quietness. I have a soul that listens deep and searches out those still places where God is known. The stillness where this earth bound life becomes the vapor and all that is Heaven becomes substantial.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

The stillness God refers to calls us not just to be quiet but to cease from motion. One translation of the root word implies we stop beating our wings. We wait. Like the audience in the poem, we do not jump out of our seat at the end of the first act as the lights dim and hide from us the preparations for what comes next.

Neither do we engage our neighbors. We wait in silent expectancy. Something new is coming and the momentary darkness, the stillness, gives us occasion to make the mental change necessary to receive the next act.

I know people who are afraid of that scenery being moved around in the dark. There are hurtful things in their lives but they are familiar. They have left their seats and are searching for the house lights. How many times have I done the same, like the bird beating its wings against the window.

The God of Great Love would have us quiet our wings, let a sacred stillness fill us and flow into all the noisy places where His voice has only been half heard. To wait in silence, in patience, for the set to be changed. I know God for real in that place and my true self emerges in an atmosphere where God is heard even when He whispers. "...when the imposing facades are all being rolled away."

Should you have an interest, there are some resources that might help you to find that still place. Always remember that the Holy Spirit knows the way of it and will direct you to it if you allow Him. It is a place of peace and recovery; of replenishment and insight; of strength.

If you come back to me and trust me, you will be saved. 

If you will be calm and trust me, you will be strong. 

Isaiah 30:15

Friday, January 25, 2013

Pull Me Into Your World

Stretch out your great net, Lord

Your web of light that joins us

like spider silk joins branch to barn

that carries subtle movements

across thought and time

pulling me gently into your world

Catch me up in your dreaming

looking at the sides unseen

moon's hidden face not turned to us

animal voices speaking secrets

seas answering wind

stem kissing branch

You are the mystery

my soul pursues

Pull Me Into Your World  
by Kat Cavanaugh LaMantia

It’s the very nature of wonder to catch us off guard, to circumvent expectations and assumptions. Wonder can’t be packaged, and it can’t be worked up. It requires some sense of being there and some sense of engagement. -Eugene Peterson

That's it. I want to be There. I want the secrets. Big secrets broken down into their parts. I want to marvel at the gears of the Universe, the pulleys of Creation. How does a virus look like an alien landscape, how was both a clock and a compass placed in a horseshoe crab, who taught the bees to dance? How? How? How?

Like the constant, "Why Daddy?" I pestered my earthly father with, I want the keys to the mysteries. I want the new languages needed to grasp such marvels. I want the tour. I want God to show me the blueprints , to drag them out like an old family album. Our history, the story of God and us.

It has all been for us. For you and for me. Made "good" so good someone had to invent  "Hallelujah!."

In long winter evenings I look to the heavens. Moon and stars. Aurora. My friend  Kim and  I chased the moon with a car full of boys and the moon winked and hid as part of the game.

In summer there are ground cover mysteries, and rocks pulled from ponds, starfish found in tide pools and nests in spruce.  

Solomon had his "too wonderful for me" mysteries because it is really God who is too wonderful. We will never reach His borders in an Eternity of trying.

I could go on. But the most wondrous mystery is that God so loved us, all of us, imperfect us, so much that He sent the Dearest to eat with us and drink with us and open the gates of Paradise for us at great cost.

The mystery of His love, who can know it?  Not the most important question. Ask who can have it.

On this night when a friend calls to ask for prayer the One who is our Savior has saved a Hallelujah just for her. The One who made her, who has a thread tied from His heart to hers makes His presence known and the wonder of it dwarfs all the rest of it.

"And from my smitten heart, with tears, two wonders I confess: The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness." Elizabeth Clephane

Has Christ smitten your heart? Let Him pull you into the wonder of His matchless love and the world that was made from nothing but that love. Sun, moon, stars and starfish; just hints, promises really of more wonder to come. 

Stretch out your great net, Lord and pull me into your world.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Winter Grapes

Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.
2 Corinthians 4:17 MSG

When Kelly and I were little kids we would go stay with my father's parents, Leona and Tom, and the world would smile on us. Onie was born a grandmother, a playmate, a partner in crime. She kept our secrets secret; our indiscretions forgotten and our dreams at the top of her prayer list. Their house and yard were as magical as they were.

At the far back of the house a spruce lined driveway fell away to a wooded area snuggled in between raspberries and rhubarb. There was a lovely shaded spot that was always cool even in high, humid summer. A Beatrix Potter patch of wonderfulness that drew us to it.

Next to a massive oak there was a grape arbor that sheltered a large green wooden glider. That old swing was a treasure. It was a train, a plane, the pumpkin coach from Cinderella. It was also covered with large dark grape leaves and blue-black concord grapes hanging in thick bunches.

The taste of those grapes is a memory that remains with me half a century later and has the power to raise my spirits by just mentally taking a ride on the old glider. Grapes squeezed out of thick skins and swallowed whole. Purple fingers, full hearts and a grandmother as full of stories as we were full of grapes.

There were other grapes growing near the arbor. We gave those a wide birth. They looked beautiful on the outside but set your teeth on edge. They were a wild sort of grape and they were real climbers. Up the tree and over the top of the garage that vine was like some fairytale beanstalk. Pop would attack it with the hedge clippers but it proved a worthy opponent.

One year when my mother had become very ill after Sherry was born, I went to live with Tom and Leona not just to visit. The following October the leaves were mostly all down, the arbor was bare and the days getting colder. Pop threw me out of the house and told me to go play. An ambition I did not have under the circumstances.

I found myself in the back yard looking for colorful leaves to make a picture for my father to take to the hospital and I saw it, that "I dare you" grape vine all regrown and wrapped around a tree. There were late grapes wearing a light coat of frost.

To this day I do not know what impulse made me eat one but it was a revelation. It burst on my tongue with the most wonderful sweet and spicy surprise. Where had this goodness been hiding itself? How did something so sour become such a blessing and at such a needy time?

The neighbor who owned the raspberry bushes Kelly and I raided without permission and without mercy, was out in the garden dropping a blanket of straw and he saw me up the tree with grapes in hand.

"Winter grapes," he offered. 
"Excuse me?" I answered.
"Frost grapes," was his comeback, "The frost don't kill 'em like other grapes. Makes 'em sweet. So sweet if ya don't pick em' the birds and squirrels eat em' when they turns inta' raisins." 

I liked raisins but raisins without sunshine? Was that possible? I knew I liked the frost grapes. I would just trust him about the raisins.

Years later I would know of people (myself) what I learned about Vitis vulpina, a little frost makes grace work magic. It produces a sweeter fruit, a more patient bounty in unexpected ways. Like Jacob who became Israel and limped under the hand of the Almighty into a sweetened old age, winter grapes improve, thrive even, when circumstances are challenging.

Sometimes in my life I have been almost frostbitten by failed relationships, illness, debts, dashed hopes but every time and without exception the Gardner-God knows just how to use it to make me better, sweeter, stronger and more like Christ. Then He causes it to feed someone else who is famished. At the time if feels like anything but a blessing.

My friend, Rebecca, was sharing this very wisdom with me today out of her own life. It is a hard truth sometimes that crushes the grapes and fills the cup and bids another to drink encouragement. It is the Jesus way. Ours too.

If this day finds frost on your ground or a hard winter blast breaking the last of the tender fruitful stems you depend on, let that go for the moment and trust the One who calls the snow a treasure.  

"God is making new life" from our winter grapes and frost never keeps spring from coming. 

...they will bloom like a vine, and they will be as famous as the bouquet of a prized wine!

Do not look for my replacement. I, the Lord, am the one who answers your prayers and watches over you...Hosea 14:7-8 condensed

May our days be filled with His "unfolding grace."



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Dreamed of Waking

I dreamed of waking
knees pulled to chest
comforter wrapped softly
the light still drowsy

I dreamed of waking
to a less painful truth;
to a time before
my heart squeezed itself
into a fist, or in some
open-hearted future time

A time not now

If enough mornings pass
will I reach a place
without mourning,
sorrow swallowed up
in quilts and lavender
tucked into bed corners?

I dreamed of waking
from a good dream
sweetness spilling
over me

I dreamed I was not dreamless
I dreamed I did not wake alone

I Dreamed of Waking
by Kat Cavanaugh LaMantia

I have several precious friends who have been robbed. Some have lost health, some family members, some have a spouse who forgot they were married. Death, betrayal, misfortune they can smother hope, dreams and a future. Some are tearful and some have "thoughts that often lie too deep for tears." *

One friend in pain told me she felt as if her husband had murdered their marriage and left the body unburied. (I share this with her permission) Morning is her enemy. For one fraction of a second upon waking she feels quite her former, untormented self- then she remembers the bed is empty and she is alone.

At a memorial service recently for the mother of a friend, the Rabbi spoke of how Moses turned aside to see the mystery of a bush burning but not being consumed. He said the Hebrew word to describe the bush refers to brambles, thorns. In the midst of the thorns burned the fire of God's Glory. 

Such is this life, he shared. God in the midst of our suffering not repelled by it or hindered by it and often coexisting with those thorns.  By His own admission it is holy ground.

The Rabbi also taught us that "I Am who I Am" is best translated, "Let me be whom I will be." What a thought! To let Him be whom He would be to us! To "let" God be Himself.

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book. Psalm 56:8

When we are empty of dreams Our Father dreams for us. When we wake in an "empty" room we find He is there sitting quietly waiting for our eyes to adjust to His presence. Holy ground. God in the midst of our hurt, cradling our dreams, whispering to that open-hearted future. In that timeless moment, most importantly, just being there. Being God for us.

I dreamed I did not wake alone. 



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An Early Summer

Tell me where May hides- tell me when long light arrives
when bees turn humming into honey

When will the finches dance on thistle tops
and woodpeckers peck lunch from poles?

Tell me when winter will be admonished
and bashful seeds will grow brave- bursting goodness

Tell my heart when it will swell and fill with life again
and hunt for the eggs of unhatched songs

Tell me when grass will cover grief and stretch as carpet
for tender feet with just a memory of running

Tell me when the Glory will pass by to full-wake the world and I

An Early Summer
(For a friend with Summer in her future)

by Kat Cavanaugh LaMantia
The Lord's unfailing love and mercy still continue,
Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise...
Lamentations 3:22-23

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hope In Season

The same branch now
as bare can be
belongs to my favorite
fragrant tree
though she hides
her scent in frost
her summer goodness
is not lost
nor are the nests
so full of eggs
empty now
save just the dregs
soon spring will call
to sap and leaf
her beauty nature
will complete
blest the soul
who sees the glimmer
of her abundance
in darkest winter

-Hope in Season by Kat 
 for Cheryl Martin's Birthday

For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift. -John 1:16

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Where Am I Going?

There are two questions that we have to ask ourselves:
The 1st is " Where am I going?"
The 2nd is "Who will go with me?"
If you ever get these questions in the wrong order, you are in trouble.-Howard Thurman

Pretend you are Jesus. You have just asked question #1. "Where am I going?" The answer is the Cross. You are still Jesus for the moment and now you ask question #2. "Who will go with me?" The answer to question #2  has not yet been fully expressed.

It is 7:00 AM and the alarm goes off. Ever wonder why it is called an "alarm" clock? Warning! Your day has begun! We may smile and nod but sometimes it is exactly like that. There are days I sure have felt like that. (Just ask Kathy who gets up at 5:00 AM without an alarm.)

Mostly these days I open my eyes and thank God for another chance to be light and salt. I thank him for another chance to stand defiant like Gandolf on the bridge and proclaim to the Balrog, "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

Except that in the real world, the one being faced down daily is the daddy of all Balrogs.  I must not look like myself when I encounter those Balrogs of alcoholism, addiction, homelessness and despair in the ministry God has given me. I must not act on my own against the Balrogs that try to intrude into my own life. They fear only Christ and his name.

And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also]. Luke 9:23 Amplified

Where am I going today? The Cross. My waking is not  another opportunity to fix something I broke yesterday or to make another grab for some misdirected goal. It is not a chance to run the wrong race or wear a face the world will whistle at. I am following Christ to the place where whatever does not Glorify the Father passes away. Obedience answers question #1.

Who will go with me? That is being asked of me and asked by me. Jesus asked his closest friends for watchfulness in the Garden but moving toward Golgotha he asked for them, and us, to be joined to him.  He gave himself away for us. Love on full display. I'm coming, Lord, and I will take as many with me as I can by your grace. I have that chance fresh each morning to ask people to join us. Love answers question #2.

It is 7:00 AM and the world is alarming but a voice that I recognize and His love rises above the ringing, "John, you coming?"

My answer is not looking for the snooze button.

... It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 New Living Translation

Jesus is asking those questions in the right order.

Are we ready to give ourselves away?

Then from the Cross to the bridge!

Bless you-
John LaMantia

(Morning light through the trees At Valley of the Moon, Anchorage, Alaska)


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Laid Down Daily

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies”
(2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

I am saddened and at the same time inspired by the stories of Christians persecuted worldwide. Pastors jailed in Iran who will not recant, an aide worker hunted and murdered in Asia and another takes up her ministry, Christians burned out of their churches and homes in Indonesia but Christ is not abandoned. Such grace, such honesty and courage, such support and respect for one another is seen in persecuted communities.

I am equally saddened but completely uninspired by the persecution I see in our own churches and communities of faith that are far from the dangers of foreign fields. Churches which often thrive and grow for a period but whose leadership stalk and destroy those who are viewed as competition inside of and outside of their own denominations.

Pastors who oppress worship leaders or dynamic youth pastors whom they feel outshine them, Boards who treat the pastoral leader as an indentured servant and are hypercritical of his family. Group leaders and teachers who do not grow up those under them in order to keep the talent hidden. I have often encountered more passive aggression and plotting in the House of God than I have in corporate offices. Sometimes there is more simple courtesy to be found in the Tents of Wickedness.

How shameful is it to read that opening scripture from the standpoint of experience within the Christian community as opposed to the persecution that was the mainstay of the Colosseum?

Do I overstate? Hardly. We have all seen it. Felt it. Felt shamed or excluded by it. We may have done it.

If the statistics I read in numerous publications are to be believed, exhausted and diminished servants are leaving their positions and their denominational churches in droves often with their marriages and hearts in tatters.

We need some healthy self examination. We need to make room for one another and find joy in one another's success. We need to have short memories for failures-our own and other peoples. We need to allow Christ to meet our needs and to preach the funeral for envy and jealousy.

I recently read an article about Christian gangsters. Religious spirits whose tongues do not know the law of kindness. Cliques closed to those who do not dress alike and think alike and acknowledge the hierarchy or sing out of the hymnal. May God forgive us. May He know us differently this One with a towel tied around Him.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.- James 3:13-18

It is difficult for hell to find an ally in a life laid down daily*. I doubt there really are such things as five year plans in the Spirit. We are only promised today. 

Let's do something real with it.

From Peacemaker Ministries:

We are committed to building a “culture of peace” that reflects God’s peace and the power of the gospel of Christ in our lives. As we stand in the light of the cross, we realize that bitterness, unforgiveness and broken relationships are not appropriate for the people whom God has reconciled to himself through the sacrifice of his only Son (John 13:34-35; Eph. 4:29-32; Col. 3:12-14).

That laid down life was also speaking to Ann @ A Holy Experience and she said it beautifully.

*You lie down today, yesterday you lay down, in the past you have lain down. :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I Long For A World

“The tree on the mountain takes whatever the weather brings. If it has any choice at all, it is in putting down roots as deeply as possible."-Corrie ten Boom

What makes a grandmother put her former life in storage and move half way around the world to a place where human life is cheap and female human life is not believed worth the time to tally it up?

I think it must be in the seeing. Seeing what is but also what may be and seeing it through Divine eyes not just kind eyes. Kindness is a blessing but Salvation is a miracle. Salvation that is saving the seer as well as the seen. Salvation that knows the forgiven have had their hearts enlarged in the limitless way that defies the confines of the stained glass world where most of us worship. Salvation like bread that was made to be broken and shared. Salvation that fills a cup for a lifetime not just for lunch.

There is such a grandmother that John and I support and agree with her that Christ is the game changer in a world of empty cups. I would like to share with you something she wrote at the holidays that moved me. Please hear Jackie's words from India where she works to help women and children discover the One who will walk with them in the storm. Where she helps young trees grow roots that will hold, "whatever the weather brings."

 I long for a world where children do not sleep in the mud, under plastic sheets, rats running through their “houses.”  Where they don’t sleep on concrete slabs, in the open, alone.  A world where people don’t eat what they find lying on the street; I long for a world of enough.

I long for a world where people are not used, abused, treated as objects, outlets for the anger of others, mere commodities for the use of another’s egotistical and insatiable appetite.

I long for a world where children are not slaughtered, where humans dare not murder and kill and fight in ways that even animals would not think of.  Where life is viewed as sacred, something to be preserved, treasured, celebrated.

I long for a world where governments protect their people and look out for the well being of those in their care.  A world where corporations do not annihilate and steal from and cheat indigenous peoples, unempowered peoples, poor peoples in their quest for land and for more and more and more.

All of these things touched my life today.  Yet today, in a world of such suffering, I was blessed to see joy.  The joy of thirty children who sleep by the railway tracks celebrating their first Christmas.  Celebrating with a chili chicken breakfast, with a gift of a warm blanket and new clothes, with songs and dance, with smiles and laughter.

I was blessed to celebrate a second Christmas with a few hundred others, made even more joyful by the memories of their first Christmas.  Celebrated with songs and rhymes and verses and dances and dramas and the Most Important Story of All.

I was blessed to overhear an amazing answer to a question—What does Christmas mean?”  Without hesitation, “happiness.”

I long for a world…

Romans 8:18-23

Jackie Tallent, Calcutta, India
Reaching the street children of South Asia

Donations may be sent to:
Jackie Tallent 
1445 N. Boonville Ave.
Springfield, MO 65802
Donation Acct. #207093

(If you too long for that world, consider investing in it with your prayers and a contribution. Sometimes money can in fact buy "happiness" and often does to the glory of God.-Kathy)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Ravens of Revival

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

He was dressed all in black with long black hair and a beard shot through with gray. The brim of his black hat was pulled low over his piercing yes. He was a man off his meds. He was hungry, homeless and had anger issues that he warned you about first rattle out of the box. He wore his hat and coat indoors the way homeless people have as a way of protecting their possessions.

I had come to cut up onions for stuffing and to help with the turkeys and the best Volunteer Coordinator I have ever met was in the middle of giving me my gloves and my orders when the man in black came to check me out. Where had I come from? What was I doing? Would there be enough turkeys? Did I like Poe?

I kept my answers simple. I was married to the Chaplain. I was the onion chopper. There were abundant turkeys. I could quote The Raven from memory.

"I like John," he offered with almost a smile as he left me to glove up.

Over time I learned a bit more about the man who loved The Raven and dressed like one. I also learned another not unexpected fact- John liked him back. John had made an effort to take him aside and spend time finding out about who he was, what he liked, what he needed...and if he had any refills left on his meds.

John shared poetry with him and Jesus. He prayed for him and over him and with him. It was just a trickle at first, more a promise of moisture than the real thing but the desert was retreating. A new fresh thing was happening.

They talked about The Telltale Heart and the heart of love Christ has for us. There were prayers for housing and a job. Prayers for deliverance from anger and physical pain. His own heart was coming back to life as the desert surrendered its captive. The journey would be long but it had begun.

In one of the last services he shared before his housing prayer was answered, The Raven Man rose at the end of chapel and asked if he could sing a special chorus of a Johnny Cash song. (What is it with men in black?) John prayed it was not going to be Ring of Fire and agreed.

He sang it the first time a capella but the second pass through the band joined in behind him and then, as his voice declared his desire that the Circle Be Unbroken, he received the affirmation of Jesus and the applause of the totally surprised audience.

Once upon a time I had the privilege of watching my first chair clarinet husband play Debussy's Premiere Rhapsodie from memory standing in front of a full orchestra. The applause was considerable. When John came home and told me the story of the chapel service, told me about anger laid aside, Jesus glorified, about one man's baby steps toward wholeness and the audience's embrace; I knew John was happier for the applause lavished on The Raven Man than he had ever been for himself.

Jesus told a despised tax collector that he was coming to pay a visit. He called up to a little thief in a tree that he was coming to lunch. He asked a lost woman for a cup of water. Jesus' way was "I see you. Come see me." Christ didn't just put a pamphlet in their hand. He shared himself. He became to them just the God they needed.

It is so easy for someone homeless to lose their identity. Jesus never forgets who we are to Him. We must not forget who we were intended to be to each other. Family. Neither should we forget the God who is doing new things with fresh love.

John does not see The Raven Man every day now but he continues to cover him in prayer that the circle may remain unbroken and that he will be homeless, "Nevermore."


Special thanks and blessings to all our Urban Missionaries who daily take Jesus to the streets.

Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1 MSG

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A John Thing

“The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped — it requires an active participation in following Jesus as he leads us through sometimes strange and unfamiliar territory, in circumstances that become clear only in the hesitations and questionings, in the pauses and reflections where we engage in prayerful conversation with one another and with him.” (I love this quote!)
Eugene H. Peterson, The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way

John has no sense of  direction. The first clue came when he took me home to meet his family and he could not remember how to get to his grandmother's house. (She had lived in the same place for 40 years).

John has no sense of direction and he will not ask for directions. He may pass a dozen gas stations (a dozen times) but will still drain the tank trying to find his way in silence. I have observed this is not just a John thing but a man thing.

We have friends (Gary and Alice) who, like us, the wife is the navigator always and the driver if you are lucky. The day both of our husbands struck out on their own to go to Costco together over lunch, we started lining up replacements to preach and lead worship the following Sunday in case they didn't make it back on time.

When we drove up the Alcan Highway to Alaska I mapped out the entire route and rechecked it every night when we stopped. I always knew where we were. My plan was to plan ahead and stick to the plan. That was a success until we hit a 125 mile stretch of land under construction and the road itself literally disappeared.

I had never experienced anything like it and it was frighteningly confusing. There were detours out into the middle of nowhere with steep drops onto rocks below. There was a fog of pure dust obscuring everything from sight. There was no real road, just bumpy dirt that allowed a top sped of 5 mph. No markers of any kind. We were lost and blind and John was driving!

I was praying out loud. The map was useless. All my planning was obscured in a haze of Canadian clay dust- but we were moving forward. John was driving on and slowly our moving van and the car in tow were headed to Alaska.

In a sunless, dense, brown fog, John was following the very faint tail lights of a vehicle quite a ways ahead of us. When it turned, John turned. John matched its speed (if you can call it that) and never lost sight of it until we were out the other side.

My sweet driver has another birthday tomorrow. Maps still mystify him even though he says otherwise. But like the Peterson quote where he was talking about what he refers to in his book as "a long obedience" John is still following Jesus. No matter how hazy or strange, how dangerous or barren the landscape, John's compass finds true north. It does.

God told Moses he could see only His back parts because Moses could not look Him in the face and live. God's taillights remain in John's high beams and our family is headed to a more beautiful place than even Alaska because of such a long, steadfast obedience. He may not stop at gas stations for direction but John has always sought it on his knees.

So Happy Birthday to my traveling companion of many seasons, my friend and lover, my chauffeur. Your navigator loves you. Loves Christ in you. Whatever the next year and the New Year have up their sleeves, we will keep following the One who drew the map and charted the course that will lead us into His will and all the way home.

Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” John 8:12