I go through seasons where I won’t have any dreams in my sleep at all. Then every couple of months I will have such an intense season of nighttime dreaming that I will wake up exhausted every morning. My physical body is prepared for the day but my mind has been up all night, running from bad guys, figuring out problems, grieving and a variety of other things.
I have currently been in one of those seasons and it is kicking my butt. I understand the biological side of dreaming and what is actually going on in your brain but I don’t understand why it comes in spurts for me or at least why I remember them in spurts. I have also talked to others who have said the same.
Lately my dreams have had a certain theme to them. I have been dreaming with increasing consistency that we are back in Tanzania. When this first started happening I would literally weep with joy, inside my dream, because we were finally back where my heart was at peace. The first few times it was sweet to reconnect with the people and places that were so familiar to us last year. Lately, however, it has become more and more draining as I will, even in the dream, realize this is only a dream and I’m really just in our bed in Texas. Unfortunately, that won’t help all the emotions of thinking I am back in Tanzania. Sometimes we’re getting on the plane, sometimes getting off it, sometimes arriving in the village where I spent a lot of time last year. One benefit is that I remember the Swahili I’ve learned nearly perfectly. That’s a heaviness on my heart as well as there is a language I’ve learned that I cannot share with anywhere here in Texas.
Sonja hasn’t spoken to me much about her dreams lately and I haven’t asked. During this sensitive season there are some things I am careful to bring up. Something she brings up all the time and I mean all the time is her desire to return to Italy. If it doesn’t come up every day it will come up every other day. I too have a strong desire to go back to the place with warm people, ancient sites, great food and unbelievable wine. I mean, come on who wouldn’t want to go to Italy?
However, I’ve noticed a pattern with Sonja and her Italy and me and my Tanzania. These past few months have been the hardest of our lives. I personally have been stretched and tested far beyond anything I thought I could endure and it wasn’t even my parents who have died. In so many ways I cannot even begin to comprehend the inner atmosphere of my wife. From coming home from living in Africa and wrestling with reverse culture shock to reintegrating our lives with friends and acquaintances who know nothing of our time overseas to the accident and the mountainous task of raising a 15 year old I think Sonja and I, subconsciously, have found a place where we think all the problems and stress would melt away if we only we were there. Tanzania and Italy. It’s quite funny really because we are sitting here in Texas with several thousand dollars of debt accrued from all that has happened, a 15 year old we are responsible for, and jobs and businesses that need constant attention and tighter finances than we have seen for some years and we are still pushing for a way to get back to Rome and Moshi. Maybe it’s possible, maybe not. But I think all that is beside the point.
This pressure seeps or more likely explodes into our subconscious and manifests itself through wickedly vivid dreams and we are left to suffer in the aftermath of them. I know things would be a lot nicer if we were in Italy or Tanzania but it is a fantasy to think everything would be back to the way it was. Things can never be back to the way they were and that’s how life goes. But if dreams and wishing’s of Roman pizza and Tanzanian masala and the snowy peak of Kili through the trees or the sapphire hue of the Mediterranean are what get us through the day, then I suppose they serve their purpose.
The nearly 2 weeks from November 28 through December 10th, were, without exaggeration, the longest of my entire life. Longer than when I was sick in the middle of the bush in Mozambique. Longer than when I was drugged up with a broken thumb in Tanzania. Longer than various adventures and perils that have taxed and bent me. Each day literally felt like 3 days. At each 1/3 interval I would feel myself completely drained and ready for bed. If I had the time I would go outside for 10 minutes, breathe, refocus, and get back on task. If I didn’t have the time I would keep going regardless.
Tuesday, November 27th I went out to buy a bottle of wine, a luxury these days with our current financial situation, and a Twilight movie for a date night with my wife. On my way home I got a call from my wife telling me her parents were in a car accident and it was bad. Her mom was in critical condition and they couldn’t find her dad. I returned home and we both sat feeling sick waiting for a call from someone. It finally came from an officer at the San Benito County coroners office. Both of her parents had perished in the accident.
As everyone who has been in these situations knows, everything slows down, nothing makes sense, and your mind goes a mile a minute. Since that moment we have traveled to California, sorted innumerable things, had a memorial and burial, and made plans that children and family should never have to make, sorted mementos, family heirlooms, and pictures, and cried…a lot. We got through Christmas and New Years and all the family and friend interactions in between.
We’ve had a lot of people say a lot of things to us. We sat through a fair amount of services and talks where people tried to say things that I guess were supposed to be comforting. Through all the things that were said to us the most truthful and most comforting has been from a close friend who looked at us from across the dinner table and said, “This fucking sucks. That’s all there is to it.” And that is all there is to it. I have sat through nauseating sermons about God’s will and similar spacey justifications. I know these people are doing their best but all I hear is someone who hasn’t come to terms with what death really is.
Death is really bad. Death has always been bad. People know this until religion brainwashes them out of it. It tells them they need to die to be with God when their Holy Bible tells them that their God died so they wouldn’t have to. It makes no sense to me. Even if you take religion out of it a normal human being should know that death simply sucks. There is no way around it. We don’t need to justify it. I have said this for years and have been slammed for it. Now I have stared death in the face as it took 2 incredible people from our lives and I still feel the same. Death is really, really horrible.
Death brings with it more than just the ache of loss although that is enough. It has friends, which I am just now beginning to know. Friends (not friends of mine) like fear, self-doubt, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, concentration, and memory, anger, resentment, and confusion.
The biggest for me right now is a feeling of fragility that I cannot shake. I’ve given up the foolish notion that God or some other supreme being protects us. Things happen. Bad things happen and good things happen. A lot of the time bad things happen to good people who didn’t deserve it. Sometimes we reap what we sow and sometimes we don’t. I believe we are out there in the world as soft, unaware, and sometimes absent-minded humans and what happens happens. I don’t see any delineation between us. The thought that any one of us could be next really shakes you down when you come to face it.
I’ve just finished a book by Alexander Levy called, “The Orphaned Adult”. I bought it for my wife but have been “previewing” it to make sure it would actually be helpful and it has been, at least for me. In it he speaks to the feeling of your life being like a train car in the line of a train. Ahead of you are your parents, ahead of them are your grandparents. Perhaps behind you are children. We, as children, see our world in a 2 dimensional form, looking out one side of the train car or the other. The things our parents and grandparents are seeing now are completely separate from us as they are ahead. When the immense loss of your parents occurs you suddenly find yourself at the front of the train with a whole new perspective. Not only are there things on the sides of you but in front as well as in the distance. There is no one standing between you and your imminent mortality and the harsher realities at the end of life. That cushion of protection keeps us from feeling the full brunt of life until we are matured in years and in some way, whether we feel it or not, ready for it.
I don’t claim to have participated in this experience fully as it was not my parents who have died. My parents are very much alive and without whom I have no idea how we would have survived the past year much less the past 4 months to say nothing of my nearly 25 years. Their strength, resources, and love have buoyed us when we would have sunk and I am eternally grateful to them. However, I do feel the acute loss of my wife’s parents, again, nowhere near the level of grief my wife and her siblings feel, but I feel some nonetheless. I do feel like our train car has suddenly been pushed close to the front. Not the extreme front mind you, but just behind my parents. I freely admit that it is with fear that I think about the day to day as well as the future. I’ve so recently seen what it looks like when death visits. He tarries shortly and makes no distinctions. Cliché’s are cliché because they are true. Thus the saying that life is fragile is so apt. Like a delicate crystal wine glass or a mahogany desk that shouldn’t be scratched, it doesn’t take much force to destroy something that has stood for years previously untouched. I now see how quickly things can change and never be the same. Life can be gone in an instant.
Whatever naïveté I had concerning life and the way it’s all supposed to go has been lost.
When driving I nearly brace for impact as these insane Texas drivers run their red lights, stop signs, and drive like baboons. When conversating I feel a gap between me and the person I am talking with. When planning the next year and look at years to come I feel a trepidation that wasn’t there before. A gravity that whispers quietly, “this is all there is, so make it count.” It is the silent companion to the inheritance that most receive at the death of their parents. It’s the darker, more solemn brother that points out that you only have one life to live. Your parents had theirs and now their story is finished, what of yours? What comes after death is largely a mystery and all we have is this very moment. What we make of our life is a compilation of our choices made in the day to day. What we need is something overarching, something persisting and constant to guide those choices. Of course I’m not suggesting a morbid fascination with death and it’s inevitability. What I am pursuing is a sobriety and purpose that remains when all other motivating factors have subsided. I want to tap into the deep current of meaning, if there is one, which seems to run underneath the surface of all things. For us, the living, let it all be a reminder to carpe diem, hug the ones closest to us, love freely, and hold nothing back.
No, I don’t want to battle from beginning to end
I don’t want to cycle or recycle revenge
I don’t want to follow death and all of his friends
Yesterday we went back to Magadini, the village I wrote about previously where we helped to build a house for a mama who is taking care of seven children. If you haven’t read that post yet go do so and then come back here.
Several of our friends work in this village at a home for girls who have been trafficked from a young age. It was just going to be an overnight trip for us which is so much less work. Planning for more than one night means more stuff, more food, more water, more headache. Turnaround trips make it easier.
We went out yesterday and we were happy to reconnect with the girls and the staff of the home. They are such precious people and so valued by Jesus. We were excited because today all the girls were going to be baptized. What may seem like a trite step we take in the States was a big deal to these girls. Women who have been prostitutes are not looked on favorably. They are viewed as the lowest of the low and no matter where they go or what they do in life they will still be viewed as scum. Especially from Christians. I have seen this firsthand here (more than once) and heard more than a fair share of stories. It’s not like the States where it’s cool and trendy to care for traffic victims or minister on the streets to prostitutes. Women of the night are off limits no matter how long they are saved or come to church.
So it was a big deal last week when one of the girls had a genuine encounter with Jesus. She had a vision of Him coming to her and wiping the tears from her cheeks and telling her she was clean. It was amazing. And today all 3 of them were to be baptized. Dead to sin, alive in Christ.
We made our way out to the same lake I wrote about before. Now it was fuller and all the grass surrounding it was green. The rainy season was doing it’s thing and everything was looking a little more cheery. We went to a different area of the lake this time where we could get to deeper water for baptisms. Once assembled on this massive half-wet, half-dry lake we sang to our Jesus. Songs of praise and worship in Swahili. Then the girls each came forward and shared a (very) brief testimony. After that they began the long walk into the water. It was a long walk because the lake doesn’t drop away very quickly so they followed the pastor off-shore a good 700 feet to where they could be dunked. It was such a beautiful moment watching from so far away with the wind whipping around us. We couldn’t hear anything and we could barely see their faces.
I did what I have been doing lately in moments where I feel the Lord’s presence. I close my eyes and try to picture what would be happening if Jesus Himself stood tangibly before us. I pictured Him singing with us as we sang to him and dancing a kind of silly jig. Then walking with the girls hand in hand, maybe arm around waste, through the water to meet with the pastor. Then when it came time to be baptized Jesus stood side by side with girls and was baptized with them, hand in hand. Then, when they were underwater, I pictured Him rolling over onto and into them, thunk! Right into their chest. Then when they came up out of the water I saw Jesus in their eye’s, smiling from ear to chocolate brown ear.
They came back to the shore dripping and beaming. We congratulated them. Sonja gave the girls hugs even though they were sopping. I shook their hands and said, “Hongera sana!” We took pictures and savored the moment. Dead to their old lives, alive forevermore. Cleaned once and for all by this dirty Tanzanian lake.
The plan was then to return to the home for a party with hot dogs and soda, a special treat here. We were waiting for our friend Lauren who was talking with a tall, powerfully built Maasai. There was something about him that made me think he was a chief. Maybe the way he stood or maybe the way he was dressed although I couldn’t tell you what in particular. Whatever they were discussing I could tell it was serious. Finally they were done and we were filled in. A women in the Maasai village next to the one we were in was involved in an abortion gone bad and she was bleeding. Badly. The chief was concerned that if we weren’t able to take her to a hospital within 45 minutes she wouldn’t make it.
So we hustled, changed plans, and threw all our gear into one truck making room for the lady and whoever else in the other. We were back to the house and out the door in less than 45 minutes. We put a tarp in the backseat of the Land Cruiser and covered it with a conga. We quickly drove over to the local clinic where they wheeled her out on a rickety old stretcher. They muscled her into the car quickly and I wasn’t able to get a good look at anything. Our friend drove the Land Cruiser with the lady (Monica, as her named turned out to be) and took off as fast as safely possible over bumpy, rutted, and washed out Tanzanian roads. We followed with a truck with the girls from the home and me in the back.
I was so quickly taken back to my time in Mozambique where we spent days riding in the back of trucks with no protection from the wind or sun. Driving to forgotten villages to share the gospel with signs and wonders. Now we were leaving a forgotten village to hopefully share the gospel with signs and wonders. Africa (as I have found so far) offers you many opportunities to practice crises management. Even when you’re not in charge. There is constant crises and you have to learn how to deal or fall apart. We have been lucky to avoid most of those kind of experiences save for the dead guy we prayed for and the day I spent in the local emergency room praying for over a dozen people who had been in a massive head-on collision. In those moments you can either freak out and spend all your time stressing and praying freaked out prayers to God or…you can chill. So, in the back of a blazing hot truck, over bumpy, inconvenient roads, I popped my headphones in and began to worship. I did my best to put Monica out of my mind for the moment and did my best to focus only on the Lords presence. As we cruised through more Maasai villages and dust swirled around me I just loved on the Lord and let His peace come. Then, I began to take authority over a spirit of death. From a place of peace and rest I exercised MY authority over sin, death, and the grave, and commanded it to leave. No shouting, no foot-stomping or demon cursing. My heart broke for the woman in the slowly disappearing car in front of me. A baby is such a precious thing, she must have been under such pressure from her husband or tribe or something to do such a thing. But it didn’t matter, Jesus was here now and He would fix it.
We hauled booty to a enormous sugar plantation about halfway between Moshi and Magadini. It is run by Germans so it is super nice and it’s a model manufacturing plant for third-world nations the earth over. They have their own schools, soccer fields, housing tracts, and yes, even a hospital. We were blessed to have clear roads where as the day before when we drove out we literally drove through a river. A rushing, frothing, can’t-see-the-road-because-of-the-river-covering-it river. Today, it was nearly dry.
We pulled up to the hospital and they were just taking the lady out of the car. She was completely out of it and in the hustle and bustle of moving her from the car to a gurney her shirt came up and her breast fell out. It was plump and looked like a pregnant women’s breast. All I could think about was that that was a breast that wouldn’t have a mouth suckle on it. The milk would dry up sooner than it should and it wouldn’t be needed.
They took her in to get hooked up to an IV and see if either of the local hospitals had blood to give her. We found out then that she had performed the abortion on herself and that part of the baby was still inside of her. That and she needed blood badly. Again, this is a horrible situation in any part of the world but here, when you realize all is hopeless without Jesus, things carry a heavier weight. The doctors come back and tell us they have blood they can give her. How they know her blood type in less than 10 minutes is beyond me, I say a quick prayer that whatever blood they give her will miraculously be correct.
So we leave Monica with the sugar plantation hospital and continue to pray against death, infection, and disease. I even pray that the baby will be restored in her womb and that she will give birth to a perfectly healthy child.
As we drive back to Moshi I grab little Joshua, the one year old little baby of one of the girls from the home. I sit him on my lap and let him pull on my finger and look out the window contentedly. I think back to the lake and how, mere minutes after surfacing as new creations, we find out there is a women who has destroyed a new creation with her own hands. In the joy there is pain, in the victory there is setback. I think back to the last post I wrote when we were at that same lake and I pondered being stuck between the rise and set. Life and death. Still dripping from the waters of redemption we find that someone else is dripping away as well. How do you balance the two?
The fact is you don’t. There is no balance between life and death. There is only life. Death isn’t an option in the Kingdom. It is physically impossible for death to inhabit where life dwells. And so, we bring life. We believe that life is always the answer. Death is always wrong.
I think all this and realize I am so grateful for the little chubby boy on my lap. So grateful that his mom wanted him. Even though she’ll never know his daddy and never know how much he paid for an hour with her, she kept him.
I am so grateful that we were in the right place at the right time. That the baptism was moved to Tuesday instead of on Sunday. That the flooded river that covered the road not 24 hours before had subsided. That the Maasai chief had the humility and wisdom to approach an American woman to ask for help. That we made good time on ridiculous roads. That a sugar plantation would have a hospital with blood for transfusions on hand. I am so grateful that we were able to help someone who made a devastating mistake. And I am so grateful that Jesus bridges the gap between the rise and set and between life and death. Without Him, we are truly hopeless.
My very first impression when I stepped on African soil in 2006 was how many people were walking on the side of the road. It would make sense in a culture where cars are expensive and not financed that most of the population would be walking to and from their destinations. But to really see it is something else entirely. Especially in the comfortable land of the U.S. no one walks unless they have to. Growing up we would all groan when my dad would park at the end of parking lot and make us walk 200 feet farther. But here, they walk. A lot. An unbr0ken, undulating stream of humanity as far as you can see. It looks nothing like the picture above.
And there is the driving. Anyone who has been anywhere other than the U.S. knows that the driving can be at best, frenzied, and at worst, psychotic. I won’t speak too much on the subject but to say that most drives on the bigger roads are exhilarating, even for me. I look forward to the day when I have my international drivers license and can risk life and limb for a liter of milk. It’s the little things that make life fun.
And then there is the drinking. I won’t assume that people drink more here in Tanzania than they do in the States but I certainly notice it more. Many of the street vendors breath reeks of cheap alcohol. I chuckle slightly to myself when I see someone shuffling down the street, weaving ever so slightly. I chuckle because I find drunk people amusing. However, my mirth only lasts so long until I realize that it’s almost always men that are drunk, never really women. Which means the women are the ones taking care of the children, cooking the food, and possibly even being the breadwinner. Then it’s not so funny. It’s not funny when you realize that guy will probably collapse somewhere for the night under a tree or on the side of the road or somewhere else less hospitable. It’s not funny when you think of it that way. And then all of a sudden you are glad that most of the population walks. Drunk walking is a lot safer than drunk driving.
And lastly there’s us. As much as we try we’re still pampered Americans. Startled by frenetic driving and worried every bug is a Nairobi Fly. We talk, a lot. We talk a big game, because that’s what we do. We’re loud and boisterous and everything is easier when your 4,000 miles away. It’s easy to talk smack, slander, and tear down someone you don’t like from the foot of a keyboard. It’s easier to say what you would do in a certain situation when the likelyhood of that situation is slim to none.
That’s where we found ourselves. Talking. Talking & driving. Talking a big talk that we didn’t think we would be called on to back up so soon. I don’t think it was arrogance, maybe excitement but not arrogance. Dawn said, “I want to see the dead raised”. I upped the ante but spoke honestly and said, “Dawn, we gotta stop talking about what we want and declare what will happen. I will see the dead raised.” Hearty affirmation was murmured.
And then there was the turn off to Machame. We’ve only been here 2 weeks but we’ve been passed this turn off over half a dozen times. And there was a crowd of people. That’s normal. Then there was a bloody man laying on the ground surrounded by that crowd. That wasn’t normal. “Well, here we go.” We pulled over and asked a few questions. The man had been crossing the road or walking beside or something. Someone had been driving crazily and ran into him. It was only 10 minutes ago. We knew it to be true because he was still bleeding out of the back of his head. His body was warm too. However, he was very much dead. Flies (however they get their information, I don’t know) were already beginning to swarm his eyes, toes, and mouth.
We knelt next to him as the cars whizzed by and spoke life where death was grasping for purchase. I looked at his pinky toe on his right foot. It looked as if it had been damaged before because it was stubby and without a nail. I felt the love of the Lord for that man’s pinky toe. I told his pinky toe to wiggle in Jesus name. I’ve heard too many dead raising stories that started with pinky toes to not think there is something special with something so small and seemingly insignificant. I brushed the flies off and told the pinky toe that it needed to wiggle in Jesus name. And that life should be in his bones and breath in his lungs as well.
Whatever happened to the back of his head must have been much more traumatic than the gaping hole on the front of his head. All the blood was coming from the back of his head and I realized that the bystanders must have pulled him off the road because the pavement was all pink in a 6 foot area. Congealed blood stuck to the tires that continued to roll past.
The moment happened when a tour bus full of whiteys drove past, slow enough for everyone on board to get a nice good look at the facts of Tanzanian life. I looked in their faces as they drove past and observed the horror of realization cross their faces. One women literally jumped back in her seat, her hands flying up to her mouth in shock and disgust.
The fact of the matter is death is bad. All death is bad. Why do we avoid it so much if it isn’t? All of our existence is spent trying to prolong fragile life. Seatbelts, food standards, speed limits, locks, safety equipment, etc. We’re desperately trying to stay alive.
Those people on that tour bus didn’t have a deep theological thought about how a man’s days are numbered and after that the judgement. They didn’t argue that sometimes God takes someone because they’re better off somewhere else. They looked on in perfect horror at a life ended in a violent and gruesome way.
And yet some still have the audacity to claim that death is part of God’s ultimate plan. Not only that but that He uses it to accomplish His purposes. I can assure you as I laid my hands on the lukewarm leg of a man I never knew and spoke life into his dead body I didn’t see death as a good thing.
But maybe it’s not personal enough yet. You aren’t really with me under the setting Tanzanian sun as one eye stares listlessly at you from under the buzzing of 4 flies. Because you’re not thinking of your spouse under the setting Tanzanian sun staring listlessly as blood pours from the back of her head. You’re not really thinking about your son or daughter plowed over and deformed by some inebriated man behind the wheel. Because if you were you wouldn’t think death was an ok thing or something condoned by a good and merciful God.
If it was your mom or dad cooling off on the hot African tarmac I know who you would turn to. It wouldn’t be to the theologians who you so adore that talk about death being a part of God’s plan to redeem us to Himself. It wouldn’t be to the friends who you’ve so supremely explained that God is all powerful and death is merely another tool in His arsenal to woo mankind to Himself. You would turn to the Man who died but lives. It would be to people who aren’t afraid to get a little bloody as they call someone back to life.
The truth that is so obvious is that one Man died so that all could live. Anything less than that is inconceivable. Death – bad. Life – good.
But you don’t really believe that. Because it’s easier to talk about God destroying a nation from the comfort of home. It makes more sense to explain away our pain by pinning it on the One who took it all to begin with. We can breathe a sigh of relief when we can read a book and take it at face value instead of really asking if the stories are true. It’s so much nicer to have cheap answers than big questions. It’s easier to argue for a God who kills when you’re not looking a dead man in the face. It’s probably better to not picture your loved one, face up and bloody. It’s easier for you where the cars drive straight and the asphalt is black, not pink.
*This is Part I of II
Last week I was able to not only sit under the teaching of, but meet personally and have lunch with a massive hero of mine. David Hogan ministered at the first Dead Raising Conference in Washington and we were honored to be able to attend. Words cannot begin to describe those 2 days. So much revelation was released into my heart. Trying to describe David Hogan is, as I have found out recently, extremely difficult. How do you describe someone who regularly raises the dead and confronts principalities? What do you say to someone to express the sheer magnitude of being able to meet someone who is and will be historically recognized as one of the greatest missionaries and apostolic workers the earth has ever seen? I have found myself at a loss for words more than once concerning the subject.
However, I feel some level of ability to express two words that the Lord brought to the surface and I feel they relate directly to our time overseas. The first directly relates to Sonja and I and our personal walk. Hogan continually brought up a handful of scriptures. One of them really hit me and spoke to several things we have had to deal with recently.
Zechariah 2:5 For I,’ says Yahweh, ‘will be to her a wall of fire around, and I will be the glory in the midst of her.
This sums up everything one would need for life. A wall of fire as protection and the glory of God in the midst. The visual is so powerful.
The single most frequently asked question we are asked concerning our trip besides how long we are going to be gone for is this; “Is it safe there?”
Even typing that question is infuriating to me. It is so illogical to anyone who claims any semblance of a Christian knowledge. Everyone from family to close friends and acquaintances ask us this. Perhaps it is the misguided and misunderstood sovereignty of God that is taught by misled pastors and leaders. I have no understanding how even the most landmine riddled country in Africa could be any less safe than Twain Harte, California. Either the fire of God is a wall about you or it isn’t. It really is that simple! Either He is good to His children or He isn’t, physical location has nothing to do with the equation. I understand that some may attribute this to not having children or being young and holding a poor understanding of risk. In response, I would pray that I never allowed myself to get educated out of a total trust in God. You may be old and cynical but I still hold to the truth that is written, that He is provider, protector, and deliverer.
His wall of fire surrounds us. His gallantry extends to those who need it, not the pew warmers who are so quick judge those who actually walk out the gospel. I trust Him to protect me as I ride my motorcycle, I trust Him to bring in the finances we need, I trust Him with our health and our future, nothing is off limits. Nothing changes with a shift in location. He is STILL a wall of fire around us. Perhaps we trade the common cold for malaria but His fire consumes that too.
And what resides with us in the middle of that wall of fire? Oh! My soul soars! The Glory of the Unmade One dwells in the middle! That which all of Creation whispers of. The Shekinah that persists through Eternity and time. That Holiness that emanates from the throne and across the sea of glass dwells in me! In our fire-walled compound of love. Just the thought gets me whacked! Haha, so intoxicating is the reality that we are surrounded and consumed. What more is needed to continue in the work of the Gospel? We have the wall of fire before and behind us and we have the Glory to breathe in. We are completely marinated in the Glory of God.
his revelation in Zechariah completely settled anything in my heart that was unsettled. Let the doubters and fear dealing “wise men” shut their mouths and ingest their own venom. As for me, you can find me inside the walls of fire, plastered on the Glory of God that dwells within.
I think for most people your opinion of someone changes and shifts based off what they know or have accomplished. We have our first impressions of course but once we get to know someone our real opinion of them develops. Sometimes you can know someone for years and out will come a little bit of information that will change how you view them.
For me experience is a big thing. I place a lot of value on experience for myself and for people around me. Almost 3 years ago now 2 of my friends got married. They were the first of our close knit group of friends to get married with my wife and I following a little more than a month later. The day after their wedding I kept thinking, “They’re married now, it’s so weird, what does it feel like to be married?” It may sound silly but to me they crossed over a chasm that to me was as different as night and day. To me it was a change in being rather a shift in social status. It was an experience that placed them on a different plane for me.
Earlier this year those same friends had a baby and I went through the whole thing in my head again. “They have a baby! What’s it like to have a baby?” There were people all around me having babies but for some reason they didn’t impact me the way this did. Again it felt like these friends had walked through a door I couldn’t see past into a new, deeper, and more mature place. A sense of respect settled into my heart for them as they walked now as 3 instead of 2.
I’ve always had that settled feeling of respect for someone who has accomplished something that is impressive or unknown to me. For people have completed marathons I wonder what it feels like at mile 25. For people who have been in bad car crashes I wonder what they were thinking as they careened slowly off the road and down the embankment. It’s that feeling of wonderment and awe. You’ve done something scary and I haven’t.
A couple weeks ago myself and a few other friends went to a river up in the mountains. We were going to go do some “adventuring” and do our best to find something fun to do on a Friday night. As we were walking down towards the river we came upon a group of young guys who were walking up from the river with fishing poles, tackle, and a few small fish. One was an aquaintence whom I had not seen for years, I honestly don’t think he remembered me and I couldn’t remember his name off the top of my head. We said hi and then went our seperate ways. A day later a friend calls me and says, “Ian was up at Lyons and slipped and fell in last night, they can’t find him.” Ian being the friend we saw the day before and Lyons being the lake/river area we were hanging out at. I was shocked and immediately began praying. I realized that if he fell in the river and the search and rescue teams were still looking the mission probably shifted to recover instead of rescue. A few days after all that we finally got word that his body was recovered.
It affected me because we had just seen him less than 24 hours before. I looked him in the face and said hi. Now he is dead and his family is planning a funeral for the son they thought would plan theirs. I guess when things like this happen the resounding response from those in shock is, “It happened so fast. We just saw him and now he’s gone. He was sitting on the rock and just slipped a little. It seems like he went under and then he was gone. It was so fast.” No time to say goodbye, no time to help, just gone.
I wonder what those moments were like. Slipping, falling, entering that icy cold water. The speed of the downstream ride. The granite boulders rushing to meet soft skin and brittle bones. Who knows how long it took but at some point Ian passed through a door none of us have gone through. He was young and without a lot of world experience. Now he has an experience that none of us have. He has walked through that door to something new, deeper, and in some ways, more mature.
Thinking of this my head kicks back into circumspective mode. A person I know has done something I haven’t done, something big and scary. Unfortunately he’s not here to tell me about it, if he were I would have lots of questions. Questions like, what did it feel like? What did you see? Where are you now? Did you see Jesus? Details man, details!
In this way death is so incredibly fascinating to me. Sure there are some people out there who have claimed to have seen hell and died and all that but on a large scale we have no idea what happens. That is so exciting to me! There is an adventure out there that no one has lived to tell about! In some very big ways it is eternity that I am looking forward to as well. However the door of death fascinates and perplexes me. The adventurer inside me strains at the reins.
“Somewhere no one has seen! Somewhere uncharted! We must go! Lands must be claimed, fortunes found, dangers faced and enemies bound!”
Perhaps it is the transition that I eagerly peer into. Death is an enemy of God and thus an enemy of mine. However, our language fails to describe the transition with words other than “death” and “dying”. I hope my heart is understood that I don’t glorify death but I am intrigued by the transition. Whether through dying or transformation we will all metamorph into something else. It’s that moment, that breaking of the cocoon that really gets me.
Death and transition are subject of great fear for most people. Our whole society is built on the fear of death. No matter what happens we don’t want to die. We’ll do everything in our power to stop dying. Think about it; speed limits, car manufacturing, governmental legislation, medicine, food guidelines, schooling, house construction, safety, safety, safety, the list is endless. It’s all so we can slow down this inevitable thing called death. We don’t realize the enormousness of this fear until you look at all the little things. We, as a global community, are terrified of death. No one will say it outright, we won’t acknowledge that the reason we do all these things and make all these laws is so we can have the weak hope of living just a little bit longer. It’s the huge elephant in the room. We budge and squeeze around each other and do everything we can to avoid it but it’s still there. It’s sad to say but for most, the fear of death is their only motivation in life.
I can never really remember a time when I was afraid of dying. It’s never been something that’s daunted me. I’ve faced my mortality a few times in serious fashion but I was more concerned with fixing the problem of my predicament than with the terror of possible death. It felt more like a challenge than a life and death situation. In my younger years I did stupid stuff for the thrill and I’m sure I will continue to do so as I age although the frequency may be less. However, now I am driven by my destiny and by the promises spoken over me by a good Father. As my wife and I gear up for a move overseas and we look forward to a life spent overseas in the more dangerous parts of the world I have to wade through the weak theology and fear-based thought processes of so many people around us.
The truth of the matter is we are safe as sons and daughters of the King. The end. It’s really not complicated. Recently I have heard the phrase, “Yes, but you have to use wisdom”, more times than I care to count. I want to respond with, “What does that even mean!?” Either you obey the call of God on your life and take Him at His word or you don’t. Wisdom doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it. If you use a secular, self-preservation brand of wisdom you will probably look like most of the American church, too afraid to let their kids feed the homeless of their city or go on a short missions trip to Mexico. Talk about a life wasted. I seem to recall an ancient dojo chanting something along the lines of, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, he who loses his life will find it”.
People talk a lot about Job and how he was a man who feared God and did everything right and yet these horrible calamaties came upon him. It is the onw of the main weapons deceived theologians use to ascribe unspeakably horrible things to a totally good God. However there is one little scripture in the book of Job that explains it all. Job 3:25 says, “That which I have feared has come upon me” . Through his fear of losing everything the devil had access into his life and took everything. It’s pretty simple really.
In summation, I greatly desire to peer into unknown realm called death. I want go through the steps of transition and become something else entirely. I want the bright light, the long tunnel, the flying through space, the whatever and everything. However, I’m not afraid of death and I’m not afraid of a life spent in danger. I intend to do my part in making up for the weakness and fear of the western church by accomplishing great exploits. I aim to live a life covered by the divine protection that Jesus walked under, laying His life down only when the Father directed Him to do so, never settling for less, being bold and courageous, and shunning fear based “wisdom”. When you know who are and where you’re going neither hell, death, nor well intentioned people can hold you back. No one can keep you from your destiny.
So the first post in a new blog, woo hoo! I blogged for many years, some years ago but took a long sabbatical. Nevertheless, here I am again.
Today I’ve used the phrase, “Imagine how…” probably a dozen or more times and all of those times it was directed in conversation to my wife. Last night word was leaked (released?) that the collective enemy of the United States of America was killed. After close to ten years of hunting, bombing, cave flushing, intel gathering, Taliban killing, and searching, our prize, our alleged one purpose, was captured dead.
This is a big deal, I don’t think there are many who would argue that it isn’t. Apparently the military knew where he was going to be so far in advance that they built a mock compound of his “safe” house and ran drills.
When we first heard that he was dead it was conveyed that it was through a bombing. “How anti-climactic” I thought. The boy in me thought, “I wish it was at the hands/trigger finger of some bad-ass Navy SEAL.” Then I jumped on the internet this morning to find that it was indeed at the hands/trigger finger of a bad-ass Navy SEAL. My first, “Imagine how…” was concerning him.
This guy decides to join the Navy, nay, the Navy SEALs. The most elite fighting force in the world. He makes it through basic, through BUDs, through Hell Week, then through the subsequent three to four years of straight training required to call yourself a Navy SEAL. Then he somehow lands himself in Seal Team 6, the most elite of the elite. This guy is one bad dude. So I wonder if he is thinking about all this on the chopper as it’s taking off. Is it really in his head that he is going to be nose to nose, or more likely barrel to barrel with the enemy of America? From what I’ve read (and it’s a fair amount) about SEALs they seem to be a hardy bunch, lots of gusto and moxie and whatever else. So there he sits until the green light flashes.
I wonder how many other missions just like this were red-lighted because the intel guys got word that their “man” was tipped off. How many other times and how many other guys sat, maybe even in the same chopper, and got turned around for one reason or another. What I am wondering is when it became real for this guy. When did he realize he was one of the most elite soldiers in the world? When did he realize he had just been face to face with the man responsible for so much harm? Was it in the ride over? Was it as they kicked the doors in and the light of their mounted flashlights fell on Osama, his son, and his two couriers? Was it when, through sheer instinct of training, that soldier squeezed his trigger twice? Was it when he watched as those two bullets entered bin Laden’s head almost precisely at the temple, turning his face into mush? Maybe it was when it was all over and they quickly and deftly threw his body into a bag, probably still warm and bleeding, and left for base. Maybe it was as he stared at the lifeless body bag high above Pakistan. Maybe it was even today. At some point he had to have thought, “I just killed the Enemy of the United States of America.”
Perhaps he could feel the blood of all his comrades, all the young men that went to the grave before him heave a sigh of relief. Perhaps he felt a burden, wondering why, if it was so easy, couldn’t it have happened sooner?
The part that really got me was that no one will ever know his name. That part boggles my mind! He will live the rest of his days and his children won’t even know that their Dad brought down, with two hollow point bullets, the largest terrorist leader to date. Perhaps in 50 or 70 years they will release his name, after he is long dead but then it won’t be so meaningful or potent to people. He will live out the rest of his days with the most amazing secret that no one will ever know.
I thought a little about Osama bin Laden himself. I wonder if he thought he was invincible after escaping so many times before. I wonder if he ever got a funny feeling around that one courier who acted a little goofy around him. Maybe he knew he was a rat and was going to kill him the next time he came around. I wonder what he thought as the door came flying in and he was blinded by the lights. He is a real person and he had real thoughts before he died and those are the things I wonder about.
I thought about President Barack Obama. A man who is not looked on with favor by a lot of the people I know. For me President Obama has been the first President whom I have thought about, really thought about. Knowing he doesn’t have a lot of experience, knowing that he inherited several huge messes including a recession and two wars. I cannot imagine the decisions a guy like that has to make on a daily basis.
I wondered about the first briefing he received when he was told that Intelligence had a positive and consistent location on the man. Then he gave his order to proceed on April 29th, just before he left for the South to view the damage done by so many deadly tornadoes. I wonder if his thoughts strayed while looking at piles and piles of used to be houses. I wonder if his hope was sparked.
Then he gets a call, “We got him, Mr. President”.
What do you feel in that moment?
What are your thoughts?
The news said he called former President Bush and former President Clinton. What a guy. I thought it was awesome to see that he realized that it wasn’t just his victory but it belonged to those who went before him as well.
Then my thoughts went to former President Bush. Perhaps he was awoken in the middle of night. Maybe there was a grumble under his breath as he was finished with being woken in the middle of the night. He spent the last 8 years being woken in the middle of the night. Then what does the President say to a former President?
“Good evening Mr. Bush. I was just given some news that I think you would find very pleasing. We conducted a raid on a presumed location of bin Laden, we got him.”
At least it goes something like that in my head.
I’m sure he didn’t get back to sleep that night. Perhaps he woke his wife up and they wept together.
I observed the cheering crowds waving their American flags. I saw the smiling happy faces. I thought, “All this over the death of one guy.” I thought about myself and wondered if I was happy he was dead. Was I mad? Did I feel satisfied?
My answer to all of the above is no.
Honestly all I feel is indifference. Indifference is an emotion that will get you in trouble with everybody. The protagonists rage that you won’t join in their cause. The antagonists berate that you don’t advocate theirs. It’s a lose/lose.
But I don’t feel like jumping on any bandwagon as big and important as some would make it seem. I think that just because some mean dude is dead it doesn’t signify the end of terrorism. Read a little about the Taliban, they’re pretty relentless. Granted we purchased our vengeance at the current price of 1,571 dead and 10,468 wounded. But now what? Are we vindicated?
Lastly I wondered, “What should I feel?”
Most are cheering today, some are shaking their heads. But where do I stand? My first reaction as the news was read was, “Cool, they got him”. But then I thought, “Wow, he’s really dead”.
How does God feel?
Is God pleased? Is he waving an American flag?
I don’t mean to assume by these questions that He condoned bin Laden or anything of the sort, I truly wonder what is on His heart. He obviously saw it coming, it wasn’t any surprise but what are His thoughts towards bin Laden?
Does Jeremiah 29:11 apply to people like him? I know what I think but I’ve been told I’m too liberal in my theology.
I think everyone has a chance to respond. I thin no one is too far past saving, even the people we really, really, really, really don’t like.
I wonder if bin Laden in a moment of clarity, as the door came rushing in and the lights mounted to the automatic rifles fell on him and his comrades, cried out to the one true God. What if all he could manage in one split second thought, was, “God save me!”
Would that be enough?