Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Earth and Sky (part 2): Cloud Shadows

Cloud shadows rumble across my face. Out of place fences reign in teeming green and jagged crests. Somehow, this violence preserved is a peaceful sanctuary. Angry earth crust can never really be tamed, just enough to inspire wonder and rest. Maybe this is because the mountains have faced so much over the years, yet remain stable and confident of their mark on the world.

Cities and businesses are built around the mountains. Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is one of 58 fourteeners – mountains that jut 14,000 feet above sea level. The chiseled granite rock anchors the eastern slope of the state, and even the streets of downtown Denver were constructed to provide the best view possible of the peak.

Isabella Bird with the third lady to climb Longs Peak in 1873. She was an English lady who spend her life traveling in America and other countries and wrote extensively about her adventures in letters to her sister. She was one of the first travel journalists. After her ascent of Longs Peak, she penned these thoughts:

“From the summit were seen in unrivaled combination all the views which had rejoiced our eyes during the ascent. It was something at last to stand upon the storm rent crown of this lonely sentinal of the Rocky Range, on one of the mightiest of the vertebrae of the backbone of the North American continent, and to see the waters start for both oceans. Uplifted above love and hate and storms of passion, calm amidst the eternal silences, fanned by zephyrs and bathed in living blue, peace rested for that one bright day on the Peak.”

Explorers can never resist the call of a mountain. But mountaineering as a profession is more about sharing a common experience than lone conquering. History is chuck full of men and women on a conquest- even at the risk of seeing the highest mountain in the world as their last glimpse of life.

hat is it that calls the human heart to such risk? Creation screams the glory of God, but how we all respond to that scream is personal and deeply spiritual.

After attending college away from the mountains, I found myself severely infected with mountain fever upon graduation. This summer I wandered everywhere I could, taking pictures and just filling up on the wilderness, a staple of my growing up years.

It is funny how people are attracted to different types of wilderness. My father lived in Moab, Utah when he was very young. Even though he has lived in Colorado longer, he dreams about the red dirt, desert and arches. He remembers every street of the town and wants to retire there. How can one place have such a sway on him?

For the Israelites, the wilderness was not a comfort. From their perspective, it was a place of broken promises and failed attempts to measure up to God's standards. But over and over, His love reached out to them and offered them redemption. The only problem was that they didn't take it.

“For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”
Hebrews 4:2

The Israelites even had an opportunity to meet Him on the mountain but were too afraid to face working out their secret sins. Yet, God met Moses there and offered a way to relationship. The 10 commandments can seem harsh and unforgiving, yet I see them as God saying to His children, “I crave relationship with you! Rely on me to guide you, to move you forward in life.”

On top of Mount Siani, God reached out to heal a nation. Perhaps summits still represent God's desire to heal nations and even our deepest personal violences. Perhaps battle can turn into peaceful respite. Perhaps the wild way is far richer than the safe. You won't know until you strap on those hiking boots and move forward up the trail.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sky and Earth (part 1): The Tree of Life

The waning leaves of fall inspire mystery. My camera craves to capture these moments, especially when the quaint historic neighborhoods of my home town play backdrop.

Trees haunt when listened to, like an echo of a past image. Sturdy limbs thicken through storms and graciously allow squirrels to bury treasure among the roots. Bark toughens through adversity and blossoms intoxicate the senses. But the glorious ending of a tree’s seasonal cycle fulfills the mission of the tree. Like the last tragedy of an opera or the quiet release of a loved one, the drama of autumn stirs deeply in my heart.

The Tree of Life centered the Garden of Eden in the beginning. It sat in direct contrast to the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-
and-evil, whose fruit represented humans judging God. When thinking of the Genesis account, I often only examine the knowledge tree, greatly aided by my mental picture of the illustrated children’s Bible version of the story. The artist did a clever rendition where a green squiggly snake dangles an apple from the tree for the fashionably fig leaf draped Eve.

But what of the Tree of Life? Surely this center of the Garden reflected eternal life through plunging anchor roots and golden life divine flowing through branches and leaves. The tree stood as God’s heart for humans — relationship and fruitful dependency on eternal substances. One taste of pride and judgment produced banishment. This swift cut off of communion with God was like a loss of deep breath.

The tree of life haunts the prophets in the Old Testament. Those in exile dreamed of the new Jerusalem, God’s city, with rivers of life and a tree of healing. And even though God’s people repeatedly abandoned His love, chose the lust of this world over the Kingdom and rejected His overtures for relationship, God boldly promised and fulfilled the Tree-of-Life mandate.

This tree punctured reality with redemption on the road to Calvary through Jesus. The tree of life was revived by His blood, love and sacrifice. This is why the bruised and battered gentiles will walk in the light of the Holy City.

In the glorious end, the Tree of Life makes a triumphant return.

“Then he showed me the river of the water of life clear as crystal coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb in the middle of the street. On either side of the river was the tree of life bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse and the throne of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him, they will see His face and His home and His name will be on their foreheads... He will illume them.”
Revelation 22:1-5

Pure flesh and spirit can again fulfill each other, fully recovered from the greatest divorce case in history. The Tree of Life offers unfailing light and truth. Destruction makes way for transformation in the end. That which caused damage will be no more, irradicating all doubts that God’s Kingdom life is a gimmick or another hope that will fail.

This Tree of Life blazes with gold refined by fire, its truth offering healing to all nations and atrocities, and humanity redeemed will never abuse the power of freedom again. The water flowing under its canopy is without cost, covered by grace.

Most of the time I see these images through half open eyes, only sort of registering the transforming power of redemption. God desires to plant us like trees by His river, rooted in His flowing life. And this Revelation song was written during dire crisis, encouraging receivers to look at the Big Picture — Jesus. His love and care are unfailing, ready to sustain when evil is certain.

May autumn leaves stir the eternal strength of the Tree of Life in your heart.

“I often say to myself that, in our religion, God must feel very much alone: for is there anyone besides God who believes in the Salvation of the world? God seeks among us sons and daughters who resemble Him enough, who love the world enough so that He could send them into the world to save it.”
— Louis Evely, In the Christian Spirit

Final Surrender

From my Utmost for His Highest:
"Surrender is not the surrender of the external life, but of the will; when that is done, all is done. God never crushes a man's will into surrender, He never beseeches him, He waits until the man yields up his will to Him."

How many times have I left you waiting, and only complained about how I am waiting on You?

"It is after we have begun to experience what salvation means that we surrender our wills to Jesus for rest. Whatever is perplexing heart or mind is a call to the will - 'Come to Me.' It is a voluntary coming."

Too many times I forget what it means to work out salvation with fear and trembling. It is my job to surrender for His rest.

"Surrender for devotion. The surrender here is of my self to Jesus, my self with His rest at the heart of it. Once surrender has taken place we never need suppose anything. We do not need to care what our circumstances are. Jesus is amply sufficient."

I still worry about direction, about how to really take up this new life start with a Kingdom perspective. Life is nothing but the surrender of giving the right of myself up to Him. What does this really mean?

"Beware of a surrender which you make God in an ecstasy; you are apt to take it back again. It is a question of being united with Jesus in His death until nothing ever appeals to you that did not appeal to Him."

When do the destructive lusts of this world lose their appeal? Somehow my heart just knows the absolute truth of Heaven. When disillusionment and weariness weigh, I must remember that surrender is choosing what His nature stands for - holiness. Responding, not reacting. Really judging situations by the Holy Spirit.

"The whole of life after surrender is an aspiration for unbroken communion with God."

Best beef in town

It all started two days ago when I was editing copy for the Health Line magazine. My editor does a humerous piece each month. I was just strumming through the words, looking for grammar and general flow when this word jumped out:


I quickly surrounded the word with question marks and promptly forgot all about the moment.

Today we are getting the story ready to print. Jade casually looked at me and said, "Beefalos are real. We used to raise them."
So apparently there are such creatures in the world as Beefalos.

This has turned into a mini-obsession for me.

According to wikipedia, 'Beefalo' are a fertile hybrid offspring of domestic cattle, Bos taurus, and the American Bison (generally called buffalo). The breed was created to combine the best characteristics of both animals with a view towards beef production.
I guess Bison are very aggressive but produce succulent meat. Cows are just...cows. Why not have the best of both worlds?

The article continued:
"It was found early on that crossing a male buffalo with a domestic cow would produce few offspring but that crossing a domestic bull with a buffalo cow apparently solved the problem. In 1965, Jim Burnett of Montana produced a hybrid bull that was fertile. Soon after, Cory Skowronek of California formed the World Beefalo Association and began marketing the hybrids as a new breed. The new name, beefalo, was meant to separate this hybrid from the problems associated with the old cattalo hybrids. The breed was eventually set at being genetically at least ⅝ Bos taurus and ⅜ Bos bison. A USDA study showed beefalo meat, like bison meat, to be lower in fat and cholesterol. The association claims that beefalo are better able to tolerate cold and need less assistance calving than cattle while having domestic cattle's docile nature and fast growth rate; they are also thought to produce less damage to rangeland than cattle. In 1983, the three main beefalo registration groups reorganized under the American Beefalo World Registry. There are now 2 Beefalo Associations, the American Beefalo World Registry (ABWR) and the American Beefalo International (ABI). Beefalo raising has not become widespread. The high price of this meat, partly due to low supply, has done little to generate popularity. The ABWR reports registering 1,000 head a year."

Perhaps I should join such an association. I have figured out a way to do it- mail order a Beefalo, sell my car, ride it to work every day and save gas.

I appreciate all feedback, art work and comments on this curious subject.


My heart is a little heavy today.
I ache with the deep desire to see His freedom and redeeming love truly restoring my family, close friends, even myself...
I have never really experienced the de-valuation of a close friend until now. I am sad at the loss of confidence and the complete take over of stony lost remorse.
Does true restoration ever completely happen on this side of eternity?
The kind that rebuilds a forest from splinters, completeing every work ever started...

In Hosea, God called Israel no longer deserving of mercy, worthy of bloodshed an no longer His people; yet all He could see was who He made them to be.

"Yet the number of the children of Isreal shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' there is shall be said to them, 'You are sons of the living God."
Hosea 1:10

The way I see life is that we either respond to disapointements and hurts through hurt and anger or love and affirmation. Numb hatred and a foundation lacking love tears healthy life into pieces.

But His restoring love works deeper than anything I have ever witnessed, breaking through apathy, mistrust and hopelessness.

I have to believe lives can really be changed.

Corn on the Blog

The corn silk flew at an alarming rate.
"Give me an S!" Jack yelled.
"S!" We all chanted back.
"Give me an H!" He encouraged again as we all did the wave around the room.
"Give me a U!" "U!" "Give me a K!" "K!"
And all manner of corn jokes skimmed across the crowd as the Reporter-Herald staff participated in tryouts for the corn shucking team for the Corn Roast festival here in Loveland in two weekends.
I nervously stepped up to the plate. It has been awhile since I competively shucked corn... wait, I have never competitively shucked corn...There was no time like then to start my blazing corn career.
Then, the BIG BOSS walked in. Um, he runs the whole paper. And it turns out that we were competing against each other to see who could shuck 20 ears of corn the fastest.
Needless to say, my skills are a little lacking, and he out shucked me by 1.5 minutes. Who wants to make their boss lose anyway?
So, I made the JV team. We are the Corn Dawgs.
And we are out for the shucking title.

Ha ha, you know you live in Colorado when...

Realized Dreams

Since moving home from Tulsa, I have really been seeking God about my place here. This city I live in, Longmont, has a tendency to turn fire into apathy and lure people into only fighting for the American way of life. Not that working hard and having a family with a white picket fence is a bad thing; I just have a problem when those dreams take on life’s sole determination. One of the greatest things I was concerned about was losing all of the progress I have made since New Years. God really knows what He is doing.

After graduation, it took me awhile to really come around. Many of you know all that happened this year, and have walked beside me. Thank you!

I have spent the last couple of months re-building and moving past mentalities of misery and apathy. In the middle of all of my emotional-help-myself methods, God showed up with His blazing truth - the Word. Going to school at ORU was one of my best experiences yet... but leaving there is challenging, because there are so many dream runners to live up to. I felt completely drained of all energy to think bigger and move beyond what I could accomplish within immediate reach. But for the first time in my life, I am really sinking in to the power of knowing Jesus. His Word is relationship, a fire that breaks through rocks and the slow restoration of deep waters. His dreams reach into the reality of the spirit realm and pull earth into Kingdom existence. I forgot to long for such places.

This weekend, I volunteered at a huge event in Colorado called Heaven Fest. I was a part of the Burn team there, praying behind the scenes, and I also helped at some tables explaining Get the Word Out and other ministries. Throughout the day, the 70 acres of land filled up with countless people and I crossed paths with so many different relationships, both old and new. The concerts were poignantly focused on worship and seeking God’s face...all 70 of them. The main event of the night was when a worship team showed up on the Main stage with out spot lights or any recognition. They ushered in God’s presence, and His sweet aroma bathed my heart.
While I was standing there, God opened up my eyes to see realized dreams. I grew up with a lot of the people who sponsored this event. Their humility throughout the whole process astonished me, as well as their hunger to give Him fame first. The worship leader, Dave Powers, stood up and spoke about how God had brought all of the people there to honor Him. I looked around, and acres of hungry worshiper from all denominations stood, drinking in God’s presence.
God reprimanded my loss of dreams. Slowly, through just doing nothing, my belief that my God who defeats impossibilities succumbed to rational thinking. I haven’t had the tenacity to dig in and actually seek His face through prayer and the growth of my heart. How can I reach other people if all I have done is drain myself?

Do you believe that I can bring your deep dreams to pass?
Will you wait on My timing and follow My heart first?