Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What distinguishes us?

"If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that You are pleased with me and with Your people unless You go with us? What else will distinguish me and Your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?"

Moses, in Exodus 33:15-16

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Exodus 3

An ordinary desert bush.
But within, a flame alive with the Energy of the Universe,
yet not consuming the fragile bush.
Holy ground—so please, take off your shoes.

An ordinary city home.
But within, a Spirit alive--the Energy of the Universe--
yet not consuming the fragile hosts.
Holy ground—so please, take off your shoes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Faces of sand

The dunes are different today. Last month the sand was soft—easy to get stuck in, but also forgiving, giving way to the impact of a crest taken too fast or the abrupt change of uphill angles approached under full power.

Rain has fallen since then. The sparse plant life is greener, and Dan worries about bugs as we check out a campsite. Just below the surface the sand is cool, and some of the subqa is water-logged.

From the road everything looks the same, but the moment we head off the shoulder into the wilderness we experience the difference. Dan goes first. His Pathfinder’s wide tires don’t even penetrate the surface, and only light tread marks record his passing. We easily crest the first steep rise and swerve effortlessly to avoid the pit beyond it.

Then Curt makes a power-run at a sand hump, an abrupt-but-low hill best conquered by bashing. We make it up, but (shock and “oh, my!”) it jars like we hit a wall!
Another couple of minutes and he is high-centered on the peak of a sharp crest, one tire spinning useless in the air. Later he will go airborne taking a crest too fast—which may be some people’s idea of fun in the dunes, but miles into wilderness at the edge of The Empty Quarter in a three ton Landcruiser, well, NOT a good idea….

The sand is hard. Today it doesn’t give way and absorb our blows. We can’t brashly bash our way through confident of a soft landing. Nor can we scoot through by side-slipping tight passages, since the damp sand binds our tires and could cause us to roll.

This untouched area is a favorite, a spot we return to again and again. Always before, though, we nibbled at the edges and treated a radius around our camp as our giant sandbox. We conquer and slide down the steepest places over and over like a merry-go-round ride. This trip we decided to camp deeper in the wilderness, and made riskier plans to thread our way overland to a far-away road we spotted on Google Earth.

The sand’s new firmness encourages us. We can travel further faster and climb higher with less chance we will become hopelessly bogged down.

Unless, of course, we break something.

Same desert, but today we meet a different personality.

I ponder the same in relationships with living beings and the sand begins to speak to me of the Father God.

Many encounters, and we’ve known softness. We’ve bashed and played and experimented. Last time I learned to mix gentleness with confident power-engagement to get me out of the bottom of a steep slide. Yes, we’ve stayed close to the road in case we get hopelessly stuck, but we never feared real damage--until today. It was easy to think we’d come to know this desert.

My fellowship with God can be just like that. I am playful child, now experimental, now angry and bashing, now just plain stuck and in need of a gentle yank, all the while gaining confidence and trust. Certain I’m safe, that there will be no real damage. And coming to think I know this Eternal Person who loves me.

Today we meet firmness. Abrupt. Jarring. We could crack something, or break off whole pieces, or smash. We might learn in breaking them about things we don’t need anyway--we pitched the snazzy low front bumper and shiny chrome exhaust-pipe covers years ago. Maybe we’ll need repairs. But the firmness is full of fresh possibility, a new side of the desert. We can learn and adapt and go where we never imagined, to a destination discovered only through risky exploration. We can move faster. We can choose to embrace this new desert-face.

God is not just a soft, pliable daddy who delights to watch me play,
build my confidence, and make me happy. Though (joy!) He does reveal Himself as just that in certain seasons, God is also Rock, plumb-line, disciplinarian, and trainer in truth, purity and righteousness. He has His agenda, and would like me to notice, to approach Him with fresh respect, but to remember the quality of His love as I climb on board to go further and higher.

God has His firm side, as well as His Abba-daddy side. Also His mysterious three-in-one community side. His incarnational side. His shekinah-shiny side, and His terrifyingly holy side. He chooses, over time, to reveal more of His faces, to allow me to know Him better.

Oh, Lord, grant me the courage and the amazing grace to embrace You increasingly in the fullness of ALL that You are!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The church at the crossroads...

This Saturday 15 people with gather in our Abu Dhabi home for silent retreat. They come from England, Peru, Japan, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, the US, India, Singapore, Australia, China, Iraq and Jamaica. To think of the prayers that will rise from that global gathering of men and women--Lord, we lay for You a banqueting table, and rejoice in confident assurance that You will nourish us!

(For more on home at the crossroads, see my original post.)