Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Retreat

This morning I have been blessed by being able to sit down in a very beautiful place, which is, considering the earthly location that I call home, a very big statement indeed.  I'm in a place called Sun River, in the high deserts of central Oregon.  I'm here simply because God has blessed us with a relationship with a group who understands that retreat is healthy and sometimes there is no greater blessing that you could give to someone than a chance to retreat.
So, by virtue of their generosity, here I sit and rock in a chair on a deck looking over a golf course shadowed by the majestically snow covered Mt. Bachelor.  I'm sitting and watching the world and the golfers go by because, even though I'm a golfer, golf itself would not be a retreat.  My wife is getting spoiled by skilled hands in the spa, while I get spoiled by the evidence of God right in front of me.  A literal procession of golf carts roll by and I hardly notice for the view.  I need the reminder of the view before me.  Its the one that reminds me that he who began this, the creator of the view, is the same he who is with me today and next week and next year.
This is an important thing.  Once again I sit in the early months of the year with no picture of what the end months will bring.  Oh sure, none of us really knows what will transpire tomorrow and next week and next year, but lets be honest and admit that we all have at least submitted our own picture of it.  We've placed our order on our preferred future.  We imagine the end and then we plan the means to get there.  It's our means of security and comfort.  Once again, but for the first time in a long while, I have no picture.  When I look to the end of the year, its only blank.  Don't weep for me, I have chosen, we have chosen, to step into a blank canvas.  These few sentences are not a lament, they are a longing.
My discomfort without the plan has nothing to do with Gods ability to reveal one, it has to do with years of relying on my own.  I've relied on my own long enough that I have begun to imagine it as reality, and, because of my role as a pastoral artist, I have believed it to be pre-ordained.  The danger is this is that, when you step away from your own, you can get anxious.  It's the same anxiousness that comes when you sail your boat to the initial point where you loose sight of land and all landmarks...and for a moment you forget that you have a compass, and bearings, and maps.  But then the realization comes like a warm blanket in the cold, and assurance and confidence arrive once more.
My longing comes for that point.  The point where I remember that I have a compass.  I have a map, and I long for the relationship with the map maker.  He's the one who set this mountain before me to remind me that he held the past and he holds the future.  I needed a retreat to remind me and I needed the generosity of a group to provide it.  And I need to remember that a year ago this was not on my canvas, and yet here it is.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

By faith ?

Last week I was reading through a passage in the book of books that I'm sure was meant to be encouraging but, can I say this, it just wasn't....to me anyway.  Each phrase mentioned a great hero of the faith, in olden days, who did something incredible...at least incredible enough to be written in a book thousands of years old.  They all were involved in different things but each had one thing in common.  Each person was said to have embarked on their journey to immortality " by faith".  That was the only thing ascribed to them.  "By faith" they all wandered away from typical and into the pages of the best selling book of all time.  I've heard this passage taught in many, many contexts.  I've taught it myself.  In each instance, including my own, the implication was that "they did it so why not you?".  Just turn on your " by faith" switch, hike up your pants and get moving.  Apparently all one needs to break out of a typical life, a typical faith, a typical story, is that the "by faith" switch is cosmically activated and away you go.  It should be encouraging I guess, but I've come to believe that it's a simplistic load of crap.  We read in one sentence about one person in one moment in one decision, arguably inspired "by faith", who moved in one direction that ultimately led them to biblical stardom.  What we don't read is the next moment, and the next person to whom the message was conveyed ... usually the wives, and the next day, and month, and year after that.  We get a very simplistic look at a very long and complicated, everyday, wrestling with God, family, friends, and faith that eventually led each of them to the destination at the end of that single sentence.  Many of us know in our hearts that this is true.  We know because, although our stories may never be recorded, we have experienced a "by faith" moment in time.  Some of us have even been able to hang with it through the rest of the journey.  Some of us have not.  Some of us have walked the rocks to see the mountain view.  Some have not yet left base camp.  I, for one, can tell you that the "by faith" move is actually, in a bizarre way, the easy part of the journey.  The real stuff is the everyday wrestling along the way.  It is also the most rewarding stuff, if you survive it.   There is a heresy that those of my faith can be guilty of committing if we are not careful, and open, and transparent.  We can communicate to unsuspecting travelers that the journey is as easy as finding the right "switch", and that its a one sentence journey.  That doesn't convey reality.  It doesn't account for those lost on the road.  It doesn't  explain those gained along the journey either.   It doesn't account for the scars and the healing. It leaves no room for the brokenness and doubts.   It is not honest and it is also why so many who are searching still find it wanting.  A life lived "by faith" is so much more than a sentence.  It's an entire story and all that goes with it