War Zone!

I woke in the night to the deep reverberations of distant gunfire and bombing—felt like I was in a war zone.  Once I’d righted the situation by getting up and asking our night owl to turn the bass speaker down, it occurred to me, I am living in a war zone.  Our struggle may not be against flesh and blood or other seen realities.  It is nonetheless real – principalities and powers vie for the lifeblood of our own young adults.  We are the sentry on the hill signaling heaven for aid, believing for reinforcements, holding up our arms…

With the gray light of a rainy morning I opened an old hymnbook to this militant gem:
Sound the battle cry! See the foe is nigh;
Raise the standard high For the Lord;
Gird your armor on, Stand firm, everyone;
Rest your cause upon His holy Word.

So I rise to gird on my armor this particular morning in the face of situations I have no solutions for, problems I feel powerless to solve… Life is like that often as a parent.  Did I miss Basic Training Camp or something or is this on-the–job training?  Every year the job description changes anyway so the training manual had better be comprehensive.  And so it is.  I’ve been chewing on II Peter 1 lately—we have everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us. Hmm.  That should be enough! And through His great and precious promises we are invited to share His very nature. wow.

So where did this heap of guilt, condemnation for a job poorly done, and a sense of helpless inadequacy come from?  Why am I feeling accused of being a failure?  (Now there’s a red flag! ‘…the accuser of the brethren’?) Where does all this tend to push me? toward anger? resentment? against whom?  I woke this morning with a familiar chorus singing through my heart: “You’re the Defender of the weak; You comfort those in need.  You lift us up on wings like eagles…Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, we will wait upon the Lord, we will wait upon the Lord…”
     [If you have not yet been introduced to Chris Tomlin’s music, do check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhMdWjL2kiU]

The not-so-funny thing is, God sometimes seems to be part of the problem.  He’s not rescuing me from my troubles, not giving me answers quickly enough, not quelling my rising panic with an instant and tidy “here’s how” blueprint.  In short, He doesn’t seem to be in a rush to fix my problems.  So between my stealthily rising resentment and a descending sense of condemnation I can tend to separate myself from my very source of strength right when I need Him most.  But then His Spirit faithfully comes and whispers songs in my ear and points me to truth.  Wow.  Yes, better get about putting on that armor!

…the belt of truth—what is it I’m believing right now, about my troubles, about my God, about myself?  Is it true?  Confessing to do?  Do it?  Truth to hang on to? Grab hold!
…the breastplate of righteousness—shields me from the necessity of being ‘good enough’ for the job.  It’s not about me. My hero is the Perfect One and when God looks my way, He sees Jesus, my Redeemer.
…shoes on?  I can walk in peace with God.  He’s not holding me at arm’s length hoping I’ll get my act together one of these days.  There’s been a truce.  We’re friends forever.  And that’s my story to spread!
…the shield of faith—No propaganda of the enemy can pierce it.  Taking God at His word by faith protects me from feelings that lie and every taunting accusation.  This I will believe: God is for me and He is always GOOD!
…the Spirit’s sword, God’s word.  Pick it up. Wield it well.  Use it to slaughter the foe. That’s my provision for the war at hand.
…and last but not least my greatest weapon—prayer—alert, persevering prayer all the time for every situation.
I guess that’s why I’m sitting here this morning—listening for what to pray, waiting for strength to rise, ready to pick up my sword again and do battle…

O Thou God of all, Hear us when we call,
Help us one and all, By Thy grace;
When the battle’s done,  And the victory’s won,
May we wear the crown Before Thy face.

Rouse, then, soldiers, rally round the banner, Ready, steady, pass the word along;
Onward, forward, shout aloud Hosanna! Christ is Captain of the mighty throng.

–William F. Sherwin (1826-1888)

You’ll have to pardon the bold print. I got a little excited there as I could hear the strains of singing with the organ swelling in the background, from my childhood…

May God give you songs in the night and His Spirit’s ever-faithful nudges to keep on keeping on with your head held high and your hands to heaven.

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.” (Ps.18:2,3 NIV)


P.S. What songs do you hear lately? Would love it if you left a note.

Christian Art?

Ok. So I’ve been reading Dorothy Sayers essays this afternoon, this dreary cold and wet afternoon that suggests a head cold in the making… The essay entitled: “Toward a Christian Esthetic” captured my attention. No, not because of the dry title! (What does “esthetic” exactly mean anyway?*)  –but because I think ‘the arts’ have gotten a bad rap in our times from Christians and I’m always on the lookout for a good defense.  Just because anything and everything unsavory and bizarre is termed ”art” and promoted at the taxpayer’s expense does not mean that art is useless does it?  or that artists are all losers?  No regard is given to the fact that God is in fact the greatest Artist of all time and surely His image is detectable somewhere in His creatures’ capacity to create.  Anyway,  I digress by way of telling how such a dry title could capture my attention on this drowsy afternoon….

Dorothy Sayers sets out in this essay to give a state of the arts report and to propose a Christian philosophy of the arts, as in, what should art look like (whether poem, painting or play, or movie, music or sculpting) if it is truly reflective of the image of God?  Her analysis concerns England in the World War II era, but I find her remarks to be strikingly apropos to our own times.  Her analysis if it is accurate is cause for alarm in our generation, as in NOW, for ourselves and our own progeny!  Only catch is I’m not sure what action to take.  Here’s hoping you have some ideas to add.

But first the state of things:
It’s the age old problem of a culture which demands entertainment at the expense of true art.  What’s the difference?  The Greeks tried to get a handle on it.  Plato figured there should be only good guys on the stage–only things worthy of imitation, inspiring noble action.  Then he went further than that and wanted to ban all representational art, that is, all art that was an imitation of the real thing.  Hmm… I guess all plays and movies are out!  His reason: the effect on the audience.  He said it was a waste of emotional energy that could have been put toward the real problems of life instead of dissipated in the theater. He said that arousing passions whether pity, courage, indignation or whatever by means of play-acting  left the mind empty and slack with no appetite for real life, but only for more of the same. He was a prophet to his own generation, and to ours?  We haven’t come to war and collapse yet.  Is that our only hope?

I quote from Sayers:
“We too have audiences and critics and newspapers assessing every play and book and novel in terms of its entertainment value, and a whole generation of young men and women who dream over novels and wallow in daydreaming at the cinema, and who seemed to be in a fair way of doping themselves into complete irresponsibility over the conduct of life until war came, as it did in Greece, to jerk them back to reality.”

While such diversions may be ok for occasional relaxation, Sayers suggests that a regular diet of the unreal will eventually corrupt one’s consciousness of reality in experience leading to “a civilization that lives for amusement, a civilization without guts, without experience, and out of touch with reality.” Yikes.  What a prognosis.

This type of “art” according to Sayers fails to conform to a proper Christian esthetic.

What then?
Shall we have movies and books instead that moralize and preach, upholding good causes and manipulating the viewer with a good story line to take action? Is this real art or just propaganda?

Will leave you to chew on these thoughts till next time.  My day has wound down to a drowsy evening by the fire and it feels like time for a break from so much thinking… perhaps a good movie would be just the thing? (!)


* esthetic – A guiding principle in matters of artistic beauty and taste; artistic sensibility

Quotations taken from the Essay: Toward a Christian Esthetic in The Whimsical Christian by Dorothy Sayers

Tell of all His Wondrous Works!

Yellowstone is an amazing place–thermal wonders everywhere. It’s not just about seeing Old Faithful ‘geys’…though hundreds gather every hour and a half for this roughly predictable event. Raw power unleashed–it may be predictable but not controllable. For me the greater wonder is in the unpredictable geysers that catch you unawares.  You’re just idling along down the boardwalk and they explode from the earth in a shower of steam and scalding water and brilliant spray–for just a few moments or for 20 minutes or more.  Others slosh and pound restlessly just within their prescribed holes waiting for pressure to build…. Incredible power is here displayed.  And incredible power held back.

And mystery.  Consider the steam rising from a crack in the asphalt of the parking lot.  There’s a temporary construction barrier marking it now.  What will it become? a gaping hot spring?  a fumerole?  Head away from the crowds on the boardwalks for a hike on the neighboring hillside.  Watch your step.  Here the hot springs just pop up where they will.  Here you may find a little pebbly puddle boiling at your feet.  Or stray just a bit from the marked trail (cautiously!) and you may find steam rising, water pounding and sloshing from an opened hole in a hillside, still surrounded by trees and grasses till the heat overtakes them too and this becomes an official site with a sign post.

This is an incredible place– a testimony to the incredible power of God– "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead;"(Rom.1:20) This is what I found so galling on our recent visit to Yellowstone:  Here we have a National Park which the world comes in droves to view.  Here we have opportunity to make known our God–the God who made the heavens (and the depths of the earth from which the geysers erupt).  Here is evidence of Catastrophism.  Instead, park guides and visitor’s centers and bookstores proclaim foolishness–tossing about zillions of years as if they were confetti, spinning tales and fables of origins and inevitabilities with all the seriousness and authority of experts.  As if they were there from the beginning.  As if they were God.  Disturbing.

I’m told there is a book about Yellowstone from a Creationist point of view now being written.  Various articles are available from Institute for Creation Research. And I can do my part singing His praise for all I see… Care to join me?

Click here for a sampling of Geysers and other wonders  "for great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and He is to be held in awe above all gods.

Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in His place." (IChr.16:25,27)

For the Wonder…

Some love an orderly, symmetrical, and tidy garden where the gardener is clearly in control.  Others, a wild cottage garden where the flowers seem to run the show.  I am the wild one, which is a challenge to defend when the man of the house prefers a more controlled look…


But today I stumbled upon the explanation.  It’s all about wonder– the wonder of wandering in the garden and coming upon something unexpected. 

Take for instance this morning.  I was out weeding and harvesting potatoes in my veggie garden and turned aside to have a look at my  Flower Corner.  What should I find but this strange little alien–


A frizzy tow-head with a cheerful attitude–a perfect ball of frizzle.  I don’t know what it is, never saw such a thing here before.  Maybe it’s a weed and I should uproot it… But then again, maybe it’s just another wonder to be wondered at!  This is the stuff of a wild ‘cottage garden’–surprises!  I’ll leave it, for the same reason that I let Sunflowers spring up in my onion patch and crazy squash/gourd plants volunteer in the compost pile.  They’re      wonder-full!

Every spring I go to our local Seed Exchange and bring home packs and packs of seeds with proper Latin names, not because I know what they are but because I wonder… What will they grow up to be? Will I be able to bring them to life in my garden? One year I carefully planted, watered and hovered over my seeds in a sunny window and lo and behold the emerging seedling turned out to be an old friend from our Arizona days, the likes of which would carpet our back yard every Spring dyeing our shoes purple with its tiny but prolific purple flowers.  I am not however an absolute sucker.  I marveled to see it here but did not let it out of my sight, or my door!  Who knows what such a hardy creation would do in the Pacific Northwest with endless water to speed its flowering.  I love the color purple but… no go!

But others make it into the garden as delicate seedlings to begin their generations of begetting wonder…Some are sprinkled in as seed with hopes that there will be enough moisture, enough space, enough of the perfect conditions to nurture their growth.  I relinquish control to the Master Gardener and see what He will do with my offerings…In return I am feted with the wonder of an ever-changing, ever radiant display of living color…

This year it was the giant Sweet Williams that surprised me…IMG_1929

and then these radiant nameless flowers…


Once upon a time I must have brought one home and this was their season to paint the garden! 

So what am I trying to say…is my love of wild things valid?  Should I retain control and keep orderliness, weed out ‘surprises’ and discipline errant seedlings?  Or is it OK to loosen the rules and sit back and watch what will happen–and bask in the wonder of it all.  I suggest that there are seasons of life when it’s not only OK but Good to lighten up on the patrolling and keep an eye out instead for spontaneous moments of wonder.IMG_2394

"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is…"  (IJn.3:2NASB)What a wonder that will be!

A Lily of course!

As you may have guessed my mystery bud (See: “What will it be?” 6/15/09) was in fact a Lily! It surely did not spring from any seed I planted. And now I recall there was a birthday lily last fall and when it dropped its bloom and began to decline it was tossed, pot and all, out the backdoor of course. Well, actually it was set on the don’t-know-where-to-put-this table and in the course of life passing tumbled to its resting place beside the steps–forgotten all the winter long…

And now through no effort on my part it has bloomed–a brilliant surprise. My role was just to plunk it in a sunny spot and watch. Only God can make a lily bloom, or a life come into flower…Sometimes the best thing I can do is step aside and watch–be still and know that He is God. And when the lily blooms, the glory is all His.