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bethlehemskyline

Why Israel/Palestine?

For the past few years, ever since returning from Africa, I have been praying about where the Lord would have me go next.  For years, my prayer has been, “Lord, send me to the overlooked places.  Send me where others do not want to go.  Send me to those who have been forgotten.”  I’ve never been very interested in big fancy churches and superstar Christians, but my heart beats wildly for the seemingly empty places on the map.  Outer Mongolia.  The eastern stretches of Russia.  The deserts of Kerio Valley in Kenya.  The backwaters. Places behind locked walls.  Inaccessible places.  Cuba. North Korea. Tibet.  And so, perhaps it took a while to see what was right under my nose, so obvious that I missed it.

Obvious, I say, because always I’ve known deep in my heart that I would go here someday.  My early interest in Israel began around 2000, when I became fascinated with the original languages of the Bible.  I was drawn to Hebrew more than Greek, and I felt that if I could really get the message of the Old Testament from a Jewish mindset, I would understand the New one much better.  I delved into all things Judaic, signed up for various Messianic newsletters and sent my questions to various “Ask the Rabbi” websites.  I often watched the live camera on the Wailing Wall so that I could join my prayers with those who were standing there.  (There were always a few lone men standing before the wall through the watches of the night.  God bless them).

In those days, (God forgive me) the only impression that I had of the Palestinian people is that they seemed to be a highly dysfunctional and demonized culture.  During this time, the 2nd Intifada was raging, and I wept over every Jewish person who was killed in terrorist attacks.  Some of these beautiful victims were so deeply imprinted on my heart that I remember their names and faces to this day. Where could these people go to be safe?!  Was there no place on earth for them where they could simply live in peace?  I could scarcely talk about it without getting teary-eyed.   My friend used to joke with me:  “One day you will move to Jerusalem and marry a Rabbi!  I hope he lets me pull at his beard!” 

I still remember a vivid dream from those days, in which I was dancing up and down the stone streets of the Old City in wild worship.  I loved every stone my foot touched upon, for perhaps the feet of my Dearest Dear had also walked over them.  I loved every stone in the walls, the very air of the city.  My heart felt like it would burst:  Yerushalayim!

And another memory: a solemn moment in a church service where I stood as one who promised before God to be a “watchman on the walls of Jerusalem.”  As I have begun to prepare for this trip, that memory has resurfaced in my consciousness many times.  God remembers….and I am held by the words of my mouth (gratefully so).  I was a watchman then, and I remain one to this day as He continues to refine my vision and shows me how to pray for the true peace of Jerusalem.

One night after our little prayer meeting, I wrote in my journal:  “The Lord spoke the word “Bethlehem” to me tonight.  He said it so tenderly, with such love and depth, that it almost took my breath away, pierced my heart.  He said it to me as though it was my name.  My identity.  He called me Bethlehem: House of Bread, the place of His birthing. Oh, how He loves little Bethlehem! How dear it is to Him! It is only now, all these years later that I look back on that moment with even greater wonder….for Bethlehem is where I am going!  The real Bethlehem!  And yes, how dear it is to Him! How He still loves that little city.

Looking back on it, it seems strange that during this time I never once sought out any information from Palestinian people.  In this part of the world that fascinated me so much, I had a curious lack of interest concerning a major population within it. Because I was content to let others (who were not Palestinian themselves, but seemed to know what they were talking about) frame my understanding of the situation, I thought I knew what was going on.  There was no reason to look any deeper.  And anyway, who was there to listen to?  Anyone who would take up for the Palestinians must have a serious lack of understanding and was probably anti-Semitic. Why would I want to listen to a biased person like that?  The Jews had enough troubles as it was and they needed my support.

Palestinian Christians

It was a few years later that I came across a book called “Blood Brothers” by Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian. (If you have not read this book, I heartily recommend it.  You can get a used copy on Amazon for only a few dollars—an investment that can possibly change your life in a very good way).  Until this time, I was aware that there were ancient Christian churches and monastaries in the Holy Land, but I never actually put the pieces together in my mind.  It simply never dawned on me that these Christians were Palestinians, and that they also had an ancient history in the land.  To tell it bluntly, I was shocked by the simple story that Brother Chacour relayed.  It was a history I had never heard.  With surprisingly little bitterness and a lot of grace, he shared about the injustices that his family and village and so many others experienced.  I hadn’t known there had been whole Christian villages amongst the Palestinians, that Jew and Muslim and Christian had lived together there more or less peacefully for over a thousand years, and that their roots went deep into the land.  I had not known that many of these natives of the land had welcomed the European Jews graciously and how some had been murdered and how hundreds of thousands of them lost their beloved homes and villages and farmland and dignity and way of life.  I had no idea about the daily difficulties and humiliations that that they had experienced and continued to experience in their homeland.  Nor had I considered that these Palestinian Christians had encountered racism from their Christian brothers and sisters in the West, when they were sometimes rejected or made to feel less welcomed and loved, simply because they were not Jewish….because they were apparently born in the wrong time and place with the wrong racial lineage.

I was well-acquainted with Jewish suffering, holding a deep wail of grief for them inside my heart.  It had been there since I was a child.  But I had never acquainted myself with Palestinian suffering, or Palestinian strength of spirit, or Palestinian grace or wisdom, or beauty, or kindness.  I had seen the heart of Jesus for the Jewish people.  But I had never seen Him, or heard His Voice for the Palestinian people—until now.  And I repented, so to speak, in dust and ashes.

Saul, Saul, why do you hate Me?

Who are You, Lord?

I am Jesus in your Palestinian brothers and sisters.  I am suffering in the midst of them.  And a great part of their suffering is your blindness and indifference towards them. Even more than the suffering of their daily lives, they are wounded by the indifference of the Church, their own family.  

Ah, but it is not just their wound.  It is ours too, for when one part of the Body suffers, we all suffer.  We suffer, even if we cannot identify the source of the suffering, even if we are not aware of where our weakness is coming from.  We know there is sickness in the Body, but we are blind to all of the causes.  Like ignorant doctors from the Dark Ages, we bleed the Body, thinking that if we remove the “bad blood” perhaps we will be healed–and we do it in an unsanitary environment that is not purified by faith, hope and love.  I’m convinced that one cause of our illness is simply this:  we’ve held back our heart from a portion of the Body that is in deep pain.  We’ve not washed our own wounds.  And we ALL are the worse-off for it.  And the Lord is weeping.  I hear it.

mother teresa lonliness

Who will love the Palestinians—really love them?  This is a valid question that needs to be asked.  I believe it is one of the challenges of God to the global Church today.  Will you not love your own brothers and sisters?  Will you re-discover that God’s justice is without partiality and that He hates a false balance?  Will you not “pick a side”—but will you allow your heart to be enlarged to love both peoples?  If you cannot imagine your heart being enlarged in that way, will you ask Him to work a miracle within you?  He will do it—and with great joy!

Of course, I have made an appeal—deliberately speaking of Christians to an audience of (presumably) mostly Christians.  We all know that most Palestinians are Muslim, and this is where the whole thing becomes an issue for many people.  “We can love another Christian,” they say,” but we cannot love a Muslim.” And to that, all I can ask is who is the Jesus that you know?  Have we allowed perfect fear to cast out love?  Because the One I know “so loved the world….that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  We may acknowledge that truth “on paper” but do we know it in our heart?  Do we feel the truth of it in our heart, how much He loves the Muslim people? And if we don’t feel the truth of it, why not?

The Palestinan people are not going to magically disappear off the face of the earth, (though a huge percentage of them have already left and live as refugees and expats throughout the Middle East and around the world).  Nevertheless, many remain in the Holy Land by God’s own design– to teach us a lesson, I am convinced (among other reasons). There is something powerful in the heart of this struggle that God will give to us (and now I speak primarily to the American church), if we are willing to stop and listen to His heartbeat.  And it will come to us from the people we least expected it from.  God has a habit of using the “weak and foolish things” to shame the wise, and I can’t help but feel strongly that He has laid up a massive blessing for ALL of us (Israelis included) in the wisdom and grace that He has formed in His suffering Palestinian church.

In their story, I can’t help but hear a strange echo of some of the ways the Jews themselves have suffered and in some places continue to suffer.  (I hope that statement does not offend anyone and I say it in the highest acknowledgment for what our Jewish brothers and sisters have endured in many different contexts throughout their history).  Yet at center lie these questions:    Why are we so dehumanized?  Where are our protectors? Doesn’t the world see what is happening?  Don’t they care? 

These of course, are all the questions familiar to those whose identity has been formed in a context of oppression and pain, rather than power and privilege.

It is easy to simply point the finger at Israel, or Hamas, or the surrounding Arab nations, or Islam, or fundamentalists of every stripe, or some idea of Bible prophecy….and to be sure there is blame to go around in all parties.  I am not here to assign blame to anyone.  God alone sees the full picture of what is going on and He will bring every hidden thing to light.  But I want to talk to Christians, since you are my closest community.  I want us to prayerfully look at any part of the blame that may fall on our shoulders for not being willing to look at this situation beyond what we may see “on the surface” and especially for any hard heartedness we may have either towards the Palestinian people or the Jewish people.    What might we unwittingly be empowering that is actually contrary to the heart of God? What might we be agreeing with that gives free reign for evil spirits to have their day?  What monsters might we be feeding? These are questions I am still asking Him, as I open my heart for Him to search it out.

The Melchisidek Ministry

I’ve always loved the fact that the Levitical High Priest of ancient Israel wore a breastplate embellished with 12 stones, one for each tribe of Israel.  Every day, as he performed his duties, he carried an awareness that he was representing God to the people, and the people to God, carrying them all equally over his heart.   Part of the message was to remind him that as a priest, he served every tribe without partiality.

As the book of Hebrews so eloquently  teaches, there is a change of priesthood in the new covenant; from Levitical to Melchisidek. Jesus Christ is “a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisidek”  and has called us to be a kingdom of priests after His order, partaking in His ministry, “not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life” (Hebrews 7:16).   Whereas Levi served in a limited priestly capacity for the nation of Israel, by the repeated shedding of the blood of bulls and goats, Melchisidek serves in an unlimited priestly for the whole world, by the once and for all shed blood of the Lamb.  It is to this priestly ministry that we are called–and upon our spiritual breastplate are set the “stones” of every tongue and tribe and nation.  We are to carry them all over our heart, without prejudice or partiality, as a debtor to all humanity for the sake of Christ….not primarily to look down our noses at them for their transgressions, but to undergird them, to intercede for them,  to lay down our lives for them.   If we truly are functioning in our calling, as a “nation of kings and priests” there is no room for any view that would hinder, limit, or distort the wide scope of this ministry, including prideful nationalistic, ethnic, or religious mindsets. For the true priestly ministry “…can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also touched by weakness” (Hebrews 5:2). 

Here is where the ethics of the Bible, those things that are repeatedly laid out in both testaments, come into play.  No matter who we are or where we are coming from, some things are universal: mercy, justice, caring for the weak and oppressed.  These values of God’s heart can never be trumped by an interpretation of prophecy.  In fact, all prophecy is essentially for the purpose of these qualities (Christ) to be formed in our hearts.  All prophecy related to the fulfillment of Israel (and every other nation) are held in a setting of justice and mercy.  It’s all throughout the Bible:  the idea that God’s people should receive special privileges to oppress without consequence, or even to be indifferent to oppression is offensive to Him. Quite the opposite—if one claims any special privileges or “in” because of their calling, it is to a greater responsibility and expression of righteousness.  Because of this, judgment begins with “God’s House” before it begins in the world.  We are held to a higher standard. Yet, we can find numerous examples in ancient Israel and in the history of the church where this principle was flouted, where privilege was assumed and abused, to the shame of God’s people.  “And for this reason, His Name is blasphemed among the nations.”

Ask a young boy who was sexually molested by a Catholic priest abusing his position, whether he wants to go anywhere near a church.  Ask the native peoples of the Americas who were cheated and murdered by those who named the name of Christ if they are interested in Christianity.  Ask the Jews whose enormous suffering in Christian Europe is deeply engrained in their soul if they are interested in hearing more about this Yeshua HaMashiach.  Ask the Palestinian Christians if they want to listen to a “gospel” that makes them second class citizens, that justifies and enforces their suffering, that builds up the middle wall of partition and declares to them that they are still “called Gentiles in the flesh, the uncircumcision, without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world”  (Eph 2:11-12). Because, that is exactly what they are “hearing” from much of the church in the West.  And in that context, how is the gospel ever to be rightly presented to a Palestinian Muslim?

I know that some may be protesting in their heart against what I just said. I understand.  And certainly, there are many grand theological issues to consider here, far beyond the scope of this blog post and my current understanding.  If I could sum up my main point from everything I have said thus far, it is primarily this:  Whatever you believe about the nation of Israel, please also be willing to look afresh with an open heart and mind at the plight of the Palestinians too.  The expression of our love towards those who live in Israel/Palestine does not have to be either/or, but “both and more.”

It is my conviction that the flow of His purpose in the Church is log-jammed around this issue and the only thing that will release the Spirit of healing over this situation is enlargement of heart and compassion for all involved.  Then we will see the great move of the Holy Spirit that we have all longed and prayed for.  And until then, we will all keep circling around the mountain while the noose of destruction tightens around all of our necks.

As I said earlier, I can’t help but believe that this entire situation is a divine “set up” from God to teach us all some very important lessons.  He is bringing us to a crisis point. But these lessons and the wisdom gained from them will certainly come only to the humble and will no doubt offend our pride and pre-conceived notions (grace, grace, Lord!!).  But if the struggle here has been great, how exceedingly lovely will be the restoration of this place! Shall there not be a procession of the nations, holding hands, walking through the streets of Jerusalem, loving its King with oneness of heart and mind, loving each other as themselves?

For as Paul says in Romans 11, “If their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”

Bethlehem Bible College

And this brings me to why I originally sat down to begin this blog post:  to try to explain to my friends why I am going to the West Bank to serve with a Palestinian Christian ministry, Bethlehem Bible College.

In brief, it began with Gaza in the summer of 2014, when, by the Spirit, I experienced a deep sense of identification with the people who lived there. I felt a depth of agony for their suffering that was…unusual.   In my heart, I could feel bombs raining down upon me. I could feel the abject hopelessness and choking despair of the Gazans more than I had ever felt the pain of any war situation in my life.

What He did in my heart over the next few months is too much to explain here, but suffice it to say that this issue came to the forefront of my thinking and has remained there ever since that time. I spent much of my free time seeking greater understanding for Israel/Palestine, seeking the thoughts of His heart.

Months passed and the day came when found myself staring at the volunteer application form of Bethlehem Bible College’s website.  Really, Lord?  Shall I do this?  To seriously consider this thought made my heart pound.  I downloaded the form and began to fill it out, but almost immediately I had to stop because I was so overcome with emotion and the presence of God.  As confirmation to my inner man, I felt Him drop two mantles upon me (within me) and I felt them as blazing light and joy.  The first was love—the stirring of deep love for both Jewish and Palestinian people.  The fear that somehow I would be forced to take sides, or that my heart would grow cold for one group, or that I would accidentally work against His purpose, or that I would only become one more polarizing force in a polarized region was dissolved—and in its place was the simple knowledge that if I would keep myself in the love of God, He would keep my heart warm and alive for both peoples.  I knew in that moment that if it would serve His purposes in any way, I would gladly lay down my life for either or both of them— and it would be an honor.

The second “mantle” felt exquisite:  Humility.  As He wrapped me up in this, I felt myself shrinking until I was aware that I was no larger than a speck on the floor.   And this smallness felt wonderful!  My mind was refreshed by the truth that “smallness” is actually the place of limitlessness, whereas “bigness” is limiting and awkward.  I knew that he was sending me there, not so I could impress upon the region my preconceived ideas born of my privileged American background and theology, but to learn from two peoples who have born and continue to bear deep suffering within their cultures.  In this, He has promised to teach me more of His heart and ways.  I don’t know what all He has in store, but it is my desire to simply be a tool in His Hand for whatever He would like to accomplish with me.

I was drawn to BBC because of the heart I perceive within the people of this institution to stand for the testimony and purpose of Christ with love and humility.  From this particular furnace of affliction, this refining pot, I am convinced that some of God’s most beautiful saints are being formed….Just as they are formed in every situation of suffering, where forgiveness and grace are worked into the fiber of our hearts and thoughts.

There is great beauty blooming, and more yet shall bloom in the Holy Land.   That is when the true meaning of the phrase, “the desert shall bloom as a rose,” shall come into view–

–and whole earth shall be filled and refreshed with the sweet fragrance.  

desert-rose

On a practical level, I will be helping BBC with all things related to English, such as the English portion of their website, English articles, and teaching English through the college.  I will also have opportunity for a variety of other ministry opportunities in Bethlehem and the surrounding region.  My purpose in a nutshell is this: to encourage my Christian brothers and sisters, to show the light of His love to the Muslim and Jewish people and to learn the lessons He has prepared for me.

In closing, I’ve been quite transparent in this writing, and if I err in anything I have said may God forgive me and adjust my thinking.  I am helpless (as we all are) apart from His wisdom and understanding to break through my own preconceived notions or any distorted vision that I may have.  I trust Him to continue to shed light in these matters.  All I can do is cast all my hope upon Him, not only for myself, but all of us–that He would lead us into all truth and bring forth within His people the fullness of the pure expression and manifestation of Christ.

So be it, dear Father.  I thank You even now for the great wisdom and kindness that resides in Your heart and Your desire for all nations; Your own dear Jewish people and Your own dear Palestinian people– and all others peoples.  I thank You that You hold every answer, that You Yourself are the only true solution to this bleeding wound in the heart of the world.   Unite and bring together all whom You have called to work as healers, reconcilers and peacemakers in this situation.  Let Your grace and wisdom and anointing rest upon each of them.  In the Precious Name of Jesus, Yeshua, Isa….do I ask these things….with gratitude because I know Your answer is above and beyond all we can ask or imagine. 

If any would like to financially sow into this endeavor, I would be very grateful, as I am walking away from my “regular job” to take this step of faith.

I’ve created a crowdfunding site where folks can give towards this endeavor if they would like to: Blessing Bethlehem:  All prayer, thoughts of goodwill, and support are greatly appreciated.  God bless you, beloved ones.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  May they prosper who love you!  May peace be within your walls and prosperity within your palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sake, I will now say, Peace be within you!  For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek, inquire for, and require your good” (Psalm 122:6-9).

~Mercy Aiken

 

Enoch, the Instructed One. 

Before the advent of organized religious systems.  Before Judaism or Christianity.  Before the books of Deuteronomy and Romans.  Before the 23rd Psalm.  Before the glorious visions of Isaiah.  Before the transcendent revelation of John.  Before the Cross.  Before all this, there lived a man who “walked with God” in a hostile environment; the first of his kind on the face of the earth and a prototype of all who would ever walk with God in the generations to follow him.

How did he do it?  On what basis did Enoch find the grace to walk with God? What “Bible” did he read?  What did his faith rest on? What sort of revelation was working within him that enabled him to transcend the curse of separation and death?

In the Bible, names are often very telling concerning a person’s character.  The essence of who they are can often be derived from their name; for to the Hebrew way of thinking, one’s name is a telling indicator of one’s nature and character, or perhaps a prophetic statement concerning the times in which they lived.  This is, of course, why God places such great emphasis on His own name, and why we are warned not to take His “name” (His nature and character, the identification of all that He is) in vain.

In the case of Enoch, his name is most telling concerning his life and nature.  “Chanowk,” as his name is given in Hebrew, means “initiated.”   It comes from a root word, “chanak,” which means “to narrow.”  Figuratively, “chanak” means “to initiate or discipline.”  In the King James Bible, this word is also translated as “dedicate or train up.”  Enoch has also been translated as “experienced, founder, centralizer, teacher, instructor, initiator, fixer.”

Interestingly, the root word “chanak” is related to a similar root word, “chanaq,” meaning “to be narrow” and carrying with it the connotation of being throttled, strangled or choking to death, as in hanging.  I believe that in this broad spectrum of meanings, there is much revelation to be gleaned concerning Enoch, who is a type of Christ.

Enoch was an instructed one, an initiated one.  We might say that he was the first disciple–the first man on earth to wholeheartedly embrace the discipline of the Lord.

Altogether, Enoch had about 300 years to spend with his great-great-great-great grandfather Adam.   He was 308 years old when Adam died—and at the time of Adam’s death, he had already been “walking with God” for 243 years.

Imagine!  In Enoch’s day, there was no record yet of anyone dying of old age or illness.  Other than the murder of Abel, which must have been utterly horrifying beyond all imagination, there is no record of anyone else dying–though there must have been others who preceded Adam in death– certainly Abel, perhaps Eve and possibly others.  (Since the Bible does not record the lifespans of the family line of Cain, or even mention anything about Adam’s other sons and daughters we cannot say for sure whether they had the same length of life enjoyed by the righteous line of Seth).  At any rate, Adam was the oldest man on earth, the “living link” back to the garden, the one who had firsthand stories of what it was like to live in Paradise, the Head of all the human families of earth, the one great patriarch that every person on earth looked to.

Adam; the one who had been fashioned from the dust of the earth by God Himself.  Adam, who had never existed as an embryo in the physical womb of a woman.  Adam, who had once spoken face to face with God, who had named the animals, who had experienced deathless creation.   Adam, the only one who remembered what life was like before toil and labor.  Adam, unique among men!

In the loss of Adam, a holy and sacred mourning fell upon his descendants, and perhaps none more than Enoch.  A pall was cast over the world. A chill; a primal wail shuddered through their soul as the conclusion of the curse stared at them in the lifeless face and sightless eyes of their grandfather.   He had not been murdered, as Abel had.  He had simply….ceased to live. Like an uprooted tree, he had finally just dried up. What a horror! Adam’s death prophesied to them all—this is the way you also will go.  You also will exhale your final breath, your body also will become stiff and cold.  It too, will be buried in dust.  And so will your children after you, and their children.  Here is the fate of us all.  The shocking and terrible conclusion of our brief sojourn on earth was now abundantly clear:  All shall end in dust.

Oh, the sorrow that must have flooded the hearts of his descendants when he exhaled his final breath—the same breath that first flowed into his lungs from the mouth of God Himself.  (Think of it!)  Gone now, was Adam’s sacred breath, the gift of God.  But where did the breath go?  And where indeed was the soul of Adam?  Like the voice of God a thousand years earlier in the garden, Adam’s children cried out in agony:  “Adam, where are you?” 

Adam, though your body lies in dust, is there any hope for you to rise again?

 Is there any hope for us?

Enoch’s grief was not like the others’ however–it was more profound.  When Enoch wept, it was not just for the fate of Adam’s children, but for the sorrow of God Himself.  And of all the mourners at Adam’s burial, it was Enoch alone who saw and heard God Himself grieving in the midst of them, God grieving for His firstborn son;  God, weeping in the midst of His own offspring, a Stranger to them.  Of all the mourners who wailed and threw dust on their heads, of all those who sought to comfort each other, it was Enoch alone who wandered off quietly, so that he could comfort himself in the presence of God. And so that he, also, could extend comfort to Him.

Comfort God, you may ask?  Comfort GOD!?  GOD?  Why should I have anything to do with God?! screamed the voice of the accuser–for his voice was sharp in the midst of Adam’s offspring.  It is GOD’S fault that we stand here today before a cave in the earth; the body of our father wrapped in cloth, his bones laid beneath earth and stone.  We will never see him again.  We will never speak to him again.  Never again will we see his smile or the light in his eyes.  Never again will we hear Adam’s songs or listen to his stories.  Nay, all that remains is for us too, is to lie dead and lifeless in the earth.  Adam’s fate prophesies to all of us.  Don’t ask me to weep with God—this is God’s own fault!  God is the one who pronounced this sentence of death upon us.  If God weeps, let Him weep by Himself, for He—the inflictor of death—deserves His own tears.

Enoch stole away.   For his heart whispered a truth with deeper resonance than the shrill accusations of his cousins.  Somewhere, echoing from the depth of the faded Garden, from deep inside his throbbing heart, from a place before the existence of time, Enoch heard the Voice of weeping:  “Oh, My son, Adam!  My son, My son Adam!”

“Oh My Son…..if only I had died in your place! Oh Adam, My son, My son….”

Enoch wept.  But he did not weep alone. For on that great day of the mourning of the sons of men God also wept.

But let it forever be remembered that He did not weep alone.

~~~~~~~

“Oh, my son Adam!  If only I had died in your place!” 

Adam’s lifeless body hung from the very tree he had hoped would give him the kingdom—the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  He was caught by the magnificent hair of his head. By his own thoughts of self-glory and pride was Adam ensnared, dreaming of a shortcut to a throne that was already his by Divine inheritance.  In self-absorption, in doubting the character of his Father, Adam listened to a whisper and rejected the very roots of his own being; the One who gave him Life.

Hanging from the tree in which every son of Adam was destined to live and die, Adam hung from his head until it ached with death and his tongue was on fire.  Thoughts of life were replaced with cat calls and cursings, symphonies and smut; an incessant bombardment of noise from which there was no escape.  For the branches of tree from which he hung also grew within him.  Adam could scratch at his own skin, but the source and strength of the tree was always out of reach, hidden in the indiscernable and unreachable depths of his own soul.  A shadow of death within and without. Adam could scratch and till the face of the earth but it did nothing to stop the multiplication of thorns and thistles, for the earth was a reflection of his own soul.  And as more children were born to him, the Tree grew, roots greedily drinking in the sweat that flowed from Adam’s brow, a thriving ecosystem of thorns and hard labor.  There were Adam’s children, busy being born and dying amidst the branches of the Tree that they are.  And everywhere that Adam’s sons went, the seeds of the tree went with them, for they themselves were its seed, reproducing after their own kind.

Cursed is every man who hangs on a Tree. Cursed is humanity. Beautiful humanity.

“Oh, my son Adam!  If only I had died in your place!” 

Far back, before the fashioning of any time-faded symbol .  Before the creation of the sun, there was Light.  And before the creation of the animals, there was a Lamb. And before Life was given to any creature, before any man tasted death, the Lamb was slain.

But when? and where?

Outside of time, the Lamb was slain.  Inside of time, the Lamb was slain. Past, present and future—the Lamb was slain.  On the corner of nowhere, the Lamb was slain. In the heart of everything, the Lamb was slain.  In a field with his jealous brother, the Lamb was slain. For a Passover meal, the Lamb was slain. Between the porch and the altar, the Lamb was slain. On a hill named “the Skull,” the Lamb was slain.  On a Roman Cross, the Lamb was slain. Hanging from that ancient Death-Tree, the Lamb was slain.

When Adam and Eve left the Garden, some say their nakedness was covered by God in the skin of a slain Lamb.  Others say that the skin which now clothed their nakedness was the very skin that covered their procreative organs, the place of their strength.  This place in each of them would now shed blood in covenant—Adam with God in circumcision, Eve with Adam in their first sexual union outside of the Garden.  A covering or veil of flesh that in the proper time must be removed, but only in the context of covenant intimacy.  To return into the Garden would require the shedding of blood—the cherubim holding swords at its entrance prophesied this truth.  And Enoch understood.

In all true covenants, there would be the shedding of blood.

In the remission of sin, there would be the shedding of blood.

There is something sacred about blood.  Even the blood of an animal.  Do not drink it or eat it.  For the life is in the blood.  And within Him whom we live and move and have our being, is all His blood shed. Hear this—it is within HIM that all blood is ultimately shed.

And He would indeed, shed HIS OWN BLOOD for the healing and restoration of all things.  A great mystery, but  God Himself would do it. He would become the Sacrifice. He would provide the redemption. He would do the impossible.  Enoch knew this somewhere deep within him and rejoiced.

But before Adam was, before Abraham was,  I AM!

Behold the Lamb,

slain

from the foundation of the world.

He hangs on that Cursed Tree.  He–so clean and without curse, becomes the curse of humanity.  All the bloodshed, all the violence, all the rape, all the hatred, all the hard hearts and frozen love, all the vanity and pride, all the accusation, all the blindness, all the disease, all the endless toil, all the cheating and oppression, all the kicking the weak down to the ground, all the whispered lies, all the hypocrisy, all the snobbery and indifference, all the racism, all the foolishness, all the self-hatred and shame, all the blame, all the curse.  All that the Tree produced.  All of it. All of its stench.  All of its winding tentacles.  Every bitter seed, down to the last bitter dregs.

Just as Adam, in his fall, carried everyone down to a life outside the Garden and bound us to a Tree of Death, so the Last Adam, in his rising, would carry everyone up back Home and free us into a Tree of Life. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself….

My God, My God!  How great Thou art!

Enoch knew, and he bowed in reverence. He would instruct his life around this thought:  If there was a first Adam, there must be a Last Adam of greater strength and ability, able to undo the curse. If the malady was great, the cure must be even greater.  If all would die in Adam, so all would be made alive in Christ….

And Adam would live again!

“I am my Beloved’s and He is mine—and there is blood between us, there is blood between us.”

So began a little song in my spirit this Sunday in church.

blood-of-jesusFor the past month or two, we have been partaking of the Lord’s Supper—Communion—every Sunday, as our pastor teaches on the concept of covenant and the various covenants given by God. I cannot fully describe the power that I have felt in partaking of the bread and wine each week, seeing the very heart of God on full display in front of the congregation in the poured out blood and broken body of Christ. If a picture speaks a thousand words, the display of the broken bread and wine—symbols of His surrendered life, His love—and receiving that life into the depths of our being speaks more than a thousand tongues could say.

In the broken bread, I see a Heart that was willing to be mocked and beaten, suffer painful misunderstanding and false accusation, indifference and betrayal, and to endure it all openly, willingly, humbly, for the sake of love. In the cross, God has set the most startling statement of love before mankind… He’s not playing, “He loves me, He loves me not…” He’s not dangling His love before us like a carrot on a stick, promising us His love if we shape up. No, His love was already poured out for us before we even took a thought towards Him.  He’s got His heart on His sleeve. He’s vulnerable. He’s hanging naked on a cross, with blood dripping down His body, down over the wood and onto the ground, and there is some of that blood in the garment that the soldiers are gambling for at the foot of the cross.

This is how much you are desired, Beloved. If you should ever forget, look at Me lifted up on the cross, my arms outstretched to embrace you, and know that I did it for you.

There is blood between us.

When I look at you, I remember My blood,

I remember the price I paid to redeem you.

Your value is forever set in my heart.

You are worth it.

And when He was on the cross, He looked out at creation and could see it only through the blood—His own blood, literally, for the blood running down from His forehead, mingled with his sweat, certainly ran down past His eyes, causing Him to behold the world through the cleansing flow, His own precious blood.

Yes, when He looks at us, He says, “There is blood between us.”

He will always and forever now see the world through His blood. He will never forget the price He paid. But that blood has no power to bring redemption to our lives until we apply it. When the nation of Israel left Egypt to begin their journey to the Promised Land, it was through blood-covered doors, the blood of a lamb for each house, a lamb that symbolizes the Greater Lamb. Those who exit a world of bondage and death through blood-covered doors can never forget that their freedom was bought at a price. Someone died so that we could go free.

 If we see the value—the necessity—of His shed blood, we will apply it to our lives, as the Israelites did the mantle and doorposts of their house. The value of the blood of Christ is of inestimable worth to every person who was born on planet earth. There is nothing more sacred, nothing worth more than His blood. Nothing! His blood is the only door out of bondage to sin and death. Do you see that there is no other door to Life than through this blood soaked door, the bloody door of the Lamb; the cross?

Even the application of the blood on the door speaks of two very powerful places that the blood will bring redemption in our lives. This blood on the “mantle” will bring a cleansing to our mind/thoughts and renew our minds to the mind of Christ. This blood on the “posts” will bring a cleansing to our arms/hands, redeeming us from bondage to sin and dead works and setting us free to do His works, so that our touch may heal creation.

But there’s more!

In every ancient culture, it was the shedding of blood that sealed a covenant. Missionaries and anthropologists speak of encountering tribes the world over who would make covenant with each other in blood; covenants that could not be broken, that were considered binding unto death.

Among other things, circumcision represents the shedding of blood to enter into covenant. And in the consummation of a marriage, it is the shedding of blood that seals the covenant.

As the scripture says, “the life is in the blood.” In the shedding of blood for the establishment of a covenant, there are many statements that are made, but certainly one of the strongest is, “I give you my life.”  For if life is in the blood, and I bleed for you, what I am giving you—in essence—is my life. I open up this body of skin and pour out of my inner life for you. I share the deepest and most sacred parts of me with you. I am willing to suffer and bleed for your sake. I am willing to pour out of my own life so that you can touch it, partake of it. I am no longer isolated within myself but my life is yours as yours is now mine. You have access to my blood and I have access to yours. How can we be separate now? We are one.

There is blood between us.

To my surprise, when I heard the Lord speaking that to my spirit, I heard in His voice not only the acknowledgement of the fact that I have received and applied His blood to my house, but also an acknowledgement of the blood I have shed for Him. What a wonder! How humbling. My blood does not purchase my redemption. It does not take away sin. But it does represent my willingness to enter into covenant with Him in the surrender of my life to Him. And He sees it, and calls it beautiful.

gustav_klimt_the_kiss For when we take up our crosses and follow Him, are we not also shedding our own blood in a figurative sense? When we lay down our lives for Him, choose to deny ourselves for His sake and the sake of the brethren, when we partake of His death, carrying around in our bodies the dying of the Lord, is there not a shedding of our blood in some sense? When we give ourselves to Him in the most intimate ways, opening bare our heart before Him, allowing Him to come in sometimes with a bitter north wind, sometimes with a refreshing south wind, but equally surrendered to Him in either account, is that surrender not in some sense the shedding of blood? Is this not a very real part of the covenant that we have entered into with Him? For there is no entrance into covenant union without the shedding of blood.

The Lord sees it as so, for He says, there is blood between us and it is not only My blood I see, beloved, but yours also. I see our shed blood, the mingling of our lives, My invitation and your response to it. As I suffered and laid down my life for you, I see your suffering and laying down of your life for Me and I will never forget it.

You may say, “oh, but my love is not fully abandoned to Him in the way you describe! My love is not consistent like His. I waver, I stumble in love. I’ve given Him my life and then I have run away from Him. I have opened my heart to Him and then closed it. I’ve slammed the door in His face! And so many times, I find myself doing the exact opposite of love, the exact opposite of what I want to do! What of me? How can a weak love such as mine be valued by someone as Perfect as Him? What does He say to imperfect, inconsistent love such as mine?”

The Song of Songs gives us a great insight to this question, for it is the question of every sincere lover of God.

Though there are many nuggets throughout this book that reveal the answer, I will pull out just one, in hopes that this small appetizer will send you on a journey of fulfilment and joyeous discovery into the Song of Songs, the Highest Love Song of God’s heart.

“You have ravished my heart,
My sister, my spouse;
You have ravished my heart
With one look of your eyes,
With one link of your necklace. (Song 4:9).

Notice first that His heart is ravished. Notice second that He calls her both His sister and His spouse, declaring that they are related by blood and by shed blood. But now notice what it is that ravishes Him—one look of her eye and one link of her necklace.

It is not yet the sustained and perfect gaze of unbroken peering into His soul. It is the timid but genuine glance towards Him. It is perhaps her first real gaze into Who He Is. And a deep recognition begins to stir in her as she beholds Him in truth and He knows it.

He knows that He is being seen by her and His heart is overcome!

Her gaze also speaks of the opening of herself to Him. No longer will she let shame cause her to hide her face. She will turn her open eyes fully towards His open eyes—and though she quickly glance down in initial embarrassment, He knows that the first glance will lead to others and eventually into locked gaze where she will behold the unending depths of love in His heart and she will believe and rejoice in His love for her. And likewise, she will allow Him to peer into the depths of her own heart.  And the very thought of it—the very beauty of the first glance, immature as it may be, ravishes His heart.

In the same way, He is moved by one link of her necklace. A necklace may represent many things, but what I primarily see her is that it adorns her neck, which speaks of her will. She is not stiff-necked or stubborn against Him. She may not be perfectly yielded yet, it may just be “one link” that He mentions, but it is so lovely His sight. In the one link, He sees her first surrender to Him. He sees the “yes” to Him that costs her something. But she has very little idea that every genuine yes to Him creates a new link in the crown that adorns her neck and beautifies her for all eternity.

In short, He who sees the end from the beginning, sees the faltering steps we take towards Him and they are beautiful in His sight. He sees the God-given desire to be wholly His and He sees that love drives her to press on towards Him–and continue onward–even when she stumbles and fails. And His heart is moved so deeply that that He declares, “You have ravished me!”

Oh Lord, how small our shed blood is in comparison to Yours! How imperfect in the laying down of our lives! How kind You are to acknowledge our response to You in such a loving way and humble way! How unthinkable that our response of love should mean so much to You! That we should be treasured in such a way as this! Oh, the unfathomable depths of Your generous heart! Who is a Lover like You?

I look down at His feet and at His hands that still hold the scars where He wrote my name in them, and I can only worship.

fiery seal of love For the truth is, it takes God to love God. Only God can truly love God. A heart that says, “I will shed blood for you” is only a reflection of the Original Heart, the First Heart to ever suffer for the sake of love, for He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the ages. Therefore, when He sees a response within us that says yes to covenant, yes to receiving His shed blood and yes to laying down our lives so that we may come into union with Him and His Body–His people–He sees Himself.  He beholds His own nature in another, and His heart is deeply moved.

Oh, there is so much more to say, but I dare not overwhelm the reader!

Can you say, “Lord, there is blood between us”? Have you received His blood? Have you looked—deeply looked–upon His sacrifice? Have you seen His heart—for YOU? Have you applied it to the mantle and doors of your own “house”? Have you partaken of His blood and body? Have you put your faith in Him? Have you tasted of His love?

gustav-klimt-the-kiss-detail-4083In the Song of Songs, the Shulamite declares “a bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, that lies all night between my breasts.” Myrrh speaks of suffering, as the plant is pierced many times to bring forth the fragrant, healing resin. When she says she holds Him between her breasts, this speaks of keeping Him close to her heart. In other words, all through the night, through the dark seasons, she comforts herself in remembrance His great love, His great sacrifice. The remembrance of His suffering for her sake is a like a sweet fragrance that stays continually fresh in her thoughts. She can never doubt how deeply she is loved every time she breathes in the fragrance of the myrrh, so she holds it over her heart where the fragrance can permeate her senses. The very scent draws worship out of her heart and she finds herself continually saying, “I will remember Your blood, I will remember Your love. I will never forget You. I will never forget what You did for me, my Beloved, my dear friend and companion. I hold You reverently in the most sacred part of my being.

“I will let this love overflow from the banks of my heart and wash out of me into creation so that others will see who You are and love You too. I will speak of You, I will tell of Your wonderful ways, I will declare Your Name, and I will love You, oh Lord my God,

I will love you,
I will love you,
I will love you.

For there is blood between us and I will never forget.

And in the echo of His voice deep within my spirit, the reciprocal way in which love flows, I hear Him speaking back to me through my own words.

My friend, if you love Him, read the paragraph above one more time, but this time, listen to Him speaking to you. Can you hear His heart? Can you hear how much your willingness to give Him everything–or perhaps now, it is just that small thing—but can you see how much it means to Him? Can you fathom that He will hold the memory of it sacred throughout all the ages? Can you taste of the wonder to which He has called us? Can you see clearly the inferiority of anything less than total abandonment to Him? Can you see how dead and worthless all idols are, contrasted against such a loving, living, eternally beautiful heart such as His?

For if we truly see the value of His shed blood, our response can only be one thing—

Here I am, Lord! I am YOURS!

There is blood between us and I will never forget it.

~Mercy Aiken

daisy-in-a-field-of-lavenderI am currently recovering from a terrible bout with the flu and pneumonia and ensuing dehydration that laid me out for a few weeks and from which I am still recovering. During that time, it felt like I was on a journey to some distant, dark region of my soul; at times it felt like my very bed was hell. But the Lord was in the midst of it all with me in such wonderful ways that I would be remiss if I did not give Him glory and public praise for what He did in my heart during this time!

I’ve been sick before, but I’ve never experienced anything like what I went through these past weeks. Maybe it is because I’d never been this sick and all alone before. In the past, there was always someone in the house with me to help me think, check up on me, give me water to drink, get me medicine. This time, there was no one, and I was too weak to figure anything out or think clearly, which is why I ended up so dehydrated. (I did have friends calling from time to time and later in the sickness people began bringing me all kinds of things–but I am talking about the first days of it in which I was still very much unaware of how sick I really was and trying to be tough and telling people I would be fine).

Anyway, the point of this blog is not to talk about how sick I was or get people to feel sorry for me, but instead to share the wonderful ways God met me in my sickness! There was so much more than I can share here, and some of it very personal, but there are a few stories that I think are worth sharing and I hope will encourage you. I can honestly say, He ministered to me so much during these past few weeks, that I wouldn’t trade that time of being sick for anything!

The Stench

Early in my sickness, I went through a period of time in which I was sweating intensely. (Later, I must have been too dehydrated to continue sweating). For days I was in the same clothes, sweating and then drying out and then sweating again. After about 4 days of this, I stunk so bad, I could hardly stand myself, but I was too weak to change clothes or take a shower. What I really wanted was to soak in a hot bath, but my house has no tub. As I lay alone in my bed, in all my stench, feeling like a shell of a human being, I began to think about and pray for all the other people on earth who were also suffering physically, and all alone–even more alone than I was. People who literally had no one to call to help them in time of need. People who were as sick as I was and didn’t even have a bed to lie in, but were out on the hard street. As I considered this, I had a visionary experience I will never forget.

homelessIn my vision, I found myself laying on a piece of cardboard on a filthy sidewalk somewhere in a 3rd world city. I was dressed in my same stinky, damp clothes and was engulfed in the same stench. I was exactly myself. I was not another person…and yet, I was one of them-—those people we all know are out there but somehow can never relate to. The people who haven’t bathed in months or years. The ones who chronically stink, the ones with matted hair and sunken eyes. The ones who dig through dumpsters and city dumps for food and clothing. The ones that somehow get relegated to a sub-human status in the perceptions of the affluent Western World. And in my vision, I was one of them—but only I knew that I was a human being worthy of dignity and respect. I was me–Mercy! And yet, I wasn’t. At least no one else seemed to think so, for people were coming and going on the busy sidewalk but no one seemed to notice me. I was only a stinky, ugly, sick person laying on cardboard on the dirty sidewalk; bones and body aching, thirsty and in pain and liable to infect anyone who came too near.

I could see the feet of people as they passed by–all kinds of feet. High heels, tennis shoes, business shoes, flip flops. Occasionally a cold coin would land on my body or the cardboard–but I never saw the ones who casually flipped the coins my way and nor did I have any use for them because I was too weak to get up and buy anything with them. In this vision, I felt incredible loneliness and began to accept the fact that I must be less a human being than those who walked by me with such strength and purpose. Only a complete loser in life would end up where I was, and yet here I was–a forgotten, overlooked, uncared for, suffering shell of a human being without the tiniest bit of hope.

And then…I felt a cool hand on my burning forehead. Someone was reaching down to me! Someone was touching me, not in fear or revulsion, but in love. I felt strong arms draw me up off my cardboard bed, and hold me close. Gentle hands were smoothing my hair and a sweet old voice began to tell me that everything was going to be OK. And when I opened my eyes, I was looking at Mother Teresa.

mother-theresaShe was looking into my eyes with genuine love and humility. I didn’t feel one trace of condescension in her gaze or her tone, not a trace of pride in her kindness to me. In fact, everything about her demeanor told me that she wasn’t thinking about herself at all, but her thoughts were totally centered on me! Her thoughts were all about my recovery; about bestowing dignity on me and recognizing that I was person worthy of love and care.

And in my vision, this strong lady picked me up as though I was a little child, and carried me back to her center where I was given a bed to lay in and lovingly tended to in such a way that I felt a sense of dignity returning to me. Dignity. Yes, real dignity; that quality that the devil works so hard to destroy in every human being. That quality that we must all be more conscious to give one another, by virtue of the simple fact that every single one of was made in the image of God and loved enough by Jesus that He was willing to lay down His life for us.

Through this experiential vision, the Lord powerfully reminded me of how much that sort of ministry means to Him–how close it is to His heart to care for the powerless, the sick, the forgotten, the rejected, the unlovely, the dying–in a way that doesn’t further strip their dignity, but bestows worth and honor on them. How His heart burned as bright as a city on a hill through His servant Mother Teresa, and shines as an undeniable testimony still. And how those who “are about their Father’s business” in such a manner, great or small, bring such joy to His heart, whether they are lovingly ministering to one or multitudes. For days after this vision, I felt the love and strength in it sustaining me as His lovingkindness washed all through me. (And I was able to get a bath at a friend’s house which also ministered to me much).

The Sweetness

Some days later, after pneumonia had settled into my lungs, I began to have trouble breathing at night and was plagued by coughing and bubbling and gurgling in my lungs that also prevented me from sleeping. Someone had brought me some cough syrup, but it didn’t have an expectorant in it and wasn’t helping at all. I’d tried Nyquil, Dayquil, aspirin, chloraseptic, and now this new cough syrup, and all I had experienced was hallucinations and other bad side effects. In desperation, I went to the internet to look up natural cough suppressant and expectorant remedies. Somehow I made myself a small jar of grated garlic in raw honey, which immediately began to help. And I also discovered the sweetness of lavender oil as a natural cough suppressant. (I was so glad I happened to have a bottle of lavender essential oil in the house with me). If you’ve never tried lavender oil for a cough remedy, let me tell you that it is a miracle worker!

I put on some soothing instrumental worship music and climbed in bed with a bunch of pillows behind my head –and holding the jar of essential oil under my nose, I experienced an amazing and intense time of healing that seemed to wash in and through me—body, soul and spirit. The lavender seemed to embody all the gentle kindness of the Lord as the aroma went deep into my lungs and soothed me from the inside out. I relaxed into what felt like the first true rest I’d had for days. I felt like I was floating in some heavenly place, just breathing in that healing fragrance which seemed so real and alive, compare to all the other so-called medications I had been taking—bottles of unnaturally colored syrups with poison warnings on their labels.

lavender_fieldsI began to think about how God made the lavender with such a wide variety of uses and purposes and how He did it deliberately, with great care and foresight. I saw all the thought He put into the lavender plant and I could feel His love through it as I breathed it deep inside of me. I could feel His delight in the lavender; His very joy as He fashioned it. I began to think of all the healing properties He put in so many plants and foods and how everything He made was good and how much all of it delighted Him. I saw clearly that He didn’t create one plant in an offhand way, but with great care and thought and love. He knew all the things we would need and He put everything right here for us. He put miracle-working properties in everything He made and He did it all for us.

I’ve always sought out and preferred a natural cure to a pharmaceutical drug, but during my “lavender moment” it hit me in a deeper place of my heart than ever before. I saw that to use the medicine He provided was a form of honoring Him and submitting to His wisdom. It was a way of loving Him back, of worshipping Him, of showing Him gratitude and thanksgiving. It was a way of acknowledging His love and wisdom. This all became crystal clear to me as I lay in bed, inhaling the sweet, clean, sun-soaked living scent of the lavender oil. And I saw all the more clearly, how running off to the doctor and taking some man-made drug, some chemical concoction, some dead syrupy slop made in a laboratory was like a slap in the face to God. I understand that sometimes drugs and antibiotics save lives, and I have no condemnation towards those who’ve used them to stay alive. But I also saw all the more clearly how these “medicines” almost always have negative side effects and how they are a poor substitute for the genuine healing power that He has put into the plants.

lavender_field_blur_sharpenAs I lay there, breathing the lavender and falling in love with God all over again, I thought to myself that I never wanted to even spray another chemical perfume on my body. Perfumes are known to contain toxic chemicals and yet I that was one area I never took seriously because I love a nice scent. But as the Lord ministered to me through the lavender oil, I began to feel revulsion in the core of my being at the thought of every spraying a toxic cloud of fragrance over myself again. Why should I, when there are perfectly natural ways to smell nice, through all the fragrant essential oils that people have used for centuries?

Why use anything fake or toxic, when there is something real and healing that could be used in its place? I mean really–WHY? There is no logical sense for it! Sometimes the obvious is just too plain in sight to be seen.

After a night of non-stop breathing the lavender oil and putting it directly on my chest and throat, I noticed that my chest didn’t feel quite as heavy, and that which I was coughing up was lighter in color. The lavender oil was a turning point in my sickness and stopped my fits of coughing better than any other medicine I tried.

Healers versus Drug Pushers

In closing, I’ll say that I had the opportunity to go to a local clinic towards the end of my sickness, in which I waited for 40 minutes past my appointment time, was ushered into a cold room and left alone for another 10 minutes as the lady who performed my initial check-up was called out of the room. Then I was taken to the doctor’s room where I waited another 40 minutes. The slippery, paper covered “bed” was set in such a way that I could not lay down on it and the room was freezing cold to me. There is no way I could have handled it if I had gone in when I was at the height of my sickness. I would have had to lie on the floor while waiting for the doctor.

Anyway, this whole experience has left me more passionate to see real hospitals and real houses of healing being raised up in our country. As a culture, we are in desperate need to connect with the natural healing methods given to us by GOD HIMSELF, and we are in dire need of people who are skilled in such healing methods and can minister them to the sick (body, soul and spirit) with love and dignity and faith and prayer. We are in desperate need to return to eating real foods and drinking real water and getting real sleep…and of course, we are in desperate need, most of all, to connect with GOD and to honor and respect Him by receiving of His ministry and His love in every way that He offers it.

I urge you to educate yourself on how to eat and live healthy according to the healing principles that God has put into creation itself. If you haven’t been to mercola.com, naturalnews.com (and many others), I encourage you to read the sites and sign up for their newsletters. The Internet is FULL of helpful information to help us live healthier lives, just on a natural, physical level. There is no reason for anyone to be ignorant of these matters and to suffer unnecessarily.

Here’s to healing and the restoration of true dignity to each and every one of us.

Here’s to the lovingkindness and thoughtfulness of our God who is past wonder, and worthy of all praise and love and honor; who is worthy of respect and thanksgiving; who is worthy of worship in ALL of our actions!

Yes, here’s to the God who can take a selfish, indifferent person and transform her into someone who walks the dirty streets and is not afraid to hold a leper to her breast or minister grace to a dying man covered in his own stench.

Here’s to fields of lavender, alive in the breeze and sun, sending out a healing fragrance into the world.

Here’s to the coming of the kingdom of heaven; the beautiful principles and precepts and laws of God which always lead to life, which are real and lasting and eternal and can never be overtaken or erased or disregarded or exchanged for something better–because there IS nothing better or higher or truer or purer. Nothing else works. His ways alone lead to life.

Yes, here’s to the kingdom coming to earth from the inside out!   ~Mercy Aiken

mother teresa lonliness

Part 2

Disclaimer

I realize that in the preceding post, I took some real liberties in imagining what life might have been like for Enoch, and how the birth of his son might have been the catalyst for the great change in his life. I want to clearly state that these musings are merely that—my own musings. I was not visited by an Enochian apparition in the middle of the night and shown the deep mysteries of the universe. I want to make that clear, because there is so much weirdness surrounding Enoch. Gnostics and mystics of every shade and stripe seem to be drawn to Enoch in droves, each with a fanciful “revelation” that was communicated directly to them…But this is NOT that. I am not after secret knowledge, other than the sacred mystery that unveils Christ to our hearts.

My purpose in this writing is to acknowledge that there is indeed a high call, and to stir us to press on into it. Most of all, I am writing to honor and exalt Jesus. Apart from Him, there is no high call, there is no power over death, and there is no restoration of mankind. Enoch’s path is not an alternate way to the Father, but one that points to the True Path.

I may take more imaginative liberties as I continue the series, but know it is just “me” trying to get inside the heart of how some of these things could have possibly played out. I will always base it on as much biblical fact as possible.

In the first post, my musings with Adam, Enoch and the Garden were based on the fact that their lives intersected and surely they must have had contact with each other. These people had a strong oral history that came directly from Adam himself and eventually reached Moses, who wrote it down. I felt that Enoch must have “heard” Adam’s stories more than others around him and that is what stirred his heart to seek the Lord. I also surmised that it is possible that the Garden slowly faded away rather than disappeared off the face of the earth in a flash of lightening. Prior to writing the blog, it had never crossed my mind that the faded edges of the Garden might still exist in the antediluvian world, or that anyone would venture in that direction; but as I began writing, that is where my imagination took me and so I went with it. It seems likely that Adam would at least have had a distant memory of the general spot where the Garden once stood. Anyway, I think it is an interesting possibility but would never make anything more than that!

That said, it’s hard to talk about the antediluvian world without sounding a little mystical. There is so little that we know of that world inhabited by people with incredibly long life-spans, nephilim, the apparent vegetarianism of man and beast, and a history that sound like a fairy tale to our modern ears. Nevertheless, I take the Genesis account of this time on earth as true history. I believe that people literally lived with lifespans that almost reached a thousand years, (which from God’s perspective is less than one day and no big deal). Why did they live so long, you may ask? Perhaps it is because, being so freshly uprooted from the Garden of Life, they still carried a hefty dose of life in their mortal bodies. Death, having only been recently introduced to creation, was not allowed to reign as immediately as it would after the flood. There’s a lot to speculate on, but that’s not the purpose for this writing.

Let’s get back to Enoch….

Enoch’s First Glimpse into the Heart of God

As I said in the first post, I think the Scripture makes it pretty obvious that the birth of Methuselah awakened something in Enoch that caused him to begin to walk with God. As he looked into his son’s eyes, I imagine that he felt a taste of what God had felt when Adam first opened his eyes and looked into His. And perhaps there was also another angle to it: As he looked at his newborn son, something rose up in his heart that wanted to see a better world for Methuselah and his following descendants to live in. Perhaps it was also this desire that drove him to seek God; to see what God had in store for mankind. Moved by the revelation of the Fatherhood of God, it gave Enoch boldness to consider that even as he wanted good things for his children, how much more God must want good things for His offspring.

In a world that had rapidly become defiled through the free reign of pride, violence, lust and unfettered greed of every kind, Enoch remembered that there was a perfect and unaltered standard of Righteousness, Mercy and Truth. And he wept to see how grossly the image of God had become distorted and how little anyone seemed to care about it. For, while some of Adam’s children avoided the faded Garden out of sheer terror of the distant memory of God, others deliberately hardened their hearts and scoffed at their grandfather’s stories.

Worse than the guilty conscience that drove some to spend their lives trying hide from God–the fearful shrinking away from the very thought of Him–was the prideful strutting about of the overtly wicked; the scornful gleam in their eye, the callous grinding underfoot of the weak and helpless, the mocking laughter that accompanied their evil deeds.

Lamech, 7th from Adam

This was most clearly displayed in Enoch’s cousin, Lamech. Like Enoch, Lamech was also the 7th generation from Adam. He came through the line of Cain; a line of strutting demagogues and self-appointed kings that culminated with his violent and godless reign.

I realize there may be some reading this who do not understand the Biblical significance of the number seven, so allow me to briefly digress for a moment. The Bible is filled with numbers, and none of them are without meaning. Each number is a symbol for a concept. Once you understand what each number stands for, the Bible opens up in a new way and deeper meanings to simple stories are revealed. It’s a fascinating subject, especially for someone like me who used to hate math. Now that I know that numbers are actually telling a story, I love them!

Biblically, the number seven is indicative of fullness, perfection, completion. For that reason, it is often used in relation to God. In the case of the two lines of Adam (one via Cain and one via Seth), the idea of the 7th generation is meant to convey the fullness or maturity of everything that line represented. If there was a seed of pride and violence in Cain, it would reach its full maturity in Lamech. And if there was a seed of faith and humility in Abel/Seth, it would reach its full maturity in Enoch.

And so, we see that between Lamech and Enoch, there could not be more stark a contrast. While Enoch is recorded as the first to “walk with God” and the first to be translated past death, Lamech’s life illustrates the exact opposite:

“Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah. Then Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, even a young man for hurting me. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 4:19-24).

Anyone who would use the Bible to justify polygamy would have to acknowledge that according to the Bible itself, the first mention of polygamy is in the context of a family line of wickedness. As the first recorded polygamist, Lamech’s lifestyle is a blatant distortion of the pattern that God had set at the beginning: These TWO shall become ONE.

Not only is Lamech a picture of unbridled lust, but you also get the feeling that he was a dominating and misogynistic sort of guy! I can just picture Adah and Zillah inwardly rolling their eyes as Lamech calls them to attention. “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice! Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech!”

“Ugh. There he goes again…”

And they offer Lamech outward obeisance because he will probably beat them if they don’t. But blind Lamech is so full of himself that it never crosses his mind that his wives’ hearkening to his call is not a sign of true reverence. If he discerns a lack of respect, he knows how to get it of course: beat them into submission. But he’s too much of a strutting rooster to notice that forced “respect” is no respect at all. True respect can only come from love and trust, but Lamech doesn’t care about love. It never crosses his mind to regard his wives as anything more than his chattel; just 2 more possessions that add to his “greatness.” He is so full of self-love that there is no room in his heart for anyone else.

However, there is another idea that is also intended to be understood here, and that is that Lamech is also a picture of a double-minded, or two-souled man. (In the Bible, the soul is feminine in gender; another separate and fascinating study).

I want to quickly look at the double-minded man in scripture, because not only does it give us a picture of what Lamech was, but also what Enoch was not.

The Double Mind

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:2-8).

My friend Jonathan Mitchell has a great translation of the New Testament (it is available on Amazon), and I love how he renders this verse:

“A two-souled (or: =divided-willed; or: = emotionally split) adult male [is] unstable (unfixed; inconstant; turbulent) in all his ways” (James 1:8).

Through this verse we can deduce that where Lamech was divided, confused, mixed and split in his soul, Enoch was single, simple, unmixed, and undistracted in his soul. Where Lamech’s proud and evil eye was focused solely upon his own greatness, drunk with the dark depths of power that he conceived within himself, Enoch had captured the heart of God with a humble and faith-filled gaze in His direction.

“Lord, have mercy! Save me from myself! Wash me and cleanse me! Keep me from the wicked way!”

Where double-souled Lamech was staring hard at everything but God, single-eyed Enoch was learning to behold God constantly, through the eyes of his heart.

Because Lamech looked for everything but the genuine knowledge and love of God, his split-soul became loud and cluttered with useless information. He looked for many things, but he saw Nothing. And thus, his blindness grew into profound darkness.

On the contrary, Enoch cared only for one thing; to behold the beauty of the Lord. He looked for nothing but the genuine knowledge of God; and thus his soul became quieted and at rest. He looked for One Thing, and he saw Everything. And so his dim light became as brilliant and blazing as the noonday sun.

Lamech’s cry is: “Prove yourself to me, God! Ha! See? Nothing happened. If God is real, He doesn’t care about you–or me.”

Enoch says, “I will let patience will have its perfect work in me so that I will be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Though You slay me, I will trust Your mercies. You are God and there is no other.”

You see, if Enoch’s primary “good work” is faith towards God, Lamech’s primary sin is this: He deliberately forgot that God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. He chose to suppress the truth that was buried somewhere deep in his heart.

The Path to Blindness

Paul powerfully addresses this frame of mind in the first chapter of Romans:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:18-23).

There is quite a load of information to unpack here, but there are a few key phrases that I want to concentrate on. Namely this: “…although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…”

Jonathan Mitchell says it this way: “…simply because, although at one point experientially knowing God, they did not glorify (imagine, esteem, suppose, fancy, conjecture about, hold an opinion of, repute) [Him] as God, or thank Him (or: give thanks in joyously expressing the goodness and well-being inherent in [His] grace and favor). And so in contrast, they were made futile (vain; fruitless; without profit; empty; useless; worthless; subject to a process of meaningless frustration; subject to exercises in futility) in their reasonings (or: thought processes, dialogues, ideas that went throughout in every direction), and their [collective] unintelligent (stupid; unable-to-put-things-together) heart was darkened (=the core of their being was made to experience an absence of light).”

Simply put, a lack of properly acknowledging God as God, results in ingratitude. And ingratitude leads to an inability to make proper sense of anything else pertaining to our relationship with Him, and in an extended sense, with one another. The inevitable result is darkness and confusion.

On the positive side, if we are experiencing darkness and confusion somewhere in our life, the first step out of it is to begin to acknowledge God and give thanks to Him.

The Glory of a Grateful Heart

It’s the “not being thankful” part that really gets me. The fact that this “little” oversight on the part of man would be painful to God, speaks volumes about His heart. He gives because He loves. He sends rain to the just and the unjust. It is only due to His tender mercies and preserving grace that we have not already been fully consumed by our own sins. He gives and gives because He loves and loves. He never stops loving.

But someone may ask, why does our gratitude mean so much to God? If we search our heart, we discover there can only be one true answer to that question: Because WE mean so much to God! If He didn’t care about us, our gratitude or ingratitude would mean nothing to Him. But the fact that my thankfulness or lack thereof actually moves the emotions of His heart is an incredible testimony–not so much of how intrinsically valuable I am, but rather, how much value God has chosen to place upon me. It is the God who is moved by my gratitude and grieved by my ingratitude that causes me to tremble in reverence. It is astonishing that He has deliberately chosen to wear His heart on His sleeve. It is astounding that He has made Himself, in a sense, vulnerable…to me. And you.

He doesn’t demand gratitude. He’s not at all interested in outward obeisance….In fact, it makes Him sick. Unlike Lamech, He knows that forced respect is no respect at all. Pure and undefiled love is what matters most to God. We’ve all heard it: God IS love. But how deeply have we meditated on that statement? Does it change the way we look at God, ourselves, the world around us? It should.

Our Father is not a strutting rooster. He doesn’t play the games of unborn children who think they are men. His majesty, though plainly seen, lies yet veiled before the hearts of those who prefer blindness. And so, with tremendous dignity, He waits. With perfect wisdom, He waits. With burning passion, He waits. With steadfast love, He waits for someone to turn to Him, someone to acknowledge Him, someone to say… “Thank You.”

And then someone steps forward: Enoch.

Thank You, Father, for the very consciousness within me that causes me to think and feel and know. Thank You for the simple fact that I have existence. I am alive.

I want to join Enoch in his thanks right now. Will you join me?

Thank You I can sit here at a computer and type letters that convey sounds that mean something to the reader, and in this manner, across all time and space, the reader and I are sharing the same thought through these words. Thank You for the miracle of language, a miracle that the best minds and greatest linguists have not been able to fully explain. There is wonder. There is mystery. There is beauty. And I thank You for it. Thank You for the heart that beats in my chest and lungs that rise and fall through no conscious effort on my part.

It’s the fact so massive, so gigantic, so colossal, that we miss it.

I exist. By the will of God, I am alive.

Emboldened by the revelatory light of Fatherhood and Sonship that is now dawning in his heart, Enoch whispers two incredibly powerful words: “Thank You.”

This time, it isn’t just a vague sense of gratitude. His thanks is actually directed to Someone.

And for the first time in his 65 years, he truly means it. From the bottom of his heart, he means it.

And so, out of the overflowing gratitude and newly awakened love in His heart, comes a new resolve: To the best of my ability, Father, I will walk with You all the days of my life.

The resolve is not Enoch’s alone, and nor does it fully rest within his own strength to achieve it. Enoch feels the strength of grace coursing through his soul; the kind of strength that makes him feel like he could run a thousand miles and never get tired. He understands now, that it is impossible to walk with God, apart from grace.

“How do I find that grace that Enoch found?” you may ask.

It is simple. Begin by saying Thank You. For God gives grace to the humble, and only the humble can be grateful.

To be continued…… ~Mercy Aiken

Life becomes very simple when I think of it as a journey in which the one goal is to walk with God consistently. The pathway and the destination of the journey have the same goal: to know God. My primary objective is not creating a certain kind of ministry or getting a certain kind of job or any other outward thing. Deeper and simpler, the goal is just this: To walk with God consistently through everything. To continually increase in the knowledge of Him; through all the thick and thin, the ups and downs of life…To “suck the marrow out of life” as Thoreau said–life being in this case, “that they may know You, the one True God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

Since I have started this blog, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to hear from new people–folks I’ve not met in person–who want to learn how to walk more closely with God. Considering all there is to know on this subject, I am a novice. The subject is vast, but there is none more fascinating to me. I can think of no other pursuit that is even remotely as worthwhile and fulfilling as this one.

If that is the case, why do my actions so often seem to contradict the desires of my heart? Why do I put off the very thing my heart most longs for? How can I gain a more consistent walk with Him; one that not just in position, but in experience, overflows with His life?

As I think about the simplicity of walking with God through life, my mind goes to Enoch; the first person who was described as having “walked with God.” In the next few blog posts, I would like to take an imaginative journey into his life; to see what Enoch saw and to see what his life–at the dawn of the ages–signifies for us, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

Enoch

“Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:21).

Two incredible things are linked together here: walking with God, and bypassing death! During my lifetime, we’ve heard a lot about a generation that will bypass death. I suppose there are many ideas out there about what such a thing will look like. I also know from the Scripture that there are many dimensions and layers to this truth of bypassing death or overcoming death. The exploration of those dimensions is a fascinating topic. But what really captures my attention and heart is this whole concept of “walking with God.” If bypassing death is the result of walking with God, then our attention should be given to pursuing this manner of life. This is something that Enoch grasped, as no one else in his generation did.

In describing Enoch, it is not said that “he had a worldwide ministry, and then was not, for God took him.” It doesn’t say that he raised the dead or fathomed every mystery or brought daily sacrifices and offerings to the Lord. It simply says that he “walked with God.” Surely in his 300 years of walking with God, there were many other good works wrought through him. There are extra-canonical books credited to him, one of which is quoted in the book of Jude in the New Testament. (I will get to that later). But whatever else Enoch did or didn’t do, from God’s perspective it was all summed up in this one amazing sentence: “He walked with God.”

Surely there were others in Enoch’s day who walked with God to some extent? After all, he was descended from the righteous line of Seth. His fathers must also have walked with God in a measure. But there was something unique about Enoch’s walk that set him apart from everyone else around him. Of Enoch alone it was said, “He walked with God.”

In fact, if you look at the genealogies that precede him, there is a very obvious pattern describing his forefathers. Each one lives a certain amount of years, begets a son, lives a certain amount of years after that, and then dies. The pattern continues unbroken until we come to Enoch, the 7th from Adam.

Enoch’s life starts the same as all the others. He lives a certain amount of years (65 to be exact) and then he begets a son (Methuselah, famous for being the person with the longest lifespan in the Bible at 969 years). However, after the birth of Methuselah, something radically changes in Enoch’s life. Instead of merely “living,” as he had done before the birth of his son, he begins to “walk with God.” What brought this great change into his life?

I imagine that in his youth, Enoch spent a lot of time with his great-great-great-great-grandfather, Adam. Yes, Adam was still alive when Enoch was born. In fact, Adam lived for 298 years after Enoch’s birth–the majority of Enoch’s life.

“Grandpa, tell me about the good old days!”

I can just picture a young Enoch, filled with an insatiable curiosity and yearning to know the kind of life that his great-grandfather had once known. And Adam would tell Enoch of life in the Garden. Life before the curse–before there was such a thing as thorns and hunger and sweat and pain and hiding from God. Life before man had any idea what it was like to dig a deep hole in the dust and lay a lifeless body in it.

It was a life, Adam told him, of incredible unity and harmony with all creation. A life in which Adam could peer into a creature and see its essence–and thus “name,” it by calling out the nature that he perceived within. Adam was a co-regent with his Father, assisting Him in the finishing touches of Creation. And like his Father, Adam was a gracious king without a hint of malice or greed toward the creation around him. To destroy anything would be unthinkable. Life pulsated with its own extravagant beauty and seemed to continually be overflowing out of itself.

Most of all, it was a life of familial affection with God, the Father, the Source and Root of all life and beauty. He told Enoch how the voice of God would come into the Garden in the cool (or the ruach, the spirit or breeze) of the day and how they would walk and talk as friends. He shared with Enoch about the perfect righteousness, peace and joy that he knew in the presence of God. Of course, back then, while in the Garden, he did not identify it as righteousness, peace, and joy–it was just the way life was. It was all he knew. He had nothing to contrast it with.

He told Enoch of the shimmering light that clothed God–and himself. He talked about the mist that arose from the earth to water it, and the River that divided into four and ran throughout the land. Sometimes Adam and Enoch would walk down to one of those rivers, which still ran through the earth in Enoch’s day–and indeed still run to this very day. And while they walked along the banks of the river Pishon, Adam would reminisce about the headwaters; the Mother River that was now buried in darkness under impenetrable layers of hard earth and stone.

Adam spoke of his expulsion from the Garden and the cherubim guarding the way back to the Tree of Life–God’s way of protecting him and his offspring from a fate-worse-than-death. (There is only one fate worse than death, and that is to live forever in a state of immaturity and selfishness mingled with corrupted knowledge and power. Contrary to popular opinion, it is a fate that God inflicts on no one, but rather one that from the beginning, He ensured our protection from). Adam spoke of the progressive fading of the Garden, and how even the plants began to slowly change from their original appearance, until the original Garden was barely discernable. Many of these new plants took root and faded quickly, and a different sort of balance of nature began to spread–one dominated by “good” soil and “bad” soil that produced both fruits and thorns. And all of it was tended by hard labor.

Of course, the two Trees at the center of the Garden disappeared from sight…but not from mind. One Tree had taken root in Adam. And the other Tree, of course, had vanished–apparently without a trace.

The Faded Garden

In Enoch’s day, some of the other ancient trees from the original Garden still lived. As they walked in the place where the Garden had once been, Enoch would lay his hand on a gnarled old trunk that with roots that went back to a time before leaf knew what it was to fall from branch. His grandfather would try to recall memories so distant they may only have been a dream. “It seems like I might have once sat here with Eve and God–the three of us–laughing together. In the beginning, though, I did not call her Eve. God called both of us ‘Adam,’ for we were one. He pulled her out from the depths of my being and built her from my very essence. Yes, she is indeed my very soul!

Like his very soul; like Eve; the Garden was only dim and fading shadow of its former glory.

“…And over there, that dark and tangled area is where we hid from Him. At least I think so. It’s so hard to tell now…” And Adam would sigh the kind of sigh that can only arise from the howling abyss of a soul estranged from her Lover.

They rarely walked in the shadow-Garden. It was hard now to even find the way back to where it had once been, as its borders began to bleed and blend with the thorny environment around it. Mostly, it was a place that the people of Enoch’s generation avoided, in the same way one avoids walking across the grave of a beloved grandfather, or a man avoids returning to the magical forest that he played in as a child–because the pain of seeing it through jaded, adult eyes is just too great.

And to be sure, what good does it do to recall one’s shame? Why should anyone willingly remember the height from which they have fallen? Better to forget the past and try to survive as well as one can, before one returns to dust. And so goes life under the sun. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

As much as Enoch’s heart yearned for the wonder of the world that his great-grandfather had known, his heart was moved even more strongly by a greater desire…he longed for communion with the Source of all the beauty. He was fascinated by the One who had invented all of it; the Heart and Mind that had brought everything into existence. What was HE like? And what was it like to walk with the Voice of God in the Spirit of the Day? Was it still possible to connect with Him in a meaningful way? Though everything had changed, could he still walk with God? Could he also sit in His presence under a shade-tree in the cool of the day and laugh together, as his grandparents had once done? Did God have any lingering desire yet in His heart for fellowship with His creation? Or was the fate of mankind perpetual banishment, with only an occasional glance at God as through a veil or a prison lattice during our brief existence in life-as-we-know-it?

Of course, there were always those who “called upon the name of the Lord.” It began in the days of Seth’s son, Enosh–Enoch’s great-great grandfather. But Enoch, wanted more than that. He didn’t want to just “call upon the name of the Lord.” He wanted relationship, if he dared to say it that way. The kind of relationship that God and Adam had once experienced. Knowing God through a veil was better than not knowing Him at all, but Enoch’s hopes were set on more. His hunger drove him on, and many times he would venture alone and heavy-hearted into the faded boundaries of what had once been a Garden.

“Is it possible for me to walk with You? Could I know You for myself? Would You tell me about Your thoughts, Your feelings, Your plans? Could I know You in a way that transcends merely hearing stories about You?

“Do You still care about us? Do You want my company?”

And even deeper; the implied question, the one he dared not voice was this: “Will there ever be restoration for mankind?”

It took a while for these thoughts to crystallize within him, and it was the birth of his son, Methuselah, that was the tipping point; the great divide of his life. Enoch was 65 years old. It was the year that everything changed.

I have never had a child myself. But as I write these lines, my imagination is transfixed by an image I see in my mind’s eye. I see Enoch looking down in the eyes of his newborn son and seeing his eyes–his very own eyes–looking back at him. A locked gaze between Enoch and Methuselah; a gaze that can ever only be known between father and son.

In the buried recesses of his heart, an idea is moving, kicking, trying to come out. A knowing about something. Something sacred. Something beyond language. Something that he sees in the eyes of his son…or is it his own eyes he is seeing, staring up into his? And at that moment, his heart skips a beat, because he hears the Voice of God, coming from somewhere–a place he cannot quite identify. It is a whisper that roars. It is the Voice that comes in the Ruach; a Sound that cannot be denied.

“The feeling in your heart as you gaze into your son’s eyes, is the same way I feel when I look at you!”

Ah, at the dawn of the ages, a glorious light is dawning in the heart of one man! With an infant son in his arms, Enoch takes his first baby step. His walk has begun. It is a small step for Enoch and a giant step for all of mankind.

“I am a direct descendent of God. His image in me, though marred and faded and indiscernible as the Garden, still remains as an unmoving testimony to His original purpose. It was carried from Adam to Seth and all the way down the family line to me. It passes through me and on into my son. He also carries the image. And in the same way that my heart is moved with compassion and hope for Methuselah, so God’s heart is moved towards me. As I desire him to be my friend–so my Ancient, Ageless Father desires my friendship.”

And with a heart overflowing with love for his infant son, he dares to wonder: “Could it be that the desire that I have felt as I have searched for Him is only a tiny fraction of the desire that is in His heart for me; an infant son of the Most High?”

A simple thought. It wasn’t rocket science–it was infinitely more profound. And though Enoch’s great grandchildren have since gone to the moon and back, created atom bombs and found ways to genetically modify seeds (the very seeds that are themselves descendants of the outer garden that Adam tended in the sweat of his brow), very few have grasped the significance of what Enoch grasped that day. And fewer still–perhaps a handful or less–have shared in his experience of being translated past death and into God’s manifest presence.

At least up to this point in human history.

“I am beloved of God. In spite of my weakness and sin–I am desired! And if I am desired, He will indeed make a way to restore me–and all of us–back to the fullness of His presence and life. Death will not reign over creation forever! The Garden will be restored!” Oh, the wonder of it! Once the thought took root within Enoch, he could never again deny it. It was not merely something that he hoped might be true. It was something that he knew, a knowing that transcended all experience and was past argument.

And in Enoch’s soul, the faded edges of the Garden began to take shape. A cool, life-giving Ruach began to blow. And a small seed that had once been hidden by a flaming sword that turned in every direction, burst up through the soil of his heart.

How could it be? It was a miracle, no doubt about it.

And so began Enoch’s Great Walk, the only walk worth walking–the walk that we are all invited into–if we have ears to hear the Call. And blessed indeed, are the ears that hear!

….To Be Continued….  ~Mercy Aiken

Diane and baby Tehillah Timbiti

There is much more that I want to write about in this blog, including many of my post-Africa musings on Scripture, the state of the world, and my life in general. But before I go any farther, I would be remiss to not post a public thanks in memory of Diane Grey.

When I left Eldoret on August 10, it was Diane who dropped me off at the small local airport. Little did I know it would be the last time I would see her–in this dimension at least.

Jesse's nickname for Diane was "Pinky."

I owe Diane a huge debt of gratitude. It was because of her hospitality that I had the opportunity to spend 6 months in Kenya.

I met her in early September of 2010, about a month after the passing of her husband Jesse. They had been living in Greenville, SC, waiting for him to recover from kidney complications due to diabetes–and then they planned to return to Kenya, where they had spent the past 20 years. After Jesse’s passing, Diane immediately began to make plans to return to her beloved adopted homeland. That’s when I entered the picture.

My pastor, Wendall Ward, connected us, knowing that I was praying about returning to Africa for a longer visit. (I had previously visited the nation of Niger in the Spring of 2010 for a 17 day trip with a group from our church). After chatting on the phone with Diane and spending a day together in Greenville, we both agreed for me to make plans to come to Kenya in 2011–and that is how my whole wonderful adventure began.

Left to Right: Abraham Tarus, Margaret Tarus, David Kipyego, Ruth Kipyego, Joseph Kibet. Front row: Ann Fyall, Diane, Judah

She showed me a lot of the ropes of living in Kenya, introduced me to some wonderful people, including everyone I met through SILA and EERC. (Both these ministries are direct fruit from their ministry, Kweli, and I told Diane I saw Jesse’s footprints all over the place in people that I met—even in remote places like Barwessa).

I never got to meet Jesse in person, but I was able to know him a bit in the spirit through his African family, as well as Diane. In addition to being a Bible teacher with a prophetic edge, he was also an artist–and his paintings and drawings of Kenyan wildlife filled Diane’s beautiful African-themed house. (I miss her big, sliding glass window/doors that filled the living room with light and opened directly into her yard. I miss those beautiful ever-flowering trees, in whose shade I used to pray…I miss the grove of sugar cane outside the kitchen window. I also miss her wonderful cooking, especially that Nigerian Peanut soup).

Diane loved to giggle. She had a wry sense of humour and a practical outlook on life and ministry. She loved children and served them in many practical ways, like paying school fees for them to go to school, making curtains for the children at Dominion Home or filling 300 bags of popcorn for the EERC kids when they went on field trips. Limited in some ways by her health challenges, she did what she could. She was a strong support and mother figure to SILA, and also greatly assisted Ann Fyall in overseeing the Dominion Home. (Ann lives in the United States and comes to Africa several times a year to manage the Home and connect with the kids, etc). She was a wonderful and generous hostess.

Diane and spiritual son, David Kipyego

Together, Jesse and Diane did a great work in Kenya, teaching believers the gospel of the kingdom. They played a foundational role in teaching and discipling the core group of SILA (David Kipyego, Joseph Kibet and Abraham Tarus and their families—as well as many others).

While other missionaries and aid workers, as well as Kenyans themselves bemoaned the rampant corruption in the Kenyan government and church (I heard piles of horror stories from the first day I arrived in Kenya, believe me), SILA truly stands out a solid ministry of integrity, transparency, righteousness, humility and true service.

Crammed "bus" ride home from school

I see EERC as not only a model school for Kenya, but Africa as a whole. If a school in the USA was doing some of the things that EERC is doing (ie, organic garden on the school property that the kids eat from, power generated by bio-gas from the local cows, etc.) they would be considered cutting-edge…and that is to say nothing of the loving, nurturing and supportive environment that the school provides not only for the children, but also for the teachers and the rest of the staff. It was amazing to see such an incredible model of how great a school can be–in Africa no less!

Diane showing some kids how to use a computer

Of course, the school–being quite young–is still in need of many basic supplies such as matatus (busses or vans) to transport the kids to and from school, books for a school library, computers, and other similar classroom items. (Notice how I am cleverly making a plug for donations for EERC in the midst of a blog post about Diane? Somehow, I think she would be pleased!)

Diane passed away on October 3 of 2011, just about 6 weeks after I had returned back to the States. She had several long-standing health issues, but her passing was sudden and unexpected. I know that her many friends in Kenya must still miss her greatly.

The last I talked to her, she was still planning on building a house on her Kweli property (next to the children’s home) and growing an acre or two of coffee–the blossoms of which she said smelled like jasmine or orange blossoms. She had spent part of her life in Florida, and the blossoms would remind her of home. She was looking forward to their fragrance blowing through her bedroom window at night.

Our first day in Nairobi, Diane took me to her beloved "Java House;" a great European-style coffeeshop

Though she initially hated Africa, (she told me that she cried most of her first year there) her life is a testimony to the transforming power of God…In those early days, she would have never believed it if someone told her that she would happily live the rest of her life in Kenya, even returning alone to the place she once loathed to spend the rest of her days there.

As her husband had requested before he died, she carried his ashes with her across the ocean and scattered them over the Kerio Valley. Less than a year later, she joined him. But through the lives of those they touched, Kenya will never be the same–and the legacy continues, even in their absence.

I think that is a most happy ending to a wonderful story.