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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!

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“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

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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

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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

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I have been leading a daily bible study with the EERC teachers since I have been here. We are currently studying the Kingdom of God through the context of the Beatitudes. I have been really enjoying it–as I was telling a friend of mine, each beatitude becomes my favorite one until we move on to the next one!

Right now, we are on “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” Mercy, is of course, a subject that I have been drawn to study–for obvious reason, I hope! For years, people have told me that my ministry and calling was one of “mercy.” This used to annoy me, because in the way that it was first presented to me, it seemed that the ministry of mercy was not very powerful or effective—but at least it was “nice.” (Very early in my walk with God, I had been told by someone that my calling was “mercy” whereas theirs was “prophet,” and that mercy and prophetic giftings were exact opposites. The prophet would help someone get to the root of their problem, whereas the mercy person would comfort them through the difficult process by doing things like bringing them a cup of tea). Because of this, whenever people would tell me that my name was my calling, all I felt was a bit of irritation…until God began to teach me about true mercy.

Mercy-Truth

He showed me that rather than being the exact opposite of a prophetic ministry, mercy is the heartbeat of any true prophet. Mercy, by its very nature, wants to get to the heart of any situation where there is bondage and deception and bring deliverance and healing.

"Mercy and Truth have met together." Little "Truth" and me. We call her "Truthy."

Truth is not opposed to mercy and mercy is not opposed to truth. The two are forever united in God; two sides of the same thought, two letters in the same word, two facets of the same jewel. They are incomplete without each other. Alone, neither has the power to bring forth true righteousness or justice. Truth is not fully true without mercy, and mercy certainly is not mercy unless it is founded in truth. It is not a matter of being too soft or too hard–it is a matter of caring enough to do whatever it takes and say whatever it takes to bring salvation, healing and deliverance to all. That’s what Mercy-Truth does. This is the ministry that Jesus revealed in breathtaking beauty and perfection.

Mercy and truth are linked together 44 times in my NKJV, almost always with “mercy” mentioned first. It is interesting how “righteousness” and “justice” are often used in conjunction with these two qualities, and how often they are associated with the Throne of God or the throne of the king. Mercy-Truth is truly a kingly quality and is at the center of the kingdom of God; the kingdom made up of king-priests.

“In MERCY the throne will be established; And One will sit on it in TRUTH, in the tabernacle of David, Judging and seeking JUSTICE and hastening RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Isa 16:5

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face. Ps 89:14

Mercy and truth preserve the king, And by lovingkindness he upholds his throne. Prov 20:28

In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil. Prov 16:6

Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed. Ps 85:10

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

The Hebrew word for “mercy” by the way, is “chesed” and can also be translated as “lovingkindness.” One definition I remember reading years ago said that it means something to this effect: “The earnest, fervent, passionate, unrelenting desire to good to someone and to bless them.”

The biblical phrase used to describe God far more than any other is, “For His mercy endures forever,” or “His lovingkindness endures forever.” It is as if God is saying, “If there is just one thing you know about Me, just one feature that you remember of me, let it be this: ‘I AM good and My mercy and lovingkindness endure forever.’”

That phrase is powerful. It was what those who were designated to praise the Lord sang, when David brought back the Ark and established his tabernacle (1 Chronicles 17:41).

It is what the trumpeters and singers were singing at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, when the house was filled with a cloud and the priests could not stand to minister but fell on their faces before the glory of the Lord. It was what they continued to sing, faces to the ground, at the end of the dedication, after fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering.

We all know the story of how the singers in Judah went before their army, and how “the Lord set ambushes against the people Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, and they were defeated.” For years, I heard that story just in the context of praise, but I find it interesting that I never remember anyone teaching us WHAT the singers were singing day–it wasn’t just random words of praise, but a very focused and simple thought: “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.”

I wonder what the melody sounded like? Was it fast or slow? Was it sung in minor chords? Were the ladies playing their tambourines? Did they kick up a trail of dust as they danced and sang?

According to David’s instructions, the Israelites sang this phrase responsively after returning from Babylon in the days of Ezra, when the foundation of the Temple was laid:

“Praise the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures forever towards Israel.”

Jeremiah records a wonderful promise in chapter 33 of his Word of the Lord:

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Again there shall be heard in this place — of which you say, “It is desolate, without man and without beast” — in the cities of Judah, in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say:

“Praise the Lord of hosts,
For the Lord is good,
For His mercy endures forever” —

and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first,’ says the Lord.”

And of course, Psalms 100, 107, 118 and 136 are filled with the phrase.

Suffice it to say, I think God really likes it when we sing and talk about His mercy enduring forever! In fact, I think He wishes that we would sing about this subject a whole lot more and that we would meditate on His lovingkindness every day. This should be the “theme song” of our lives, for it is only to the degree that we are beholding a God of mercy that we can become those who give mercy. Mercy and truth.

Upendo (Love) with her little sister, Truth

Since seeing this concept so powerfully in the Word, I often now sing these words as I walk into any new situation. I sang it as I came to Africa. I sing it before I walk into a situation that I know will be stretching for me. I sing it over people facing difficulties. I sing as many variations of it as I know, and some that He just gives me for the moment. I see the song moving before me, clearing the path for me, filling everything around me with His presence–His light and glory and kindness…His mercy and truth.

As I sing, I see God’s heart filling with joy, to be known as HE longs to be known, as He is in reality–a God of mercy and lovingkindness.

The Rain-Sermon

On that note, I wanted to share a very special time that He gave us yesterday. We were just beginning our evening Bible study on “blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” and I had just laid out a few introductory thoughts concerning the mercy that is in the heart of God. How He is good to all and sends rain on the just and the unjust. Anyone, even crooks, are kind to their friends or those they can get something back from—but to be kind and merciful to the unthankful and those who hate us is to be like God Himself.

At that moment it started raining, just beating on the tin roof, so that I had to begin to yell my message to be heard over the din. It took less than a minute for me to realize how dumb that was. The message of mercy in the rain could speak louder than anything I had to say. It was almost like God said, “I’ll handle this one. Just be quiet and let ME be the voice today that tells about My mercy.” So I suggested that we just spend some quiet time in the presence of the Lord and begin to pray and release mercy to others in need of it.

For a few minutes, I could hear the muffled sounds of people praying and some singing softly, but then the rain suddenly doubled its intensity and it was too loud to even hear yourself think. There was nothing for us to do but just sit in absolute silence and listen to the pounding, thundering rain-sermon falling above us and all around us.

I thought of Jesus standing at the door of the church and knocking. Through that rain, I heard Him knocking at the door of our heart with all the passion and thunder inside of Him…asking us, CAN YOU HEAR ME? CAN YOU HEAR MY HEARTBEAT? ARE YOU LISTENING? DO YOU GET IT? No, really–DO YOU UNDERSTAND THIS? DO YOU GET ME?

He so longs to be known as He really is, to be seen in truth, to be beheld by the ones He loves. For us to come to Him and receive–and then give–His mercy. This is what kings do!

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown…
–Shakespeare

In closing, I will share the lyrics to one of my favorite Dylan songs, which just seems to fit with the feeling of the crazy rainstorms we have been having–for the chimes of freedom are indeed the chimes of Mercy-Truth.

Chimes Of Freedom

Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

In the city’s melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin’ rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An’ the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an’ blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an’ cheated by pursuit
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An’ the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An’ for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

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Hello, dear reader. My apologies for not keeping this blog better updated.

Lake Nakuru is shrinking, due to drought

So much has happened since my last post. I had the opportunity to go to Lake Nakuru National Park with some of the SILA staff last month—an experience that I will never forget. It was a kiss from God. It was ethereal. The whole day, I continually found myself blinking back tears as I stared at the herds of wild zebras, rhinos, antelope, gazelles, water buffalo, water bucks, pink flamingos, pelicans, baboons, monkeys, and many other critters.

The Group who went on this trip. These are the people I spend most of my time with.

We were surrounded by green hills and purple mountains, within a basin which held a large lake and beautiful flatlands of yellow grasses and stately Acacia trees. Every once in a while we would drive through a grove of those pale yellow-green trees with their high branching canopy above us, and I would breathe a sigh of joy from somewhere deep within the roots of my being. Even if I never saw one animal, the trees alone were enough to overwhelm me! Then, we would emerge from the trees to discover some new vista, with a new herd of some other kind of creature resting or foraging in the grass. Occasionally lions are also seen in the park, but we did not see any that day.

I hadn’t written about this yet, because I am still waiting to get pictures from my Korean friends, Wesley and Apollos, who joined us for the tour. (In the mad rush to pack for this trip, I somehow forgot my camera—another reason that tears kept filling my eyes). It hardly seems fair to just tell you about it and not offer any photos, but that is the best I can do for now.

In the Kerio Valley

I grew up in a national park, and I have this wonderful feeling of “home” as soon as I enter one anywhere else in the world. Thank God that there are people in this world with enough hindsight and foresight to protect these amazing places! All day long, my heart was filled with continual praise and joy for the animals, the Park, the people who manage it, the trees and grasses and lake, my family back home at the Grand Canyon, and the presence of God that so filled my heart in the midst of it all. It was an experience I will never forget.

Termite Palace in the Kerio Valley

We also spent a day and night in the Kerio Valley, hiking and exploring around and having meetings and just getting to know each other more. A grand time was had by all. The Kerio Valley is my favorite place in Kenya so far. It is just enough like southern Arizona to feel comfortingly familiar, and just different enough to always remind me of my exotic location.

Pelicans in the background

Soaking it all in

UPDATE ON GOD’S KIDS

Ann and little Frieda with her flowers

Ann Fyall was here for a month, and a lot of great changes were made in that time—the main change being that we all agreed to close down the little Dominion school send our kids to EERC (SILA’s school) instead. The little school was started mainly to serve the orphans, but was also open to the surrounding rural community. There are many reasons why this decision was made, and I won’t bore you with all the details. We are all very happy that the kids are now at EERC! EERC is a great school with a lot more opportunities for the kids and I know they will really thrive here.

All the kids with their new blankets. Great portrait taken by Blanca.

Since I am so involved at the school, it also makes me happy to see Naomi, Maxwell, Solomon, Festus, Purity, Faith, Pascal, Viona, Titus, Hermon, Frieda and Patience on a daily basis. They are making friends with the other students and have already grown so much just in the few weeks since Term 2 started in May.

I am especially proud of Naomi for having the top math score in her entire class! Many of our kids were a little behind in their initial testing, but some of them are already starting to excel. Purity is doing exceptionally well academically, as is Festus. Hermon and Frieda are also doing great. Some of the others are struggling a bit more. It is a huge advantage to them that English is really emphasized at EERC. It is forcing them to learn it. In their other school, classes were conducted solely in Swahili and many of the children could barely communicate in English. At EERC, they also have the opportunity to learn to swim, go on field trips, play sports, participate in the children’s fellowships that we hold twice a week, and many other activities that will expand them. Plus, I know all the teachers at EERC and have the highest respect for them. I am so excited that “our” kids are getting this opportunity.

Faith and Patience in their new school uniforms

Joseph and David gave us a real break on the cost of sending them. (Almost everyone in Kenya sends their kids to private schools, which are pretty much on every corner). Even so, coming up with fees for 12 kids to attend school is not cheap. Some of you have asked if there is anything you can do to help the kids. My reply is that the best way you could help these children right now (other than praying for them) would be to help us out with the cost of sending them to EERC. If anyone would like to give to this, it would be much appreciated. Every little bit helps. You can do so through: http://dominioninternational.org/ministries/word-workers-international/dominion-childrens-home-kenya/

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to ask me!

Kids having fun after school

I am currently at EERC 4 to 5 days a week, leading morning Bible studies for the teachers and children’s fellowships for the kids, as well as visiting in the classes to tell stories and teach songs—a fun way to help them improve in English. (My mom and aunt sent me a bunch of great children’s books to bring with me, and they have been an invaluable way to connect with the kids here).

THE CHILDLIKENESS OF OUR FATHER

This is pretty much my view whenever I look down!

I am loving every aspect of my “job” and getting to know the kids, teachers, and support staff at SILA has been a wonderful gift. I honestly don’t know that I have ever felt so loved by anyone as I do by these little ones. I came here to love on them, but it is their love for me that overwhelms and humbles me. I can’t walk anywhere around the school without at least two or three little kids running up to me, screaming my name and throwing their arms around my waist. Who can resist that?

Is this the kind of love that Jesus was talking about when He said we must be like little children to enter the kingdom? Did Jesus get the same feeling in His heart when the children came crowding around Him, simply to hug His legs and look up into His eyes? Did they squeal with joy when He crouched down to their level to look into their eyes and smile at them? (What a picture—God in the flesh, crouching down on His knees to look a child in the eyes and smile at her).

Festus and Titus

For obvious reasons, much of my Kenyan “journey into the heart of God” has been with children and through children. I have found myself pondering afresh the many places where Jesus referred to children—and always in a most positive way. It is almost like the child became to Him a symbol. I “see” Him now, looking at the children and receiving incredible revelation. He saw something in children that reminded Him of the budding new life that He saw emerging in His disciples. He knew that if they ever heard Him at all, it was only through the ears of their inner child, the child whose “angel” “always beholds the face of my Father in heaven.”

Cuddly darlin's--Priscilla and Faith

We all have an “inner child” of which natural children are merely a picture. It is our inner child that knows and sees. If we lose touch with our inner child, we lose touch with God Himself because it is only in the realm of childlikeness where His fatherhood can be experienced. Jesus knew this firsthand, from His own experience. He also became just like a little child—a perfect little child, and thus the perfection of His Father and His kingdom was made wide open to Him and He was able to give it to others.

While pondering this, I was reminded of a dream I had several years ago. In this dream, I saw a little girl in a white dress, perhaps about 5 or 6 years old. She was speaking the gospel, with the most incredible wisdom and great simplicity. I watched her in awe. How could it be that one so young could be so wise and speak with so much authority? There was a power in her that was pure and holy and totally disarming. She could look at people and see right into the heart of situations and speak a word that brought clarity and healing. She laid hands on the sick and prayed for them in the simplest faith, and they recovered. Everything about her was miraculous and beautiful. I watched her in action for a while, feeling exceptionally oafish—large and dense and coarse and dull. Finally, I asked her the obvious question: “WHO ARE YOU?”

She looked at me like I was shocked I wouldn’t know who she was, and then she told me her name. It is the name of a woman minister who I really respect, who I know happens to be in her 70’s. I had always admired this woman for her remarkable faith. In confusion, I stared at the little girl and said, “How can you be so and so? She is in her 70’s and you are just a child!” to which the girl told me, “If you are seeing me like a little child, it is because God knows you needed to see me this way.”

WOW! What a revelation! Creation stands on tiptoe, waiting to see the unveiling of the sons of God…and when they are revealed, it won’t be those who stand on their great intellectual prowess, or whose closets have been jammed up with a lifetime of old clothing and accumulated junk and cobweb-theology and sharp swords. These sons will be simple and pure; and their clothing of light will be cloaked in garments of humility. And lo and behold—they will be CHILDREN! And the world will wonder and fall to its knees when it sees the simple restoring power of a true word spoken from child-like lips of faith, hope and love.

As I said in a Facebook post a few weeks ago:

While “childishness” must be grown out of, “childlikeness” must be grown into. I am now convinced that any REAL spiritual growth comes only out of the true child-nature because only the child is willing to learn. True childlikeness is high spiritual attainment. “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will BY NO MEANS enter it.” Luke 18:17
Jesus is saying it is IMPOSSIBLE to enter into the realm in which He dwelled, apart from a childlike nature. He knew this not just from observation but by His own experience. It was the spirit of Sonship in His own heart, calling “Abba Father” that taught Him true childlikeness. And the wonder of it all—when He gazed at Abba, He saw that same Childlike Heart. Childlikeness is never something we grow out of. If we become too “mature” to be childlike, we have grown past God Himself–grown into something old and withered and dead and barren—whereas our Father is freshness and simplicity and purity and humility.”

G.K. Chesterton said this wonderfully well: “It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” –G. K. Chesterton

I am learning so much from my little teachers.

children praying over Easter weekend

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A Little Sparrow

A little sparrow found her way
Into the palace of a king
A place where great eagles gather
A place where lions reign

Frightened, she knew she did not belong
In the midst of ones so grand
For she was small and powerless
Unable to defend

She softly sought a corner
Where she could hide her broken wing
Where her tiny chirp would not be heard
Amongst the mighty roars that sing

Her eyes widened at the majesty
And royal colors on display
And she wept because she did not belong
And her feathers were brown and grey

No one scarcely noticed
The sparrow in their midst
For they were busy with great plans
As they declared the Great King’s wish

Ms. Sparrow settled quietly
In her corner far away
And there she tended her young ones
And there she learned to pray

When one day to her surprise
One came to talk to her
A little lamb, small and meek
He was wounded, just like her

“Ms. Sparrow, why do you wait here
In this corner far away
Don’t you know that you are welcome?”

The lamb began to say

“But little lamb, I cannot fly
And my colors are dull and brown
It’s clear I don’t really belong here
Just take a look around!”

The lamb drew the sparrow to him
And said, “rest here on my back.
I will carry you up to the King Himself
For there you will have no lack”

“I know how you feel, Ms. Sparrow
For I am rejected too
And there are some here in this palace
Who don’t see me, like they don’t see you”

So the little lamb and sparrow
Made their way towards the Great Throne
And she nestled between his shoulders in peace
A friend to call her own!

As they came before the Throne
She saw it was empty of the King
And she wondered where He was
This One she feared and longed to see

The little lamb gently laid
Ms. Sparrow on the altar
He laid her nest and babies too
His touch could not have been softer

He said, “Here is your new home,
Sparrow dear, right before My Throne
For the altars of the Lord of Hosts
Are made especially for My Own”

She wondered why the little lamb
Would speak with such authority
When turning she saw that he was gone
And on the throne; there sat the King!

She gazed into His Lion Eyes
With a trembling but steady gaze
For though she saw the Lion there
His eyes were just the same

It was the little lamb looking back at her
Through the Lion’s Mane
It was his gentle voice inside the roar
That sounded just the same

Undone, the sparrow wept again
For what she had freely gained
For who was she, that she should dwell
In the Presence of the Great King?

“My gentleness has made you great” He said
“I’ll stoop down again and again
To gather the poor and lonely
And make the outcast into my friend”

And now Ms. Sparrow has found a home
In the presence of the King
And sometimes to her surprise when she opens her mouth
She hears an eagle scream!

And often she takes to flight beyond
What her broken wing once knew
Soaring in light and sound and joy
In which she freely moves

But her favorite place will always be
Following her Friend (who is her love)
Whether high or low, wherever He goes

For she knows her real name now: “Beloved”

“Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.” (Psalm 84:3).

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God” (Luke 2:6)

This was a little child’s poem that the Lord gave me last year right after I got back from Niger. In my mind’s eye, I saw a sparrow fly into a great room of royal people and I felt all the fears and insecurities in her heart as she looked around the room. I thought of many of the people who visit our churches for the first time and the feelings that rise up in their heart that make them feel shut out. From that small vision, this poem flowed out. I thought of this poem for the first time in a long time today as I was meditating again on one of the key scriptures that has been in my heart constantly in regard to this trip:

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory.” 1 Sam 2:8

Oh kings and princes, be wise! A throne is not given to us to exalt in, but to use for the benefit of lifting others up into the same realm. Why else does a king exist but to be a servant? All over this world, across the ash heaps of the nations, He is raising up the poor and giving them a throne of glory. He is going to surprise everyone. I know that I know that many of these “sparrows” are destined for a higher place than some of the grandest “peacocks” that currently occupy the center of the attention of the church world. But even in that we must tread softly….so softly…..

There they sit, arguing about who is the greatest among them….One is an Apostle. One is a Prophet. One is a King/Priest. One is Sonship. One is the Bride. One is “Third Day.” One is “The Best Denomination.” One has moved beyond “denominations.” One is this company. One is that company. One is of Paul. One is of Apollos. And they are striving amongst themselves and comparing themselves amongst themselves. And they are all carnal.

And He sits there. And He waits…again…and again…for someone to “get it.” Yes, He longs for them to receive their proper identity–to “know who they are.” A true knowing that has no need of arguing over who is the greatest. It is the knowledge that all greatness is servanthood at its essence.

And in she comes.

A sparrow. She has not a title. She is not an apostle. She is not one of the 12. She has never heard of Sonship or being a Melchisidek priest. She is just a woman. A young woman, or an old one perhaps; with one thing to give. She enters like a child. She enters like a servant. She enters in righteous boldness. All she knows is that she loves Him and that there is a need in HIS HEART at this moment. And so she comes in the room for one reason only: to meet His need in the hour of His greatest trial. To minister to HIM.

Let the arguers argue. They can have their names and titles.

Here sits JESUS. He is lonely in the crowd. He is waiting for one thing….the one thing He has waited for from the beginning: LOVE! Immature love is still love….and it will grow into full and mature love. How patiently He waits!

She, the little sparrow, breaks open her innermost being for Him, holding nothing back. Who cares what they say or think? Who cares that they do not understand. Here sits JESUS!

Only let me pour it all out Lord, until the last drop is gone. Let me give it all to YOU, even as you gave it all for me! I know it is nothing compared to what You did, but please allow me to GIVE–in some measure–the same way that you gave! Forever ruin the outer shell of my life, it matters not! Just don’t let me hold anything back! Just let me be with You wherever You are! High or low, it matters not! Dusty streets in hidden alleys…or royal palaces—it matters not. Outside the gate; shut out with their scornful words—it matters not, but only that I am with with You where You are.  Only let me bring joy to YOU! ONLY LET ME LOVE YOU…as YOU HAVE LOVED ME!

Her hair falls out and mingles with her tears, the perfumed oil, and the dust of His feet….The feet that in just a few days will be nailed to the cross.

Do you hear them? The arguers? Do you hear their scorn, their indignation? Their embarrassment?

What do I see in His eye? A tear! What is going through His heart as she weeps at His feet and kisses them, and the fragrance waxes stronger and fills the room? His heart is moved….

He sees something! In her ministry to Him, He sees a reflection of His ministry to the world. He sees his own broken life and the Christ within Him (yes, that Holy Oil, that Anointing) being poured out over His Body, even as she pours it upon His head…Precious oil running down Aaron’s beard and garments, all the way down to His feet. And He smells the fragrance of His own life being poured out and the smell fills the entire room; a prophetic moment understood only by Him…and perhaps her. If she doesn’t understand now, she will someday. But what she does understand—right now—is profound. Because she is the only who sees….Him and HIS DESIRE.

Father, You allowed her to see…into Me! A miracle! Father, You opened her eyes!

And the Father speaks back to Him:

“My beloved Son, here is the day of the gladness of Your heart, here is Your sure and certain promise, forever settled from the foundation. They will see. They will hear. They will understand. They will stop the arguing. They will follow in Your steps and be girded and taken where they did not want to go. And they will do it for love even as you did it for love. The boys with information and inspiration will become men of revelation and manifestation. I will knit them together in One Body and they will dwell in unity, each part honoring the other members more than themselves, each part serving the others, each part existing for Your sake…

And then YOU (the one great HIM composed of many) will walk out as ONE into the world and they will SEE what has truly never been seen…a new man, a many membered man, a new creation born from

Him

And from…

Her.

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