Glimpses of glory.

Church has been holding prayer/revival nights. We came, some several hundreds of us, with hands raised to hail Christ our Lord and hearts open to receive him.

The teenagers were there, from middle school kids to high school youths, hands open, faces raised with passion. I thought: young lions, full of zeal. God, make them brilliant lights of hope and victory in a dark world.

The band played. I watched the young black African bassist with his groove and virtuoso fingers and flashing white grin, the young Chinese drummer whose hands and feet moved to conjure magic. Young lions, probably not even twenty yet, pouring their talent into a purpose greater than themselves, into worship.

Our pastor honoured the seniors in the congregation, asking those aged seventy and over to come forward to receive prayer and blessing. They came, the elders. Some were frail but they came from their seats to the edge of the stage. Some I know had been in this church for most of their lives, and are still here, still vibrant. We honoured their wisdom, their endurance, their faithfulness to the house.

At the end of one evening, I saw D. and R. in the parking lot. D., pastor out west, Latino, big in physique and heart, asked, “Vega, friend! you gonna make a pilgrimage out west to see us again?” R., white Anglo and fellow soldier, just smiled in his quiet way and hugged me. They got into the car and left, back out west, to the frontiers.

Soon, friends, I’ll make the pilgrimage.

Currently thinking. My personal difficulties with the narratives of lack and disability prevalent in social/online discourse. But I can’t be judgmental because I have those narratives in my life too. Tension between the now/not-yet paradox of faith — Christ Jesus has come to give us abundant life now, but there are some things that won’t be restored/healed/delivered until Christ comes in glory.

How then to live in this paradox? What is the difference between an acknowledgment of limitations that produces freedom and grace, and a resignation that surrenders spiritual territory to evil principalities and powers? How do the current social discourses on disability feed into either? Where am I speaking and living with a paradigm of lack and inability, and why? What kind of fruit am I producing when I feed that paradigm, and how is the confession of my thoughts and speech shaping my own life? Am I aligning with what Christ says about me?

Wonderful, continued.

The Holy Spirit breathed a question into my mind this morning.

“How much do you want God’s presence? –Wait. Let’s rephrase that. Do you want God’s presence above all else?

And the answer that comes from my life is: No, I don’t. I don’t want it that much.

“Why not?”

If I take a certain tack, the question is easy to answer. But that’s the wrong tack to the wrong answer.

So I answered: I have forgotten the great story of my life.

I have gone to the lesser stories that delight for the moment. All those stories eventually end, and I’m left with that dissatisfaction and hunger for something greater. But the Great Story that God the Author is writing will never end. And my story is woven into it. Yes, God is writing my story and he is writing it perfectly.

How could I lose my delight in the Great Story, unless I had forgotten it? How could my life take on this grey cast, if I had not started thinking that the Great Story is not for me?

Spirit of God, remind me again of my story that you are writing. Truly, in the humdrum busy of life, I gradually forgot and forgot, until it became a faraway echo. Bring me back to wonder — how wonderful you are, and how wonderful is my life because you are the Author and you write a perfect Story.

“Remember not the former things,
     nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
     now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
     and rivers in the desert.
The wild beasts will honour me,
     the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
     rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
     the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.
—Isaiah 43:18-21

Wonderful

And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honour you?” And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?”

So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching…

—Judges 13:17-19

In the humdrum busy of my life, I’d forgotten that God is wonderful. No matter if the rest of my life sometimes has a grey cast over it, no matter that I am dissatisfied for reasons I can’t even begin to articulate. Hasn’t God already done a wondrous thing by being part of my life?

O LORD, bring me to a position of wonder in you. I will still say, you are wonderful and therefore my life is amazing.

Being the hero of my story.

Tigana is a story of a people reclaiming their inheritance. Guy Gavriel Kay has ensorcelled me with his mighty tale. But more on the book later.

Apropos of Kay’s novel and Doug Wilson’s exegesis on Psalm 2 (disparate sources, but that’s how my mind works)—

In the last few years I’ve found myself drawn more and more strongly to the heroic, the mythic, the legendary. In stories, music, and imagery, they are all clarion calls to my heart and stir up a longing for the ineffable. For something wondrous I can see, that stands just beyond me and beckons me to come. In the midst of life that sometimes feels like an endless ploughing of the earth, seeing nothing but the dirt in front of me — the legends cry: Look up!

Look up at the sky, look up to the far mountains. There is more beyond this life! And even greater: there is more to what you are doing now, even if it is just earth and fallow dirt before your eyes. Don’t you see that you are in the Promised Land, and because you ploughed your ground with faithfulness, it shall one day cover the whole world?

I’ve just begun reading the tale called the Love of Christ; but I’ve been in this other book for at least a couple years already: the tale of God the Master Storyteller.

Psalm 2:7-8—
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.

Why are such fantasy novels so powerful and moving? Tigana, Riddle-Master, The Lord of the Rings… the heart of these stories are of Alessan, Morgon and Aragorn discovering their true natures, and reclaiming their inheritances and lordship. So it is with us: so we read those stories, and long for what we have lost.

Mighty though those tales are, they are only shadows of the reality. Even more glorious is the story that God first told in his Son, and is now telling in his Church, in individual lives. Don’t we all want to be heroes of our own stories? And so shall we be. But who is telling the story?

The heroes in the story never know where they are going or how it will turn out in the end.

It may suffice for fantasy novels, but in the story of life all authors fall short, including myself, for we know not the end or how to get there. But God is the Master Storyteller, he knows the beginning from the end for he wrote it first in Jesus, and he knows how to get there — and tell an amazing yarn in the meantime. And just like his own story, our lives will end in glory, perfection, and full inheritance.

Even as the heroes journey through the dark, fraught, perilous times, we the readers know how it will end. People of God, whose lives are still being written by the Master Storyteller: can we possibly look at our own stories and see the same ending?

Ever since I had this revelation, I’ve had more and more peace, gratitude and wonder in my heart, that overcomes fear and anxiety about the future, the unknown. Life is wonderful! In the great deeds and small details, God is telling a good story in me. And when the days just seem like I’m staring at and ploughing the ground before me, I can still raise my eyes to the mountains and look to the sky, and that yearning in my heart tells me that there is more to be written yet.

One touch.

I’ve been learning a lot in faith lately.

One revelation that has been unfolding for the last couple months has been the love of Christ. The fierce, fiery, unrelenting, violently passionate, wholly possessive, willingly and joyously sacrificial, love of Christ for the Church his bride. This is no mere human love; this truly is divine love.

It is not a common revelation amongst Christians, even in most churches. Because it is not a comfortable revelation. It’s easy and relatively safe to contemplate a benevolent love, even a Fatherly love, for a measure of distance can be maintained. It is terrifying to imagine the passionate love of a lover for his dearly beloved. Because it renders your vulnerable, it strips you naked, it exposes everything in you. Who can face such intimacy without fear?

In this world of flagrant bodily exposure, the heart has never been more shielded. Small wonder that we shy away from the burning love of Christ. It turns the world upside down.

Oh, why remain in shallows of vapid love and meaningless sexual gestures? The deep is terrifying. The deep is exhilarating. Once you taste from the deep, nothing else will satisfy.

To go deep, you have to drown.

Jesus, for a moment you touched me that white-hot love, and I am irreparably scarred. That one draught will sustain me for forty days and forty nights; that one touch is enough to set my heart longing for your courts and your glory.

You said, I will fill your cup to overflowing. So Lord, pour it out.

Paean to the maiden city.

My church is reading the entire Bible through this year in personal devotionals/studies. I’m currently in the midst of the Psalms, which pass through my mind like water: refreshing, but so hard to grasp once it flows into the past. But one psalm stopped me in my tracks…

Psalm 87
A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. A Song.

On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
    the Lord loves the gates of Zion
    more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
Glorious things of you are spoken,
    O city of God.   Selah

Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
    behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—
    “This one was born there,” they say.
And of Zion it shall be said,
    “This one and that one were born in her”;
    for the Most High himself will establish her.
The Lord records as he registers the peoples,
    “This one was born there.”   Selah

Singers and dancers alike say,
    “All my springs are in you.”

Most of the Psalms, both petitions and praises, use rather concrete language that addresses their subject matters directly. So I paused at Psalm 87 because its language seemed a bit more oblique and metaphorical than the others. The subject is different too: instead of praising God, it praises Zion, the new Jerusalem, the City of God. The language is unusual, almost mysterious, and intimate in its mystery.

I wondered, What is so significant about being born in Zion? But I consider:

Hebrews 11:16—
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

I wondered about the last verse, which seemed such a cryptic ending. But then the answer came:

Psalm 46:4—
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.

Revelation 22:1—
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city…

One day the pilgrims will arrive at the New Jerusalem. One day the nations will say, This one is from the City of God. There they were born, born again.

Come to think of it, the city of God is constantly “anthromorphized” in the Bible. The bride of Christ, New Jerusalem. Hmm, how curious! This makes for a rather nifty world-building scenario…