Friday, May 26, 2006

Blink. Squint-squint. Blink blink.

I love eyes. I love looking into HCWB's eyes when we hold each other. I love looking into the eyes of my family when we sit and share our hearts with one another. I love looking into the eyes of people I am listening to. It helps me listen, because I feel they are giving me more of their heart. Even if, while talking to me, they can't look me in the eye -- this in itself helps me understand them more.

And I am compelled to look into the eyes of other people -- especially someone with whom I am sharing my heart. I can't seem to help it. I can't NOT at least try to look in their eyes. It feels like cheating to me if I don't, like I am witholding a part of myself -- only giving myself half-way. I want to give all of me, like a little child does.I've heard it said that looking into someone's eyes allows me to look into their soul. What an honour and privilege, then, when someone allows me to come that close to them -- to really "see" them as they are; to know they are seeing me for who I really am.


There are a lot of verses in the Bible which refer to eyes. It is good to "find favor in God's eyes" and we are the "apple of His eye". He puts light in our eyes, and the eye is the lamp of the body. If my eyes are clear my whole body will be full of light.

Then, of course, there is Jesus' famous teaching about eyes:

"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye."

~ Luke 6:41-42

As much as I love to look into people's eyes, I do sometimes find myself becoming critical. In addition to seeing goodness and light there, I also find fault. Dang.

Someone told me once:
"If there are people you don't like, what you don't like about them is what you don't like about yourself. You see in them something you don't like about yourself and you project it onto them as their problem, rather than deal with your own stuff. You avoid them because you are avoiding your own stuff."
Ouch. That hurts because it is so true!

I've started wondering: maybe the speck I see in their eye is not really in their eye at all -- it is only in mine.

In The Visual Bible's account of this scene from the book of Matthew, Jesus picks up a big walking stick and puts it against his face as a visual. He seems to be comically highlighting how ludicrous it is for me to try and help someone else when I have a huge problem in my own life.

And that's the way I've always read the passage where Jesus is talking about the speck and the log: as if He was saying
"Your stuff is bigger and worse, so forget about your brother’s stuff and worry about your own."
I guess I've seen it sort of like in elementary school when little Billy tells on little Mary, and the teacher's response is (insert either a sickly sweet voice or a horribly stern voice here. take your pick.)
"You worry about yourself, and let her worry about herself, OK?"
But as I have been pondering, I started thinking about how painful it is to have a speck in my eye. It is like getting a seed stuck in between my teeth, or getting a pebble stuck in my shoe. It may just be a small eyelash, or a tiny piece of dust, but to me it feels HUGE and I GOTTA DEAL WITH IT RIGHT NOW!!! Do you know the urgency I mean? Like, nothing else can happen until it is dealt with. My whole life stops -- heck, as far as I'm concerned the whole world stops! -- until I can get the speck out of my eye.

So I think maybe instead of the walking-stick-in-my-eye imagery, a better way for me to grasp the message in this verse is to picture myself squinting and blinking, eyes watering and red, saying
"Here (blink) let me help you (squint-squint) with that speck (water water) in your eye.

(blink-blink) No no, (water water) I’m fine. I’m great!!!

This thing
(squint) in my eye? It’s (blink) nothing.

(water) do the (squint) Christian thing and (blink) deny myself and (water) take up my cross so I can (blink squint water water water) help you out."
But their speck can’t be dealt with by me.

Not because I have a log in my eye -- but because I have a speck in my eye which ought to feel huge, but it doesn't. Because I am not allowing myself to feel. I am not dealing with it; I am pretending it is not even there.
In "trying to help" them, I become worse than a "blind leader of the blind" -- I become a blind leader of the non-blind!

Maybe Jesus isn't saying my stuff is worse than anyone else's, in relative terms. Maybe He is saying

"My dear little brother; my friend!
Learn to pay attention to the little irritants in your own life.
To someone else the speck in your eye may seem tiny.
It is no big deal to them, but to you it should feel huge.

Quit avoiding your own pain."

I'm learning. Slowly but surely, I'm learning.

~ cob

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

My First Four Tattoos

My 1st Tattoo:
When: July 17th, 2001 (age 35).

Who: Sky @ Al's Rock of Ages

What/Where: Large (5" tall x 3 " wide) celtic knotwork cross centered on my left deltoid/shoulder. I'm Scottish, so the celtic knotwork is red, not green. The upper portion where the vertical meets the horizontal there is a gold circlet interwoven with the cross. I saw something like it online, and printed the picture. I brought it (and the color version on my laptop) to the artist and he re-vamped it into an original design.How much: $200 & I bought the artist and his girlfriend dinner so they'd stay open late and do it after hours, instead of making me come back later! =O) Took around 1 hour to draw and design, then about 1 hour of "buzz time."

Pain: This was my first tattoo, so it is the gold standard fot future tattoos. Here's what I wrote right after getting it (YRMV):

You know the 4-sided stand-up cheese grater everyone has? There is the "slice" side, and the "grate" side, and then two "shred" sizes: medium and small. Imagine a small steel tool shaped like a small ruler. Imagine it has just one (1) medium-sized shredder hole in it. Now imagine the artist placing his/her thumb against the back of the tool, pressing the "shred" hole against your flesh with medium pressure, and then dragging it around.

Now imagine the nerve endings getting overloaded, so it gets less sensitive after 40 minutes or so. The artist's girlfriend kept asking me "does it still hurt?" I told her, at one point: "Well, it's weird. It doesn't really hurt anymore. Now it feels like the act of doing the tattoo is making the skin itch really bad -- but then the act of doing the tattoo is also *scratching* that itch -- so it. Actually. Um. Feels. Um. Kinda good." At this point, as I'm hearing the words leave my mouth, I'm thinking "Oh no, I think I've crossed some sort of line here..."

But then the (tattoo-covered) artist stopped, and looked up at me with a wide-eyed wonder that faded into a sly smile as he said "No, you're right -- it feels good doesn't it?" I knew right then the reason some people have so many!

Why: I had been thinking of doing this for years, but always held back for some reason. Last July I had just returned from a Pastor's conference. One of the main speakers was a man named Leonard Sweet, who is a voice on Postmodernism. I am interested in this societal shift, so I found his lectures and workshops really inspiring. Something he said really struck me. I have always seen myself as firmly in the middle: born in 1965 means I am neither a "Boomer" or a "Buster/Xer" -- I'm a "Cusper". Len was trying to bring definition to thought patterns and paradigm differences and said something like "Boomers see tattoos as something that sailors, bikers, and prisoners have. PostModern thinkers see their bodies as a canvas on which they tell their story." It dawned on me that all 5 of my ear piercings (2 left lobe, 1 left top, 2 right lobe) were part of my story -- all marking significant events. So I quit thinking of myself as having to be "in the middle" and felt released to get the tattoo! I also felt released to really "be me" for God. SO I chose this design as a way to celebrate that new dedication to following Jesus and "carrying my cross daily."
My 2nd Tattoo:
When: 26th July, 2002

Who: Al @ Al's Rock of Ages

What/Where: Life-size 3D two-shaded green rose stem (with thorns) in a celtic knot weave around my right ankle. On the outer aspect of my ankle, a shoot branches off the anklet weave and snakes up the outside of my calf (with a couple leaves on the stem), ending in a life-size yellow rose bud. On the inner aspect of my ankle, one of the thorns is "poking" my flesh and so there is a tiny drop of red blood there. The whole tattoo is back-shaded and drawn such that it looks at a glance like it is a real rose wrapped around my leg. It was an all original design that I thought up and commissioned the artist to do. This one was done at the same shop, this time by the owner.How much: $400, but I think I got off easy. He did a lot of detail work. Great guy. Took about 2 hours of design time and 4 hours of buzz time. My appointment was at 9pm, we started buzzing at 11pm, and I was walking out the door at 3am!

Pain: This one hurt worse than the cross, as he had to go back over areas more for the 3D shading and extra colors.

Why: My mom died on Memorial day that year, just a few short days before her 68th birthday. She was from Texas, so I chose a yellow rose. The part on my outer calf symbolizes my celebration of her life for the world to see. The anklet stem/thorn weave symbolizes the firm foundation she gave me in life and my faith. The small "poke" with the drop of blood on the inside of my ankle symbolizes my pain at losing her -- more private and less visible to the rest of the world, yet still there, still significant, and still something I'll carry always.
My 3rd Tattoo:
When: 28th February, 2005

Who: Mark @ Al's Rock of Ages

What/Where: Two Celtic (again, red since I'm Scottish) symbols for the Trinity, interwoven one inside the other.How Much: $75, if I remember correctly. This only took about 30 minutes of buzz time, but about an hour of design time!>

Pain: It was pretty painful at first, but by the time it was getting numb, it was over.

Why: Trinity: three-in-one nature of God. In a way, I am also three-natured. I have a body, a mind, and a spirit. The two symbols interwoven then, represent me hidden in God, or God lilving in me. It is on my right wrist to remind me this is where I meet people, and right where He met us.
My 4th Tattoo:
When: 4th May, 2006.

Who: Drew @ Al's Rock of Ages

What/Where: This one is on my upper back, just below my collar line. It is a symbol, followed by some words. See picture and explanation below:How Much: $140. Took about an hour of design time and about 45 minutes of buzz time.

Pain: Surprisingly, there was very little pain, except as he got right in the middle of my back. Otherwise it was really just a feeling of pressure, sort of.

Why: For awhile, I've noticed I sometimes forget who I am -- forget whose I am -- who I am made to be.

The words "imago dei" are Latin for "Image of God". Putting that phrase, in that place, is like a tag on a shirt -- it is a reminder of who made me, what "line" I am a part of.

The words "conversatio morem" are Latin for "constant conversion" or "death to the status quo". I first heard about this phrase from my friend Keith Giles, who wrote an article about it here. For me, it is a reminder I am still in process; not yet finished. Also, it speaks to me of an active participation with God in all He is doing in me. It speaks not only of being out of the boat, but staying there. Also, the conjugation is not singular. It is not "conversation morum" which would be just about me. It is "conversation morem" -- it is about all of us. and for me it is also about the unique part I have to play in the grand scheme of things God is doing in the life around me.

If you hadn't guessed, the letters are backward so when I look in the mirror (the only way I can see it) I can read it.

The symbol has many meanings. It is trinitarian, but also has two other meanings. It is symbolic of salvation: God reaching His arms down to us from above. It is also symbolic of convergence: two paths becoming one. The lines are squiggly to imply constant motion.

The red accent at the center of the symbol, as well as the dots above each i provide symmetry and also a flash of light; radiance from within.
My 5th Tattoo:
I'm not sure yet what my next tattoo will be. So far each one has had deep meaning to me as well as being a marker; a milestone for really significant events in my life. I'm sure I'll get more. At some point I think it would be cool to get the same tattoo with someone else, at the same time -- a shared experience marking the same event in our shared lives.

Stay tuned.

It feels good!

~ cob

Saturday, May 13, 2006

What Am I Built For?

Last night HCWB and I spent the evening having dinner and hanging out with a friend of hers from her childhood. HCWB has known HZ since they were in 5th grade or so. They've stayed connected through the years and she even went down to Cal Poly and ate an anchovy pizza with him once.

HZ is going through a tough time in his life right now, and it was good to sit and talk. I'd been up since 3 a.m. Friday morning, so around 11 p.m. I was pretty dang tired. HZ was a gracious host and was concerned because I was so tired. As we talked about it, I shared with him some of the stuff God is doing in my heart these days in the early morning hours.

I also shared with him how this is what gives me life -- this is what I seem to be built for: sitting on a couch with a couple good friends, just listening to someone pour out their heart.

Then, this morning I read GG's post about her personal mission statement, developed through the FranklinCovey MissionBuilder website.

I like it a lot and I agree with her -- it seems to do a good job of expressing her heart, at least as I see her. Reading hers reminded me of the mission statement I came up with at the same website almost two years ago. In October 2003 God started me on a journey of discovery that continues today. About 8 months into that journey, I found the MissionBuilder website.

Here is my journal entry from 1st June 2004:

I've heard before of people writing "personal mission statements" but I always thought it was kinda corny -- or overly "managerial" -- a friend of mine wrote one, and others I've known have done so. It just never seemed to be a "me" kind of thing to do -- and (probably the bigger issue here) it always seemed daunting. Because of the work involved, but also because of the inherent responsibility once it was done.

but today I went online and did it. Of the choices for building a mission statement, here are the two versions I came up with. The first is a "kickstart" version (crafted after answering a few simple questions designed to elicit my values). The second is a "museum" version (crafted after the example of others')

  • I will remain true to my promises
  • I will take steps to continue to grow in love for Cathy
  • I will support and encourage those in leadership over me
  • I will take opportunities to enjoy the beauty of life around me
  • I will follow Jesus as I lead others
  • I will worship only God
  • I will follow only Jesus
  • I will not abandon those God has given me
  • I will strive to live a good portion of my life outside the box
  • I will never stop learning and growing
  • I will make my life an offering to others
  • I will love freely
  • I will try again when I fail
  • I will look to Jesus as my source of affirmation and encouragement
  • I want to rely on God as my source, relating to Him intimately, looking to Him continually, and honoring Him fully.

  • I want to utilize the best of my talents and gifts, in effective ways. Not wasting time with the "good" or even the "really good" but instead focusing myself on utilizing the "best" in me because I want to impact others with the Love of God in a practical, purposeful way.

  • I want to relate to others in such a way that they go away feeling more loved, and less burdened.

  • I want to live the kind of life others will look at and say "that is a life worth living" -- not because I crave their affirmation, but because I inspire their journey.

On this journey, I've been looking forward for awhile; focused on what is ahead. Looking back now, over the past 2 years, I can see how God has been enabling me to live these ways more and more. He really is making me into the person He has designed me to be. That feels sooooooo good.

I know I'm not "there" yet, totally, you know?But it is nice to have confirmation I'm on the right yellow brick road -- the one He designed especially for me.

~ cob

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sleepless on the Road to Oz

In Hello God, is that You? I wrote how I've been waking up at 3:33 am for a little while now. It doesn't happen every night, and it isn't always exactly 3:33 am, but it has been fairly consistent. On Tuesday, 25th April I didn't actually get out of bed. Wednesday I got up and journaled and cried and read and prayed. Good times.

The same thing happened Thursday. And Friday. Saturday I slept through the night but then it continued on Sunday and following: a few days on, one day off, a dew days on again.

In his book Wild at Heart, John Eldredge laments the lack of a masculine rites-of-passage in mainstream U.S. culture. He asserts though: if a man wants, he can ask God to take him through something like this. I had recently prayed and asked for this. I thought perhaps, like some Native American traditional rites of passage, God was using sleep deprivation and solitude to bring me to a place of manhood.

He certainly has done that, as I wrote about in Who I Really Am. That was Thursday morning 4th May and although only a few days have gone by I can honestly say it has been life changing.

So the fun continues.

I slept through Friday and Saturday nights, but then this morning I woke up at a little after 3:00 am. I laid there for a few minutes debating with myself and God about whether I should really get up. I said "But God, you are done with that whole rite-of-passage thing, can't I sleep?"

He responded by putting two distinct ideas in my head:
  1. The song Breath of Heaven
    • really just the first 3 words of the chorus of the song, over and over and over and over...
  2. The image of something called a Tree of Heaven
    • we removed some of these last year. They are horrible plants to have in our yard, but are actually a very good representation of the Kingdom of God and how it spreads. I'd go into more detail, but it is something I'm still percolating on and may end up being another post.
    • my name Keith comes from an ancient Scottish word for "woods". I absolutely love to walk in dense forest and love all kinds of trees. As I reflected on the traits of this particular tree it seemed like God was making a favorable comparison between who I am and that kind of tree.
I wrote about me being The Tin Woodsman (Hmmm. Woods. Man.). He has also been using this alone time with Him in the middle of the night to oil my hinges, and teach me about what it means for my heart to come alive. What it means to just sit with Him and really feel things.

So what's a guy to do?

I got up. Boy am I glad I did. What a great time I had!

As I journaled and talked to God about the above, and asked what He is doing, he reminded me that I'm still, in some ways, 13 years old. The Bar Mitzvah was last Thursday morning, but today is just Monday! The way I figure it, I'm now a man, but I still have a lot of growing up to do as a man. A typical rite-of-passage happens in the summer of a boy's 13th year. The transition God recently brought me through has happened in the summer of my 40th year.

I have 27 years of catching-up to do, and I'm glad it is on God's timetable. With God a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. So I'm hoping He doesn't take a full 27 years. But it does look like I am still on the yellow brick road for a little bit longer.

In Hello God, is that You? I mentioned a little about the meanings of numbers (you can read the comments there for more info). In case you miss the connection: 27 is 3 raised to the 3rd power. 27=3x3x3. 333 again. Hmmmm.

I honestly don't know what significance that has except to say I believe it is God -- He's saying "This is me Keith. Come away with Me and learn from Me. Follow Me."

And He is tying things in from my past. My first tattoo (done in July 2001 to symbolize a rededication of my life to Jesus) is a celtic cross on my left shoulder. If you look closely at the weave, you'll notice there are 27 places where the weave "crosses" itself. I didn't plan it that way. I only noticed it after the fact. I hadn't thought of that in a long time, but this morning in the shower He pointed it out to me again. So for me 333 (at the very least) seems to be God saying "This is me Keith. Tick Tock Tick Tock."

I have "eyes to see" and I'm watching. I have "ears to hear" and I'm listening.

I'm watching and listening closely to see and hear what God is doing.

He seems to still be up to quite a bit and I am loving it. I think I'm in for some more sleepless nights before I arrive at Oz and really attain all The Wizard wants to impart to me.

(and as tired as I may be, I gotta resist the poppies. Being up at night really has been exhilerating and fun and I don't want to miss any of it!)

~ cob

Saturday, May 06, 2006

You're Learning to Sit Charlie Brown!

I'm the youngest in my family, and the only boy. When I was around 3 years old, the only kids my age were a little girl down the block named Lucy, and another one named Sally. My parents started calling me Charlie Brown. At first that was cute, I guess.

Growing up it was fun to watch the looks on the faces of kids who came over for dinner. My mom would say "Charlie, please pass the potatoes" and I would. My guests would always look so confused!

But over the years, I began identifying with Charlie Brown more and more, and that has been painful at times.

Charlie Brown never works up the courage to go talk to the Little Red Haired Girl. Growing up I so desperately wanted to feel loved, to feel wanted. But I was horribly intimidated by girls. They always seemed so confident and sure of themselves. And it wasn't until my senior year of High School that I had a girlfriend.

I've never been good at sports. I've tried a few, but in the really athletic ones I've always been overshadowed by the guys with natural ability. Charlie Brown has never been able to kick the football Lucy holds. And he always falls for it when she promises not to pull it away "this time".

I played baseball from 2nd through 8th grade. I was almost always the pitcher. In those 6 years I had just one season where we won more games than we lost. I hit a home run...once. Most of the time I struck out...and was laughed at, mocked, and teased mercilessly for it, just like Charlie Brown.

Most of my life I haven't dwelt on it or anything -- it is just kind of out in the back of my mind somewhere. To this day my dad still calls me by that name, only he spells it Charley. One of my sisters still calls me "Charles" sometimes. But it became no big deal for me. I guess I walled it off in my heart and figured if I did that it wouldn't hurt, and wouldn't wreck my day-to-day life.

Then one day when I was in my late twenties, I played softball for the company team where I worked. We were in the playoffs and it was down to the last game. If we won, we'd go on to the championships. If we lost, we were done. I made some amazing plays that day. Diving catches and split-second throws to make an out. I even got a couple good hits, and scored a run or two. But then it was the last inning. We were behind by 1 run, and there were 2 outs. And it was my turn to bat. We had a runner on second base, and he was a fast guy. I knew all I had to do was get on base with a single, the guy on second would score, and we'd win. I was nervous, but also confident. I watched the first pitch go by. Strike one. "That's OK," I thought, "I have one more chance (2 strikes = 1 out in that softball league), but I have to wait for my pitch." The next pitch was an obvious ball, so I watched it go by. I knew if I walked, it would be OK, but also set up a force out situation, which narrowed our chances of winning. Our best chance was for me to get a single. The next pitch came and it looked good enough that I knew I couldn't chance not swinging. I swung even and clean...and got under the ball too much. It went looping up into left-center and fell right into the glove of a waiting opponent. The game was over. The season was over. The playoffs were over. We had lost.

I had lost.

No one laughed at me, though. No one teased me. Guys came up and told me how it was OK, that I had played a really good game. Everyone was a good sport. Except me. All I heard was the voice in my head saying "You're Charlie Brown. You're a loser, and you always will be."

I went to my car and just sat there for a few minutes. I felt so hopeless. I began praying and that turned into a few tears and that turned into me sitting in my car, all sweaty and dirty, begging God to change me -- sobbing to Him that I no longer wanted to be Charlie Brown the Loser.

He comforted me, and I moved on. But me being Charlie Brown -- that stayed in the back of my mind and wouldn't go away.

In earlier posts I've mentioned how isolated and friendless I've felt at times in my life. Charlie Brown knows how this feels. I suppose Lucy is his closest peer, but she is bossy and rude and self-centered. He pours out his heart to her and she trashes him. Like in this comic strip (click to enlarge):

Schulz's masterful work is stunning, as he captures Charlie Brown's expression in that last panel.

Lucy trashes him on multiple levels here. Not only does she blow off his heartfelt plea, she tells him to wish for something else. And as if that weren't bad enough, what she is really saying by this is
"Charlie Brown, you'll never have that kind of friendship. What a stupid thing for you to think you could ask for. You might as well ask for wings Charlie Brown. You having wings is less of a long-shot than you having friends."
Ouch. But I know her voice only too well -- that is the way the enemy lies to me. I long for things and the enemy tells me to give up; give in; surrender to the loss and pain. Like Charlie Brown, I am left in the last panel of the comic with an expression of pained resignation and grief.

In the opening scene of A Charlie Brown Christmas Linus says:
Charlie Brown, of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest!
Ever since that day in the car, my prayer to God has been to reduce or even take away my Charlie Browniness. God comes and hears my prayer saying I don't want to be like this anymore. And He answers that prayer.

But not by taking away my Charlie Browniness.

And I'm actually glad.

See, Charlie Brown loves life and doesn't know when to quit. I guess he is an eternal optimist; his glass is always half-full. I love that about him. I am wired that way too!

See, God didn't take me away from my Charlie Browniness. He is taking me through it. He didn't take it away from me either: He is redeeming it in me.

Almost 20 years ago I became friends with a guy whose name really is Charlie Brown. He has been a friend, pastor and mentor to me. That has been a long-term part of the redemption of that name in my life.

But just over the past year and a half or so, God has done some really amazing things in my heart. He has healed and restored broken parts of it.

In taking me through my Charlie Browniness God is showing me my tendency to get up and run away or run around in circles trying to make something happen. I try to take matters into my own hands and fix the brokenness there. But I can't. I've tried too many times and failed too many times now to think I really could fix anything in my own heart, let alone someone else's. They say "experience is the best teacher." Nuh uh. Failure is.

In Standing I talked about the call to perseverence in trials; how that is following Jesus. I also talked about how, when the Bible talks about "standing" it is more than just "standing around". I am also learning that "sitting" means more than just "sitting around".

Like "standing," "sitting" is not passive. It is active. There is an active intention within "sitting". Instead of running around trying to fix something, and instead of trying to coerce God into following my agenda, I am just "sitting". But in that place of "sitting" I am actively staying present with the moment and the emotions and allowing God to do whatever He would like to do.

God is showing me the above comic strip is like my life, but it doesn't end with Charlie Brown trying to fix anything. He sits in that place of pain and the comic strip continues. Rather than take away Lucy's rude comment, or take Charlie Brown away from Lucy, Charlie Brown has to just sit there for awhile and feel the pain.

I'm learning to just sit and feel. I'm learning to sit still and really feel the pain and heartache and loss and emptiness. God is showing me this is how the comic strip continues:

In that place of loneliness, I cry out to God. I cry out to Him not for Him to follow my orders. I cry out for Him to be with me. I just cry out for Him. In that place of weakness, I allow Him to be strong. I just sit with Him in those painful places and allow God to be there with me, and just be God.

I'm learning He is the best friend I could ever have.

~ charlie brown

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Who I Really Am

The wind no longer howls.

The coke bottles have stopped.

The silence is no longer empty. It is filled with peace.

I am no longer alone.

I wrestled with God for most of the night. I poured out my heart like never before. He met me there and showed me He has been there for a long time. He wrestled with me and showed me His strength; showed me mine. I embraced Him. I embraced His strength.

I embraced my own strength, and will no longer run from it.

I will be what God made me to be, and not shrink back from it. I will fail, but I will try again. I will fail again but I will keep on trying. I will fall, but I will get up. I will fall again but I will keep getting up. I and those around me are worth fighting for, so I will keep fighting for myself and for them.

God wins.

In His wisdom God will choose to offer me His love and strength through others and I will no longer shut them out. I will instead meekly ask for and gratefully receive this love. When I am in pain I will courageously let people know, but I will no longer whine. When I fall and fail I will humbly bow and ask forgiveness. I will also gratefully accept grace extended to me.

But only He can meet my deepest need. Only in Him will I look for my source of strength.

Because of Him, because of my strength:

Today I am no longer Edmund. I am now Peter.

I will not shrink back from the battles which need fighting.

I will be the husband my wife needs me to be; I will fight for her and alongside her.

I will be the brother my sisters & brothers need me to be; I will fight for them and alongside them.

I will be the man those around me need me to be, and I will fight for them.

I can and will be these things because I have been and still am a Son in His Embrace. I am also now something new. He has given me a new name. I am also now Son of His Embrace. And more:

I am a Son of His Tender Strength.

And today I am no longer a boy.

It was not something newly offered. It was there all along. He showed me this overnight as I wrestled with Him and He showed me not only how to ask for it. He showed me how to take hold of it.

As of today I am now a man.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006


In an earlier post I mentioned how someone helped me look at the idea of being "holy" as being not so much "less bad and more good" and more like just "being fully authentically who I am made to be." That will have a net result of the old definition, but has a different focus for me as I live it out. I'm learning more about that, but it comes with a price. It is hard. It comes with bumps and bruises and deep cuts and lacerations to my soul.

In Ephesians 6, Paul encourages us to stand. He uses that word a lot in that one chapter. When I think of that word, I think of it as opposed to sitting. No big deal. But I don't think that is what he meant. If this whole picture of military armor is designed just so we can stand, then there must be more to "standing" than "just standing around". It makes me think of other verses where we're encouraged "Do not grow weary in doing good." Why would we need to be encouraged to not lose heart unless sometimes "doing good" or just "standing" would become really hard.

Years ago a good friend of mine once summed up one facet of the Christian life in a very concise way. He said this:
The Battle is Hard.
The Battle is Holy.
He said sometimes life is like standing in a wind tunnel.

Only not the kind with an airplane or car with soft sand flowing across it checking the aerodynamics. In life's wind tunnel, it is more like me, alone, leaning into the wind, straining with everything I have just to stand. It is hard work.

And then BAM! I get smacked in the head by a coke bottle that has come whistling out of the air vent with no warning. WHAM! Another one. The devil lies to me about who I really am and my heart hurts: SMACK! I say or do something stupid and, in bewilderment, see a coke bottle leaving my own hand, tossed into the windstream ahead of me only to land BASHING!!! into my face. Other times it is not me, but a friend misunderstands me and it takes loads of work to clean up: BAM! A friend says something hurtful and POW! another coke bottle hits me in the face. I try to hang in there and be as humble as possible, apologize when I need to, and SMACK! another bottle bludgeons me anyway.

My heart is ravaged and I make the painful choice to keep it vulnerable and open. In that deep place I then try to communicate how the friend is not the only one hurting here. It would be nice if there were some small acknowledgement; that I, too, am hurting... and yet in that place of raw vulnerability all I hear is the empty wind. The pain, unacknowledged, is doubled. I find the silence is sometimes worse than all the coke bottles life sends careening toward my bloodied and battered face. In the silence I hear dark whispers saying maybe I was right after all. Maybe I am all alone.

And yet I stand. Somehow I know I am not totally alone. Somehow, with a strength that is not my own, I stand. Jesus whispers to my deepest heart:
"Your heart is far too valuable for you to give up on. Life with Me is just too valuable for you to give up on. I have so much prepared for you to do and be and give away to others. YOU are far too valuable for you to give up on. I AM WITH YOU."
So I stand. Beaten; bloody; yet standing.

Despite the comfort I've just received, the tunnel is dark. It is bleak. There is no light ahead, only the wind and the silence; the loneliness and the promise of more coke bottles. I'm in so much pain, and the wind just rages on. All this air, yet it is so hard to breathe. My mouth hangs open. I'm so dry. So thirsty.

But then He whispers something more to my heart. Something about water. Healing water, He says. Soothing water, He says. That's what tunnels are really for, He says.

Like the aqueduct built in the 6th century B.C. by Eupalinos. A tunnel is really just a conduit. A pipe. A method for conveying water from its source to where it is needed. The best aqueducts are tunnels because being deep underground protects their precious content from attack. This famous aqueduct is now open to visitors. From deep inside it looks and feels like just another dark lonely tunnel.But it is more. It is a source of life. Needful things, those.

And I hear Him say He acknowledges my pain. He knows all too well what it feels like; knows how hard it is to simply stand. And He says I can do this, because I am made in His image. Imago Dei. The Image of God. He says I am far more than a beaten & bloodied man, alone inside a wind tunnel. He says in truth I am the tunnel. I am the aqueduct.

He says I am a conduit in which and through which His life flows. And I am not the only one with this calling. There are others, my friend among them. That truth gives me hope. Hope for the future, both distant and near.

But He says for this to happen, I need to follow Him. And following Him means picking up my cross. In Jesus' time on earth that was a vivid image for people. It doesn't mean that much personally to me though. He knows this, and has compassion on me. He gives me a different picture; one for me, for today. Instead of "picking up my cross" and following Him, He says to follow Him in this I must
stay WHAP!
the SMACK!
tunnel WHAM!
a POW!
little OOPH!
bit BAM!

He says I must stand. He says I can stand.

So I'm standing; hurting, yet hopeful.

~ cob