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Unfriendly fire

June 4, 2020

Dozens of times every day we get to make decisions about how we’re going to respond to what is happening around us. Sometimes those decisions are easy. Sometimes they challenge us to the core. One of the most challenging things for me personally to process is friendly fire in the kingdom.

Friendly fire (noun)
weapon fire coming from one’s own side, especially fire that causes accidental injury or death to one’s own forces. (Source: lexico.com)

Friendly fire is still fire. And when you take a hit, you know beyond any doubt that it’s not friendly at all.

I don’t know the person who posted this on Facebook, but she summed it up so well:

When we’re busy fighting each other, we fail to rightly discern and address the real enemy. Our truest and deepest struggle is not against flesh and blood (people). Our weapons of true and effective warfare aren’t firearms, projectiles, blades, or explosives. Go read Ephesians 6:12 and 2 Corinthians 10:4 if you want to see exactly how the scriptures word it.

Behind our struggles is a very real and malicious source of power that has no personal authority to do anything until it has gained agreement from humans. When we agree with hate, rage, murder, slander, fear, and all the other destructive attitudes and behaviors, we empower the spiritual forces of darkness to grow legs and faces and begin manifesting all that awful stuff right in front of us…and sometimes even through us.

The kingdom of God thrives in unity and diversity. It does not, however, require uniformity. We desperately need the vast and wildly diverse variety of callings, convictions, and personalities in order to manifest God’s goodness, peace, and justice on this earth…even when those callings seem diametrically opposed to one another. When we decide to war with each other over the legitimacy of one another’s personal kingdom assignment, we’re not only missing the point, we’re empowering and furthering the demonic agenda and polluting the atmosphere with a stink that reeks of hell, and not of hope and real transformation.

Be assured that I am not in any way saying that we will not or should not have struggles. There are definitely things worth struggling against and injustice is one of them. But we complicate our struggles when we gracelessly take aim at those who desire reform but are going about it in a way that we either don’t understand or with which we don’t agree. The kingdom is far less “either-or” and far more “yes-and” than we typically recognize. Our willingness to be cheerleaders and advocates for those who are operating in assignments and spheres of influence that are foreign to our own ways of thinking and methods of operation is vital to the health of the kingdom of a God who is invested in both love and justice.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if your weapon of choice is anything other than love, then I daresay you’ve misunderstood the war.

So what can we do?

-Seek to understand. Ask someone you disagree with to tell you what’s on their heart, and listen without trying to convert them to your thinking. It’s a powerful and transformative thing to be understood, even when it doesn’t result in agreement.

-Refuse to be offended. Even when someone is being legitimately offensive.

-Refuse to be combative, accusatory, demeaning, or rude in the name of defending God. He is more than capable of defending his own character.

-Don’t fall into the trap of taking the bait of every argument offered to you.

-Bless those who are operating in assignments you don’t understand.

-Be very slow to say that something is evil or wrong just because it’s not how you see things.

-Do not cherry-pick scriptures to back up your personal positions while condeming someone else’s positions when they can do the exact same thing back to you. Contradicting positions often mean you’re working towards the same goal from different angles. Humbly ask God to show you the truth about how he sees people and situations, rather than demanding an argument from another human.

-Seek God’s heart, and keep that position in front of you as you process and discern. Anything we do or say in the absence of that is a short trip toward a violation of kingdom intention and principles…and the heart of God. It’s a violation of love.

You are on this planet for such a time as this. The timing isn’t accidental. YOU are not accidental. You don’t need a public platform to have a profound influence on the future through the choices you make today. Don’t let anyone convinced you otherwise.

Love will indeed win. May it win through us and not in spite of us.

Backing down the bullies

May 10, 2020

Fear often tries to masquerade as wisdom. So…in these days of upheaval when there is much to discern, how can we tell the two apart? Is it even possible?

Actually, it is. Fear and wisdom come from different sources, and if you struggle to discern the sources, you can still discern the fruit.

Fear will steal your peace and stir the pot of anxiety.

Wisdom will settle your spirit, even when it requires you to employ caution, shrewdness, and resolve.

The Anxiety Factor will tell you much about which voice has captured your ear. If it’s not the voice you want to hear, you will have to actively and purposefully steer yourself away from the fuel fear uses to set your brain on fire with anxiety. And at first it may seem as if you can only keep your mind off fear’s suggestions for about 5 seconds at a time. That’s normal, so don’t give up if you find that’s the case for you. Fear is a bully used to eating your lunch and stealing your milk money, and you will have to stand up to it by filling its space with things of hope and light. In other words, take back its territory.

It’s a counterintuitive picture, isn’t it? Rather like a single delicate daisy standing against a raging tornado. But in this case, hope and light really are stronger than fear. They are backed by a higher authority and a superior power. Our job is to make lots of space for them while minimizing any gateways fear is using to terrorize us.

What does that look like on a practical level? For me it’s less news, less social media, hitting the snooze button on social media friends who have a contagious case of fear/anxiety, less letting my mind wander unchecked because it can end up in some pretty questionable neighborhoods that are still in the process of renewal. More making art, more talking to God and listening to him, more thinking about the ways of Jesus and his kingdom, more awareness of beauty around me, more gratitude.

Maybe your less-and-more list will look different from mine, but the bottom line is that if you want wisdom to be a settling, calming, peaceful influence in your life and you want fear kicked to the curb, you will have to make that list and be firm about enforcing it. Nobody can do it for you.

But trust me…if you do it, you’ll have a powerful entourage backing you up and cheering you on. You may not see them with your physical eyes…but they are there.

From where I stand

January 31, 2020

I close my eyes and sit quietly. A vision comes into focus.

I see a sky, an expansive sky with a few clouds towering in the distance. It is quiet, peaceful, and lightly breezy. I realize as I glance down at a floor of clouds that I am not looking at the sky from the ground. I’m viewing it from up high so that I’m not looking up at the clouds, but looking out at the clouds. In a flash I see how these same clouds appear from the ground: a dark, heavy ceiling of threatening weather, an oppressive unrest that permeates the atmosphere. There isn’t even a hint of that deep heaviness from my current elevated view.

“Perspective is everything. Look at where you’re standing before you accept a thing as true. There is almost always a higher truth to be apprehended if you change your perspective.”

The ancient words of life speak many times about being one with Jesus. It occurs to me that this is a breathtaking invitation: to step out of the limited perspective of humanity and into the limitless wisdom of God where we can truly see as he sees. It is vision beyond anything our mortal eyes can comprehend, but well within the scope of souls bound to the breath of eternity.

May it be so.

Photo by REVOLT on Unsplash

Tilt and spin

April 20, 2019

Life is full of interesting experiences, but not all of them are experiences I care to repeat.

Two days ago I woke up as I normally do. I checked the time, then rolled over to get my bearings before getting up. When I did that, the entire planet tilted off its axis and refused to un-tilt.

Vertigo.

From that point on, every little movement set off extreme spinning, and extreme spinning set off nausea. If you want a scientific analysis, I will simply tell you that this registered approximately -46.8 on the Fun-O-Meter, give or take a couple wooden nickels and an unmatched sock.

I’d never had this happen before. Oh, sure…I’ve stood up too quickly and gotten hit with a little wobble, but this wasn’t that. This was full on carnival ride spin, but there was no greasy tattooed man with a cigarette dripping out of his mouth for me to signal to let me off this crazy thing. Fortunately, because my brain is a junk drawer full of odd and ends of “hey, this could be useful some day” information, I knew there were physical therapy moves to alleviate vertigo. I looked them up on YouTube and halfheartedly gave one a try, but I was really feeling too dizzy and sick to do it properly. After a couple of hours, it was obvious this wasn’t going to just go away. I knew I was in over my head and signaled my distress to Mr. Sparky, who graciously came home from work to give me a hand.

Several Epley maneuvers later and the planet was still doing The Wobble. The next day we switched to the Foster maneuver, which seemed to correct the side we treated but also set off the other side in the process. We repeated it for the newly affected side. Vertigo gone, but now I was experiencing a whole new realm of equilibrium disturbances caused by having pollen-cranky inner ears upside down for prolonged periods of time, and it was almost worse than the vertigo. I was bent on attending a wedding later that afternoon, and thanks to Mr. Sparky and God (and a dose of less-drowsy motion sickness medication, although less-drowsy than what I can’t say), I did exactly that. Then I came home, slept well over twelve hours, and woke up pretty much fine.

*insert Happy Hallelujah dance*

I seriously hope I never repeat that experience. But truth be told, it’s how I sometimes experience our current culture. It’s as if somehow the planet shifted off its axis and everyone has gone dizzy in the brain, and I am constantly dodging folks who can no longer think in a straight line. Gravity becomes intermittent, and critical thinking and common sense have gone spinning off into space.

I have no stones to throw. Surely I’ve been there myself, temporarily lost in the centrifugal force of The Crazy and waving at the Martians on my way to dance on the rings of Saturn.

But wisdom.

I’ve found myself fascinated by what scripture says about wisdom. I’ve been slowly making my way through the book of Proverbs using The Passion Translation, not just reading it, but reading it with Holy Spirit and giving Him permission to interrupt my progress and tell me things I don’t know. The book of Proverbs is good in any translation, but I like how new language can give me new ways to think about a thing and open my mind to receive new revelation about a thing. In this case, that thing is wisdom…God-sized wisdom based on a perspective vastly superior to my own.

So here’s to the wisdom of positioning. Here’s to my mind being set on things above, my tush being seated in heavenly places, my feet being set on a Rock higher than I, my eyes being set on Jesus, and my heart being set on God’s goodness, glory, and promises which are beyond my ability to fully fathom (but I’m gonna give it the ole college try anyway!).

And here’s to my inner ears staying clear of anything that doesn’t belong in there. No more endless rides on an invisible Tilt-o-Hurl.

May it be so.

The Glorious Undone

April 17, 2019

Day by day,
moment by moment,
I walk about
without a second thought
concerning my respiration.
Air in,
air out.
It’s not on my to-do list.
It just happens,
even if I forget.

But then there are the moments
of holy ambush,
of heated intention,
of surprise-by-combustion,
when I casually exhale carbon dioxide
but then inhale fire
straight from your lungs
and it rushes at once to my bones.
Instantly I am burning alive,
my knees weak,
my marrow white hot,
and I am undone
as all I once held dear turns to ash
and is gone with a windblown kiss,
and all I now hold dear
is alive and coursing through my veins
like a violent river of flames.

This is my cremation,
ignited from the inside out,
desperate to exhale these furious flames,
desperate to die on this altar,
desperate to live for this burning.

Lost in translation

March 5, 2019

It would be nice to say I packed the basket neatly, but the reality is that I threw in everything that reminded me of once-upon-a-time and I didn’t much care how it landed. I was beyond making anything look pretty.

Five years. Five forever years. Five years of pushing, prodding, praying, needling, cajoling, dragging, forcing, begging…five years of mostly silence, occasionally broken by fleeting hope. Enough to keep me hanging around, watching for signs of life.

Five years to the day.

He walked up and I handed him the basket.

“Pretty crappy” were the only words I could muster. He smiled a little, neither agreeing or disagreeing, and said “I’ll take it”…and he did.

I watched him poke around the contents of the basket, wondering why he even bothered. What was that thing he pulled out and wadded up and tossed away? I didn’t catch what it was. And why pick trash out of the trash anyway?

He looked up and fixed a kind but direct eye on me. “You have any dreams you want to throw in here while you’re at it?”

I thought for a moment. “No. I don’t think so.”

“Then make up a couple and just toss them in.” He stood still, waiting, so I figured I’d better do it.

I pulled a couple of ridiculous dreams out of somewhere in the thin blue air, and dumped them on the heap in the basket. Strange. Why was it painful to discard something I’d only possessed for a few seconds? Nevertheless…it was better to let them go before getting attached to them.

Satisfied that the basket was ready, although I did not know for what, he produced an entire bottle of red wine, uncorked it, and began dousing the contents of the basket until it was dripping. Then I watched him drizzle an entire large jar of honey over it all.

“Wait!” I said, pulling a full ring of keys from my pocket. “I have all these keys. Should I throw some of them in there?”

“Hmm. What do you think? Should you?” He paused, waiting for me to decide.

“I don’t think so,” I said slowly. He nodded and turned back to his work.

He opened and glugged out a large bottle of what appeared to be olive oil, turning the bottle up until every last drop drained from its depths. The basket was a wet, slick, sticky mess.

I don’t know how, but a box of matches appeared in his hand. Without a word or a pause, with one swift strike a spark leapt to life, and he dropped it straight into the basket. I watched as it immediately exploded in flames.

It burned furiously. It burned hot. It burned as if it couldn’t burn hard enough, flames reaching and dancing, making the very air around them boil.

He handed the basket with its roaring contents to his assistant, who had quietly appeared at his side. “Tend to this,” he directed, and his assistant nodded and carried the basket to the burning pit where it continued its white hot dance of sparks and fury.

I stood watching, torn between grief and relief. It was over. It was out of my hands.

I once translated glory and dust. But that was then.

And this is now.


Refuge

November 14, 2018

My eyes slowly drifted open and struggled to focus. Had I been dreaming?  Where was I? I looked up and saw a ceiling that appeared to be thatched with large feathers.

Wait—a ceiling of feathers? I blinked and the room swam a little before my vision began to clear. Why was I so groggy? Were those really feathers? My eyes scanned the ceiling and moved to the wall. Those still looked like feathers. Very large ones.

I tried to push myself up on an elbow for a better look and was instantly overwhelmed with pain. I gasped sharply before an involuntary groan escaped my lips and I collapsed onto my back once again.

Immediately a face appeared over me. “Shh. Just be still. It will hurt less if you remain quiet.”  The face belonged to a young man I’d never seen before. I saw him glance toward the wall. I turned my head slightly to see what he was looking at. Another young man dressed in similar clothing was peering through a very slight separation between the two largest feathers I’d ever seen, intently watching something outside. Even though I’d barely moved, the motion made my head pound.

A large hand gently covered my forehead. “Really,” the young man said sternly, “you must be very still.” I glanced back at him. He had kind eyes. He also looked very fierce, like someone you really didn’t want to make angry.

I suddenly became aware of a terrible noise outside. It seemed to be getting louder and coming closer. My heart began to pound; I wanted to get far away as fast as I could. I began to squirm, panic overtaking pain. The hand on my forehead increased in pressure.

“Shh. You are safe. They cannot get to you in here.” He locked eyes with me as the sounds grew louder and took the form of words whizzing through the atmosphere like spears. Tears welled up in my eyes. “Focus here,” he said. “It’s all outside. You’re safe in here. And we’re not going to leave you.”

The sound began fading a bit. The other young man let out a low whistle as he threw a glance at me.

“Wow, you really got them riled up. Good job!”

I blinked. What was he talking about? “I did that?” I croaked out, my voice raspy and dry. “How did I do that? I didn’t mean to do anything!”

The young man turned toward me with a chuckle. “Oh, I can guarantee you most certainly meant to do that. Just as you will do it again, once you get rested and healed.”

Why did I need to rest and heal? Why was I in so much pain? It felt like every cell in my body was broken and bruised. And it wasn’t just my body. Somehow the pain went deeper than that, as if every fiber of my being was shrink-wrapped and squeezed by a membrane of agony.  Suddenly I began to have flashes of memories that quickly became full pictures. Violent sights and sounds, the subterfuge of hand-to-mind combat, the intensity of the onslaught that seemed to go on forever. But how did I get in here?

The young man beside me answered my question as if I’d asked it out loud. “We were watching you. We saw you holding your position, but reinforcements were coming in against you and you didn’t have enough backup or rest for what was being launched. We let you hold out as long as we could, but when you were showing signs of exhaustion and taking too many hits we had to bring you in. That was our assignment, to let you fight but to protect you if things got out of hand.”

“Thank you,” I whispered hoarsely. And then in spite of the screaming of every cell in my body, I pushed over onto my side away from the young man and curled up as the hot tears began to flow. I fought a wave of nausea from the pain.  The young man beside me started to chide me again for moving, but the one near the wall cleared his throat, and nothing more was said.

I had failed. My tears were bitter with disappointment and grief. I had failed and I had disqualified myself and I had to be pulled from the field. I knew my dad wouldn’t be angry, but I was sad that I had just demonstrated to him and everyone else that I could not be trusted. I had failed the true test of my training: actual battle. I was supposed to handle this better. I was supposed to overcome. I was supposed to—

“Victoria…”

The young man beside me sat down and wedged himself up against my back to support me as I laid there.  My own name mocked me as he spoke it again.

“Victoria, you are very tired and you are not seeing this rightly. It is time to be still and rest. What you have just experienced is significant, and you did a phenomenal job. You were pulled according to your father’s rules of engagement, not your performance. You will rest now, and our friends will take care of that noise outside. Everything will be clearer when you wake up, and we will talk more then, I promise. Will you trust me?”

I sniffled. I had no idea how I was going to rest with this much pain running roughshod over me. But the kindness and the fierceness of the one who had my back as I laid there somehow drew me. “Yes,” I whispered.

I felt his hand on my head once again, and he began to gently stroke my hair. Every pass of his hand felt like it was pulling something out of my mind, like briars, or maybe more like tugging on knots. As my eyes began to close, I noticed smoke beginning to rise from a low bowl on the floor a few feet in front of me. Incense. As the fragrance reached me, someone began to sing, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to see who it was.

Going low

September 11, 2018

I’ve often heard it said

that you are up high

and you sit on the clouds

to oversee the affairs

of mice and men

But it is on the days I go low

that I find you most near

Slipping into the space

between my chest and the floor

Hovering over the waterfalls

in my eyes

and making rainbows in the mist

When I have no words

to stitch up the jagged edges

you breathe into my lungs

until I exhale hope

Wonder and glory

mark many kinds of days

and some of them do feel like flying

but if I am honest

they more often mark the days

of lower still.

Mixed media

August 26, 2018

You came looking for color.

Many do, and who could fault you? I’ve given you reason to expect it.

But some days my pen is my paintbrush, and the flow of black and white bleeds across the page. The sun rises, the sun sets, and in between are parties and storms and rainbows and sunny patches of flowers left by some previous gardener. In between are death and life, sometimes keeping company in the same room, trading gulps of oxygen.

On the canvas behind your eyes I paint laughter and tears, rage and sleep.  My ink never changes; it is carbon on ivory, rather like the bones tucked neatly inside your earth suit.

I paint blindly, really. I cannot see your canvas. I can only see my own and hope that my brush is accurate enough to provoke you to adjust your glasses, or at least squint a little as you take note of the pictures that dance by—some in delicate pointe shoes, and some in half-laced clodhopper boots that smell like the dead cow they’re made from.

You aren’t likely to understand my ink stains perfectly, although I applaud you when you try. Parties and storms and rainbows and sunny patches of flowers are simply patterns and symbols on a page, and it is you and I who give them meaning…and color.

The pen is my paintbrush, my thermometer, my spear, my lasso, my key ring, my fork, my knife, my prison warden, my instrument, my canister of tear gas, my bowl of incense. Once you receive its fruit, a piece of me lives on your canvas.

You can always paint over it if you like.

But it will still be there.

 

 

 

Vertical hold

July 23, 2018

I can’t tell if the earth is quaking

or if I’m standing in some sort of whirlwind

My feet are planted as if buried in cement

but my teeth are rattling in my head

and I’m fighting to keep from bending

breaking

Invisible forces press in

An uppercut here

a sucker punch there

but the worst is the kind that threatens

to blow out my ears

I don’t like this war

I never have

It is the violent ambush of malevolence

no holds barred guerrilla warfare

Yet here I am

front row seat at the rock opera

But those stones will not be singing today

I may hum along through sobs

but that’s ok because

I may be holding onto you with a death grip

But you are holding onto me with a life grip