Awake, Sleeper

weathered church window

When is a revival needed? When carelessness and unconcern keep the people asleep.

Author: Billy Sunday

Revival is the visitation of God which brings to life Christians who have been sleeping and restores a deep sense of God’s near presence and holiness. Thence springs a vivid sense of sin and a profound exercise of heart in repentance, praise, and love, with an evangelistic outflow.

Author: J.I. Packer

When the light shines, it exposes even the dark and shadowy things and turns them into pure reflections of light. This is why they sing, Awake, you sleeper! Rise from your grave, And the Anointed One will shine on you. (Ephesians 5:13, 14 The Voice)

Paradigms, Paradox, Puzzles and Peace

Photo: An Upside Down Kingdom

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;

    call upon him while he is near;

 let the wicked forsake his way,

    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;

let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,

    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

  For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways

    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

(Isaiah 55:6-9)

I’m upset by division and quarreling I see amongst Christians around me. The interwebby thing is full of it. One week it’s about aggressive sex and submission of women, the next it’s about the right to speak out about how people who don’t trust God’s kindness yet should be forced (by those who supposedly do) to obey his standards anyway. As one editor wrote, “Controversy sells.”

In a previous blog I talked about the problem of living with paradox (two opposing ideas that are both true) and how we tend to want to slide toward one end or the other depending on which part of our soul is dominant  –the mind, the will or the emotions.

I have shifted from more than one paradigm to another on many issues, but even in myself there is tension and a desire to find a single logical solution. I’m ashamed to say that sometimes I enjoy debate and the power of witty words to put people down. Then I had a dream in which I was told to stop thinking in two dimensions.

So what dimension am I missing?  What is the viewpoint I have not taken into consideration?

Isaiah says God does not think the way we do; he is not limited to a view that is tied to time, or a physical spot on this planet, or even the laws of physics. The spiritual dimension is so much higher than our earth-bound reasoning abilities we have trouble imagining it.

I think the dimension that we tend to forget is the Kingdom of God.

Jesus spoke constantly of the Kingdom of God. He said that when the sick were healed and the demonized freed that the Kingdom of God was near.

He said that it was like a mustard seed, like leaven, like a net, like a hidden treasure or a priceless pearl that was worthy of the pursuer divesting himself of everything he had to get it.

He said his kingdom was not of this world and we could not observe this place with physical eyes. He told the people listening to him that it was in the midst of them.

He told the one who admitted that love was greater than sacrifice that he was not far from it.

He said expecting to use money to get there was less than useless; it was a hindrance.

He said that prostitutes and thieves would experience it before the powerful and self-righteous who rejected him.

He said that unless we were willing to enter as little children (I assume that means dropping  wealth, power, position, authority, good deeds, hard work, physical strength, education, talent, family or political connections, accomplishment or recognition –all the usual means to success in this world) that we couldn’t get in either.

When the disciples asked how to know the way he was going he said, “I am the way.”

He said he was the door (but it’s a narrow door that requires us to drop our backpacks, curriculum vitaes, and other accumulated assets.)

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:7-9)

He said we had to be born again.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:3-6)

When the Kingdom of God intersected space and time on earth in the form of Christ Jesus, it opened up a doorway into eternity where things are different, where we realize our thinking is upside down.

“The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him and he is not able to understand for they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

But the one who has been made spiritually alive has access to another dimension when, by faith, she or he lives in Christ and Christ lives in her or him.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2: 4-7)

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28,29)

For those who trust and obey Jesus Christ, God has already seated them in heavenly places, since that is where Jesus sits and they are in him and he in them.

… to make the word of God fully known,  the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:25-27)

In the Kingdom of God there is no division in the church. There are no labels. The church is one.

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.   There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:25-28)

Why then, do we still compete with each other? Why do we think that if we are “righter than thou,” and work hard to impress him, God will let us enter through that door when we die?

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?  But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:1-6)

Passions may be the big motivating factor in the world, but God doesn’t think like us.

Could it be that we don’t really trust him enough to obey him and to seek him for understanding of all these paradoxes or for wisdom on how to live in love and the bond of peace?

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

What if we are meant to start to enter into the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ now and it’s not all about pie in the sky in the sweet by and by? What if we quit trying so hard to be the greatest and just rest in Jesus’ finished work? What if we trust him enough to believe what he says about us being new creatures and start acting like it? What if we could hear his voice and obey his commandments now?

For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:10)

People who seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness will not think the same way as those who are bound to earthly logic and reasoning ability. They do not fit in. They are annoying because they refuse to play by the same rules. They don’t wear the same trendy labels; they are frequently misunderstood. They are often persecuted –sometimes by those holding religious power– but that’s not unexpected. They did that to Jesus Christ too.

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Why I Am a Label-eschewer

Photo: Fashionista



Why do I avoid labels?

Because I have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear.

Because I have been through so many paradigm shifts sometimes I feel like I’m wearing a peacenik swimsuit, a woolen toque and a tutu on a John Deere lawn mower tractor –whilst waddling in pink Crocs that ought to be on the other foots.

Because like the blind man, every time I think I have figured out what an elephant feels like God drags me around to the other side –or the other end– and tells me to try again.

Because the phrase that seems to pop out of my mouth most often lately is “On the one hand…” followed by, “But on the other hand…”

Am I indecisive? Well, maybe. I don’t know. I’ll get back to you on that one.


Photo: Mugwump. My Dad used to say a mugwump was a person who sat with his mug on one side of the fence and his wump on the other.

Maybe I’m just tired of making apologies.

This position may look humble, but dropping to the ground is sometimes the only safe posture when caught in the cross-fire between warring factions. I am so very aware of the quarrels among us.



Hymn and organ lovers ….vs….Chorus and drums lovers


Practically experienced….vs….Theoretically indoctrinated

Sinners saved by grace….vs…. Saints who reckon themselves dead to sin

Those who are working out their faith….vs…. Those who are saved by grace and not by works

Those who offer grace….vs…..Those who maintain standards

Those who are sure that God is grieved ….vs….Those who insist that God is in a good mood


“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” ….vs….”Jesus said, ‘But I call you friends.’”

“May you prosper as your soul prospers”….vs…. “Rich men, camels & eyes of needles and all that.”

“He who will not work shall not eat”….vs….”He who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor shall cry himself and not be heard.”

“By His stripes we are healed”….vs….”Knowing Him and the fellowship of his sufferings.”

Then there’s

Reverential folk….vs…. “I got to move it, move it, move it!” folk


Church building builders.…vs….church building leavers


Seeing something from one particular viewpoint is called a paradigm. Oliver Sachs wrote about a middle-aged man who regained the sight he lost in childhood, but who then faced so many challenges he chose to ignore his new faculty after a while. A dog from the front looks completely different from a dog from the side, yet they are both dogs. Who knew?

A paradigm is our most comfortable default position. Things fit nicely and work well. We only have to deal with one construct at a time that way. For example, we assume a beloved nephew has been unfairly fired, and advocate for him — then we find out from the boss he embezzled a gazillion pencils. It was easier before we knew both sides of the story. We still love him and support him;  we are proud of his brilliance, but now we are also ashamed of his stupidity.

Paradox greatly complicates things, but God’s ways seem to be more about paradox than paradigm. Jesus often spoke of two seemingly opposite concepts which are both true. The Bible is full of paradox like, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” “You need to lay down your life in order to live,” “You receive through giving,” “Rest under his yoke,” “You are strongest when you are weak,” “We see the unseen,” and many more.

Paradox is awkward. It feels unstable. We tend to want to gravitate to one end or the other. We polarize easily.

It struck me this week that the pole we choose to slide toward is often strongly influenced by which aspect of our soul dominates –mind, will or emotion.

Look at worship styles, for example. For some, worship means thinking, studying, discussing ideas about God, and listening to sermons which exegete the Bible with skill. For them, authentic worship is getting doctrine right.

For some, worship is an act of the will. These people love words like decide, purpose, endeavour, determine. Worship for them is a deed, whether it is signing up to commit to journaling for forty days, or volunteering for a new program , or inviting someone home for soup, or buying a plane ticket to The Gambia. For them, authentic worship means not only hearing but doing.

For some, worship must engage the emotions, whether it’s quiet contentment or raucous rejoicing; they desire an encounter with God that touches them deeply. For them authentic worship doesn’t ignore emotions forever; it connects and moves the heart.

At one point or another I have cycled and re-cycled through all three camps.

Here’s the thing. The mind, the will and the emotions are all fine, God-given, God-created parts of our souls –but they are all limited and, without the Holy Spirit sanctifying, refining and empowering them to operate from the perspective of the Kingdom of God, they remain, well, self-centered. Proof of self-centeredness is that we continue to engage in silly disputes over who is right and who Papa God likes best.

I was asking Papa God about this, after listening to yet another discussion of sovereignty  vs. free will (which, as usual, produced more heat than light). Both sides could quote scriptures to back their positions. That night I dreamed I was playing on the floor like a child. A kind, gentle, patient person was helping me fit metal puzzle pieces together. (These puzzles drive me nuts. I hardly ever figure them out.) In the dream I actually got a couple of them to work. After quite a bit of effort we finished a complicated mat-like square of interconnecting puzzle pieces about a meter long and a meter wide. I was as happy as a toddler and clapped for myself with glee, although the man helping me had done nearly all of the work.



“Yay me! Me so smart!”

Then he started building upwards. He was making connections and building a solid cube about a meter long and wide AND a meter high.

I said, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

He smiled and said, “Quit thinking in two dimensions.”

I recognized him as Jesus.

I awoke.

I have been thinking about this for quite a while. Unity is about more than living with the tension of paradox.  Paradox is not “this or this;” it’s ”this and this.”  But paradox is also incomplete.

Building a solid structure also requires another dimension– another way of thinking –another viewpoint.

More later….


A day at the beach

There’s nothing quite like a day at the beach to remind us that although we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, very very few of us have perfect bodies.

A lot of people avoid the beach, postponing enjoyment (often indefinitely) until they have bodies that match the images in their minds. Others just have fun in whatever shape they may be in (although a little more modest covering on some could help avoid awkward moments and the problem of averting one’s eyes.)

We can be pretty good at trying to dress up our hearts to look spiffier than they actually are too, layering them with politeness, accessorizing with colourful splashes of generosity and public service to detract from our less  attractive “problem” areas. (To be sure a little discretion can sometimes help avoid awkward moments there as well. Not every foible needs to be exposed in public.)

I wonder if there is room in the big C Church for a beach for the heart -a fun place where we can dare to let go of tailored suits or winter boots or freshly-pressed vestments (or even flak jackets) and exchange them for modest, but less disguising garments and just enjoy life together, soaking in the warmth of the sun.

I guess it’s called friendship.

It might even be called love.

Family business

Photo: a tired building

I think the current church at large is like a business with an assignment from head office.

I see us divided into four main departments:

Those who talk about how their great-great-great-great-grandparents did it. Big on costume dramas and protocol.

Those who keep studying new translations of the instruction manual (from the Japanese) and rarely get off the cautions page. Only pop out of the book long enough to tell the other departments what they are doing wrong. Big on memos.

Those who see the need and urgency of the task. They put a lot of effort into recruiting new staff because there is a high turn-over of burnt-out employees exhausted from trying to do something/anything with the proceeds of lemonade stands and car-washes. Big on heart-wrenching commercials.

Those who are busy zapping each other with the power tools they found in the box that came with the manual. Often found lying on the floor, frizzy-haired and vibrating with that finger-in-the-socket look. Big on topping each others stories of finding cool new tools and wads of cash.

Then there are a large number who are still listed as employees who don’t fit anywhere, those who are disillusioned or frustrated or have been wounded in the cross fire, those who work from home,  (or a mountainside, or fishing boat – or bed) and just check their emails once in a while.

Each department holds regular pep rallies or potlucks to tell each other why they are the best and why the other departments are off the rails. If abundant food (and especially dessert) is involved more people show up for these meetings.

A few try to bridge the gap and communicate with all departments. They tend to be familiar with the smell of tar and feathers.

When are we going to quit competing with each other, seek the CEO and listen to His point of view, ask Him to bring an intervention, allow Him to show us where we have gone off the rails, admit it, and change  — and then get his show in the road?

End rant.

Begging to Differ

Photo: Even Calvin and Hobbes don’t always see eye to eye

What? Somebody on the internet is wrong? Well, cancel my appointments and hold my calls! I’ll straighten him out! He is probably a _____ist and you know what _____ism can lead to!

Wait. I’m trying to change.

I don’t want to go back to the days when I was told by a rather stifling range of fearful clergy and “Totalled and less-than-Fascinating Women” my husband’s opinion was my opinion (a situation which left one of us not only depressed, but redundant). When, after decade or two, my feistiness finally burst forth more than one innocent bystander was left wondering what the heck that was all about.


On the one hand, my opinion –and I do have one- (As Ellen DeGeneres wrote) needs expression, even if it is subject to change.

On the other hand, the problem with winning a game of intellectual king of the hill is that the winner takes his or her prize alone.

I’m not a career academic as many of my nearest and dearest are. Debate was considered to be disrespectful and was verboten in my family of origin (even the verbs were passive). Perhaps it started when the priest grabbed my momma by the nose and dragged out of her seat to the chair of shame in front of the other catechism students. She questioned something he said. Momma had a substantial Cleopatra-style nose which she hated, and after that day hated even more. She never stuck it in church business again and instilled the same rule against questioning clergy in us, but in the business of people she considered under her command? Well, her opinions lived large. Papa just wanted a conflict-free zone.

Imagine my shock when I married into a family whose favourite form of entertainment was recreational argument. Now I understand the academic inclination to hypothesize, criticize, revise and go at ‘er again, but at the time it seemed to me that verbal volleyball in the dining room took out a lot of light fixtures and left the participants with creamed ideas splotching their shirts and clots of mashed opinions resting in their hair. The crazy part came when the discussion began to reach resolution. They would switch sides and keep going. Politics, sex, religion, health, science, the cost of tea in China –even the weather, served as shuttlecocks. If you said, “Nice day,” someone would bat back, “Not really,” and wait for your return.

Few people enjoy arguing like that because few people can detach themselves from their ideas (including these guys). An attack on an idea can feel like an attack on identity. Have you noticed the average number of posts it takes for an internet conversation to descend from “I disagree” to “You’re a _____”? On some news sites it’s about one.

I’m fascinated by the Moravians of Herrnhut. They kept a continuous corporate prayer vigil going 24/7  for a hundred years. Before the dramatic experience of the Holy Spirit showing up in their midst with all the same weird and unexpected special effects that shook the early church in Jerusalem, the Moravians taking refuge on Count Zinzendorf’s property were as schism-ridden as churches tend to be now. The motto they adopted after the Holy Spirit event was, “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, love.” They lived it, went on to accomplish amazing things for the kingdom of God –and conveyed the good news of  hope and new life to many.

The Bible says:

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35

We need both –sharpening and refining, but above all to be motivated by love.

If we want to learn we need to hear and discuss opinions other than our own.

If we want unity we must relinquish the need to always be right about everything.

If we want to love and build each other up we need to agree on essentials and respectfully disagree when we perceive dangerous ideas sneaking in. Love does not always look away, but we need to leave room for people in process, including ourselves. It’s called grace.

In my humble opinion.

Where were you?


I cry, Oh God! Oh Christ! Oh Jesus!

Where are you when the ones who say
they speak for you –those who squeeze us,
press in on every side, demand
that we respect authority,
obey their rules, come (cash in hand)
to hear their words, as only they
have got the regulations straight at last?
Where are you when the weak are hurt,
aggrieved and stumbled in your name?

Don’t you see what they have passed?

I sit entangled with the chords
of bitterness around my feet.
A plant blows over on the boards
that fence me off from outside world.
The petals scatter on the grass
and now the gust of wind that swirled
their frail wings in electric air
becomes a greater blast of rage
that showers ashes in my hair.

Flash tears the sky –breath rent apart,
and splits the veil of one who mourns,
with lightning striking to the heart.
Deep groaning rolls across the vale
from craggy peak to worn down ridge
and rains pours down –beats down in hail.

The sun withdraws beneath a cloud.
and saplings hang their weeping heads
as thunder rails against the proud,
who dare to claim the earth their own,
–and in the woods from hill to hill
creation echoes back the moan.

My tears obscure the sky from view.
Oh God! I cry. God! Where are you?

My child, I hear.  I weep with you.

(written during the struggle)

We Bring the Sacrifice of Shrubbery

cedar in the rain ch rs 004

Palm trees don’t grow in this part of the world.

This profound thought came to mind this morning as I was preparing to go to church for Palm Sunday. In past years we were supplied with palm fronds from some distant place when we entered the building in preparation for the annual Palm Sunday praise march. The march is the yearly event when most of our decently-and-in-order introverted type congregation shuffles out of the pews and follows the children in a sort of reverse Pied Piper conga line for the rhythmically impaired out the emergency exit, once around the parking lot, back in the hall doors, through the nursery, past the washrooms, to return to the sanctuary. By this time the straggling solitary voices singing choruses are usually not only out of breath and out of sync with the organ, but are probably not even singing the same song.

Still and all it’s quite exciting, bandying our fronds about and coming perilously close to dancing in the aisles. For those of you who worship by waving colourful giant silk flags and unself-consciously dancing unshod in the aisles, please understand that for people in whose culture shifting weight from one foot to another is considered frenetic activity the praise march is pushing the boundaries of decorum. Sometimes it prompts quiet mutterings about reverence –but it’s part of the children’s story time, so all is well.

But budget restrictions, you know. We’ve not been able to afford to have the palm branches flown in since our resident florist went out of business and we can’t get them wholesale. Last year we substituted hand-made flags (small enough to tape to drinking straws -we’re not about to go overboard) and plastic miniature greenery found in a box of stage props from Christmases past. A while back someone donated a bag of cheerleader pompoms. The little girls and young moms get those.

So this morning I was thinking about the tradition of waving palm branches in a country where palms do not grow. It dawned on me that Jerusalem is not exactly a lush jungle either. Cutting down branches may have been a sacrifice of prized landscaping ornamentation for them. Throwing down coats in the path of the Master on the donkey would probably have been more of a sacrifice for them than for us as well. It’s unlikely the common people in those days needed to include his’n’hers walk-in-closets in their home design plans. Jesus talked about giving a cloak away if a person had two. Two? Our mud room alone has an avalanche of three seasons worth of jackets, sweaters and parkas sliding off the hooks onto the floor.

I posted a photo I took yesterday of raindrops on a cedar branch. They reminded me of little jewels. The cedar bush, which I’ve been trying to coax into some sort of shape for years, is the only green thing in the garden right now -except for the tip of some crocus leaves and a bit of incorrigible crab grass by the foundation wall. I felt like the Lord was saying to me, “It’s easy to sacrifice palm branches from some far-away third world country. If you want to do this, get your own branch, from you own yard.”

So I did. I cut out a branch from the center of the shrub I photographed yesterday –the same branch as a matter of fact– as my sacrifice of praise. And I waved it all through the parking lot, the meeting hall, the nursery, the hallway and the sanctuary, because the King is coming.

It was a good morning.