Over several nights I had recurring dreams about being given various objects to carry, things like brown shoes, musical notation paper, a rose etc. I was told in the dreams that I would need these things later. None of this made sense to me and I remember asking (still in a dream) what I needed them for.
The answer came, “If I tell you where I am going with all this, it will remove the element of faith.”
I knew then it was the Lord.
I think sometimes Abba doesn’t give us a detailed itinerary for the journey ahead because it is the act of taking a risk that enables Him to demonstrate His faithfulness -and really, the element of faith is all about His faithfulness and not our own ability to drum up vast amounts of confidence in a desired outcome or “happy ending.”
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (active living rhema word). Sometimes that active, living word of God is simply, “Open the door.”
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
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.”
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 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.
This poem goes with the painting “Night Vision” of a woman dreaming on a crystal sea under a night sky full of lights. It uses the imagery of the lovers in the Song of Solomon and also makes reference to the story in the book of Hosea of a man who keeps rescuing his unfaithful wife. Ishi is the old Hebrew word for husband/saviour/hero. Through the prophet Hosea God tells his people there will come a time when they will call him Ishi and not Baali (master). The ancient Hebraic written symbols for seer are a wall, a cutting implement and an eye. For kindness they are thorns, a cutting implement, and a door. Night Vision
Come away with me,
her lover calls.
He peers through the lattice;
he tosses pebbles against her frosty window.
Arise, my love, my chosen one
and come, come away with me.
The winter is past; the sleet is gone; the flowers lift their heads.
The season for singing has come.
Leave your compass on the desk;I am the way.
Our secret place lies in the rock’s cleft.
She stares through the glass darkly.
Ice shatters her view.
Where are you, Beloved? Where are you?
She rises, lifts the bar
and crosses the threshold on freshly washed feet.
Behind her ears, the white wolf,
descended from the city’s seven mountains,
yelps as his howls
meet the linen fence.
With her newborn eye she cuts a hole
through the thinned place in the thorn wall
and climbs into greater truth.
A pillar of lilies awaits her.
With one look you have ravished my heart, he whispers.
See? I rend the curtain of heaven
and like a gazelle leap the hills for you.
Let us swim in the sky, fly under the sea.
Come dance with me, my bride.
We are like children spinning amid the galaxies’ swirling skirts.
Together, let us puzzle the pieces
adding breadth and width and depth and height
until you sit at my side,
the earth our footstool.
Your eyes will hear.
Your ears will see.
Your fingertips will taste and know that I am good,
and in the language of the Spirit
write of colors you’ve never seen before.
Her lips move gently with the mouth of sleepers.
Ishi, my breath, she breathes.
Ishi, my hero.
I’m in a television studio watching the recording of a talk show. The hostess is a youngish woman whose usual topics I consider to be, well, a bit shallow. The person she is interviewing this time is a composer and conductor. I don’t recognize him, but she seems a bit out of her depth.
She starts the interview by admitting she knows very little about music, but always wished she had some talent in that area, especially that she could sing.
The composer tells her anyone can have a part in making great music. He demonstrates three simple notes for her to sing (do, so, mi) and gets her to sing along with him …do, so, mi…do, so,mi…do,so,mi…
He tells her not to stop, then picks up a clarinet and starts weaving a tune around her three notes as she concentrates on singing.
A classical guitar joins them. The music I hear in my dream is soft and gentle and quite pretty.
Gradually more instruments join in –a cello playing continuo, a violin, a French horn, each adding to the melody making it more complex but still very lovely.
As I listen I close my eyes and the sounds become ribbons of colours winding around each other to weave a three-dimensional tapestry. The tension and drama in the music rise to a crescendo that blasts a trombone fanfare of thunder. Staccato flutes and harps and pizzicato violins ping like raindrops gathering into rivulets, streams and a mighty river. I see waves of sound surging through the valleys like floods in the desert. I see trees on the hillsides growing and producing ripe fruit as soon as the blossoms and leaves emerge. I see fields of ripe wheat waving in rhythm and sunlight piercing through dark blue-grey bruised banks of cloud. I fly over the earth like I am riding on the wings of an eagle.
I am carried away by the sound of the most marvellously beautiful symphonic music I have ever heard. In the dream it seems to last for hours. I ride on the wings of song played by a thousand instruments. I’m sailing over mountains and coastlands, forests and oceans, gliding through waterfalls and mists over mossy green islands.
Gradually the instruments drop out one at a time, like the droplets in a heavy downpour diminuendo from summer downpour, to shower, to sprinkles. I have been so immersed in the music, trying so hard to remember the themes that I have completely forgotten about the woman in the TV studio. As the music simplifies I hear the violin fade out, the guitar stop and I am again in the studio. The composer is left performing a duet with the woman who has her eyes shut in concentration. Her mouth is still open. She is still singing the three notes, catching up to composer’s rhythm after taking a deep breath every once in a while.
The entire symphony was composed and played around her three notes.
He ends the song gently, quietly, sweetly, and she opens her eyes in amazement.
The woman and I both gasp. We recognize him. It is the Master Composer. The great conductor. The Creator of all things. He turns and looks at me kindly. He disappears.
I wake up.
I rush for a pencil and manuscript paper but when I sit at the piano to write the music down, it disappears like a vapour of memory.
For hours I want only to go back to sleep so I can enter the dream again, but both sleep and the dream elude me. I pace around my house in frustration.
Later I call my friend and tell her about it.
“Do you think the woman represented me? If that was me what are my three notes?”
I no longer have the voice I once had. I know the great arias, I sing them in my head, but when I open my mouth the sound I expect to hear is not there anymore. I used to be a coloratura soprano. Nothing was too high or too ornate. I had great reviews, ovations, attention, “so much potential.” I thought my voice was my ticket to earning a place of respect in this world; it made me feel strong; it made me feel like there was some little piece of beauty in an otherwise plain person from a poor family. I studied for years –then my health failed, and my voice failed with it. Now…it’s better after people prayed for me, but, it’s just not the same. It hurts to think about singing in public, or even in private sometimes. Letting go of my identity as a singer took years of mourning.
I said to her, “Tell me, if I have only small range left what do you think my three notes are?”
She didn’t hesitate. “He has shown you, O woman, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” ( a paraphrase of Micah 6:8)
I know she is right.
Jesus Christ is the great composer. He takes what we can give and multiplies it into something way beyond our imagination.