Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beckoning Turns

I was deeply impressed lately by a trip from Salem, Oregon to Phoenix, Arizona.  Every bend and vista stole my breath and my imagination.  My heart was swollen with excitement and joy.  I could not believe it, each moment I was breathing and present in places I've always dreamed of seeing.

I kept pace and a map in my hand.  I was intent on avoiding major roadways, and to my joy the most direct routes were the "scenic" ones.   Incredible was each moment as I peered across new lands.  I saw lakes populated not with people but with animals.  I saw farms and forests and mountains and barren lands.

I had set up my hotel reservations and made a rough plot of how to go the night before I left.  Anticipating what I might see was nothing like actually entering it.

I left Salem at 12:08 Sunday afternoon, intent on reaching Phoenix by 2:45 the next day.  I took I-5 down to Eugene, OR where I diverted permanently forthwith from any daytime interstate traveling.  I found that Route 58 is a lot more mild in incline and descent than Route 22 or Route 20.  Additionally it meanders southeast instead of taking me along rigid southernly or easternly directions.

This hooked me up with Route 97, and coupled with the backside of the Cascades from 58, it made for several hours of pine forest and flat terrain.  I drove past Crater Lake and flinched a bit, knowing I'd miss it.  It was exchanged for arriving at Klamath Falls and crossing the California border at about 5:30 PM.  I took Route 39 which morphed into 139 across the border.  My goal was to reach Reno by sundown.  I didn't make it.  I was well in the interior of Northern California before I lost all light.  I could see forests in the dark, and was completely delighted.  I drove past Eagle Lake in the dark.  I could tell it was there.  The moon was full, and it was following me over my left shoulder all the way.  It lit up the lake like a silver cloud.

I realized how high Modoc Forest really was when I descended from up high with sharp turns into Susanville.  I ate dinner for 4 bucks and called my kids who were going down for the night.  From Susanville to Reno it took another couple hours.  It was nearly 10 PM by the time I escaped the time trap that Reno is (it is blocked for easy freeway access on the west side by the Sierra Nevada Mountains - and the only other route south starts about 40 minutes east of Reno).  My husband Ben signed off as I began the southernly way past Reno.  On mapquest I had noticed that it should take seven hours of driving and in a sense my heart sank.  Looking back however, this was one of the greatest parts of the trip.

The first thing I noticed was that I was crossing BLM lands.  I remember my dad making me read various news articles when I was growing up.  Thanks to that education I remember learning how environmentalists battled heavily with ranchers over their cattle's access to graze on public lands, and making a profit to boot.  They had cattle guards on Highway 395 south that kept them from entering the towns.  In the dark I saw:

This, I had never done before: share the road with cows.  "Okay, here we go," I said to myself as I leaned forward trying to see any odd forms in the headlights.  It was a little disconcerting when the highway dipped down with a short horizon.  I imagined coming up over an incline and discovering a cow in the road.  I was a little stressed, but really excited all at the same time.  It got even cooler.  Next I saw this sign:

I knew that deer are the cause of accidents, so I was even more excited, and scared.  A little while later, I saw neither cows nor deer, but I saw these:

The cottontail rabbits were cute and small, but the jackrabbits were huge, like maybe two feet tall with its ears?  They were all alongside the road, looking around and making decisions on whether they were going to cross, or just watch the show of cars go by.  Honestly, I saw a car once every couple minutes maybe.  I was almost completely alone except a multitude of rabbits.  I started coming around the side of a rocky protrusion and saw another sign:

Wow!  I couldn't believe it!  Wild bighorn sheep, living in the desert?  Now I'm even more excited... and scared on what I'd find in the road in the dark!  Will I see one?  Well, I didn't.  I did see one of these, though:

Clear as day.  This guy was shooting straight across the road in a gallop right between me and the oncoming car, who may have had to show down.  Amazing!  I had no trouble seeing him in the headlights, for sure.  Almost as tall at the withers as my German Shepherd.  My heart was thrilled!

I was still making my way south.  The last sign I saw, I was most confused by.  "What?!?  What IS that?  Cattle, deer, rams, jackrabbits... what more is out here?"

I'm not kidding.  The sign I saw was a lot like this only more vague.  I described it later to a woman in Nevada saying "it has big horns coming out of its head and has a giddy-up in the back [and i bent my leg up behind me for effect and gave myself devil horns to demonstrate].  Do you know what that is?"  I was told it could be antelope.  It wasn't till I got home and did a little research - did you know that there are wild burro herds that rome Nevada?  I never knew that!  So awesome!

Beatty was the last major town before reaching Las Vegas, and Vegas is where my hotel reservation awaited.  I knew what Beatty was.  Beatty was the gateway to Nellis Air Force Base, which houses the infamous Area 51 - the place where they stockpile and perform tests on captured aliens and UFOs.  I only spent like 15 years of my life learning all about it.  Oh yes - I, in my former unsaved life, was an alien enthusiast.  I can still tell you gobs of established fact concerning extraterrestrials.  Let me tell you something pertaining to Area 51: There are stories of floating lights at the base of the mountains, and no one can explain their odd movement.

As soon as I noticed mountains on my left (to the east), it was time to rally my spirits and pretend like I believe that all of that is false.  Too late - as soon as I arrived what did I see but the most awkward lights - huge, bright lights - just sitting there on the mountains.  Why.  Tell me.  What's so necessary to turn on a blazing light on the side of the mountain in Nevada in the middle of the night, pray tell?  My conspiracy radar flared up.  I wondered if it was propaganda, to try and discredit those who make honest reports.  Sure, shine the most average light which is completely explainable.  If the government can get worried people to report on these, they might wipe away all the cases as nonsense.  Of course!  "I know what you're up to, sneaky dudes," I said in the dark... scared.  Oh no; I don't believe in aliens (yeah right!).

"Toja," short for "I told you so"
Aliens, cows, and strange animals with giddy-up in the rear.  I got out at Beatty for gas at something like 3 AM.  Wanted to ask the clerk if she ever heard any stories of UFOs in the area.  By then I'd been driving for fifteen hours and was a little spacey.  ;)  I couldn't stay awake anymore.  Had to take a power-nap, so I pulled into the cemetery and slept for about 20 minutes.  Cemeteries are fine, because as you know ghosts are complete nonsense.

Just about when I hit the horizon in approach of Las Vegas I had to stop for another power-nap at the desolate entrance to a Native American reservation.  When I woke up, I was sad to see dawn break.  Las Vegas was absolutely amazing.  Every sign is designed with light bulbs.  I had reserved my room for a whopping $30.  'Course, the stay was bittersweet, beginning at 6:30 AM and ending at 8:00 AM, just long enough for a leisurely freshening up - no sleep.  It was alright.  The sun was out and it was bright, and I was headed for Hoover Dam!  Worshiping the LORD while driving across was a flooring experience.

The drop beneath was deep, I dare not look - but I saw the mountains!  Crossing into Arizona, it took several hours to reach Kingman which intersects with historic Route 66.

Instantly I was reminded of the fictitious "Radiator Springs" in the animated Disney Pixar movie "Cars," and the mountains (near Needles, CA) in the background sealed the deal.

photo by Kathy Weiser
I arrived at 2:45 PM in Phoenix - which is EXACTLY the time I prayed to arrive!  I'm not kidding - and I almost had a heart attack with joy.  Only God could have made me arrive on-time spanning four states and 26 hours!

It was the Free Grace Alliance National Conference that brought me all that way, and the meet wrapped up on Wednesday at 2:30.  I knew the trip back was going to be awesome but I had no idea how so.  I took the testimony of John Doan and his wife Kathy.  John is at almost every conference, because he's the A.V. tech.  He goes to New Harvest Church in my hometown and it is always great to reconnect with him.  He said Sedona was just amazing.  So I decided to go home differently and head due north to Flagstaff.  I'm so glad that I went that way, because the cactuses were unbelievable.  I got out of my car at a vantage point and was warned not to veer too far because of poisonous animals which lurk in the desert.

Unfortunately for me I was stuck in rushhour in Phoenix, so I didn't arrive in Sedona till the end of daylight.  My eyes drank in things I had rarely seen before.  I began the uncanny sense from our LORD that being in 24/7 worship on this trip was going to bring me unprecedented delights, and His inclination in my soul came about.  Take a look:

SR 89A took me through a ravine with tall coniferous trees - I almost felt like I was home as I went around turns at 25 mph.  All except for that red rock!  Everything about the landscape was dramatic in this place.  I was sure to grab specimens:

I had so many other adventures in mind, but it was night!  All I cared about was figuring out which city to spend the night.  At 7:30 I called El Portal which had the best rate, but they were already full!  So I called Motel 6 and reserved a room (warning - I'm arriving late!).  Beatty closed down at about 8 PM, and they only had five motels to choose from; otherwise, off to the next city which was a good two hours away.  They assured me they would be there to check me in no matter what.

Even then, my adventures were not done for the night.  On the way, the LORD showed me a shooting star!

I've only seen that a few times in my life!  How cool!  Packing in and packing out of the hotel was so easy - usually I am not organized but my two pink duffle bags kept things really simple.  That's the nice thing about not having to fly: you can bring as many beauty products and shoes as you want.  It's the way to go!

In the morning I spent a good hour and a half investigating for evidence of belief in aliens.

This was all I found, and most places weren't even opened yet.  Beatty is important to me because of the novel PAWN, which my dad wrote in the late 90's.  No, it didn't create a big fan base.  The main characters debate the merit of staying in the "seedy motel at the edge of town."  An overweight lady in a pink bathrobe is the motel's manager.  She greets them and memorable dialogue takes place.  Where is this motel?  Where is the woman in the pink bathrobe?  Both sides of town had brand new motels, so that didn't fit.  I went in the mart adjacent the town's only gas station, looking for alien memorabilia.  Nothing to see.  The chamber of commerce was open.  It was a small house with not much to look at, but I had a wonderful talk with an overweight gal in a pink tanktop!  Close 'nuff!

395 was calling me north and for a bit the roads were empty.  Guess what crossed the road?

Aww!  This baby coyote was spry in his wisdom to get out of the way!  Traffic slowed for construction soon after, delaying me a whole hour.  We picked up speed and in another twenty minutes they tried to do it again.  Pulled the map out because Route 6 was a hundred feet behind me.  Chills took over - I was going to take it.  I was headed straight for the White Mountains - a route through the eastern Sierras of California!

Roy Tennant, 2011,
I accelerated on this new route and gripped the wheel tightly.  Delights had been coming at a steady rate, but the Spirit sensed they were coming more plentifully.  The mirages and the sun in my eyes taught me to be diligent to take in every sight.

I noticed fields of pure white that looked like snow on the peaks, only they settled in depressions along the foothills of many mountains.  No one was around.  Curiosity and joy took control, and my former coffee cup received the content of discovery.

The soil underneath was a rich, even moist clay, which partially explains why this area experiences flash floods.  Ever so lightly I touched the white dust with a fingertip for scientific precaution.  Next, inserted in mouth - salt for sure!

Words are unfair.

Just before reaching California I drove alongside Boundary Peak.  I gulped when I saw how approachable it looked - how high must I be?  The mountain scattered boulders of white granite with mica flecks that glimmered in the sunlight.  Stopped to search some smaller samples.

Route 6 took me straight to a former mining town, Benton.  Was amazed to find a historic building as old as my hometown.

I meditated for a moment on Route 120 which appeared on the map as a remote shortcut to the western loop of 395.  120 it is.  I saw this sign and fell silent.

photo by jimmywayne

I felt like I couldn't breathe.  Of course, this area looks exactly like the places they're pictured to roam.  My eyes opened wide as I searched for them on every hill, unfortunately I began to weep which made it more difficult to see.

The desert prairies turned over into what I call the Land of Paintings.

There were a few varieties of ground cover, red and purple in color.

It took me awhile before scale set in to see that the yellow dusting the mountains were not midstory shrubs, but deciduous canopy - probably aspens.

It is October.  I wept.  How come I'm here?  I didn't have to try, and here I am.  It's unfair that I should be.  "It's a gift," I said aloud, but the Holy Spirit already knew that.

Every turn gave me new reason to cry joy.  I had no words, only awe and gratitude.  The switchbacks got more intense and the rocks turned a beautiful windblown.

Sagehen Summit came at 8,139 feet and ushered a new land to the west.  Mono Lake in the foreground beckoned me to return to the lofty Eastern Sierras beyond.

Before descending too far I stopped at a historical marker, Mono Mills.  I needed to take a walk to settle the tears.  In 1881 teams of horses prepared lumber at this remote mill to lay a local railroad.  I imagine that when it was completed they released the horses into the wilderness, and their descendants can be seen in the mountains to this day.  I wanted to search for items to remember the place.  These are my treasures:

The picture has no scale, but the pinecone is larger than my hand.  There were occasional samples of the rock to the left; a sedimentary rock of pink feldspars and quartz.  The wood I collected off the floor was proximal to an interesting twisted tree.  I didn't know till writing this post that it is not legal to do so, nor what species it is.  This piece is from a bristlecone pine tree.  It is the oldest living organism in all of planet earth.

The oldest individual is dated to 4,700 years old and named "Methuselah," after the oldest living person in the Bible.  I blink my eyes and shake my head as I write this.  When I was a teenager I began to dream of seeing it for myself and all I knew was that it grew "somewhere in California."  Not just anywhere, but in this select part of the Sierras.  When I wasn't striving, I saw.  Hmph....

As I rounded Mono Lake I passed the entrance to Yosemite National Park short about five minutes of entering it.  Ascended via 395 back up into the mountains.

The road traveled alongside a creek and mountainsides with interesting striations.

I decided to stop for a traditional roll-the-pant-legs wade in the creekbed.  I'll always be good for this in California, which most often delivers.  Unlike Oregon, with the Cascade's boring igneous basalts.  These ones turned out to be uniformly disinteresting to me, so I went on my way.

395 descended into uppity Carson City sprawl and I tried to not let it get me down.  Had a nice conversation with some believers at the gas station.  Pushed arduously through Reno in rush hour.  Came out the other side with the goal of reaching the Oregon border by dark.  Not quite - I lost all light in Modoc forest.  No matter - the full moon was now over my right shoulder and I could see many things including this little guy.

Grey foxes live in the area.  I thought it was a cat and it was about as tall as one, but as it scurried into the grass on the shoulder, its tail seemed abnormally long and poofy, and he utilized it to center his movements.  Hello, fox!  I saw you!

My spirit is different after this.  I feel like I've lived a lifetime in a few days.  I can't explain the peace and happiness that lingers.  I love people, because God loves them.  If however I had brought a friend or family with me, it wouldn't have been the same.  Precious was this escape into my joy in Him.  God's word to me was this trip was all about His joy in me.  Will I ever know love intensely like this in some other way, again?  His ways are different than mine, and His heart is set for it.  To know the God we know....  What compares?

Monday, October 03, 2011

Who's Your Daddy?

How long has the Godhead been in close-quarters intimacy with each other? From eternity. John 1:1-2,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.
Jehovah's Witnesses think that they have crucified the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ (removed Jesus from being equally God as the Father is God - as we would reply in our doctrines, the Godhead is Trinitarian) by changing "was God" to "was a god." But the evidence of a Trinitarian relationship between Jesus and the Father is made much more resounding by one other word, used two times in this very first introduction to the identity of Jesus Christ: that word, is "with." Jesus was God and With God, from the beginning. Amazing, then, that at the end of the Gospel of John what He is inviting his faithful disciples in the upper room to do (John 13-17) is be "with God" and therefore have the same experience of abiding with God that He has always had. Our Savior is an Abider. He has always been abiding with God. He is at the core of God and has been in the Bosom forever, and will continue to be so. What does an abider look like?

1 - In tune with the needs and wishes of someone else, always carrying around the interests of another as a framework for what choices need to be made.

2 - Obedient, listening and subservient to the heart of someone else. Makes a good representative to a foreign nation (and we are "ambassadors" for Christ).

3 - Intimate relationship is made possible through deep love. Love overlooks the differences (and in our case, sins) to see the value and innate image of God inside their soul, even if on the outside not everything matches or is identical or is cleaned up.

This is parallel to a read of Romans 4-8, where we discuss how we involuntarily replicate the "image" of the "first Adam," until Romans 8 when we employ the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the flesh, after reckoning our minds dead to sin in chapter 6, and after we have received the Spirit as a unearned and unstrived for gift-of-God like Abraham in Romans 4. In Romans 8 we finally take up the image of the "last Adam" (Jesus Christ), who is the image of God, and we are also made in that same image - yet we do not have the power apart from God to carry it out in our lives (Rom. 5:17).

Love sees the image of God, and confirms the image, and aids the image. Identifying with another NEVER means we are identical. There is great variety and diversity in the house of God (2 Tim. 2:20). So it is with the Godhead. The Son will always be the One heard and seen, the Savior who came and will have a body of flesh forever. The Father is always seated (as far as I know?), never rises. When God spoke on Mt. Sinai the voice of God was so terrible that His people said, "if we hear the voice of the LORD our God anymore, then we shall die" (Deut. 5:25) so they asked Moses to go and talk to God to save them from further experience.  God met their desire by giving His people the Word, Jesus Christ, who was not terrible in voice but like a Lamb, completely approachable.

Variety is something God has in His heart. He designed this world choc-full of variety because differentiation is a part of who He is. With all the differences between the Father and the Son, they know each other, intimately. The word for their kind of "knowing" is perichoresis. They are always listening to each other, and finding each other fascinating, being willing to represent each other, giving their own will over, wanting to gain the satisfaction of the other. That is the intimacy Jesus had With God. When Jesus comes to earth and walks and teaches and does signs, what is He doing, but showing us in everything He does, in everywhere He goes and everything He says, that He is "With God." He talks about it from start to finish. He models it, too. Jesus models the answer to our need for salvation: Be like Him. Be "With God." "Abide in Me and I will abide in you." When we abide with Him we are the Image.

'Perichoresis' by Derrick
When Moses came with the law, God appeared hierarchical. "Do this, do that." Not much development of why we should. Just a whole lot of fear if we did not. Alternately, how do we feel about obeying God when the stage of God becomes the Godhead, with their differences and needs on display to each other and the world?  Have you watched a man and his wife make a decision together?  What did it reveal about their character to watch them respond to each other?  The Israelites largely thought it difficult to believe God as approachable and available for relationship. Moses seemed special because he was a prophet.  It was not the best portrayal.  But the price-tag of revealing their relations is immeasurable; that Jesus would leave heaven and die. That's why it says in the beginning of John that "the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (1:18).

We never "learn" that God is approachable until we see that Jesus is in relationship with God, and God answers all His prayers, and Jesus obeys Him completely because of the Father's love.  Now that we have seen the character and love of God in action between the two, we can see that God is wide-open with an invitation for us to experience the same relationship. And just in case we were wondering if the invitation is official, it is - but only faithful followers in the upper room discourse have categorically attained it.  Consider how exclusive Jesus is with most believers in the Gospel of John....

Be a Somebody - Be an Ambassador

In John 2:24 Jesus talked to those who were starting off well because they "believed in Jesus." But they hadn't been yet sanctified to abide.  Jesus knew what was largely "in man" and it wasn't the Father.  For that reason, "Jesus did not commit Himself to them." The word "commit" is the same word used as "believe" or "faith" in the Gospel of John. John was explaining, "But Jesus did not believe in them." Later, Jesus does believe in (commit Himself to) His disciples, and John 6 is the dividing line.  In John 6 He teaches that if anyone wants eternal life they must eat Him and drink Him for their daily needs. When they get to the other side of hearing that, most disciples turn away permanently (6:66) because it's so difficult to understand and believe, but Peter says, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." These disciples are sanctified and willing to stay with Him and take Him in.  By the time of the upper room Jesus has found viable candidates for replicating the image of the Abider-God.  John 14:22-24,
Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.”
After Judas departs, Jesus reveals His emptiness apart from everything the Father has given via intimacy.  John 17:6-8,
I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.
It is very similar to say, "If I were by myself, this would mean nothing, and I would have no purpose. But because I choose to represent the heart of another, now I'm a somebody."

Even the Demons Believe and Tremble

It's the mutual giving of honor that honors each person of the Godhead.

Who do you honor?  Who do I honor in the moments of my life?  Everybody wants to be an advocate for significance. Everybody wants to represent goodness or God Himself.  Maybe you are an orthodox believer in God.  You believe that Jesus Christ is who He says He is.  That's good.  You will certainly go to heaven when you die.  God is faithful, and He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim 2:13).  Maybe you once believed in Jesus Christ -- maybe you have evolved to embrace atheism.  You also will go to heaven because of God's faithfulness toward those who are His.  What distinguishes an abider from everyone else, from the orthodox to the atheist?  The answer is, where their "resources" (8:44) come from.

Unless believers stay in that submissive, perfect, loving closeness with God (which does at times require some honest obedience, Romans 8), we get CUT OFF from that flow (resources) of God sharing Himself - His heart, His thoughts, His strategies, His purposes. Again, Jesus is speaking to believers in Him (Jn. 8:31) in the context of this passage of scripture I refer to as the "who's your daddy?" passage.  These are brand-new believers from the moment earlier who need to catch up.  They really need to hear the recent sermon Jesus presented on the Bread from Heaven, so He tells them the theological jist of all John 6 in a single sentence: "If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed" (Jn. 8:31).  But they are offended at abiding in God.  John 8:37-55,
“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.  I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.”  They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.  But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.  You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.  Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.  Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?  He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”  Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.  And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.  Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”  Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’  Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?”  Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.  Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.
In eternity past, Satan stopped being an ambassador for God's purposes.  He stopped honoring the heart of God.  He started to speak for himself.  Though he knows about God and trembles, he is condemned.  He is out of fellowship with God and has never been offered redemption.  He is forever excluded from the flow of perichoresis.  Therefore: even though Satan was made to desire significance and to be an ambassador for God, he can only speak of God as an outsider, CUT OFF from intimacy.  He can only guess about God as the most remote of observers.  He can only?  Lie.

It's the abiding intimacy that funds the truth-words, the promises, the power and the significance of Jesus Christ.  His whole life was the perichoresis that accompanied Him.  Witnesses involuntarily witness whoever they are spiritually intimate with.

Every moment of Jesus' ministry was pulled off by one tiny little secret of success:
And He who sent me is with Me.
John 8:29

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