Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Directed Passion--Part 4

But God can see far past the shadows. For darkness is as light to him.

God, in his infinite grace and mercy, did not leave David to be completely devoured by his rabid passion. He sends Nathan to tell a story which will re-ignite the light of David’s passion. Nathan narrates the story simply and clearly. And ‘David burned with anger against the man…’ (2 Samuel 12).

Then David’s passion fueled his repentance.

There is a moment when we look at our reflection in the eyes of another or in our own mirror and we don’t recognize the face staring back at us. When Nathan first swiveled the mirror around, David did know who he was seeing. His misplaced, mistimed, misdirected passion had altered the landscape of his spirit and face.

I understand David. I have had passions which slid into obsessions. Longing for intense and intimate connections, I have directed my passion onto others. They could not sustain, maintain, absorb or diffuse it.

I want to learn from David.

When I read the Psalms, I hear David’s voice speaking for him and for me. When I am angry, lonely, happy, mad, frustrated, elated, disillusioned, afraid, apathetic, or joyful I read David’s journals. And that is exactly what the Psalms are—the personal prayer journals of David.

O my God, I long for the deepest of intimacies with you. I yearn for an unsevered connection. Come, sustain and maintain what we already have. I do want more—increase the passion of my wild faith. I trust you with it. I know you do not want to domesticate or tame this wild and unruly part of me. This is a part of the Wild Faith you have called me to…this is a part of the weft and warp of who I am.

Show me the difference between enthusiasm and passion. Some situations need enthusiasm, and some elation, and there are some which deserve passion. Please give me keen discernment to recognize and understand the difference.

Only you can absorb this intense passion of mine. Only you can direct, place, and time it so that it is beneficial and extraordinary, rather than destructive and banal. O God, open up places and opportunities for my passion to bring you glory. Take my shoulders and point out to me with great exaggeration what direction it should follow. Reveal to me the fullness of your timing so that I and others will not be scorched by its flames. And when my passion burns down to embers, please reignite its light.

Amen and amen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Directed Passion--Part 3

We left off at a hard place in the last Passion Post. I didn't want to stop there. But sometimes we must stop in the dark, hard places to allow our eyes to acclimate.

What happened? What happened to the Shepherd-Poet turned King? His passion was his defining attribute.

David misplaced, mistimed, and misdirected his passion.

Passion misplaced.
The recipient of David’s passion could not sustain or maintain the intensity of the connection. Bathsheba’s whole world collapsed under the weight of David’s passion.

The people in our lives cannot sustain this kind of passion. For a season they may bear up under its weight, but eventually they will collapse. And this will leave us disillusioned and crush them. Only God can sustain the intensity. Only he can maintain the connection.

Passion mistimed.
Passion cannot remain idle for long.

Israel was involved in a tumultuous and ugly season of war. David’s choice to remain behind and uninvolved in the movement of his army put him in a place of temptation. Boredom and restlessness led him to take a walk on the palace roof when he should have been on the front lines with his army. Bathsheba became the receptacle for David’s distracted and diverted passion.

Passion misdirected.
David’s excess energy (a by-product of such incredible passion) was directed toward someone who did not have the means or the ability to absorb or diffuse it.

Like a bird of prey, David stood on his roof. With keen vision he saw Bathsheba. Instead of looking away, he fixed his eyes on her and swooped, snaring her in his talons. (In this post we are only discussing David’s passion and choices. Bathsheba is another post for another time). Bathsheba could not diffuse David’s passion. She could not shield herself from its heat or its destruction. It absorbed her.

And beautiful, handsome King David weaves a deceptive and convoluted web. He does not see the consequences which loom on the horizon.

A dark shadow falls over the house of David.

Eyes of Joy

The eye is the lamp of the body.
If your eyes are good, your whole body
will be full of light.
Matthew 6:22

...You will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb
and swell with joy...
Isaiah 60:5a

God will give you the treasures
of the darkness,
riches stored in secret places...
Isaiah 45:3a

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Directed Passion--Part 2

Exuberance and enthusiasm can build excitement, but will often leave others unchanged beyond the exhilarating moment. Passion stirs, digs, pushes, pulls, grips, draws, touches—by its very presence others are moved and changed.

Remember David? His life was charged with passion. He was fiercely intense and embraced life with a ferociousness which caused some to cringe, shudder and mock. The manifestations of David’s passion annoyed and even frightened many.

I & 2 Samuel relate the stories of the outward events and people of David’s life. Read through the Psalms. They give utterance to the inward landscape of who David was. We feel his intensity; we feel the depth and enormity of his posturing and attitude. Every psalm David penned has a dark and brilliant passion to its ink.

Passion permeated his life. Passion animated David.

David’s intensely intimate connection with God changed the landscape of who he was. And it affected his behavior.

David is known for his risqué procession down the packed streets to Jerusalem—scantily robed and quite unaware of the crowd.

David was so absorbed, so consumed, so involved in his worship of God that he was oblivious to the sneer and mockery of his wife. He was unconscious of the embarrassed whisperings of his army as they watched their leader cavort and gambol before the Ark.

In this moment I am not sure David was even aware of himself—he was aware only of the recipient of his passion: The Holy One of Israel. God.

There were other highlighted moments of passion for David:

David’s reaction to the boastings and challenges of Goliath was zealous and vehement.

David’s love and loyalty to Jonathan was unexpected and unforeseen.

David’s emphatic protection of Saul was uncommon and politically suicidal.

David’s unconditional acceptance of Mephibosheth was compassionate and honorable.

Yet, there is a dark side of David’s passion. God did not blot this shadow from David’s story. God does not hide the flaws of his people, even if the flaws branch from their virtues. (We have tried to hide the flaws.)

David’s reaction to Nabal’s negligence and rudeness was violent and instinctive (justified—yes, but not redemptive). Only the shrewd and wise Abigail curbed and rerouted David’s passion in this situation.

And then there is David and Bathsheba: the dark, seductive and taboo story. David’s desire was immediate and demanding. This was a connection based not on intimacy, but on lust and power.

David’s passion consumed him. His beautiful, rich, and productive passion turned and devoured him.

Why? Because passion slid into obsession. David lost his focus. His eyesight blurred and his hearing faded. Suddenly he was blind and deaf. And David stumbled. With each attempt to diffuse the situation he spiraled downward. He was caught in the vortex of his passionate lies and schemes. His own choices swallowed him whole.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wild Faith--Directed Passion

Part 1



I have been holding this facet of Wild Faith close to my heart for months. How can one write of something so personal and so intimate? How can one convey passion when the definitions and interpretations are so varied and so warped?

I talked to a friend about this post and told her I was struggling to express and discuss my thoughts concerning this part of Wild Faith. She said, “You must write with bare honesty.”

Bare honesty.


This proves to be difficult. In order to discuss passion I must battle self-censorship.

For many passion is a taboo concept attached to the sexual realm. Passion is associated with the prolific romance novels—with seductive covers and questionable content. Fantasy.

Or it is used flippantly in regards to enjoyments and interests. The concept has been prostituted much as our word love has. Over-used and diluted.

These associations have made it so common and banal, thus allowing it to maintain only a one-dimensional definition. How horrible to cheapen something so extraordinary.

Frequently passion is misidentified. It is not just excitement or enthusiasm or exuberance. (Although these are often present) These wane because they are rooted in circumstance. We mistake fluctuating zealous emotions for the attitude and posture of passion. We suppress passion's manifestation because the intensity frightens us; we fear being labeled a fanatic. Often we do not recognize its essence.

Passion is an intensely intimate connection which profoundly pervades and changes the inner landscape of who we are, therefore affecting what we do.

Passion is kairos, not chronos.
Passion is boundless, not limited.
Passion is animated, not theatrical.
Passion is useful, not utilitarian.
Passion is proficient, not sensible.

Passion cannot be summoned, it must be beckoned.
Passion cannot be explained, it must be experienced.
Passion cannot be contained, it must be released.
Passion cannot be defined, it must be lived.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Little Bird

I woke early this morning. I always do, but this morning was even earlier than usual. I started the computer, fixed my granola yogurt, and checked my email. I even IMed with a dear friend.

She warned me a storm was coming.

I opened my blinds. I wanted to see what was brewing. A powerful storm cell was moving toward my house. I could hear and smell the rain. The slate gray sky was heavy and low.

I left off all the lamps. Only the strange, pale light of the storm lit my den. I observed the arrival through the spattered windowpanes.

I listened to the stillness—only the clicking of my computer keyboard and the hum of the air conditioner broke the hushed silence of the early morning. They intruded.

With expectation and eagerness I waited for the fullness of the storm to arrive.

There, the lightning—a jagged bolt. So quick I almost missed it. The eye was still far away; the thunder did not ride closely on its heels.

I waited.

At last I heard the first low rumbles of thunder. Rain bounced on the street.

Another flash—fierce and immediate. This time thunder was just a mere breath behind. I couldn't even say one thousand and one between the flash and the punch.

Suddenly, I wanted to go to the porch. I didn’t just want to watch the storm go by.

The cool wind hit me as soon as I stepped out my front door. I stopped just under the eaves.

Hesitating. Debating.

My inhibitions and my passion battled.

Perched like a small bird on a branch, I clung to the edge of the porch boards with my bare toes. The wind blew the rain in, and I fluttered and shivered.

Tentatively I stretched my arm past the overhang of the roof. The rain hit my hand and ran in cold rivulets down the length of my bare arm.

The inner dialogue continued.

Just step out, Tamera.
Step off the porch and into the rain.

Lightning was tight and frequent now. Thunder rolled across the sky like ripples in a rug being smoothed on the floor.

I kept watching the street. No traffic. The doors of all the neighboring houses were shut tight. Blinds were closed.

Rain pelted.
Lightning flashed.
Thunder grumbled.

The storm was passing by—my chances would soon begin to wane. No more thinking, no more debating, no more hesitating.

At the height of the storm—I pushed off the edge of the porch and flew into the storm.

I stood in the rain on the sidewalk with my face upturned. I drank in the cold, hard rain. It ran down my face and neck soaking my red shirt. I stepped in the puddles on the sidewalk and laughed. I lifted my arms toward the dark, slate gray sky. Then I twirled around and around at the edge of the street, so very glad to be me.

I had flown into the middle of the storm.

And while I was there I danced.

Exhilaration. Elation. Emancipation.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One Year

On July 22, 2007, I took a risk.


Three hundred and sixty-five days ago I decided to follow some very wise advice.


Write.

Today this blog is one year old.
Thank you.
Thank you for visiting.
Please come again.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Focal Point

Breathe, Tamera.

In through your nose, out through your mouth.

Deep cleansing breath.

I heard these phrases many times during my twenties. I have four daughters. And these words became a mantra that colored the second decade of my life. Each birth event was different and had its own unique story. And the details of the births foreshadowed the distinct personalities of each Daughter today.

During my first pregnancy, we attended Lamaze classes. We absorbed all the instructions and practiced all the techniques, but we had no grasp of what the reality would actually entail. I heard the horror stories and simply tried to shut my mind to them. I listened to the barrage of complaints and grumblings and fear-induced panics from both mothers and fathers. I knew the circumstances of my own birth and had been near during the birth of my much younger sibling. I knew what I did NOT want.

I was determined my children’s births would be different

Sifting through all the stories and all the information, I quietly prayed. I skimmed and perused some of the pamphlets given by the Lamaze coaches. I read recommended books and even suffered through the required childbirth video.

I was told I would need to have a focal point. Something in the room to fix my eyes and mind on during contractions. This something could be brought from home—a photo, a piece of art, an object. Later, after our second daughter was born, I realized that the purpose of this object was to encourage the laboring mother to keep her eyes OPEN.

When you close your eyes, pain intensifies. Inclination and instinct shuts our eyes tightly against pain. If we detect pain’s possible presence we wince and squint our eyes against the inevitable.

When you close your eyes during childbirth all the pain surges to the center of you and takes a fierce hold—squeezing and contracting you in a pain you have never encountered before (But you will again. The pain switches to your heart as they grow. The contractions seem quite familiar, and these are the ones the dad experiences also.)

During labor you are in the midst of a swirling and mounting darkness that only increases in intensity. What is merely two minutes to your partner (as they watch the monitor or the clock) seems to be two hours to you, and you lose the ability to distinguish the length or breadth of time.

With my oldest daughter, the nurses allowed my Pitocin drip to go too high. Instead of rising and falling contractions, with actual peaks and valleys, my monitor tape read one continuous contraction. I was given little reprieve. Very little time to catch my breath. The pain was relentless. I think the girls’ father thought my head was going to spin. I remember crying quietly—inside myself. Or so I thought.

With all my daughters’ births my focal point was not a visual object. The coaches and nurses fussed about this. My focal point was a voice. One particular voice in the swirling darkness. I only listened to that voice. My doctors knew this. They didn’t bother to speak to me during labor and delivery. They gave instructions to my partner—my daughters’ daddy. His voice managed to break through the darkness. I listened because I knew the tones and levels of intensity in his voice. I listened. The volume never, ever changed. Always right at my ear. I never once remembered seeing his face, but his voice never wavered.

Laboring in childbirth is a thin-slice of life.

For years I kept my eyes tightly closed. In my early to mid-thirties the contractions were spaced and tolerable. During the latter half my thirties and the beginning of my forties the contractions rolled relentlessly over me. Little reprieve and little breathing room. My head did spin. And I did cry.

I was living with my eyes closed—in the dark with the pain.

But this caused me to turn inward. Instead of encountering and confronting and exploring the pain, I was often overcome by it.

The writer of the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 3:1; 12:2) tells me to fix my eyes on Jesus.

My focal point.

Often I can’t see his face, but I am fixed on his voice. In the midst of swirling, mounting darkness, his voice has always been the undercurrent in my ear. Always whispering at my shoulder (Isaiah 30:21). Recently I have attempted to turn down the volume or mute every other voice in my life. I want to hear with greater clarity.

It has taken me a while to open my eyes, but they are open.

I have returned to the lessons I learned during hard, transitional labor.

Breathe, Tamera.
In through your nose, out through your mouth.
Deep cleansing breath.
Open your eyes.
Find your focal point.

I found him.

I hear him.

I will see him.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Entrance

With an embarrassed and reluctant confession I realize I have not engaged in an intimate exchange with you in a long time.

This long time cannot be measured by the calendar or the clock.

I talked to you last night. Breathing prayers as my eyes began to close after a full day. Words melded together and became an incoherent mumbling inside my head, and then I was gone. But you were not. You remained. Hovering—just as you did long ago over the face of the deep.

I think you breathed on me in the night—because I awoke this morning longing for your presence. Hungry for a glimpse of your face. Eager to enter your presence.

I woke longing for your word to penetrate and bring order to my chaos. I woke desiring our conversations go beyond simple maintenance and rote liturgy. I woke with my lungs full and needing to exhale. I came awake yearning to move past the expected and required into a place of mystery and anticipation.

Your breath was my invitation to enter your presence.

There is a mindful, intentional choice to inhale deeply. Our shallow breathing is involuntary. We simply must do this to exist. Deep breathing is by choice. It is intentional and takes time and effort.

Engaging someone in a conversation and entering a room are intentional choices.

Choices I often fail to make.

For whatever reasons there are days I simply walk by your throne room. There are days I glance in, hesitation hindering my forward movement, and then I walk on. There are days when I camp out at the opening of the door.

Shallow breathing.

How Hannah (I Samuel) would have longed to have the freedom I do. She sunk down at the opening in the temple (the last opening that as a woman she could walk through) and prayed for a son. At that door she prayed and pushed her prayers all the way through to the Holy Place—through to the Holy of Holies. Hannah prayed until old Eli thought she was drunk. She was so deep in her conversation with you; she was totally unaware of anything going on around her. She pushed through the barriers that barred her from your presence. She entered your throne room, and she had an intimate conversation with you—unbound by the fetters of time or place.

And here I am. I have been given access all the way through to the Holy of Holies because of Jesus. Because of Jesus, I don’t have to sit and wait at the door.

You anticipate my arrival. Your scepter held—waiting to extend it to me. And yet, I walk by the entrance too many times a day.

In the back of my mind and on the edges of my soul and the periphery of my spirit, I hear you. I am aware of you. Utterly aware. You hover, and I feel the the rippling of your hum.

How long? How long, O God, has it been since I have seen you in your sanctuary? How long has it been since I have seen your train in the temple and trembled in awe because I was in your presence? How long since I have pushed through disregarding the fetters and boundaries?

How long since someone thought I was drunk?

You are beckoning me to enter. I see the tip of your scepter, and then I look beyond and I see the kindness and grace in your eyes.

There is no condemnation for all the ignored invitations. There is no censor for the many times I have walked by and not entered. There is no criticism for the feeble and shallow excuses I make.

No, there is only now and this invitation. Your breath is an extension of hospitality for me to come. There are no guards barring my entry. I will not be asked probing and interrogating questions before the way is opened to me.

You are waiting.

Deep breaths.

Deep breaths.