Monday, March 7, 2011

Update 2: A Barista, a Gift, and a Song to Sing.

Well, then.  Where does this leave me?  I guess I should share an event from last month to solidify this entry as both a bookend and a new launching point in this narrative. 

I'm living in Midtown, KCMO, and often work in Olathe, about a half-hour drive into Kansas.  Sometimes I stop at Black Dog Coffee House in Lenexa for a fix.  One of these times in particular, as I approached the counter at an unmentionably early hour, the barista had a particularly terrified look on her face.  We exchanged pleasantries and cash, and as she set to pour a tall soy latte triple shot for me, her hands were visibly shaking.  Before handing me my cup, she stopped and prefaced her explanation, "This will be the weirdest conversation you have all day."  (She obviously had no idea who she was talking to.)  "When you walked in two weeks ago, I saw a picture of you, clear as day, and God told me to tell you about it.  I was too afraid then, but now I have to tell you.  I saw you kneeling at an alter, with a gift before you.  You stood up, took the gift and, with tears streaming down your face, walked away."

I knew already she was spot-on.  On first glance, this is merely a direct confirmation of my state of creative dormancy.  She went on, "The Lord says he wants your gift back, that it's His and you have no right to take it back.  And, while I don't know much about you, I think it's your song." 

I tried, probably flimsily and to little avail, to encourage and thank her for being a faithful deliverer of the word she received from God.  She remained flustered, and I left to go about my work-day.  As I prayed and pondered, the Spirit breathed upon the image she gave me.  And, while nothing immediate happened, a concept was beginning to thicken.  The anxiety I have around my craft, the extreme perfectionism, the tight grip I keep on my songs, all of this was brought to light.  I can't be anxious or stingy with something that isn't mine to begin with.  God called me to breathe his goodness, and to exhale it into the atmosphere around me.  At no point in the respiratory cycle is there room to stash air away in secret pockets in my abdomen, scrutinize it, perfect it, and wait to release it until a moment I deem appropriate.  No, I freely inhale, and automatically exhale, making room for each new breath.  In this sense, my gift to offer, my song to sing, is not even mine, and I cannot legally worry about it, because I gave it to God the day I died in the convent and was resurrected alive in Christ.  If it were mine, I could be every bit as exhaustingly self-critical as I wanted, but it's not.  My response to God, in His love and goodness, is to give freely, to release the creation he built into my spirit without regard to how it will be received or where it will meet its target.  My sole duty is to cultivate an inner dialogue with my maker, redeemer, and best friend.  Everything outside of engaging in that dialogue is not my concern, but His.  There's such peace in that, since He's infinitely better at his job than I am. 

I had a security blanket name Bebe until I went to kindergarten.  I couldn't be caught not holding it in my hand, with my thumb plugging up my mouth.  My parents say that when, of my own volition, I gave up Bebe and quit sucking my thumb on my first day of school, it uncorked a stream of words that has not stopped since.  Likewise, now, to the comforts of control and calculated release, to the crutches of guardedness and self-provision, I give you up.  I don't need you any more.  The well has been bursting to get past your levees, and I won't hold you back any longer. 

Maybe I'll call this a notice of reentry.  My warning alarm to existence that my throat is open and my pen is moving.  A stream of silliness will undoubtedly began to ceaselessly flow, and I will joyously offer it up.  Papa, you have your mark on me, and I know you won't let any arrow miss it's mark.  So may the filler fall to the floor, but His voice in me will never be silent again.  There is ample reason every second to shout, sing, moan, mumble, gargle, cry, sigh, breathe, belch, whistle, lament, give thanks, praise, and celebrate.  May the whole world hear the cacophony of new life and be ushered in.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Update 1: Rachaph רחף

Genesis 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved (רחף) upon the face of the waters.
Job 37:1 At this also my heart trembleth, and is moved (רחף) out of his place.

Throughout my adolescence, I had recurring dreams and daylight visions of a violent and apocalyptic nature.  They would often come to a climactic end with me running, crazed, into battle, guns blazing, taking bullet after bullet until finally fading into glory.  There's a look on my face as I run - a look present in real life only when an urgent message travels from my heart to my mouth and is spoken into the atmosphere.  A vein pops out of my forehead, vertical, just left of center, and the corners of my eyes crunch to squints and radial creases, like the ones that accompany side-splitting laughter, but deeper, and more resolute.  I loved these dreams.  I would always wake feeling introduced to some deeper meaning in the toil of daily life, more tapped in to some anonymous purpose with which I had become familiar only by its absence, as water takes shape around the vessel of it's displacement.

In January of 2009, the Spirit of the Living God accosted me in rapturous manner, leaving me ravaged, in an incoherent stupor, stumbling out the back of a convent in Whitesville, KY.  In many ways, I think every day since then has been a perpetual unpacking of the things the Spirit did within me that day.  I'm just beginning to understand the work he completed in that moment, the work that is still just beginning to manifest in my life.  It began by an act of aggression in my spirit that left me laying in recovery for hours, as if mauled by a lion.  In those hours of euphoric agony, He stripped me of all malice, pride, and violence, and of any resistance to His holy, blissful will.  I was certain I was dying, and it was good news because I'd met my purpose - intimacy with a good and everlasting Creator.  And, indeed, I died that day.  The slave in me who lived only for momentary gratification and stimulus died at the hands of the Son of God, and I was resurrected as a son myself, adopted into a royal line of conquerers and poets and warriors of another realm.  Every living day since then I offer as a gift to Him who delivered me from the tyranny of self and grafted me into His story of sanctification and glory.

One way I can gauge His activity in my life is the way my internal makeup is transforming over time.  Into His likeness, into a purer version of myself.  For instance, the daily visions of battle and glorification of a violent end have ceased, and been replaced by an overcoming joy and peace.  The longings of my heart that stemmed into these visions were fulfilled to completion on that day.  After the encounter at the convent, the visions were replaced by a new recurring dream.  In my dream, I still often find myself swept into war-torn areas of the world.  Instead of wielding blazing firearms and taking dozens of bullets to the chest, I'm now standing atop a smoldering, overturned Humvee, fists clinched, screaming my bloody lungs out of a love that conquers all opposition, redeems all pain, fulfills all longing.  The vein is popping in my forehead, and my eyes are squeezed to tears, and the sound is more victorious laughter than protest.  As the sound travels outward, it carries a ripple through the plane, speeding forth in every direction.  The force travels through obstructions,  leaving staggering changes in its wake - bullets melt, mid-air, and fall to the ground, helmets are blown off the heads of bewildered soldiers, and the whole scene stops, mesmerized and metamorphosized, turned from a spirit of death and descension, swept up into a reality of transcendence and healing.

It's been almost a year since I've written deliberately, and almost as long since the last time I lost myself in abandon as I make music.  I've been entertaining unwelcome guests of confusion and curses over my craft, my drive to create, and even comfort in my own skin.  I was created with a boldness in speaking, and a certainty in the goodness of existence and the nearness of a good God.  But for nearly a year that boldness and certainty has been just . . . gone.  It was carried away by promises broken and loyalties betrayed, dismantled by deep challenging of the very fabric the Spirit wove during and after our meeting in the convent.  It's left me crippled, operating at 1/4 capacity at best, a diminished shell of my abilities and my identity.  I've questioned God's intentions, His goodness, and His nearness so many times. But every time I bring it to Him, He speaks.  Every time.  And He often leads me back to the place we met - where I offered up everything, my very life and heartbeat, and called it rubbish compared to His presence.  I ask Him about the present circumstances, and He reminds me of the promise.  I ask about the future, and He leads me instead to a feast of His nearness.  He tells me who He is and I learn, in turn, who I am in Him.  I ask for reconciliation, and He simply waits with me to see it come, or sometimes invites me to usher it in as His royal son, deputized by the blood of Christ to carry His decrees and blessing throughout this realm.

So many things still don't make sense in my poor, cynical mind.  So many things don't add up to my meager human logic.  But I'm becoming more and more aware of the transcendent reality that, when I don't see the truth of His goodness and love with my human eyes, when I don't hear His songs of glory echo in every moment of this journey, there's actually a louder, longer song sustaining throughout existence, of His provision - the melody of our Creator, sung by we the Beloved, that is reconciling all things unto Him who made us, gave us a choice, and when we were yet turning away from His goodness, carved a way for us back into the riches of His Kingdom.  And what's wonderful is that He has made His Spirit to come and take up residence somewhere in the cavity between my ribs.  Somehow, mashed up interdimensionally with all my organs and blood, lives the Spirit of the God of the universe, and He moves and breathes on my behalf, exchanging my will for His, trading my momentary trial for his unending union and intimacy with the Author of joy, beauty, peace, and power.  That's what I've come to know as repentance.  It is a good trade -- rubbish for riches, malice for unending joy, shackles for unlimited freedom and power.  I'll take it.