Life is but a dream…

I had a dream last night. It was fantastic, a love story, drama, suspense, fantasy, all in one. I thought to myself, “This would make a lovely book.” And, maybe it will one day. But one part of the dream is standing out to me, has stood out to me all day…I will explain.

In this dream, the main character was a man…he lived in this elaborate but very art nouveau house; the whole place was like an art gallery. One part of the house that stands out significantly was this staircase, and all along one side of this staircase were bookshelves with thousands and thousands of books…all in hard back, all with gold pages. It was beautiful, and for a writer and reader, like myself, it was intoxicating and irresistible.

Immediately, I began to thumb through each one, marveling at its pages and tracing the words on the binding. I didn’t know that the man was observing me. I was enthralled in this world of books. Suddenly I noticed one book that was simple…the pages were simple, the lettering simple, and it seemed pristine. I picked it up, the title was something about streams or deserts…I know, two very different pictures, but for the life of me, I cannot remember which; it was, after all, a dream. But, perhaps the truth in that statement lies in the fact that I casually glanced it over and replaced it, uninterested.

It was then that I noticed the man, in the corner, watching me. He was a lovely man, beautiful in every way…and I was drawn to him. It took me but a second to see the glistening tears in his eyes, not yet dropped but shining. Confused, I ran to him seeking to wipe his tears, to understand his pain, but he turned from me and said, “That was the story of my life.” I was even more confused so he continued, “That book that you clearly had no interest in…was the story of my life.” I was deeply regretful, sad, and upset. I had hurt this dear, precious, lovely man by my disregard for his life, his book, his story.

I ran, far and fast…and eventually I woke up. Broken hearted over my choice, and my casual dismissal of a life that I had come to love. I would like to have that dream again…and choose to love that book.

But tonight…I’m feeling that dream again…but in a different vein. I’m thinking of another book, lying on my bed stand. I’m thinking of a book that sits unmoved since yesterday. I’m thinking of a book that tells an amazing story of amazing lives that reveal the life of One and One alone…the life and character of my God. I’m thinking about how often I dismiss it, or casually glance at it and replace it on my bed stand. I’m thinking about the many times that I have pulled out one or two verses only to disregard the full meaning of the Word. And, I am picturing a man…a beautiful man, a lovely man, an innocent man that died so that I could read and understand and love those words. And, how he must feel as he sees me disregard His book. And I want to run, far and fast…but instead, I will cease my writing and I will choose His book…and I will read His book…I will love His book. And, in the end, I will find myself, not regretful, but safe once more in the arms of grace.

It really was a beautiful dream.

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In the face of fear

Fear.

It is our strongest opponent. It has the power to cripple and annihilate. It is the antithesis of hope and faith. It awaits our slightest slip.

It finds us at unexpected places… Expectedly. In the hospital waiting on a diagnosis, a treatment, a test result. At school in the hallways, in the principals office, in the face of a bully. In our homes in the confines of a closet, on the floor of a bathroom, in the security of our beds. It finds us. It doesn’t have to try.

It is an enemy we create, with our minds, in our hearts, and with our consent. It is the thing that keeps us from dreaming, hoping and, for too many of us, living. It is the one thing that can and does separate us from the love of God…the love of others…the love of self.

It is a faithful opponent, an intimidating foe. It finds me fragile and scared; broken and scarred. It finds me; try as I might to elude it’s onset, it finds me. And when it does it ravages me. In a matter of seconds it rips away my security and dares me to raise my chin. I tremble in it’s wake, and it gloats darkly.

Then I get in it’s face and I speak. I speak to my fear. Ridiculous, huh? But, it is forced to listen, and as I speak I am forced to hear…I am not alone. I am not the sum of my mistakes, my aggressions, my assaults. I am not crazy or a victim or a fraud. I am not afraid! And finally I speak the words that makes fear cower. I am NOT afraid! I speak it again, louder and with more strength. I AM NOT afraid! And suddenly my fear takes a backseat to my indignation. Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world! I am more than a conqueror! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! Perfect love casts out ALL fear! And, i feel it…I’m alive and well and equipped to face whatever comes my way … Until it finds me again, face to face.

Musical Interlude

I have a natural affinity for Southern Gospel music. True, there is some underlying history there, but the fact is, if I’m gonna spend an hour and half listening to music, it’s not gonna include a song titled, “Don’t let the sandals fool ya.” Just being perfectly honest. Living in the deep south this poses a bit of problem as apparently it is the commonly selected entertainment for church homecomings…in fact, if you have more than five Saints in your church over the age of sixty, chances are you’re going to come face to face with a gospel singin’. And, yes, it’s a singin’ or a sangin’ depending how far in the country you go to hear said music.

It can be nasally and twangy and yet, oddly enough for many it is still considered hand clapping, foot stomping, hand raising good entertainment. Once a year is about my limit. And amazingly, God has given me two occasions in one week to bear witness to this Southern phenomenon. But, before I get accused of being calloused and cruel, let me get to my point. Whether or not I like it, doesn’t matter…God is still using it to channel His message to His people, young and old, town or country.

I don’t have to enjoy something to hear the word of God in it. I don’t have to listen with raptured interest to the bass as he belts out a verse that is almost too low to catch it’s meaning, but when he starts to speak the name of Jesus…there is a power in his words and his voice that without that element would cease to exist. I don’t squeal with delight when the tenor passionately sings what I feel to be unnatural octaves far above any man’s range about the Living Water. I don’t get chill bumps at the end of the song when four men pair up in four part harmony so that you don’t know where one voice ends and the other begins, but I do appreciate their excitement for what they do to bring worship to their Lord. I may not like the music, but I believe the message.

I’m also not crazy about Screamo or Heavy Metal, or Grunge rock, or Hard Rock or any other veneration of the word “Rock” that they have come up with in the last ten years and I have not been privy to. But, I know that God has touched hearts that do, and He will continue to use that form of music to impart a message of peace and redemption in a world of chaos and shame. It’s not about what I like, it’s about what they’ll listen to, and God is a great respecter of persons…He really does know what we like and tries to meet us with a message in a method that we will actually listen to.

A few years ago I read, “90 Minutes in Heaven” by Don Piper. There are many things that have fancied my imagination about that book, but something that I find fascinating and look forward to experiencing first hand, is the fact that heaven is filled with music…all kinds, all genres, blended in perfect harmony reflecting praise and honor for the King. Can you imagine? Heaven, the place where Brian “Head” Welch and Demon Hunter play simultaneously with the Gaither’s and classical music!? But, I believe it is true. Because it is the message that the heart hears; it is the message that blesses God…and that message can come from a man or woman covered in tattoos singing out of a skull shaped microphone or it can resonate in four part harmony with a Southern twang or echo through the fingers of musicians the world over, who long to impart the message and hope of Christ with the gifts that they’ve been given! Beautiful, amazing grace…that finds us…everyone.