Pilgrim Notes

Reflections along the way.

Month: April 2006 (page 1 of 2)

[springlist] The Blessing of Helplessness

The clouds softly enclose the sky on this sleepy Saturday morning. For some
reason, I’ve always loved cloudy gray days. They seem a little like my
personality, relaxed and gently ambling along without a driving need to be
anywhere in particular—just happy to be. Today I’m happy to be reclining and
writing, and as I write, my blood enjoys a cleansing through the miracle of
dialysis.

Just above my right breast two small valves or ports connect to two tubes
running to and from the dialysis machine. My blood flows out one tube into
the machine through a series of twist and turns down through a filter and
into another tube that connects back to my chest. In the process,
potentially harmful chemical levels are readjusted and if I have too much
liquid in my system, it is removed.

If I had this same condition less than 100 years ago, I would probably be
dying as the toxins continued to build with no means of adjusting them. God
in His unfathomable goodness choose that I might live at this point in time
and thus enjoy the benefits of a machine.

There are a variety of people sitting in this room with me. Most are at
least 30 years older than me. One man holds his head and softly moans with a
grimace of pain clenching his face. He recently had surgery on both feet as
a result of bone problems associated with kidney disease.

According to one of the patients, this man made a fortune out West. I don’t
know what he did for living but apparently his hard work and ingenuity paid
great dividends, and he enjoyed great wealth. Here’s a man who once could
have anything he wanted, and now someone decides what he can do, where he
sits and even how much he can drink. He cannot even stand up by himself. Two
emergency workers must help him into a wheelchair. I feel sorry him and pray
for him some days because he always seems quite miserable.

As I look around the room, I notice one common thing about each person in
here. We’re all a bit helpless. All of us rely on machines to keep our
bodies working properly. All of us depend on nurses and doctors to take care
of us and in one sense keep us alive.

As the human body ages and when serious physical ailments require medical
assistance, the illusions of independence are stripped away. This state of
helplessness can be just as difficult and maybe more so than the actual
physical problem.

I grew up in a John Wayne world. As tough, self-reliant cowboy, he could
face any difficulty with guts and gusto. His character Rooster Cogburn was
crippled in one leg and had a patch over one eye, yet he was still tough as
nails. The world did not intimidate Rooster and he boldly confronted every
challenge with fierce resolve.

This independent, rough and ready cowboy fed the American myth of the
self-made individual who is unshakeable and can conquer the world through
vim and vigor.

And it is simply not true. All of us stand helpless before the world.
Regardless of wealth, education, and physical prowess, we’re not really that
different. Everyone one of us is completely helpless and every one of us
will die. Helplessness is just more obvious in some people than in others.

In a given day, every one of us relies on probably hundreds, if not
thousands, of other people for survival. When I awake to an alarm clock, I
rely on the engineers who designed that clock, the factory workers who built
that clock, the truck drivers who transported that clock, the sales person
who sold the clock and most likely the electric company who powers the
clock. In reality, this is just of few of the people who helped assure that
clock would wake me up on time for work.

As I take a shower, I rely on the persons who invented indoor plumbing, laid
the water lines, installed the plumbing, and work at the water company. By
the time I reach breakfast, I’ve already depended on a wide range of people
to get my morning started, and as the day progresses, I will rely on a host
more of unseen, unnamed people who will provide my essential needs and make
my life more comfortable.

But what about the hermit in the mountains or the person on the desert
island? They could actually live alone for years with relying on one other
human being, eating directly from the land. Aren’t they self-sufficient?
Think about it, they cannot possibly generate the food or water that will
sustain them. They get water from springs or wells and food from the land.
They are still totally dependent on the land, the sun, the air and the
water.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, all of us are completely dependent. To
survive we depend on other people, on the earth and on God. This dependence,
this helplessness is not a curse at all—it’s a gift. This gift teaches us
that we are not alone and have never been alone.

If we were alone, we could not exist. We are created for relationship. The
varied web of relationships that sustain each of us is far larger than most
of us ever imagined. It circles the world. It extends back in time to
ancient ages. It is bigger and more mysterious than anything we could
observe or chart or fully grasp. And yet it is so easy to fall into the
arrogant illusion of self-sufficiency.

If we but grasped our helplessness, we might fall on our knees in gratitude:
to the sun above and earth below, to the countless people seen and unseen
that meet our continual needs, and most of all to God who sustains all
things and all people (saint and sinner alike) by a love beyond measure.

So as I sit here connected for four hours to a dialysis machine, I can only
respond in thanksgiving for those who’ve made this possible. I invite you
into my helplessness. Not into a sickness or physical malady but into a
realization of our total dependence upon one another. And with that mindset
into a continual stream of thanksgiving for the blessings that overtake us
each moment.

Instead of continually wondering why our lives are not better, we might
cultivate a mindset that wonders why our lives have been so good, so
blessed, and so overwhelmingly wonderful. In so doing, we might begin to
acknowledge the treasures that surround. Instead of complaining for slow
service at restaurant, we might thank the server for their time and effort
in meeting our need. We might thank the clerk in the store, we might thank
the boss who employs us, we might thank the officer who protects us, we
might thank the teachers who instruct us, we might look around with fresh
eyes at the innumerable blessings surrounding us each moment.

And most of all, we might thank God who owes us nothing and yet blesses us
continually whether we are good and evil.

Grace and Peace,

Doug Floyd

http://www.springoflight.org/

“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find
rest in You.”
St. Augustine

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[springlist] Kidney Update

I am so blessed to have friends who have encouraged and prayed for me in the
midst of my kidney challenges. I have not experienced the stress associated
with such a physical condition, but rather I’ve felt the joy and peace of
being surrounded by loving people.

Some of you have asked about updates on my situation, so I thought I might
take a moment to share my current condition. This week is the third week of
dialysis. They put a catheter in my chest to serve as a temporary access
point. Next week I will have surgery on my arm to get a fistula for a more
permanent access.

I go to dialysis three times a week for four hours at a time. While a bit
time consuming, it gives me opportunity to read and write. The first couple
hours are not usually too bad but sometimes the last hour or two can get a
little tiresome. That’s when my blood pressure might drop or I might
experience a bit of cramping. While there are a few physical effects, I
cannot complain. This whole experience has been saturated in grace and
peace.

My doctors are cautious, and that’s why they sent me to ER last week. They
wanted to make sure my catheter was causing any serious problems.

In a couple weeks, Kelly and I will begin training to do home dialysis. To
help prepare, we’ve been overwhelmed with people volunteering to help
convert our basement into a suitable clinic area. Everywhere I turn I have
been blessed and I can only extend thanksgiving to the Lord and to the many
wonderful people he has placed in my life.

Thank again for your thoughts and prayers and may the Lord overwhelm each of
you with His goodness.

Grace and Peace,

Doug Floyd

http://www.springoflight.org/

“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find
rest in You.”
St. Augustine

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A Few Updates

Here are few unrelated tidbits.

Jeremy Floyd has some interesting comments on China and the rise of the creative class in America.

I’m reading a new book by NT Wright called Simply Christian. This is sort of a popular synopsis from some of his scholarly works on Jesus and Paul. In one sense it is an apologetic for Christianity much like CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Wright uses many of the question circulating in our culture today to discuss his faith. He weaves his discussion of faith through four primary topics: Justice, Beauty, Spirituality and Relationships. Along the way, he demonstrates how these interwined longings all disappoint. We fail in our quest to realize perfection in each of these areas. I would hand this book to anyone to introduce my faith. I highly recomend it and encourage Christians and non-Christians alike to read to see how some Christians might articualte their faith in ways that avoid some of the typical categories.

Still on a quest to discover indie Christian aritsts. If anyone has any reocmendations, send them my way. Here is another one I’ve been checking out:

16 Horsepower – The brainchild of David Eugene Edwards. Folk, appalachian, fiere and brimestone rock. Interesting. Makes me kind of think of the intensity of the Call.

Ark of the Covenant

So much time has passed that some wondered if the ark would ever return. Layers of ancient history clouded its disappearance, some said it disappeared after Solomon, others said it was taken by the Babylonians. The ark of the covenant was gone and only a miracle could bring it back.

The ark served as a continual reminder of God’s presence among his people. Inside this golden chest lay the tablets God gave to Moses, a jar of manna from the wilderness and Aaron’s rod that budded. All served as reminder of the great Exodus when God took His people out an empire and into a covenant.

The tablets contained the “ten,” that is the commands that defined this covenant people. The manna was the wondrous bread that sustained the ancient Hebrews as they crossed the wilderness. And the rod budded as an indication that Aaron was chosen to be high priest on behalf of the people.

These sacred objects stored in this sacred box all pointed to the God that kept covenant with His people. Considered holy, the ark was not to be even touched by human hands. Everywhere they went, the Levites carried the ark before the people on rods.

The ark led them across the wilderness. The ark led them through the Jordan river. The ark even led them in victory against Jericho. The ark always led the way as a continual reminder that the Hebrews were “a people in covenant with God.” The ark rested in the Holiest room of the tabernacle. This room was likened to the third heaven.

Once the Philistines captured the ark, but after one failed attempt, David restored it. He brought it back to Israel in grand procession with singing and dancing. The victorious king vanquished their enemies and restored the ark back to the holy mountain. But not Sinai. David put the ark on Mount Zion and forever established it as God’s holy mountain.

But those days of promise were so long ago. The glory days faded, and all that remained was a dull tarnish of dashed dreams. Israel broke the covenant again and again and again. The nation was divided, attacked captured and eventually led into exile.

Somewhere along the way, the ark vanished. And with it, the sense of God’s presence had left the people. Forced to serve under various oppressors, the Hebrews lived in an endless twilight, awaiting deliverance, awaiting for another David to return. Then their oppression would be cast off, their exile would end and the temple would be fully restored with the ark of God’s presence.

Three times a year, the people made festal processions up the mountain to celebrate God’s delivering hand. Three times a year, they reenacted the ark’s journey across the wilderness and the procession up the Holy Mountain. Three times a year they remembered the covenant God struck with their forefathers. They times a year, they dreamed and hoped of another day.

The time for their Passover procession approached, but this year, another procession was already in motion. The ark had returned and was traveling through the city and up the Holy Mountain. Instead of war stead, this warrior king rode a donkey. But he had come to claim the Davidic promise. He had come to end the exile. He had come to break the rod of the oppressor. He had come to restore the temple. He had come to put the ark back on the Holy Mountain.

But where was the ark? He didn’t lead a band of Levites with the ark on rods. Where was the ark?

He was the ark. Jesus was the ark of the covenant.

Jesus entered the city with shouts of Hosanna and crowds cheering in a festal procession. He was the ark for he himself bore the presence of God in the midst of the people. He himself bore the covenant in his body. He spoke as one having authority for He was the living law of the covenant. He came as sustenance for the soul because He was the living manna. He came bearing Aaron’s rod, for he was the true High Priest of Israel.

But just as David learned, the ark could only be set in place with sacrifice, so Jesus also brought the sacrifice required to restore the ark to its proper position. He became the sacrifice. For He himself was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus the great High Priest offered Himself the Lamb of God as sacrifice and then Jesus the living ark of the covenant was restored to Mount Zion.

Only Mount Zion had changed. It was no longer a city in old Jerusalem but a city in the new Jerusalem, the city of the firstborn, the faithful in Christ Jesus, the people called out to worship God—not in a place but in spirit and truth. With ark of God’s presence set among his called out people in Christ Jesus, we are the mountain to which all nations will stream. For out from his people flows the living water that brings healing to the world.

As we proceed through Holy Week, we fix our eyes on the joy before us: the presence of God among His people in Christ Jesus. This is not simply a yearly celebration, but in reality every week we make the festal procession. Each Lord’s Day, we celebrate the ark being restored to Mt Zion with songs of rejoicing, and we encounter the law of the covenant, the heavenly manna and the great High Priest—all embodied in Jesus Christ.

Let us rejoice this Holy Week, for we are traveling to the Holy City to rejoice once more in the joyous presence of God, resting among His people.

Music of Joy

In the desert, we learn the mystery of walking in joy in spite of hunger, thirst and any other perceived lack. For in the desert, we learn the dance of trust. We follow and the Lord leads us in a dance that world has never seen. Though we long to lead, we must learn to follow. He gently guides us through each step of the dance. And in the process, we become the music.

I’ve shared many times over the past year about the various challenges related to my 25-year battle with Chronic Kidney Disease. This next week, I begin a new step in the dance. Tomorrow I will have surgery for a temporary port to begin immediate dialysis. With the plans to eventually transfer that process to my arm.

This could and probably should be a time for concern, and yet even as the doctor made plans this last week, I felt a complete sense of peace. I realized then more than ever that I was being carried by the prayers of God’s people.

In this dance of joy that He has called us to, we encourage one another. We build up one another. We bear one another’s burdens. And we share in one another’s joy. The reality of this community of faith stuck deep in my soul, and I felt complete peace.

As one dear brother said, “a page is turning, same author, same book, just a new page.” So I rest in the goodness of God and in the collective prayers of His people. Instead of dread, there is expectancy. Our God is good and greatly to be praised. Thank you for those who prayed for me and I appreciate your continued prayers. God is a most faithful and loving dance partner.

Sitting in a coffee shop recently, I penned the following words. It’s not really poem, but it is something that expresses the wonder of humans moving across this earth.

We move across the face of the deep.
And as we move, music.

Wisps of words swirling and spinning in a gentle dance between lover and beloved.
Monstrous, giant shouting words, pounding hearts and souls like tempered steel.
Cackling, hackling, chuckling words giggling in playful chaos.
Crying, aching, groaning words beyond words leaking through cracked and crushed hearts.
Searching, grasping, longing words hoping that one small sound might echo back to the lonely yearning heart.

Gentle, caressing arms encircling and clasping two bodies as one.
Sure and strong arms holding steady day after day after day.
Throbbing, sweating working arms carrying the weight of this world.
Pounding, shaping, building arms erecting and repairing places and possibilities.

Scraping, clicking and clacking feet play the wooden floors and gravel lots, paved parking lots and mountain trails.
Tap, tap, tapping feet dancing in place to the silent tune that the heart endlessly pumps.
Walking, running, traveling feet heading from here to there and back again.
Stomping, jumping and thumping feet raging on innocent earth.

And Breathing.
Raspy, graspy breathing lusting for air and for life.
Steady breathing.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Oxygen and light filling soul with smiles and sunshine.

We move across the face of the deep.
And as we move, music.

River of joy

My hero, Richard Wurmbrand, spent fourteen years of his life in prison being tortured for his faith. He tells the story of being so discouraged for the abuses heaped on him that he could not pray. He could only dance. So he lifted his hands and danced an insane dance of joy before his Creator.

Joy comes from a river much deeper than the fickle streams of momentary situations. We draw water from the wells of salvation from a deep underground river that makes glad the city of God. This river of life is a river of healing, a river of joy, a river of peace, a river of liquid love. It washes our soul in the grace of God’s unending power.

Each of us face situations that will challenge us to draw from this river. The psalmist draws from this river. He meditates upon the Word day and night, and is thus like a tree planted by the river of living water. O that we might learn to eat the Word of God. There is strength for the weary and light for the dark in heart.

As most of you know, I’ve faced gradually increasing kidney problems for over twenty years. During that time, I sometimes struggled with feelings of doubt and fear. Again and again and again, I’ve found comfort in the Word of God.

Over the last year, my kidney function has decreased dramatically. Recently, I enjoyed a series of iron infusions to help combat anemia caused by this kidney problem. In the past year, I’ve registered with a transplant clinic, and now have been presented with the possibility of in-home dialysis. My doctor requested that Kelly and I learn about the various dialysis options, so we might be prepared to make a decision soon.

In the midst of such circumstances, I find my hope and my peace and my faith strengthened through the river of life flowing out from the Word of God. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on a passage in Psalm 92:

12 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 Those who are planted in the house of the LORD
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
15 To declare that the LORD is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
Psalms 92:12-15

Don’t we desire that our life count for something? That we don’t live and die without making an impact? Here is a wonderful promise of God blessing his people and causing their lives to bear much fruit. It strengthens me in my own particular challenges. I may not see how all the details will be worked out day to day but He is at work and I can completely trust in His power and provision and purposes for my life.

And amazingly, in the midst of great challenges, I discover joy. Joy unspeakable. Each of us face challenges in life. It may relate to health issues or money issues or relational issues or other situations, but we are not alone. In the midst of our struggles, we can worry and fret and compare and question. Or we can trust. We can drink deeply from the fountain of life that never runs dry.

During this pilgrimage of Lent, may we all run to the spring of joy, of laughter, of strength, of healing, of unfathomable goodness. May the joy of the Lord truly be our strength.

We Were made for Joy

We were made for joy.

for laughter
for songs
for dancing in the rippling streams
for gazing into the wondrous glory of sun-crowned mountains
for hearing earth’s perpetual plainchant, steadily drumming, “Holy, Holy, Holy”
for witnessing the wonder of rushing rivers crashing across ancients stones
for walking through tender spring grass glistening with morning dew
for harmony
for hilarity

We were made for light.

Sung into being by the breath of the Holy Lover, we awakened in an Eden of delightful bliss.

And yet the joystreams of our earthly journey evaporated in the desert’s soul-boring sun.

We still stumble across a wasteland of regrets and unfulfilled expectations looking for something that might give us even a glimpse of goodness and glory.

Desire drives us forward, as we seek to possess that joy, that unfailing happiness, that elusive longing that plagues our heart. We feed the yearning with movies and food and fun and cars and jewelry and sex and anything that can yield but a moment’s flash of possible delight.

Like Adam and Eve grasping for a fruit that was not a gift, our desire will possess anything and everything—including God. If we could actually possess God, we would devour him. Or possibly cage Him and make Him come out and satisfy our cravings. Plato thought we might even kill him. St. Stephen said we did.

There is a love greater than desire. There is a love that conquers desires. There is a love that cannot be possessed and yet cannot be resisted. There is a love that dwells in unapproachable light.

This supreme love, this supreme good is beyond all earthly good. It cannot be moved, drained, controlled or corrupted by human desire. This love entered human history in Jesus. Jesus’ love conquered human desire by yielding to it. He allowed the dark desires of humanity to kill him. But even in dying His love refused to let go.

And thus, we follow Him into death. Our desire, our Eros, our compulsion is crucified. Love wraps around the human heart and draws it to death. And in dying we live, and love. Love breathes freshly into the newborn soul, and we learn to dance again, to sing again, to play again. We grow back to innocence and wonder and, joy. Joy. Joy. Joy unspeakable.

We were made for joy.

Joy in the Desert

The hot sun makes cold water taste like heavenly nectar. Lent, like the hot sun, helps to magnify the wonder of God’s blessings in our lives. During this season, I’ve been trying to listen for the undercurrents of joy beneath the waves of Lenten humiliation. Even though Jesus warned the Pharisees about fasting with a long face, the human heart still likes to trumpet our sacrifices before the world.

As we face the darkness of the soul, and we recognize our desperate need for redemption, we might discover a laugh beneath the tears. Can joy and sorrow co-exist? Or should they ever be separated?

Sorrow without joy is the absence of hope, the loss of vision, the desperate spiral into darkness. Jesus went to the cross before the joy set before. So this season, I’ve been trying to spend time reflecting on the wonder and gift of joy. That’s why I’ve been a bit slow getting these meditations out. Hopefully, I can send a few more in the weeks ahead.

I’ve invited our little church along this journey, and I invite you to join the pilgrimage as well. Paul says that the kingdom of heaven is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. How many of us live in the glorious wonder of the kingdom? And how many of us sink in the sands of discouragement, crying for deliverance from our promised lands?

Joy is gift that shines even brighter in the midst of suffering. Let us learn to uncover this hidden treasure buried beneath the deserts of this world.

Lenten Journey

Driven with zeal and passion to protect the Israel of God, Paul meets the God of Israel and is literally knocked off his horse. When the strength of God is revealed, the weakness of man is exposed. As a blind and helpless reformer, Paul stumbles into Damascus and awaits God’s healing grace in Ananias.

Paul’s whole life is characterized by God’s call from strength to weakness. From the womb of Israel’s power he is called into the prison of the powerless. Beaten, stoned, left for dead, this man of faith is stripped of all the illusions of power and success. Naked and humiliated by the love of God, Paul comes to know a love that cannot be shaken, cannot be stolen, cannot be measured, cannot be escaped.

In the place of death, Paul discovers a life that conquers death. He enters into the joy that is content whether he is hungry or well fed. He learns to drink of the living water that cannot run dry even in the middle of wilderness.

The challenge of the Lenten journey is drink from the fountain that never runs dry. Only the water of life can sustain in the heat of desert living. Thus the desert teaches us to settle for nothing less than the living water that springs from the rock. We cannot imitate this water, we cannot manufacture this water, we cannot market this water. We can only receive this water as gift and drink and rejoice and be thankful.

The desert teaches us gratitude. Like Paul, we stumble into our Damascus, awaiting healing grace from another Ananias who is faithful to the call to pour out living water to those in need. And like Ananias we pour out the living water, so graciously given to us.

And in the midst of a wilderness, we plant a vineyard.

Lenten Meditations

I am posting my lenten meditations thus far.

Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Weeping,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.
Psalms 84:5-7

Every year, Lent reminds us that life is but a pilgrimage across a vast wilderness and into the light of God’s encircling love. The desert sun seems merciless as it penetrates the skin and exposes the soul. And yet, this fiery baptism is but another expression of love’s unending flow.

As we begin this Lenten journey, we being in weakness, in weariness, in thirst, in hunger, and yet in hope. During the days and weeks ahead, I hope to over a few reflections on our desert pilgrimage. I’m not trying to convince anyone that desert is real; when we’re honest, most of know firsthand the blinding reality of the wilderness.

Isaiah reminds us that even the young men will grow weary. The old grow weary because of age, but the young, who should know the fullness of vitality and courage, also grow weary in the midst of desert travel.

So I write to a few fellow travelers crossing the backside of a wilderness that seems to stretch on forever. During this Lenten season, may we learn with the Psalmist the delight of finding springs in the wilderness. And may we know the wonder and joy of going from strength to strength until each one appears before God in

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