Good Friday

I took this picture of my youngest brother Lance on an ice laden stream in the northeast, just minutes after I helped him take his daily dose of chemo.  In that moment, and in many others Lance became a giant in my heart.  Dan Allender said of a remarkable wedding he attended, “In the end, we all need a friend to serve as a witness to the triumph that is our life.”  That day and many others in his 18-month decline and eventual Crossing Over, I served as his witness.

It was a year ago we were doing around the clock hospice.

It was a year ago today I served him what would become, unbeknownst to us, his last meal.

Today, in the early morning hours of Good Friday, I feel something akin to what the disciples must felt.

Death wins.

I feel it at my doorstep.

I feel it as a noose.

I feel its gaze.

I smell it’s stench.

I am disoriented by it’s spin.

Yet.

Deeper still.

Something more.

Rises.

George MacDonald said that “Every sunset speaks of his death and every sunrise of His resurrection.”

I gaze on the Colorado mountains basking in yet another sunrise.

I wonder if it’s true.

The Resurrection.

Deeper still.

Hand over hand I crawl in to the scriptures this morning… Not unlike a narrow escape from a burning building; crawling low, through debris. Smoke filled lungs, eyes watering, excruciating heat.

I crawl.

I find Jesus.

But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!

Who got the last word, oh, Death?

Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?

It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God! (1 Corinthians 15)

I choose to believe beneath my tears.

Heaven is real. Death is a lie.

Heaven come today.

 

(Footnote: For more on the story, you might find some nourishment below:)

A Eulogy

Asking God

On Suffering

Tis a Fearful Thing

‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.

A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –

to be,
And oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,

And a holy thing,

a holy thing
to love.

For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.

To remember this brings painful joy.

‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.’

― Yehuda HaLevi

Vacation – Why We Can’t Afford Not To

$824.00 for Disneyland.

I thought $90 a week for a kick in the nuts (counseling) was a rough go… But to shell out $824 for a three-day family pass just to have close proximity to a Galactic Gobbler or the not-sure-why-it’s-famous cheesesteak…?

Grandma SnyderI don’t know if it’s mentoring from Dave Ramsey or my old Jewish Grandma, Claire Snyder, (yes, her real picture)…but I pride myself in not paying full retail for anything but a wedding ring, a honeymoon, and a microbrew.

It was a mentor, Reese, who brought the disruption to my category of “Vacation” and the eventual rescue.  When I turned thirty and began to ask questions of older men, he brought this counsel that would forever alter my assumptions:

“I would’ve spent more money and taken more two-week vacations.” – Reese

As an idea, it’s great.  But as a reality, it felt like a near impossibility.  Thankfully, we’re in a season of a bit of margin beyond living “month to month,” but still—with trying to build up an emergency fund, put some extra toward the mortgage and prepare for braces, luxurious vacations aren’t exactly in the budget, especially the emotional budget.

When I find myself at an intersection between what I am pulled to do (by culture or by fear) and what my heart believes (barely) is life, I need to risk and I need to listen: to my Father in Heaven and to the counsel of those who have gone before me and whose wholeness and impact is a light upon my way (Psalm 119:105).

So we rolled the dice.

We chose to listen to Reese’s counsel and risk taking a longer vacation than felt “reasonable.” We chose to spend the money. We shipped it.  A few days at Disneyland and beyond. Two weeks off the grid.  Thirteen years before, Cherie and I planned a seven-day honeymoon because we had never even heard of taking a “vacation” for more than seven days. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had developed the rigorous assumption that a seven-day vacation was the max for a “responsible human being.”

And yet here we were, so different now through a decade of spiritual and emotional formation by God’s spirit, our mentors and friends, heading out for a two-week vacation. By way of confession, it was the first “vacation” we had taken with just our little family in three years. We were pulling the tubes of the IV-technology-drip out of our bruised forearms, pulling the kids out of school, throwing up the wheels and taking off…

And what do you know? Reese was right. The very spaciousness of this vacation became the sacred container for some of the best moments of my life.

Vacation threeThe name we spoke over our vacation was “Operation Soil Replenishment” (Aaron: thanks for your intervention in my downward spiral last fall; you helped me believe that Jesus makes the impossible possible). We prayed as a family every morning for FAVOR, declaring that we were all the sons and daughters of God and that our Father delights in bringing gifts for His kids. And He did, oh did He ever… I wish I could sit with you around a campfire and share my stories with you and listen as you share yours with me…

Vacation two

I found myself in tears of gratitude so many times over the course of the two weeks. Father snuck up on me again and again and again with His goodness, playfulness, nearness, beauty, and joy.  It was not without battle; everything from sickness to warfare to threatening weather. And yet, deeper still, it was soil replenishment.  It was intimacy with my children.  Spontaneous play. Hours without a schedule and with all kinds of room to follow the nudging of the Holy Spirit.  No agenda except to be present to ourselves, each other, and our God. It was lingering conversations with Cherie.  Flowing Laughter.  Questions back and forth with our kids, prayers, worship, playing, fasting, and feasting.

It was a context that facilitated limitless connection as a family that simply isn’t available in this degree of concentration in our day-to-day life.

“Context is everything.”

The Colonel used to tell me this in just about every other session. And it has finally sunk in. It is. If we take the proverb to heart: “Above all, guard your heart, for from it flows the wellspring of life,” then we must ask what context lends itself to a heart overflowing with abundant life, life we can then offer back to our God, to our families, and to our world. And God seems to entrust a big part of that “context” to our care and discretion. We get to shape the context to facilitate our own intimate connection with God and His life and then in turn help actively shape a context for our family’s intimate connection with Him as well.

What if “Vacation” is an essential context to the narrow road?

Especially in this decade.

The kids change every day. “The days are long but the years are short.”  A dear friend said it too well.

Vacations can provide a taste of the Kingdom of God much differently from what we taste in the daily context of our forty-hour (fifty? sixty?) work week and the often conflicting schedules of each member of our family.

And “visits” with family can be remarkable… we’re blessed to have many of those on our calendar. But I want to suggest that “vacation” is different. A chance to simply be with your little family unit in a lifegiving location, “doing life together” with no other goal than to connect, refresh, and rest with each other and with God.

Decisions have consequences.  And vacations aren’t free.

It’s easy to list the reasons why I can’t afford a vacation.

But it’s holy to list the reasons why I can’t afford not to.

Father, I give the category of Vacation to you.  Expose what stands in the way of my risking that the very thing I need—and my family needs—is the very thing You love and are longing to provide. I choose to lean into Your counsel through older mentors who have offered it….

Where would You have us go? What is it our hearts most deeply need as a family this year?  How will You provide that? I open my heart up to the possibility.  I agree that Jesus makes the impossible possible. And that You love to lavish gifts on Your sons and daughters.  I stand against the thief, the accuser, and everything of the kingdom of darkness that is set against the vacations You have intended for me and my family.  I give You my Yes.  I ask that You would come and show us what You have.

Become Who They Will Become – Proverbs from the 2012 Intensive – Volume XIII

a·rise/əˈrīz/ v. come into being; emerge

 

When fathering your children, father them as God fathers you… Model for them how to RISE UP as true sons and daughters of God. – Allen

Who do you want your children to become?

Who are you today?

Become today what what you want your children to one day be.

 

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within… That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

~Romans 8 The Message

How Have You Learned the Father?

man laughing

How have you learned the Father?

This is one of the most central questions to our spiritual formation.  It’s a question posted by George Macdonald as he unpacks Sonship in Unspoken Sermons.  It’s a question that has stopped me in my tracks.

If we were to dive deeply into this question, become fully aware of our operating beliefs and then consider setting them aside in order to relearn the Father as He truly is, most every other struggle would be wiped away…

Ask this question: how have you learned the Father? Search your heart until you know that you know that you know how you have learned Him.  Then, lay down all who you have learned him to be and ask the Him to come to you as His son, and reveal Himself as He truly is.

More and more I find myself drawn to men who have learned the Father as He truly is.  I’m devouring books from Brennan Manning and George MacDonald. I can’t get enough time with brothers like Jonathan David Helser and Matt Toth. Men who know the Father as He truly is are strong, good and filled with joy to overflowing.

Dallas Willard defines Christianity as the process of more of me belonging to more of God. This is my prayer: Oh my Father, Pappa come! Come, that more of me might belong to more of you…

Here’s an an example of on place I’ve been relearning the Father as of late:

Will Reagan Live at the Banks House.  I’ve been cranking up the worship music and soaking, staying, receiving and meditating.  I hold the picture of the parable of the lost son(s) on my heart… I see the older brother far away trying to earn his father’s love only to destroy his own soul in the process. I see the younger brother far off with the pigs… tired, weary, desperate… I see me in both of them… then I see the younger son as he realizes his poverty and his need. I feel his heart turn back to the father and move. Move toward his father and his home.

I then see the father on the porch of his house as he catches the first glimpse of his lost son the horizon, making his way home. I see the tears of joy course down his ancient, weather-worn cheeks. I hear him whistle and call out to his men, “kill the fattened calf!  Start the music!  We are going to celebrate!”  Then I see him run… almost awkwardly as he vaults himself down more steps than he should at his age… sandals awkwardly flailing. His robe swinging back in the wind. Then youth is returning to the father.  His gait is that of a young, strong man. He is ageless. And he’s running toward me. unencumbered. without reservation. overcome with joy.

I’m filled with excuses, regrets, explanations, but somehow the tears pour down my face: my weary soul more deeply responsive than all my rational thinking, and it’s all washed away.  I move toward him but can’t outpace His pursuit of me… He reaches me, His face luminous with affection and his own tears of joy. He picks me up, and spins me around like I’m a child all over again.  It feels new and familiar all at the same time… I am home.

“Father, I have learned you wrong. It would have been better to not know you than to have learned you wrong. I want to relearn you. Who are you? What is your heart? What is your way? What is your way with me? What is the love language you have between us? Father, daddy, this is all frontier.  But I choose this day to give more of me to more of you. I choose to stay and stay and stay again until I have received your heart for your wandering son.”

Believe He is coming.

Believe He is near.

Choose him. Find him. Search for him.  Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.
The disciples were desperate with ache and longing to have the LIFE they saw in Jesus.  What was the Source of this life they experienced in Him? They had to know.

They turned to Him in desperation and hope and asked in all sincerity: Teach us. Teach us “how to pray.”  In other words:  Jesus, we want your LIFE. We want what we see in  you.

And so Jesus begins, and in his first word, every other need is encompassed.

“Father…”

I want that. I want that for me. I want that for you. “Father, Abba, Daddy-God, Papa…”

Worship.  Find songs that are anointed to bring the heart of the true Father.  Music like that on the album Will Reagan Live at the Banks House.  Like Mud Song and  How He loves us or  Pete Ohlin’s Majestic Rain, an anointed instrumental album that will invite your heart to soar with the Father.

Sit at the feet of men who have tasted the Father’s love.  Read Brennan Manning.  Read George Macdonald.  Read John’s Fathered by God.  God willing, maybe even some of my teaching on Sonship might give you a nugget or two (use SONSHIP as a code to receive the mp3 for free).

It is rare and remarkable to receive the Father through a worship leader who has yielded to him and made their hearts available for His lavish Goodness to flow.  Find these people. Receive from them.  Do life with them.  Karla is one of them. Adam Paulson, leading Worship at Toth Ministries, is one of them.

This annointed impromptu session by Jonathan David Helser and his wife is one of them I came across just a week ago through a friend has been so core in bringing the Father to my heart.

Pause.  Be still. Open wide your heart.

Risk casting off the shame, the fear, the doubt.

Risk receiving.

He is jealous for you.

He is coming.

For you.

Receive.  Make room. Make way…

 

Kingdom Carpool – More than a Minivan

I pulled out of the carpool line at the kids school today and felt a blog rising up in my heart.  Rather than write it I sensed the Holy Spirit’s nudge to record it as an audio.  Never did that before but hope it’ll be good nourishment for you today. When you have a chance to pause for about eight minutes, enjoy the recording and let me know if it’s helpful.

Click to Listen

Click to Listen

Play

(If you can’t see the audio player in your feed or email, click here)

By way of reference, here’s the centerpiece of the Daily Prayer – Carpool Version.

I begin our prayer time, bringing us all under the Kingdom of God.  Declaring the Kingdom of God over their school, leadership, teachers. And with that wherever God leads.

Then we pray together:

God we agree with who you are.

We agree with what you are doing.

We agree with how you are doing it.

We declare that you love us as much as you love your son Jesus therefore we have nothing to fear.

We ask for a revelation of your affection.

We ask that you would make the impossible possible today.

We put on the armor of God:

-Shoes of the Gospel.

-Belt of Truth.

-Breastplate of righteousness.

-Helmet of salvation.

-Sword of the Spirit.

-And Shield of faith.

-We choose to wield these weapons at all times and we choose to pray in the Spirit.

We accept your acceptance of us.

We choose to live in the present moment.

We ask for a wise and discerning heart.

We unite our hearts with your heart.

We choose to listen to your voice.

We ask you to Father us today.

(Some more on parenting, visit Be There, and Impossible Possible.)

And for some levity, just remember it could be worse. You could be Jack Butler.  Check out this scene…

(If you can’t see the video player in your feed or email, click here)

Listen More – Proverbs from the 2012 Intensive – Volume XII

DSC01936

lis·ten/ˈlisən/ v. give one’s attention to; hear

Talk less, listen more.

Why is it so important to make your point?

Why is it so important to be right?

~ Dave

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
pay attention, gain understanding.

Listen, my son, accept what I say,
and the years of your life will be many.  
I guide you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.

~Proverbs 4