A little break in the south Louisiana marsh Jack Cravelle fishing with my son Baxter (sporting a beard) and John Wauchope (Batman), son of Bruce Wauchope from Adelaide, Australia with Captain Jason Shilling of http://www.neworleansstylefishingcharters.com. Kowalick, note the monster taken on one of my lures. Just like when I fish with you. We were fishing for speckled trout, which are great to eat, when Captain Shilling noticed a massive school of fish blowing up on some pogies. It looked like a whale to me. As it turned out it was a school of 20+ pound Jacks. Needless to say we spent the afternoon chasing the school and had the time of our lives. John, the rookie, allegedly caught the slightly largest fish at over 22 pounds, but he lost points because it took him an hour to land the fish. He takes after his dad. Thank you Jason for a great day, and thank you Holy Spirit; we will have more please. That was a large time. Next up for me is speaking at Caleb Miller's place in Fort Collins, Colorado (http://www.fathershousefc.com/) Saturday and Sunday (26-27th) then to Denver with Wes Roberts on Monday and Tuesday (28-29th). Blessings to all.
At the last Open Table Conference in Portland, Paul Young read a letter from one of his friends from Germany. All of us were stunned silent as we listened. We all asked Paul to post the letter on his web site and for permission to share it with others. Below is the Paul's introduction and the letter, which is part of a book. Here your heart will shout, "Yes!"From Paul...For my birthday this year, on Mother’s Day, my friend K sent me a few pages of a book, translated from the German, written by Martin Schleske, a master violin builder/craftsman. She translated this piece because of conversation we recently had sitting in a hotel lobby in Orlando, Florida.A world-class young athlete friend had been paralyzed as a result of an on-camera stunt that went badly, and K was distraught. But it wasn’t her friend she wanted to talk about; it was God and ‘…His wonderful Plan for our life.’ How do we begin to talk about a ‘loving and powerful God’ then move to tragedy, sickness, accident, and calamity and finally make it worse by actually believing that we are honoring God in making God author of all this mess in the name of Sovereignty and Control. Some religious people, and Christians would be often among their ranks, believe in grim determinism. It is fatalism with personality.There is an impassable chasm (except perhaps in our darkened imaginations) between a God who takes ownership for the Creation, along with the havoc it has produced, and One who authors the evil within it. The first you might learn to trust, the latter…twisted lip service at best.How often we have heard well meaning and intentioned words such as, “It must be part of God’s Plan.” Really? Might it be that many things are simply WRONG! There is no justification for much of what we have brought to the table; what has been done to us, and what we then participate in ourselves. It is WRONG! Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG!Even if God has the creative audacity to build purpose out of the evil we create, it will never justify what is wrong. Nothing, not even the salvation of the entire cosmos, could ever justify a horrific torture device called a ‘cross’. That God would submit to our darkness and transform this dark machine into an icon and monument of grace, says more about the nature of God than it does about any blinded attempt to justify evil.Does God have a wonderful Plan for my (your) life? Does God sit and draw up a perfect will for you and me on some cosmic disconnected drafting table, a perfect plan that requires a perfect response? Is God then left to react to our stupidity or deafness or blindness or inability, as we constantly violate perfection with our own indelible ink? What if this is about a God who has greater respect for you than for ‘the plan’? What if there is no ‘plan’ for your life but rather a relationship in which God constantly invites us to co-create, respectfully submits to the choices we bring to the table and because this God ‘is’ Love, will never be satisfied until only that which is of Love’s kind remains in us?What follows is the article translated by K as a gift for my birthday. The first three paragraphs are her commentary on Martin’s book.Martin Schleske on Artist/Creator vs Construction Designer((At first Martin writes a lot of fascinating things about the wood he uses for the violin’s body. Only one sort of trees from a certain area in the mountains are formed by rough weather and winds and meager ground, which produces resilient wood that is elastic at the same time. He sometimes spends months seeking the right tree by tapping on them with a tuning fork and that in old times violin builders found their ‘singer trunks’ at the rivers where all the harvested wood was floated down to the cities. Some trunks made melodic sounds when bouncing into others; these revealed themselves as the ‘singers’.Every hardship the tree experienced made the roots go deeper and the structural fibers stronger, but all crooked it a little this or that way. If a tree close to the chosen one, the ‘singer,’ fell, the different angle of light and wind made the whole trunk twist a little, which also shows up in every fiber. Other characteristics emerge in every millimeter or wood and each is absolutely unique.The wood is then stored for years in the workshop under certain heat and humidity conditions until it is ready for its purpose to become a violin body. Now the violin builder starts cutting the body’s bulge/curvature out of it that is uniquely crucial for giving the violin its unique voice.))It would be cheap to force one’s perception on the wood. The art is in seeing what the fiber requires. Someone fixated on the ‘ideal’ or ‘right’ shape only follows his laws. The artist, who also knows about the laws of acoustics, see something else: he honors what is crooked and what has become in the fibers and knows that these must not be cut in the wrong places. Only then is the evolution a spiritual one where inner wisdom and knowledge of the wood and its needs are uppermost, and not blind perception to a ‘form’.The perfectionist is content with fulfilling the law; the artist fulfills the sound.Romans 8:28-30 describes a similar process: “And those who love God know that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to purpose. Those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. Those he predestined, he called, those he called he also justified, and those he justified he also glorified.”“It’s really quite similar to working on the Violin’s bulge/curvature. The wood is carefully chosen (called). A good violin builder respects the texture of the wood and under his fingers he feels the character, the solidity and density. This shows him both the possibilities and the limits of the wood. Each of this wood’s quirks and characteristics has an influence on the sound it will bring forth.Some trees, like people, have suffered staggering hardships and overwhelming winds in their life. The course of our fibers becomes difficult, one-sided, crooked and scarred. But like the wood, we reveal our true selves during the small and great ordeals of our lives – these knock on our life and thus make our fibers (our inner structure) audible.If I as a violin builder, am willing to work with the kind of fiber I get, ad start creating with what has already become, and what is difficult and crooked…how much more God will do so! God’s Wisdom knows what is necessary to build a unique sound with our texture, our fiber and our sometimes difficult history. That is what is meant by ‘called, justified and glorified’ in the above text.I will only become a master artist/creator if I am willing to work with a ‘despite’...despite this particular flaw, this odd structure, this damage…I will give this wood its voice! I will make it sing!While I am working on a curvature/bulge, I sometimes feel the planer take a different approach. This shows me, “Here I have to leave the idea of the curve I had in mind. It may not be pretty, but necessary.” Everything that has happened to the wood requires asymmetry.If the fibers were lines definable by Math, one could construct an ideal curve, an ideal form already defined before the work begins. But the fiber course is not perfect, not ideal, and thus the making of a Violin body is no construction site, it is an act of creation.It’s an act of creation because it is not the wood that yields to the Maker, but the Maker yielding to the wood.The artist has to ask himself what he has on hand: “How did this wood grow? What can it become?” The intent of the process of creation allows for promised possibilities to unfold. This cannot happen through a rigid plan. Everything depends on the esteem and wisdom the Master has for his creation.For our view of life, it is a great difference if we see the world a creation or a construction. It is not the idea of ‘Evolution’ that robs faith of his breath, but thinking that the world is a divine construction site. This is the difference between a Plan and a Promise, between Subordination and Dialogue, between Religion and Faith.An Almighty Engineer subdues the material. ‘Faith in God’ then means to submit to God. Building violins has taught me otherwise. Creating relates to both ‘what is given’ and to ‘what has already become’. Faith means to trust in the indwelling wisdom of the creator and the promised possibilities. This is proven in the process itself. The wood finds its own voice in being born again.When I feel the fibers through the roughness of my planer it is like a dialogue with the wood. Only while I’m working on it do I get clarity on how the curve should be. The wood has its say in this joint creation.A construction is a forcing of a predetermined ideal on the material. Everything has to yield to that idea. Now we are at the heart of legalism where life is coated in and subdued by unrelenting ideal conceptions. We have arrived at the curse of religion.The ‘justification’ of man in the Romans verse above, first and foremost means that there is a Wisdom at work that does justiceto life. The real fibers of our life are respected and given a voice. It is an act of love that embraces the imperfect and sees its worth. Love sees all the beauty, joy, desire and hope (the possibilities of the soul), but it also sees all the weaknesses, disappointments, sadness and pain (the crooked fibers). God’s Wisdom gets involved in a dialogue in which we have a natural say. Our life is not a construction; it is not done on a drawing board.Creation means that everything that is in the making is becoming in regard to what has already grown. This is brilliant! In a construction, everything that is in the making is under the constraint of what is wanted. That is insufficient! That is pathetic!Scriptures show me that God has the heart of an artist, not a grim construction planner. If the world were the work of a cosmic engineer, he would be in a constant state of discontentedness. We would all suffer from the constant nagging of a dogged designer whose plans just never work out like he intended or expected. Reality could never live up to his spotless (wonderful) construction plans. But a true Creator knows he not only has to shape, but also endorse and allow. Wisdom allows things to grow and unfold.It is fascinating to view the whole world as a composition, a painting or a sculpture or scenes from a great work of art. Works of art can be beautiful and sometimes odd.I am certain that God, having the heart of an artist, has no intention to force reality to obey Him at all costs. Wisdom does not know grim determination.The thought of seeing every person as a work of art in progress, an ever-changing and unique expression of God, changes our whole view of others and ourselves. Suddenly you can see the odd, authentic, fascination, enjoyable, staggering interplay of what is created and what has become of it. What was put into this person and what has grown out of it? What is in the making?We could see people as forms of expression of a great Artist, expressions that yearn to be seen, read and heard.”For more about Martin Schleske go to:A friend, Rob Parsons, is about to publish (Hodder) a book called Wisdom House. Here is an excerpt that bears on this conversation:It isn’t just seeming physical disadvantages that can turn into a strength, but life experiences too – even ones that others would naturally run from. Some years ago, a friend of mine attended a lecture on stem cell research in Oxford given by a world famous geneticist. During the question time, the scientist was asked whether, in the future, it would be possible to clone Beethoven. His answer was a brilliant ‘yes’ and ‘no’. ‘Yes’ if you could extract the DNA from the bones in his coffin –you could create a human being who would be an identical twin of Beethoven. ‘Yes,’ you could probably teach the ‘twin’ to play the piano to a reasonably high level. But ‘no’, because Beethoven’s father, who was also his music tutor, was a violent alcoholic. The young Beethoven was very close to his mother who died when he was a teenager, and he became responsible for raising his two brothers as his father lapsed deeper into his alcoholism. He lost his first and only true love, he lived in poverty weighed down with debts, he suffered from manic-depression and, like his father, turned to alcohol. Then, just as Beethoven began to have some interest in his compositions, he began to lose his hearing.The culmination of all these experiences – the tumultuous feelings of rage, love, despair, passion - were poured into his most famously pounding six symphonies (Numbers Three to Eight) which are what we now revere as ‘classic’ Beethoven. More accomplished musicians may now play or conduct his works, but they can never capture his greatness because that quality was born out of his expression of his own life experience, of being true to himself.And finally, from George MacDonald, writing in 1868:The Scene: Robert Falconer’s “righteous” grandmother had burned his fiddle, the one that had been his father’s and grandfather’s, lest it also lead Robert astray…..“But though the loss of Miss St. John and the piano was the last blow, his sorrow did not rest there, but returned to brood over his bonny lady. She was scattered to the winds. Would any of her ashes ever rise in the corn, and moan in the ripening wind of autumn? Might not some atoms of the bonny leddy creep into the pines on the hill, whose ’soft and soul-like sounds’ had taught him to play the Flowers of the Forest on those strings which, like the nerves of an amputated limb, yet thrilled through his being? Or might not some particle find its way by winds and waters to sycamore forest of Italy, there creep up through the channels of its life to some finely-rounded curve of noble tree, on the side that ever looks sunwards, and be chosen once again by the violin-hunter, to be wrought into a new and fame-gathering-instrument?“Could it be that his bonny leddy had learned her wondrous music in those forests, from the shine of the sun, and the sighing of the winds through the sycamores and pines? For Robert knew that the broad-leaved sycamore, and the sharp, needle-leaved pine, had each its share in the violin. Only as the wild innocence of human nature, uncorrupted by wrong, untaught by suffering, is to that nature struggling out of darkness into light, such and so different is the living wood, with its sweetest tones of obedient impulse, answering only to the wind which bloweth where it listeth, to that wood, chosen, separated, individualized, tortured into strange, almost vital shape, after a law to us nearly unknown, strung with the strings from animal organizations, and put into the hands of man to utter the feelings of a soul that has passed through a like history. This Robert could not yet think, and had to grow able to think it by being himself made an instrument of God’s music.”I am today a unique sound that I will not be tomorrow and tomorrow could not be but for today. What if…what if there is a God who could gather up all the broken bits of the two fish and five loaves of my life, create purpose out of what was stolen from me and what I then broke, and make certain that nothing is lost? That would change everything!
Walking on the white sand beach near Destin, Florida this morning, I noticed some seaweed about ten yards from the shoreline. At first I thought it was just a small clump about 20 yards long. But as I looked I realized that it stretched for 500 yards along the beach. The scene took me back many years to a similar day on the beach with my wife and children. My son, who was about 6 at the time, and I had decided that we were going out to the sand bar when we noticed a stretch of dark seaweed between us and the sand bar. We walked the beach trying to find a gap, but there was none. I finally grabbed his hand and said, ‘son, sometimes you have to step right into the dark stuff to get to the other side.’This morning as I reflected on the memory it hit me that my son, at 6 years old, could not have seen the clear water on the other side of the seaweed. I was taller and had a different perspective. I could see that the seaweed was only three or four yards wide. He could not have seen what I was seeing. I knew that we would make it. He didn’t. He trusted me. But the message to me this morning was not simply about a son’s trust. The message was about the perspective of a father, of our Father.I have no doubt that our Father feels the fear and pain, and perhaps the guilt of our hearts as we find ourselves in the midst of various forms of seaweed, some of which we have created ourselves, and some of which is real only in our broken imaginations. In Jesus, our Father, and the Holy Spirit have identified themselves with us as we are in our darkness. Yet our darkness is not darkness to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They know us in the light of life, from a higher vantage point. Our Father does not see us as we see ourselves in our seaweed. He sees us from a different perspective. He sees us from the perspective of the gift that he gave to us “in Christ Jesus, before the time of the ages” (2TIM 1:9), and from the perspective of who he has made us in his incarnate, crucified, resurrected, and ascended Son. He knows who we are.This morning, our Father asked me to rest in his vision of me, to take sides with him against the way I see myself, and against the way that I feel about myself as I do so. I think I heard him say that I was free to live in the seaweed if that is what I wanted. But in that comment I also heard the question, ‘why?’ And somewhere in that moment Jesus reminded me of my favorite verse, “In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you” (John 14:20).
This weekend over 50 men will be gathering from around our country for our annual men’s gathering. This year the gathering will be at Julian Fagan's farm. Paul Lavelle of Operation Restored Warrior and I have written a prayer for this weekend that I wanted to share with you.Every blessing to you all.Lord Jesus, I take refuge in you, in your heart, in your life, in your death, and resurrection and ascension. I take refuge in the fullness of your work on my behalf, and in your enthronement above all names and powers in this age and in all ages to come. Speak to me, Lord Jesus, in this moment. Say to me, “I am your salvation.”Lord Jesus, I give to you my body, my soul, my heart, my mind and thoughts, my spirit and will, my masculinity and sexuality. I give to you my fears and brokenness, my shame and guilt and doubts. I relinquish all forms of control and call upon you as my Savior. Thank you for sharing yourself with me. I want to see with your eyes, hear with your ears, know with your mind, will with your will. I acknowledge you Jesus, with gratefulness, as my covering. In the safety of your embrace, I ask you to cleanse my wounds inflicted by the enemy. Cleanse me of every form of darkness, sin, and evil; cleanse me Jesus, my conscience, my despair, my unbelief. Restore me again today with your life.I invite the Holy Spirit, sent in your name, to renew me today, to restore me. Blessed Holy Spirit, I claim you as my inheritance in Jesus. Heal my soul. Do for me, and my brothers, what only you can do.Father, Son and Holy Spirit come now again especially into the places that have been deadened by the battle, and re-breathe life into me. Breathe hope, breathe faith, breathe joy, freedom and love. Come Lord Jesus, come again with your Father and the Holy Spirit. I ask for a deeper intimacy with you, Jesus, in the pain of my wounds.As a band of brothers, as warriors in the Kingdom of God wounded in the battle, we step back from the front line, and we give this weekend to you Jesus. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we consecrate this weekend to you. Together, we give to you our homes, our jobs and families, and all that we left behind. Together, we ask that you bless our loved ones, and release your faithful angels to protect them.Jesus, into your hands we give you our cares, our burdens, our worries. We release to you the world, and all things and pressures and concerns that dominate us. We center ourselves in you, and we make ourselves utterly available to you. Together, we consecrate this space, and we give to you our time together, our waking, our sleeping, our conversation, our cooking and laughing and drinking, our crawfish boil, and our time alone. We give this entire weekend to you, and rest in your blessing. In this world of darkness, we claim the Kingdom of the blessed Trinity here. We claim the authority of Jesus here.We take our stand in the full work of Jesus Christ, in and through and over and with each one of us. Lord Jesus Christ, Father’s Son, anointed of the Holy Spirit, Lord of all creation, in your name we silence every voice in all creation this weekend, and as brothers in the war, we ask that only the voice of our Father, his faithful Son, and the Holy Spirit would be allowed to address and be heard by us. We give you permission, blessed Trinity, to work behind our watchful dragons, and as deeply as you want to work. We invite you into our private and secret places, into our wounds and pain, and we welcome your intimate, healing presence.
Refresh us, blessed Trinity. Renew us. Help us use Jesus’ ears and eyes. In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.
I just spent a few days with Dr. Ken Blue, and part of the conversation included us trying to narrow down our top ten favorite books. It wasn't easy, but here they are:C. Baxter Kruger
- The Trinitarian Faith (and The Mediation of Christ)— T.F. Torrance
- Unspoken Sermons— George MacDonald
- On the Incarnation of the Word of God (and Against the Arians)— Athanasius
- Church Dogmatics IV.1 (and IV.2)— Karl Barth
- The Unconditional Freeness of the Gospel— Thomas Erskine
- The Weight of Glory (and The Great Divorce)— C.S. Lewis
- Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace— James Torrance
- The Shack— Wm. Paul Young
- On the Trinity— St. Hilary
- The Trinity and the Kingdom— Jurgen Moltmann
- The Forgotten Father— Thomas Smail (this is a little lagniappe, or if you are from the Big 10 it’s just adding!)
- The Mediation of Christ— T.F. Torrance
- Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace— James Torrance
- The Denial of Death— Ernest Becker (or preface of book)
- Church Dogmatics IV.2— Karl Barth
- The Forgotten Father, the Giving Gift, Life Father, Like Son— Thomas Smail
- The Divine Conspiracy— Dallas Willard
- Ministry On the Fireline— Ray Anderson
- Freedom for Ministry— Richard John Neuhaus
- Subversion of Christianity and The Presence of the Kingdom— Jacques Elull
- The Presence of the Future— George Eldon Ladd