"The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us." - A.W. Tozer

MOVED

Greetings! I've taken the content of this blog on the road.
You can find all the content of "Dwelling..." - and more - at:
http://chrisdeman.com.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

No Frosting, Please

A little can be a lot. Especially with friendships.



For a long time, I was a friendship skeptic. A disbeliever. A scoffer at those who’s experience testified to the uncommon gift of true friendship. The kind that is resilient and long-lasting.

Now I believe.
 
Through triumph and trial I’ve come to understand that real friendship wraps itself around authenticity. A simple but elusive qualifier, an authentic person is honest about themselves — with themselves, and with others. They know the pull of dark things yet strive to offer what’s genuine and true. Positive and gracious, they live with quiet, unassuming confidence. They resist doctoring their persona and crafting facades.

They’re unfrosted.

From my unfrosted friends I reap a bumper crop of relational nourishment. Together, we tend and till the soil of our souls. We gently receive what’s true of the other. We share and laugh and celebrate success. We also, with compassionate authenticity, pull from one another the brambles of pride, pity, and selfishness. Linked by commitment and love, we stumble and gallop and skip and slide and occasionally stand still on our predestined pathway. A troop of pilgrims, we are, bound by a sticky grace infused with divine elasticity.
 
Over runny eggs and mediocre coffee, during spontaneous sidewalk conversing, through sandwich shop dialogue woven with 80’s tunes, and when seated side-by-side in the red dirt of Kenya, my desire is to be an authentic, patient, unfrosted friend.

To my few, my unfrosted few!

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” ~ Aristotle


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas in Kibera

Christmas tunes monopolize my playlists. Dietary restraints have been temporarily lifted. And although behind schedule, we’re processing through our collection of holiday movies. Christmas is a wonderful season of tradition and celebration.

Not quite three weeks ago, my family was focused not on Christmas, but Kenya. We were completing a two week adventure that included stops in Nairobi, Thika, Naivasha, Kijabe, Kilgoris, and the Maasai Mara. It was a spectacular journey that filled us with stories to ponder for a lifetime.

We also spent time in the Kibera slum community. Home to hundreds of thousands, Kibera is a startling place. It is tragic, sad, and perplexing. Yet, emanating from a simple mud-walled Kiberan structure was the sweet aroma of hope, joy, and worship. Enveloped by physical hunger, our souls feasted on the richness of redemption served to us by a humble pastor, his family, and Kibera children they love as their own.

Kibera and Christmas. God is with us -- all of us.

Let us be hasty to laud the breadth of Christ's mercy and grace.

Merry Christmas!


** Below are reflections on Kibera I noted while in Kenya. **

——————————————————————————-

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”” ~ Isaiah 52:7

Shuffling step-by-step, the distant voices ricocheted and crescendoed along the narrow walls of mud and sticks. One hundred voices, conjoined with the rhythm of clapping hands and amplified music, presented the welcoming prelude. Anxious but expectant we entered the 20ft square room that snugly held its occupants, but proved helpless against the jubilation.

It was the sound of Good News!

A mouse, roused by the happy gathering, emigrated safely along a rafter. Beneath the tin panel roof, greetings, introductions, and recitations came in confident procession bringing both physical and spiritual warmth to our dwelling. With passionate unity, children testified to the Shepherd of Psalm 23, claiming by faith the promise of protection, provision, and peace. They recited Isaiah's words of deliverance by a Wonderful Counselor. They lifted high the name of Jesus.

Creativity blossomed in small hands that firmly pressed crayons to paper. Craftsmanship found expression through the weaving of colored thread. Entwined in those twists were happiness, gratitude, and friendship.

We shared a communal meal and prayed for each other. Our brief time of life together with the children of Kara Kibera, their pastor, their "mama," their teachers, and their caretakers drew us into the beauty of a holistic development of mind, body, and soul. We received a vision for restoration, born from the hope of redemption. It was wonderful.

Yet we live in tension.

The perplexity of disparity. The need for solidarity. The responsibility of knowledge. The call to be faithful.

But there is Good News, and He is alive in Kibera!

“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” ~ Luke 2:10–11

Thursday, November 5, 2015

70

Good memories are never emptied of their treasures.

November 6 would have been my father’s 70th birthday. Below is an edited repost of reflections on a favorite memory that shapes my present fathering.

I am a grateful son.

----------------------------------------
Bumblebee Pilots
(originally posted Sept. 4, 2014)

Side-by side we sat in a Chevy Chevette.

In a cemetery.

Two men. One confident, one scared. A teacher and student. A father and son.

Tree-filtered breezes meandered across the bright yellow hood and through windows hand-cranked fully open. The yellow, contrasted with the deep-space black, vinyl interior invited active imaginations to view us as pilots of a man-sized bumblebee. A masculine carriage, it was not. At the time, I cared not a bit about a car that was yellow – or bumblebees.



I was under siege. Pinned-down by cascading failures strung together with a thread of terror. I could not master the dance between the brake, clutch, and accelerator. Stooges, those three. Starts, stops, and stalls were their shtick. A humiliating assembly of cyclic failure – which I didn’t find funny.

I succumbed to a pattern of resets, struggling to gain ground toward acquiring stick-shifting fluidity. With each restart, I’d longingly gaze at the root-heaved asphalt that lay in sun-speckled tranquility. I yearned to cruise those curvy paths among the gravestones, deftly marching through the gearbox. But that required a skill I did not have. And in that moment, thought I’d never obtain.

Amidst that battle between man and machine, my passenger-seated father was calm, fully immersed in saintly patience. Woven between the whine of an over-revved engine and the chatter of mistreated gears were phrases of gentle instruction and well-timed encouragement. Over and over, my father renewed his commitment to my success. He was fathering me in the truest sense. I felt his love.

That scene from my 16th summer is a highlight, still vivid in the present because of its ongoing effect. I am now the father in the passenger seat – literally, and metaphorically. It’s a seat that is revelatory. It has brought forth some of my finest, and most despicable behaviors. It has frustrated and agitated. It has made me laugh, wonder, celebrate, and cry. It’s a seat that demands a great deal – day after day.

Life demands many things. How we engage our compulsory duties is a strong indicator of who we are, what we value, and how we grant our trust.
 
Recalling my rough road to mastering a manual transmission brings to mind this quote from Thomas Watson: "To do duty without love, is not sacrifice, but penance.” (All Things for Good, p.88) My father had a duty to teach me how to drive. But in that necessity, he chose love. He went beyond himself, releasing control and trusting God with the risks.

Many times I have wandered into loveless duty. I’ve found it a debilitating snare of fruitlessness. A joyless enduring pockmarked by missed opportunity.

But each day is ripe with new mercy. Today’s relational intersections are divinely crafted opportunities to extend grace and kindness. To give, not just because we should, but because we want to.

Just like my father, on a breezy afternoon, in a car the color of sunflowers.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Field


Yesterday’s yesterdays jumble and pile.

I wake,

and walk — 

again.

I shuffle with leaden legs in numbing rhythm, 

rousting a sacred cloud that accompanies

my tracing of Hope’s path.



Spent flora, trapped in brittle nests

offer silent tribute to

by-gone seasons of life.



With dulled eyes skimming 

the frustrated landscape,

I plant with wobbly resolve.

And wait.



I return

to this Field of Promise

a beggar — 

again.

Dank grayness surrounds me; 

I’m chilled —  

from the inside out.



Hushed tormenting sameness

tensions my faith

toward thinness.



A violent tumult of

what is, what isn’t, and what should be

usurps all cognition.

Dear God, Sower of this Field —
 
Wrestle life from

the starved soil

of this bewildered soul.

Rake, pull, tear, and burn

my prideful thatch.



Plow the deadness

into furrows of grace.



Water and Light, 

come nourish my anguish.



Release in me a joyful submission

and patience’s fruit.



Call forth a sprig of green.

For tomorrow I’ll wake, 

and walk to this Field again.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Aha!

September has been packed with momentous happenings for my clan.

Last week, our big to-do was the acquisition of a driver’s license for my second son. He completed the rigors of training and passed his final driving test with unexpected excellence. The “unexpected” qualifier is fair. My son agrees.

For many months, he and I have been like alley cats shut tight in a room together. Confined in our four-wheeled cage, instructional drive times exposed our best and worst. His fear and anxiety led to paralyzing uncertainty. His uncertainty met my underdeveloped relational patience, instigating several tense, emotional interactions. Voices were raised, feelings were hurt, the steering wheel was grabbed — by both of us. I was expert at inflaming his anxieties. He was a master at initiating migraines. Squabbling cats, we were.

Together, week after week, we worked to condition his on-the-road actions and reactions. Our key phrase was “drive defensively confident.” Start. Stop. Repeat. Again and again. Speed control, braking distance, parallel parking, and the “simple made difficult” four-way stop. But things weren’t clicking. I’d show him and tell him dozens of times. I had him read the driving manual — twice. He knew the rules; why couldn’t he just do it?

Great question.

Ever have an “Aha!” moment? That flash of inspiration or fresh idea you can’t wait to activate? Today I had an “Aha.” An epiphany, sort of. A revelation that brought me not a novel idea or problem solution, but something that has everything — and nothing — to do with my son and driving.

For a long time, decades really, I’ve known God’s call upon me to be generous. To give quickly,  willingly, and wisely of my time, talent, and financial resource. I’m fully onboard with that principle. Benevolence should be core to the Christ-follower. Yep, count me in.

Yet, for all the messages I’ve heard, books I’ve read, and teaching I’ve delivered, my Father in Heaven needed to bring a personalized intersection of my head, heart, and behavior. A divinely crafted flash of enlightenment.

His “Aha!” from this morning leaves me grateful, and sad.

Grateful for His patient, careful tending to my soul. Sadness for my stunted growth toward being a whole-hearted, generous man. Waves of regret roil as I replay episodes of stingy relating. Moments when I allowed my fear to blanket God’s invitation to trust. To give — even a little. To be an obedient Kingdom partner with what He has entrusted to my stewardship.

In two months my family will be in Kenya for a short stint. It’s an experience that requires us to link arms with friends and family, asking for their participation in our adventure through fervent prayer and generous giving. I’m discovering, with God’s “Aha,” that I’m an eager advocate for generosity when soliciting for my cause. But when others make similar requests of me, eagerness battles reticence. 

Is it pride? Stubbornness? Control? A hint of Scrooge? Whatever the root, it’s serious enough to warrant divine intervention. What I know is out of sync with what I do. It’s like I’m at a four-way stop, hesitant to move. I know what I’m supposed to do; why can’t I just do it? (Where have I heard that before?)

Dane Ortlund said, “We will, every day, be hypocritical in some way. Our creed outpaces our behavior." Truth — knowledge for right living — requires action. It suffocates when confined to the realm of the mind. If what I know fails to penetrate my heart and activate my hands and feet, it is useless, lonely, and incomplete.

My “Aha!” was a generous gift from my Father in Heaven. A well-timed reminder. Like my son with his driving, I’m a bit slow with assimilation. But there’s forgiveness and fresh starts.

Despite a bumpy beginning, my son progressed to near perfection when tested on his driving skill. I’m proud of him. I hope to progress similarly, pleasing my Lord at the next opportunity to be generous with His resources.