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Map Or GPS?

Sometimes I wonder as I wander, or am I really only perceiving this journey as wandering, because I’m no longer in the driver’s seat? This journey we are called to walk with Jesus can be a puzzling thing. Along the way there is a tendency to label views, experiences, and sadly people who do not fit in with the religious mainstream, yet love the Lord and know they have a place at His table.

Traditional, Evangelical, Charismatic, Contemplative, Christian Mystic… There must be a definition, a spiritual cubbyhole where I can be at home, where I fit in, a place where it is “safe”, where there isn’t some theologian or other robed and sheep skinned “expert”, not only defining who I am in Christ, but every serious spiritual seeker they cannot squeeze into some little convenient box. Especially the ones who are “unchurched”. I tend to see myself as all of these, yet paradoxically not any one in particular.

Yet are the labels and definitions something I think I still must have, or is that also someone else’s idea? Probably the most difficult part of the unknown country we walk is that one gets very, very tired at certain places in the journey, because just like our Lord, we have no place to lay our heads (Luke 9:58) – as in being part of the shady rest in that little church in the wildwood just outside Mayberry USA.

This line of thought has been with me all day. It is haunting and persistent. Yet none of the definitions seem to fit after awhile, and the spiritual journey may take us places where we may not understand why we are “here”. Or is it “there”? Or is it now here or nowhere? What is this all about? Where are You taking me, Lord?

As Jesus told Nicodemus, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (John 3:8-10)

So, I went online looking for current “status reports” concerning some of the oases along the way providing spiritual water, food, and shelter where I grew closer to the Lord. I discovered that there is very little left of the Charismatic Renewal, as it was known in the 1970s. The Roman Catholics seem to have vestiges of what remains of this movement.

I found electronic versions of “official” pronouncements from at least one other denomination, however, filled with statements (from the 1970s) full of caution, warning and condemnation of the whole Charismatic Renewal. These of course were from sheepskins having no personal knowledge of such things, but who clearly felt threatened by contemplatives, charismatics, and Christian mystics in general.

So I’m asking, “Where to from here, Lord Jesus?”

What keeps coming to me is to not worry about labels, and to keep my eyes on Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith. As far as the journey goes, it is one of trust. We must have BOTH the map – Holy ScriptureAND the “GPS” (gospel positioning system?), the Still Small Voice of the Comforter, the Counselor, Who is both beside us and within us. These two – the map and the GPS – do not conflict!

Some have claimed that they only need the “Word” as it stands in the Bible we know today. They renounce any need for a personal experience of the Holy Spirit, where Jesus lets you know His Presence in very real ways. There is a tendency to lean toward what a friend of mine calls “Bible-olatry”. Scripture is not considered in the light of what Jesus has said about it, that the Book testifies of and reveals Him (John 5:39). These are the “map people” who are largely of the opinion that the Holy Spirit does not personally speak to anyone anymore, so there is no need for GPS.

On the other hand, there are some with whom I’ve sojourned who insist that the “inner voice” is all that is needed. They pay little if any heed to the map, insisting that for mystics or contemplatives there is no need for either the Bible or other supportive scholarship. We can listen to our “higher” self. Good luck with that!

My experience has taught me that the spiritual trek is such a challenging journey that one needs both the Map – Holy Scripture, and the GPS – the Still Small Voice of the Holy Spirit. They work together. They never contradict one another. Hearing the Still Small Voice, however, requires the kind of prayer where listening rather than talking, is the rule. He invites us to “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10).

Roomers Afoot

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!!” (Isaiah 52:7) (Publisheth: bears witness, proclaims)

“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” (Mark 6:11)

Lately my attention has been drawn to the subject of feet in Scripture, so I began to ask the Holy Spirit for understanding. I’ve always felt that a part of my work on this particular Assignment Earth is to find some way to build a bridge between the “house” of traditional organized religion and the “path” of christian mystical experience. I have first of all had to resolve this within myself, as the tabernacle of His Presence (if I may be so presumptuous).

This Great Work I surrender to God, for unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it. God, Who is Immortal Eternal Infinite Holy Spirit, alone is sufficient to the task of joining to Himself we who are mortal finite and frankly unholy (not whole but one with His intention to restore us to that wholeness, that Fullness).

What was brought to mind was the early Charismatic Renewal days (circa 1970s), with this matter of feet and houses. The organized churches are essentially about theology and things of the mind and head and “belief”. Mystical experience is of the heart. The ideal is the blend of the two, andI think the goal of being integrated (whole-ness, integrity, holy-ness, a return to being one with the Fullness of God). That is how I see the gospel as being made real in life, in and through us. That is why this great “latter rain” has been poured out through the Holy Spirit upon the seed of God, so we will grow up to become what He intends for us as His sons.

The above verse from Mark was a directive given by Jesus as He sent out the Twelve to preach repentance, cast out demons, and heal the sick. They were to go into any welcoming house that would receive them. His words here concerned the houses that would not receive them. They were to shake off the dust of their feet as a testimony against those who would not allow them to come in, who would not welcome them or their message and work.

Theology, which is of the head, is the “house” that rejects the mystical experience of the heart. I can recall back in the Charismatic days a parallel experience. Those of us who were having the beautiful, living experience of the Holy Spirit were at best shelved by the organized churches many of us attended. We had gone to those “houses” to share the beauty of what the Lord was doing in our lives. The response: ignore them and they will go away. There was nowhere to lay our heads, just like our Lord Jesus. At worst we were labelled heretics and called the devil. No room at the inn for the roomers who were afoot.

What Jesus is showing His disciples here is that with such “houses” we are to shake off the dust of our feet against them. So what do dusty feet have to do with this?

In those times, washing of the feet of guests was a functional and loving ritual when a guest entered a house. It is symbolic of being received in a welcoming manner. It allows the guest to walk barefoot, clean, and comfortable within the house and to enjoy its amenities in an honorable fashion, to be part of the conversation in that house.

So to leave the house with dirty feet means that you have not even been allowed to come in with the Message! You are not welcome! Consequently you have no choice but to shake off the dust collected on your arduous journey in the world as a testimony against them, and you move on to the next.

This symbolizes to the heavens that they refused to receive those who come in the name of the Lord, with the testimony of the living Christ ablaze in their hearts. Heads that are too big refuse to open up to the heart, to embrace the Mind of Christ which is radical servanthood and humility and unconditional love with no yardsticks of judgement. This is the house that refuses to open the door let alone to wash your feet. In other words the door is not answered when Jesus calls, and the feet of His messengers go unwashed and dusty, receiving no place in that house.

So there is no choice for us but to keep moving, to “…Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works.” (Revelation 18:4-6)

The Twelve entered into the houses to offer deliverance from evil and the Way of salvation. They came to set free – with verifiable signs of God’s holy authority. They came with the same purpose as Jesus Christ – to destroy the works of the devil. When the houses reject this, their fate is sealed, and the “sign” of their decision is this shaking off the dust of the feet, since they welcomed not the Lord’s “feet” bearing His message and His power through the Holy Spirit. This is serious business, when the head refuses the heart by refusing to wash its feet – those who represent Him Who stands at the door and knocks. Such feet the prophet Isaiah calls beautiful!

Hence the many of us who are the unchurched Christian mystics, often find greater receptivity and fellowship among the people of the world who seek Truth. We may have left the organized churches, but not the Faith of Jesus Christ.

(P.S. Regarding “dust”: “So long as the egos are obscured in the activities of the lower mind, they are unable to apprehend the higher qualities which are the expression of the Love and Wisdom Nature within. Dust being free from water, signifies a state of ignorance, absence of truth (water), which is the original state of mind (man).” – From Dictionary of Scripture and Myth, by G.S. Gaskell)