Things That Go Creak In The Night
"Things that go creak in the night."
You know what I mean. Scary things.
The most frightening experience I had as a child was one particular time camping in the woods. The Boys Club sponsored Camp Glen Holla, where we young boys would spend one or two grueling weeks each summer being run through the paces in activity after activity, all day long, so much fun you couldn't stand it anymore. There was a camp store where everybody bought honey buns and cokes. I liked archery, fishing, and boating the best, arts and crafts the least. I learned the song, "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall," while we all rode in the camp bus to the swimming pool in downtown Rome, (GA).
They only had COLD showers, and our counselors would march us down to the showers every night, in our scivvies (white jockey underwear), carrying our towels and soap dish, and if we wouldn't strip and get in the shower by ourselves, they'd make sure we got a shower anyway by tossing us in. I know they tossed me in at least once. The big finale night there was of course an "Indian" ceremony -- these were not politically correct times -- where we would be "braves" and do some sort of play around a campfire while our parents watched from the hill above and made jokes with each other. During the awards ceremony I won third place diving (or something to do with swimming). (Which at age 10 was the zenith of my athletic career, so it's all I have to brag on.)
The "scary" thing, however, had occurred on our campout before the finale. They went all out. They gave us a packed lunch, and the counselors marched several groups of us en masse into the deep woods a couple of miles probably from Camp Glen Holla, carrying our sleeping bags, flashlights, and sack lunches, which would be our evening meal once we'd settled in.
After we'd eaten and scoured the woods for firewood and we all felt very important and awed by the pine forest and proud of ourselves for being there, the counselors got us into our sleeping bags all around the campfire, under the pines with a clear sky above, filled with blazing stars vibrating gentle light into a moonless sky.
It's one of my first memories of the warmth and safety of a campfire, being in the strobe-like effect of its light, and the smoke and shadows rising in the trees and through the branches.
I was lost in a reverie of the fire and forest when the counselors started telling stories. Of course they told ghost stories, because that's what you do with young boys on campouts. Try to scare the wits out of 'em. Don't know why, but that's what people do. But it wasn't the ghost stories I remember from that night, nor is it what frightened me so badly.
One of the counselors started telling the story of Jesus coming back in God's wrath. Now I had a child's understanding and belief in God then. It wasn't until much later that I came to a conscious knowing of Jesus as my Saviour, but I can't say I didn't believe when I was a child. God, as far as I remember, was always part of my environment. My mother had read a book about God to me as a small child. I remember the book, and one particular picture in the book, which is a landscape with the sun shining brightly in back of it, and the landscape is lush and plenteous and everything looks full of light and is blessed, and in my child's mind I took that picture into myself and associated it with God. I didn't know any other, until much later.
This was another picture that came that night. This fellow talked about how angry God was with everybody. How He was going to come in the clouds, and how He was going to punish all the sinners, which apparently was everybody, and He was going to BURN them up, with an unquenchable fire, and I don't know how long he went on. But he certainly had our rapt attention -- lots of us were probably from churches that didn't talk about stuff like that -- and this was different from the ghost stories. Ghost stories were fun, and even our fright was only temporary.
But this wasn't fun, and he was talking about something REAL that could happen any moment! I suppose he must've talked about folks getting saved, but oddly I don't remember that. I just remember hearing about the anger and the wrath and the punishment and especially the FIRE, which only right before story-time had by its light and heat caused such a peaceful boyish meditation in the comfort and richness of its blessing, but which now through this counselor had become instead a raging inferno of pain and anger and suffering.
The sky above me during that conversation changed from a sky blazing with blessing and light flowing out of every dark cranny, into a panorama of fear. It had now become the scene where at any moment could be the descent of the wrath and the punishing and consuming fire.
I lay awake nearly all night long, trembling, afraid to go to sleep, thinking any moment Jesus was going to come, and was going to burn me up and everything else.
It was a childish thing, but I had had a childlike love and trust in God, and then fear came and changed the very sky and the stars. God became different then. And I felt my nakedness and was afraid.
That lasted a very long time. Years and years. Even long into the years after I came to know Jesus. I felt I was naked and I was afraid. It got so bad I would physically jump when the phone rang. I knew it would be bad news. It often was.
I began to think my life was a house of cards that could come tumbling down any second, and then everybody would know, everybody would see, what an idiot I've been, how foolish, how unwise, how this, how that.
Averting catastrophe, somehow keeping afloat, afraid of the next letter in the mail, laughing to keep from crying, tragedy, woe, bad luck, poor judgment, not enough umph, too much this, not enough that, you name it, if it's wrong or a sign of failure or faulty character, I got it.
According to your faith be it unto you -- and fear was my faith and fear wreaks havoc. It makes its own body.
Does anybody know that this makes no difference whatsover to God?
What do you mean?
I mean simply that in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, you see the truth, and it does not matter a whit what was past, or what might be, and in seeing the truth, all the spells are broken, fear which hath torment is dissipated, and anticipation of evil and the expectation of its sure and certain consequences become as something you can't remember anymore.
He Who Causes To Be, Whose name is I AM, is all there is. There is nothing to hurt nor to harm on all my Holy Mountain.
Let us come BOLDLY before the Throne of GRACE!!!!
BOLDLY -- GRACE!!!!!
What is this? Where is the "fear" in this love?
We are INVITED to come BOLDLY, which means with confidence, not with downcast eyes, with feigned unworthiness. When we are invited to participate BOLDLY we are considered as equals, as sons of the house, heirs of all the Father's goods, with a right and a say in the distribution of all those goods!!!!!
And the ANSWER when we come BOLDLY -- is GRACE!!!! More than we asked! More than we were promised! More than has entered into our minds! More than we have seen!!!! An answer before a call!!!! A supply already before any shortage.
Awake thou that sleepest, and Christ shall give thee light!
In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, we are changed. You step into a new land. A new country. The way of life is different in the new country.
When you are the benevolence of life then you are its personal distributor, and the landscape before you changes from one of fear and anticipation of the worst, to a truthful apprehension of the unalterable fact that blessing flows from out of God within YOU into the world, and you thus change the world, by being its light and its salt, as Jesus said we are.
You change the world (from a cursed place to a blessed place) by your presence, which is God Present, by your word, which is His Word by you, and by your Life, which is given for the world, even as His was.
"I will lay me down and sleep, in peace, for thou O Lord, ONLY MAKEST ME TO DWELL IN SAFETY." (Ps 4:8)
Can you believe that?
You can rest, for you dwell in safety. There is nothing to fear. "Fear not, it is I, I AM." "Before Abraham was, I AM."
You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.
Not by your effort. No, not by any human effort or system of thought or set of ideas, not by many prayers or much study. All that is as dung.
"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to GIVE you the kingdom."
You just ARE.
Take that. "In a moment, in a twinking of an eye, we are changed ...."
"But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand." (Is 64:8)
I look out the window now, and I don't see the suffering and the pain coming. The original landscape has been restored. It was always there, full of light and blessing, the sun shining on a lush garden, full of colors and life, soil and earth. Earth teeming with Life, with heaven.