Monday, September 1, 2014

It was 40 years ago today

Labour Day 40 years ago this once-young hippie wannabe truth-seeker came to the end of his hope, rope + himself + found a new way, truth and life. Been tested again and again, especially enduring these last 11 months, but He is faithful. If you're a seeker, please join me to revisit that day a long generation ago, but still fresh as today:
Labour Day fell on September 2 in 1974. It dawned sunny + bright in the Kootenays; days were still hot like summer, but a hint of autumn harvest-time was already in the air and God was really working. This was no day of rest for Him, His Spirit was working -- overtime!
Early that afternoon I drove out to Harmony Gates, a commune in the Slocan where my friend Grizzle lived, and found her in the garden, pulling up brussel sprouts. I'd attended a Divine Light Mission (DLM) ashram meeting the evening before and I needed to know more about this ‘knowledge’ that the Guru Maharji, the purported 'Perfect Master' was offering to whomever he chose to give it. I hoped that perhaps this was that illusory first brick I'd been searching for in my quest for a foundation of my tower of truth.
She hesitated at first, but I pressed her and finally she relented and told me her story:
A couple years before, in California, one of her friends had wanted to become an initiate with the DLM – a ‘premie’. Not wanting to go alone, he had asked her to come her, so she'd accompanied him.
In a morning session, one of the mahatmas presented DLM’s basic teachings and gave out free admission tickets to a further evening initiation session. However, there were only a limited number and he arbitrarily gave to some while overlooking others. At one point, he looked at Grizzle and asked her who she was and why she was there. She told him she was a born-again Christian and was only there for her friend. He then actually reached over other outstretched hands pleading for the few remaining tickets and handed the last two to Grizzle and her friend!
When those with tickets returned in the evening, the same mahatma asked if anyone had questions.
Grizzle spoke up: ‘What will happen to me when I die?’
She kind of apologized for his response while recounting her story. ‘I don’t know what everybody else saw or heard, but he cupped his hand over the side of his face, looked right at me, gave a twisted smile and laughed diabolically, ‘I don’t know about you, but I’m going straight to hell!’
Immediately a few of the attendees excused themselves from further involvement in the meeting. Perhaps they had ears to hear + eyes to see?
Grizzle and her friend remained. The mahatma then proceeded by outlining DLM’s 3 steps:
1st: he instructed each of the premies-to-be to hold their eyes shut and press their fingers firmly against their eyelids, pressing them so tightly they could see nothing, no light at all, so everything in their vision was so dark that suddenly they would see the 'Divine Light', a supernatural spiritual light which would enlighten their heart + mind. As he led them, he also circulated among them and questioned their experiences: the light, their enthusiasm and response to the energy they received! When he felt satisfied with their progress, he continued to the
2nd: now he told his audience to hold their ears shut, as they'd done with their eyes; so shut they could hear nothing, no sound at all, so everything in their hearing was so silent that suddenly they would hear the 'Celestial Music',
a supernatural heavenly sound that would fill them with pure spirit. He again followed this step by mingling among them, further noting their experiences. When he came to Grizzle, the sensations she described amazed him, but she didn’t tell him she was already familiar with Hindu techniques and was simply telling him what he wanted to hear.
Then the final step:
3rd: the revelation of the mantra. In other Hindu teachings, Grizzle said the mantra had been the generic name of God: OM; but this time, DLM had merely reversed the order of the letters to: MO!
So here were these precious human souls being led astray as dumb sheep by some charismatic figure and charlatan system, obeying what they neither knew nor understood. But with these 3 steps, he assured them they now had the ‘perfect knowledge’ and would proceed to ever greater enlightenment as they pursued this path.
Grizzle ended her story: the truth came on and my light and hope went out!
My hope had been exposed as a massive sham, a religious fraud, a hoax, a deception! I saw it clearly; she didn’t have to tell me anymore. I felt like one of her uprooted brussel sprouts and there I hung in mid-air, just like them: suspended, upside down, rootless, with no ground for any more questions.
She let me dangle there for a while. I don’t know how long, but it felt like an eternity. And then I felt something else well up inside me: disappointment, confusion, anger!
Not normal emotional anger; I was silently raging, furious at this masquerade unmasked, myself for being so gullible and, because I had to take it out on somebody, Grizzle:
‘How dare she destroy my last desperate gasp for truth? You knew I needed this knowledge and now you’ve debunked it for the sham it is. You heartless creature! How could you do this to me?’
Waves of frustration crashed against my ego.
Mercifully, Grizzle finally broke the awful silence of the moment, ‘Come with me. I’ve got something for you!’ and she headed towards her simple A-frame cabin a short distance away.
I didn’t have much fight left in me, so I obediently followed, not even considering what that cabin might hold.
We entered.
Her furnishings were quite bare. Another woman from the farm was there, but without any introductions, Grizzle just pointed me to the centre of the room: a lone table with nothing on it except a Bible. Closed.
‘Pick it up and read,’ she directed, calmly.
'Where should I start?' I replied, emptily.
But my real feelings absolutely churned and seethed inside me. My anger was primed to boil over and all manner of sarcastic comments were writhing and readying themselves to attack from within my embittered soul.
‘In the beginning,’ she countered.
That did it! ‘In the beginning?’ my inner voice protested. ‘I know all about ‘In the beginning’. I’m at the crisis-point of my life and you’re directing me to Sunday-School stories I know from way back in my past that have nothing to do with what I need now!’
I heard my own soul cry out, inaudible to both Grizzle and her friend. I kicked and wrestled, but finally yielded.
‘Oh, why not?’ I whimpered and started to read out loud.
And I read… through the first pages of Genesis 1 + 2. I read of creation: heaven, earth, animals, Adam + Eve, convinced I knew it all from before.
Until I came to Genesis 2:9 –
‘And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.
The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’
Suddenly 2 things stood out remarkably that maybe I didn’t know?
1st: there were 2 trees in the garden. One was the tree of life which was in the garden's centre; and the other?
2nd: the tree of ‘knowledge’.
That word again!? What I'd hoped would be the missing brick in my tower now hit me like a ton of bricks…
right between my eyes! I can’t remember all my thought process at that point, but I suddenly became aware of something new and different here, not what I’d expected: that second tree, the one I was seeking, hadn't it been the source of all man's problems, indeed the world’s?
Maybe, just maybe, I didn’t know everything? Maybe I needed to read on.
And so I did. I read on into Chapter 3.
I’m going to paraphrase this next part, because from my hippie perspective, this is how it spoke to me:
The serpent shows up at this point and even I knew that was the devil, the bad guy. He gets Eve off alone and says,
‘Hey Eve! Nice digs you got here! Man, this is beautiful! You must have everything you need!’
‘Oh yes,’ she responds, ‘Everything! Isn’t life wonderful!’
The serpent slithers + twists her words from an exclamation to a question, and seizes on,
‘Everything? Isn’t there one thing you’re missing? C'mon, there must be one thing, something you can’t do?'
‘Well, there is one thing...’ and she turns her attention from the centre tree to the other. ‘but just one thing:
God says if we eat or touch that tree over there, we’ll die!’
‘Really?’ the snake drools as she takes the bait.
‘Die? What’s ‘die’? Nobody’s ever died before; what do you mean ‘die’?
Don’t you know the real reason He doesn’t want you to eat from that tree? He knows that if you do, you’ll be just
like him; you’ll be a god yourself + then you won’t need him to tell you what you can or cannot do anymore.
I mean, c’mon Eve: look at that tree over there,’ he turned and distracted her focus from life to knowledge,
‘It looks so good. Really, can anything that looks so good be bad for you?'
And then he sealed the deal with the hippie cliché: ‘Ah, if it feels good, do it!’
I read her response: Genesis 3:6
‘So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.’
And then I stopped.
Suddenly I had no breath to read any further. Any attempts to read on for further knowledge were frustrated.
Visions of uprooted brussel sprouts filled my mind again.
I read this verse and I died.
It was like I somehow saw that I’d been eating from that tree all my life and its fruit was death and its root was death and I was dead also. Another awkward eternity of silence followed.
And then something totally inexplicable began to happen. It was as if some unknown hand wielding a giant corkscrew began drilling through the soles of my feet, draining my life away. Emptiness and numbness followed and I struggled to maintain my balance. I leaned against that lonely table, which now seemed to be the only thing holding me up in this life.
I tried to speak, but no words came; both my mouth and mind were empty.
I braced myself to maintain my composure, but I really had none left.
I stood there... emptying. Time seemed endless as I hung between two worlds.
With no more capacity for anger, I felt suspended in an unfamiliar realm.
Life passed in a moment; events that had taken years now transpired in a mere breath.
Finally, I gathered enough strength and excused myself. For what I didn’t know, but I made an excuse:
I needed to go and tell another couple of Grizzle’s friends that I would house-sit their goat farm for the next week. So I somehow managed to gather my thoughts, thanked the women for their time and without acknowledging what was really happening inside, I walked out unsteadily, got in my car and drove 3 miles down the road to the neighbour’s farm.
All the while my inside was draining away!
I got to the farm, but no one was home. The house was empty; so were the barns. But I saw a pathway opposite the house heading up a hill through some trees. I knew it led to another neighbour’s farm and wondered if maybe they were visiting next door and I could find them there.
Never having gone that way before, I thought, ‘Why not?’ so I started uphill through the forest.
My life was still draining and it was cooler in the shade.
I remember thinking, ‘When will this stop? This is weirder than any drug I’ve ever experienced before! What is happening to me?’
And so my life continued to drain away until…
I came to the edge of the woods. It opened up to a meadow, a good-sized hayfield and exactly when I stepped out of the shadows and into the open, the emptying gave way to a wave of sunlight and power like I’d never known.
It hit me like a tsunami, rushed through me from head to toe, then reversed itself from my toes and exploded through me in a crescendo of life! Like someone set off a whole fireworks display at one moment in me!
Like a bolt of electricity it ran through me, picked me up and propelled me out into the field. The hayfield became my dance floor and I was running, jumping, doing somersaults and cartwheels like a kid, shouting at the top of my lungs, singing and babbling with funny, incomprehensible words spilling out of my mouth!
No one had told me about tongues before, but I guess that’s what it was: unknown tongues were overflowing like rivers of living water from within me! What had been dry + empty only moments before was now full + more!
If anyone had seen me rolling around out there, I’m sure they would have thought I'd finally lost it: too much acid or one too many tokes. I even tried to stop and pinch myself to come back to reality, but life prevailed over reason, and I dismissed that action. This joy was better than anything I’d ever experienced before, so why stop and go back to the old misery?
However, after another eternity, somehow I was experiencing timelessness in one day on both sides of the equation, I finally got it together enough to walk back down to my friends’ farm. They still weren’t home, but it dawned on me where they were: today was a holiday, the hippie community in the valley was opening a new community centre at Vallican, so everyone would be at the big party!
I got in my car and drove: 30 miles in 45 minutes and all that time, the flood waters inside me kept rising and spilling over the banks of my soul. But these songs were not earthly; the language was heavenly and I was revelling in the overflow! I was so full I felt I was absolutely bursting! 45 minutes of something singing unknown words through me! Something was happening in me, but I really didn’t have a clue?
Until I got to Vallican and saw the friends I was looking for.
But I saw another person first: my traveling buddy, Bob. He should have been 30 miles away in the other direction, but there he was: the very one with whom I'd shared so much of my personal journey for truth thus far: through school, drugs, booze, backpacking and whatever, and now here he was in front of me and I heard a voice inside me say, ‘Go tell him what’s happened!’
Again my self protested, ‘But I don’t know what’s happened and I have no idea what to tell him!’
But simple obedience won out and in a moment I found myself standing before him. Without any premeditation, both my arms went up in the air spontaneously and these words gushed out:
‘Bob, Bob! I’ve given up the pursuit of knowledge and I’ve found the love of our Lord Jesus Christ!’
He looked at me, amazed! In all my previous wildest discoveries, I’d never come up with something like this before.
He heard my words and said, ‘What?’
But I heard my words and said, ‘That’s it!’
And just like that I sat him down in the field, right in the confusing midst of 3 loud hippie bands playing, and preached Christ to him.
I really had no idea what I was saying; but life bypassed my mind and words flowed from my heart like a torrent, a river that could not and would not be stopped.
We had both been made for this moment and truth prevailed.
I talked for what must have been a whole hour. I think he had questions in between, but nothing could stop the flow of what I now knew to be God’s Word + Spirit in me. I had both wings and I was flying and nothing could hold back the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Somehow I knew now that truth was not a thesis, doctrine, or intellectual explanation of reality.
Truth is a Person, the very relationship and life-giving intimacy between Jesus Christ and our Father God which He’s given us in His New Covenant. This Truth was happening and this Truth became real to me at that moment.
Bob didn’t get saved that day. But he really didn’t have a chance: within a couple years, he too gave his heart to Jesus and is now a missionary in Guatemala.
I didn’t want to go to sleep that night. What if I woke up the next morning and this experience proved to just be another illusory feeling and was gone?
But I did get to sleep and when I awoke, that same joy was there, has always been and will always be.
God doesn’t change.
That was 40 years ago and Jesus’ Truth shines brighter each and every new day!