"Show me Your strong love in wonderful ways, O Savior of all those seeking Your help against their foes. Protect me as You would the pupil of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings as You hover over me." Psalm 17:7-8

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kingdom Builders and Rulers

Today was a day of peering into Congress Avenue shops while waiting to dine on spicy fish tacos at the Congress Street Café  We were casually looking for a reasonably priced picnic basket (which we did not find), and a bronze skeleton key for Lori to wear as a necklace charm.  In Uncommon Objects, we walked up and down neatly arranged and somewhat color-grouped rooms flocking narrow aisles.  There were items from a medical school (anatomy charts, old medicine bottles, bones and skulls, trays and instruments), many statues of the Virgin Mary, an Elvis lamp we joked about purchasing as a wedding gift for Al and Sarah, lots of antique furniture from different periods, and more than the eye could take in!!  The pleasing, and at times disturbing, arrangement of random relics was but a foretaste of what was later to come. 

  From here we wandered through a few consignment shops, home to vintage clothing, every possible design of cowboy boots, and jewelry from years past.  Just before brunch we roamed through Monkey See, Monkey Do, a shop that carries all things monkey, where I bought baby Eyth a Curious George book for week 14 of Charlcie’s pregnancy.  (I’ve been buying a book each week, building my grandbaby a library.  Some have been purchased on vacations, or special outings – this one on my birthday weekend).

After brunch we went to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and walked the pathways of this outdoor museum where “art is framed by nature”.  Statues peered at us from their perches creatively situated around ponds and a waterfall, posing for our admiration.  Wooden bridges and islands with larger than life figures – many of lovers, biblical characters, saints, or mother and child captured our attention.  From here we went to another of Austin’s cultural attractions:  the Cathedral of Junk!

When looking at something unusual, I often ask, “Lord, what do You see?  I invite His interpretation and ask Him to share with me any messages hidden in what I’m looking at.  This was the case as I toured the curious work of “yardist,” Vince Hannemann.  I wandered and wondered what inspired this man in a tired Austin neighborhood to begin such a project?   What, after twenty years, continues to motivate him to modify, add to and subtract from this creation of his.  I meandered inside and around the structure noting “artistic elements” (arched openings, skylights, use of lighting to enliven the space).  I applied rusty principles of design and art appreciation to the study of this cathedral, admittedly a bit distracted by the JUNK itself.  All the while, I listened for God’s voice.  It seemed to me the artist probably intended for his work to raise questions in the minds of visitors.  It seemed he erected this building, different from any other, not only to keep Austin weird, but because he had something in his heart and mind to express.  Something he hoped might interest others.

Vince Hannemann on his throne
Before launching into what the Lord shared with me concerning the cathedral, I need to provide you some personal background.  God has for the past couple of years been inviting me to come to Him and find rest; rest from worry, rest from fear, and rest from trying to recreate or redefine myself.  During this season of emptying my nest, of admitting to myself that my identity has little to do with accomplishments, roles, or relationships with those closest to me, God has consistently and gently coaxed me to come to Him to discover who I truly am, and more importantly Whose I truly am.  By His grace, I’m beginning to see that my efforts to build a house for Him, a life for Him to dwell in with me, a temple complete with a throne for Him to occupy, compares to building a cathedral of junk.  Not that the Father has not appreciated my heart and even my efforts in “this project,” He just has longed to free me to live in the house He is building for Us; the house He’s designed and wants to add rooms to for generation after generation of my family line.  It is funny to me now to look back and see all the ways God has been seeking to communicate this invitation to me.  He has in more ways than one been drawing my heart out, and into His Grace House.

His desire all along has been to build a house for the two of us, a house filled with His presence, a house from which His life emanates.  God’s one-of-a-kind floor plan for Our Home, filled with secret chambers of communion, rooms without walls between Us, and glory windows through which His beauty can stream, takes my breath away!!  He has invited me to rest in His arms and allow Him to design and build this Temple for two!!  In exchange for self-reliance, He offers me life in the Spirit, not as a nice sounding concept, but as REALITY:  He in me and I in Him.  Words fail me, but I begin to understand the difference.  I can honestly say, I have ceased striving to build a house for God to dwell in – a fine Christian life that might attract attention to my Savior.  I’ve ceased trying to build or uphold an image, to perform to the crowd I am surrounded by, to find my sense of value in the people He has graciously allowed to be a part of my life.  No doubt I’ll stumble and attempt control again for self-reliance is a deeply ingrained pattern hard to break, but there is a shift in me that God is responsible for, and He will not fail!!

Glory streams from His Cathedral
There were a number of parallels in the cathedral of junk to a believer attempting to build a life to God’s glory.  Many of the building materials for the cathedral at one time no doubt shaped or expressed the preferences and personality of their former owner:  television sets (media influence), toys (action figures, Barbies…), sporting goods, mirrors (our view/perception of ourselves), CD’s (music), typewriters (tools of one’s trade)…  All of these objects were wired together to form walls, create and frame openings, and even to “landscape” the area surrounding the cathedral.  It reminded me of the fact that we are more than the product of our past (the influence of others and the world upon us, and of our own perceptions of ourselves).  We can attempt to build a house pleasing to the Lord with these materials, and with lots of well-meaning flesh effort, on the dusty soil of our humanity.  OR, we can accept God’s offer to build for us a Home to come into and dwell with Him.  This Home, perfectly suited to who we REALLY are, is a forever shelter.

We entered the “Court” of the Cathedral of Junk through a wide and rickety gate too heavy to swing smoothly on its hinges.  The pickets were heavily laden with hubcaps and various nailed on objects.  The cathedral, invisible from the street, was situated in the back yard of an older home with trophies adorning the awning over the front porch.  Littering the front lawn, were miniature piles (arrangements) of “junk” scattered about, hinting at the three-story structure behind the house.  Just as with the Cathedral of Junk, much of our life is hidden, so to speak, in the backyard!!  We may put a few trophies out front to attract attention, and even expose some of what is “down under,” but our REAL life is known only to God.

My Delight is to Tabernacle With Him
Donations were accepted at the gate once you got beyond the barking of harmless dogs.  I thought about the torn veil into the Holy of Holies.  How privileged we are that Christ paid our entry fee, but our response of love to God’s grace blesses Him as did our donation the creator of the cathedral!!  This cathedral, playground to puppies tumbling about, seemed a whimsical place, child-friendly, purported to be engineered to withstand storms.  The cathedral creator was perched atop his creation working leisurely to transform the ever changing face of his building.  He warmly invited us in, boasting of the soundness of his structure.  He wanted us to come up where He was working.  The three story building had a vaulted ceiling and a large concrete throne no longer centrally located.  We were told the city recently demanded the owner dismantle a portion of his building located too close to his property line due to codes.   This isolated the throne off to the side, leaving it exposed, and no longer logically surrounded.  The wall left standing behind the throne interestingly enough was comprised of stainless steel crutches.  In these elements I saw countless reminders again of the story typical of man’s life:  brokenness, healing, tearing down, rebuilding and off to the side a manmade throne, massive but out of place (meaningless).  In our efforts to build a spiritual cathedral for God, to house Him, we tend to also set up a throne more or less off to the side, relegating Him to our own concept of what His rule should look like.  We expect certain behaviors out of Him, and base our security, our faith on this illusion of who God is.  We are easily disappointed.

There were shiny objects throughout, which made this Swiss cheese pile of junk “beautiful”: silver CD’s glinted in the sun as they twirled on invisible fishing line in columns, broken pieces of stained glass, mirrors, colorful bottles, chrome, even tin foil.  These reflected the sunlight and caused it to dance about on the dusty floor open to the sky above.  There were windows, one which my daughter leaned through, Rapunzel-style, letting down her hair!  The window looked to be made of a wheel rim.  There were arched openings and tight passageways adding to the feeling that you were traveling back in time through a structure you might have built as a kid when imagination was without limits.  Staircases were nonexistent, only ladders wired to precarious walls of various items, with rope handrails.  Wind chimes played, adding music to our experience of this cathedral.  The artist behind the cathedral had a green t-shirt on with gold letters spelling out “REUSE”.  He looked rather ordinary, not what I expected, a friendly eccentric collector who believed in recycling.  I thought about My Creator and the House He is building for the two of Us.  I imagined the message that might grace “His shirt” were He to wear one.  I feel sure it would read “REDEEM and RESTORE”.

I couldn’t help noticing the large head of a dragon hanging on the fence, smiling with eyes fixed on this counterfeit cathedral.  This caused me to think about the enemy of our souls who delights to see us building cathedrals of junk even as believers.  He is amused by our failure to understand our true identity.  He hopes we never will discover the freedom God offers when we cease performing and enter into the House God is building for us to enjoy with Him.  There were several toilets worked into the walls, oddly grouped with bouncing horses.  Random!!  This and so much more, and a beautiful old oak at the back of the property looking on.  Because it was the dead of winter, no vines climbed the walls to obscure the view.  It was abundantly clear to me I no longer want to build to amuse, rather I want to move completely out of performance based Christianity, and live in the Grace House God is building for Us.  I’m thankful He has been dismantling the cathedral I’ve built – removing lies and false beliefs, giving me in exchange the security of being truly at Home (in myself) in Him, covered as with the Tabernacle coverings, known, deeply desired, belonging to Him forever.

In God's presence is fullness of joy; At His right hand are pleasures forever. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. And He said, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.
Earlier I asked a question:  What was in the mind of the creator of the Cathedral of Junk?  I propose that in the heart of this artist lives a desire to build and to reign, one he has artistically expressed more openly than most.  He may or may not understand this God-given desire, but the cathedral he has raised pictures well the longing in all of us.  For just as there is a God-shaped vacuum in the soul of all men, there is also a desire to build and rule a kingdom.  We were made to dwell in God, to live securely in the House He will build in the empty void of our longing hearts.  He desires to share His life with us.   We were made to rest in what He has done for us, to trust Him absolutely.  In fact, we were knit together in our mother’s wombs as worshipers, with an undeniable desire to worship Him in the Holy of Holies – the cathedral – He promises to build in the heart of every believer.  From this place of unparalleled intimacy with our God and Father, He will restore us as builders in His eternal kingdom.  He promises that in union with Him we will also reign.  While He shares His glory with no one, He shares His very life that we might experience His glory inside of us, escaping through us to affect the entire world!!

The redemption story is written into the fabric of who we are.  It can be perceived in unforeseen places and persons if only we ask for eyes to see and ears to hear the Lord.  He desires we know the freedom of a relationship with Him, not the bonds of religion.  He desires we live in Him more than for Him!!  He desires we live according to revelation not reason.  He desires we surrender and know the blessing of being cared for!!  He desires we rule and reign WITH Him, not alone or in opposition to Him.  In the end every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.  Those who do so before He returns enter into their kingdom destiny, and join Him in the home built for them in heaven, where He will graciously satisfy every desire forever and ever.  Amen
Lord I want YOU to occupy the Throne of My Life!

Singing in the

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