Friday, March 31, 2006

The First Visit

You see, I had been to this baseball diamond before. About six years ago while leading a bible study in our basement family room in Nutter Fort, WV, the Lord took me to this same place in the Spirit, this same little league baseball diamond. This earlier vision hadn’t included the gate or the spiral staircase. I just remember closing my eyes, feeling the presence of the Lord and I was there. I remember standing off to the first base side of this baseball diamond. The Lord was standing on my left and He waved His left hand in a sweeping motion as if to say look at the field.

As I did I saw that there was a group of young children playing and they were having a blast! No adults around to tell them what to do, they were running, jumping, laughing and having a great time. They were just playing baseball and loving it. There was so much pure joy and freedom on these kids. No anxiety, no stress, no pressure, they were just playing the game and enjoying one another.

My reaction was a stark contrast to the children’s. I immediately felt a self imposed stress trying to figure what this scene could mean. This had to be some kind of metaphor or a visual parable the Lord was communicating to me, I had to figure it out! I remember thinking to myself, OK, OK, Ok… the grass was green and colors have symbolic meaning, right? Yeah, yeah green could mean something, but what? And the field, it was in the shape of a diamond, surely that could mean something! And then there were the two teams, each had nine kids that was eighteen in all, surely numbers mean something here, right? But what! I had squeezed every last bit of theologic, philosophic and metaphoric understanding out of my brain cells and came up with absolutely nothing. God was asking ME a question and I failed to provide an answer.

Clueless and frustrated I turned to the Lord and said, “I don’t get it; it’s just a bunch of kids having fun, what’s the point?” Immediately, with a smile on His face, the Lord said to me “that’s the point!” and the experience ended.

The Lord wasn’t asking me a question; He was showing me that the Kingdom of God belonged to such as these. Those with childlike hearts who are free from the “grown up” stuff. Free from stress, pressure and performance of 21st century Christianity. Little ones who don’t have the need to figure it all out. Children who know how to play in the Kingdom, who know how to have fun in the Kingdom. Six years ago the Lord revealed to me that He wanted me to lighten up and learn to have fun like a little child playing baseball. Oh to be childlike without being childish.

This latest visit to the baseball diamond has revealed so much more.

To Be Continued…

© Tom Zawacki 2006

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Play Ball!

So, in the Spirit, I’m standing in a place of complete and total whiteness. I’m very much at peace, relaxed and wondering what - if anything would happen next…

The Baseball
Much to my surprise I see a baseball, yes a baseball and it’s headed directly toward me. It’s a brand new ball, spotless and it stops right in front of my face. It’s just floating, hovering there, so close in fact that it covers almost my entire view. It’s so close and the image is so clear that I can see the intricate details of the red stitching and the texture of the white rawhide.

I was both amused and amazed by this sight before me. As I wondered to myself why was I seeing this baseball the thought occurred to me that maybe I should catch it. So, I slowly reached up with both hands and took hold of the ball. As I brought the ball down I could see behind it and there was the Lord. Jesus was standing, oh maybe 25 feet away. Even though I couldn’t see His face I somehow knew that He was smiling. I could sense that he was pleased. Pleased that I was in this place and that we were together. He looked at me, without saying a word, motioned with his arm and a sight shrug of his shoulder for me to throw him the ball, so I did and for a while we just played catch. There may have been some theological, metaphorical or philosophical reason that I got to play catch with Jesus in this great whiteness but in these moments it just seemed like fun.

The Diamond
At some point we finished playing catch and I noticed that the whiteness behind the Lord has changed. Now behind Him was a little league baseball diamond. It had perfectly manicured bright green grass, smooth soft undisturbed brownish base paths and four bright white bases. Behind home plate was a fence, three sided like you’d see at any little league diamond. We were standing off to the first base side of the field; this is where we had played catch. Although no one else was there I suddenly knew exactly where I was.

To be continued…

© Tom Zawacki 2006

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Freedom From & Freedom For

The freedom we have in Christ has got to be more than just freedom from sin; it has to be freedom for something as well. As I read through Paul’s letter to the Galatians, especially in chapter 5, I’m convinced that the freedom Christ won for us was a freedom to live by the Spirit.

Although I am a professional communicator, I’m not a writer. Speaking in front of a congregation or across from a friend at Starbucks is much more my genre. Writing is a new expression of creativity for me and blogging has been a comfortable medium for this new outlet.

I’ve had some interesting experiences as I’ve explored Freedom in the Spirit. Friends have encouraged me to create a record of these events. I intend to use this space to do just that. May this process encourage your exploration.

The Baseball Vision

This experience took place on Saturday evening, October 31, 2004 in Kansas City, Mo. I was attending the “Living Under an Open Heaven” conference sponsored by WhiteDove Ministries. The conference speakers were Bob Jones, Paul Keith Davis, John Paul Jackson, Bobby Conner and Shawn Bolz. This was the final of seven sessions.

Paul Keith Davis, Bob Jones and Shawn Bolz spoke and ministered to the crowd of approximately 2200 people. As Bob ministered to us I experienced a profound ache in both of my thumbs. The sensation was similar to what I feel when the Holy Spirit is on my hand but much more intense and concentrated to my thumbs. Later in the evening Shawn declared that there was an open heaven in the room. He could see an opening into heaven in the center front portion of the room. I found myself on the outer rim of this portal.

The room was electric with excitement; this was the crescendo of the weekend. For years I’d been provoked to jealousy by stories of others being translated to heaven. I very much wanted this experience for myself and had often asked God for it. Something stirred within me and if I could have willed it to happen I would have. I was the picture of striving… and failing. At the peak of my striving Shawn addressed the crowd, in a loud voice he told us to stop striving and just focus on the Lord. His words jolted me. As I followed Shawn’s instructions a supernatural peace swept over me. Instantly every part of me relaxed, as if a switch had been flipped. It was almost as if I was alone in the room.

The Gate
In this peaceful state with my eyes closed I began to see a gate. It was an old garden gate, ornate and metal with vines and plants about it. As I stood there the gate slowly swings open before me. The gate opened inward from right to left and I proceeded forward. I don’t recall actually walking but I did move forward.

The Spiral Staircase & The White Room
The first thing I saw inside the gate was a cobble stone step and then another and another. The steps were also very old. It appeared as if no one had walked them in a very long time. By the time I had noticed the third step I could tell that they were part of a spiral staircase proceeding up and to the right. As I looked up I began to go up - very quickly. I was launched upward at an incredible rate of speed. As I went up I could see that this staircase was very long. I seemed to go through three places. The first seemed to be the natural sky above me. The clouds were a grayish white color. The next section seemed to be a narrow band of darkness, like very dark clouds. As I punched through this dark section I found myself in a place of clear, clean, pure whiteness - whiteness for as far as I could see. It was like being in a huge white room without definition. I couldn’t differentiate walls from floors or ceiling, everything was just white! I recall having great peace as I stood there. I even folded my arms and thought to myself, “well now, isn’t this interesting”. I had wanted this for so long and now here I was. I wondered where “here” was specifically and what would happen next.

To be continued…

© Tom Zawacki, 2006

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Exploring the Fullness of Freedom

Over the past 30 years I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of the church. I participated in some amazing, life impacting programs and others that were not so amazing. I’ve watched fads, focus and passions come, go and come again.

I’ve learned a few lessons on this journey. I’ve discovered that I love the presence of God. I love to feel the weight of the Spirit on my face and chest. I love the security of His peace and the awe of His grandeur and greatness. I love the sensation on my hands when His power is present. I love it when He opens my eyes to see beyond the natural to the spiritual.

I’ve also discovered that I am no longer content to live a powerless Christianity. I want to live a supernatural life filled with wonder and the mystery of God. A few years ago God spoke to my heart and said “Tom, I have this against you – you dream man sized dreams”. The truth of those words pierced my heart. Since then I’ve been ruined for the normal, the natural and the status quo. I’m no longer willing to live within the limitations of my man sized dreams. I want to experience a God who is bigger than my planning or my comprehension. I want to dream “God sized dreams”, dreams that are bigger than me, dreams so big that they require God’s presence and power to be accomplished. God set me free to live free (Gal.5:1). I’m exploring the fullness of that freedom. I want everything Jesus paid for, why should I be content with anything less.

Over the past few years I have dared to explore God, trusting that my Father would not give me a snake when I ask for a fish or spiders when I ask for eggs. (Luke 11:11-13). I have asked God for freedom; freedom to live a supernatural life by the power of His Spirit. His yes has afforded me the privilege of some amazing experiences. My next series of post will describe some of these experiences and what I’ve learned from them. Thanks for reading.

© 2006, Tom Zawacki

Loving What He Loves

Saturday night we were finishing up an advanced workshop in dream interpretation. At the end of the workshop we pray with each student. It is one of the highlights of the class

We’re located downtown in a section noted for it’s night life. Things don’t get too wild in the Tri-Cities but if you’re looking for night life this is where you would go. We find ourselves nestled between multiple nightclubs, tattoo parlors and sports bars. We have a 100 year old corner storefront with huge inviting windows. Inside looks much more like a coffee house than a church, at least it’s starting to. It’s working for us.

The confluence of our welcoming setting and the downtown Saturday night life brought a man (I’ll call him Rick) through our front doors. I’d met Rick once before and knew that he could be a disturbing presence. Not malevolent but interruptive.

From the far side of the room I watched Rick walk through the doors and engage one of my people in conversation. My very first impression was that he was sent to disrupt the highlight ending of our class. I marched across the room and “stood guard” between Rick and my people, not wanting them to get spiritually slimed by this man.

I stood guard for ten minutes before Rick was handed off to me. Guarded, I patiently listened as Rick shared with me fragments of nine or ten disconnected stories from his past. All the while I’m searching for my opening to lead him graciously out the door.

Slowly the dynamics between us began to change, not from Rick’s perspective but from mine. It was blatantly obvious that Rick lived a confused existence. However, my own confusion was well hidden, not nearly as obvious as Rick’s. Body language was the first clue that the dynamics between us were changing. I had stayed a step back and slightly turned to one side, much like a boxer ready both for offense and defense. Slowly I faced Rick, a much more vulnerable posture and took a step closer. The next clue was the focus of my eyes. My eyes had been darting about, scanning my surroundings for threats and an exit strategy. Now I began to look at Rick, truly look at him, the darkness in his eyes, the deep lines in his face and the wounds in his soul.

When I saw the man and not a problem, my heart was stirred. Warmth began to swell within my chest. Was I feeling love for this man? God’s love? It had to be, it wasn’t in me. Just a moment ago all I felt was annoyed. God loved him and Jesus died for him. I suddenly realized the devil hadn’t sent Rick to disrupt our class, God sent him to change my heart. God loved Rick in all his brokenness and confusion, could I love what God loved?

When did I learn to protect myself (and my people) from the very ones Jesus loved enough to die for?

Oh God set me free to love what you love, set me free to love who you love. Set me free to love without ulterior motive, without agenda, amen.

Copyright 2006, Tom Zawacki

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Saint Paul, Romans 5:8

“Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends”. Jesus Christ, John 15:13

“We love because He first loved us”. Saint John, 1 John 4:19

Friday, March 24, 2006

What will you do with that Freedom?

If you’ve read my profile you know that Braveheart is one of my favorite movies. I love movies where ordinary men do extraordinary things. For me, one of the most inspirational scenes in the movie is when William Wallace addresses the army made up of his Scottish countrymen. He challenges them with this question “What will you do with that freedom?”

As I pursue my quest for the Emancipation of the Freed, I offer the same challenge… What will YOU do with YOUR freedom?

Have you considered that there is a purpose to your freedom and maybe that purpose is bigger than you? For some of us the most exercise our freedom gets is to kick off our shoes, enjoy a good meal and the latest episode of the Sopranos. Hey, rest is a wonderful thing and few people enjoy a good meal as much as I do. However, there is more to freedom than the comfort of my lazy boy, the flavor of my wife’s lasagna and wondering if Tony gets wacked this week.

Freedom is for the battles to be fought and won. Freedom is for adventures to be explored. Freedom is for the fair maidens to be rescued. Freedom is for what’s inside the box AND what’s out side the box. Freedom is more than black, white gray & beige. Freedom is brilliant bright reds, blues, yellows & greens. Freedom is to color inside the line and to color where lines never existed. Freedom is to honor our heritage but also to write our own history. A history that will inspire our children and our grandchildren onto greater depths in their own exploration of freedom. Freedom is to go where we have never gone and do what we have never done. Freedom is to try and fail and try again and fail and try again and again and again.

Later in that same scene Wallace ends his challenge with these words:

“Aye, fight and you may die, run, and you'll live... at least for a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!

You have a chance today to live in freedom, what will you do with it? Open your eyes today and sees the colors you’ve never seen before, tastes the flavors, hear the sounds…and live.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Emancipation of the Freed

A few Questions to begin our dialogue…

Are you free?

If you’re not free, why not?

If you are free, how free are you? What dimensions of freedom are you enjoying… exploring?

Who are the emancipated and why do they need to be freed?

From my corner of existence the emancipated are believers in Christ. And it is my expert opinion that they need to be set free.

Expert, yep, well I been one for 30 years and I’ve lead them the last 20. Yeah, I’m a pastor.

Saint Paul wrote that it was for freedom that Christ has set us free. Jesus himself said that he was sent “to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”. I like that, I agree with it. So why are so few people living in freedom?

There was news story today about a woman who was missing for 10 years. She was held in her bedroom for 10 years. She escaped when she told the local grocery store clerk about her captivity. What a nightmare this poor woman endured. She is a picture of the church bound but free, free but not.

We can address issues of form, function and focus and they may assist in the expression of freedom, but ultimately freedom is a condition of the heart.

I’m exploring dimensions of freedom and I’m encouraging my people to do the same. This morning I finished my second painting though I am not an artist. I’ve written my first blog though I’m not a writer. This weekend we will train people in the art of dream interpretation and Sunday we’ll discuss ways to provide free medical care for the poor in our community. Cool stuff and our people seem to genuinely love one another.

I wonder what we’ll discover next week…