Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Show Me Beautiful

Show me beautiful.
Find something good.
Peel back the cover of what has it hidden beneath, and hold it in your hands.
Let it shine.
Let it speak without words.
Raise it to the sky. (Like in The Lion King)
Give thanks for this beauty.
Dance around it.  Or lift your voice in song and celebrate it.
Whatever is lovely, whatever is pure, whatever is noble, find it and rest your thoughts upon it.
I know that it's there. 
So do you...really.
He made so much of it, there is truly no scarcity.
Unfortunately, nothing seems to connect our thoughts with another person like complaint and criticism.
Reject that process.  
Turn your heel against it and walk away.
Instead...
Show me beautiful.
Find something good.
Unearth it.
Expose it.
Reveal it.
Revel in it.
Acknowledge the presence and perseverance of all that deserves praise and joy.
This vessel, this person, who has shown us the possible amidst the mundane.
They are worthy.
They are a trumpet of peace and hope among so many, thorny and bleak days.
Lifting our eyes.
Pushing our shoulders back, and our chin up.
Elevating even our minds.
Be. Just. Like. That.
Take "beautiful" by the right hand and join another that is lost with your left.
Make it a movement. 
Make it your cry.
Make it your anthem.
This is our season.  
This is our lifetime.
This is our chance.
We get no other.
So, finally...
Show me beautiful.
Find something good.
Be the beginning, the middle and carry it to the end.
Choose.
Now.
Today.
Do...not...wait.
Someone else needs this more than you do.


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Still In The Making

In your eyes...
An old man,  young man,  story of a child
A memory, a mystery, and a dream that may be.
On a path, on the road, climbing on a tree.
Weathered, wanting, reaching to be free
Oh how I wish my eyes were open
                                 to all that yours can see.


Won't You send a spark, send a flame, send me fire
Burning through, breaking through the shadow and the mire
Raising up, rising up 'til filthy rags, made new
and I have disappeared, deep inside... the refining fire....of You



Your thoughts...
Not like mine; holding onto smoke
Looking at the past, praying for that day
Unfolding like a letter, wondering what to say
Stumbling in fetters; my feet made of clay
But yours, from the heavens to the sidewalk
                                      * Emily's feathers in the fray                      

Your heart... 
A shield from darkness; shelter from the cold
Even then, even when, all the walls are shaking
Holds it all,  holding mine even while it's breaking
Not alone... in the dark, forgotten son forsaken...but
A fortress, and a tower, the place I run
                                                to life, still in the making

Won't You send a spark, send a flame, send me fire
Burning through, breaking through the shadow and the mire
Raising up, rising up 'til filthy rags, made new
and I have disappeared, deep inside... the refining fire....of You

* "Hope is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul - 
And sings the tunes without the words - 
And never stops - at all." - Emily Dickinson





Friday, July 23, 2021

Almost Sixty

It feels kind of like a confession,
when Paul writes these words...

"I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."

Like someone asked, "Why are you the way you are?" 
And that was his answer.
It has always seemed such an intensely intimate statement to me.  
Knowing at least some of the story of how his relationship began with Jesus, it was definitely intense and intimate.

There were more than a few times in my life when someone reached out and touched me on the shoulder, grabbed the collar of my jacket, or even pinched my ear, drew me close and gave me a talking to... 
I think that probably every time that happened, I needed it.
At the time however, I wasn't so sure.  
And particularly if anyone else was witness to that moment, I really didn't like it.  
It was embarrassing.  
In hindsight however, it now feels like those folks were making a well-intentioned investment into my life.

I'm almost 60 now.  I have to lean in sometimes to hear what I need to hear.
Nobody does that with me; grabs me by the collar anymore.
The Damascus road is long ways away
, even my own revelation road by another name.
More often it seems that Jesus is saying to me, 
                            "Hello, I am standing at the door and knocking..."
(He doesn't even knock loudly)
It's fairly easy to ignore him there...knocking...quietly.
But if I do that, I miss the instruction.  I miss the answer to the plot line twist that Paul has led me into...
             Why?...Why did Jesus take hold of me?...Not Paul, but me?
The question hangs in the air like the horn blasts I hear in the quieter moments at dusk, from the tanker ships heading for the Port of Tacoma near where we live.  I wonder who is answering to those blasts and what are they commissioned to do in response?
What am I to do with these days before me? 
With this chapter of life?
I have found a way to discover the new road.
It's a prayer really.  It begins like this:
"So...Jesus...Tell me about you."
I know it doesn't sound like a prayer.  
It's not very flowery, or lofty, or theological sounding.  
But maybe it's all of those things.
It leaves a space for me to be taken hold of, by him, and by his words.
Where might the dialogue move to next?
What might I learn about him, about this life, about His Spirit in me?
I confess... that more often when I come to prayer, 
I am most ready to tell him about me, 
                  my take on things, 
                            my priorities, 
                                 my plan,
                                     my (fill in blank here) 
                                             and that leaves precious little room for him to reveal,
                                                                               ...that for which he took hold of me.


E.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Car Keys And Bicycle Seats

Over fifty years have passed, maybe fifty-five.
I'm riding in the backseat of The Rambler, and my sister is beside me; sleeping.
In front of us, the truck and camper are moving across the lanes of the freeway to reach the exit ramp to the far right, as we head into downtown Denver.  
We're going to the museum and we're going to have a picnic lunch together before we go inside. 
We brought watermelon.  We have ham and cheese for sandwiches.  I can almost taste it already.

Mom and Dad say it will be a long tour at the museum.  
Lots of walking.
I don't know, I've never been to a museum before.  At least I don't remember it if I did.
I'm peering out the passenger window to my left.  Then, I notice in the front seat,  Grandma leaning over to begin a conversation with Grandpa, her eyes trailing the path of the truck/camper in front of us, the turn signal blinking its intention.
       "You know, he turned out to be a real good driver Halsey."
       "Yup."
       "Wasn't too sure when he was younger; bein' so far away from us in college and all.  But, he does real well doesn't he!?"
       "Yup."
Her voice was quieted.  It was meant to be a private conversation and I could tell that.  So, I just kept looking out the window like I didn't hear anything.  I could also tell that it wasn't just about my Dad's driving ability.  Something about what Grandma said, or how she said it spoke to not just his skill on the freeway.  It was more about how he had matured; who he had become as an adult.  Grandma and Grandpa were proud of who their son, my Dad, had become.  I remember that I was proud too, I guess because they were, and they had known him a lot longer than I had.

Today, a young man in a truck swerved out of a parking lot in front of me.  For a block or so, his driving was erratic.  The truck swung into the left lane for a bit, edging back to the right lane just as a car sped around the corner coming towards him.  I almost said something out loud in frustration and concern.
Was he texting, reaching for his wallet or distracted by something else?
Was this a momentary issue or an example of how he always drove?  
It was then that the memory of that short conversation between Grandma and Grandpa spilled into my mind.  

We start out on bicycles with "training wheels".  
It's a momentous occasion when the training wheels come off.  
A parent holds the seat and walks or jogs beside us until at some point they let go.  Usually we fall down, or hop off this wheeled contraption a time or two before we ride on without their support.  The first trial runs on the bicycle are wobbly and unsure, but quickly they become more sure and stable.  In no time we are "poppin' wheelies" or riding with one hand on the handlebars and then no hands.  As the parent, it seems like a sprint from the day we are taking off the training wheels to where we are putting car keys into the hand of that child who it seems was only five years old yesterday.  Letting go of the seat is now just letting go....period.  

That child drives off in a car or truck of some kind and we watch them depart onto the highway of life.  We rode with them at first, and then maybe followed behind them in another vehicle, until at some point we arrive at an intersection where they go one way and we go another.  
And there we are, like my grandparents, admiring their abilities to handle the car, handle the road....handle what comes in life. Or, our whole body winces with concern, because they are swerving this way or that and don't seem able to process the traffic that is coming at them and the decisions they have to make in response.  What can we do about such things?  What does God the Father do with us?  As he watches us stumble, struggle and fail; holding autonomy between our teeth like a bone in a dog's mouth.  

The bible text that parallels something like this is usually found in Proverbs.  It starts with, "Train up a child..."  However, that's not what has been speaking to me.  It's more the prodigal story, which I wrestle through a lot today.  
It's a family story.  
It features hope and joy, but also, broken relationship and confusion...(I know it's not supposed to be an actual family that Jesus is speaking about here.  But I think that he hits pretty close to home with some of his listeners the day he shares the story.  The traditions involved in its telling are spot on with their culture. )
So...What was it like in the house the day the youngest son left home?  
Short answer...I think it sucked.  
No one was really happy.  
Anger, grief, resentment and anxiety filled every room in the house, and it followed him when the front door slammed shut behind him.
One choice t-boned into another like a multiple car pile-up on the freeway.  
In some ways, I have played the part of the youngest son before.
But today I am so much understanding the heart of the one who watches that boy disappear into the horizon.
The lesson for me as a Dad, as a Grandpa, as a husband, brother and pastor, in all of this 
                                                     is about control. 
I think that I have lots of it...or at least lot's of influence, 
                                                              right up until I know that I don't.  
Then I discover that what I have left is...to trust and pray.   
I don't forget...I trust and pray.
The keys are in their hands...I trust and pray.
The intersection seems to only have one good option available; 
                        only one route that will bring someone to the desired destination and I wanna shout, 
                        "How can you not see this!" Instead...I trust and pray.
The news I heard this morning is painful...I trust and pray.
The grass has grown tall between us...I trust and pray.
The world has become too big...I trust and pray.
                    AND I keep an eye toward the end of the road that leads home.
While the entry door light shines into the bleak night,
My heart stays ready to party on that day I see the silhouette of someone I've been rooting for 
                                     at the end of the road.
Still, remembering, I let go of the bicycle seat a long, long time ago, 
                      and it was the right thing to do
                                      no matter how wobbly that decision feels today.






Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Sighs, Signs and Smiles


Reading.
   in the early morning... 
      and the window 
                    behind me 
is allowing the sunlight to dance across the page           
                    before me
Blotted by shadows of leaves and tree limbs 
                          Wrinkling, rolling across the print
Like a gold and gray Rorschak hand waving to me...           
                                                                      "Hello!   I am here."
And I sigh and smile to no one but you.

Sometimes...I can't tell.
Where do I end and you begin?
Only because as I call my eyes to the search and my heart to listen,
I can disappear, and capture for seconds...
      Deep calling to deep.
Then you are gone, and it's me again 
Riding the train as it whines and shakes its way down the tracks.

I am realizing,
Each day lies in waiting; sometimes like a gift to be opened,
With color and promise,
and other days... 
like a thing that needs to be pieced together with a tiny set of instructions 
that requires reading glasses for me to see what's next
While the parts lay scattered on the floor.

And I ask you...
        To just make it count...please!....make it all matter.
Let the notes sing your song.  

My wife says, "I love you," from across the room and I repeat
to her the same.  
How glorious, how warm, how at rest is my heart.
To be right where I am.
Right here.
This is the day.
This is the year.
This is the life.
I want no other.
I am yours,
          and You are mine.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Legion

I know that my eyes and ears miss too much.  
Because of that, interaction with the homeless has always been a mire for me.  I strain to hear in conversation and help in situations that overwhelm because I can't see life in its completeness.    
Lately, I have been reminded that the truth I am missing, is understood in total clarity by The Christ.  So, I am trying to live into, and trust in that belief.

(In the short confession below, of my inadequacy, I am "they" and Jesus is the one who is calling.)

Madness...is what they say.
Madness...is all they see.
Standing at the intersection...or
On an island of isolation.
Lament of desperation 
And songs of fear
Signs that shout frustration 
Voices they cannot hear
And they pass on by...pass on by
While you push on.

Your Hallmark prose 
On cardboard shows 
The weight of all the voices
Calling for attention
Intended misdirection
All the voices...
Like Munches scream
Not just a dream
Your every, every waking day

Madness...is what they say.
Madness...is all they see.
Shouting at the intersection...or
On an island of isolation.

But, if you come to the shade of the tree
If you come to the quiet 
Where there's just one voice
You can be free
Me for you, and you for me
Closer than a brother
More than a friend
Just one voice...like a whisper
"Come on home..."
"Oh, won't you...come on home!"

Madness...is what they say.
Madness...is all they see.
In the frame of humanity
They can never loose the chains
Yet those ties won't bind
If you ask...you'll find
Release.
Release.
Now drink... living water
Now eat...the bread of life
Now breathe...
...for the first time
and for all time.

E




















Monday, December 7, 2020

Breaking In

I know that it's hard for us to connect with the idea of God. 

I've been around the church for over thirty years now, and there are still days when the decibel of what I hear and the tragedy of what I see, can nearly overshadow what I've held to as belief for a long, long time.

Yet, Christmas season is one of the times that most folks, will at least consider the work of God as something that could be a reality.

What if alongside all the usual things we associated with Christmas...

the shepherds, 
wise men, 
Mary and Joseph...we took a look at the motivation of the whole event in a different way.

What if it were at least in part, 

God, breaking into our lives.

In other words, he was so driven,

So earnestly desiring a better relationship with us,
So hungry for our touch,
So eager to bring healing,
So willing to be known,
So wanting to be understood,
So wishing to bring hope, 
                                 and peace, 
                                         joy and contentment and...

(add here, anything that your soul needs)

That he decided the very best way to achieve that, was not to wait to be invited,

but...to break in.
And so he peeled back the veil of time and space,
bridged the chasm between our humanity and his divinity, 
                          wrapped himself in flesh, a baby's skin no less, 
and joined us in our journey.

Wouldn't that be something worth thinking about?

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

(Phil. 2:6-8)