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, 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)

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Looking For Jesus...

He was born, 
          in a setting that was...less any definition of the phrase.
As a child, 
         he wandered into places unexpected 
                    and his frazzled parents had to track him down.
As an adult 
        he said we could find him among...the least of these... 

So, I looked that up....the term, "least of these" and it refers to those lesser rank and excellence: of persons.

And I thought...
- Why are we ranking others...and obviously placing ourselves somewhere within that ranking?  I'm sure that wasn't what he hoped from us, way back in the garden.  Yet he knew we would be doing it anyway, 
and just said, while we are in this habit, we should look for him among
the least.
- Then I thought...this also can be subjective...What if it means that in addition to those who are usually considered to be in this grouping...the poor, disenfranchised or ignored by society.  (Because you know it's  way easier to criticize Society for its lack of caring, than to look at ourselves)
...What if it also relates to my personal rankings of people?  And "the least of these" is related to anyone who has not been helpful, approachable or kind to me.
      ...Then, I have to deal with my own determination of anyone or any place I don't appreciate very much...they now have become "the least of these" in my world...perhaps. 
- So, lastly, I have come to understand, that if I'm truly honest about looking for Jesus...
He will probably be found in places I would rather not go 
                         and among people I would rather not be around.
                                And it will probably frustrate me to find him there.

Unless, I begin to see it all differently.
                           Unless, I learn to see the image of God in everyone...
                                                                           no exceptions.
I know this to be true...
I will never get there on my own.
It's not in me.
Therefore, I will need his help, if my hope is
To keep finding him
                       and to join him in whatever he's doing because...
That's where he was in birth, 
                                         in life, 
                                               And in the end, even in death, 
                                                            there he was again, 
                                                                      between two thieves.

So it only makes sense, 
              that during these days of broken-ness, confusion, disease and pain 
He is at work in ways we can't imagine.  
                      In people and situations we would not be drawn to 
                               With a level of power and completeness that we have never seen before.

It's time to get busy in prayer that he would help me
to see his face,
                                                       among those in the shadow of what has been
                                                                       invisible to my eyes....until now.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Hell Is A Place Where You Don't Need Any Help

There was a day when our youngest grand-daughter came to my wife and expressed her heart in the form of a request.   She was maybe 4 years old at the time... 

The house was busy with conversation but her demeanor quiet.  She pulled her Grandma's ear close to her tiny mouth, and said with a sigh, "I wanna be a policeman...but I'm gonna need a little help."

Help.  Assistance.  A "leg up".  
We often struggle with these words.  
It is the revelation of dependency.  
The need to lean on another, or many others.
In relationship, to a friend. 
Or family.
Or a community.
A village.
A church.

I believe that commitment to standing alone doesn't make us stronger, it just makes us into islands that no one visits, and maybe what I've heard is true... "Hell is a place where you don't need any help."

I wish we could live our lives like there is someone coming down the ramp at the airport whom we haven't seen for too long....And they come bearing joy on their faces...while we stand waiting for them with a bouquet of roses in our arms, because we are gifts to each other.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Unmet Longings

The one working against us, appeals to "the unmet longings" of our selfish heart.

                He does it through distortion..
Hoping that we will be captured by what we believe
                            we do not have and cannot live without.              

        As in, his own son.
            A costly grace.
               The absolute.
And if fully received...he does not draw attention to what is missing,
                        but points to all that we already have...even what we can let go of and still be free.

The one working against, will bring us "knock-offs" every day and in every way.
It will look similar, or sound "close to" the offering of The Son, but with not quite the whole of the thing. 
It will seem like enough... at first.

It will appeal to our hurt, hunger, vulnerabilities and look so much like what the Christ offered, but instead it will draw us away from Him and towards the copy.
In the smallest of ways it will do this first. 
But eventually we will be battling against things we used to agree upon, in our covenant with Him. 
We will engage in things we used to walk away from. 
We will be envious of things we used to be free from. 
And then we will be stuck in a place we never expected to arrive at.
                                                                  And we will feel so alone there.

The Son fills.
He completes.
He makes whole.
He restores.
He is joy, in spite of...
He is contentment.
Wanna see what the Father looks like? Look at his Son.
   Wanna know the way to the Father....follow him.
      Wanna know what truth sounds like...listen to him.
         Wanna know what grace looks him.

I know it sounds too simple...but to quench the hunger of our unmet longings....He is all that we need.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Blue Collar

"He was a refugee from Egypt who became a blue-collar worker from a backwater town..." - Skye Jethani the places in your mind where hope rests, 
where beautiful scars are just now finding strength to speak...

Who is the Christ that you see?

Are his hands dirty, dry and rough, 
like someone who had spent a great amount of time at a carpenter's bench.

Is his hair coiffed and perfect...
Or is it matted and tangled from sleeping in a field,
                                                        Or amidst an orchard of fig trees.

Is the tunic he wears bright and shiny white...
                     or is it stained, with sweat, tears...or just the sediment of the day.

Are his sandals weathered... 
Does his face show the pain of contemplation, empathy and compassion... 
Do his eyes see into yours... 
                with a gaze that somehow brings peace AND challenge...         
While a forgiveness that you feel deep in your gut; 
rises to your heart...
              And your eyes well; your mouth curves into a smile,
                           finally unsullied by regret that hung on you like 
cobwebs until...HE SPOKE FREEDOM INTO YOU.

I don't care who it is that you see when you hear the name, 
except that... 
         He would be someone you don't just revere, or hold in awe.  
                    (Though He is deserving of that also)
                 But my prayer, 
                   my hope... 
Is that He would be someone you can see yourself run to...
                             with abandon...
                                 without fear, or hesitation
                                    or need to prepare yourself, fix your make-up, 
                                      adjust your attire.

Because He couldn't care less about the shell of who you are


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Her Eyes

     Those eyes.  
They hold the emotion and memory of all the years between us.
Like precious things, shining, catching light and shielding it all in the pool of our yesterdays.

They remember walks through a park in Spokane, Sofia, Nairobi, Varna...
         ...City squares in Poznan, Krakow, Georgetown, Tirana, Ljubljana, Rome...
                   Gazing out across the waters of the Indian Ocean, Pacific, Atlantic,
                       Black Sea, Baltic, Aegean, Deception Pass, Lake Lowell, Naivasha and Bled.

Through broken hearts and bandaged knees.
      Arms too weak to fight and words too hard to un-hear...
They see our babies,
          our daughters
              our "little women" released unto this time.
Still hoping,
     still weeping,
       still laughing,
         still believing in The Weaver, and the strength of his thread.
They remember it much more than I do.
       Those eyes.

They don't surrender.
             They don't run.
                  They don't flinch.
                          They hold.
They have held me for decades now...                                    
And I am happy to be captured in their certainty.

New mornings
          on the heels of many long days.
Coffee and avacado toast.
              A few moments of quiet.
All of these histories mirrored there,
like the pages in her books of healing,
                        hope and courage..."She did it anyhow."

So, an "I love you" from the kitchen,
                        a kiss at the door.
                        I stop, look...they hold me once more
And I know that neither of us will ever grow old,
              In your eyes.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Second Son

Don't know how I got here
Was it the weight or my will
A wrinkle or a stain
Something more, something darker
Something deeper that needs exposure
That needs light
Or even new sight
Oh...find me

Hating the view
Hiding from the hope
That once brought my freedom
It's not blessed here, it's not even sweet
This ride; not anymore
Show me a signpost
Or send me The Ghost
Oh...find me

Find me.....lost in the corner
Of my own design
Find me......lost in the tension
Of where I am and where I wanna be
Find me.....lost in the wrestle
Between flesh and soul
Won't you find me here
Oh...find me
Please...... find me

There you are
Behind me
As I close the door
Still knocking, still speaking
An echo; a song in my ears
That familiar voice
Refrain of choice
Oh...find me

Release me from myself
This prison, this hole
This cursed hamartia
Stone of the grave
Can't keep me here
These pains that preach
That I'm beyond your reach
Oh...find me

Find me.....lost in the corner
Of my own design
Find me ....lost in the tension
Of where I am and where I wanna be
Find me.....lost in the wrestle
Between flesh and soul
Won't you find me here
Oh...find me
Please.... find me

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Three Steps Behind

It feels like he was always three steps ahead
or maybe that I was three steps behind.
I know that sounds like it's saying the same thing twice.
But there's a difference.

One thought is more about him knowing where he was going, and the other,
has to do with my sense of lagging, or dawdling, or distraction.

I can see him on the trail to the barn, between the corral and the chicken coup.
His face away from mine, shoulders bent slightly forward, surveying the world before him;
silent most of the time.
Or on the way out into the field...
Carrying a bucket of grain...or
With a rope over his shoulder...or
A saddle and blanket slung over his back...or
Pushing a wheelbarrow with a fence-stretcher,
        a sledge-hammer, a post-hole digger,
               a roll of barbed-wire, or bale of alfalfa in it.

Usually, I was carrying something too, and periodically I would adjust my pace to try and catch up.
But his strides for so many years were just enough longer,
that I would drift back to that familiar place
 ...three steps behind.

Then we arrived, at wherever he had meant for us to go,
and he would lay out the plan for whatever we needed to do while we were there.
Quietly he would explain the roles that each of us would need to fill
to finish the task that was before us.
Sometimes I would grimace because I knew that it was going to take hours to lay out, repair, or build
what he had in mind, and I was certain there were
                                more important things to do with my time.

I would offer much,
for an hour,
or as long as I'm in the place of wishing,
a whole day,
to just follow and listen and learn....
                            and laugh with you...Dad.
I know that I could pay more attention today.
Distractions would not win.
My heart and mind longs to borrow your ability to plan;
to see past the moment towards the end.
...and these moments today are so full of challenge, headache and heartache.

But you are long beyond those three steps ahead of me now.
Even so, every once in a great while, I think that I catch your vision somewhere,
pausing as you walk,
turning your shoulder to face me.
        I see your smile, beckoning me forward.
                            ...And I'm reminded that one day,
I'll catch your stride again,
              the space between us will disappear
And we'll have all the time we need
                                          ...all the time I want.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Until The Weeping Is Done

A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more...(Jeremiah 31:15)
And I will kneel with you and weep.
My sisters
And my brothers
Until you say to me
Until you say to me
Until you say to me
"The time for weeping is done."
And when we rise from that place...
There is an old crop
that must be uprooted and cast away.
It was bitter fruit, that for many years,
You have endured and I have not.
And when we rise from that place...
There is a new crop
that must be planted that we can all eat from;
rejoice in its taste.
Be satisfied in it.
Be nourished in it.
Until not only our stomachs, but our hearts are full.
And when we rise from that place...
Let us stay in step;
arms together,
purposes clear,
even as we walk away from that weeping.
Not as those who are united by pledge, or contract,
But as family.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

I'm Not Playin'

I wish you would have told me...

- That it was cold outside I could have worn a coat and gloves
- That it was raining I could have worn a hat or grabbed an umbrella
- That there was a lot of chili sauce in the I wouldn't have taken such a big spoonful
- That everyone in the room had the I would have kept a distance
- That the water was low in the I would have filled it
- That the invitation said "formal wear" I didn't look like an idiot in my shorts
- That there was tax on top of the list I wouldn't have had to leave the store without buying what I wanted

Jesus said...
"In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
(John 14:2)

It's like he's saying, "I'm not playin'! This is truth.  You can count on it.  I don't make promises that I don't follow through with, or keep secrets from you in order to surprise you later."

His character is completely authentic.
He is worthy of trust.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Way Back

Years ago, our oldest daughter was a runner. She was in first grade. She ran everywhere. 
After school she was in a pretty loosely developed track program. The kids circled the school grounds on the sidewalk after the final bell while the teacher put marks on their hand every time they passed her on the playground. They did it every day for about an hour. One day when we picked her up, the teacher told us that our daughter circled the school more times than the other children.
"Okay," we said.
"A lot more times," said the teacher.
"Okay," we said.
Then there was a race scheduled with other area grade schools. 
We met in a city park for a one mile run.
Our daughter had been walking around the park with us and a friend of hers from her class. They were aflutter about everything happening around them.
They were holding hands and talking excitedly.
A bit later, the two of them were standing at a starting line with a mob of two or three dozen other kids. 
They looked at each other with smiles and then the gun sounded.
Our daughter bolted out in front of the the group and after about 75 yards was in front of the pack by a significant distance. 
Then she stopped. 
Turned around and searched through the others until she found her little friend, raced back against the onrushing tide of runners, grabbed her friend by the hand and then the two ran on together, somewhere in the middle-rear of the pack, but together.
It was incongruent when measured against the concept of "a race".
We knew that and were confused, but at the same time, there was something very right about her
In another context of course, we were really proud of her choice.
We have to remember that the pathway to healing in racial and cultural divides involves words like
reconciliation and restoration; it is a return path. 
All the way back to the beginning, there was a force at work to divide and separate us.
From God.
From each other.
From family.
Selfishness, pride and fear will separate; always.
That theme of broken-ness cuts across all of the history of humanity.
There was a complete Shalom and then there was not. All we have known since the garden in respect to race, culture and family is lesser representations of it. A hint of how it ought to be at times, but only a hint.
We know there to be a way back, but mostly we are bent by our own will to continue forward instead
of turning around. 
As though we will find some kind of new formula, fresh understanding or enlightened thought on the horizon; but it's not there.
The answer is in going back, not forward.
Even the word repentance is a return word. 
Making space in my mind for a coming home experience. 
At the Eastern Gate.
At the foot of the cross.
We were meant to be one. 
All of us. 
One blood. 
One creation. 
One humanity. 
The answer is in the return. 
I believe that if we would just find our brother and sister and join hands, exercise forgiveness and grace, ignore the race going on around us, we will discover it.
The path is overgrown and thorny, but it's there. 
He's calling us towards it.