Jesus

Like a Nice Chili

2 weeks ago, on the Saturday retreat, Patricia quoted de Chardin, “Don’t try to force them on as though you could be today what time (that is to say grace & circumstances acting on your own free will) will make of you tomorrow.”

There’s so much here, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

Pulp Fiction, one of my very favorite films, was revolutionary for so many reasons, but the most striking is it’s use of chronology. The first scene is somewhere in the middle of the narrative, the last is later, but also in the middle, the beginning and the end liberally cut-and-pasted elsewhere. That’s what we’ll do here now, hopefully not to such a jarring effect.

“…will make of you tomorrow” implies movement. We (and everything) are becoming something else, growing, maturing. Right about now, as my boy is 2 weeks into his senior year of high school, it’s easy to want nothing more than things to stay exactly the same, as if he would be here forever. We sometimes don’t want to change, it’s uncomfortable and full of scary next steps into unknown realms. Even if now isn’t the greatest, it is familiar, right? We know what to expect, even if those expectations are squashing our spirits.

The other reasons we might not be moving forward are simple: apathy and distraction. Either each day is so full of relentless routine, requiring nothing of us, we’re set to autopilot, bored, listless, uninspired. Or we are distracted by our devices and/or numbing escapes, focused on entertainment, seeking nothing more than pleasure or, at least, a reprieve from the pain.

These few gigantic enemies of growth are illusions. Nothing can ever stay the same. There’s a saying in the business world – “if you’re not growing, you’re dying.” It isn’t only the business world.

“Don’t try to force…” What is more common to the human experience than our predilection for control? We want to be there, now. We want to bypass the 10,000 hours, jumping right to mastery. When I officiate weddings, I read 1 Corinthians and every time I say “Love is patient,” I look at the couple for any small sense of honest recognition. We really hate patience, we write nasty reviews if we sit in the waiting room for 5 minutes. Don’t try to force? I didn’t want to start with those words because they include a built in anxiety that can be overwhelming.

How do we reach that promise of tomorrow, then?

“Grace & circumstances acting on our own free will.” It’s a triangle with the pressures, trials and celebrations of the world around us and our desire to step into who we will be as the 2 shorter sides. The longest, most significant side being the grace of God (grace means gift, or gifts, blessings, the unreasonable undeserved unending love of God). All of these work together as a sort of forge to create a new me & you, like a nice chili. Great chili doesn’t happen in the microwave, right? That triangle is called “time” by de Chardin.

So. Now. Who are we today? Who will we be tomorrow? What kind of future is possible if we partner with God?

We’re talking about this today because Sunday I referenced another thing Patricia said, “You will find meaning where you give meaning.” And I think this principle works to replace “meaning” with anything: significance, grace, care, trust, kindness, honesty, peace.

Where are we giving our attention, or our own free will? I want it to be these beautiful lives, families, communities of ours. I want to know what kind of future (my own as well as the future of all things) is possible if we’re intentional, careful, patient and extraordinarily loving. I believe if we give these things, we’ll find these things, and with God’s extravagant grace and love, the tomorrow we make will be a million times better than we ever could have imagined.

Sausage

There’s a saying I love about “seeing how the sausage is made.” We usually only consume the final product, without a thought as to how it gets to that point. We eat and love sausage, but most of us have no idea how that delicious meat gets to the shelves of our supermarket (and in the case of sausage, maybe that’s a good thing.) Hot dogs, McDonald’s ‘chicken’ McNuggets, any number of foods fall into this category, but this expression fits many more areas. You have a beautiful garden that we all admire and appreciate, but have no idea how many hours went into the planting and care to achieve such beauty. Slash is the guitarist for Guns N’ Roses and his solos are transcendent. His playing looks glamorous and natural, but we don’t see the 10,000+ hours of practice in his bedroom alone that makes it possible.

I’m not Slash, not particularly glamorous, and this isn’t a beautiful garden, but I wanted to give you a small peek behind the metaphorical curtain for the upcoming series at the Bridge.

I decided months ago that we would study the epistle to the Ephesians after the Sermon on the Mount concludes (which will be this week). I asked for suggestions, because if there was an interest, maybe we could adapt. I also mentioned we would jump into Ephesians or 1 Corinthians (and I don’t know why that came out of my mouth that morning 2 weeks ago, it was totally unplanned and I thought, “that’s interesting. I wonder what that’s about.”)

So I finished reading Job (the book I had been reading) and turned to Ephesians. Why I never got there, again, I can’t say. But I flipped to 1 Corinthians and went no further.

My Bible has introductions to each book, and in this particular one, it read: “The Christians in Corinth were struggling with their environment. Surrounded by corruption and every conceivable sin, they felt pressure to adapt…They were free in Christ, but what did this freedom mean?”

Then, in some specific notes on chapter 1: “[Corinth was] fiercely independent and as decadent as any city,” and “arguments and divisions arose [within the church.]”

Yet, the people were “called…made holy…given every spiritual gift.”

And now I know why.

Looking at the notes in my Bible and the ones I took, I can’t tell where they’re describing, Corinth or America. There, then, or here, now? They were called and given every spiritual gift, yet also fiercely independent, decadent, with all sorts of questions about what being “called” means and why it matters.

I wanted to talk about being God’s “masterpiece” and the armor of God. Ephesians has some of the most gorgeous language and profound Gospel teaching, it’s no wonder I would want to spend some time there (and maybe we will afterwards.) But we’re not talking about the Ephesians. We’re going to dive into the letter to the Corinthian (American) church and splash around in this deep water that, I’m now convinced, will be absolutely vital to our lives.

Israel

The youth retreat was last Tuesday. This day, the youth was a group of high school aged boys (Only boys. Not because boys are the only ones welcome, but because that’s just how it was. There is one lovely young woman, but she happened to be on vacation, so we had all boys. I am not complaining or lamenting this fact.) This group spent 12 hours together with 2 adult facilitators swimming in a lake, reading the book of Mark, and eating. Towards the end of the evening, I had the opportunity to ask if there was anything they wanted to talk about, fully expecting silence or, if anything at all, I figured something about girls.

For some reason, the evangelical political-spiritual movement in this country has decided the 2 most important issues facing the Church are not grace, love, compassion, poverty, kindness, non-violence, addiction, or anything else. Abortion and Homosexuality are the big 2, and judging by the overwhelming amount of time & energy given to those 2, there isn’t a 3rd. I tell you this because one of these thoughtful, courageous boys chose to take my invitation to ask about homosexuality, which became a wildly fascinating hour long discussion.

These young men were engaging with the Scriptures – much more than just these two current hot buttons. What is the role of the Bible in our lives and in the lives of the country and culture? What did the Bible say about a subject, specifically? Do we actually care? Does context/translation matter? Is there a seeming conflict elsewhere, and if so, which weighs more? And we can’t forget the most important question: Now what?

In the book of Genesis, Jacob (whose name means, “he grasps the heel,” which doesn’t mean much to us now, but it also means “he deceives,” which does. Jacob’s story in Genesis illustrates this second meaning.) finds himself in the wilderness, all alone, with a “man.” Jacob asks this ‘man’ for a blessing, which gives us the clear hint that this is not an ordinary man. They wrestle all night and in the morning (after an unbelievably significant question about his name), the ‘man’ finally blesses Jacob, but not before he injures his hip. Jacob’s name is changed here, and becomes “Israel,” which means “one who wrestles/struggles with God.”

We can struggle with God, too. Right? And sometimes that struggle leaves us with a permanent limp. The Jewish people saw this struggle as absolutely vital to a life of faith. We don’t as much, we mostly want assent, agreement, conformity. I easily find doubt, questioning, and wrestling all over the Bible. It’s much more difficult to find assent and certainty.

Athol Dickson says: “What if God placed the paradoxes within the Scriptures to cause me to struggle for the truth? What if it is the struggle He desires as much as the truth itself?”

Haven’t you ever thought that Jesus could have pretty easily cleared up a lot of our questions? Maybe instead of answering with more questions (inviting the one who asks into a conversation, a struggle), he could’ve just given us the straight answer, in plain words, with bullet points. And why does the Bible sometimes contradict itself? Couldn’t it have been far more instruction manual and far less poetry? More fact and less story?

I could have said, “this is the answer,” if I felt like being that guy, and shut that discussion down immediately. As they wandered around in the dark, throwing guesses and opinions against the wall, I could have said, “no,” or “that’s wrong,” if I happened to disagree, (or even “yes,” or “that’s right”) and they would have learned that this was no safe place, no place where their authentic searching engagement was valued, only their quiet acquiescence, their right-ness.

That’s what’s so inspiring and encouraging about this youth group conversation. They aren’t content to just take what they’ve been offered, they want to turn it over, around and upside down. They aren’t cool with being “the one who grasps the heel,” they’re willing to fight for the truth, and in the process, become “Israel.” And that fills me with more hope for our homes, communities and world than I can even begin to tell you.

Street Sweeping

2 weeks ago, my boys played in a basketball tournament called Sweep The Streets. This particular tournament was held on 6th street of the city next door to our tiny suburb.

We arrived early and didn’t have to look for signs or follow directions, the music blaring from loud speakers and the smell of hamburgers and sweat were plenty to guide us in. The 2 outside courts were packed with players from 7 local-ish high schools, lined with the lawn chairs of parents and coaches.

It was boiling hot in the sun, and there was very little shade. I set up my chair under the scorers table tent in silence, hoping to go unnoticed. The scorer at the table just happened to be the creator of the event and nothing would go unnoticed by him. But instead of chasing me out, leaving me burned crispy outside, he engaged me as if we were old friends. Together there for the day, we did become old friends. We both rooted for our surprisingly overachieving “scrappy” team, heartbroken as we lost 2 close contests; 1 in double overtime, 1 in the last seconds, both we were figured to be food for, whipped early, providing lots of playing time for the second- and third-strings.

It was an extraordinary day of basketball for a very young team who is forging a new identity as a tough, passionate brotherhood that will neither quit nor go quietly, if at all.

But it was the event that was truly striking to me, inspiring me by it’s existence. Of course, I had heard of street ball and famous city courts where legends play, but I also read the news and pass police officers at every school entrance in the smallest towns. We live in a world of locked doors and hopeless division, a basketball tournament for a crowd of boys could not have seemed a safe bet. I wonder how much resistance he faced, how many times he heard sentences beginning with “you can’t…” He must’ve heard legions of reasons why not, and how many measures he would have to take to keep everyone safe or, from the most pessimistic, alive.

And probably the naysayers would have been right. The sheer number of violent acts in Anytown, USA show us how little of a guarantee we actually have for security. So, get all of this testosterone together, competing on hot asphalt for a whole day, there was bound to be problems.

Not to mention, I had just emerged from a baseball season where the behavior was abysmal. Each night of games was an embarrassment full of coaches and players acting like escaped animals with no concept of perspective, class or sportsmanship. My expectations were low.

Everyone who came inside the fences shook my new friend’s hand, every one seemingly a cherished old friend. The affinity and respect for him was obvious. The games were well played, hard fought, and free of the cocky fearful inadequacy that colors so much of youth sports, the cheeseburgers were excellent, bathrooms clean, sunshine brilliant, and the company was much much better.

As I was reflecting on just how beautiful this entire situation, and the man who organized and made it run so smoothly, was, it occurred to me why I found it so new & inspiring and yet oddly familiar. We can think God exists only in our ornate buildings with fancy offering plates and smoke machines, from 10-12 on Sunday mornings, where we are reciting Bible verses and singing hymns. We can think church takes place in pews, under stained glass. But again and again, we are proved wrong. God is not, and will not be, confined to walls and ceilings. The Church, The Bride of Christ, isn’t a place at all, it is simply the people, you and me, our neighbors, the workers at the grocery store, the runners on the street, teachers in the schools, anywhere and everywhere. And the local church is on street corners just as well as it is in little white buildings with orange signs and cracked parking lots.

The boys were exercising the gifts they’ve been given, (all different, working like parts of a body), together, as it was meant to be in the Garden in Genesis 1 & 2. That’s why it felt so good, like home (like Home). It’s what we were created for, this community, all functioning in God’s grace, under God’s binding sun, in glorious shalom. We all knew it, we didn’t want it to ever end, even if maybe we didn’t know why. This was the Kingdom breaking through, speaking fresh words, testifying to the new creation right in the middle of this one. And all that’s left is for us to notice and humbly offer up our praise and gratitude.

Not Better…

“I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.” Rom. 12:3 MSG

This is from the Eugene Peterson’s Message translation, and before we go one step further, let’s just take a quick second to think about what a gigantic undertaking it would be to write your own translation of the Bible!!! He’s writing his own translation of the Bible, and for me, some days the sink is so full of dishes, it’s hard to know where to start.

Anyway. Romans 12 begins with offering ourselves, our bodies, as a living sacrifice, not conforming to the world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds, then moving into “understanding ourselves.” 

I have been sitting for the last few months thinking on the universal struggle between pleasing people and pleasing God, or just how big the audience is: either One or a million. The crazy thing with this ‘pleasing’ confusion is that it always circles back to that old familiar space, where I am “not good enough.” If the thing I want most is to please my neighbor and my boys and the Angel and you and the guy next to me at the gym and the driver in the car next to me and on and on, at some point, I won’t and then I’m forced to face the shocking fact that I am not, in fact, perfect at all. And if I’m not perfect, if I let them (anyone) down, if I am not good enough, then what am I? What is my value? What am I worth?

That’s when the rotten tapes begin to roll, deafening in my head, like they have a billion times before, with the answers. “You are worthless. You are nothing, pathetic. You will never be enough. (Repeat with different words, examples, tones, different levels of urgency.)” These answers very nearly irreparably broke middle school me. I still hear them from time to time, the difference is that I now see them as the lies they are. But if they aren’t true, then what is?

The NIV states verse 3 as: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” It was that “but rather think of yourself as…” that hooked me and kept me from thinking of anything else.

How am I to think of myself? That is exactly the question. The verse begins, “not too highly,” and that’s not a problem usually. Maybe some of us fight that battle, but mostly, I think we remain mired in the sludge of contempt. (I do recognize that this is another facet of idolatry – to think that we are the exception to God’s love/redemption/acceptance is awfully arrogant. Different sides of the same ugly coin.) But to be honest, I don’t understand the rest of the verse. I immediately thought it meant that maybe we should think of ourselves the way God does – but is that actually what this verse says?

That’s how I found myself in the Message, and as it turns out, I was sort of right. Generally, I think that is exactly how we should see that beautiful child of God in the mirror.

But this verse says, “by what God is and what He does for us.” As if we are covered with His skin, and it is no longer possible to see ourselves without the lens of Jesus Christ. And if we follow this line of thinking, we arrive at a surprising destination where all of the questions we’ve been asking have done nothing but prove how misguided we’ve been. 

Is our goal to please God or to please our co-workers?

Either way, we then “misinterpret ourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God,” seeing ourselves as “what we are and what we do for Him.” 

The passage continues with a cool body analogy, where we bring our gifts to the table for Our God and each other – and why? Because we have been set free from all of our have-to’s, all of our questions, where all that’s left is Him and His infinite grace. We are His and they are His gifts with which to bless us all.

Asking questions about worth and value, wasting time on perfection, seems to just keep us trapped in the old skins that simply don’t fit anymore. We are not better, we’re brand new.

Bull Elephants & Catfish

It is well documented how much I love the tv show Catfish. If you’re unfamiliar, a Catfish is (according to dictionary.com) “a person who assumes a false identity or personality on the internet, especially on social media websites, as to deceive, manipulate, or swindle.” The show details the search to discover the truth about their online relationships, bring these couples together, shine light onto & expose lies. The last few episodes I’ve seen happen to have everything to do with Sunday’s Bull Elephant Day.

First, we all know the first sin is passivity, right? The woman is tempted, eventually eats the fruit, then “She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Gen 3:6)” Who was with her?!!!!???!! He stood idly by while this beautiful creation was broken. Maybe the biggest generational curse each of us has to break is this one, passed down from the very first generation.

In this episode of Catfish, a woman is currently begging her virtual boyfriend to meet in person, after years online. When the hosts ask her what the first thing she intends to say to him, she answers, “I’ll thank him for meeting me.” The boy refuses, but they find him and when they ambush him, he reasons that he was scared to meet, it was easier to hide. Mostly, the poor baby was nervous and scared. This ends with her moving across the country to be with him.

Terah, Abram’s father, stops and “settles” in Haran on the way to the Promised Land.

This might all come from the same root – the idea that “fine” is good enough. It might be. Rather than speak out, rather than risk any conflict or an argument, rather than stand on a principle, it’s easier to stay quiet. Rather than risk a moment without a boyfriend, it’s more comfortable to accept table scraps. Rather than travel the long distance to the unknown in the heat, Haran is fine.

The girl in the show has forgotten the last several years of avoidance and hiding, ignoring the last several years of the catfish protecting his own self-interest. She is snuggling under his arm. She is “hoping he calls her more.” She is moving to California, hoping “he picks her up from the airport.” He is fine. Crumbs and banana peels are better than…well, what? What are they better than?

I think often times we forget we are made in the image of the God of the Everything, made to live in the Promised Land.

And instead, we believe the lie that Haran is the destination and not “settling.” We forget we are made to be bull elephants instead of shrinking to cause the least disruption to the status quo.

What if we are made to disrupt the status quo?

Maybe standing idly by isn’t the greatest call on our lives. Maybe the Promised Land isn’t fine. Maybe eating trash outside the feast, leaving our seats at the table empty, isn’t the design.

It’s Bull Elephant Day Sunday, there’s a new episode of Catfish on in a minute, God calls Abram to continue on to Canaan. Today is a new day to disrupt the status quo that isn’t helping anyone and write brand new stories. (And I’ll finish this post exactly the way I finished last week’s) And that will take courage and strength. And that will take reminders why and practices of focus. And that will take Jesus.

3 Weeks

I think it’s been 3 weeks since we’ve connected here. 3 weeks!??! I wonder how many of us are having the same experience; our schedules are overflowing, and some very good, very important things are forced to wait. As we know too well, saying yes to something means saying no to many others. Having said that, I’m happy to say yes to this space today.

In Joshua 1:5, God says, “I will not fail you or abandon you.”

Then, in verses 6, 7, and 9, God says, respectively, “Be strong and courageous,” “Be staring and very courageous,” and “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”

Verse 9 ends with “For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

And one more, in the middle, verse 8, “Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night.”

Now, why am I simply listing Bible verses from the book of Joshua about violently conquering the Promised Land? Clouds have to be seen & observed before they can be tied together in 2022.

Joshua is told to be “strong and courageous” 3 times, bookended by promises that God would be with him, that Joshua would not be alone. Where does our strength begin and end? Where do we root our strength and courage? Where, in Whom, is our faith? These passages tell us that before we can stand, we know why and for Whom we are standing. We don’t stand in our own power, we find this strength and courage in Him.

It’s interesting, each time we are commanded to do anything, those commands begin & end with a promise from God. He acts first, decisively, mercifully. We can stand in strength and courage because we are not alone, because He is with us, because He will not abandon us.

We see this in the 10 commandments (before any command, He reminds us that He rescued us first) and the Beatitudes (before any command, Jesus announces that the “poor in spirit” are “blessed”), among many, many other examples.

It’s cool, right?

And in the middle of all of this, there is a reminder to study/meditate on Scripture. When things (storms, attacks, monsters) require strength and courage, we are easily distracted by the size of our fear, or the overwhelming nature of our enemy, or the desperate perception of impossibility. This seems like an invitation to focus (on the beginning & end, on the why or the because.)

Begin with God’s faithfulness. End with God’s faithfulness. Persevere in/with God’s guidance. And throughout, do the things. Show up. Stand. Speak. Risk. Take shots. Shine. Be strong and courageous.

So much of the Law is about here, now, today (even though we might not see it in the middle of ancient practices and outdated cultural norms). The Law is evidence that what we do matters. And not only does it matter, it affects our hearts. The spirit & physical body are inextricably tied. The Old Testament commands address our actions because we can often behave into new ways of living. This is why taking care of our bodies is so important. Taking care of our bodies is taking care of our spirits & souls.

That’s why rest, what we eat, and how we build altars or offer sacrifices are so important to God. It’s why we take days (or 3 weeks;) off or take slow morning walks or long family dinners. It’s why we do our jobs with integrity and character. It’s why we volunteer and coach youth sports. It’s why we call, why we hold, why we step, why we go, why we send heart emojis or tell each other we love them. Did you ever wonder why there are so many pages of maddeningly detailed instructions in the Bible? What we do matters. Everything matters.

We’re not earning anything anymore or bolstering our spiritual resumes in order to buy God’s acceptance or love. We already have all of that, we always have. But we do the things because through them, we walk out our faith, we respond to the boundless love that has been poured onto/into us, and we live out this radical design for life. We show our hope.

And that will take courage and strength.

And that will take reminders why and practices of focus.

And that will take Jesus.

Yield

Last Sunday at the Bridge around 9:30ish, after everything was ready, Gisy & Muriah were rehearsing, Mark was listening to his wife sing with hearts in his eyes, Donovan was dramatically overreacting to minor allergies, and no one else was there yet, I wrote this in my notebook:

“I wonder if the reason I have so little tolerance for pretense, acting, & hypocrisy is because the Truth is so much better? The Truth of who we actually are and that we are exactly where/who we are, that we are deeply, irrationally loved there, in that sometimes messy, sometimes ugly, sometimes painful, space. The Truth that we’ve been rescued.

See, the “show” is based in the belief that who we authentically are is somehow not enough, not accepted, not loved…that we are, first and foremost, NOT.

But instead, we ARE.

We don’t have to pretend any longer, we simply have to be us. We simply have to yield to His work, His grace, His love. Yield to Him, and that is all that is necessary, that is enough.

A need to create an image is a fundamental misunderstanding of who He is and what this story is (and how great that story really is.)

So when I see us hiding, masquerading, image-making, I actually see our empty parts, our missing parts, our misplaced belief in foundational NOT-ness

And Jesus has a different story, a different word.”

Then some people began to arrive and the thread was broken mid-sentence (here’s the sentence: The cross represents the old world and how far the empty ___ – I don’t know where I was going, I imagine the next word was ‘tomb,’ but I’m no longer sure.) I wanted to share it with you because we all so often struggle with our identity and our identity in Christ and how the 2 of them might not be the same. That disconnect causes us to contort ourselves into many unnatural positions, trying to be something we think we should be, or something we think they want us to be, or something whatever. Something else.

But it’s Easter, and what the cross represents is just how far Jesus would go to show & tell us who we are, show & tell us what we’re worth, most importantly show & tell us WHO HE IS and that all this pretending/hiding or how many shows we put on doesn’t change that at all. Maybe I wrote it then and maybe I’m writing it now is not because we didn’t know, but just because we need to hear it again.

The Nineties

I just finished a book called The Nineties, written by one of my favorite authors Chuck Klosterman. He mostly feels like a smarter, sharper, funnier version of me, which is a great compliment to me, but maybe not as much to him. The book is about, well, The Nineties, a decade that has been so important in shaping much of who I am, the extent of which I am still discovering. It’s a perfect, and horrible, time to read this, as I am sometimes given to nostalgia. You know the type, the “things were better when I was young” – type of thing. Even if they weren’t. Even if they weren’t even close. So, maybe they weren’t better, but simpler for sure. And with much better music.

Personally, no day has been better than today. I’d trade all the great music of the ‘90’s (including Nirvana) for 5 minutes with the Angel and the 2 boys that live in this house (one of whom is now 15 years old!!!!!).

But the last 2 years have certainly been heavy, and it is absolutely understandable to want for a simpler time, one where we weren’t quite so divided and full of rage about that division.

Klosterman points to the 2000 election debacle and 9/11 as the 2 moments that birthed our current situation, where we started to break into pieces and everything became an increasingly either/or situation. You either agree with me OR you are a heartless, ignorant monster. There are no shades of gray, no in between.

We could talk about that – and I am happy to do so, commentary on culture is one of my favorite things to discuss – but what I’m thinking and why I’m writing about it here (and not on my other space) is because this makes me think about church.

Maybe the things that tied us together ever were pretty fragile. Maybe great music and tv shows and area codes and cubicles were always too superficial to last, like ropes tied to cracked branches.

When the 1990’s began, I believed there was nothing more important than what you liked.

A funny story: When I first went to the Angel’s apartment to pick her up for our first date, I not-so-discretely perused her cd collection. It was totally acceptable, a solid B, the only problem is that it WASN’T HERS!!! I’d find out later that it was her roommate’s! Angel’s were in a small plastic case in a chest at the foot of her bed and the small collection was…just awful.

So, when that happened, in 1998, the flaws in my theory became seriously evident and could no longer be ignored. There had to be something more to bind us, all of us, together.

Also in 1998, I began to fall in love with Something More, and as Jesus became more and more real to me, other things got less and less important. As He got bigger, my theory got much smaller. As He grew, politics shrank.

I miss the ‘90’s. I miss when small disagreements weren’t dealbreakers. I miss when we could coexist. Of course, maybe the ‘90’s weren’t this idealized pastel colored picture in my head, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? I miss this memory (even if it is slightly distorted), because it can feel so disjointed and broken now.

The other part of this is that this weekend is Easter. What I remember about the ‘90’s is true in Him, in His Church. We can be different, individually wonderfully made, think different things, vote for different people, listen to different music, like different flavors of ice cream, but if He, if His life, death, resurrection is the tie that’s holding us together, then those differences are just colors and textures that are beautiful decorations on the truth of an empty tomb.

To-Do

Every Sunday afternoon I write all of my responsibilities, meetings and appointments in a journal with the word peace on the cover. That’s my idea of a hilarious joke because to-do lists are good for a lot of things, but peace isn’t usually one of them. Anyway, this week is a full page. A full page is unusual, and leaves me very little of the unscheduled time that is so precious, leaving little time for rest of work (unless you happen to see ALL of life as work: mission;)

There are seasons in our lives, right? And speaking of precious, Samuel’s high school baseball season opens this week with his first game, and these are the times we will all remember forever. So the full page of items to-do is jammed with these sorts of wonderful things, but as I look at this week, my breath begins to shorten and my muscles tense. You understand feeling overwhelmed. Like you are a coffee mug and life is trying to pour a gallon jug into you.

Yesterday (yesterday!!!) the message in church was about worry or judgment or, what it really is, control. It’s amazing how the teachings on Sunday mornings are often given for me as well as given by me. 1 day later, the pouring starts.

I am more and more convinced that this is no coincidence, that it is totally intentional and the enemy’s primary tactic. Worry, control, anxiety, fear, a looong to-do list. Lots of ripples, like a stone into a serene summer lake, but the cause of all of them is our absence in this moment. We get lost in yesterday or tomorrow, sacrifice today, and wake up lamenting, “Surely God was in this place and I, I was unaware,” and the now God was in is gone and tomorrow is spent thinking about the today we’re ignoring/missing (depending on how much responsibility we’re willing to shoulder.)

I can see the real danger here. If I am suffocated under the perceived avalanche of ink on the page, I focus on crossing the items off, and in the process, I check out and float far from the beautiful life that is unfolding here and now. You become an item instead of a treasured friend, the game becomes an obligation rather than the joy it is. If I spend the day looking for something better, I disrespect and devalue the something better that is in front of me right now.

That is the actual cost, what Jesus (and most of the people that knew Him) would call death. This day is a priceless gift: here and now, fully present, engaged, connected. I still have these things to do, but it’s the preceding word that makes all the difference. Do I have to do, or do I get to do? It might feel like a subtle difference, but what it really is is the infinite chasm between life and death.

Now if you will please excuse me, I get to go pick my boy up from practice in 10 minutes.