70 Years

God, Grief, Old Testament, Suffering

This is a repost from 3/18/2011:

Grief is a normal part of healthy human existence.  Without the ability to grieve we wouldn’t have the ability to love, to feel connected at a deep level to someone, something, or even an idea.  We can and should grieve the loss of a dream, the loss of our home, or the loss of a person that we love to death or relational mayhem.  It is a God designed part of our humanness.

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Here’s to…

God, Journey

B.B. King's Restaraunt & Blues Club, Nashville, TN.

Going to a new city used to frighten me.  I can remember the anxiety I experienced as an eight year old boy riding to stay the night at my grandmother’s house just down the road from my house.   I can remember the fear of new places when we moved 15 miles to a new city when I was about 12.  The gut wrenching uneasiness when I moved 11 hours for college.  Going to a new city used to frighten me; to be honest it still does.  I spent today with my wife & her family shopping in Nashville, TN.  There was no fear, and it wasn’t just because I wasn’t the one driving.  It was an adventure instead of something to dread.  Granted this was a day trip an hour and  a half from where my wife’s family lives, but there was a time in the not so recent past when this wouldn’t have been an enjoyable day for me.

That said, I look forward to moving with my wife from the city where we’ve spent the majority of our adult life.  I know that while we’ll be driving the big ole van to the high plains we won’t really be the ones directing our life.  I know that it isn’t something to dread, but an adventure to be had.  I also know that adventures aren’t all fun; they’re usually full of trials, traps, misdirections and danger.  But they’re also fun because of who you go with, and I’ve got my best friend in the world to go with, and I have a God who is the best director in the universe.

Here’s to adventure.  Here’s to the High Plains.  Here’s to the King.

Happy New Year.

My Neglect.

God, Grace, Love

I’ve been experiencing some head-splitting migraines lately. The most recent episode was a couple of days ago. As  I was lying down on the couch, eyes closed, cold pack pressed to my neck, I began to hate the intolerable noise of the house. I kept wishing that it would just stop. Stop. STOP. But it didn’t.

I soon realized that I am too easily distracted and caught up in the normal noise of my life. It overwhelms me. It confuses me. It frustrates me. And I still choose to participate in the activities I think I “have” to do. Point-blank, I’ve neglected the most important thing in my life too many times. I’ve made it too easy.

God, forgive me for my tendencies to forget and neglect You.

You know, there’s nothing quite like a pounding pain to give you a wake-up call.

A Beautiful Fear

Beauty, God, Psychology

When I think about the “man” exploits of David—the killings of a bear and lion to save what I would consider dispensable, stupid sheep; the slaying of the invincible giant Goliath; and the killing of two hundred Philistines whose foreskins he scalped as a prize for King Saul—I wonder what it would take to strike fear into the heart of such a valiant man. If it had been me the sheep would have been fodder, the giant would be left to blaspheme, and the two hundred Philistines could keep, well, their “stuff”.

David is no stranger to danger and threat, betrayal and exile, courage and escape. When you look at his resume, he was a military genius. His military campaigns were of vast bloodshed and conquest, so much so that God denied him the right to build for Him the house of God. With all his experiences of warfare, he is not one to be trifled with.

There are some fears that seem rather absurd, but according to the list of clinical phobias they are legitimate fears, such as peladophobia: the fear of baldness and bald people; porphyrophobia: fear of the color purple; chaetophobia: fear of hairy people (apparently they adore Filipinos); calyprophobia: fear of obscure meanings, which to me means a fear of politicians. The science of psychology has classified every imaginable fear under the sun and the list continues to grow. The irony about this passage is that David classifies the absolutely fearful and says, “I am not afraid!”

But how can he make such a brazen statement when an entire army is out for his head? David describes his mortal enemies as having violence upon their breath as spears for slandering and they are maddened by savagery and cannibalism. They are in effect really mean and really scary. If some of the clinical phobias I mentioned describe you and you are frightened by bald, purple, hairy politicians, it is most likely because you have lived your life without the sort of fears David faced regularly. The perils of David are nothing psychologist would find difficult classifying as legitimate fears. But, what secular psychologist would have difficult interpreting is this, how in the world can David worship when things were downright desperate?

“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD.”

You can pluck a flower in the middle of a wasteland and, while under the spell of its beauty, almost forget the existence of the ugliness and desolation that surrounds you. Beauty has a power to blur reality and expose imitation; to scramble the intellect and stump the eloquent; to weaken convictions and reform the barbaric. That is the power of beauty. Beauty is ultimately a call to worship because it draws your heart to gratitude in the Creator of all beautiful things.

Of all the things psychologists would grant him the right to fear, David, the man of infinite courage, has but one fear—being apart form the beauty of the Lord. It is his worship that was fearless, not his fight. To have no fear is to have but one fear. And if there’s anything David should fear it is the face of God, the very face that God denied Moses to gaze upon because it would have slain him dead. God is that drop dead gorgeous!

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

God, Intimacy, Love

My friend knew I felt displaced in life—my ambitions and understanding of things suspended by a yoke of uncertainty—and so he asked earnestly, “So now what? What are you planning? What do you desire?”

I bit down on my sandwich and said with a longing, “I just want to be home.”

It was a fine answer for my friend, and it struck him with a nostalgia for his home in Nebraska where friends and family were left behind. It was pleasant to see him dream. They say home is where the heart is, so I almost couldn’t disturb the peace. But I did. And I did so at the risk of being misunderstood as gothic, or worse, suicidal. It is a lonely thing to be misunderstood, which is why I was surprised to have said anything at all.

What I meant was I wanted to be home home, you know, in paradise with my Jesus. You don’t usually hear this kind of talk except from the deathbed, right?

I don’t often ache for heaven, though I do for His presence; lately, the two are one in the same. If I think long and hard enough I am sure to find a reason and rhyme behind this aggression for eternity. Perhaps it is provoked by the fact that most of my closest friends are either in full-time ministry or married (or on the cusp). I kind of assumed by this age God would afford me an intrepid life for the Gospel off doing missionary work in an exotic land to an unreached people group. I would want Him to.

I had to backtrack to explain to my friend that what I meant was something inspired out of Philippians 1:23-24 “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

I cannot completely relate to Paul here since there seems to be an asterisk where the phrase ‘on your account’ is. I am not sure to whom I could or should say that to. Marriage would provide an easy answer in the wife. So would being a pastor in the congregant. I think the absence of an obvious answer allows me to relish in the far better—to depart and be with Christ.

C.S. Lewis once said, “If I find within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.” It is an uneasy aching, however. Paul wrote this verse while in prison with execution looming. I am young. There is so much life ahead of me to dwell on the premature. But there is nothing premature about aching for the presence of God. Nor could I say I truly understand the intent of eternity if I did not know the presence of God enough to ache for Him now. It would simply be a jargon of religious plurality for Paul to say I desire to depart…and then leave it open-ended to the imagination of someplace, such as a Nirvana or purgatory.

Every religion offers an afterlife. An afterplace. So does Christianity. However, the central message of the Gospel is not about a destination more so than it is about reconciliation. While on the cross Christ turns to the thief next to him and affirms him, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” Quite simply, the judgment and reward of eternity is not someplace but Someone.

All matter is corruptible, prone to depreciation and boredom. Pleasures fade. Beauty ages. There is nothing spectacular that isn’t susceptible to becoming common. And, if our highest imagination of heaven is materialistic, then our heaven is bastardized: for the luster of emerald studded gates will dull; streets of gold will turn pedestrian; the host of angelic creatures will be a tired zoo; and the mansion on the hill will rot into a den of pointlessness. In light of eternity, how long can any of these things amuse us for? It is like a child watching a balloon slowly deflate alongside his happiness. If the highest pleasures and amusements in the afterlife cannot by nature last for an eternity, eternity will quickly become something hellish. Heaven left to the invention of man is soon enough damned by man’s discontent for the common. The last thing you would want is to ask for all eternity, so now what?

The depravity of man is most profound and absurd in its belief that God merely exists in paradise but is not the Object of it.

The substance of the Gospel is that it offers an imperishable paradise in Someone not something; because God by nature is incorruptible. The glory, majesty, splendor, wonder, and beauty of God can run circles around eternity. He can never become common. Our worship never exhausted. Eternal life is to pursue You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).

It is the joy of my salvation for my heart to ache for the presence of God—to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. I just want to be Home.