Through the Glass Darkly

window-dark

This morning I woke early. I’ve had nightmares all this week. None have been the kind you laugh off later in the day. Each has been the kind of nightmare only a parent who has watched their child hooked up to machines can understand. You wake up and know there is no more sleep to be had.

An early run, I thought. But rain was falling in sheets. And there was more thunder than I thought was tolerable. So I waited till the rain slowed. I figured if I couldn’t run between the raindrops, I could run between the storms.

Yesterday I read that a young mom from our church is now in hospice care. She will go on ahead of her young husband and young daughters. Into what we only see through a glass so darkly.

The nightmares and that reality were in the passenger seat on the way down to Star lake where I run. And this morning, in a cruel rain.

On the way down the mountain I heard what I could only call a hymn. I’ve listened to this song by Bill Mallonee a hundred times but this morning the words snuck in through the broken parts.

 

Well, I think we’ve got time for just one more
Before that bartender counts his tray
There’s a million reasons to walk out that door
But only one to stay

Through the glass darkly
I’m just hoping to make it to
To that place where we’re all made new
When it’s all over and through

Are you listened to when you call in the night?
Are you held inside your dreams?
Is it something like an anchor in the raging storm?
When the world turns cruel and mean?

Through the glass darkly
I’m just hoping to make it to
To that place where we’re all made new
When it’s all over and through

One more round for the round of confusion
Its always dogging our steps
One loud hosanna and a victory cry
Shouted while you wept

Through the glass darkly
I’m just hoping to make it to
To that place where it’s all made new
When it’s all over and through

Through the glass darkly
I’m just hoping to make it to
To that place where we’re all made new
When it’s all over and through

A Prayer for Where We Find Ourselves

lord's prayer

The world may feel like things are out of control. But that is not so. And sometimes it just takes a reminder through familiar terrain that The King still reigns. Sometimes we forget because of what is happening in the news. Sometimes we forget because of the work-week. Sometimes it’s a rebellious child. The death of a loved one. Maybe our toys are broken and have left us unfulfilled. But he still reigns with undiminished power, honor, and glory. So we can pray as children:

Hello Daddy!

We want to know you.

And be close to you.

Please show us how.

Make everything in the world right again.

And in our hearts, too.

Do what is best—just like you do in heaven,

And please do it down here, too.

Please give us everything we need today.

Forgive us for doing wrong, for hurting you.

Forgive us just as we forgive other people

when they hurt us.

Rescue us! We need you.

We don’t want to keep running away

and hiding from you.

Keep us safe from our enemies.

You’re strong, God.

You can do whatever you want.

You are in charge.

Now and forever and for always!

We think you’re great!

Amen!

Yes we do!

– from the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Random thoughts for the Weekend

John-Calvin2

Just a few though…

1. So basically I’m a bigot if I think ridding the world of the “Confederate Flag” is a bad idea. And I’m also a bigot if I wholeheartedly disagree with what is now the law of the land on same-sex marriage.

Got it.

2. It is amazing to me that so many “Christian artists” are veiling their faith in obscure lyrics that could be about anything. But Leon Bridges, the young soul artist is singing explicitly about his faith.

3. I am not afraid of the law of the land. But I am even less afraid of being associated with the “religious right.” That will happen anyway. There are worse fates.

4. Every time someone complains about Calvin’s Geneva, I reflexively want to pick up The Institutes.

5. Redefining words affords no one any dignity.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

leon

1. Have you registered your outrage yet? What about your disapproval?

2. My wife…man, how the he…wha…I mean…so glad, though.

3. There is no end to Progress. It will insist on more.

4. Hear me now, believe me later – Leon Bridges’ debut album will be the album of the year.

5. I learned early on, you cannot love pizza and still be a supermodel.

6. The cross is the end of our illusions of the need for progress.

7. I’ve thought about going back to school but how does one afford it? I’d sell my soul, but well, how much can you get for a crushed one?

8. What do you think next week’s outrage du jour will be?

9. I thought I could not love Billie Holiday’s music more than I did. But I just read the newest biography of her and now so much more. So much more of that voice.

10. If you didn’t give a damn about something last week and now this week you are calling for it to be banned and arguing about it on social media, you may need to quietly deal with something inside you. You’re like the Calvinist who had never read Calvin and then after a Packer book, you now question everyone’s salvation who has not rededicated their life to the Genevan reformer.

 

On the First Anniversary of My Mother’s Life

starrednight

A year ago today my mom swung from star to star silently into secrets unknown. Yesterday, I thought about calling her for about a half a second. A half second of forgetfulness. Habit. Another family lives in the house to which I would call. The number going nowhere anyway.

The thing I remember the most from that night was my white knuckles on the drive home from the hospital.  I guess I was hanging on to that steering wheel for dear life after spending a few hours in an ER room with the lifeless form of my mother.

On my drive home from work today after one of those days when you wonder if the spirit once crushed can repair, I thought about her death. She died and none of us were with her. We had been with her throughout the day, but we did not expect her to go on ahead so soon. So we were all at home, my brothers and I. And then my oldest brother called me and I knew this was the beginning of feeling like an orphan and picking up the phone and no one to call like before.

Of course, she was not alone. The truth that can seem trite when the sadness is thick like fog, is still true. She was taking holding of Life. And she was moving toward life more than those of us standing there watching her lie more still than she ever had since she first drew breath.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. It is no easy thing to have a skill for which people will praise you to no end and yet not pay you for. There are harder things, but still.

2. The church is not afraid of wealth like it ought to be. It is an enterprise of capitalism in that all it sees is opportunity to progression forward. The warning of the King go unheard.

3. The framing of a story is important. Follow the money and where the power can be had by the narrative, when listening to the story. When you cannot follow the money, listen a little closer.

4. There is so little mystery anymore.

5. People are always looking for heroic saints. Jesus looked for weak weak sinners.

6. My wife has been reading and enjoying Hannah Coulter which means I have watched a beautiful person hold a beautiful thing often over the past week.

7. Social media is starting to become a place of advertisements and marketing as much as it is anything else. There is good there but the good is being crowded out by increments.

8. The disappointment of going to someone and asking for help and not getting help is deflatingly unique. I suppose there is grace enough for that too.

9. We have it in our head all the big pronouncements and events will make the difference for others and ourselves for good and else wise. This is an error of imagination.

10. I am no feeling entirely well right, fighting something off, which or may not be affecting the tone, if not the content of these posts. But possibly not.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

bw1

1. Any issue for which you cannot ask questions that have a hint of dissent are not mere issues, but sacred cows fat for the slaughter.

2. Tonight, Bethany and I will go see Love and Mercy, a biopic on Brian Wilson, that swirls around his production of Pet Sounds, the only album for which a movie is worthy.

3. (deleted thought)

4. This morning I drove down the mountain to Star Lake where I run and the air was perfectly sweet and the sky clear, the company of ducks and geese just what needed.

5. I am cynical. And if you are paying attention, you would be too.

6. People of Wal-Mart is funny until those are the people you spend time with and you have to look in their eyes. When its still funny, I have a problem.

7. Be skeptical of repentance for which applause is given.

8. Am I wrong in thinking there’s an, “I’m famous, you’re famous, let’s not criticize each other” thing going on in evangelicalism?

9. The Rachel Dolezal story is the gift that keeps on giving.

10. Friends, it’s okay if you have not read my book. I haven’t either…

 

A Father’s Day Sermon

superman-2-002

(This is a repost.)

I had not planned on this post. But there were enough requests to get me thinking. A few guys were encouraged by the Mother’s Day Post so they wanted one for themselves. But I just wasn’t sure. I didn’t want to do one for Fathers that was unpopular. Or worse, was seen as  trying to capitalize. And to be honest doing one for Fathers felt self-serving.

And then it turned out to be so.

For whenever I lacked imagination, I just inserted myself in, and voila. I’ve been doing this whole preaching-the-good-news-to-myself thing for so many years – as my pastor asked me to so long ago – that I figured I might as well do so here.

Further, as I thought about this, an irony struck me. It is less acceptable to feel condemned for men than for women. (I could be wrong about that, sure. But I’m gonna err on the side of being right here.) It reveals weakness. And weakness is social kryptonite for men.

Then you must add this overlooked reality – failure has a weight, a weight with all the pressure of a culture which pushes relentlessly against the soul of a man. The net effect of wanting to be Superman as a boy is not just dusty comics in moldy cardboard boxes pushed into the corner of attics. There is also the failure to become one. Whether unconscious or not, the reality is Fathers want to be super and seen as being so, if only by those citizens, plucked up out of harms way, residing within his own home. But deep down, the weakness is known to be there, like a scar needing to be covered up.

Fathers are more likely to brag on the scar than confess their displeasure with it.

I’ve no wish to create a movement of weepy men, though Jesus did weep over a friend. And I’ve no wish to guilt Fathers into being more in tune with their weakness. To share it, even. Mainly because the guilt is already there, residing. It’s feet are propped up on the coffee-table and it knows where the silverware is in the drawer.

I’m calling it. The guilt is real and it’s there whether I say anything about it or not. It gnaws like mice and slithers through veins like an asp. It feels like poison. It feels as if it’s thieving life from under your very nose. And sometimes the taking of a deep breath is as the death rattle.

And when the dust settles and the echo ceases to bounce around inside your skull and the night is still, more than anything the Christian Father is faced with the specter of condemnation. An accusing finger rises up and points at his heart and says “condemned” for one thousand failures. Or worse, one in particular.

So Fathers need to also hear the message that in their God-given calling, they are not condemned. The following is not the only sermon that could be preached for Fathers. But it’s one.

Romans 8:1

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Thesis: Fathers, if you are in Christ Jesus, you ought to have no fear of condemnation because of your standing of righteousness because of Christ’s work on your behalf on the cross.

Fathers, even though you may feel you are…

You are not condemned because you cannot take your family on a dream vacation. Or on any vacation at all.

You are not condemned by the sins in your past which haunt like unsatisfied ghosts.

You are not condemned by your need for rest.

You are not condemned by your inability to fix all the broken things.

You are not condemned by your lack of promotions.

You are not condemned by your child’s lack of abilities in comparison to others.

You are not condemned by the obscurity of your job.

You are not condemned by the check engine light.

You are not condemned by a dwindling savings account.

You are not condemned because you are divorced.

You are not condemned by your son’s lack of interest in what interests you.

You are not condemned by a lack of desire to play with the kids after work.

You are not condemned by your failures as a father, that repeat themselves like the days, themselves.

You are not condemned by your wayward daughter.

You are not condemned by being fired or laid off.

You are not condemned if you find it difficult to talk to your children.

You are not condemned by not being able to afford to throw the birthday party of the year for your kids.

You are not condemned by the size and state of your home.

You are not condemned by your introverted personality.

You are not condemned for not living up to the standards of your Father or Father-in-law.

You are not condemned by the debts hanging over you like death itself.

Fathers, even though you may feel condemned, if you are in Christ, you are not condemned. This is the real reality.

You are not condemned, because if you are in Christ, your identity…your righteousness is Christ alone. Therefore, enjoy the unending love and affection and acceptance of being a son perfectly loved with an unwavering love that flows from your Father in Heaven.

And to all those who are not Fathers…do nothing to diminish this reality. Nothing.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

timthumb.php

1. “Thank you for your outrage.” – the media outlet$

2. I’ve seen a few articles lately that are critical of the modern-day worship movement. I saw it coming years ago, was worried about it, tried to embrace it and now find myself detesting it for the money-making machine it was and is. There are lots of good hearts making this awful music. That said, I’m glad to see these articles. Hopefully, the equating of worship with music will die quickly along with the movement.

3. Banking is not a great job when your favorite customers have very little money. The ones with money are the least favorite.

4. Jayber Crow has become one of those books I’m reading yearly. I call them blanket books because they make me feel I’m slipping into comforting warmth in December when the cool air is still enjoyable.

5. There aren’t many things I feel l’m created for, but tucking in my kids and kissing them goodnight is one of them. Kissing my wife too.

6. The Apostles spilled no ink, that we know of, on the systemic racially motivated injustices of the state or culture at large. Philemon, maybe. But they did speak out against false-teachers and those who persisted in their sins. I’m not sure I can say we *should* not speak out against injustice outside the church. But it seems evangelicalism is far more willing to go after the sins of an ordinary cop than the sins of its leaders.

7. A friend pointed out to me the other night how church makes no sense apart from the Holy Spirit. That’s a profound thought I’ve been swimming around in since.

8. We also talked about me picking up the guitar again because of my love of music. Now I just need a guitar.

9. I can think no album I’d want to see a biopic made around than Pet Sounds.

10. Matt Chandler and The Village Church’s public apology and repentance is such a rare thing. Think about it. They apologized AND dignified Karen’s choice of annulment. They didn’t just apologize for not handling it incorrectly. They apologized for that and for not acknowledging her decision was right and good. And they gave no defense. we may be witnessing something so unique and powerful that we will be talking about it for a generation or more. I worry that there will be no ripple effect because I have heard nothing from those who defended the actions of The Village Church. Regardless, let me to say young men, if you are going to be part of the neo-Reformed movement, then follow Chandler’s lead here. Public repentance of sins against another will mark you as being the real deal as we watch our culture’s waning acceptance of principled Christianity disappear in a mist of tolerance.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

FullSizeRender-3

1. There is nothing not stupid about the Jenner story.

2. The Blues, whether they are manifest in song, poetry, autobiography or fiction, help us know we are not alone in hard times. They are the opposite of those awful tinny voices who want us to be positive and cheer up. The Blues are a thick echo of grace. The others? A clanging echo from the dungeon of law.

3. Put no hope in a politician.

4. The other day I remembered the utter confusion of struggling through writing a paper on a Greek tragedy while simultaneously being full of wonder. A good preparation for adulthood, I suppose.

5. I think the evangelical subculture is wrong to focus on the Bruce Jenner and think it is about sexuality and gender. It is primarily about words and language and the belief in the sovereignty of self.

6. Put no hope in a movement.

7. Once again I saw a young white pastor talk about how Christians need to interact with people who are different than them on a regular basis. I looked at the staff at his church and everyone was white and seemingly middle class like him. Most people who work in the “secular” world are already doing that big guy.

8. Wendell Berry’s poems are most likely the best $20 I’ve spent in a long time. That’s about a dime per poem. They are worth far, far more.

9. I tried to watch and fully enjoy the show Daredevil, but I couldn’t handle the violence. It’s gratuitous and pornographic.

10. Celebrity Christianity has made it nearly impossible to evaluate teaching and it has created an atmosphere where an abuse victim is a pariah who is unwilling to suffer quietly.

11. Last night I was sitting with my lovely wife at the neighborhood pool, the kids were swimming, the weather was perfect, and there was that “stab of joy” and the realization of being sustained by grace. Life is hard, but there are moments when your eyes open and a veil is lifted and His goodness is seen in a moment.

12. I cannot help but believe poetry and our need for it is part of our created-ness. The Scriptures themselves are shot through with poetry. The Prophets and Psalmists were poets. Why would God speak to us in a form for which we were not hard-wired? When our prose and the song lyrics we sing along with get close to poetry and field echoes of the craft, we can feel the electric joy, that magic of words, which can cause us to stare into the night sky and sometimes punch a hole in the very same.

13. It is hard to give things away but once done, there is an inexplicable freedom. Maybe it’s a reverse echo of the death we will all one day face. And every time we let go of something here we are dying a little in the best possible way and taking one more step into the land for which were created.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,984 other followers