The Romance of The Cross

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San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. My photo.

STAY, MY RESTLESS HEART, my wandering feet. The way of escape is here. The place of newness and purpose is here too. Not in the next adventure, the next accomplishment, the next good deed, the next admirer.

Stay and look up, above the spectacles, the sensations, the vanity. There is a cross up there in the sunshine, strong and plain, beckoning you back to Contentment. Back to your First Love–the Christ who willingly went “like a lamb to the slaughter”–the Christ who showed you what love really is. Back to the victorious Christ who repaired the pastor’s broken marriage and rescued him from the cartel.

How many kings and priests and wise men and prophets of ancient times longed to see what you see? You belong to someone, not something. You belong to a person, not a religious tradition or ideal. It is nothing less than the precious body that was broken like bread and the precious blood that was poured out like wine. “God With Us.” God for man and man for God. God and man, reconciled in the person of Jesus Christ.

Stay, my restless heart, my wandering feet. Desire the one who desires you. Continue reading “The Romance of The Cross”

For Trae & Those He Left Behind

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YESTERDAY WE SHARED A MEAL and laughed with our brother. Today we are washing his blood out of our clothes and asking God to forgive his murderer, whoever and wherever he is. The sky, like a cold gray funeral sheet, is stretched out above the orchards where we all used to feel sheltered–above the peaceful orchards where once I wandered in search of solitude.

If we knew what was going to happen tomorrow, what would we do differently today?

The day before yesterday he wore a teeshirt that said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, until the day I die.” Yesterday he was getting ready to go on a trip, not knowing that he was about to take the ultimate trip. Yesterday we all spoke of love and war and the vast ocean of mystery that separates us from the distant, golden shore of eternity. Someone said, “I guess we won’t know until we get there.”

I guess he knows now, and I’m jealous. What does Jesus look like, Trae?

There are no goodbyes in God’s family…

See you at home, brother.

His Work, His Way

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“God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”–Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT

THE SUICIDE AND ALCOHOLISM RATES in my neighborhood are well known facts. Teen suicide is 62% higher than the national average. Alcoholism is 510% higher. We have the highest unemployment levels in the state. One out of three females are sexually abused. The average life expectancy is forty years…

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.–1st Corinthians 1:27-29 ESV

What is not well known is that God is doing good things here. He’s using common clay. He is personally invested in His creation, and nothing is too hard for Him. He’s working in unexpected ways, through unlikely and unassuming people. He’s doing His work His way, and unseen miracles happen all the time.

I was reminded of this today when I interviewed a certain unsung hero. (Notice all the uns in this: unexpected, unlikely, unassuming, unseen, unsung…)

“God don’t make junk,” he said.

No, Precious, He doesn’t.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.–Ephesians 2:10 NLT

Morning

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C. AD 30

We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.–2nd Corinthians 1:9 NKJV

The eyelashes of morning fan across a blushing sky and Peter laughs with his friends over a catch of fish so bountiful that their net is too heavy to pull into the boat. The net is not as full as Peter’s heart, though—for death has become its own executioner, just as the Lord said, and there’s an empty tomb to prove it. Sorrow has turned into joy. Night has turned into day. But Peter, formerly so passionate, now doubts the warmth of his own affection. He still can’t hold his head up when he remembers what a miserable failure he was—how cowardly and blind and unfaithful. And is that a twinge of insecurity that he feels toward John, favored “baby brother” of the gang, who is (of course) the first to realize that the friendly stranger on shore is actually The Resurrection and The Life? Peter, always impulsive, leaps into the water.

2009 

She’s like a little girl trapped in an old woman’s body—so fragile yet so strong—visibly shrinking while the cancer eats her alive. Morphine takes the edge off (but pride and fear, she says, have robbed her more than cancer or anything else). Her bed is her home and it has to be made perfectly. I sing as I work in the kitchen, to keep her company. Tears run down her face when I leave. She is curled up, facing the wall. I promise to return, but every step is agony. “I’ll see you later…” She flies away like a dove to her rest, under a big blue October sky. She doesn’t wait for me to come back. I sprinkle dirt on her coffin, thinking about what could have and should have been different. The wages of sin is death… the sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law… the last enemy that will be destroyed is death… O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? I get up every day and thank God for my health, singing I Know You by Heart and Angel to myself. I know what the “sting” feels like now. It feels like separation and regret.

2016 

The sky is opal. Morning steals in through a window, gilding my bedroom, breathing on my face like wisps of silk. It feels as if there’s been a death in the family, although there hasn’t—only the death of a dream. I hear the faint rhythm of my own heartbeat. It feels as if I am dying too, and maybe I am. Oh Father, let me go back and do the last eighteen months of my life over! 

Beautiful Beulah

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My photo.

He led me to the gate, the gate looking east, and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east.–Ezekiel 43:1-2 TLV

MY FAVORITE PLACE IN JERUSALEM (so far) is the eastern gate, known as the Golden Gate or The Gate of Mercy–seen here from the Garden of Gethsemane, framed by the branches of ancient olive trees on the opposite hillside. It is the most conspicuous feature of the eastern wall, which towers nobly above terraced olive groves, facing the dawn. From the streets in the valley below, the iconic domes of the two mosques on Temple Mount are barely visible. Though not impressive in appearance, it is the only gate with direct access to the site where Solomon’s Porch used to be. Jews believe the Messiah (Savior) will come to the temple from the east, and so (as you can see if you look closely) the double arches of this gate were sealed long ago by Muslim conquerers in order to keep the Messiah out.

Muhammad’s followers were a thousand years too late however, and by trying to prevent a prophecy from being fulfilled they inadvertently fulfilled a prophecy:

He brought me back to the outer gate of the Sanctuary looking east. It was shut. ADONAI said to me: “This gate is to be shut. It must not be opened. No one may enter through it, for ADONAI God of Israel has entered through it.”–Ezekiel 44:1-2 TLV

I’m no expert, but to the best of my knowledge Yeshua (Jesus) probably entered the city through the gate that used to be here, much to the people’s excitement, to celebrate Passover with his disciples, shortly before He was executed by the Romans and not long before the Roman’s destroyed Jerusalem. He entered with zeal and authority, calling King Herod a fox, cursing a fig tree for not producing fruit out of season for Him, driving merchants out of the temple with a whip and verbally chastising the religious leaders for their self-righteousness and hypocrisy. Yeshua would have been able to see the gate whenever He preached and prayed on the Mount of Olives (where this picture was taken from)—and when He wept over the beloved city: “If only you had recognized this day the things that lead to shalom!” (Luke 19:42).  Continue reading “Beautiful Beulah”

Chief Cornerstone & The Thirteenth Apostle

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HE WAS CROSSING KING DAVID STREET, in Jerusalem, near the hip vicinity of Mamilla Mall. I noticed his distinctly Native American features and limber stride even before I saw the long hair dangling down his back, swinging behind him like a pendulum as he disappeared into a sweaty throng of pedestrians.

His head was high. There was a bounce in his step. No slumped shoulders and shuffling feet. No empty whisky bottle. No shame. No defeat. No Johnny Cash singing honky tonk…

Jerusalem is a colorful place. It isn’t Disney Land, it isn’t Paris, but it really is like the naval of the world. Here you might find a Baptist church led by an Assemblies of God pastor meeting on Saturday instead of Sunday, and I walk around humming It’s A Small World, because the world really does seem to shrink when you are here, surrounded by Jews, Arabs, Armenians, Druze, African refugees, foreign dignitaries, and tourists speaking almost every language under the sun…

Still, outside of the military, it’s unusual to see an American Indian so far from America.

He’s a long way from homeI marveled.

But so am IContinue reading “Chief Cornerstone & The Thirteenth Apostle”