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.

Stay and appreciate the fact that “He [God] caused him [Jesus] who was sinless to become sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” Christ left his throne in glory to become poor, hungry, tired, to weep and sweat and bleed and die. He was the model human, and there would be peace on earth if everyone were like him. But he knows about rejection and betrayal and abandonment. Temptation–yeah, he knows about that too. Continue reading “The Romance of The Cross”

Charity Begins At Home

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GOD CAN USE ANYONE, anywhere, anytime.

He might not want all of us to get P.H.D.s or move to the other side of the world, and you don’t have to be a televangelist or a best-selling author in order to live a great life (not to belittle anyone). Take Jesus for example. He spent most of his earthly life in his small hometown, and people were surprised that he even knew how to read. He wasn’t married, wasn’t very attractive, and wasn’t a stranger to sorrow. He chose ordinary working men and even social outcasts to be his companions and torchbearers.

Neither of my grandfathers had college degrees or ordinations. What they did was common but also very important. They worked patiently to provide for their families and to put food on other people’s tables in the process.

After serving in the military, my father’s father built a successful business, and today the profits help to support charities near and far. He was always generous and ready to give. His door was wide open to friends and strangers alike. (By the way, in the Bible, hospitality is listed among the special gifts of the Holy Spirit, just like prophecy and healing).

My mother’s father had a huge responsibility with more than a dozen “disciples” (his children), but he still made time every week, on his one day off, to visit the inmates of the local jail. When a drunk man interrupted a worship service at church, my grandfather decided to take him home. My grandmother washed and mended his clothes while my grandfather told him about Jesus. It was a simple thing to do. There was no fuss about it and no applause. But this dear man’s heart was changed, and many years later he sent them a letter to tell them that he had become a preacher of the good news of salvation. Continue reading “Charity Begins At Home”

To The Unborn

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My mother and me.
PRECIOUS,

When I was little, a man on an airplane asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Naturally, I hugged my doll close to my heart and said, “I just want to be a mommy.” (I took that doll everywhere, and then I lost her somehow and cried about it for years.)

I was raised to be a housewife, like my mother and my grandmothers and my great-grandmothers. I grew up amid the sub-cultures of two extremely large and traditional families. One of my cousins from my mother’s family married one of my cousins from my father’s family. I was related to nearly everyone at the wedding. One of my cousins called me the morning of the wedding to ask if she could borrow something to wear. She’s the mother of eleven, soon to be a grandmother. So, obviously, our cradle has been crazy blessed, and the fact that I have not yet done my duty to society is so unorthodox, by our standards, it’s almost immoral. But it isn’t because of an absence of desire on my part.

God calls those things which are not as though they are–and I do the same.

Nothing is as painful as love that has nowhere to go, no way to spend itself, and so it makes me happy to think that there is something I can actually do for you today. I just have a few things in my heart that need to get out, and I won’t try to be witty or poetic. I’ll do this now, and someday when I have you in my arms, fresh and sweet with promise, I’ll gladly put my pen away and probably never reach for it again.

The grandmother who I never met became a mother when she little more than a child herself and died young. “No wonder,” people gasp, “after giving birth nineteen times!” But if they asked her she would have told them that delivering all those babies was the easy part. It was actually the child-rearing more than the child-bearing that put her in an early grave.

The pretty teacups that she left behind were all broken and glued back together. Her homemade dresses were folded tenderly away in my grandfather’s dresser drawers.

She deserved her own Taj Mahal for all the cloth diapers she washed by hand. Continue reading “To The Unborn”

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”

Wedding Bells

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I’M SORT OF ADDICTED to the exquisite 2014 dramatization of John’s Gospel, starring Selva Rasalingam. Watch the trailer and tell me it isn’t sublime.

I don’t love the Bible enough, but of the umpteen books I’ve read it’s the only one that I have occasionally tucked into bed with me.

The greatest thing about it is that it is prophetic as well as historical. It contains a preponderance of foretellings about future events, and it’s always right. But, also, just to study it from a literary perspective is something like walking barefoot through Eden.

When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, their words were still alive, thanks to the fanatical scribes in the desert who treated every jot and tittle as reverently as the Levites treated the Ark of The Covenant. The dusty manuscripts were unrolled, and Job clapped his hands over his mouth. Naphtali bounded on graceful words, like a doe set free. Judah’s eyes sparkled darker than wine. The Shulamite came up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved. David panted and poetry welled up from his soul. The little hills rejoiced, skipping like lambs…

Last winter I interviewed an intrepid young man who works as a language surveyor for organizations that translate the Bible. He told me stories about his adventures among isolated tribes in the jungles of Papua New Guinea (amazing stories like this). But the most amazing thing he told me was that languages are dying fast, due to globalization, and he predicted that soon there won’t be any more need for Bible translation.

“We’re in the last leg,” he said.

The last leg of a grueling marathon.

Wow. Continue reading “Wedding Bells”