Sunday, October 31, 2010

Calling Boo Radley

It is Halloween again and time for one of my favorite yearly rituals, watching the movie version of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. This story of two southern children and their adventures set against an atmosphere of southern style justice (read that injustice) is also my favorite book.

There is a local shut in living on the children's street. A man of mystery. A boogyman whose appearance and activities, in the absence of real facts, has taken on a Freddy Krueger style mystique. It is said of him that he is disfigured, has bad breath, rotten teeth and eats raw squirrels plus all the cats he can catch. The children spend entire summers trying to lure Boo Radley into the light.

Cut to the finish it is Halloween and Boo has come out of hiding to save the children. Institutional pallor evident, he stands next to the injured boy he has rescued. He pensively looks down upon the now sleeping form. With encouragement, "Would you like to pet him?" Boo reaches out to barely brush his hand against the boy and finally lays his hand on Jem's head. That connection reverberates through anyone watching the movie. With that touch it is Boo who comes back to life. A precious connection has been made and "Boo" the curiosity, the squirrel eater, becomes "Mr. Arthur" who might now be lovingly and tenderly folded into community life-with consideration for his shy ways.

Love shapes life. No doubt about it. Without it we are all disconnected squirrel eaters hiding something. Worse than the wisdom of this world would have us believe and a little less than our own terrors tell us we are. Shut out all the same.

Enter Jesus into this best seller Our Father is writing. Enter love and grace and restoration. Enter our true and eternal self. Our loved self. The self that is part of a community made up of God, saints, angels, plans, dreams, a future and more.

Jesus opened the door, became the Door into this new and communal life. The Spirit filled us with body gifts. Home isn't just a hope. It is a reality. A reality in the midst of suffering or confusion or failure. Home is a way. A new direction. Home is the truth in an untrustworthy world. Home is Jesus saying to us of the Father, "Would you like to touch Him?"

"God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun." Romans 8:29-30 The Message

"We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in Him."

We are restored through the sacrifice of Christ.
We visiualize our intended life.
We are named.
We have renewed relationship.
We are established.
We experience Divine fellowship.
We are glorified.
We are completed.

Our story which God is writing is ongoing. New pages and chapters are being produced every day. What an adventure! What a delight! The Creator of Life and Light has pen in hand and us in mind. I can hardly stand it! He isn't doing this in His off hours. He is the most enthusiastic one on the project. God is just tickled to be writing the story of you! The story of me! How about we tell Him to take full editorial rights?

Love shapes life and God is all there is to know about love. Jesus is all the proof I need. His love is forever. For "He stayed with them to the end."

Would you like to touch Him?

Dedicated to one of God's favorite sons in his walk of Faith. Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. – Jeremiah 17:7

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Secret That She Was In God

The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to find the place where all the beauty came from. (C.S. Lewis/Till We All Have Faces)

Beauty comes from time spent alone with the Heart of all Beauty, The Creator of all that is beautiful. The One who turns a spider web after the rain into tiny sunlit jeweled beads. The One whose color palate mixes daylight and dark. The One who can take an ordinary face and make it beloved. Time spent with Christ lets beauty into our lives and back out again.

I have always been fascinated that some birds are able to see colors in a spectrum we can not. Some see in ultraviolet for example. It helps the bird find dinner that would be hidden from our naked eye. God's special vision can spot even the possibility of beauty hidden within the darkest soul. The more time I spend in His Presence the more I seem to develop that same ability while becoming beautified myself.

Love is such an amazing cosmetic. The key ingredient in a transformational process that lets His beauty loose on our world. When we see ourselves as He sees us it is an amazing, life changing, even world changing, discovery.

This Trackless Solitude
By Jessica Powers Sister of the Carmelites

Deep in my soul are acres
of virgin lands, of sacred wood
where waits the Spirit. Each soul bears
this trackless solitude.

The Voice invites, implores in vain
the fearful and the unaware;
but she who heeds and enters in
finds ultimate wisdom there.

The Spirit lights the way for her;
bramble and brush are pushed apart.
He lures her into wilderness
but to rejoice her heart.

Beneath the glistening foliage
the fruit of love hangs always near,
the one immortal fruit: He is
tasted: He is here.

Love leads and she surrenders to
His will. His waylessness of grace.
She speaks no word save His, nor moves
until He marks the place.

Hence all her paths are mystery,
presaging a divine unknown.
Her only light is in the creed
that she is not alone.

The soul that wanders, Spirit led,
becomes, in His transforming shade,
the secret that she was in God
before the world was made.

The secret that she was in God. A beauty secret. A transformational secret. Love's vision of us. The product of a soul who "wanders" in God. Who spends time with Him and in Him.

Beauty is calling. It is not for women only. Look what a warrior-king wrote:

Psalm 27:4
One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

Spend some time wandering in God today. Let Him whisper to you the secret of who you were in Him before the world began. You may just find an unexpected miracle...YOU!

Beauty's secret is Love.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Our In the Beginning God

The Bible opens with these words. "In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth and the Earth was formless and empty."

The Earth was formless except in the Mind of God. In His amazing mind, the Earth and man and all things that were not yet but were to "BE!" were forming at the speed of thought. Faster than the speed of light which had yet to "BE!"

The Earth and all of it was never without substance except on the face of it. It was all, from before the beginning, carried within the One who had no beginning.

The soft milky smell of babies, the tang of lemons, the freshness after the rain, the desire for friendship, the need to mate, the longing to express affection in worship, the color of your eyes, the height of the giraffe, it was all part of Him before it was part of the world He spoke into being.

Jesus said that if we see Him we see the Father. If we look we see such exquisite carefulness for the details of our lives. Such a passion (literally) for us. He wants us to know Him, live in Him and be with Him forever. He made plans for all of that. Undeniable plans. "Plans to give you a future and a hope."

In Run with the Horses Eugene Peterson says that ..."much of our hoping is really little more than wishing but genuine biblical hope acts on the conviction that God will complete the work He has begun even when appearances, especially when appearances, oppose it...that hope-determined actions participate in the future God is bringing into being...that every situation in which we find ourselves must be included in the Kingdom that we are convinced God is bringing into being."

"Hope-determined actions" that sounds like a mighty thing to me.

Mothers of wayward children know about hope-determined actions. About hoping-against-hope determined actions. No mere prayerful wishing there. Everything in her spirit groans her agreement with the scriptures over her child. Her actions are thankful, trusting, even in the face of felonious disobedience. God has a plan and she has made her bond with Him. God made a plan from before time. She will find it in prayer and throw the full weight of her agreement into seeing it come to pass. In the time- before-time, God gave her eyes able to behold fruit on a bare branch and now that gift serves her. She hopes with fierce determination. She speaks to those things which are not as though they were. She adds land to the Kingdom.

Husbands or wives of non believing spouses, those of us who need jobs or healing or deliverance, those who need more of God's character and power demonstrated in our lives are in need of hope-determined actions. "My Father works and I work." "Be it done on earth as it is in Heaven." Jesus leads the way.

Prayer is power and communication. The scriptures tell us Christ rose early and went to a place away from the crowd. A separate place where we are alone with God stills us to hear His thoughts and plans. He will speak with us. He is our Father. When we have heard Him we act accordingly with His revelation to us and in agreement with scripture. We speak accordingly as those of faith. We trade wishing for doing. His Spirit will show us how. This may seem new to us but it isn't new to Him. He has believed in us and planned for us forever.

Today is a good day for beginnings. What is it that needs a do-over or a do-better in your life? What hope-determined steps do you need to discover? They may be baby steps at first. God is still in the beginning. What you begin today He will help you finish. What you believe for today He answered when the earth was still void.

But I will hope continually,
and will praise You yet more and more.
My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
and Your salvation all the day,
for I do not know their limits. (Psalm 71)

I will hope. I will praise. I will tell. (with determination)

Your righteousness and salvation is without limit.

Take this empty life and fill it.


In the beginning of your coming Kingdom.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Kill the Marsmallows

Forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal…Philippians 3: 13-14

John and I went to view the new movie Secretariat last evening. I have been a Secretariat fan for most of my life. He was born a month after I met John and funny thing is John decades later preached one of my favorite sermons using Big Red as the sermon illustration.

Secretariat's victories in the movie and in life were stunning. Having been hurt coming out of the gate his first race, he let the field of horses go first after that, then would come from behind and soundly beat them. That is until the third and longest leg of the Triple Crown where he came out first and charged to a 31 furlong victory unheard of and unmatched since.

There are many wonderful reasons to spend ten dollars to see this movie and go away happy. It is full of many 'The Little Engine that Could' moments.

One that struck me was the moment where the trainer, who has been carrying around in his pocket the newspaper clippings of his prior losses with other horses, burns them BEFORE the big race. Not after the victory, he burns them in anticipation of it. These past losses had been holding him back and tormenting him for years. My thought was strike the match and get in the gate. Run to the finish and don't look back.

There are no jockeys I know of who put their saddles on backwards to better see where they have been. We shouldn't either. Neither should we be like Lot's wife who just had to have one last, stolen, backward glance at her burning ex-home.

One moment Mrs. Lot is on her way out of a bad situation with her family beside her and Divine protection surrounding her. The next minute she is frozen forever in time as the best example of someone who had to have a disobedient last look.

It is easy to look upon her lifeless, salty memorial and think, "Stupid woman." But how many of us could take our place beside her? God is trying to burn our past sins and stupidities to the ground and we are running for the marshmallows to roast over the ashes instead of running for the gate.

Deborah Smith Douglas prayed a prayer once as she was commenting on a devotion by C.S. Lewis, "Dear Lord, thank you for offering us freedom from the burning cities of our past. Thank you for calling us to press on toward the prize of our eternal life with you."

Maybe it is time to put the saddle on facing forward, toss the marshmallows under the hooves and ride for the finish line past those burning cities.

The opening scripture in the Amplified version reminds us ours is an upward direction. Let's agree to take it. We just might have the ride of our lives!

Philippians 3:13,14 (Amplified) I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Are You He?

"Little King, tiny thing, are you He? Are you He?
Frail babe, newly made, are you the promise of God to me?"
(from Gold,Frankincense and Myrrh)

I like to think the Wise Men looked upon the Christ child and asked Him this question with their eyes. Did they know that He was the one who had breathed into being the very star that began their quest? That He was the Ancient of Days and could number the heavenly bodies as we can number our toes?

John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Christ a version of, "Are you He?" It is a question often put to Jesus both then and now by those who wanted the answer and by those who had already refused it. It was a question He answered for me in a personal way.

Psalm 80 has a line that says, Look down upon us, your face aglow with joy and love..." Look down upon us. That was the perspective the psalmist had, God above, man below. God had a different idea about where He wanted to stand in relationship to His Creation. He intended to be our hands-on God. A God of vines and branches and belonging one to another. Our beloved Christ made that a reality. "On Earth, Shalom, to men of good will."

A baby looks so peaceful when sleeping but the child that drew the Wise Ones continues to be our Peace through all the storms of life.

A good friend just sent me one of the first pictures taken of her great grandson on his first day of life which is today. He is peace itself. He is resting in her arms without a care. He may learn to fret down the road but today he dreams in the arms love created. She does not ask who he is to her for she knows. Sally's heart knows him for hers as surly as the earth knows the seasons. As she holds him she knows this tiny life is one of God's promises to her.

All of that is possible for my dear friend and for us because Jesus became God in person. God in diapers. God in sandals. God on the Cross. God in us. For Him the cost of that choice was staggering, for us it was immeasurable. The prayer in Isaiah that God rend the heavens and come down was answered.

"Are you He?" My own soul knows He is both Promise and Peace. If you need to ask Christ the question yourself be prepared to have it answered. After all He came for you.

"Are you the promise of God to me?"

The answer isn't in the stars.

It is in His arms.


Dedicated to Karson Justin Ray Alto on his happy arrival to our world. Special blessings to his delighted family.