May 2008

This past week before Mother’s Day I was listening to the radioand I heard a local jewerly company’s radio ad. The announcer in a great, booming radio voice projects accross the airwaves… “And this Mother’s Day give her what she has always wanted, give her a Rolex.” A Rolex. Really? Now unless my mother is related to Snoop Dog, (which I can clearly attest that she isn’t), I don’t think a Rolex is really the gift for her.

I want to understand who the advertising execs were who crafted this fine Mother’s day slogan. Now advertising folks are no dummies. They know what sells. And I guess today Rolex for Mother’s day sells. Gone are the days of Mother’s wanting flowers, cards and breakfast in bed.

What does this scream about our culture? About our materialism? About our greed? When my mother is being tempted by a Rolex for her special day, what material tempation is knocking at my front door? What package will this world system take today to induce me into slumber?

Remember, today, there are children and people who are trapped alive in China. As I sit here in my comfortable coffee shop. There are people, real, actual people who are in rubble, dying, bleeding…

I know one thing… that they are not thinking of Rolex’s, they are thinking about living or dying.

Lord, help those people and help me to see the living and dying happening all around me.

I am on an epic search for the perfect coffee shop. A little background, Vancouver is the younger step sister of Portland, OR. As a true little sister, Vancouver is always trying to keep up with it’s southernly old, more refined and cultured sister, yet never really getting it right. It’s sorta like when the younger sister puts on her makeup “just like her sister” that the over applied eye shadow and bright red lipstick makes her looking like a circus clown who is going to the prom.

So our coffee shops in Vancouver are poor imitations. Call me a coffeshop snob. Maybe I am. The things I can’t stand in coffee shops… I hate refinement. I hate sterile. I hate purposed motif. (did I just define Starbucks???)

So here I am at my now perfect coffee shop in Vancouver. Mon Ami.

They have all the basics that a coffee shop should have friendly staff,  Stumptown coffee, comfortable seats and a steady flow of people.

There is something about it. Something not forced or designed about it. What it is I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the half burnt out string of Christmas lights. Maybe it’s the green pastel wall with the clash of purple. Maybe the kids table that has been written on with crayon or the dead plant in the corner of the store. Maybe even the cracked, distressed concrete floor.

Everything isn’t perfect.

Everything isn’t figured out.

Everything isn’t defined.

It doesn’t have to be.

Cause it just it.

And that makes it feel like a very safe place.

So I have decided. I am going to frequent this coffee shop more.

And sometimes… that will mean I will come here.

This morning during some restful time in the Lord I was meditating on the phrase, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner. This is an Eastern Orthodox prayer that is called the Jesus Prayer. I really love this prayer. I love the simplicity. I love how it draws me into Christ. I love the tension that the prayer creates.

My eyes this morning were opened a little wider to the fullness of this prayer.

I have always viewed the last part of the prayer, have mercy on me, a sinner, as the cry of the death row convict about to be sent to the gallows. And the Lord being full of mercy, looking down on this pitiful case and saying, Yes, release that man. I will have mercy on him. And I the guilty and condemned, have my shackles from my wrists and legs removed once again. (not to get me wrong there are times for this)

I wonder how beneficial this consistent “Prison Break” theology is, to the Lord and me. Every morning planning my escape from this wretched, sinful state and yearning again for the mercy of God. Does this self identified sinner who always proclaims his sinfullness ever really get out of the orange jumpsuit?

But I heard differently this morning. Mercy was not something I wish I could have applied to me to some how cancel out my being a sinner. It was more.

Mercy was ON me. Remember when you were first in love. When this happens to someone we say, “Oh, you have fallen into love.” Love is sticky and when you fall into love one thing happens, you get love ON you. Saturated and infatuated, every smell reminds you of your lover, every moment your heart feels like it will explode.

Well this morning mercy fell on me, or maybe I fell into Mercy. Mercy became my possesion. Mercy was tangible. Mercy was On me. Around me. Before me and after me.

Paradox. Paradoxes fill the Bible. And this morning I stumbled across another. That mercy would rest in a container called, a sinner. Lord, there are so many better containers for your mercy. I can understand how the Lord would choose a gold embossed ark, a beautiful temple, or a perfect Eden garden to contain himself. But a sinner?

Imagine this. You are poor and destitute. You have no money. Someone comes to you a, poor beggar, and gives you a million dollars to hand out. Dispense as needed is the only command from the willing benefactor. What does this change in you? Nothing really. For at the end of the day you will still be what you are, a poor beggar.

But when you the beggar hear each morning, when someone asks the rich benefactor, “Who do you have dispense your great wealth?” And the rich benefactor call out to you, the poor beggar, to come forward and says, “I have given all my riches, all my favor, all my resources to him. See the gold, the silver ON this man.” And as he smiles approvingly he mentions, “And by the way did you know that this man is a poor beggar…”

Something in me changes. For today he has given Mercy to be ON me, and by the way I am a sinner.

Paradox for sure. But this is paradox I can live with.