Jesus


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.

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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.

1 Corinthians 13:7 says “Love believes all things.” Really, all things? Now there must be some allegorical, some mystical view of this verse. A literal interpretation on this verse makes me feel uncomfortable. Come on Paul, you really can’t be asking me to believe all things. We have a words for that kind of person. Gullible. Sucker. Really Paul, you must mean something different than this. Really, does Love believe all things?

Must I believe my friend who I feel has hurt me and when confronted tells me that was not his intention.

Must I believe my wife when she tells me that she did not mean to spoil our monthly budget, but was trying to feed our family with healthy, organic food.

Yes, I have to believe Paul knew exactly what he was saying when he said that Love is believing.

Cause that is my Lord.

My Lord is believing.

He believes me when I recommit myself to Him, knowing that I am going to fail.

He believes me when I ask forgiveness, knowing that I am going to falter.

He believes me when I say I want to spend time with him, knowing that I am going to sleep in the morning.

Some may call Him gullible, some may call Him a sucker.

But I call Him Love.

And He’s my Lord, who is my Love, and He believes me.

And so I must do the same…

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Richard Rohr comments in his book Jesus’ Plan For a New World, “Every town has the hard-to-get-to spot where the teens pain graffiti, late at night, at tremendous risk. Yet when the soul feels utterly insignificant, it writes its name where you can’t miss it.”

I have always wondered what drives someone to dangle above a freeway, nudging themselves along a concrete precipist, with a couple of cans of spray paint(probably made this mistake of not bringing enough spray paint only once) to get to that billboard and tag it with some unintelligible graffiti. I mean really, I don’t like graffiti(it messes with my sense of order), but I have to admit there are some taggers that I consider absolute rock stars for their incredible sense of daring.

Yet really, isn’t it a desperate cry for attention. “Look at me” it screams. It forces the attention of the world of commuters to view at the ‘art’ of one desperate individual.

But back to the quote above. Really am I any different? Yes I don’t hang over highways or slip into tunnels in the cover of the dark. Yet I have realized that when my soul feels insiginfcant, ignored, repressed, or not affirmed that I have the tendancy, even the propesity, to write my name where you can’t miss it.

To scream, “Look at me”, To demand attention. This is what we graffiti artists do.

The spray paint that we use is just a colorful as the graffiti artist’s pallete of colorful cans. They are,

Anger, gossip, arguing, withdrawal, sarcasm, hypocrisy, bitterness, attention, ignoring, disconnection.

(just to name a few)

(my favorite colors are withdrawing and disconecting if you really need to know)

We all do these things. They are as second nature to us as breathing. But the important thing is this

not to know what I do, but to know why I do it.

I know what I do, I know what I do when I get frustrated or annoyed or fearful, but to understand the why, now that really gets to the heart of things.

I guess I have come to this realization. We all have different forms of graffiti. You have soul graffiti, I have soul graffiti. And I am ok with that. And I am confident my Lord that he will clean up our graffiti in his way and in his time. Lest we forget, that love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith and meekness and temperance are called the fruits of the Spirit and not the fruits of my hard work and sweat. They are the fruits of the evidence of the Spirit movement in you and me.

P.S. For what it is worth, I have heard the book Soul Graffiti by Mark Scandrette is just awesome. I have not read it so I have no idea if it has any relation whatsoever to the above. But I have heard it is a must read.

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A week ago I set out on an Experiment in Hope. (view part 1) Here is what I found as the thread of hope in my days.

Is there anything better than losing your first tooth? The hope of getting older. The hope of something new coming in. I find it ironic that children lose teeth and adult don’t. Quite frankly I don’t think an adult could handle the fragility of looking different, having to change the way I would eat (how dare anyone tell me to change!). An adults self esteem and ego would be crushed. But a child celebrates it! And their hope is rewarded by the faithful and elusive tooth fairy.

I was sitting in Powell’s Books, (the largest used bookstore in Portland). There I saw a young artist. She had a sketch book and graphite pencils. I walked up to get a coffee and passed by her. She was drawing. What I do not know. But in that I saw hope. She wasn’t reading to gain knowledge, she was not involved in some deep theological and esoteric conversation, she was simply drawing. Cause she could. There was something coming out of her. I love artists. They inspire me. I feel artists are people who the DNA of hope. May their tribe increase among us!

I just need to say that I don’t like fishing. I think it is one of the hopeless activities in life. (Much of this feeling is likely due to my own lack of success.) This time of year on the Columbia River there is a chinook run of salmon. There are thousands of boats on the river, all lined up in neat rows. All with hope of catching that illusive salmon. To me this is hope shared. To know that they have hope somehow makes me feel more hopeful.

Almost every telephone pole in downtown Portland is covered like this. Advertisements, bands, garage sales, events and special occasions. All saying something, all wanting attention and specifically my attention. They are tattered, partially covered, faded pieces of paper. But these mini-internet telephone poles scream what hope is to me. Hope is always fading. The moment I cling to a moment of hope a little too tightly it slips away from me. My hope of yesterday is tattered and needs to be replaced with a new hope event.

And that is what I came away with about Hope. Hope is only good for this moment. When you see Hope breathe Him in deeply. And then exhale. Ready to take your next breath. For in the next breath of Hope, He will be all your breath can handle. In fact He may even take your breath away.

My little girl, Charlotte, drew this beautiful picture of a rainbow. (is there anything better than a child’s artwork?) I asked her, “Charlotte, what are those things in the middle of the rainbow?” She quite confidently said, “Daddy, those are steps, so you can see the rainbow better.”

Of course, steps, why hadn’t I thought of that. In fact in all my thinking about rainbows I can quite assuredly say that I’ve never thought about steps. I’ve thought about pots of gold, where do rainbows start and end, how are rainbows made, lucky charms, noah and the flood and the theological ramifications of rainbows, but never have I thought about desiring steps in order to see a rainbow more closely. All my rainbow thoughts are focused on what I can get from the rainbow. Gold, theology, promises and destiny.

And my little girl wants to build steps into the rainbow to see,

the depth of green,

the fire of orange,

the brilliance of blue,

the passion of red,

the glory of yellow,

the royalty of violet,

the mystery of indigo,

Not that she knows any of those things. Not yet, but she will. The more she enjoys the rainbow, the closer she gets, the more she will see.

And the more I see that I need to stop and enjoy the the Lord for who He is, not for what He gives and not with what I can get.

But to discover Him and the closer I get the more I see Him as,

depth

fire

brilliance

passion

glory

royalty

mystery

Not that I know any of those completely.

Not yet, but I will, and I am. The more I enjoy the Lord, the more I will see.

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