Startled

Sometimes Facebook juxtaposes just the right pair of posts, just the right images to startle me awake, to catch a new glimpse of truth.  Today I saw a such a pair.

Post #1, a video:  colorblind people see color for the first time with innovative new glasses.  Now, I’m going to let you roll that around in your mind for a minute before I hit you with Post #2.  A stream of people unable to distinguish red from green, trapped in a world where everything is a muted, muddy brown, suddenly seeing all the great glory of a simple garden, overwhelmed.  You see them see colors and suddenly you’re seeing color through their eyes, and you realize how much we take for granted, how much beauty overload we live in all the time.  You wonder what else we can’t see, what else is hiding in plain sight.

Now.  Post #2:  women at the March on Washington hold a sign proclaiming “If Mary had had an abortion, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”  And it’s a kick in the gut, one of the few statements left that still has power to shock.  Really?  And it’s a flood of horrifying thoughts, one struggling to top the last—you’d trade the Christmas story for a coat hanger?  Jesus’ death on a cross wasn’t awful enough?  You have that level of hate for the Savior of the world?  You lay the blame for all that’s wrong at His feet—at ours?

But then I understand.  Post #1 is the explanation for Post #2.  There is rampant blindness in our culture, like a population struck with scarlet fever.  I am not exempt.

We do not see the beauty of Christ, because we are dazzled by rhinestone substitutes.

We do not see the Great Story of the world, because we are sidetracked by our own little dramas.

We do not see the long stretch of eternity, because we are caught up in the vapor of now.

We don’t see the struggle and pain of others (but stub a toe and we’ll nurse it all the day long.)

We don’t see the glory of people Not Like Us, because we’re too busy gazing in a mirror.

We miss the rich tapestry of the races.

We miss the quirky strength of the genders.

We can’t see the value and dignity and perfection of the disabled, the bent and twisted ones, the elderly, the mentally challenged, the helpless, unborn human beings whose presence causes us discomfort or inconvenience or shame.

We are so very blind.  And I wonder what it will take for us to see, like Neo to wake up in the Matrix.  But like our colorblind friends, we have been given a pair of nifty glasses; all we have to do is put them on.

So let me pop those puppies on, let me remind myself of Truth.

Back in the very beginning there was a Trio of Oneness, an everlasting symphony of Love.  And this Love, this triune God, His creativity and laughter and yes, love, bubbled over and made the vast and spectacular universe, from Milky Way to micro-organism.  And there in the middle of an extraordinary garden (red and green included in all their shades), He put a pair of people, and He called them very good.  But a snake slithered in, and the world was broken, and instead of choosing light, we craved the darkness.  All that is broken and hurting and wrong in the world traces back, back, back to that choice, that moment, leaving us crying out, “Vanity!  Vanity!”

But still He wasn’t done, and Love came down into the muck to be spat upon, mocked, beaten, rejected, and finally murdered.  But still He wasn’t done; He burst the bonds of the grave, defeated death, and made a way for blind eyes, my eyes, to see.

He is beauty.  All that is good and right in the world shines because He breathed on it, shines because it bloomed out of His imagination.

Those women, the ones with the sign—they were dreamed up and fashioned out of Love.  There is grace for them just as there was mercy for me.  And the babies they’d just as soon dispose of?  Each one a wisp of smoke that never was?  No.  Each one was painstakingly designed, seen, and adored.

Let’s be the people of color, the people who dole out compassion, joy, forgiveness, and kindness, who lend others our lenses and help them want to see.

Dostoevsky said beauty will save the world.  Thank the Lord, He already did.

Mamas and Boys

Four mamas, nine boys between us.  The oldest is fifteen, the smallest fiercely five, and we’ve been through it.  From infertility to a whole lot of surprising fertility, from spectrums and conditions to hand-wringing and tears.  We’ve seen the inside of a lot of hospitals and churches and counselors’ offices and McDonalds, laughed and snorted and cried and blushed and spent a lot of time with the mouth hanging open and the did-you-really-just-do-that shrieking at a high pitch.

Being a mama of boys (or girls, for that matter, though our particular batch of girls is awfully well-mannered and easy…  Girls are not any more or less wonderful or necessarily simpler to raise, but this post is not about them.  That’ll keep for another day.)  But back to my point — being a mama of boys is not for the faint-hearted.  You realize after a while that these little creatures are making plans, and they are not your plans.  They are diving into danger with gusto and not much forethought, and pretty soon all the mamas are running full-tilt behind them, hollering out cautions and suggestions aplenty.  We are raising little men, and they are rocketing into the future faster than we can rein them in.

These are the men who will shape the world.

You realize when you’ve been around the ring a time or two that after a while the decisions to be made come down to your boy and God.You realize after a while that the decisions to be made come down to your boy and God..jpg  None of the steam you can produce from both ears, none of the dreams you’ve dreamed can alter the story written for him; your boy is on a journey you haven’t scripted, making choices you would undo and letting the chips fall.  Think of the long history of the world, the Jacobs and Esaus and Moseses, the Roosevelts and the Edisons and the MLKs.  Think of all the mamas, running behind, waving a handkerchief vainly to keep them from boarding that train.  Wouldn’t you have cleaned up their stories a bit?  Wouldn’t you have wiped away the ugly parts?  But then they’d never have become who they were, and our collective story wouldn’t be what it is.

If I were Mary, and I could somehow save my boy from his long, troubled road, I would, I would.  But the nail that sank into his story turned out to be the fulcrum that levered the whole broken world out of the mess we were in.  That ugly nail was grace.

So how do we pray these boys into men?  What do we do when they’re rushing headlong into disaster?

Well, I guess there are a lot of squawks that sneak out before we get the hand over the mouth, a lot of lurching stomachs when we peek through the fingers.  God give us the grace to hide our face in His shoulder and let Him do all the watching and worrying.

I find myself praying for grace a lot these days; praying for the grace to let go, the grace to be patient, the love to expect all things, believe all things, endure all things.  I pray for faith in the Author and His perfectly beautiful story, and I remember all of the great men who started life as impetuous, not-always-wise boys.  I pray for grace to put down what I’m doing and listen, really listen, whenever I can; for the first thing I say in the morning and the last thing I say at night to be sweet, and not overfull of finger-wagging.

I pray for my friends’ boys, the ones with impossible hurdles ahead, and I remember that with God all things are possible.

Four mamas, nine boys.  Boys who will break bones and forget homework and visit tattoo parlors and leap off of tall things, scale mountains, raft rivers, join rock bands, and kiss girls.  Nine men who will be overcomers—courageous, visionary, strong, kind, humble, and mostly?  Very, very loved.  Four women who will learn (sometimes the hard way) to trust in our good, good Father, and share His delight in the escapades of silly, impulsive, fearless, wise-cracking little boys.

Conversation Across the Airwaves

Writers are shy people who can spend long hours all alone.  We aren’t supposed to do terrifying things like give interviews!  But here for your amusement is my first radio show.  The kind man who interviewed me is Marty Guise from KSIV in St. Louis, and you can find him on Facebook at Lay Renewal Ministries.

 

The Sun Also Rises

It’s between the rock and the hard place.  Between the devil you know and the devil you don’t.  It’s at the crossroads of unanswered prayers and thwarted desires, deeply held but conflicting priorities, impending doom to the one side and catastrophes to the other.  It’s where ironies tumble one upon the next and paradox makes your head spin.  God is working the intersections.

Here where what you hoped for proves to be a nightmare, you might yet catch a glimpse of Him.  Or there, where the worst has happened and it seems to be strangely turning out for the best.

You’d think a benevolent God would show up with a third choice when you’re stuck between two equally abhorrent options.  So often He doesn’t.  Through the agonizing pros and cons, the Wise One teaches wisdom.  We learn to cry out for help when we stumble.  And the church always shines brightest, grows strongest, in the throes of persecution.

It shouldn’t surprise us.  After all, this is a God whose greatest moments seem to coincide with the ugliest history:  the drowning of an army, the murder of a king.  This is a God who gave us Job and Ecclesiastes, who doesn’t flinch at the hammer and anvil, but pounds out blessing with a weighty thump.

But this is also the God who, right from the beginning, spoke light into the darkness.  “And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.”  Dawn, as it’s been said, always gets the last word.

This is no distant, clean hands God, but a born-in-a-barn God, a get-down-in-the-muck God.  He doesn’t dole out suffering nonchalantly, He is a weeping God, a longing God, God of passion and compassion.  Whatever else we know, we know He is Love.

It doesn’t do us any good to downplay the obstacles, to trade in fortitude for fluff.  But it’s not any better to sink under calamity like a broken boat in a storm.  Listen, if the only thing you know for certain is that God is good, and God is in control, that’s enough.  Hope will be an anchor for your soul.

Should CNN batter our hearts with relentless bad news, we can hang on to that hope, grip the ropes, ride the waves.  Healing follows pain, beauty’s born in ashes, grace always bends to meet us in our brokenness.

Maybe this will be a year for beatitudes.  Listen to Jesus’ words from Matthew 5.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

The Fray found God at the corner of 1st and Amistad.  I say we can find Him between a rock and a hard place, under the mercy, in the mystery.  And hey — what’s that gleaming in the shadows?  I’ll be darned.  Hope leads straight on to joy.

We’re not home yet, not by a long shot.  But one day soon(ish), the sun will rise and just keep on rising.  (There is evening, and there is morning, the Last Day.)  image