Tag Archives: Eternal Perspective

Billy Graham is 99

My husband can do a mean Billy Graham impersonation.  His voice drops an octave, his eyes start to twinkle, and in his best Southern accent, he implores, “Come on down, just come as you are.  Come on down.”  Billy, as you’ve probably heard, hit 99 today — 99 years on planet Earth.  The man was born in 1918, between two world wars, before polio was eradicated, before Twinkies or Elvis or NASA.  He lived through a tumultuous century of wars and scandals and Al Gore inventing the internet.  He was friends with 12 presidents of the United States and spoke in all the far-flung corners of the world, from a divided Berlin to backwater outposts of Africa — topping 185 countries in all.  Pretty good globetrotting for a guy who was born in the days of the Model T.

But how in the world did Billy Graham catapult onto a world stage?

How a gangly Southerner speaking the same old message over and over again could powerfully rivet stadiums full of skeptics is a mystery — the mystery of the gospel.  At bottom, it is a simple (nevertheless astonishing) story of a murdered Jewish carpenter and his subsequent rising again.  Crazy.  And Billy never tried to improve on it, he stuck to the facts.  Come on down, Billy said.  “Believe that Christ died for you. He suffered for you. He won the battle over sin for you. He rose from the grave and was victorious over death so that you can live forever.”

In honor of old Reverend Graham and the faithful, inspiring life he’s led, I give you a dozen great Graham quotes.  Seems Billy and I like to natter on about the same subjects; these quotes all hit on a topic from Thirty Thousand Days.  I think that’s fitting, since Billy has lived exactly 36,160 days today.

Seeing Eternally

“I often wonder if God, in His sovereignty, allows the eyesight of the aged to cast a dim view of the here and now so that we may focus our spiritual eyes on the ever after.”

Worshipping Wholeheartedly

“The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”

Walking Purposefully

“Strengthen your commitment to Christ—now. Don’t wait until the storms of temptation, or sickness, or old age threaten to blow you off-course; now is the time to strengthen your faith.”

Caring Passionately

“We should be about our Father’s business by pouring His compassionate love into aching and parched souls that have nowhere to turn, no one to love, and no one to care. Let them see Jesus in us. That is a living testimony.”

Giving Generously

“God has given us two hands – one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.”

Holding Loosely

“…we are dissatisfied. We want more, more, more. But Jesus said, ‘You cannot serve God and money.’ He said that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses. Adolf Berle, in his study of power, points out that riches often make people solitary and lonely and, of course, afraid. Many times a rich man knows loneliness and fear, because when he makes wealth his god, it leaves him empty. You see, without God life loses its zest and purpose and meaning.”

Loving Deeply

“The greatest need in the world is the transformation of human nature. We need a new heart that will not have lust and greed and hate in it. We need a heart filled with love and peace and joy, and that is why Jesus came into the world.”

Standing Firm

“I feel sorry for the man who has never known the bracing thrill of taking a stand and sticking to it fearlessly. Moral courage has rewards that timidity can never imagine. Like a shot of adrenaline, it floods the spirit with vitality.”

Choosing Light

“No matter how dark and hopeless a situation might seem, never stop praying.”

Rest

“Humanity wants comfort in its sorrow, light in its darkness, peace in its turmoil, rest in its weariness, and healing in its sickness and diseases: The Gospel gives all of this to us.”

Unhooked and Unhindered

“A real Christian is the one who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip.”

Home

“My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”

A man who has lived nearly forty thousand days exceedingly well is a guy we should all be asking how to live.  As Mr. Graham so eloquently put it, “The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.”  I’d say he used his time pretty darn well.

Eternal Perspective Excerpt

From Thirty Thousand Days!

“We are very, very small. Consider for a moment that there are over 100 billion stars in the Milky Way alone, and that the Milky Way is only one of billions of galaxies. Try to fathom for a moment the unfathomable distance between each of these perpetually exploding balls of gas — perhaps 20 million million miles between stars — then head out to your front yard and look up.  Reel, dizzy, under that spinning disco-ball — do you feel appropriately humble?”  Read more at crosswalk!

 

Life is Vapor, Week 12

We wrapped it up last night, our study of Ecclesiastes.  The Preacher has taken us one by one down a maze of dead-end roads, pushing us past our pat answers.  As Derek Kidner says, “The searching questions he has asked are those that life itself puts to us, if we will only listen.  He can afford to ask them, because in the final chapters he has good news for us, once we can stop pretending that what is mortal is enough for us, who have been given a capacity for the eternal.”

Last night we asked, in light of all that is vanity, all that is better, and that which is best — how shall we then live?  How can we make the most of time, we who are small and fleeting?

From time to time, when you need to reset your heart, when your soul grows impatient with this forever waiting (that isn’t so long, really, after all), listen to David.  Let him remind you to still your mind from all this fretting life and lift your eyes again to things outside of time.  Remember, we are heading Home.

Psalm 103, Of David.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

 

When you want to trade Little for Big.

They are still small, mini-people, with that baby fine hair and the imperfect use of pronouns.  But every single one already has strong opinions, big plans.  “Mine,” says one. “I want purple.”  She snatches a block, fierce and determined.  Her tower is prodigious (maybe six inches tall).  She guards it with a look that means trouble is coming; the boy next to her grins and his arm swings.  Purple blocks go flying.

She has built her little masterpiece with great care, but doesn’t yet know the rules of the game.  Nothing built under the sun will last.

Ecclesiastes says it loud and clear:  “I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.   And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless!  So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world.” (Ecc. 2:18-20, NLT)  

It’s a knowledge that can drive you mad or set you free depending on your perspective.  Howard Hughes?  Crazy as a loon.  Ernest Hemingway?  Despondent to the point of death.  It was Hemingway who once wrote, “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”  It doesn’t take an Einstein to realize that life is short and work is hard.

Still, tilt your head another way and it’s a beauty that will knock you down.  Sometimes artists grab onto this, chiseling their sculptures in sand or ice or melting candles.  Even the medium they choose testifies to the truth:  life is so, so very short.  Like a fabulous sunset or a towering stormcloud, we live for a brief, incandescent moment, and then we are gone.  It's the blink-and-you'll-miss-it quality of life that makes it so precious.

But we little people like to do big things.  We want to build the Taj Majal, the Great Wall — but even those are an earthquake away from oblivion.  Our best efforts are more like the ancient mosaic archaeologists uncovered last year:  a happy skeleton with his wine bottle proclaiming, “Be cheerful, enjoy your life.”  Yep.  Chew on that irony for a minute.

So we squirm, we scorn our little lives.  We miss things of eternal value because they are small and transient, and we are reaching for grand and magnificent.  But what if the things that really last, that really matter, are intangible?  We see “through a glass darkly,” a wobbly, cloudy image of what’s real.  But one day we’ll step into the light and see clearly.

In an absolutely fascinating BBC video you can watch a Japanese pufferfish on the ocean floor–happy little guy, living his fishy little life far from Hollywood.  He seems to have found the secret of joy “under the sun,” embracing his momentary existence with verve.  He is just like us, small and insignificant, committed to projects that will soon wash away.  And yet in his own little way he whispers his winsome secret in his quiet corner of the sea.  It really is a marvel (you have to see it to believe it), but this engaging creature went undetected through all of history until just now.  The BBC comments, “Its fragility has no doubt played a role in this undiscovered secret. The structure has no permanence, or any need for permanence. Perhaps its simplicity has rendered previous witnesses confused or merely unimpressed.”  Think of it, such a wonder happening year after year, never seen or celebrated by the likes of us.  What kind of God bothers to make such crazy spectacles, only to keep them hidden for millennia?

My small son commented that our fishy friend has painted the sun, just as it would look from a rippling under-the-sea perspective.  I would like to say to Solomon that even “under the sun” there is beauty.

A fish that makes God smile.  A sandcastle that will soon erode away.  A life that flashes by, but touches other lives that touch other lives that touch other lives…

A diaper changed.  A nursing home visit.  A cup of hot chocolate for cold, homeless hands.  A field plowed and sown, weeded and fertilized, not just the once, but year after year after year.  Choosing joy when your heart aches and it would be so easy to just give up, choosing to serve when you’d rather sleep.  These little things are slow, unseen, difficult, and generally monotonous.  They remind us that we have more in common with strange, small fish than Michelangelo, and even Michelangelo is more fishy than forever.

Don’t be too quick to exchange Little for Big.  Maybe in the end, a little love is all that lasts.

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photo credit:  BBC

Glory in the Grilled Cheese

What’s a good career path for a girl who just wants to change the world?  Stay at home mom, right?  Wait…

I’m a person who feels strongly what Courtney Reissig calls the “pull of the spectacular.”  I want my short life to count.  I want to do eternal things with the days I’ve been given.  I wanna imitate the disciples, 12 ordinary guys who turned the world upside down.  And the world needs changing.  It’s so broken!  There is so much injustice, so much poverty; it breaks my heart.  In college, I studied great writers, great thinkers, great teachers and revolutionaries.  I studied the lives of missionaries and politicians, and I wanted to be one of them.

I’m all about doing big things.  If I help to plan an event, I want 1,000 people to show up.  If I write a book, I want 1,000,000 to buy it.  I want to do big things for God, but that’s not the commission He has given me.  Evidently, He wants me to do small things with great love.  He wants to take center stage, not to shine a spotlight on me.

So I’m a stay at home mom.  I don’t even have a dozen children to boast of, just three.  I spend my days assigning books to read, catching up on a sinkful of dirty dishes, and cooking.  I don’t even cook amazing gourmet meals — we eat a lot of cereal.  My house is always in need of a good scrub, and I’m perpetually behind on school with the kids.  So what does it mean to be faithful in exile as a mom?  It’s what my husband calls “the peculiar glory of humble circumstances.”

First, I think being faithful means having faith.  Having faith, as we teach our little ones, that “God is great,” and “God is good.”  He is mighty, He is thoughtful, and He is sovereign over all of the little details of my life.  He doesn’t need me to accomplish great things; He’s got “great” covered.  Just as I can trust Him for my salvation, I can trust Him to make all things beautiful in His time—including all the little details of my life.  And little things can be eternally significant, like little mustard seeds that grow up into towering trees.

I think being faithful means loving God—ridiculously.  It means worshipping Him with a glad, full heart, day in and day out, even when my days kinda start to look the same from one to the next.  My primary contribution to the world is to adore and enjoy Jesus with my husband, with my children, with all of y’all.  It’s not about me at all.

I think being faithful means loving my neighbor extravagantly.  In this case, my most obvious neighbors are Michael, Josh, Abbey, and Patrick.  When I wash a pan that somebody made a grilled cheese in, I am loving my neighbor.  When I do the bills, I am loving my neighbor.  It’s not glamorous, but it is God-honoring.  And frankly I don’t even do it for my family, I do it for Jesus.  Whenever we give a cup of cold water in His name, He receives it as a gift to Himself.

And finally, I think being faithful in exile means remembering that what matters eternally far outweighs what matters for a fleeting moment.  Love is significant, because it plants seeds that bloom in eternity.  Our lives are really, really short, but every moment that we dedicate to the Lord will have long-lasting impact.

We are in exile here, in a broken and fallen world.  There are “thorns and thistles” — obstacles and tediousness and heartache galore.  As a stay at home mom, I experience this exile as a long wait, a wait for Home.  And whenever I can serve with humility and love, I am reminded of Jesus’ exile here on earth.  He did not seek fame and fortune; He came to love extravagantly, to serve ceaselessly, and to lay down His life for you and me.  Any frustration I feel at being mired in little chores is swallowed up by awe when I consider the God who came to our little earth out of a great, great love.

This post was written for a quick testimony at church.  We’ve been walking through the book of Daniel (check it out!) and considering what it means to be faithful in exile.  Each week someone from the congregation has shared what faithfulness looks like in their unique context.  This was me taking a stab at it.

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.

Election Year Exiles

So Michael (my husband) is a council member over at GCL, and they’ve invited me to write for their blog time to time.  This month the focus is politics, so (PoliSci geek here), I was happy to oblige.  

When we read the New Testament in present day America, it is always with a degree of imaginative remove, like watching a period piece on PBS.  We cock our head: you don’t say!  There always seem to be sandals and dusty robes, grapes and flatbread, lots of sheep… bleating.  Peter and Paul and all those Marys — they look dirty, but somehow pristine; wisdom makes them seem to glow.  They look like Morgan Freeman, or Gandalf, and when they say curious things, it’s hard to separate what’s cultural from what’s timeless.

It’s easy to relegate Biblical themes to a Roman Empire movie set — for example, assuming that idolatry was an ancient problem, or that modesty is now outdated.

Likewise, the idea that we are all aliens and strangers is hard to grasp in our patriotic “Christian country.”  After all, the early Christians (and for that matter, the Jews) lived in enemy-occupied territory; of course Peter would talk like that.

Continue Reading HERE.