Tag Archives: light

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

Light of the World

Milky Way
Milky Way (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I live with my family in an impoverished sector of the sprawling Denver metro area. In 1995, I spent a summer here, my first summer immersed in inner-city life, inner-city ministry. I lived with 17 other college students on old mattresses in the dusty back rooms of an urban church, housed in what had been a supermarket before neighborhood violence and an awful murder shut the store down completely. The words for the church in Pergamum might have been for this church: “I know where you live — where Satan has his throne.” For weeks, I passed out animal crackers to barefooted immigrant children, laughed with gang-banger teens, fed homeless, toothy old men, and prayed brazenly against the devil. I fell completely in love with the people, with the city, with the thrill of serving Christ.

 

But there is a downside to inner-city ministry, one I didn’t entirely grasp that first summer, something I have had to swallow as a bitter pill in the years since. In order to love the least of these, you must live among them, on mean streets, in dirty alleys. The blocks without fathers become your blocks, the neighbors with violent tempers become your neighbors, the filth in the gutters blows into your yard. And if you live in a large, high-traffic city, you will know, too, that it is hard to see the stars for the street lights.

 

I remember going with our intrepid little collegiate group up into the mountains after weeks in the city. At night, I was transfixed to see again the stars. The entire Milky Way, glorious across a pitch-black sky, unobscured by high rises and police lights, was truly amazing — literally breath-taking; the flash of meteorites made me gasp.

 

The beauty of Christ is easily obscured by the flashing lights of the world. It takes intentionality to find a quiet place to see. And without seeing, without peering, studying, meditating, it is all too easy to “lose your first love.”