Tag Archives: seeing

Checking One Off the Colorado Bucket List

Last weekend we decided to drive east instead of west.  About two and a half hours’ drive are the Pawnee Buttes, rising up out of the flat plains like giant, misplaced sand castles.  To get there, you have to hold your nose through dairy towns and take care to stop at one last outpost of civilization before about a 45-minute stretch of boondocks.  You’ll be pretty sure you are heading the wrong way; the wooden painted signs are so weatherbeaten that they are hard to read, the asphalt trucks apparently abandoned their paving task shortly off the highway.  There is even what can only be called a ghost town there in the sticks — a cluster of abandoned houses that once optimistically catered to tourists of the Buttes.  But then,  you’re there. 20170218_15574220170218_170652

What is so arresting about this little pocket of Colorado?  For one thing, you can’t see it coming — it just sort of shimmers into being at the last minute like an apparition from the Wild West.  Empty field, empty field –boom.  Humongous towers.  It reminds me in that way of Black Canyon, only in that case the last-minute jaw-dropper falls down, a yawning cavern hewn out of the earth like the battle scar from some great axe.  In both cases, we tourists begin to mutter “nothing to see here” before rounding that final corner. Black_Canyon_and_Gunnison_River.jpg

And that makes me wonder — what else is hiding in plain sight?  What gobsmacking wonders of the world lie forgotten on the back 40 of some dairy farmer’s fields? Or, for that matter, in our back yard?  On the palm of my hand?

It reminds me of last year’s viral video, the little orange guy who makes us happy.  Who knew he was hiding in the back of your brain?

So much depends on having the eyes to see, the perseverance to track down marvels, the determination to squash the muttering.  Pinch your nose and take a drive — it’s worth the trip!

The Greatest Story Ever Told

“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining…” Sometimes a moment is so powerful that a hush falls over the crowd. Sometimes a whole throng of people turns, as one body, to stareslack-jawed at the sky. Christmas is such a moment.

It’s a simple story, quickly sketched in just 3 chapters of Matthew and Luke—147 verses in all. And yet, 2,000 years later, we still catch our breath to hear it told. Embedded in the little tale is enough to ponder annually for millennia. Here are a few takeaways from the greatest story ever told.

See Eternally.

Christmas is a mystery play. Like the medieval acting troupes who traveled town to town and performed stories from the back of a rickety wagon, all of the characters in the drama are humble folk—their costumes tattered, their astonishment not eloquent, but too stunned for words. It’s not sophisticated, it’s hardly Shakespeare. Christmas is like a comet over a trailer park….

To read more, head on over to Godcenteredlife.org!  I am honored to be blogging there again today.

I don’t know the answers…

Lately I’ve been wondering:  How does God speak?

How does God speak to you?  Does He speak the same way to everyone?  Did He speak the same way to everyone in days of old?  Is Scripture the only way God speaks?

How can God speak through Scripture when it’s not in front of us?  If we have committed Scripture to memory just a little bit wrong, can that create a problem?  If He speaks to us in other ways, how can we hear Him?  How can we discern what is God what is Not God?  How can Satan distort what we hear?  What’s the danger of saying, “God told me…”?

If God’s Word is living and active, can it have both a primary meaning for the original audience and many layers of meaning for new situations and generations?  How does the Bible intend itself to be used?

How do you approach the study of Scripture?  Systematically?  Scatter shot?  Have you ever been surprised by the relevance of a passage you came upon in a regularly scheduled reading plan?  Does God have sovereignty over the calendar?

If you hear no direct answer when you seek God’s will, guidance, or counsel, what does this mean?  Is He not listening?  Does He withhold an answer sometimes?  What should we do in that circumstance?  Is it disappointing when He is quiet?  Can we find an answer in His Word?

Is it better to keep asking under the theory that it is good to persevere, or to remain silent under the theory that He already heard and is firmly in control?  How does His silence present an opportunity for relationship?

What does it mean that Jesus is the Word?  The Word is a person?  What’s the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer?  How does He assist in decision-making?  How do you know?  Jesus said His sheep know His voice — what does it sound like?  Is it easily duplicated?  Is ear-tickling the tactic only of bad preachers, or also of devils?  Does God speak through our emotions, our minds, our circumstances, or in our ears?  Does He still use visions and dreams?  Is there anything that constrains God to use particular means in speaking to us?

If you felt like God did indeed impress something on you, would you take action immediately?  What if you don’t?  What if you do?  Does God ever say one thing at one time and then contradict Himself?  If God never contradicts Himself, why do we, over time, stray from what we believe He first said?  If God never contradicts Himself, how can Scripture be useful in approving what we feel we have heard?

Do you listen to the Lord?  Do you expect to hear Him?  Do you diligently keep a pen handy to write down what you hear?  Do you expect to hear Him on a range of topics, or only certain things?  How detailed is God?

Does He care what cereal I eat for breakfast?

Does He care what music I listen to, which route I take to arrive somewhere, or whether I speak to strangers at the grocery store, or are certain things outside His purview?  If He does care about these things, do I ask His opinion about them?  How do I tune my heart to hear Him?

If you knew that God would speak to you 100 times today but you would hear him only once or twice, how would you feel?  Is this the state of things?  If you believed that the Bible had specific things to say to your situation moment by moment, would you treat it differently? If God spoke to you every day for thirty thousand days, would there be paper enough to write it all down?

If He spoke to me just once, would I be all astonishment?

Have I paid attention to the ways the created world speaks, giving God glory?  How does the Bible unpack the redemptive analogies present in nature?  Does God continue to speak in metaphor through advancing knowledge of creation?  That is to say, is there more to hear?

How do different faith communities approach these questions?  What is there to learn from different camps?  How did heroes of the faith, theologians, and sages, understand these things from different angles?  Am I dogmatic about this?  Should I be?  How earnestly do I seek wisdom in hearing God?  Is there perhaps uncharted territory for me in listening to Him?

What might God have to say to me today?

From Annie Dillard, The Writing Life:  “Rebbe Shmelke of Nickolsburg, it was told, never really heard his teacher, the Maggid of Mezritch, finish a thought because as soon as the latter would say ‘and the Lord spoke,’ Shmelke would begin shouting in wonderment, ‘The Lord spoke, the Lord spoke,’ and continue shouting until he had to be carried from the room.”

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.

See Eternally: Homesick, Part 2

In the waiting, do you lose heart? God is not dead, nor does he sleep. The hiddenness of God does not indicate his absence, his apathy, or even his inaction, just our own blindness. We can’t see God or his host of angels any more than we can see electrons whirling around in our fingertip. That doesn’t mean he isn’t there.

imageInfants enter the world without the ability to trust the invisible. Peek-a-boo is startling to a baby because the baby cannot fathom that Dad, having disappeared, is still in the building. Psychologists say that developing a sense of “object permanence” is one of the first milestones of an infant’s cognitive growth. So it is for the born again. Christ, the Rock, must be to us a permanent object, or we are forever stunted, spiritual babies, subject to panic. Where is he? I can’t see him! I have been waiting five whole minutes!

In the waiting, faith.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is unnecessary when visual evidence is in supply. Should God condescend to give you a roadmap of his plans, you can hang your faith on a hook and rely on divine GPS. In the meantime, faith is the choice of a blind man to trust another’s eyes, to trust enough to run.

While we wait, heaven, too, is waiting. In Hebrews, we read that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, believers gone before us, cheering us on. Run, therefore, even when you are afraid and blind. The finish line is near. The stands are packed, the cheering is a roar. The reward is sweet.

“If I weep,” sang Rich Mullins, “let it be as a man who is longing for his home.” Are you homesick? What a home you have to look forward to.

In Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation we are treated to bizarre descriptions of heaven, relayed by people powerless to articulate what they have been privileged to see. No time traveling involved, mind you — what they glimpsed of heaven was there all along, is there even now, out of sight. The veil briefly lifted, the vision cleared, and hey ho! More than meets the eye. A crystal-clear sea, a city gleaming like jewels, the river of life overhung with orchards straight from Eden… above all, seated high on a throne, the King of Kings, so magnificent in power and glory that even the seraphim cover their eyes, overcome with perpetual awe. This is your home. Seeing eternally means seeing with eyes of faith what we cannot yet see with eyes brown, blue, or green, and translating that faith into footsteps.

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.”