what the Lord requires

Nobody told these birds to dance.
Nobody orchestrated their motions into something wonderful.

They did it all on their own.

The music they heard was not a symphony or a rousing indie anthem but the wind rushing underneath, giving power and form to their soaring.

Why?

It seems silly that these birds would make such a display just because – that they would cause such a great, choreographed spectacle in the sky caught on camera by chance.

It seems silly.

Tonight, I’m headed to the city of brotherly love to conference with a crowd of thousands to hear people like Eugene Cho and Leroy Barber and Dr. John Perkins talk about justice.

I’m not going because it’s hip to believe in something, because it is. I’m not going because I think I’m some big deal – some gift to the cause of justice, because I’m not.

I’m going because I want to learn what to do with the awe I feel when I see birds dance for an audience of One. I’m going because God created this world to reflect Him and there is a whole lot that doesn’t. I’m going because part of loving and treasuring Christ means putting one foot of faith in front of the other in my everyday. Because believing in His promises means I think sin and injustice can be overthrown.

I’m going because I know God’s heart for the lost and the suffering and the outcast, but sometimes I don’t know how to make my knowing come out my fingertips.

If God’s grace allows the birds to dance in glorious display of His creativity, then His grace allows me to treasure Him in the dance of justice seeking, with the wind of His power and pleasure beneath me.

It is not mine to win or gain or give, justice that is. God alone is sovereign in how His plan is carried out, but I can walk in obedience and in the footsteps of Jesus. I can do that. And I think what the Lord requires – doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly – might look like a dance.

Pray with me that God would work on my clumsy heart?

the Christmas story

I love stories.

And this story is the greatest of all – the narrative all other stories envy. This is a magical story because it is also true. No amount of singing loud for all to hear would make a bearded man fly in a sleigh, but this story of God being born as a child happened. This is impossible, outrageous, and absolutely true.

Jesus came to the earth He created so that His children could be redeemed and He could be glorified. The King left His throne to be born in a barn.

The whole thing whispers magic in a way that makes me shiver and giggle and cheer. This is not a magic of darkness or a mystery that thrills by fear. This is a magic that God authored – one that we don’t have words to describe because our efforts  try to tame the mystery.

Jesus came and this is no fairy tale.

And to hear it told through children invites us to stand in awe of the mystery.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the highest stakes always involve darkness

As Bilbo scatters chickens with his flailing arms and excited steps, a neighbor calls out haltingly, “Mr. Bilbo, where are you off to?”

Without even the slightest hesitation and between lopsided, barefoot strides he yells back, “I’m… going… on… an… adventure!”

Breathless. Flailing. Determined.

The grin that anticipates adventure somehow stretches from head to toe … and it tingles. It’s that tingly kind of grin we get when risk and purpose and fear and excitement explode in an opportunity called adventure. For some reason, we are convinced the purpose is worth the risk and the excitement is worth the fear. And probably for that same reason, we wake up like Neverland waits on the other side of our bedroom door and run down the road like we’re planning to catch a ride on a magic carpet. Breathless, flailing determination that easily makes breakfast and the morning paper no longer important.

“A dark part has found a way back into the world.”

The highest stakes always involve darkness.
Always. There is no lopsided, barefoot run into something already discovered – something already tamed from its twilight.

Please don’t misunderstand: it’s not the darkness that excites, but what happens when a match is struck in a thick darkness. The danger of running into darkness is every bit worth it when you are holding what will make the dark light. The risk makes the hair stand straight up on our necks, but the thought of shedding light where darkness reigns is the reason adventure gets thick with breathless, failing determination.

Run with me and cast off your ordinary plans, but first – do you know where the darkness is and have you got any light to offer?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

As you can tell, I am more than a little bit excited for The Hobbit to come out. I have watched this trailer over and over and over again and it never gets old. The highest stakes always involve darkness and this film will certainly paint it in its truest shade.

is the anchor deeper?

It’s hard for me to imagine someone who welcomes death and darkness like I welcome light and love – someone who longs to be in utter, distant loneliness forever. There are such people and Cormac McCarthy introduced me to one such person last night in his screenplay, “The Sunset Limited,” an HBO film.

The entire film takes place in a cramped apartment where two men take ahold of the other’s worldview by the collar and give it a thorough shaking. Their lives could not read more opposite, but their human-ness keeps them in a wordy banter between death and life.

Several times it felt like the wind got knocked clean out my lungs, so direct was the attack on the anchor to which my soul is bound. After Black (played by Samuel L. Jackson) rescued him from a suicide attempt, White (played by Tommy Lee Jones) refuses to give up hope on one thing: giving up. He plans to end his life and finally find peace in the nothingness – the void, dark, solitary space beyond. Everything he valued in life as a respected professor revealed itself as an illusion and in his ‘enlightened’ state the only logical response was suicide.

The despair was palpable as White spoke – like death’s bony hand had already strangled the life out of him, twisting up his insides. When his eyes attempt to betray the death in his soul, his words pound harder the nails on his vacant coffin. Emptiness.

Black (Jackson) is a man of conviction and a self-proclaimed ‘outlaw’ when it comes to faith. He lives in a rough tenement, surrounded by junkies and crackheads, and claims to not have a single thought apart from his Bible knowledge. He lives simply, available and eager to be used by God in the lives of broken people. And White (Jones) would have nothing to do with his charity.

With the striking boldness of a man who has seen death battle in front of him all his life, Black debates the meaning of life with White (and on several occasions requests an everyman paraphrase). Though we are pulled this way and that, the end of the film closes without resolution. We suppose that White left the same man who walked into the shabby room, a pending suicide statistic. We suppose that, though Black is shaken, he remains faithful to the God who took him down to the train tracks the night before.

The irresolute ending feels like a rope unraveled. Brilliant dialogues pull the pieces apart across 91 minutes. In a last, desperate effort to reach White, Black responds to the man’s hope for the cold darkness of suicide,

“Maybe you could just keep that in reserve. Maybe just take a shot at startin over. I dont mean start again. Everybody’s done that. Over means over. It means you walk away. I mean, if everthing you are and everthing you have and everthing you have done has brought you at last to the bottom of a whiskey bottle or bought you a one way ticket on the Sunset Limited then you cant give me the first reason on God’s earth for salvagin none of it. Cause they aint no reason. And I’m goin to tell you that if you can bring yourself to shut the door on all of that it will be cold and it will be lonely and they’ll be a mean wind blowin. And them is all good signs. You dont say nothin. You just turn up your collar and keep walkin.”
― Cormac McCarthyThe Sunset Limited

Black suggests that if White’s life has brought him to make such a terminal decision as suicide, then he’s come to the end of himself. If there is nothing to salvage (nothing except death itself holds meaning), what could be lost in starting over but that which could be gained by starting over?

When White responds with probably the most horrifying monologue of the entire film, we can almost taste the human depravity as it drips off his lips. Void. Cold. Death.

And the viewer must decide what or who is capable of arranging the unraveled strands into something meaningful. The viewer must battle with his own demons and despairs when everything is shaken free of its settled skin.

The viewer must decide if he is the anchor or if the anchor is deeper than his frail, human skin.

Captivated, Prometheus, Eugenics, and Yosemite

It has been a LONG while since I posted links for “this & that.” I’ll just trust you’ve been doing your own sleuthing. In the chance that you haven’t, here are some things you should look up.

  • Friends, please watch this trailer for the documentary, “Captivated.” The lure of media-saturated living is so great and happened so subtly that we barely realize our bondage.
  • I mostly get my movie recommendations from the blogs I read and this post by Thabiti Anyabwile makes me want to look up listings for Prometheus right away. Now, for finding the time to go to the theatre…
  • Oh, did you think eugenics was a thing of the past? This brilliant piece in the NYTimes, “Eugenics, Past and Future” reveals where the idea (because things like public policy always start with ideas and end up with society-altering implications) originated and which great minds were involved in its inception. Now, what does the conversation look like today? I wish there wasn’t one.
  • This timelapse video of Yosemite is breathtaking. Such beauty – really unexplainable beauty. If you’ve got 4 minutes, you won’t be wasting it by watching this video.
  • This is a hard story to read, so don’t click unless you are ready. It’s not one that is filled with hope in the last lines or rings of redemption – this story is streaked with pain.  This freelance writer (and blogger) writes about her very real and frightful struggle with a daughter who has acute mental illness,In the never after.

Now, can I make a shameless plug? Um, I’m trying to … well, I’m trying to “be” a blogger. I guess I mean that in the sense that I’d love to have more “hits” and “pings” and all those things that make your readership grow. Not because I have something to say, or maybe it is because of that. In any case, I’ve been told one of the ways to find more readers is to have them “like” you on facebook. There is a facebook image on my sidebar and if you click on it, you can “like” my blog on facebook. There, I said it and I can’t give you anything for doing it. Just do it if you want to and don’t do it if you don’t.

Okay, friends. Please

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!

lost in translation

"Luke", mixed media on canvas (Makoto Fujimura)

As I sat listening to Nancy Pearcey, my pen wavered, scribbled, wavered, and surrendered. Her masterful articulation put my pen strokes to shame. I won’t try to summarize or capture her description of Francis Schaeffer‘s two story dichotomy in our society today. For that, I will wait to dive into the pages of Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning.

For now, I want to mention one thought: lost in translation.

When Pearcey was asked, “How can we bring this message to our culture today – what do we do practically to get this message out?” at the end of her seminar, she lamented a dreadful linguistic loss. She sighed, “Well, we talk about it.”

Sadly, it’s hard to find words and harder to find conversants. As we rush into “progress” and grow out of our too-small, sacred shoes, the Gospel gets lost in translation. As Makoto Fujimura, prominent NYC artist, describes it,

“We, today, have a language to celebrate waywardness, but we do not have a cultural language to bring people back home.”

Tonight, I watched the film 50/50 with some friends. I was struck by all the ways language broke down around the main character diagnosed with cancer.
His friend fails to communicate love as he follows the haphazard advice of a book.
His girlfriend can’t find words to describe her guilt.
His therapist can only speak textbook and theory.
His father speaks the language of forget and his mother, worry.
And he, the main character, tries hard to speak no language at all.

Today, we have all sorts of language to walk people out to the ledge, but (in all our progress) we struggle to give a living translation of the Gospel in a way that brings people to the only safe Refuge.

God designed us for relationship – a right relationship with Him and Creation. So far, we’ve used great word wizardry to narrate – even glorify – the ways these relationships are wrong. We flood the cinemas with the drama and doom of this language. We overwhelm bookshelves with this unsettling lexicon.

So where is the Gospel in the language of this culture?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy