a front row seat in the glorious theater

Darkness fell like a hush; the lights circled us as we circled the fire. The jumping glow splashed on our faces and warmed our autumn skin as we cupped black coffee in thankful hands. The sky speckled with stars and the creatures sang out their evening melodies.

And we sat in the front row in the glorious theater of God.

After reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, we had all carried around conversations that couldn’t happen over the phone and couldn’t happen half-hearted. This night was set apart to try to understand someone from the great cloud of witnesses – to look at the life of someone who treasured the Lord in such a way that he was ruined for anything else.

And we sat in the front row in the glorious theater of God, right there in the backyard of an Iowa farmhouse.

The candles glowed in mason jars to light the path from the woodshop, where we enjoyed a bountiful spread of German delights, and inside I was a mess of emotion. A weighty, good mess of gratitude and purpose and joy and hope and pain and fear and defeat and doubt and sorrow. When despair seems simpler and right, stories of hope read more like fiction. But not last night… not when we remembered people whose lives were anchored by one thing, driven by one thing, delighted by one thing … and not when I looked around at the firelit faces of my friends, whose struggles on stormy seas are anchored deep down by the same greatest treasure.

The struggle is not to stay upright, but to rejoice in the anchor which holds us. Bonhoeffer’s life was not about making the message of Jesus look good or better or more intellectual than whatever religion his peers and countrymen presented. He was not about being interesting or popular or approachable, at least in the end. Bonhoeffer purposed to be about truth. He set out to know God and to draw others into a knowledge of God as it is revealed in the Word of God. His culture said a lot of things, burned a lot of books, and printed a lot of promotional materials for massive political campaigns… but Bonhoeffer had eyes to shake off the surface storms and cling to the hope that anchored and the only hope that would reveal the evil that had usurped the hearts of his countrymen.

This. This is beautiful, I thought.

I love how David Hall describes John Calvin’s thoughts on our seats in the glorious theater.

Calvin described this world, moved by God’s providence, as theatrum gloriae. For him, every aspect of life from work to worship and from art to technology bears the potential to glorify God (Institutes, 1.11.12). Creation is depicted as a platform for God’s glory (1.14.20) or a “dazzling theater” (1.5.8; 2.6.1), displaying God’s glorious works. Calvin viewed the first commandment as making it unlawful to steal “even a particle from this glory” (2.8.16). Such comments support Lloyd-Jones’ later claim that for Calvin “the great central and all-important truth was the sovereignty of God and God’s glory.” (“The Theater of God’s Glory” by David Hall at Ligonier Ministries)

I went away from the night knowing we hadn’t talked about everything, hadn’t appreciated history completely, hadn’t understood theology thoroughly… but oh so thankful that we showed up at the theater. I’m thankful I have others with whom I can behold the glory of God and I’m thankful for the support we give each other to be unapologetic about truth.

Today, I am still purposing to know God, find out what pleases Him, and delight to do those things. And today I am thankful for those I can share steps with along the way.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

making me nervous

In a few weeks, I’ll sit around a table of delicious German food with some of my closest friends to discuss a true story of transformation, tragedy, and terror. We’re going to discuss a book about a life – the life of a man who would not tolerate a theology that would wipe out a race of people. Reading the book, Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, a few years ago was terrifying. I had walked inside the gates at Auschwitz in Poland and seen the incinerators; I had stood in the tower and looked across the field of long buildings built for suffering and death.

The account of this brilliant German man with the right pedigree and the right education and the right friends is ugly in its revealing of everything wrong about the world… about the human condition… about everything culture slowly and slyly considers “right” without question.

But book clubs with biographies are meant to focus on the past, to stir up nostalgia or pride or gratitude that terrible times had such wonderful people to overcome them. So why is The New York Times making me nervous today? Why do I think Bonhoeffer’s words would ring as poignant today, in our much progressed culture of tolerance?

Why does today seem so terrible?

I have to read the news in waves – a little bit here, a bit there… some in the morning and some over lunch. Because it feels ominous. A sliver of a column on the front page was dedicated to the continuing conflict in Syria while a lion and her cubs enjoyed a photo and feature further down on the page. Zoos are having trouble deciding what to do when babies “don’t fit the plan.” I guess those babies were part of, “All the news that’s fit to print” in a more prominent sense than the failure of any diplomatic, peaceful measures by Annan in the battered and bruised country of Syria.

This probably reads like a jumbled jigsaw puzzle and that’s because it is. I know I’ve got a hope secure and I know I’ve got to share this message, but is this world making anyone else nervous? When I sit around that table in a few weeks, enjoying good German food with kindred spirits, I have a feeling they’ll know exactly what I mean.

parody, tarp surfing, learning to teach, and open heaven

It’s been awhile since a “this & that” post. There’s plenty to look at, click on, hear, watch, and do. Do as little or as lot as you wish, but whatever you do – let knowledge be something that produces action. It’s my hope that the more I know, the more I can translate that knowledge into love actions in a way that pleases my Lord. Just like all Truth is God’s, all knowledge is possible only because He’s allowed it to be so.

  • Andrée Seu is a woman I’d love to meet. This piece, “Under an Open Heaven,” seems to be a page right out of my heart. Here’s a taste, now please go read the rest!

My lover is the fresh wind of the Spirit, blowing through the rafters of my melancholy. My lover speaks of God “in season and out of season,” like Jesus at the well in Sychar, in his fatigue and hunger. There is no difference between his “religious” talk and his regular talk. He does not sound one way in church and another at the mall.

Walking with him I feel no sides, no floor, no ceiling, and everything all new: No past, no future. No rules but God’s. No servitude but to Him. No man-made impossibilities. We do the adventure called “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Let me be blunt: This is fun!

  • Wanna know what makes a great story? Seems like this post would answer it, “1+1=3 Ken Burn on what makes a great story” but it may not answer your math questions.
  • If I could choose a conference to go to this summer (in addition to the Muslim Missions Conference in Dearborn, Michigan), it would be the gem of a conference in Florida – The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference. The next best thing, of course, is to read/listen to everything. Carrie Sandom, hailing from the UK, will be speaking and here’s an introduction that makes me excited to hear more from her. “Learn the Bible to Teach the Bible” makes a bunch of sense.
  • Do you doubt that a landlocked country could surf waves? Doubt no more. This is really sweet.

  • Not to be “that kind of fan,” but Metaxas has proved himself as a brilliant writer and historian (Amazing Grace and Bonhoeffer). This article, “Spirituality as Parody” is definitely worth the read as well (and a lot shorter than Bonhoeffer).
  • What does your view of Scripture have to do with your view of God? See what J.I. Packer has to say about that, “Your View of Scripture and Your View of God.”
  • If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been grooving to the new band Citizen. They’re cool enough to spend $3 on, for sure.

Okay, friends. That’s all for now. Click, read, listen, watch, and… then DO something.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy