Spitting Image

“She looks just like you!”ChaseFlora

That’s the usual, almost automatic response we give to any new parent holding their baby. Sometimes its only an unfounded nicety since most babies really look like, well…babies.

But for our newest granddaughter its not just a nice thing to say when you first meet her.

She looks like her daddy…a lot!

We try really hard to find our beautiful daughter in that tiny new face, but when Flora looks back at you, even Lauren says “all you see is Chase.”

She is his mini-me; his doppelganger. Or as my wife likes to jest, “he’d never be able to deny she was his!”

My mom would have said it this way: “she’s her daddy’s spitting image“.

I know, its a really weird phrase. But it has a unique origin, starting as “spit and image”–spit being an old English word for perfect likeness. The phrase then evolved through “spitten image” to the modern “spitting image”.

Interesting rabbit trail, but its the definition we’re after here. It means:

  • Undeniable resemblance
  • Exact replica
  • Mirror reflection

I thought back on this phrase as I began brooding over Advent while enjoying Thanksgiving with Chase, Lauren & Flora. Looking into the sweet countenance of this tiny daddy-duplicate, I was reminded of another Baby who looked just like His Dad.

The Apostle Paul, who was unceremoniously dismounted when he met Jesus face to face, said this about that family resemblance:

  • “The Son is the image of the invisible God.”
  • “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.”
  • “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”

(Colossians 1:15, 19; 2:9)

Referencing this same reality, the Author of Hebrews recorded these words: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” (Hebrews 1:3a)

These verses make one fact clear and undeniable:

Jesus was the spitting image of His Father.

These New Testament writers were really just echoing what John reported Jesus so often saying.

“If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:7-9)

Jesus seemed obsessed with making sure His followers understood this idea. Check out what else John recorded from Jesus’ teaching:

“The Word was God.”
“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son who…has made him known.”
“Whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
“I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”
“If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”
“I and the Father are one.”
“The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.”
(See: John 1:1, 14-18; 5:19-21; 7:28-29; 8:19; 10:28-30; 12:44-46.)

So why does this matter? What’s the big deal?

It’s simple.

Since the first Advent, we no longer have to guess what God is like.

All the misrepresentations of God–the grotesque caricatures from both secular and religious cultures–are cleared up when God shows up as the Baby in the Manger.

Jesus looks just like His Dad!

But you can also flip the script.

The Father looks just like His son!

To know what God is like, look at Jesus.

  • He is from God.
  • He is with God.
  • He is God.

God in high definition so we’ll stop painting unfocused images of a God we don’t know.

What’s more, Christmas declares that He brought that exact image of God and deposited it in the exact image of man. Herein is the essence of Advent.

It even has a name: Immaunel–God with us.

Jesus removes the projections and presumptions of our limited human understandings about God. He is God in our dialect…God translated so we can “get” Him.

Jesus is quite simply what God looks like when He looks like us.

It’s kind of funny. Christians don’t have much trouble saying “Jesus is like God” but we sometimes swallow hard before saying “God is like Jesus”.

This uncertainty comes from a silly (and nearly heretical) separation between the “God of the Law” and the “God of Grace”…God of the Old Covenant and God of the New.

It’s like God has a split personality. He can be at one time the angry God of exclusive judgment in the Old Testament while simultaneously being the adoring God of inclusive grace in the New Testament. This dichotomy pictures Him like the bi-polar deities of the ancient Greeks.

Therein lies the need for Jesus to show up so He can clear up the matter.

If you ever held that dualistic view of God, here’s a V8 moment for you: God is NOT schizophrenic!

Truth is, either the Father actually has a personality disorder or Jesus authentically reflects the whole picture of God at every level!

Jesus is just like God. God is just like Jesus.

Sure they exist as Trinity with the Holy Spirit–and that is super important! But there is no division of purpose, passion or posture between the three. They have one face…and that face can be seen…

…in the face of Jesus.

Oh, and one more thing we should never forget.

Jesus is also what we look like when we look like our Father.

The spitting image!

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The Right Kind of Crazy

Madness.Jesters

It reigned over and rained on this city just weeks before we landed this weekend at McCarran International airport. Las Vegas–affectionately dubbed “sin-city”–was shaken to its core when sin made its ugliest darkside known.

A thoroughly broken man lit up this city of lights with a semi-automatic weapon, a bump stock and a cache of ammunition that would have inflicted far more damage if first responders hadn’t foiled his manically meticulous plan.

I remember hearing about the attack while on an airplane traveling for business. I wondered out loud, “Has this world gone mad!?”

When you place the Vegas tragedy in the mix with literally dozens of other recent inconceivable natural and man-made disasters it is easy to accept that perhaps both creation and humanity have lost their collective minds.

When reality isn’t airbrushed, the raw truth is…we live in a crazy world.

And if we are honest, in one way or another, that madness is because each of us is at least a little crazy. Every person is out-of-balance, unhinged or obsessive about something(s).

We don’t have a choice about that. It is part of being made “human”.

But actually, crazy isn’t the real problem. The deeper issue is this: are we the right kind of crazy?

There is a choice about that. It is part of being made in “the image of God”.

Am I insane enough to believe this world as we know it now is what is supposed to be? Am I nutty enough to accept that a racially-divided, generationally-estranged, ethnically-antagonistic, gender-embattled culture is the best we can do? Am I wacky enough to embrace the folly that political, social and economic answers that barely scratch the surface of the deep pain and intense brokenness of this shattered society are enough to fix us and bring some type of utilitarian utopia?

That is what the contemporary culture wants me to believe. Type one crazy.

Alternately, am I just crazy enough to believe that the Creator of this cosmos has something so much better for us that can be authentically realized in the rub and reality of life as it is? Am I off-balance enough to accept that when living is patterned after the love, character and priorities of Jesus things can change on both individual and international levels? Am I willingly foolish enough to grab onto a hope that stubborn addictions can be overcome, intractable diseases can be healed, broken marriages can be restored, crushed hearts can be mended, racial divides can be bridged, gender gaps can be spanned, and entire socio-economic systems can be restored simply because the God of this cosmos cared enough to come and live in our reality to show us what He meant when He made it all?

That is what the eternal Kingdom wants me to embrace. Type two crazy.

The difference in the two crazies is dramatic: Do I drink the Kool-Aid of the unreal seen or embrace the epic paradigm of the unseen real?

  • Am I committed to an out-of-kilter world that believes it is ok. Or do I affirm a reality-aligned truth that seems, well, just a bit nuts to this world that functions in its own smoke-and-mirrors fog?
  • Am I willing to believe that “how it is” does not line up with “how it can be” and commit myself to a higher vision of “the way it should be” (shalom)?

Honestly, some of the stuff Jesus promoted when He walked this planet got Him labeled as crazy. Even His own family thought he had lost His eternal marbles and were ready to escort Him to the loony bin. (Mark 3:21)

And if we choose to believe He meant what He said, we will be assigned to that same asylum.

  • You save your real life by losing it
  • You conquer evil by turning the other cheek
  • You become wise by becoming like a child
  • You overcome an enemy solely by loving him
  • You heal from the pain of the unfair only by forgiveness
  • You gain by giving…you win by losing
  • You get eternal life in the grit and grim of the here and now

That’s crazy!! Yep. And what’s more, that’s Kingdom.

As Randall Worley noted, “The kingdom of God is, by nature, the antithesis of the values of the world. The way up is down, you receive by giving, add by subtracting, multiply by dividing, you lead by serving, and you live by dying.” (Wandering and Wondering: The Process That Brings Purpose)

The great Apostle who counted every bit of success he achieved as crap in comparison with knowing Jesus, recognized the insanity of the living the eternal now. Listen to how Paul speaks about this God for whom he gladly suffered the loss of all things.

“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe…for the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:19-21)

When Paul talks about the “foolishness” of God, he uses the Greek word from which we get the English word “moron”. Think about that. Paul is saying “when God acts like a moron, He is still way smarter than our peak intellectual accomplishments.” But he doesn’t stop there.

Paul recommends we also become “morons”–just like God!

“Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a ‘fool’ so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-19)

Fools for Christ.

That’s crazy! Yep–and that’s Kingdom.

Kingdom people are nuts enough to believe in the radical re-formation Jesus preached in a sermon on a Galilean mountain (Matthew 6-8). They pray crazy prayers like “let you Kingdom come…on earth as it is in Heaven.” Then they render crazy praise like a couple of preachers locked in a first-century prison at midnight.

It is apparent, Jesus is the King of fools.

He is the head of a crazy group of folks willing to believe in unseen possibilities, unknown futures, unrealized potentials and unbelievable outcomes.

Kingdom-obsessed, they are ceiling-walkers who live life backwards and inside-out to the current culture.

These radical counter-revolutionaries dare to believe in the original intention and design of the One who made everything visible and invisible–even in the face of a world that appears to have gone mad.

So I do have to choose what kind of crazy to be.

I choose to be a court jester in this Kingdom of Fools which exists to turn this world upside-down now so it can be rightside-up forever.

Spent Shells

Ethiopian farmers find them all the time.SpentShells

Spent shells.

Bomb casings from past wars and conflicts litter their fields like plastic water bottles on a busy roadside. This left-over battle waste must be cleared or it serves as a hazard to the farmer’s meager equipment.

Question is, “What do you do with spent shells?”

These farmers had a novel idea: sell the empty shells to village women who just happen to be skilled artisans in the traditional techniques of bead making.

That’s where a little company called Raven & Lily from Austin, Texas steps in. They currently help employ over 1,500 marginalized women worldwide, paying fair trade wages to give them access to a safe job, sustainable income, health care, education, and a real chance to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families.

BulletJewelryOne of their lines is made by these Ethiopian  women who just happen to also be HIV positive. These recycled bombs have changed their lives.

“I love the imperfect beauty of each hand-made bead,” says co-founder Kirsten Dickerson. “It’s really amazing to me that what was once meant for harm now brings hope and life to the HIV-positive women in our partnership.”

Bullets become beads. Bombs are transformed into beauty.

These marginalized women living in abstract poverty learned a central Kingdom lesson: you can thrive in a war zone even when all you have are spent shells.

This story so reminds me of God’s favorite hobby.

He is a God who not only creates, he re-creates. He loves putting spent shells back into service.

Once, Jesus was on his way to heal the dying child of a Jewish leader when he had an encounter with one of those spent shells (Mark 5:1-34).

She lived with a blood disease that caused cultural, relational and spiritual rejection. It left her alone and desperate for twelve excruciating years.

Oh, she tried everything.

She didn’t want to be unclean. She never chose to live at the margins. She wanted to be known, loved, touched and happy.

The sad part is, those she went to for help simply saw her as a new stream of income. Here was a helpless victim, victimized all over again by the very culture that seemed to revel in her rejection.

“She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” (Mark 5:26)

There it is:

  • She was spent--what she once had was used up in so many attempts to reverse the course of her isolation.
  • She was a shell–just an shadow of the person who a dozen years earlier had been alive and vibrant.

She was literally leaking life every day; bleeding out every last drop of hope. Emptied by the process, exploited by people, exhausted in her pain–excluded from even the little joys of life.

She was just a spent shell. Abandoned and anonymous. Unknown. Unaccepted. Unloved.

She was down to her last hope…and once again, that hope was a person.

But this person was like no other she had ever known.

She heard about Jesus and what she heard ignited a very tiny spark of expectation (Mark 5:27). If what was reported about Him was true, maybe things could finally be different.

Interestingly, even in her approach to Jesus, her sense of rejection ruled. She felt it was important to hide her deepest need. Sneak in covertly and just brush his clothes.

Don’t draw attention. Don’t be noticed. Don’t stand out.

Oh I know that feeling too well.

  • Hide your failure
  • Cover your brokenness
  • Disguise your insecurity
  • Gloss over your pain

But what this woman was about to discover is that Jesus has never walked away from any pile of rubble. He always sees the phoenix in the ashes.

Driven by desperation, she slinked through the crowd and with her last ounce of hope touched the hem of His garment with the tip of her finger.

In that moment, that millisecond of contact, everything changed. Forever.

You see, Jesus noticed her. No one else did, but Jesus did.

  • He stopped. Nobody ever did that. But Jesus knew someone had gotten close enough to Him to make all the difference in the world. (Mark 5:30)
  • He spoke. “Daughter”–a word of acceptance, love and intimacy she so desperately needed to hear in her isolation. (Mark 5:34)

Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.” (Mark 5:34, MSG)

I so love that Jesus is most attractive to those who have proven that nothing else in this world works.

But my greater hope lies in that fact that Jesus is most attracted to just that sort of person.

That is why the poor, marginalized and outcast were attracted to Him. It’s also why He directly appealed to those exact people with His message: “Things are different, God is here now.”

There is nothing Jesus loves to do more than restore, refill and reload spent shells.

He has an amazing ability to refurbish spent shells and then turn around to wreak Kingdom havoc on the very enemy that carpet bombed that life in the first place.

Isaiah talked about it. God delights to “provide for those who grieve…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:3)

From ashes to oaks. From mourning to joy. From despair to praise.

From bullets to beauty.

God never wastes a spent shell.

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Is That Your Name?

Our baby is having a baby.BabyNameCloud_WEB

My wife and I can hardly believe it. That little girl we held in our arms just yesterday will soon be embracing her own little girl for the very first time.

As all new parents do during the process of a pregnancy, Lauren and Chase had to choose a name for this new life. I smiled when they described their process.

Going through scads of name books and websites, thinking through the names of significant people in their lives, testing out names on one another…all led to a whole lot of “no way!” moments. The possibilities got narrowed down to a few acceptable candidates. But picking the name happened in a unique way.

They asked the baby.

Lauren described it as saying the name and then asking the little girl inside her, “Is that your name?”

Ultimately, their little budding flower made it clear to her mom and dad what her name would be. Flora.

Watching this process started me thinking.

A name defines us, it is a sign and symbol of our identity. Often, it is also a testimony to our destiny.

Dianne and I chose our children’s names purposefully. Nathaniel–gift of God. Caleb–bold, courageous one. Lauren–crown of honor. Each now-grown child lives out their name in our lives each day.

It seems God knew the importance of names…and he had a habit of changing them when the given name was restricting eternal purpose.

Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. Jacob became Israel. Gideon became Jerub-Baal.

Jesus picked up where His Father left off. Simon became Peter. Saul became Paul.

In all these cases God was redefining the identity of a person by assigning to them the name that described them as He saw them.

On one occasion near Gadara, Jesus was confronted by a wild man (Mark 5).

This crazed individual made his bed in tombs and was a scary paradox of helplessness and aggression. He was helpless to control the powerful forces within him and was beyond the help, control or management of anyone around him. He terrorized the people of the region and lived his days out among the graves.

He was the walking dead!

Considering the insane approach, appearance and actions of the man, it seems Jesus asks a completely out-of-context question. It is the only recorded time Jesus ever asked anyone, “What is your name?”

But Jesus knew something about this wounded man. The demoniac, as he was labeled by the world around him, had been so completely wreaked by life that he couldn’t even remember his real name.

Some might say Jesus was asking the demonic hoard their name…but Jesus didn’t need that information. What he did want the man to see was how he was completely defined by what he had become.

So he called himself “Legion”. And to show he’s not merely talking about a group of Roman warriors, he adds “for we are many” (Mark 5:9). At the core he was saying, “I am a catastrophic mess; a hoard of self-destructive impulses.”

  • Defined by his past
  • Labeled by his disease
  • Wearing the insignia of his insanity
  • Summed up by his sin

He had completely accepted–at the deepest levels of his identity–that he was what he had done.

This man fully believed the most debilitating and constricting lie of them all: That all he would ever be was what he had become so far.

When Jesus confronted the troubled man and forced out of him the junk that was defining him, it was like an eternal parent asking the man, “Is that your name!?”

And then defiantly answering with a resounding “No!”

Jesus refused to let the man be defined by any other name than the one that lived in the heart of the Father.

A few times in the Older Testament God speaks to a person or even a tribe and says, “You will no longer be called…” and then gives a redefining (redemption) name. A name that showed how that person or group was defined within the grace-filled love of God.

I love God’s promise to His recalcitrant people,

“No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah, [my delight is in her]
and your land Beulah [married];
for the Lord will take delight in you,
and your land will be married.” (Isaiah 62:4)

Within the heart of God is our original identity–our true name. God is not willing to allow us to be limited and labeled by anything we have done or experienced in our pasts.

God works faithfully to bring us to that place where we become what we have always been in His heart.

Just as Jesus was the expression of God’s heart and the representation of God’s dream, so is the Holy Spirit’s work in us. We are designed to be God’s dream come true; God’s word in flesh; God’s heart on display.

Our destiny is His narrative written in our story.

Historically, when God’s people came under control of other cultures and slaves to other nations, the rulers would rename them in an attempt to redefine them.

The pagan King Nebuchadnezzar renamed the Jewish boys Daniel, Hanania, Mishael, and Azaria with Babylonian names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Godly men given heathen names so their divine gifts could be prostituted for the pagan King’s purpose.

But the old czar found out that there was a force far more powerful than his fiat or his fiery furnace.

When a man knows the name that lives in the heart of the Father, you cannot change his destiny no matter what you call him.

One of the most beautiful pictures of where God is taking this world is found in the final book of His-story. God says, “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Revelation 2:17b).

On that day, Jesus will place a white stone in our hands with the name on it that has been in the heart of the Father for each of us since before creation. Then, He will ask: “Is that your name.”

I can’t wait to shout “Yes!!”

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This Is Us

thisisus_heroThis Is Us is the runaway NBC hit about a family of fairly messed-up people and how the complexity of their lives are woven together into one tapestry of imperfect love.

There is an intricate plot of time hops from what made them to what they became and plenty of drama and dysfunction to go around.

While I am not a devotee of the show or fully aligned with its message, I am struck by the way it has grabbed so many by the heartstrings. I gave some thought to why it became such an immediate ratings success.

I think its magic may be how easy it is for viewers who live the imperfect lives of family to find a bit of themselves in the story. Perhaps, even as a different character in each episode.

It is that connection with our reality that makes it seem real.

Last night I sat in our Church’s first-ever Service of Tenebrae–a historically-rooted contemplative commemoration of the events of Holy Week. The setting is a candle-lit room of silence and shadows.

I had never been to a Tenebrae service. I will never be the same because I went.

The retelling of the significant moments, the colossal evil, the betrayals and denials surrounding the death of Jesus reminded me of all those times I–dare I say we–have been so much like the characters of that plot.

I heard the stories, felt the trauma, experienced the fear and wept through the saga. As I traversed the intense details of the days between Palm Sunday and Easter I just could not escape the truth, “This Is Us.”

All week as I have come to the end of my Lent preparations, I mused over the events that took Jesus to the cross. I wrestled with the fact that this really is the story of us. I see the events and characters of that week and consistently find myself in them over and over again.

  • Sometimes I am a Mary sitting rapt at His feet…sometimes I am Martha resentfully spinning the plates of my demanding life
  • Sometimes I am a child joyfully crying Hosanna!…sometimes I am disillusioned follower screaming crucify Him!
  • Sometimes I am a devoted follower journeying to celebrate His goodness…sometimes I am a religious huckster whose theological table Jesus has to kick over
  • Sometimes I am a disciple hearing with my heart…sometimes I am a Pharisee accusing with my voice
  • Sometimes I am Mary pouring my best offering at His feet….sometimes I am Judas counting coins and ranking sinners
  • Sometimes I am Peter begging for a bath…sometimes I am the kid running naked from Gethsemane
  • Sometimes I am John leaning on His breast…sometimes I am Peter following from a distance
  • Sometimes I am a captive listener absorbing all He says about what is to come…sometimes I am a religious know-it-all angry because He won’t fit into my boxes
  • Sometimes I am one of His intimates walking closely and hearing His heart…sometimes I am James sleeping through His deepest concerns
  • Sometimes I am Joseph of Arimathea wanting to do anything I can to honor my Lord…sometimes I am Pilate washing my hands of the whole deal
  • Sometimes I am a soldier with a mallet and spike nailing the King once again to the cross…but sometimes, just sometimes, I see enough of who He really is and what He is truly doing in my world to stand back in awestruck wonder and whisper, “Surely this is the Son of God!”
  • Sometimes I am the heart-broken, grief-stricken follower who thought He would do one thing but He did another and I weep…but sometimes, just sometimes, I see Him as He is–risen, alive, reigning King and active redeemer–and I fall at His feet and cling to Him for dear life.

The strangest thing about sitting last night with tears coursing my cheeks in the silence and shadows of Tenebrae was how I felt.

I wanted to tell Jesus how sorry I was not only for my sins but also for the times I have taken advantage of the grace I came to know. I wanted to express my sorrow for the times I was Judas in betrayal, Peter in denial or Pilate washing his hands.

But in those moments all that my heart could feel and my mouth could whisper was, “Thank You.”

Because you see, the very same people who were cloaked in confusion, driven by fear and lost in pain were the ones He died to save. That group of dysfunctional failures were the ones Jesus asked the Father to forgive because they didn’t have a clue what they were doing.

It was for all those struggling, bumbling, questioning, waffling people that Jesus refused to stay in the tomb He had borrowed. It was for them that He gathered up all His power, removed all the obstacles and blazed a trail to a new forever-life.

And we, with those first century followers, are the ones who along with Jesus’ companion on the neighboring cross now hear the words, “You will be with me in Paradise.”

This is us.

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The Chicken Or The Egg

chick_hatchingGrowing up I had never heard of “Lent”. It was a foreign concept to my low-brow spiritual upbringing.

In fact all of the “church calendar” (with the notable exceptions of Easter, Christmas and Pentecost) were seen as the machinations of the elite liturgical church used to manufacture artificial spiritual experiences.

Jeesh…we are a dumb lot sometimes.

Unfortunately, the natural proclivity of religion is to poo-poo anything and anyone that is different from us, challenging to our tightly-packed theological boxes or subversive to our neatly-arranged picture of the God we have created in our image.

I had no idea what I was missing in my unexamined life.

Advent and Lent, the seasons of Jesus coming and going, are the most precious times of each year for me now. Discovering these extended times of reflection has often reshaped my understanding, apprehension and involvement with the Kingdom.

Lent is a season of waiting—a time of concentrated focus on what matters most but normally gets the least attention.

It is about incubation, gestation. The tortuously slow season when everything is happening inside the egg while we impatiently wait for it to hatch.

During Lent:

  • Unfulfilled dreams become more vivid.
  • Unrealized hopes get more intense.
  • Unanswered prayers are more insistent.
  • Unaccomplished goals are more accusing.

Nothing much happens visibly or on the surface. It is like winter. Whatever happens of any significance happens underground. Hidden. Subversive, covert change.

In the Kingdom, God’s obvious answer to the riddle is the egg comes first. This waiting precedes any working.

Intangible internal transformation leads to extravagant external impact.

I don’t particularly like the internal, unseen, immaterial part of that equation.

I am an event guy. I want visible, palpable results. If it is real I want it to show on the surface. Immediately demonstrable. Undeniable in its calculable outcome. Shock and awe spiritual experience.

And I would like all that now with a side of fries, please.

As with most things God does, Lent is nothing like that. It is about quiet.

Here we sit still long enough to actually hear…walk slow enough to authentically see.

Lent requires withdrawal from distraction. It demands dialing down the noise in time in order to tune into the frequency of eternity.

In some ways the Lenten season is about just sitting there. Not doing, not striving.

Unproductive and inefficient, we experience a loss of the trappings of importance we associate with busy-ness. We enter the character-shaping, heart-transforming work of a God who is in no hurry to radicalize our thoughts and character.

It is slow–deadeningly slow. A tortoise-and-the-hair mismatch of our frenetic world and our faithful God.

But in this maddeningly frustrating stillness is the “gentle whisper” of God that changes the trajectory of life from here on. This stillness is essential for us or we inevitably drift the wrong direction for so long we end up completely off the radar.

Lent carries one message: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

So this season rolls around every year just in time to correct our course and redirect our energies into the stuff of the Kingdom that matters more than we know because it amounts to more than we can imagine.

This morning I was stunned by these words from Isaiah…“Since before time no one has ever imagined, no ear heard, no eye seen a God like you who works for those who wait.” (Isaiah 64:4, MSG).

All the other “gods” in our lives wait for us to work.

They make incessant demands on our time, energy, dreams and aspirations. Literally waiting for us to wear ourselves down to nothing for them. And in turn, we get nothing from them.

Task-masters, slave-drivers who only value us for what we do, how much we produce, what we add to their little fiefdoms no matter the cost to ours.

But our God, the one true God worthy of the title, waits for us to wait.

God works for those who wait.

He begins at our endings. He picks up where we leave off. He finishes what we give up on.

God is less interested in our feeble efforts to do for Him and more concerned about demonstrating what He can do through us. He is unimpressed with our busyness in doing what we can. Instead, He wants us to quietly be with Him until He is able to do what only He can.

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)

So for me the practices of Lent allow me to enter that season of frustrating madness where I am still until God is no longer still on my behalf.

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a few ideas from rick whitter

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----Prov. 25:4----"Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer (refiner)."

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