Posts Tagged ‘god’

We all have questions, doubts, about ourselves, others, politics, religion, God.

Doubts can make us feel alone, make us feel like outliers, add angst to our quest to figure out life.

But doubts are normal. If someone has no doubt perhaps that person isn’t thinking deeply, perhaps they are afraid of nuances, of grey areas, paradoxes and contradictions. Perhaps they aren’t free to explore life’s hard questions. Doubts are healthy and normal and good

Doubts, questions, theories, testing — theses are the door to discovery.

“Test everything,” says Paul in the Bible.

In Wendell Barry’s novel Jayber Crow a conversation between Jaber and a professor of religion illustrates this nicely.

“Well,” I said, [Jayber] “I’ve got a lot of questions.”

He [the professor] said, “Perhaps you would like to say what they are?”

“Well, for instance,” I said, “if Jesus said for us to love our enemies—and He did say that, didn’t He?—how can it ever be right to kill our enemies? And if He said not to pray in public, how come we’re all the time praying in public? And if Jesus’ own prayer in the garden wasn’t granted, what is there for us to pray, except ‘thy will be done,’ which there’s no use in praying because it will be done anyhow?”

I sort of ran down. He didn’t say anything. He was looking straight at me. And then I realized that he wasn’t looking at me the way he usually did. I seemed to see way back in his eyes a little gleam of light. It was a light of kindness and (as I now think) of amusement.

He said, “Have you any more?”

“Well, for instance,” I said, for it had just occurred to me, “suppose you prayed for something and you got it, how do you know how you got it? How do you know you didn’t get it because you were going to get it whether you prayed for it or not? So how do you know it does any good to pray? You would need proof, wouldn’t you?”

He nodded.

“But there’s no way to get any proof.”

He shook his head. We looked at each other.

He said, “Do you have any answers?”

“No,” I said.

Jaber asks good questions.

Interestingly if you look closely a few answers are present in his questions.

Killing people — Jesus was against it. Then let’s not do it. A better world would ensue.

Prayer — “your will be done” is simple, good enough, or perhaps we might be more just silence before God, waiting, listening.

Proofs, proof of divine intervention — those can be unclear. They are debatable. The older I am the less I understand so many things, including God’s ways in the world and including myself. I am currently suffering some health issues that the doctors can’t resolve. This is changing me.

God has not decided as yet to intervene. So I am developing a different relationship with God. I seek less selfish proofs. God and I now share more mutual silences. We sit without talking. I leave the next move on the game board to him. I want him closer than I feel him but I am learning to be brave and patient when I don’t get what I want.

I sit with my stuff, my own unsolved mysteries, and then I move toward grounding myself in the now, the beauty of the now, in the surrounding astonishing divine whatness, our amazing earth. I practice gratitude in small doses for where I do see God — in the care of my wife, in a song, in my food, in a doctors care in brief times of peace.

Wendell Barry’s Jayber is my man! I love his questions. I love how he eventually changes and learns to love his community.

Our questions, as we mature — they soften overtime. The answers come as discernments, specific insights, for each case, not platitudes, not formulas, not propositional truth, not universals we pound others with, and the answers — they eventually are not so black and white as we once thought and not so much required.

The answers come in their own time.

It isn’t all up to us.

Best not to hate and kill people.

Kindness with ourselves and others is paramount.

Prayer is mostly alignment, not asking, me aligning with God.

Be at peace with yourself and God.

Life is mysterious.

Like God.

Two thousand years ago was the human incarnation of God in Jesus, but before that there was the first and original incarnation through light, water, land, sun, moon, stars, plants, trees, fruit, birds, serpents, cattle, fish, and “every kind of wild beast,” according to our own creation story (Genesis 1: 3–25). 

Richard Rohr

What a fascinating and under-applied understanding of scripture we have here —  nature as an incarnation of God!

We usually refer to what Rohr describes as general or natural revelation. The creation isn’t God, that is a theological misunderstanding — it isn’t incarnate God like Jesus was God — but it is from him and of him and retains his image in we who were created by him, so yes, in same ways God is incarnate in nature, most startlingly in us. 

Nature shows us God like Jesus did, his characteristics, his nature. Nature holds together because of Christ and he will redeem it in the end. Rohr’s use of “incarnation” implies that the creation’s relationship with God is deeper than we have fathomed.

This is Biblical. 

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made … His qualities, they are in nature.

Romans 1:20

He [Jesus] existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. He is a force in nature, divine gravity!

Colossians 1:17

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Both male and female, attributes, coming from God. 

Genesis 1:27

God’s power runs creation. His image is in us! His divine nature can be seen the earth and sky. He holds all it together in a web, in an ongoing way. 

Of course the godly have always admired sunsets, high mountains and flowers along with most everyone else, and we have our Saint Francis, but what has often paralleled these token acknowledgements of God’s connectedness to nature is an utter disregard for stewarding earth’s resources, a shocking lack of the development of a excited global theology, and a dishonoring of our fellow humans. 

Our waters are polluted, the element of our sacrament of baptism dishonored. Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments. Plastic has been found in more than 60% of all seabirds and in 100% of sea turtles species. 

 Our forests, a show of God’s renewable beauty and power are decimated. Between 1990 and 2016, the world lost 502,000 square miles (1.3 million square kilometers) of forest,  — an area larger than South Africa. Since humans started cutting down forests, 46 percent of the trees have been felled according to a 2015 study in the journal Nature. 

Our skies, His wonders, are full of smoke. Air pollution cuts the average lifespan of people around the globe by almost two years, making it the single greatest threat to human health. In the United States, even people with the lowest energy usage account for, on average, more than double the global per-capita carbon emission. We are literally smoking out the image of God. 

Space, the glory of God,  is now full of junk. The U.S. Department of Defense tracks more than 500,000 pieces of space junk in orbit around Earth. 

And tragically, instead of propagating love toward the different kinds of people on earth, those claiming to represent God have often participated in religious sectarianism, culture cancellation, isolationism, divisive nationalism, religious wars and racism. How does this honor the image of God in created humans, in those who Jesus taught are our neighbors?

This is what we have done to the power and glory of God in the natural world, we have wasted, harmed and ruined it.  Most terribly this include our fellow humans. It’s horrific! We have plundered the earth, poisoned the well, rendered the sky deadly and slaughtered each other. 

Furthermore and surprisingly the godly haven’t often been the leaders in stopping this, in honoring and preserving the intricately webbed ecology that keeps every living thing alive. 

I just finished reading The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World, a nonfiction book released in 2015 by the historian Andrea Wulf. Humbolt’s 18th Century journey through Central and South America and later in his travels through Russia and the wonderful books he published based on his discoveries made Humbolt the pre-eminent scientist of his time.

Humbolt got it! He, and he was not a person of faith, understood what the godly didn’t. At 19,000 feet on Chimborazo — an Ecuadorian volcano — Humboldt, writes Wulf, “realized that nature was a web of life and a global force. He was, a colleague later said, the first to understand that everything was interwoven as with ‘a thousand threads’. This new idea of nature was to change the way people understood the world.” Humbolt changed the way we look at nature. He revealed it as an interconnected whole, an ecology, a world of interdependence. This is 5he way God made it and how he sees it!

Humbolt had massive energy and enthusiasm to study, understand and explain nature, and by doing so excite others about it’s wonders and the need to preserve them. In his day, everybody read Humbolt — Darwin, Marsh, Haekael, Goethe, Thoreau, Whitman, Muir and countless others. Humbolt’s book Views of Nature was  read around the globe. His poetic descriptions of the rapids of Orinoco, where he described rainbows dancing, ”optical magic,” reveal a man astonished and enchanted with nature inspired wonder, travel, research and preservation.

He understood the power he was witnessing. “What speaks to the soul,” Humboldt wrote, “escapes our measurements.”

What can we take from this?

All churches and mosques and temples and people of faith should encourage the study of nature and promote involvement in the sciences. As in the 17th Century women and men of faith should lead in rational and empirical exploration of our world. We have hidden too much in dogma and doctrine and neglected our father’s revelation in creation.  We would know him better if we honored the creation more. And we should lead the way in preservation of the earth and the honoring of all people.

And to know God better we  would advance if we looked closer at our world, at our neighbor and then ask what they existing as they are tell us about who God is. 

Today I tried to see Him in it. 

The clouds — big white and grey —  they reminded me of his care. They bring shade, rain, beauty and remind me that God is shade, rain and beauty for me.

The grab grass growing along my driveway — even this small unwanted life form possesses his power, especially his perseverance, his holy stubbornness. Like God it can’t be killed. 

The food chain? Often I’ve hated the violence of it — a lion running down an antelope. And yet all thing live on and in other things. One dies for another to live. The egg on my French toast this morning, given for me. The meat in my soup tonight, the glory of God given for me. The food chain is communion, the Eucharist. We eat what is holy, grain and oil and wine in remembrance of him who gave it, his life, to us. 

The delicate flowers of the purple and white lantana in my yard.  God is subtle, delicate, a beauty that keeps morphing, that dies back (Christ) and comes back. 

My friends from India, lovely, beautiful, their food, their clothes the different beliefs. They are God lovers for me to treasure and love. 

Today my wife was at the zoo.  She took a video of a red panda. I love him! I want him! I want to hug him. His reddish-brown fur, white nose and ears, long, fluffy, banded tail and waddling walk. If I approached him for a tete-a-tete he’d probably rip my face off. I do want the lamb to lie with the lion, the panda with me. But God has given the panda a solitary nature. He reminds me of Jesus’s need to be alone. God too must enjoy his own company at times. I also need time alone. 

To see, to take note, to honor, to enthuse, to celebrate, to understand, to nurture,  to share with others, to live at peace with our astonishing world as much as we are able — this is our holy mandate before the creation. 

Look! There’s God.

  

As we end the holiday season, we could ask ourselves where did we see the face of Christ?

My attention was drawn to one kind of seeing his face this Christmas season, although someone had to take me in hand and point this out to me because I’m so obtuse sometimes. I saw Christ in my wife’s face, my friend’s faces and my daughter’s faces. There was a divine complementarity going on where his qualities found space in them. .

Those smiles, warm cheeks, those bright eyes and those wet tears — there were some of these for each of us — in these was Christ. Christ was with us also to console each other. My wife sat with me and comforted me I was in pain, stroking my face — the very hand of Christ touched me. I held her when she cried one day. The arms of Christ. I comforted my daughter on another day when she was sick. The comfort of Christ.

One evening we ate looking into a table full of dear faces, faces of church friends. We shared talk, games, laughter. We were Christ to each other. I played cards with Christ. He let me win.

Did you serve someone this season? You were Christ to them. Did someone serve you? They were Christ to you.

This will be acknowledged at the end of time in a profound moment when the King will say to you and me, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:40

Through the holiday season I have been thinking about Mary, the mother of Jesus. In reading through Luke’s account I was struck by Simeon’s comment, almost an aside, to Mary, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Hearing this we think of one sword, and of course the literate reader immediately recognizes the connection to Christ on the cross, pierced. The sword that pierces Jesus pierces Mary, his mother.

But as I thought over her story, I could see that there were many piercings in her life. The astonishing and yet confusing circumstances surrounding her pregnancy, the complications it must’ve created with her family, Joseph and her community, the birth away from home, the flight to Egypt, the son who disappeared for three days and then rebuked the parents, the loss of her husband Joseph, the disciples replacing the family, her certain awareness of the brutal and dangerous threats again Jesus when he began to teach and to contradict the religious establishment, the cross and then the painful and often bloody birth of the church.

All swords.

In all this Mary seems the passive figure, hunkered down under the many stabbings that she had little or no control over. And what is her response?

Priest Richard Rohr makes the point that, “Not a word is spoken by Mary in either place, at his [Jesus’s] birth or at his death. Did you ever think about that? Mary simply trusts and experiences deeply. She is simply and fully present. Faith is not, first of all, for overcoming obstacles; it is for experiencing them—all the way through!“

Our natural tendency is to resist and fight and try to control the piercings of life, the downturn’s, the ailments, the rejections, the failures. And some times we must not be passive. We must fight through to a new future. But if we get stuck with an inability to accept all of life, the ups and the downs, this can actually makes life harder.

Life is an up and down affair. It involves swords. There will be piercings. Simeon words to Mary have a universal application.

Richard Rohr addresses a way to deal with this writing, “Welcoming the pain [of life] and letting go of all your oppositional energy against suffering will actually free you from it! like reversing your engines. Who would have thought this? It is your resistance to things as they are that causes most of your unhappines …”

There’s a fine line here to observe here. To love ourselves and others we can and should do all we can to alleviate suffering, to gently care for ourselves, to compassionately care for others, to be good Samaritans. And sometimes resistance is necessary; resistance may at times carry us on to new accomplishments and adventures.

But what we can’t control, the swords that fly upon us when we have no shield up nor can put one up, those we do well to accept as they are, with all they bring. What we can’t control or stop we can still endure and even perhaps learn from. Perhaps we can learn to be more like Mary, fully alive, living the life that has come to us, in a quiet kind of way, hanging on to God through it all.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Matthew 10

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6

Yesterday as the sun set, I saw three doves light in a tree, the golden sunlight illuminate their light tan chests. They were loved with light and warmth, and they took a moment to perch, turned to the sun — before dark — to bask in this.

Whether our circumstances always point to this or not, God is completely aware of everything that is happening to us, and he values us highly and he cares about us!

No matter how you feel today, what might be overwhelming you, what might not seem to have a solution, God knows, and he cares.

So don’t be afraid and put worry aside as much as is possible because you’re very valuable to God and he knows precisely how things will work out and how he will be involved.

Be gentle with yourself today, and retain a sense of your value.

God values you!

He shines on you too.

Like the doves, perch and bask.

Where Is God?

Posted: November 2, 2019 in god
Tags: , , , ,

Ever wonder, “Where is God?” When scripture makes so many positive promises, and then you don’t see yourself experiencing them.

Here is one.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement …

Romans 15:5

Or this one;

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:3

Endurance and encouragement — God gives it.

Comfort— God gives it.

Yesterday my daughter called and reminded me how tough and strong I am.

My friend Jerry texted me reminding me of his respect, care and love for me.

My wife sat with me and brought tender care. She held my hand. Patted my back.

God gives encouragement and comfort, but it may not be the voice in the night, even a sense of his presence in the day.

God and his comfort often come through others.

Leo Tolstoy illustrates this beautifully in his story Martin the Cobbler, and if you haven’t read it, find it and do. Martin lost his wife. He is so lonely but one day he senses a promise —- the Savior will come to his house

All day looks at his window watching. First, he sees Stepanitch shoveling away snow. Martin invites him in for a warm drink and they talked for a while.

Then he sees a woman with a baby who is cold and He invites her in for some food and gives her warmer clothes and money.

Then he sees a boy stealing an apple and he intervenes and pays for the apple.

That night while Martin wondered why God had not visited him, the three figures appeared in his home, the very ones he had showed hospitality to that day. They said that when he helped them he was helping God. Martin then realized that God had indeed visited him in those he helped.

When we comfort others we are God to them. When they comfort us they are God to us.

So at the end of time the truth will be known.

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:40

God does come — in others, in us — helping others.

Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac.

Genesis 25:5

For Isaac, everything was given. He was given all his father’s wealth; he was provided with a home, a bride, a relationship with God, a place in history — all he had to do was receive.

This is so God! We are all Isaac.

Every good thing on earth and in the far flung universe is from God.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17

Einstein, his intelligence, come from God.

Mark Chagall, his brilliant and magical creativity, from God.

Bill gates, his generosity, from God.

Elon musk, his innovative spirit, from God.

Abraham Lincoln, his masterful leadership and brilliant use of language, from God.

Your good things — all God. We do play a part in acting out these things, and so sometimes we think that they come from us. Even the life and body and strength to act them out is from him.

Many complain about not seeing God’s goodness. It’s everywhere. If God were to remove his goodness from the universe, all matter and all civilization would collapse into a black hole.

Never doubt that God is alive and present in our world. Every single good thing in your life is straight from him.

Praise him!

We Americans have a penchant for authenticity, but in reality most of us (me too!) copy, mimic and ape each other constantly. We are  surrounded by each other’s appeals for the authentic (“Get real!”), but we keep selecting the same  cliches, smart phone emojis, Frappuccino drinks, cool Blazers from H&M, semi-serious “Oh my God’s” and binge-watched TV shows as each other.

We tend to fall in line.

What is authenticity? It is psychological and social congruency — a robust personal consistency — between what is inside us and what comes out of us. Authentic people are what they profess to be. They are true to themselves, and they are open, real and honest with others. They buy, say, offer and proffer what they truly value.

Lately I’m wanting more and more authenticity — from myself and others. To get that, I’ve been talking to myself, admitting to myself what is true about me, and others, especially being open to admitting my fears, fumblings, successes and regresses so that I can admit them to others.

I like coffee, cars, cats, books, fixing things, staff teams, history, literature, cold cereal and all manner of high-quality verbage. I am afraid of diseases, extremists and old age. I love my job as a pastor. I am so glad I have a resourcer-wife and two lovely daughters. I worry that they will not always be safe. I adore God. I also love myself — sometimes too much. I love to talk to people and make new friends. I love being alone.

To grow in desired authenticity, I’ve also been talking to others without editing as much as I used to. Instead I am trying to tap into what is really going on when I am with them, what I am feeling, what they are feeling, what we are intuiting, what we are apprehending. I am aiming at nothing less than the freedom to say what is semi-true and quasi-tolerable at any given moment, but in ways that are modest, gentle and even loving. Being authentic is no excuse for being cruel, or rude.

Saturday I encougaged a friend to go to counseling. I recently had a conflict with someone who is judgmental. It ended well.  I was patient with a person with memory loss, and I was patient with myself when I locked my keys in my office.

I can be deep; I am capable of crass superficiality. Today I bought a new casual-style blazer at H&M. I too am a member of the fast-fashion herd. At some level, I too am a copycat. Sometimes I buy clothes so that I won’t have to go around naked; sometimes I buy them so that I just might — to some other materialistic person like me — look cool, acceptable, maybe, kind of, like I (perhaps) used to?

The new blazer will look good with my blue and white checked shirt, (the one I used lighter fluid on today to get the gum out out the pocket), my Guess jeans that I bought because I couldn’t fit in my favorite Ring of Fire pair, and my black wingtips that I just had to have last Christmas because my other semi-dressy black shoe had a hole in the sole and someone might see that when I crossed my legs at an event.

I am trying, to live out me, with a modicum of honesty mixed with a preferred style. I drive a high-performance sports car because I really, really, really honestly and truly love to go very fast surrounded by eleven Bose speakers cranked up to full volume, the air conditioner blasting my face off, the mirrors vibrating to the bass, the exhaust growling at the cars I am blowing past and the curbs flying by like party streamers. I’m a resolute car sinner.

I also follow God as hard as I can, reveling in the nonpareil salvation God has offered me in the inimitable Christ and telling everybody I can that God absolutely adores them. At my core I an exhilarated by my everyday experience of God’s super-fast empowerment, his luxurious love, his bright streaming grace and his cranked up favor! God is so cool to me!

What do I recommend to you, you pop culture fanatics, you want-a-be coolios, you flawed authentics, you semi-valid truthers, you fellow hopeful reality-mongers — all you my godly and quasi-godly lovelies?

Be you; no less.

Unperson; you’ll worsen.

Sync, with God — and yourself.

Recently, my office manger, Tasia, and I were chatting in my office when we looked over at the couch and saw a giant cockroach sitting there, watching us.

Apparently he had come in for counseling. We have said the door of REFINERY Church is open to everyone.

What to do with this expectant cockroach?

Tasia went to the supply closet, got out a can of the aerosol spray used to dust off computer keyboards, turned it upside down so that only the cold aerosol would come up and fired it off at our en-couched counselee.

He turned white; he was literally white, with frost — frozen. We put his little frozen body in the trash.

Tasia  — or as I now think of now, Elsa, the ice queen — retell the story and just laugh.Why did God make cockroaches anyway, in such numbers? It has been noted that he seems to have an “inordinate fondness for beetles.”

Maybe he gets a laugh out of watching our reaction to them.

Which brings up the question: Is God funny? Does God have a sense of humor? Did he laugh,  when he made cockroaches, when he made us?

Alfred North Whitehead, the esteemed British mathematician, logician and philosopher once wrote, “the total absence of humour in the Bible is one of the most singular things in all of literature”

Alfred was wrong. The Bible is full of humor.

Maybe it was Alfred who wasn’t funny.

Humor is fundamental to God’s character.

In the Bible we see God engaging in an abundance of wit, sarcasm and irony. The Old Testament is full of funny stories and crazy situations.

A woman who has gets pregnant at 90, a country overrun by frogs, a donkey that talks, a prophet barfed up by a whale — the Bible is funny

Ecclesiastes 3:4 confirms humor’s esteemed place in God’s design saying, There is a “a time to laugh …”

The Bible weeps; it also laughs. God takes time to laugh.

To see God’s humor, begin at the beginning. Creatures are the first proof that God laughs.

The Pygmy Seahorse, the Blob fish, the Aye-Aye, us — you can’t look at some of the faces of creation, and not think God has a sense of humor.

Think of how he must chuckle, guffaw, even howl over you and me.

Secondly, God’s humor shows surprising enough, shows up in his discipline of us, his designer corrections to get us back on track.

The great theme of the Bible is that God loves people, and that after they are lost from him, he will do anything to get them back.

So God engages in ironic correction. We may be corrected in the same way we sinned.

At the command of the Pharaoh, the Egyptians drown the Hebrew children in the Nile, but Moses is spared and then God drowns the Egyptians in the Red sea.

Take that.

Haman, the villain in the book of Esther, builds a gallows for a good man name Mordecai, and then when Haman’s evil is exposed, he is hung on his own execution machine.

God corrects with ironic solutions, he defeats with mocking punishments, and He leads his sweet ones back to himself with wry tactics.

The Israelites whine in the desert that the manna he gave them was not enough. They demand meat from God, and so he gives them meat until it is coming out of their noses. They get so much meat it makes them sick.

Beware what you want. God might give you that, and that ironically will be your correction.

Psalm 37 reports,  “The wicked plot against the righteous, and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs … for he sees that their day [the day of the ironic lesson) is coming.”

The divine sardonic chuckle — you want to live in such a way that you don’t hear that.

Take for instance, the day I shot my older brother Steve. It was his divinely ordained correction.

I aimed the gun, squeezed the trigger, and fired.

Now what you need to know is that he  asked for it. Literally. He said: ” I wonder what it feels like to be shot with a BB gun.”

“Let’s find out,” I said. “I’ll shoot.”

So by plan, I aimed at his blue-jeaned butt. But the shot carried high, guided, I’d say, by the hand of God, and hit him square in the middle of the back — which was to me divine punishment for all the times he had hit me and tortured me.

So there you have it. The ironic wrath of God on my brother. I myself witnesses it, and then I started running.

I heard his footsteps behind me. I believe he wanted to thank me. But I was humble, and wanted no credit, and I kept running.

So,  we see God’s humor in the creation (the blob fish; we see his humor in his discipline, (my brother) and thirdly we see God’s humor in his delight in us.

Zephaniah 3:17, “He will take great delight in you … he will rejoice over you with singing.”

God laughs in a happy, appreciative, celebratory way over us.

Consider Genesis 18:10, where God informs Abraham (who is about 100 years old) and Sarah (who is about 90) that they will have a son by “this time next year.”

God must have gotten a kick out of that announcement.

And they sure did. When Sarah is told, she openly laughs. Hebrews says at this point, Abraham was “as good as dead.”

Sarah was thinking, if we do it, at this age, the old guy will probably have a heart attack, and she laughs, and God’s laughs with her, because this is ridiculous and delightful and crazy  and good.

Sex, at 100, and a baby — they all laugh and God with them.

Zephaniah 3:17. He will take great delight in you.

God is not a far off, uptight, angry, he is not a humorless tyrant. God is funny, he is clever, he is wry, he has tricks up his sleeve.

His humor draws us close to him.

How could we ever relate to a stern, humorless patrician-God who never jokes around?

But a funny God who tells his man Abraham to name his soon-to-be-born son, Isaac, or in Hebrew, Yit-zhak — because that Hebrew word means laughed, that we can relate to.

Laughter — it is divine, it is so good for us.

Poking fun, is a way of dealing with brokenness, normalizing difficulty, a way of coping.

What are you upset about? Try laughing at it.

The Bible says a merry heart is good like a medicine. Humor is the antidote of life. It is God’s survival medicine.

Ever wonder what heaven will be like? The disciples wanted to sit by Jesus, at his right hand. That would scare the heck out of me. What would I say? What if Iused the wrong fork, or language, at dinner.

Besides, sitting around the throne, listening to harp music, I prefer electric guitars. I think Jesus might too.

In heaven I think, I’ll be down at the river with the other people who barely got in, partying and telling jokes and laughing hilariously and whooping it up.

And perhaps the serious ones, around the throne, will cast an envious eye toward us, that wild bunch, down at the river and want to come down.

It is a great mystery. It is a great mystery of the OT.

We live within the mystery of a God who laughs and sings and hoots and hollers over us, and when we too laugh, this brings us closer to God.

 

P1030619When I was little, I found a safe place high up in a tree near my house.

The first time I climb that tree I saw that above me, higher up and near the top, were grape vines tangled in the branches. I climbed higher, and I saw that the vines formed a kind of roof over me, and so I poked my hands and then head through the leaves and netted vines,  and there found a kind of vine nest, a skyfort — hidden in an upper world.

“Cool!”

I climbed up, and into it, and I laid back, and I floated on my back far off the ground, and I put my hands behind my head, and I looked up at the blue sky, and no one walking by knew I was there lounging above.

That place has stayed with me. Last year, I had the chance to go  back to where I grew up. The skyfort isn’t there any more, but my need for it remains. I still find myself ferreting out somewhere where I might be alone and feel safe for a moment and watch the world pass by below. I need such a place. We all do and if we don’t find it, we go crazy looking for it.

My office, at my work, is a bit of this  kind or place for me, where I meet with people and help them. My bedroom, at home, is such a place for me, where I write and play my guitar and talk to my wife. These places are good, but they are not enough, nor will they ever be.

I spoke to someone recently who isn’t okay —  no skyfort, no place up above it all, where they can go and feel okay. This person has a home, but there is still no place to get away from what he has done and especially what he has not done and fundamentally and intrinsically from the rejection of himself by himself.

“Hold me,” my daughter said to me recently, and so I held her, my own flesh and blood, close, safe, in the arms that have no harm in them but only want to protect and comfort and rescue. And then she let down and rested.  She was safe there, leaning back into her nest of  not-aloneness that exists within the not-aloneness of my care, where she can lounge and  watch the world go by and be okay.

We’re all looking for that kind of okay, but most of us don’t find enough of it. I know I don’t. My daughter either.

Life for all of us is less that we hope for in our moments of hoping and dreaming and imagining what might yet be there somewhere above us.

Needy, we tend to climb life, unrested, looking for a vine-net of affirmation, but usually all we get is a bunch of criticism, a pack of rules and a parcel of lies. They tend to shove us  back, away from each other, and toward the ground. We experience the “not good enough” in the very places we hoped for “your all I ever hoped for.” Even in the places we expected to find the web of understanding, places like marriage, home, church and school, we meet the cool eyes of distancing disapproval.  And then in anger and stubbornness we retreat and sniff out alternate places, dangerous and harmful places of escape and avoidance and brain numbing stultification. Yet these places are not nearly strong enough to hold off the harsh judgments of our peers and of ourselves.

There seems to be no place, to make us okay, because in no place do we find unconditional acceptance.

Except one.

Where is that?

It is in God.

God only, Christ only, accepts the unacceptable heart when it comes to him broken and unacceptable and self-rejected and allows itself to be forgiven, lifted up and held close. There is no other place to go to be okay. No human arms, no social success, no known substance, no  wealth, no hidden tree fort, nothing on the planet or in the universe that can erase the loneliness incumbent in our own failure to love and be loved. This only happens  in God.

God.

One place.

God is the one place in which we unacceptable persons may  begin to be acceptable again. He is a safe place in which  a new okayness can be found,  from which we can begin to recover and look out and gather strength and live and love ourselves and others once again.

God.

He is a skyfort.