A Spirit of Sadness

Posted by on Oct 4, 2016 in Compassion, God, Hope, Redemption, Transcendence | 46 comments

img_3554Today I’m filled with sadness.

This doesn’t often happen to me. I try to go about life with a spirit of gratitude and joy. Yet, I have known for several years now that the tragedies we encounter on almost a daily basis—whether personal, related to family or friends, or on a global scale—pierce me on an increasingly deeper level with each passing year.

I first noticed this deeper piercing a few years ago when I read of two local college girls, home on a brief break, gassing up a father’s SUV for a trip into the mountains, whose vehicle was hit by another car pulling into the adjacent gas pump. One of the girls was in the gas station buying snacks; the other pumped the gas, standing between her SUV and the gas pump. The collision caused a spark which became a conflagration that burned the girl alive. Paralyzed bystanders could only watch in stunned horror.

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A Do-It-Yourself-Psalm

Posted by on Apr 5, 2016 in God, Hope, Redemption, Uncategorized | 0 comments

diyI’m not much of a poet, but Psalm 124 provides a template that even I can follow in writing a personal expression of praise.

If the Lord had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
2 if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
3 they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
4 the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
5 the raging waters
would have swept us away.

6 Praise be to the Lord,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the Name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

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Remembering What We’ve Never Known

Posted by on Jul 17, 2015 in God, Transcendence, Transformation | 4 comments

“I desire something I vaguely recall; I long for something in my future that somehow I remember.”— Cindy Crosby Have you ever found yourself longing for something undefinable? Some spiritual or emotional experience you sense is out there, but you can’t necessarily describe? I have; and I think almost all of us do. To me it’s Transcendence. In her fascinating book on the spiritual dimensions of creation and nature, By Willoway Brook, author Cindy Crosby describes her insights gleaned from countless hikes in a nature preserve, called the Morton Arboretum, near her home in the western suburbs of Chicago. (Coincidentally, it’s the same place I proposed to my then-girlfriend and my now-wife back in 1975.) While watching and researching Monarch butterflies she discovered that every fall millions of Monarchs leave their natural habitat in the eastern parts of North America, pass through the Midwest, and arrive “home”— a remote fifty acres at 10,000 feet altitude in a mountain range in Mexico. None of them have ever been there before, but something in their DNA compels them to return “home.” Crosby points out that Monarchs aren’t the only species that demonstrates the same familiarity with, or memory of, a place they have never been to: Gray whales migrate 7,000 miles up the Pacific coast from Baja California to the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Eels descend east coast streams they’ve never been in to spawn and then die Chinook salmon climb from the Pacific a thousand miles up the Snake River to breed Each September some 70,000 Bar-tailed godwits fly 7,700 miles, non-stop over 6-8 days, from Alaska to New Zealand, then return the following March. We humans have our own “migrations” to experience something out of the ordinary: Each summer nearly 1,000 athletes compete in a 26 mile marathon up to the summit of 14,110 foot Pikes Peak in Colorado, and then back down. This August and September over 65,000 people will attend the Burning Man event in northern Nevada to experience “community, art, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance.” (Wikipedia) Every able-bodied Muslim has a religious duty of pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. This year more than 2 million will make this Hajj. An estimated 3 million Christian men attended the Promise Keepers’ Stand in the Gap event in Washington, DC in 1997. 5 men have attended all 48 Super Bowls since the first championship in 1967. Somewhere deep inside, we humans have a longing for the spectacular, the spiritual, the ecstatic, the breath-taking, or the transformational. Like the extraordinary migrations of some of the animal kingdom, our pilgrimages reveal a pull to return to a familiar place we’ve never been to before. They reveal a longing for a new place that feels like home. C.S. Lewis wrote: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Do you experience that? I’ll bet you do. It’s what we are looking for on a hike through a forest of redwood trees. It’s the joy we experience at the sound of an orchestra majestically playing a moving piece of music in perfect unison. It’s the reason tears stream down our cheeks when we watch a son, daughter or friend participate in a sporting accomplishment that we know took enormous discipline and courage. It’s why dozens of anonymous beach hikers stand in silence as the sun slowly sets on a gulf coast Florida beach, then spontaneously cheer together when it disappears from view. It’s why we stand in awe in a...

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Will You Wear A Mask This Year?

Posted by on Jan 6, 2015 in Character, Fear, God, Significance | 1 comment

So, I was enjoying a cup of coffee and conversation with a friend at Starbucks, when all of a sudden I was staring at Danny Devito and Jack Nicholson. I took a double-take. What in the world are they doing here? But on my third-take, I had a sense that something was wrong. While these men looked very much like the well-known movie stars, there was something just a little bit off, a little bit false, in their appearance. Curious, I went over to their table and said, “OK, you know why I’m here, who are you guys?” They gave me their cards and confirmed that they were celebrity impersonators. Their calling in life was to represent someone other than who they really were. We may chuckle, but the truth is we often do the same—we spend great effort portraying ourselves to others as someone other than who we really are. It’s a mask we wear in order to cover up what’s flawed, or to impress others with an image beyond our true selves. This pattern, portraying a false self, is epidemic among mankind, and it began very early in the human story. When the first man and woman were caught in deceit, and God came looking for them, their immediate reflex was to cover up and hide: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked…and made coverings for themselves.” Genesis 3:7 When they “heard the sound of the Lord…they hid.” v. 8 When God called to Adam, he said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” v. 10 With that starkly honest, and horribly revealing exchange, a pattern was set for all men and women who are aware of their fallenness and flaws—”I’m exposed, I am afraid, I must hide myself.” We learn to hide flaws behind a mask, and promote a false self that we think impresses others more than who we really are. The problem is, that on a certain level it works. There are many masks we take on that effectively cover up, impress, or intimidate: Blamer/Victim. Stoic/Tough guy/Loner People-pleaser Performer/Impresser/Workaholic Perfectionist/Expert/Authority Intimidator/Attacker/Winner Pious legalist/Judge/Condemner Rebel/Passive-ist Clown/Joker Author Larry Crabb says, “We are ruthlessly committed to self protection.” That is the underlying longing behind every one of these false-self masks. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are following the footsteps of Adam and Eve, and we believe: I am naked, I am afraid, I must hide myself. All of us are ruthlessly committed to wearing masks that provide self-protection. The Enemy, who is the ultimate deceiver, sees the genuine gifts and talents that God has given us, and urges us to distort them into self-protective impersonations: The man with high quality standards becomes the demanding Perfectionist. The man who enjoys making others feel welcome becomes the Joker who hides his true heart. The man who cares about the needs of others becomes the People-pleaser controlled by the opinions of others. The man of conviction and strength becomes the Intimidator who insists on getting his way. The man with persuasive ability to inspire others becomes the Performer who impresses. The man with enormous energy becomes the Workaholic enslaved by his job. The mask of the false-self is a broken distortion of our true self; ruthlessly committed to self-protection. The saving grace is that behind that false-self mask is a godly longing for what mankind once experienced in the Garden: The Perfectionist is longing for acceptance The Joker is longing for joy The People-pleaser is longing for...

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A Whimsical, Unloving God?

Posted by on Sep 5, 2014 in God, Transcendence | 6 comments

I think one of the struggles that Christians and non-Christians share is understanding how God, who says He is the embodiment of love, allows the horrors we see around us virtually every day. I’ve heard many Believers say it’s the question they intend to “confront” God with when they get to heaven. It’s an honest question, the answer to which our finite minds can’t yet grasp. I confess I wrestle with it, too. Often. Whether or not it’s what will jump immediately to mind once we encounter the over-whelming majesty of God…we’ll see. I doubt it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the first thing I’ll be doing is to hit the ground face down, awestruck, trembling with the beyond-my-imagination glory of God’s face. And I’ll stay there for quite awhile. I won’t be alone. When I do get up, perhaps a few rapture-filled centuries later, the question will no longer matter. With my new awareness of the larger picture, the question won’t even make sense. In the mean time, I appreciate this comment from Mike Mason the author of The Gospel According to Job: “People would not be people if they were entirely reasonable, and so it is with God. How reasonable is grace? Or love? Many cannot believe in God because they cannot stomach His whims. But to allow the Lord His whimsicalness—and more than that, to bless him for it—is faith.” p. 38 Lord, I believe. Help me with my unbelief. Can you...

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When It Rains, It Hails

Posted by on Aug 29, 2014 in Anger, God, Transcendence | 10 comments

In the past few months I’ve grown increasingly weary by a series of unmet hopes and regular-life challenges. I recounted to a friend the technical disruptions that began first with this blog, and then the Peregrine website, being hacked; thousands of dollars being defrauded from two accounts (since reimbursed); email turning annoyingly glitchy and then entirely “dark,” disrupted for days. I also related the hail storm that caused thousands of dollars of damage to our car, the nine weeks of limitless repair delays, followed by an unbelievable claim against us (which we are contesting) for another $1500 hail damage on the rental car after we returned it. I mentioned a few other issues that felt like unfair piling on and he responded, “Wow, when it rains, it hails.” We all know that feeling: the periodic seasons in our lives when it seems that everything that could go badly, does. We watch friends’ marriages fall distant until they finally divorce in exhaustion; the shocking physical maladies that follow one after another, seemingly at random; financial losses at the hands of others who have no sense of integrity; the slow, gradual passing away of parents; children who suffer teasing or discrimination through no fault of their own. When does it end? I have felt the sadness, pain and confusion of friends, and have had very little to offer in terms of advice. I’ve recognized that I’ve felt bewilderment, compassion and even agony at their suffering. I’ve also increasingly recognized that I’ve been angry. At God. Though it may sound dangerous to admit it, I know God is certainly “big enough” to handle my anger. Many of the most honest authors in Scripture have admitted as much. It has felt in some ways like righteous anger, ironically, to feel this way on behalf of others. Increasingly, though, I’ve needed to admit that I’m angry at God, on my behalf, not just on others’. The challenges I encounter pale in comparison to those of other friends; and they certainly do in comparison to a man like Job in the Old Testament. But rereading his story is revealing to me some important principles. In the book, The Gospel According to Job, author Mike Mason points out that Job’s first response in trial was to worship God. But he did so honestly. Was he filled with some sort of other-worldly peace and joy in the middle of his suffering? “No, not at all. He was as broken and cast down as a man can be.” (p. 35) Yet he still chose to worship (Job 1:21a). Mason points out that “real worship has less to do with offering sacrifices than with being a sacrifice ourselves.” (p. 36) I’m reminded, yet again, that this world is so horribly broken that we will regularly encounter the disappointments and tragedies life offers to all. When you and I feel the weight of the world’s brokenness, when it seems that it is not only raining, it’s hailing, remember that our very lives themselves are an offering to God. “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, for this is your spiritual worship.” (Ro. 12:1) An indication of growing spiritual maturity is the ability to worship in the middle of life’s...

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