Posted in Different Scriptures

When reality changed (changes)…

When I was growing up, I loved reading fantasy fiction books about realms where supernatural things happened. Life was difficult at times. There was a season where my dad was in prison, and we didn’t have much money. I wasn’t one of the “cool kids” in school, wasn’t good at sports or band, or even academics. So I loved to “retreat” sometimes by enjoying a story about magical places. I might even spend time imagining – what if I had some sort of power? What if the world I know could be transformed by something I could do?

I would wonder: what if the supernatural wasn’t just for books and movies – but existed here in our world? This past Sunday was a special day in the church – a day we call “Transfiguration Sunday”. It’s a day we often talk about Jesus ascending a hill in front of Peter, James, and John, and crazy things happening. They saw reality, transformed by Heaven.

I chose the “other” passage from Sunday’s readings, from the Old Testament. It is the final moments shared by the prophets Elijah and Elisha. It’s good for us to remember – Elijah is the prophet who had the showdown with the prophets of Ba’al – and saw God consume his altar with fire. He was getting too old to continue. Elisha would go on to do great things, and even gave a widow a jug of oil that never ran dry. But at this part of the story, he was still young, and wanting to follow Elijah.

Elijah and Elisha began this passage, in a place called “Gilgal”. This was the place Joshua first camped with the Israelites after they crossed the Jordan River, as they were entering the promised land. He set up an altar there, with 12 large stones to remind God’s people of His faithfulness.

Then they traveled to Bethel. You’ve probably heard of Bethel before, as the place where Jacob saw angels coming and going on a ladder. (Genesis 28) It was a place that reminds us that God is connecting the realities of earth and the realities of Heaven.

Then they traveled to Jericho, where God proved His presence with the people of Israel by crumbling the walls, in an amazing first victory as they began to receive and inhabit the promised land. Elijah was taking Elisha – and they’re taking us today – on a tour that reminds us of the Faithfulness of God – that Heaven and Earth aren’t just connected – but God is establishing His reign and rule in Earth as it is in Heaven. God is crumbling strongholds that previously existed, and claiming new territory as His Kingdom.

Next, they went to the Jordan River. The Jordan always seems to symbolize “crossing over into something new” in scripture. Elijah was preparing Elisha, inviting Him to enter into a new season of life. They were followed by 50 other prophets – people who spoke with God’s heart and vision into the world. Perhaps Elijah wanted some privacy, as this is a moment not meant for everyone, so he hits the water with his coat – and the Jordan splits, allowing them to walk across.

Now, I’ve never split a body of water larger than a puddle. But God splitting a large sea or lake seems possible. But for God to split a large FLOWING body of water, like the Jordan River, or the Danube, seems impossible. The water is always flowing – from upriver, and to downriver. So here, just like in the book of Joshua, we can imagine the water piling up and flooding out on one side – while drying up slowly on the other. Just as it happened when God’s people were leaving the wilderness, and entering into a new season of God’s provision in the land He’d promised Abraham long ago.

After they’d crossed (we can assume the water began to run again, as the other prophets didn’t seem to follow), Elijah turns to Elisha and asks “What can I do for you before I go?” Elisha responds, “The Spirit you have – what God is doing through you – I want a double portion of that kind of living.” Elijah thinks back – probably remembering all the times his life had been threatened or difficult. He says, “you have asked for a difficult thing.”

Not long after, as they were still talking, Elijah is separated by chariots that were blazing with the glory of God – Elisha could only describe them as being “of fire”. Then a windstorm comes, and seems to swallow up Elijah, and Elisha is so overcome by awe, and with grief, he rips his clothes. He had seen – literally, the transformation of reality. The flowing water had parted – this is not something that we’re accustomed to seeing in our physical world. He had seen chariots blazing with God’s glory, and saw Elijah taken away – he seemed to be swallowed up by the wind.

My question is – did reality change for the 50 prophets on the other side of the river in those moments too? Do you think they noticed the transformation of those moments? If they didn’t, does that change the reality of what happened?

Today, I want to invite you as Elijah invited Elisha. To consider the faithfulness of God. I want you to remember the way God’s reality and the reality we know are connected even here and even now. I want you to know that God’s desire is to crumble walls that we have built up – walls that made us feel safe, or comfortable, or strong on our own. I want to invite you to this moment – this Jordan Riverside moment. Because right now, God is parting the waters and asking you to come across with Him. To leave behind yesterday. To leave behind the ways you trusted yourself, or things of this world. To finally be set free from what has been holding onto you for so long. To know God’s looking into your eyes, and asking, “Do you know what I’ve done for you?”

When Jesus came – he also entered the Jordan River. God was declaring – now humanity is entering into a new reality I’ve promised since long ago. Where all land becomes my “promised land”, and the Spirit of God will be poured out in all directions. In that Spirit, we live today in the promised land of relationship with God – no matter what the reality of our world declares.

Knowing that God has transformed our reality by the love and life of Jesus Christ – how does God invite your life to be transformed this week?

Posted in Spoken Word

eye wonder

(Click here to listen.)

Another sun rises
And we should not be surprised when it seems to burst through the lies
That there is no light worth seeing
With every ounce of our being we silently applaud the darkness fleeing
As the world of shadows becomes the world of forms
For a moment, the storms have ceased, and increased our awareness of
This present moment. That something new might foment.
And here, I wonder.
Although we remember the thunder of days past, will we let them cast a shadow
Or will we allow the light to shine
This doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye toward what was, but we shift our focus
To what can be. That we might see, and our eyes might wonder.
Eye wonder.
As blinders are torn asunder we begin to see a bit more clearly
So much in our world we’ve nearly let go by, without batting an eye
And it’s not that we must more strongly try, but that we may simply need to let hurry die.
To hear the cry of golden beams of sunshine lighting up the trees
The one who sees holds treasures for a moment, not to possess or to employ, but to enjoy
Eye wonder.
The brightest greens of springtime grass, the winds that pass gently
Carrying seeds to furthest corners, even the mourners who profess their sadness deep
There is beauty there in keep – steeping slowly in the humanity we’ve usually passed by
We’re invited to let our eye – wonder.
Drawn in by realizing that light shines even here, we’re set free from fear to hear
Voices we’ve previously cast aside
Eyes and Ears opened wide to allow our fellow man to confide
That they’ve missed out on beauty too.
In different ways than you. And I wonder.
Will you hear their stories? Will we pause from seeking glories at the expense of every other
Slowing down to join our sister and brother
Realizing they’re not so different as they seemed in the darkness
And the starkness of this, eye wonder, speaks to the blunder of those who cannot see
Proclaiming the light is broken. Not just a token moment from which we easily move on
But a dawn, an arrival of sight in ways we’ve needed to recover
To see the value of “the other”, the beauty we discover when we realize what the light reveals
How it heals what has been scarred, and as those marred find themselves restored
We find that we’ve too long ignored, as we’ve looked for sources to plunder
But here is eye wonder.
Reminding us that’s it not always about what we can take, for goodness’ sake
We must live as those awake – not only to what can be – but to what is
That we would not miss the sacredness of this. present. Moment.
Walk slowly, with eyes fully open, continue hoping – but also look them in the eye
Seek the why, instead of assuming you know the story. Know that glory comes more fully
When it’s shared. When we’ve dared to cross the aisle, to walk the extra mile
In their shoes. They often didn’t choose their path, and the aftermath of such a finding
Becomes a blinding light inviting new things to be
And then – I wonder what wondering eyes might see.

Posted in Different Books

This is Happiness

I’ve just finished reading “This is Happiness” by Niall Williams. There are many places you could easily Google to find out the short version, the important bits, or more about the author. As with most books, you could easily research it enough to “know it”, and talk as if you’ve read it. But I would warn you – that is not happiness. 🙂

The story takes place in a small town called Faha in Ireland. It seems the kind of town which is important to you if you’re from such a town, but even then only if you’re from not just “such a town” but from that particular such a town. It happens to be occurring just as the town itself is on the cusp of electricity’s first arrival. It is told from the perspective of an older man looking back on his life, remembering the days of his 18th year.

The book is filled with poetic words reflecting on major themes such as life’s purpose, romance, faith, love, friendship, and the arrival of something new that can change life forever. Even if you’ve never been to Faha, and even if you’ve only lived in major metropolitan areas you’re entire life – you’d find yourself in familiar territories many times throughout this book. Whether you’re the kind of person who romanticizes places like this (as if they don’t exist an hour’s drive from where you presently have chosen to live), or you feel trapped in one (but are actually quite free to make your mind up and try something different), you’ll find aspects of life in Faha that draw you in.

As a pastor, I felt particularly drawn to the moments describing the arrival of something new which changes the perspective on all things which have come or been experienced previously. This happens in more ways than electricity itself – although this is the most obvious correlation. How do you help people to excitedly anticipate something for which they have no reason to think they’re in need of? How can the human heart seem dormant or clueless, and in an instant be switched or lit up in a direction it never even comprehended itself capable of?

In the mist of all that happens, we hear the words of wisdom from which I believe the book received it’s title:

“..you could stop at, not all, but most moments of your life, stop for one heartbeat and, no matter what the state of your head or heart, say This is happiness, because of the simple truth that you were alive to say it. I think of that often. We can all pause right here, raise our heads, take a breath and accept that This is happiness…

All of which to say: This book is worth a read. Especially if you enjoy the kinds of books which say something a bit more poetically than might require saying. If you’re the type of person who would rather someone say “It was windy outside.”, you may not enjoy this book so much. But if perhaps you’d enjoy someone saying, “The wind was a pack of wild stallions invading the still forests of the night, as if they’d burst in protest from the fences some ill-equipped ranch-hand had assembled, meaning the darkness was theirs for the taking and not even the strongest bird dare leave it’s shelter for fear of being lost forever.”, then this book might be right up your alley.

Read it slowly…and with an old man’s Irish accent.