Life, death, and a sunrise

You might think I’m reading too much into it, but I see every gorgeous #sunrise as a promise. It’s a reminder that God is who He says He is. He is good. He loves us. It’s a promise of things to come. The light will always break through the darkness. The things He creates are beautiful works of art. I’m not just talking about this sunrise or the Andromeda Galaxy. I’m talking about you and me. He created us. We are beautiful works of art, living in a messed up world.

After watching hundreds of sunrises, I have an observation. The most glorious sunrises often follow the darkest nights full of wicked storms. We might be tempted to shake our fist in rage at the heavens, cursing God for the storms…demanding answers. But we must remember…this isn’t the world He created. This is not “as good as it gets.” He has better plans and a better home for us. This world is a waypoint on the journey.

This past weekend was full of life events for me. A good friend had a precious baby on Friday… a glorious celebration of life in spite of numerous difficulties. I enjoyed some great time with friends and family. Those were treasured moments And my uncle passed away unexpectedly at 48, leaving many of us asking “Why?” These are the highs and lows of life. I witnessed them all in one weekend.

In the middle of it all, there was God. With us. Within us. Reminding us the He is good and that we are His finest masterpiece. Life comes and goes. We celebrate the new and grieve those who are gone. New life is a reminder of the potential that is within us all. Those first beautiful breaths cry out defiantly, storming this crazy planet with innocence…declaring that good does still exist, regardless of how things may appear at times.

My uncle’s last breath is a reminder of the weight of eternity that is written in our hearts. No matter what you believe, your life on this planet will end. No matter your worldview, you have no idea how many more breaths you have. Time is short. Time is precious. But even as I stood in my uncle’s apartment yesterday waiting for the medical examiner, a beautiful light was shining through his colorfully painted windows. It was a midday echo of the sunrise, created by combining my uncle’s unique talents with God’s great glory. “I’m here. I’m walking through this with you. With all of you.” A quiet prayer among acquaintances brought comfort and the first steps toward healing. A police officer spoke incredible and uplifting words of faith and encouragement. God was there. Shining through. Yes, this life is temporary. And for those of us mourning a loss the hole left in our life feels like it can’t ever be filled.

The grief and emptiness has a meaning and we would be wise not to be too quick to dismiss it. It’s a reminder that this isn’t the end. We weren’t designed for loss, so loss wounds us terribly. But in that loss we can feel the promise of a world to come. A world where this is no more sorrow, no more suffering, and no more pain. A world where reconciliation isn’t simply possible, but is reality.

That’s what I see in every beautiful sunrise. A promise of the glorious things to come. Faith. Hope. Love. Redemption.

 

I missed it

IMG_6042I missed the sunset yesterday. It was beautiful. I wasn’t at one of my favorite spots. I didn’t see the vivid blue, orange, purple, and red hues bounce off the water and clouds as the sun quickly descended behind the hills.

I was at home, taking the dogs out.

I knew it was a good one. Even without seeing the source, I knew it was beautiful. Just look at those clouds, quickly captured with a smartphone while chasing dogs.

We don’t always need to see the source to see the beauty, do we? There are other signs, if we pay attention. It reminds me of the C.S. Lewis quote: “I believe in Christ as I believe that the sun has risen. Not because I see it, but because I see everything else.” IMG_6032

When it comes to God, we easily fall into the trap of demanding answers from Him. We demand that He show Himself and answer all our questions. To give us the reason for all of our hurts. When He doesn’t, we grit our teeth and let our anger boil.

Take a deep breath. Look around. There are signs everywhere. He’s speaking to us all the time, but on His terms and in His way, not ours. Even when we can’t see His face, we can see the reflection of His love and promises all around us if we take the time to pause and look for it. Our circumstances don’t reveal His nature to us, but His nature can be discovered from within our circumstances. Exhale. Inhale again.

Then back to chasing those ornery dogs.

Oh, shoot! Covenants? (#31days)

Meet Derrick

Meet Derrick

This week I’ve been studying covenants. There are two places I typically run across that word: marriage and theology.

Covenants aren’t contracts. Yes, they often have promises from both parties. They frequently have consequences when promises are broken, too. Ultimately they are about relationships, though, not obligations. Think about the traditional wedding vows. The bride and the groom make promises to each other. In good times and in bad, I will value our relationship. I will remain with you. Until death parts us. The groom isn’t making demands of the bride or vice versa. They each make their own solemn promises as they enter into this covenant…this relationship.IMG_0097

We’ve all seen the consequences of breaking covenant promises. It’s not pretty. But we’ve also seen the beauty and healing that comes when people choose to put relationships higher than justice. We’ve seen the restoration that forgiveness brings. Reconciliation isn’t always easy, but it is often possible. And powerful.

Take that idea and apply it to theology. I can’t speak to any other religion, but Christianity is filled with covenants. Each of these are God reaching out to man, reminding him that He, the creator of the universe, has a desire to have a relationship with man. Yes, there are promises involved, just like in marriage. But there’s beauty and life to be found in it that far exceeds the words that scare us so much. Words like obedience, trust, and follow. The hangups are on our side, though, and not His. He continues to reach out with His unfailing love. Reconciliation is possible. Forgiveness is still one of the most life and relationship changing experiences in the universe. Both in the receiving and in the giving.

Oh, shoot! It’s love! #(31days)

 

 

I’ve got a new set of highlighters. They’ve got some fancy new gel system in them. Guaranteed not to bleed, smear, or run. The original text shines through the bright pink, orange, or yellow. But they’re about as precise as crayons.

As I glanced back through the pages I had just read, there it was. One solitary word highlighted with a messy pink highlighter.IMG_9695

Hesed.

The Hebrew word for “unfailing love.”

Those words filled me. A love that never fails. Ever.

Unconditional love is amazing enough. A love you don’t get based on your achievements and don’t keep based on your own merits. It’s a love that is always there and is never changing. It doesn’t make sense. But it exists.

But unfailing… that’s a different idea altogether. It’s an action word. It means a love that pursues and succeeds. A love that will battle for you…and win. It’s a love that will do whatever it takes to demonstrate and express itself. Even if it means a fight to the death on your behalf.

Hesed. Unfailing love. This was the word used around 275 times in reference to God in the Hebrew Bible. Then it was demonstrated and documented in the New Testament.

“But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Romans 5:8 (HCSB)

Oh, shoot! I need a sign! (#31days)

IMG_9486I’ve been a seeker all my life. When the thought of God would cross my mind when I was younger, I’d frequently think: “God, if you are really there, show me a sign. If you show me a sign, I’ll believe.”

For years I didn’t see a single one. From the mountains of Colorado while hiking the continental divide to glaciers cleaving in Glacier Bay National park, God was silent. Eventually, I stopped asking.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (‭Psalm‬ ‭19‬:‭1‬ ESV)

Now I look at the sky and wonder how I missed it for so long. Creation is simply too exquisite, complex, and magnificent to be an accident. There are too many subtle touches, too many fascinating oddities. So much fragile beauty.IMG_9485

Now I look at a breathtaking sunrise and wonder “what does it say about the Creator that He shows us this?”

When I see sights like these pictured here, it reminds me of the nature of God. He is good. He is a source of hope and wonder. He is more grand, majestic, creative, and powerful than I can comprehend. And yet He loves us enough to keep sending us signs.

What signs have you seen?

Oh, shoot! He’s preaching! (#31Days)

It’s Sunday. I’m gonna preach.IMG_8802

I’d like to tell you about a prayer that changed my life. When a Christian says that, thoughts generally turn to the gospel. Salvation. Oh, but I already told you I’m preaching today. Praying for salvation is for the lost. I don’t preach to the lost. I’m preaching to the found.

Choosing to enter into a relationship with Jesus is the most important decision you can make. It changes your eternity. But today I’m not talking about eternity. Today is about the time between now and eternity. I’m talking about changing your life.

I’ve had some incredible adventures. I’ve built chapels and relationships in Brazil. I’ve ministered to the lost of midway at the fair. God demonstrated His incredible presence, love, and power while I was in Paris. I’m continually humbled and amazed with the things God continues to do through me and in me. Today I’m sharing the life changing prayer that made it all happen.

As a new Christian many of my prayers were for protection, heath, and comfort. I prayed prayers of thanks as well. Those are very natural and common things to pray about. Sometimes I’d pray for guidance, for help making decisions. There’s nothing wrong with praying this way, but it wasn’t life changing.

Here’s the secret prayer that so many people are scared to pray.

“God, use me. God, change me. Whatever you have for me, prepare me for it, guide me to it, and lead me through it.”

That’s it. Basically, it’s an echo of one of the most famous prayers of Jesus. “Not my will, but yours.”

But it’s scary. What if God sends me to Africa? What if God wants me to quit my job? What if I’m called to open my home to strangers? Or worse, sell my home entirely? These are the fears that keeps us silent and paralyzed. They keep us ordinary. They keep us distantIMG_9455 from the One who knows our heart better than we know ourselves.

I’m not bragging, I’m just telling my story. I’ve done it. I’ve prayed that prayer. I’ve prayed for boldness. I’ve prayed for Him to use me. Any time, any way He wants. And it has been life changing.

I’m not going to guarantee the outcome of praying this way. That’s not up to me. You might not end up in a foreign country. You might not join a ministry that serves people experiencing rock bottom. You may never find yourself talking to a belligerent carnival worker on midway. Oh, but you might.

And wherever this prayer leads you, I DO guarantee that it will lead you into a closer relationship with Him. And that will change your life.