Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lent: RISE

Thinking alot about rising these 40 days...

Driving home from the 9 to 5 today, I watched the folks leaving those places where they spend a good chunk of their lives.  I tried to look beyond the tired shoulders, the weary countenances and the external appearances to the eternal people inside those bodies with about an 80 year warranty.

I wonder if they're thinking about rising too.

Did that one feel at all appreciated today after doing the thankless task of billing and posting so the rest of us can get a paycheck?  That woman who trains the new recruits, was she distracted knowing her little girl is at daycare with a rotten cold today?  The man who just found out he has a malignant tumor, is Easter even on the radar of his invisible suffering?  What about the Dunkin' Donuts lady making 9 bucks an hour and trying to figure out how to get stuff for dinner and a haircut for her son.

And the beat goes on.

Billy Joel had a phrase in a song (about a hundred years ago): ..."I've found that just surviving is a noble fight."

So it is.

Still, I'm compelled by the Passion of Christ to believe for so much more.  I know it seems way to Pollyanna for our cynical world, but I'm stoked with hope for abundant life.  Jesus the hero, bloodied and maimed, beautiful, innocent lover of all of our souls, He rises.

Dies and Rises for our sake.

"For you know that it was not with perishable things like silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect.  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but has been revealed in these last times for your sake."  1 Peter 1:18-20

The empty way of life handed down to us through our spiritual DNA is in no way a bad hit on our parents. No one can help it.  We "reproduce after our own kind".   But Jesus, the most alive human being ever to walk the face of the earth, looked upon all of the generations of time, from ancient days to the days to come, and gave all He is for all we need.  So that life would be more than just surviving.  That somewhere beyond our vocations, our chores, our family duties, and all the rest of it we would grab hold of real life.  Beginning today but really culminating when we too die, and RISE.  Everybody gets the option of turning in the empty way of life for abundant life.  From the richest man in the world to the lady from Dunkin' Donuts.  From the neurosurgeon to the video game aficionado.  From the west side, to the east side.  From the mountains to the valleys.

Christianity isn't about making bad people good.  (Although that process most certainly is a byproduct...over a lifetime).  Christianity is about making dead people alive.  About waking people up from the coma of finding artificial life until their 80 year warranty is up.  It's about wild, eternal joy for all.  It's about rising.

Yeah, I'm thinking alot about rising these days.  And despite my thousands of failures, I believe the nail pierced, crucified, stone-rolled-away Savior was telling the truth when He proclaimed "it is finished."  He declared an end to death for all who would believe.  Thieves, whores, hypocrites, fools, adulterers, liars... Indeed, the beat goes on.

Take this wild offer my friends.  Make this Easter really personal.  No matter your external circumstances.  This grace in which we stand was costly.  Don't just survive.


Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, March 9, 2015

Lent: Maybe Especially For Mondays

Lent is really a beautiful thing at the end of a Monday.

Because some Mondays you need a reminder of the ocean load of grace you need.  Some Mondays, you get off to a bad start, and there's a vaccuum in your soul needing the rush of something fresh and clean and beautiful to remind you that one day, there will be no more blue Mondays.

I had a talk with myself today, not totally out loud but under my breath. Still, my lips were moving as I made my way across one of those hallways of healing where I make a living and strive to make a life.  "Stop your lousy attitude"  I told my soul.  I thought of how C.S. Lewis said "Sometimes you have to tell your feelings where to get off."  One of the doctors laughed when she inquired about my apparent schizophrenia, and said she loved me, and I had to smile with the affectionate thought of how I love her too, despite the fact that everyone is getting under my skin today and I don't have enough time to get my work done and it feels like I'm at the DMV the way EVERYONE is complaining.

I myself being exhibit A.

I took a lunch break...at 2:30... about 2 hours after I really should have walked away from that pile of paper my desk hides under.

And out in that 40 degree air that felt like summer for crying out loud,  I thought about the person I am to God, under the pile of grumbling and fussing and worrying and wondering.  I got outside and the birds were tweeting and it was actually over 35 degrees for the first time in 100 years, and I remembered how beloved I am to my Jesus.  How he saw the mess that doesn't define me and the trials that wouldn't kill me because He made a way through a lonely garden and up a brutal hill onto an execution platform for my sake.  Death couldn't even hold that blessed God-man.  He burst out of the grave with the keys to death and hell and said "Let everyone who is thirsty COME!"  Oh baby, and I went running, dying of thirst, and no matter how many bad Mondays I have left on this earth there's good to be found. There's grace and mercy and love to be found! The well is always flowing with fresh water on the stalest of days....for whosoever will just get off their confounded high horse and take the free gift!

There outside in front of that mammoth health care complex at the near end of an endless winter, Jesus Christ shows up alive and well in my parched soul.  The kingdom of God cometh!  Here in this messy heart, here in the 21st century, here where hope rises up again and the stone rolls away again, here the gospel lives.

On a Monday, no less.

Grace is found in the most ordinary places, on the most ordinary days. Lent seems mostly about a Friday and a Sunday, but it was meant for all the other days as well.  Maybe even especially Mondays.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lent: How Not To Wreck It

It's still remarkable to me, how twisted up we people of faith can get things.

We have our eyes opened to see the unmatched, untamed love of an uncontainable God, and still find a way to turn the whole thing into a dead religion.  I'm not sure how it happens...perhaps the insidious call of a human nature that wants to be "righteous", perhaps a fear driven motivation to avoid the ugly excesses of a world gone mad.  Maybe it's a deception dangled by the ancient enemy of our souls.

Perhaps it's all three.  The world. The flesh. The devil.

(Them ain't new concepts, friends.  There is nothing new under the sun.)

Lent is a time to glory in the grace of a wildly beautiful Savior.  Every discipline, sacrifice and self denial ought to be aimed at grasping an ever greater vision of His perfections and His limitless love.

When these things become and end in themselves, the outward practices make men into Pharisees.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean."  Mt.23 :25-26

Christ calls us to dance with Him.  To open our self up to the vulnerability of love, with the attached risks of loss, disappointment and trouble.  A relationship with God is the point of Lent, Easter, Christmas...indeed the point of every ordinary day.  Religion is not, and never has been the point.  Jesus Christ had a PASSION.  It was rife with agony, and exploding with "the JOY set before Him."  He did not suffer thus to create "nice" people, people who follow rules and look dapper in their freshly pressed clothes on Easter Sunday.

His wild "hope", (if that's not a heresy), is that His beloved creation will be "liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God."  (That last part is from Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 8 verse 21.

Every work of Lent...fasting, self denial, good works - are all a Pharisaical whitewashing if the ultimate aim is not a passion to know and love Christ, and all He loves, more fully.  But if those motives are in place, even if we don't have them 100% pure and right, we are dancing and not primping.  Liberation, freedom, joy, a life of love.  That's the aim of a breathtakingly beautiful God.

I say these things because I myself need them most of all.  I could and have tried to make myself look better than I am, rather than confessing the pure, lovely grace of Jesus as my banner.  I long to be authentic, and I know you do to.  Sometimes we just need a reminder of what the thing is really all about.  It's far better to fail in our fasting and cry out "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me", than to get it all right for 40 days and miss the point entirely.

Let every effort of Lent be one to draw you toward the love of your Savior.

That's what Easter is all about, Charlie Brown.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lent: Unraveling The Ancient Plot

Lent is about the conscious contemplation of the uncontainable truth of the gospel: the redeeming death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It's rather like trying to hold the Milky Way in a teaspoon, this pondering of the unfathomable condescending love of God.  It's very different too from our everyday thinking...there's a Crucifixion, blood sacrifice, miraculous empty tomb.  These do not fit in to the typical thought life of the average American.  We don't even see animals slaughtered anymore. (Here is where I thank God for placing me in the 21st century).  But these thoughts, odd though they seem, are rightly centered on the lofty unravelings of the plot of a foul enemy to destroy the souls of the human race.  Lent retells the dramatic story of Jesus and His masterful hoodwink, His high and mighty crushing of the head of the snake, and the unmerited restoration that this unraveling of sin has wrought for ordinary folks like you and me.

If you've never seen an episode of Columbo, starring Peter Falk as the detective from which the show's title is derived, you haven't really experienced the best of character driven television.  In most TV detective programs, one spends the entirety of the episode figuring out who committed the crime in question (usually murder).  But Columbo twisted this formula like a pretzel.  From the beginning you witness the wicked fellow or femme fatale conniving and ultimately perpetrating a murder.  You know the motive, you know the opportunity, you know the method.  You see all the details.

Columbo, meanwhile, arrives on the scene.  And typically within moments Steve and I will look at each other and say "He knows."  The joy of Columbo is watching him unravel the mystery before our eyes, finding the proof, and slowly tightening the noose around the criminal's neck in the politest of ways.

Now I know the analogy here is faulty, but I think it's fair to say that Lent is a mental replay of the inevitable demise of the ancient enemy of mankind.  The story's already written, the hero wins with great alacrity, but the scenes must be played out for all to see. The world is clearly still in a state of chaos, with sin run amuck on all fronts.  But the gospel truth is this: the crime has already been solved, prosecuted and judged.  The felon is already sentenced, goose cooked, doomed to death.  This ancient foe's only hope before the prison door is permanently sealed is to drag as many of God's beloved down with him as possible.  But the pardon for man has been signed in Christ's blood, and it is only for each of us to bow the knee in gratitude and repentance and accept the aquittal.  The noose is tightening and there is no doubt how the thing's going to turn out.  It's simply a matter of unravelling the lies and landing square in the safe harbor of a loving God.

The cost of this undoing to the Trinity was more than we can comprehend.  Again, the Universe in a thimble.  But just because we can't get it all, doesn't mean we shouldn't jump for joy for the bit we can understand. That's our call during Lent...to let that message rise up out of us, that crazy hope that sets us free from sin, darkness and the grave.  No matter how it looks in the moment.  Like Columbo, He already knows.  It is finished.

So while you change the diaper, bless the one who graced you with the child in it.  While you study the next geometric proof, contemplate the beauty of an ordered world.  While you serve the customer, fix the pipe, dress the wound, feed the cat, count the pills, suffer the loss, count the gains...while you do everything, give praise to Him who unraveled the crime for your sake, who took the judgement for your benefit, and who rose from the dead for your future.

Lofty thoughts for Lent indeed.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,