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Image It’s there on a wedding day…
There in the weeping by the graveside
There in the very breath we breathe
Your great grace*

If you know me very well, you will find a number of historical clues hidden deep within this picture.   Far in the backdrop are pictures from and of my ancestry, grandfathers one and all, one of them resting on a random rock.   In the foreground, we find gifts from a few of the ladies in my life.   A pewter token from a grandmother, a ceramic celebratory mug from a daughter, and a treasured portrait taken by my wife, preserved over time of course of the once celebrated Kodak Paper.  

Old school portraits were always best presented on Kodak Paper, but I digress.

Within said portrait I’m wearing my once prized, circa 1987, Hard Rock Cafe Los Angeles sweatshirt.     Truth be told, I prefer “The Rock” to “the hard”.    You see, elsewhere within the larger image are various representations of Christianity, and we have the original hard rock to thank for that.

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.  Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.  Matthew 16:16-18

Life is full of hard moments, and great ones as well.   To live in avoidance of the former is to deny yourself the opportunity for the later.   Parenthood is kind of like that, and on the near eve of my eldest daughter’s wedding, I would change nary a thing.

It’s there in the newborn cry
There in the light of every sunrise
There in the shadows of this life
Your great grace

It’s there on the mountain top
There in the everyday and the mundane
There in the sorrow and the dancing
Your great grace
Oh such grace

From the creation to the cross
There from the cross into eternity
Your grace finds me, yes your grace finds me*

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation,  and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.  I Peter 1:3-4

Amen.   Feasting at the hard rock today is better than ever.   The picture says it all.

*Your Grace Finds Me lyrics by Matt Redman

On being wrong…

Well worth the 17 minutes invested.  Enough said.

Is it plumb?

Unknown

Plumb: a lead weight attached to a line and used to indicate a vertical direction.

out of plumb or off plumb:  out of vertical or true.

So defined is the term by Merriam-Webster online.

As one who has done a little wallpapering in my day, I’ve learned the value, sometimes the hard way, of being out of plumb.

Is it straight?   Is it true?    Does it stand tall?   Does it risk falling over?   Or, much less risky but much more visible, will the condition call attention to itself for years to come?

My first experience was as a teenager helping my mother re-paper our dining room in Shreveport, Louisiana.   Having never done the job before, we just jumped in.  While the work was done quickly and the wall surfaces felt nice and smooth, it was soon evident when standing back a few feet that the vertical stripe pattern had a distinct tilt to it, even though it looked like we were putting it up straight.   Fortunately, the china cabinet just happened to fit nicely in a place that would hide our error, and on we went.   Undoubtedly, it was noticed by others in the years that followed.plumb

The building I office in at my employer is vintage 1950′s, and is the product of a noted west coast architect from that era.   It recently underwent a major gutting and renovation, and only at that time did we discover one of the most visible outer walls, leading from the ground up to a 7 foot window ledge and bounded by ground to ceiling windows on each side, is far from plumb.   The error was hidden in the past by a particular sub-wall and door facing, but cannot be hidden any longer. The tilt is now prominent for all to see, and makes for an interesting story.   And yet, it is still a great building, with wonderful history and an impactful legacy.   So, being “out of plumb” is not always equivalent to fatal failure, even if less than desirable.   Sometimes great character comes from such flaws.

I recently attended a concert event with some friends.   One of the opening acts was a singer who calls herself “Plumb”.   Her most current hit song seems to hit the nail right on the head, or maybe more appropriately to be straight and true.   Consider the lyrics for yourself and see if you agree:

Well, everybody’s got a story to tell

And everybody’s got a wound to be healed

I want to believe there’s beauty here

‘Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on

I can’t let go, I can’t move on

I want to believe there’s meaning here

How many times have you heard me cry out

“God please take this”?

How many times have you given me strength to

Just keep breathing?

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

Standing on a road I didn’t plan

Wondering how I got to where I am

I’m trying to hear that still small voice

I’m trying to hear above the noise

How many times have you heard me cry out

“God please take this”?

How many times have you given me strength to

Just keep breathing?

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

Though I walk,

Though I walk through the shadows

And I, I am so afraid

Please stay, please stay right beside me

With every single step I take

How many times have you heard me cry out?

And how many times have you given me strength?

How many times have you heard me cry out

“God please take this”?

How many times have you given me strength to

Just keep breathing?

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

I need you now

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

I need you now

I need you now

I’ve reached a place in life where many roads are converging.  Some call it the sandwich generation.   Our parents have aged.   Our kids somehow suddenly reached a point that their actions are more impactful.   I look in the morning mirror, and am starkely reminder that both statements are true of myself, as well.

Some call it mid life, and refer to it as a time of crisis.   I believe all of life presents moments of challenge and crisis, but may I suggest our response and reaction is every bit as important, even more so, as finding out we may have been “out of plumb” to begin with.   Maybe it is in mid-life that we are better equipped to reflect and respond to the inherent flaws in our prior efforts.

There’s another word called grace, and even another called forgiveness.   They remain with us, even if the evidence of a tilt remains.

Nothing says it better than Hebrews 14: 12-16:

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.  

 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

 

 

So I may have to tell Don (aka, Mr. Miller) that he has competition in the man crush department.   Not really, but you will likely get my drift later.

I was driving into work early this morning and was greeted by Matt Redman’s “Your Grace Finds Me”.   His music seems to be hitting me where I need it right now.   See if you agree.   And don’t worry, Don, I still love your books, and the thought of living a better story.  That, and I’m a happily married guy, but I digress.

It’s there in the newborn cry
There in the light of every sunrise
There in the shadows of this life
Your great grace

It’s there on the mountain top
There in the everyday and the mundane
There in the sorrow and the dancing
Your great grace
Oh such grace

From the creation to the cross
There from the cross into eternity
Your grace finds me, yes your grace finds me

It’s there on a wedding day
There in the weeping by the graveside
There in the very breath we breathe
Your great grace

The same for the rich and poor
The same for the saint and for the sinner
Enough for this whole wide world
Your great grace
Oh such grace

There in the darkest night of the soul
There in the sweetest songs of victory
Your grace finds me
Yes your grace finds me

Your great grace
Oh such grace
Your great grace
Oh such grace

So I’m breathing in Your grace
And breathing out Your praise
I’m breathing in Your grace
Forever I’ll be

Your grace finds me
Yes Your grace finds me

 

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…this is precisely when it occurs to me that there is no net…Who is going to rescue me?

So begins the above pictured book.

It was 1987, careening towards the stroke of midnight and the dawn of 1988.  I was in the small “Bible Chair” building as we called them in those days in a stranger’s town at a stranger’s university.  It was the holiday break at old Alma Mater my senior year, and my parent’s new home was in many ways not mine.

Life was about to be changing for me.   One of the few constants in life is change.  That, and our God.
There was this girl, I can’t even remember her name, or face, or where she was from, only that I felt a need to impress her.  So, I turned the television over to MTV, which was playing a recording of Van Halen’s “Live Without a Net” concert tour.   Sammy was crooning about wanting the best of both worlds, and clearly said girl was not impressed.  I’m not sure if we spoke again after that.

Fast forward 26 years.  I still want to woo the girl, albeit the one I won a few months after New Years 1988.  Life is still changing.   I often find myself living as if I want the best of both worlds, “Heaven right here on Earth”.

Well, that’s not going to happen, any more than, well, you know.

Searching for God Knows What is all about the fall of man, losing Eden, and how Christ works outside our prescribed formulas to bring us back into a relationship with our Creator.

You should give it a try.  But, be warned.  No safety net, emotional or otherwise, is visible.  Then again, maybe we just can’t see it…

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Turn off the TV

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I got my good boy marks the past three and a half days, all Smiley faces and stars, with perfect attendance to boot.  And, may I add, I didn’t watch a single second of television for over 72 hours.

Which brings up an interesting first hand experience perspective.  Many of the people speaking to the 25 hours of panel and lecture time I just sat thru were journalists and (former) politicians.

They were not in talking head mode, that much is sure.  They played nice.  Smiley faces and stars are in order.  They spoke rationally about solving problems, and avoiding overreactions, and of getting along with those with whom we often disagree.  It was refreshing, albeit a bit shocking.

And it made me wonder, why are they not like this in TV?  We often counsel each other about what not to do in email, and text, and on Facebook, that being hiding behind the screen.  I wonder if the same phenomenon is true for TV as well?

It was a good few days, and I don’t think I missed a thing, on TV, that is.

Stars and Smiley faces all around…

Man Crush Monday?

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I had an interesting question posed by my youngest daughter late Friday night.  She bears a beautiful smile and, given her reserved personality, can be shockingly funny at the most unexpected times with some most unique insights.   She has a twin brother who is sharp, smart, and engagingly witty, and they both keep me on my toes, as does their lovely mother and her 20something virtual twin, our eldest.

But, believe it or not, this post is not about them.

“So, what was your girl’s question”, you might ask?

She was sitting on my bed watching me pack for one of all too many excursions from home that have seemingly consumed these past few weeks.  Spread randomly between the bed and the floor were piles of bags, books, snacks, shirts, and shoes, each seemingly waiting to be placed in a satchel of choice for this most recent trip, or to be tossed into the corner and left behind.

“You like that Don Miller guy, don’t you?  Is he your man crush?” she said.

“WHAT?”  My shocked response drew a big laugh from her.   She pointed to a book of his on the floor, Storyline, which I have yet to successfully dive sufficiently into.  I’ll have more to say on that later.

You say things about his books on Facebook”, she said.   “Is he your man crush?”

All I could do was smile.  That and continue packing.  It’s a stark reminder to know your child (among others) is stalking you on social media and judging accordingly.

To “cut-loose” with a recently heard lyrical phrase, “Somebody’s eyes are watching”.

Indeed, and she may be right.   In my recent travels, and travails, I’ve pulled the four to five of Mr. Miller’s books in our possession from the shelves and have re-engaged in them fully.   I confess he is quite possibly my favorite non-fiction writer.

I confess, as well, to likely being above average on the introspection scale.  I analyze many thoughts and situations, some of which may not be all they seem, ad-infinitum.  It is quite possible that I am one of the world’s most pessimistic “Glass-half-full” philosophers, always searching for ways to add water to the glass so as to not go thirsty.   I could mention how heavy it is to carry water by volume, but I would digress.

I’ve re-read Through Painted Desserts and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years over the past seven days, and am halfway back thru Searching for God Knows What.  Once it is completed, I plan to go back to where it all began (the crush, I guess) almost a decade ago when a good friend and my lovely Little Frau both recommended his first best seller, Blue Like Jazz, to me.  Like Jazz, life seemingly doesn’t resolve, but the beat goes on.

I dove into Storyline, quite literally, while spending a few moments (a very few, sadly) sitting alone on a beach last evening.   It speaks of adventure, and risk, and living a life that endeavors to save the lives of others, physically and spiritually.   I can’t wait to keep working through it.

I find Miller’s thoughts and words on life, and God, and relationships, and loss, and joy to be renewing.  I would call him “Don”, but we’ve never actually met, and I’m a happily married guy, and to do so might lead my daughter to suggest he was my man-crush.   Go figure.

Well, it is Monday, after all…

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