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Bemoaning Boredom

Communication is not what is spoken but what is heard. Throughout the day, there are about a billion things I say to my children. I am not sure what, if anything, gets through. There’s only one sure fire way to know what is actually being communicated to their little hearts and minds. Eavesdropping.

Every once in a while, while I am cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry or hiding in the bathroom, I’ll listen in on the boys conversations (we will talk about invasion of privacy when they can define the word invasion). They have some amazing pillow talk, those two older boys. Their conversations run the gamete: dragons, monsters, plans for inventions, talking about the field trips they will take in 8th grade the way that I talk about retirement.

The other day Eli was complaining of being bored, to which Tyus responded, “Mom wants us to be bored. Because when we are bored, we create new things and come up with new fun.”

In my shock, I may or may not have dropped the laundry I was folding. They are actually listening to me.

Today, while I was resting and reading and praying, the Lord told me that maybe I should listen to me, too.

Internally, I am better than my children at bemoaning boredom. Sure, I rarely walk up to the Lord and tug at His proverbial pant leg to whine, “I’m so bored. There is nothing to do.” But internally, I complain about the monotony of manning the same post day in and day out. I look around at everyone else’s toys and activities and determine that others received the better end of the deal. In my boredom, I mindlessly scroll through the Facebook feed or shop around at thrift stores or fantasize about getaways and vacations that involve quiet and sleep and take place anywhere but here.

Nearly two hundred years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville, a European visitor to America,  made some observations about Americans that still ring true, at least in my own heart and home.

“Born often under another sky, placed in the middle of an always moving scene, himself driven by the irresistible torrent which draws all about him, the American has no time to tie himself to anything, he grows accustomed only to change, and ends by regarding it as the natural state of man. He feels the need of it, more, he loves it; for the instability, instead of meaning disaster to him, seems to give birth only to miracles all about him.”

Guilty as charged.

Teaching Our Children to Embrace Boredom

The greatest temptation of the parent is to give our children what they want rather than what they need. My children, in their flesh want to be constantly busy with fun things, but they need to be busy with boring things like chores or just plain bored.

Boredom exposes their hearts and their idols. it shows gaps. As a momma, my reflexive response is to want to fill all gaps for them. But the gaps are the places where grace and the gospel leak into their lives. When they are not so full of what they want, they may begin to realize what they really need.

It is so challenging for me to let them sit in perceived lack, but such lack points us to our need for the constantly full One. Boredom forces them to look over all that they do have and use it more creatively. It reminds them that this earth is not our home and that we were made for more than personal fulfillment. These lessons are hard to swallow, but the sooner these truths sink in, the better they will be for the future.

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Embracing Boredom as Adults

I see it in my boys who claim boredom in the midst of bins of toys and in between exciting adventures and countless opportunities. I see it in my longing to start something new, do something different, visit someplace exotic. Boredom lies under the temptation to quit my post and find a greener pasture when life gets flat and days get long.

I often tell my boys, “Boredom is a gift. It teaches you to create and to play.”

Today God reminded me that, as His child, He thinks the same for me. He longs for more than my entertainment. He longs for me to be satisfied deeply in Him, not in changing circumstances.

In the monotony I deeply dread,  He gives me opportunity to dig deeper into His well for joy. The pleasures of HIs presence are far more substantial and lasting than the ephemeral pleasures I typically jump to as from rock to rock.

If I am honest, I look forward to bed time, I look forward to a haircut, I look forward to Starbucks coffee splurges. I look forward to the weekend, I look forward to vacation and adventures. I don’t look far enough.

The Lord reminded me ever-so-gently today that I need a longer hope, a longer vision. Psalm 130 is a good place for my soul to sit awhile.

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning. Indeed, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is lovingkindness and with Him is abundant redemption. 

In a culture that is drowning in entertainment, we are a terribly bored and discontented people. Or at least I can speak for myself.

This week, instead of dreading the monotony, I long for the Lord to transform it, to invite me deeper into His ever-available abundance right where I am. I don’t want to quit my post. The Lord put me here, and He plans to show up. I just tend to be too busy chasing cheap satisfaction to notice His coming.

Charcoal Fires and Forgiveness

The Apostle John was a master storyteller. As with any excellent fiction writer, he painted such detailed pictures of the disciples’ interactions with Jesus that we can almost step into the scenes of his gospels. John’s gospel, likely the last gospel written and the first gospel to attempt contextualization to another culture, approaches Jesus’s life differently than the synoptic gospels.

While John moves swiftly through the first half of the his gospel, often called the book of signs, he slows down in the last half of his gospel account. Suddenly, we move from high-flying overviews with an occasional drop down into detail into a more detailed account of the last week of Jesus’s life.

After the long discourse recorded in John 14-16 and the long prayer recorded in John 17, John leads us back into action in John 18.

Jesus, crossing the brook Kidron, moves into action, having set his face toward the coming Cross. He is in full command throughout the entire chapter, showing the other-worldly nature of his kingdom, which he declares to Pilate in verse 36: “My kingdom is not of this world.”

One seemingly small detail jumps out to the observant reader: a charcoal fire.

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As Jesus is brought before the High Priest, having boldly, calmly giving himself up to those who sought him in the dark with torches and weapons (v.4-5), the Apostle John gives us a vivid picture of Peter warming himself around a charcoal fire (v. 18, 25).

John juxtaposes Jesus’s care and concern for everyone else in the moment of his greatest need with Peter’s selfishly warming himself at the fire. John has set the stage for Peter’s three-fold denial around a charcoal fire. The reader can almost imagine the light and dark shadows, the watery eyes from the smoke, the smell lingering on the clothes long after the fire is out.

Later, after Peter’s persistent failure given three chances to identify himself with Jesus, we find another poignant scene taking place around a charcoal fire.

Jesus, having risen from the dead and appeared first to Mary Magdalene and then to the disciples who were hiding in a locked upper room, surprises his disciples who were fishing just as the day was breaking (John 21:1-4).

Jesus first recreates the scene of his original calling of the first disciples, helping them recognize him as the Risen Lord (Luke 5; John 21). In line with his impetuous nature, Peter jumps into the water to swim toward Jesus, forgetting for a moment the wall of awkwardness that still stood between them.

He walks up the beach to a charcoal fire where Jesus is cooking a meal for Peter and the disciples. Peter gave away his chances to align himself with the Lord, but the Lord continues to give himself to Peter in sacrificial, costly love.

Jesus, in line with his nature, does not shy away from the hard subject. Rather, he gently leads Peter there in healing conversation, forcing him to relive his failures by asking him three questions around a charcoal fire. Eyes filled with tears, the smell of charcoal smoke, the interplay of light and darkness. Same scene. Different ending.

Peter is graciously reinstated around the same kind of fire where he radically failed. What a merciful and masterful Jesus we serve.

Charcoal Fires 

Charcoal fires would never be the same,
Their smell would invoke his shame:

Threefold denial of Jesus’s perfect name. 

Days later, at another fire he was fed
Fish with Christ fresh from the dead.
By coals’ warmth to forgiveness he was led. 

Around charcoal fires, Peter spoke of grace,
Sharing good news with God’s chosen race,
Showing them in Jesus God’s own face. 

Now in glory, warmed by Christ alone,
Peter both fully loved and fully known
Sees the Lamb of God upon the throne. 

What are the charcoal fires of your life? What scenes of failure might Jesus be inviting you to revisit with his grace?

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you might be feared…O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” (Psalm 130:3, 7-8).

God Is Not (Only) Distant

Growing up, Bette Midler wrote a song called “From a Distance” that I loved to belt out in our wood-paneled van (yes, I had an old lady soul even as a child). It seemed like such an inspiring anthem at the time, but with a war in Europe happening as I write, its well-intended lyrics show themselves as a weak solution.

“From a distance the world looks blue and green and the snow capped mountains white…From a distance there is harmony and it echoes through the land…It’s the voice of hope ,it’s the voice of peace, it’s the voice of every man. From a distance we all have enough and no one is in need and there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease, no hungry mouths to feed.”

Though the words sound lovely and the music melodic and though the sentiment seems sweet, the song has no logic upon which to stand.

To simply step away far enough until you cannot see the problem does nothing to fix the problem. Without a transcendent reality, perspective and distance do nothing to help us with war.

What Christianity offers is the unique reality of the Triune God who is both transcendent (other, far off, holy) and immanent (near, close).

A Powerful Name and A Particular Name

I had the people of Ukraine on my heart and in my prayers this week as I was studying Exodus 3 where God reveals himself to Moses at the burning bush. It struck me that God identified himself with two primary names to the would-be-deliverer-who-points-to-a-better-deliverer.

When Moses asked God what his name was, he was essentially asking for more information about his nature and character, as name represented so much more than a mere series of letters in his culture. God’s response is both telling and two-fold.

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’ (Exodus 3:14).

He first identifies himself as the transcendent, self-existing, uncreated One in an ontological statement (a statement of being). But God does not stop there.

“God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob has sent me to you.” This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations’.” (Exodus 3:15).

In addition to the transcendent name, God offers an immanent name. He is God All-Powerful and Self-sufficient, but he is simultaneously the immanent God who has drawn near to a particular people. In fact, he so closely identifies with these people that he choses to include his relationship to the name by which he wants to be remembered and known.

This dual reality is astounding and should rightly lead us to bow our knees in wonder while we lift our heads in hope.

In fact, prior to the conversation about names, God initiated conversation with Moses with two realities. He shows up with a miraculous sign: a bush burning though not consumed. He commands Moses to take off his sandals in light of God’s holiness (his transcendence). Yet, he tells Moses that his reason for such a miraculous sign is an immanent one.

“I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7-8).

Contrary to Bette Midler, our God offers hope that is solid rather than merely sentimental. Rather than stepping back so far as to blur our broken world, our God stepped into this world in the Second Person of the Trinity.

This is the hope we have to offer a war-torn Ukraine: God sees you, hears you, and leaned into your suffering to the point of becoming the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53). He took upon himself the sludge of sin so we could have the presence and promises of God in the midst of our very real problems.

The God of the universe is also the God of his Ukrainian children.

Fully Opened

As the Spring breaths its new life over a weary, wintered earth, things begin to open. Buds bravely begin the process of opening themselves from being tightly bound, exposing themselves to the outside air.

But buds are not the only tightly bound things. Hearts, hands, and souls are also bound and closed. Exposure to the brokenness of the world constricts the soul. Fears tend to tighten hearts in reflexive self-protection; however, exposure to Christ opens the soul in hope, eager expectation, and even a vulnerable love. Continue reading

Ashen yet Adored

Having grown up in the Catholic Church, I grew accustomed to getting ashes smudged on my forehead to signify the beginning of Lent (which is to the Passion Week what Advent is to Christmas). In those early years, Lent meant a chance to get out of classes more so we can attend more masses. It also meant that as we walked in our matching plaid skirts to mass, we all talked about what we were going to “give up” for Lent. There were always the humorous “I’m going to give up homework” and “I’m giving up chores;” however, the more sincere vowed to give up sugar, soda, or television shows.

Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor perfectly captures how I feel about my Lenten experiences in a letter of reflection to a friend.

“What one has a born catholic is something given and accepted before it is experienced. I am only slowly coming to experience things that I have all along accepted.”

For me, Lent was given and accepted long before it was understood or truly experienced. While I am no longer attending the Catholic Church, I am thankful for the liturgical foundation it laid in my life.

Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash

Ashen

Historically, Lent is celebrated during the 40 days before Easter, mirroring Jesus’s 40-day temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4). Celebration is a strong word, as the purpose of the feast is to prepare our hearts for the coming Passion Week of Christ. Lent is about remembering God’s holiness and our sinfulness; it is about seeing our weakness and needing God’s strength. It is about making space to see to our need for God – the very need for which Christ set his face to Jerusalem.

Lent is typically kicked off by Ash Wednesday. As I have been reflecting on why Ash Wednesday, the Lord has had me thinking about the purpose of ashes in the Old Testament. Throughout the Old Testament, sack clothes, shaved heads, and/ or donning ashes were to be outward signs of an inward repentance or grief (Genesis 37:34; Job 16:15; Lamentations 2:10; Nehemiah 9:1).

While our church won’t be smudging actual ashes on foreheads tomorrow evening, we will be sharing about our need to see our sin and to repent.

Throughout the Scriptures, those who see or encounter God automatically both see and despise their sin.

In Isaiah 6, we see the prophet encounter the living God and reflexively say, “Woe ie me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5).

In a similar moment in the New Testament, when Peter begins to realize who Christ may be, he responds in a similarly reflexive way.

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).

After God gave Job the “Come to Jesus” conversation of a lifetime filled with powerful rhetorical questions, Job responds much like Isaiah and Peter.

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted…I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you; therefore, I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:2, 5-6).

In some ways Lent is an attempt to reverse engineer this reflexive response to seeing Jesus. We create time and space to see and identify our sin, donning proverbial ashes and sack cloth. We do so, not to be ascetic, but to help us see our need for the Savior whose death and resurrection we are preparing to celebrate.

Adored

What Isaiah, Job, and Peter did not know in the instances above is that we are ashen, yet we are adored.

Because Christ climbed the hill of Calvary, we are lifted up from our hill of ashes. Because Christ was stripped of his clothes, we are clothed in his robes of perfect righteousness.

In Lent, we make space for the ashes and the sack cloth so we can more fully recognize and rejoice in the salvation that Jesus secured for us through his life, death, and resurrection.

Isaiah prophesied of this reality when he proclaimed, “For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song” (Isaiah 51:3).

Friends, whether or not you don ashes on your forehead, may you be freshly reminded that you are ashen, yet adored.

Distinguished by Delight

We long to be distinguished, to stand apart, to feel above from the crowds. As such, it is not surprising that an honorable way to introduce a famous or elite person is to say, “Please welcome the distinguished….”

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Our culture loves a stand out, whether on the basketball court or the courtroom, the classroom or the boardroom. This desire to be distinguished is not simply out there; though I am loathe to admit it, I find it still hiding in my own heart.

I have always longed to be distinguished. For the first half of my life, I wanted to be the best, to stand out head and shoulders above the rest. And for a long time, I was pretty good at it (which is not all that hard to do in elementary school through high school). I dreamed of having lots of letters after my name which implied a long list of accomplishments and accolades. When I came to know Christ (or rather came to realize how deeply he knew and loved me), he got right to work exposing this pattern for seeking praise.

God has been chipping away at this monolithic idol in my heart for nearly two decades now. As promised, he is making me new; but sometimes it sure does feel like a slow work.

Whenever I speak at a retreat, inevitably someone asks me about my seminary degree (or lack thereof). And for a moment, I feel a wave of fear, insecurity, and shame at having no letters to hang on my name and no extra degrees to dangle in conversations. In those moments I feel like a sailor-gone-overboard, frantically looking around for something to hold my weight and keep me afloat. And then I remember that I can stand on an unseen sandbar.

As a daughter of the King, I am distinguished by his delight in me. My confidence comes from a source far more steady than my own performance or gifts. The Spirit brings to mind verses I put to memory when I first began fighting my false confidence in the flesh. I remember that an implication of the gospel is that I put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:1-4).

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

The Spirit reminds me gently that I do not need to ride the roller coaster of man’s approval with its tummy-dropping heights and its sudden, sharp lows (John 2:24-25; Galatians 1:10).

Distinguished by Delight

This morning in my study of Psalm 17, the Hebrew word palah (translated distinguished or distinction in the Old Testament) jumped off the page at me.

Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversities at your right hand (Psalm 17:7).

In other words, the psalmist is saying, “Set me apart by your steadfast love; let your faithful love and delight be my greatest distinction.”

The Psalm, which began with the imagery of a trial scene ends with a scene of the psalmist treasuring the face of Christ.

“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

What a sweet and timely reminder from the Lord. I long for my greatest distinction to stem from God’s delight in me: an undeserved, unearned, dearly purchased but freely bestowed delight. I long for the day when, like the Apostle John, I will most deeply identify myself as “the one whom Jesus loved.”

The more my heart can be stilled from strivings to begin to believe and receive God’s delight of me through the work of Christ, the less I will crave human distinguishment. Like the writer of Psalm 17 who began in a courtroom, trying to prove his worth and righteousness (or distinction), I long to end my struggle in the bright light of God’s delight.

I want to be like Uncle Seamus, an eighty-year-old man described by Brennan Manning in his excellent book The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus.

“Ed glanced at his uncle and saw that his face had broken into a broad smile. Ed said, ‘Uncle Seamus, you look very happy.’ ‘I am.’ Ed asked, ‘How come?’ And his uncle replied, ‘The Father of Jesus is very fond of me’.”

May we need no more distinction than the delight of the Father. May his delight in us and our subsequent delight in him be our single beaming distinguishment.

Simple Feasts

In the past six months, my refugee friends have taught me more about feasting than I learned in all my decades prior.

I have sat in the middle of an unfurnished, one-bedroom apartment and enjoyed a meal and company better than a Michelin-star-restaurant could offer. We may eat off of mismatched plates gathered from gracious friends, but every dish is garnished with a heaping dose of gratitude and love.

My Afghani friends have completely uprooted my American views of abundance. They have helped to better align me with what the Scriptures teach.

“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it Proverbs 15:16-17).

Jesus feasted continually wherever he was because he always enjoyed the Father’s smile and obeyed him fully. Yet, he drank down the dregs of God’s wrath and ate the corrupted meal of the curse we deserved (Isaiah 51:22; Jeremiah 25:15).

As such, we are invited to feast no matter where we find ourselves. We can feast with him even in the PICU or in the midst of cancer treatments. We can picnic with him. even in the midst of deeply painful experiences. For even a feast of herbs garnished by his grace is better than a five-course meal enjoyed in his absence.

A Simple Feast

Better a dinner of herbs where love is
Than a feast garnished with strife. 
Better than a lavish life of luxury 
Ranks a simple, righteous life

The fare furnished by simple faith 
May not be flashy but it feeds. 
The promises and presence of God 
Meet the believer’s daily needs

This wisdom sounds so simple,
However, none of this is free. 
Sincere love and righteousness
He purchased for us on the tree. 

He ate the bitter herbs we earned
So that we can feast on His love. 
No matter the present circumstance,
We’ve unseen abundance from above

Feast, my friends, for even crumbs,
With His presence, satisfy and sate. 
The ever-loving Lord is your portion;
He abundantly fills an empty plate. 

Having Him, we have all; 
Without Him, all is nothing. 

New Month, New Mercies (Quieting the Calendar)

Most of us love opening new things. A fresh box of Crayola crayons still brings me joy. Something as simple as starting a fresh journal makes my heart stir with fresh hope and possibilities. And there is little to compare with opening a fresh box of athletic shoes or the new car smell. However, turning a new page on the calendar tends to bring a fresh opportunity for anxiety.

As a family we are committed to living intentionally with God and for others. This often looks like having couples or students over for meals in the evening, getting coffee with hurting friends, mentoring younger believers and being mentored ourselves. So many places to be, meals to host, children to nurture and develop. Syncing sports schedules and planning church events awaits me at the threshold of each new month.

Each new month (and, if I am completely honest, each new week), the Lord and I have a little process we do together called quieting the calendar.

It’s as if Jesus has to grab me by the hand and walk with me over the cacophonous calendar through each day of the upcoming month. One by one, He quiets each screaming demand or fear, rational or irrational, telling them to lay back down quietly. We continue in this vein until we walk through the whole month. Only after this process am I am able to look with hope at a new month marked by new mercies.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man well-acquainted with the demands and needs of a large community, wrote the following.

“For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day’s work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him.”

Bonhoeffer’s sweet image of the Lord standing at the doorway of each new day, each new month, each new and daunting life season comes to me often when the calendar and commitments, most of them right and good, start stealing my peace and focus.

I live in a hurried society and a heart that hurries to busyness lives within me. I am such a Martha, buzzing with frenetic energy like a neon light, I am quick to run to everything but the One thing needful. Yet, there is only one thing needful, and it is not a thing. It is not an urgent demand, but a patient person. The One thing I need is to come to Him. I need him to teach my heart to keep pace with His, rather than straining to keep up with the pace of the world all around or the lies deep within me.

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.

She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You  not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 

But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things: but only One thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

When I have sat with the Best, the good won’t have to be coaxed or conjured up; it will flow out of my union with Him. And union with Him is incredibly portable. He goes with me into PTA meetings and retreats. He goes with us to soccer practice. He is the main attraction of our hospitality, not my mediocre meals.

At the threshold of a new month, these truths help me quiet the calendar:

  1. All my plans are mere proposals to be shaped by God’s better plans.
    “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
  2. My minutes are not mine but yours, and they are meant to be invested, not squandered.
    “But I trust in you, O Lord. I say, ‘My times are in your hand'” (Psalm 31:14) and “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).
  3. There is a provision of energy and joy in obedience that the world can neither conjure nor comprehend.
    “I delight to do y our will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8).
  4. If he commands it, he will give all he commands.
    “O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works” (Isaiah 26:12).

May we walk into a new month with new mercies. May His truth quiet our calendars, for His glory and our great joy!

Eucatastrophe: A Different Vision of Apocalypse

Usually when we hear the term “apocalypse” we imagine scenes of great catastrophe: burning cities, abandoned, shell-shocked villages, and other dystopian visual scenes. We automatically think of apocalypse through Hollywood’s lenses but the Greek word apokalupsis actually means “an unveiling, an uncovering, a revelation, or a revealing.”

The day of the Lord’s return will be a great revealing. All that is hidden will come to light. Again, when we initially hear this we began to rightly quake thinking of hidden sins and thoughts being brought to light. Yet, this great unveiling will also reveal great glory where we have missed it. For the believer in Christ, apocalypse does not have to mean catastrophe, it can mean eucatastrophe.

Eucatastrophe is a term created by J.R.R. Tolkien who added the prefix eu- to the common term. It is meant to signify that feeling or moment in an epic story when everything is made right and finally comes together. For Tolkien, Christ’s incarnation and resurrection are eucatastrophes.

I love this term because it captures what the end of this world will mean for those whose trust is hidden in the person of Christ. We need not live in fear of coming catastrophe, for we have inherited a living hope and have an eternal eucatastrophe waiting upon us by grace through faith.

In his first letter to the churches, Peter talks about the glory to be revealed for those who share in Christ’s suffering.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you (1 Peter 4:13-14).

Similarly, the Apostle Paul speaks of the glory to be revealed (apokalupsis) upon the Lord’s second coming.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8: 18-19).

As believers, we need not fear the day when the invisible will be made visible. In fact, the Scriptures seem to urge us to long for this day as those wrapped up in the righteousness of Christ. The Scriptures also invite us to use this coming day of revealing as motivation to walk in a manner worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1). We are compelled to remember that one day all that is hidden will be brought to light. We are urged to be those who will be exposed in having inconspicuous good works brought to light rather than hidden sins (1 Timothy 5:24-25).

Photo by Craig Cooper on Unsplash

In light of the coming eucatastrophe, we are reminded to not grow weary in well-doing. Though the world may not see and appreciate our fight to be faithful to God and his word, our God sees it all. Our God will not be mocked. One day, all that is sown to the Spirit will be revealed in a glorious harvest (Galatians 6:7-9).

Eucatastrophe

You who sow in unseen fields,
Raising rows that raise no eye,
Keep cultivating your corner.
The All-Seeing One passes by. 

The flesh-fields seem to flourish,
But your Maker won’t be mocked. 
The harvest fields He hastens
Will leave the mockers shocked

He sees every seed sown in faith,
Prayed over, and watered by tears. 
Work-wearied laborers, press on:
The surplus will exceed your years.

Those who go forth weeping
Will return skipping with glee;
Toil and tread without dread;
Your God works besides thee. 

Wipe your tears, lift your eyes,
Tarry longer, take up your hoe. 
Planted promises will fully fruit;
Fallow fields will golden glow.  

The Breath of the Lion

Being out with Covid has allowed my youngest son and I ample time to keep reading through The Chronicles of Narnia again. I cannot resist a child’s begging for one more page, but when it comes to Narnia stories, I cannot resist a child’s begging for one more chapter, especially when Aslan is on the scene.

As soon as Aslan is near, my son and I both sigh in relief, knowing everything will turn out alright. The thing is that Aslan’s interaction with his creatures are usually short, simple, and significantly profound.

This time around, I nearly lost my breath reading the scene in which Aslan breathes courage over the fearful Susan. As much as I want to be like Lucy (who doesn’t want to be like little Lucy?), I am far more like Susan who began listening to fears.

“Then, after an awful pause, the deep voice said, ‘Susan.’ Susan made no answer but the others thought she was crying. ‘You have listened to fears, child,’ said Aslan. ‘Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?’

‘A little, Aslan,’ said Susan.”

Aslan doesn’t lecture Susan on the useless of entertaining fears. He doesn’t chastise her for being more controlled by fear than faith. He merely points out the obvious, saying, “You have listened to fears, child.” And his antidote to her fears is neither a Ted talk on the power of positive thinking nor a penance to work her way back into his good graces. He merely breathes on her.

Photo by Matthew Kerslake on Unsplash

With a mere breath from God, the universe came into existence (John 1:1-5) . The Holy Spirit is the breath or wind of God who blows where he pleases (John 3:8). The enemy yells and connives and convinces in his native language which is “lie” (John 8:44). Not so our powerful Creator. He need only gently breathe new life into his children.

In light of the past three years of a pandemic spread through airborne respiratory particles, breath has gained a rather negative connotation. To sneeze in public these days is far more than a faux-pas. As we all know all too well, to be breathed on requires proximity. The longer you remain in someone’s presence in close proximity, the more likely you are to be breathed on by them and thus conferred the gift of their respiratory particles.

But this morning, even as we are still feeling sick from Covid, I find myself longing for the breath of God. I find myself fighting to fleshly urge to flee from him into busyness or productivity, intentionally training myself to linger in his presence.

I want his breath. I want his nearness. I want his words and his truth which drop like morning dew. I need him to breath courage over me, to strengthen my faith and diminish my fears. Even Satan’s most elaborate lies don’t stand a chance against the weakest sigh of the Lion of Judah. Even his most sinister schemes look like airy cobwebs when compared to the solid, unshakably good plans of the Lord of all history.

A little breath from him goes a long way. And this is why the Enemy trembles when we pray, posturing ourselves in dependence.

Pray with me that this modern hymn written by the Stewart Townend would be true of us this morning.

“Holy Spirit, living breath of God,
Breathe new life into my willing soul.
Let the presence of the risen Lord,
Come renew my heart and make me whole.
Cause Your Word to come alive in me;
Give me faith for what I cannot see,
Give me passion for Your purity;
Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.

Holy Spirit, come abide within,
May Your joy be seen in all I do.
Love enough to cover every sin,
In each thought and deed and attitude.
Kindness to the greatest and the least,
Gentleness that sows the path of peace.
Turn my strivings into works of grace;
Breath of God show Christ in all I do.

Holy Spirit, from creation’s birth,
Giving life to all that God has made,
Show Your power once again on earth,
Cause Your church to hunger for your ways.
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise;
Lead us on the road of sacrifice,
That in unity the face of Christ
May be clear for all the world to see.

May we listen to the Lion, not the liar. May his words be on our lips and in our lives.