Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A path that stretches before us like no other path.

Preserve my life from fear. Psalm 64:1

The existence of the Church bears witness to the belief that there is only one thing you can say to such a view and that is that it is wrong. There is only one answer you can give to terrible sanity, that this material cosmos is all that there ever will be, and that is that it is ultimately insane. The ancient myths and dreams of a power beyond power and love beyond love that hold the cosmos itself, hold all things, in existence reflect a reality which we can deny only to our great impoverishment, and the dream a holiness and mystery at the heart of things that humankind with all its ingenuity and wisdom can neither explain away nor live fully without goes on being dreamed. Moments continue to go up in flames like the bush in Midian to illumine, if only for a moment, a path that stretches before us like no other path. And such moments call out in a voice which, if we only had courage and heart enough, we would follow to the end of time. -Frederick Buechner

Following Jesus will mean surrendering the power that masquerades as security in order to love the neighbor and welcome the stranger. It will mean avoiding the safe path in order to pursue the good. But in a culture of fear, we find such risks all the more difficult since our natural inclinations lead us to close in on ourselves when we face danger. How can we maintain the posture of the open hand toward a world that scares us? – Scott Bader

You alone secure us in our place, O Lord, in our going out and coming in, deliver us from fear, that we may, by your Spirit’s power, let down our defenses in love. Amen

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever He may send you;
May He guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm:
May He bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders He has shown you:
May He bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.

Mom and I are up at the cabin once again watching the sun rise up over the Catalinas.

O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet You as the day rises to meet the sun.

The wind is rustling through the pine trees.

Speak Holy Spirit, your servant is listening.

Fear. Facebook reminded me today about Fear. There is a scary shot of the mountain Nicole and I had to go up and over before tapas and wine and bed that night. And I sure can remember the gut-wrenching Fear as I stared up, up, upward. And yet I also so remember the moment when I chose to roll past the terror into breathtaking glory.

The Church.

Mom and I are crazy church-hoppers.

For four hours Saturday we joined with Vineyard City and not-so-very-carefully counted out poblano chiles after first running rather grimy and sticky fingers over them for squishy spots to hundreds of people who formed a long line in the hot sun that reached around the corner, out of sight. And the Church laughed and hugged and drank bottle after bottle of warm water and we still felt dizzy and weak-kneed but it was okay, because we were together. Along with a truckload of very ripe produce.

And yesterday morning I buried myself into the embrace of Joann at Price Chapel African American Methodist Episcopal Church and we walked up the steps to the big brown double doors arm-in-arm. And she handed the Bible over to me and asked me to lead the adult Bible study again, reading about Mr. Gideon and the call on his small life by the Mighty God while he hid full of fear by the winepress beating out his wheat, even though I have missed the past two weeks and I was leaving early. And my brothers and sisters still want to welcome me into full membership of the body on the Sunday before I get on that plane, as I drop my nets and follow Him to the other side of the world, which is a big deal. And the Church will lay hands on me and pray for me, not so much for my safety and that He will bring me home rejoicing once again into these doors, but mostly that I might be full of His light as I love my neighbor and welcome the stranger.

And then I drove over and picked up Wen Xie, my International Friend.  Seven arrived at the University of Arizona in January to study architecture, but she has already gotten herself into a hard place, she got herself pregnant. And even though the terrible sanity of the world would scream “abortion” or at least “adoption” something in her soul whispered that this would be cruel, so I have been walking alongside her up this very steep climb. And I am leaving. And she asked if I went to church, and I had to smile a bit as I asked her if she wanted to come with me, and when she said yes, I knew I had to take her to Vineyard Christian Community. The Church who greeted her with great intentionality and warmth and the worship was glorious with the truth clearly declared on the wall even though the sermon was way over her vocabulary, and she was very happy to hear of a power beyond power and love beyond love that the grave could not hold.

And tonight the ladies from Northminster Presbyterian are going to gather together at my momma’s one more time before summer and read aloud yet another chapter of The Broken Way, the only way to love an aching world. And we will consider mystery at the heart of things that humankind with all its ingenuity and wisdom can neither explain away nor live fully. And we will lift each other up in prayer, praying for strength and courage as we journey through complications and pain and the doubts that besiege each of us. And I know that this Church is faithful and that I am held in each heart as each is held in mine, and this is how we maintain the posture of an open hand, to be like His hand, pierced and outstretched.

And wow, every day I get to join the Church, two or three gathered togetherness of Him being in our midst as a dearly beloved friend, one after another, holds hands and enters into His presence with me. And I can see the Spirit connecting each of us, like the roots of a creosote bush reaching outward through the centuries and over the seas and even across the cultures and languages; we all have the same Spirit guiding us with His presence. Connected like Facebook but oh so much more true.

Just up the hill from the tiny cabin is the secret Indian cave. That is shared by everyone.  Everyone on the mountain, under twelve-years-old, that is, goes to the secret cave to hide in its sweet darkness.

And we all think that our quiet hiding heart place is ours alone, but no, He is there, waiting gentle and gracious, He and His Church, His peacebearers. We are all there.

 May this peace go with me, as I leave the flickering shadowed greens and head into the blistering heat of life.