Hear the music? It’s time to celebrate and cap the experiences and circumstances of college with a little pomping. It’s time for taking pictures until we can’t see straight and ordering the biggest steak, best cheesecake, most loaded gourmet pizza in town or that one acre salad bar. Shoot, order them all. But do some other things. First, take some time to think (You can do this during the graduation speech if it’s not that great.). Think about the person living inside our skin when we dragged our stuff up four floors of our freshman dorm. Wow, what a long time ago and yet yesterday. A different person grew inside our skin one new friendship, one new thought, many exams and paper deadlines, many late night bull sessions and heart to hearts and a string of new roommates at a time. Could we have ever guessed at the things that cook and swirl around inside us now when we last danced to this tune at the end of high school? About as certainly as Snickers will come out with a horseradish bar.
Think about some of the people who helped along the way. Especially take time to talk with them and thank them. Years from now, we’ll wish we’d done this. By doing this, we will do good both to them and ourselves. Start with our academic advisor. Being an English major, mine was Bruce Macbeth. How cool is that? Don’t leave out favorite profs and leaders of various activities we got involved in. A couple of faculty secrets – they care more about students than we might think. And they thought a lot of their students were asleep. Our coming will both shock them and reinforce some deep things that made them want to teach.
Think about where we might be going. Some are off to grad school. Sometimes we don’t know what else to do and campuses are cool places to hang out. For some, it’s the next Kingdom step. Either way, be careful. I’ve told grad students that grad school can be like monasticism only without God. While our friends move on into jobs and/or starting families, we withdraw from the flow of normal activity and concern with other like-minded people to focus on one common field for years. Almost every time I speak, there’s a potluck dinner. Food is important, grad students (especially underpaid TA’s) being notorious snatchers of bagels and/or donuts left over from various meetings and faculty functions. But most Christian grad groups gather around food to reestablish human contact. Not only are there islands along the way, God is there.
Think about going…out there! Maybe a new job, starting a family, going into a ministry or living at home (sorry, but it happens – even in the Lord.) but we plunge in among the unwashed masses (not being strangers to our own unwashed moments). It’s scary taking the next big step. The last one probably came leaving high school four years or so ago. We were pretty sure we were ready even though many of us were more nervous than we let on. How about now? Remember two things. This is only the latest big step. There will be more; God engineers them. Anybody seriously meaning business with God quickly find themselves drawn into His plans and spiritually sucking air to keep up. Noah – build what so who can ride in it when what comes? (Gen 6:11-21) Abraham (Gen 12:1-5) going out clueless, not even having an answer for his wife. Moses confronting the leader of one of the mightiest world powers to demand freedom for his people from slavery (Exodus 3). Isaiah publicly going naked (Isaiah 20:2,3) for three years (No worries. This is not an ongoing ministry. Be concerned if anyone we know is actively praying about this.)
Some of these big steps come built right into life stages and transitions. Some ambush us. A friend came out of college and went on staff with a campus ministry. After a few years, it got lean and they struggled. All they wanted to do was bring young men closer to Jesus Christ. He just became a major as an army chaplain after a few tours in combat overseas. He’s still a force in the lives of young men. We might have majored in a science or education but then we started working at the campus radio station or staff at the campus paper. And “the bug” bit us. And God was prodding the “bug”. Each time we take one of these big steps for God’s Kingdom, we’ll feel like everything in our faith up till then rolls back to Square One. It’s like a spiritual version of a Verizon commercial, only instead of “Can you hear me now?”, it’s like God saying, “Can you trust me now?” And we can – but only those who take the step find that out. Stephen Mackereth just penned his final column for “Unapologetics” in the Harvard Crimson, capping it with, “…it is always time to move on. God is always ahead of us.”
But after we flip the tassel, then what? I suggest a few things no matter what that next step looks like. First, don’t forget where we came from. One campus ministry I hit regularly invites recent grads back to talk about what it’s like out there. Most of those sessions get packed out. Maybe we won’t live close to the campus that hatched us. But we will likely be around schools were Christians already plow the campus for Jesus Christ. Get in touch with the leadership and ask if they mind if we just show up regularly. Most will be eager. Many will want us to speak but even if they don’t, students will begin to want to talk with us. Want to stay radical after graduation? If a nearby campus has no Christian groups, pray about starting one. Any number of fine campus ministries (some listed in the links at right) will be glad to jump in and help.
Second, I borrow from Stephen Mackereth when he says, “…I wonder where we learn wisdom.” I prayed during a benediction at a state university that God would deepen and ripen the education celebrated at that grad ceremony into wisdom – because education and wisdom do not always show up in the same person. His answer is a good place to start; get to know some “saints”. These live inside the skins of Christians older than us who have weathered the storms of the years (decades?) that yawn out in front of us. I say with complete prejudice that this is why we should look for a multi-generational church. At our place, I would introduce you to a widow named Ruth (not her name). I have never known anyone who takes such a long time to go from the first word of a sentence to the period at the end of it. A veteran of a hard life that still bristles with no easy answers, she quietly loves the snot out of anything near her that moves and breathes. People slide quietly away from church sometimes without anyone seeing. Ruth sees – and phones and writes. I listen when she asks if I know about so-and-so – because she does. She would make cupcakes for Mussolini. She could spit wash Hannibal Lechter on the cheek and he would thank her. With a drawl and a smile, she regularly knocks the evil one’s rump up into his throat. We need a few friends like this; they’re pit bulls in prayer and bake a mean batch of cookies.
Third, buy the book in the picture. I know people gave us books when we finished high school but how many of them got read? I mean really? This one stands as good medicine for our next step off campus. This stuff isn’t clichés, it’s good meat for the soul, wisdom for the road and a corking good read. Get it here for 20% if you mention you saw it at geezeronthequad. The author and compiler might even include an autograph.
If something in here raises a question or if we have a spiritual question of any kind, feel free to send it along. I have a few rules. Any question, about anything, anytime. It must be a real question about something we care about and not just “Stump the Band”. No names required. I reserve the right to ask clarifying questions in order to give a more respectful reply to your question. After all this we’re good to go at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If we think that anything here might encourage a college student or someone who loves them, then share, subscribe, Twitter and all that social media stuff. If we already subscribe, then maybe we need to join something on Facebook called Geezer 1. It’s the Facebook clubhouse for geezeronthequad.com. It’s a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, writers, musicians, composers, business people, booksellers, broadcasters, theologians, pastors, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs, a few campus rats and a Goth who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. They’re a sharp bunch and you will only make us better. Take a look here and see what you think and click to join.
Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next time at geezeronthequad.com.
Okay. A lot of us have guitars; some of us play them. Some of us used to play them. Some of us want to play them but either don’t or piddle at it. Some of us either play in bands or used to play in one. Everybody does this. Most of our grandmas played in bands but never told us. We thought they did grandma stuff when they weren’t around us. But they piled into broken down vans with other three-chord guitar bangers and criss-crossed the country playing for road money in places like the Maid Rite Restaurant in Greenville, Ohio, where they serve loose meat sandwiches from a building covered with chewing gum. But, in addition to that, some of us jump into revolutionary movements in former Soviet Union countries. And some of us serve in the Ukrainian parliament. And some of us serve as a goodwill ambassador for the UN’s Development Programme. Some of us went on the Ukrainian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”, won, and gave all the winnings to charity. Some of us earn a PhD in theoretical physics and give lectures at Yale entitled “Physics, Revolution and Rock and Roll: Reflections on Today’s Ukraine.” Only one of us is Slava Vakarchuk.
First, give the guy some props for not coasting on the success of his band, Okean Elzy, and rocking out of his navel for fame and fortune. He’s not your celebrity spouting off with an occasional, and often embarrassing, shout out to some cause. He puts it on the line regardless of consequences instead of the trendy tweets and superficial name dropping and virtue by casual connection emanating from American celebrity culture. However, when asked about how his music reflects his politics, he said, “You know, I don’t try to spin out political messages with my music. Some of our fans have extremely different views on politics than I do, and they still like listening to our music…when I make good music, I’m making myself happy.” Should his politics show up in his music? Or can Slava keep his focus on his music for the music’s sake to make the best music he can, to be true to his art and creativity?
The answer could be both. This thing of following Christ and HIs Kingdom means Jesus rules over every area of life (unless we’re head of a Brooklyn Mafia family or head of a Colombian drug cartel). But that doesn’t mean these areas of life have to slosh into each other all the time. A Christian’s life should not only exhibit the heart of Jesus but should show excellence in whatever He has called us to be in every arena of our lives. Would Jesus make a wobbly table or Paul a tent that couldn’t keep the wind out? Good work, good art and good living can, and should, stand on its own as Christian signposts in our culture. It is indeed our daily faithfulness with the stuff where God plants us that brings the force and depth of soul we step into a public arena for justice in some way. Picasso’s hard-earned craft (not popular even today) produced both the painting and the platform to protest the massacre at Guernica. Sometimes they do overlap powerfully with issues of the day. But sometimes our living must stand on its own before it grows the depth and force that makes impact in the public square. You can find a good handle on this here.
Unlike grandma, slave Vakarchuk isn’t just a guitar banger. This guy brings a PhD in theoretical physics to Yale in a lecture. Keith Richards of the Stones isn’t lecturing at Yale (yet). A lot of musicians sport serious intellectual chops – Greg Graffin, Mira Aroyo and Brian Eno to name a few. Created in the Image of God, they bristle with uniqueness. I wish I could say the same for the Christian masses who often look like they’ve been churned out of a Xerox machine. We often see more variety, intense focus and unfetteredness of soul outside the church than in it. Jesus in us should produce all kinds of unique stuff. God loves “out-of-the-boxness”. Moses was a murderer in hiding. Elisha left the plow and the backsides of eight or so oxen behind. John ate bugs in the wilderness for years (I thought seminary a better option. Most of the time, it was.) The Lord hand-picked the guy who would be the numero uno church planter opening whole continents to the Gospel, the leading Christian intellectual and the writer of a large chunk of the New Testament. His choice? Saul of Tarsus – the hottest persecutor of the church (And Saul/Paul wasn’t the last one.). When God became flesh and invaded our world, His earthly parents were nobodies and outcasts. The grown Jesus lived as a carpenter, builder, tradesman, blue-collar guy hidden in plain sight under everyone’s nose. God loves “out-of-the-boxness”. And the more we allow Him to make us over to be like Him, the fewer boxes there will be that can either describe or hold us.
In case we didn’t open the link above for Byron Borger’s new book, it’s right here. There are a number of good books on getting both started and through college. But how do we take what Jesus Christ has done in us out there? This series of commencement addresses (Don’t shut down on me. Unlike many commencement addresses, these are really good.) not only nails it but will leave many marks worth revisiting in rereads.
Whenever I speak to students, I always open the door for them to email me with questions pertaining to all things Jesus. As of this post, I open the door to blog readers. The rule is any question, any topic, anytime. It does have to be a real concern of yours. No gags, gross outs or posing. The only bozos allowed will be me. No names required. I reserve the right to ask clarifying questions so I can dignify your concern with a better response. My email is email@example.com.
If we think that anything here might encourage a student or someone who loves college students then share, subscribe, twitter and all those social media things. If we already subscribe to geezeronthequad.com, then we might want to be part of Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for all things pertaining to geezeronthequad.com. We’re a mix of students, students ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, writers, musicians, composers, booksellers, broadcasters, theologians, business people, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs, pastors, campus rats, rag pickers and a goth who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. It’s a sharp group; you will only make us better. Check it out and hit the join button if we’re interested.
Please return your seat to the upright position and hand your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as we exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com
“Time is important to me…” So says George C. Scott’s “Ebenezer Scrooge” at the end of a fine film staging of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. William Shakespeare echoes the same from “Richard II” with his line, “I wasted time and now doth time waste me”. Paul Fry takes this seriously and not just because he’s taught British Romantic poetry at Yale for over forty years or served as the master of Ezra Stiles College. His life and manner carry of an intense but measured focus. those forty plus years have been thoughtfully, intentionally spent. Many moons ago, Paul Fry stood at one of those crossroads moments that all college students bang into. What am I going to do with the rest of my life? While he probably wouldn’t couch this in the language of calling, he’s definitely thought about it.
Paul didn’t have to struggle with one aspect of vocation that many Christian students run into – parental expectations. he first thought about art and apparently had good artistic talent. Many artistic or creative students have parents who think that art isn’t much of a viable career path. Paul’s Dad was an artist who would’ve supported his pursuit of art. Especially true for students who awaken to Jesus Christ during their university years, some parents have predetermined career expectations based on family traditions or the baseline hope for their children of financial stability/security. “We didn’t spend that money and incur all that debt for you to go to Guatemala for two years to figure things out..” By spring break of my senior year, I knew I wanted to do something for Jesus Christ but was clueless beyond that. I answered the phone one day to hear a strange voice offer me a job on the spot as a reading clinician for a school district in western PA. A prof wanted to do me a favor and put my name in. The job was mine; all I had to say was “yes” and they’d sent me all the paperwork (like a job application). I thanked him and turned him down saying I had other plans. An hour later my father got home and I told him about the job I’d been offered. He said, “That’s great! This thing of you and Jesus Christ really pays off!” I told him I turned it down and a discussion ensued quite a bit higher than room temperature.
While Paul Fry embraced grad work in literature partially to avoid the draft into the Vietnam War, he reached past doing something he was good at (and probably enjoyed) to embrace something deeper that pulled at Him. He speaks the language of calling. “I went to graduate school because I felt I had a deeper vocation for the study of literature than for painting…Today, I could only advise students to follow their deepest vocation.” Much of Christian living today has difficulty scaling the mile high walls of the American navel. Barbara Brown Taylor once commented that finding and doing God’s will for many often wound up being what they would’ve wanted anyway if they had no faith at all. We can do better than this and must. This Christian life Jesus introduces into has a rudder; it’s going somewhere. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10) “…for it is God Who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” (Phil 2:13) Time makes up the stuff and substance of our lives. To waste it means to waste a life. This thing of God’s calling, that deeper pull of something Paul Fry knew even outside a Christian frame of reference, stands as worthy of our full attention during the college years. Here are some of the best of the best of the best at getting started. Check out Os Guinness, Steven Garber, Derek Melleby and John Ortberg. Call Byron Borger at Hearts and Minds Books, mention you saw it here and he’ll give you 20% off.
Being a literary guy both at heart and in degree, Dr. Fry also speaks a timely word into the growing secularism of the stripe that restricts all-knowing to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. “…literature expresses more eloquently and subtly emotions and feelings that we all try to express one way or another.” Musicians, philosophers, theologians and others would jump onto the pile with him to not restrict our ways of genuine knowing. As Blaise Pascal said,”The heart has reasons that the mind cannot know…”
Before we say goodbye to Paul Fry, take a last look at his picture. Doesn’t he look like someone comfortable in his own skin? Wouldn’t we like to just have an hour sitting with this guy letting our thoughts run wherever? Contentedness is always attractive. And it’s so elusive. If we just could be like…if we just could have a little more… if we could just accomplish…if we could just buy… Paul (the apostle, not the professor) said,”…I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.” (Phil 4:11) I am sure Dr. Fry would be quick to say that not everything in his life has gone his way. Who could? But getting the right things right, teaching the right thing to the right people in the right place at the right time smooths out many wrinkles over the years and puts them in the right place on our faces. Calling does that.
A few cool things for all of us. Stephen Mackereth is a young Christian at Harvard and he is beginning a new column in the Harvard Crimson (Harvard’s real student newspaper) called Unapologetic addressing issues in light of Christian truth. What an opportunity and spiritual responsibility. Take a look, pray for him and make comments where you can. Also check out the British Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. Good stuff. Sometimes escaping our North American context gives us some needed perspective. Faraday staffer Ruth Bancewicz has just penned God in the Lab, a fascinating look at science and faith from the inside. Meet Lizzie Burns, an Oxford doctorate in biochemistry, who takes her research into jewelry design, not as a fad or hobby but as serious creative work.
If you think anything here would encourage a student or someone who loves them, than share, subscribe, tweet and all that other social media stuff. If you already subscribe, then the next logical rung on your bucket list would be to join Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for geezeronthequad.com. Take a look. We’re a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, writers, musicians, composer, booksellers, broadcasters, business people, pastors, theologians, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs as well as a few campus rats, rag pickers and a goth who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. Shoot us a request. This is a sharp group and you will make us better.
Please return your seat to the upright position and hand your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you leave. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com
Thinking new roommates? Here are some guidelines…
Originally posted on geezeronthequad:
If Facebook tells me anything this time of year, it says that it’s time to unload old furniture and roommates from the netherworld. Facebook sports blurbs like, “Does anybody need a fridge/microwave for next fall? Ours is slightly used. The tomatoes we exploded inside it are from last fall and should be dry by now.” Or “We need a third roommate to share rent as we live under the front porch of the Xi House. Cozy if you don’t mind a little noise.” Wouldn’t it be great to have some sure-fire way to know if that person you think would the perfect fit for next year doesn’t have some hideous secret life or might be wanted for insect genocide in Uzbekistan? Maybe we need a quick shout out to St. Fred…the patron saint of new roommates? He voices the eternal optimism that the next one won’t be a loser…
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“What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” Tertullian, a North African teacher in the late second/early third century said this. What does the Academy have to do with the Church? What does secularism have to do with Christian thought? What does Yale have to do with Clarion University ? What does filet mignon have to do with Krispy Kremes and Moon Pies? Sure Yale has former presidents, supreme court justices, Nobel and Pulitzer winners etc. But did they produce John Calipari and Kurt Angle? What does Dave Swartz have to stack up against the intellectual firepower of Yale? Well, unlike current students, I’ve graduated (2.42 GPA). Beyond that, I intend to find out with the next few blogs. The Yale Daily News annually publishes a great series of interviews in their Weekend magazine with current and former Yalees and Yale visitors. I will be hanging with them with the idea that they will be raising points echoing with Scripture which can be mined for profit for those who desire to know and follow Jesus Christ. My thoughts will be my own so don’t transfer from Yale in reading this.
Meet Charles Hill. He’s advised the powerful including Ronald Reagan and Secretaries of State George Schultz and Henry Kissinger. Anybody who can tell Henry Kissinger anything is somebody I want to listen to. They asked Charles whether U.S. national/political interests have hindered negotiations in the Israel – Palestine conflict. He didn’t hesitate; he said the U.S. has been indispensable to negotiations because the U.S. remains the only party that both sides will trust. With worlds, nations, cities, neighborhoods, schools, institutions, churches, and families in conflict, who can be trusted to stand in the middle? Who has genuine peace over their own storms enough to speak calm to the winds tearing everyone else up? Enter the Christian’s moment. Back in the days when a Roman emperor caught the notion that they were God, things got warm (toasty actually) for early Christians. Letters went out through the empire that Christians should be arrested, their property seized and sometimes executions. The kicker comes when we learn that many outlying provinces refused to do it. Not carrying out the orders of an emperor who thinks he’s God can be a poor long-term health decision. Why did they do it? All the infrastructures broke down; all local government function fell apart. The local Christians serving in various functions were the only ones both competent and honest. Some whack job in Rome can chase his fantasies but out there, the people had to survive.
As Apartheid gave way, Nelson Mandela came to Desmond Tutu because Mandela knew that politics alone could never heal South Africa. He knew that forgiveness had to happen and told Tutu that the Christians had to take the lead because they knew what forgiveness was, how to do it. II Cor 5:15-21 puts us Christians in the middle of everything to bring people together with God and with each other (reconciliation – evangelism and social justice). That’s why we have the roommates and live in the dorms or off campus apartments we do. It’s why we have the families and work the jobs we do. God puts us in the middle, in places where people who need reconciled to God and each other come together.
Hill says that it’s an American form of entertainment to blame everything in the Middle East on America and what we’ve done wrong. He goes on to say that’s not true. Reality in both world politics and faith is always more layered and nuanced. His expanded answer is quite profound. It’s also an American entertainment to whack on the church. While the church has many flaws all rooted in sin, the church also has many plusses. Many have been sadly hurt; some whackers just want an excuse since Jesus Christ seems a spiritual threat to their self-centeredness and a moral inconvenience to their lifestyle. But Christ’s church isn’t as guilty as some would like to make out.
Hill comments that education (and I assume he’s not omitting Yale) has lost real focus “Teaching about the way the world actually works was dropped in colleges. Education on international affairs turned to focus on issues, not on structures, not on history. A lot of ignorance…and frustration among students and puzzlement as to why what they have been taught doesn’t seem to have any actuality to it.” One thing the Bible does is tell the truth – about God, about people, about life. So how can we hear so much of it preached, taught and believed that doesn’t get into the bloodstream of real life – no power to penetrate real life nor transform the life of the one believing? Why do we not have more “doers of the word” and so many “hearers only” writing ugly chapters in American church life? Why do we hush up, disregard or accuse of unbelief those who wrestle with their frustration and befuddlement ? Is our faith sharp and strong enough to satisfy our deepest longings and engage the toughest life can dish out? Or is there a weird disconnect between belief and what is – not much actuality to it?
While Hill says much good about Yale, he says, “Your education has to come from you.” He tells students to not take classes because they will get us a good job. Take classes that will give you a good education. Required classes, free electives (and certainly our major classes) bristle with God’s fingerprints all pointing toward Him as He’s made Himself known in Scripture. Working the muscles of mind and integrating our faith with everything that Yale, Clarion or wherever we are can offer births both color and steel paying big dividends for the Kingdom in the decades ahead. And don’t forget the free stuff a lot of students skip – lectures, art galleries, concerts, planetarium shows, etc.
Charles Hill, you and I will have to do some cheese dogs. You could have been a Golden Eagle.
If you think anything here might encourage a college student or someone who loves them, then share, subscribe, tweet and all that social media stuff. If you already subscribe, maybe you need to take a look at Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for geezeronthequad.com. It’s a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, writers, composers, musicians, booksellers, broadcasters, business people, theologians, pastors, cultural entrepreneurs and thinkers and a ragged bunch of campus rats, old Jesus Freaks and goths who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. They are a sharp bunch and you will only make us better. Shoot us a request to join.
Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision mask to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.
Originally posted on geezeronthequad:
The little piece of paper posted at the trail head said this was a Grizzly Repopulation Area, you know, where they release a male and female Grizzly and tell them to go make Grizzlets. Twenty-five miles from the nearest pavement and almost knowing no fear, we plunged off through a mile and a half of meadow bristling with huckleberries (Grizzlies love them.) arriving at a mountain lake as pristine as when Adam took the family there for a vacation. It strained every muscle of hearing to pick up the soft breeze rustling the aspens and pines; otherwise the silence just roared. But wilderness beautiful at midday can turn deadly as the sun and the temperature go down. So we tore ourselves away and headed in.
In pursuing callings from God, He will steer us into places most people avoid whenever and however they can – places called wilderness. The biblical list is pretty…
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“You don’t know her, do you?” Sitting there with ignorance on my face (I do this a lot; it’s a gift really.), I just said no. I sat with a couple from the church while one of their kids underwent surgery. A nurse walked up and I knew they knew her. But I sat there clueless. The wife just smiled, really savoring the punch line. “This is Cheryl” (not her name). My mouth doesn’t just drop open very often. Even in complete befuddlement, I manage to keep it closed. But not here. I hadn’t crossed paths with Cheryl in a while and didn’t recognize her. We first met through a street ministry in town where I would preach occasionally. Saying she was a train wreck would be an upgrade for train wrecks everywhere. She lived on the street with all its perils and pitfalls. But now she stood in front of me, a nurse coming off shift, thoroughly enjoying my surprise as well. She was off the street, gotten her health together, been to school, gotten this job. She was making it. Sure, I was glad but that isn’t what dropped my jaw. She glowed from the inside out. She showed music in her eyes and her laugh sparkled (Mixed metaphor, I know.) She had fizz. It’s a good thing my eyes asked, “What happened to you?” It sure wasn’t coming out of my mouth. She simply said, “Jesus.” She was thinking, “Jesus, duh!”
We throw the word “grace” around like confetti at a Stanley Cup victory parade. But for those for whom “grace” becomes medicine in the deep self-inflicted wound of their own sinfulness, it’s more. They find that in spite of their brokenness, coming to the Cross of Jesus Christ breathes steel into the spine of their souls. “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” (Psalms 3:3) Lifting the head shows more than the removal of shame; it describes the infusing of new dignity. Let’s look at a select group of people meeting Jesus.
Zaccheus, a tax collector shucking and jiving for Rome and lining his pockets with his countrymen’s money, was probably destined to be pincushioned with the long daggers of the Zealots. His people thought him scum and money never washes away the inside filth he carried – especially dirty money. (Luke 19:1-10) Leprosy doesn’t have that ugly ring to it when we call it Hansen’s disease. But ugly it can be. Parents tell their children not to look at us. Our own loved ones seem repulsed and ashamed. And forget any semblance of being touched, hugged or held. (Mark 1:40-43) A woman caught in the act of adultery dragged through the streets, gawked at, maybe wrapped in little more than a sheet. The stones crushing her would only cap the humiliation and shame, the guilt (Shame and guilt are not the same.) the hypocrisy and the betrayal ripping her apart. Would others be too embarrassed to even claim her body? (John 8:1-11) We have angels all wrong. Forget the Precious Moment cuties. While biblically they can take any form needed, in their element they are quite powerful, even terrifying. They don’t say “Fear not!” for nothing. But when all that power gets channeled into music, it’s better than Duke Ellington with Cat Anderson on lead trumpet. At the announcement of Jesus’ birth, angels beyond number cut loose with an explosion of music and praise unsurpassed by anything else laid down in space and time. And just who had the prime seats for this gig? Shepherds. The lowest of the working class, held in contempt as being dumb or ignorant. When we announce births, who gets on the short list? The most important people. When God announces His Son becoming human, who gets the first ring (And what a ring up it was!)? (Luke 2:8-20)
After World War II, General Bernard Montgomery wrote a book of biographical sketches of great political and military leaders in Great Britain’s history. He penned one about his former boss, Winston Churchill. When asked what made Churchill so great, so much the man for the hour during the war, Montgomery said, “There was something about Winston Churchill that could turn the lead of the common man to gold.” If Churchill made men gold, then Jesus Christ makes them platinum.
All these mentioned above and more grew a clean inch at the touch of Jesus Christ, not just because of the forgiveness, cleansing and healing He brings. He moves in, indwelling us through the Holy Spirit. He sees us as someone worth loving. He clearly envisions us becoming people we never would imagine and our lives spent alongside His to staunch the bleeding of a wounded world. The old clichés, “God don’t make no junk”, is true. We do that ourselves with help from others. But those just mentioned who saw themselves as nothing but garbage with feet always got swallowed up in the gaze of New Eyes rewriting the name on their story. Their own dignities, cover-ups and denials had to die. But something new remained tha would or could never drop their eyes in shame or guilt again. I listened to a new Christian talking on the radio about her faith. She said with unmistakable, yet gentle, force, “Understand that this isn’t something I ‘believe‘. It’s something I know.” You could hear the platinum in her voice.
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