Darkness Dissolving

Night’s darkness is dissolving away as a new day of destiny dawns. So we must once and for all strip away what is done in the shadows of darkness, removing it like filthy clothes. And once and for all we clothe ourselves with the radiance of light as our weapon.

(Romans 13:12 TPT)

At least three times the light broke through dark clouds as we drove home through the Elk Valley. The first two times there was no place to stop to take a photo. Sometimes my need to capture an image feels like panicky greed. I worry that a moment like this may not happen again. Sometimes I need to learn to simply appreciate in a beautiful site and trust God’s generosity.

I thanked him for light in the shadows. I thanked him for truth revealed and love restored. The rays of sun felt like hope shining down from above. I thanked God for hope.

The third time I saw the light I also saw a parking spot. This memory he let me bring home in my camera. I share with you #3.

Trespassing By Permission Only

Wait… what?

Every time I pass this sign on an empty lot I shake my head. “TRESPASSING BY PERMISSION ONLY”

Wait… what?

If you have permission to trespass are you not still trespassing? Is trespassing not a boundary violation thus implying a, you know, violation?

Is this permission to trespass like the greasy grace I hear people talking about, the definition of grace that says sin has no consequences because everything past and future has been forgiven? I met a person who insisted that any effort to live a righteous life rejected the grace of God and proved they had a works-based picture of salvation. She left a broken relationship debris trail in her wake.

Is this a trick or a Mission Impossible set-up? We want you to go do this thing, but should you be apprehended we shall disavow any knowledge of you or permission given. Intrigue may be the stuff of fascinating film plots, but it’s not the stuff of a lifestyle of integrity that earns respect or votes in the next selection of committee chairperson.

Is this a case of the owner of the property and the administrator of the property disagreeing on who is in charge? I’ve had supervisors like that. Boss #1: All forms must be submitted in triplicate, no exceptions. Boss #2: Ignore that policy. It takes too long. One copy is good enough. Here’s an impossible pile of work for you to complete by closing today. It feels like being free to choose your executioner.

Is this the kind of rule that does not apply equally? I know people who think traffic rules apply only to stupid people with slow reaction time, and they, being neither stupid nor slow, are not subject to laws that impede their agenda. Drive the legal speed limit in the left lane and they will let you know which category they consider you to be in. I also know people qualified by knowledge and hazmat suits who dare to go where others do not, but are they trespassing by permission, or those ordained by legal authority are they boldly re-taking polluted territory?

Is this a rule that is actually a valid rule or did someone assume they could stick up a sign any old place and claim squatters’ rights the way an intimidating person with a snarling dog claims a patch of pavement in a part of town Mama told you to avoid? Jesus was not afraid to confront demonic squatters who claimed ownership of suffering souls. “He is mine!” they cried. “No, he is not. Get out!” he said firmly. They left and he destroyed their signs.

Is this the kind of law that made sense in a different time and a different culture but is a source of humour now? We laugh at some ancient rules still on the books for lack of a good clean-up. They may have been based on consideration or expediency at the time, but no longer apply. In the town of Saywhat, Saskatchewan, it is illegal to tie your hog to the statue of the mayor on Tuesdays. Is it always better to remain single or was that advice given for a time of severe persecution in the first century in Thessalonica? Must a woman be silent in the presence of all men forever or was Paul’s advice to Timothy meant to be a temporary measure to establish some kind of order in a place that had no grid for freedom with consideration?

Is this the kind of sign that indicates a significant change in the way we assumed God works? I sympathize with Peter, a life-time rule-keeper, who was given a repeated vision of formerly forbidden food before realizing God was asking him to take the good news beyond boundaries he had always known. How would I respond? I would hope that I had the discernment to be very sure this was God speaking to me, but I would probably want more than three repetitions, an audible voice and a committee knocking at the door.

If I think I have heard the voice of God telling me to trespass, either the boundary is not really a boundary, or it is not really the voice of God.

Or does this sign merely snag the attention of picky people who think too much? Maybe I just need to see it as a reminder that gracious people can glance at a sign, smile, and say I know what they meant. Good enough.

 


Mission Possible

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I’m thinking of instituting a film rating system based on trombones. A chick-flick can be rated for emotional content by the number of tissues used. An epic film requires a score written for trombones and some sort of electronically produced bass. A medieval clash in the forest – one trombone. An interplanetary collision that rocks the universe? Five trombones.

I think I am finally beginning to understand something. After several days of watching movies chosen by three generations of men in my family, I felt like I was suffering from PTSD. Last evening I holed up in a bedroom with a book while explosions and monster noises emanating from the new sound system in the basement shook the house. I felt exhausted. Every nerve jangled on high alert. (Discovery: God does not issue real grace for fictional film crises.)

The movies this week had similar themes. The world is dark. Evil has a death grip on hope. You can’t always tell the good guys from the bad guys. Just when a protagonist has eluded certain annihilation or won a battle against impossible odds, another heavily armed enemy steps into the hallway or lands with a dishware-shaking thud in front of a disabled space vehicle.

I don’t know about the main character or characters, but I am tired after just watching – and I haven’t even been shot, stabbed, punched or launched through the air by a creature with fingers as thick as my thigh. 10,000 may fall at his right side, but somehow this lone misunderstood guy (or this group of oddly gifted last bastions of truth and right) keeps going.

I watch my grandson who, as a teenager, has recently been admitted to the fraternity of watchers of movies with adult ratings and parental guidance warnings. As a grandmother I want to protect his innocence as long as possible. You see, the years between us mean that I have seen the consequences of evil. For him, it’s mostly theoretical. I know too much, most of that knowledge garnered the hard way. My scars bear witness.

But I can’t protect him. He is already surrounded by absurd philosophies and circumstances my parents never dreamed of. He is now the one preparing to take up the sword. He is becoming a man with a growing drive to fight evil, injustice, and hypocrisy. (God help the parent of a teen with a radar for hypocrisy!) The enemy of our souls may try to hinder this upcoming generation by throwing deception and distraction, but many of them know there is more than hopeless acceptance of corruption. They see the light on the horizon. The hope of eternity is planted in their hearts. They are warriors.

The mission is not impossible. God equips his children with unlikely weapons and powerful gifts that include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. As the angel Gabriel said to a girl who was probably still a teenager: “Not one promise from God is empty of power, for nothing is impossible with God!”

This grandmother never stops praying for wisdom and that they will be protected from temptation to fight anyone but the enemy in any other way but God’s way.

 

Correction Lines: When Staying the Course Will Get You Off Course

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When we were kids, Mom and Dad took us on trips back to Saskatchewan, where they grew up. People dropped in on each other in those days, and there were plenty of folks to visit. I counted cousins one day. Including close second cousins and those almost a generation older, we had over fifty — and many of them still lived near our grandparents’ homesteads. That meant a lot of visiting and a lot of driving on prairie roads.

Our house on a hill in Calgary faced the mountains to the west. My heart was drawn in that direction. My parents’ hearts were drawn in two directions, to the rugged blue mountains we could see every morning from the living room window, and to the immense sky of the flat prairies to the east that was still home in their memories. Maybe that’s why they chose to live in a place of geographical transition where they could see both.

I liked it when we left after school on Friday before a long weekend because it meant Dad drove late into the night and I could sleep through the boring parts — which was pretty much every thing after the Flintstonesque Badlands in Drumheller. By the time we reached the Saskatchewan border I was bored with the sight of fields and fences. My parents’ admiration of the big open sky failed to impress me.

After we turned off the main highways onto the gravel roads Dad knew well, I felt like there was nothing to do but count telephone poles sailing by. I tried to sleep in the backseat — when my brothers stopped teasing me. I know we asked, “Are we there yet?” A lot.

We drove on straight roads that never turned. Until they did. For some reason I didn’t understand, every once in a while Dad had to stop, make a turn, go down the road a little way, make another turn and keep going. This action annoyed me because it woke me up. No slough or gully that I could see blocked the way. A stop sign marked the road’s end at a T intersection and we stopped.

When I asked him why, Dad said, “Sometimes staying the course will get you off course.” Then he explained correction lines to me. “The earth is smaller at the top because it’s round,” he said. “These jogs in the road are correction lines to keep us heading north toward the north pole. If roads went all the way up to the top of the earth you would see all the north-heading roads in the world converging on one spot, right?”

I pictured a globe. “I suppose.”

“Engineers built in changes to the square grid of these back country farm roads to keep us heading true north. ”

“…strong and free!” my brothers and I both sang from the backseat.

I’ve been reminiscing about family trips and the efforts it takes to get together now that my own children and their children are spread across the continent. That’s when I remembered my dad talking about correction lines and the wisdom of his observation, “Sometimes staying the course will get you off course.”

Even institutions that are careful to make meticulous plans for the future will find themselves off course eventually if they do not focus on Jesus Christ who said he was the way, the truth and the light. They need to stop and change. Circumstances in our lives can appear as inconvenient stop signs at T intersections. They can force us to pay attention and make adjustments to the direction we are heading. Determination to keep going the way we have been going may not take us where we assumed it would.

We like to hear stories of dramatic shifts in other people’s lives (and not so much our own), but sometimes drama is the result of not making smaller adjustments along the way. Judgment doesn’t always mean condemnation. Sometimes it means listening to the adjudicator’s assessment and accepting advice on how to improve. That’s submitting to discipline, exchanging our naivety (or arrogance) for wisdom that leads to change. A loving Father brings loving correction.

Becoming a disciple means following Jesus and transforming our thinking as he leads. Big dramatic turn-arounds may not be necessary when we slow down and pay attention to correction lines on the journey. It’s when we ignore signs and fences and ram our way through  muddy fields that we get stuck. Jesus said his commands are not burdensome. They don’t weigh us down like thirty pounds of prairie clay in a wheel well.

Jesus’ commands to base our choices on the law of love have a way of bringing us closer to him and closer to each other.

Everyone who trusts Jesus as the long-awaited Anointed One is a child of God, and everyone who loves the Father cannot help but love the child fathered by Him.

Then how do we know if we truly love God’s children? We love them if we love God and keep His commands.

You see, to love God means that we keep His commands, and His commands don’t weigh us down.

(1 John 5:1-3 The Voice)

May the light of his love draw us all closer to his heart as you celebrate the long-awaited arrival of the Anointed One this season. Blessings to you and your family.