A Gift

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Sometimes you are out in the backyard taking photos of sweet peas and sheets on the clothesline just because the flowers smell wonderful and the warm sunlight and shifting shadows are interesting.

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And then a hummingbird hovers in front of your lens just long enough to snap a shot.

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Thank you, Lord. What a lovely gift.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

(James 1:17 NIV)

 

Seeds of Light

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When the preacher said,“You may kiss the bride,” the man I was marrying took advantage of that permission as if he had been waiting his whole life for this moment. He went for an enthusiastic, but unrehearsed kiss – at least unrehearsed as a staged event for the benefit of the public. We hadn’t worked out which way our heads were supposed to tilt and our glasses clashed together and sort of tangled. When all was said and done we both had a wonky view with spectacles askew.

“Amateurs,” professionals in the audience twittered.

That we were. What did we know about love or commitment or anything, really? Vows are always a gamble when you have no idea what you’re getting into. But that’s the point, I suppose. Vows are about faith and a promise to try to stay in the process as the story plays out.

At another wedding, when the groom kissed his bride, a curious new nephew seated among the host of dearly beloved in the pews popped up with a question obviously weighing on his innocent mind, “Is he planting the seed now, Mommy?”

The rest of the witnesses twittered over that precious moment too.

I’m not sure what Mommy told him. No, not now, but then again, something important was being planted at that moment. A little bit of true love in the form of a promise that could either take root and grow beyond any definition of love that seemed grand enough at the altar or could shoot up quickly only to wither in hearts that proved too hard after trampling or too distracted by competition to water and nurture its growth.

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This morning I read about God sowing seeds of light.

Listen you lovers of God, hate evil;
For God can keep you from wrong
And protect you from the power of wickedness.
For he sows seeds of light within his lovers
And seeds of joy burst forth for the lovers of God!
So be glad, and continue to give thanks,
For God’s holiness is seen in everything he does.
(Psalm 97:10-12 The Passion Translation)

I was wondering what seeds of light and seeds of joy looked like in real life when a friend phoned. She’s a novelist of a different philosophical/religious persuasion than I am, but we learn from each other. Her character (and she is the master of creating fascinating characters) had taken the story in an unanticipated direction. (Writers will understand the demands of characters who, it seems, have developed an independent will.) Without giving too much away, he was faced with a dilemma over whether or not he (having done some very bad things) should accept a bargain of severe torment in the next life in exchange for the ability to relive one perfectly beautiful moment in this life. She wanted to know if that was consistent with Christian thought.

I explained that the picture she had of eternal punishment was the whole reason why Jesus came. He came to demonstrate his Father’s true nature in demonstrations of love and mercy and especially grace. He came to save us, not to condemn us. He didn’t come to bring judgment that requires us to pay for our sins (because who can possibly do that once the final tally of eternal repercussions has been made?) He came instead with a gift of grace that empowers us to become who we were meant to be before we comforted ourselves with the lies of the devil. He came to change the path we were on by changing our hearts to line up with his love for us and for others.

You’ll have to wait until the book is published to see where the character decides to take the story after our discussion, but she made me think (as she often does). What was this one perfect experience he had? (No, of course she didn’t tell me. I need to wait for the book too.)

Many people whose lives have been a collection of traumatic disappointments can still hold memories of perfect moments they knew illustrated the way things are supposed to be. I wonder if those moments, are the seeds of light.

Whether we experience them in nature, or relationships, or art, or music, or a perfect hand in poker, they are moments when Jesus plants a bit of himself in our hearts in the form of joy, or hope, or peace, or a sense of it’s-gonna-be-okay promises. The world can try to stomp out those tiny seeds of light, but somehow, hidden in the darkness they continue to glow. If they didn’t, we would not wish that things could be better, for we would have no concept of better.

A kind person shows us what kindness is and that kindness exists. Once we know that there is such a thing as love, the loss of it seems unbearable. Seeds of light, in the process of growing, irritate the heck out of it-is-what-is complacency, because they give us glimpses of something more. Before they pop through the soil in a dazzling display of pink blossoms (or green beans, depending on your preference) their powerful little earth-moving tendrils rearrange our foundations in a way that takes studied effort to ignore sometimes. They provoke a holy discontent. What if those seeds are watered and nurtured instead?

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When John, Jesus’ beloved friend, told the story of life on the road with the lover of his soul and the other disciples, the Holy Spirit inspired him to include this observation:

Life came into being because of him [Jesus] for his life is light for all humanity. And this living expression is the light that bursts through gloom the light that darkness could not diminish. for his life is light for all humanity. And this living expression is the light that bursts through gloom the light that darkness could not diminish. (John 1:4,5)

All life begins with a seed, a hope, a promise, an idea, an implanted word from the Living Expression that existed before time.

The Father is preparing a perfect bride for his son. Christ’s reward is the bride – the ones he came to save. In other words, you. And because of his promise, like a kiss on the day we choose to trust him, joy, inexpressible and full of glory, bursts forth in the lovers of God.

I will never leave you or forsake you.” – Jesus

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And This Life Was the Light

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At the beginning God expressed himself.

That personal expression, that word, was with God, and was God, and he existed with God from the beginning.

All creation took place through him, and none took place without him.

In him appeared life and this life was the light of mankind.

The light still shines in the darkness

and the darkness has never put it out.

(John 1:1-5 Phillips)

 

I’ve heard that glory is however God chooses to express himself.

When the light of Jesus shines in dark places, when forgotten dreams and shattered hopes spring to life, when love flickers in a heart grown cold, when the beauty of creation glows in unexpected places, he is showing us his glory.

Ecce Homo: Behold the Man

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I had something else in mind when I started writing an entry for Good Friday. I was impressed by the phrase “the time when the power of darkness reigns” in Luke 22:52-53:
“Then Jesus spoke to the leading priests, the captains of the Temple guard, and the elders who had come for him. “Am I some dangerous revolutionary,” he asked, “that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there every day. But this is your moment, the time when the power of darkness reigns.”

At that particular moment, Jesus allowed himself to be taken captive by those powers that worked in the dark, away from the eyes of the few who would insist on proper protocol, and accountability and the checks and balances that are meant to thwart the misuse of power.

This was a misuse of power.

This morning as I woke I heard: He came to set the captives free.

I’ve been too impressed by the reign of darkness. Jesus said later that his submission to those who would kill him was voluntary.

Love is always voluntary, or it is not love.

This morning the words I heard, “He came to set the captives free,” struck me with the full beauty of irony. Jesus became a captive so he could set the captives free. Jesus died to overcome death.

Jesus died so he could overcome death.

I found a photo I took in Jerusalem at Lithostrotos (Roman Paving) under the Convent of Ecce Homo (Behold the Man – Pilates words when he handed Jesus over to be crucified). In a dark low-ceiling room now underground, it is thought to be the place where Jesus’ trial was held and where the Roman soldiers tortured him.

Our guide told us it was unusually quiet that day. I sat on a stone bench and sang, “My Jesus, I love Thee… If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now,” with tears streaming down my face.

Of all the places we visited in Israel this place had the most emotional impact on me. I could feel the darkness, and yet I could also feel the light that rose out of this powerful yet powerless environment that once echoed with the sound of whips and jibes, knowing that it is by his stripes that we are healed.

His wounds became our health.

Jesus entered darkness to bring light. He became a man of sorrow that we might share the joy set before him. He gave up his liberty to set us free. He became sin that we might be free from sin.

Behold the Man

 

Living in the Light

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As you live this new life, we pray that you will be strengthened from God’s boundless resources, so that you will find yourselves able to pass through any experience and endure it with courage.

You will even be able to thank God in the midst of pain and distress because you are privileged to share the lot of those who are living in the light.

For we must never forget that he rescued us from the power of darkness, and re-established us in the kingdom of his beloved Son, that is, in the kingdom of light.

(Colossians 1: 11-14 Phillips)

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The Graceful Icicle

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I bobbed around changing position, but the light kept getting in my eyes. I have a thing about natural light and my desk is near the window. I’ve set up the computer screen in front so it faces away from the light and remains readable. But for a brief time during the shortest days of the year the low sun will shine in my eyes in the afternoon. Then I have to lower the shade.

Yesterday the light was almost blinding. I got up to see what was causing it when I saw the sun shining through an icicle on the corner of the porch roof. I grabbed my camera, of course.

It’s not a talent I asked for, but I can tell the difference between a depression-induced hallucination, a vision, and the sun behind frozen water that had dripped from an eaves trough that is probably blocked again. This sight still caught my attention.

The icicle, which I barely noticed before, was, in a way, a reminder of failure (we really should have cleaned out those eaves before the snow fell) and the cold cruel world out there that took away all my colourful flowers and froze the water pipes this week (another  pain to fix).

Then light shone through failure and coldness and turned it into a glowing sword.

Sometimes I feel like a failure, done in by procrastination yet again. Sometimes my heart is cold in response to a hard season and I think all I can do is hang in there until circumstances change. I don’t feel particularly effective in making a difference in this world.

But this is what I saw. When I am subject to the light shining through unguarded transparency, without any reliance on my own brilliance, I am transformed. That’s grace.

Graham Cooke says grace empowers us to become what God sees when he looks at us. His grace shining through and entering our very being transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.

This is amazing grace. Christ in us, the hope of glory.

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