Rapture 2011

20 05 2011

I’m not a prophet, but the end of the world is here.

Tomorrow, May 21, 2011, is the day Jesus will come back according to Harold Camping, and the world will be destroyed five months later.  Some have spent crazy amounts of money helping to spread the news so that no one gets left behind.

Most people familiar with the Bible know there is a verse in which Jesus states that no one knows the hour or day when time will end except Father God in heaven.  So it seems more than a little presumptuous that any minister of the Word of God would be bold enough to name a time.  More than a little!

However, think a little longer with me about this.

Walk down a theater ramp, suspend your disbelief, and listen to the movie theme rising as the house lights dim.  About 15 minutes into the show disaster erupts and people are dying all over the place without a hero in sight.  Tension builds as plot lines intersect until the climax, when civilization is rescued (just barely) by an average guy who cares so much about those in harm’s way, he takes on almost super-human strength and qualities.  An emotional domestic scene wraps up the loose ends as lovers, and former enemies, put pettiness behind them for what truly matters.

Now step back into reality with me, trading daylight for the imposed darkness.  A little shift has occurred in my mind and heart; I am not the same as I was before I entered the theater.  How about you?

So, what if tomorrow is our last day together?  How would that change today?  What pettiness would become unimportant, and what priorities would become clear as metaphorical dust settles in slow motion through sunrays?  Statistically, a pretty big group of people will exit life’s theater tomorrow into eternal reality.  I could be in that group.  So could you.

Dates and equations, histrionics and drama aside, maybe Rev. Camping isn’t as crazy as everyone is saying he is.  And maybe I am a prophet.


Living Reality

16 05 2011

Praying outside changes everything for me.  For one thing I’m usually walking, and that makes it hard to fall asleep.  Not that prayer is boring, but when I’m sitting in the dark with my eyes closed, my heart rate slows, and I begin to relax… until I suddenly jerk myself awake with a snort.  Those around me snicker, and I want to crawl under the brand new olefin-upholstered chairs.  Instead I go outside the walls.

Outside the air contains no polymer vapors.  Even walking alongside exhaust fumes from the heavy traffic, I feel the freshness scrubbing my insides clean of closed up dankness.  My soul prays faster.  (Is it possible to have a prayer speed?)  “Scrub out the insides of my heart; replace it with the fresh wind of your Spirit for Your breath gives me life; carry me along into the fast lane of your will and get me off my comfortable behind; send your Spirit to wash over me like the rocks in this brook carrying away my bad attitude and frustrations that act like the quicksand that almost sucked me; and let me run – run and jump and dance and twirl like the leaves blowing ahead of me as I sing your praises that reach past the clouds holding back the sun into Your holy presence,” my heart gasped for breath.  Because there was more.  Much more that came tumbling out like lilacs so heavy with fragrance, the alabaster vase tipped over and broke, spilling their scent freely and profusely everywhere.

I stopped suddenly, captivated, during a break in the traffic while the leaves fluttered to earth in a slow motion lull as I prayed, taking in the cemetery across the street.  In the momentary stillness I heard a chorus praying with me.  Not audible voices, and not all saying the same words, but praise rising.  Not from the rocks (I was praising Him, so they had to be silent), but from the gravestones.

Many of those whose bodies are buried in the secluded glens across the road are singing in the presence of the Most High God, not needing to catch their breath as I now caught mine.  Through the quick temporal crack, I worshiped with them, inspired by their deafening inaudible song and encouraged by their present reality.

Praying outside changes me.

Juneteenth, Part the Second

10 07 2010

(See the previous post for Part the First)

Curious and clueless, I looked up “Juneteenth”.

Thank-you Wikipedia!

On June 18th, 1865, General Gordon Granger and 2000 Union troops entered Galveston, Texas and took possession of the state.  The next day, General Order No. 3 was read to the people in the last state to officially abolish slavery and recognize Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made almost three years earlier:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

The next year, jubilant public celebrations marked the anniversary of freedom, and the holiday became shortened to “Juneteenth”.

I am as Caucasian as the snow that falls in Northern Michigan.  I haven’t really experienced racial prejudice, and I’ve certainly never been a slave.  Yet, even when I was young, photos and stories of people enslaved caused a visceral response in my gut.  And recently, without any conscious intent, my hatred of slavery showed up in a song I wrote.

Way past midnight as I alternately sang and wrote, the beginning of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address forced its way into the lyric because I needed a rhyme.  Not knowing why it was in the song, I read and re-read the short speech that he gave in 1863 to dedicate the Gettysburg cemetery during the Civil War on the site of the bloodiest battlefield in our nation’s history.  Around 2:00 AM I understood.  Lincoln wasn’t giving a history lesson in the opening sentence.  “Four score (a score is 20 years) and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  His last phrase was an indictment against the people of the United States for giving lip service to freedom for the past 87 years while brutally enslaving hundreds of thousands of fellow human beings.  The issue had been settled in 1776 in the Declaration of Independence, which he quoted at the end of his opening sentence.

Those 87 years (and many more before 1776) of slavery should never have happened.  Juneteenth should not be a holiday.  All Americans should celebrate Independence on July 4th.  Stupidity, arrogance, and mismanaged power, however, made a second Independence Day necessary.

A couple of months ago I heard Efrem Smith*, the African American pastor of Hip Hop Church, speak on the freeing power of the arts.  He asked himself as he was wedding the arts with worship in his new church, why music, storytelling, and other arts were so important for his enslaved ancestors.  What was it like for a slave to connect his artistic gifts and his devotion to Jesus?

“Their identities were totally transformed as they went into the back woods under threat of being beaten after working a 15-hour day.  In the darkness, broken people, through song and dance, through art and storytelling, became the Beloved of God!  Worship wasn’t about a performance; it was about freedom.  It was saying, ‘I’m not a slave, the oppressed and broken, I am THE BELOVED OF GOD!'”

That is the story of the day on which I was born.

I gladly give up my claim on June 19th to celebrate freedom.  An ordinary girl fades into the background to become part of something far more important.

*http://www.efremsmith.com/ (his blog)

*http://www.towardwonder.com/prodsb.asp?invtid=PR34350 (download the mp3 or DVD)

Two Scoops with a Cherry on Top

26 05 2010

When events during an NCIS investigation start lining up, the agents just have to look at their leader, Special Agent Gibbs, and they say what he’s thinking for him.  “I know boss, you don’t believe in coincidence.”

I don’t either.  Here are just a few from the last week.

Our church is in the middle of a capital campaign to do some much needed renovation.  The 1970’s décor is reason enough to do a few things, but there are also come serious cracks in the walls and roof, the pews limit the use of our largest space to congregational or audience-type gatherings, and the exterior is letting in the weather, contributing to the cracks and water stains.  So church leaders have encouraged us to pray and ask God what He will give through us.  So far it sounds like a typical money pitch.  But the cool thing is that it hasn’t been.  We are a mostly white, suburban church that has been comfortable for quite some time.  Until now.  I think this is just the first step in allowing Jesus to resume headship in order to take us where we can’t go on our own.

My husband and I prayed about it and through around a figure early on that was quite a stretch.  Then we heard the Spirit tell us to triple it.  OK.  This is definitely a faith-walk now!  We work for a ministry and raise support so we can buy groceries and pay the mortgage.  Not sure HOW we’re going to be able to help pay for chairs and new walls.  But that’s the point, right?

We decided the amount we will write on our pledge card on Thursday.  On Friday, we got a check in the mail for exactly the same huge amount.  We can’t just hand it over; it’s made out to the ministry we work for, but that’s not the point.  We weren’t expecting the check, and it’s exactly the amount we pledged.  And since we don’t get our PO Box mail everyday, the check was probably sitting there for a while – just waiting.  Coincidence?  Uh… no.

The next day I feverishly worked on an article all day that was due to a publisher on Monday.  Knowing we had a graduation party and baby shower to go to on Sunday afternoon, I kept thinking about going out and getting gift cards.  But it didn’t happen, and I didn’t stress about it.  (Normally, I would be stressed and figure out a way to make it happen.)  I DID at least figure out how much would go in each card.

Sunday after church a guy on the worship team gave me the tithe from his yard sale earnings with, “I know it’s not much, but here you go.”  Sweet.  THEN his wife comes up, does and says the same thing!  On the way home I realized it was exactly what we needed to put in the cards.  I even found two perfect cards in my stash – no stress, no craziness, just perfect provision.  Definitely NOT coincidence.

This week I’ve been home by myself in the evenings because my husband is playing in the band for a local musical.  Since I enjoy my alone time, it’s been good.  I also need to mention, however, that we are down to one car now, so I’m not just at home- I’m home without a car.  Monday evening, after eating leftovers while making a grocery list, I said out loud, “I want some ice cream.”  The food ads were definitely doing their job!  We didn’t have any in the house and walking wasn’t an option since it was over 85 degrees which would melt me and the ice cream.  Just then the telephone rang.  A friend asked what I was doing, and would I like to join her for ice cream, her treat, since she had a 2-for-1 coupon.  I laughed out loud-several times that night.

Some would say these were coincidences.  Some would say that God was showing off for me.  I say that He loves me.  A ridiculously, double-scoop-with-a-cherry-on-top whole lot!

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