"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"All I Want": Seeking Magic and Beauty

 It can be sad for me to ask my Christian friends about what they see as their life's calling. It is not that their passion for serving the Lord is not there, but it is that so rarely is there beauty and glory and joy in it. Their answers ring with overtones of passionate resignation: they are willing to do anything and go anywhere, but never seem to once consider that perhaps their calling in Christ's kingdom is not to serve, per se, but to fill the world with glory. Where is glory? Where is beauty? Where is magic? Where is maia? They do not know; they never thought to know, but perhaps, in ignoring beauty, they are ignoring their Lord's deeper calling.

Our calling is to God's kingdom both now and then, and His kingdom is one of glory. Perhaps it matters less what you do and more about the undercurrents of glory in your ministry. Where do you see redemption and glory and beauty and God's light where no one else sees it? What makes your heart and soul burn with fire? What makes you literally cry, the longing is so intense? Where does your soul sense a deeper world, the way it was before the Fall?

Do you know?

I will go where glory meets the crude and weak
I will go where mercy meets the shame
I will go where strength will find the small and meek
I will go where magic meets mundane 

And You're all I want
You're all I want
You're all I'll find
You have my heart forever
You are all that I could need

I will go where grace and healing love restores
I will go where peace and rest is known
I will go where friendship finds my heart in Yours
I will go where beauty leads me home

~Future of Forestry

Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Only Hope": The Song of a Prayer

 Music can make me feel maia in a way little else can. You may not sense it coming, but suddenly its notes resonate with your soul and you are lifted to a realm that you cannot understand but only know that is beyond this world. For a moment, you are free.

This song is one that brings me that freedom, perhaps because it expresses beauty and power and grace. It is a heart's cry of longing to love and to be loved in every way beauty knows how to give it -- through songs and stars and galaxies and dreams. I understand that cry.


There's a song that's inside of my soul
It's the one that I've tried to write over and over again
I'm awake in the infinite cold
But You sing to me over and over and over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands
And pray to be only Yours
I pray to be only Yours
I know now You're my only hope

Sing to me the song of the stars
Of Your galaxy dancing and laughing
And laughing again
When it feels like my dreams are so far
Sing to me of the plans that You have for me over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only Yours
I pray to be only Yours
I know now You're my only hope

I give You my destiny
I'm giving You all of me
I want Your symphony
Singing in all that I am
At the top of my lungs I'm giving it back

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only Yours
I pray to be only Yours
I pray to be only Yours
I know now You're my only hope

~Mandy Moore/Switchfoot

"Dancing with the King": A beautiful version of the "Footprints" story

We have all read the story, "Footprints." It is on magnets and bookmarkers and paintings and cards and is an uplifting story -- being carried by the Lord is a stunning thing. But what if there is more? What about beauty?


Imagine you and the Lord Jesus are walking along the beach together. For much of the way the Lord's footprints go along steadily, consistently, rarely varying in the pace.

But your prints are in a disorganized stream of zig zags, starts, stops, turnarounds, circles, departures, and returns. For much of the way it seems to go like this. But gradually, your footprints come in line with the Lord's, soon paralleling His consistently. You and Jesus are walking as true friends.

This seems perfect, but then an interesting thing happens; your footprints that once etched the sand next to the Master's are now walking precisely in His steps. Inside His large footprints is the smaller "sandprint," safely enclosed. You and Jesus are becoming one; this goes on for many miles.

But gradually you notice another change. The footprints inside the larger footprints seem to grow larger. Eventually it disappears altogether. There is only one set of footprints. They have become one; again this goes on for a long time.

But then something awful happens. The second set of footprints is back. This time it seems even worse than before. Zig zags all over the place. Stop...start. Deep gashes in the sand. A veritable mess of prints.

You're amazed and shocked. But this is the end of your dream. Now you speak:

"Lord, I understand the first scene with the zig zags, fits, starts, and so on. I was a new Christian, just learning. But You walked on through the storm and helped me learn to walk with You."

"That is correct," replied the Lord. "Then, when the smaller footprints were inside of Yours, I was actually learning to walk in Your steps. I followed You very closely."

"Very good. You have understood everything so far." "Then the smaller footprints grew and eventually filled in with yours. I suppose that I was actually growing so much that I was becoming more like You in every way."

"Precisely." "But this is my question, Lord. Was there a regression of something? The footprints went back to two, and this time it was worse than the first."

The Lord smiles, then laughs. "You didn't know?" He says. "That was when we danced."

~Author Unknown

Oh, to live!

I want to go on an adventure and backpack through Europe and jump out of an airplane and be caught from a fall and save someone’s life and diffuse a dangerous bomb and grow my hair to my waist and travel back in time and become a black belt and ride an elephant across the savanna and do something impossible and go to a ball and dive off a ship and be rescued from certain death and rock climb on a cliff and tame a wild horse and sing in Phantom of the Opera and be carried when I’m hurt and swim in the Caribbean and find a pearl in an oyster and fight off a bad guy and fly on a dragon and hike in the mountains and bring someone to justice and be kissed in the rain and give a name to a star and walk through a wardrobe.

C.S. Lewis: Longing for beauty and searching for home

"What more, you may ask, do we want? … We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.

“It was when I was happiest that I longed most...The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing...to find the place where all the beauty came from.

“At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of the morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

~C.S. Lewis
The Weight of Glory

Tears of Light: A Heart's Outpouring Upon the Death of Osama bin Laden

Words slice through the air like the bullets that killed him.

Good riddance.
Rot in hell.
May they all die like you.

Other sentiments swirl around those words of fire like smoke.

Let us live in peace.
You did not need to die.
Your death was unjust.

The bullets have fallen.
The smoke is clearing.
And Light breaks through the clouds.


I cannot rejoice in knowing another human is likely in eternal pain. I cannot rejoice in this, for in Osama bin Laden I see myself. I am far closer to him than I ever will be to perfection in this life. In Osama’s failures and mistakes I see my own. In his death, I see my own potential end.

Osama fought for what he believed in. He had a vision of the world that he believed was worth living and dying for. I do as well, but mine is very different, in a different Man altogether. Yet it could have been another way—I could have gone down a different path. As such, I cannot judge but only be humbled.

Osama made a choice. Yet, I, too, made one: I did not and do not and will not follow his path. I know that there is One who has shown me a way of Light, yet true Light can hurt and punish, and His path will cause those who leave it to become seared. As a follower of Light, I am an instrument of the burning. I do not apologize for this. I cannot. Some people choose to give their souls in a quest to destroy that Light; they have a right to that. They give their souls; in return, we may take their bodies. For we have a right, too—a right to allow the Light to shine.


As such, Osama gave his soul, a deep price to pay and one that affects many. Somewhere, people weep for his death. I do not weep. But I understand. One person’s enemy is another’s hero; this is part of humanity. Somewhere, people laugh for Osama’s death. I do not laugh. But I understand. An end to someone is not always wrong; people make choices that bring them to their deaths.

Not just to death, but to death legitimately. Those who died alongside Osama knew the possibility of that end when they went down that path; they knew their actions had consequences; it was no surprise to them nor should it be to me. I respect them enough to not doubt that they understood that and, as such, to not withhold their punishment. Osama knew death was an option and a likely end. I honor his choice, his embracing of that risk, and his dying for what he believed in. He would not expect me to do less than to follow through in furthering my own choice—my choice of Light—and he would not expect me to condemn in theory but refrain in practice. That is dishonorable and that is what he would disrespect. In death, however, we understand each other; we honor each other’s choice.


Indeed, Osama’s death is no surprise. Is it not what we have been seeking as Americans? Did we not know it was coming? Yet, his single death cannot be fragmented from the thousands of souls who have had that same fate in this same war. Their lives go unnoticed, forgotten, lost, and unsung, and they fall from our minds, forgotten forever. In this war, however, Osama is one of hundreds, thousands, and in the tapestry of history, he is one of millions, billions.

If we rejoice in Osama’s death, we must rejoice in the death of hundreds who have died alongside him, and if we mourn Osama’s death, we must mourn the deaths of hundreds who have died alongside him. He was and is not alone, just as Hitler was not alone in the guilt of his actions. Every person who killed a Jew was Hitler’s partner. There was a choice for them. There is always a choice.

But Osama stands for them. He is a symbol.

As a symbol, he has caused us to confront what it means to die at the hands of another. Ten thousand people die a day, in an hour, in a war—it is not Osama’s death with which we struggle. It is that we killed him. It is that we had a standard, and another had to live by it.

And that is a different question altogether.


I am not afraid of death—not my own and not Osama’s. I know that death leads to more and comes from more. Death is not the end, not for me, because I know One who showed me that death is a door. A door to a new land. And He will lead me through.

I am not afraid of victory—and of that I am not ashamed. For I begin to realize that long life is not the goal of life; indeed, the very opposite is. I forget this so soon, so quickly, in a quiet, easy existence where I must fight for nothing, say nothing, do nothing, and live where only I matter. But if I look back across time, the stories show me that there is more. Those who live life for the right cause give up their life in glory and in hope. Those who live life for the wrong cause risk being be killed by others when fear and brokenness begin to reign through them. Those who live life for no cause are already dead. Life is not the goal of life, for it is living that is the goal.

As such, I understand why Osama died. He made his choice. And we made ours.


I know because of Him who died that death can bring ultimate hope, so I can see such hope through Osama’s death. I do not hope for peace—we are not called to peace with this world, and false peace is a cruelly dangerous enemy—yet I still can have faith in the assurance of what I hope for—that those who reside in darkness will see a great Light.

I pray for hope for this world and for Osama’s followers, and I hope his death brings it to them. Yet they may not see that, and so I seek to hold it out to them when they cannot find it, when they are searching blindly for the beauty they cannot quite find, when they seek to answer the call they cannot quite hear, and when they seek to touch the glory that is just out of reach. They do not know I hold their hope for them, but that does not matter. I will continue to hold it, and I pray that I will die holding it, for this who I am as a server of Light: a Hope-Bringer. I reach out towards them, offering, waiting, watching, praying, and watering the parched ground with my tears. Someday Light may fall on them and they will see my offering from the One who gave it to me, so many years ago.


There is a death I rejoice in, and this my own Lord’s. Not because I wanted Him to die, but because of what His death brought and symbolized and set free. I rejoice in Osama’s death, not because I wanted him to die, but because of what his death will bring and symbolize and set free. Death should not always be prevented, and Christ showed us that in Himself.

There is a victory I rejoice in, and this of Light. That is the nature of seeking a hope, of pursuing a glory, and of fighting a war. Someone wins—and someone loses. To be even is to have nothing; to be the same is to not exist; to allow all is to allow none. That is the way of the world, and it is a good way.