lingering

Renee and I like to stay in our seats in the theater after the movie is over and watch the credits all of the way through, until they turn the lights on and the people with trash cans and cleaning equipment come in.

In one sense, it has something to do with getting our money’s worth: “We paid top dollar for this and we’re going to get every penny’s worth!” In other ways, it’s just delaying our return to reality. It’s an opportunity to let things settle, like lingering at the table after a good meal with a cup of coffee and some meaningful conversation.

The movie credits can be pretty interesting, actually. The names are fun (like Soo Hugh, which we saw tonight), and the soundtrack info is nearly the last thing on the credits just before the part that says something like, “The characters are all fictitious and no animals were hurt in filming this movie.” I like to see the music info, especially if any of the songs were interesting. Mostly, though, I just like to let the magic of the movie settle in, like waking up slowly on a Sunday morning and waiting for the kids to stir and start piling on my bed.

A book I read once about an ancient Celtic fantasy referred to such moments as the “time between the times.” Those were the moments when the sun’s rays have just peaked over the horizon or fallen below the other horizon, and it’s hard to know what to call it – day or night. A little of both is the truth of the matter. In those moments in the book, people who were in the right places, doing the right things, could pass between worlds; between the modern world and that ancient Celtic land.

I love that! That’s like pixie dust: mixed with some happy thoughts, it can make you capable of flying. Happy thoughts alone can’t do that.

We all could use a little more lingering in that dreamy state between the times, passing in and out of this world. We don’t need that so we can escape reality. We need it to find reality. We need to find the reality of things that are unseen, things that are true but not obvious, like art and poetry, like the music playing during the credits – things that can’t be verbalized or recognized, or even defined.

Somewhere in that time between the times, between the reality and the imaginary, my humanity interacts with the spiritual things that permeate our environment. Of course, I don’t mean the time during the movie credits, necessarily, but perhaps at that time, as well. If I move too quickly back into the light of day, to the next task on the list, to the next meeting or moment, I may miss the most valuable opportunity. (Yes, those spiritual things that surround us call for some strong discernment, especially in a dark movie theater, but I often wonder how much the fear of darkness keeps us from the light.)

I want to linger where I can feel Jesus actually living inside of me, rather than just repeating the cliche that taught me he does.

Maybe that’s too much to expect from a dark theater with the credits rolling and a lap full of popcorn and line of people heading for the exit, but what moment in my life could possibly be a good time to sense the creator of everything alive in me?

Maybe all the time . . . or any time . . . but please, oh please!, let me sense that some of the time.

Now that I think of it, maybe this is also the reason why we’re typically the last to leave our church after services. Maybe it’s also why we’re late to everything. No, that’s probably because we have 10 kids.

In any case, it seems to me that lingering is way underrated.

big God

“Savior! He can move the mountain. Our God is mighty to save. He is mighty to save. Forever! Author of salvation. He rose and conquered the grave. Jesus conquered the grave.”

That’s the chorus of one of the songs we sang tonight in church. I love those words! I’m set spinning by the first part: “He can move the mountain. Our God is mighty to save.”

I like a really big God. Like I always say, “My God is bigger than your God!” I don’t really know if I believe that all of the time, and I guess it could be way off if I’m talking to a mega-saint, but even on the days I’m not so sure about God, I want him to be big – big enough to move mountains, big enough to save.

I want God to be big enough to save us from ourselves, from the garbage, from the self-imposed calamities and the pervasive darkness and the filth created by the messes of our own making. I want a God that can move a mountain – the real mountains, the really big ones with snow on top – and I want him to be able to move them without the help of earthquakes or dynamite or bulldozers or anything else that I already know about and know that it obviously has the power to move a mountain. I want him to move mountains with flair, originality, creativity, and uncreated power!

I want that because it’s the way God is described in the Bible – the verses of the Old Testament in which God brags about himself because he’s the only one who knows himself well enough to say such things. Those scriptures describe the God in whom I believe but wonder if I’ve ever truly seen. At least, if I’ve seen a mountain-moving God, I’ve mistaken him for an earthquake, or a bulldozer. I want God to be so uniquely powerful that I can’t possibly mistake him for anything else.

“See that? See that mountain moving across the horizon? That’s God; my God! He can move mountains. He’s bigger than your God.”

So, I sing loud, and I dance a little when we sing that. In my mind, I’m thinking, “I hope he moves this mountain, and maybe that mountain, and I hope he saves us from this junk.” And I’m singing loud and I’m jumping, and hoping and praying and . . . wanting to believe.

I know it’s true, though. If there is a God – and I believe there is – and if he’s as big a God as the Bible describes – which is really the only God big enough to really get excited about – then it has to be true. He has to be true, and he has to be able to do these things.

What bothers me, then, is that the mountains that are being moved are either too small, or my perception is too limited to see it. Why can’t I see it? “Things that are seen are temporal. Things that are unseen are eternal,” Paul’s letter responds to my questions. If that’s the case, then thank God I don’t see it . . . maybe . . . but maybe that means I’m not so keenly aware of the eternal. Paul precedes those lines with, “We look at the unseen.” Am I? Really?

Ahhhh! There’s the rub: deeper, truer, stronger. Eternal! Different mountains! Bigger mountains! Salvation through dying; winning through surrender . . . He is a big God!

superheroes

Last week while hanging out with some friends, we discussed whether God had called us to a specific missional ministry here in Greeley, as opposed to the possibility that our desire for such a ministry had manufactured its own calling. Tammy said something during that discussion that I’ve thought frequently: “Some days, all I can handle is my kids and managing our day – just getting through the day.” That’s a paraphrase, but it’s close.

She preceded that comment with an expression of appreciation for my wife, Renee, and her frequent attitude of skepticism and “slow-cooking” kind of thought processes. Renee has 10 kids, Tammy has 2, as Tammy mentioned, and many days Tammy is overwhelmed. Renee is definitely overwhelmed most days and just managing the day is a common mantra at our house. It’s important to just break the demands down to the immediate and urgent (sometimes important) issues just to see a clear path for navigating the constant demands. Most days, the stuff that can be put off to tomorrow has to be put off, just for survival’s sake. Consequently, Renee (and Tammy, and all of us, really) is usually skeptical when someone is suggesting a commitment to more. No one blames her, and yet no one really lets her off the hook.

What’s up with this over demand for our time and energy? What’s up with the lack of hours and the constant barrage for more, more, more? Movies, books, schools, parents, bosses, pastors, leaders . . . God – always asking for more, bigger, better, faster!

And yet . . . we want more. We know it’s right. We’re driven. By what? A calling? I hope so. The only thing that could justify a response to this demand for more would be a God who knows the roles for which we’ve been designed. He knows our capacity. He knows our best use, our right effort, our optimal activities. God sets the bar high, calls us – builds us – to attain it, continually corrects our path, and expects us to reach it, and that’s what we truly desire. We long for it: to be superheroes, to say the right things all the time, to be the most efficient, most productive for the Kingdom, to be all that we can be, to live the abundant, overflowing, savior kind of lives.

God wants it, we want it, the world wants it. But most days, we only want to crawl in our little holes with our little worlds and say, “God, this is all I can handle today. The rest will have to be your responsibility.” Ignore the phones, the email, the neighbors, the co-workers, the mail. Ignore everything but three square meals, the diapers and the laundry. Take a day off, maybe two. But it never lasts.

The God who built us for abundance, built in some kind of anti-contentment-with-small-things system. As much as we appreciate the possibility of low standards, even though there are days the lows are too high, we want the abundant life. God is responsible for all of it, really, and he’s more than capable, but he’s calling us to step into the roles for which we’ve been made. As much as we get frustrated with him, especially on the hard days, we really just want to be where he wants us to be. We know that’s the best place.

Life and Real Life

Why is it that life seems to squeeze out all capability of life?  The first life is just the daily grind of activities, obligations, chores, and discomforts.  It is everything that consumes our efforts and thoughts – the pain and difficulty of relationships and losses, and especially the weariness, the illness, the psychological and physiological effects of all of it.  That life gets in the way and stifles the potential for real life.  It is stifling.

Real life squeezes in through the cracks in the other life, typically at inopportune moments.  Real life is often pesky and irritating, like a little boy who keeps asking you to play ball.  It’s relentless and somewhat annoying for being so.  It’s annoying because you don’t have time, much less energy, to play ball, even though you’d love nothing more, because life demands your attention.  So real life becomes the obnoxious one – always poking its head in, begging for attention, like rays of sunshine breaking through the clouds, screaming, “LOOK AT ME.  I’M BEAUTIFUL!”

Just like the bird singing at the top of its lungs from our backyard tree at 6:45 this morning in the freezing weather.  Doesn’t that bird know that life is happening?  I actually spoke out loud to that bird as I got into my car to go to work:  “Don’t you have anything better to do on such a cold morning?  Get a life!”