“One joy was expected and another is given.” – The Space Trilogy (CS Lewis)
So busy wanting, expecting, hoping for the same type of happiness, fullness, and joy as before. Eyes peeled for the same joy as last time, pining, in a way, for the past. It makes sense. We want an encore of what was so great.
Yet I might be missing the new brand of joy that’s flying at me, the girl without eyes to see it because she was expecting something else.
“One joy was expected and another is given.”
It will look a bit different from the last joyful thing… but then again, I am also different. So is my world.
My Lord, however, is the same — beautifully unchanging — but it’s true that I see new facets of Him each year that I grow. He lets me in (little by little) on more of the mystery and wonder.
I don’t have the ability to imagine up all the possible joys in life. I’m working with a finite, pea-brain that relies much on memories and a bit on imagination. I expect one type of joy. Another type is given. The type I didn’t (couldn’t?) imagine or expect.
There’s joy abounding if I’m ready and open for the new joys, not the old ones; not the ones I expected.
Unexpected joys. Count on them. Expect the unexpected and keep those eyes peeled.
Wonder. A sense of amazement; that for one second everything is as it should be; a sense that maybe this life really is full of magic. Or at least it’s meant to be full of magic.
Things are meant to be a certain way, and we know it. We know it when things are wrong and feel the magic when things are right. The sparkle seeps through the cracks of this broken world and we get teasing tastes of glory, of rightness, of shalom. Encore! We want more.
I long for all to be right — in the world, in my heart, in friends and family’s lives, in our bodies. These are not how they were meant to be. And I long for it to be made right.
Wonder increases longing.
But while I long and wait for Jesus to make all things as they should be, I also rejoice that He’s already come — into this cracked and glittering world and into my very heart. I have Him. I long for Him to come yet rejoice that He is, in part, already here.
“He stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. He wraps up the waters in His clouds, And the cloud does not burst under them. He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters at the boundary of light and darkness.
Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; And how faint a word we hear of Him! But His mighty thunder, who can understand?” (Job 26)
These are only the edges of Creation, yet we still stand amazed. We hear only a whisper of the Lord’s greatness, yet we still marvel. What’s the rest of it like?
It is good to realize how much we don’t know. It is good to be amazed by the 1% of things that we see and even more amazed by the 99% of things that we don’t know about.
I’m not sure about other runners, but I’ve thought about her when I head out. I imagine that the whole thing was a frightening reminder for those who wake up at 4:30am to run. Unsettling to all of us.
What happened is horrifying.
It should never have happened. It is unacceptable.
We go on strike in our hearts, refusing to let this be the reality, refusing to live in fear or inhabit a society in which we have reason to fear for our lives when we run. We fight for something better.
We desire a world where we run freely without fear, there are no tears, and the lamb rests with the lion. No fear. No abuse. No violence. No heartache. This is the kind of world we want and we know is right. We feel it in our bones. The dream is a world in which no harm is intended and no harm is carried out.
This longing hits the mark. It is not unfounded. It is correct.
We know that evil must be cast out. We want it gone — forever. We work towards that world diligently and unceasingly, because we know it is right.
But at the same time we are not deceived. We acknowledge that the sad, current reality cannot be changed by wishing on a star. We are fully aware that we hurt one another and are hurt by one another.
The effort for change is worthwhile and we simultaneously acknowledge that what we long for and work for will not be found in its fullness right now.
We long for and wait eagerly for the day that it is.
The Lord hates “hands that shed innocent blood” and “hearts that create evil schemes” (Proverbs 16). Good. I want a God who hates these things.
As Scott Sauls says, “ if there is no judgment, then there’s no hope for a slave, rape, victim, a child, who has been abused, or bullied, or people who have been slandered or robbed, or had their dignity stolen. We need a God who gets angry. We need a God who will protect his kids, who will once and for all remove bullies and perpetrators of evil from his playground.”
I don’t perfectly embody the striking combination of love, patience, and justice but I’m glad that He does.
He also hates haughty eyes and lies (Proverbs 16). We fight the bad in big and small ways, are careful to do away with hate which is, after all, embryonic murder in our hearts. We do everything in our power to give Love to those we cross paths with, and live wisely in a world that’s not as it should be.
The perfect world is the correct target — and we have glimpses of it. Glorious, peaceful, beautiful tastes of perfect harmony, complete joy, and unbridled freedom. The glimpses awaken our longing for it. We use that longing to propel ourselves toward what we know should be and the One who desires it more than us and will make it come to be.
“Eden’s voice rises from a whisper to a song, and it’s easier to see what we were meant for: to love the world as God does, shaping it to reflect what was in the beginning, and, and even greater glory, what will be in the end.” -Andrew Peterson
Hopeful yet realistic. Wise but not bitter.
We are not resigned to or beaten by the current reality because we have hope for long-term justice and change.
And a month and a half ago we walked among tombs of familiar south Louisiana last names. We located our own family names carved into stone.
We went to bury her — their mother, my grandmother — and to cry together. We remembered something that I think she knew well: her life was not ending but instead changing. The change left us sad for us, but rejoicing for her.
I hate it and rage against it. As Nancy Pearcey says, “Death rips apart what God intended to be unified.” Namely body and soul, which were meant to be one.
At the death of Lazarus, Jesus felt some sort of furious indignation (according to the Greek) at the tragedy. What tragedy? I would imagine not only the passing of his friend but also seeing the reality of his creation broken by death.
This was not part of the design. And we feel the pain of it deeply. Death is not to be celebrated.
Yet at the same time, I feel a familiar acceptance of death. It is our lot for this time on earth and we are headed for it, wrinkles and all.
Death is a door, a seed, and — most importantly — death is conquered by Jesus. Literally no match for Jesus Christ. And he is not far removed from our suffering.
He brought his own body back from the dead and he’s bringing us and our bodies and creation along with him.
“The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)
Death. I hate this thing that we were not designed for. But with Christ, it is not my greatest enemy and somehow it’s okay to embrace our mortality for the time being.
So we grieve, we hug, we cry, we lament the ripping apart. Yet with hope and freedom in Christ who went ahead of us. And, of course, we LIVE joyfully in the here and now!
Who is it that has made a covenantal promise with the sky, marking the faithful rhythms of night and day?
Who pulls and pushes the tide of the sea and sets in motion the waxing and waning of the moon?
Who decreed the orderly laws of nature that govern the coming and going of seasons with unbreakable consistency?
Who has designed the function of organs and written meaning into the smallest cell?
“The Lord Almighty is his name.” (Jeremiah 31:35)
It is he “who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar.” (Jer. 31:35)
He says, “If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth…” (Jer. 33)
He has. We live by the rising and setting of the sun and his covenant with it.
He says, “If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time…” (Jer. 33)
We cannot. We lean our heads back to look at the sky, awed yet powerless.
And so we say, “Draw praises from us here in this cathedral of creation. Beneath this starry dome awaken our adoration. In this place where we are so very small — and yet so greatly loved.” (Doug McKelvey)
We are loved. The covenant-making one has come for us as well.
On Sunday I challenged myself to write a post every day this week about things I am thankful for. It is now almost midnight on Tuesday, so you can see how that’s going.
But, I want to express my gratitude anyway. No… more than express it. I want to call gratitude up from within my heart; stoke the fires of thankfulness. I want it to be more than a cursory “Wow, I am so privileged.”
I want there to be genuine, joyful, amazed gratitude at beauty that I know, behold, have, see.
And this practice of beckoning grateful hearts is even more necessary this year. There is so much to be grateful for and our beings are thirsty for the soul-anchoring, heart-stilling, joy-inducing effect of giving thanks.
This year we need to be more thankful than ever!
We need to mine the hardships for the beauty that comes from ashes.
We need to give extra thanks for the people we love so much.
We need to acknowledge the incredible gifts we’ve been given and trace every single one back to the Giver.
Nothing to be thankful for this year? Quite the contrary!
Everything to be thankful for.
We have a different perspective to know a bit more about how to rightly value and treasure what we have.
We have everything that was taken, which has taught us, grown us, emptied us, refined us.
We have the One who daily fills us and sustains us with life, gifts, and grace that we hardly even have eyes to see.
May we receive eagerly and willingly with empty hands and grateful hearts.
A few weeks ago, Cáceres put up a memorial for those who passed away from corona. I personally know more than one person who will stand before it and mourn for their family members.
Death is never welcome. We want life and we want it to the full and it’s right to long for that.
During lockdown, for 48 days I leaned out of our window to clap for the medical personnel who were, as they say in Spanish, “at the foot of the canon” — fighting for life, watching suffering, and holding hands with death. I thought of the nurses I know and love and they are plenty, both in the States as well as Spain.
Forty eight times I clapped for them and more than that I prayed for them and checked in on them.
Then one day I saw the video of someone I know being wheeled victoriously out of the ICU while all the medical staff did their own clapping, celebrating that one victory over corona.
We celebrate life because we were made for it. We were made for fullness of joy and vibrant life and wholeness.
I’ve thought more about death — in general, of friends or family dying, of my own death — in the past five months than I have in a long time. I hope I’m not the only one.
This virus threatens to take our health and even our very breath; send us to the grave early, if you’ll pardon the frankness.
I was meant to inhabit this physical, 5’5″ body for a number of years. But, my days are counted. I have a birth date as well as a death date. I will grow old and get wrinkly skin.
If I don’t die of corona, I will die of something else. It takes a while for this to sink in and I don’t love to ponder it, but we must.
GB Caird says, “All men must die, and the question mark which death sets over their existence is just as great whether they die late or soon, alone or in company, violently or in their beds. Their ultimate destiny is not determined either by the moment or by the manner of their death… But by the opening of the heavenly books and by the true and just judgments which proceeds from the great white throne. The idea that life on earth is so infinitely precious that the death which robs us of it must be the ultimate tragedy is [idolatry].”
Jesus is the one I want to walk me through the gates of death and represent me before that throne. We must have more to stand on in life than a probability that we will survive this crisis or the cheap encouragement that “everything will be okay.”
Everything in our lifetime on earth might not be “okay” and you or I or someone we love might not live another day.
Although that uncertainty is actually how life always is, this odd, unknown virus puts us face-to-face with our humanity, our fragility.
We feel deep in our bones that we were made for fullness of life, not death. We were made for a perfect, flourishing, rich garden. I take comfort in the fact that the God who created us for that full life swooped down in human flesh to taste human suffering, to die and turn death into merely a seed that brings life.
I find myself afraid of the process of dying, but not death itself.
We westerners have a limited perspective on the supernatural. In general, we have eyes to see our physical life and little else.
It’s worthwhile to admit that we know so little. What if death isn’t the end — what if it’s the beginning? What if this life is not the most precious thing but merely a shadow of real life?
I’m currently studying the book of Revelation. That, combined with reading CS Lewis’ Space Trilogy, has helped me begin to imagine what is happening in the kingdom we are often unaware of and with the King we dare to ignore. Let’s peek behind the curtain and catch a glimpse of what we can’t see with our earthly eyeballs.
There is a King on a throne who is wiser than I can imagine. When I’ve chosen the privilege of connecting with him, trusting Him, and joining His kingdom, fullness of life starts now and continues even after I change this body for a brand new one.
In Christ, the one who conquered death, death can not steal from me.
““The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – Jesus (John 10:10)
One night at an observatory meant one impressive telescope, a sore neck from craning to look at the heavens, many words I didn’t understand, precious glimpses of the reality beyond view of the naked eye, and a lesson on our solar system that blew me away.
Did you know that there are stars that are a few hundred times the size of our sun? I didn’t. Forget twinkle, twinkle little star. More like burn, burn, gigantic ball of fire.
Take that fact about how big some of the stars are and remember that our sun is much larger than earth (where we feel dwarfed when we simply go to a big mountain) and your mind is ready to blow. We can’t conceive of the size of the known universe and certainly can’t imagine what exists that we don’t yet know about.
The theoretical lesson at the observatory ended and we marched outside to bend over the telescope. We sat in a circle around the machine, awaiting our turn to peek behind the curtain of the naked eye into the heavens.
Saturn’s rings are real — I saw them. The moon is riddled with craters. And, even under the telescope, there are groups of flaming stars that look like someone spilled salt.
Space has always scared me. The black, gravity-less unknown. It can feel like we are on a planet of life travelling through an abyss of scary nothingness.
But what do I know about it from looking up from little ol’ earth into the world of celestial bodies, gaseous planets, and ginormous stars that burn and soar?
We know nothing in the scheme of things and we don’t know what we don’t know. Maybe space is pulsing with life itself and we are living a shadow of it here on earth. What do we know?
This world is magical and glorious and if there is even more glory and fullness of life beyond what we see, what must it be like?
In C.S. Lewis’ novel “Out of the Silent Planet,” the main character finds himself hurtling from earth to another planet.
He comments on his fear of space: “Some moments of cold fear he had; but each time they were shorter and more quickly swallowed up in a sense of awe which made his personal fate seem wholly insignificant. He could not feel that they were an island of life journeying through an abyss of death. He felt almost the opposite.”
He goes on to talk about the majesty of traveling through space:
“He wondered how he could ever have thought of planets, even of the Earth, as islands of life and reality floating in a deadly void. Now, with a certainty which never after deserted him, he saw the planets—the “earths” he called them in his thought—as mere holes or gaps in the living heaven—excluded and rejected wastes of heavy matter and murky air, formed not by addition to, but by subtraction from, the surrounding brightness. And yet, he thought, beyond the solar system the brightness ends. Is that the real void, the real death? Unless . . . he groped for the idea . . . unless visible light is also a hole or gap, a mere diminution of something else. Something that is to bright unchanging heaven as heaven is to the dark, heavy earths.”
Doesn’t this imagining of space stoke your imagination?
The reality we see on earth is not the only reality. There is much we cannot see and are incapable of knowing. And I think it’s good to let my mind run wild with the possibilities of the majesty and glory and beauty and brimming life that is beyond what we see with our eyes.
The insignificance I feel before a great mountain is nothing compared to my insignificance (and even fear) before the galaxies. Yet the Being that oversees the celestial bodies was stuffed into the skin of a man —dignifying humanity, coming near, closing the gap, and bringing life. Our existence on this small planet might be minuscule but it is not overlooked, unwanted, or unimportant.
In the evening, before the sun goes down, the swallows take over the Cáceres sky.
I went for a sunset run with a friend and as we stopped to admire the painted sky, I looked up at the swallows and said, “I just love those birds because it looks like they’re just flying around for the joy of it.”
They don’t look like they’re flying to get somewhere important. They flit around and dive through thin air as if it’s their invisible roller coaster. Maybe they’re all surprise-attacking little bugs for their dinner or maybe some of them truly are flying around simply for fun.
You know how kids run just because? Outside play with their friends almost always includes running. Or, without thinking twice they, they break into a trot to get somewhere quickly. I did that today. I needed to get something from the other side of the yard and I ran for it. Why not?
Life isn’t always a piece of cake but I think we can sprinkle in enough just-because joy to get us through the days and then some.
Flit around the sky, run and skip through the lawn, dance across the kitchen, and sing for the sake of making music.