Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Upper Room

She dreamt she was in a strange room. It was rounded from floor to ceiling, like the inside of the top of a dome. The walls were silver, white, and gold, painted in intricate geometric shapes. It was dusty and empty and looked like no one had been there in a long, long while. The room seemed to call her across time. It would be many years before she would see it again.

She used to cause trouble. Those were interesting times and she'd led others in resistance, so she was assigned followers. They kept an eye on her. Maybe guards. Maybe spies. She came to recognize them in crowds, on the street, in the most unlikely places. She'd tried to speak to them many times, but they would shrink back into the shadows without a sound. They had names, of course, but she never had the opportunity to ask what they were. In her mind she called them Bless You and Keep You. People become what you expect of them afterall.

Bless You was an assassin's son. He was bleak, hopeless, effortlessly depressed, but his handsomeness drew everyone to him. It annoyed him. He wanted to be left alone, desperately alone, but eyes were always gathering around and giving him attention like he was lost or sad. He hated how weak it made him feel. It didn't help that he was a terrible spy and the person he and his cohort were watching knew full well they were there. She'd given them nicknames. The indignity of it! He hated her too.

Keep You was alone in the world. He'd had a grandmother and a son at one time. Now he had no one but himself. He was a spy because he was invisible. He had no trace to leave and no one to hide. He could get away with murder. Keep You was nobody. He didn't exist. He tried to look strong, defiant, and frightening, but instead looked like a man on his way to somewhere else, a destiny where his chains would fall off. Keep You had the appearance of someone on his way to freedom. He inspired people. He made them smile. He was a light in a dark place and it made him feel defenseless.

They were her followers. 

A chilled wind swept between the buildings surrounding the square and bounced off the cobblestones at her feet. It struck her hard and made her want to get indoors as quickly as possible, so she took off. She ran like the wind. Her two watchers chased her. Someone who runs away is guilty of something, they figured. So they ran with her. 

She was slow and they were very, very fast, but could not catch her. It seemed like many days or even years went by. Forever passed as they ran. They continued to follow because that was what they were told to do and they hadn't questioned it until now. Why couldn't they reach her? 

She was drawn to the cathedral by the spire reaching toward the sky. She'd seen it from a distance and knew it would be warm inside. She slowed a bit to wait for her charges and they entered the building just behind her. Only the breath of God separated them. All three took to the steps of a staircase, each just one step ahead of the other.

At the top was a simple wooden door, propped open wide. Inside, a room with rounded walls. She entered in a flash. It was as she remembered, but now clean and radiating bright light. It was like the dream, but this time the walls seemed to be singing. Music moved within and without. She was certain the entire world could hear it. The lyrics were a great call, beckoning and whispering, "Here."

Bless You was the first to enter behind her. He jolted in and stopped suddenly with shock. He saw nothing. His eyes could not focus on the walls, the colors, even the shape of the room. He did not know what he was looking at.

Keep You entered next, his heart full of contrition and shame. His eyes took a moment to adjust to the bright light. He wanted to hide. His sins were too great. But more than his desire to hide was his hunger to be seen. Would the light accept him? 

She sat down in the center of the floor. Waiting. Praying. Interceeding. She looked like she'd been there the whole time, not running, not bounding up impossible steps.

Keep You slumped onto the floor next to her. 

Bless You stood still in terror. He was in darkness. As far as he knew, they'd entered a void. He could not make out a single detail, not the design on the curved walls nor the song they sang. He was alone in a room that was built to welcome him.

Keep You wept because the light could see him. He was not alone. He saw with new eyes, everything, the brushstrokes of the paint, the music, even the thoughts of the person they'd been trailing. They all said the same thing: Here.

But Bless You could see none of it. 

The distance between the darkness and the light was thin, like a veil or sheet. They were all in the temple, but two knew and one did not. The two called out to the one, but he did not hear them. He didn't know what they were saying or even that they were there. So they remained, waiting for him to realize. Forever passed, days, years, but they did not move. They waited.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:11

Saturday, September 29, 2018

At the End

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.


Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. 

Jude 1:20-24

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Monday, September 24, 2018


He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, 
and death shall be no more, 
neither shall there be mourning, 
nor crying, nor pain anymore, 
for the former things have passed away. 

Revelation 21:3-4

Friday, September 21, 2018


A church spire reached the clouds just past the river, almost beyond her view but close enough to glimpse its majesty. It was topped in gold, of course, and reflected the glimmer of the sunset. In this village the sky touched the Earth. 

She'd come to the riverside with weariness in her heart. The day was bleak, rainy, and kept from her embrace by a million things to do. But perspective changes everything, even an unwilling heart.

The ducks paddled by two by two. The rain pulled back up into the clouds, leaving mist in its place. Music poured from a nearby window. Cello, she thought. Its melody swept away the hurried day with rest and thankfulness. That's how the world changed. She went home and made tea. Everything looked different. It was good.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The time I met Bono

In September of 1992, my college roomate Karen and I drove almost six hours from Richmond, Virginia to Columbia, South Carolina to see my favorite band. To say I loved U2 is an understatement. I had been listening to them for years, even the B-sides. 

I had just finished reading a book about them, "Unforgettable Fire," a biography by Eamon Dunphy. It was a pretty deep tale, maybe a little too personal in parts, I thought. He talked about how the faith of some of the band members had shaped their lives. It was encouraging to me because I had just become a Christian. As I read the book and listened to their newer songs I wondered if some of that had changed. I don't know how else to say it. I wanted to ask Bono if he still loved Jesus. It might not surprise anyone who reads this blog that I prayed to do exactly that.

We arrived at the stadium in the early afternoon, around 1:30. Karen stayed in the car studying. I wandered, magnetically drawn to a group of superfans nearby. They were huddled in a mass of adoration. It was like we were all on some kind of cool pilgrimage. One of them turned to me and excitedly said, "They're just about to arrive!"

WHAT. Really?

A heartbeat later, a long white limousine pulled up, stopped at our gathering crowd, and out got The Edge!

Everyone screamed, "Bono!" 

The Edge looked a little disappointed and got right back in the limo. Ha ha! I kind of wish I had yelled, "The Edge," but I hadn't even yelled, "Bono!" I was silent as a stone.

I was really young when this happened. I feel a little ridiculous writing it now. 

Bono got out next.

You know when someone says the crowd went wild? This crowd did just that. Stark raving mad wild. There was a wall of them and I looked around for a way in. There, behind Bono, was a little path of no people. I ambled over and simply walked up the path, realizing too late it was Bono's escape path and his security guys were having none of it. One of them was shoving me aside! But Bono turned around, seemed to size me up as non-threatening, and told his guard, "It's all right, Derek." Derek let me past. 

So I got to stand right next to Bono. Someone out there probably has a picture of it and I bet I look terrified. Why? I don't know, but I bet that's how I look. You know what I said? That's right. Nothing. Not a word! Bono signed my tour program. Our hair touched. It was the era of big hair, we weren't that close. 

This is a ridiculous story, isn't it? I am sorry to say that's it. I didn't ask what I came to ask. I honestly felt like that moment miraculously occurred. I could have easily asked my question. It probably would have been a cool thing. Oh, regret!

A few years later I was sitting on my couch with my boys, reading something and remembering that day, and I wondered what he would have said. You know what came to me? Well, not regret, just the thought that I was the only one disappointed there. God didn't need the question asked, He already knew how Bono felt about Him.  

I bet he would have said yes. I mean, come on, right?

I still have a little regret.

By Grace

But God,

being rich in mercy, 

because of the great love with which he loved us, 

even when we were dead in our trespasses, 

made us alive together with Christ

—by grace you have been saved

Ephesians 2:4-5

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Day Before Tomorrow

It is the glory of God to hide. 
But the glory of kings to seek and find. 

Proverbs 25:2

What will the future be like?

Adolph sat alone in his golden room. Its art was imbedded in the walls, its grand luxury chains around his feet. He was a man held in place by wealth and position. He was a king. A slave to history. What would he do on behalf of all mankind? 

He hated his name. It was his, no doubt, but it tarnished his legacy. No one wanted to say it. No one wanted to remember the past that had brought them here. He tried changing it, adding an o or an accent or choosing an entirely new one, but he was who he was and the name held onto him.

He had pushed many evils in his time, a lie leaned on until it seemed true, a deception here or there, a threat to bend a subject to his will, force when needed, fear always. But now he wished he could go back in time and change it all. The destruction he had wrought was more insidious than he'd imagined it would be. It was infecting people he needed to be healthy and weakening the world to ruin. He couldn't even fill his army with good men anymore. What is a leader without a great army?

In new humility, he prayed for a sign. He asked the God of Heaven to give a message for him to a person with no grandeur. That way he would know who had sent it. Even the God of Heaven could find no such person. Each human being is grand. There is no one insignificant. 

Instead, the Almighty sent a bear. It left the forest at dawn and strode easily on muscled haunches to the palace, greeting the stunned guards and courtiers with silence. It remained so until the king heard there was a beast in the court and, knowing innately this was the answer to his prayer, burst into the courtyard in his chamber garments and approached the bear. His people were aghast, but curious. 

The animal spoke to the king, loudly and clearly, with incomprehensible words. He didn't understand, of course, but waited for a translation. It continued in growls, roaring, and ear-splitting bellows for several days because it was a message with all the detail of the world. No one moved in all that time. They were like statues, confused and worried about what it meant. 

Days turned from bright to hushed to brilliant and, when he was done, the bear left and the king stumbled into his throne room and fell asleep on the floor. When he awoke he miraculously understood all that the bear had said. The message was simple. He would one day watch the world collapse and change in ways he could not imagine, and not slowly, but all at once. He understood it deeply. What was would cease to be and what was not would become.

Gaul was communist in those days. It was what they wanted, so they worked and made it happen. All of them together, like a parade or an orchestra. They wanted to be slaves and so they were, boldly. He found it disgusting, but the bear told him he would see the evil he had wrought show up and destroy other places instead of where he aimed it, farther from his intent than he could have dreamed. He would watch the fire he had set burn elsewhere, as though it had leapt of its own freewill. He would try to put it out and fail. 

He would live in peace and pray for those he had harmed. With great heartache and weeping he would cry out for God to forgive him and break their chains. He never had the nerve to ask that the fire come back on him. He knew it could and he was devastated to realize he would rather watch the rest of the world burn than to feel the heat himself.

The island of Prague was free. If you wanted to make piles of gold or advance your interests or walk along the way with somewhere meaningful to go, that is where you went. If you wanted quiet, you did not go to Prague. It was alive and noisy and moving. Solitude was found elsewhere.

Oil poured from the Church of the East. In time it became known as the Rejoicing Church of the East because there was simply no other word for what was happening. The healing of the West comes from the East. The Spirit flowed from it in waves no one could stop. No one even wanted to.

Praise swept the Earth in those days, gangsters and fools and wanderers raised their hands in it like American evangelicals, like fans or worshipers or souls being pulled from a sunken ship in a frozen sea. Sinner joined with Saint. Everywhere. 

It wasn't what anyone had imagined it would be like. It was good and it was terrible. 

The king repented and interceded and wept. He had long been forgiven, but still tried to work for it, to repair, to make changes and redeem himself, until the day he realized he did not have the ability to do it. He could only be saved from the fire like everyone he had harmed. He could only be rescued.

Monday, September 3, 2018

John 14:19

Yet a little while and the world 
will see me no more, 

but you will see me. 

Because I live, 
you also will live. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018


I will give 
you a new heart 
and put 
a new spirit in you; 
I will remove 
from you your 
heart of stone 
and give you 
a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26