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The Pregnant Pause

It was our early marriage season “B.C” (before children) and we were young, wild and more or less “free”. Thanks to the USAF, we were enjoying a period of relative stability. For the first time in our recent history the pay was steady,  we had a solid place to live and felt the freedom to enjoy and explore our surroundings.   Life was good.

We lived in a small Illinois suburb just outside of St. Louis, no more than 40-minutes from a great zoo, a public museum, and a large city park with miles of trails for biking. Escaping as often as we could, time was spent taking in all the city had to offer.

This also included public performances from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. One of the lesser-known secrets of my soul is the love of good, classical music— Mozart in particular— and up until then, I had never seen a live orchestral performance. Having this kind of access was a treat for my senses and beauty-hungry soul.

To watch so many highly-skilled individual artists come together as a whole and fill a room with centuries-old music was a feast.  More modern pieces were presented as well and it was the first-time experience of one in particular that I’ll never forget: Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”.

The Pregnant Pause

To write this moment requires a loosening of my vocabulary— there’s simply no other fitting approach. Imagine: the sensation of being surrounded— nearly drowning in the sound of stringed instruments, spinning out and unraveling in an almost unbroken flow of sound. Swaying and swirling, ribbons of music unfurl, build and fill up every bit of available space within the possible range of hearing and come in so steady, without hastening or quickening the pace. You know you’re being taken someplace but you’re not quite sure where.

Note upon note is drawn between bow and string, as a pool of instruments measures out and pours upon the audience in a slow, steady stream…the sound now drawing us upward, drawing our ear and eye-gaze higher and higher still— narrowing, focusing….suspending over us as far to the peak of purity as it can go until you know— there’s nowhere left to go…       not one.   step.   more.

Then silence.
Absolute          silence.

As full as it had been only moments before, the room now echoes with spacious silence as the last few vaporous notes trail away and become memory.

And it lasts for quite a long time. The silence.  Almost to the point you may wonder if the piece is over and yet the Conductor doesn’t move— his hands are still in the air. The instrumentalists remain stock still with bows suspended against their strings, frozen in that silence.           Waiting.

It’s nerve-wracking, the ominous wait, the absence of sound and the fantastical fullness of the silence. The contrast is mesmerizing. Then…right about the time you’re certain you can take it no more— surely something must be wrong, the Conductor moves ever so slightly and the notes ease back into place falling in a much quieter decrescendo, working their way towards the finish line, backing away from the silence that was wholly necessary to the piece.

The silence that was planned all along. The silence that makes the sound more beautiful.

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This is my soul on this and most every Good Friday.

As the events of Holy week have once again unfolded before me, I’ve done my best to walk as a Pilgrim with others alongside our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ all the way to the cross.      All the way to today.

All the way from the clash with the religious leaders in the temple, to Mary’s alabaster offering and on through the cacophonous cries of Hosanna! lining the Jerusalem roadside.

I stood outside the door of the Upper Room and saw the kneeling and the washing, the bread and cup lifted up, and the hand against His on the table. I heard Him sing a song.  I stumbled along to Gethsemane and tried to keep my soul keen and awake for this one hour as the tension built and the blood-sweat trailed down his cheeks, soon to be kissed and called, “Rabbi”.

I stood in the shadows with Peter, saw the spitting mockery, the lashes and then heard the rooster crow in the distance and those same Hosanna voices turning inward on themselves, dipping into their own souls… my soul… and twisting back out into an ugly…CRUCIFY! 

The crown, the cross, the crowd.
The forgiveness, the forsaking, the cry… it is finished!

Then silence.

Sundown, the tomb and nightfall leading into the long    silence     of Saturday.

These are the moments that get me the most. As I try to imagine the grief of Peter and the dazed fear and disappointment of the disciples—maybe mixed with disgust— who had to be reliving every one of these moments over and over in their minds. Remembering just a week ago and now THIS? Wondering, “How did we get here?   Now what”?

That soul-stifling silence that you never expect to end. Death and the grave. Shattered dreams and expectations lay crushed beneath the weight of the enormous silence of Saturday.

Yes…Sunday is coming but Saturday doesn’t know it… yet.

Somewhere in the early morning hours on that 3rd day, God moved ever so slightly and the song continued. The stone was rolled away and the body wasn’t there. Because He lives!

Here we are:  with the possibility of being the people of Sunday and the risen Savior who can find measured joy in this Holy week, remembering our forgiveness purchased in these unfolding events and all the prophesy foretold of them since the Dawn of Time— we can anchor ourselves in these moments because–HALLELUJAH!– the story…the song— didn’t end in the silence of Saturday.   Not at all. 

The Witness

It’s something we must remember. It’s stated in one of the earliest creeds we know today how He suffered, he died and was buried. On the 3rd day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures. He is seated at the right hand of the Father and….. He will come again to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will have no end. 

He’s coming back.

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Spending Well At Christmas

Picture yourself: hunkered down with a  watchful eye trained in all directions, scanning for any sign of enemy movement. Ears straining, listening intently for any foreign sound. The tension is mounting; attack is inevitable— it’s about that time.

Spending Well

Almost out of nowhere, the buzz of aircraft fills the skies seeming to come from every direction. Hundreds of chutes deploy sailing through the air and firing in your direction. The noise is deafening, sulphuric smoke fills the air, clouding your senses; blocking your view. But you’re prepared; unloading round after round you and your team take out every. single. one. The ammunition is gone but with no movement from enemy territory, you’re feeling  it: victory.

As the madness gives way to silence, the signal comes to take stock of the casualties. Parachutes and their fallen lay in heaps around the field, hung up in trees, swaying in the breeze. Cautiously you edge forward, prepared for any sudden movement— except there is none.

Not a sound.
Not even blood.
Something isn’t right.

One by one, the reports come in that every “casualty” is a rubber dummy. Strapped with explosives, made to look like enemy paratroopers, you and your team have just spent all your energy and ammunition on decoys.

Worse, some of your own team got caught in the crossfire and now lay wounded. Worse still, the enemy…the REAL enemy is still coming and you’ve got nothing left to give. There’s no other choice but to regroup, retreat and give up this piece of territory.

Or be captured.

I first heard the basics of this story (which I’ve obviously laced with a divine bit of “holy imagination) in a Let My People Think broadcast entitled “Lessons from War in a Battle for Ideas ” by Apologist Ravi Zacharius. He’d been visiting a museum in France on the recent anniversary of the Normandy invasion and this story, along with a few others, gave him much to think about and share.

Because I have the American perspective of history and of living on the victorious side of the record books, I can smile a bit at the ingenuity of the soldiers and strategists who pulled off such a daring stunt. I mean,  HA! Rubber dummies! A purely genius moment of classic Psyops warfare. I suppose I do feel a little badly for how stupid those other guys must have felt but seriously?! Who’d fall for that?

Of course, there’s a valuable takeaway, which is the reason the story was told by a Christian for Christians. The point made is intended to help us recognize how each of us is also, at some level, engaging daily in a very real battle with a very real enemy. This enemy, satan, has most of his (temporary) successes bound up in moments like these.

Rather than attack us directly, satan can find better ways to make us think we’re being attacked. Before we know it, he’s drawn our fire and we’re giving it all we’ve got; wiping out our energy and reserves, our kindness and compassion and ultimately, our precious minutes and gospel witness.  All of it spent… on rubber dummies. Often then discovering that others— some we love or ought to love— were wounded in the skirmish and we’re the ones holding a smoking gun.

But they looked so real!

Rubber dummies take on many forms and they have their seasonal attire as well. Currently, there’s red cups, Starbucks and a variety of other holiday expressions. In today’s world they’re couched and cloaked in hashtags, sometimes wearing a particular skin color, creed or a badge. Sometimes they just don’t “do Jesus” and worship the right way any day of the week.  There are many others.

Each scenario holds just enough truth blended with a basket full of lies so that at first glance we’re deceived and go full throttle.  When the wreckage clears we’re left wondering how did we get so distracted AGAIN? How did we lose so much territory and waste so much time over something like THIS? It’s hard— because on the surface many of these things matter but I feel pretty confident in saying that Jesus hasn’t intended for us to stay and engage life at surface levels where most of these things take place.

Reading this morning from A Slice of Infinity, I was reminded again how the call of the Christian is to live as He did, counter-culturally, which is NOT the same thing as living anti-culturally. To be sure, it’s a life of constant tension, as we seek to engage the lost and model Christ to a rapidly disintegrating culture, often while having to simultaneously represent our faith and turn the other cheek.  A lot.

However, it’s our ability to embrace Christ and engage others in the midst of this tension while guarding our reactions that will— and must— look so dramatically different from the culture around us. It’s seldom a public, showy show-down.. it’s more often the humble and quiet, salt and light business of just doing the right things in the right ways for the right reasons that point others to Him.

The Weight of Glory2

It’s the willingness to live a life of surrender and standing, with God’s help, in the ever-widening cultural chasm that threatens to swallow us whole. Standing with our eyes so fixed on Jesus that when those rubber dummies descend from the skies and the pandemonium swirls all around, we are able to hear Him whisper, “Steady. Steady.” and instead of “unloading” we use our witness well.

At Christmastime …yes, please for the love of all that is holy…especially now when people all around are so confused about the meaning of Christmas or have divorced it from any meaning altogether.  So that maybe.. just maybe this would be the year that others might begin to see the meaning behind how we live because of the Hopeful Reason we have to truly celebrate and then… just maybe, like the shepherds keeping watch, they also might say, Wow…

“Let us go and see this thing made known to us by the Lord.”

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Hand to Hand Combat on the Battlefield of the Mind

We used to live about 40 minutes from a really cool interactive science museum. Budget cuts closed the doors but my kids loved going there and I regret not going more often. The displays were mostly the same—things designed to illustrate major-big scientific principles brought down to an appealing level of hands-on understanding for all ages.

Occasionally they’d host special exhibits and I recall the year there was a military science area with a variety of instruments and tools the military used to conduct “business”. This included the very cool, “PSYOPs” exhibit . It was fascinating to learn how battles could be fought— and won— without a drop of blood being shed.

Loudspeakers and leaflets containing carefully planned and planted words were used to psychologically suggest ideas to frighten, subdue or wear down the morale of the opposing forces, causing them to surrender and reducing the loss of life. Strikingly simple and yet utterly complex it’s a weapon that’s been used down through the ages— completely modern and yet as old as time.              Effective.

Hand to Hand Combat

It began in the Garden, you know. Those words spoken by the smooth-talking Devil-serpant “Did God really say…?” And it worked. The seeds of doubt were planted, the defining Word of God was twisted “just a hair” and the world came tumbling down. Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story. But it’s also wasn’t the end of the devil and his schemes—for now, on this side of heaven, we’re doing battle against them on some level every day.

Someone close to me recently commented on how they don’t watch the news or read from news sites anymore because it’s always so terrible. They’d rather not know. On the surface it sounds irresponsible but stepping back, I completely recognize how willing I’d be to block it all out if I could—if only for a moment. I get it.

There are days…and some hard-to-get-to-sleep nights when I’m nearly overwhelmed by those thoughts. My head hits the pillow… just seconds from sweet sleep and some reckless idea breaks through and all my “Mama Feels” come rushing to the surface. Suddenly, sleep becomes an impossibility as every frightening scenario and “what-if” begins to play itself out with no end in sight.

Transform my mind?!??  Heck, it’s times like these when I feel like I need to just “gut the sucker” and start over!   

The painfully near disease and dysfunction of the world looms large as the headlines scream and cleverly insinuate some “new and improved” twisted-up version of the same bloody Garden curse over and over again. 

Here’s this daily ridiculous “all you can eat buffet” of information-potential— half truths and full-blown lies— swirling in and out of every moment and instead of feeling more secure and informed on most days, personally, I’d  like to board up the windows and exit quietly.

It seems like a lost cause to even begin trying to make a difference.

His Light Shines

Believe that and our enemy “wins”.  No, not the war, but unless we engage in the battle, satan can win the moment. He can force us underground and snatch away our ability to care, invest or conceive of seizing hold of the answers left by Jesus Christ. If we listen only to the lies, or entertain the doubts and questions a little too long, we can feel helpless and hopeless along with the rest of the world.

It’s Satan’s version of “PSYOPs”….attempting to demoralize us and forget he’s a DEFEATED ENEMY….creating doubt, divisions and distractions causing us to fight against one another instead of finding common ways to work together with God.

I’m hosting a little bible study with a handful of girls on my street. This past week we talked about this sort of “stinkin’ thinkin” and shared about the sorts of things that can cause worry and fear.  I think they were actually relieved to discover they’re not the only ones… even I still struggle with “stinkin thinkin”.

Together, we talked about where to find help: our “Family Album”, our battle manual, the Bible. Randomly I popped it open and read aloud Psalm 119:73-82. The Psalmist records the many ways we are troubled and tormented by the “insolent”, falsehood and and fear… but God will be our comfort and help.

It was the very thing we’d been talking about.

The Limitations of God at Work

What I want them to know is the very thing I need to remember— this Word of God and time spent with Him talking and listening in prayer— is exactly what we need to fight this battle.  It sounds too simple— almost cliché and yet THIS is the most powerful weapon we have against every scheme of the enemy: prayer.

When the lies, the fears and the confusion starts to spin us out of control— we can stand on the Truth and engage in the battle with some powerful “hand to hand” combat.

Not that it’s easy work….
Not that it’s easy to remember…

The hands that took the nails and then rolled the stone away clearing the path for us to get back to God.

It’s hands holding on to the truth spelled out in the living, unchanging Word of God who really did promise He’d walk with us through every valley and on every mountaintop and be our Guide as we go.

Then it’s hands getting to work— helping in whatever way they can  holding on to the trembling hands of another giving comfort and walking the hard road— or sharing in the joyful work of serving shoulder to shoulder…faithfully doing whatever it is God has set before them.

Glowing light of God

It’s hands raised in worship…in surrender… in faith and trust.
Even for the things we don’t yet understand.
Even for the nights that seem so terribly dark and long.    Even… and especially… now.Lorretta signature

Linking with Jennifer at #TellHisStory