Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gracious Father

    Papa God led me back to an entry in my journal from one year ago yesterday morning during my time with Him. When I got there, I was strengthened once again in my growing conviction that "faith" is what grows in us as we become more and more God-fascinated and God-blinded. The more I consider Jesus' words about Father as recorded in the Gospels, the more I am convinced that He was so captured by His Gracious Father that trusting God was the only possible response He could make to everything and everyone.
     This was becoming clear to me even one year ago when I was still very much recovering from the deepest blow to my God confidence that I have ever endured. I invite you, as I sometimes do, to listen in on my conversation with Papa (from April 27, 2011 journal entry) and see if you can see what I was seeing even back then.
     Papa, it hurts, of course, to go back one year, but I see there the renewing of the One Thing life, and I also see more clearly than ever how I got "stuck on me" rather than "lost in You" during the battle. I feel no condemnation or regret about this—not any more anyway—but there is something here that is hugely important. I am more convinced than ever that “real faith” comes from being so in love with you, so connected with you (or more accurately, living in increasing awareness of the unity with you we already have with you) that we cannot help but hear you and trust you. But I cannot get there unless you lead me, and there is far more here than just laying hold of healing. I look to you.
     What if it really were this simple? What if the heart of our walk of "faith" were to become more and more aware of God as a Gracious Father? What if we saw Him as He really is superimposed over every circumstance and situation we encounter? 
     But simple is not necessarily easy, as I have said before. It's hard to discern how to get to know Papa God better. A.W. Tozer said that one who would know God must spend much time with Him. I am convinced that this is true, but the busy-ness of life works against this for most of us. Yet trying harder to be with Him doesn't work, does it? So what can we do? I am not sure I even want to make any suggestions about this! Perhaps rather I will simply invite you to be sure to hang out with folks who stir up your passion for God and to ask Papa to show you His ways. Perhaps I will simply pray that this brief blog will ignite both hunger and hope in your heart. Perhaps I will ask our Gracious Father to reveal Himself to all whom He ignites this hunger in. Yes, perhaps that's what this little child of Abba will do.

Tom, one of Abba's little boys

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hidden Heroes

     I have found myself weeping of late as the tragic story of Thomas Kinkade's last few years comes to light following his death last week on Good Friday. The stark contrast between his peaceful and idyllic scenes and his personal life causes me to feel an angst I am having a hard time putting words to. And a thousand questions arise. How could such a troubled soul produce such beauty? How is it that the beauty failed to find a home in his heart? Did his paintings reflect an unfulfilled longing in his heart? If so, how is it that he missed the glorious truth that life in Jesus, even in the midst of a broken world, can be more wonderful than the best of Thom's scenes?
     I doubt that Papa is going to answer most of those questions about this "fallen hero," though, so I choose to write instead about the unsung, hidden heroes among us who, by their quiet and mostly hidden lives urge us on in our own pursuit of God and His Kingdom.
     But first, a word about heroes. I am fairly sure that it's okay to admire and be encouraged by folks whose lives do in fact urge us on. That's what the writer of the book of Hebrews seems to be doing in the Hebrews 11 "Hall of Trusting Ones." But I am also fairly sure that what we admire and respect about folks is what's truly important. It seems to me that when someone's gift or ability shines brightly (no matter what the context) God's intention is for us to think of Him as the Giver and Creator and not look at the person with awe. This is not to diminish the fact that someone may have worked hard to develop a gift but rather to suggest that it's best for us to think mostly of God when we see a thing of beauty given through one of His creatures. That way we can admire the gift, thank God for the gift, but not be distracted by the sometimes broken container in which the gift was contained. Just a thought. But I think it's in line with what I read in Scripture. It seems to me that it's best to admire those whom God admires, and He admires and commends things like character, faithfulness, selfless courage, etc., things that can be found in anyone who knows Him well.
     So having said that, I find my mind running to some mostly hidden heroes of the faith. I think of Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, a very obscure disciple who shows up very rarely in the Gospels or in church history, who himself did no great things but who did bring his brother to Jesus, and Simon Peter did great things! I think of Ananias, who courageously obeyed God's instruction to go to Saul of Tarsus to pray for him and also, no doubt, be the first to disciple the future great Apostle Paul. Ananias fades from the scene quickly, of course, never to be heard from again in Scripture, but who cannot admire his courage and obedience, and also wonder what he imparted to his famous new convert?
     And then I think of the thousands down through history who have exhibited courage and faith that stuns us even as it also challenges us. I think of Harriet Anne Jacobs, a woman who even as a slave held tightly to her honor and sought to live a life of integrity and grace (Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself). I think of the many unknown single mothers, abandoned by less-than-honorable men, who choose to raise their children in the ways of God and lift them out of the cycle of violence and poverty that pervades our inner cities. I think of the many pastors of small churches in obscure places who don't pilfer the church funds or run off with the choir director, who never grow large churches but who faithfully serve the community in which God has placed them, struggling with a model of church that doesn't quite work but unable to see anything different. Yes, they are my heroes, too! I think of the many Tabithas (see Acts 9:36-41) who quietly serve others in humble but practical ways whose reward will indeed be great in Heaven but who may feel like they should do greater things than just serve. (I wonder if Tabitha's story is in the Bible mostly to encourage the many like her who "speak with their hands" more than their lips!).
     I could go on forever with this list, I think, but perhaps by now you are catching what I am really saying! It's this: that true influence and impact in God's Kingdom is rarely showy and attention-getting. And that opens the way for us normal folks to be encouraged by people just like us. I may have no great gifts to offer my King or the world, but I can be faithful! And it also helps us admire the Giver of the more visible gifts without becoming entangled in the marred condition of the some of the vessels through which the gift flows.
     I weep then, for the brokenness of Thomas Kinkade, and I am sorry for how the world is using his story to try to attack his faith. But I smile, too, because I know that God's Kingdom stands firm and is quietly lit up to a radiant brilliance by many hidden heroes who in their own way were/are also "painters of light."

Looking for treasure in hidden places.

Tom, one of Abba's little children