The Flip Side of the Fast

The mystery-filled flip side to the fast is communion.

Jesus speaks of us abstaining from food.  And he also speaks of us eating a supper in remembrance of him.  One of the things about mystery is that it calls us to consider wider contexts and connections, even if we can’t quite express these connections in words.

There is mystery in Jesus words and actions about blood, water, and wine.

It’s no big secret that Jesus first public miracle was the turning of water into wine.  But It’s worth contemplating this in terms of what happens later.   For example, there is the Lord’s Supper: Wine is no longer just wine, but it is Jesus’ blood.  And there is Jesus telling us that he is the living water, and if we drink from him we will never be thirsty.

I don’t think this is precisely a cycle.  It’s a little more like an apparent duality, except it’s with 3… A triality?

Jesus coming into the world is his turning the water into the wine.  And his death is the turning of the wine into his blood.  And his blood is the living water, from which we can drink and never grow thirsty.

I think that there are many aspects to this mystery.  I think it’s worth noticing that our boring, natural lives, outside of rebirth and Jesus are water.   But there is something in the process of going from grape to wine that is emblamitic of Jesus’ sacrifice and our own rebirth.   In the age before wine was made thousands of miles away and purchased at a store, they would have been much more in touch with this.  The grape is smashed, killed, destroyed.  That which lay dormant within the grape is released through this death… and it combines with something else, in the process of fermentation, to create a substance which, when imbided, brings us outside (a little bit) of our mundane reality.

Beware the Vosh

There is a voice that rises up in me.  It is not my voice.  It is not God’s.  If I had to give it a name, I’d call it the Voice of Should-Have.  Vosh, for short.

Vosh speaks the words that I think I’m supposed to think.  He tells me to feel the feelings I’m supposed to feel.  Vosh is a voice for the way the world works.  He’s a voice for the way the world thinks.

Vosh is a master mimic.  He can pitch his voice very much like that still, quiet voice of the holy spirit.  Other times he speaks so much like my own self that I barely know it’s not me.

When I think about the importance of being child-like, of wandering, of exploring, of being open, with out a goal or agenda, Vosh chimes in.

He speaks up.  He calls me out.  He can be quite intimidating, when he has to be.

Vosh says things like, “Your spirituality is too important to do those things, be an explorer.”

At first, I try to bargain and clarify with Vosh.  There are vital and important things I believe.  To these I hold firm: I will follow Jesus because he was uniquely the son of God and he paid the price of my sin to restore my relationship with him.

But at some point, I have to man up.  I have to call Vosh out.  I have to name him.  And I have to say that my spirituality is too important not to be a wanderer.

As I reflect on my life, I see that my need to act as though I had the answers was some times an act of idolatry.  I was worshipping my own cleverness.  Other times it was an act of faithlessness.  I did not trust God to work it all out and suspected that he needed me to explain things to him.

There is an act of submission here.  Submission is so hard.  Especially when things are challenging.

Have you ever driven on an icy road?  For me, the hardest thing is that as the car begins to slide, you have to relax.  If you tighten the grip, things go from bad to worse.

Or repelling.  Have you ever repelled?  It’s an incredibly unnatural thing.  The more you lean back, the closer you coming to make a 90 degree angle with the cliff, the more control you have.  Our instincts tell us, when we feel unstable, to hug the rock.  But the thing to do is lean back and away from it and trust the rope and our feet.

As we sense the importance of God to us, our natural instinct is to want to be tidy, organized, goal-oriented.  Rely on our little human words and thoughts.  We’re told that this is the way to be.  Vosh says it.  It must be true, right?

hikers vs explorers (A post almost named “Steve Blummmer”)

There are two kinds of people in the world.  There are explorers and there are hikers. Many of us begin life as explorers.  We end up slowly becoming hikers.   I certainly fall into that pattern.  As a child, I was an explorer.  At this point in my life, I’m really more of a hiker.

An explorer is someone who heads out.  He is looking for something interesting.  His hope is that it’s something which is somehow new.  He runs the risk of getting lost.  He faces the challenges associated with covering new ground.

I am fortunate to have grown up with a family that loves to camp.  One of my favorite things to do was to just wander away from our site.  I disdained paths.  I would walk through pricker bushes and poison ivy patches.  I would jump over fallen trees and slip under boulders.

Sometimes I would be rewarded with a glimpse of the sort of wild-life that I probably would otherwise have missed.  A doe, a snake, a tremendous, regal falcon.

Often times I would discover these places: a beautiful clearing where the canopy overhead turned the sunlight into these refined, green beams.  A natural shelter where I might rest in the shades and just breathe for a while.  A tremendous, granled, unusual tree that seems just bursting with wisdom.

Of course, sometimes I’d be only rewarded with scratches or poison ivy.  I’m a guy with no sense of direction.  The mere fact that somehow I managed to avoid getting ridiculously lost is proof of God’s loving providence in my life.   And sometimes, there was really no little moment of “ahhh” at all.

But while those “ahhh” moments were wonderful, they weren’t the point.  When you go chasing after those “ahhh” moments they tend to run away from you.  I learned that early.  I just meandered, wandered even.  I was in the moment.  And it was wonderful.

These days, I hike.  I keep my clothes cleaner and my body free of rashes.  I make it back when I say I am going to.  Usually I know pretty much where I am.  The most important difference is hard to describe: I have a reason, a destination that I can put into words.  I am there to walk that path, to reach the destination.  I might have fun along the way.  But I would be willing to trade any of the little moments on that walk in exchange for achieving the goal of reaching the end of the trail.  It is not so with exploring.  The end isn’t the point at all.

I am not here to see that we should always go exploring and never hike.  I wouldn’t even go so far as to say that we shouldn’t “hike” in our experiences with God.

But we’ve become full-time hikers, in our relationships with him.  We operate in the domain of maps and compasses, not wonders and mysery.  And God is so much wonder and mystery.  We miss out when we do not take advantage of this facet of his nature.  We so rarely revel in his nature.  We so rarely explore and we so often hike.

I think this is why we’re called to be like children by Jesus.  Children are the true explorers.  What does this all mean, in terms of God?

We need to throw away the maps of our expectations, sometimes.  We need to drop our agendas, our goals.  We pray for people and we pray for things.  When is the last time we’ve prayed simply to be with God.  We read scripture to understand, we read to prove a point, we read because we’ve agreed to read x number of minutes a day… why can’t we just read with the understanding that we are reading the words of our maker with our maker?

(For those keeping track of such things, this is the first “mystery” post not in chronological order; this post goes after the one which ‘tries again’ at explaining what it is to dwell in mystery.)

The Mystery of Where God Is

In suffering, it goes even deeper.  We don’t only find the depths of God’s love.  When we suffer, we do more than merely receive an object lesson.

In suffering, we find God himself.

God says that he is with the least among us.  And the things we do to them, we do also to him.

We want see him.  We won’t know he’s there.  That seems to be the point.  If we saw that it was Jesus with our own eyes, among the widows and orphans and beaten down, we might single him out.  We might be trying to treat Jesus differently based on what we stand to gain.

Mysteriously, Jesus is there.

I don’t think it explains the issue to consider the following.  But it gives the mystery a fuller character, gives us something deeper and stranger to drink in.

Jesus suffered horrifically.  Much has been made of the physical aspects of his crucifiction.  Lots has been said about the psychological impact of being abandoned by his followers.

I’m not interested in debating these analyses.  Certainly the physical and emotional suffering was  horrendous.

But they were the only the icing on the cake.  The cake itself?

Jesus took on the sin of the world.  Not just the sins of his friends or followers.  Not just the sins of Jersalum.  Not even just the sin of the people living in the world at that time.  Jesus took on all the sin of the people who ever lived.  Yours, and mine, and the people who live in New Jersey and the hippies in the 60’s and the Republicans in Orange County, California, and the Aborigonees in Australia.  And all of these people’s grandchildren.  And all of their grandparents.  And so on…

It lead to the first and only separation between God the Father and Jesus in all of time.  It lead Jesus to say “Why have you forsaken me?”

But even in this expression of despair, mysteriously, Jesus affirms his hope and faith.  The very structure of these words is an echo of one of the psalms.  Jesus was knowingly, intentionally coming back to the bible itself in his great time of darkness.

There is a mystery: choosing to suffer gives us the privilege of standing in solidarity with God.  But this is only so because Jesus’ great suffering allowed him to stand in solidarity with us.

If history had unraveled differently, if we had lived before Jesus was born, we might say “God, you don’t get it.  You have never been mortal.  You have never been vulnerable.  You have never been hurt in the ways that we can hurt.”

But this is the miracle and the mystery of Jesus Christ: the creator of the universe made himself mortal.  Made himself vulnerable in a new way.  Allowed himself to be hurt as we hurt.

And not only did he still maintain his moral perfection.  But he took on the greatest suffering of any of us.

The Mystery of Taking Up Our Own Cross

Of course eating is not our only need.  And so fasting need not be about physical food.  Anything we might become over-dependent on, over-focused on, this might be the subject of a fast.

Fasting is sacrifice.  And that word: sacrifice of course has a different meaning.  But here is another mystery: because when they killed an animal or burned those grains, they weren’t really so different from our modern sacrifices at all.

The sacrifice was this: proving that something that could have been consumed for our own selfishness will actually be given over to God.  Various times (including through Jesus himself) we are reminded that God doesn’t want sacrifices given robotically, unthinkingly, unemotionally.

Of course nothing is deeply and truly ours.  The raw materials for everything came from our creator.  The talents that honed these materials  came from him.  The dedication to maximize these talents came from him too.  The opportunity to get the thing.  None of these are ours.

And so a sacrifice is giving over to God something that was his anyway.  Whether it’s the slaying of a bull.  Or fasting from food, or the internet, or movies, or cafienne.  None of these things were ours, really at all.  Giving them up to God demonstrates our peace with this reality.

And what is more, sacrifice is a golden and inexplicable opportunity to stand in solidarity with God himself.  God opened himself to the possibility of suffering when he created knuckle-headed humans who possessed free will.  This possibility turned into an actuality with Adam’s and Eve’s betrayal.  It culminated with Christ’s suffering on the cross.

I do not believe that God wants us to whip ourselves, to have ourselves nailed to a cross.   But Jesus took on suffering voluntarily, that was a completion of God’s suffering in Eden.  And we can take on suffering, too, that is an echo, and a reminder of what he did for us.

Which is the greatest mystery of all: In suffering, we find the depths of God’s love.

The Mystery of Fasting

Here is a mystery: The Fast.

Fasting is layer after layer of mystery, contradiction, and paradox.

(And I’m not even talking about the most obvious one: Although it’s called a fast, there is no period in the world that seems to go by so slowly as a time during which you abstrain from eating.)

Contradiction and paradox are two of the must fundamental building blocks of mystery.  They are things that should not happen.  And yet they do.  To our limited and puny little minds, things seem like they are impossibilities.  Things seem like they can’t possibly happen.  They confront us, sometimes quite brutally, with the limitations of our abilities to understand.  They speak of a reality which is greater than our understanding.

It is a contradiction, a paradox (and therefore a mystery) that abstaining from a thing is the best way to see its value.  Not-eating is the best way to fully appreciate eating.

It is a contradiction that we might begin by recognizing that eating is a very human need.  And yet me are somehow most human when we refuse ourself this need.  An animal eats when he is hungry, and damn the consequences.  A real human being is someone who looks at food, feels his stomach screeching for it, and still says “No.  I want to do it.  But I won’t.”

It is a contradiction that we come to see best how God nourishes and cares for us by choosing to not eat.  This is true in two senses.  When we go a day or so with out eating, we realize how very blessed we are that we have been able to eat before.  (and so what if it was not precisely what we wanted; who cares if it was not as much as we wanted.)  It is also true that God nourishes and cares for us in ways that are so much deeper than merely physical.  When we take a break from focusing on his physical provisions, we see so much more deeply all the other things he does for us.

Looking for some help…

You might have noticed that all of my recent postings have taken on the central theme of mystery.  You get bonus points if you’ve noticed that some portions of this are taken from some things I’ve written before.

My hope is that these all pull together into a book.  The book will be called, I think, “Mystery” (or perhaps “The Book of Mystery”)

More than anything I’ve ever written before, I’d really and truly love your comments: good, bad, or indifferent.  Please, please, please, let me know where you think I’m wrong and what you think in general.

For your convenience, here are links to “Mystery” in order.

Mystery, part I

Mystery, part II

Mystery, part III

Mystery, Part IV

Mystery, Part V

Mystery, part VI

Mystery Part VII

Mystery, Part VIII

Publisher’s often want sample chapters.   I also might try and submit some of these sections as sections as articles to print and online magazines.  For these reasons, I’d love to hear about which sections are you favorite or your least favorite.

About the only real bribery I have to offer you is my gratitude and a mention in one of those portions of the book that hardly anybody ever reads.  (agnowedgments or afterward, or whatever)

Mystory

When we resist the urge to pick sides and demonize our opponents,  When we dwell in the mysteries by finding the truth in both sides of an argument, we receive great training for something really important.  God tells us about the world by telling us stories.  And try as we might, we can’t read stories the same we’d read a debate, or a text book.

When I use that word “stories” I’m not implying that they are contain no truth.  Nor am I suggesting that they didn’t actually happen.  What I mean is that If you take out a few lineages, a few lists of laws like Leviticus, and a few letters in the back, this book is nothing but the telling of events that happened to specific characters in specific places.

There’s a truth about story that can best be grasped by looking at a story.  It’s not a story that’s in the bible.  But it’s a masterpiece of film, a story for the ages, a tale that brings tears and laughter.  It is Back to School.

As some of us remember, Back to School is this Rodney Dangerfield movie.  As one might guess based on the title, he’s an older guy who decides to go back to college.  In the scene that I’m focused on today, Rodney is struggling in his English class reading a Kurt Vonegut story.

So he hires Kurt Vonegut to write the paper… about Kurt Vonegut.  The punchline to this whole series of scenes is that the professor, not knowing that the author wrote the paper, thinks that the paper is all wrong.

That’s the most obvious absurdity: the idea that Vonnegut could get his own writing wrong.  But there’s something else, equally absurd at work.  And that’s the idea that somebody might tell a story and then, after writing it, that the person might  go about explaining what that story means.  This leads to a question: If the story was just a masquerade to convey a few sentences, what’s the point?  Why not just write those few sentences—the thing you really wanted to get across—and be done with it?

The bible is a pretty amazing book.  More to the point, this is a pretty good cool series of stories.  And most importantly, this is an amazing story—not just an anthology, not only a collection of stand-alone independent chapters, but also, a novel, a complete work.

And this leads to a question:

Why?

Why is the bible almost exclusively story?  Why did God choose to communicate this way?  Why did Jesus communicate through story?  Why are the accounts of Jesus the stories told from the perspective of four different men?

And here’s an equally important question:

What if you didn’t know anything about the bible first hand?  When you hear other people talk about scripture, do they pay enough attention, do they offer enough respect to the stories?

In my experience, people talk a lot about what the bible says.  And even more about what it means.  And it might be that some of them are right.

But to judge by the way people quote scripture, you’d think it was a list of rules, laws, and expectations.  You’d think that were no stories at all.  You’d think it was all black and white, predigiested, specific instructions.

One of my favorite writers is this guy named Billy Collins.  He wrote this poem about how to read poetry.  I think it’s relevant though, to the way we read story.  More importantly, it’s relevant to the way we read scripture.

Introduction to Poetry

Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

The idea is that a story is like a bunch of grapes.  Our tendency is to want to put them  into a press and squeeze the truths out.  And then discard the rest.  Or better yet, it’s like Collins says: We tie the story down, and we beat the truth out of it.  Those 4 or 5 morals, or principals, or whatever, they the true essence of what the story is.  The husk that is left over, after we squish it, or beat it, that can be discarded.

Have we ever really worked out the profound arrogance in this?  The beginning and the end, the A through the z, the author and the sustainer of the universe, he shared with us truths in the form of a story.  But only we are qualified to extract the important nuggets out of those stories.  It’s like we say “I wish I’d been with God at the beginning.  Then, when he started conveying all these stories to people, I could have interupted God, exerted the important parts, and saved everybody a lot of money in bible printing costs.  The version of the bible I co-wrote with God would have been much more succint than this fluffy thing he handed us.”

The Mystery of Walking a Mile In Those Shoes

Through a series of surprises, disasters, and unplanned circumstances I have ended up a Special Education Teacher. That was never part of my plan for my life. It’s just what happened, and I thank God every day for it. (O.K., actually that’s probably not true. I try to thank God every day for it; I should thank God every day for it.  But in fact, I probably don’t thank God every day for it.)
For over a decade, I have worked in the poorest and  biggest inner city schools in Massachusetts and in residential schools for troubled kids in Los Angeles and on the East Coast. I have had students who have done drive-bys and been third generation gang members. I’ve tried to teach kids who’ve been prostituted by their parents for drugs. I’ve worked with kids who have sexually abused hundreds of other kids. I have worked with kids who have been abused hundreds of times.
There was this boy who had scars on his arms. When the voices told him to light himself on fire he did. There was this girl, over 6 feet tall, probably 225 pounds. Chronologically she was 17 years old, but on the inside she was so much younger. She was 11 when she found her parents dead, in bed, a suicide-murder. She hadn’t grown emotionally a day since.
It’s hard to get beyond the cliches in this situation. I learned so much from these kids. It was such a privilige and a joy to work with them. Those things are true. But maybe I get beyond the cliches by telling the whole story. Because those sentences are not false… but they are only half the story.
The full story is this: There were days I was sure I could not do it. There were days that it didn’t feel worth it.  There were many days that I came close to hating the students, and a few days when I actually did hate them.

Two years ago I sprained my back breaking up a fight between my students.  I spent a month on disabality.  I was warned, quite off the record, to watch myself.  The school district had a history of wanting to sever ties with teachers who could prove to be legal problems down the road.  Unsurprisingly, my contract wasn’t renewed the next year.

I spent last school year at a middle school that was on the verge of being taken over by the state.  To say that it was a tough situation would be to understate the case significantly.  Student, teacher, parent morale was abysmal.

After ten years of these sorts of schools, a different kind-of position fell into my lap.  An affluent, mostly suburban (with a bit of rural thrown in) smallish school district was looking to begin a class for behaviorally challenged students.

Sometimes, I felt like I was at a country club.  It was easy to view this as a bit of a sabbatical.  I was desperate for a moment to catch my breath, but it didn’t feel like what I’m really called to do.
It was strange to have enough supplies, technology, and support to actually impact these kids.  Occasionally, I’d have these perverse flashes of guilt that I’m not working in an absurdly hopeless situation.

Mostly, though, it was easy to see my new position as bordering on the trivial, to see the severity of these kids’ issues as comparitively light-weight. Like lots of realizations that come easy, this easy realization was  dangerous.
There was this Freshman girl. Let’s call her Lori. Lori is a tough kid, as kids within this particular district go. Like many kids she’s received absurdly inconsistent expectations, parenting, and boundaries. She’s learned to push, test, and manipulate. She has this great smile and a big heart, but it’s easy to lose sight of this when she’s cursing and yelling.
One of the keys to my job is deciding what I’m going to fight over and what I’m not going to. Giving up on the areas I’ve decided to dig my heels in can create some problems for both me and the kids. I do my best not to.
An area I decided I wasn’t going to compromise with Lorie was around the issues of wearing shoes in my class. Every day she would come and want to take them off. I figured this to be a power game with her. There was a wide variety of areas I gave in on with her (and my other students.) There are some areas where I don’t. This was one I wasn’t going to budge on.
Every day we’d lock horns. Every day I would instruct her that shoes needed to be worn in my class. Every day I’d level consequences when she didn’t meet my expectations.
I was proud of myself when the day finally came that she gave up on taking off her shoes. I had known it would come. These kids are used to wearing down the adults in there lives. They can be outlasted, but it’s not easy. I put a tally mark on the mental chalk score board in my head under my own name: Score one for me.

The days and weeks went by. I made some progress with some kids, I didn’t make as much with other kids. I worked at building relationships while I taught them, I worked at caring for them as I worked with them, I tried to be there for them as I held them accountable. The great thing about being a special Educator is that I get to see many of my kids for significant portions of the day. These are kids who often have no meaningful relationships, especially with adults.
With Lori… Not so much. There was this wall. I figured I could wait this out, too. I felt confident in my assessment, proud of my abilities; I’d seen it all before, in kids twice as tough, twice as desperate.
I hope you’ll share my surprise when I tell you that a co-worker approached at some point in the middle of all this. She’d sent Lori to the nurse. Lori, it seemed had these tremendous blisters.
She’d been cramming her feet into shoes two sizes too small. She’d been wearing them to school every day. She’d been wearing them home, every day. She’d been wanting to take them off in my class, every day.
And I was so proud of myself when I one that battle with her. I was so proud of myself when she gave up trying to take them off. No wonder she was never focused on what was going on in class. I wouldn’t either, if you crammed my size 11 feet into size 9’s. (And who knows what other ways she’s been and continues to be neglected… it’s quite likely that her shoes are pretty low on the list of troubling issues in her life.)
There are these lessons that we learn over and over again. One for me is that God can be trusted. Another for me is that there is work to do wherever I am. A third is that the teacher-student relationship is not a simple, one sided deal. There are ways in which the “students” teach me more than I teach them.

But perhaps the most important thing is this: Sometimes when we are the most sure in our beliefs, that is when we are the most wrong.

What  does all this have to do with mystery?  Well, there’s this great thing about mystery.  The world tells us to pick a side.  The world tells us to evaluate the evidence and the whole-heartedly choose one group over the other.

One of the great things about mystery is this: We are free to recognize that there is truth on both sides of a debate, even if there is only one Truth.  I should have checked my assumptions.  I should have tried to find what truth Lori was living, by taking off her shoes every day.

Lori and kids like her all the least among us.  Scripture tells me that the way I treat her is the way I treat Jesus himself.  What all this means is that one day, Jesus wandered into my class and he wanted to take his shoes off, because there were blisters on his feet.  I wielded my power and I stuck to my guns.  And Jesus?  He put those shoes back on those blistered feet.

My prayer for you and for me is that our hearts might be open to some issue which we see as so very one-sided.  I hope that we can dwell for a while, that we can affirm the little truths that live on both sides of the debate.  Because that’s where Jesus is: not in the right or wrong answers, but in those little truths with a lower case “t”, that eventually will add up to Truth with an upper case “T”

The Mystery of the White Stone

Has there ever been a time in your life that you’ve just been so quietly breaking?  For whatever (probably stupid) reason you can’t express what’s going on inside.  But there is this hurt, someplace deep.  It doesn’t go away.  It burns.  Perhaps it’s a time of lonliness.

Sometimes if just one person noticed, it would be so much better.  Sometimes, if the right person came with just the right words, it would be a weight lifted.  A light shined in our darkest places.

Even if our actual circumstances aren’t changed, sometimes, if somebody just new what to say… if somebody just new who we really are… it would mean so much.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”

That’s written in the book of Revelations.  Chapter 2.  Verse 17.

For my money, Revelations is the most gloriously mystery-filled books in the bible.  Yet, more than any book in the bible, it has been subjected to these attempts to categorize it, analyze it.  Somewhere along the way somebody decided it would be a good idea to simply explain all the mystery away.  I suspect that we’ll get back to the entire book at some point.  But for now, I’m going to reprint those verses above in the hopes that it will encourage you (and me!) to read this verse again, and drink it in.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”

This portion of the book of Revelations is one which follows a pretty specific formula.  John is sharing a series of letters which are directed to churches around him.  In each letter, Jesus praises some things about the church and criticizes others.  Jesus proclaims some truths about himself in each of these letters, and then he makes some promises about what his kingdom will be like.

It took me a while to wrap my brain on why I feel so moved, so giddy almost, about the end of that verse.  What’s so special about that last sentence:  (Will you read it with me a third time?)

I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it

After some prayerful reflection, I’ve begun to be able to put into words some of the things that this verse means to me.

Jesus co-exxisted with God the father at the beginning of time.  Along with The Holy Spirit, they sculpted the dance of electrons around the nuclei of atoms.  They fashioned the laws of physics and the very nature of reality.

They built up stars in the same way we might roll a snake out of play-do.  They formed the angels and watched them dance around the throne.  They invented the concept of a living thing and they made this plan a reality.

They have painted the sunsets and choreagraphed the motions of planets and stars.  They sculpted the mountains.  They filled the oceans.  All of it.  From things unimaginably huge through things unimaginably tiny.

They entered into human history with this scandalous plan to bridge the gap between us and them.  Jesus took on the punishment for sin that was meant for us.  Empires have built up and then crumpled while they watched.  Countless billions of people have been born and died.

And yet Jesus might know me more intimately than anyone ever has?  Jesus, the author of creation might consider me worthy?

Imagine that: Perhaps it will be the first time we meet him after this life is through.  Perhaps it is the very first thing to happen to us.

I have this idea that he will smile as he walks across the room that we will find ourselves in.  The stone, milky-colored, is perhaps the size of our palm.  I suspect that it will be turned over.  We will know that it has some precious word just for us.  But the anticipation will build as he crosses the room, and presents it to us.

The word on that stone will be the word that we needed to hear in our darkest hour.  It will be our new name.  This name will be a thing between ourselves and Jesus.  Could there be anything more intimate than that?  A private thing between us and our maker, an affirmation… Jesus love for us is not only endless and infinite, but also unique.  Just as that name on that stone will not be the name of any other person in all of creation, Jesus love for you is also unique, in all of creation.  There is no other person anywhere that he loves the same way he loves you.

The demons thought names could be used like a sword.  They sought to wield this sword and found it could not pierce Jesus.  The fact that they knew Jesus name means nothing.

Yet Jesus knows that our true name will mean everything.  I think in some sense, those stones are already waiting.  There is a stone already in heaven and it has a name on it that we don’t know, but when we hear it, we will know it is just exactly right.