Middle Aged Lion

It took the him by surprise.

He had not before today seen himself as an old lion. Now looking out at the pride, he knew the journey of his life had taken another turn. This one, like few others, was startling and unexpected. Another blind turn.

That cub bore an amazing resemblance to him…and for the moment the old lion was transformed back to the days when the cub watched and imitated his every step. He remembered the delight of their first successful hunt, and the momentary fear the day his own battle for leadership in the pride was nearly lost. In fact, the unspoken truth was that the small spectator watching so intently had spurred him on to fight and win. The old lion had known that passivity was a life stealing habit, the cub had know that to fight with all one’s might was necessary for survival.

Middle age lions have little time for nostalgia. He snapped himself back to the present and watched as the cub, who was now the young lion, battled for and earned his place among his mates. He marveled at the young one’s guile, and saw how it enhanced his strength and power. And he knew.

The lessons would soon end. The day would arrive. The fight would come. He and the cub would by necessity be adversaries for a time. There would in the end be mercy, but the son would be hardened, never again to be the cuddly bounding ball of fur of days gone by.

The young lion would need to have his own pride, and earn his place on that rock. There were dangerous days ahead. Those battles would be for the young lion alone-because the journey would then be his.

At that, the old lion smiled through his sorrow. The smile was the contentment of knowing he had prepared his offspring. The sorrow was his understanding about how the scars would accumulate, and that he would soon be hunting alone.


Gambling on Grace

The Gamble
“He must be broken, and seek forgiveness.”
Emissary of the Almighty Flamethrower

In some ways, seeing the gospel as a white bearded Almighty, throwing down fire and demanding penitence, was easy. It allowed me to justify the arrogance of being elect, and it enabled me to keep at arms length those souls who really needed forgiveness…you know them-they cuss, they question, they wear gray ponytails, some look like they play for ZZ Top-and what redeeming value can be found in pumping “Sharp Dressed Man” through one’s earbuds? They like bourbon with their cigars. Because they spend so much time doing all those awful things, their children are at risk. If those poor, unelect souls would wear out their knees in agonizing prayer, they would know that Almighty Flamethrower was dangerous, and they would get their theological act together, shave, put some sanctified music on. And then, their children would have hope that by following their own sanctified habits of spiritual protection and cleanliness, they too would emerge into adulthood bathed in purity, well shorn and ready for a defense of that gospel, with all the intellectual armor needed to keep themselves out of the way of those flames the Almighty hurled when he was pissed at them.

Yep, that’s the way God worked.

“Dad, don’t let them do that to me again! I keep telling the truth, and they keep telling me I have to apologize.”
The Deerslayer

The Deerslayer, all of 11 years old was caught in a controversy, he was telling the elect they had their story wrong-something the elect couldn’t countenance. The emissaries of the Almighty Flamethrower had come to our doorstep to teach a lesson in brokenness. And I wasn’t “fine” with it. I wasn’t sure what was right. I had always been on the side of the Flamethrower. Someone was about to be a heretic, and the emissaries were quite sure it wasn’t them.

Grace, in the form of real healing and forgiveness, had recently entered our lives, the Deerslayer and me. When I admitted those agonizing prayers only made me sleepy and insecure, those guys with the ZZ Top beards showed up and listened. The emissaries thought I had lost my mind. My new, scruffy friends had about them the earthy scent of authenticity. They knew the Father who threw a huge party upon the return of his debauched, rebellious son. And they reached out a hand to rescue the arrogant rule follower too. The emissaries smelled like smoke.

And so…we gambled…The Deerslayer, his mom and me…we went with Grace. We went with the Father who’s Son warned us about harming His little ones. We took him at his Word, which was good. We remembered that the Deerslayer’s real Father has in mind for him a life we cannot control, but one he will have to engage. We chose to stand in The Deerslayer’s defense, to walk with him, just as the Son walks with us.
The emissaries of the Flamethrower warned us, we were teaching rebellion by refusing their authority. We were leaving the eternal safety net, and it would be very dangerous for us from here…

The Payoff
“I want to take my faith to heart, not just do it because its what my family does.”
The Deerslayer on the day of his baptism.

“Dad, I like your weird friends.”
The Deerslayer, referring to those ZZ Top guys

Now and then I get asked about how it has happened that I enjoy that kid with all the questions who likes to walk around with firecrackers in his pocket and makes smart assed comments about my height and hair color. I also walk with a Father who gracefully tolerates my questions with a smile, and who enjoys fireworks and a good bourbon too.
I follow His example of Grace

Gamble, my friends. Begin a journey whole heartedly down the path together. It’s messy, it requires trust and authenticity and sometimes friends with ZZ Top beards. It’s scary stuff, but it is full and gritty and real.

It’s a safer bet than you think.

God and Men…For Young Men

“The Shack’s” portrayal of God as a black woman was a challenge, and generated some controversy among my Evangelical brethren. The book helped me appreciate the feminine qualities of God, who created men and women, and possesses the qualities of both in equal measure. I continue my journey away from seeing God as a great white bearded grandfather sending fiery arrows of justice toward us sinners, seeing her more clearly as the caring creator who walks with those he loves. God did indeed create masculine and feminine traits-both are gifts in Creation.

Todays thoughts are in rescue of the masculine. I listened to the radio again today as the fear of everything masculine, from football to fighting with bullies spewed out as civil authority hoping to tame manhood.

History shows us the congruity of creation time after time-maleness will show itself. It is as hard wired as eye color into our DNA. It will be managed by men who do battle as warriors, entrepreneurs, or in the pulpit: or it will manifest itself in addiction, brutality, or perversion.

So in keeping with my heritage-a few thoughts for the next warriors in the clan:

1) You live in a culture where too many fear your gifts. Ignore those cowards. Your gifts have an ancient Source and an eternal purpose.

2) Question authority. When an authority proves trustworthy by its authenticity, pay close attention to it. Otherwise, respect it if you must, but be wary while following.

3) Fearlessly fight for what is right. There is evil in this world, oppose it with all your might. If you, at some point in your development, notice an eagerness to run to the fight-pay attention to it, it is a gift for good. Measure the purpose of the fight, get comfortable with the instinct, but not every fight is yours. Master the instinct, but don’t apologize for it.

4) Learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Know your gifts, know their Source. Be authentic, gentle, and confident, let others deal with their own insecurity.

5) Your mind is a powerhouse, your best weapon. Take care to develop it. Fill it with what is good and right, and your journey to good judgement will be lest painful. Using your wit and intelligence first, instead of your hands, is the beginning of wisdom.

6) Worry not about who is watching-conduct yourself authentically, with humility remembering the Source of your gifts. You will soon find others willing to walk with you.

7) Take chances, they help you gain courage. When something makes your heart beat faster and your adrenaline flow, measure it. If it is not in opposition to what you know to be right and true, there is a high likelihood it is good. You will fail at times, but wisdom will be the result of pain if you are true to yourself.

8) Stand when a woman enters the room. She is your equal across the span of Creation, out of the same source. Regard her as the wonder of creation. Respect not only her beauty, but her mind and her heart-they see things you do not.

9) Be true to yourself and to others. Without fail.

10) Above all: Be Traist.

Running Toward the Darkness

“On Christmas, God ran toward the darkness.”

So said the pastor in a statement as profound as could be-during a season full of profundity.

As a Christ following American, these days are the darkest of my lifetime. Nothing remains the same, there is no place in the culture where we can rest. The Steelers will not make the playoffs.

Despite the bloodbath that was the twentieth century, the twenty first is off to an inglorious beginning-yet we profess shock when the horrific occurs. Faith is seen not as the undergirding of ethics, but the seat of intolerance. Family and child rearing are being redefined daily. Individual freedom is under assault not by loony anarchists, but by earnest, religious folks determined to accumulate enough power to fix all that is wrong.

Giving back freedom for the sake of the collective good is voluntary enslavement. Ask the post WWI Bavarians about that one.

When God ran toward the darkness, He triggered near genocide. The gentle babe so often depicted without tears in his mother’s arms caused bloodshed the moment He arrived. All those those baby boys impaled on the swords of Herod’s men surely left their mark.

That smart assed carpenter’s kid from Nazareth became a pain in the ass to the recognized educated religious leaders of His day. He challenged them openly, his humility as frustrating as his courage-It made him incorruptible and free to act. The fact that He was fully human made Him accessible. A ragtag band, even more obnoxious and violent followed him around, in open defiance of the tyrants. They preached, lived, fought and died for…salvation-freedom from spiritual enslavement. Freedom that gave life not only in heaven, but on earth, because once one is free from spiritual enslavement, freedom from all other forms of slavery must follow.

What to make of this here, now…with my house losing value, my best laid plans at my feet in pieces, my core beliefs under daily assault-with no safe passage in sight?

God showed up as a baby in a low place so that he would be within reach. Once he showed up, He picked a fight. He didn’t fight with the easy targets-the down on their luck, dirty, misguided, the temperamental-the sinners. He befriended them, and gave them freedom to use their tempers, their passions, their talents in service to a kingdom freer than any here on earth. He still does.

So I go with the one who runs to the darkness. He always defends individual liberty, for without it, man is farther from God. He befriends those who are met with scorn by religious leaders for failing to fall in line, and acts on their behalf when they cannot act themselves.

He refuses capture and enslavement by those who would become tyrants- no matter their motivation. Because of Him, I live free and love passionately. My goal must never be safety. Safety is a myth.