Monday, April 28, 2008

The Way Down is the Way Up

You've been there. We all have. You are in the department store and invariably the place where you expect the up escalator is actually the down escalator.

As it turns out, life is like that as well.

Since my daughter was a little girl, she called the escalator the "whee". In truth, my analytical self found it odd that one could come up with the exclamation "wheeeeee!" out of something that moves so slowly and predictably. But nevertheless, she loved going on escalators.

A few months ago, we were in Macy's and she and her brother asked if they could go down and have me meet them when they came back up. Well, at aged 10 and 8, I figured I could trust them that. After all, I just had to walk from one side of the store to the other and be there as they came around. As providence would have it, the up escalator was broken and actually barricaded. Fortunately, my daughter is resourceful and took her brother to the elevator. Meanwhile, at that juncture I figured out that there was only one way up, and so I went to meet them at the elevator.

In life there is only one way up, out of the mire of a lack of hope, of our failures and even our inability to cope with our failures. But sometimes, we have to go down, and around and up the elevator to get to where we are going. If we focus on barricades and the hopelessness of that, we won't see that there is another way.

Popular authors, even those endorsed by Oprah, would have you believe that you are the way up and that by harnessing the Universe or the power of positive thinking that you alone are in control of your destiny. Or worse, you may just believe that it is a cruel world and that in the end if events drive you down, it is down that you have to remain.

I don't know about you, but the thought of my world resting on my abilities is a bit daunting.
Oh I'm talented and even more positive than some, but the fact of the matter is that my natural being is fatally flawed. God's word says that all of us fall short.

But there is hope. Hope has a name. His name is Jesus.

For those of us with children, the thought of putting our children in harms way, to pay for the mistakes of someone else is abhorrent. Even if it were the only way to release someone from pain, or sickness or even death, we couldn't do it. We don't understand the kind of love that God has for us that he would in fact do just that. Put his only child, his only son, in a position to pay for what we rightfully should die for.

Hmmmm you say. Well, I'm really not all that bad. I certainly haven't done anything that someone else had to die for. I didn't ask God to do that for me.

You see, God knows something that we don't know. Actually he knows LOTS of things that we don't know. He knows first hand that in order to go UP - to succeed, to win, to lead, you must first go DOWN - to be humble, to serve, to lay down your will and your right to choose.

Matthew 5 paints this picture very clearly - in the Beatitudes beginning with 5:3

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

When we are weak, he can be strong in us. And regardless of whether you believe that Jesus had to die for you, it is a historical fact that He did. And while that may seem illogical and senseless, it was absolutely by design.

For those from a traditional religious background, you may remember reciting the Nicene or Apostle's Creed, that says that he was crucified (a horrible death beyond description), dead and buried and that he rose again. There were hundreds of people that witnessed the risen Jesus. It isn't fable.

But he did have to go down in the ultimate act of service, to go up and take his rightful place as the King of Kings.

And he did it, just for you and me. He loves us SO much. It really is incomprehensible. Fantastic really.

I am now a child of God, a princess in fact -- able to come before His throne as an heir to all that He has and all that He is.

And not just able to -- He wants me to and delights in being with me.

I can just say one thing. Wheeeeeeeeee!!!!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Shack - An Encounter with God

When this book was first recommended to me, it was just done in passing, so I didn't buy it. But again last week, the same person mentioned it to me again and I knew [in the way that that you know beyond the shadow of a doubt in your heart of hearts] that I needed to buy it and read it. In fact, I also knew that this would be one that I would likely be passing on, so I bought 3 copies.

Like many of the books that have been put in my path over the last year of my journey, this one has a set of circumstances that couldn't be further from my life, Nevertheless I know that there is a reason that I needed to reach each one, to take me one step further on my journey.

In fact, the first few chapters were very difficult and even painful to read, as the main character, a man who was the son of a very "religious" man, who was also an abusive alcoholic, took his kids camping and one of them was abducted and brutally murdered. Her body was never recovered, but the dress that she was in was found, bloodied in a delapidated cabin that is called "The Shack" in the book. His wife, who wasn't along for the camping trip, was very close to God and in fact called him "Papa".

After a few years of emotional torment and struggle just to make it from one day to the next, one snowy day, he gets a note, out of the blue in his mailbox, inviting him to visit the Shack that weekend and it was signed Papa.

What ensues in the balance of this book of fiction is an amazing story of his personal encounter with the maker of heaven and earth and the owner of the cattle on ten thousand hills.

While I don't want to give away any of the book's story line, he is introduced to all the different dimensions of "papa" and learns about His amazing nature. By the end of the book, I was so captivated, that I found myself wondering if it was, in fact, fiction or if the write was using third person about his "friend" to actually tell this fantastic story of his own encounter with "mountain maker", "ocean tamer" (see last week's blog on that one!).

I cannot remember another book that I've read that has touched me as deeply as this one. Ever. I am a voracious reader and I've had other books I liked a great deal, but none that I could say changed me from within (which is where all of our change really needs to start!).

This story crystalized the need for forgiveness as a path to true emotional freedom and it paints the clearest picture that I've ever seen that God is ALL about love and actually desires to free us from the bonds of our misconceptions about Him. So much of what we know or surmise about Him is so incredibly distorted as a result of "religion" and so much of what we see in circumstance is not "reality".

For a literary treat, grab ahold of this one for a good read. But watch out, as this book may touch you deeply too. Allow a lot of time too, as this one is one that I could not put down!

To order