Friday, November 13, 2015

this is hell, but we are heaven {a response to paris}

I never watch the news.
Tonight I can't pull myself away.

I have cried
and shook my head
and carried questions
and nursed a deep sadness,
but I think the main reason I have lingered so long, unable to move on, is because
     I was waiting.

I was waiting for my assignment.
I keep listening to the reporters and watching the footage and wondering -
What do I do? How do I respond?  How do I help?
How can I possibly make a difference in the midst of such huge devastation on the other side of the ocean?

This isn't the kind of problem for which I can create a meal train, or offer a hug, or take flowers.

Or is it?

It looks like the problem is there, but I know it's here.
It's everywhere.

Regardless of the perpetrator or his purpose, one thing is always true about evil.  It is manifested when there is an absence of good.  I believe that the source of all that is truly good in this world is God.  In places - in people - where God abides, evil can not survive.

And so the answer to What can I do? is this -
     fill every space of this world that I can with Him.

I watch terrorists who are so bold and passionate about what they believe that they act in incredibly radical ways.  And it is affecting people.  In big, huge, monumental ways it is affecting people.  It can not be ignored.  Hmmmm...

What if we all began living with that kind of boldness for good?  What if we were radical about it?  What if our beliefs fueled actions that actually affected people in meaningful ways - ways that could not be ignored.

There is an urgency growing inside of me.  An urgency to be bold and radical about what I believe in.  I hope it's growing in you too.

I believe in

Ask my kids and they will sing about it.  All of those things together are what we know as the Fruit of the Spirit.  That means they are produced not by me, but by the Spirit.  And the Spirit is God.  But not the kind of God who stands at a distance watching us and ordering us around.  Not even the kind of God who is close to us.

The Spirit is God IN us.

Just think about the magnitude of that for a moment.
I believe the spirit of God actually lives in me and because of that I have the power to possess and wield every one of those characteristics I just listed and more...and so do you.  I carry weapons too.

I've heard that ISIS recruits individuals who feel marginalized or inadequate.  I've heard they prey on people who are seeking a place to belong.  I want those people to know there is another place.  There is a place where they not only belong, but a place they were created for.  A place where they are loved, accepted, and chosen.  A place where they will find a purpose for which to live radically, not for evil, but for good.  That place is in the arms of a good, loving, grace-giving God.

I hold the keys.  

Will I use them to unlock the kingdom of heaven for them or will I only do enough to get myself inside?  I don't want to be the kind of person who keeps my love of God private and protected.  I want to be the kind of person who isn't afraid to walk into dark places and grab people's hands and say - come with me, I have a door I want to open for you.  It will be up to you if you want to walk inside but I want you to know you are invited.  You are wanted. You have a place.

The lights may be out on the Eiffel Tower tonight,
but the light never dims in those of us who carry the Spirit of God within.

I refuse to be consumed by the darkness of this world.  And the only way to ensure that does not happen is to stoke the flames of the Holy Spirit I carry inside of me.
The light doesn't come from me but it does come through me.  
I can choose to only let it out when I feel safe or prepared or qualified or I can just break myself wide open, unafraid, and let it pour out onto every person and into every place surrounding me.

Everyone is wondering what our government should do in response to this attack.  Right now I'm wondering what we can do - you and I.  We are not helpless, you know.  On the contrary, we have a very important role to play.

I heard a French survivor who was interviewed after escaping the concert hall use these words to describe what he had just experienced -
This is a nightmare.  
This is hell.

Yes, it is,
but I carry heaven inside of me.
Many of you do too.
It is the light of heaven inside of us that will dispel this darkness, but we must release it.
We must let it shine.

This, we can do.
It may look differently for each of us, but we all can do this.
I can write boldly.  I can speak boldly.  I can use every resource in my possession to love boldly.
Whatever you can do - do it.

Maybe you're like me.  Maybe you believe there is beauty and truth in this world and it is worth rescuing.  OK, then, let's be bold.
Let's pray boldly - on our knees with real words and in real faith that our God hears us.
Let's love boldly - with our words and our actions, even especially when it's hard.
Let's live boldly - committing to go to the people and places God calls us to and doing the things he has called us to do.
Let's pour out light, pour out heaven, everywhere and on everyone that we can...until the darkness is gone.

If you're looking for one simple place to start right now try this -
Wherever you are, close your eyes.
Acknowledge God in all his goodness and power.
Ask Him what he has to say about all of this to you, specifically.
Filter what you hear through the truth of His word.  Listen...and then obey.  Even if it's out of your comfort zone.  Even if you don't feel qualified.  Even if you're not sure where it will all lead...
trust and obey.

I listened to a lot of
and witnesses
and leaders
and professionals
tonight but there is one voice I want to hear above the rest.  To hear him we will have to turn off the t.v. and get quiet and believe he has something to say about all of this too.

I'm signing off now to do just that.  Care to join me?
This week our church will run a video at all three of our services.  If you will be in the upstate of South Carolina I would love for you to join us there.  My friend Matt shot some beautiful footage of a historic church in our community.  In the midst of the shots you can hear my words.  Words I wrote about the church - not my church, but the church.  I believe them more today than when I wrote them three weeks ago...

There is the temporal,
   And there is the eternal.

There is the seen,
  And there is the unseen.

There is self,
   And there is spirit.

There is sin,
   And there is grace.

There is the world,
   And there is us.

We see them as competing forces – in opposition.
We declare one must be abandoned for the other.

But what if we’re wrong?

What if they met?
What if they came together?

What if instead of a cold, hard, dark line of separation, the two were allowed to touch? 
To blend.
To bleed together.

What if we believed one was strong enough to not be swallowed up by the other, but
to stand,
to influence,
to change.

There is an answer to all our ‘what ifs’, all our dreams, all our hopes
For this world

The answer…
is you.

You. are. the. church.

And the church -
It’s not a building.
It’s what we are building.

It’s not a place that stands on religion, high above the world.
It’s a people who live and breathe and move
 in the middle of it all…

It’s a movement.

Infusing the beauty and truth of the gospel into the world requires movement.
If the church is to be a movement it must MOVE.

Like a child running her fingers through the paint on the page, mixing and blending and making something new, something more…
we must get messy
and be brave
and anticipate a world that will come
to life,
to light,
to color,
when those of us who carry the eternal within us

This is not about building walls of insulation and safety. 
This is not about staying separate.
This is not about being protected and perfect.

This is about sending. in. the. troops.
Infiltrating borders.

Being the church is an awful lot like being a warrior artist.
Courageously, fearlessly, using our medium –
every resource we have –
to create something beautiful and true in this world.
IN this world.
Not in our heads.
Not in our cliques.
Not even in our churches.

In. this. world.

The world is our canvas.
Paint the truth all over it.

Frame it.
Display it.
Offer it.

The truth doesn’t need a defense.  It needs a witness.

The art we create with our lives is the evidence that supports our witness.

We say – this is what I have seen
And heard
And know to be true.

And this is what it looks like – let me show you, let me serve you.

Yes – they will know we are Christians by our love.
And love looks like Technicolor
And sounds like symphony
And smells like gardens
And feels like flying.

It’s messy and costly and we enthusiastically say
Because enthusiasm is being filled with God
And when we are filled with God

God, the great artist, crafted this world with his own hands.
We will not abandon it.
We will not ignore it.
We will not fear it.
We will not throw it away.
We will throw ourselves into it
As warrior artists

Until every empty space is covered in Him.