1 The Mystical No

Yesterday for almost fourteen hours I sat up high in the small cubic cab of a big red truck with a big young chocolate lab and a young man. All three of us yearned to be at our destination from the moment we started our journey in the darkness before the dawn through each of about one hundred thousand moments, one at a time. The trip was fraught with delays. There was the periodic need for fuel for the truck, and the dog, and the man, and me; there was rain and traffic, and there was a detour that took us thirty minutes out of our way when we thought we would have to run an errand—all of these frustrating delays increased the intensity of our desire to arrive.

What made the journey especially grueling was that the young man was grieving and during this long time in the small cab he presented a range of emotions from anger, fear, disbelief, to kindness, patience, and a pinch of wisdom. I felt as if I was on a tiny roller coaster inside a bottle. When after twelve hours we thought the end was near, the highway suddenly appeared to be so jammed packed with vehicles that we left it altogether and took the longer way through a small city until finally in new darkness, the truck, the dog, and the grieving young man and I arrived home where we were able to separate ourselves from one another and shower and rest in comfortable beds, except for the big red truck of course which, if it could feel, I’m sure would have been content to be still.

I wonder if this year the Lenten journey will be as arduous as the one I was on yesterday. Perhaps if it is I will be just as relieved to arrive at the destination−Easter. If I want Easter as much as I wanted to be home yesterday, and if the way to Easter is as grueling, slow, and rife with frustrations then I think I could become hyper-aware of mankind’s journey from this world to the Kingdom of God.   

I don’t want to get to Easter just because Time whisks me there; I want to walk every step, climb every hill and wade through every muddy stream to travel to the Paschal place of eternal-life made-possible, of reunion with the Creator God and Father.  “No” is the only way to become aware of the journey through Lenten days.  With the use of the “Mystical No” during Lent we enter a small cab, much like the cab of the big red truck where outside there is a world of things that we can’t experience because we are consciously traveling.

In the Gospel of Matthew (6:24) Jesus said that, “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”During Lent, to serve the world with its series of satisfied lusts is to refuse to reflect Christ’s sacrificial mission. As with God and mammon, we can’t serve both, lust for comfort and the Spirit.

Christ never asked us to worship Him as we do an actor on stage to be viewed from afar, impressed by his talent and beauty, but rather to follow Him through the roller coaster ride of rejection and glorification to the moment of death in this world and the reopening of the broken bridge to God the Father and our Creator.

Dear fellow aspiring immortal through our willingness to leave comfort in our wake let’s prepare for the painstaking journey of Lent and the marvels we may encounter as we travel in a small cubic cab to the empty tomb.

12 Reaching the Tree of Life

After viewing the betrayal of Jesus Christ and thus being reminded of the day that she too betrayed God by following the advice of the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit, Eve was overwhelmed with grief. She hadn’t felt so estranged in many moons. She wouldn’t even talk to me, but I stayed close anyway.

Remembering the event of her expulsion from Eden mysteriously harbored her return.

“It looks so different to me now.” Eve said slowly and quietly as if to herself.

“What did you say? Eve, are we there; are we really in Eden?” Nothing appeared different to me. Why did I expect a bright azure blue sky sunny day? Today the sky was lavender gray and it was quiet. Even the chipmunks were hiding in the holes they burrowed into the earth.

“My friend,” said Eve pensively. “Did you notice that when He was tempted in Gethsemane, when He could have run away or in the trial when He could have defended himself, did you see that Jesus Christ was refusing to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Did you see that when I ate from it I was thinking only of myself and how I could benefit, but when Christ was confronted with a much greater temptation to edify himself, He rejected the opportunity in order to obey God who sent Him to the tree of life. He undid me.”

“Eve, do you mean to tell me that we have been in Eden since Wednesday?”

“Yes, but it is not simply being in Eden that we wanted. We must reach the tree of life, and Jesus will take us there today.”

Then the Lord God said,’ See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”−

And at the East of the garden of Eden God placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Because of those cherubic guards and the flaming swords it has been impossible to reach the tree of life all of this time. But now watch Jesus Christ command the angels to move so He can pass through the flaming swords to reach the tree for us.

“Oh Eve! This is amazing.” I exclaimed.

“Yes amazing grace is what it is, my friend. Look! Here He comes.”

Here we were standing in Eden and on Golgotha at the same time, just as Christ was. The slashes on His skin must have been made by the turning swords as He passed through them. Eve and I watched the Cross being lifted.

Eve whispered in my ear, “Look at Him up there, naked and unashamed just as we were in Eden. Now I understand why the tree of life was being guarded all this time. Only Jesus Christ was worthy to distribute it to the people through their baptism.

Saint Paul said it best when he wrote, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.” The whole big timeless and immortal body of believers together is hanging on that tree of death which is also the tree of life. Eve is there and so am I and so are you.

 God planted this tree in the middle of the garden during the creation of the world to give life abundant and eternal to His children who, like Eve, were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

“Eve,” I said breaking the silence “I think I understand now. You and I and all of these people with us are with God as you were with God in the Garden of Eden. Death has been destroyed on this day, and we are free to commune with God just as in Eden as long as we do not eat of the knowledge of good and evil again.”

“Yes,” she replied ”but you are more blessed then I ever was, because if or when you cave to the temptation to put yourself first or in any way to drift from God’s commands then you need only return to the tree in communion with Jesus and your life will be instantly restored.

Shhh today this looks like the tree of death. Let us bow our heads and pray for patience.

What an awesome awful day this is.”

Happy 1st Birthday Lilly Juliana.

17. My Problem with Sin

 Eve hugged me and said, “Of course that was God speaking to you. He loves you and He wants you to know.”

I replied, “Doesn’t God love everyone? Or don’t you think I was only thinking something that I want to be true?”

Our relationship changed. When I first me Eve, before Easter, she was a young lady yearning to go home. She needed my help. She seemed lost and afraid, and needy. But after being brought back into Eden by Christ, into the presence of God her Father, Eve exuded an aura of confidence, full of love and grace. She was my mother; at least I wanted her to be. Certainly eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had given Eve wisdom. I didn’t know how long Eve would spend with me so I wanted to make the most of every minute to question her. But as any good mother she wanted me to learn on my own.

“You don’t have to go through me. God will teach you all you want to know. You are His child, go to Him for your lessons. If you do well, will He not accept you and if you don’t do well, sin is lurking at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

“There see!” I exclaimed, “I don’t understand that! That’s what God told your son Cain before he killed his brother.”

Eve looked at me and then over to Adam with a nod. Adam reached for my hand and peered into my eyes as Eve had so many times before and said, “What don’t you understand?”

“I don’t understand what sin is. Is it missing the mark of God-likeness or is it an alien predator, something outside of me lurking at my door to hurt me?  What is this enemy waiting to pounce on me when I don’t do well? I suppose Cain let it in when he killed his brother. Even then, God said He would protect Cain from being killed by others even after he left the presence of the Lord.” Adam and Eve patiently listened as I continued.

“In church on Good Friday I stood next to a man who I hadn’t seen there in years. I knew him to be quick-tempered with a foul mouth. I was surprised to see him in church. As I stood there a powerful feeling came over me that God was happy to see the man beside me, that he was loved and received more than I was. He was the prodigal son. Words can’t describe the power of that feeling. It shocked me, but I basked in its warm envelope of love, even though it was for my neighbor and not for me. It was for that maniac!”

Eve said, “See, God spoke to you with that feeling!”

Then Adam added, “God told Cain that sin is a three step process, 1) don’t do well, 2) recognize sin, and 3) master it…or not.  Cain’s jealous thoughts were not yet sin. He could have mastered that, but he didn’t. God didn’t love Cain less after he sinned, and he didn’t love your neighbor less. Someday the judgment will come, but until then God is patient and tolerant. Love covers a multitude of sins. Becoming like Christ by obeying His commands is the only sure-fire way to avoid sin. Do you understand?”

“No,” I responded meekly hoping Adam didn’t hear me.