More Than Meets The Eye

We are not blind to the chaos and injustice that we see all around us. We write about the hope that we see, we write about the delight that we experience in this life, but we see the ugly. We see it in the nooks and crannies of the city streets, we see it in the media, we see it when we sit at a table with others and hear their stories of betrayal and disconnect. We see it clearly and it breaks our hearts. There are times that the burden is so heavy I want to scream out. I want to cry to the heavens, Lord have mercy!!

I see an Empire system that builds armies and weapons of mass destruction, waging war in the name of peace, and bringing justice seems to fall short, offering mercy to some and the hand of death to others. I see a system that continues to oppress the down trodden, making it impossible for some to walk freely in their own skin. I see a world that is unprincipled, dog-eat-dog, a world that doesn’t fight fair. It’s not just “them or those people” either as this Empire system seeps into the everyday life. Heads held high as a sibling smites one another or a husband and wife who build a marriage based on lies or discord. This Empire wages war in the depth of our very own hearts.

What if by buying into this system, suggesting this is just the natural order of things, we are being duped? I hate being duped! What if there is another option? What if we we’re created to live a different way? What if there really is such a thing as “Thy Kingdom Come?” And, what if it is available in the here and now?

Scripture says that Jesus prayed those words. He prayed “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” And, by praying this, He teaches us that the two aren’t so far apart, he prays it and then we see through out his life that he does just that. He brings heaven to earth. We see him heal the lame, give sight to the blind, freeing those oppressed by the bondage of addiction, self-centeredness and/or evil spirits. And, then we see him fulfill his covenant to humanity by laying down his life so we might live this kingdom life as well. In the beginning was the word, and the word was God. Everything was created through him, nothing – not one thing came into being without him. It is what the new convent of his blood on the cross was all about, a focused center: One man dies for everyone. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life. A resurrection life, a Kingdom life, a far better life than people lived on their own.

Empire suggests that only a select few have this option, and that man will judge who comes and goes. But, Thy kingdom come, says that no one who trusts God, heart and soul, will ever regret it.

IMG_9391As we move towards a Kingdom mindset, we find freedom from the fear and pride that keeps us locked into making sure we are on top and not on the bottom; for to be on the bottom would surely mean death, and if not death then isolation and rejection. This freedom results in a confidence in God’s love and empowers us to pray and live out “Thy Kingdom Come” as we wait for the final frontier.  The ancient text says that Jesus will return and when he does he will rule the world with peace, a peace that passes all understanding, peace without the sword. The ancient text says that living water will flow from the city center bringing life to all, and the lion will lay with the lamb. It says that his rule will once and for all set the captives free.

I realize I’m probably part of a minority, but I’m holding on, not because I think I’m going to get something out of it, but because I’m convinced that the God of all gods is who he says he his and his purposes shall stand. I’m convinced that God’s grace is real and nothing can separate me from his love.

And, so although we live in this world, we do not wage war as the world does. Instead, we expose this empire, this Government of Condemnation, by smashing it’s warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulses into the structure of life shaped by Christ. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt system by “living out” thy kingdom come, loosing the bonds, healing the broken-hearted and setting the captives free, bringing peace and love, resurrection power and the ministry of reconciliation to all we meet.

Yes, these are hard times, but we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.

As the encouraging words from James, Jesus’ younger brother say, “These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye.”

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Thy Kingdom Come

One beautifully sunny morning in Vietnam.

We were just leaving the beach when a woman, an old woman, carrying big baskets of fruit approached us in hopes of selling her goods but we had just finished lunch, so we smiled, shook our heads no thanks and kept walking.

However, our daughter and son were further behind us and we didn’t see her approach them. So when we turned too look back we were shocked to see our daughter wearing the old woman’s baskets and hat posing as Banjo took her photo. We rush over a little disappointed in our children. To our eyes, it looked as if our kids were exploiting the woman for photo op.

Later however, we found out that the woman actually initiated the process. Apparently, she came up to our kids, took her baskets off her shoulders and thrust it onto Graciana, simultaneously taking her hat off and putting it on Graciana’s head. She snatched Graciana’s camera out of her hand, fumbled around with it for a bit and then handed it to him demanding him to take a photo. This all happened in a matter of seconds and then we turned around.

imageWe obviously didn’t know the backstory so we rushed over thinking surely we should offer her money for this unique photo op. We thanked her and handed her 10,000 dong. Which is about $.50 USD. She took her hat and baskets off of Graciana and we thought the situation was dealt with, but then she began to demand we buy a coconut from her. She took out her machete to cut the coconut and then badgered us to take the coconut. We asked her how much and she mumbled a number we thought was 50,000. Which is above the usual asking price but we thought OK, well just take it and leave. So we handed her the 50,000, she took it but began to shake her head (and her machete) violently. She wrote in the sand 500,000, which is about $22 USD!

Thankfully, by that point, a guard, some of the staff, and our host, saw what was happening and came over to help us deal with the lady. She was angry that they came to our side and waved her machete at them, clenching her fists around the money we had already given her. We all just stood awe as our host dealt with her. She let the woman know that her manipulation was unacceptable and that we weren’t going to pay her. I think we were able to get the 10,000 back but she kept the 50,000. Which was fine, we kept the coconut. She made a sour face and played victim as we all walked away. We left totally bewildered but we weren’t bitter. Honestly the interaction was so swift that we really didn’t have much time to process what was even going on until we walked away.

There was a sadness that came over us for her. What drives an old woman to become a thief? That’s really what laid heavy on our hearts. She was just a sweet little old lady, in the twilight of her life, meant to be enjoying the fruit of her children and grandchildren but here she was stuck in what was probably a long standing cycle of twisted thinking, desperate and demanding. She was roaming this life like a thief in the dark.

It reminded me of another thief, my grandfather. Who was shot (bullet lodging an eighth of an inch from his heart) trying to rob a club in Indianapolis, IN. My father and his twin brother were only 30 days old. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time my paw paw participated in what he would call a “lead pipe synch.” It was just the first time he was caught. It was during is his capture and imprisonment however that his spirit was awakened and he made a decision to change the course of his life. He made a decision to no longer live for himself but for the one who created him. This decision drastically changed the course of my family, this decision and the follow through after gave my family life.

All I could think of after we left this lady was how her con, although sly was so desperate. How I wished I would have had time to catch myself during the interaction to speak truth in love, to let her know that she was wrong for preying on us, but that the deceitfulness in her heart was a burden she didn’t need to carry. I don’t know why or how it all works, this idea of awakening but I do know that I long to see thy kingdom come… And it is during these moments that my heart aches for it most.