The Ferocious Flirt (a.k.a God is in the Rain)

August 31, 2012

It (God’s will) is mysterious and terrifying, like the unfathomable depths of the ocean, full of wonders and dangers.

 

Jerry Sittser – The Will of God as a Way of Life

 

I love listening to fighter pilots tell stories, especially Navy pilots.  Years ago a former pilot and friend described a phenomenon common to almost every naval aviator at least once in his career.  He called it being “in the barrel.”  It goes something like this – it’s a stormy night, fifteen foot seas, visibility zero, and the pilot is trying land his craft on a bobbing postage stamp on a black ocean in the black of night.  Conditions worsen; fuel drops below the red line.  The plane quickly descends and the pilot becomes convinced he will not make it.  In his mind and heart he’s dead or soon will be.  In that moment something terribly wonderful happens – the pilot faces his own death.  A few seconds later several tons of steel drops on the carrier deck, the cable catches and the engines shut down.  He’s safe…. safe….but never again the same man.

 

Joseph had a similar experience.  He’s locked up in prison, away from friends, good food, and civilization.  Two years have passed since the cup bearer promised to put in a good word with Pharaoh; now he’s alone (except for his fellow prisoners and the guard) and probably thinking “This is it.  This is where God wants me to be the rest of my life.  So be it.”  One day he wakes up, gets a bath, new clothes and an audience with the Grand Puba.  Later that day he’s promoted to second in command of the most powerful country on the planet. 

 

Watch this clip from the movie “V for Vendetta”.  Evey, played by Natalie Portman, has just experienced imprisonment by what she believes is the dictatorial regime who is looking for the masked freedom fighter “V”.  Every day she is tortured, and then asked where V is located.  She doesn’t’ reveal his hideout, even when threatened with certain death.  Listen carefully to the dialogue.

Why are pain and agony such intimate bedfellows when it comes to facing our fears?  Why does God allow such trials?  In those times He seems as much a ferocious flirt as He is fascinating.  Remember the verse from Habakkuk from my last post:

 

Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.

 

I didn’t mention that was neslted in God’s description of the tribulation Israel would soon experience for the next 400 years.

 

As Jerry Sittser states, He is both mysterious and terrifying.  But above all, He is good.  What happens to the pilots who survive their trip through the barrel?  Many become innovative entrepreneurs with no fear of failure.  What happened to Joseph?  He led Egypt with full confidence (in God) through the greatest famine in history.  In the movie clip V tells Evey that she has faced her own death, to commit to it, and remember it. He reminds her that when faced with fate she found something more important than her own life, a reason beyond her own existence. 

Jesus said the same thing: 

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39)

 

When we’re in the barrel, we want to be anywhere else.  Unfortunately, when God ferociously flirts with us – it’s where we need to be to learn what we need to learn.  And after we end up on the deck, engines off, our hands clutching the stick, and teeth clenched – we too will have an opportunity to realize that we have no need to fear.  From that moment on we become very dangerous to the Illusionist, and he knows it.

 

Read the story of Joseph with your son and discuss the barrel.  The more he understands that his Father in heaven also flirts ferociously, the more prepared he will be for the storm.  For as Evey says, “God is in the rain.”

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A New Adventure in Existence

March 6, 2010
2nd Lt. Charles A.
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Charles A. Lindbergh is another of my heroes.   He was the first person to fly across the Atlantic, a feat comparable today to someone creating their own craft and flying solo to Mars.   Lindbergh was a courageous man in death as much as he was in life.  After receiving the diagnosis of terminal cancer, he wrote these words to be read at his funeral:

We commit the body of Charles A. Lindbergh to its final resting place; but his spirit we commit to Almighty God, knowing that death is but a new adventure in existence and remembering how Jesus said upon the cross, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

I believe down to my cuticles that heaven will be an adventure beyond the craziest fantasies we can envision (The Word for Me is Rescue).  I also support the “concept” that death is not to be feared. I can only hope and pray that I face that moment – if I have the choice – with courage, calmness, and confidence.

My favorite uncle, and the toughest man I ever met, died last year.  C.W. Harbin – soldier, entrepreneur, devoted husband (60 years) and father, and follower of Christ passed after years of debilitating back pain and losing the love of his life a few years earlier.  He left this world with dignity, love and even humor – entering into his new and eternal adventure with – I’m sure –  a laugh, a sly quip and a “Grizzly’ size hug for my Aunt Barbara.

So let’s die with faith.  Let’s allow the resurrection to sink into the fibers of our hearts and define the way we look at the grave.  Let it “free those were like slaves all their lives because of their fear of death” (Heb. 2:15 NCV).   Max Lucado, Fearless

It’s the anticipation of a “new existence” that made the movie Avatar my home-run flick of 2009 (Anticipating My Avatar).  I pray I live today with faith in that future reality.

I also want Avatar to win the Oscar (how’s that for a random thought).

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Steve Brown Does a Body Good

February 15, 2010

If you’ve never heard Steve Brown speak, you’ve missed not only one of the most authentic, humorous, and profound speakers of our time (although he says, “I’m not authentic, I’m screwed up”), but also a deep, tobacco enriched voice that sounds like it emanates from the top of Mt. Sinai and makes James Earl Jones, in comparison, sound like Larry the Cable Guy.

Dr. Brown is a regular guest speaker at our church. Yesterday he launched into his talk with a typical “Brownsian” self-effacement – “If you get something out of this sermon I’m glad, but this sermon is for me.” He spoke on a passage in Matthew where Jesus describes how we should view our “enemies”. Brown made 4 points:

  1. “My enemies are not necessarily the enemies of Jesus” – as much as we would like to put those who disagree with us into a barrel and plug up the knot-hole, that does not mean they are not profoundly important to Christ and to his purpose.
  2. “His enemies are not necessarily my problem” – Brown described how many critical emails and phone calls he receives every week regarding his teachings, then paused and stated, “But guess what, I’m not YOUR responsibility.”
  3. “The biggest enemy I’ve got is me” – He stated (and everyone I’m sure agreed about themselves) that “I struggle with me more than anybody.” But then he also quickly followed with, “But Jesus likes me even when I’m not doing it right.”
  4. “HIS enemies often become HIS friends” – the Apostle Paul – nuff said.

When Steve Brown ended his meaningful monologue with his customary trademark, “You think about that… amen,” my mind did indeed prickle with the reminder that I’m also more screwed up than authentic, and my job is not to make or hate enemies, but to love my enemies (most of the time) to become HIS friends.

Thank you Dr. Brown, you (and your melodious voice – maybe I should start smoking a pipe…) do a body, mind and heart a lot of good.


The Calm Resolve of Inner Peace

February 7, 2010
Stockdale exiting a jet weeks before his Vietn...
Image via Wikipedia

I meet with a small group of  close brothers every Sunday at 7:00 a.m. in a local Panera.  We share life and learning at a level that only comes from long-term earned respect and trust.  We more than casually call ourselves “The Tunnel Boys.”   We’re currently chewing our way through “Shattered Dreams” by Larry Crabb, one stick of triple thick jerky at a time.  This is a book I do not recommend to many – it’s difficult enough to chew much less swallow.  I read a quote out loud this morning:

“Whatever the angel said to strengthen Jesus, the effect was surprising.  I would have expected Him to dry His eyes, smile bravely, and get on with His mission.  But instead Jesus cried harder, so hard that His sweat became like drops of blood.  That happened after He was strengthened.  Perhaps we’re meant to learn that the richest hope permits the deepest suffering, which releases the strongest power, which then produces the greatest joy.  Maybe there is no shortcut to joy.  Maybe God sometimes frustrates our desire to experience Him in order to deepen it… And then, at some point, Jesus did stop crying.  The season of anguish yielded to calm resolve.”

Calm resolve.  Peace of heart and mind.  I’m reminded of one of my heroes – Admiral William Stockdale.   Stockdale was the highest ranking POW in Viet Nam.  He spent over six years in a concentration camp with a number of other courageous comrades.  When asked how he survived that long in tortuous captivity, he responded with this statement that has since earned the title of “The Stockdale Paradox”:

On the one hand, we stoically accepted the brutal facts of our reality. On the other hand, we maintained an unwavering faith in the endgame, and that we would prevail.

For over 50 years my definition of hope was the anticipation that life “here” will get better.   According to Crabb, and Admiral Stockdale for that matter, that’s a illusion from the Imperious Illusionist himself.  Life may not get better HERE, but it will THERE.  Life, even life difficulty and pain can be preparation HERE for full participation THERE.

Can we face this reality with “calm resolve” and/or “stoic acceptance”?  I struggle with this on a daily basis – but the truth remains; “The richest hope permits the deepest suffering, which releases the strongest power, which then produces the greatest joy.”  To which I say to myself – “Take that jerky, Mr. Sapp, and chew on it.”

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How Dream Builders Build Trust

January 29, 2010

I just left another Dream Builder meeting 17 stories up in downtown Orlando.  I’m continually thankful that I enjoy the camaraderie and adventure with these amazing, weird individuals (www.tinyurl.com/birdinthebox).   This morning, amidst stories of helicopter rescues in Haiti (led by the REAL Jack Bauer – no kidding), adoptions in China, and new South African theme parks – we discussed how Dream Builders build trust with each other.  Here are the actions we identified:

  • Be consistent – keep showing up
  • Be truthful even when it hurts
  • Say what you do – do what you say
  • Be open about shortcomings
  • Demonstrate that you care
  • Be a cheerleader
  • Love your wife and children
  • Be more than fair
  • Practice forgiveness

Did I mention how thankful I am to hang around these weirdos?


Goal for 2010: Less Confusion, Better Conclusions

January 2, 2010
Cover of "The Last Lecture"
Cover of The Last Lecture

I’m going to borrow the idea of a “head fake” from dearly departed Randy Pausch (The Last Lecture), but unlike Pausch, I’ll detail the fake up front.  At the end of The Last Lecture, which I highly recommend watching if you haven’t seen it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo) , Pausch described that he had tricked the audience with a double head-fake:

  1. The lecture, originally titled “Things I’ve Learned in Life” should really be titled “How to Live Life.”
  2. The lecture was not written for the audience who attended the video recording, but for Pausch’s children who would be able to view it long after his death due to Pancreatic cancer.

My head fakes, though less profound and dramatic:

  1. This post should be titled, “Stop Getting Snookered.”
  2. This post is for me, not for you.

This post is for me because I’m the one who needs to apply it.  I’m the one who allows The Imperious Illusionist (http://tinyurl.com/ImperiousIllusionist) to create confusion with his illusions that lead me to wrong conclusions.  Here are a few of the illusions I want to dispel in 2010:

  • More will be enough
  • Pain is a bad thing
  • I have a right to feel good
  • Substitutes and counterfeits provide relief
  • Someone or something can meet my deepest needs

Times may get tough(er) or conditions and circumstances may improve dramatically – but I must remember that an EPIC STORY continues to unfold, and this story played out in my life is seldom what it seems.  As Rick Warren states, this life is a test, a trust, and TRAINING.   I can’t afford to allow the Illusionist to snooker me with his illusions so that I make inaccurate conclusions, start to doubt my Creator, and bad decisions.

My goal for 2010: less confusion – better conclusions.

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Anticipating my Avatar

December 21, 2009
Avatar (2009 film)
Image via Wikipedia

I saw Avatar last weekend, along with all the other sci-fi enthusiasts who’ve impatiently waited for several years to see James Cameron’s next –gen screen graphics.  Cameron did it again – he built high expectations and spent hundreds of millions to produce his vision (as he did with Titanic), and bottom line – he DELIVERED.

I conceptualize most of life in metaphors; I guess that’s the blessing and curse of living so “right-brained” I see superheroes in spreadsheets.  That said, the visual image of living in a “new body” in a dangerous, beautiful, adventurous world makes me long for heaven at a level difficult to describe.  I firmly believe that life here on earth is preparation to participate in God’s adventure for eternity – and for me, Avatar is like a drop of honey on the tongue of my anticipation.  The hard part is exercising patience, knowing God will DELIVER in His perfect timing.

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