Old, Rugged Cross

My church is a country song

Today there are people sleeping in the pews,

while detoxing from Meth,

souls on probation from prison,

people hiding out from a fight breaking outside.

It’s all so beautiful

This is a place where people can find healing

They don’t call it the old, rugged cross for nothing

We come to Him raw and Jesus, the master carpenter,

sands us down.

 

 

Jonah 4

You may or may not be familiar with the life of Jonah.

Jonah was a prophet way back when. God tells him to go to a place to Ninevah to preach to the people there, that they would stop doing all the bad stuff they were doing and instead do good. Jonah receives his mission and runs away, taking the soonest ship to the furthest town. En route, he hits a storm and, in a moment of conviction, asks the crew to throw him overboard. Not knowing what else to do, they do just that. Jonah is swallowed by the sea creature a la Pinocchio and spends three days in the belly of the beast. At that point, he has a change of heart, asks God for a hand out, and God does just that. The creature spits him out and he high-tails it over to Ninevah to ask them also to turn their lives around. In no short time, they do.

And all ends happily ever after, right? I wish. No. Many retellings of Jonah’s life end there, but his life extends to another chapter. In this chapter, he is sitting on a hill looking over the just-saved city of Ninevah, hoping that God will change His mind and blow it up. “Please, Lord, isn’t this what I thought while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster. And now, Lord, take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live,” says the prophet. Despite all that Jonah has been through, he still wants the Ninevites to die and for God to take him with them.

Fortunately, God doesn’t grant Jonah’s request. Instead, he lets Jonah sit in the hot sun for a good, long while until Jonah is about to faint. Then, He grows up a plant to cover Jonah’s head. Jonah loves his plant because the comfort it provides him. God allows him a moment of solace than kills the plant.

Jonah flips out. When God asks him if his anger is justified, Jonah is 1200% sure that it is. At this, God asks a follow-up question, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in the night and perished in the night. But may I not care about the great city of Ninevah, which has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?” With that, God drops the mic and Jonah’s story ends there. We don’t know how he responded. In truth, we don’t need to. This is God’s question to us. We all have plants in our lives, things we put in priority over the people all around us. Are we brave enough to let them go and selfless enough to see the needs of others, even if those needs belong to those we don’t see eye to eye with?

The challenge is simple. God is waiting for the answer. Don’t be a Jonah. Answer the call.

The Moment Before

Why is it that, in Exodus, God tells us that

They created the deaf, the mute, and the blind

yet in Leviticus we turn around and push them aside?

Why is it, in Genesis, that God creates

both man AND woman in Their own image

yet we get bogged down in gender roles

and social norms?

Why is it, in Romans, that we can bank

our entire faith on the fact that Abraham

came before Moses

and so are justified by grace alone,

rather than by works,

yet keep trying to earn our salvation

and set up obstacles for others to jump over to do the same?

God is calling all of us into immediate and total reconciliation with Himself.

Are we bold enough to take Him up on His offer?

In a Cloud

In a vision, I saw Jesus standing

before the gates of heaven

holding two great stones:

one labeled TRUTH and the other

GRACE.

“What are these stones for?” I asked.

“This is how I judge the lives of those

who approach the gates.

I have walked with them their entire lives.

By their actions, they have chosen which stone

I shall judge from.”

I noticed only then that He had a sword ready at His hip.

“What of the sword?” I said. “What is that for?”

“Many will storm the gates of heaven,

demanding to be let in.

They do not want or do not have time

to await my verdict.

Some act if they already know,

others actually know and will not stand for it,

but either way I will not let them in.

I protect my sheep. I am the only way in.”

“By which stone will You judge me, LORD?” I asked.

“The choice is yours.

Not by your lips, but your heart do you make your decision,” He said. “Yet the time has not yet come. Return to Earth. Live your life. Go in peace.”

I bowed before the King of Heaven and began to make my exit.

“And Aaron, remember that I am always with You, through the good and the bad. Nothing escapes my sight,” He said.

“I know LORD,” I said, before descending back to Earth

in a cloud.

Scheduled Execution

As I set my head upon the guillotine,

A voice descended from heaven.

“Stop! Why do you do this?” It said.

“Because I am guilty,” I said, “deserving death.”

“Your sins are grave, but I took them to the grave

They died with me and I brought you up

into new life. Do you not remember this?”

“I forget so easily,” I said.

“Rise, my child, into my grace,

and your new life.”

I did rise after all and since then

have been forever changed,

though that fateful blade still haunts menacingly

the corner of my mind’s eye.