A Poem

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To My “Spiritual but not Religious” Friends
(while looking at pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope)

Look at these:
Aren’t they amazing?
These are pictures of deep space,
the far reaches of the universe
and what can be seen in every dark corner
is light.

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Towering nebulae,
whirling galaxies,
clusters of stars so dense
they dazzle the eyes.

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There is an ancient text that claims:
“God is light.”

Work with me for a minute:
Imagine that it’s true,
that all the brilliant beauty in those images—
is God.
That He, or She, or It, is a luminous, swirling, benevolent
Presence
That fills the universe,
and touches every dark corner
with light.

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And then imagine that here—
on this tiny blue-green planet—
among humans who have evolved slowly
over millions of years
some humans
have been especially sensitive to that
Presence,
in love with the light,
listening for its low vibrations,
and that they have tried to put into words
what they have heard and seen,
tasted and touched.

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Imagine that other humans—
not so sensitive—
have found meaning in those words,
some sense of connection
to something they cannot name,
so that they have gathered up those words
and written them down
on tablets, scrolls, and in books.

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Suppose that’s what the Bible is,
the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita:
books full of words that bear witness
to some greater presence
by those who have heard the low hum
of the heavens, singing,
by those who have seen the light
and called it by name?

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It doesn’t mean that they got it all right—
this is testimony, not Truth—
but suppose there is a kind of truth there
for those who can hear it
and Good News (if you want to call it that):
The news that we are not alone:
That there is a luminous, swirling, benevolent
Presence
Watching over us,
Nurturing our slow growth
and stuttering evolution
over eons,

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Believing in us
Even when we can’t
Believe in ourselves,
And touching every dark corner
with light.

–Jay Green

KOH2RVA: Day 214

dandelion_blowing_in_wind_1Yesterday I shared the prayer requests of church planters Jeremy and Monica, as they anticipated a gathering where they could talk to some “religiously curious” people about Jesus.  Jeremy’s report on that gathering, below, sounds like something right out of the Book of Acts (if Acts had been written by a hip twenty-something living in Richmond, Virginia, in 2013). Take a look:

Thank you for your prayers! Sometimes I laugh at how the Lord does things – He can be sovereignly and graciously eccentric (His ways are NOT our ways!). His love is spectacular to behold and to flesh out towards others! Here are the results of our faith talk gathering this past weekend:

It was so cool! (1) While the gathering was small, a larger number of people have now entered into deeper dialogue concerning Jesus. (2) One girl expressed that she wants to understand the Bible and find purpose in life. She is not connected to any church at the moment, and doesn’t know fully what it means to be a follower of Jesus, but the conversation is in motion and we will be following up with her! (3) One friend (who knows Jesus, and came to our gathering) expressed to us that he wanted to know more about sharing his faith with others. During this meeting he was actually a vital part of sharing Christ!!! He did an excellent job in opening up and sharing about his walk with the Lord. We were extremely blessed to have him on our team.

BUT IT GETS BETTER! After the gathering was over, one girl stopped by (she was not originally at the gathering). She opened up to us claiming that her “religious experience” was dismal. She’s been distanced from Jesus because of her lack of understanding. She claimed that no one can know anything spiritually, but yet she is searching with deep emotion. So we TOTALLY declared that Jesus is making HIS KINGDOM available to HER! It was SO COOL! The Holy Spirit moved and she was like, “dude, I TOTALLY GET IT!” We shared the gospel with her but there is still a hangup in her heart towards jumping in towards being a Jesus follower. She told us she is super interested in having more conversations like this and feels a deep need for more! PRAISE THE LORD for what He is doing in her life!!!

Then our neighbor (who also wasn’t at the gathering) invited all three of us to come up for an unexpected dinner. We went up and GOD WAS AT WORK! Other neighbors were up there and everyone started talking more about what it means to walk by faith. Another man in our building is a believer, and he was present and contributed greatly by planting many seeds of truth. One young lady (who we never met before) was up there and she opened up about serious issues in her spiritual walk and was listening to Monica share the gospel while I was sharing with another young lady about how we need Jesus to bring light and healing to our insecurities and fears. Meanwhile the other believing man was also sharing – it was as if the Holy Spirit was bouncing off the walls in that room, because there was a sweet team effort going on in sharing the glory of Christ! Hahaha, it was incredible!

What a great day! For those of you praying for us, please mark this past weekend as a turning point: there is now a growing multiplicity of Jesus conversations throughout our building, neighborhood and city! People are walking beyond the superficial relationships into realms of understanding more about JESUS! Praise the Lord!

Peace and grace to you all! Jeremy and Monica

PS – that other guy, is putting on an ice cream night for our building this weekend, so pray for more opportunities to share Jesus! It is great having another believer in our building working with us for the purpose of reaching those who are lost!

I love the way these two are letting themselves be used, and by the way they marvel every time God does something through them.  I wonder what God might do through us today if we let him have his way?  Would the Kingdom of Heaven come a little bit closer to Richmond, Virginia?

Jesus the Atheist

Several years ago, my mother-in-law found a handyman to help her around her house in Texas.  His name was Jesus (pronounced “hay-soos”), and even though we knew how his name was pronounced it was funny to get a letter from Lu telling us that Jesus had fixed her plumbing or painted the living room.  Over the years he got to be almost one of the family, and when we heard that he had solved some crisis or come to Lu’s rescue we would smile and say, “What a friend we have in Jesus!”

So, when we heard that he was bringing Lu’s furniture to Richmond in her recent move we were excited.  Christy said, “I get to meet Jesus!”  And she did.  He arrived with two helpers at mid-morning on Saturday and didn’t finish unloading the truck until six that evening.  Christy went with him to drop off the truck and pick up a rental car so he could drive back to Texas.  At some point she confessed to him that she had enjoyed knowing “Jesus” was taking good care of her mom.  He smiled and then said, quietly, “It is funny.  My name is Jesus.  I was born on Christmas day.  But I’m an atheist.”

And that caught Christy off guard.  It was one thing to think of Jesus helping her mom around the house, but another thing to think of Jesus as an atheist. 

I’ve been troubled about it almost ever since, and wondering what happened.  Did “Hay-soos” get tired of all the jokes about “Jesus”?  Did the other children tease him about being born on Christmas Day?  Did his mother ask him if he could multiply the meager supper she had prepared?  Did his grandpa complain about his aches and pains and ask him (with a wink) if he could do something about it?  Of course that makes me think of the other Jesus, who had to put up with a lot of that kind of thing himself.  Unbelievers were always giving him a hard time and the believers weren’t much better.  They kept begging him to heal them, to help them, to feed them.  There must have been some days when he wished his name wasn’t Jesus, and there were whole nights when he just had to get away, when he went up on the mountain or off in the wilderness to pray.  But every time he seemed to get up off his knees ready to face the begging, pleading, unbelieving world again. 

Maybe that would have worked for “Hay-soos” the Handyman.  Maybe if he had let those taunts and jeers drive him to his knees he would have grown closer and closer to God, rather than further and further away.  At this point in his life there probably isn’t much that would convince him that prayer is the perfect response to life’s hardships.  He’s probably just relying on himself and his own strength, on his own ability to deal with the world.  That’s fine for the little things, like how to get a load of furniture from Texas to Virginia, but it won’t help much with the big ones.  And so, if “Hay-soos” won’t pray, I’m going to say a prayer for him, and maybe you could, too.  I’m going to pray that he will learn to love the name he’s been given, and feel a kinship with the one who carried it before him.  And when I’m feeling bold I will pray for even more than that, that he will become a passionate believer.  Although I have to admit it feels a little odd asking God:

“Help Jesus become a Christian.”

I’m a Believer

One of my readers sent in this question recently:

Q: How do you know God exists?  (I assume you’d say you know, but maybe that’s wrong?).

A: Actually, I DON’T know that God exists.  I’ve always wanted to meet a card-carrying agnostic so that I could say, “Are you an agnostic?  Me too!” in the sense that I can’t know, for certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt.  What I can do is believe, and that’s different.  I believe God exists in the same way I believe love exists, and I couldn’t imagine a world without God in it anymore than I could imagine a world without love in it.  If there were such a world, I wouldn’t want to live in it!  But there are some things that confirm my faith, that warm my heart, that give me goosebumps, that make me gasp and say, “It’s true!”  And in my job I get to notice those things, take notes on them, and talk about them.

Lucky me.

Freedom of Speech on Parade

I had an interesting chat with the Pope on Sunday.

I was walking along Monument Avenue during the annual “Easter on Parade” event—smiling at the dogs wearing bunny ears and the parents pushing strollers—when suddenly there he was, standing with six or seven other guys in black T-shirts.  At first I mistook him for a bishop, but he said, “No, man.  I’m the Pope!”  He pointed to his hat as evidence.  It did look something like the Pope’s hat.  It was the right size and shape.  But it was made out of some kind of padded polyester material and I’m guessing the Pope’s hat is not.  “Where did you get it?” I asked.  “Costume store,” he answered.  But he told me how much fun he’d had wearing it to the bar where he’s a bouncer.  “I see a couple of Catholic priests sitting at a booth and I say, ‘Hey, you two!  Get back to work!’  And they almost jump out of their skin.” 

I laughed at that, but it was odd coming from a guy pretending to be the Pope while wearing a T-shirt that said, “Jesus Hates You.”  In fact, all these guys were wearing T-shirts with atheist and anti-Christian slogans on them, including one that said, “Thank God I’m an Atheist!”  I remembered last year’s Easter on Parade, when there was a street preacher screaming at people, telling them they were going to Hell if they didn’t accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.  I wondered if there was any connection between that kind of aggressive evangelism and this kind of in-your-face backlash.  I also wondered what Jesus would make of all this, Jesus—who died for atheists, street preachers, and the Pope.  Wouldn’t he put an arm around the guy in the black T-shirt and say, “You’ve got it wrong, friend.  I don’t hate anybody“?  And wouldn’t he put an arm around the street preacher and say, “Stop screaming, friend.  I came because God loves the world”?

I tried to keep that in mind as I strolled on down Monument Avenue.  I had just come from a worship service where I had preached the good news that “Christ is risen!” and the choir had closed things out by singing the “Hallelujah” chorus.  It was one of those days when a few guys in black T-shirts weren’t going to spoil my mood, when I was sure that in the end the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,

“And he shall reign forever and ever.”