Chasing Rainbows

Driving home from work one evening, I was blown away by the incredible sky.  It was one of those slow, summer sunsets that fills the sky and takes its time to travel across the horizon.  I pulled over to snap a few pictures while it was still light enough.  My car was parked on a rocky outlet on a side street, I left the car running and the door open as I jumped out to capture the last light on my trusty smart phone.  I was literally pursuing the light and chasing the beauty.  When was the last time you chased beauty?

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This reminded me of when I was a young high school student and my sister was in middle school.  At the time, our family lived in a house that backed up to a field and beyond that was a golf course.  One summer, a brilliant rainbow stretched across the sky and looked as if it was actually touching the ground in the field.  Colorful light filled a grassy area that appeared just a short distance away from our house.  My sister and I threw on our shoes, rushed out the back door and ran to find that rainbow.  I was sure we could touch it.

So we ran and ran.  We ran through the field and across the bridge that led to the golf course.  The farther we ran, the farther the rainbow went.  We ran on for a while pausing to catch our breath.  It’s not easy chasing rainbows in Colorado’s high altitude.  I put logic aside and was convinced I really could touch the rainbow if we ran faster.  We ran a little further, but alas, we didn’t touch the rainbow.  It was always just beyond our reach, and we knew that, yet we delightfully pursued anyway.  I love this little memory and I still hold in my heart a faith that says you can catch rainbows if you chase them hard enough.

Sometimes in the chaos of life we forget to chase rainbows.  We forget to look up and notice a summer sunset claiming the sky.  I turn my eyes inward and get stuck.  I put the emphasis on myself, not on He who is greater.  Suddenly, I forget rainbows and chasing beauty because I get lost in myself.  When will I wake up from this toxic sleep of self-obsession?  When will I be brave enough to be free, unbound in endless salvation, resting in quiet hallelujahs?

I hold dear a philosophy of chasing rainbows.  A little whimsy and faith can go a long way.  Maybe you can’t touch rainbows; maybe science says it’s impossible.  I don’t care.   I will keep chasing rainbows anyway.

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Alive and awake
Sky speak to me
I chase your brilliance
I catch sun’s last light

Quickly fading
My last glimpse is another’s first taste
Morphing color make your brilliance known to me
Great big sky encircle me like a warm embrace

Sweet kisses of pink, blue and gold
Heaven in the wisps of every cloud
Your vastness in miles of big open sky

Your creative canvas
Your most holy playground
A love letter of highest form
A kaleidoscope of light

Heaven softly calling from up above
Surrounded by love’s perfect touch
Clouds surrendered to their maker
Lighthearted they rest in splendid suspension

A place of fearless awe and wonder
Overwhelmed you would paint skies for me
In a world torn, hurting and afraid
You pause to create such beauty

Who am I to deserve such art?
A gift I’m most undeserving
But I’ll stand still and wait and watch 

A moment in time is mine for the taking
If only I’ll look up
Inward eyes I do despise
Yet I’m so easily swayed

Emphasis on you is joy
Roots of faith grow down deep
Taking hope from wondrous skies

Magic Eye

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Image from magiceye.com

Having eyes to see and ears to hear is what I long for.  Jesus talked about it a lot.  Churches don’t talk about it enough.  But what does that mean?  I believe it’s seeing with faith.  It’s believing enough to hear through the noise.  It reminds me of the Magic Eye books.  Did you ever see one of those prints?  They were unusual pieces of art.  They were made of a colorful patterns repeated across the page, each line of the pattern slightly different than the next.  Curious and tricky in nature, you would focus on a two dimensional print in order to see a three dimensional picture.  You could look at it, walk right past it and miss it.

The first Magic Eye print I saw was at a gallery in downtown Dallas, Texas when I was young.  My mom walked up to the print with me, explained the instructions and stood before the picture with her arm stretched out in front of her, pointer finger extended straight up.  The instructions were to study your finger until the background, the print, begins to move and form into a picture.  Wikipedia describes it this way: “The viewer must diverge his or her eyes in order to see a hidden three-dimensional image within the pattern.”  It sounds trippy, but it totally worked. Soon you could see the picture, so you could lower your arm.  Then you were able to get lost in the three dimensional picture before you of a castle or an animal or a ship.  Once you saw the picture you could even step to the right or to the left so the picture would move with you.  It was fascinating.  Later, we bought a book filled with these prints.  You could use your finger or you could use my technique, which was to hold the book right up against your face until the print got blurry from you starring at it a little cross-eyed, then you would very slowly pull it away from your face.  The picture would get clearer and clearer until you could move your eyes about the page looking at this pop up scene before you that had emerged from the pattern on the page.

Believe it or not I have a point with this story.  I propose that we must develop a magic eye.  In order to have eyes to see, we must relearn how to see not just with our eyes, but with our hearts.  Seeing into the kingdom is a multisensory experience that begins in the heart.  The eyes of our hearts must be open, that’s why it’s important to guard our hearts.  Learning to see into the kingdom and developing a magic eye is no trick.  We may or may not look as wonky as I did trying to see the Magic Eye prints in my book, but we must practice this sight over and over until it becomes second nature.  We must diverge our eyes in Christ so we can have kingdom eyes.

Will you look up?

When my best friend and I were Juniors in high school we went on a school “field trip” to France.  The school required chaperones, which meant our moms got to come as well.  I call it a field trip, but calling a grand adventure such is nearly insulting.  I’ll call it our French Adventure instead.

Back home at school our teacher had told us to blend in by wearing nice clothes.  Jeans and tennis shoes were to be left at home as this would make us stand out as Americans.  Walking in a row 18 people long down the streets of France with cameras out, however, was acceptable.  And so, my best friend and I brilliantly bought matching outfits to blend in.  Our favorite outfit was black and white printed capris with little knit berets.  Seriously.  We totally blended in.

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Yes, we walked down the Eiffel Tower barefoot. Is there any other way?

 

In the midst of this two week French Adventure, we found ourselves in the most perfectly charming city overlooking the water around every cobblestoned bend.  High stoned walled kept the ocean on one side and the town on the other.  I can’t remember the name of this most perfect French town, but I do remember what happened here.Picture this.  You are walking together, the four of you, breathing in the city’s evening sounds as the sun is slowly deciding to set.  It’s not crowded, so you’re not worried about hanging onto your purse or watching where you’re going.  You are simply meandering, winding down streets of cobblestone.  Small buildings line the quiet street, some are shops, some are restaurants and a few others are homes.

Suddenly, you see something on the ground just a short distance ahead of you and your little group.  In your excitement, you point to it and yell, “Look up!”

Because you’re still excitedly pointing down at this mysterious object, you don’t understand why everyone is looking up.  Now everyone is just paces away from this object.  So, again, you point to the ground and shout with fervor, “Look up!”

Everyone continues to look up searching for what mystifying piece of historic scenery you are trying to point out.  It doesn’t occur to you that you meant to say “Look out” until your mom, who is focused on looking up, walks right into a pile of French doggie poo.

Oops.

Years later, my friend would use this little story as a word of advice.  On a Christmas card to me she wrote,

“I was thinking about our trip to France, and I discovered something profound.  As we walked along the cobblestone streets filled with poo you cried “Look up!”  I think you had discovered a universal truth: The road of life is full of sh… poop, and the best thing to do is to look up and just enjoy the beauty around us.  My wish for you this year is that you ignore the shit and enjoy all the wonderful things.”
I still have this Christmas card – it’s kind of a treasure.
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Clearly we were awesome.

Then today, I thought of this story again.  I was driving home from work and was blown away by the sunset.  Not just the sunset, but the skies themselves.  It was like standing inside a snow globe of sunset surrounded by a sky so vast you had to turn in circles just to see it all.  I had to pull over and take a picture (or ten) it was that breathtaking.  I don’t know what your sunsets are like, but in my opinion Colorado has the biggest skies.  This means miles of sky for your viewing pleasure, and a perfect canvas for sunsets.  But you will only see it if you look up.

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So often my eyes are glued to a computer screen, my phone, my desires, and my worries.  What if my eyes were more often drawn to the sky?  What if I sought His face over the bustling pace of life?  What if we all did?  What if we all trained ourselves to look up a little longer and a little more often?  What if we looked up?What if … two little words charged with potential.

Look up … two innocent words drenched with invitation.

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Every day we’re given invitations to stop what we’re doing and look up.  Moments of beauty given just for us.  Take a moment to breathe in the moments of peace.  Feel the sun warm your skin and the breeze on your face, don’t just take note of it on the run.  It’s a calling.
He will not force you to rest and look up.  But he’ll always be there waiting.
Will you look up?

 

Sunflower Song

5099691_origUsually I like running, but today was not that day. I squeaked out the miles in new shoes that were no bueno for my feet. But this sight stopped me in my tracks.

We’ve had drizzling grey weather the past week, unusual for Colorado especially this time of year.  The stark contrast of the grey horizon and the bold sunflower reminded me of my own story.

It was a long process of awakening from a world of grey, and I was and will always be so thankful for the sunflowers in my life that beckoned me to more.  Those sunflowers have names and faces.  My amazing mom who listened to me with profound patience and endlessly spoke life and vision into a weary soul, Joanie who sat on the floor before me in a little prayer room and held my feet to ground me while she prayed over me, even a favorite author, who at the time I hadn’t met before, whose writings spoke to me at a new and deep level.  God reached me through each of these people in ways unique and beautiful.

I’m thankful for these people.  I’m even thankful for the grey.  For where there was no awareness of grey, there would have been no sight to see the color of freedom.  I am forever thankful for you, my sunflowers, my heroes.

A drop of color in a world of tasteless grey
A burst of light to chase desperate gloom away

In your honor, you beseech me
And draw me toward worlds anew

Poison creeps in and suffocates the soul
But a power awaits beyond all control

I draw strength from your great beauty
Courage from wonder once lost

Poised to defeat by strength of light
Reckless in every act of love’s bold might

Little sunflower formed of gold
You were not made to fight alone

Your sense of self sways with every gust
With your face to sun you know to trust

Unpretentious little flower
What secrets you must know

Gentle petals of valiant hue
Seeps all that is good, wonderful and true

To the sun and wind, you may bend
Yet grow bright in tender strength

A poetic bloom of mystery
Captivating in raw honesty

A little hope of color
Most gracious dash of life

A priceless beauty to be sure
A warrior of freedom’s great valor

Striking passion in field of earth’s hot breath
You sing a different song

For you stand your ground
In a world tragically grey bound

A song of hallelujahs
Some broken but made whole

So simple and so true
You stand firm as true you

So stand your ground and sing your song
Driving twisted grey away

Friendly Shadow

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As I was walking through Old Colorado City on this warm summer evening, I came across a mysteriously happy blue door.  Turns out this door had a friend.

Dear bouncing little shadow
Will you come with me?
Play in the brightest light
To chase away darkest day

Ever changing little shadow
Keep dancing all around
Follow the rhythm of radiance
To engage sun’s passion song

Little shadow with softly twisted edges
Skip through life’s worst roadblocks
Morph sweetly onto living canvas
To cast art across beaten paths

Shy and secret little shadow
Be bold in your gentle way.
No fear of desperate darkness
To catch the seeking rays

Dearest silhouette of hope
Capture sun’s last magic!
Play with eclipsed companion
To taste brilliance before it slips away

Pink Mountains

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I took this picture and wrote this on a long early morning run.  Turns out 8 miles is rough on the knees,
but easy on the heart.

Pink light bathes granite mountain top
Towering in strength
Beckoning with its intensity

A gentle call washed in early morning light
Come and live fully
A hard heart turned flesh
A song of true home

One step then another
Always climbing
Always seeking
Will I reach the top?

My name whispered in the breeze
Hope mingles with peace in a perfect pirouette
Chasing shadows to find smiling light
And tangle my fingers in its grateful glimmer

Gentleness splayed across strength in playful pink
Weightless in its wonder
I feel the impact full force
Stillness seeps deep into my soul

An inspired climb higher still
To touch the painted peak
And breathe in kiss of heaven so sweet

Cheap Chaos & Tantalizing Grace

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Trapped.  My mind a cave.
Thoughts like floodwater, rushing in.

Heart racing, body tense, mind ablaze.
Paralyzed by my striving efforts.

Blatant silence.
Prayers ricocheting off an invisible ceiling.

Desire to control and to know tantalizes and tempts.
Darkness creeping in quietly beckons and sickly woos.

Questions, dreams, and ‘what ifs’ vie for attention.
Romancing the dark, I stay in a place of cheap chaos.

Running.  Running in my mind.
This way.  That way.  Running into walls on all four sides.

I’m a slave to my thoughts.
Self-obsession the bolt to my self-made prison.

A sinister dead end in every way.
Still I wrestle.

I lie down to rest, but I am awake.
Running, rushing, thinking, grasping.

A pinprick of light.
So small I nearly miss it.

Light.  Focus on the light.
Slowly, as slowly as ice melting in winter’s sun it grows.

My mind begins to clear.  Thoughts still.
I breathe in the light, I breathe out the darkness.

My heart slows to a steady rhythm.  Peace stirs.
I breathe in light, I breathe out darkness.

My body calms.  Striving energy turned to stillness charged with joy.
I breathe in light, I breathe out darkness.

Another light.  Brighter.
I reach out to it.

A feeling of love sweeps through like a warm gust of wind.
Spiraling toward me and into my soul.

It steadily grows.  Stronger and stronger.
Wind so warm and strong. I close my eyes and breathe it in.

Love like a faithful companion, I know I am not alone.
Love that delights in me, I know I am seen and known.

The wind strengthens.  I can feel it stir inside.
I surrender to this wind.  Light now radiates within.

My mind awake with its reality.
My heart at rest in its certainty.

My body resonating in its presence.
My soul pierced with freedom.

Love.
Pure, sweet love.

Wrecked by grace through winds of mercy.
Undone by love through purest light.

I am His and He is mine.

Mary

5058706As Christmas rapidly approaches, my thoughts turn toward a humble hero of that blessed night.  A teenage girl who spoke to an angel and believed without question.  A young Jewish girl who leaned in to the promise of God and said yes.  A young mother whose cries, sweat and tears brought Life into the world.  Let’s step back into history and walk in Mary’s worn sandals.

Daughter of Nazareth, will you be the one?
Will you carry life both now and for kingdom come?
My Son will be yours to love and to hold,
My trust in you is complete and twofold.

Will you say yes to trials, confusion and heartache?
At times you will feel lonely, but daughter you will be awake!
Will you say yes to joy, love and grace abound?
In you my presence will always be found.

Precious Mary, so pure and strong, will you be the one?
Will you nurture love both now and for kingdom come?
Will you carry my Son in your arms and heart,
Even when His body is laid down in the dark?

Honored Mary, so young and sweet,
Did you give up dreams to be made complete?
Soft baby hands grasped your finger and called you mother,
You watched him share, play and explore with others.

A little boy’s scraped knee meant tearful eyes pleading for your kiss.
You watched him learn, work and grow with bliss,
He crafted wood and looked into his father’s eyes for advice.
Did you know he would one day pay the ultimate price?

Lovely Mary, so true and brave,
You stood near as your Son was laid in a grave.
You suffered at the foot of His cross, His pain was your pain,
Heartache in your deepest soul, love flowing through every vein.

Imagine your feelings when seeing him risen,
His body bright and healed, no longer crimson.
Once more you held him in your arms so near,
His loving eyes looked into yours with joy and a tear.

Faithful Mary so obedient and blessed,
Mother of our Savior is no gentle quest.
The vessel of all greatness and our redemption,
Mary, chosen woman of love and truest gumption.

Caesar Augustus

4245741I had it all.  Power, connection, posterity, an entire kingdom… mine.  The first emperor of Rome.  A tribune for life.

True, I was one of the people, a countryman.  Born Gaius Octavius in Rome 63 BC.  However, sheer defiance would rule out the ordinary.   My destiny was authority.  Born to greatness; leadership in my blood.  I was adopted by Julius Caesar.  Adopted into power and might.  I was crushed by my uncle’s assassination, but only for a moment, for then I held the power of the empire in my hand.  A power I respected and transformed into a monarchy.  A power I exploited.  I worshiped the Roman gods, yet insisted on my people worshiping me as a god.  My face on coins, my image on statues across the land.

I hungered for power.  So thirsty for it, I would have cut opened my very veins to drink it in.  Glory was mine.  Rome; famed and great because of me.  From the military to the arts, I had a hand in crafting Roman culture.  I led with innovation and tradition.  My reign was marked by a season of peace and prosperity for my people.   I knew no limit to my apparent success.

Nonetheless, there was a wrinkle in my plan.  A glitch in the cosmos of time.  One little thing, which would become my greatest downfall.  A baby.   An infant boy that would be king.  A child born in an unknown corner of my grand kingdom.

I never met this child, nor did I meet the man he grew to be.  While I built the Roman Forum he and his motley band carried the gospel on the roads I commissioned.  For thirty three years, He built his kingdom and I built mine.  His power rivaled my own, but I did not know it.

A baby in a manger.  A man on a cross.  Me.  A man caught at a crossroad.  I answered to power and spoke the language of might, when I should have fallen on my knees and succumbed to the vernacular of grace.

I had it all.  Power, connection, posterity, an entire kingdom… mine.  A tribune for life.  The greatest Roman Emperor.  Yet I had nothing.  Nothing that mattered outside the domain of my kingdom.  There was another kingdom that I refused to acknowledge.  Blinded by power, choking on success.  A kingdom that surpassed my own.

A cry in the wind from an obscure manger.  A cry from the cross that rang out across the land that all is finished.

And me?  I am finished too.  Finished by a power I could only grasp at.  Run in by a love so pure I ran from it.  Torn apart by a kingdom I could not see with my eyes.

Yes, it is finished indeed.

 

PS – I wrote this monologue for my church, which then turned into this:

From the Depths of the Unknown

5964074Those who have ears to hear, listen to this.  Your Heavenly Father created you for a life of intimacy, joy and freedom.  He created you to live life to the fullest.  You were adopted into a powerful kingdom.  Greatness and love await.  Will you come?

Take a moment to be still and listen.  Are you being called forward from the edge? The past holds only the power you give it.  Lies speak louder when listened to.  Security, power and comfort will eventually suffocate.  Will you jump?

Lean in and listen.  Are you being beckoned to go higher and deeper?  Do you hear your name and a familiar voice calling you from the depths of the unknown?

Will you risk everything?  Will you risk what people think of you?  What you think of you?  Will you let go of your control?  Will you move from a place of playing it safe to a place of risk?  Will you let go of the past that drags you down, the present, which overwhelms and the future that worries you?

No, there are few feelings of magic in the freefall, but there is life.  Great life.  Deep life.

So come with me to a place where you can take deep draughts of unadulterated life.

The free fall can be scary and painful, yes.  Like being thrown into a deep ocean, tossed around, you don’t know which way is up or down.

But once you drink in this ocean, currents of grace flow through your veins and love becomes a never-ending tidal force pulling you deeper and deeper.

Come to this place where you are seen and known on the inside and out.  Where love summons and grace knows your name.

This is where you discover you are His beloved.  Will you come?