Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Deep in every soul is an instinctive yearning to be in a world we don’t yet inhabit. The yearning for this world is so inescapable and so powerful that, from time to time, we can’t help but pretend that we do live in it.
Puppies appear to lead a pretty happy, fun life, so it’s not surprising little kids like to enter the puppy world, bouncing around the house on all fours, barking, panting, clawing their way up your legs, or, if you’re caught unprepared, clawing your pants down. In any case, these precious little ones look up at you in their best puppy face and eagerly, shamelessly, joyously beg for attention. Kids play house, they play castles, princesses, and Robin Hood, they create and inhabit imaginary worlds built from Legos or maybe some sticks, scrap lumber, and crooked, rusty nails.
I have received several kindly criticisms of my previous article, good and responsible criticisms deserving a good and responsible response. I’m thankful for the pushback. Dangling a sword in the still waters of a quiet lagoon will never make it sharp, you gotta heat the thing up and give it a good smiting with a hammer. A good friend wounds, but faithfully. So yay for getting a loving thump and a friendly wound.
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:28-31, ESV
Whenever a biblical phrase goes viral across the Christian landscape, I get a little suspicious. And when that phrase is employed in a moment of confusion to help Christians reach the exact same conclusion as those who hate Christ, I add some natural crotchetiness and unnatural cantankerosity to my suspicion and this, quite naturally makes me a very pleasant person.
A little while ago, a little ways away, sits a sleepy little town. Little happens in this little town, little chance it will. The little baker bakes his little bread, and the cobbler cobbles his little shoes. The little river turns a little wheel for the little miller’s mill.
In the middle of this little town you’ll see a little hill. On the little hill stands a little castle and a little flag flying overhead. Inside, on a little golden throne sits a little king with a little golden crown. His Little Majesty barks little orders to his little soldiers, who pick up their little swords and take their little stations on the little walls around the little town. They watch and they guard, but there’s little to see. Little happens in this little town, little chance it will.
note: At Eric’s request I’m experimenting with making an audio recording of some of these articles. So if you want to listen to me read it (and I don’t know why you would), you can do so below.
I’ve been somewhat bothered by a phrase I’ve heard repeatedly as churches wrestle their way through the Covid era, so I thought I’d try to process it out loud. Here’s the offending line: Protect our witness.
The idea is something like this: Stuff Christians do, like gathering together in large groups, sitting in close proximity for an hour, singing so heartily spit flies at least twice the magical six feet, sharing meals, engaging in holy kissin’, and all with unveiled face before God and each other is dangerous, reckless, and destructive. It’s spreading disease, sorrow, and death. And who likes death-spreaders? Not I.
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Psalm 56:8
After my wife Michele discovered a small, simple upright piano free on Facebook Marketplace we found ourselves meeting a delightful lady in a delightful old farmhouse outside Elk River. Michele sat down to the piano that, for this lady, held many memories of her children learning and making music. Michele, as only she can, began to play Somewhere Over the Rainbow, the lady’s eyes filled with tears and she said, “It’s just so beautiful it makes me cry!”
Crying is an odd phenomenon, if you think about it. Michele played a series of notes on a mechanical contraption, they struck this lady’s eardrums, and as they did, her tear ducts produced so much extra fluid it ran down her cheeks. Somehow it’s less romantic put that way.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I want to noodle over with you the notion of authority, the right to impose one’s will on something or someone else, which also comes with the right to inflict pain upon the non-compliant. Jesus claims all authority in heaven and on earth, which means he has the right to impose his will on anyone or anything. He will reward those who comply and punish those who don’t.
When I got in the truck to head to the church this morning (which Violet refers to as “Bob’s house”), I left with the kind of smile on my face that can only come from being kissed goodbye by a loving, lovely wife and an adoring, adorable two-year-old daughter. On my way, half-listening to John MacArthur’s excellent sermon from this past Sunday again, half musing on church life in the era of Covid, and half wondering why I enjoyed those kisses so much, my mind began to dwell on the Apostle’s oft-repeated exhortation to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
“Alice, did you know your Daddy loves you?”
“Alice, do you know Jesus loves you?”
“Alice, pretty soon Jesus is going to send some of his friends to get you so you can go visit him, ok? They’re really nice and you don’t have to be afraid.”
Then she looked up at me with a smile and a twinkle in her eye and said, “But you can’t come with!”
Not yet. But soon enough.
- Alice in the Palace
Today, June 8, marks the second anniversary of Alice’s death. Two years since we’ve gotten to hold her; two less years until we see her again.
To mark the day, I want to make her story available to as many as possible, so this week it’s available on Amazon for $5.99, which is about as low as Amazon will allow. If you buy the print edition, you can get the kindle version free.
It gives me great delight to know Alice’s brief life continues to be used by God for the good of his people. For my part, I read Alice in the Palace again over the course of a couple nights this week, and it was sweetly painful and pleasurable to relive that journey. After all, remembering her always makes me happy, and if her death didn’t still hurt a little bit, that would just suck. I had some memories I’d quite forgotten about jarred loose, and it was fun to hear her voice in my head once again.
I was happy to discover that the things I was thinking and writing about God then are the same things I’d write today. I might be able to say it better, but wouldn’t say it and different. I am happy to offer no regrets or retractions. His promises have not failed us.
To buy Alice in the Palace, click here. If I was good at marketing I’d say leave a rating and a review, but I’m not.
To read an article I wrote for our church newsletter about some of the way Alice’s death has impacted my life, see here