inefficient love

“Dad, look!” My son was staring out the back window of the car to the south-south-west.

“I can’t, son, I’m driving.” I replied, an irritated, annoyed, weary, worrying, distracted parent with sensory overload. But for some reason, I pulled into a nearby parking lot, and turned the car around so I could see what had caught his attention. I beheld the most incredible rainbow I’ve ever seen in my life.

The sky hung like a canvas of pure, unpretentious blue; not the color of blue that makes you say, “wow, blue.” Just blue, like water is wet, or like lambs wool is soft. The scattered cirrus clouds did nothing to hide the sun of this gorgeous day from our vantage point.

The rainbow itself infused a long, barely arching row of fragile clouds that stood up like grass. The clouds themselves refracted the light, so that behind the clouds, against the sky, no rainbow could be seen. An artist’s delicately brilliant colors painted the featherlike clouds. It looked strikingly like an aurora.

I immediately ached that I did not have a camera. This would have been one incredible shot! While silently castigating myself for not keeping a camera in the car, I happened to wonder about my fellow man. Of all the thousands of us who were geographically situated so that we could have seen this rainbow, how many of us actually did? When the sun comes out after the rain, we rush outside to see if there is a rainbow. But this rainbow occurred on a beautiful, sunny, dry day.

I realize now that God is not like me. I would have taken my picture, blown it up, framed it, and would have hung it prominently in my home. You’d have thought I had created that rainbow myself. But not God. He put up this incredible display of beauty, and doesn’t mind in the slightest that most of us never happened to see it. He doesn’t herd us into a theatre, dim the lights and raise the curtain on His incredible displays of beauty. He just puts them out there, like a friendly smile across a crowded room. If He happens to catch your eye, He just winks. That’s it.

That got me thinking how wasteful He is. He really goes to great lengths to show off His generosity. But that’s how you make someone feel loved. When we love someone, we must, from time to time, stop being efficient. We put aside our schedules, our time-savers and our conveniences, and waste some time. The Apostle Paul, in describing God’s love for us repeatedly used terms like “exceedingly abundantly.” If the quantity of something is “exceedingly abundant,” then you’ve got too much. That means leftovers that don’t get used. It means waste.

As if on cue, the clouds began to dissolve, and the rainbow slowly faded, starting from the western end to the east. God had winked, and nodded, and now moved on, no doubt painting, singing or whispering to some other few children. How inefficient!

never on sunday

I have always been impressed with Eric Leddell and his decision not to run the 100 yard dash in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Although the 100 yard dash was his best event, the qualifying heats were to be held on a Sunday. He decided his faith took precedence. He entered the 400 yard dash instead. Inspite of the fact that he had not trained for that event, he won and set a world record.

I just discovered another athlete who made virtually the same decision. In 2000, African hammer record holder Chirs (sic) Harmse withdrew from the South African Olympic team because the final for his event was held on a Sunday.

It looks like Mr. Harmse is still competing, and hopefully will be going to Athens with the South African team.

fine sleeping weather

My son told me about a dream he had about a strange, magical land, with bizaare creatures. In part of the dream there was a tile set into the ground in a grassy lawn. On the tile there was a depiction of the sun. If you passed your hand over the tile, a shadow would pass over the sky. If you held your hand over the sun, a hand-shaped shadow would appear overhead. My son said someone sat on the tile, and night fell instantly.

I asked him if he ever had any dreams that recur. He said, no, but did I? So I told him about the dream I have everytime I get sick, virtually without fail. In the dream I see the interior of a white room or box (I can’t tell the scale of anything in this dream). In the middle of the box I see a tornado-shaped vortex made of solid matter of a dark-brown color. It looks like cornflakes mixed with molassas. It makes a crunching, grinding noise as it slowly turns. In the dream, I’m not actually there in the corporeal sense, and I can feel the tornado as well as see and hear it.

My sister informs me that last night she dreamed of “a beautiful deciduous tree in a rainstorm, [and] the branches twisted and shook in slow motion…the leaves were as broad as frisbees.”

Could this be mere coincidence? Call me a dreamer, but I prefer to believe it could be.

on loneliness

When Christ was touring Galilee, he healed droves of the sick, and cured the blind, the lame, and the deaf. But lonely people were passed over. He didn’t take away the loneliness of the pressing masses. He didn’t enter villages and heal all their lonely people. And yet loneliness is the central problem He came to address. Did He not come to heal the rift which separated us from God? So what was the holdup?

Today it seems to be the same story. So many of us live lonely lives. And God knows we are lonely. We’ve told Him about it countless times. Yet we continue in our loneliness. We feel, sometimes, like the cripple at the Pool of Bethesda. Thirty-eight years he hung out by the pool, hoping that one day he’d defy the odds, and win the lottery. The impossible would happen to him. For thirty-eight years, the ridiculous impossibility of his own hope sat like a stone on his chest. By the time Jesus came by, the man couldn’t even bear to talk about his infirmity directly anymore. He talked about his game plan for getting himself healed. Nonetheless, Jesus healed the guy on the spot. How many lonely people did Christ walk past on his way to the pool?

How many times has He walked past you in your loneliness? How many times have you wondered how long this could go on? Why do other people get what they need, but you stay lonely? What’s the holdup?

The holdup is that loneliness requires a bigger healing. And the ingredients for the healing of loneliness are harder to come by. When Jesus healed the blind, he used ingredients like spit and mud. He also often asked for the patient’s participation. He ordered the man at the pool to take up his bed and skedaddle. When it comes time to heal loneliness once and for all (for that is His aim), there will be dust and spit and mud and blood and fire. And there will be patients’ participation.

The biggest logistical problem must certainly be the participation part. There are so many patients; it’s hard to get them all participating. The planet’s burden of loneliness is huge. You’re just holding a part of it. And it’s hard, because some of the patients have left their posts, and have tried various home-grown, superstitious remedies for loneliness. All of us have tried to shuck our chunk of the Loneliness at one time or another. Furthermore, when some of us try our own remedies, we hurt other patients even more, leaving them lonelier than ever. Nearly all of us have had our loneliness compounded and stomped on by other lonely people. Many of us are fixated on the nearby pool, or on that one particular person who would get us into the pool. But still the loneliness drags on indefinitely, and it’s getting harder and harder to bear.

Don’t give up. God has not overlooked the problem of loneliness, quite the opposite. The sick, the blind, the lame, and the deaf He healed incidentally, as He encountered them, simply because He could. All the ingredients were there, and there was no reason not to heal them. But His Big Plan has always been to cure loneliness once and for all, and that includes your loneliness. It’s been a long, long time, and your loneliness may weigh so heavily on you that you find it hard to even think about it. But it’s going away.

The cure for loneliness will be God’s piece de resistance, His coup de grace. If He doesn’t cure loneliness, all His other cures will be worthless, meaningless. All those people that Christ healed in Galilee eventually died. He healed them out of compassion, but He also knew that someday not so very far hence, those eyes would dim again. Those unstopped ears would again cease hearing. Someday those former cripples would lie down again for the last time. But His biggest healing, His ultimate cure was still coming.

There is coming a time when you will not be lonely anymore.

free to read blogs

I’m two weeks and a day between jobs today. This afternoon I fed and watered the pets, and escaped into Muncie. Now I’m tucked into a local wi-fi coffee shop, listening to Frou Frou, sucking on the ice cubes left over from an iced latte, and reading a new favorite blog.

I don’t know anything about Frou Frou. I think I’m listening to them these days because their music doesn’t interfere with my thoughts, which are energetic, swirling, agitated…unemployed.

Walnut street is darkening to an overcast dusk, and the parking spots are filling up on this Thursday evening, as folks straggle in to enjoy the two bars on this street.

Bookmark this: the intrepid and vivacious Dawn Eden has a blog called The Dawn Patrol. Plenty of reasons to like Dawn Eden: she’s a headline writer, pop music historian, outspoken conservative voice living in New York, a Christian and a C.S. Lewis reader. Her blog goes back to February of 2002, and she’s prolific, so I’ve got plenty to read. Way to go, Dawn! Keep em’ coming.

chez Joel, redesigned

Those of you who know (and you know who you are), will notice that the website’s appearance has changed. It was time. Change is good.

Those of you who know me (and don’t think I don’t know that you know who I am), know that this change in website appearance can only mean I have too much time on my hands. This is not a good thing. But you knew that.