Tag Archives: transformation

Harry Potter and the Church Part I

By Eugene C. Scott


Like J. K. Rowling’s wonderfully weird invention of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Jelly Beans, her Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and God’s equally wonderful and weird church are both humanity flavored hope. Sometimes they’re sweet and sometimes disgusting.

The truth is Rowling gave Hogwarts the same humanity flawed quirkiness that God created the church to reflect.

In chapter six of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” a confused but expectant Harry Potter stands on platform nine and three quarters waiting for the Hogwarts Express–a magical train that will take him–for the first time–to Hogwarts, where he will be schooled in magic. Once there, Harry’s life changes dramatically.

In this magical castle filled with moving staircases, strange rooms, stranger people, talking portraits, and ghosts, Harry, among other things, will cement life-long friendships with Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley while discovering that even the best witchcraft and wizardry school is full of quirks and imperfections and–more-so–quirky and imperfect people.

As I have enjoyed J. K. Rowling’s classic stories as pure fun reading, I also have been challenged by some of her deeper themes. Did she, for instance, intend to draw parallels between the mythical castle called Hogwarts and God’s mysterious community called the church?

Intentional or not, the parallels are there.

Relationships Define the Church and Hogwarts

Contrary to popular belief, the church is not a building nor an institution. It is a community. Yes, most often the church meets in a building and–unfortunately–becomes far too institutional. Hogwarts too is a particular place and has rules–most of which Harry breaks. But this is not what defines Hogwarts.

At Hogwarts, Harry, the orphan, finds his family. Through his friendship with Ron Weasley at Hogwarts, Harry is unofficially adopted into the Weasley clan. It is at Hogwarts also that Harry meets his godfather, Sirius Black and is mentored by a father figure, Albus Dumbledore.

Like Hogwarts, the church, first and foremost, is a community. A family thrown together in a myriad of relationships. Orphans all adopted by Christ.

I grew up in what is commonly called a dysfunctional family. We weren’t completely dysfunctional, however. We did two things very well: fight and meddle in each other’s business. What we did not manage was to foster intimacy. We loved each other to the best of our ability. Still my family was a lonely, chaotic place.

Then I became a follower of Christ and was adopted into this quirky, imperfect family called the church. Like Harry, it was in this completely foreign and unexpected place that I discovered true family. I am who I am because of God speaking and working through the family members I have met in various churches. I have served in six churches over the last 32 years. In each one God has introduced me to people who have become life-long friends. We have, as the great theologian and poet Paul said, “carried one another’s burdens.” We have cried, laughed, fought, feasted (a lot), and lived life together. Rowling was brilliant in drawing Harry as a hero who needed friends to accomplish his mission. And Hogwarts as the place those relationships formed and thrived.

This too is us.

The Church and Hogwarts Are a Mix of Angels and Demons

Much to Harry’s dismay, however, Hogwarts is far from perfect. It is there, under the Sorting Hat, that he discovers his own dark side. It tells Harry, “You could be great, you know, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that.” But Ron warns him, “There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin.” Should Harry join the darker, more prone to evil House of Slytherin, or the more benign House of Gryffindor? Each of us, whether follower of Christ or no, face the same choices.

No wonder so many wars and wonders have been wrought in the name of God. 

In Hogwarts Harry battles his nearest enemy, Draco Malfoy. Hogwarts, like the church, contains not just angels but demons (so to speak). In the church I’ve been and met both. Like Harry, all of us who have spent more than 10 minutes in the church carry and have inflicted wounds.

Rowling invents a fictional school that rings true because it is such a real mix of sinner and saint. Just like the church.

If Harry imagined Hogwarts as utopia, he was sorely disappointed. This may be why so many of us give up on the church. We are drawn to its divinity but are driven away by its humanity. Our unrealistic expectations are as much a part of our disappointment as are the actual flaws thriving in the church. I plummet emotionally each time the church–or more correctly people, including myself, of the church–don’t live up to my lofty ideals.

Though I understand well the pain that the church can inflict (from personal experience as well as theoretically), the load that weighs heaviest on my pastor’s soul is trying to convince people that the church is both more and less than they ever imagined. More in that it is about being human and being in relationships while also being in relationship with God.  Less in that it is about being flawed humans who need each other.

And in that way the church reflects humanity and human community perfectly. Harry could have never become who he was born to be without Hogwarts and all the pain, joy, disappointment and triumph mixed together in one.

Imagine had Harry, as do so many people today in regards to church, refused to board that mysterious train bound for Hogwarts, one of the best stories written in modern times would have never come into being. So too, when any of us refuses to join that infuriating, dangerous, glorious, Christ-community God calls the church. What real story might you be missing?

Eugene C Scott is co-pastor of one of those wonderfully weird places called The Neighborhood Church.

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Harry Potter and the Kingdom of God

By Eugene C. Scott

Poor Harry. His parents were mysteriously murdered; now he lives in a nondescript time and place in England with the Dursleys, his dreary, selfish, muggle (non-magic) aunt and uncle and piggish cousin; he is confined–most of the time–to his bedroom, the closet under the stairs; and he doesn’t know who he really is, that he can do magic or that he is the most anticipated, celebrated wizard in all of wizarding history. Such is Harry Potter’s small life and world. In literary terms this is the setting, the mileu where certain things can and cannot happen, for Harry’s story.

Worse Harry has no notion such a wonderful place as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, such a powerful, compassionate man as Albus Dumbledore even exist. Harry’s never played Quidditch; never flown on a broom and never met Hermione or Ron. He has no idea who he is.

But then Harry boards a train bound for Hogwarts and his world expands, both his problems and potential deepen.

Poor us. Though the settings for our stories may be less novel and romantic, more realistic than Harry’s, they are often no less tragic. We live in a mysteriously broken world within the confines of our own broom closets. Our jobs appear dreary; our marriages, families, and friendships imperfect. Just like Harry cannot practice magic much less grow into who he was born to be living at Number 4, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, UK, we seem unable to grow into who we were born to be in our earth-bound addresses. We too seem to not realize who we really are–the delight of God’s heart, created in his image–or that a wonderful place called heaven on earth or that a powerful, compassionate God even exist. This we believe to be the setting for our stories.

This dusty enslaving setting is just the one Jesus first strode into.  Bruce Cockburn wrote a song about what that day could have been like.

“The only sign you gave of who you were

When you first came walking down the road,

Was the way the dust motes danced around

Your feet in a cloud of gold

But everything you see’s not the way it seems —

Tears can sing and joy shed tears.

You can take the wisdom of this world

And give it to the ones who think it all ends here.”

“Change your lives. The kingdom of God is here,” Jesus said.

It’s as if he said, Get aboard the Hogwarts Express. There is more to this world than you can see or know. I am here to show you you are loved beyond your wildest imaginations.

You can live by faith not fear.

Live as if heaven is here and now, not just a place to go after you die.

Wholeness and healing too can begin here.

Forgiveness, purpose, truth, and life are in My hand. Take them. Live them.

In My world–My kingdom–your problems and pain will serve a purpose–My transformation of this drear world.  Your potential is as deep and wide and long as My love.

Cockburn calls this kind of life “Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws.”

Yet we sit in our room beneath the stairs and wish.

The thing we love about Harry Potter is he is immature, unsure of himself, a boy of little faith, so to speak. Again, like us. This does not stop him, however, from reaching out and recklessly grasping for the richer life that is offered him. No matter how impossible it seems. It need not stop us either.

The difference is that what Jesus offers is not magic or a sweet piece of fiction. It is the way the truth and the life. The setting for our stories is more, better than we think. It is a vivid life lived with God beginning here and now.

“Change your lives. The kingdom of God is here.”

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This Day in History: A Meal Fit For a King–and You

By Eugene C. Scott

My eyes didn’t know what to fix on, so they darted from one delight to another. Oh, this is wonderful–but too much. Delightful, but I should have given Solome more guidance. The Master will . . . he will what? You may call me double-minded with my wonder and worry together crashing over me in waves. But you were not there. You never tried to serve the Master, to please him. I was never good at guessing what went on in that mind of his. When I looked for his praise, he chided me and when I knew I had failed him, his eyes spread patient love over the hole my hope had escaped from.

But this was too much. Little did I know that a sumptuous feast was the least of our worries.

Lamb, and bread, hyssop, herbs–bitter and sweet, jars of wine, fish, and candies sagged the long tables. This is a meal fit for a king, not our Master. I rubbed my hands together but I could not otherwise move. They would be here in moments. Dozens of oil lamps bound in iron to the walls burned softly, lighting the low ceiling with rich gentle arcs.

“You like it, Ruben?” A familiar voice touched me from behind. I turned.

“Solome, how did you do all this?” I asked kissing her cheeks. “The Master will . . . Is this what the Master asked for?” Solome had not prepared a simple Passover meal but a lush Roman style Reclinium. Pillows rimmed the low tables ready for our guests to lounge and rest on as they feasted. Table cloths covered the rough wooden boards.

“Who knows?” Solome said with a shrug of narrow shoulders. “He said to prepare the Upper Room. And I have done so. He was not more specific.” She swung her arm across the room.

“But the cost,” I complained looking at the dozens of candles burning on the tables. “He will surely say we spent too much and should have given all this to the poor.”

Solome rolled her eyes. “The poor. We are giving this to him. No one has less then the Master.”

My feet, dancing beneath me, carried me around the room. Just then voices, loud and laughing, filled the house below. And up the stairs came Peter and John. The Master, Jesus followed them. Then all the disciples streamed in and filled the room with noise and odor and expectation. Over a hundred of them. He surveyed the room. I clenched my eyes.

“Master, I’m sorry,“ I shouted. “You know Solome. Extravagance is her real name.”

I know, it was low of me to blame her. Can you honestly tell me you would have not?

“And yours, my dear Ruben, is Worry.” His whole face widened in a smile.

“Peace,” he called to us. He patted me on the shoulder.

I smiled at how the Master assumed charge, became the host, even in my own house. My worry drained away.

Had I known this was our last meal together, I would have spent my entire estate on this meal. I would have hired guards. I would have . . . .

“Abba,” he prayed lifting the Kiddush Cup and the murmur of voices stilled. “Bless this our meal of Passover. Deliver your people tonight as you did our father, Moses long ago.” He passed the cup and directed us through the keeping and remembering of God’s commands for his people. He never read from the scroll I had provided but spoke from memory. James, his brother corrected him when Jesus gave new meaning to one of the old readings or prayers. Peter nudged James to quiet him.

The Master led us through the Maggid Cup, asking us the Passover questions. He let the children answer first. And we ate. I ran back and forth refilling cups and plates. I never spoke to the Master again that night–never spoke to him again ever.

He blessed the Birkat Hamazon Cup and passed it.

Then the trouble began. And in my house. Lord, forgive me. In the middle of this–I did not see what happened as I was busy serving wine, though you can ask Matthew because he wrote it down, and of course I know now–Judas–how I hate that man–shouted, “Surely not I, Rabbi” and ran from the room. Thomas stood to go after him but stopped under the Master’s gaze. How would the world be different if Thomas had stopped Judas?

At last came the unleavened bread. Jesus began in a whisper, tears in his eyes and we all leaned in to hear about the night, because of the blood of the spotless lamb, God’s angel of death passed over Israel.

He prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Then he said–I didn’t understand it that night–”Take and eat; this is my body.”

He handed the broken bread to John, who had a confused look on his young face. Then Jesus lifted the fourth cup, the Hallel Cup, and blessed it saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s Kingdom. Do this in remembrance of me.”

So, I still have trouble believing it, on Jesus last night in the world, he spent it with me–and you.

And so, thinking it may be the last night of our world, on every Yom Ree-Shon, the first day of the week, (you call it Sunday) we obey the Master and fill the Upper Room, spending it together, serving a Love Feast–though not as lavish as the last supper with Jesus that night. For whenever we eat the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again–and as he said,  he “will drink it anew” with us.

Read Matthew 26:17-56, Mark 14:12-42, Luke 22:7-46, John 13:1-17:36

Also, go to tnc3.org for info on how The Neighborhood Church is remembering this week in history.

Two thousand years ago this week one man turned history upside down. I would give anything to have been there, seen him, heard his voice. Instead we can only use our imaginations to re-enter ancient history. Each day this week, called Holy Week, we are going look at this day in ancient history through the eyes of a fictional character who witnessed part of that day as Jesus lived it. Join us as we believe a better story: the greatest, truest story ever told.

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This Day in History: God Breaks a Heart of Stone

By Eugene C. Scott

What if the place Jesus spent his last days could tell its story? The story of how God broke a heart of stone.

Granite to the core–a heart of stone, they said. And they were right. That the death and destruction, tragedy and violence I’ve witnessed in my 6,000 plus years on this earth would have crushed anything less than stone is true.  But even a heart of stone, they claimed, should have turned to dust, and like grains of sand been scattered in the desert wind.

In my long life I was smashed and left desolate by Canaan, Egypt, Philistia, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome. Only to rise up again. Why? How?

I can’t say. Knowing such things does not always come with age. I can say this. At one time I was the proudest of my kind. I weathered siege after siege because I was proud and strong. They all desired me. My temple was unrivaled. They say gods walked my streets. Though–again–I can’t say. I did not pay much attention to such things, until . . . .

. . . . until the week of the Jewish Passover in the days when Rome thought she owned me. A desert flea of a Jew, lauded as a king by a few hundred peasants, rode a scrawny colt through my east gate. I paid little mind. My walls were full of Jewish pilgrims, crawling through my alleys like ants. I blinked and forgot him. Then on Yom Reeve, the fourth day of the week, counted in the Jewish fashion–sundown to sundown–and the day before the Passover, this Jew tickled my ribs and woke me from my slumber.

“Do you see all these things?” this man with only one ratty robe asked, pointing to the temple shining like a moon on my highest hill. Those with him nodded recognizing my magnificence.

“I tell you the truth,” he said, “not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be torn down.”

I laughed. The Babylonians had torn down my temple, but it rose from the dust; Alexander the Great had considered turning the temple to ruble but wisely reconsidered; Antiochus Epiphanies had desecrated her; he later paid dearly. And today she towered still. Each time my temple was sacked she rose again more magnificent than before. Not one stone left on another! Who did this man think he was? God?

I was not sure why what this man said mattered at all. Why I cared. I was one of the greatest cities of stone ever raised up on a desert hill. He was dust.

It may be because seventy years later his prediction came true. Rome tore me stone from stone and my temple still lies in its grave.

It may also be because of what he said to me, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

This man saw me for what I was, a stone facade. My name “The City of Peace” has never been true. And it never will be, until he returns to walk my streets again. A city cannot bring peace, not the kind her people need. But can a city have a heart, stone or otherwise, you may ask? I can only speak for myself. Two days after he predicted my ruin–on a hill that looked like a skull–the last Jewish prophet to enter my gates wet my dirt with his innocent blood. I watched him breathe his last. I shuddered and that night my heart of stone broke.

Today, 2,000 years later I long to feel his sandals on my stone. I will say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

If Jesus saw the art in me, a hard, proud city of stone, think of what he can see in you.

Read Matthew 23:37-24:1-51, Matthew 26:3-5, Mark 13:1-37, Mark 14:1-2, Luke 22:1-2.

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Also, go to tnc3.org for info on how The Neighborhood Church is remembering this week in history.

Two thousand years ago this week one man turned history upside down. I would give anything to have been there, seen him, heard his voice. Instead we can only use our imaginations to re-enter ancient history. Each day this week, called Holy Week, we are going look at this day in ancient history through the eyes of a fictional character who witnessed part of that day as Jesus lived it. Join us as we believe a better story: the greatest, truest story ever told.

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Lent: Is Your Life a Feast or Famine?

By Eugene C. Scott

Easter Worship at Red Rocks Amphitheater

Several months after God first grabbed me by the heart (I was fifteen years old), I attended an Easter sunrise service at Red Rocks Amphitheater in the foothills west of Denver. Suddenly colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, and new Easter outfits paled as symbols of a holiday that affirms the resurrection and forgiving power of Jesus Christ. I remember–still–how guilt and shame, self hate and fear slid off my heart like a winter crust slides off a blade of spring grass. With Jesus living in me, my life switched from an old, grainy, black and white movie to full living color. Everything–sight, sound, joy, pain–reverberated with an edge, a flavor, that jolted me. As a musician who was popular back then, Phil Keaggy, sings, I felt

 

“Like waking up from the longest dream,

how real it seemed,

Until Your love broke through

I was lost in a fantasy

That blinded me,

Until Your love broke through.”

That Easter in 1973 I realized the reality of God’s love breaking into my life and beginning a revolution. Freedom reigned. My heart danced as my life became a whirlwind of much-needed change. Tragically, my list of sins to abandon was quite impressive for a mere fifteen-year-old, especially since I abandoned the same sins multiple times. Slowly my struggle against sin transformed my Christian life from a joyous explosion of forgiveness into a smoldering list of forbidden actions I never fully managed to avoid. Christianity lost its life and became an oppressive duty.

Don’t get me wrong. The Bible clearly communicates that sin makes us incompatible with God and the banquet he has planned for us. Drug abuse, lying, gossip, skipping school, and the like were good things to give up. But when Christianity degenerates into a constant striving against life, it loses its power for life. My freedom in Christ was swallowed by guilt and fear and dos and don’ts.

There’s a story about a Presbyterian who moved into a Catholic neighborhood. Each Friday he grilled himself a steak. His neighbors were sorely tempted as they dined on their traditional fish. Soon the Catholics took matters into their own hands and converted the Presbyterian to their flavor of Christianity. That following Sunday the Priest sprinkled water on the man saying, “You were born a Presbyterian, raised a Presbyterian, but now you are a Catholic.” His neighbors welcomed him into the fold warmly.

But that next Friday they were drawn to the new convert’s deck by the aroma of a tantalizing steak. As they stepped onto his deck, they saw him sprinkling a slab of meat with A1 saying, “You were born a cow, raised a cow, but now you are a fish.”

That joke betrays an all too common belief among Christians–Presbyterian, Catholic, Independent, whatever–that Christianity is comprised of rites, rituals, traditions, and laws. Therefore our faith becomes that which Jesus died to save it from: outward expressions of inward emptiness: legalism.

Next week millions of Christians worldwide will begin looking toward Easter and remembering the resurrection of Jesus by participating in the season of Lent.  Unfortunately, as beautiful and meaningful as Lent can be, for many it teeters on becoming the modern poster child for an empty legalistic faith. On Ash Wednesday thousands will begin a fast in which they will give up chocolate, soda, TV, or something similar.

The prophet Samuel confronted Israel’s first king, Saul, with these words: “To obey is better than sacrifice.”

What’s the difference between obedience and sacrifice? Obedience stipulates an inward desire to do what God has commanded not outward acquiescence. Jesus said, if we love him we will obey his words. Obedience is a response of love to God’s love. Further, obedience is taking God’s word in and then living it out. Jesus illustrated this with the story of a house that has been swept clean of its demons. But then, because the house remained empty, many more demons rushed back in. Obedience then is an outward expression of an inward fullness. Sacrifice often is an outward expression of an inward emptiness.

Fasting has its purpose: to remind us of our need for God. But be honest. Did giving up sweets last Lent really fill you with a deeper love for our Savior? My daughter once wondered why we don’t instead add something to our lives during Lent. In other words, embrace–take in–the good things God has for each of us. And if you choose to fast, give something up, that is not healthy for you, replace it with something that is. This Easter add the fullness of the Holy Spirit to your life. Instead of fasting, feast. Dine on the simple presence of God. Read the Bible to know God not just to wrest his will from its pages. Give yourself to God in worship. Be with God.

The Apostle Paul said the harvest of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He did not intend this as a legalistic list, but an illustration of a life with the Holy Spirit permeating the soil of the soul. Like a crop in rich earth, the fruit of the Spirit thrives in a life filled with God. Fruit withers when disconnected from the branch. If your faith is a series of outward responses based on an inward emptiness, hanging fruit on yourself will only weigh you down.

As Lent leads us toward Easter, feast on outward expressions of inward fullness; fast from outward expressions of inward emptiness. Is your life a feast or a famine? God desires it to be a banquet of freedom, forgiveness, and his very presence.

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Beginning on March 13–the Sunday following Ash Wednesday–we will begin a Lenten series at The Neighborhood Church titled

“Embrace: Discover, Desire . . . Jesus”

During worship we will explore those things of God we can embrace and add to our lives as a response of love to Jesus.  These worship gatherings will also include hands-on opportunities to practice these things God asks us to add to our lives.  Join us.  See tnc3.org for worship times.

Eugene C. Scott writes the Wednesday Neighborhood Cafe blog.  If you’re reading this on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO

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Can God Heal our Deepest Wounds?

By Eugene C. Scott

In the summer of 1998 we drove home to Tulsa from a bittersweet family vacation in Colorado: Sweet because Dee Dee and I had celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary with a trip to Vancouver, BC. Bitter because our oldest daughter had recently been diagnosed with an eating disorder, a cancer of the soul, and she was getting worse. My white knuckled grip on the steering wheel exposed the ghostly condition of my soul. I was lost. For the first time as a father I had no answer. The fatherly band-aids–wise words and solutions–I had utilized to fend off so many past crises proved futile against this devastating disease. We had gone to doctors, counselors, friends, and support groups; we had prayed, memorized Scripture, and read books; we had talked, cried, pleaded, and argued; we had blamed ourselves, our culture, gymnastics, and God; we had loved, hugged, and gotten angry. Still her cancer of the soul thrived.

So, we drove east on Interstate 70, in a minivan filled with fear and heartbreak. My every breath became a prayer.

God, heal her. Please don’t let this cancer steal anymore of her. Don’t let it take her life! Tell me what to say; show me what to do.

Miles of empty eastern Colorado rolled by as we played license plate games to kill time and the dread that rode with us.

Why was God so silent?

A couple of hours east of Denver I said, “Look, kids,” and pointed to the words “Trust Jesus” spray-painted on the cement pillar of a highway overpass.

“Do you think anyone is actually convinced of God’s love by that?” I asked sarcastically. “That’s not evangelism; that’s evandalism.”

At each overpass for the next several miles the same lime-green words “Trust Jesus” appeared. What a diversion. Instead of focusing on our pain and worries, we mocked silly Christians.

As we limped into Kansas, my daughter with the wounded soul moved to the shotgun seat. Everyone else was sleeping.

“What can I do, Dad?” she asked.

I shrugged my shoulders. I had no more answers and had to admit that to her. Her eyes teared up with disappointment.

Shortly after that trip, we hit what we thought was bottom: we placed her at Remuda Ranch, a long-term treatment center for eating disorders. In the midst of that dark time, a good friend invited me to a local Promise Keepers meeting. Before Bill McCartney spoke, a local man, one of the organizers of the meeting, was asked to share his testimony. He told a heart-wrenching story about his daughter, who was addicted to drugs, and how everything he did to help her didn’t.

I shuddered. This hit too close to home. Tears pressed, unwanted, from my eyes.

He went on saying he had been at a Promise Keepers planning meeting in Denver just weeks before. During that meeting, his wife called with news his daughter was in serious trouble. He left for Tulsa immediately, east on I70. As he drove, he brainstormed, outlining every solution a father could. His every breath a prayer.

I listened trying to hide my trembling and tears.

Then in the wastes of eastern Colorado, he related, he saw, spray-painted on a concrete pillar, the lime-green words “Trust Jesus.” In a heartbeat he knew God had spoken and instantly he rolled down the window of his van and figuratively threw out all his human plans.

“Jesus, not my plans but yours,” he prayed. “Only you can heal her.”

But in a few miles, he was back planning and problem solving. Then came another pillar. “Trust Jesus,” it shouted. Again he rolled down his window and threw out his human plans. Again he prayed.

I don’t know how long he bounced on this bungee cord of faith. I only know I was broken. I was a puddle. I was unmade.

“Jesus,” I choked, “not only have I not trusted you with my daughter, I ridiculed your attempt to coax me to faith.” I was the fool, not the person evandalizing I70, to believe I was a better father than You, my heavenly Father. I was a fool to think my puny solutions could accomplish anything without Your extravagant love.”

Imagine! To prove nothing is impossible to God, He connected the dots between two hopeless fathers, two broken daughters, two Colorado trips and a crazy person with a spray can.  Right then God poured fresh love into my empty soul and showed me He loved my daughter more that I ever could. In a gentle, firm voice Jesus spoke to my heart, “If I have the power to heal your daughter, and I do, I also have the love and power to carry all of you through this until I do. Trust Me!”

In his potent prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul reminds us that the best response to those relentless, hopeless situations is to “kneel before the Father . . . to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge.”

Only when I recognized the paucity of my problem solving, and let my aching heart drive me to Christ, did I begin to learn that the love of Christ could carry me through anything. In this case there was no instant healing, no five keys to happiness, no easy answer. But there was a deeper knowledge of naked, unadulterated Love. That Love has sustained us on a road longer than a thousand lengths of I70. While we travel, healing, in more things than eating disorders, is coming. And our knowledge of the width, length, height, and depth of Christ’s love grows.

P.S. Our daughter is now 29, happy, healthy, trusting Jesus, married, a mother of a two year-old, with a baby boy on the way. God did exactly as He promised. He did not snap magical fingers and heal her. Instead He walked this long road with us, showing His love is the deepest, widest, most powerful force in existence.

Eugene C. Scott writes the Wednesday Neighborhood Cafe blog.  If you’re reading this on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO.

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God Is Not Silent, Even On September 11

Editor’s note: In a desire to remember and honor those murdered on 9/11, I am departing from our format slightly today. I wrote this in the days following the 9/11 attack. It was first published in the Vail Daily. I have made only minor grammatical changes. Eugene

Daily the sound of children chattering, laughing, whooping and shouting wafts, soothing and constant like waves breaking on the beach, through my open windows. There is a grade school directly behind my house and each fall weekday, at about 8:45a.m., the delightful laughing and squealing and playing commences. Occasionally I’ll take breaks from my study to watch the children from the deck. Looking down into the playground these disembodied voices suddenly connect with children on swings, or playing soccer, or chase, or simply sitting against the wall talking. Their sporadic movements and spontaneous smiles dance in the fall air like sunlight on choppy water. Back in my study again, each wave of laughter reminds me life is as it should be and that I’m not alone.

Today however, all is not as it should be and it sounds as if I am very much alone. Today is Tuesday, September 11, 2001 and the waves of innocent noise from the playground have stopped rolling because several thousand miles away an unthinkable evil has struck our nation. Behind my house stunned silence reigns. On this day the children are being kept inside for very good reasons: fear, respect, confusion, safety. I too wallow in stunned silence unable to concentrate on my work.

I sit and wonder, is God silent too? Why does it seem God is so quiet when evil speaks? For the next couple of hours these questions pound me along with the horrific images from the television. God, why are you so silent?

Thankfully the phone rings and calls me away to help with emergency prayer services in one of the chapels I serve. The chapel fills with people of all denominations and faiths twice that day. We weep and pray together quietly. Slowly through our prayers and tears, I hear a profound sound.  God too is quietly weeping. I realize the silence of the children in the school behind my house was deeper than a silence of safety or fear. It was a silence of mourning. I am reminded of Jesus response to the death of his friend Lazarus: “Jesus wept.”

Why did I, do we, assume that God condones evil simply because God allows it to continue for a time? Does God’s silence really imply He is sitting in heaven nodding and muttering, “It’s about time those sinful humans suffered. It’s just what they deserve”? God forbid! Yes, we all have sinned. But God doesn’t silently and angrily throw airplanes into tall towers full of His children to punish them anymore than loving parents sneak up behind their children and beat their bottoms with no warning or explanation. No, God does not laugh at or ignore our pain. He mourns.

I know this because God was silent at another horrific time in history. The world went dark for three hours while Jesus hung on the cross (Luke 23:44-46). God mourned as He turned away from the sins of the world–including those of September 11–tainting the heart of Jesus Christ.

On September 11 God was not silent or inactive after all. If we look and listen, this becomes obvious. Since September 11 courage, kindness, love and mercy poured from the hearts of people in the United States and around the world. For example, some of the passengers on the Pennsylvania plane forced it to crash so as to save those in its intended target. And our little Interfaith Chapels raised $20,000 for disaster relief. A Girl Scout troop in Denver made red, white and blue ribbons and a local radio station gave them away for donations, raising several hundred thousand dollars. A friend of mine told me she broke down in tears in the parking lot of the post office. A stranger on crutches hobbled over and comforted her with a long hug.

For me the final piece of evidence that God was not silent came when I stopped in at the hospital to visit a woman from our congregation who had, on September 13, given birth to a son. I trembled at what I might say to her. How would she feel bringing a son into such a world? Would she be depressed? And how could I comfort her? She beamed as I walked in, the first true smile I had seen since Monday.

“Isn’t he beautiful?” she said pointing to her son.

“Yes. He is!” I beamed back.

Looking at that dark-haired miracle, I thought, Oh, how could I be so ignorant? Evil and hate can temporarily take life. But only God and love can create life. God is not silent! The quiet mourning of God is not a powerless shrug of the shoulders. He was not silent on September 11 nor was he silent when Christ died on the cross. In both cases God quietly takes death and turns it to eternal life.

“It is finished,” Jesus said from the cross. What is finished? The ability of evil to prevail. Win some major and devastating battles? Yes. But God’s love will prevail because only God can turn death and devastation to love and life. God is not silent. Jesus Christ shouted mercy, power, forgiveness and victory from the empty tomb. And he still shouts it today. No. God is not silent or inactive. If we listen, we can still hear Jesus whisper from the cross “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  And if we allow it, He will speak and act through our love and kindness to one another.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Isaiah 19:1-21:17

Galatians 2:1-16

Psalm 59:1-17

Proverbs 23:13-14

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO. If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

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