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Archive for May, 2013

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby has held a great fascination for decades, in part, because most of us have not experienced such fantastic wealth that we could “waste” it on a party – especially on one we do not attend.

Since it’s been over forty years since this required high school reading, I don’t seem to recall all of the wonderful attributes ascribed to Jay Gatsby that are given in the new movie.

However, there is one metaphor that I can take to Gatsby’s bank. He was a wooer of epic proportions. Whether such a man could ever exist who would throw his fortune like fish bait in the West Egg bay for the catch of his lifetime, I do not know. 

I guess one might point to Mughal emperor Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife. 

But we don’t need to look for the most famous nor infamous cases of romance to understand the drive behind it. Love is the most delicious and painful motivator for much of the things that we attempt.

Out of all of intricate aspects of Gatsby’s character, I will forgive any and all of them for the bond I feel of “the woo.” 

I watch turkeys strut and call in my backyard. Just this week, I watched a man kiss his lady in a rowboat next to the Boat House in Central Park. And I have been intrigued by the dance that some birds go through during the twitterpation of Spring. And just last night in a neighborhood as far away from Gatsby as time and distance could arrange, I rode by a pretty blonde teenager sitting on her porch railing while a boy sat below her on a bike talking to her as if she was floating in the clouds.

The setting of the Gatsby waterside mansion, the beauty of the architecture and grounds, the summer air, the magnificent music, felinish flappers, dapper Dans, scrumptious food, fountains of alcohol and manmade shooting stars in the form of fireworks were all meant to be the most extravagant and elegant lure that man had ever devised.

Ironincally, and despite his socialist and troubled mind, F. Scott Fitzgerald ingeniously crafted one of the most priceless portraits of a prodigal God that literature has ever metaphorized . 

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

Check these excerpts from Luke, Chapter 15:

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

“But while he [the prodigal son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

Oh, but here’s the extravagant Heavenly Gatsby at His finest, wooing through the incalculable vastness between heaven’s purity and earth’s profanity:

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

There is redemption in the story of Jay Gatsby from the angle of the angler: Jesus is the fisher of men.

That’s a party I want to keep.Image

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Mother’s Day carries so many themes in its attempt to define the essence of the feminine aspect of life and particularly its role in reproduction. This has to do with the physical, emotional and spiritual elements of motherhood. That leads to a poignant question: How has Mom been reproduced in me?

The feminine heart flourishes like the colors, flowers and scents of the month it is celebrated in. Whether that offspring is male or female, the child should be enlarged by the one who carried him or her.

This theme of being carried took me in one direction: up. I began to think of how our spirits were birthed in the heart of heaven.

Who carried us from concept to reality? Mother’s Day helps us paint a picture of the aspirations of the divine. Every mother rubs her belly as the baby grows. She will take care of herself. She will talk to the embryo. She will sing to the little one. She will wonder. She will carry through cold, heat and even illnesses. She will worry. She may do any number of things.

This assignment of carrying is only given to one person. That’s why Mother’s Day can stir up as many emotions as the greeting card industry manufacture in our lifetimes. A prison once gave out free Mother’s Day cards and just about every inmate took advantage of the program. The opposite reaction occurred when they tried the same thing on Father’s Day. These criminals recognized the connection that someone suffered in order to carry them into this world.

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3 NIV) That includes us. We were formed in the heart of God before we were formed in our mother’s wombs. While that may be too incredible to grasp, it still makes all of the sense in the world because it was God who fashioned the feminine heart.

All of the dreams that a mother has for a child are but a pittance compared to all of the glory that God has designed for each of us.

Mothers carry us once and then their ideals and love and servanthood help to carry us through our lives. Jesus and His Father used these themes throughout scripture to remind us how He loved His offspring.

He carried us into this world with His magnificent creativity of genetics and epic plans for our lives. He carries us up to Calvary for our salvation. He carries us through the sanctification of our souls. Someday, He will carry us home.

Here’s to all of the sweet-scented moms that so clearly “embody” the carrying theme so worthy of Mother’s Day, a celebration not conceived so much by the floral industry as by the very heart of Jesus Christ.

“In him we live and breathe and have our being.” Acts 17:28

BELOW: My incredible late mom, Lucy D. LaCosta. My beautiful mother-in-law, Theresa Cavaleri, at Mother’s Day luncheon. Our dining room table honoring my wife, Vini, and my daughter, Guinevere – two stellar moms, pictured at yet another belated Mother’s Day celebration.

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Dear Father,

I wonder if it’s common to see You as the “lifeline?”

Are You the One who only dwells in the super saints who sponsor the super conferences and super revivals?

Are You the One outside of me?

Are You the God of heaven as in really, really far away?

Then, I remember Your Word about Your Word:

“For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not hidden from you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it, and do it? No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. … “ Deuteronomy 30:11-14

I also remember that You promised to send Your Holy Spirit to dwell right within me:

“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” Luke 24:49

I often feel that You are far away. I know it’s because I let internal worries and worldly problems spook me and get me fixated on them. I lose my focus and my awareness that You are closer than any problem can get.

I also feel a bit relieved when I read how some of Your sons and daughters have had to make deliberate choices with regard to their lifestyle-thinking and living about this issue of remaining in You and You in them.

From George MacDonald:

“When our hearts turn to him, that is opening the door to him…then he comes in, not by our thought only, not in our idea only, but he comes himself, and of his own will. Thus the Lord, the Spirit, becomes the soul of our souls…Then indeed we are; then indeed we have life; the life of Jesus has… become life in us…we are one with God forever and ever.” (The Heart of George MacDonald)

From St. John of the Cross:

“O how gently and how lovingly dost thou lie awake in the depth and centre of my soul, where thou in secret and in silence alone, as its sole Lord, abides, not only as in Thine own house or in Thine own chamber, but also as within my own bosom, in close and intimate union. (Living Flame of Love)

John Eldredge:

“Abiding in the love of God is our only hope, the only true home for our hearts…This deep intimate union with Jesus and with his Father is the source of all our healing and all our strength. It is, as Leanne Payne says,’the central and unique truth of Christianity.'” (Wild At Heart)

O Father, remind me that You are not “out there,” but “deeply in here.” I ask for this constant “within” as my most sacred prayer.

Your forgetful son,

Robert

I am indebted to John Eldredge for his heart and resources: the Ransomed Heart, Page 127.

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Glory Battle

A crescent moon emerges and begins its lazy rise over the Hudson River just before daybreak, creating a perfect juxtaposition of day and night as a hazy red and orange horizontal layer softens the outline of the Berkshires in the distance.

Light and dark. Isn’t that a picture of our lives? At some points, we may ignore one or the other as life takes us around fascinating bends and some horrible depths; thinking perhaps that life is either one or the other, depending on where we are on the roller coaster.

Coincidentally, I am listening to Michael W. Smith’s “Glory Battle.” Musically, it should emerge victoriously. But, oh, the highs and lows this composer has worked into this four minute and twenty-two second emotional workout.

It is May. It is my favorite month. It is five in the morning. It is my favorite part of the day in May because the birds begin their overwhelming “twitterpation.” I am twitterpated. I am not alone. “Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime.” (From Bambi.) Nearly everyone except the seemingly heavy traffic on the bridge which threatens to overtake the stereophonic combination of Mother Nature in harmony with Michael W. Smith.

Spring also raised the curtains to wasps who had invaded my cupola as if to try and scare me off from my most precious spiritual real estate. They nearly succeeded until I finally waged a courageous and successful fight. But, as my blood pressure will attest, it was indeed a FIGHT.

Everything seems to be in tension. The moon and the sunrise, “Glory Battle’s” ups and downs, the birds trying to outshout the trucks and the wasps attempting a coup in my cupola.

I am faced head-on with a picture of my life – and probably yours, as well. There always seems to be this sneaky invitation to Palm Sunday AND Good Friday.

I awoke with an eery feeling about some medical challenges I must walk through. As I got out of bed, it dawned on me that many of these physical pains have seemed to coincide with my stepping out into what I would call a “faith walk.” Hmmm, it’s interesting that my checkbook has been also been facing some aches and pains.

I headed upstairs for my devotional time and there in my email inbox was a devotional for writers from an old friend. It was entitled “Put On The Armor” and it was based on the most famous passage in The Bible on “spiritual warfare.”  This “Glory Battle” doesn’t just rumble in the hearts of writers. But, for the sake of illustration, let me share from my inbox from Marlene Bagnull’s timely devotional:

“My hands tied behind my back, I was dragged before a tribunal of cloaked men. They accused me of subversion against the government because of my faith in Jesus Christ. I could not deny the charges, for spread across the table were books and articles I had written. The congregation’s singing brought me back to reality. Had I dozed off or seen a vision? I’ll never know for sure.”

Wars are not fun to think about. But, it is ever-so-dangerous to ignore them especially when we were born into the middle of one. 

So, if it ever feels that your life seems to be in tension between light and dark, twitterpation and hay fever, faith assurances and physical and financial challenges, musical highs and lows, just remember that the “Glory Battle” you’re in will always include Palm Sunday AND Good Friday, and fortunately, Easter Sunday.

[Bagnull’s devotion is based on Ephesians 6:10 ff: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…”]

 BELOW: THE DARK RELENTS TO THE SUNRISE, BUT YOU HAVE TO BE “UP FOR IT.”

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