What Only Children See

August 20, 2016: I just got back from the movie theater. For me tonight, the choice was between Ben Hur and Pete’s Dragon. I chose Pete’s Dragon. And I am glad.

We grown-up, preoccupied adults, so caught up in the cares and responsibilities of life, need to watch a children’s movie now and then. We need to reclaim the magic and let it sweep us away. We need, beyond the great conflicts portrayed so simplistically in such movies, to see the promise and heartwarming gladness of a fairytale ending, and to believe that such endings can be true—for they are true. Somewhere beyond the griefs and struggles of this world, there is a happily-ever-after that truly is happy and truly is ever after.

We need to tell our inner critic who says, “How corny!” to shut up, and allow ourselves to be carried off in the emotion when the music swells and friendly dragons fly joyously over the mountains, and loneliness becomes belonging, and what was lost is found, and all things turn out right and beautiful in the end. We need these things, for they call forth someone inside us without whom we cannot live—the child in each of us, who sees truly, and who is honest and free of heart, and who is the best part of us. Children’s movies like Pete’s Dragon remind us who we really are, and who our heavenly Father is, and how he sees us and longs for us to see ourselves.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,” Jesus said, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” And then he continued, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:14–15).

Whatever it means to become like a little child—and it can entail many things: innocence, trust, openness, emotional honesty, and more—I think it includes an attitude that embraces great stories that are closer to the truth than any textbook. Stories that call us back to ourselves, and open our eyes to the character of our Father, and open our hearts to his heart.

“And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them” (v. 16). Tonight, through Pete’s Dragon, Jesus laid his hands on me and blessed me. For though I am sixty years old, inside I am still just a little boy who loves to run through the fields and climb trees, and who feels, with the new heart of a child, the wonder of a sunset, the mystery of a starry night sky, the beauty of a rainbow, and the glory of a storm.

Thank you, Father! May I never grow too old to be young, and to see the beautiful, free child in others, however hidden that child may be by masks and walls—for you yourself, the Forever Child, renew our youth and beckon us beyond our life-toughened exteriors to the tenderness at our heart’s core.

Amen, Lord. Do this for me always, and for those I love, and for your people. This world ages us, blinds us to the truth. So show us that truth again and again. Remind us. Guide us to our true hearts, reborn in you, and give us to live from them as little children. For there is where life begins, and there is where it all comes back to—forever.

Thy Kingdom Come

As I consider the state of this world and the changes that are coming over it so rapidly, from political to cultural to environmental to technological and more, these three words from the prayer model Jesus taught his disciples become tremendously meaningful to me: “Thy kingdom come.”

Bring it, Lord. Maranatha. We humans are terrifyingly smart, far beyond our wisdom to know what to do with our abilities. The garden seems so far away. How I long for it! But for all our brilliance, we can’t find it apart from you. Thy kingdom come.

I am not a student of end-times prophecy. It fascinated me once, years ago, but there are reasons why I don’t preoccupy myself with such stuff now. I’m well aware that every generation of believers has thought it was the last generation, and I surely don’t cotton to alarmists, much less to fools who limit out their credit cards because Jesus is coming back on such-and-such a date. But with that said, I am mindful that Jesus is returning. And as I look around me, I see a world rapidly escalating not toward some bright, bright humanistic future, but toward unbearable conditions. Jesus, speaking of the state of the world at the time of his return, said that “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will grow cold.” I see the ethos for lovelessness taking root, the spirit of anti-Christ swelling into the fullness of its day.

I don’t wish to sound bleak. There is much in this country, in this world, and certainly in God’s creation, that is yet good and wonderful. But I also feel the times closing in, and I wonder just how near the “harvest of the earth” is to full ripeness (Rev. 14:14-17). Not far, I think. Gathering speed and momentum, accelerating toward the day of reaping.

Friends, brothers and sisters in Jesus, this is no time to be drawn into the spitefulness of the new presidential debates, whose vitriol is sure to be more bitter than ever, even violent. I’m certainly not saying don’t follow the debates, nor, most definitely, am I saying don’t vote. Vote how you believe best, or don’t vote at all if you choose. But don’t—do not—partake of the bitterness and rage that are seething higher and higher in our country and in this world. Don’t act as though the kingdom of God rises or falls with a political ideology, whether yours or anyone’s. It doesn’t—never has and never will. That ought to be good news, particularly today. When Joshua, standing outside Jericho, asked the angelic warrior whose side he was on, the warrior answered, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come” (Joshua 5:13-14).Given two options—us or them—the angel rejected both and pointed Joshua to one he hadn’t considered.

Jesus said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). What things? Read the surrounding text of that Scripture quote. And let’s encourage each other, friends, to not be swept up in the conditions of the kingdom of the world that is, but to look up to the kingdom and the King that are soon to come. We must lift up our heads to a higher, everlasting vision. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

Do not let your love grow cold. Most immediately, amid the mud-slinging and hateful rhetoric of this election cycle, remember that the kingdom of God does not rise or fall with men and women of power. It is about whom you allow to control the reins of your heart—and that will be shown by the attitudes you display, the words you speak, and the mercy and kindness you show.

I don’t mean to sound preachy. I myself am terribly, heartbreakingly fallible, and the words I’ve written, I write as much to myself as to you. This is not an easy world to live in. But let’s each of us do what we can to spread grace and redemption—until Jesus returns. That may not be much longer. I don’t know; I just feel, as I think many of you do, that “the times they are a-changin’.”

Maranatha, Lord Jesus.

Bob

To the Latest Round of Email Spammers: Some Helpful Feedback

Dear email spammers:

In the interest of helping you sharpen your targeting to that lance-tipped precision I know you strive for, I offer you the following FREE valuable personal information:

  • Your warning that my automobile warranty is about to expire is a bit late. The warranty on my 2002 Camry expired more than ten years ago, and I’m okay with that.
  • I appreciate your offer of a free estimate on a roofing job; however, I’m not the person you need to talk to. That would be my apartment manager.
  • At 60 years of age, I’m simply not interested in boosting my virility to Herculean stamina and elephantine magnitude. Most guys I know who are half my age probably feel the same way.
  • While the thought of owning a flashlight with more candlepower than an airport beacon is tantalizing, I’ll pass on trying to blind a weaponized attacker with your product, as you suggest, in favor of convincing him the old-fashioned 12-guage way. I guess I’m just hooked on tradition.
  • More helpful to me in the employment arena than your 6-month master’s degree would be nullifying the age-discrimination factor by making me 25 years younger. But I suppose you can’t do that, can you, any more than you can offer a legitimate graduate program.
  • My concern about whether Stephen-Hawking [sic] has committed an “unthinkable act” is so small as to be undetectable by any means known to scientists, with the possible exception of Hawking himself. And he’s about as likely to offer his assistance as I am to give a rip.

And on and on and on. Your spambots may be irritating, but I have to admit, at least they’re also amusing.