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A faith that really keeps to what is invisible and lives by it, acting as if it were already here, hopes at the same time for the time of fulfullment, of seeing and possessing. We hope for it as confidently as the hungry child to whom his father has promised bread can wait a while because he believes. Yet eventually the child wants to get the bread. Or take the music listener who willingly follows a dark interplay of disharmonies, but only in the certainty that these disharmonies will have to be resolved sooner or later. Or think of the patient who takes a bitter medicine so that the pain is finally taken away. A faith that does not hope is sick. It is like a hungry child who does not want to eat or a tired peron who does not want to sleep. Humankind hopes as surely as it believes. And it is not a disgrace to hope even beyond measure.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I think I’m gonna start this up again, so even if you don’t see this, it’s here.

I had a really good talk with a friend tonight and I’d like to ask everyone to pray for her 🙂

The Jack of Hearts

Beauty is a word with impact. I mean…you say ‘beauty’ and I bet something different pops into the heads of those around you. A g¡rlfriend, a celebrity, a work of art, a flower. Or maybe they think of dat¡ng a celebrity and giving her (him) a flower in an art museum. I don’t know. Because it’s not just something universal in the sense that we see it the same way. Then again, maybe there isn’t really anything that produces the same train of thought in everyone’s mind, but a lot of things bring up similar concepts in our heads. Not beauty, though. It’s vastly different for everyone. Except… (I think) except for creation. I’ve been seeing the beauty in things a lot lately, but where are the most beautiful? The works of God’s hands. And it’s so far out of our league too. We paint a picture of a sunset over a lake with mountains and a guy in a boat fishing. God’s on the other side of that sunset (which he created) and he formed each crevice of those mountains. He built and constructed them, something which, if even attempted, would take us like a bajillion years…I jest…maybe not a bajillion. But a heck of a lot longer than a day. And he was the one who poured out that water, right there, because he knew that lake would fit perfectly. He created hundreds of species that live and breathe and are sustained in water and put some of them in the lake, maybe even just for that one guy. Because God created him too, and he cares like mad for him. Cares enough to give the guy the right amount of mind power to think of a boat and to think of getting a stick and a line together and to think of baiting the hook so the fish won’t know and to think to go out on that lake…and…to be able to recognize the vast beauty laid before him.

We call ourselves ‘creators’ a lot, especially in the art world. Culinary arts? Look what this guy ‘created’ from scratch. Yeah, nice arangement of already created things, but it wasn’t really scratch. Scratch is what God formed everything from. And I think it’s funny, too, cause people always talk about how God spoke everything into existence. Where does it say that? I mean…he spoke some things sure, but he made others. Created, rather. He created the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, and every living thing. I don’t know the logistics of it all, but a lot of places say that God spoke it, “And it was so.” And then they go on either to say God created it or they leave it at that. Of course, I’m not a creation expert, so I don’t really know what that means…but think about the act of creating. It’s not anything we can do, only God can make things from scratch. But think…you gotta have an idea for something right? But it’s not really an idea because how did the idea get there? We see things now, here on Earth, and get ideas of what to do with them. But if those things weren’t there, we wouldn’t have the idea…follow? So even before creating anything, we get stuck cause we can’t create something unless it already exists. And then we wouldn’t really be creating it. But then there’s the whole act of creating, and I don’t think this is it, but all I can imagine is like purple lightning coming out of God’s hands and ‘poof’, there’s an antelope, or ‘poof’ there’s an island, or ‘poof’ there’s Bill Cosby. Of course, I think it’s way awesome that it all comes back to God being so much cooler than us (Is. 55:8-9). Ooh and I just read below that (vs. 10,11) about God’s words accomplishing things for him. “11…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Wow. How cool is that? So maybe he did speak everything into existence and his words did the creating. I’m not too sure I want to think about all that right now. Let’s chew on that and come back together someday with our thoughts, sound good? Anyways, Deut. 29:29, we’ll never know everything. But isn’t that what inspires awe in us? Where’s awe without mystery? The two go hand in hand. Look at any magic trick. Why don’t the magicians give away the secret? Cause then you know how it’s done. Then it’s just a matter of watching to see if the magician messes up or reveals his secret by acc¡dent. No more, “Holy schneikes! How’d you do that?!” or no more gasps from little children while they wonder if magic is real. But that’s just the thing: I think magic is real. It’s magic how God made everything (forgive me if I sound sacreligious 🙂 ), and that’s why we can’t know. Anything is magic   until we break it down and cease to wonder. Imagine if we never looked under the hood of a car…just leave it to the mechanics. If we didn’t know, at least slightly, how it works, the mechanics would become our magicians, working their magic in the back rooms where we can’t go because of ‘insurance purposes’.

So to bring it all together, the magic of beauty, created by God’s hand, gives life and wonder and awe and a sacred delight that can only be known by those in a glorious dance with their Creator. I asked someone what one of the deepest desires or longings of their heart was, and thought about my answer to the question. It took a while, but I found out that I desire mysterious wonder. That’s the way I’d put it. I want to laugh and cry and gaze at a sunset and not wonder “How?”, but simply wonder. Wonder at the mystery of a sunset, the magic of creation, and the guiding, sustaining, redeeming, renewing, abolutely glorious Being behind it all.

Be Loved,
The Jack of Hearts
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It was about a week before the show when I found out my mother decided to surprise me and my best friend with tickets to a symphony. It was the Florida Orchestra, accompanied by 3 or 4 choirs and 2 soloists, playing selections from Lord of the Rings; I couldn’t have been happier. It was simply a random act of kindness.

            Wednesday (Feb 21st) rolled around quicker than normal, but the day itself seemed to drag on forever. Everything I did that day seemed neverending and mundane. But finally the moment came. My friend Dan and I escaped the world and all of its obligations in a Blue Toyota Matrix; destined that night only for St. Pete and the Mahaffey Theater. With windows down, the blaring of some of our favorite songs, and that highway speed that only serves to thrill, we were on our way.

            We arrived and changed clothes, transforming from rebellious teenagers to sophisticated s with style. But with a ling ering teenage strut, we sauntered into the theater without so much as a single glance backwards. For no reason at all, this was our territory. We walked upstairs, found our seats, and waited for the show to begin.

            Growing restless, we decided to take a look around the theater. Somebody said there was free cheese-tasting somewhere, so we were all for it. We made our way to the patio, passing the cheese table and grabbing some samples on the way. But right then, we heard the voice above warning us the show would start in 5 minutes. We took our seats.

            They played some of the best that night, with songs that brought back memories of the Rivendell, Rohan and Mordor. And, as the songs of the Shire surrounded us, even the young man inside me was moved to tears. There were two soloists: a young lady and an even younger boy – both with voices of gold. And the choirs behind the symphony only served to make the whole experience truer and more real. As if all this preparation and setup wasn’t enough, they had a giant projection screen with a slideshow of Lord of the Rings artwork which corresponded with the pieces they were playing. To finish it off, they had just the right lighting and timing – Frodo’s in the Shire, reading a book under a tree and the green of life surrounds the orchestra. Now Gandalf is fighting the Balrog and the entire orchestra is awash with reds and oranges.

And then…over. What? Is this the end? When the music stopped and the crowd stood up after only an hour, without warning of an intermission, we mistook the symphony to have finished. Surprised, we asked our neighbors of late who replied that it was only an intermission. Upon this relieving news, we went out of the theater and headed for the patio and some fresh air.

It was a beautiful night outside; the hesitant twilight only just crawling away into darkness. We walked to a bench, and with a gorgeous breeze blowing in from the bay, we allowed our hair to be swept back while we felt like kings of the world. It was a moment untouched with words while we sat in a quiet silence. Looking up, the city lights pushed away the stars, but there just enough holes in the night sky to add a touch of beauty to it all.

            And again, the voice from above came with warning and we went back for the second half. It wasn’t possible, but the second part was just as good, if not better. The entire symphony burst forth with the beautiful woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings which, alone, reach beneath the surface, but together, create a moving work of art that reaches to the depths of your soul.

He’d been at it for years. Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. It seemed like all he ever did. The job wasn’t the most desirable, or even slightly enticing, but, nevertheless, an everlasting joy could be seen in his face, in the deep sparkle of his eyes. In fact, it seemed nothing could remove the pleasure he found in scraping away the muck, deep down in that hideous dungeon.

            Of course, it hadn’t always been hideous like that. There was a time the dungeon had been a grand palace of remarkable splendor. No place was more fit for a king. No place more spectacular. Back in the younger days of the palace, it had been clean as a whistle. You could drag a finger on the highest shelf and detect not even the slightest hint of dust or grime. But that was before the innocence was lost.

            It started one day when I tracked in mud all over the floor. Horrified, I instantly stooped to the ground and began to sweep it up. But as my fingers scratched at the mud, I found there was nothing I could do. I buffed, I scraped, I rubbed, I dug at the mud with my fingernails, only to find it was rock solid. When I saw him watching me from the corner, I begged, pleaded with him to help me. No sooner had the words come out of my mouth when I found him beside me, scraping off the mud as simply as one removes dinner scraps from the table with a rag. When he’d finished and the floor was spotless, it came to our attention that my feet also needed cleaning. “I’ll get it,” I said to him, as I walked to the bathroom, careful not to leave a trail. But once again, the mud had turned solid and my efforts were averted by the strength of the dried earth. Yet in an act of sheer humility and humbleness, he walked into the bathroom and began to wash my feet. I resisted, but he simply said, “I must. For only by becoming humble can you truly speak into the hearts of men.”

            After that instance, the palace remained clean for the most part. Every now and then, mud would get in and I would ask him to clean it. And of course he always did. He even whistled a few times, laughing and making jokes, but only after the mud had been cleaned. But after weeks, months of increasing dirtiness, the mud got out of hand. At one point, I left the palace, only to come back with more mud and find him still at work over the previous callousness.

            It wasn’t long at all before I found what was causing the mud to stick to my feet. And when I did, I avoided the muddy spots outside the door as I walked in. But only for a little while. Eventually I became careless and lazy, and found myself simply walking through the mud for no reason but convenience. It was the easy path I’d been taking when I tracked mud in, and it just didn’t seem worth it to go around. I’d walk in, ask him to clean it and just sit there and watch while he finished up. Afterwards, we’d talk and have the most wonderful times of all. But the tension increased during the times of his cleaning. It was almost like he knew that I’d been doing it on purpose.

            After the longest time, I stopped caring at all. I tramped through the mud, stormed through the door, and walked all over his grace. “Clean it!” I demanded. And as I became more callous, the palace deteriorated. No longer did it have plush pillows – only torn fragments. The curtains were ripped and ruined on the ground, and I installed bars. Not to keep anything in, but to keep him out of those places. I locked up the windows and bed and I wouldn’t let him near. Each time I came in, the visits became more and more depressing. I’d walk in and demand he clean, and at this point, his tears were the solvent that broke up the dirt. I couldn’t bear to watch so I’d hide behind the bars and wouldn’t let him in. He pled with me to take them down, but I wouldn’t. I had them reinforced many times, just to make sure he couldn’t dismantle them. But he couldn’t if he wanted to, such was the depth of his love for me. It was a love I couldn’t understand, and I grew angry. It seemed there was nothing I could do that would make him stop.

            Soon I began to carry mud in with my hands. Not only had I stepped in it, I started flinging it around the cells and the ceiling. Many times I would instantly fall to my knees, crying and beg him to be merciful, just one more time. It was these times that he would come down on my pain with the strongest, most powerful hugs I’d ever experienced. He would hold me for hours and wipe away the mud and tears. But it didn’t sink in. I kept dirtying the palace until it transformed into a dungeon. As the years went on, I covered every surface with dirt and mud. Every now and then, I even tried to fling mud on him, to blame him for the mud. But it never worked. As dirty as his surroundings were, he always shone with a pure, brilliant light that could never be diminished.

            One day, I walked in with two handfuls of mud and flung them on the only clean spot in the room: the area he’d been cleaning as I approached. I realized what I’d done and lay on the ground, crying, gasping for the God of my life to pick me up from the mud and clean me off, when I realized that it wasn’t the mud that was holding me, it was Him. He’d caught me as I fell and simply asked me to open up the cells. With the keys I habitually carried around my neck, I opened each and every one. We walked around and looked at where the cells had been and I realized they were gone! They had disappeared, even after years of reinforcements to keep them strong – to keep Him out. Now that He had access to each and every area of the room, He started to clean. It was a long and painful process, but I began to grow stronger and found I could chip off pieces of dried mud. I found a book that had been sitting on a couch and, after I picked off the mud, I began to read. What I found were stories and miracles that changed my life.

            I soon discovered that the more I read, the stronger I became. I could gradually pick off bigger and bigger pieces of mud and found myself smiling as I did. The joy I once had slowly crept back into my heart as the room became cleaner. I read and cleaned and cried, and my tears became a solvent too. But, in this, I wasn’t alone. He was there all the time, telling me stories of the great heroes. I read the book to Him and, even though he knew it by heart, He pretended to be shocked and scared, joyful and triumphant, just at the right times. We laughed, joked, and even wrestled together as the room became cleaner and cleaner.

            At long last, the glow in the palace became stronger. There was a sort of pulse, a heartbeat, a rhythm about it that I grew to love, and I spent more and more time there, even after the mud had been removed. There were still the finishing touches – chairs, beds, windows to repair, and even the curtains needed to be sewn back together. But through it all, we kept smiles on our faces and grew closer as the days of cleaning grew shorter.

            Finally, the room has been finished. Of course, there will always need to be occasional (sometimes often) repairs, and we’ll expand the palace to even bigger proportions as my life goes on, but that’ll be set for another day. Right now, I expect we’ll sit by the fireplace and relax. Maybe we’ll read a little bit of the New Testament. I’ve been dying to hear Jesus’ take on His second coming, and we’ve got the rest of my life in this heart and eternity in His to discuss it.

 

Be Loved, 

The Jack of Hearts

Wilco – When You Wake Up Feeling Old

When you wake up Feelin' old At this piano filled with souls Some strange purse Stuffed nervous with gold Can you be where you want to be? Walk down any street You can find Look at any clock telling time Sing some strange verse From some strange song of vines And you'll be where you want to be I know I can't sing Until she brings the song to life And I blend with kings I'd never change a thing Who knows anything I don't know There are so many things I must leave alone Some strange person is calling you their home Can you be where you want to be? Can you be Where you want to be? Can you be Where you want to be? Can you be Where you want to be?
June 2017
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