Of Prophets of Old

Prophets are a strange breed.

They’re a dying one too. Seems to me that there are not many of them around… at least not the true ones. Vanishing are the ones that foretell the future.  Fading are the ones with the piercing look in their eyes that plumbs the depth of your soul.  Prophets… they know everything.  And they are totally unnervingly black and white.  For them it’s wrong or it’s right… just like the song says.

Their job is two-fold.  On the one hand prophets warn us of impending doom or reveal what is hidden or unseen.  They can tell you what you are thinking or feeling without you saying a word. On the other hand, the really gifted ones come frighteningly equipped with the ability to predict the future… supernatural clairvoyance!

Prophets of Old play a significant part in our looking ahead for an answer to our longing for Paradise.  We expect them to not only know that things are not the way they are supposed to be but have something positive, something constructive to say about what is right.

Modern Day Prophets

When I think of modern-day prophets I think of Nostradamus. Though he’s from a by-gone era (16th century) we still look to his writings today to try to discern the future. Many are his followers who are convinced of the veracity of the predictions they see in his cryptic quatrains.

There are others who have attempted to be prophetic.  There’s George Orwell and his book 1984, Aldous Huxley and Brave New World, Stanley Kubrick creating the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey based on the novel of the same name by Arthur C Clarke.  There used to be loads of psychics and clairvoyants whose predictions would appear  plastered on the covers of newspapers, tabloids and  magazines at the beginning of each year.  They too seem to have faded from view.

Let us not forget the Christian apocalyptic soothsayers who continue their attempts to calculate and project the return of Christ and the end of the world as we know it! Failing to nail it repeatedly, like zombies that arise again from the ashes of their fallen prophecies to come at us again and again.

When talking about apocalyptic “end of the world” type prophecies who can ignore the Mayans! 2012 is going to be big for these Mesoamerican Indians! With December 21st marking the end of the Mayan calendar predictions of Armageddon and planetary extinction loom before us.  Some have tried to look at the Mayan prophecy for answers and insight but…

 Usually one finds doom and gloom… but just before Christmas!  Is there no mercy!?!

Even Nostradamus is interesting as he seems to predict the future… but only afterwards do we connect one of his quatrains is connected with a current or past event.  Experts study his writings to try to connect his as yet unfulfilled prophetic sections with future happenings.  One such prediction involves Mitt Romney.

Prophets of Old

So our modern-day prophets have a problem. They are often wrong.  Some are better than others.  But wrong is wrong!  So where does one look for a little more light?  A little more accuracy? Honestly in my mind, there is no doubt where to look…  I’m looking to those Old Testament seers like Isaiah, Elijah,  Elisha, Zechariah and the rest!  Now those were real prophets!

These guys put their lives on the line every time they uttered “Thus sayeth the Lord!”  The Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy was not too kind to those who missed a prognostication.

Deuteronomy 18:20-22
But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

So I would trust the voices of those who would put their lives on the line to shed serious light on the future of the way it’s supposed to be.  What are these prophets saying?

Isaiah 51:3
For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.

 Here the prophet predicts a restoration project that will transform the wilderness and the desert into a Garden of Eden-like environment where joy and gladness and thanksgiving abound and music fills the air.

Isaiah 2:4
He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

Micah 4:3
He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations far away; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore;

Now we have the prophet Micah joining with Isaiah in complete agreement and quoting the other almost verbatim! Looks like wars are definitely out when it comes to the way it’s supposed to be.  Weapons of destruction are turned into farming tools in the new Eden!

To cap things off Isaiah has a great vision where everything is transformed.

Isaiah 65:17-18
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create…

Isaiah 66:22
“For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain.

In the New Testament the Apostle Peter adds his confident affirmation of this promise.

2 Peter 3:13
But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells

The prophets of old foresee a time when there is a restoration of all good and a return to the way things are supposed to be. Cornelius Plantinga in his book “Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be” contends that this idyllic state of the way things ought to be can be described in one word, “Shalom.” He writes,

“The webbing together of God, humans and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies.  In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness , and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”

The Prophets of Old did not just look back to the Garden but pointed forward to a vision of restoration of all things, a new heaven and a new earth so to speak.  A future that would be filled with joy and gladness and thanksgiving, filled with what is called “Shalom.”

(In the next post I plan to explore what this vision of future Shalom means for us who long for a present Shalom in the here and now!)
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Of Weddings, Disney & Happy Ever Afters

Dan and Lariah's wedding - the kiss

The Magical Kiss – Dan & Lariah’s Wedding May 25, 2012

In between weddings… That’s right, that’s where I am.  An interesting place to be.

In more ways than one… (You are too, but I’ll explain that later!)

You see, I have just had the honor of conducting the marriage ceremony for my son, Daniel and his wonderful (then fiancee) now wife, Lariah.  That was on May 25, 2012.  In a few days I will be flying to London, England for the wedding of my son, Chip, who will be marrying his lovely fiancee, Noura Ourahmane. That’s happening on July 21.

What’s not to love about weddings! There’s something about them that is so magical and perfect… they remind me of the way things are supposed to be!  In a world that at times screams the contrary loud and clear a wedding (when done right… there are ones that don’t do what I’m talking about) speaks of something heavenly, something magical, something other-worldly.  Disney has made its fortunes depicting this amazing truth, touching our hearts in the place of all faith, hope and love!

Narnia music begins, Lariah magically processes in

When my son’s  beautiful bride, Lariah processed down the aisle to the ethereal sounds of music from Narnia with the sun’s glare muted by the trees in the perfect garden setting at Oatlands Plantation there was a hush and a sense of awe that was felt by all who attended. The air seemed to be filled with as much magic as any Disney Cinderella-Snow White wedding could produce!

Yeah, I know the idea of  the “happy ever-after” has fallen on hard times.  We hear critics say it’s unkind to paint this perfect picture for kids when real life is harsh and reality is cold.   But the truth is, could you imagine a fairy tale that would end otherwise? 

One Entertainment Weekly Reviewer writes,  “We make fun of happy endings yet demand them”! In reviewing “Tangled” she writes about the ending where Flynn dies in Rapunzel’s arms… “Of course, I didn’t really think the movie would end like that, nor did I really want it to apparently: When Flynn lay lifeless, I said ‘That’s bulls—’ — silently to myself, thankfully, since there were children around”.

“The Disney movie “Enchanted” is wonderful in that Disney attempts to make fun of “happy ever afters” by making fun of the heroine Giselle’s naivete when they bring this fairy tale princess into the harsh reality of New York City.  But the producers relent, happy endings must occur.  We are invited into them by Carrie Underwood singing the song “Ever, Ever After”.

Ever ever after
Though the world will tell you it’s not smart
Ever ever after
The world can be yours if you let your heart
Believe in ever after

There’s something in us that wants to believe, that knows that things can be the way they’re supposed to be… and happy ever afters are part of that!

Did you see the Royal Wedding of Prince William & Catherine Middleton in London last year?  You’d think a fairy tale had jumped right of the drawing board into Westminster Abbey.  How gorgeous, majestic, beautiful, awe-inspiring, pure and wonderful!

Real life imitating Disney?!?

You’d think that Prince William and Catherine and their entourage had their wardrobes designed by the Disney staff using the Cinderella templates!

I’ve included some fun pictures that compared the Disney classic and the actual wedding pictures.  (If you compare these with the originals you’d see that the colors are not the same… some artist doctored these up).  Boy, do we love happy endings!

And more than anything weddings speak of being happy forever, for all time!  They speak of good overcoming evil. They speak of love triumphant!  It’s two people pledging their lives together forever trusting in the power of love. 

This truth spans generations.  Though marriage failures at an all-time high the hope of a happy ever after is not extinguished, is not deterred but it lives in our hearts, only needing a little fanning of the flame!

Ever ever after
Though the world will tell you it’s not smart
Ever ever after
The world can be yours if you let your heart
Believe in ever after

The Bible describes human history as running between creation and apocalypse but have you noticed that it speaks of bookend marriages on either side of history.  The Bible describes the creation of the first man and woman in the book of Genesis and though not mentioned, their wedding!  “The two shall become one!” At the end of the Bible there is an enormous feast and celebration called the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Rev 19:7-10)  There the happy ever after is secured as true happiness forever, guarenteed! 

With one wedding at the beginning of life itself and another grand celebration at the end we can honestly say that we are all living “in between weddings”!  And the happy ever after of the one to come is going to be a doosey!! And all of us are invited to be a part!!

Disney couldn’t have written a better script… Ever, ever after!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7mpfr-UGdc (Ever, Ever After video)

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Longing for Paradise

“We are startdust, we are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden… ” from the song Woodstock by Joni Mitchell

Longing for Paradise?

I think we all are.  I believe every human (apart from those with a serious case of schizophrenia) knows that this world, this life is “not the way it’s supposed to be.”

And there is a longing in our hearts for something lost… something missing… something that will make all things right again… something that will make sense of everything once more… a healing of all creation.

We intuitively, inherently know that things are not right… and not only that, we have an idea of the way it’s supposed to be.  We say that people shouldn’t act such and such a way, bad things shouldn’t happen to good people and that life is unfair.

Most of the time life throws too much at us for us to reflect metaphysically about such profound things.  And our sense of longing and the knowledge that this is not the way it’s supposed to be can get projected onto personal life problems.  If my parents weren’t so… if school wasn’t like… if my job didn’t require me… if I had a girl/boy friend who would finally treat me right… if I had enough money things wouldn’t be so bad.

Sometimes the inner understanding gets masked and we project our restlessness and frustration on others and other things and misplace some blame on them. And I’m afraid that the majority of us walk with unfettered indifference most of the time.

Take for example the movie “Matrix”.  It captures this truth quite nicely.  In the movie almost all the people go about their daily lives not really connecting with the way things really are and the way they’re supposed to be.  It takes our protagonist, Neo, to connect the dots for us. To shatter the illusion. The curtain is pulled back and we are shocked to see a bizarre machine-ruled world revealed.  Part of the success of the movie I am sure is the ability to tap into our inner awareness that life is “Not The Way It’s Supposed To Be”.

What’s interesting to me is that this sense of how things should be has both a backward look and a forward look.

We look backward and we feel like something has been lost, stolen or taken away from us.  We’ve been robbed!  The Bible captures this idea in the telling of the story of Adam and Eve.  Humanity is pictured here living in the idyllic environs of Eden.  Now whether you think this is historic truth, the Word of God or just a symbolic tale it does not matter at his point. The point is that perfection of this paradise is shattered through a usurper and paradise is lost. I think this fits in well with the inner awareness I believe that we each have.  Adam and Eve are put out of the garden and things are sadly and seriously changed.  There is seemingly unrepairable damage and humanity must from then on deal with a world that is “Not The Way It’s Supposed to Be”.

450,000 gathered for 3 days of Peace, Love & Music

Throughout history there are times when youth, zeal and idealism combine and there awakens a fresh awareness of the “not the way it’s supposed to be”. There is the heightened desire to “make things right” in a big way.   Like “the way it’s supposed to be” was an actual reality and somehow we’ve forgotten it or ignored it.  How the heck did we get this way?  This happened in the 60’s and I believe it is happening today.

In the 60’s a song by Joni Mitchell came out called Woodstock. She recorded it herself and a group called Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young popularized it.

We are startdust, we are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden!

The chorus above captures the lofty ideal that people are precious and valuable and that we really do need to get back to the way things were meant to be.  The event that the song was inspired by was a unique concert advertised to occur on August 16-18, 1969.  Many popular bands of that day (that still are today!) were contracted to play during the outdoor festival at Yasgur’s farm in Woodstock, New York. 50,000 were expected to attend.

In the end the event became legendary with over 450,000 packing the highways up through New York and the festival attendees espoused a level of civility, peace, order and love that a small city of this size would never be expected to have.  Magazines and newspapers would laud the event as phenomenal and amazing and the “Woodstock Generation” was born.  The peace symbol, medallion and two-fingered kind, and the dove would become emblematic of this “Make Love, Not War” awakening.

About the same time another group arose known as the “Jesus People” in Southern California with Pastor Chuck Smith bringing in “hippies” and getting them baptized in the Pacific Ocean.  The traditional church was no home for these long-haired, t-shirted, sandle-wearing, bead-necklace adorned young people.  The church broke out of its four walls that day and something of the way things were supposed to be was bursting out on the left coast as well.

Change was in the wind… “and everywhere there was song and a celebration.”

“And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden,  back to the garden, back to the garden…

But we… I mean, they, didn’t get there.  Though we got a glimpse of paradise things slid back. But there’s still hope, hope for us, hope for mankind… so say the prophets of old.

Part 2 coming soon… “Of Prophets of Old”

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“Everything’s s’pposed to be different than what it is here”

“Everything’s s’pposed to be different than what it is here.”  

~ Simon (Danny Glover) in the movie Grand Canyon**

In the 1991 film Grand Canyon, an immigration lawyer decides to beat the traffic out of a basketball game to find a short cut home and ends up getting terribly lost.  At each turn the neighborhood gets worse and he becomes more confused till (wouldn’t you know it) his fancy sports car conks out on a dark almost abandoned street… a part of the city where Google Earth access is forbidden.  (Betcha you’re glad you got your GPS!) 

Somehow he manages a phone call for a tow truck.  However, before the truck arrives he finds himself surrounded by a group of street thugs, local gang members who are intent on confiscating his ride.  In the nick of time the tow truck arrives and its driver, ignoring the gang presence, starts to hook up the tow to the lawyer’s car.  But this ticks off the gang leader who begins to protest.  The truck driver is not intimidated in the least bit and pulls the leader aside and (according to writer Cornelius Plantinga ) “gives him a five-sentence introduction to sin”:  

Man, the world ain’t s’pposed to work like this. Maybe you don’t know that, but this ain’t the way it’s s’pposed to be. I’m s’pposed to be able to do my job without askin’ you if I can. And that dude is s’pposed to be able to wait with his car without you rippin’ him off.

Everything’s s’pposed to be different than what it is here.

I love this.  The truck driver, the ordinary man, understands the cosmos, understands the deep things of our world, he even has metaphysical insights into our state here on the planet.  Things are supposed to different! 

Joking aside I think Danny Glover’s character speaks for us all.  I believe every human on the face of the earth feels this way at one time or another.  Something is not right with our world.  You’ve heard it… “Well, in a perfect world… yadayadayada” with the possible retort… “This ain’t a perfect world, so get over it!”  

Yet we don’t truly get over it. Something in us longs for a perfect world… yet most of the time we are too busy, too distracted to really be aware of this feeling.  But it comes back to the forefront of our consciousness when someone acts contrary to what we expect.  We think “people should know better”.  It’s so obvious to us what “normalcy” should be but then we forget and we are back into daily life.

Then lightning strikes… a hurricane hits… a tsunami crashes ashore… a twister touches down… ! And something within awakens again.

We ask ourselves… should there be suffering and disease?  Of course not!  Or famine or hate or genocide? Well, for goodness sake, NO!  Abandoned children?  Abused women?  Slave trafficking? And your heart hurts… (at least one time it did, I bet).

How about wars or inequality or addictions or slavery or thievery or deceit or loneliness? Surely not!  Or being schizophrenic, manic-depressive, clinically depressed or bi-polar?  Or having ADD, ADHD, dyslexia or a learning disorder? How about cancer, Parkinson’s, dementia, flesh-eating diseases or even bad drugs! 

I believe something rises up within us saying… my God, this is not the way it’s supposed to be!  “We were meant to live for so much more” the band Switchfoot sings out and instinctively we say YES… we WERE meant to live for so much more! I think we were and I believe we know it!  But it’s not just the bad things we see that trigger these feelings.

Not too far from where I live is place called Skyline Drive near Front Royal, VA.  Though this is not a road through the Rocky Mountains or through Big Sur it is nonetheless breathtaking at certain overlook stops.  I remember one time parking the car and hiking up to the top of one mountain, plopping myself down on a ledge, feet dangling, gazing out in awe over the beauty of the Shenandoah River Valley.  The sun was past midday and its beams of light stretched over the land and water and I could only think of how marvelous God was for creating this and how filled with joy I was to be drinking this all in.  I didn’t want to leave.

But soon I had to… and my heart felt a longing for more, but it was more than just what I saw.  I just wanted more of this joy, more of this awe, more of this beauty more of  this wonder! 

C.S. Lewis once said, 

“It was when I was happiest that I longed most… The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing… to find the place where all the beauty came from.”

Now what does this all mean?  This is the journey and pursuit that beckons me. Some answers I think I have and others I’m not so sure of.  At times I feel like a “stranger in a strange land”.  At other times I feel so alive and so at home yet… unable to shake this longing.  And I hear Danny Glover’s character say…

“Everything’s s’pposed to be different than what it is here”


**(this should not be considered a movie recommendation from me… I viewed it to see the Danny Glover scene long ago but there are many potentially objectionable sections in the film – CL)

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Not The Way It’s Supposed To Be

Have you ever said yourself, “That’s not the way people should act.”  Or “That’s not the way this is meant to be.” Well if you have then please join me on a journey exploring the issues and ideas that get stirred up looking into the observation of a life that’s somehow supposed to be different.

The title of the blog borrows from the name of a book by Cornelius Plantinga called “Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be”. I was very, very inspired and challenged and delighted to have found this book. It has had a profound effect on my thinking concerning life, especially the Christian Life.  Plantinga’s exploration of how this life is filled with the “not the way it’s supposed to be” evidences and his proposing of one way to view sin as the “breaking of Shalom” is intriguing. His contention is that “Shalom” is much more that just peace between people or the absence of war or strife but in its essence “Shalom” is the way all things were intended to be.

I have additionally been blessed and influenced in this worldview by among others George Eldon Ladd, St. Augustine, John Wimber, Ravi Zacharias, Scott Peck and CS Lewis.   I hope to explore with you the reader the ramifications of such a worldview.  What does it mean that this world is “Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be”?  What is it supposed to be?  What is this “Shalom” we fall short of?  And what does being or not being a Christian effect my interaction with this world. 

I expect this journey to quite enlightening and expect to have my opinions and understanding challenged at times, validated at others and my mind and spirit prompted to re-evaluation and change whether in thought or deed.  Thanks for joining in when you can!

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