Today, if you hear his voice

Ben White's Adventures with softened hearts

Month: November 2014

Like a Thief in the Night

I was doing something very dangerous yesterday- flying down Pine Street on my bike listening to Rich Mullins with my headphones in.  It was dangerous in 4 ways:

1) The obvious safety hazard of riding a bike without being able to hear 2) The scorn I could receive from my musically cool friends for listening to the often “cheesy” christian recording artist from the eighties 3) The potential embarrassment when people notice the tears that I burst into 4) The crumbling darkness around us as I saw God’s light breaking through.

Here’e the lyric and video of “A Steal at Any Price” from Pictures in the Sky (1987).  If you really want to go with me here, listen though to the first chorus and read along with the lyrics.  Then keep reading more of my experience as rich sings on.

rich mullins

He sees a frozen shadow
Cold in the neon flash

He sees the ghost of a chance in her eyes

He longs to take her away

To a place where love can last
Without all these memories
Of all the emptier loves in her life
‘Cause He knows how bad it can get
And He sees her lose
Though she pays her dues
She still winds up in debt
And the night cracks
Like a whip in her heart
She looks into the light
He takes her out of the darkness
He’s a thief in the night

As Rich hung on the “Heeeeeeee’s” I was bursting across 18th street. (“A thief in the night”)  All of a sudden the world opened up into the light.  I was exhilarated- the unseasonable freshness of the morning, the speed of the bike and the reality of God’s love for me- all of it- coalesced in a revelation.   All of a sudden tears were streaming from my eyes and I remember having the thought as I even surprised myself with a couple of sobs that my sweat was masking the tears and saving me from any undo attention… and yet, at the same time I was glad to be a fool. (“His love is a steal at any price”)  I was so glad to look around and see all these others on Pine Street on whom God could also sneak up to take away from our desperation and darkness.

Rich went on to the second verse and reminded me “‘Cause he knows how bad it can hurt.”  I know how bad it can hurt.  Jesus knows how bad it can hurt.  Do you know how bad it can hurt?  I think you do.  By the time I was crossing Broad Street my moment was passing and I was stunned in gratitude for a minute or so of God’s grace sneaking up on me.  I was thankful to be reminded that Jesus is with me and all the people around me, and I am with Jesus when I am with them.  I felt the longing that Jesus has for us.  I felt my own longing to be made new–to be stolen from the emptier loves in my life–and confident that many others feel it too and might turn with me to the light.

So I share this revelation with you.  Jesus’ love is a steal at any price, and apparently we are too.  The price Jesus paid for us is greater than any other.  No other death has resulted in light.  So, “today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 3)  Respond to the light that is shining in your darkness and the darkness around you.  Cherish the costly gift you have received.  Give thanks for the thief in the night, because if we had to make this stuff up on our own it would never happen.

Why I take pictures of the sky

I took this picture of the sky 2 years ago and I still remember how giddy I was as I raced up Washington Avenue under this shimmering shelf of clouds.  I had a little echo of that joy as I crossed the Grays Ferry Bridge tonight under a slightly less spectacular (in relative terms) evening wonder.  As the sun was setting the sky seemed so big on account of the tiny island clouds that stretched innumerably to the horizon, and the sky/sea was so perfectly fading from a rich blue above to a golden orange below.  As I huffed over the bridge’s crown I gasped aloud, somehow still surprised, “It’s beautiful every day!  Thank you, Lord…thank you… thank you… thank you…” and the Schuylkill shimmered below in countenance.

I joined instagram almost 3 years ago and it has greatly increased my joy.  The prospect of sharing my wonder adds a liveliness to each moment of awe.  I am inherently generous in my delight.  I grew up with a twin bother who, whether he wanted it or not, was privy to every ounce of fascination I encountered or mustered; and suffice it to say there was much fascination.  I am accustomed to shared joy to the point where quiet, lonesome joys are disciplines I strive to inhabit–but they are, in my emotional geography, more clearings hacked out of the undergrowth than naturally occurring ecosystems.  And so instagram provides a way for me to share and that sharing heightens and multiplies my own joy.  I keep looking because others will see what I see–others will gain from my growing attention.  Many look to the sky for glory; I don’t presume to be essential.  I claim that in sharing my vision, I create a repeating and intensifying pattern of seeing that happens joy upon me in regular bursts of sweetness.  I keep seeing greatness in what is dangerously close to mundane.  I want more of that joy and I find it in the sharing as much as in the moment of seeing.

Multiply your joy at Circle of Hope

I do the same with the joy I find in Jesus.  My compulsion to share my experience with Jesus stems from Jesus’ command to make disciples, but it snowballs from there.  My experiences with God are intensified, multiplied and repeated in the process of living them, remembering them and sharing them.  I strive to communicate the often unnameable essence of love and hope as it has touched me in a way that actually connects with another.  (I’m trying to do it right now and it’s hard!)  What is it about the joy of life in Christ that I can tell in a relatively intelligible or relatively beautiful way?  The world can crumble as it is wont to do and my hope survives the deterioration. My friends are more whole after we form a group around Jesus and spend time trusting Him and each other.  I find a larger place in me for patience.  And the sky is still beautiful. Thank you.. thank you.. thank you.