To Introduce the Stars

Vincent Van Gough's "The Starry Night."
Vincent Van Gough’s “The Starry Night.”

“There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.  And as I lay there, it occurred to me that God is up there somewhere.”
― Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

There is just something about a starry night. I love stars because they are  both seemingly random, and magnificently predictable…. both brilliantly solid from our point of view, and intangibly vaporous.

Their brilliance and number give us pause.

Today during worship at church, the band led us in a song about God that mentions stars, quoting Psalms 147:4:

“He counts the stars,
  and assigns each a name.”

So many stars!

We humans like to number the stars too, although we admit there are too many billions to count. We name them things like Ursa Major, Yed Posterior, and BSC 6067; and catalog them by groupings into constellations.

The constellations are so consistent, night after night for thousands of years, that we can navigate ships by their design.  Seemingly eternal, the stars have all the time in the world to guide us.

Human science has determined that stars are but fixed, luminous points of  incandescent celestial bodies, burning as the sun.

And human seekers have determined that the same stars create a zodiac system that can set the course of their lives.

How much power in the Cosmos! How badly we want to explain their workings…

But as I sang the words of the Psalmist (and when my soul quieted enough to hear the Holy Spirit) a vision emerged that transcended astrological phenomenon.

I imagined the Crafter of the universe –  and all that is beyond it –  taking me by the hand to introduce the stars – one by one, by name.

What an odd image brought to my mind!

But what a comfort to my spirit.

Not the clinical, but the mystical – more majestic than can ever be cataloged. You see, I need something more predicable than even the stars to lead me.  I need something that lasts longer than the average life-span of a star – 15 billion years.

I need a forever God.

God – who knows what he’s doing with a billion stars –taking me by the hand. A God who could touch my life from a trillion miles away, coming close enough to breathe light into me, because he loves me – and you – more than a billion stars.

God – steadfast his brilliance, day after day, night after night….even though I am such a paradox, myself  – random and predictable… a vapor on this spinning orb, but eternally a solid being.

Me, you,  and the stars…

Our Creator has all the time in the world to guide us.

The Saint-Sinner Paradox: Come as you ARE

saint-sinner ambigram tattoo – inkarttattoos.com

By:  Jana Greene

“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.”

 –Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

I don’t know if you are familiar with Brennan Manning’s books, but if not…I recommend them highly.  Although Ragamuffin Gospel is a classic, “Abba’s Child” spoke to me the plainest. 

I like plain talk, I like honesty. 

Brennan Manning is just plain honest.  A quick Google search of his name will alert you of the controversy among Christians about his life.  It seems that Brennan Manning is an alcoholic whose theological views go against the grain of some denominational teaching.  He is a sinner, whose view is that life is messy, and relationship with God is all about grace. 

Are you a bundle of paradoxes? 

Some of my favorite people are, including my other two favorite authors – Donald Miller, who wrote “Blue Like Jazz”, and Anne Lamott, whose “Traveling Mercies” literally changed me forever.  I love everything these two write.  But they are not what you might expect, if you were to expect traditional Christian literature.  They are honest in a literary way like Bob Dylan (or perhaps Adele, for the younger generation) is honest in a musical way….raw and real.  And I love that.

I once attended a live simulcast by a very famous Christian author and speaker.  There was a sense of excitement leading up to the event that I can only liken to the Super bowl, if the Super bowl was geared toward middle-aged females of the Caucasian persuasion.  The speaker, I must tell you, is very charismatic and popular.  She is “The Face of the Christian Bookstore”, I suppose you could say.  The simulcast was very nice.  It was two hours well spent, but not two hours that changed my life.  I’m glad that there are people whose lives are touched by this speaker.  There is nothing wrong with her message, she seems to have gotten past some truly difficult times in her life and she gives God all of the glory, as she should.

But “very nice” doesn’t hook me anymore. 

Donald Miller’s bestselling “Blue like Jazz” is a semi-autobiographical account of Mr. Miller’s departure from his Christian upbringing by attending university at “the most godless campus in America”.  Some Christians are shocked that the book (and recent film depiction) contain references to both sex and drugs, and believe those things should be omitted.  Had they been, the story would never have been told.  Because sex and drug issues are a part of life, and a very real part of what many people struggle with….even many Christians.

And Anne Lamott?  Although I personally disagree with her political views, I adore her honesty.  She writes like a sinner; like a sinner who is crazy in love with Jesus.   A 2003 Christianity Today article b Agnieszka Tennant describes her this way:  “She came to Jesus just as she was—a foul-mouthed, bulimic, alcoholic drug addict. One week after having an abortion, she surrendered to him in her very own version of the sinner’s prayer, punctuated with the f-word. The author calls Ms. Lamott “a Born-Again Paradox.”

Indeed. 

Please don’t think I am condoning any of the behavior mentioned.  Being a follower of Christ means that you try to walk in His footsteps because He was perfection incarnate.  But being human means that you will misstep sometimes because you are not.  That’s my theology.

Are you a paradox?

I am a bundle of them, when I get honest.

I admit that I forgive and struggle with grudges.  I am sober but crave oblivion.  I run to the downtrodden but turn away from what I see.  I am real but I still sometimes wear a mask.  I am no rational animal; my emotions run the show far too often.

A Born-Again Paradox, crazy in love with Jesus.