Friday, September 23, 2005

For the last three days I have been on a personal "mini-sabbath." It has been a mixed bag of encountering the Holy One and self-disappoinntment. He is always gracious and yet it seems as though I sometimes booby-trap our moments together.

But not tonight. Oh, no. Not tonight.

I sat in Panera eating some nondescript sandwich and a bread bowl of broccoli cheese soup. I was reading "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell. I am nearly finished with it. As I sat alone at my table, surrounded by yuppie couples and studying college students I felt a little out of place. Gray haired. Fifty. They were seeking to further their place in the world. I was seeking to further transcend my place in the world. They seemed anxious to compete and successfully upscale themselves. I was trying to figure out how to decrease so that He might increase. I didn't fit in.

Rob was writing directly to my heart. I knew it. Something was resonating within me as I read his words. They were alive. But I didn't know how close he was coming to the new reality that was about to over take me via cell phone.

He wrote, "Notice what God does with His 'good' creation. 'Then God said, Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds. And it was so.' The next verse is significant: 'The LAND produced vegetation.' Notice it doesn't say, GOD produced vegetation. God empowers the land to do something. He gives it the capacity to produce trees and shrubs and plants and bushes that produce fruit and seeds. God empowers creation to make more. This happens again in Genesis 1: 22 when God blesses the creatures of the water and sky and then says, 'be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.' Once again God gives creation - here it is fish and birds - the ability to multiply and make more. God doesn't make more fish; God gives fish the ability to make more. An important distinction. God empowers creation to make more and in doing so loads it with potential. It is going to grow and change and move and not be the same today as it was yesterday, and tomorrow it will move another day forward. Creation is loaded with potential and possibility and promise. God then makes people whom he puts right in the middle of all this loaded creation, commanding them to care for creation, to manage it, to lovingly use it, to creatively order it. The words he gives are words of loving service and thoughtful use. From day one (which is really day six), they are in intimate relationship and interaction with their environment. They are environmentalists. Being deeply connected with their environment is who they are. For them to be anything else or to deny their divine responsibility to care for all that God has made would be to deny something that is at the core of their existence."

My cell phone rang. I put the book aside. It was my daughter calling. She is one of the best people to grace our planet. Anytime one of my children takes the time to call me I will take the time to answer. Each of them is a jewel etched into the history of my life. Add Joe to the mix and you have a winning combo that just cannot be outdone. I love Joe like as though he were my own flesh. (But I am sure Kelli is grateful that he is not...)

As we said hello, Kelli told me how disappointed she was that I was not at home. She and Joe had come over to give us a present. And she told me she was going to hand her mother the telephone so I could audibly share in opening it. Now, nobody opens a present correctly these days. Wrapping paper is meant to be shredded and tossed over the shoulder wildly in order to get at the goodies inside. I waited patiently, listening in as best I could to the conversation taking place in my living room seventy-five miles away. I heard Debbie say something like, "It's a children's book." Kelli said that yes, it was to read to our grandchild. Then the noise got really loud on the other end. I heard Debbie scream, "ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE A BABY???!!! And then there was just more screams. When Debbie began talking to me she was crying. It seems that April 15th is the day we should have a new child appear in our little family.

I clicked the phone shut. I looked around at the yuppies and college students. Their mouths moved and they shoveled food in between words but I ignored them when I realized the earth was trembling under me. I am going to be ... no ... wait ... I AM a grandfather! Somewhere deep in the abdomen of my daughter is a very tiny, very human, very much alive ... child. I glanced down at "Velvet Elvis." My eyes landed on these words, "God empowers creation to make more and in doing so loads it with potential." Well yes, indeed He does.

I am not lying. That is the place where my gaze fell. Look it up yourself. Velvet Elvis. Rob Bell. Zondervan Publishing. Page 158. The very first sentence on the page.

This has not yet soaked in. I am thrilled! I am elated! I am joy-filled! I am also quite shocked, a little bit afraid, and just slightly catatonic. (Is it possible to be "slightly" catatonic?) And I am done writing for now. All I know to add is the words penned by that great theologian, Forrest Gump. "That's all I have to say about that."