While I hope that what I write will encourage you, I have to warn you my theology is eclectic to say the least.
I am the first to admit I am probably:
—too progressive for charismatics
—too charismatic for progressives
—too controversial for the Golden Agers
—too orthodox for the New Agers
— too Bible stretching for fundamentalists
—too Bible loving for postmoderns
—too Patristic for modern minds
—too evolving for traditional minds
—too allegorical with the Old Testament
—too literal with the New Testament
—too mystical for the empiricists
—too practical for the mystics.
But, I only make one claim: I have experienced touches of Jesus’ transformative love and prismatic passion. I remain gloriously infected with it and influenced by it. His flawless nature of “light, love, and lightness” is my starting and finishing point. He is my theological, experiential, and hermeneutical “Rosetta Stone” for interpreting and processing all reality.
And that’s really about it.
What I write on this blog will always attempt to spark from that ignition point. Many of my spiritual metaphors come from life illustrations of my family— my dad, my wife, my kids, and my criminal defense law practice. One thing you should know about me— I never met a metaphor I didn’t like (or use). I actually think all theology is metaphor (more on that in future blogs).
As a way of introduction, let me share a bit about each of them and how they have revealed to me the flawless heart of a tender God.
My dad, of all people, showed me the incredible holy ground surrounding the age old question as to, “What’s in a kiss?”
Thirty-five years ago we received a midnight phone call which ripped out my guts. I was told my dad had suffered a massive heart attack and was in the way to the hospital.
I literally exploded in agony. I had just talked to him six hours earlier.
Dad’s last words to me in that conversation were, “You don’t know how much you’ve hurt me.” We had argued over a law school-related matter which didn’t seem that important at the time, so I was stunned when he told me how much it had hurt him.
Driving frantically to the hospital in Atlanta, all I could think was that I had killed my dad. When my wife Rita and I arrived and rushed into his room, he was still alive. But I had never seen my dad so weak. He lay there in bed surrounded by all sorts of electrodes, wires, tubes, and machines. He couldn’t talk because of the breathing tube which was stuck down his throat.
I looked down at his eyes. When he saw me, he eagerly leaned up toward me while touching his lips with his right index finger. I knew immediately what he was telling me.
He wanted me to kiss him on the lips. And I did, even though I had to kiss the breathing tube as well. In that one kiss I knew my Father’s heart. In his pain, his only thoughts were of me. He knew that I would feel guilty and responsible for his condition based on our earlier argument.
But my dad would not let that possibility stand. In that kiss I knew his heart was for me, that there was nothing unresolved between us, and that he would NOT let me take the blame for his condition.
I had a great dad, a generous dad, a heroic dad, and a loyal dad. He always had my back. Not to mention my front, sides, top and bottom.
Dad pulled my carcass from the fire more times than I can remember. He stayed by my side, even when I was villainous. He didn’t approve of my villainy, but he always hovered a half step away from me, exhorting me to make a brave pivot and follow my better angels.
But here is the thing. I don’t define my dad’s goodness by the “functions” he performed in my life, but rather by the “personality” he displayed when performing them.
It wasn’t WHAT my dad did for me that convinced me of his goodness, but HOW he did what he did for me. He always had a twinkle in in his eye for me, a gentle smile toward me, an encouraging tone around me, a warmly engaging focus on me, and a “sky is the limit” attitude with me.
He was always glad to see me, happy to help me, proud to support me, and wholehearted to love me. He was a combination of a tough John Wayne, a lighthearted Johnny Carson, and a poetic Christopher Plummer. He revealed an image of an earthly father which made the divine image of a good Heavenly Father readily accessible and believable to me when it was presented.My dad was super. And he was a great kisser.
I actually have two love heroes— my dad and my wife Rita (she is a flawless kisser as well). They are quite the pair.
Growing up I never saw my dad ask for anything for himself except an occasional head rub from me. He would ask me to use what he called “the thousand fingers” technique to rigorously massage his scalp with my long fingers. It was all he ever asked of me for himself, and while I always complied, I now regret not offering it more on my own initiative. He asked for so little.
When he had his heart attack, and was bedridden for the last weeks at two different hospitals before his death, I saw a holy thing. My wife Rita, on her own initiative, would repeatedly rub his feet for long periods of time. At every hospital visit she would immediately offer, and his eyes would gently roll up into his sockets in assent and anticipation. No fanfare, only smiles between the two of them.
Rita was the daughter he always wanted but never had. Nobody knew how to treat women more special than did he. He had once rescued Rita from a dangerous situation when I was out of the country before we were married. And he asked for nothing in return from either of us. Others’ needs were always his first concern. But, I never saw him so visibly at peace and pleasure than while she massaged his feet with her “thousand fingers.”
In all this I saw both my dad’s vulnerability and my wife’s incredibly kinetic love. She always loves aggressively. She doesn’t wait to be asked. She offers. Her love pours itself out freely, like a cascading waterfall. My own love for my dad would respond to specific requests, but I would seldom if ever take the initiative to offer him “the thousand fingers” treatment, the one thing I knew brought him pleasure.
The story of my childhood was my dad modeling for me selfless love which asks for nothing in return. He was my hero. He made it so easy for me to believe in the good Father Jesus described.
The story of my marriage has been by wife modeling for me kinetic love which offers everything. She is the worst enemy of unforgiveness and the best friend of faithfulness. She is also my hero.
It is the love of “the thousand fingers.”
Lastly, my kids have been brilliant beacons of God’s light as well.
I have seven children. My oldest son Sloan has shown me something wonderful about being a Jesus-like big brother. What? Jesus is our big brother? Oh yes! Romans 8:29 calls Jesus “the FIRSTBORN AMONG MANY BRETHREN” to whose “image” we are all to be “conformed.”
Sloan was and is the perfect big brother. My six other children could always relate to me lovingly, but as long as they were teenagers they knew I was not one of them. The generation gap was very real. My ideas seemed largely outdated and ridiculous to them. My jokes were incapable of making them laugh, no matter where I stole the joke from. They did find me amusing, but not for the reasons I wanted. It was more of a “laugh at him, not with him” kind of thing. They basically thought that I really didn’t get them, no matter what I did. They trusted me, they loved me, they honored me, but they didn’t treat me as one of them, an intimate confidant who will never judge them or be angry with them.
But, big brother Sloan was another matter. He was patient with them, almost endlessly so. He was completely non-judgmental and always sympathetic toward them, never jamming answers down their throats, but just listening and loaning his big shoulder for them to to lean on. He in some ways was also an emergency father to them. What a blessing!
But here is the thing. Sloan does the same thing for me. He has now matured to the point where he is my good friend, my trusted confidant, my amigo extraordinaire. He is my son, my firstborn, my pal. There is no significant generation gap any longer. He can travel between our two generations without losing anything in translation. In short, Sloan doesn’t compete with me, challenge me, or condemn me OR his siblings. He uniquely mediates the gap between my generation and theirs.
Being the firstborn among many brethren is a special calling. I now better understand Jesus’ role as our big brother. He is the perfect mediator of heaven and earth. He is a compassionate and non-judgmental elder brother, always there to patiently listen and heroically help us. But He is also at the side of the Father as HIS best friend, loyal son, and comrade in spiritual arms. A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity. Jesus is that friend, that brother, and that son.
Jesus totally gets the Father! Jesus totally gets us! What a friend we have in Jesus! What a big brother! What a Son!
I look forward to journaling and journeying with you.