Think outside the box long enough and far enough, there will come a day when the box won’t let you back in.  Think outside the box anyway.  You’ll find Jesus out there.  Not to say you won’t also find Him inside the box where you originally learned His story and His name.  But eventually the box becomes the limiting confines of its own religious Truman Show.  It cannot help but, for whether the flavor be Anglican, Baptist, or Roman Catholic, it ain’t no Jesus.  But as Jesus warned Norton when Norton began to make fun of his former mentor, John the Baptist, in Grady Nutts’ wonderfully insightful The Gospel According to Norton, “The young idealist is frequently guilty of finding his Messiah and then spending his time belittling his Forerunner!”  Older idealists, whom are surprising rarities unto themselves, fall into the same trap.

     But back to finding oneself outside the box.  I am there.  I don’t belong anywhere.  And yet, I find myself welcome everywhere.  Funny how that is.  I am not welcome enough to speak before them collectively, but I am welcome enough to worship the One True God alongside them.  Jesus insisted they let my kind in.  I am an outsider.  I am Chuck Noland hanging with my beach volleyball.  I am Roy Hobbs with a piece of silver still tearing inside while standing at the plate.  I am Ethan Edwards in the final frame.   

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

     How antithetical to be an outsider and an insider at the same time.  How antithetical to live life at the 3-mph speed of God while sensing the planet spin full throttle in all its Mach 1.4 thunder beneath my feet.  How antithetical to live life so fully every day that entire volumes would not hold the full weight of their glory or their story, while at the same time strung in tension on the lament of a single moment months prior whilst being stretched to the unknown of Kingdom come.

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

     How antithetical to be spun forwards and backwards while grasped mid-gasp in Abba’s embrace, spun forwards and backwards like a kaleidoscope in the hands of an autistic toddler, spun forwards and backwards from breath of eternity to eternal breath.  Time stands still and won’t stop spinning.

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

     Life is a building of stories.  Live 62 stories tall and, if you are wise, you will keep the windows open, for you never know what kind of heaven will float inside.  Nor can you guess which clouds prophets use for chariots.  Sometimes those prophets resemble Mickey Mouse conducting a band concert in a cyclone.  They spin until they have spun the Truth long foretold by their own distinct voice.  And if you can’t tell mouse from Malachi, here’s a helpful hint.  Mickey’s not sporting a beard.

For some reason I can’t explain
Once you go, there was never,
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

     A lot has flown in and out the windows this month, this year, this decade.  One can always find an abundance of onramps to redemption’s path and whack-a-mole.  I dare imagine they are synonymous.  Last Sunday night I found myself singing with children in a musical.  There was one particular song I was not especially fond of, and it was my moment of truth solo.  It wasn’t the words I objected to; it was the tune.  It was bland.  But the truth of the words, though simple, were solid.  “God is thinkin’ about you.  You’re on His mind the whole day through …. Of all the things that could fill His mind, of all the things that could take His time.  How amazing to know that He –  thinks of you – constantly!”  As I began to sing that song to the children who were intently looking at me deeper than any congregation I’ve known this entire season – snap – something broke in me and I choked up.  Ain’t it just like God to sneak up on you where you least expect Him.

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn’t believe what I’d become

     Later that evening, I sat down to watch a movie just because the title intrigued me – The Big Year.  After the last two years most of us have been given, who doesn’t yearn for a big year to come along and restore all the crops the locusts have eaten.  I had no idea the movie was about birds and birders and a real competition to see who can see and identify the most bird species in North America in a calendar year.   What it was was pure delight.  A story of innocent wonder, deferred hope, and controlling obsession.  Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson play a trio of cuckoos after the coveted claim.  

     So now words are pouring through the window (“constantly!”) and birds are murmurating past my mind’s eye and then out of the blue drops this other song that I have yet to get out of my head.  It’s driving tempo and words have led my fool’s parade this week. Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.”

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

     And thus the week spun.  Constantly!  Through autumn vibrance and a barbeque podcast, listening to a friend share his story and good conversation and deep insight.  Through a monthly meeting with my therapist where I questioned if I am naught but a fool at a fork again.  Through a drive to northern Alabama and a 39-degree morning where I stepped into a valley of hush so thick the earth surely must have been lingering in awe over the partial lunar eclipse from the night before.  Trekking downward to the canyon floor and the Walls of Jericho and the singing of water cascading out of an underground choir chancel, processioning through and reverberating off an amphitheater of stone.

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

     All week long these words have swirled around me like boards come loose from the side of a house in a storm and some of these lyrics have made their mark on my soul in multiple passings.  Some of these words ring true.  Not all, but some.  Enough of the enigmatic makes perfect sense to me, so I keep on singing it.  It’s kind of like staring into a glass darkly as it begins to thaw.  I find that ironic, like irony sharpening irony.  And so, before I preached the Word of God this morning, I danced these words before the Lord.  What you can’t understand yet might hold more authenticity that what you think you already know.  

For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter won’t call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

     One would imagine that last line a spiritual dilemma for me.  Yet it is true.  

For some reason I can’t explain I know Saint Peter won’t call my name.  

His is not the voice I’m listening for.