Chasing Twilight

All of my life I’ve been chasing twilight.

Where all the hours in the day went, I don’t know. There was a time, I’m sure, when I worked and played in the warmth of the sun. Those days were spent on swing sets, chasing girls, playing cops and robbers, or in the summer building forts in the woods at the edge of my Grandpa’s farm. Immortality was so obvious that we didn’t think about time at all. We only knew that the world was spinning because our moms told us to come in for dinner. Oh ya, we’d think, food. We should eat.

That was long ago. What’s left of dinner is just dirty dishes piled in the sink. They’ve been there for years, while we chase twilight.

Yesterday, when we were kids, we didn’t enjoy bedtime. Life was fun, and dreaming about it was second rate. Night was an annoyance.

Now the end of the day scares me. When did that happen? The sunset has become a sign that tomorrow will come too fast.

Honestly, I’m chasing twilight because I don’t know if I have what it takes to spend another 24 hours clawing my broken fingernails into the clay while the world hurls itself through space, trying to spin me off. Maybe it would be better if I just let go…

I’m chasing twilight because if I can catch the sun, the day doesn’t end and I don’t have to face another one.

From where I am, the sun sets over the Rocky Mountains: imposing slabs of stone linked intimately together, silently brooding and communicating all too well that following is forbidden. Their shadows reach out toward me, engulfing everything. Because when you’re too slow to run after the sun, what you really need is a reminder that you’re also feeble and small.

If I had a little more time, I think to myself. A few more minutes in the day. Then they’d see:  I’m a good father. A loving husband. I’m worth my living wage. The company is better off because I work there. I’m not a disappointment to myself and others. I’m not broken. I’ll put myself back together. I’m definitely not insecure. I’m Blue Collar and fucking good at it.

Just give me a little more time.

So I chase twilight, but every day see the sun tuck those fantasies away just out of reach on the other side of monstrous granite teeth. I didn’t make it. Not even close, really. So tomorrow is on its way with another opportunity to not quite get there.

Being a Christian, this is simply unacceptable – not just the failure, or the profanity, although there’s that too – but being mentally and emotionally…finished…with a body that is well on its way. I know that I should be able to send a cutesy little scriptural meme down the black hole of social media, eat more fibre and eventually feel better. At this point, though, I may as well disappoint God too. There’s something to be said for consistency.

Thing is, I adhere to a strange brand of Christianity that is about more than me and how I feel. It is infused with ancient scriptures and prophets and such. One prophet named Malachi, who lived about 2500 years ago, wrote this:

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings…”

What does it means for the sun to rise with healing in its wings? It means that when all hope is gone, we’ll see the sun rising in the west, rays of light carving their way back through those mountain passes carrying everything we thought we’d lost, all the things that we assumed were forever out of reach.

There is one part of me left that believes it.

The shadows that almost swallowed me are in retreat. The atmosphere is infused with new colours as the sun slips over the Rockies to touch the foothills with light. Hope comes from the same direction that it disappeared so long ago. The scent of pine and cool water dance softly in the air.

All of a sudden I’m building forts at the edge of Grandpa’s farm. Looking between the trees I can see Grandma walking out to him in the field, because its teatime. My sister is in the playhouse. I still don’t know why she is old enough to light the wood stove and I’m not, but I don’t care any more. She’s cool. My brother is taking my toys apart. I think it’s cute, and I’m kinda amazed that he knows how to put them back together again. Mom and dad aren’t divorced, and all that bad stuff didn’t happen.

I glance down, a little curious about the ashes underfoot. A small part of me wonders if something bad was once here. Then the sun filters down to me and suddenly I can’t recall what “bad” is.

What “bad” was?

What “what” was?

I dunno.

I need a stick for my fort.

Someone says, “Hey Billy!”, so I turn around and there He is, with a smile on His face and just the branch I’ve been looking for.

Pilgrim’s Lullaby

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The Wild

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Open Letter To Mr. Franklin Graham

Dear Mr. Graham,

I attended one of your daddy’s crusades. As young as I was, my parents were able to make it clear that this was a rare honour. Their voices carried tones of reverence and awe. Decades later the only details that linger are the crowds and the verses of “Just As I Am.”

When I was a little bit older I joined the masses at one of your own crusades. To be honest, my first impressions were that your preaching was simple and unremarkable. Having said that, I couldn’t deny the power; unfelt and unseen, there was something there that made people get out of their seats and come to Jesus.

My first experience with Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child was years ago in a middle eastern country that is close to your heart. The shoeboxes were distributed by Muslim university students, who – with my help – went through the boxes ahead of time to remove any hint of Christmas or Christianity. We were trying to avoid outright animosity in a region where Islam had deep, fundamental roots. My prayer was that the gifts handed out that day would at the very least provide a bridge into the community for the “aid worker” who helped organize the event.

Years later I was in the right place and time to help with the logistics of distributing 9600 shoeboxes in a West African country recovering from ten years of civil war. For a young man, doing Christian work with the help of an armed escort was ridiculously exciting.

These aren’t the only times I’ve been able to partner in some way with the ministries you lead, but I mention them so that you know that I’m not just an outsider bent on maligning your good name. The knowledge I have regarding the work you do goes beyond the well-produced four minute video shown on the big screen on Sunday morning. Samaritan’s Purse demonstrates a real-life gritty love in the uncomfortable, unsafe regions of the world. My hat is off to you, in this regard.

I’m just an average Joe, wondering if you’ve listened to yourself lately. From all the research I’ve done, it seems that you’re truly in favour of totally shutting down immigration to the United States until a more hardy screening process is erected.

Here’s the thing: For years, we’ve mourned over the political and ideological barriers that made it unsafe for many people to mention the name of Jesus. We labelled these places the 10/40 Window and wrote books about them. We prayed for walls to fall and for the godless to see the light. How we longed to send more missionaries, given that for the most part we preferred to stay.

Day by day, year by year, our prayers were answered. The borders disappeared, some at the end of a pen and some by the end of a gun. But what a shock it has been to us that the roads that lead into these places have lanes that allow people out!

I have a friend who thinks that my issue with your stance on immigration stems from my Canadian niceness; that the big difference between you and I is cultural. He’s probably correct, to a degree. I don’t own any guns. Yet.

But then I think of how you and I both want to point people to Jesus. I think about the incarnation, and how this Jesus whom you and I both serve took some pretty serious risks all those years ago when he injected himself into this diseased world. I think about his sacrifice thirty-some years later, and how it must have hurt…literally. Could it be that following in his footsteps might require us to sacrifice some of our security, and a discomfort that Tylenol can’t touch?

“The kingdom of God is at hand…” He said; a kingdom with no screening process, save the one put in place with his own blood. The Jewish screening process was, in fact, torn in two from top to bottom. What if the time has come for us to choose between the citizenships we cling to so tightly? What if the time has passed where you could be an American Christian, and me a Canadian one?

The view from this side of the 49th parallel suggests that you and your fellow Americans are incapable of separating church and state. I think we’d better start practising, because when Jesus comes back it won’t be a democracy, and he’s going to invite way more people in than you or I are comfortable with.

 In conclusion, let me mention one little question I can’t seem to get out of my head: Can we invite one individual to come to the altar singing “Just As I Am”, when we refuse to invite the masses to our collective table just as they are? 

Thanks for listening.

Sincerely,
Bill Scarrott

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God let the walls come down we’d pray
We’ll send our best hoping that they
May preach good news and escape the blade
For we, dear lord, prefer to stay.

God when the borders disappear
We vow to send more over there
For we want to see your kingdom come
To them while we remain right here.

“I think perhaps you’ve missed the point,
Said a broken God with misplaced joint,
pierced hands and feet, and torn, bruised skin,
“Your constitution is not my focal point.”

“These are all my children dear:
The ones you love and the ones you fear
And like me it may cost you all you have
To eat their sin and draw them near.”

 

Candy Coated Refugees

Throwing out a minuscule response to the refugee crisis this week, it seems I ruffled a few feathers and I thought a longer response might be the order of the day, so here goes…*deep breath*…

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I read a tweet recently regarding refugees from Syria that went something like this: “For all you bleeding heart liberals that want to welcome refugees: I’ve got 10,000 M&Ms, and only 10 are poisoned. How many of you want to grab a handful?”

“I know you didn’t ask,” I responded, “but consider this: Jesus would eat all of them, buddy. That’s how much he loves M&Ms.”

The response I got from this was terrific. A lot of people obviously love candy. Others probably have a sweet tooth, but think it should be satisfied by munching on confectionaries in moderation after careful inspection. Still others guard their health above all else, and would toss the whole lot in the trash at the first signs of a tummy ache.

The quote of the week goes to my friend Jeff. While we were in a lengthy discussion that spanned multiple subjects, he posited that Jesus would eat all the M&Ms and then reach for the Reese’s Pieces after the rapture had taken place.

But I digress.

What I’m stuck on, I guess, is the fact that God’s outrageous love stretches even to the wack-job wearing a balaclava, holding keys to a cage in one hand and a jerry can in the other. I’m not saying I understand it. Lord have mercy, there is a dark part of me that doesn’t even approve of that kind of affection. Give me a couple pieces of wood, a hammer and some spikes, and I’d have that jihadist up on a cross so fast I’d get the Legionnaire of the Year award.

He’d be hanging in the shadow of Jesus.

UnknownAnd then the refugees come, and people are peeing in their pants with the fear that they all look Middle Eastern. Our Prime Minister seems anxious to prove something, and wants to usher them in with an expedience that has us suddenly standing in front of our families while reaching for our sidearms.

So the refugees hang there on their own cross beside Jesus, just down the line from the ISIS madman, lost between the people that want to kill them and angels who would welcome them.

It may very well be that we only have time to rescue one.

We live in a world that needs order. Without proper logistics and due process the refugee crisis will simply take the off-ramp onto the boulevard of a different set of problems. Is there anyone who disagrees with that?

So screen them, form the queues, do the research. I’m all for it.

But while there are already processes in place to cover security issues, some who claim to follow Jesus are willing to slam the door in the face of fathers and mothers who walked away from home and country because they don’t want their children to die under the knife. Safety comes first, these “Christians” say. My friends, if there is crap in heaven it just hit the fan. In my opinion, at that point we have finished having a dialogue about safety and have surrendered to the jihadist’s cage and the terrorist’s howl of “Allahu Akbar.”

I am a Christian living in Canada. I have helped elect politicians that I pray will have the backbone to lead us through this time, vigilant but without fear, willing to put our nation in harms way for the sake of a value greater than safety.

America, my dear neighbour, is your’s still the land of the free and the home of the brave? Join hands with us and prove it.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:18-21 (ESV)