A Better Emancipation Proclamation

There is no such thing as being a little bit free.
There is no such thing as sort of being in prison.


Surely on this round piece of busted blue some would beg to differ, but the truth is, no one can be sort of free and sort of in prison at the same time.

The trouble with some of us is we wouldn’t know what to do with freedom, we being so used to the feel of  shackles and chains around our hearts and minds.

For some of us life is just plain hard and disappointing and tragic. We just go on living in the shadows of our jealousies and anxieties, our lusts and our egos. Dungeon dwellers we are, having grown so accustomed to the darkness we are literally blinded by the light when it comes.


We are in need of someone who will lead us out of our dungeons and into that glorious light. Someone who won’t stop until our freedom is secured once and for all.

Half-way freedom is no freedom at all. Abraham Lincoln knew this.

In 1865, Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, sent three men known as the Peace Commissioners to meet with Lincoln. Everyone was war weary and anxious for an end to blood-soaked fields and bullet-riddled bodies.

These men were armed with a proposal to postpone the Civil War so that the North and South could ally against the French who had invaded Mexico in violation of the Monroe Doctrine.

These commisioners believed that this act of “alliance” would go a long way to heal the wounds wrought by such a brutal war. Jefferson sent these men “with a view to secure peace to the two Countries.”

Lincoln responded by saying, “There are no two countries…and there will never be two countries. Tell Davis that if you treat for peace, it will be for this one country, negotiations on any other basis are impossible.”

Lincoln, despite blistering criticism even in the North, held firm to his conviction of one nation under God, and that he would not “attempt to retract or modify the Emancipation Proclamation, nor….return to slavery any person who is free by that Proclamation.”

For Lincoln, it was all or nothing. He understood that unless he put it all on the line, freedom for the slave would never be achieved.

My Lenten journey this week has me thinking about freedom and one kingdom.

Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. His triumphal entry awaits. It will all seem good at first. But, “peace commissioners” will soon surround him, tempting him to take a short-cut, but there are no short-cuts with God.

(Close examination of a simple dandelion is proof of this. And there’s that Milky Way splash thing going on above our heads.)

(Dave Loken)

In a few days, Jesus will put everything on the line. There will be no negotiations.
For some it won’t make any sense.

Like Lincoln’s critics who couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t just end the wretched war instead letting it drag on with more lives lost, more heartache endured, just for the sake of securing someone’s freedom.

Lincoln deeply recognized the brutal cost of freedom.
A thorough reading of history and its eye witnesses revealed the anquish he suffered as he pressed forward in his convictions.

Jesus not only will recognize the brutal cost of freedom, he will become the cost of freedom. A thorough reading of history and its eye witnesses will reveal how much He suffered to take us out of bondage and into His glorious light.

For finite freedom’s sake,
Lincoln walked the blood-soaked fields.
For eternal freedom’s sake,
Jesus yields a blood-soaked body.

Jesus’ Emancipation Proclamation is this…
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The gate swings wide.


There is no such thing as part freedom- Nelson Mandela


Excerpts taken from “Team of Rivals, The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”- Doris Kearns Goodwin.


View From A Tree

There was a man called by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich.

Nasty publican. Filthy tax-collector. Getting rich on the backs of his own people. Most likely friendless. Collaborating with the enemy for his own gain. This guy is the worst.

Then one day the worst meets the best.

Jesus is walking towards Jerusalem. So many people crowding, pushing, elbowing. His friends wonder, is this when Jesus will finally liberate us from the crush of the Roman boot?  Jesus has tried to tell them what really awaits him there, but they cannot grasp it. It is not Roman blood that will be shed.

The publican wants to see what all the hype is about, but he can’t see past the heads of the mob.

Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way.


He thinks his view from the tree will serve his purpose,  but actually it’s the view from the man below that gives him his real purpose for the first time.

It begins with his name.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

Jesus, on the final leg of his journey that will end with him giving his life, gives another man’s life back to God. Zacchaeus, a man out-sized and ostracized, a despised publican gets called out in public, in full view of the crowd to receive Jesus right then, right now.  

I must be a guest in your home today.

Zacchaeus can’t contain his joy and scrambles out of the tree while the uptight upright grumble about Jesus eating with another sinner because they just can’t help themselves. How their faces must hurt from all that eye-brow raising and mouth-grimacing.

We don’t find out what happened between Jesus and Zacchaeus inside the house,  but whatever it was, Zacchaeus went into his house a scoundrel and came out of his house a lover of God and lover of people.

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

Who gives back what four-hundred percent of what they’ve stolen?

Someone who finds out that God knows his name.

For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.

Prostitutes, A Pigsty And A Petulant Older Brother

“A certain man had two sons, and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ And he divided his wealth between them.”

What is up with this boy?  This brash, insensitive, selfish boy?

Treating his father like he’s already dead by demanding his inheritance long before it’s due.

Gimme what I’ve got coming to me, old man. 

So his father does and watches his boy gather his things and leave. Many prostitutes and pigsties later, the boy, penniless, comes to his senses and wonders if his father will take him back as a hired hand.


Isn’t this what we do when we’ve royally messed up…reach for the lowest possible expectation? We’re willing to hire ourselves out for what was freely given in the first place. It’s almost like it is hard-wired into us to think we have to earn our way back to the smallest grace.

This is something that must be remedied.

So the father is always watching and even when the boy is very far away, his father sees him and runs all awkward and undignified, the long grass scratching against his shins until the two of them clash in an embrace of hugs and kisses, over and over and over again.


Suddenly a robe, a ring, some sandals and a crazy BBQ party is ordered for this scoundrel.  “…for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again… he was lost, and has been found.”

Perhaps this is when the uptight upright begin to think…”Okay, we get it, Jesus. You’ve said this three times. God loves everybody.”

See, there is this thing called the Rule of Threes in storytelling.

The teller or the writer of a story will repeat an important point or rhyme three times to help the hearer or the reader to remember what is most important.  In this case, it is God loves everybody.

All good storytellers use the Rule of Threes. The best ones will add a twist.

Therefore Jesus, looking beyond his scandalous friends to those standing a safe distance away, continues with his story.

“Now, his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.” When he was told why this was happening, “he became angry, and was not willing to go in, and his father came out and began entreating him.”

Out comes The List.

Many rule-keeping good deed do-ers keep lists of their lists and accounts of their accounts.
They chart their graphs and graph their charts.
They keep balanced accounts written upon their balanced sheets.
It’s a veritable rule-keeping circus.

One. It’s been all work and no play for me.
Two. I’ve had no girls, no parties, no frills, no squandering.
Three. I’ve never asked for anything and I’ve never been given anything.
And four. Not once, not one single time was there any BBQ!

By now, the uptight upright are probably seeing a pattern in the stories. First God is portrayed as a shepherd and his scoundrel friends are the lost sheep. Next, God is the woman and again, his so-called friends are the precious coin. Clearly,  the younger brother in this last story is a convincing representation of these cling-ons Jesus keeps allowing to follow Him.  Clearly, God is seen in the forgiving father.

But this older brother… is Jesus implying this pious, rigid, venomous older brother is one of us do-gooders?

As Jesus delivers the story’s twist into the twisted hearts of the religious, perhaps they felt for the first time the magnetic pull of grace and mercy when they heard the father’s response to his son’s good-deed do-er list these words…“My child.”

My child, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.

In that moment, did they sense the Holy Spirit entreating them, washing them, enveloping them with what must be remembered.

Jesus said it three times.
He loves prostitutes and
boys stuck in pigsties and
petulant older brothers.

God loves everybody.


“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”– Benjamin Franklin

The Scandal Of Being A Woman

“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

Jesus is a master storyteller. There is a place for everyone in the weaving of it.

In His story of the lost sheep he invites his audience to step into the sandals of a shepherd.

How absurd.

Every upstanding citizen knows that a shepherd barely has a high school education which is probably why he had to take the job of shepherd in the first place. Every upstanding citizen knows no ambition equals low position.

In the second chapter, Jesus invites his audience to step into the sandals of a woman.

This is downright scandalous.

No righteous man wants to step into the sandals of a woman, especially one who has lost a precious coin. A coin that may have slipped off the cord that threaded it to the other nine coins she was saving for her dowry, her only security and provision for the rest of her natural born life. A coin that must be found at all costs, lest she lose all prospects of a stable future…relationship, children, a home.

It is not enough for this woman to light a lamp and crawl on all fours to look with her eye. She needs a tool, a broom, to get into every corner, crack and crevice. To sweep away dirt and debris to find what is most precious. To rejoice over what was once lost.


Arguably men are not as persistent when it comes to looking for certain things. But a woman…especially if it has deep sentimental value, will pull apart the couch, the junk drawer, the last box at the very end of the attic and shake her purse upside down and sideways until she finds what she is looking for. Perhaps it was the same in ancient times.

In the first chapter, Jesus had compared God to a shepherd.

But now…now he’s comparing God to a woman.

God who, like a woman on a recovery mission, gets down into the scum of humanity’s floor and sweeps away sin’s dirt and debris to find what is most precious to Him. Us scoundrels.

Perhaps this is the part of the story where sweat begins to form under the priestly garment. Perhaps this is where the upright become uptight.
Perhaps the realization is beginning to sink in that everyone is invited into God’s kingdom.

Even shepherds. Even women. Scandalous indeed.

This cannot be possible.
Too much grace is just too much.
Something must be done. A plan must be nailed down.

In the broiling and simmering and sweating of the uptight upright, Jesus hits them with his tagline once more.

“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”

Despite knowing His time on earth is short, and perhaps sensing the lips grimacing and the eyebrows furrowing, Jesus plays the joy card again.

This time He brings the angels into it.


All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost.– J.R.R. Tolkien

Eating With God

“Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.”


Sluts and mutts and stealers and concealers,
Tricksters and fixers and schemers and dreamers,
Mobs and slobs and rabbles and rousers,
Push past the ones in ivory towers
to get close to Holiest of Holy.

“And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying,
“This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Yes. Jesus does.
Then He tells a story.

About a lost sheep and how a man leaves the rest of his flock behind to get the one that wandered into the thistles and brambles and how he won’t let it walk back, most likely because it’s beat up pretty badly.  Then the man drapes the sheep’s body over his shoulders and now the man is grinning.  Rejoicing, even, which means his laughter is probably echoing like crazy throughout the canyon.

When the man gets home, he tells all his friends and neighbors that he found his precious sheep because he wants them to have as much joy and face-hurting grinning as he is having in that moment.

Then Jesus dares to say this sort of thing happens in heaven, this gut-busting joy, when one…ONE!… scoundrel turns towards Him and repents.

There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Who says God is not happy?

This is how it is with us.

When we are lost and Jesus finds us, we are lifted up and carried, broken, beaten, forgiven.
And when we’ve been set on our feet again, there is joy and laughing…so much laughing.

Amazing grace, indeed.


“Joy is the serious business of heaven.” -C.S. Lewis

Barns And Beaches

The journey into self-examination can feel like the cleaning out of an old barn.


We know it’s going to be a really big job and there are questions.
Are we even up to the task?
What if it proves to be too painful?

Some of us may have to cut through bit of barbed wire we’ve put up for our own protection just to get on the premises.


In self-examination, it’s one thing to acknowledge our annoying habits and maybe even a sin or two. But like the contents of an old barn, we may not even know what is inside. We may have forgotten what has been stored there given over to moth and rust.

In this element of the process we really do need God to guide us, because often our inner wounds, character deficiencies and sin patterns are unknown to us and we need God to reveal them.The final move is confession.- Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms

The final move is confession…


Not a one and done, but confession bourne out of the discovery and revelation that God, in his grace and mercy, does not want to leave me a rusted pipe.

So, with God’s help, I’ve begun the process of purgation. A stripping away of all that is not my truest self. A purging of what I have allowed myself to cling to instead of Jesus.

I’m purging the barn.

I’m putting myself under the loving gaze of God to be stripped of the darkness I didn’t even know was there.

So what if, instead of this purgation and confession looking like a broken down shell of my busted up self…,


It looks more like this…


Me made clean, refreshed, renewed and leaving a new footprint.