There Came A Man Sent From God, Whose Name Was Jack

I know I am taking some liberty.

It’s not that I am trying to re-write the God-breathed love letter given to us humans that points us back to glory.  I know what the narrative really says. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.

The man I speak of was named John, too, but I knew him as Jack.

Jack Casey wasn’t some desert-dweller, some camel-haired coat wearer.

I never saw him in anything less casual than pressed khakis and a cardigan sweater. When I knew him at church he wore a suit and tie.

He wasn’t some grub-eating preacher living on the fringes of society. Jack ate regular food as far as I could tell and he lived in a split-level home in a neighborhood, that I thought was, in comparison to where I was living at the time, reserved for people with money. Middle class was not on my radar.

There was nothing fire and brimstone about Jack.

The only time I heard him raise his voice was when he was laughing. And laugh Jack did. You see, he was an Irishman and an Irishman is known for a few things; two being his laughter and his tears. Jack was rich in both.

I was a shattered kid when I met Jack.

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A gangly, snaggle-toothed teenager, hollowed out by the abandonment of my own father and living among soul-broken ruins, I met Jack at a place called Faith Fellowship.

Somehow the spirit of God had taken up residence in the Blackstone Valley where I lived and a bunch of people got caught up in the windstorm. I had no idea about any of it, except that my mother was also one of those people and I was along for the ride. I didn’t know at the time that I was about to collide with the Jack Casey fortress of love.

Jack was not put off by my brokenness.

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Instead, he embraced it.

I could not walk past the man without him offering to hug me. I could not dodge His words of kindness and affirmation. I could not escape his welcome. At church, if I tried to exit out another door, Jack would do the side-step shuffle until he managed to reach out and tug on my sleeve; “How are you doing, today?” Then, with gentleness I couldn’t resist there would be a Jack Casey embrace and God- words from his mouth spoken directly to my heart. I could feel a piece of me being put back into place, Holy Ghost mortar securing it forever.

I never asked him, but I did wonder.

Does he not see the ash heap of my heart?
Does he not see the unworthiness I wear?
Not like a coat of many colors, but the tight wrap of graying and decaying grave clothes?

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(Christo-‘wrapped bottle’)

I wondered.

Who is this man who loves so easily?
Who does not abandon, but welcomes.
Who follows the broken one out the door.

In some ways, Jack was like the desert-dweller; the other John.

He prayed. All the time.

It was like he was compelled to talk to God about everything. Perhaps is was because he really believed God is always present and he wanted to pray for you so you could know it, too.

I wasn’t the only one he would follow out the door. I wasn’t the only one for whom he would do the side-step shuffle. There were other sleeves he was tugging on.

Getting caught up in a Jack Casey embrace meant you were about to get prayed for and blessed. He’d always begin his prayer with “Lawd…” dropping the ‘r’ in Lord, as he invited Jesus into the situation. Like the desert-dweller John, Jack was always pointing to the One whose sandals he would never bring himself to untie.

See…there He is. He’s the one. The one who can heal you. The one who will never leave you. 

And like the desert-dweller, Jack was relentless.

He took my eldest son from my arms every Sunday to pray for his healing from a liver disease that threatened to kill him before his second birthday.  Jack, haven’t we prayed enough? Never, he would say. Give me that boy.

Two years of Jack saying give me that boy and then… one day that boy’s belly shrunk to normal size and the doctors had no answers for the miracle they were witnessing. That boy lives as a husband and father of two, banging on the drums his own rhythm worship that resonates the faithfulness of God with every percussive beat.

Jack imparted blessing to each of my children after that. Even after I moved to Maine, whenever I visited the Blackstone Valley with a new baby, Jack always seemed to be there to pray, to say give me that baby; his eyes swimming in tears and his voice garbling like fresh water over river rocks the blessings of God.

Years later on a cold day in March shortly after my fifth child was born, I got a call from Lois, Jack’s wife. They were in Maine and wondered if they could drop by. Of course.

Later that day in the living room where my baby lay, Jack knelt, his eyes brimmed once again and his voice caught on the blessing he imparted to a little girl named Mary Grace.

Grace.

It certainly was a grace to know Jack Casey.

A grace-gift not deserved, but given anyway to a broken girl who had lost her way.

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Jack may not have screamed the word ‘repent’ from the rocks and caves like the desert-dweller, yet, his unbroken resolve to love others no matter what helped make this girl turn and go a better way.

There came a man sent from God comma.

This little comma sums up all of Jack’s life. It’s where he lived out his journey with Jesus. This tiny mark encompasses the story of his compassion and relentless pursuit of God’s love for himself and for others. It is in the comma where Jack, throughout his life, pointed to Jesus. See…there He is. 

Jack’s days of pointing to Jesus came to an end on a Saturday.
Today he is seeing Jesus face to face.
Today he is the one being embraced.

There came a man sent from God, whose name was Jack.
For this I am grateful.

So, Jack, here are my words, quoted from the crazy Irishman in the story, Braveheart:
“I will see you later.”

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(The Burren, Ireland 2008- my collection)

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When You’re Janis, Not Stevie

On social media I will never be the “hot” wife.

In our enlightened century where being “real” is tantamount to sainthood, I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to be in one of those Dove ads where you see real women in their underwear. (Meaning that in 2018 a size two woman with perfect proportions isn’t a real woman?)

Hasn’t society always tried to change the perception of beauty through the externals? Powdered wigs, an exposed bosom; a hoop skirt, short skirt, Boho shirt; some of these are considered works of art or an act of civil protest. Others, like a pair of Levis, a plain necessity. It’s easier to pan for gold on your knees when you’re wearing durable pants.

When it comes to humans and beauty, let’s face it, it really is about the face.

All women are real women, but not all women are beautiful women.
Did I just say this out loud?

When you look at a woman who looks like Elizabeth Taylor…
Come. On.
This is astounding beauty.
This is rare beauty. It’s one of a kind. Like Victoria Falls or the Grand Canyon.

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What if you’re not a rare beauty Elizabeth Taylor?
What if your beauty isn’t like Stevie’s, but is more plain like Janis’?

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(image: creative independent)      (image: last.fm)

I don’t know about Stevie, but I read once that a sinister darkness entangled itself around Janis’ heart because she knew she wasn’t beautiful. She had been swept up into the lie that a certain kind of beauty was all that mattered.

Yes, there is the rare beauty reflected in the faces of Elizabeth Taylor and Stevie Nicks and it is a marvel.

Then there is the beauty that hides in plain sight; that one has to go looking for to see. Goes beneath surface and skin. Bores deeper into soul and spirit.

Janis missed that.
She believed for beauty to be valued it had to be obvious.
She didn’t know that the beauty of a woman is a mystery.

Sometimes a woman’s beauty dazzles like a sun-soaked sky.

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Other times her beauty can be found shimmering in the misty places.

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Both fashioned and sculpted in the image of God.
Both exquisite in ways that cannot be explained.
Both veiled in mystery.

We’ve all met a woman, and yes, a man, who on the Beauty Richter scale wouldn’t rock the world in any cataclysmic way. And yet, there is something about this person, something a finger cannot touch, something stunning that comes forth that cannot be described. We know in some unexplained way we are seeing beauty at its most mysterious.

When a man posts a picture on social media with the label “my hot wife,” could it be that he is exposing her in such a way that takes away her mystery? Has he forgotten that the word “hot” not that long ago was used to describe a woman’s sexual nature? Instead of sharing how pretty she is, could he be exposing to the world how intimately desirable she is? Could he be sharing with everyone what is meant for him alone?

I daresay in a flesh and blood exchange, where humans congregate shoulder to shoulder, a man would be considered honoring his beloved if he uttered the words, “Let me introduce you to my beautiful wife…” I daresay, in that same situation if he uttered the words, “Let me introduce you to my hot wife,” his beloved, and those around her, would sense no honor at all.

Perhaps I am making mountains where there needn’t be.
Perhaps I, like Janis, still struggle with the lack of obvious beauty.

I was forty two years old when I got braces on my teeth. I spent the better part of those years not smiling for the camera. Like Janis, I knew I wasn’t a dazzler and I believed my crooked teeth clouded even the tiniest shimmer. Arriving home after spending the afternoon receiving a mouthful of metal, my husband was in the dining room working on the computer. He wheeled his chair away from the screen. “Let me see.”

I took a breath.
I pulled my swollen lips over my teeth.
And then I smiled.

Laughter blasted from my husband and he promptly fell out of his chair.

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I ran into the bathroom, grabbed a comb and parted my hair down the middle, pinning the sides back with two of my daughter’s hair clips. Giggling, I came out of the bathroom, put on some reading glasses and declared, “Take a picture of this!”

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My husband pulled the camera out of the drawer, snapped the button and then… he embraced me.

He pulled me into his arms, his breath, his laughter, fanning through my hair,and he told me I was beautiful. The crazy part is, I believed him.

I believed him, not because I am beautiful, but because I am his.

I knew in that moment I belonged to him and him alone and not to a world who proclaims the obvious, platforms the obvious, values the obvious.

For many of us, we think beauty leads to being wanted. Like Janis, our narrative becomes if I feel alone, then I must not be beautiful. 

Yet when we know we belong and were created in loveliness and mystery in the image of the One who is the loveliest of all, then we can embrace the beauty that we are, whether we dazzle or whether we shimmer.

We hear God’s words:

You are like a dove that hides in the crevice of a rock. Let me see your lovely face and hear your enchanting voice – Song of Solomon.

I will never be the “hot wife.”

Whatever beauty I possess or whatever beauty I lack does not determine how much I am loved because I belong to the One who dazzles the brightest like the Morning Star and shimmers in the hidden places like the rose of Sharon.

Beauty doesn’t guarantee belonging, but belonging guarantees beauty.

This is why not all real women are beautiful women. It is not until a woman knows under the surface of her own skin she belongs to someone greater than herself that she discovers she is truly beautiful.

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So…after writing this piece, I stumbled upon this timely little blurb. I do not know what the entire content of this movie will be, so I am not advocating for the film, per se.  I most likely will not see it as I tend to favor historical dramas and romantic comedies where I don’t have to scrub my brain afterward. However, upon viewing this trailer, I think it captures the essence of what so many women are struggling with and uses humor to speak a very real truth.

Shimmer on.