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This was the scene one morning in the skies circling my hotel in L.A. during my recent journey there to take the Story Course with Robert McKee. My first full day in that city had been rough for me–spiritually, emotionally, physically–and the night that followed fared no better. So the next morning I wrestled myself out of bed and took a stroll along the streets bordering my hotel to clear my head and ask God what the heck was going on. Not two seconds after voicing the prayer, I looked up and saw a red-tailed hawk soaring directly overhead with two crows hard on its case, alternately dive bombing the hawk as it circled the hotel. A voice in my spirit said calmly and with a hint of levity, “That’s what’s going on.”
I continue to be surprised by how slow I can be at times on the uptake about such things. Even Abraham had to fight off the birds to protect the offering God had commanded him to bring. Why should I be so easily surprised by opposition or think of it as something out of the norm? We in the West have been taught that happiness is defined by the absence of such things–resistance, stress, opposition, pressure, suffering, attack. But McKee would argue that true fulfillment, true happiness, cannot exist apart from them.
I once wrote a song that I called “Lord of the Morning.” I used to live in an apartment with a big bay window facing East, and I would awaken most mornings before dawn, make my coffee, and huddle up under a blanket on the sofa and watch the wonder unfold. It amazed me, and continues to now, how each morning’s art is different. No two alike, from the first sunrise on earth to this very morning, as I sit writing these words, awaiting the sun. How can a God, however vast his means, paint billions of sunrises morn after morn, and make them all equally glorious in their own unique way? What kind of God would do that?
Watching this morning art session always had the effect of making me feel loved–in part because I reasoned that if God cared so much about the artful and unique crafting of each sunrise, how much more he must care about the artful and unique crafting of each human soul…and in part because there is wisdom in the sun’s rising that whispers truths to the spirit that the unsurrendered mind can only guess at, as one might guess at the source of a sweet scent caught briefly on the breeze.
You are Lord God
King of the Morning
Arise and sing O Earth to the Lord your God
My song will rise and awaken the morning
For the Lord of the morning
He is good
I arise today to awaken the dawn, as I have so many times. But today is not like the rest…not just unique; the most unique. Not just artful; the most artful. This is Easter morn, and the Son is about to rise over the whole earth, victorious, King, Lord of the sun and every soul on whom its warmth depends.
Do you remember the old bluesy spiritual that asks, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” The song offers the question as an invitation to imagine yourself in that place in time with Jesus, watching the crucifixion unfold, watching him die. But you can also take the question literally. And the answer is yes.
I was there. We were all there. Everything in me that falls short of God’s highest dream for the world, everything in me that hates and judges and demands my own way to the hurt of others and my own true heart, was there.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
Whose sin did Christ become? It was mine. I was there. I killed the Christ. You were there too. On him. In him. Through him. We all were. The death of Jesus bonds us all in a common fallenness. We have no room any longer to judge one another. We have all committed murder. We have, all of us together, killed God.
But the story does not end there. Christ rose. He rises today. I believe that God, in the form of a man, literally and bodily rose from the dead, and in so doing, established a new kind of extraordinary life, a life that heals all that is wounded inside us all, a life that overcomes death in all its myriad forms. A life that he offers to everyone who will receive it. It is the very thing we’ve all hoped for, the very gift our broken hearts would most hope our Artist God, painter of billions of glorious dawns, maker of billions of beautiful souls, would give. And he has given it.
That’s what Easter is–a celebration of the gift of this new life that God offers us all. I have received this life, and it has changed everything…because it has changed me. His love, his gift, his art in me, makes me whole.
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf…Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:14-17
It is a new dawn. Easter Morn. May you encounter the Son this day in a way you have never known before.