It's easy to be distracted these days, either by senseless information that only serves to distract, or by a steady and exclusive diet of the day's news, which also distracts. Neither distraction is a good idea, and yet, paying close attention to the truth of things comes with its own costs. It isn't easy to do so these dark days and, if I'm being totally honest, can be pretty depressing, if not downright terrifying. I try hard nonetheless to heed Karl Barth's advice to hold the bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other as I attempt to make sense of the world around me. I'm alarmed by most of the headlines and simultaneously convicted by what I read in scripture, but I'm also encouraged by those words because at least they offer hope in a way I don't get from today's headlines.
I remember well the moment I realized that Jenna and I and the kids had to get out of Southern California. It was a January evening in 2020 and I'd just finished watching the news. Something about that night's newscast triggered something in me. As I walked out of our den and into the house, I had no idea if Jenna would share the same sense of urgency, and I was resolved that if she didn't, and despite my misgivings, we'd stay put. To my surprise, she felt it, too, though neither of us could put a finger on what, exactly, we were feeling. We talked and prayed that night until 2am and then, against all odds and our better judgment, decided to make the leap north into the Great Unknown.
Later in April, I again remember the night I walked out of the den and into the house with the deep-in-my-bones conviction that there was no reason for us to wait until June to make the move. We'd sold our home, escrow had closed, and even though we had a contingency that allowed us to stay rent-free until June 15, Jenna and I were doing virtual teaching, Belle and Will were doing virtual learning, and so what difference would it make if we taught and learned from our home or from a Best Western motel room on the I-5, or at a Christian camp in northeast Washington State where we'd mercifully been given a place to stay? So once again, I broached my feelings with Jenna and again, to my surprise, she agreed to this sudden change of plans. And so, over the next several weeks, all the pieces mercifully and miraculously fell into place, and early on the morning of May 3rd, we pulled out of our driveway and drove down the street with our past lives in the rear view mirror and the way forward through the windshield, on our way to what, exactly, we didn't know.
This morning, I felt a similar sense of urgency. It's been building for months, which you've likely noticed if you've been paying any attention to my posts. An increasing tone of alarm occupies my blogs these days -- something I'm well aware of, and not a little embarrassed by -- as I try to listen to God's voice in the events of life and in my prayers, thoughts, conversations with friends, and the occasional fast, and increasingly the warnings in scripture come to mind, like this passage from Ephesians 5:
“Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Pay attention to the days and choose well how you live—not as unwise but as wise, so that you can redeem the time, because this is a wicked age. Don't be foolish. Understand what the Lord’s will is."
And as I continue to listen, I'm increasingly convinced that things are about to get much, much darker before they get any better, and things are pretty damn dark already in case you hadn't noticed. I have no plans to tell my kids any of this, at least not yet, nor do I plan to stand on some street corner holding a placard that says "The End is Near!" But I'd be remiss if I didn't share these thoughts with the small handful of you who are reading this post. You're welcome. And if it's any consolation, Belle and I are on our way to see Sir Paul McCartney tonight at the Spokane Arena on the very first stop of his world tour (in Spokane?!?), so life continues apace.
I've often thought of the ridicule that Noah was subjected to as he built his crazy ark, or the unheeded warnings that Jesus gave to those around him who expected to avoid the perturbations of hell. I think, too, of Paul's letter to the Romans, with those stringent warnings in the first two chapters, which his audience, I'm sure, found pretty distasteful, not to mention a wee bit alarmist.
Many you may very well think that ol' Michael has really gone off his rocker this time and is no longer fit for polite company -- "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" and all that -- and, alas, you may be right. But thankfully, that isn't much of an issue up here in the forest, where polite company is a rare sighting and I'm surrounded by acres of trees, turkeys, and deer who couldn't give a rat's ass about my rants and raves.
That said, I do hope you take me at my word when I say (again) that things are about to get really dark, and if you wish to make it through this time with any sense of clarity, I suggest you get your friendships and other affairs in order. And while you're at it, feel free to pray, too, that I am wrong about all of this and am really just making a fool of myself by choosing to publish such words. May your prayers be answered!
But just in case I'm right, I offer these words from the book of Jude (na na naaa naaa), written, as tradition tells us, by one of Jesus' own brothers. It's a much-neglected letter -- to our collective detriment -- and if you find yourself offended by its words, take it up with God and (cue ominous music) don't say you weren't warned.
I include the whole letter, not just because you can read it in less than five minutes but because it speaks to our present times in pointedly specific ways:
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,
To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.
Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Let it Be.