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Eastbound and Down


I am headed east. Less than an hour ago the wheels underneath me left the ground, the wings caught the air and I was headed out of Sea-Tac and back to Hartsfield-Jackson in the ATL. My ticket has me bound for Tampa and then to Atlanta in the morning, but at least I get to go through Atlanta tonight. As my west-coast dwelling seat-mate here just said, “Atlanta is a nice place.”

Yes, it is. But, I have found that there are many nice places with nice people. This weekend I was able to spend time with some really nice people in another really nice place. That place was Eastsound, Washington. Eastsound is a small village (of of four) on the island of Orcas in the San Juan Islands of northwest Washington state. Orcas Island is shaped like a horseshoe, more or less, and the inspiration for Peter Pan’s Never-Never Land. (I only write what I am told. No research was done on that trivia.)

I really do love being on Orcas. It is a peaceful place – most of the time. Saturday night, about ten o’clock, the island lost

power. Why? I was told it was because there was a problem on Shaw Island and the extension cord that Orcas is plugged into runs under the ocean there in the Straits of Georgia to Shaw. So, if there is a problem on Shaw and someone unplugs Orcas we are all left in the dark. During the darkness I guess there was a lot of bumping into things because for over an hour I heard siren after siren going to and fro through Eastsound from my third-floor perch at the Landmark Inn.

I finally went to sleep in the dark and awoke some time later when someone on Shaw Island plugged us back in. It was rude, to say the least, at that time of night. They could have waited ‘til morning.

The three days I spent on Orcas were wonderfully filled with light. I think God plugged into the conversations, ideas, hearts and minds gathered in the living room/dining room/sitting area called the Sweet home. It is not called sweet out of some metaphoric cuteness. The house belongs to Len and Elizabeth Sweet, so there.

There is no one I have enjoyed more in the realm of inspiring me to missionality than Reggie McNeal. Reggie is funny, poignant, targeted and real (and born in Georgia.) Reggie seems to get it. It is because of Reggie, Len and others that I seem to get it more often these days. What is ‘it?’ It is the sense that we are walking in tandem with, alongside of, in cahoots with, God. God does not live for Sunday. God does not live for accolades. God does not live for payoff. God does not live for accumulation. God lives for love. His mission is to love. Until my life gets that same rhythmic mission I am not where I want to be. Reggie inspires me to take another step toward that end. Len teaches me that venues and values merge to make the world a place to live the rhythmic life of Jesus. My cohorts and friends gathered on Orcas share that same desirable destination – the dance of Godliness.

Being godly is being missional. Loving is godliness. Love is supreme.

Which brings me to another place – failure. I have failed to love appropriately. I have failed to lead appropriately. I have failed to live in mission with no, or little, regard to my self-preservation. Now, I am at a place where that is my aim and my only goal. In the midst of this desire I have run into a wall of my own building and wrecked. I am broken down, in a sense, and yet I go forward toward what I have found as this new journey, to love.

I begin loving God. I do not want to merely be a recipient of his love. I want him to feel my love for him. I want him to know I have ardor for him, affection, care, desire and longing. I want to know my life is wrapped up in him and I am in his daily movement. I want people to see his style in my ways; his likeness in my face; his care in my eyes; and his tenderness in my touch. I want my life, as his, to be missional.

So, failure has birthed something of hopefulness. I can now breathe freely, see clearly, love authentically, move purposefully and live righteously – if only haltingly. There is hope and freedom when I can stand open and unashamed in the presence of the one I want to live with and for. As Adam said, from his place of hiding after choosing his way over God’s, “I was naked and ashamed, and I hid.” God spoke, “Who told you that you were naked?” In other words, even in Adam’s moment of being out of God’s place and progress, God did NOT point out his error. He just came to spend time with Adam.


Today, I am headed East. Early in the span of humanity, East was the place of banishment and shame. Adam and Eve went East out of Eden. Later, in the age of grace, the ancient text of Scriptures tells us that we can look East toward redemption and ultimate victory. Jesus, the Savior and Lord of all will re-enter the human environment through the Eastern skies and announce once and for all that His people are His people. He has come to gather them for eternal community with himself and the Father. I am headed for that time. You are, too.

So, whatever nice place you find yourself in today; whatever nice people you might be among today; whatever way you may be complicating that for yourself today, Jesus is coming to find you. He wants to talk to you. He wants to discuss your life, but not necessarily your failure. If you acknowledge it, he won’t. If you confess it, he won’t. If you go with him, he’ll be with you. You’ll go East and you will know.

You’ll hear the voice of a Reggie, or a Len. You’ll see the way of a child. You’ll feel the touch of love. And even in that place that is nice, when the lights go out and you cannot see where you are going next, just relax, go to sleep, rest. He can see you, even when you are hidden.

Come out, let go of the shame – it’s gone. The lights are on and it is a nice place.

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