Destination Love

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

Recently, I reconnected with a dear friend of mine to whom I had not spoken in 2 years. In the process of sharing our experiences since we had last talked, she intimated to me that recently, she had a near death experience.  During this near death experience, she said that she met Jesus and experienced what she described as “eternity” in which there was “no time” but rather past, present, and future were all simultaneously occurring.  She intimated that being in the presence of the Lord was beyond any experience of love that she had ever had.  She said that Jesus’ love completed her in a way such that she could not think of anyone else in his presence.  She said that in the “eternity” in which she operated, that Jesus was huge and was the center of all activity.  Her authority in communicating this was mesmerizing as she spoke with a confidence that I have scarcely encountered.  I told her that she seemed “transfigured” and that I believed that she had actually met the Lord.  Ironically, another friend of mine was recently telling me about a book that she was reading called, The Prince of Heaven by Eben Alexander, in which an unbeliever had a near death experience and recounted going to a place of infinite love.  Similarly, Wayne Dyer the spiritual teacher and PBS personality had a woman on one of his telecasts who had a near death experience and spoke of a state of being where worry, anxiety, and fear had absolutely no place and were completely muted by the unconditional love that surrounded and infused her.

As a Universalist, these accounts are very affirming of my conviction that all human beings, from the worst of us to the best of us, are eventually destined to bliss, wholeness, and the unconditional love of God.  Even given the idea of hell that some people who have had near death experiences recount visiting, this hell is surely not eternal and is a place of remediation where much needed lessons are learned.  Revisiting the first near death account of encountering an existential condition wherein Jesus is the center of reality and his love is all consuming makes me think of Phillipians 2:5-11 wherein Paul describes our savior as “being in very nature God” and yet humbling himself to be born as a human being and live a life of sadness and loneliness for the greater redemption of all things.  When one considers how big Jesus is in the afterlife, his humility in deciding to live among a people who in many ways did not value his gifts of love and compassion is dumbfounding.  While Jesus had a considerable following in Israel at times in his ministry, he was a relative unknown compared to historical characters like Julius Cesar or even Herod Antipas.  In fact, Jesus was such an unknown to most people that finding historical confirmation of his life is difficult.

There is something about this earthly and natural realm of existence that creates a profound temptation to devalue things that are important to eternity and value things that in the scheme of the cosmos have very little true significance.  It seems that there is something about this experience of human life that inappropriately puts great weight on relatively meaningless criteria such as worldly accomplishment, worldly notoriety, and material gain and that underestimates the truly eternal significance of love, justice, mercy, compassion, empathy, and gratitude.  This world’s problematic value system can sometimes be frustrating if we forget that one day, one fine day, we will be in the presence of unconditional love and the learning experiences, trials, and difficulties of this life will be over.

Some claim that a worldview that seriously integrates the notion of a beautiful and wondrous afterlife will cause the believer in such a hope to neglect practical matters and to become so spiritually minded that they are “no earthly good.” But in my experience, it is my understanding of a wondrous destiny for us all that motivates me to make this earth better and to make people’s lives better.  The confidence that Jesus truly got the victory over hatred, greed, malice, and contempt on the cross and that in some profound mystery secured the destinies of all human beings in that moment of sacrifice helps me work through discouragement and hold fast to hope.  I truly believe that understanding love as our ultimate destination helps one to advocate for justice with more rather than less fervor because one operates in the unflinching belief that righteousness, equality, and love are not just destined to win, but have in many senses already won.  This kind of awareness helps us to persevere when it seems like circumstances in our earthly journey are untenable.  To know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this earth will one day resemble that wondrous afterlife where fear and hatred have absolutely no place, is so empowering that it will one day make real what is already real to the angels.  Because love has already won, it will surely win.

No matter how bleak things seem in reference to the mass incarceration of the poor or lingering racism or homophobia or worldwide violence or ethnic cleansing we have an existential guarantee that evil and suffering must and will fade to be replaced by the perfect love that is all around us but often times not acknowledged.  The truth is that misery, suffering, and pain are ephemeral and it is joy, love, and peace that are eternal.  The truth is that this earth’s destiny has already been decided and in spite of global warming, over-population, and the unconscionable hoarding of wealth that seem to be defining our reality that this planet’s destiny is ultimately good.  We who stand for love truly cannot fail and those who stand against love will soon be converted.  For our journey is blessed and our destination is love and no worry, pain, anguish, sorrow, bad choice, or adversity can ever change that.

Autumn Sunshine

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

Sometimes in the fall, the sun becomes red like a royal crimson fireball,
One Friday night in 1997 I asked a woman to marry me and we made love,
9 months later, I stared into my wife’s eyes and saw a mixture of relief and ecstasy,
As the midwife showed her the fruits of excruciating pain and endless love,
On March 3rd of the year 1998 I met God and he gave me a gift for the ages,
But as he placed her into my arms he sternly advised,
“This gift is someone you can never own, but if you protect and serve her, you will see my face.”
Ever since then, from time to time, God shows up and says hello,
Sometimes he is dressed in punk rock regalia and other times in beautiful Sunday dresses,
And one time I even saw him in my parent’s back yard trying to bounce a tennis ball with an over sized racket,
Sometimes God will try and hog the car radio and force techno down my throat,
But always he says the same thing, “My son, this is your daughter Autumn and in her I am well pleased.”
One Friday night in 2011 I went to Marshall Middle School and heard a young teenager sing a song by Katy Perry,
When she finished, I knew that there was no stopping her and I felt a gratitude to my creator against which no bad memory could stand,
I felt gratitude for a gift that I do not own, but through whom God has said, “I love you” in a thousand phrases and smiles,
Sometimes when I have had a bad day I think of a precocious two year old trying to bounce a tennis ball with an over size racket and I reflect on the woman she is becoming,
Sometimes in the fall, the sun becomes red like a royal crimson fireball,
My daughter is named after the fall, her name is Autumn and she is my sunshine.

Come Glory This All Hallow’s Eve

By:  Woodrow Odom Lucas

As I drive by the end of days I see a pumpkin and a happy witch on the doorstep of my joy,

As I pass by my four year old’s awe toward friendly ghosts down the street of nostalgia,

I am reminded of Saints gone home and good souls on their penitent journey,

Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Paul Robeson and the poets of my past,

Hendrix, Morrison, Michael, Louis Armstong and the Sounds of my testimony,

Prince and Wynton Marsalis, Miles Davis, Amadeus, Earth, Wind, and Fire,

Saints living, saints dead, souls vibrant, souls sad in the darkness of regret,

We are a glorious symphony on this, this all Hallows Eve,

The eve of that day when I celebrate the muses of my sacrifice and the foundations of my epiphanies,

“Halloween is here” my youngest daughter exclaims and I am reminded of many a night spent scavenging for sweet things and expectant laughter,

Tragic kings like Edgar Allen and Charlie Parker, souls with so much pregnant genius that the world was too much for them,

It is our celebration dear friends that will move the mountains of discontent,

And so in this season of harvest, carpe diem calls me to absorb as much love as I can as the sun sets on purple leaves and gorgeous corn stalks,

And in mother Africa, the ancestors dance like their Celtic sisters who fused the worship of our Lord and the glory of mother Gaia,

And in mother Africa the land recovers from the grief stricken sting of rape,

And in mother Africa my sisters and brothers celebrate the saints gone forward into that great mystery,

Tecumseh and Black Elk I celebrate the brilliance of your aptitude,

And I cry with you in triumph for the resurrection of a people forsaken but not defeated,

Come Glory,

On this All Hallows Eve, I celebrate the beauty of a journey full of confusion and catharsis,

For the reality is that we truly cannot fail,

As our cloud of witnesses sing to me of the victory that awaits,

Tonight, adorned with the fashion of merriment,

And the subtle chill of October wind reds our lips,

Come Glory and Glory be to the faithful departed,

Happy Halloween!

But There Are Stars

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

One day a father’s father died.

He wept and walked with his son that night.

As they walked, his son asked, “How do I become a man?”

The father responded, “Follow me to a cross and I’ll show you a

Man.”

“Who is he?” the son asked.

“He is the king of kings.”

“How do you know?” the boy questioned.

The father told his son to look up and answered with tears in his

eyes, “night sky is dark, but there are stars. Bright orbs of light that mock the night. And life is dark but there is Christ, he quenched the sting of death and brings blind sight.”

“But Why?!” the son demanded.

“There is no why, just what!”

“Believe and know why night can’t stop sun’s light.

Believe and know why death can’t sting God’s might.”

Believe and know why sorrow cannot last and suffering must fade.

Believe and know why broken hearts are best, yet hearts of steel can’t rise.

In these dark days of doubt and lies.”

My son, in these dark days of doubt and lies.

Just know, night sky is dark but there are stars, bright orbs of light that mock the night.

And life is dark but there is Christ, he quenched the sting of death

and brings blind sight.”

He is the author of truth and craftsman of joy.

Confidant to whores yet sovereign master over strife.

And soon he’ll come to judge the dead and rule the just.

He’ll set things right.

But now my son, right now just lift your hands, let his love grab

hold, and let nothing in this sordid lie of life distract from that embrace.

In these dark days of doubt and lies.

Believe and know why night can’t stop sun’s light.

Believe and know why death can’t sting God’s might.

He is the author of truth and craftsman of joy.

He steals the sting of death and brings blind sight.

Confidant to whores yet sovereign master over strife.

He is the king of kings, the Christ.

Believe on his name, my son, he’ll make you a man.

Believe on his name and live forever.

The Most Magnificent Miracle

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

Imagine for a moment the reality that we are truly spinning around in a dark universe.

Imagine for a moment the reality that we are truly stranded perhaps on an island of beauty in a perilous solar system, inhospitable to our humanity and only generous toward man made motion.

Imagine for a moment the reality that we are truly spinning around in a dark universe, with black holes and dead stars and asteroid belts and planets that we cannot yet inhabit with human skin.

Imagine my friend, the utter mystery of our condition and the unknowable and unfathomable questions that result from knowing the nature of our DNA.

Imagine for a moment the mysterious reality that all life on the planet earth is some combination of four molecular bases of adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine.

Now extract yourself from any idea of God saving any of us.

Now extract yourself from any notion of what happens after we die or whether or not God forgives us for our sin.

Now extract yourself from all self-centered notions of your own success or individual happiness.

Now imagine for a moment, a Jewish man born in Bethlehem and raised in Galilee.

And imagine for a moment a Jewish man, full of doubt and fear being told by his mother that he was the savior of all mankind.

And imagine for a moment that this Jewish man tried to live a life worthy of his Holy Father’s confidence.

Now imagine that this man faced peculiar opposition from most people as he made his outlandish claims about being the Son of God.

Now imagine for a moment that violent death according to some leaves the soul of the perishing in a suspended state of torment.

Now imagine for a moment a government that engages in the hideous practice of crucifixion as a strategy to maintain order and dominion.

Now imagine for a moment the hideous experience of anyone enduring crucifixion by having their hands and feet nailed to wood, there abdomen pierced through, and their legs ultimately broken.

Now imagine a man, who knew very little violence, being subjected to this violence.

Now imagine a man, who for the good of his people voluntarily embraced this hideous violence.

Now imagine this man who died violently actually coming back to life after he had been dead and buried.

Imagine for a moment the reality that we are truly spinning around in a dark universe.

Imagine for a moment the reality that we are truly stranded perhaps on an island of beauty in a perilous solar system, inhospitable to our humanity and only generous toward man made motion.

Imagine for a moment the reality that we are truly spinning around in a dark universe, with black holes and dead stars and asteroid belts and planets that we cannot yet inhabit with human skin.

Now imagine that we are much more than human bodies with skin and that we are meant to live eternally in bliss.

Now imagine that man, that man who died violently on our behalf and rose in the greatest mystery known to man, giving birth to infinite possibility.

Now rest easy because God loves you and your destiny is miraculous to say the least.