The Precious Present

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

James 4:13-16

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.


The human mind is a remarkable time traveler. Our bodies are always in the present, but our minds easily jump into the future or the past. In fact, it is very difficult to keep our minds perfectly in the present.

That’s not necessarily a problem. Our minds just work that way. Remembrances of the past and visions of the future help us make critical decisions.

If you’ve read all of James’ letter, though, you know that he has a theme regarding how our thoughts and words can reveal our failure to keep God central in our lives. Today’s Scripture reading focuses on the flippant ways we sometimes talk about the future.

Again, a little context helps. James wrote his letter at a time when the rich were very busy planning to get richer while the poor were getting poorer. 

Much like Jesus, James was not being critical of wealth per se. Both warned, however, of the incredible distraction the pursuit of wealth can become when there’s kingdom work to be done.

James took particular note of the merchants of his day, who ran from city to city planning ventures years in advance, with no acknowledgment of their own mortality or need to align with God. Along these same lines, Jesus had told a parable found in Luke 12:13-21, a story aimed more at wealthy, overly comfortable landowners.

There’s a simple, very true cliché that Jesus or James could have used: “You can’t take it with you.” And if you can’t take it with you, why would anyone who believes in God pursue wealth without considering God? As one Christian commentary notes, such a short-sighted attitude is the “sin of arrogant presumption.”

James helps us maintain the right attitude as we plan for the future by giving us a simple phrase to keep in mind: If the Lord wants, followed by whatever we need to say about the future. In the South, we might precede such statements with, “Lord willin’.”

While we naturally talk about the future, the spiritually attuned are deliberate about focusing on the precious present, the holy now. We can go to Scripture now to seek God’s truth. We can pray now, staying with God until we hear from God.

Having dwelled with God in the moment, we then are better equipped to look to the future, letting God’s greater plan shape any visions we may have.

Lord, may we walk with you moment by moment, staying on the path that leads us to eternity with you. Amen.


✟ To subscribe to LifeTalk devotionals, enter your email address in the box found on any page of the Methodist Life website. ✟

Like a Child

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Matthew 18:1-5

About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”

Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

“And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.”


To see how we fit into the Kingdom of Heaven, it helps to look to our earliest days.

The above verses from Matthew have some important context. Just prior, Jesus and his disciples have been discussing worldly power, the temple and taxes. (A fish ends up covering what Jesus and Peter owe.)

The disciples’ question regarding who is greatest in Jesus’ promised kingdom is similar to questions they ask elsewhere in the gospels: Who will sit nearest Jesus when he is on his throne? And what kind of power will we have?

Jesus’ response forces any thoughtful reader to consider what we had as very small children, and what we have lost as we have grown.

Some words we can meditate upon: Trust. Dependence. Simplicity. Wonder. Innocence.

As we grow older, we find ourselves surrendering such notions to survive. Power structures are in place wherever we go, and they will consume us if we don’t learn to defend ourselves, gain some control, master the system’s complexity, and ideally, learn to run the part of it affecting us.

Blessed are those who don’t have to learn these hard lessons too early in life.

It’s pretty clear to me that Jesus understood the compromises we have to make in the here and now. Sin remains in the world, and it is very dangerous, leading to terrible events that consume even the most innocent of children.

Earlier in Matthew, in the 10th chapter, Jesus said, “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.”

This is a delicate balance for a Christian to maintain. We have to learn to navigate the world, but at the same time, we want to retain an adult version of what we had as small children.

Assuming we were blessed with good parenting, our feelings of trust and dependence flowed toward those who raised us. As adults, we can sense something similar in our relationship with God.

Knowing God should restore our sense of wonder, too. If we call him Creator, an examination of his creation should be enough to boggle any mind. And through Jesus Christ, we even can regain innocence, trusting that Christ on the cross cleanses us of our sins.

There also is much to anticipate. When the kingdom completely arrives—when we stand before God, seeing our savior, with the broken world behind us—I expect our childlike states will be fully restored.

Unlike children, we will comprehend everything, but innocence will remain, and God will call us great.

Lord, in the midst of our strategizing and surviving, may we be humble, seeking to live as much as possible in your kingdom now. May our way of living make the kingdom more real to us and those around us. Amen.

Stairway to Heaven

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Genesis 28:10-17 (New Living Translation)

Let’s take a few minutes to consider Jacob, Jesus, Led Zeppelin and the chance to have an eternal connection to God.

I would bet that upon reading this devotional’s title, most of you first thought of Led Zeppelin. I’ll go ahead and correct a critical theological error in the group’s most famous song. No matter how much money a lady has, she won’t be buying the stairway to heaven.

If you are wondering what the stairway might look like, Israelite patriarch Jacob got a glimpse of it in a dream, while sleeping against a rock in a place eventually known as Bethel. Angels went up and down the stairway, marking the place as a connection between heaven and earth. At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, who restated promises made decades earlier to Jacob’s father, Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham.

Some of you raised on older English Bible translations may be protesting a bit right now, saying, “No, it was a ladder to heaven.” Many of us also were raised singing, “We are climbing … Jacob’s ladder.”

Either “ladder” or “stairway” works as a translation of the Hebrew word used in the story, which appears just once in Scripture. I like “stairway” better—as I imagine angels simultaneously going up and down, with God standing at the top, a stairway is more like what I see. As a child, I tried to visualize angels going up and down a ladder, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they felt crowded as they passed each other.

But back to Jacob’s dream. My New Living Translation Study Bible has a footnote attached to the story: “The point of the vision was that God and his angels were with Jacob on his journey.”

Jesus must have had that point in mind as he connected his very reason for existing to Jacob’s dream. In John 1:51, we hear Jesus say, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man.”

In other words, God wants to be with us on our journeys, just as he was with Jacob. Jesus, God in flesh, is the stairway—because of his work as intermediary we have access to heaven.

God even comes down to us now, in this life! Belief in the effectiveness of Jesus’ death on the cross reconnects us to God, overcoming our sins, and God’s Spirit rushes to accompany us.

It really is incredible that all of this is free for us. Christ paid the price. We simply have to accept the stairway to heaven as our own.

Lord, thank you for the connection you offer us every day of our lives. Help us to use it well, drawing eternity into the lives we live now. Amen.

The Abortion Solution

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Ephesians 5:2: “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”

The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will undoubtedly renew the debate about abortion in this nation. Her replacement may very well tip the balance of power on the high court to the point where legally available abortion could be severely restricted or even vanish.

Most theologically conservative Christians would cheer such a development, and I personally find the idea of abortion abhorrent. But simultaneously, I am deeply concerned the conservative church is about to get so caught up in a renewed political fight that we will continue to miss the obvious role we should be playing to make abortions unnecessary.

As a reporter in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I spent a lot of time covering protests near abortion clinics in Knoxville, Tenn. and Atlanta. It quickly became obvious the opposing sides had no political middle ground, with one group shouting for women’s rights and the other declaring life begins at conception. Inevitably, I thought, secular politics would leave one group or the other feeling disenfranchised and powerless.

About the same time, a theologian named Stanley Hauerwas wrote an essay that demonstrated how hospitality, properly understood and practiced by the church, offers a solution that could make the demand for abortion subside regardless of the political environment.

The essay, entitled “Abortion, Theologically Understood,” makes some startling assertions, at least if you’re a typical American Christian.  When we become Christians, Hauerwas says, we should stop thinking in terms of rights and instead begin thinking in terms of responsibilities.

For Christians, what the state has to say about abortion should be relatively unimportant. What’s important for us is whether we function so well as Christ’s community that the need for abortion becomes irrelevant.

In the essay, Hauerwas embeds a sermon from one of his former students, the Rev. Terry Hamilton, and it is there we see examples of the church truly being hospitable. There is the story of a community church where the people welcome a pregnant teenager into their midst, placing her and ultimately her baby with an older couple so both mother and child can have full lives and hope.

In a different church, a divorced Sunday school teacher becomes pregnant, and rather than finding herself ostracized, she is instead cared for and even financially supported by the church. In both cases, the temptation to abortion is eliminated by a community offering love, and the babies in effect become “children of the parish.”

Theologically conservative churches need to ask themselves some basic questions if they want to engage with the world over abortion, treating it as a serious problem.

  • What are we doing to eliminate the fears of mothers around us so they will drop abortion as an option?
  • As a church, are we willing to put the time and money in place to help poor mothers rear their children or find others willing to do so?
  • Have we made it clear in our community we are willing to help?
  • Can we make these mothers and their children part of the family of Christ, setting aside judgment of their circumstances and offering love?

Let’s also not forget our need to reach out to women who have undergone an abortion. Many pastors understand what I am talking about, having counseled women who remain troubled and even broken years after the fact. These women need to know that the church is a place of forgiveness and healing, and that they have a perspective younger women need to hear.

Regardless of the political climate, Christians always have great power to make a difference on any issue, abortion included. Sure, we have the right to enter a voting booth, petition legislators and march around buildings, just like everyone else. But we do our most effective work when we offer sacrificial love to others.

Lord, as our culture becomes more contentious, may we be more centered on your word, offering loving, holy answers that can come only from you. Amen.

Stop Shoving

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Ezekiel 34:17-23 (NLT)

“And as for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says to his people: I will judge between one animal of the flock and another, separating the sheep from the goats. Isn’t it enough for you to keep the best of the pastures for yourselves? Must you also trample down the rest? Isn’t it enough for you to drink clear water for yourselves? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Why must my flock eat what you have trampled down and drink water you have fouled?

“Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will surely judge between the fat sheep and the scrawny sheep. For you fat sheep pushed and butted and crowded my sick and hungry flock until you scattered them to distant lands. So I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be abused. I will judge between one animal of the flock and another. And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them.”


I am guessing that when most of us think of judgment, sheep and goats, we think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus, however, was expanding on words spoken by a prophet 600 years earlier.

At this point in Ezekiel’s prophecy, God already had condemned the callous “shepherds,” the Israelite kings who failed to care for their people. He then went on with the metaphor, issuing an internal warning to the flock regarding how its members treated one another.

In short, they were shoving and grasping, the strong taking from the weak. There was no care being taken to ensure those most in need had their share of the basics.

All that shuffling and stomping during the hoarding of resources did a lot of damage, too. Where there is hoarding, there often is spoilage, and what could have benefitted others is wasted.

The message is pretty straightforward: Stop shoving and grasping, thinking only of yourself. Look around. To draw from a story in John 5: Who needs help reaching the pool of Bethesda?

In both the Ezekiel prophecy and in Jesus’ teaching, the concern is for the people on the margins of society, the “least of these,” the ones most damaged by the brokenness of the world. And remember, these images are all presented in “last days” judgment style—in Matthew, the lesson is conveyed by the one who will do the judging!

How we treat people pushed to the margins becomes a very serious litmus test for how effectively we have absorbed the idea that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. In response to this idea, people have devised a lot of schemes through the centuries regarding what governments should do. Some of those might even be worthwhile strategies.

None of that planning, however, eliminates our responsibility to look around and assess what we need to do as individual Christians. As God says through Ezekiel, “I will judge between one animal of the flock and another.”

Lord, give us eyes to see, ears to hear and a willingness to provide. Amen.

Witnesses

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (NRSV)

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.


People who doubt the validity of the core Christian message often ask something along these lines: “Okay, what proof do you have other than the Bible?”

The question, however, dodges a consideration of the key evidence. We’ve gotten used to the Bible’s existence, treating its details as if they need to be re-proven. But the Bible in and of itself is astonishing in regard to what it offers in the form of witness accounts and narratives generated by people who had direct access to those witnesses.

Yes, the accounts differ somewhat in detail, but oddly enough, those differences should encourage rather than discourage us.

To recapture how astonishing the Bible is, we first have to remember that it is not one document. Instead, it is a library of writings, tied together with some common themes: God is outside all things and the creator of all things; creation turned against God; God still loved his creation so much he immediately went to work to bring it back into conformity with his will; Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection mark how the work ultimately is completed.

Thought Experiment: An Alternate Timeline

Imagine all these texts had been completely lost. Centuries later, in our day, they are found sealed in clay jars. After a long period of validation, translation and sorting, I think the world would be amazed upon their publication at the radical ideas within, ideas including a loving God who teaches deep, abiding forgiveness.

They also would be astonished at the sheer number of documents and the millennia they span—39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament, assuming we were to count and sort them like Protestants.

And yes, thoughtful people would be encouraged by the minor differences in the accounts, in particular the accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These variations would be clear evidence the documents were written from different perspectives, with no collusion by conspiratorial authors.

The most intriguing revelation, however, would be the repeated, unchanging assertions in the gospels. God came among us in flesh and died for our sins. He was buried, he was raised from the dead, and then he was seen by a remarkable number of witnesses. Who knows, a whole new religion might form around these ideas.

The Joy of Reality

We are so blessed to have the story of Christ before us now, scrupulously translated and searchable, with nearly 2,000 years of interpretive work to aid us. In fact, we would be fools to ignore what is available.

About two decades after Christ’s death and resurrection, Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians the progressive way the risen Jesus availed himself to witnesses before ascending into heaven. Focusing first on the male witnesses—in Paul’s day, only men had legal standing—he went on to note how eventually more than 500 women and men saw and interacted with the risen Christ. Many of them remained alive in Paul’s day, available to repeat their testimony!

Not that we need absolute proof. We do, after all, practice a religion based on faith. As Jesus said to doubting Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

And yet, to believe, it helps to have astonishing evidence we can initially trust, a word from witnesses who seemed to have nothing but our best interests in mind.

The Bible is that evidence.

Lord, may we grow in our faith as we trust the witnesses you have given us. Amen.

Under Water

Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Psalm 107:28-30 (NRSV)
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out from their distress;
he made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they had quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.

In yesterday’s devotional, I explored how to breathe during prayer, particularly when we find ourselves anxious. Today, I’m going to teach you a particular visualization technique to enhance your connection with God.

Put the two techniques together, and you have a kind of meditative prayer, something a lot of people in our culture don’t practice regularly. Our other, more familiar ways of praying—where we speak our praises, thanks and petitions to God, perhaps focusing on Scripture or a devotional as part of the process—remain critically important to our prayer lives. You may find, however, that meditative prayer techniques are particularly helpful in developing a sense of God’s constant presence.

There are uncountable ways to enter a state of meditative prayer. This is just one I like. I do not remember where I first learned it.

Imagine yourself sitting (or standing or lying, depending on your preferred posture) at the bottom of a deep, clear pool of water. Here’s the good news: God has granted you the ability to breathe comfortably and freely while there. Remember to breathe as discussed yesterday.

If this were a class in Zen meditation, someone might tell you to empty your mind. We’re doing the opposite. We want to be filled with God, and only with God.

As you begin, it helps to think of a word representing what you seek in that holy relationship. I’ve heard people make all sorts of choices: “peace,” “love,” “forgiveness” or “discernment,” for example. I’ve even heard people choose “Jesus” as their word, apparently as they tried to better fathom what it means to be in a personal relationship with God through Christ.

Go ahead and accept that worries and random thoughts will intrude on this time. We’re not going to fight them. Instead, take hold of them, examine them for a brief moment, and then release them, allowing them to float to the surface, far above you. Say your chosen word as part of the next exhale, and settle back into experiencing God.

That’s the technique. Simple, huh?

By the way, the more you do this, the longer you will spend in this state before deciding to surface. In just a few tries, you may have a meditative prayer session where you are surprised at how long you’ve been “under”—half an hour or even an hour might feel like 15 or 20 minutes.

What’s important is that you find yourself deeply aware of God’s presence.

Lord, thank you for the way you meet us in the midst of storms and in quiet places. Amen.

Life and Breath

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

The Bible has a lot to say about the not-so-simple act of breathing. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, words for “breath,” “wind” and “spirit” overlap.

Genesis 2:7: Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

Ezekiel 37:9: Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”

John 20:21-23: Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Acts 2:2-4: And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

It’s pretty obvious that in Scripture, the source of life is God’s breath, which we also might think of as the movement of the Holy Spirit. This ethereal lesson can be lived out in very practical ways, however, particularly in times of stress.

When I’ve taught people under tremendous stress how to pray in a meditative way, the “how to breathe” part of the lesson has been critical. First, you have to position your body so you can breathe. If seated, your back and neck need to be straight, your shoulders squared and hanging from your collarbones as if on coathangers.

From here, “breath prayer” begins to line up with core techniques I’ve learned from decades of martial arts practice, principles recently confirmed in books I’ve read about how soldiers and police survive and control violent, high-stress situations. Breathing is normally automatic, but it can get out of control when the world becomes overwhelming. At such times, we have to take charge of our breathing.

Inhale through your nose deeply, slowly, expanding your lower stomach. Hold at the end of the inhale for a count equal to your time spent inhaling. Exhale through your mouth at the same rate, shrinking and pushing in your lower stomach. At the bottom of the exhale, hold for the same amount of time. Some people who teach this talk about using a “four count” at each stage.

I should warn you, if your heart is racing, if your blood pressure is up, your lungs will fight you at first, particularly as you hold at the bottom of your exhale. But if you’re feeling panicked or anxious, repeating this type of breathing will calm you, center you, and allow you to turn to God.

Biblically, it makes sense. Made in the image of God and granted the Holy Spirit through our belief in Jesus Christ, we have access to the source of life.

Think of deliberate, God-focused breathing as an unspoken prayer request: “God, renew in me what you have poured into the world.”

Peace be with you. Tomorrow, I will try to help you embed this breathing in prayerful Christian meditation.

Lord, we thank you for the life you have breathed into us. May we use our lives to glorify you and to the benefit of your dawning kingdom on earth.

The Donkey Said What?

The Rev. Chuck Griffin remains on vacation through Sept. 20, but LifeTalk goes on. Devotionals this week are repeats, items written in the early days of the pandemic while he was pastor of Luminary United Methodist Church.

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Okay, funny story, or at least I think it’s funny. I’m almost afraid to attempt humor these days—who knows what might happen between my clicking this blog’s “publish” button and sunrise—but I need to think about something funny.

You know the one about Balaam and his donkey, in Numbers 22? First of all, if you were raised on the King James Version of the story, your Sunday school teacher, without the slightest smile, likely referred to the story as “Balaam’s Ass,” or even “Balaam’s Talking Ass.”

When you are 12, that alone is funny.

So anyway, without going into a lot of background, Balaam was a prophet who displeased God by saddling his donkey and heading on a journey, apparently with improper intent in his heart.

“God’s anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the road as his adversary,” we are told in Numbers 22:22. “Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; so the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road.”

Now, I should clarify, beating an animal is wrong. That is not the funny part.

Also, the donkey gave as good as he got. When the angel cornered Balaam and his donkey in a narrow part of the vineyard where the donkey had strayed, the donkey hugged the nearest wall, scraping Balaam’s foot in the process. The move did win the donkey another whack, though.

Finally, confronted by a heavily armed angel that only he could see, the donkey lay down under Balaam. Picture that, if you can.

Donkeys are typically short beasts of burden; most people riding them can almost touch the ground with their feet. When the donkey went prone, Balaam either had to remain standing, a reluctant donkey between his feet, or remain seated, his knees near his shoulders.

Once again, Balaam whacked the donkey.

The Lord intervened, allowing the donkey to speak. (This causes me to wonder if our pets have a lot to say, but just no means to say it.) “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” the donkey brayed.

Balaam, apparently so distressed that he forgot he was talking to a donkey, said, “Because you have made a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!”

The donkey replied, “Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?” Balaam admitted the situation was unusual.

At this point, God allowed Balaam to see an irate angel, sword still in hand, standing before him. The angel berated him for beating the donkey, noted that if the donkey had not turned aside, Balaam would be dead, and gave Balaam precise instructions regarding what he was to do.

Scripture does not record the rest of the donkey’s story, but I’m guessing he got a heaping helping of oats later in the day.

The lessons here are pretty simple. We don’t always fully grasp how God is at work. God can use any part of his creation to accomplish his will.

Also, if you’re stuck at home with pets of any kind, don’t be surprised at their behavior if you start sinning. Yowling, barking or talking—well, anything’s possible.

Lord, keep us mindful of your will, and may we watch for the signs you give us. Amen.

Escape for a Moment

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

This crisis in which we find ourselves seems so exhausting, I think, because thoughts of it lurk somewhere in our minds all day. In my case, it’s as if I have an annoying tickle in my brain.

The tickle is chronic enough that I actually notice when I’ve not been thinking about our situation for a short time. That moment usually comes in the evening, when Connie and I take time to watch a movie or a favorite television show, or if I read a book of fiction. For just a little while, I get lost in whatever story is before me.

As you might expect, I spend a lot of time in the Bible, but the tickle doesn’t really go away. The lessons of Scripture are usually so applicable to this viral outbreak and our fears that I cannot help but place the verses in our current context. The tickle remains, although I’m grateful for the answers the Bible gives regarding how to live in such times.

There is some “escapist” literature in the Bible, however, and I want to encourage you to find it. I’m going to point out a favorite one of mine—in fact, it’s so out of this world that some people avoid it. I prefer to relish it.

To get the full picture, you’ll need to read at least the first three chapters of Ezekiel, although you will miss much if you stop there. This essentially is a prophet being called to his work, but in a most unusual way. If you’ve read much science fiction, the story can border on readings from that genre, although we are to understand it as a symbol-filled vision of God, who cannot be adequately described with words.

There are angels in the sky, steering what look like wheels within wheels, carrying above them the likeness of a throne. And then there is the vision of the throne and the one upon it:

And above the dome over their heads there was something like a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was something that seemed like a human form. Upward from what appeared like the loins I saw something like gleaming amber, something that looked like fire enclosed all around; and downward from what looked like the loins I saw something that looked like fire, and there was a splendor all around. Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendor all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. (Ezekiel 1:26-28)

There’s so much more in Ezekiel. I’m simply trying to encourage you to take a little time apart from the world today. Read it. Get lost in it. There’s nothing wrong with that.

I’m also curious what Bible stories you might consider escapist. By that, I mean you get so caught up in them you forget everything else for a time. Feel free to post your favorites in the comments section.

Lord, we thank you for the power of your word: its power to teach, its power to comfort, its power to enliven our imaginations. Amen.