Saturday, December 24, 2011
So here we are, with two dozen people in the house. Kids, adults, tall, short, awkward, funny, serene ... all representations. And we’re having a blast. But as I watched family play (people who have had very little time together, but who come together and instantly act as old friends because of the blood binding), I was looking at the news online and at Facebook posts and it struck me that perhaps Christmas is not only a time to celebrate, but also a time to be removed.
There is a modern attempt to replicate an ancient idea; be human, but be Christ. Only one person ever accomplished this excruciating task, and that person is of course Jesus. Fully human, fully God. We desire to celebrate Christmas, without being commercial. Give & get the gifts, sing Happy Birthday Jesus, and feel comfortable about the celebration. Decorate the tree, sing the songs, add some goodies to our closets, but do it as Jesus crucified. But how do we separate the humanity, and the humanness from the Christmas? We’re human. We desire. I desire. I love Christmas. Great music about the Savior, lots of family, lots of food, and we get new underwear, undershirts and if I’m lucky, some duck shoes. Anne, are you reading this? I mean, lets face it, if we took the gifts out of Christmas ... there’d be no Christmas.
Now, don’t get your hackles up. I’m being honest. The resurgence for making “Jesus the reason for the season” comes more out of guilt more than anything else. We should, in my own less than the sharpest knife in the drawer opinion, recognize that Jesus is not the reason for the season, He’s the reason for everything. No Jesus ... no anything. No grace. No redemption. No peace. No love. No gifts. No Saint Nicholas (the real one, not the Coca-Cola one). No carols. No nothing Christmassy. We would have found some other reason to spend billions on gifts, but it would not have been to take to the Temple. Just humanity. Just a world full of people failing miserably at trying to love God through failed attempts at trying.
But, if it were not not for a fallen humanity, Jesus would never have come either. If we had not had ourselves removed from the Garden, would Jesus have had to come? Had sin not entered in, would Jesus have come as a baby, or would we know the triune God in their own right? Walking earth with God. Eating with Jesus. Communing with the Holy Spirit.
The point of these ramblings is that Jesus is the reason for all of it. No Easter, no Christmas, and I mean it in that order. Jesus was born of a woman to be slaughtered. It was intentional. God set this in motion for His creation. For humanity. You can no more remove humanity from Christmas than you can remove sacrifice from Jesus’s birth. We don’t need the commercialism anymore than we need more stuff. But we do need the Jesus of the manger, and the Jesus of life perfectly lived, and we certainly need the Jesus of the cross. Humanity brought our humanness. Our humannes, in many ways, brought Jesus to earth. The greatest gift of all is Jesus, with His sacrifice. God could have started over - He had millions of good reasons to do just that. But He didn't. He gave His Son, as a gift. He gave His grace as a gift. He gave His mercy as a gift. He gave the gift. Don’t feel bad about exchanging a few gifts, God exchanged His son for His Creation. Just remember the most value oriented gift. The one that cost us the least, and brought the most satisfaction: Jesus.
This Christmas, celebrate the birth of Christ. Fall on your knees and tell God “Thank You!” Thank you for Christmas, a reason to celebrate being God’s creation. Thank you for family, for all the stressors and humanness they bring. Thank you for life, for the breath of life. For children. For The Child. We all need a little more Jesus this year. A little more love. A little more God. But few of us need a little more of anything else.
I do, however, need more undershirts.
“God bless the world - we need it.”
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Back to the couple of which one was blind. Now, I don't know if “blind”is still PC, or if I should refer to them as visually challenged, but anyway ... this couple struck me. I don't know if they were dating, engaged, married, friends, or siblings. There was nothing to obviously indicate either. If they were from the hills of Georgia, they may have been all of these. But there was something unique in them. Something unfamiliar yet comforting. Like a quilt. I’m not a fan of quilts - I don't dislike them mind you - I just am not a quilt user. But there is something familiar and comfortable about them. When you walk into a persons house, if you see a quilt, they are either old enough to be considered wise, or so young and perhaps pitiful as not to be threatening - so either way it’s comforting.
You see, this couple was walking, one out front and leading, although obviously blind. The other, a half step behind, but guiding, obviously with full vision. The one leading was the woman. She seemed very comfortable, confident really, both in herself and in her guide. The one following, did their guiding both physically, verbally, and even ... ethereally, just by their presence. The fact that the one following was there, that they were approachable - trustworthy may be a better word here - the fact that they were available, this made them approachable and it seemed to communicate much.
But here is what struck me, and bear in mind, all of this took place rather swiftly. All within a few moments, because I was walking with my wife and a 3 year old boy dressed as a turtle while wearing cowboy boots. It struck me that I was watching the picture of discipleship. Someone fully capable, but yet blind at the same time. Able to do so much, but yet missing so much as well, unable to see the hazards and some of the joys of life. But they were being led by someone who was not oppressive, who did not carry them, did not even try to do it all through verbal communication, did not place them in a wheel chair, but did not leave them to the dangers and pitfalls either. This trusted guide did his duty gently, carefully, lovingly. They used every method; speech, physical touch, gentle nudges, a calming hand - all to guide someone who needed it not because they couldn't get through life without it, but because they could get through life easier with it.
Now, this is not to say that those who are visually impaired cannot have a fully enriched life, but that the world as we know it is predominately visually oriented and to be without that would leave one at a disadvantage. But it also leaves them with a much better picture of faith than I will ever had. Not something to be loosed when times are tough and we are willing to dust it off, but something that has to be used all day, every day. This is faith. And the guide is the faithful. The blind wanderer, and the guide. The seeker and the one who knows what it is to have sought.
I realized that to do this, to help the blind, you have to be willing and you have to communicate well. And you have to be trustworthy. And honest. And approachable. And non-judgmental, and non-threatening, and discerning. Kinda like walking with a believer ... whether in a evangelistic relationship, or a discipling relationship. Let’s face it, we are either with people who don’t know Jesus (which puts us as evangelists - bringers of the Truth) or we’re with a believer, which means we should be discipling one another.
Evangelizing and discipling is an art, it’s an attitude of grace. A position of love that we should choose to .. no ... that is a mandate in scripture. It’s a position that’s raw, that’s open and honest. It’s gentle, yet firm. It’s physical, and verbal. It’s leading, and guiding, and even at times, following. And it’s because as Christians, we are “overwhelmed and softened by the love of Jesus” (Dan Kimball) and that softness makes us love man as He did.
So go and lead the blind. Not because they are blind, but because we can see. Go be the sight to someone who does not see. Go help someone with the cracks in the sidewalks and in mankind and do this not because they are blind, but because you were blind. And now, you see.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
A few weeks ago, we were all captivated about the story of those 33 Chilean miners that spent 69 days trapped, 17 of which without anyone on the surface knowing they were alive, 2,000 feet underground. We watched as one-by-one, they were put into a mobile tube that resembled a water heater more than an elevator, and were hoisted to the surface. At each man’s retrieval, the crowd cheered, people on TV praised, and mankind was bewildered at their predicament, the time spent bringing them home, and then their eventual reuniting with friends, family, and the president of Chile. It was profound, it was poetic, and in many ways, it was absolutely pathetic.
I am not saying that their rescue was pathetic, nor the expense, nor the speed in which they were rescued nor any other detail of their experience. My expression of ... apathy is at us, believers, not towards them.
You see, every day, we are faced with miners. But the miners we meet have not been lost in a hole, doing back breaking, difficult, and dangerous work. The miners we face are here on the surface, alive, well, and living life. They spend their day going to and fro much as we do, not even knowing that they are in a pit; and we show apathy by not talking to them about it. Who am I speaking of? Anyone want to venture a guess? No? Well, take a deep breath and keep reading.
I am speaking of those that do not know the unparalleled grace, the beautiful rescue, the unmatched joy of being rescued by and reunited with the God that created and loves them, far more than can be compared with any earthly, carnal, mortal love we can envision. We celebrate the rescue of the miners, but do we celebrate the rescue of mankind by God? Not just through our relationships and daily life of devotion, discipleship, and evangelism, but through our lives?
I guess my point is this; there are billions of people that need to know about Jesus. Now, it is not up to us to “save” anyone, only to tell the story. Our story. God’s story. We can’t save anyone, but we are carriers of He who can. But have they seen? Have they seen His grace in our lives, His forgiveness, or His redemptive power? Because in many ways, I fear we have forgotten about what God accomplished on the Cross. We know, and appreciate, that we are saved, but do we remember this and allow it to be a catalyst in our lives?
All believers lament the friends and family that don’t know, that won’t accept, that can’t get past their “selves” to see why Jesus came, lived, died and ascended. We must live lives redeemed. Lives that lose sleep over the lost, all of them. That cry at funerals, not just because someone we knew passed on, but because over 100,000 people die on a daily basis, and their introduction to Christ will be through His people, His church (the body, not the building!), us.
Jesus is not going to make the headline news on all stations, for days on end because He died for 33 people. He died for all mankind and He is on our hearts, our lips, and written into the very fabric of who we are and we are His ambassadors, the reporters of what He has done. Let us celebrate the rescue of the 33, but pray for, weep over, and reach out to the several billion who don’t recognize Him as the Son of God. The Savior of all mankind. The true Rescuer of mankind.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
So ... Trent sees a hog (it was a really dark night) on the side of the road while driving about 65mph. He slams on breaks as I am climbing into the back seat for the pistol. He wheels around until he is blocking both lanes with his headlights facing the field the hog is now running into screaming "Shoot it! Shoot it!" I load it, jack it, and squeeze a round off that Trent thinks hit the hog in the booty.
So after being popped in the posterior, the hog turns and runs some more so I shoot again but at this point, he's a god 30 or 40 yards off and we're triple parked across a dark desert highway with cool wind in my hair, with the smell of powder, rising up through the air ... shooting at a black mass and trying to figure out which one of us would have to walk into the CRP to drag the thing back to the truck. Did I mention I was standing on the running board this whole time?
The hog escaped, we did shoot at something, so all in all not a bad night. We saw a turkey, owls, pigs, cows, horses, a raccoon and a coyote. Didn't get chased by anything and never left the stand except once to make water. Oh well.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
I am watching the movie “Contact” with Jodie Foster. She’s in the movie, not in my living room. We have it on DVD. I am not a sci-fi nut, but I love a good movie that presents a predictable story in an unpredictable fashion. This is a great alien movie that has little if anything to do with aliens. Anyway… the beginning opens with various radio broadcasts floating off into space. An intelligent race hears them and sends a message back. Of course, if that same race listened to a lot of what’s on the radio now, they would change the dial or keep looking for intelligence in some other galaxy and give us a wide berth. Anyway …
What started me thinking was that what if our thoughts, our fears, our innermost demons were represented as these waves of invisibly loosed, untouchable, digital flotsam that we fling out of our souls like the radio waves in the movie? Like shrapnel from an immense explosion, our unspoken tremors, our harbored fears escape our minds when we engage them; they affect the way we watch movies or drive a car, or talk on the phone. Whether we voice them or not, they exist like the uncontrolled filaments of cotton candy that escape the stick at the county fair – they fly out and adopt themselves to whatever happens by.
I ask this because I go through moments, sometimes long moments, of hearing these punishingly unique echoes in my life. In the movie, these waves are heard by this advanced alien race and contact is made – hence the movie title. For me, the contact is not made out there, but it is made in here, in my heart, in my mind. I’ll have a thought, a reflection on myself and realize that it is not new. I’m not talking about day-ja-vu, or anything that pedestrian; I’m talking about the returning echoes of our self. Our thought-life.
Like the movie, my thoughts come back to me, as echoes of was once before, but like the movie, they are different. They are changed, amplified in ways, purified. A God, a Creator so immense that although His ears heard and His heart was impacted, He was not changed for a moment, has heard them. He was neither surprised nor ignorant. He is in fact so lovingly touched, so longingly loving of me that He returns these thoughts; He echoes them back in a way that not only lets me recognize their author, their subject and their genesis, but also their captor. He captures those thoughts, those innermost expressions and He loves me all the more. He holds me when I weep and He laughs when I smile. He is my God and I am exuberantly thankful to be His people.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
It the process of my life and marriage, I have frequently seen this. Sometimes, it’s something you see afterwards – the warning signs of promise missed until the fruit promise is tasted. Sometimes, it’s seen well ahead – perhaps God’s way of saying “I’m still here, and all that has taken place in your life lately? It’s been for a reason.”
Either way, we must strive to anticipate not God’s moves or actions, but the fruit of His promises. I don’t always know the “what”, but I do always know the “if”. God has never lied and if He promises to do something, you must be prepared to be “done” regardless of His timing.
So, go look out past the rails of your lives. Look down the coaming, over the scuppers, out past the buoys – do you see bow waves? They are there. So be ready and keep your lamps lit!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
I just finished watching one of my all time favorite movies, L.A. Story with Steve Martin. If you’ve seen it, then your opinion is firmly set; either you loved it or you loathed it. Anne thinks it’s funny; I get tearful. Get over it; I’m a romantic, and have closet artistic tendencies. Anyway, I love this movie and I am not sure why. Yes, it’s silly, but it also has this sensational pull of hope. A hope that someone, something (in the movie, it’s an electronic freeway sign) will intervene in our lives and unshackle our hearts and allow us to do what we know we are supposed to do, but don’t do because we’re scared or bored, or feeling hopeless or just stuck in a place that has insulated us from our hearts and our humanity.
So, what would happen if we peeled away the flesh from ourselves, if we cried love and let slip the Godlier parts of our souls? The world would be different. Think about it; will elections change us? Can we trust our leaders to change us, or is it up to us to change ourselves? I say neither. All of these ideas are flawed, because they allow a decaying and systemic infection into our lives and that infection is our self. Not our selves, but our self. If we live for ourselves, we live a life of failure because we all need and want and dream to live about something bigger than ourselves, this is why we love to lose ourselves in movies, or music, or sports. Our own lives reek of our own selves and fill our noses with the stench of selfishness and self-abuse. We talk of Darfur, of AIDS in Africa, the violence in the Middle East, or the shortcomings of other countries’ human rights, and then we pray for change, fill our heads with hundreds of channels on TV and judge our neighbors ruthlessly and without mercy.
If we, as followers of Jesus, would fall on our faces and beg for God’s intervention in our lives, then we could indeed experience heart living. If we would move when God speaks and speak when God moves then we might, just might, allow our hearts to have a brief glimpse of the Son, and in that glimpse to warm to the idea that what we find in the movies, in the music, and in the sports is the idea that grace, that love, that heroic effort does exist, but not in the unreality of professional entertainers or athletes, but within the passion of one who loves God with all his heart, all his mind and all his soul. And then loves others as well.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Notice I did not say glorious passion in the title. Let me set a definition for this entry; glorious passion would be that which follows the love and passion of God and His son Jesus. Glorified passion would be what we put glory into or onto. There was this time my brother and I were visiting my grandmother in North Carolina and we wanted to go see this guy that restores muscle cars. Sweet. Anyway, while driving out there we saw this jeep being sold in someone’s front yard.
We pulled over at my behest because jeeps were cool and this one looked pretty good. You could see the new paint and to a young “I want a jeep!” kid that meant that it must be really nice. I mean who would put paint on a piece of junk car, right?
I hopped out of my brother’s jeep (he’s older, and yes, I wanted one too) and walked over to it. I saw a little bubble in the paint, right in the middle of the drivers’ door so I reached down to touch the bubble, to see what was causing it.
Whoops. My finger went clean through the door. Like pushing on … I don’t know, a wet paper towel. Someone painted over rust. Not surface rust, just rust. I am now looking down at the door of this jeep with my finger sticking through it and I remove my finger and there is hole that looks like someone shot it with a gun. Clean hole. No edges, just a 12-gauge sized hole. We took off. I know I should have talked to the owner, but well, I didn’t.
Rust with paint over it does not change what is underneath. Just cause it looks like one thing does not make it that. You can glorify whatever you want, but it does not make it glorious. Even if you believe that your actions are justified by your faith, it does not make it glorious.
Glorious passion is what is focused with God’s passion towards what God is passionate about. His passion is anti-self. It puts attention on others and on ourselves and it feeds off of the love the Creator has for us, not our own interests or our own likes or dislikes.
I’ll think more on this for a while, but know this; there is nothing man-driven that deserves more attention than what we give our creator. No movement, no exercise is more important that to love God and serve others.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
This is a copy of a letter I wrote to my parents on their 50th wedding anniversary, which we all just celebrated together in Florida. Thought it would be interesting reading for whomever.
Dear Mom & Dad,
As clever as man is, we have never been able to surpass God in His creations. Man has created wonderful things, things that have survived for generations, but as followers of Christ we know that eventually, these things will be destroyed. Despite man’s efforts, we have nothing that matches God’s creation except for that which He has given us. No invention, no discovery is outside what God has already ordained and set in motion. One of these evidentiary parts of God that we choose to carry within us is love. A love that is both timeless and measureless as it is subject to choice. That love is discovered through our past experiences, subject to our present choices and lives through us in the paths we choose to take.
Love’s first earthly manifestation was the relationship between Adam and Eve, the relationship between husband and wife. Outside of the love we return to God, this is the most powerful and most telling love that we can choose. Certainly, one would think that the love for a child is more manifest, but who has not fallen in love with a child? To love a child is to love all things peaceful, all things tender, all things worth loving. To love a spouse, is to choose to love when peace is hard to find, when the tenderness might have become hard, when the worthiness is lacking. To prove that love, to experience it, to survive it’s pains, and rejoice in it’s celebrations for fifty years is truly a reflection of a longsuffering and loving God. Ten years, even twenty could be called an achievement, but fifty years is something that tells of God’s handprint on a life, God’s breath, nooma, that which passed by the mountain in the form of a whisper. Mom & Dad, you have received love and reflected love back. You have taken that which can only be of God and you have returned it to your God, your friends, your children. Thank you!
Dad, it is no wonder you have been able to see fifty years of marriage, you are a lover of history and you are now a part of history in it’s most powerful form. How many veterans of combat are there in the world? How many men that have led a family, a marriage through fifty years and beyond? You have taught Jim and me how to love, how to live with a sense of humor, a sense of dedication, a sense of God’s leading. You are a father and a Dad because you are a husband. I know how to love Anne because you know how to love Mom.
Mom, I may look like Dad, but I have much of you within me! My whit, my sense of eloquence, my love for composition, my love for Anne. They say you marry someone like your mother – that may be a curse to some, but it is a blessing to me. Anne shares much in common with you and I see it in her daily interactions with Zachary. You have taught me a love for people, a love for propriety, for excellence in our efforts and for etiquette in our actions. You are my mom because you are my father’s wife. Your sons adore their wives because they adore their mom.
Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your dedication to one another, for all that you have shared and taught us. Congratulations for fifty years, but even more so; well done my good and faithful parents!
With love returned,
David – your son.
It was a great celebration!
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
As soon as I return, I'll start posting some more random info!