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November 2006
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December 2006

Confidence and Tentative Experimentation

I am revising my book on confidence from insights in the book of Philippians to incorporate stories from my fictional town in the deep Sierra Nevada. One of the goals is to integrate propositional teaching into a narrative format, essentially, building a bridge between modernism and post-modernism to communicate timeless truth.

Let's see how it goes.

No matter how it turns out, the lesson is the same: I, you, we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength and ... He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ Jesus!


Grand Children

For the last month, we have been deeply engaged with helping to care for our grandsons. It is surprising to me how protective, sacrificial, and disoriented one can become when faced with overwhelming need from children who are so helpless, yet hopeful. I have found myself willing and able to put all of my goals and projects on hold in order to care for them.

These two boys remind me what is is to be in a perpetual state of discovery and wonder. So much is new. It would be new for us as well if we were not too proud to admit that our deficit of knowledge is far more expansive than our storehouses.

Kids help us remember that.

I am sure that not everyone understands how brilliant, creative, charming, and insightful my two grandsons are. After all, it is proprietary information. It is my assignment of the moment and I embrace it.

Of course, I have other assignments as well, and I am in the process of finding and honoring all of the balances.

Suddenly Christmas Again

It is so predictable and yet, always a surprise, like waking up to the realization of new fallen snow in the mountains or the sunshine bursting forth in a moment of awakening to herald a new day. Always surprising is the Christmas season on the heels of the gloom and distortions of Halloween and the welcome of Harvest.

Jesus breaks forth onto the scene of human indifference with serendipitous pageantry, fully prepared and fully spontaneous in His coming to a world unaware of its need and too busy and boisterous to recognize its silent emptiness. Jesus comes and Christmas lights suddenly charge the night sky. Carols on cue resound in the halls of commerce. Wrappings and trappings surround the tastes and smells confirm our aching suspicion that yes, it is Christmas after all.

Then, someone will invariably ask, “Are you ready for Christmas?” Good grief! That’s the whole point. Have we ever been ready? Could we ever be? Why do they have to ask? It just aggravates the stress and the empty, lonely feeling that we are not and never shall be.

It’s not that we dislike Christmas. Quite the contrary. We love it. It represents so much of what we aspire to. It’s just that we never feel adequate, prepared, or even receptive enough to fully experience its wonder, joy, and childlike silliness. Or we feel that we have not measured up spiritually to appreciate the deep and eternal significance of the advent and coming of Christ. 

The world into which the Lord Jesus came was no more ready than we perceive ourselves to be and yet, as James Stewart said, he did indeed come to a world prepared. The world was ready for a Savior. History’s darkness had reached critical mass and had so engulfed its subjects in shadows that none could ever feel prepared for a visitation from God. It was time for Light! It is time for light again today and it is time for Christmas in our hearts. 

What, then, is the preparation necessary to experience the season? Is it shopping early and well? Is it decorating with flair or cooking with love? Is it having the proper thoughts and arranging one’s life to be free of stressful last-minuteness or even getting things ready at church. All of that can be (but not necessarily IS) important and helpful. But that is not the preparation that God requires. 

In fact, the preparation that God requires is not that which we provide at all. The naked truth is that God has prepared our hearts for Christmas. It is always now that we may welcome the Son of God into our hearts afresh. It is always in our darkness that the light is welcome. And it is always our own unawareness and self-reliance that humbugizes us. Suddenly it is Christmas and we are ready. Glory to God! 

The Gift Cluttered Parlor

Image result for gifts around the tree wikipedia commons

The Gift Cluttered Parlor

 The world is dark

As a gift cluttered parlor

on Christmas morning

Before the children awaken

from their restless sleep.

Grace steps in softly on tip-toe.

We know its heart and soul

A goal, a light, an arrow in the sky

Why the urge to flee, resist

Insist on proof, bold, aloof and cold?

The old, the young, unsung and poor

A door to truth, a way to find.

Kind words are not enough

The stuff of delusion,

Confusion, and appearance,

A clearance sale, a give-away

Grey to bright, sight to insight

Flight above the clouds and stars,

Jars of life, boxes of love, packages of joy.

The piracy of our privacy

Invades the darkness and

redirects our thoughts

To a manger gift

And lifts our lives

beyond ourselves

To God.

Christmas Greetings

Peering eyes barely opened, recognized his mother from a bed of straw. He squirmed, tentatively exploring his world, not knowing it would so soon reject him or that for it, he would lay down his life. Yet to discover what in eternity he knew, that he was the Savior-Sovereign, he whimpered as any infant would and cried out for suckle. So vulnerable was the Son of God, so frail the Son of Man and we did esteem him stricken, smitten, afflicted by God.

Crucified from the foundations of the earth, he emptied himself of glory. Yet, glory pursued him. He took on the form of a servant as angels stood by awaiting his slightest summons. He subjected himself to temptation, but shunned sin. He walked among men as a man, but his divinity could not be hidden. He prayed as we must pray and taught us in so doing to embrace the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. There he lay, a bundle of need who had hitherto known no need. Packaged in his person, the potent possibilities of reconciliation and redemption.

Here lay an offering, wiggling beneath swaddling clothes, wrapped up and carefully placed under every family's tree.

Here lay the concentrated reality of all God's love for humankind.

Here was a promise fulfilled, a hope realized, a purpose unfolding before our very eyes - and we esteemed him not.

How we have marginalized this child. How we have assigned him but a season of sentimental reflection and generalized good wishes. How we have misunderstood, misrepresented, or misappropriated the meaning of his coming. God manifest, he was and is and nothing less. Emmanuel - more than a pleasant sounding melody - is the miracle of incarnation. God is, absolutely, irrevocably, undeniably, and unambiguously, with us.

A child - weak and hungry – he was born into a world without incubators or Pampers or formula. He was born into a world of high infant mortality with an elevated threat on the Herodian horizon. For each who welcomed him, there were companies of soldiers seeking to snuff out his life. Soon to be on the run, a fugitive from his own people, he would return again and again and ultimately in a final show of death-defying atonement.

He is the Lord we laud, the Master we magnify, and the Savior we salute on this night of nights. We have no gold, frankincense nor myrrh to bring as acts of homage. We bring empty hands extended toward him that he might fill them with his own gifts. We fall down before him and worship with broken and joyful hearts, celebrating the power of the pregnant paradox - they that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

Gaze upon him in wonder this night. Sing to him a lullaby of praise. O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Is not that I haven't been reflecting ...

It' s really that I am not reflecting - just neglecting. It's like a reverse momentum, downward spiral.

It is all about grace, but I also need structure and this one wiggled a bit and and the structure loosened and I looked yesterday and realized I had not posted all month.

Yet people kept reading. What is that about?

I have been reflecting, gearing up, storing up, and prepping for a hit-the-ground-running restart.

So don't give up. I am on the way back.