Showing posts from December, 2012

Who Is This Man? Learning To Follow Jesus (Week 1)

Christmas is over.

I just heard the garbage truck drive up to the curb outside my house and make quick work of the huge mound of trash bags I piled there last night---trash bags filled with discarded wrapping paper, boxes and of course the remains of several holiday dinners.

I have begun eyeing the boxes and storage containers within which my Christmas decorations will soon be placed for another year.  It's a job I do not relish.

Here's a thought that may have crossed your mind once or twice as well:  Maybe we could just keep celebrating Christmas for a while.  Do we really have to rush away from it as quickly as we rushed toward it?

What happened to the wonder that we all felt on Christmas Eve?
Where's the unexpectedness of the Season of Expectation that we call Advent?

Is it really all lost in a pile of decorations waiting to be put away?  A stack of bills that will need to be paid?

What if we were called to something different?

Hold that thought...

The passage of S…

The Light & The Darkness: A Christmas Eve Sermon

It's Christmas Eve, and once again our community of faith is gathered to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

There's something about this night that brings us together---even those of us for whom church is not part of or regularly scheduled programming.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the non-Church-y people who find their way to church on Christmas Eve.  There were a lot of years when I wasn't really the church going type, you see.  In fact, not only was church not part of my regularly scheduled programming, I had pretty much cancelled it from my life altogether.  But when Christmas Eve would come around again, as it seems to do each year, I'd discover myself sitting in a pew, showered, shaved and wearing somewhat respectable church clothes.

I think the reason why I showed up was because there was part of me that wanted to believe everything that everyone around me was singing and praying. I wanted to believe in the story of Hope that the various pastors I …

The Light of the World - Week Four: "The Light & The Arrival"

As a pastor, I often find the scheduling of the Fourth Sunday of Advent to be a bit off---especially this year.  The fact that the final Sunday in this season of expectation is literally the day beforeChristmas Eve offers a temptation of sorts. I'll call this temptation The Temptation of Tomorrow.

Tomorrow is fairly tempting in its own right, especially when Today is not shaping up to be that spectacular, if you know what I mean.

But when Tomorrow is Christmas Eve... that's a whole other level of temptation, my friend, especially since we find ourselves at the end of a very long, and difficult Advent.

Let me ask you something.  Are you limping to the finish line this year?  Are you ready for all of this to be over and for December 25th to finally arrive?  Are you feeling a bit battered by the gauntlet of shopping traffic and other assorted obstacles that you have had to face each and every blessed Advent day?

I feel you.

And so I give you a story that may lessen your pain…

Don't Just Do Something Sit There: Reflections on Grief & Sandy Hook

According to some reports, Adam Lanza, the deranged gunman who took the lives of twenty-seven people in Newtown CT last week, could not feel pain.  
The twenty-year old, who executed twenty first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th by spraying them with bullets fired from an assault rifle, was reportedly unable to feel physical pain, and could hold a lighter to his arm or ankle while the flesh burned without flinching.  
I don't know if these details have been confirmed.  If they are, in fact, confirmed we have just another set of clues as to the possible twisted and demented motives for this horrific act.  
But I also see this as a sign and a symbol of something else... 
After the initial shock of the massacre at Sandy Hook began to wear off I started to see some predictable things pop up on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, and then even more predictably on the cable news programs as well.  
Some people immediately began posting angry calls for gun control and…

The Light of the World - Week Three: "The Light & The Herald"

When I was a kid, one of the characters in the Bible that intrigued me more than most was John the Baptist.  I remember reading the description of this wild man from the desert, who preached that the Messiah was coming and baptized people in a river, and my imagination was sparked.  John the Baptist looked, dressed and acted like a lunatic.

It was said that he wore camel hair clothes---not the cool, hipster sort of camel hair, but real, gross, wiry camel hair that smelled like camels.  And he had a leather belt tied around his waist to hold the smelly camel hair in place.  I always imagined this belt was big and wide---the sort of belt that a pirate would wear to stuff his pistols and sword into while he swashbuckled.

Then came the kicker:  John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey.  This freaked me out as a kid. Heck, it freaks me out as an adult.  I ate a chocolate covered grasshopper once.  It was crunchy and tasted like chocolate, but the fact that I was eating a grasshopper m…

The Light of The World Week 2: "The Light & The Mission"

Of all of the beautiful Advent stories in the Bible, my absolute favorite has to be the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist.  In Luke's gospel we get introduced to this lovely old couple, who--we are informed--are faithful, God-fearing and childless.

That last bit of information is sort of placed there in the Scripture as a glimpse into the secret pain of these two lovely people, which, by now in their life together, they had undoubtedly learned to accept.  Knowing what we know about 1st Century Jewish culture, a childless couple would have felt the weight of societal and religious pressure to have children, and perhaps may have even heard the whispered word, "Cursed!" uttered by their neighbors.  
But that pain, the kind of pain that we've been talking about, probably faded to a dull ache by the time we are introduced to Zechariah and Elizabeth for the first time.    
Zechariah was a priest---one of 18,000 of them to be exact.  As suc…

An Offering - Newly Released Book Now On Sale!

Last year I attended Rob Bell's very first 2Day event in Laguna Beach, CA and it pretty much changed my life.   I blogged about it here, and here, and here and here.  There were others, but I don't want to bore you, or to give you the impression that the only thing I blog about is Rob Bell.  I blog about other stuff.  I promise.

But in this case, I mention Rob Bell because he said something really profound that changed my life.  He said that many of us didn't create art, write books, blog--whatever because we thought that it had already been done before.  Then he said, "But not by you."  I went home with those words stuck in my head, and I found the manuscript to "An Offering" and I started working on it again.  Then I added more essays, and then I decided to do something crazy---publish it myself.

Getting published is hard.  It's hard because you get rejected---a lot.  It's hard because it really is all about who you know, and being in the rig…

The Light & The Promise: Advent Week One

In 1946 Frank Capra filmed perhaps the most beloved Christmas movie of all time, "It's A Wonderful Life," starring the legendary Jimmy Stewart in perhaps his most well known role as George Bailey a man who gets the chance to discover what the future would be like if his life had turned out the way he'd always hoped it would.  

Check out the trailer to jog your memory...

This movie, with it's happy ending and schmaltzy story line of redemption and goodness is endearing even to this day, despite being 66 years old.  But it's clear to anyone who watches it that the reason it belongs in another time has less to do with it's black and white cinematography, dated music and long-dead actors.  The reason it belongs in another time is because it's view of the world as an essentially good place, full of good people who all pull together when their neighbor is in crisis to give him and everyone else a Merry Christmas is quickly becoming an antiquated notion in…