Showing posts from December, 2019

It Is Love That Will Save Us

It was love that brought God to that teenage girl in a village just outside of Jerusalem.  

It was love that pierced the darkness of that bygone age---an age that stands for all ages and all places and moments.  

It was love that brought forth that firstborn Son, the Light of Life, who was set to rest in a manger, wrapped in rough blankets. 

It was love that changed everything for everyone in every time.  

I  read this amazing quote the other day from Wendell Barry, the great author, poet and activist:  
I  take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world.  I  believe the world was created and improved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. As I  was reading that quote again today, I found myself substituting the words that referred to "the world" with the words "I" and "me."  You ought to take a moment and do the same. 

Isn't that amazing? 

Maybe We're Doing This Wrong

I  was talking to a friend the other day, and we were commiserating on the miserable state of politics, world affairs and otherwise in our current culture.  

At one point we both sighed in unison.  

"I'm going to turn off cable news for the rest of the year," my friend said.  I told him that it wouldn't do any good.  I  told him that all of the crazy would find him somehow.  

"It feels like the world is falling apart sometimes," he said wearily.  

I  get it.  I feel like that at times, too.  It's easy to get overwhelmed by all of the hysteria, anxiety, political scandals, name-calling, in-fighting, violence, fear and what-not that seems to permeate everything.  

Funny.  The world of the first century wasn't all that dissimilar.  There were wars, and rumors of wars.  There was oppressive taxation from the government.  Terrorists were striking soft targets like festivals, feast days and religious observances.  

And the political and religious leaders of the…

Advent Is A Time of Longing

And I shall long for you, no matter how long it takes. - Tiffany Aurora

Longing  [ˈlôNGiNG] N. 
a yearning desire.

Advent is an expectant season.  We journey through Advent with a sense of that expectation embedded in us.  

It's the feeling that there might be something on the other side of whatever it is that we are doing---something more than just the end of the task, the check on the list.  

And there is an electricity of sorts just below the surface of all of it---a reverent kind of hum that reminds us that there is something (one) coming, new beginnings on the horizon, a new thing just on the other side of what we perceive.  

We long for this.  All of us... long for this.  

If we open our eyes wide enough, listen intently enough... we can see and hear signs and symbols of this coming newness all around us.  

We can see it on the faces of children, excitedly riding their bikes to school in the chilly December air--filled with expectation of the weeks to come... 

We can see it in the mo…

Advent Teaches Us To Give Up Control

I was feeling frustrated yesterday.  There was a glitch in our mail system and I was unable to complete the task of getting the daily devotion for today sent out in the time frame I wanted it sent. 

I was not able to fix the problem myself, which means I had to rely on others to do it.  And I had to wait, which is one of the most maddening things for me.  

I can't stand being in that space--out of control, at the mercy of other people's schedules, in charge, but not really in charge.  I even figured out a plan going forward to avoid this particular thing from happening again, trying to prepare for every contingency.  

Whom am I kidding, though?   There will be other issues, other problems and obstacles.  I can't foresee them all, and I'm sure there will be a time in the near future when I'll be back here feeling this way once more.  

It's interesting to be feeling all of this during a season that is marked by expectation.  Advent reminds us that God's arrival i…

The Divine Is In The Details

There is a feeling that comes to me when I am putting up my Christmas lights. 

It finds its way through frustration that is born out of my inability to organize my lights from year to year, resulting in tangles, blown fuses, and broken bulbs.  It finds a path past my aching back as I twist in a hundred unfamiliar ways trying to string the lights just so. 

It manages to come just underneath my errant swear words and negative self talk, as I find myself stopping and starting, making mistakes, using the wrong cord. 

The feeling that finds me is one of sweet sadness and joy.  It's a feeling that speaks to the way I realize all that has changed, all that has been lost and found, mourned and celebrated since the last time I unwound my lights. 

I remember how my mom loved all of my decorations and would smile sweetly at them... The way my littlest boy's face would glow in wonder, bathed in the rainbow colors of my work...  When my middle son helped me figure out how to run the electrical…

What Are You Waiting For?

Advent is a season of waiting.  A pregnant pause before the passing of the old and the coming of the new.  

It is in this season of waiting that we symbolically await the arrival of the Messiah as part of our ret-telling of the story of how God became one of us to rescue all of us.  

But what is it that we are really waiting for during this blessed season of Advent?  What are we expecting to find when we come to the end of it, and usher in the new year?  

We journey through this season filled with memories, marked by our traditions, and charged with the purpose of finding gifts, hosting gatherings, enduring family drama, and checking the boxes on our to-do lists and calendars.  

But we long for something more--something deeper.  We long for things to be different.  We long for the kind of connection with the Divine that so often eludes us, keeps us living in the dark.  

We long to know that God sees us... hears us... knows us.  

And this is what Advent truly teaches us, if we are willing to…

Shalom Is What Happens

Maybe it's the time of year--the Christmas lights and music playing everywhere... or it could be the familiar ornaments and decorations that we pull out of their boxes to display for only a few weeks.

But I often find myself feeling more aware of things during Advent---more alive in a way.  My senses are heightened, my ears perked up, my eyes opened a little wider than usual.  

Last night I went on a walk and caught myself taking deep breaths, breathing in the smells in the December air---wood smoke, cedar, and a hint of something else, something hidden in plain sight. 


There is the passage in the prophet Isaiah that is often read during the season of Advent.  It goes like this:  
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isa. 9:2)Whenever I  have read that verse, or heard it read... it thrills me.  I feel something swell inside of my chest, and it feels like my heart might break.   
There is so much…

Give it Up for All the Ordinary People!

It is Advent once again, and each year during the beginning of this season my thoughts often turn to the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  

But it wasn't always this way. 

Most of my church-y life has been spent almost entirely within the Protestant/Reformed wing of the Church (capital "C"), which has  some disadvantages.  

One of those disadvantages is the lack of emphasis that Protestants have historically placed on the role of Mary in God's great big story of redemption.  

However, I do feel as though this has changed in recent years--a change I wholeheartedly welcome.  

You see, Mary represents us in the Advent stories.  God comes to her with a call to something extraordinary.  She is given the opportunity to be the very vessel within which the Messiah comes into the world.  

And with that, comes a choice.  Mary is invited to embrace the call, or to reject it.  She is invited to believe the truth about herself at last, a truth that is revealed to her by God, but one…

Coming To Advent Broken

It is Advent once again---that season of expectation and waiting when we are given the opportunity to dream of new beginnings, new life and new possibilities.   

In Advent we look forward to the coming of the Messiah as a sign and symbol that God is always doing new and unexpected things in the world... and in us.  

For many of us, Advent is a season when we have the chance to put the past in the past and courageously and hopefully step into what is to come.  

But there are some of us who come to Advent broken and in need of a glimmer of hope. We come to Advent with shattered hearts... wounded spirits... lists of our mistakes...   

For those of us who come to Advent feeling broken, the pressure to create a false face for the world is intense.  Because this is a season when it doesn't really seem okay to not be okay.  

And so we shove our fears and dread deep into the bottom of some brightly wrapped box, put on a smile and let season greetings pour from our lips in rehearsed words that …

Being Jesus to The People Around You

We must love one another or die - W.H. Auden

A bunch of years ago I went to an event where the son of a famous evangelist and preacher was speaking, and presumably doing his best to carry on the legacy of his aging father.  

At the end of the event, the speaker gave what is commonly called an "altar call" where anyone who wanted to "come forward" to the stage to become a Christian, or rededicate their life to Jesus would be met by volunteers who would help them figure that out. 

After the event was over, I received an email from the speaker's organization touting the incredible number of "decisions for Christ" that were made during the event at my city.  There was also a link to a site where you could donate to keep the events coming.  

It occurred to me that for that organization it was all a numbers game.  Sure enough, at the end of the tour they would go on to release the final numbers of all of the people they managed to "win to Christ,"  An…

Ghosts of Christmas Past: Week One

This is the first Sunday of Advent--the first Sunday of a season of expectation and waiting, as we look forward to the coming of the Messiah, and to new beginnings.

But for a lot of people this time of year brings a lot of things that they have been struggling with into sharp focus.

We all struggle with the Ghosts of Christmas Past in our own way.  And it's this time of year when we often begin to think more deeply about the things that have happened to us, the pain that we've felt, the losses we've endured.

When I was kid, my parents had this album I would listen to over and over again, especially around Christmas.  It was a recording of a radio broadcast of the famed actor Lionel Barrymore as Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. 

A Christmas Carol is the story of Scrooge, a miserly old curmudgeon who hates Christmas and who cares about nothing except making money.  Everything changes when he's visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his dead partner Jacob Marley.