Sunday, December 31, 2017

emptied

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

Have this mind among yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even on a cross. (ESV)


But made himself of no reputation, and took on the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. (KJV)

But stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being made a mortal man. (JBP)

Gave up his divine privileges. (NLT)

Set aside the privileges of deity. (MSG)

He poured himself out. (The Voice)


No matter how you look at it, what Jesus did by coming to earth is simply beyond comprehension.  We can't even begin to fathom a descent of that magnitude; especially in a world that is hell-bent on ascending.  Yet, that is the mystery of the season; God became man and made his dwelling among us.  God lowered, emptied, stripped, gave up, let go of, or poured out, depending on your translation.  And all of those words together do not really even begin to scratch the surface. 

But God did not just stop there.  Now he calls each of us, his people, to do the same.  He calls us to be more and more like him.  He tells us that our attitudes, and our practices, should be the same as his.  He tells us that somehow, some way, in our daily lives, we must practice the art of emptying ourselves, because that is what he did.  Because that is who he is.  We, his followers, must constantly be seeking how and where and when and to whom he desires for us to pour ourselves out for the sake of Love.  What will that look like for each of us in the days and weeks and months--and year--ahead?  That is the real question of the season. 



Wednesday, December 27, 2017

becoming

and the child grew
and became strong;
he was filled with wisdom
and the grace of God
was upon him. (Luke 2:40)


you came as a babe
not a full grown man
and then you had to become

there were no short cuts
even for you
it was a long slow work
this growing and strengthening

why would we
expect it to be
any different for us

why should we be
exempt from the journey
of becoming



Tuesday, December 26, 2017

christmastide

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  (Luke 2:19)


It is amazing to me, after all of the gifts are opened and all of the food is eaten and all of the visitors have departed, how quickly we can leave it all behind and shift right back into our normal modes of operation.  Christmas has come and gone, and we are already off to the next thing. 

I guess that's why the church fathers and mothers realized that we needed more time and space to consider the mystery and the truth and the significance of what really happened.  Thus, Christmastide was born; that period of time following Christmas Day in which we are invited to make time and space for reflection and silence and prayer.  It is a time when we pull up a chair (or a bale of hay) to the manger and join the Holy Family as we all welcome, in wonder and amazement, God into our very midst.  It is a time when we join Mary as she takes it all in and treasures all of these things up in her heart.  It is a time to sit and savor and enjoy and ponder and celebrate the coming of the Light into this dark world.  It is a time when we welcome the newborn King into his kingdom. 

So do not rush off quite yet.  Do not jump back into your busy schedules and many obligations, but take some time to just linger around the stable.  Sit beside the manger.  Hear the angels voices.  Watch as shepherds and wise men and old priests offer gifts and prayers and prophesies to the One for whom they have long waited and watched and yearned.  Adore the One who has come among us, the One whose heart would not allow him to stay far away, but wanted forever to be know as God with us--Emmanuel.  And finally, let us pay careful attention to how God has been born anew within us and among us, to treasure it up, to ponder it in our hearts, and bask in his glory.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

light has dawned

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness a light has dawned. ~Isaiah 9:2

It doesn't take long, if I am completely honest with myself and have the courage to face the true condition of my heart, to see that I spend a good bit of my journey walking and living in darkness.  It is certainly not something I'm proud of, but it is true.  I am a complete mess.  This old heart of mine is so needy and desperate, so full of anxiety and insecurity, so frail and fragile, so vulnerable and weak.  

And it is into this darkness that the Light dawns.  It is into this desperation that Hope enters.  It is into this brokenness that the Healer appears.  It is into this chaos that Peace comes.  The One who is able to offer healing and wholeness and peace is born in our midst.  The Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, has come to live among us.  That is what we celebrate on Christmas Day.  That is what we have to look forward to on this, Christmas Eve.  Thanks be to God!

Lord Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, on the eve of your coming we recognize our deep need for you.  We are such a mess, and live in a dark and broken world.  Come, Lord Jesus, and be with us.  Enter into our darkness and bring your light and your healing and your peace.  May your light dawn in our hearts this day and every day.  Amen.

  

Saturday, December 23, 2017

bubblings

Forget the former things;
     do not dwell on the past.
See. I am doing a new thing!
     Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
     and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19)


It is the very nature of God, it seems, to constantly be creating new life, both within us and among us; to constantly be born over and over and over again into our world and into our hearts.  God just can't seem to contain himself; life is always bubbling up from him and through him.  It is simply who he is.  He is an endless well of goodness and delight and life. 

You just never know how or where or when this new life might begin to bubble forth, so you have to stay on your toes.  You have to pay careful attention to what is around you and what is within you, so that when these bubblings begin, you might be able to recognize them and join them.  And when you do, you become more and more the one God intended you to be.  You become the best version of yourself individually, and we become the best version of ourselves collectively.  We actually become his very life bubbling forth on the earth.

The problem is that we cannot control or contrive these bubblings, no matter how hard we may try.  We cannot manufacture or produce the movement of God on demand.  We can't determine what it will look like or when it will take place or what it may demand of us.  We cannot manipulate their direction or manage their outcomes.  All we can do is watch and wait.  We must simply open our hands and our hearts and receive whatever it is that God chooses to give us, in whatever way he chooses to come to us.

But this passage doesn't just stop there.  It also warns us that if we do not pay attention to these bubblings, if we are so caught up in our own lives and consumed by our own plans, schemes, and agendas that we fail to see what is taking place right under our noses, there is a price to pay.  If we ignore, resist, or even refuse these bubblings of God within or around us, we do so at our own expense.  The life that God had planned for us is forfeited, and our souls dry up and become as barren as the desert.  We become a wasteland.

So, by all means, especially this season, let us pay careful attention to what God is up to within us and around us, lest we miss it.  Let us recognize his bubblings.  Let us receive them, and make room for them to become all that he intended them to be.  Let us say yes to the invitation he offers us and join him in whatever ways we can.  Let us simply step into the flow of what he seems to be doing and allow the movement of his life and his Spirit to take us wherever he chooses.

Questions to consider:  What places in your life or world do sense God doing something?  Where is his life bubbling up within you or around you?  How will you join into those bubblings?  How will try to keep from managing, manufacturing, or manipulating the outcomes?  

Thursday, December 21, 2017

godspeed

I often get a little frustrated this time of year because I find myself at cross-purposes with the world around me.  In the days leading up to Christmas, the voices around me shout, "Go!  Faster! Do!"  While my soul within me is calling for something altogether different: silence, stillness, and peace.  This tension can lead to a frustration and an irritability that make me absolutely no fun to be around during the holidays.  They can make me the worst version of myself, which then leads to guilt and shame and even deeper frustration.  It can be a downward spiral.  I mean, nobody wants to be the holiday grump, right?  And, more importantly, no one wants to be around the holiday grump.  Somehow I don't get the impression that anyone ever asked Jesus, "Why are you so grumpy all of the time?"  Thus, I am not reflecting him well when someone asks that question of me.

That is where I need to give myself to the One who is bigger than my circumstances.  The One for whom we watch and wait during this Advent season.  The One who came among us to show us God's deep heart of love.  That is where I need to make space and time for God to root me in his love and his presence in such a way that the speed and pace and demands of the world around me don't turn me into some distorted version of the one he made me to be.  The One who calls me to live as he lived, and to love as he loved.  As much as I might live to the contrary, this life and this season are not about me, but about him.  I would do well to remember that the next time I am irritated or frustrated with the chaotic nature of the life around me.  For, in spite of the chaos, I still have the invitation and the ability to live my life so deeply rooted in his love and his affection and his presence that the circumstances around me do not determine who I am or how I treat the people in my life and my world.

O Lord, help me to not be shaped by the world around me, but to be shaped by your love and your presence.  Help me, by your grace, to be a transforming presence in the world, by living as you lived and loving as you loved.  Amen.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

receiving

The challenge of the Christmas season is to receive the God who comes, and not try to control, determine, or manipulate the how, where, or when of that coming.  But receiving is difficult.  It is not a comfortable posture for us.  We like the position of control, and the posture of receptivity is one of openness, vulnerability, and dependence.  It requires that we let go of our own plans, schemes, and agendas and trust, instead, in God's care, provision, and direction.  And that is a scary place to be, just ask Mary, or Elizabeth, or Zechariah, or Joseph.  The Advent and Christmas seasons are filled with people that had to learn how to receive, to let go, and to trust.  Sure this receptivity is difficult, but intimacy demands it.  We cannot have intimacy without a willingness to let go of control and simply receive what is being given.  And intimacy with the One who comes--the One who breathed us into being--is what we all most deeply long for.  So let us watch and wait and hope and trust and open our arms and our hearts to receive God, however, whenever, and wherever he might come.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

pregnant with god

So Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  (Luke 2:4-7)

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Advent is the season where we, like Mary, are pregnant with God.  It is the time in which God has, indeed, done a new thing within us, but we cannot yet see, or know, exactly what it is.  It is a season where we must carry around this "new thing" in the depths of our being until it is ready to show itself and be born into the world.  Thus, this new birth cannot be forced.  We do not control the where or the when or the how of this coming, we simply wait and watch in joyful anticipation, knowing that this new thing will come in its own time and in its own way and in its own place.  Therefore, we must resist the temptation to determine, or manipulate, or control this new birth.  We must avoid trying to manage outcomes.  For this birth is from God, and only he can determine the right time and the right place for this new thing to be born.  And when it is finally time for it to come forth, to arrive in the world, we must be willingly to embrace it and all that comes along with it.  From that moment on we are forever changed.  We must welcome the new, in all of its glory, and let go of the old, in order to make room for this new life to take shape within us and among us.


What beautiful and mysterious thing are you doing within me, O Lord?  And will I have the trust and the patience to wait and let whatever it is grow in me until it is ready to be born into the world?  Give me the faith and the grace and the courage to truly wait for you.



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

advent waiting

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)


Advent is not about trying to create or produce or build something, it is about waiting for God to reveal something.  It is about resisting the urge to do and embracing the urge to be.  It is a time where we wait for the Lord.  We do not wait for the Lord to show up and do something, for he was never absent.  He is always present (Psalm 139:7-12), always working (John 5:17), always speaking (Psalm 19:1-14).  We wait for the Lord because he is already doing something and we just need to be able to see and to hear what that is.

Help us, O Lord, to live our lives always and only in response to you.  Help us to do nothing, or initiate nothing, that you have not already begun.  Give us the desire and the ability to join you in what you are doing.  Show us where you are at work, O God, and let us join you in that, whatever that may look like.  In the name of Jesus, the One who comes, we pray.  Amen.


Be up and awake to what God is doing! (Romans 13:11, The Message)

Monday, December 4, 2017

ready

Roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives.  Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing.  You didn't know any better then, you do now.  As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. (1 Peter 1:13-16, The Message)


Two words that seem to be coming up often, as the season of Advent begins, are awake and ready. One of them (awake) has to do with a way of being, and the other (ready) has to do with a mode of operation--what it takes to live a life that is awake and alert.  It is like the parable of the oil and the lamps.  Staying awake is only one part of the equation, albeit a very important part.  We must also be ready.  Or, better yet, we must also make ourselves ready--constantly.  Preparations must be made in advance, so that when the time of the arrival comes, we will have oil for our lamps.  During Advent we watch and wait, but that is not a passive thing.  The kind of watching and waiting we are called to do is an active, expectant, anticipatory waiting.  It is a waiting in which our souls stand on tiptoe, knowing that the arrival is imminent, and that we must be ready, whenever and wherever and however it comes to pass.  That is why we must roll up our sleeves and put our minds in gear, so that we will be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. 

Come, Lord Jesus!