Sunday, December 30, 2018

why have you treated us like this?

"Why have you treated us like this?  Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." (Luke 2:48)

We are not so different, it seems, from Mary and Joseph.  For when we can’t seem to find Jesus—when he is not where we think he ought to be—we also tend to ask the questions: “Where are you?  Why have you treated us this way?”  As if our idea of where Jesus should be and what he should do were somehow more accurate than his own.

But luckily Jesus doesn’t cater to us.  He doesn’t always behave quite the way we want him to.  He operates on a whole different wavelength.  He sees things from a larger, more eternal perspective, and he acts accordingly.  Therefore, he doesn’t always give us what we want, or what we think we need.  But he is always present; just maybe not in the ways we are demanding and expecting at the moment.  He is always right where he is supposed to be.  “Why were you looking all over for me?” he says.  “I’m right where I’m supposed to be, in my Father’s house.  I am also in my word and in my creation and even in your heart, as well as the hearts of those you are in community with.  So don’t run around anxiously looking for me, you know right where to find me.  I am, and always will be, Emmanuel, God with us.” 

So when we find ourselves asking Jesus, as Mary and Joseph did, “Why have you treated us this way?” we need to ask ourselves what is behind that question.  For there are two different ways of looking at it.  One way is through the lenses of demand and entitlement, as if saying, “Jesus, why are you not where I think you should be and why are you not doing what I think you should do?”  But the other way of seeing this question is much different, and much more life-giving.  It is looking at it through the lenses of grace and gratitude.  It is when we come to Jesus, not demanding that he show up in some preconceived way, but grateful that he has made us his own when he did not have to, and when we did not deserve it.  It is coming to him with a spirit that says, “God, I do not deserve you.  I do not deserve your grace and I do not deserve your blessings.  But even still, you, because of your great love, have made me your own.  You have blessed me with life and salvation and family and community that I do not deserve.  Thank you!”  The question is, what lenses will I choose to look through today?  How will I ask that question?  Because how I ask that question makes all the difference.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

make room

So she wrapped him in cloths 
and placed him in a manger, 
because there was no room 
for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

If you do not make room,
I will just have to come somewhere else.
My coming is not dependent on the room you make,
but your ability to witness and partake in that coming is.
So if you make no room for me,
I will find a manger somewhere.
And those watching and waiting,
those paying attention, will see my glory.
They will be immersed in angel-songs
so beautiful that they are simply beyond description.
They will be awestruck in wonder
and will be seized by the power of my great affection.
So please, make room for me to be born in you today.
The celebration just wouldn't be complete without you.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

joseph

i often find myself wondering 
whenever i hear the Story 
if you somehow felt shortchanged 

and yet
that does not 
seem to fit your personality
it does not seem to represent 
who you are 
so quiet and so hidden 
and yet so vital 
to the Story's unfolding 

mary made space for God 
in an extraordinarily beautiful way 
but so did you 
hers was a making of space 
for God to grow in her womb 
and yours was a making of space 
in a completely different manner 

you made space by
not occupying it all yourself 
you made space 
by stepping aside
by fading 
into the background
so that God 
could occupy center stage
for you fully realized
that this Story
was not about you

oh how i need
to learn to be
more like that

Friday, December 14, 2018

weakness

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more in my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2 Cor. 12:9)


So Jesus tells us that the best way to experience his power is through our weaknesses rather than our strengths. Hmmm.  Power through weakness. How counterintuitive is that? 

It seems like I spend most of my days doing the exact opposite.  I typically try to cover, or compensate for, or hide my weaknesses, so no one ever sees them.  But apparently, when I do this, I am limiting God's power to work in and through me in some mysterious way.  Because Jesus tells me that the way to power lies in weakness not in strength.

I don't know about you, but I expend a lot of effort and energy every day wrestling with my weaknesses, when it sounds like the way to life and power comes through embracing them.  Somehow embracing my weaknesses makes good space for God to work and to act.  And putting it all on God's shoulders rather than my own sounds so much easier, doesn't it?

I have experienced the beauty of this a time or two in my fifty-eight years.  There have been times when I finally got so tired and worn out from trying to do it on my own that I collapsed in a heap and allowed Jesus to come in and take over.  I wish it didn't have to come to that.  And maybe  as I grow older and wiser it won't have to.  Who knows?  A man can dream, right?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

mercy

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cries for mercy.  If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared.  I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.  he will redeem Israel from all their sins. (Psalm 130:1-8, NIV)

Most often, the cry for mercy comes out of a deep sense of desperation and powerlessness.  It comes when we finally realize that we are unable to control and manage things on our own.  There are, of course, times when we have the illusion of control, and thus a lesser sense of our own inability to arrange life for ourselves, but it is just a mirage.  Before long the truth is revealed, chaos once again rears its head, and we are reminded of our deep need for mercy.  So we, like the psalmist, cry out to God, and wait for him to come and intervene.  It is incredibly humbling.

There is nothing quite like waiting in the life of the Spirit.  It accomplishes so many good things within us.  And one of the main things it accomplishes, is teaching us humility.  There is a lot of humility in waiting.  Waiting requires a deep acknowledgement that I am not in control, but am ultimately powerless and dependent upon God.  Therefore, Advent, the season of waiting, is the perfect opportunity to embrace this humility, and to exercise it.

Maybe crying out for mercy is a great place to start.

Monday, December 3, 2018

prepare

A voice of one calling : "In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God." (Isaiah 40:3)

You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies...(Psalm 23:5)


The season of Advent is a season of preparation.  It is the time and the season where we prepare for Christmas--the arrival of the Christ into this dark and broken world.  This preparation is not just a one way street; there is a duality to it.  It is God preparing us for something and God preparing something for us.  Or in the words of Psalm 23, God is preparing a table for us, and God is preparing us for a table.  When the meal is ready, and we are ready for the meal, the feast can begin.  But until then, all we can really do is smell the goodness of what he's cooking up and wait for it with eager anticipation.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Get Ready for Advent

Watch and Wait: A Guide for Advent and Christmas

Just wanted to remind you that if you (or any of your friends, family, or coworkers) are looking for a companion to journey with you through the seasons of Advent and Christmas, you might want to try Watch and Wait.  It is available on Amazon.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

ready

I don't know about you, but I am ready for Advent.  I am ready for a change.  I am ready for a season.  I am ready for something new.  Ordinary time, as great as it is, can get really long, especially towards the end.  Which makes it nice to have a theme to lean into.  Thank goodness for this time of year.

Advent starts tomorrow.  It is the season of watching and waiting and longing for the coming of the Christ into this dark and broken world.  It is the time of year where we embrace the here and now, long for what is not yet, and hope for what is to come.

In the here and now, we embrace the fact that God is always present (Ps. 139:7-12), always at work (John 5:17), even when we cannot yet see what that work may be.  He has not abandoned us.  He is with us in ways we cannot imagine or conceive.  And not only is he with us, but he is working in us.  He knows how fruitful the practice of waiting can be when it comes to the life of the Spirit.  Advent calls us to embrace this waiting.  It calls us to be fully present in the here and now as we wait, even if we cannot yet tell exactly what God is up to.

And not only does Advent call us to embrace the here and now, but it also calls us to long for the not yet.  This one is not hard.  Each of us has a deep desire for all things to be as they were created to be.  In the midst of the pain and brokenness around us, and within us, we are invited to long (even groan) for all things to be as they were intended.  Wholeness was the creation intent, and to wholeness will all things return.  Yet, in the meantime, in the not yet, all we can do is long for the day and the time when it will be a reality.

And finally, there is what is to come: the new heavens and the new earth.  The time of no more tears or sorrow or pain.  The time when God will be our God and we will be his people . . .fully.  It will happen.  It is not a question of if but a question of when.  And it is this hope that gives us the life and the energy, and the urgency, to live the way God wants us to live.  It helps us to be strong and courageous; to be faithful and never lose heart.

So bring it on.  I'm so ready.  I am ready to watch and wait and long and hope.  I am ready to embrace the here and now, to long for the not yet, and to hope for that which is to come. Thanks be to God.