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The Habits of Hope

Everyone knew where to find them. After all, they had been daily perched in their particular haunts for hope with the regularity of sentinels.

They had little in common, as one was an aged prophetess, long ago widowed,  and the other a blind beggar; however, they had both cultivated habits of hope.

Persistent Patience
Luke goes out of us his way to let us know that Anna was a daughter of Phanuel, which comes from the Hebrew word meaning the “face of God.” A fitting fact, as her life seems to be characterized by a longing and panting for the presence and nearness of God, despite the fact that she spent the majority of her life widowed.

She had only been married for seven years when she lost her husband, a painful blow in the Ancient Near East as well as today. Instead of growing bitter or resentful to the Lord who had dealt her a hard hand, she became more attached to hope, longing day and night for His coming.

I wonder if she had days or even decades of wrestling with doubt and experiencing hope fatigue. I wonder if her steps were sometimes sluggish, mirroring a heavy heart, as she approached the Temple yet again to pray and fast and cry out and wait. Whatever was going on within her, we know that her habits of hope were strong enough to be the distinguishing characteristics of her life. She had a reputation for steady (some might say stubborn) expectancy, despite living our her entire life in the tenure of 400 years of prophetic silence.

Until one day, in the mist of her deeply engrained habit of heading to the Temple to wait on God, she saw the Hope of the World in the arms of a young, poor mother and father.

She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Israel. Luke 2: 37-38.

Unabashed Neediness
As Jesus was walking out of Jericho, headed into Jerusalem for his last week of life that would end at Golgotha,  Mark tells us that Blind Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside. This blind beggar is the son of Timaeus, whose name means “highly prized,” an ironic name considering his highly undesirable situation as both a beggar and a blind man.

Blind Bartimaeus was sitting there because this was his spot and had been his sad address for quite some time. Just as we have grown accustomed to certain homeless men and women who frequent streets in our neck of the woods, it is likely that Blind Bartimaeus was a permanent fixture at this particular gate of Jericho.

When he heard the large crowds leaving the gate, our beggar inquired as to the ado, to be told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.

He began to cry out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Mark 10:46-50. 

While the crowd had used his common name, Bartimaeus called Jesus a much more significant name, Son of David. He understood that Christ was the long-ago promised, long-waited for king of David’s line. He cried out unabashedly and unashamedly, even to the point of awkwardness and discomfort to the hearers who tried to shush him. For if this was the Messiah, his cries would be heard.

From Anna we learn the hopeful habit of daily showing up and patiently persisting. From no-longer-blind Bartimaeus, we learn the hopeful habit of crying out boldly, confidently and consistently.

As those awaiting His second coming, may we learn to cultivate these two habits of hope in our long-waiting for the world to be made right again in His presence and by His power.

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On Eulogies and Eucharist

Nothing says Christmas cheer like reading a collection of eulogies, right?  Reading eulogies so powerfully laced with levity and gravity has actually rung a surprisingly sweet, though sobering note for me this Advent season.

In her collection The Book of Eulogies, Phyllis Theroux writes the following regarding the power of the eulogy as an art form.

“But for such a neglected literary form, the eulogy is surprisingly elastic, stretching beyond the pulpit to embrace memorial tributes, reminiscences, newspaper and magazine appreciations. As  a powerful container for human feeling, it may not be surpassed…The eulogist is the first person to step forward, in a formal way, to hold a lantern above the loss.”

The writer even admits “There is nothing like reading a sizable number of eulogies to realize that the soul is real – and all that matters.”

Perhaps because I lost a beloved grandmother this year, or perhaps because my husband had the heavy privilege of offering the eulogy for one of his oldest friend’s daughter, my heart has been tender to all who are seeking to eek out a first or fortieth  holiday in the wake of eulogy.

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Having been swimming in a sea of eulogies for a few weeks, I have found myself far more able to be present with my husband and children, far more hungry to hear from God and to see life and the living as He sees them.

Strangely enough, Jesus performed a pre-humous eulogy for his beloved soon-to-be-beheaded cousin, John the Baptist.

John, who was set apart by the Holy Spirit since he leapt in the womb of the aged Elizabeth, had followed suit by living a life utterly set apart for God. He lived in lonely places. He ate locusts and honey. Following the Nazarite tradition (in Hebrew, nazarite literally means consecrated or set apart), he neither cut his hair not drank wine.

He lived differently, but even he who was the forerunner of the Christ, wrestled deeply with doubt. After having baptized Jesus to inaugurate His public ministry and joyfully released his own disciples to follow the Christ, John found himself imprisoned.

One can imagine that after a life lived in such full and faithful anticipation and preparation for the Messiah, John was more than a little confused by his present circumstances behind bars at the whims of an erratic leader. Surely, his cousin, whom He knew to be the long-awaited Messiah, would be coming to spring him out any day now. Yet days came and went and John still found himself behind bars.

In an earnest and understandable confusion, John sent a close friend and disciple to ask his cousin, “Are you the one who was to come or are we to look for somebody else?”

Jesus replies matter-of-factly to the messenger, “Go and tell John what you  hear and see – that blind men are recovering their sight, cripples are walking, lepers are being healed, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised to life and the good news is being given to those in need” (Matthew 11; JB Phillips translation). 

Jesus concludes with what seems like an ill-fitting sentence: “And happy is the man who never loses his faith in me.”

It is official. Jesus will not be miraculously rescuing John. As John’s disciples turn to carry the message back to their leader, Jesus offers the crowd a eulogy for John the Baptist, whom He knew would be killed shortly.

“Believe me, no one greater than John the Baptist has ever been born of all mankind, and yet a humble member of the kingdom is greater than he.” (Matthew 11; JB Phillips translation). 

Incredible, tenacious faith does not always result in a loved one living to see one last Christmas, being healed, or returning home.  John’s unparalleled faith left him beheaded, but still trusting in the Messiah despite strange and sad finales to lives lived well.

Whether this Christmas season finds you buried in tangible blessings or under a weighted blanket of heavy grief, may you find hope and fight for faith in the One who who himself experienced eulogy that we might enter into Eucharist, an eternal communion with God.

For the believer, on the other side of eulogy, an even better, fuller feast awaits. For the appetizer that is the sacrament of Eucharist on this side of glory points to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb on the other side of the veil.

 

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A Staggering Stewardship

We walked 5.6 miles yesterday, which really is nothing to write home about. But God used those miles to remind me of the staggering stewardship we have in Him.

The older boys and I were able to attend the 25th La Posada Sin Fronteras at Friendship Park which literally sits on the border between Mexico and the United States where both countries share the same wild, wide ocean. For years, since we moved to San Diego, I have been making a mental note to attend a La Posada celebration; however, the notion always got lost in the sauce of countless holiday celebrations.

This year, we committed to the experience, and I am so deeply thankful that we did.

La Posada is a traditional Mexican Christmas celebration that usually takes place over 9 nights leading up to Christmas, each night representing one month of Mary’s pregnancy with the Christ child. A procession proceeds from house to house, asking for a place to stay, only to be denied. But the last night, the procession is welcomed with hospitality, and a celebration ensues.

While it is a chance to celebrate, it is also a chance to lament with and for those who have no place to dwell. The big boys were dubious about the event, but they busied themselves by being typical boys on the walk from the parking lot to the beach park. They threw rocks and jumped in mud happily.

After singing familiar Christmas carols in English and our sad attempt at Spanish, the boys grew eerily quiet as readers began to read off the names of everyone who had died attempting to cross the border in the past year. The first twenty were uncomfortable, but with each new score of names, our discomfort grew. We lost count. I could see through the windows of their eyes the heaviness in their hearts as they realized how many people had lost their lives seeking a better place to dwell.

We sang/shouted songs back and forth to a contingency of people celebrating 30 long yards away on the Mexican side of the border. Then we began our walk home.

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Again, not much to write home about. A short walk through a state park.

Yet, we had the choice to take that walk. I did not have to walk with my children hundreds of times that comfortable distance in an effort to save their lives.

My husband and littlest fella stayed home, as we did not think his little five year old  self was ready to process the complexity of the celebration. I missed them like crazy for those 4 hours while we were away. But I knew that I would be able to get into the car, drive to our cozy home and find them exactly where I last left them.

Our Chinese brothers and sisters whose homes and property have been recently ransacked and who have been forcibly removed from their homes and lives do not have the same privilege.

The weight of these two realities hit me as we walked away from La Posada.

What a staggering stewardship we have in our country. I am deeply grateful for the Armed Forces and was glad to thank the Border Patrol as we passed them. I do not take lightly the freedoms that have been bought and maintained at high prices. Even more than these freedoms, I think of the eternal riches that we have been given through Christ, the undeserved privileges bestowed upon us as adopted children of the Father Almighty.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Galatians 5:13-15.

I pray that, as a family, we would use our freedoms to love and to serve rather than sit comfortably in our pavilion of privileges.  I am thankful for opportunities that so starkly remind me that all we have has been given us with great purpose.

Corrie ten Boom quotes a little child who defined stewardship perfectly.

“Stewardship means that life is a great ship, loaded with rich cargo to be delivered to many peoples in many places. God is the owner,  but I am the captain.”

If this is true, what staggering cargo we have been given. May God’s Spirit in us lead us to captain our ships to the  good of our neighbor and more significantly to the glory of God!

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A Very Untidy Yuletide to You!

Despite the fact that we have yet to have a Norman Rockwell, Hallmark-y, squabble-less, snaffoo-less holiday, my heart continually and sinfully expects one.

My head conjures images of a quiet night snuggled up by the fire listening to Christmas hymns. Reality offers me three sons wrestling WWF style in front of a smokey fireplace that is not properly venting to the tune of Baby Shark.

However, as I have continued to my study of Proverbs, the Lord gave me the sweet gift of a strange proverb this week.

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. Proverbs 14:4. 

Perhaps because it is Advent and my ears are attuned to the manger, or perhaps because of its oddness, this Proverb has been planted in my meditations for the past few days.

Benson wisely states the following explanation in his commentary.

“The crib and stable may be easily kept clean where there are few or no oxen: but there is so much advantage arising from tilling the ground, that it is better to have a litter with plenty of oxen, than to have great neatness without them.”

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In order to have any blessing, any abundance, any harvest, mess is a prerequisite. While this proverb applies to the cluttered piles that follow my children’s every movements, it applies to far more than hearth and home: the mess of imperfect relationships, the mess of ministry to sentient souls, the mess of conflict and intimacy which are inextricably bound together, the messy squabbles of fallen mothering.

Along those lines, it would be more loving and fitting to bless friends by saying, “A very untidy yuletide to you!” An untidy yuletide might look like making space for a friend who is alone during the holidays or missing a holiday party last minute to care for a sick child or neighbor. It could take the form of slimmer stockings because a family desperately needs help paying an electric bill or higher household volume because you decide to invest in a tribe of your children’s friends.

After all the pure, uncreated Son of God became an embryo. Within a tiny cellular spec was all the spaciousness of heart that would swallow sin yet save the sinner. A soft-skinned, yuck-covered newborn was laid in an itchy, unsterilized manger. And by this messy beginning, the most productive and unthinkable harvest was planted: a harvest of righteousness for the unrighteous.

Fitting that his birth was neither neat nor tidy, as his death- that culmination for which he came – was just the same.

The Messy Manger

Afterbirth spilled on the ground
From Him who’d bring afterlife. 
Exhausted Mary strove in labor
Delivering Him who’d end our strife. 

Straw itches, droppings stink.
And babies aren’t born tidily
Sacrifices don’t bleed within the lines;
Forgiveness does not come cheaply.

Purity in a feeding trough;
Perfection nailed to a tree.
From first arrival to ascension,
Our hope was secured messily.

Had Christ chosen tidiness and stayed in His Trinitarian hug, there would have been no harvest of righteousness through His redemption. May we move towards messiness and brokenness and instability, not insulate ourselves from it. May we bring our sin which is the deeper problem beneath every problem to Christ and invite others to join us. May we not white-wash and bleach Christmas into a Precious Moments Nativity. May we remember the messy manger that led to the messier Cross and fall in humble worship.

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When the Countdown Continues

Humanity, it seems, loves a countdown. Sports fans count down the days until the next big game. Music-lovers count down the days to their favorite artists’ new release. Children innately countdown sleeps until birthdays. As an unabashed lover of all things Advent, we have various countdowns to the celebration of the Incarnation littering our entire home.

But what about when the countdown continues? What if we don’t have a quaint calendar informing us of the release or celebration date? Even worse, what are we to do if we don’t even know there will be a solution this side of glory?

In a season of joyful countdowns, let us not forget those whose countdowns are less cheery: the days until the next PET scan, the next pregnancy test, the next “first holiday” without a beloved family member or friend, the next court date, or any other number of heavy nexts.

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A Songwriter without a Song
Asaph came from a long line of song-writers and worship-leaders that began with the establishment of the first Temple. He wrote a dozen psalms as a poet laureate, of sorts, of God’s people. He was chosen and fashioned by God to be a tender-hearted artist to lead Israel into worship and wonder.

Yet, in Psalm 77, we find the beloved song-writer saddened by the silence of pain and depression. His songs of joy and awe feel a million ballads away. Day and night, he continues to cry out to God to show up, to move, to do something to stir his stagnant heart (v 1-2). He isn’t sleeping (v 4). The lover of words cannot even find words to express the crushing grief that continually weighs upon him (v 4).

The long wait and the song-less season temporarily warps Asaph’s vision, even to the point of assuming that the unchangeable God Almighty must have changed.

Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are His promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up His compassion?  Psalm 77:2-4 & 7-9.

A Shift in the Song
Up until this point in the Psalm, Asaph has referred to the Lord in the general term Adonai, meaning lord or master. However, a subtle shift takes place in verse 11. Here,  Asaph begins to refer to God by the more personal and intimate name Yahweh. Rather than get stuck in the song-less sameness of today, he shifts his focus to the annuls of the past. He begins to remember and call to mind intentionally all the ways God has historically shown up and shown off to His people.

I will remembers the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work,  and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known Your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Psalm 77: 11-15. 

The same arm that, based on countless translations of verse 10, Asaph assumed had turned against him, is now remembered as the strong right hand that had rescued throngs from Egypt.

Historical fact and evidence begins to trump feelings, as Asaph decides to count God’s faithfulness rather than count the days until God lifts the veil of present darkness.

An Old Song Offers Hope in the Song-less Season

The remainder of the Psalm focuses on a poetic retelling of the way God had rescued His people from Egypt. Waters fleeing, deeps trembling and skies thundering (verses 16-18), lead to the culminating and concluding two verses.

Your way was through the seas, your paths through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock,  by the hand of Moses and Aaron. Psalm 77: 19-20. 

This Psalm does not tie up neatly with a bow, as some Psalms do. We don’t hear the end of Asaph’s countdown to experiencing God intimately again. The countdown continues, but now with a song-less man who has committed to re-singing old songs until the Lord brings him a new one.

Just as God left no clear heel prints as He rescued His people in the muddy bottoms of the  Red Sea, Asaph concludes that God’s ways are mysterious and untraceable, but also trustworthy and true.

 

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Love’s Beams

My how things have changed. I remember my father taking a whole weekend to untangle Christmas lights from the large cardboard attic boxes that held them captive in a knotty mess until December. Now, ’tis the season where people can now project an array of lights from a little magical box. To each his own.

While we don’t have such a magic projection box, my heart has been pondering on spotlights of late.

Beams of Attention
A few month back, I read an old tattered book by Keith Greene, and one little nugget contained therein planted itself in my soul. Greene likened his focused attention as a beam or spotlight, as seen below.

“It is as our attention were a powerful spotlight, the beam of which God lets us direct. We can shine the beam off into the past or future or into the eyes of the people around us in the present…I began to see that agape love rides down the beam of our attention into people’s hearts.” 

It is a challenging thought to think about agape love sliding down the beams of our attention. We live in a culture largely known for its short attention spans, and we house hearts whose attention beams tends to continually reorient around self. As such, it seems that much agape love that could be sliding from the Father of lights down the beams of our attention to a desperately needy world never arrives.

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Focusing Scattered Beams
For the past few days, I have been forcing myself to think about where and for how long I am focusing the spotlight of my attention. Rather than scanning over the horizon of the news, I allowed the Lord to focus my attention beam on the situation down at the border. While I recognize that it is a complex problem, the Lord allowed me to cry tears of sadness and buy some sleeping bags to be delivered by a friend. While it felt like the smallest thing, I felt a little agape love slide down the beam through friends to some soaking wet asylum-seekers at the border.

Rather than be utterly overwhelmed by the sheer number of women at our Church, I am asking the Lord to give me a few women upon whom I might focus my attention beam this holiday season.

At home, I find myself scanning a yard that needs some TLC, a pile of laundry and a pathetic pantry. When I catch the beams of my attention dissipating into a spectrum of to-do lists,  I have been asking the Lord to let my beam of attention linger a little longer on the hearts in our home rather than the domestic duties.

But more than anything, I have been found myself wondering at the multi-faceted, multi-colored, constantly radiating beams of agape attention that God directs at me. That the God who created the sun and lightwaves and the spectrum of visible and invisible light would set His affection on anyone is shocking. That He would set it upon me, one who constantly fritters my attention on self and shimmery fool’s gold, is even more shocking.

The Beams of the Father
When I read through the Gospels, I see a Christ who consistently focused the beams of agape love that He received constantly on whomever was set before Him. A poor widow. A wealthy, woeful centurion. A pack of crazy kids. A crowd of hungry paupers. A suspect tax collector. Christ was able to radiate what He received by consistently relying upon the approval of His heavenly Father. More than the strange star that had indicated his birth beamed, the beams of God’s love perpetually warmed the Son.

Yet, in those painful hours on that horrible hill, the beam of favor turned away from Him. All was darkness, within and without, to the end that the beams of God’s favor might be set once again on those who would call upon Him.

The spotlight that the Son deserves has been turned upon those who look up to Him for deliverance. The children of light, those who receive the steady spotlight of the Father, are invited to focus the light they have received into the lives of those still in darkness.

May we know the fullness of the beams of His favor towards us. May the beams of our attention bring Him glory this season. Amen.

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The Maestro in the Manger

Advent is about making space. Making space, first in our schedules, then in our souls that the Coming Christ may fill.

Such space is hard to come by in a season full of parties and presents, errands and end-of-the-year concerns. Just as there was no room for the imminent Immanuel in the inn, there is often no room in my head and heart for contemplating the Christ child in the season meant to commemorate Him.

Yesterday, I ran around like a crazy lady under the tyranny of the urgent. I ordered those Christmas cards that probably won’t make their merry way through the mail system until after Christmas. I printed the invitations to my precious middle son’s birthday party. You know, the one whose birthday was 2 weeks ago.

Today, by grace alone, the Spirit has stilled my scrambling heart. And just as Mary and Joseph rushed to fill what little space was offered them in Bethlehem, Christ ran to fill the space in my soul.

Every year, I ask the Lord to show me a new shimmering thread in the tapestry of the Christmas story, to keep sharp what sin and familiarity tend to sully.

May Christ be more than the cliche baby in the manger, the naive newborn in the nativity. May we know Him to be the multi-faceted, marvelous Maestro that He was, is and ever more shall be!

The Maestro in a Manger

The Maestro in a manger,
The brilliant become benign,
In a conspiracy of compassion,
Submitting to dad’s design. 

The Lord of Hosts hosted
By a makeshift, motley crew.
The steadfast, stable and steady
Born to parents passing through. 

The Deliverer delivered to Egypt,
A  place of both harbor and harm,
The Arm of Rescue rescued
From Herod’s lesser arm. 

The Stretcher of the Universe
Stretched over projects of wood.
The One granted filial freedom
Obeying a carpenter’s should. 

The One who came to cleanse
Dipped in a Dirty River.
The arrow shot from Heaven
Joined in our crowded quiver.

The One who told waves to stop
Drowned by waves of wrath.
The Way Maker for the wayward
Found a cave at end of His path. 

The Rock of Ages rose from the rock,
Second Adam, Firstborn of the dead.
The Maestro from the Manger,
Master of death, as God had said. 

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Decorated Homes & Dependent Hearts

In our home, we are shaking our tryptophan stupor off and decorating our way into December.  As we are only  1/32 elf in our family, we tend to keep the decorations simple. Yet, every year, when everyone goes to town with their tinsel, tree-trimming and twinkle-light-hanging, my heart finds itself in the same wrestling place.

Because I am not on top of things, I find myself frantically searching for a decent picture of our family to try to rush order Christmas cards. By decent picture I mean we are all clothed and bodily present with at least one eye looking in the general direction of the camera.

Next, I look at my meager two containers of light strands that have fractions of working bulbs. This will do.

All joking aside, this is the time of year when we love to decorate our homes, filling them with all the smells and sights of the holiday season. While that is not my strong suit, I am well-acquainted with a similar tendency: to seek to decorate our hearts and our lives to match our cheerfully decorated homes.

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An image painted by Frederick Buechner in his memoir Telling Secrets has been haunting me of late. Speaking of his aging mother’s tendency to remember only the high points of her life, he writes the following.

“The sad times she kept locked away never to be named, but the funny, happy times, the glamorous, romantic,  young times, continued to be no less a part of her life than the furniture…She liked to paste gold stars on things or to antique things with gold paint – it was what she did with the past too of course  – and lampshades, chairs, picture frames, tables, gleamed like treasure in the crazy little museum of her bedroom.”

While my house does feature any gold-painted furniture, I do notice in my own soul a  scary tendency to want to make things appear shiny and together. I find my heart desiring to place gold stars on hard seasons or circumstances. I want to decorate my own heart.

However, more than a finely decorated, neat and tidy heart,  God longs to have a deeply  dependent heart. One that invites Him into the mess and the mayhem, one that cries out to Him for help and hope.

He doesn’t want me to plaster and decoupage my anxious heart and hectic home with gold stars; He wants something far more for me and my family. He longs that we admit our neediness of Him, our limitations  and our deep hunger for far more than this world has to offer. As we present our hearts in humility and honesty before Him, He promises to shape in us a refined faith in Him, proved of more value than gold.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by  various trials, so that the tested  genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found  to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7.

In the midst of beautiful decorations and manicured Christmas card pictures, I long to fight my tendency to decorate my heart. Rather, I pray that God would give me a heart that is fully dependent upon.

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Traveling Light

We are a walking contradiction of a family. For years, we have been enamored with the Tiny House movement, even to the point of the boys drawing up plans for their dream tiny homes. However, when packing for one night of camping only 20 minutes away, we  barely fit into our large car.

So much for packing light and only bringing the necessities. Among our necessities included six Nerf guns, five books, four air mattresses, three bikes, two Rubix cubes, and a partridge in a pear tree.

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Perhaps because of my three-day endeavor to pack for less than 24 hours of camping or perhaps because of the migrant caravan, my mind and heart have been meditating on traveling light.

Christ was the Creator of everything: every shell that would shelter a snail, every rock that would become a den, every tree that would become a hollow or a plank for a home.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:1-3. 

Even more so,  He made His home eternally within the perfection of the perfect love, security, and shalom of the Trinity. Of this perfect Triune home, every yurt, cabin, nest and hive is a tiny, truncated picture.

Yet He left it all to come tent among us, to live, in many ways, as a homeless migrant. He packed light so that we might see the Light of the World. A light we rejected.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He  came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. John 1:9-11.

Yet, because He traveled light to come bear the heaviest burden, we are enabled to receive Him and learn to live as He lived, laying down both blessings and burdens that we might have free hands to carry others to Him.

Traveling Light

Looking around the throne room,
Thinking about what to bring,
His royal rights He did not pack, 
The righteous and rightful king. 

Bustling and bristling about the place,
The very pregnant Mary prepares.
A sudden census trip to Bethlehem
Caught she and Joseph unawares. 

Packing like the Son she carried,
Mary trusted in God to provide. 
The first night as family of three,
Among the animals they did reside. 

When a sudden flight to Egypt
Jesus’ safety did necessitate,
To leave it all behind in trust,
Yet again they did not hesitate. 

The foxes have holes, the birds nests,
Yet the young man Christ did roam.
The Creator of every rock and refuge,
A migrant without His own home.

The One who always traveled light,
Our bottomless burden did carry.
Because He bore the weighty cross,
In God’s presence we may tarry. 

Without a souvenir, empty-handed,
The Savior to His Home ascended.
Then emptying His hands again,
From Him the Spirit descended. 

As pilgrims He bids us follow Him,
Open-handed and open-hearted.
Traveling light in earthly plight,
‘Til to our home we’ve departed.

In a nation burdened by the weight of unimaginable blessing, may we learn to pack lighter and to live as those whose true Home is wherever our Christ is!

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Buried

My boys are attempting to do a Bible-reading plan for their morning devotions. While  this sounds picturesque, its execution is far more harried and humorous. Usually one of them is reading the day’s Scriptures aloud while the other two are scurrying about shouting, “I can’t my water bottle, or “Where are favorite socks?”

As often happens when someone else reads a familiar Scripture aloud, I was struck with a concept I had never really pondered before. As my oldest son read the account of Moses’ last moments on earth,  I marveled at the fact that God Himself buried Moses.

A few of our dear friends have lost beloved family members recently, reminding me of both the intensity and the intimacy of burials. God, the author and authority of all life,  the One who had breathed His breath into the humans He had shaped and formed, attended and presided personally over Moses’ funeral. He knew death up close. He dug a grave in which to lay his faithful friend. What a shocking, paradoxical thought.

I imagine God responded to Moses’ death much like Jesus responded to his good buddy Lazarus’ death: with weeping and great resolve. This is not how I intended life to be, yet I intend to personally and sacrificially end death as the end.

As I meditated this week on the death of Moses, I realized that Moses’ life story was bookended by burials: one early on at a critical juncture of his life and one when God Himself buried him after years of long and faithful service.  I imagine that as God buried Moses, He did so with the death of His own self/Son on the forefront of His mind.

Buried

He had a kingdom at his fingertips,
A future of potential lay ahead;
In a moment of anger at injustice
He struck an Egyptian down dead.

Realizing what he had done,
Frantically looking left to right.
Young Moses’ dreams derailed
As he buried a corpse in fright.

Fast forward to a different burial,
A different Moses on a different hill.
One hundred plus twenty years old,
Moses finally resting in His God’s will.

From heir of  Egypt to humble man,
From served royalty to servant of God,
His undimmed eyes had finally seen
Promised land his people would trod.

Humbled, hallowed by heavy service,
Having talked with God face to face,
God Himself did bury His friend
In a secret plot, without a trace.

The one who’d buried his old life
and had given Himself to God,
Finally completed his long circuit,
No more weary steps to  plod.

‘Twas a strangely sobering scene
When Yahweh buried his friend;
For only He knew the next chapter
When His own Son’s life He’d end.

Another life marked by burial,
The One to whom Moses pointed.
Then death itself would be undone,
Just as the same God had appointed.