Christmas

This life. This speedy, rapid, life….

Could it go any faster? I’m afraid to ask that question because I think I already know the answer.


I was standing at the base of a volcano a month ago with the blackest sand I’ve ever seen. I bent down but, I hardly was able to pick any of it up. It was so fine that I was barely able to get any off of the ground before it trickled back down to the dried lava below.

Isn’t that life? It’s what it feels like at the moment. I feel like I’m grasping at anything and everything as it’s rushing by, just trying to hold onto something, and it just runs through your hands. Runs out the sides. And in a flash you’re holding nothing but air once again.

I long for the permanent. We long for something lasting and it just speeds on by without any second thought.

The greatest days. The weddings. The birthdays. The vacations. The travels. The holidays. You’re looking forward to those extraordinary days/weeks for so long. And before you even realized what’s happening, the aisle is being walked down, you’re driving in your car or boarding your plane at the airport and bursting with excitement. It’s finally here, you think.

Then, seemingly the next moment, the night ends. The week ends. And the time that you were so looking forward to has come. And has gone.

I think that is why that I so long for Christmas. And for me why Christmas has become such a symbol to me of what I hope and dream for in this life, whether or not they will ever come true.

Christmas music. Garland. Multi-colored lights. Stockings. Turkey cooking in the oven. John Lennon on the radio. Frank Sinatra. Celine Dion.  It all represents something.

It stands for hope. For continuity. For life to matter. For suffering to be worth it. For family and friends to be cherished and enjoyed. To have some sort of stability in this life. To know that even though another year has come and gone, that the year past hasn’t been wasted, but has been savored and that growth has taken place.

And that for one short time, that time would slow its relentless march onward. That the elderly and the kids wouldn’t grow another year older and that all will be able to be paused, even if for one short minute.


But, it never does. December 26 always comes no matter how hard one kicks and screams and hopes that it won’t.

Thankfully though, there’s the other reminder. That Christmas is about the lowly monarch from above. That He’s come. And that He’s here.

No matter the unstoppable progress of the calendar and the clock, it tells us that there is a purpose to it all. Because of Christmas, the ages that go by so quickly, well, they will mean something. They can be redeemed. Indeed, they already have.

The time in which seems to never stop, and the parts of life that we, (or I) never seem to get a grasp on, He’s already making them new.

I don’t have to hold them in my hand, in order for them either to matter, or to be okay. No matter how quickly life seems to hurry by, He’s here. For every day that goes so incredibly slowly. And for every year that flashed by. He’s here. He’s guiding.


Isn’t that what we want? A warm fireplace, out from the cold, by candle light with the soft light of a tree, (preferably multi-colored). With a feast on the table. With cups full. With the joy of music in the background. With friends and family who know us intimately, there waiting to greet you. With those same people, who WANT you there. Who would think it just wouldn’t be the same if you weren’t there.

For me, I see that only as another foreshadowing of the great feast to come. In the great dining room big enough to hold us all at the feast at the end of time. When time has stopped. When there is no longer an end. And when as the hymn says, “we’ve no less days, than when we’ve first begun.”


For now, I’ll play my Christmas music while it’s overcast, cold, and snowy and dream of the not yet, but with the knowledge and the hope of the what will be one day.

There’s hope. Hold on. The feast comes.

Until then… enjoy the lights.

Lights

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The Mourning

Arise. Awake. Stay still.

Listen to it. The pain, the sadness and the sorrow.

Feel it. Experience it. Wonder at it. Evaluate it.

 

It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to mourn.

It’s okay to allow yourself the space and the pain to mourn what was.

Or what is.

Or what will be. Or what will never be.

 

It’s good. It’s life.

Cry. Feel. Experience.

 

But, remember in the mourning, that the morning is coming.

It won’t last forever. Remember the joy will come again.

In a day, in a week, in a year.

 

The joy will return, and you will remember the joy.

It will be your friend.

 

The sorrow? It will fade. It will dull.

It probably won’t leave.

In fact it may return. No, it will.Sometimes soft and sometimes with a vengeance.

 

But so will the morning. And so will joy. And so will contentment.

 

And so will the peace that will get you through the day. And through the long night.

 

Look for the mourning. It will come.

But, so will the morning.

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Voice of the Wind

I hear the voice say, “Stop. Rest. Stop striving. Don’t be anxious. I will give you what you need today.” As I stand on the edge of the world looking westward toward China, I am reminded, I will be given what I need, when I need it. No sooner, no later.

I never think how often the prosperity gospel has sunk into my life. Until, of course, one day I’ll wake up and it will hit me, then I will realize how shallow so many of the things I want/do, really are.

As I stand here, picturing the whales just out of sight and the little birds running in and out with each tidal movement, I’m reminded how little I am and how big this world is. I remember just how much I believe, that if I can just get this under control, just finish this, just get this much of that, and just finally reach this place, that I will be happy. Fulfilled.

Home.

But, isn’t that the lie? Isn’t that the error that we make daily, sometimes hourly that if we can reach some sort of arbitrary goal or level, that we will finally have the peace for which we have so long searched?

But, the voice in the wind at the edge of the world, it reminds me to set down. To remember the past faithfulness of my risen King, and the daily cross that he calls for me. The suffering to which I am called, as a reminder in my life and to the lives of others, that Jesus is worth it.

If I’m honest, I think if I can just reach my goals, then this will feel like home. This, the desert land that I so often try and remind myself is a Utopian Paradise.

But still, I receive gifts to get me through the desert stretches.

I’m so grateful for the pictures of home that I have, and no doubt, will have here, in this land of tears. Some of these may not seem like it to you, but whether or not they should be so, they are my love languages.

Also, if you are reading this, you will know who you are. Thank you for them.

M, the beauty of a tree lined street/path in the fall with the chilly breeze blowing the leaves from their lofty perch. For song. And for your laugh. It’s more infectious than you know.

T, the wonder of what it means to be in friendship for the long haul, and the beauty of commitment. The adventure of LOTR. The kinship of such a similar soul.  Your smile lights up a room.

C, the beauty that exists between two people that couldn’t be possibly more different if we tried, but through Trump and art/carpentry differences, still recognize with gratefulness the gift that we have been given with each other.

T, the beauty in story, in music, in theatre, in community, and in sushi and that one day will finally see Adele as better!

M, the beauty in abstract historical dissection of medieval European/Asian histories, and in the difficulty of following Jesus.

C, the ability to savor food/drink and the lofty perches of the mountains, even if you do go slower! 😉 And the continuity that you have provided for me, more than you know.

A, the wisdom that you have provided to me, even if you have never seen or realized it.

J, the unlimited capacity that you have for compassion and understanding in showing unyielding hospitality as well as the same appreciation of the arts/beauty.

J, watching you mother from afar, you don’t know how many times I’ve brought you to mind thinking of your patience in moments when I need that very virtue.

J, the listening ear that you have always been to me, in flights over continents and sitting across from each other at Panera.

J, the unconditional support that you have always given to me, from close or afar, and in your understanding nature. Throw in political disagreement and we’re all set! 😉

A, the reminder that you have provided for me, throughout the year, of the beauty of Autumn, of making cards, of writing letters, and of the simplest things, like coffee on a chilly morning.

M & D, the wisdom that you have provided to me, in more ways than you know, and for your guidances in difficulties and the reminder of how little we know, and how big our God is.

C, your faith, your questioning, your seeking, and you journeying with me for so long now is a reminder of the continuity that is so rare in this life.

E, the brother that you have been to me, the love that you have shown to me, and the reminder that even in differences, deep love still persists and continues across time and distance.

O & A, thank you for reminding me the beauty of story, of wonder, of play, and of the simplicity of our faith. Thanks for reminding me how much older ones make this world so much more difficult.

Z, for magic. For wonder. For adventure. For the reminder of the importance of childlikeness.

All of you, and many, many more, are reminders of home to me. Are reminders to me that God gives me enough, to get through the next moment, hour, and day. And that each day, there is enough hope, and wonder and beauty, and the reminders of the goodness of suffering in other peoples lives, that I can do it. I can continue to not build home here, but keep walking toward the home that awaits me in the fulfillment of all things.

He will lead me down his own paths, in his own time, in his own way.

And in that leading, Jesus, I’m thankful for how you provide to me through others, to remind me of the beauty of you, of your kingship, and of the future home to which, we are on our way.


I’m standing at the top of the tree line, listening to the wind in the pines at 11,500ft. I’m looking out over this vast vista looking west, toward California, with the aspens all aglow and the snow already starting to fall a few hundred feet higher up. I hear the wind, and it sounds so strangely just like the roar of the ocean waves upon the beach. And in that moment, I hear the voice of the wind speak and say, “Stop. Rest. Stop striving. Don’t be anxious. I will give you what you need today. I will give you moments and reminders of the home, which you want so badly. I will walk with you and I won’t let you get so far ahead of yourself. Stop. Let me provide for you. Don’t be scared. Love beauty. Love Home. Love ME. I will lead you home.”

 

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Home

Home. The sweetest word.

A place of rest. A place to exist.

A place to be.

Home.

We’re always looking forward to it.

But, it never arrives.

Every dream we have can be summed up as wanting to be home.

Home.

Every human has the same desire.

To arrive there. To be. To rest. To exist.

Home.

Free of sorrow. Free of pain. Free of sadness.

The presence of family. Friends. And hope.

Home.

Sadly it doesn’t exist yet. But, glimpses do.

In a smile. In a vista. In a concerto.

Home.

We may not have yet arrived.

But, were on our way.

The Magicians

Magic. The marvel of it. The wonder. The awestruck nature of it. As children, we are mesmerized by it, but, for some strange reason, we are deluded into thinking that as adults we have to put away our amazement at magic.

Well, you don’t. In fact, in order to be the best adult you can be, please don’t put away that very amazement. It’s what will keep your heart tender and compassionate and beautiful.

Magic. What do I mean by it? Some of you are probably picturing wizards and witches, sorcery and witchcraft. Others are picturing Harry Houdini and David Copperfield.

Both of you would be wrong.

What I mean by magic can be summed up by the synonyms in the thesaurus: fascinatingcaptivatingcharmingglamorousenchanting, and entrancing.

All of these words are what I have in mind when I speak about magic. And, when I speak about it’s importance.

Every day, everything is pulling you in opposite directions from magic. Your commute. Your bills. Your stress levels. School. Work. Deadlines. The list of the thousands of things you need to check off the list today.

The most important thing you probably don’t add into your daily routine? Remembering to see magic.

It’s all around you. Every day. It’s there, waiting to be seen. Waiting to be savored. Waiting to be appreciated.

The leaves changing. The bees buzzing around the flowers. The first snowfall. The cool rain on your nose. The rustle of the trees in the wind. The taste of a perfect pot of coffee. The sound of your favorite song. The smile of someone you love. The laughter of a joke remembered from long ago. Those things; those are magic.

And the beautiful thing? Well, we as Christians are all magicians. We know the real artist. The real sculptor and the real creator who narrates and orchestrates all the beauty and magic that you witness every day. And, as ones who realize the depth of the workings of the cosmos because we know the conductor, when we share who He is, we share magic. We point out all the beauty that he has painted.

Some people will fight back and say, but what about all the non-magic parts of life? They exist too, along side the beauty. For every beautiful mountain sunset, you have the wolf killing the elk. You have the pollution. You have the disease. You have the murder. You have the hatred of man against his fellow man and all that sin has wrought.

This is true. This exists. But, remember, this is not how it used to be and, all the more importantly, this is not where we are headed. The sadness of this life, the hardships, the results of the fall and the entrance of sin into the world… well, they are all but a shadow. They will not always last. They will not always coexist with the beauty.

But, magic will survive. Christ is eternal and we who are in Him, will reflect Him for all time once we have made it home.

There are those, all to few and far between people who see magic everyday. Some very rarely. And some have become so jaded, that they have almost forgotten altogether how to savor the beauty of a sunrise and the peacefulness of a sonata.

So, a few recommendations today:

  1. Look around you. Know matter where you live, there is magic to be seen.
  2. Breathe and spend a few moments. You have to make time to see it. If you never said aside even a few breathes, it will always stay hidden.
  3. Let your mind imagine, like it used to as a child. Don’t set there and think of all of the scientific happenings related to the sunrise, just enjoy the splendor of the blues, oranges, reds and yellows.
  4. Be grateful. Practice thankfulness that you get to see and experience a magic moment not all had the blessing to experience.
  5. Lastly, dwell. Think on the magic. Write about it. Share it with others. The more time that you spend thinking of magic, and the more that you speak about it, the more that you will see on a day to day basis. And guess what? It’s the circle that just keeps giving and giving.

That’s it. It’s that easy. Remember that as a human, and all the more so if you are a Christian, you are a magician who has the blessing of experiencing awe and wonder at the billion things that you experience today.

Go forth. Experience magic. And spread it around to others. 6e79a4a0f857010154d9dcfacbf83243--le-petit-prince-imaginary-friends

The Joy of Being Late

This morning, I found myself running late to church. And I’m glad that I was.

I was trying to clean and run errands, monotonous things, and I had lost track of time. I ran out the door and started walking fast down the sidewalk to get to there. It could have been worse, as I was only about ten minutes behind. But, as I was approaching the corner, I heard it.

A sound I don’t often hear from outside the walls. It was the sounds of the saints resonating out the open door and open windows. The sound of beauty.

It was the people singing to God and to each other the truth that Jesus is real, that He is good, and that He is worth it.

I stood there on the corner for a moment thinking how different this scene looked, (and heard) from outside. The only way I knew how to describe it was that it felt like an embassy. An embassy of joy and reality rarely heard among the sounds of the city outside.

It was an embassy. It was audibly flying the flag of a different country, in the middle of a hostile world. It’s an outpost of the kingdom to come in the current kingdom that is. And its visa is one of repentance with it’s anthem of peace and ultimate sabbath rest. It called me inside.

And as I went in, I remembered, I’m lost as an exile in the country, looking for my sovereign to come and take me home. That’s why its refreshing, and its offer of rest is so enticing. Because, in a deep way, its soil belongs to another land, none of us have yet seen, but is more real than the nation in which we currently reside.

Even more beautiful, is the thought that it is not that the stone building with stained glass that is the embassy of the world to come, but it’s the people. Believers, indwelled with the Spirit of God, are ambassadors of the world which exists in a different plane than we exist in. And while we await the King to gather his ambassadors, we get to call others to this future land, by sharing the love of the King. By sharing with them the anthem and the glories of the land which will never end.

One day these embassies won’t exist. They will no longer be needed precisely because wherever you are standing right now will belong to the property of the coming sovereign. But until then:

You are an embassy. You are an ambassador. You are an anthem.

Call others home. Be the city on a hill. Let’s do it together.

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Day of Freedom

Today is the Fourth of July. The day that Americans celebrate our national birth.

Today was also the day that I spent at 12,000 feet at this mountain lake somewhere south of Georgetown. I’m grateful that I was able to have the lake all to myself, because I needed to talk to Jesus.

I yelled, I cried, I was silent. And I’m thankful the rain laden clouds held off their gift to the land long enough for my conversation.

Sometimes, I really don’t get this life. Sometimes there’s so many things that happen and so many things that don’t and sometimes I just have to ask, why?

I get mad when things don’t work out the way I think that they should. I get upset when I don’t receive things I think I deserve. I groan.

And then it hit me, how can I be mad, in this realm of beauty? How can I sit here and be angry when I’m surrounded by wildflowers and snow and marmots and pika and a cirque of three gloriously backlit lakes. The answer? My anger didn’t last for long. But my questions still were there. And so was my groaning.

Just like that, even in the all the beauty, I’m reminded in an instant just how much of an exile I am, even in this land of never ending beauty. I’m not supposed to build my kingdom here. I can’t. It won’t last. I groan as an exile wanting to be home. And I’m not home yet.

But what I can do, is look forward to the home I will inherit.

In my brief awaking there on the banks of that lake that I don’t even know the name of, I heard the lines of an Audrey Assad song in my head.

“Your rod and your staff, are a strange mercy, In a world where I’m not yet home.”

I’m not home. But, I desperately want to be.

Sitting there beneath the rocks of countless ages gone by, I’m reminded how long they’ve sat there as sentinels watching over this lake. How many generations have they watched come and go sitting there, in their own groaning awaiting their own redemption at the consummation of all things.

This life is brief. I turned 31 just about a month ago, and every year, I think how much quicker life gets. I think of how many people have left my life over the last years, and how many will leave in the next several years and on into decades. But, these rocks are a reminder, that groaning is not wrong. That the groaning is not in vain. That very groaning is a form of hope in the knowledge that things won’t always be this way. That the groaning will end, in peace and in tranquility.

Before it started to sprinkle, for a moment I thought of the joy of walking along this small, secluded mountain lake with the One who created it. With the pleasure of hearing from His own lips the what and the whys of my life, and how He was with me through the good, the bad, and the tragically ugly.

And it brought me peace. With all the sadness in this life, the difficulty, the fear, the worry, the good-byes, the disease, death and the endings, there is the knowledge that I will walk with Jesus himself in the new creation and will speak with the One for whom I was created.

Until then, as a man who lives in a beautiful country as an exile, I will groan. But groan with hope until the day I get to walk with my creator one day along the, (yes, I looked it up) banks of Murray Lake.

So brother or sister, groan with honesty, and with the knowledge that the great lion Himself is coming back for us, and with the understanding that in those days, there will be no more concerns or worry, but only the true and fulfilled satisfaction of our souls.

Until that day, let’s walk together reminding each other of the coming of the dawn when we shall see Him as He is. And we shall be changed. We shall be like Him.

So hold on, that day is coming.

I know that I for one, can’t wait to show Him this lake.

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Colorado: 1 Month (Good Friday)

Well, it’s been a month since I moved West to Denver and began a new chapter of my life.

Today? Today, I did something I’ve never been able to to do in my life. I walked to work.

I WALKED. TO WORK.

For some of you that probably doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to you. But, I didn’t have to get in a car. Spend money in gas. Sit at stop light after stop light, just to get on the freeway and sit in bumper to bumper traffic. Today, I didn’t have to do that. I just got in some great exercise.

Instead, I walked, just me and my backpack. Through treelined old neighborhoods, two major parks, and past small, inviting coffee shops, (and more than a few pot shops, but hey it’s Colorado.) But, really. A walk before work, clearing your mind and savoring a few moments of peace and calm before diving in? Yes, please.

Today I’m thankful for that walk. The ability to walk. The ability to hear the birds and to smell the flowers in bloom this spring. I’m grateful. And I’m grateful that today is Good Friday and the reminder of the future fulfillment coming when all will be set right after all that has gone wrong in this world. And when we’ll finally be able to run and not grow weary.

And, when we will fully and finally rest for all time with the one who ransomed us. I’m grateful.

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Dankbarkeit

What’s the title about? Well, it’s the German word for thankfulness, or gratitude. Why German? Probably only because it sounds more exotic. And honestly, who doesn’t love a good German word? 😉

Well, here I am a little over two weeks into the move, and I can’t explain how thankful I am.

In the first week, the living situation came together, found a job making more and in a much closer location, and found a church. This second week has been one of getting involved in community, meeting people, and hiking and enjoying beauty before I start work next week.

As I sit here, (while my oil is getting changed) I’m just overwhelmed with the amount of goodness that God has provided and blessed me with in my life. What I had planned on taking weeks/months, has come together in what probably took me about two years in KC.

I’m just grateful today. And have been astounded by it and have been since really, day one. So, thanks for all the prayers and for people asking how I’m doing. And I hope you’ll join with me in thanks for how He’s providing for me in ways I never imagined. 🙂

Now, here’s beauty in El Dorado Canyon.

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Colorado: Day 1

Well, in case you’re the last person on the planet as of today who hasn’t heard, I may or may not have moved to Colorado recently. So recently in fact, that today was my first day.

The trip across Kansas yesterday was, I’ll be honest, rough. I saw a herd of pronghorn, (there’s only 2k in the whole state), saw some limestone cliffs, and was way too full from gas station food. (Also, one great Kansas sunset).

But, driving 7 hours across flat desolation isn’t the best for a person who is stuck inside his head on a regular basis, and then add to that the trauma of moving.

All these questions swirling around at once:

What on earth did I just do?

Why did I just do it?

Did I just make a massive mistake?

But then I remember all the reasons I had for doing this, including the main one: BEAUTY.

Today as I pulled out after unpacking a bit, I saw them for the first time. (Them of course being THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS).

Later, I was looking at Pike’s Peak in the south, the snowy peaks past the front range to the west, and downtown Denver to the north. (We won’t talk about the east). And it all came back.

I was lucky enough to be able to get out for a 7 mile hike today up to Mount Falcon and savour the birdsong, the wind in the pines, and the meadow. I remembered how much I love the truth in the vast expanse of the mountains, that Jesus shows off his grandeur for our enjoyment. The way the pine trees glisten with their sap, the marbling of the rocks, and the golden color of the meadows, and he is sustaining this in everything, simply by his pleasure.

It all came back, his goodness, his kindness, and how he has shown that a million times to me.

But, like normal, he saved the best for last. I’ll just show you a picture since words can’t really do it justice.


So today, day 1, like many days to come, was bittersweet. Scared and excited.  Nervous and joyful. But I’m thankful for the reminder of beauty, and for the hope of the creation of a home here, as he brings me people and adventures to make it so.