Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving: Radically Defiant

Thanksgiving is a radically defiant day.
In the middle of a season defined 
by short days and long nights, by
things appearing to have lost all life,
by days that likely have seen 
pain, loss, and disappointment,
we sit around tables and give thanks--
for what we have and for who we have.
It is a symbolic day of declaration:
 grateful regardless of circumstances.
Sitting around the table being thankful
is a wonderfully defiant act.
Much in culture is the opposite of that spirit.
The new “pre-black Friday” trend, for example.
We step out of being grateful that our needs
have been satisfied to declaring that
our wants are found wanting.

Many say this is an attack on the family.
But even more it is an attack on gratitude,
on contentment, on peace.
No amount of “pre-black Friday” savings 
is worth compromising those.
Staying "seated" for an entire day
of Thanksgiving is such a good idea.

Whether we shop or don’t shop,
may we find ways to stay seated this season.
We cultivate thanksgiving in the quiet,
gratitude for the grace and mercy
He offers in abundance to all in need.
We never have to leave our place 
of rest to go in search of these.

"And always be thankful…" ~Col 3:15

Thursday, November 19, 2015

His Strength Equals My Days

And as your days are, 
so shall your strength, 
your rest and security, be.
~Deuteronomy 33:25

This promise assures us that we have
the right amount of strength for each day.
Strength is great, except that it often
comes through the doorway of weakness.
And although we know this verse by heart:
 “When I am weak, then I am strong,"
it is easier to recite than embrace. 
In reality, weakness often convinces
us that all is not well.

We can feel weakness creep in
when the valleys dont go away,
when drudgery seems insurmountable,
 when tasks are many and hours few,
when nothing looks like we thought,
when disappointment, failure, loss
or frailty overwhelm our hearts.

Our spirits must inform our minds that
appearances are not always honest.
There is strength for every day,
and not every day looks the same.
He has appropriated the right measure
of strength needed for each circumstance.
“As this day is, so will my strength be."
Oh my soul, trust Him in your weakness.
He has never let you down.
If you peek behind the wall of weakness, 
you find Him soldering together
strength, rest and security.
When these three are one, 
it looks a lot like peace.
We need some of that today.

His strength is fully grafted into this day.
My incredibly weak self finds
great peace in this gracious gift.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Living Breathing Light

His breath filled all things 
with a living, breathing light—
a light that thrives in the depths of darkness...
It cannot and will not be quenched. ~John 1:5

From the beginning, He was defined as light.
His breath filled, and continues to fill, 
all things with a living, breathing light.
Oh how dark it all seems sometimes.
But His light "thrives in the depths."

This is our hope today, a day where hearts
are grieving and minds are reeling from
senseless acts of darkness and evil.
The smallest amount of light will overtake
total and complete darkness.
Today, I have lit some candles to remind me
that His light is living and filling all things,
even things dark with depravity.
This light will never be quenched.

And they remind me to pray continually for 
all those affected by this horrific act of terror.
That His mercy, grace, and healing will fill
hearts with the knowledge of His love, 
a love that wins over hatred,
a love that wins over evil.

He came in darkness at the beginning.
He comes again today, filling all things
with a living, breathing light.
Lord Jesus, have mercy

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ~MLK, Jr.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Extravagant Love

Observe how Christ loved us. 
His love was extravagant. 
He gave everything of Himself to us. 
Love like that.
Ephesians 5:2

When we strip it all away, 
the Christian life is about extravagant love.
As we enter this holy holiday season, 
I'm aware of how easily it gets
to be about everything else.
We can make everything out to be small
nit-picky pieces of things that don’t matter.
Like red cups and holiday words.

But it really is about extravagant love.
It’s about extravagant giving that has
little to do with money or material things, 
although love can, and often does, use both.

I understand the arguments about cups.
And maybe there is a bigger story.
But His love transcends all that; 
we have the Holy Spirit living in us.
As you love Me, I will love others through you.

Do I allow Him to love others through me?
No one is going into a certain coffee shop
to experience the love of Christ; 
that is not in their mission statement.
But Christians, filled with the Spirit,
can share that wherever we go.
We can show His love through a smile, through 
buying someone coffee, leaving a tip, giving a
sincere thank you, or a word of encouragement. 

Last holiday season, a woman
behind me in line bought my coffee.
It was’t that I needed her money.
But It had been a hard day,
and I sensed God smile at me through her.
I can't remember the design on my cup,
but I obviously remember the kindness
that pointed to His love for me. 

The one holding the cup has an ability 
to express the love that is Christmas.
It has nothing to do with the message 
or lack of message on the cup. 
It's about loving Him so that 
He might love others through us.

Let's argue about how to do that better. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Everyday Turbulence

"Hold me in Your arms and 
never let me go.
Show me that the storm
is already below.”
Alie Byland

Flying back from Jersey on a Saturday night,
the attendants were asked to be seated--
right in the middle of serving dinner. 
The pilot said, “There is a storm well below us,
but we may still hit some turbulence."
I am not a huge fan of flying,
and even less of turbulence, so I knew
I needed to find my place of peace.
Breathing in His presence and 
releasing anxiety helped me keep my focus.
It wasn’t long before the air was smooth again.

The next day, I heard the song above,
with the connection only 12 hours old.
The Lord reminded me that even when storms
are well below us, we may still feel the effects.
And they may produce an anxious heart.

Turbulence usually comes out of nowhere, 
in the middle of doing routine life.
Flying smoothly and then not so much.
It can be a few bumps or some serious rocking.
If we give in to fear, well, that can take over
pretty quickly. So we take our thoughts captive.
Taking our thoughts captive
is not a one-time thing.

Jesus helped the disciples with the waves;
He helped me with the wind.
"The wind and waves still know His name."
He always spoke in parables so that we
could make the application wherever it applied.
Not every minute of this day will be smooth.

The wind, the waves, the everyday 
moments of life…still know His name.
We steady our thoughts and keep our peace
while waiting for the turbulence to pass.
He is with us--
our great calm in the midst of any storm.

I will never leave you 
or let you be alone.

Hebrews 13:5

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Not the End

I love when November rolls around.
Our two month obsession with
Halloween is finally behind us.
I am not against Halloween.
Its just that in some ways, it feels like a
cultural celebration of death and darkness.

Even nature seems to join the celebration.
Flowers have withered and dried, and
once colorful leaves are turning brown
and dropping to the ground.
It looks like death is winning the day.

There are things in my own life seeming to 
mimic all this, dreams that seem to have 
withered and dropped to the ground.
But it’s important to remember that
darkness and death are not the end.
They are the signposts to rebirth.
And to the mystery of resurrection.
During this season, the Lord is wrapping
every dead looking thing in light,
declaring over it, "Not the end."
Whether it is a dead looking tree 
or a dead looking dream, 
He comes to remind us that
everything is about resurrection.
Within the dead looking thing
lies the mystery of what will yet be.

It is not the end.