Return to the Kingdom, Chapter Five

(Merry Christmas! If you’ve missed previous chapters, click for Chapter One, Two, Three, or Four.)

The next morning, all the exiles were gathered together at the village square. The knights stood guard around the square, positioned as if they were expecting an enemy attack. Many of the exiles looked around anxiously, holding their children close, wondering what was going to happen.

Lucius walked out, followed by two knights half-dragging a man with a sack over his head. The exiles could not tell who he was, but with one arm he gingerly held his side. His other hand held a familiar looking walking stick he used to support himself as he hobbled forward slowly.

Lucius spoke, “My people, today fortune has smiled on us. Twenty years ago, we rose up against the King but failed and were banished from the kingdom. The King’s mistake was letting us live. So we settled here and bided our time, waiting for the right time to rise up again. That time is now.

“We’ve discovered an enemy living among us. Many of you know him as the bumbling old man who constantly told stories of the kingdom. But he is not who he pretended to be. Behold, the Tyrant King!”

The knights pulled the sack off. The crowd gasped. It was the old man, but now the people clearly saw he was the King. He looked resolute, but strangely sad as if he was resigned to his fate.

No one in the crowd moved. They were unsure how to respond, not wanting to be the first to voice their feelings. Not even sure what their feelings were.

Suddenly from the back of the square a head of cabbage was thrown. Time stopped as all eyes watched the cabbage smash into the King’s chest. The King stumbled a half-step back.

Something snapped. It was as if that one act of condemnation opened the floodgates of pent-up hatred against the King. The exiles roared, screaming their animosity. Food, shoes, stones, whatever they could find was hurled at the King. Lucius and his knights backed away in order to avoid being hit.

Finally, Lucius raised his hands, and the crowd quieted down. “What shall we do with the Tyrant King? Shall we give him the same mercy he gave us years ago? Or shall we take full advantage of this opportunity?”

In unison, the crowd called for his death.

Only a few turned away, unable to watch what was about to happen. They covered their children’s eyes and wept quietly.

The rebel knights and the crowd cheered. The King was dead.

(Click here for Chapter Six.)

There’s Treason in The Season

This Spoken Word video by Odd Thomas is a great meditation for Christmas Eve. At the end is a portion of a sermon from the early church father, Augustine. I’ve included it here as well:

Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars,
might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that Truth might be accused of false witnesses,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.
-Augustine

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=s6-XtFfKVM4]

Top 5 Tips For Anyone Considering Running as a New Year’s Resolution

So I’ve been running for a bit now. Thought I would offer some of the top observations I’ve made while running. It seems timely to share these as New Year’s is about a week away, and everyone is disgusted with themselves because of all the holiday treats they’ve consumed. We’re all motivated to do something right now, aren’t we?

You might call these tips or tricks for the runner. I call them “5 reasons why running should be banned forever and replaced with happy thoughts.”

5) Running is not a guarantee you will lose weight. It is a guarantee for soreness that lasts all day long. But I’ve heard one also has to change their diet in addition to exercise. I’d like to continue to believe this is a myth perpetuated by organic farmers, but the scale don’t lie. This takes the commitment to be in a relationship with Running to a whole new level. You have to ask yourself: Is it worth it?

4) Running against the wind is much harder than running with the wind. One time I think I was actually losing ground for about 43 seconds. Right before I collapsed on the side of the road. To keep this from happening to you, I recommend running behind a large, slow-moving object. Like an ice cream truck. Then when you’re done, you can treat yo’ self!

3) The runner’s phrase “the wall” (as in “I was coasting ’til I hit the wall”) is very misleading. Gives the impression there’s just one. Also gives the impression that you run through it. Ha. More like they run through you. A much better name would be “the Rocky’s.” Because they’re non-stop, and one comes right after the other. Rocky I, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky V, Judge Dredd, and Rocky VI. And they progressively get worse. Except for the last one which is surprisingly pleasant, well-written and executed.

2) When your mind is engaged with an idea, you don’t notice the physical pain from running. It’s almost as if for that brief time you’re not in pain. The movie, The Matrix, might have stumbled onto something revolutionary. Maybe the human brain is a powerful reality-bender. If your brain tells you you’re dead, you’re dead. Even if you’re really not. Ergo, if your brain tells you you’re alive and floating on the air, then you can keep running until you’re literally dead, which would totally throw your brain for a loop. Sounds dangerous. Staying on the couch sounds safer.

1) There is a point in every run where the run becomes a walk. It’s inevitable. You feel it coming. The run moves from a  jog (this takes place about 11 seconds in for me), moves to a slow jog, then a barely discernible jog, which is honestly slower than the average speed walk. At this point you know it’s only a matter of time until you will have to begin walking, or stop altogether.

But here’s what I’ve learned: You can always run just a bit further than you think possible. At least until you reach the point where you can’t, and you are now dead. Unless your brain quickly convinces you you’re not really dead (see #4 above).

But this is what keeps me coming back for more. Running a little bit farther or faster than I did the time before. Making progress.

What helps you stick to your goals?

A Guest Post on Family Christmas Traditions

I have a guest post going up this morning at Sight Regained, the blogging home of Louis Tullo. Louis is quickly becoming a friend, although we’ve never met and only know each other through the magic of the interweb.

Louis is hosting a series of guest posts on Christmas traditions and graciously asked me to write one. It’s a good series, and you can check out my post here.

Is Jesus Engaged?

I know this time of year everybody is picturing Jesus as the “dear 8 lb. 6 oz. newborn infant Jesus,” but the truth is Jesus isn’t a baby anymore. He grew up. He’s a man. He’s THE man.

When He ascended into heaven, His resurrected body had a physicality to it. Which means He is in heaven right now in a kind of physical body, the God-King-Man.

It’s hard to imagine what it would be like for God to become human. Did he ever get the flu? Did he ever not feel like going to school? Did he ever get annoyed by mosquitoes or humidity or that one guy who always wanted Him to read Scripture out of the King James Version?

One speculation many have had related to Jesus’ life on earth is whether or not He had a lady friend. Rumors have circulated for years that He did. It is time to address these rumors, so let me say it does seem like Jesus was is seeing someone. In fact, I have it from a very reliable witness that Jesus is actually engaged! Here’s what my source says:

Then one of the seven angels who held the seven bowls containing the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come with me! I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” So he took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.

So in John the Apostle’s vision of the last days (or the start of the good times, depending on how you look at it), he is introduced to the fiancée of Jesus, and she is the New Jerusalem. It gets better. Check out Revelation 19:7-9. Those of us who belong to Christ are invited to the wedding feast. And our righteous acts are the bride’s wedding dress.

Now I don’t know what all this stuff means. There is some kind of connection/relationship between this physical city and Jesus the King of Kings. And we are somehow connected to all this, too.

We do know the New Jerusalem is our someday home. It is where we will dwell with God. Living happily ever after.

As we get ready for Christmas in 5 days, as we miss those who won’t be celebrating with us this year, as we feel overwhelmed by the stress and demands of the season, maybe it would be good for us to remember why this baby was born in the first place. How this story ends/begins.

There is a party on the docket that should be penned into our planners. There is coming a day of ultimate and everlasting redemption, reconciliation, and reunion.

How are you preparing for the wedding feast of the Lamb? 

The Gospel of Pinocchio

One story I loved as a kid was Pinocchio. For some odd reason I was thinking about this story today, and I started to wonder what the author’s original intentions were with the story. Wikipedia to the rescue!

The author, Carlo Lorenzini, writing in the 1880’s in Italy, did not seem to originally intend Pinocchio to be a story purely for children. Also, it seems he did not have the gospel in mind as he wrote it but rather wanted to promote the need for education and honest, hard work. But I see traces of the Story of God woven throughout this story.

The creation of Pinocchio is a surprising thing. He is made from an inanimate object (kind of like being made from dirt), but amazingly he is moving and talking and self-aware. And stinking naughty.

Right from the start, he acts the part of a brat and runs out on Geppetto, his creator and father. He gets himself in one jam after another. Geppetto sacrifices for Pinocchio, trusts him to make good choices, and eventually goes searching for his lost ‘prodigal’ son.

Pinocchio has begun to make better choices when he sees Geppetto out on the ocean searching for him and subsequently getting snatched up by a great fish. (I don’t understand why Geppetto would assume his wooden boy was lost at sea, but whatev.)

Then Pinocchio has one more major fumble. He goes with some boys from school to Toyland, an alluring, tempting place that turns him into a donkey. He is enslaved and eventually hits rock bottom in a literal sense when he is deemed worthless by his owner and drowned at sea.

The fish naturally eat the donkey flesh off of him, and he is now a wooden boy again. But then he is eaten by the same giant fish that took his father. Being in the belly of a great fish could be seen as an allusion to death to us folk who read the Bible, and so creator and created experience a type of death. Sound familiar?

They are resurrected in the sense that they escape from the fish. Then after some other events, Pinocchio becomes a real boy, and they all live happily ever after.

What I see in Pinocchio is the story between a father and his son. The story of a creator/father who loves his son quite unconditionally and recklessly, risking his very life to be reconciled to him.

I also see the story of a son who rejects a relationship with his father, is disobedient and defiant, choosing to find his way on his own. This son’s journey leads him from one disaster to the next, showing over and over that the son cannot stay out of trouble nor save himself.

The son comes to his senses, chooses the path of obedience, and becomes his father’s son. But what he most wants and needs is still out of his reach. His ultimate salvation is something that must be graciously bestowed upon him by another. His ultimate salvation is real life, becoming a real boy, a new creation. Not until this has happened can this story end.

Or to look at it another way: finally begin.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAeHPtHcZlI]

Return to the Kingdom, Chapter Four

(Click to read Chapter One, Chapter Two, or Chapter Three)

The old man stood, leaning on his walking stick, facing Lucius. Lucius’ men had grabbed him and brought him here to be interrogated.

“Why have you come, old man? Why are you causing trouble?”

“I have not come to bring trouble. I have come because the King has never stopped loving his people.”

“Aren’t you giving them false hope? They are exiles. I have walked around the kingdom many times. There is no way back in for us.”

“Lucius, there is much you do not know about the King or his kingdom. There is nothing false about the hope I have given the exiles. Your pride always did blind you to your own ignorance.”

At that, anger rose within Lucius. The tension in the room was thick.

“Careful what you say, old man. You’re treading on thin ice.”

The old man stepped forward, pushing back the hooded robe, fully revealing his face and his true identity for the first time.

“Lucius, I came back for you, too.”

Lucius reactively swung out at the King, his fist connecting squarely with the side of his face. The King fell to one knee, catching himself with his right arm.

“Old fool! Do you realize by coming here you have given me your kingdom? I never understood your stubborn love for those people or all those stragglers that wanted in. And now your love has undone you.”

Lucius hit the King again, and the other knights joined in, hitting and kicking the King. Right before he slipped into unconsciousness, the King heard Lucius scoff, “We’ll let the people you love so much decide your fate.”

(Click here to read Chapter Five.)

Better Than Saturday Morning Cartoons

Love Saturday morning cartoons as a kid? Me too. But now you’re grown up, so watching them is just creepy. So watch these instead.

1. Tyler and Tripp bring the funny. As always. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQr56sZw6-s]

2. If you don’t think this is cute, you might not have a soul. Just sayin’. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kWq60oyrHVQ]

3. This little game would make shopping fun for millions of men. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYbVpAwGGGs]

4. Do you remember what happened in 2011? Here’s a video recap from Google of some of the biggest events. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SAIEamakLoY]

5. A Social Network Christmas by Igniter Media. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sghwe4TYY18]

6. This morning’s “cartoons” brought to you by our friends at Zipcar. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uux8uSRDFK0]

Sword Making Disciples

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/32113233]

This is such a cool video with some profound insights into disciple-making. Discipleship is not the cookie-cutter, assembly line, one-size-fits-all-so-just-read-this-book-with-me-for-the-next-three-months kind of program we see too much of in the church. Discipleship is a complex, highly intimate, purely relational transference of one person’s way of life to another. It is a process that takes YEARS.

What insights do you see in the video regarding disciple-making?

Return to the Kingdom, Chapter Three

(Click here for Chapter Two, here for Chapter One)

The last three months had been the best they could remember. Even though nothing had really changed, the exiles had never felt so optimistic and hopeful. And it was all because of the strange, old man.

It had been twenty-three years since the exiles had been cast out of the kingdom. They had quickly discovered the good life they’d known in the kingdom was unique to that place, but in time they got used to the harshness of their new lives.

The exiled knights, however, had not accepted their new living conditions so easily. For the first few years they relentlessly searched for a way to sneak back in to the kingdom. Yet they found no crack or crevice in the invisible barrier created by the King.

They could not burn through the barrier with fire. They could not smash the barrier with a battering ram. They could not even launch themselves over the barrier. That only resulted in two knights with badly broken legs.

When the knights had finally accepted every attempt was futile, they turned their attention upon the other exiles. Lucius came up with a simple and terrible system of survival: the common people would provide a decent life for the knights if they wanted to survive.

They would build and maintain their houses, work their lands, and serve them in whatever capacity the knights demanded. As compensation, the knights shared recently spoiled food and allowed them to build meager shelters close by. The exiles had no choice and learned to adjust to this turn of events as well.

Living outside of the kingdom was taking its toll on them, and hardly a day went by that they did not regret their attempt to depose the King.

But the last three months had been different, ever since the old man had shown up and joined their little village. He came seeking food and a safe place to sleep, and receiving those, decided to stay and regain his strength.

He told them he had been traveling for a long time and had come from the King’s kingdom. This brought many questions which he gladly answered. He loved nothing more than to tell stories, to reminisce about old adventures with the King, stories which brought memories back to many of the exiles.

Sometimes it was hard for the oldest of the exiles to listen; it made the pain of their new reality that much greater, along with their guilt and shame. But as the days turned to weeks, listening to story after story, they began to feel as if they were with the King again. They began to imagine what it would be like to go back.

Finally one night, around the campfire, one of the elders asked the question that had been burning inside so many of them for so long.

“Old man, we are grateful for the stories of days gone by. But what about more recent events? What news can you tell us about the King? How does he look upon us exiles?”

“The kingdom fairs well. The people live as they always have. But there is an emptiness in the land they do not see, an emptiness that I have also seen in the eyes of the King. His heart broke in the rebellion. His heart is for his people. Even now, even today he longs for you, the exiled ones.”

From that night on, the old man began to talk often of the King’s love for the exiles. Of his desire to have them return to the kingdom. He almost spoke with the authority of the King himself, as if the King had sent him.

Word of this old man and his stories was spreading. Each night more crowded in to listen. Each day there was more happiness as people worked: smiling as they passed each other, laughing in their conversations, hugging as they went their separate ways.

Something was stirring. Change was in the air, and Lucius and his knights were not sure they liked what was happening. This old man was having a strange affect on them all.

Was it possible the King might take these pathetic exiles back? Lucius knew the way was still blocked for him and his men, and he was not going to lose his slaves.

It was time to confront the old man.

(Click here for Chapter Four.)