RE-POST: A Prayer of Wonder

(I’m taking this week off from blogging. I’m re-posting some older stuff from this year. This is the second of three of my personal favorites. Originally posted April 4, 2011.)

Why, O God, do You take such interest in me,
a mere man?

You don’t just see me,
You’re looking at me.

You don’t just hear me,
You’re listening to me.

You don’t just know me,
You delight in me.

May I become as in love with You,
As You are with me.

RE-POST: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

(I’m taking this week off from blogging. Call it a Christmas gift to myself. I’m re-posting some older stuff from this year, three of my favorites. This was originally posted February 17, 2011.)

I come to God on my terms and on my merits. I perceive my standing before God primarily on what I have or haven’t done. I decide whether or not I am worthy to approach God. I alone judge myself, and I do not take God or His Word into account in deciding my verdict.

I am one of two men. I am either full of pride or full of shame. I am prideful if in this moment I have a good track record of being good, disciplined and/or loving. On the other hand, I am ashamed if in this moment I am acutely aware of my inability to steer clear of sin and selfishness.

I come to God on my terms and on my merits… How foolish I am!

Contrast my modus operandi with the experience of the Prodigal Son and his older brother found in Luke 15. Both brothers learn a valuable lesson. The younger son discovers his poverty and inability to save himself. He comes to recognize his absolute need for his father, and he comes crawling back praying for mercy.

The older son is stunned by his father’s grace and mercy to the prodigal and cannot comprehend it. Why doesn’t his father lavish love and attention like this on him? Of all people, he deserves it! He is full of pride and grows angry at the lack of “fairness.”

The Father’s love: One brother felt sure he would never be able to earn it; the other brother felt sure he deserved it far more than anyone else. Neither realized it was unconditional and not contingent upon either of them.

Regarding you and I, God our Father has not moved. All this time, He has been standing at the edge of the driveway, looking up and down the street, waiting and calling. And when I finally turn around and begin walking and He sees me, He comes running to me. I did not earn His love. I did not suddenly prove my worth. He made up His mind about me long ago; He’s just been waiting for me to realize it and come home.

As the writer of Hebrews tells us so clearly,

Dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Hebrews 10:19-23

What’s keeping you from coming home?

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]