We are not much different than burdened travelers, are we? We roll in the mud of self-pity in the very shadow of the cross. We piously ask for his will and then have the audacity to pout if everything doesn’t go our way. If we would just remember the heavenly body that awaits us, we’d stop complaining that he hasn’t healed this earthly one.
Our problem is not so much that God doesn’t give us what we hope for as it is that we don’t know the right thing for which to hope. (You may want to read that sentence again.)
Andrew Peterson’s latest single. Great song.
Andrew Farley, The Naked Gospel:
Sometimes we see ourselves as sinners in the loving arms of a God who is pretending not to see us as we really are. In our minds, maybe God is wearing a pair of “Jesus glasses” that hides our true state from his vision. We find it difficult to grasp the idea that God calls us righteous because we actually are righteous. It feels more humble to believe that we’re filthy worms awaiting a future change into beautiful butterflies.
Jesus stated it best. He said that our righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom (Matthew 5:20). So if we Christians don’t claim to possess perfect righteousness, we’re lowering God’s standard. We’re watering down the gospel. We insinuate that Jesus can unite himself with sin. And we insult the perfection of God.
Only perfection will do. This is precisely why God had to make us perfectly righteous in our human spirits through our own death, burial, and resurrection. With its apparent humility, this filthy worm theology appeals to the flesh. But God certainly doesn’t condone our wallowing in poor self-image.
The risen Christ doesn’t join himself to filthy worms. The Holy Spirit doesn’t dwell in dirty sinners. Christ only unites himself with those who are like him in spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn’t reside in someone who remains even 1 percent flawed by sin.
But we’ve been perfectly cleansed. And we’ve been made perfectly righteous at our core through spiritual surgery. This is the only way we can enjoy even a moment of relationship with Jesus Christ.
I have often used the same analogy Farley mentions above, of God looking at us through “Jesus-colored glasses,” and I realize I may have been incomplete in my explanation in the past.
Not to be repetitive with Farley’s own elaboration, but my meaning has always been that when God sees a believer, he sees perfection, as when he sees Jesus. As when he sees himself.
This is who we are, fellow Christians. We have no need to add to it. It’s impossible for us to do so. There is no magic checklist we can look at to see how our perfecting is going. At the same time it is ongoing, it’s also already done. Why can we not accept that? What are we afraid of?
Knowing who we are, righteous before a perfect and holy God, should fill us with hope. A hope we should be passing on to our fellow man.
Know who you are. Be who you are. Not to lord it over others, as the Church has too often been wont to do for years, but to show God’s love to the world. He has chosen to work through us, and we should joyfully allow Him to do so.
No offense to ebooks and Kindle, which have their place, but there’s no substitute for a book that has an actual history, that takes up space on a shelf, that has been somewhere, strapped to the back of a bike, that was being read in a British boys’ school library while Lewis was still teaching at Oxford.
Thank you, Lord, for books. Not just the words, but actual physical books you can hold in your hand and touch and smell, and ponder where they have been and what lives they may have touched.
It’s a good thing, I believe, to remember the dead — especially in a culture that trivializes death. We shunt it aside to the fantastic realms of video games and movies, and call it by other names when we do it to old people and unborn infants, and all of this is a way, I think, of grasping life in the wrong way, in a way that reveals the underlying belief, for many of us, that our lives are about our gratification.
That’s such a big word for an experience that is so very small. Gratification is as far removed from joy as hunger is from a great feast, and yet we forsake the latter in pursuit of the former because joy, like a feast, requires sacrifice.
So it’s a good thing to remember those who gave their lives in sacrifice for others. Think on them, and if you like you can light a candle or mutter a prayer, a prayer that you and I and the rest of the world will, if only for a slender day, give ourselves over to loving someone other than ourselves, which means the great sacrifice of setting down our hurts and lusts and grievances and entitlements, all of which are chains with heavy anchors, but which we gather to us like treasures. But today, if only for today, what say we lay them down?
This spring, Davis started playing baseball. At the six and under level (6U), it’s coach-pitch. He did pretty well, and we saw improvements in his fielding from that first practice to the last game this past Saturday (May 22d). Hitting wise, he did awesome, going seven for eight in the first half of the season. He hit a slump, but rebounded for the last two games.
To see more photos, including a couple from the game, check out the rest of the set.
From back in March. While I was getting myself ready, the boys watched Sesame Street in Mom and Dad’s room.
Andrew Farley, The Naked Gospel:
Grace is the system that the Holy Spirit uses to counsel and teach us on a daily basis. Grace is in place, whether or not we’ve sinned recently. We worry that an absence of law will result in a lifestyle that is out of control. This concern is natural. But is contradicts what the Scriptures say about the effects of grace. grace isn’t just a treatment for sin; it’s actually the cure for sin!
When we question the function of grace in our lives, we’re insulting God’s intelligence. Would he users in a New Covenant that not only allows but actually promotes sin? Is God foolish to think that grace really motivates us to live godly lives?
The secret is that grace deactivates our pride. Removing the law from our lives means our self-effort is no longer prodded to control behavior. The law excites human effort. It encourages us to depend on resources outside of Christ. But unconditional acceptance deactivates human effort and allows the Holy Spirit to be all that he wants to be through us.
Our greatest fear is that we’ll be out of control. But we were never made to be in control. Self-control has always been a natural attribute of the Holy Spirit. The reason he lives within us is to produce the self-control that we’re afraid we’ll lack under grace.
Matthew Paul Turner: Today, America’s Jesus is more of a brand name than anything else, a money-making commodity that churches and large “non-profits” manage using basic business-type practices like strategy development, viral marketing, and publicity and public relations.
In the book, one of the chapter titles was called “JESUS is a Registered Trademark.” In that chapter, I discussed the differences between the JESUS™ people have created and the Jesus we read about in the gospels. JESUS™ can be manipulated or branded into almost anything we want him to be, from a wealth-and-prosperity-providing genie to a hateful Messiah who will one day return with an eternal axe to grind. It’s difficult to do that with the Jesus of the four gospels.
This has been sitting in my NetNewsWire sidebar for two and a half years. So better late than never, I suppose.
The best inoculation, I think, to a wrong perception that Christianity is equivalent to conservatism is the mercy work of many good churches. For every politico a non-Christian sees claiming the Christian label, we want him to see a hundred Christians in his community, quietly, humbly doing the work of our Father. The more we can accomplish that, the harder it will be for people to identify Christianity with whatever happens to be popular among politicians who claim to act on Christ’s behalf. “You will know them,” Christ said of the good and the bad, “by their fruits.” My prayer, in the current political season and the decades to follow, is that more non-Christians will come to know us in that way, by lifechanging encounters with loving Christians.
God doesn’t give us solutions, he gives us a savior.
A lot of the time, I wish it was the other way around. To be honest with you, sometimes a solution feels more manageable. I can control and understand a solution. I can bend and tweak a formula to my own needs. Christ on the other hand, our savior, isn’t like that at all.
He’s messy. And counterintuitive and uncontrollable. Grace and mercy are two of the most puzzling things on the planet. They’re raw and unbridled and out of control and intertwined with love we can’t possibly understand or earn.
I remind him to watch the cars, to look the drivers in the eye and make sure they see him. His brothers and I sit in the minivan while he goes to the curb and waits for a chance to walk out to the girl. Finally a car stops to let him pass. The girl’s face is turned down; she sees nothing but the ground. I watch my son’s narrow shoulders as he crosses the drive, and I am praying that no harm will come to him, not now or ever, that someone who is this loving will be spared the pain of the world, which is when I remember that it is Christmas, the time when we celebrate precisely the opposite, the coming of pure love to suffer for all we who sit with faces turned down, not even knowing what to ask for, knowing only in our crusted-over hearts that anything will help.
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC:
Unfermented grape juice is a bland and pleasant drink, especially on a warm afternoon mixed half-and-half with ginger ale. It is a ghastly symbol of the life blood of Jesus Christ, especially when served in individual antiseptic, thimble-sized glasses.
Wine is booze, which means it is dangerous and drunk-making. It makes the timid brave and the reserved amorous. It loosens the tongue and breaks the ice, especially when served in a loving cup. It kills germs. As symbols go, it is a rather splendid one.
[Totally ripped off from Michael Hyatt.]
Brian “Head” Welch, Save Me From Myself:
All of the man-made religion crap in this world has to die. Whether it’s Christian man-made religion crap or some other man-made religion crap, it all has to die. It must grieve God’s heart when he sees Christians fighting about whose doctrine is right; he doesn’t see denominations, he sees one big glorious bride. When Christians argue about doctrinal issues, all he sees is carnal people acting like children. All that prideful, controlling religious crap is what drives young people away from churches, and it has to go. Much of the world’s population is under the age of eighteen, and we have to bring the love of Christ to them without all this controlling crap going on. Because, where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Forgiveness is the thing I ask for the most. In my head maybe I know that God’s forgiveness is eternal and inexhaustible but in my heart I feel like he’s going to run out of them. That he’s got a limited supply. And I’m burning them up, one by one, sin by sin.
Boy, have I felt this way, too.
(Yes, I know the blog post is over a year old, but I just put the feed into my RSS reader and am reading the old entries still in the feed.)
Tony Woodlief (yes, again):
Isaiah loves books. He loves to read them, loves it when people read them to him, loves to hit his brother Isaac upside the head with them. The boy hearts books. I hope he never stops loving them, even as the world around him transitions into a post-modern funk of hyper-links and text messages and overstimulating audio-visual mind sludge. Then one day he can visit me wherever he and his brothers have finally put me out to pasture, and maybe read to me there.
Davis is getting to this point, too. At times he will decide that he’s had enough playing with his Star Wars Galactic Heroes™ figures, or pretending to duel a dragon, or building with Lincoln Logs™ or LEGO™ pieces, and he’ll plop down in the play room and “read”.
My parents instilled a deep love of reading in my sister and I when we were growing up. Weekly visits to the local library (which was about as big as the downstairs area of our current home, minus the garage) were the norm. While we’re not going weekly, Kelly and I have both taken Davis to our local library (which is larger than the downstairs area of our house, including the garage), and he loves it.
Davis will often ask for a second or even third book to be read before going to bed, although I suspect this is as much about staying up as late as possible as it is about loving books.
I’d hoped to pass on this love of reading to both our boys, and so far, it’s looking pretty good.
I spent a good portion of my time in a small chapel, learning prayers that preceded the Roman Catholic Church. I came with a great weight on my bones, a weight that overwhelmed me in that tiny chapel. I fell to my knees there, and prayed with quivering shoulders and trembling hands, done in by grief over the past, fear of the future, the knowing that this present ground is sand, that my feet must soon move forward or backward. Each way bears a cost; one of the great lies of men is that the path can be traveled without suffering. Another great lie is that we can stand still and read books and let our paltry knowledge carry us into the arms of God. We have to walk, with heavy, stumbling feet.
It’s easy to see why so many of us — Christians and pagans alike — spend lifetimes running from the living God, our hands stopping our ears, our mouths babbling prayers or blasphemies, all in an effort to avoid the great silence where God speaks to man. That silence is a fearful place, but there is love there, the great love of a parent. There is mercy too, and strength for the uncompleted race.
Davis has lost his first tooth! It came from the middle bottom, and was kind of a surprise, especially for Mom!
Thankfully, the tooth wasn’t lost, though for a little while, we thought it might be. It had fallen out during dinner, and was still in the dinette, sitting on Davis’s chair. We cleaned it up, and Mom helped him ready it for the Tooth Fairy that evening.
This looks good.
“Brothers at War is an intimate portrait of an American family during a turbulent time. Jake Rademacher sets out to understand the experience, sacrifice, and motivation of his two brothers serving in Iraq. The film follows Jake’s exploits as he risks everything—including his life—to tell his brothers’ story.
“Often humorous, but sometimes downright lethal, Brothers at War is a remarkable journey where Jake embeds with four combat units in Iraq. Unprecedented access to US and Iraqi combat units take him behind the camouflage curtain with secret reconnaissance troops on the Syrian border, into sniper ‘hide sites’ in the Sunni Triangle, through raging machine gun battles with the Iraqi Army.
“Ultimately, the film follows his brothers home where separations and life-threatening work ripple through their parents, siblings, wives, and children. Brothers at War is a rare look at the bonds and service of our soldiers on the frontlines and the profound effects their service has on the loved ones they leave behind. For more information please visit - www.brothersatwarmovie.com.”
The film is executive produced by Gary Sinise (CSI: New York, “Lt. Dan” in Forrest Gump), who said, “The media took the 15 people of Abu Ghraib and made them the face of the military. This [movie] is a true portrait of our military and their families.”
Andrée Seu, “Alice’s battle”:
You have never seen a struggle like Alice’s struggle against joy. The doubting Narnian dwarfs were preemptively miserable, and so is Alice. The girlfriends’ counsel of lowered expectations mounts a new offensive in her mind. (There is no force so powerful as error in a godly person’s mouth.) But just as Alice starts to sink again, the Spirit counters with this coup de grace:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
Alice perceives in a hot instant that this is not only where the present battle is joined, but where every battle is joined—against the counsel of one’s saintliest friend, against the received wisdom of one’s generation, against the carnal instinct to protect oneself. There are only ever these two—the Word of the Lord; your own understanding.
It dawns on Alice that at any given moment of the day she has a choice of which thoughts she may entertain—those of her friends and “her own understanding,” or the word of the Lord. All that is not the latter is the former, no matter how sweetly wrapped.
Glenn Beck, in the epilogue of The Christmas Sweater:
My mom gave me the sweater, but the greatest gift was given to all of us by a loving Father in Heaven. It is the only true gift ever given to all and yet opened or appreciated by so few. It is the gift of redemption and atonement, and it sits on the top shelf, largely untouched, in the closets of our soul.
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Christ child, but by doing so, sometimes we miss the real meaning of the season. It is what that infant, boy, and then perfect man did at the end of His ministry that makes the birth so special.
Without His death, the birth is meaningless.
[Wave of the phin to Evan Courtney.]
“Praying about the future? Take heart! God is already there. He’s standing at the end of our lives looking back on all our days.”
“Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.” —Rabindranath Tagore
[Via A Child Chosen.]
Those other issues certainly affect a country’s safety, prosperity, and greatness. But I’ve come to believe that a nation that tolerates destruction of innocents deserves neither safety nor prosperity nor greatness. We’ve descended into barbarism, and it poisons how we treat the elderly, the incapacitated, even ourselves. We shouldn’t be surprised, having made life a utilitarian calculation, that more and more humans become inconvenient.
It’s certainly true that there are other issues that ought to concern Christians, like the sanctity of marriage, and how we treat the mentally ill, the elderly, and children who have been born. But abortion is, in my view, the touchstone. Get this one wrong and your moral compass can guide you in nothing else.
Tony Woodlief, with words I need to take heed of:
Cast aside what you think you know is right, the church marquee urges, and consider the God-breathed Word. Give yourself over to it and these seemingly large things—tax rates, economic growth, wars, and rumors of wars—will diminish. Meanwhile, those seemingly small things—the anger in our hearts when we, say, confront someone whose ideology we dislike or the fact that we find it so much easier to spend time with those we like rather than those who need us—will become grievous to our spirits.
This is the Word that cuts through every heart, through the very heart of darkness, illuminating the world as it is and will be. Beside it every politician ever born is remarkably inconsequential. Our business on Election Day is brief, and regardless of who wins our work remains the same—seeking and serving the lost, losing our own lives in the doing, and clinging to the Cross that shatters nations, tribes, and creeds.
“The cure to cancer might be in the slums of Kenya or Indonesia.”
In other words, you don’t know what the children of today are capable of tomorrow, how God may use someone like me, someone like you, now to change the lives of scores, hundreds, thousands, possibly millions, years from now, just because we help change the life of one child today.
Please consider sponsoring a child.
“I can think of nothing more unfair to an unborn child than to come into this world unwanted,” declares the Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith, senior pastor of Advent United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio. And that’s the difference between those of us who are pro-life, and those who aren’t: we, the former, can think of something much more unfair.
Rebecca Walker is the daughter of founding feminist, and The Color Purple author, Alice Walker. Rebecca recently reflected on her life, and her disownment by her mom because she decided to become a mother herself. After reading this article, I’m left wondering what kind of person Alice Walker must be, to have been so selfish, and most recently, so hateful, toward her own daughter and grandson. She has never seen him.
Then I recall that selfish pride is the oldest sin in the Book.
Here are some choice bits:
The truth is that I very nearly missed out on becoming a mother - thanks to being brought up by a rabid feminist who thought motherhood was about the worst thing that could happen to a woman.
You see, my mum taught me that children enslave women. I grew up believing that children are millstones around your neck, and the idea that motherhood can make you blissfully happy is a complete fairytale.
In fact, having a child has been the most rewarding experience of my life.
I’m so grateful I never had to experience, as a child, being told by my mother that I was enslaving her, that she bore me as if a millstone.
I was raised to believe that women need men like a fish needs a bicycle. But I strongly feel children need two parents and the thought of raising Tenzin without my partner, Glen, 52, would be terrifying.
As the child of divorced parents, I know only too well the painful consequences of being brought up in those circumstances. Feminism has much to answer for denigrating men and encouraging women to seek independence whatever the cost to their families.
Walker goes on with a litany of how her mother’s feminist ideals robbed her of a normal childhood: divorce; being at the bottom of her mom’s priority list; being left when relatives while Alice vacationed for two weeks in Greece; feeling utterly alone in her femininity, not having an attentive mother to talk to and connect with; having sex—with her mother’s knowledge—at the age of 13, and becoming pregnant at age 14. She had an abortion, which “haunted me for decades. It ate away at my self-confidence and, until I had Tenzin, I was terrified that I’d never be able to have a baby because of what I had done to the child I had destroyed. For feminists to say that abortion carries no consequences is simply wrong.”
When she learned she was pregnant, Rebecca was hesitant to tell her mother, but she did:
Although I knew what my mother felt about babies, I still hoped that when I told her I was pregnant, she would be excited for me.
Instead, when I called her one morning in the spring of 2004, while I was at one of her homes housesitting, and told her my news and that I’d never been happier, she went very quiet. All she could say was that she was shocked. Then she asked if I could check on her garden. I put the phone down and sobbed - she had deliberately withheld her approval with the intention of hurting me. What loving mother would do that?
I could go on and on, to the point where I’d quote nearly the entire piece, and I encourage you, dear reader, to read all of it yourself.
Ultimately, Rebecca has abided by her mother’s wish to not have contact with her. She’s accepted it for the better, that despite the good things feminism has done for women, for the well-being of her son and herself, “I can no longer have this poisonous relationship destroy my life.”
It’s a shame a child has to say that about her parent.
“[L]et us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.” —Dwight Eisenhower
Moments like this are reminders for me that the songs and trappings of Christian culture are not the hope of the world—Jesus is! We need to make him known. We need to love and seek to serve the world around us through prayer, through faithful evangelism, and through Christ-like service of those in need. Our goal is not building a more air-tight evangelical bubble. Neither should our goal be hoping that our subculture will burst out into the broader culture to great acclaim.
Instead, our goal should be to proclaim Christ and him crucified to the people we go to the school with, work with, and live next door to. Our goal should be to preach the gospel and live lives worthy of that gospel. Our goal should be to use our gifts in every sector of society so that God is glorified.
This past weekend, we spent a few days visiting my parents in the suburbs of Birmingham. (That would be Alabama, not England. Just in case it wasn’t clear.)
My dad pulled my old rocking horse, Donut, out of storage, cleaned up the parts, and assembled him in the basement, all for my son to ride while we were visiting.
I got Donut about the same age as the little phisch is now, roughly 1974. The nostalgia from watching my own child ride the same horse I did thirty-three, thirty-four years ago, was overwhelming.
Oh, did I forget to mention my wife’s become a blogger?
And that she did so last year?
Well, that takes me out of the running for Husband of the Year™.
(And if you think that’s all I’ve done to take myself out of the running, I have some beachfront property in Scottsdale I’d like to talk to you about.) <rimshot> But enough about me…
The missus began blogging last May as an outlet for the angst and excitement she felt as a result of our seeking to add to our family through adoption. She’s also been talking about our struggles with infertility as we seek to add to our family on our own. At some point she began sharing little tidbits about our life at home, missing her mom, and other things outside the realm of adoption, and I suggested a name change for the blog.
In private conversations with friends, nearly all online, I’ve often referred to our home in general, and the study, from where I compute, in particular, as “the Phisch Bowl”. Seeing how I have no intention whatsoever of allowing the fish (phisch?) meme, courtesy of my anagramed moniker, to die, my abrupt suggestion to her was, “Life from the Phisch Bowl”. So there you go.
A small word of warning. The missus tends to use some shorthand and acronyms she’s picked up from motherhood/pregnancy/infertility forums over the years, and some might not be readily decipherable. Trust me, there was a time when I was constantly asking her what this acronym or that one meant. Should you need similar help, drop me a line, or better yet, drop the missus a line over on her blog, and ask her. Better still, just drop her a line and say hi.
Her latest post also deals with an issue near and dear to our hearts. Once again, Kel will be participating in the March of Dimes’ March for Babies, formerly known as WalkAmerica. Due to a commitment with the little phisch, I won’t be walking this year, but Kelly will, and she’s raising funds.
(Much to my chagrin, she’s already raised more funds for this than I need in total for my mission trip to Juarez, to build houses for the poor there, in June. This includes monies from my own mother, who was asked, along with several friends and family members, to support my trip prior to Kelly beginning her fund-raising. Hrmmm. Perhaps I should outsource my own fund-raising to the missus, since we all know she is far, far more charming a person than I….)
So, drop by her blog and say hi, and if you’re led, help us with the March for Babies.
I love you, sweetheart.
This past Saturday, the missus and I took the little phisch to see The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. The film was released by Universal, and had the studio’s latest audio-visual intro at the beginning, as is the norm for motion pictures. The little phisch leaned over and whispered to me, “Daddy, what music is that?” I told him, and we settled in for a fun time.
That little exchange immediately took my mind back a few weeks before, at the end of 2007, when the missus and I took the little phisch to see Alvin and the Chipmunks. That particular film was released by Twentieth-Century Fox, and its extremely recognizable audio-visual intro rolled at the beginning. Then, the little phisch leaned over and excitedly exclaimed, “Daddy, it’s the Star Wars music!” I smiled broadly, and assured him, that yes, it was indeed “the Star Wars music.”
Amazing how those blaring trumpets and the monolithic wording have become synonymous with Star Wars for him, just as it did for me when I was a boy. To this day, whenever I see or hear that intro, I’m half-expecting the “Star Wars Main Theme” to follow shortly thereafter, or to see “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” centered on the screen.
The following is excerpted from Max Lucado’s An Angel’s Story, and was the 12/23/07 e-mail from MaxLucado.com, which anyone can sign up to receive. Max and his crew are encouraging subscribers to share this and the other excerpts with their friends, so here I am, sharing it with my readers.
We were a wreath of Light around the stable, a necklace of diamonds around the structure. Every angel had been called from his post for the coming, even Michael. None doubted God would, but none knew how He could, fulfill His promise.
“I’ve heated the water!”
“No need to yell, Joseph, I hear you fine.”
Mary would have heard had Joseph whispered. The stable was even smaller than Joseph had imagined but the innkeeper was right—it was clean. I started to clear out the sheep and cow, but Michael stopped me. “The Father wants all of creation to witness the moment.”
Mary cried out and gripped Joseph’s arm with one hand and a feed trough with the other. The thrust in her abdomen lifted her back, and she leaned forward.
“Is it time?” Joseph asked.
She shot back a glance, and he had his answer.
Within moments the Awaited One was born. I was privileged to have a position close to the couple, only a step behind Michael. We both gazed into the wrinkled face of the infant. Joseph had placed hay in a feed trough, giving Jesus His first bed.
All of God was in the infant. Light encircled His face and radiated from His tiny hands. The very glory I had witnessed in His throne room now burst through His skin.
I felt we should sing but did not know what. We had no song. We had no verse. We had never seen the sight of God in a baby. When God had made a star, our words had roared. When He had delivered His servants, our tongues had flown with praise. Before His throne, our songs never ended. But what do you sing to God in a feed trough?
In that moment a wonderful thing happened. As we looked at the baby Jesus, the darkness lifted. Not the darkness of the night, but the darkness of the mystery. Heaven’s enlightenment engulfed the legions.
Our minds were filled with the Truth we had never before known. We became aware for the first time of the Father’s plan to rescue those who bear His name.
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King! Let every heart, prepare Him room! Heaven and nature sing!”
The following landed in ye olde e-mail inbox earlier today, penned by talk radio host Laura Ingraham:
Megan pulled a three-ring binder out of her bag and showed me a photograph of herself and her husband. Young—they’re both 21—with big smiles on their faces and obviously wildly in love. “That’s what he looked like,” she said with a somber face, “He was such a cutie-pie, always buying me little stuffed animals and writing the most thoughtful notes the entire time he was in Iraq.” Then she showed me the photo of her husband receiving the Purple Heart on Wednesday from President Bush at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. As President Bush pinned the medal on Mike, he lay unconscious in the ICU, having suffered a traumatic brain injury caused by a piece of shrapnel that pierced his temple.
“This is my Mike now,” she said, rubbing her eyes. He is completely blind and to alleviate a terrible cranial pressure build-up, doctors had to remove the front of his skull. Since being wounded several months ago, Mike has never regained consciousness and suffers from terrible seizures. “That’s my guy,” she repeated, before she went on to tell me about how they met and fell in love.
For whatever reason, I kept thinking about the fact that some person somewhere carefully assembled the IED that would eventually maim Mike and many others. They are often packed with nails, hunks of lead and screws to cause maxim human suffering. When they explode, the contents rip through flesh and bones, shattering countless dreams in the process.
How to comprehend this level of evil and the physical and emotional agony it causes? This young woman and her husband should be out buying their first Christmas tree together, going to parties, raising a glass to their future. When I asked what she was doing for the holiday she said, “I’ll be here with Mike. I would never want him to be alone on Christmas.” They had been married for about three months when Mike was wounded.
In these days before Christmas, Megan and other military wives and moms gave me a precious gift. They reminded me that true love requires sacrifice—sometimes seemingly unbearable, heart-wrenching sacrifice. They are living out their love in big and small ways. Many have moved thousands of miles to relocate to the hospitals where their husbands, wives, sons, and daughters are being treated. This takes an enormous emotional and financial toll, yet they do it for love. When they are not at the hospital bedsides of their wounded warriors, they sit for hours a day in waiting rooms across the United States, hoping for good news—or at least no more bad news. They pray with each other, cry with each other, and yes, even manage to laugh with each other as they hope for a day when they can return to “normal life.” Yet for the families of our most seriously injured troops, they know they will have to get used to a “new normal,” much different from the life they knew before.
As we are about to celebrate Christmas spending time with our families and friends, let us all do our best to live up to the true spirit of this season—and make it a time filled with love, faith, gratitude, hope, charity, and, yes, let’s try for some peace on earth. Let us remember the military families and our wounded heroes who will spend this Christmas at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center, Bethesda Naval Medical Center and other medical facilities across the nation. As we rush around stressed out because we “haven’t found the perfect gift” for so-and-so, these families hope and pray for gifts that cannot be wrapped up: a hand that squeezes back, a smile, the first step on a new prosthesis, or a positive medical report.
They need our prayers and support at Christmas and every day. Please give what you can to any of the wonderful organizations that support our bravest and their families.
The following is excerpted from Max Lucado’s An Angel’s Story, and was the 12/20/07 e-mail from MaxLucado.com, which anyone can sign up to receive. Max and his crew are encouraging subscribers to share this and the other excerpts with their friends, so here I am, sharing it with my readers.
The King walked over and reached for the book. He turned it toward Lucifer and commanded, “Come, Deceiver, read the name of the One who will call your bluff. Read the name of the One who will storm your gates.”
Satan rose slowly off his haunches. Like a wary wolf, he walked a wide circle toward the desk until he stood before the volume and read the word:
“Immanuel?” he muttered to himself, then spoke in a tone of disbelief. “God with us?” For the first time the hooded head turned squarely toward the face of the Father. “No. Not even You would do that. Not even You would go so far.”
“You’ve never believed me, Satan.”
“But Immanuel? The plan is bizarre! You don’t know what it’s like on Earth! You don’t know how dark I’ve made it. It’s putrid. It’s evil. Its…”
“IT IS MINE,” proclaimed the King. “AND I WILL RECLAIM WHAT IS MINE. I WILL BECOME FLESH. I WILL FEEL WHAT MY CREATURES FEEL. I WILL SEE WHAT THEY SEE.”
“But what of their sin?”
“I will bring mercy.”
“What of their death?”
“I will give life.”
Satan stood speechless.
God spoke, “I love my children. Love does not take away the beloved’s freedom. But love takes away fear. And Immanuel will leave behind a tribe of fearless children. They will not fear you or your hell.”
Satan stepped back at the thought. His retort was childish. “Th-th-they will too!”
“I will take away all sin. I will take away death. Without sin and without death, you have no power.”
Around and around in a circle Satan paced, clenching and unclenching his wiry fingers. When he finally stopped, he asked a question that even I was thinking. “Why? Why would You do this?”
The Father’s voice was deep and soft. “Because I love them.”
I received this e-mail from a neighbor. It’s one of those things where you read their answers, then fill in your own and pass it on to the people you’d like to hear back from. Seeing as how while most of you will be getting ready for work or what-have-you this morning while I’m undergoing prep for surgery to get “unscrewed”, I won’t be in much of a blogging mood, and thought I’d leave this here for you to enjoy.
Please feel free to leave your own answers in the comments, or post to your own blog and link to it in the comments. Merry Christmas!
Welcome to the 2007 Holiday Edition of Getting to Know Your Friends! You know the drill. Don’t be a scrooge! Fill it out, pass it on, blah blah blah. I would love to hear your answers.
1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
This time of year, I have to go with the nog. I can get hot chocolate any time.
2. Does Santa wrap the presents or just sit them under the tree?
Growing up, Santa just left stuff under the tree, or on the coach next to the tree, etc. Since then, he seems to have upgraded his process, as the gifts he leaves are now wrapped.
3. Colored or white lights?
I prefer white, though I do enjoy the colored lights when they’re done well.
4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope. I’m already kissing the person I want to kiss the most.
5. When do you put your decorations up?
We have no hard and fast rules on this one. The tree just went up this weekend, and the lights were put on last night.
6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
Can I go with the nog again?
7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?
The older gentlemen, Mr. Gridley, who lived next door to my grandparents, would dress as Santa and come over to hand out our presents when we did Christmas at their house. As a child, having Santa right there, handing you the presents he’d brought all the way from the North Pole? Incredible.
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I’d have to check with my folks, but it was likely somewhere around ten or eleven years of age. I overheard some other boys talking about, and I confronted my parents with the information. They told me the truth, but swore me to secrecy, as my sister, five years younger than I, still believed.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
That usually depends on where we might be, but generally, yes.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
White lights, with ornaments from my childhood, plus some that were gifts from my mother-in-law, my mom, and my grandmothers. They’re pretty much all personal momentos of one sort or another. No tinsel or garland. Pretty simple, the way we like it.
11. Snow: Love it or hate it?
Love it, just because, growing up in south Louisiana, and now living in north Texas, we don’t see snow often.
12. Can you ice skate?
Nope. Heck, I barely remember how to roller skate!
13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
So many were favorites at so many different times of my life, I really couldn’t say.
14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you?
Spending time with the family. It’s great to see Christmas through the eyes of a child—my son—once again.
15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
A tie between my grandmother’s chocolate pie, and my grandmother’s lemon pie. The tie is always broken by having a slice of each.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Watching my son open his presents on Christmas morning.
17. What is on top of your tree?
18. Which do you like best giving or receiving?
Definitely the giving, though I won’t lie and say the receiving—especially when it’s something from my carefully assembled wish list—comes in a close second. Hey, at least I’m honest.
19. What is your favorite Christmas song?
I’m a sucker for a well done “What Child is This?”, and I also love “Joy To The World” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.
20. Do you like candy canes?
To eat? Not really, but I don’t mind them otherwise.
21. What is your favorite Christmas movie?
Technically not a movie, but I love “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
Non-believers should feel more loved by the church than by any institution in the world.
Boy, but do I blow this one on a consistent basis…
So, what am I thankful for this year….?
My wife. Those who know me know that she has to put up with a lot on a regular basis. However, when I injured my left foot earlier this year, a ton of extra stuff fell to her to take care of, and she’s been absolutely wonderful. I love you, sweetheart.
The little phisch. Our little man is a never-ending source of joy—and frustration, but that’s just part of parenting. That smile of his just lights me up any time, and his laugh is the best sound I’ve ever heard. He’s a gas to play with, and it never ceases to amaze me when I see his mind at work on something. Being his dad is the greatest job I could ever have, and has given me a larger appreciation of the love my own parents have for me.
My folks. I had a perfectly normal childhood. My parents, while strict at times, were never abusive in any manner, and I always knew I was loved. I grew up in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, with lots of other kids my age. My folks provided everything I needed, and more. They made sure I went to college without incurring a large financial debt. Since I’ve left the nest, they’ve been a source of encouragement and help in ways I never imagined.
My family. My sister, my grandmothers, my aunts, uncles, and cousins whom I’m lucky to see even once a year. We may not all talk often, and see one another even less, but it’s nice to know that when we do get together, after a few minutes of catching up, it’s pretty much just picking up from wherever we last left off. My life would be more shallow without them.
My friends. I have friends in this nation from coast to coast, and from the far north of the 48 states down to their southernmost. I am blessed to have quite a few right here in my little corner of the world, and more in many other corners. You have all enriched me in some way, and I’m thankful to know you.
The men and women of the United States armed forces. I’m proud to count members from the prior category in this one as well. Thank you all for your tireless sacrifice on behalf of the rest of us. You are never far from our thoughts and prayers. May those of you in the line of fire return home safely upon the successful completion of your mission. In the mean time, watch your six, and God bless.
God. You have made all things possible. You have blessed me in ways far beyond my understanding and worth. You offered Your own Son in my place, so that I might have a place in Your kingdom forever. I am humbled that You, the Creator of all things, would deign to know the number of hairs on my head, much less want to be my friend. All of the above things for which I am thankful are gifts from You, and I am eternally grateful.
My friends, as I go about my business on the eve of foot surgery, I thought I would take a moment to offer thanks.
Thanks be to God that I was born in America. The United States is, contrary to what a few of our countrymen and very many outsiders would say, quite simply the greatest nation on planet Earth. No, we’re not perfect. Far, far from it. But if you could pick any place to be born and grow up in, surely, this is the place, and this is the time.
I injured my foot the evening of the 17th. Between that time and now I have visited an emergency clinic and been treated, seen a specialist (twice), and had a CT scan taken of my foot. At the two-week mark, I shall undergo surgery to get the foot’s interior cleaned up and have a screw inserted to help hold things together. Hopefully, at the end of four months, the screw will come out, and I’ll go back to normal mobility.
This would have happened in the same way and at the same pace in very few places elsewhere on the globe. I’m not going to get in to some diatribe regarding socialized medicine, but I wonder if I would be as far along in the process in other Western nations. I certainly wouldn’t be here if I were in a Second-World nation, and I might be permanently crippled if I were a resident in the Third World. Thank God I’m here.
Thanks be to God for close friends. Like Drew, who was helping me with a ceiling fan installation when I stupidly injured myself, and who took me to the after-hours clinic so my wife wouldn’t have to deal with that burden, too. And who called this weekend, after being out of town for a week on business, to check up on me, and offering whatever assistance we might need.
Like Nathan and Brent, who do their best to joke around and keep my mind off the injury. For nabbing primo tickets to the local minor league baseball team, so I could have one last hurrah before my mobility is limited for a couple of months. (Thanks so much, Nathan!) Like the folks at our minichurch, who are always so supportive and caring, wondering what it is they can do to help out. I love you guys!
Thanks be to God that I have such an awesome wife and family. If you’re the praying sort, beyond any prayers concerning my injury and recovery, pray for my wife. The Lord knows what she goes through in putting up with me on a normal basis, much less when I’m going to be in a cast and on crutches for a couple of months. Outside of physical pain and lack of mobility, this will probably be harder on her than it will be on me. So please pray for her.
I am so richly and humbly blessed, I can’t even really put it in to words, other than to say thanks. Thank you, Drew, Brent, Nathan, Donna, Bill, Geno, Liz, Brad, Becky, Susan, Larry, Marlie, Carolyn, Veta, Sam, and Brenda.
Thank you, Mom and Dad, for your encouragement. (And yes, Dad, I did feel the eye roll over the phone when I told you what had happened, and I just hear in my head, “I thought I taught you better than that.” Come on, you know you were thinking it. And yes, you did teach me better than that. What can I say? I had a moment of stupidity.)
Thank you, Kelly, for loving me. You are so wonderful and awesome, there are times I can’t believe you’re even in my life, much less my wife.
Finally, thank you, God, for delivering me from sin, for calling me to Your Kingdom, for blessing me with my nation of birth, for my many friends, and my family. You are, indeed, an awesome God!
Well, dear readers, after being gone for a week on a family vacation, I’m now leaving in the wee morning hours—in six hours, to be precise—on a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico. It’s an annual thing our church does, and this year I decided to go as one of the adult volunteers. It’s really a mission trip for the youth of the church, with something around a 65-35 breakdown of youth to adults.
Normally the trip is to build simple homes for the poor of the area, but this year we’ve been asked by the mission sponsor, Amor Ministries, to build some duplex housing for attendees of the local Bible college.
So you won’t be seeing any updates from the phisch bowl for a bit, as we will have little power available, little running water (which we don’t drink any way, we bring our own drinking water), and absolutely no Internet access of any kind. Mobile phone coverage is even spotty, and insanely expensive.
It’s going to be a blast.
See you next week.
Compassion now has a store where you can purchase Compassion-branded merchandise, as well as music and books from artists who support Compassion. This is a great way for those who may not be able to support a child on a monthly basis to make a contribution to Compassion’s ongoing ministries.
My personal favorites are the “Changing the World” t-shirt, the “The opposite of poverty” t-shirt (the front reads “The opposite of poverty is not wealth” and the back reads “The opposite of poverty is enough”), the Men’s Dill Polo, and the Vintage Cap, which is apparently so popular, it’s already on backorder.
Now they just need to add a wishlist feature to the Compassion Store, and I’ll be set!
See you at lunch. :D
Yesterday, my wife awoke to find our son still in his bed. Granted, he was awake, but he’s only three and still hasn’t quite figured out the whole Christmas morning, Santa has left presents, thing. So she went to get him up, and moments later he came in to our room.
“Merry Christmas, buddy!” I tell him as Mom helps him up on the bed.
“Merry Christmas, Daddy,” he replies, giving me as big a bear hug as his little arms can muster.
He then proceeds to plop down next to me, still hugging me, and we stay like that for about forty-five seconds before he pops up and says, “Come on, Daddy. Let’s go get presents.”
If nothing else, those sixty seconds made this the best Christmas ever.
From Jack on the World_SIG list, who said, “You’ll never see this in the MSM.”
The text accompanying the photo reads:
“Air Force Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt, of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group at Balad, Iraq, cradles a young girl as they both sleep in the hospital. The girl’s entire family was executed by insurgents; the killers shot her in the head as well. The girl received treatment at the U.S. military hospital in Balad, but cries and moans often. According to nurses at the facility, Gebhardt is the only one who can calm down the girl, so he has spent the last several nights holding her while they both sleep in a chair.”
CMS Gebhardt will never be singled out by the American or Arabic press for his compassion. He will not receive an award for the love and affection he has shown a little girl in such desperate need of both. His action may not resonate with anyone on this blue marble except the little one on the receiving end.
A couple of nights ago, I caught a M.A.S.H. re-run. It was the one where a Korean-American baby is left outside The Swamp, with a note attached telling the camp the baby’s father was an American GI. Like Japan, Korea is a very homogenous culture, and children of mixed heritage were (are?) looked down upon. This little girl would not have a happy childhood, and would likely even be killed before she reached adulthood. The staff of the 4077 try in vain to get her transferred to the U.S., and finally resort to leaving her at a nearby monastery, where the monks will keep her cloistered and safe from those would harm her.
As they’re saying their goodbyes outside the monastery, Hawkeye tells the baby, and forgive me for my paraphrasing, “You brought a little light in to a world filled with darkness.”
Thank you, CMS Gebhardt, for bringing light in to a little one’s world of darkness. I know you are likely not concerned with receiving it, but I pray she is able to thank you some day, too.
There are some people in this world who have no concept of grieving over the death of a pet. “What’s the big deal?” they ask. “It was just a cat/dog/bird/hamster.”
On some level, these people do have a point. They are “just” animals. Animals do not experience emotions the way humans do. Every reaction you see from an animal is conditioned, instinctual, or in-bred. A cat does not love. A dog does not love. Yet their domesticated behavior may, to our own emotions, look like expressions of love, and for that, we love them in return. We know in the back of our minds that when the cat plops itself down on our chest when we’re trying to go to sleep, purring contentedly, it’s not really saying, “I loooooooove you”, but then we don’t really care. We smile, give the cat a little rub on the head, maybe on the nose, and some long body strokes, and the purring only gets louder. It’s a great way to fall asleep. We love the cat for this. (Especially when you’re the only one in the house the cat does this with.)
People who ask “What’s the big deal?” when a pet like that dies will never get it.
Of all the photos of Guinness Tom has shared with me, and the rest of the world, this one is among my favorites:
There is something so very cat about it, and Guinness was a cat’s cat.
Kelly and I lost our first pet, our Pembroke Welch Corgi, Linus, in April 2002, having had our little pup for ten wonderful years. We know the heartbreak the Bridges are going through, because while Guinness was not a human, he was not a baby, a child, he was also not “just” a cat. He was a member of the family.
Yesterday was my wife’s birthday, and I didn’t get around to posting birthday wishes for her. One of the dilemmas for married guys—at least, I hope this is a dilemma for married guys, or else it’s just me—is the older we get, the harder we find it to pull off those grand, romantic gestures for our beloved.
Such was the case yesterday.
I thought a lot about what I wanted to say, but couldn’t get thoughts converted to bits on the screen. So here is what I’m left with:
Kel, I love you more now than when we first said the words sixteen years ago. I love you more now than when we exchanged vows and rings fourteen years ago. I love that you’re my best friend, and you love me even when I’m not very loveable. I love that you’re the mother of our son, and how awesome you are at being a mom.
I hope you had a good birthday.
Marriage is where it’s at.
At least for me.
So, fellow dads, how’s your day going? A pretty quiet one for us here at the Phisch Bowl. It was nice to sleep in a little, then off to church, and Mi Cocina for lunch (Sunset Fajitas!). Both the little phisch and the missus crashed for a nap, and in addition to doing some online reading, I’ve enjoyed one of my Father’s Day gifts: the fifth season DVD set of Seinfeld. Season five is notable because it includes my favorite Seinfeld episode, “The Marine Biologist”, which I watched, along with the episode’s extras, a few minutes ago.
A pair of homemade gifts from the little phisch: a framed handprint he made at school, and a pocket-protector card he colored in Sunday School this morning. As usual, these will take prominent spots on the refrigerator and study whiteboard.
I’m usually the one who gets our little guy down for his naps, and today was no exception. As he drifted off, and I looked at his peaceful face, it was one of those Hallmark moments where your heart feels like it’s about to burst. Since becoming a father, I have learned more about how much my own dad loves me than I ever thought I knew.
Likewise, having had those thoughts parents have, since becoming a dad my relationship with God has deepened, as I understand more how wrenching it was for Him to give up His only Son for the world.
My fellow dads, I hope you all have a great day.
Dad, I love you. Thanks for always being there, and setting the example you did.
About this time fourteen years ago, my beloved and I were dancing our first dance, or cutting the cake, or visiting with the numerous friends and family members who were generous enough with their time to spend it in celebration with us.
A lot has changed in the world in fourteen years. A lot has changed within each of us. If you had told me fourteen years ago how our lives would be today, I would have thought you insane. Yet we have a really great life. Sure, there are a few things I wish could be better. I wish my mother-in-law would have had more than nine months with her only grandchild. I wish my Granddaddy would have been around to see his first great-grandchild, and my Pappaw would have seen his tenth or eleventh. (There are so many great-grandchildren on that side of the family, it’s hard to keep track.)
We’ve had our ups and downs, but all of that plays in to shaping the kind of people we are today, and the life we have together.
I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love you, Kelly. Happy Anniversary.