Monthly Archives: December 2013

Cray Cray Christmas

I am so excited to spend the evening with hundreds of middle school and high school students! I get to remind this generation what Christmas is truly about and why it truly is crazy! God with us and God in us…now that is cray cray! Please pray for me and I will keep you posted on how it goes!  Willow

Look who God makes His neighbors

The Christmas story can seem so cartoon, so hard to grasp as ours, incapable of owning… As I ponder it, there is more to it than angels and farm animals and grumpy inn keepers. This story can be summed up in John 1:  In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning… The Word became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us.

That means that in the darkness, in the nothingness, pre-dinosaurs, before the wheel, the light bulb and the espresso machine, there was this Word. This Word is and always has been. This passage is actually suggesting that the baby that popped out of the teenage virgin, this Jesus, is the Word that was present in the beginning. What did the Word that was present in the beginning do?

Genesis 1:1-3 reads:In the beginning (hmmm interesting) God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God spoke:

Eight different times in this creation story like a poetic song, appear the words: God said. God used words to create. God expressed himself. The Bible describes this state where the Spirit of God hovered and by His Word He spoke into being what was not, that now is.

And…

By His word, He spoke into being light and what is day and night.

By His word, He spoke into being The Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the sky that houses the clouds and is the backdrop for rainbows.

By His Word, He spoke into being bright orange carrots, tall and graceful cherry trees and the surprise of a pomegranate.

By His Word, He spoke into being the Milky Way and beyond and even the little dipper and Pegasus.

By His Word, He spoke into being the creatures of the sea; jelly fish, orca whales and turtles, as well as the birds of the air; the bald eagle, the yellow finch and the butterfly.

By His Word, He spoke into being the land creatures: the weiner dog and the great dane, the kitty and the tiger, the chameleon and the crocodile.

By His Word, He spoke into being the man and the woman.

This Word that spoke life into being then became just that!

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us. God became flesh and breastfed for sustenance and got sinus infections and had toe jam and reactions to poison ivy and had dairy farts. God bled and experienced migraines and heard laughter and was moved by music, He touched skin and saw sunrises and sunsets. God tasted honey as sweet and sticky as it is and smiled at his work. God bumped into bad moods, hyperactive children, death, parties, love, betrayal and the need for a good haircut.

The Christmas story can be summed up in one sentence!

God became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.

And you’d think that God would move into the sweetest neighborhood with the best neighbors! But look at who Jesus chose to make his neighbors!!! He runs into dirty, desperate, lonely, dark, unfaithful, unbelieving, inadequate and insecure, disappointed, sick, irreligious neighbors. He moves in and He befriends them. He sits with them, He touches them. He walks with them. He parties with them. He cries with them. He talks with them. He worships with them. He eats with them. He lives and dies with them.

The neighborhood didn’t change before He moved in. They didn’t paint or spruce up. They didn’t remodel or mow their lawns. They didn’t get their act together first. God just ran into their neighborhood as it was, and said with His life “I am with you. As you are.” That’s Jesus. It is good news for all people! It is for the sick. It is for the perverted, It is for the hungry, the far away, the broken. It is for the addicts and the cutters. It is for the religious and the haters of religion. It is for those that believe and those that don’t. It is for men and women. It is for blacks and whites – it is for people of all color, tongue and nation. It is for those who get it and those that don’t. It is for those that are rule followers and rule breakers. It is for the gay and the straight. It is for the foolish and the wise, the rich and the poor, the leaders and those who follow them. This God with us is for all people! And that is good news that causes great joy!

You don’t have to be something impressive for God to be with you.

You don’t have to look a certain way for God to be with you.

You don’t have to be healthy for God to be with you.

You don’t have to be believe a certain list of  theological points for God to be with you.

You don’t have to do specific rituals or religious practices for God to be with you.

You don’t have to be a good neighbor for God to be with you.

God will move right into your neighborhood! Jesus moved in, got the house keys and brought over a pie!

This was asinine! This is asinine! One commentator I read said, “Most Jews so heavily emphasized that a human being could not become a god that they never considered that God might become a human.”

God most High, coming down. God, in Heaven, on Earth. God in perfection, suffering. God, exalted left to lay in a trough. Asinine! It is asinine, this whole Christmas thing. So let us enter the asinine, craziness that is God’s love come down. As we enter this story, may we open the door when Jesus knocks and be so astounded that we invite Love to move in. When He, Love moves in, we too will love our neighbors as hard as they may be to love.

 

move into your hood

Christmas can be summed up in this one sentence:

God became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. John 1:14

I love this.

The God who made pomegranates and lizards moved into the hood. The God who paints sunsets with brilliant color pallets and the God who formed mountains with his bare hands, He showed up on the streets and in the alleys. As you watch God move about His hood, He purposely connects with his neighbors. He asks people their names. He knows their story. He sits with them, eats with them, parties with them. His intentionality with his neighbors changes the neighborhood. It changes lives and it changes the world. Actually, come to think of it, Jesus’ intentionality with his neighbors changed my life.

This is interesting considering many of us do not even know our neighbors. We push a button and back out of our garage door, wave at them, go to work, come home after work, wave at our neighbors, press that same button and that is the extent to which we connect with those around us. Christians can actually be most guilty of not knowing their neighbors. Very often we go from one Church gathering to the next. We attend our church services, we go to our Bible studies, our worship nights and our potlucks. We only know people who live like us, think like us and believe like us. How can it be that we can do this, meanwhile our Lord was accused of being a drunk and a glutton because he was with drunk gluttons so much? How is it that we can be in a Christian bubble, when our Lord was accused of being a friend of sinners? If we take a step back and look at our lives, do our lives look like that of our Lord?

The other day, my husband really surprised me. He left the house to work next door on a rental we own. He came back hours later. When I asked him what he got done, he had little to report. He began to explain…

He said he went to a store he regularly goes to. He goes there all too often to rent movies. My husband looooves movies. But this particular night he went there to get a hot chocolate. I said to clarify, “You went to get a hot cocoa?” I have never seen this man drink a hot chocolate in the 15 years I have known him. How cute… I thought. He explained that his stop was supposed to be so quick that he left his truck running while he ran in to grab it.

This whole thing sounded odd. My husband is a very practical guy that only does things that make sense. And he is very predictable in a healthy, stable kind of way.  Drinking chocolate and leaving keys in a car, sounded like he was describing someone else. And maybe he was acting out of character because God was moving him like a puppeteer. I say this because it became clear that he was meant to be in that store. And as I now see it, God must have given him a strong craving for something other than a movie to get him there. Because there were no time for movies! He had to bust out a long list of jobs before our new renters were moving in!

So Rob walked up to pay for his warm drink and the cashier, whom Rob chats with every time he frequents the place, just opened up. He opened up for 45 minutes… He shared with Rob about his mother’s suicide, his mental diagnosis, his deep intimacies with his girlfriend and his failure at school and jobs. These things that were shared, these are not the things you share with someone who walks into a place one time. It was Rob’s frequency of place and intentionality in hood that opened up this man’s story. These things that were shared are also not the things you share with a running car or a job to do. The young man kept referring to the camera watching him talk that was probably going to get him fired. He knew he was opening up deep and wide. But he needed it. He needed another person to hear his pain, to listen to his struggle and to wrestle with him with his faith.

Rob asked him about his faith. The guy said he used to go to church and then when his mom killed herself, people told him she was going to hell. He has wanted little to do with God since. He said he has sex with his girlfriend and doesn’t believe he is going to hell for it. It was clear this guy’s perspective on faith tells Him God is waiting to punish him for pleasure and for pain. His view of God is a horrible, Punisher waiting to strike at any minute. I agree with Him, I would want  nothing to do with this God either. I would rather work in a convenience store every Sunday morning and stock shelves with mountain dew and chips than sit in a pew and try to act like I liked a God like that.

This man just went off on his wounded view of God. And Rob stood across the counter, with the cigarettes overhead, the pop machine behind and the Holy Spirit within. As this man took a deep breathe, Rob agreed that he didn’t buy into those things either. He suggested perhaps that this man give God a second chance. That perhaps he stop listening to those kind of voices and listen to some other voices. Rob actually gave this guy some ideas on books to read. And there in the middle of this store, they talked about Jesus. I asked Rob what other customers were doing when they were talking. He said there were no other customers. I said “There were no other customers for forty five minutes?” Rob knew what my question inferred, “No, there were no other customers.”

God loves his kids so much, that he will do nothing short of moving into their neighborhood and trying to tell them He loves them. He did and He does.

Forty five minutes later, Rob got his change back, walked out of the store with little gas and a new friendship. Moving into the neighborhood the way Jesus did sometimes means frequency in places, spaces and lives we otherwise wouldn’t naturally step into. Moving into the neighborhood means letting your car run even if that makes no sense. Moving into the neighborhood means going with the Spirit, even if the Spirit is telling you to drink a sissy drink. Moving into your neighborhood looks like building trust every time you rent a movie so that one day a hurting human being will let you in to their pain. Moving into the neighborhood means being accused of being a friend of sinners and tax collectors and bipolar, unemployed, suicidal, adult men who love video games and hate the Jesus they think they know. Moving into your hood looks like doing things you don’t normally do.

Let us begin to live like our Lord and then perhaps people will see God for who God really is. This is when our neighborhood will really change! This is when people who are grieving will be able to do it in good company. This is when neighbors who hate each other over fence issues, will hand over their boundary lines because they are willing to serve like Christ. This is when we will really know each other and care for each other instead of just wave. If you say you follow Christ, you better be following Him right into the neighborhood He has you indwelling. Christ is not just pushing garage door buttons and watching TV. Christ is not just at church. Christ is intentional with people in the neighborhood, that is why He came. So should we be intentional.

if god were to tell you something, what would he say?

If God were to tell you something, what would He say? I think most of us think God would tell us what not to do. We think God would advise us to stop swearing, stop facebook creeping and stop watching Keeping up with the Kardashians. Some of us think God would tell us what to do. We picture God having some deep commanding voice belting out orders like “Read the Bible! Go to Church! Call your Grandma!” I think we think God would have a sit down with us and give us a run through of everything about our lives that is in disarray: “Kid, you need to clean your room and stop making promises you can’t keep. You need to wash your mouth out with soap, stop your bad habits and salivating over what other people have. You need to give more money away to the poor and start liking that catty witch that lives next door.”  We picture God, if He ever was to take the time to say something to us, it would be a quick talkin’ to about His eternal dissatisfaction with who we are and then He would move right on to the next guy.

The Bible summarizes Christmas or shall we say, Jesus’ birth, this way:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning… The Word became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us. John 1

The Word here in Greek is logos. The Bible Readers Companion says the Word is “The living expression of all that God has ever sought to communicate about Himself.” Jesus is everything God ever wanted to say to us. Jesus is God’s Words, His expression, and message. That’s what Mary gave birth to- the full expression of who God is. God showed up on the scene to fully express to people His message. He had words to say. He had thoughts to share. He desired to say something and did so in the way of being with us. Man… this is a God who must really want to be known by us.

It’s like this: Jesus is God standing on a street corner holding a little Caesars sign playing it like a guitar. Jesus is God flying a blimp in the air with a message on it. Jesus is God raising His hand because it is His turn to say something. Jesus is God writing a letter to the one who is on His mind. Jesus is He who is said to be the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It is Him in letters, that write words, whose life is a message from God Himself. When we look at Jesus, what do we hear God expressing?

When Jesus ran into the centurion who felt inadequate, I hear God saying “I see worth in you beyond your inadequacy.”

When Jesus ran into the demon possessed guy who was self destructing and isolated, I hear God express “I want for you life.”

When Jesus ran into the men on the road to Emmaus who were bummed, I hear God say “I am with you in your disappointment.”

When Jesus runs into Peter who betrayed him, I hear God say “I love you and I don’t want anything to get in the way of our relationship.”

Who God expressed Himself as to these people, He also is, to you and I.

Do you need to hear God sees in you worth?

I do.

And He does.

Do you need to hear God say He wants for you life in the places that feel so dead?

I do.

And He does.

Do you need to know God is with you in your deep grief and disappointment?

I do.

And He is.

The message we hear about God as we look at the life of Jesus is for you and I. What we celebrate at Christmas is God’s expression to us in the life of Jesus. So often I talk to people who are confused by Jesus. Jesus always said “Hey, if you want to know what God is like, look at me.” Jesus never told people to look at religious people or the people who claimed they had this whole God thing figured out. No, Jesus said, if you want to know what God is like look at me. I will show you. And then you see Jesus touching who no one else would. And you see Him dining with outcasts that are consistently not invited to places. And then you see Him weep. And then you hear Him call people who feel unworthy words like “daughter” and “son”.  Jesus is so absolutely stunning, He puts beauty to shame. He is compassion. He is grace. He is love.

Sometimes, I sit back and like people who think Jesus is nuts, I agree – He is. It is nuts to think that God is this beautiful, this forgiving, this patient, this enduring, this willing to go the long haul with people. And then I think, that if I were molding and making up my own god, I could only dream god to be as gorgeous as Jesus. So, I think to myself,  if God is like Jesus, I want more of God. And then I realize, I can have as much of God as I want. He offers all of Himself to each one of us. And this Christmas, might I remind you that every time you hear about Jesus, God is saying something to you.

Yes…to you.

Maybe you should stop and listen.

In the next few weeks, check back in as I continue to ponder this God with us. In the meantime, as you look at the life of Jesus, what words do you hear God expressing to you? I’d love to hear…..

Why advent seems stupid, i seem unspiritual, and the line seems so long.

waiting

This morning I awoke to Advent. And I don’t like Advent. Well, if I am honest, I like all the worldly, Santa clause, sweet, cute, green and red, cheery, German, holly, jolly Advent stuff.  But the important, deeply significant Advent talk, I kind of despise. It feels like all these puffed up religious people get their pipes out and their theological books the size of dictionaries and quote old preachers who had big things to say about why we should get all up in God’s face the 25 days before Christmas. It is this season that finds me counting down to Christmas by way of chocolates and little tokens for my kids and feeling so very “unspiritual” and guilty because so many of my people are using big words and concepts that go back to Church history that I am supposed to be interested in. But I am not. I am not interested in doing advent because people waited for God for hundreds of years and apparently, so should I, in the month of December. Sometimes, this Advent thing feels like a forced season of being extra “spiritual”. But for some reason this morning, it felt different.

The idea of Advent is that people awaited God. They waited and waited and waited. And God showed up. Jesus, the Immanuel, God with us, showed up on people’s scenes. As the book of John puts it: God became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. After all that waiting, this God with us ran right into the places and spaces people had been longing for Him to, for so very long.

This morning, as I was journaling, this is what the tip of my pen wrote: When I think about waiting Lord, I think about the things I long for that have taken up residence in me because they have been waiting in line for so very long. And it feels like they can just never seem to get to the front of the line.

And then I began to journal them. The things I wrote were longings I have had for years and years and years. You have them to. They are they things you have hoped for all your life. They are the people you pray for every time you muster up prayer. They are the places you beg for intervention in. They are the relationships that you so desire reconciliation for. They are your family and friends who need healing and hope. We all have these longings. They have waited in us for months, years, decades, lifetimes. Maybe, you too, could sit and write what you have waited  for, for so very long. For me, as I did, these longings brought me to begging this God with us, to show up, to intervene, to break in, to bring good news. Perhaps this is what it means to enter Advent. To come to God with our longings. We don’t enter Advent as a religious must, but instead Advent can be a time to enter into what we long for and beg God to move into those neighborhoods of our lives and bring about the change only God can.

I told the Lord this morning, I wait for you to come here… and here… and here… I wait. And I wait. I wait so much. I understand waiting. My waiting does not determine Your presence. My waiting doesn’t  tell me You are not real or You do not care. My waiting tells me “In good time.” “In Your time”, I say to God. In Your time. I am reminded that all things are brought about in time. God is in control and God knows what He is doing. That is what I have to tell myself while I stand in line. I could tell God be swift, but I know that God works out all things for good in His time. He knows what it takes and how to get there. What I would like to see happen quickly, God would like to see happen authentically. God knows change, transformation, redemption, they take process. And process takes time. The ticking of the clock. The turning of the calendar. The passing of the years. Shaping. Molding. Moving. Making. Process.

So I write, I will wait for you God. I’ll wait for you. Come to me in line. You will come. That is who you are. You are God with us. I long for you Immanuel in a very long line.

As you wait in what feels like a very long line, may you long with Him in that line. Write to Him, pray to Him, beg of Him, what is it you wait for?

He waits with you, while working.

He is God with us.