Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Monday, January 03, 2011
So, if you enjoy reading these posts, (and thanks by the way, if you do) you'll want to head on over to the new blog. Thanks!!
Friday, December 31, 2010
How long does your family leave the Christmas tree up? A week, or two maybe? I guess it depends on whether or not you have a real tree. I mean, technically, if you have one of the fake ones, you could let that bad boy stand there in your living room all year long, proud and tall; but if you have a real tree, you’ve got to get it on out of there... Well, I should say you need to get it on out of there. I’ll never forget the time in high school when I went over to my friend Apurva’s house and walked into the living room only to find a Christmas tree that was completely dead and brown from the top to the bottom. By the way, it was the middle of June! When I walked in, Apurva said his dad was wondering if we wouldn’t mind taking the tree down... Hello!
To be honest, I was pretty scared to go near the tree. It was drooping there by an enormous window like a rickety old man, fragile and weathered. I was so afraid that at any moment a beam of sunlight refracted through the window would cause the sad, dead stick of a thing to suddenly burst into flames, like a last gasp of life. I looked at Apurva and said, “Why in the world is this thing still up?! Are you crazy?” He said his dad had pestered him for ages to take it down, but he just never got around to it. I told him he should be thankful that the tree never got around to burning his house down! In a heightened sense of my own mortality, I helped my friend slowly and gingerly remove the ornaments from this unpredictable fire hazard and then we picked it up and started to make our way out of the house. I was sweating... trying my hardest to avoid all possible friction, not letting even one of the dry, lifeless needles rub against anything. There was a moment there when we were almost out of the front door when I was afraid that all that fresh oxygen outside plus the tight squeeze of the door jamb would actually cause the thing to combust; but no, we made it. We went across the street and tossed the tired tannenbaum into the woods. I stood there for a bit, just knowing that at any moment that thing would just explode, but nothing.
As I write this, it’s the very last day of 2010, and to be honest, I’m a bit tired. When I woke up today, I was really feeling the last day of the year. In some ways, I felt like Apurva’s old Christmas tree: dry and used up; but then I rubbed my eyes, opened up the Scriptures, said good morning to the Lord who never sleeps and asked Him to meet with me. As I read, something strange and sweet started happening: I began to feel revived. I started to feel fresh, green and strong. If you will, I began to stretch my branches and take in the warm sunlight (even though the sun hasn’t yet risen on this cold, winter day).
Check out these verses from a few different Psalms: “Blessed is the one whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers... The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green... I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.”
As an old year ends today and a new year begins tomorrow, I don’t want to be dry, sad and brown. I want to be planted. I want to be rooted, strong, green and growing in the love of God.
Friday, December 24, 2010
This week, our family took a little mini-vacation for Christmas with Christy's sister and her family. Before heading off to bed on Monday, my brother-in-law Patrick and I set alarms to wake ourselves up in the middle of the night. At approximately 2:35, I turned off said alarm and hauled my sleepy self out of bed, slipping on some shoes and grabbing my warmest coat off of the back of the couch. Patrick was already downstairs and ready to go. Yes, we were tired, and sure, we were probably going to pay for this in the morning, but we were convinced it would be worth it. You see, this past Tuesday morning, at around 2:45 there was a total lunar eclipse and we were going to see it.
It's not every day that the earth lines up between the sun and the moon so perfectly that the earth blocks the sun's rays completely. NASA says that when this happens and the earth casts a shadow over the moon, the moon appears to change color from gray to orange and even deep red because of indirect sunlight filtered through earth's atmosphere that casts a glow on the moon. Pretty cool, huh? But this wasn't the only thing cool about that night. It just so happened that Tuesday was also the winter solstice, which is the night where the earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun, meaning the moon appears highest in the sky. This was actually the first total lunar eclipse to fall on the winter solstice since the year 1638! This hasn't happened in 372 years, which meant that no one in living memory had ever seen it!
So there we were, freezing our tails off in the middle of the night, watching our breath come out of our faces and looking... looking. We stared up into the sky, searching for the event stargazers had been collectively waiting for almost four hundred years and... Nothing. We couldn't see anything at all. It was so cloudy, nothing in the night sky was visible. We woke up, got dressed and braved the cold for... Nothing.
When Almighty God came down to earth as a baby boy on that first Christmas, almost nobody came. Almost nobody cared. In fact, if God had not rocked the worlds of some local shepherds with an impromptu celestial military choir, not even they would have come. The fact that the birth of Jesus was only attended by some blue collar outcasts is cool and it even fits the story, but I'm not so sure it's the way it should have been. You see, when the Father sent the Son into our world, He invited everyone to the party. An unprecedented astronomical event burst into the normalcy of the night sky, proclaiming to anyone who cared to look that a King was born in Israel. It was like a heavenly pop-up ad, a star no one could possibly miss! God was telling the whole world that Jesus was born! And that's not all! Hundreds of years before that star blazed in the night sky, God sent an invitation to his people in their Scriptures. It was like a holy save-the-date card that everyone was supposed to keep pinned up on the calendar. Micah says this: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace."
God invited the world, and except for a few outcasts and foreigners, no one came. Hundreds of years of waiting for... Nothing. In my opinion, rejection has got to be one of the most difficult emotions we ever have to deal with. Well, when God finally fulfilled a three thousand year old promise, answering the cries and songs of countless generations, one of the first things He felt was the dull throb of rejection. And yet, hundreds of miles away, someone was waiting, watching and wondering. Way out in a foreign country there were wise men whose hearts were not so clouded up that they missed the invitation. They came and worshipped. And just like He did then, God is calling me, wanting me, inviting me to come and know Him. The invitation is here today, in front my face and I don't want to miss it.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
A shocking bit of news in the world of sports went largely unnoticed this afternoon. ESPN didn't run the story and you probably won't find an in-depth report on the pages of Sports Illustrated, but it's sort of a big deal. You see, today I officially retired from fantasy football. I know, I know, only a few short weeks ago on this blog I went on and on about how much I loved this hallowed, so-called sport, this make-believe clash of nerdy couch potatoes; but alas, I'm calling it quits. I'm hanging up my fake headset and my pretend whistle. I'm stepping off the phony sidelines and out of the artificial stadium for the last time. Some of my colleagues have seen this decision coming for weeks now. I've been going through a slump of discouraging losses that have turned a fun little game into a weekly, Internet homework assignment I just can't be bothered to turn in. In short, I'm over it. I wish I could say that it has nothing to do with the fact that I should have been really good this year and wasn't, but hey, let's face it, that's pretty much what it boils down to.
And to be even more childish, I blame it all on one guy... Chris Johnson. Now, I love the Tennessee Titans and I love Chris Johnson as a person; and if we ever met I'd want to be friends, (especially because he could crush me) but in the realm of fake sports, he has sadly let me down. I drafted last year's most dominant pro football player because he promised to have another 2,500 yard season. Coupled with Tom Brady, I should have been competitive every week with only two of my players, but CJ has been a total bust. The player that broke records and dropped jaws in 2009 assured the world he would have an even more brilliant and memorable season in 2010, but those promises haven't been fulfilled. I'm still waiting on him to have even one really great week. This disappointment of unfulfilled promises has basically become too much to handle in what my wife calls my "fantasy world." So, thanks to Chris Johnson, I'm walking away with only one imaginary Super Bowl ring.
Unfulfilled promises can be one of life's most devastating realities. Someone promises us something, we believe them and so we start to get our hopes up. When the promised something doesn't come through, we find that the expectation of that promise has become in our minds a guarantee we have banked upon, planned on and feel entitled to. This let down is worse than if we had never wanted whatever it was in the first place. The other day I was reading Luke 1 and thinking about Mary who received promises from Almighty God at the hands of Gabriel, one of the Lord's blazing, eternal messengers. When I read those familiar words again, something struck me... Aside from mentioning the pregnancy and birth, Gabriel didn't really go into any detail about all of the vast struggles and problems this heavenly assignment was going to bring Mary's way. In fact, the stuff Gabriel talked about was all sounding pretty awesome!
"The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. ”
Look at that! Her baby would be called great and become a King and sit enthroned forever and ever! And then this thought struck me with a dull thud: Mary is still waiting on those promises to be fulfilled. 2,000 years later, Mary, who endured so much toil and heartbreak is still waiting on the joyful fulfillment of the promises God made to her when she was but a teenager! Wow. And so it is for those who walk with God. This life winds up being harder than we thought it would be for longer than we ever dreamed it could be. But that's not the end of this story, because God is faithful. He will fulfill every word Gabriel spoke to little Mary. It may not be for another 2,000 years or even more, but it will happen, and when it does, not only Mary's, but all our dreams will come true forever and ever.
P.S. I'm going to be moving this blog to a new location soon, so if you like reading these weekly posts, click here and then set the new page as your bookmark. Thanks for reading... I hope it's an encouragement to you!