Archive for December, 2016

20
Dec
16

You move too fast

yield-signSad to say, it was not an unusual situation.

There I stood in front of my closet. According to the day’s schedule, I should have been backing my car out of the garage door at that precise moment.

Instead, though, I was hurriedly trying to button one of the buttons on the collar of my favorite blue-and-white striped shirt.

You know that button… one of those annoyingly SMALL ones that go into an annoyingly small hole.

It seemed the harder I tried… the more vigorously I attempted to speed my progress along… the harder that little button was to shove through the buttonhole.

“OK,” I said to me in my best coach’s voice. “Slow down, for crying out loud! You’re just making it worse.”

It was the right advice in the situation, but it seemed totally contradictory. Considering how far behind schedule I was, I really needed to SPEED THINGS UP!

In that moment I wondered: why do I have such difficulty with the command to SLOW DOWN?

There is great wisdom in those two words. And yet it often seems to be wisdom that is at odds with the world we live in. We push ourselves to see more… do more… fit more in to the schedule… go faster… get it done quicker.

And nowhere is the ethic of FASTER! FASTER! more in evidence than in this… the wholly season of Christmas. I’m sorry… I meant to say HOLY season of Christmas.

Didn’t the Eagles warn us about the dangers of Life in the Fast Lane all the way back in 1976? (“Doctor says he’s comin’ but you’ve got to pay in cash.”). And yet we still believe we can win the race against life’s inexorable clock.

What is it – do you suppose – that pushes us? What drives our foot downward on our personal accelerators… bent on going as fast as we can, while trying desperately not to get a ticket?

My guess is: we want to produce. We want to make deadlines. We want to be effective. We want to gain the approval of others. We want to prove our worth… again and again.

But if that is our intention, what happens to those OTHER purposes of life? …like the “life abundant” purpose Jesus mentions in John 10:10? Or the “love” purpose he talks about in Matthew 22, or John 15 or in numerous other places? And tell me: how does hitting the “turbo” button help us… “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)?

Are we afraid to slow down? What do we worry might happen if we were to slow down for a minute?

Well, the number of boxes we get to check off our TO-DO list might decline some. Expressions of sympathy/pity from our friends about just how insanely busy we are would probably decrease also.

But I bet there would also be a significant increase in the SAVORING aspect of life. You know, it is amazing how good those roses actually smell when you’re not zipping past them as quickly as you can.

For many of us who are blessed to have jobs at this time of year, we will find ourselves forced to step back a little… take a breath and relax; to slow down for at least a day or two. My prayer for us today is that we might seize the opportunity given us to dare to SLOW DOWN… to remember that God’s will for each of us is eternal life (in the here and now as well as in the hereafter), and joy, and love.

Now is the perfect season to remember and celebrate God’s real purpose in coming to live with us in flesh and blood and skin and bones… as we read in John’s amazing prologue to his Gospel: “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5, NRSV), and in his later writing, “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17, NRSV).

Slow down today and stay slow tomorrow.

Christmas blessings and love to all.

13
Dec
16

Sounds of Music

i-love-musicI love music. I mean I REALLY love music.

I love a whole lot of different kinds of music.

I love Christmas music… just not the same five songs over and over again, please.

I love church hymns from the past 400-500 years. But I also really love some of the exciting Christian contemporary music that is out now.

I love rock and roll music. Classic rock from the 70s and 80s, yes. But I really like a lot of the stuff that is being produced today… even the far-out stuff.

I love hip-hop. I’m OK with some rap… just not the misogynistic, violence-promoting kind.

I love classical music. I love the big band music my dad listens to.

I can tolerate SOME country music. But I fall several degrees short of being able to use the word “love” in relation to country. Sorry!

Music is such an amazing, mysterious, beautiful thing. It vibrates in our inner being. It seems to come from a place far beyond the scientific, rational realm. It is no wonder the appearance of angels – whether in the Bible or real life – is always accompanied by some kind of music.

I also love being involved in performing music. When it goes well and all the pieces are working together, it is very soul-satisfying to sing or play music on my guitar.

And so after recently finishing a concert with the Heartland Men’s Chorus featuring 18-20 very demanding, very beautiful holiday-themed songs, I am reminded to include this adjective in the way I describe music: CHALLENGING.

Someone a lot smarter than me once said that music is the perfect marriage of ART and SCIENCE. And one of the attributes that lends an extra measure of beauty to music is HARMONY. Harmony, of course, is different notes played at the same time that sound good together.

Reflecting for just a moment on the idea of harmony, it seems that “different” is a key component of its definition. An assembly of people or instruments sounding the same note might still be beautiful to hear, but it would not necessarily have the richness and depth of a good harmony.

The same thing is true in the visual arts. An image made up of a scintillating variety of different colors and shapes tends to please the eye much more than an image consisting of one color and one shape.

As we cast our eyes around creation, it seems to me this is a regularly recurring theme: that in difference lies beauty. It is almost as if God did this whole thing on purpose… creating a world of wide-ranging diversity in order to send a message to us as earth’s designated stewards.

You would almost think God wanted us to TREASURE the differences he created and recognize them as a source of BEAUTY… almost as if they were a key piece of the puzzle in the “… life abundant…” that Jesus talked about in John 10:10. (NRSV) and not something to be feared.

Certainly much of the beauty of the Christmas season comes from external sources: the lights and decorations we put up, or the snow on the ground or food on our table. But what if we chose to spend more time this year cultivating an appreciation for the beauty that God himself baked into the world he gave us?

  • What if we learned to see the beauty in diversity?
  • What if we cultivated hearts that might rejoice to discover something that breaks the mold of sameness and drab uniformity and stands out?

I don’t know… do you think that might be the spirit that would give us a better shot at the whole “Peace on Earth” thing?

Abundant life and blessing to you and yours.

06
Dec
16

Time will tell

calendar-pagesThe excited bride-to-be does it one way.

The six year-old waiting for Christmas does it another way.

The man waiting for his spouse to return from military service, still another.

And even though some of us do it without giving it a second thought, we still do it.

All of us – in our own way – mark the passing of time.

Sometimes days and hours seem endlessly long. At other times they seem ridiculously short.

As a child, I remember being extremely annoyed by the first week of the month of December. I am sure my annoyance was caused by the fact that both my birthday and Christmas come toward the end of the month. I was very excited for both of them to arrive and yet here we were… still stuck in the part of the month marked by single digits! It seemed as if someone had secretly inflated every day of early December from 24 to 48 hours because each day just DRAGGED ON FOREVER!!

Of course as rational people we know that one day is exactly as long as the next. Its length doesn’t expand or contract according to our moods. But as people who live our lives and encounter various people, events and emotions constantly, time’s passage seems to be stretched, compressed, or warped accordingly.

I often wonder; how might time feel if we could treat each of those minutes as a GIFT instead of treating it as a GIVEN? This is, after all, the “… day the Lord has made…” And because this day – like the one that came before it – is divinely authored, it might make sense to regard it reverently.

In the church we celebrate Advent as a time of waiting and watching. We wait and watch for something that is not here yet… something whose arrival time we pretend not to know and yet something that will be wonderful to behold when at last it appears.

As we wait and watch for the gift that is coming, though, let’s not overlook the wonder and astonishing preciousness of the gift that has already arrived… the gift of today.

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24.




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