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reflect. take stock. redirect.

We’ve come to that weird week between Christmas and New Year’s where the whole world slows down a bit, if not from fatigue, then from the tryptophan in the turkey – either way the ether of it all provides a bit of dead space for reflection, a moment to take stock, a chance to redirect.

We all need an opportunity to reflect, take stock and redirect.

In our cynical times the concept of New Year’s goals have fallen out of fashion like mink stoles or MC Hammer pants, which is ironic because without the intentional inspection of one’s life it’s entirely possible to keep wearing listlessness along with wry attitudes and actions that emit invisible, but destructive magnetic fields, causing the compass of our lives to lead us in lots of directions – none of which is true north. A decade can pass by like cars on a busy highway, the sheer speed and number can lull one into a trance, awake, but somehow asleep.

In these next few days sneak off for a few hours. Sit in silence. Consider your life. Spend some time talking to God.

One prayer that has always been answered in my life is “God is there anything you would like to work in me?”

Allow the Holy Spirit to have access to every room in the house of your heart – even the ones that have been barred up for years.

Do you need to forgive someone?

Do you need to tell someone how much they mean to you?

Write down all the ways that God has been good to you. Make a list. Pin it on your bathroom mirror.

Make another list. Write down goals and aspirations for the coming year.

Remember all the promises that God has spoken to you. Write those down too.

Between the family gatherings and naps don’t miss this yearly chance to investigate the heart and to dream about something more.



this story is crazy

Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

We all know this story. We have heard it, read it, listened to it over and over again. The repetition can lull you to sleep if your not careful. After a while, we become experts in the story, and in my experience, there’s pretty much nothing worse than an expert – at least in the sense that a person becomes such an authority on the material at hand that they are no longer capable of being surprised or shocked – wonder has been locked away, chained inside the prison of their own experience.

I bring it up because – THIS STORY IS CRAZY! (squinted eyes, high-pitched shout)

I mean, seriously, the earth is going to hell in a hand-basket and God decides to intervene…(seems pretty reasonable, certainly needed)…by sending his son…(unorthodox, but comforting, it’s good to know that management is finally getting involved)…as a baby, born to a 15-year-old Jewish girl!



This seems like a pretty major underutilization of omni-power.

If I were making the decisions, I would:

1) Keep the showing up in person part – that’s a nice touch.
2) Show up as a glorious, brilliant, fire-god-man figure with bronze boots, a trusty, golden war horse and a flaming sword. I’ve found that compliance goes up in direct proportion with the use of the flaming sword. Never, never, never underestimate the power of the flaming sword.
3) Consult with Michael Bay on blowing everything up.
4) Hire AC/DC to play live. This kind of fire needs Angus – not to mention, the irony of God coming to earth while ‘Thunderstruck’ is playing across celestial speakers is a moment too good to pass over.

Things I would most certainly skip:

1) The whole baby thing – it’s just so unlike God, with the dirty diapers and all.
2) Similarly, being born to a 15-year-old girl. Someone a little more qualified would have been nice.
3) The barn scene. This seems like a rather medically risky place to give birth, for people anyhow. It’s fine for the cattle but no place for the Son of God.

God wasn’t joking when he said that His ways are not like mine.

He could have done anything he wanted. He could have snapped his fingers and had the whole planet evaporated. He could have just turned his back and given us what we thought we wanted, rather than what we truly needed. He could have protected himself, remained distant, and just let things ‘play out’. He could have split the sky and showed up with a heavenly entourage, scaring us into submission.

But he didn’t.

And that says something about Him. What kind of God takes off all his ‘omni’s’ and becomes a servant – a servant to disobedient, rebellious people? What kind of God steps out of heaven and into time and space as a baby, born to a 14 or 15-year-old Jewish girl – and trusts that she will care for him? What kind of God becomes dependent upon the very people who need him? We often talk about our need to trust God, and we do – but here we see that it is Jesus who trusted Mary. He trusted her to care for him and feed him and teach him and love him. What kind of God does that?

One that we have surely underestimated.

In these days before Christmas, reinvestigate the story, the one you think you already know – and discover a God who is surprising, a God who trusts unlikely, unimportant people, a God who displays great power through great weakness, a God who really was raised in a barn, a God who is hidden in plain sight, a God whose love knows no bounds.



everybody is looking for ‘easy’

Everybody is looking for ‘easy’. Everybody is looking to avoid pain, and that includes me. When given the option, we’ll take the easier path, like water that moves seamlessly along the path of least resistance.

Trouble is, this is a current that can steal your whole life.

But what do you do when the path of least resistance isn’t headed where you want to go?

Or even worse, what if you have never really considered where you want to go and find yourself adrift in no particular direction?

Here are a few thoughts:

‘Easy’ is often just another synonym for ‘worthless’.

Gold is mined from beneath great mountains – it takes specialized equipment, lots of labor, a willingness to get dirty, and good measure of persistence in order to extract. There’s are reasons it’s valuable – it’s pretty rare, and hard to get to. Chances are, the things that your called to and the goals that have captured your heart are going to be in the territory of ‘rare’ and ‘hard to get’. Destiny has a lot more in common with gold mining than anyone ever told us.

It’s like my dad always said – “if it’s easy, then everyone is probably doing it / has it, and if everyone is doing / has it, it probably isn’t worth a damn thing.”

‘Easy’ is really a big, fat myth.

I’ve lived long enough to get to see behind the curtain – where everyone has trouble, pain and difficulty. In fact, Jesus promised it – “in this life you will have trouble…” Trying to avoid pain and looking for the easy way will eventually take you into tempest. It’s a cycle where you end up with fewer and fewer options, smaller and smaller circles, fewer and fewer resources. This path starts off simply enough but eventually becomes a sort of slavery where choices that were once available to you have vanished because hard choices were never made and rather than self-directing, you are being directed – and that, is the really hard, painful sort of life.

The question isn’t really even about will there be pain and difficulty, there will be. The real question is do I have a life vision or call that is bigger than any possible difficulty?



battling black friday

If you listened really closely you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief exhaled from lips, still glistening with a thin layer of gravy, last Thursday evening as millions of Americans pushed back from the table, changed into something more comfortable, and headed out to battle for the ‘Black Friday’ deals.

It was totally crazy.

People were pepper-sprayed, and by ‘people’, I mean children. Others were shot, by guns – and still others, less dramatically, were pushed, shoved and trampled. Grown men threw punches over Wal-Mart jewelry. Seriously? Wal-Mart has jewelry worth fighting for? Well, apparently – a man in Kissimmee Florida had to be dragged away by the police after an altercation at the jewelry counter. (If there really is ‘no such thing as bad press’, this is a huge win for the Wal-Mart jewelry department, or maybe having your fingers stained green by your ‘gold ring’ is cool now, either way, count me as clueless)

We are completely and totally addicted. It’s like cocaine, only with less guilt.

‘Black Friday’ in and of itself isn’t bad. Getting a deal on a high-def plasma isn’t sending anyone to hell. Standing in line to purchase that one thing your kids really wanted for Christmas is sweet – yet ‘Black Friday’ offers us an amplified snap-shot of the average American, zoomed in with scientific precision.

The snap-shot that this past weekend provided confirms that something is really, really off. For me, it’s a confirmation of something that I’ve noticed for some time now – compulsive shoppers are some of the most miserable, unhappy people I know. You could chart it – as consumption goes up, happiness goes down.

So all consumption is bad? Of course not! I’m rather happy that there are groceries in my refrigerator and clothes in my closet. (But I would like to point out that there isn’t a dramatically big difference in the way I feel as a more settled, secure 33 year-old than there was when I was 21, newly married and barely getting by – I still like ramen noodles!) What I’m talking about is the missional, compulsive kind of consuming that is in every way above and beyond all reason – the kind that fills up every closet, and even bigger – STEALS EVERY MOMENT!

Nothing kills creativity like compulsive consumption.

We were made to produce and not just consume. The very first interaction that God had with mankind was when he spoke this blessing over them – “be fruitful and increase in number…”

This blessing is about children for sure, but it’s also a richer, fuller invitation to be people who invest our strength into creating – producing and not just consuming.

Compulsive consumption misappropriates appetite. Like a drug it offers only diminishing returns. The happiness that comes from being cared for and having our needs met today requires more and more tomorrow – until, eventually I’m spending all my resources trying to get that same buzz. It doesn’t come. We’re surrounded by stuff and sadder than ever.

The most tragic loss is that of our time. Time is non-renewable, and as such is supremely valuable. Creativity and production require time – a great idea can be conceived in a moment, without much effort, but to see it birthed, fully formed and alive, takes time.

The creative, producing life is the joyful life. Nothing approaches the deep joy and fulfillment that come from my three children. There is a buoyancy in my spirit that is directly related to them. Similarly, on the days that I manage to finish a song – everything in the world is ‘right’. Even if its a song that is never sung by anyone but me, even if i never sing it after that day – there is unspeakable power in making something.

Consumption causes us to settle, to become complacent, satisfied with comfort – it makes the work of production seem unreasonably hard, a price that is just too high – after all, why write music when I can buy it for $.99? It’s like anesthesia on our creative muscles – the more I consume, the less I am able to move. Consumption trains us to look to things for pleasure – and again, the more I have, the more elusive ‘it’ becomes. Finally, I’m catatonic – frozen.

I’m not up for starting some sort of protest. I’m not saying don’t go to the shopping mall. I’m just saying that no one can buy the thing they were designed to create.



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