Advent Day 19: The Darkest Day

Someone I enjoy following on Twitter is Robert Macfarlane. He’s written a book called The Lost Wordsand this is what I look forward to in his tweets as well… descriptions of old words used to describe things in nature.

Here is an example:

Word of the day: “midwinter” – the day of shortest sunlight, when the sun reaches its lowest maximum height in the sky, and after which the light begins its slow climb back. The winter solstice; the year’s true turn; my day of most hope.

Today is December 21, the darkest day of the year. It’s nice knowing that it can only… Read More

Advent Day 18: Game Changing Inclusion

*photo above: Ashah taking in the sights from the “Top of the Rock” (Rockefeller Center’s observation deck) on our recent vacation in NYC

The only thing more boring than being asked to look at someone else’s vacation pictures is…

Being asked to listen to a description of someone else’s genealogy.

Indulge me for a moment.

Most of us skip over the first chapter of Matthew because, genealogy. It’s a list of names.

And if you read it in the old King James Version, it uses that wonderful term “begat.” Abraham begat Isaac.

How’d he do that? Haha. OK, maybe that’s another post for another time.

Well, actually, it’s kinda crucial to the point of this post… so here we go with the procreating explanation:

Abraham did not begat Isaac by himself. No sir. He had some help. In fact, he did very little to begat. Sure, he contributed, but it was… Read More

Advent Day 17: A Word About Doubt… The Struggle is a Sign of Life

Not long ago, a friend corresponded with me—asking some questions about faith and admitting that they, for a while, had been struggling with doubt. To the best of my ability, I tried answering the questions posed. Then I responded to the part about doubt… this is what I said:

Just a word concerning doubt and uncertainty… the struggle isn’t bad, the struggle is a sign of life. Faith without struggle, without resistance, without doubt isn’t really faith at all.

God can handle your doubts and your struggles.

Certainty isn’t the goal. God doesn’t fit neatly into our theological boxes (He never asked us to put him in there anyway). Those boxes leave no room for wonder or mystery or “I don’t know.” I’m happy to hear that you are alive, struggling, fighting… it’s… Read More

Advent Day 16: Our True Height In Love

*photo above: kids at last night’s Toy Give at NWLife – over 400 children received Christmas gifts

Father Greg Boyle tells the story of a homie named Fili and a volunteer at Homeboy Industries named Ms. June…

One of our tutors at Homeboy, Ms. June, is managing a roomful of students, whom she is teaching to fill out forms. She is a tiny Japanese American woman, a retired teacher who volunteers once a week helping homies on their literacy skills.

One of the many homies she’s working with is named Fili.

When the form asks for his height, he doesn’t know how to answer; confined to a wheelchair by gun violence, he is about three feet sitting upright. Ms. June asks him to… Read More

Advent Day 15: Stay Close To The Poor

I tore through Father Greg Boyle’s new book “Barking to the Choir” in a couple of days (a healthier option rather than Netflix binge-watching). He’s part poet, priest, comedian, and master story teller. This book tops my list of favorites from the past year and it’s one that I will re-read a number of times.

Here is a quote from chapter 8, The Choir…

Dorothy Day, when asked how to live the Gospel, she simply replied: “Stay close to the poor.” She could have said, I suppose, help the poor, rescue the poor, save the poor. But no… Read More

Advent Day 14: Those Times When You Think You’re Being The Blessing And Then You Realize It’s The Other Way Around

Tomorrow is our church’s annual Toy Give. The presents are wrapped, labeled, and stacked. Nearly 500 kids will receive a gift at the party… and there will be prizes, a dancing panda, food, pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a few surprises too. It’s one of those events that makes your face hurt because you smile so much.

snow at toy give for post

The Toy Give is a lot of work and we put out the call for “all hands on deck.”

We give and serve in various capacities—and at the end of the night we are all janitors… stacking chairs, vacuuming floors, taking out the trash, cleaning bathrooms, etc.

It’s one of those times when you think you’re being the blessing and then you realize it’s the other way around.

The children, and their families, (who many, if not most, are facing… Read More

Advent Day 13: Hope Arrives

Back in 2013, I preached a December sermon series entitled “Hope Arrives.” In planning for the series, I asked our worship pastor—Kyle Wheeler—to write a song for this series. He did, and it’s one of our church’s most loved worship songs.

 

Hope Arrives by Kyle Wheeler…

 

Your grace extends to me

It’s for the hurting and unclean

And I know I’m both of these

But your grace won’t leave me that way

 

Your love does crazy things

It can’t be boxed or restrained

The proof of this is Calvary

You gave your life for all humanity

 

Hope arrives… For all mankind

This hope and this life… Is in you Christ

 

Your love is… Read More

Advent Day 12: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

The desire of all nations shall come—and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord Almighty. —Haggai 2.7

Charles Wesley, the younger brother of Methodist founder John Wesley, was a leader in the Methodist movement and writer of more than 6,000 hymns (that’s a lot of hymns!).

In 1744, Charles Wesley was reflecting on Haggai 2.7 and thought about the orphans in the community around him. He contemplated the significance of the class divisions in Great Britain… and it was in this train of thought that he wrote “Come, Thou long expected Jesus.”

At first, it began as a published prayer that included these words words:

“Born Your people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now Your gracious kingdom bring. By Your own eternal Spirit, rule in all our hearts alone; by Your all sufficient merit, raise us to Your glorious throne. Amen.”

Wesley later adapted this prayer into a hymn in and published it in his “Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord” hymnal. The song not only reminds us of the significance of Advent and Christmas, but also encourages us to be looking for Christ’s return and reign.

Page CXVI is a Latifah Phillip’s band… they are known for rearranging and reworking hymns. I love her version of… Read More

Advent Day 11: Finding God In The Quiet

There is a time for everything. A time to be silent, and a time to break the silence. —Ecclesiastes 3.1, 7

I suspect we are addicted to filling all the spaces with noise. And when I say “we,” I mean us Charismatic Christians – including Pentecostals (who are the worst about this).

Please don’t think I’m attempting to throw someone else under the bus. If anything, I’m throwing myself under the bus. I am both a Charismatic and a Pentecostal (although I prefer the Charismatic label, and would like to add a couple descriptors like “gangsta” and “who loves Catholics”).

I am constantly working to fill all the spaces with noise – background music, words, videos, more words, and more music.

In a recent conversation about a Sunday service at our church, a friend said:

“This could be taken the wrong way, but my favorite part of the baby dedication was when you guys were all done saying stuff and just stood there for a while holding and looking at her.”

Funny how his favorite part was the one without any noise.

Maybe we need less cacophony and more opportunities to, as Depeche Mode put it, “Enjoy The Silence.”

I do think we need some holy… Read More

Advent Day 10: God Is Not Always Silent, And Man Is Not Always Blind

Advent reminds us to be awake, like the shepherds who heard the angel’s announcement. So often we hurry through life not really seeing and hearing… but perhaps we can see and hear.

In Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book “I Asked For Wonder,” he writes:

God is not always silent, and man is not always blind. In every man’s life there are moments when there is a lifting of the veil at the horizon of the known, opening a sight of the eternal.

Each of us has at least once in his life experienced the momentous reality of God.

Each of us has once caught a glimpse of the… Read More