Losing Gravity

I’m really terrible at self-promotion, and it makes me feel slimy to place any spiritual significance on my own writing, but today’s specific piece in my Advent devotional is exactly where I am right now, and maybe where you are too, so I wanted to share. I’ve been kind of grumpy lately, even if I put on a good “Christmas Holiday Spirit” show, snowman sweater and all. Kind of like gift-wrapped underwear. So here’s to losing gravity.

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“My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I find no rest.”
Psalm 22:2

We thought we knew what it meant to be desolate. We thought exile from the garden was the very bottom of our fall. We thought we knew the darkness.

But we have not felt such a void as this. We did not know God’s presence was the only thing that tempered us.

So we ask to hear the stories again. We ask to hear about our ancestors who walked and talked with God. We ask to hear how Moses saw God with his own eyes and the glory turned his hair white as fresh snow. We ask to hear how Isaiah’s lips burned with the purifying fire of heaven. We ask to hear about the great King David, how he chased after God imperfectly but with passion.

These stories bring us closer to home than we have been our whole lives. We know, with every drop of blood in our bodies, something is not quite right, not quite whole. When we are most aware, we feel the outcast, the foreignness of where we are. We know, somewhere quiet and deep down, we are in a strange and dying land, a land for which we were not made.

We feel the absence of God in an ineloquent way, a way we cannot quite place. Where once there was a pull between who we are and who we are meant to be, there is nothing. Our identity is tangled up, not in God, but in the rules he gave us generations ago. We no longer feel the draw of the bits of God within us, pulling us toward the maker.

We have lost our sense of gravity.

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Excerpt from Long Lay the World: Essays & Images to Prepare Him Room, available for instant download.

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We Saw His Star

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There is magic in the air.

It is crisp and clean, like a snowflake landing on your tongue or the faint chiming of a bell, the sharp scent of cinnamon or pine trees freshly cut.

It all feels elusive; the waiting, the anticipation, the can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it. It shimmers and shines, skirts beneath your feet spreading shadows against the wall, glinting off frosted windows like tinsel, darting just out of sight when you turn your head to catch a glimpse, a miracle shy of the attention.

It is cold now, at least on our side of the world, the side farthest from the sun, the earth tilting us away from the light and toward the unknown. The chill steals your breath and catches in your throat, settling under your skin. It is bone-deep, even as we turn our collars up against the wind, wrap our scarves tighter around our chins, bury gloved hands deeper in our pockets.

It is a reminder, this brittle chill tinted with hope. It doesn’t seem so unforgiving, knowing it has a purpose, knowing it paves the way, knowing the earth will tilt us back toward the sun and edge even closer than it has in months.

Yet here we are, facing space, millions of eternal souls brushing shoulders, hurrying in out of the cold. And as we bustle and hustle and make and check lists, we wait.

We wait for dawn and then for dusk, for the earth to make its way around the sun, for the end of the day or week or month or year, for the culmination, for the prize.

We have been waiting our whole created lives.

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This post is a sample – Day 1 – of my Advent devotional Long Lay the World: Essays & Images to Prepare Him Room, now available as an instant download. If you like what you see, grab your copy and meet me back here each day in December. I’ll bring the hot chocolate.

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The Good Promise

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Here it is. Here we are: Advent, this first Sunday of hope, of a season recognizing and remembering how God came in after us. The more attention I give to this time of anticipation, the more heart space it takes up.

I try to remember my anticipation is nothing – not a thing – compared to the waiting and hoping of God’s people before Jesus was born to us. I try to remember God’s silence leading up to his promise fulfilled. I try to remember a people whose very identity was weighted by the attention and direction of God sliding into emptiness. I wonder if they noticed at first, how the God who spoke to them in fire and wind had grown quiet.

I wonder when their laws and rituals took the place of any intimate relationship with God; I wonder if their blood sacrifices were nothing more than duty, before leaving the temple no closer to holy ground.

Hundreds of years passed between the final prophecies of Malachi promising God’s deliverance and the first chapter in Matthew setting up the story. Generations born and gone with no new word from the God of their ancestors, the God of their history. The history of their people and their favor from God little more than legend.

We are lucky; we flip those few blank pages between the Old and the New and we jump right on in to the catalyst, the coming of Christ.

This season I hope to settle into those blank pages, the silence that stretched for centuries. I hope my heart swells with the anticipation of a promise fulfilled. I hope you’ll join me.

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My Advent devotional Long Lay the World: Essays & Images to Prepare Him Room is now available as an instant download. Grab your copy and meet me back here each day in December. I’ll bring the hot chocolate.

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Long Lay the World

Oh, by the way, I wrote a Christmas devotional.

Long Lay the World COVER

My photographer buddy Alan Brock lent me some of his stunning photography to punctuate my words. This daily devotional leading up to Christmas Day is intended to make God a little clearer and closer this holiday season.

You can get your own digital copy here! You can check out a free sample, or purchase an instantly downloadable version complete with high-resolution images for $4.99, or you can upgrade to include one 8″x10″ print of your favorite image ready for framing for $29.99!

I’m so excited to share this project with you. I’ve poured a lot of 5ams into this, and I hope it helps you focus on God this Christmas.

 

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I Believe In A World That’s Made Clean

I believe in a world that’s beyond me
I believe in a world I ain’t seen
Past the glass
The shotgun shacks
The violent, faceless, racist facts
I believe in a world that’s made clean

I have this song on repeat, because it so fully describes how I’ve felt these last few days. I have read every possible thing I can about the refugee crisis pouring out of the Middle East, watching my European brothers and sisters welcome fleeing souls, wishing I were there to clasp weary hands and usher in weary feet and tuck in weary children. I can’t physically be there when the families wash ashore, and it makes me want to pack my bags and hop a plane and go.

I conveniently forget, or choose to ignore, that every land on this earth is war-torn. Every street is battle-scarred and blood-stained. Every one of us is an exile.

I believe in a world that’s made clean. I believe with my whole calloused heart God lets us be part of that work. I believe God can fix the world all on his own; I believe God is asking us to help. I believe God is asking us to be instrumental in ushering in new life.

I oftentimes let fear close my doors and my heart, my eyes and my fists. I hoard and I heave, hoping others are more generous, more aware. I do what is easy, instead of what is right, and good, and true. I don’t let it take root that I have a job to do; that we are all searching for home, for rest; that my faith in a world made clean is the hope a worn and weary world needs; that faith without elbow grease is hollow; that the abundance I squander has nothing to do with me, has nothing to do with God’s special favor for me, has nothing to do with my ability or skill or talent or worth; that if I am going to believe in and hope for this world beyond me, I have got to be willing to go to the places not beyond me and work toward that peace on earth.

It isn’t enough to wait on God to fix things; to appeal to him to fix things. Because he already answered every exile’s prayer for refuge.

The answer is you, and me, and the Church, the body of Christ prepared and bestowed with God’s own Holy Spirit to finish the work.

Let’s finish the work.

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A Prayer of Preparation / Let Us All Be Filled

On one occasion, while Jesus was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

–Acts 1:4-5

God the Father, Christ who died, and the Spirit who guides…thank you.

What a perfect and perfectly complete three-in-one God we should know. Jesus, even those who knew you best, those most eagerly equipped to scatter out into the world shouting your story of redemption and forgiveness and grace…you bid them wait. What a surprising thought.

Your own eyewitnesses, your innermost circle, you commanded their patience, their pause. The bearers of such profound truth, such life-breathing, life-giving capital-lettered TRUTH, meant for and given to the whole world that we may live…the men and women so fully acquainted with your extravagant, excessive love, the holders of these words poured out to heal the whole world…you said, “Wait.”

How helpless they must have felt, as if they had been told to sit on their hands while the world out there was drowning, a world to love like you love. How ready they must have known they were to go out and get to work.

And oh, don’t I know how significant the story is, Jesus, the story of God and creation and God’s intense love for creation. The story woven so deep in our marrow we oftentimes miss it. The story that haunts us, that shadows our every step, that skirts around the edges of our souls telling us we aren’t quite home yet.

I know this story well. I know the impact and the purpose and the hope you offer. I know the way your words sink into my skin and pump through my heart and pour from my fingertips, if I let it.

None of that has very much to do with me, if anything. None of it comes from my own eloquence or experience of you. And oh, thank God. I could not spill grace so willingly, so easily, though I am given it so freely and at such a high cost. Never could I on my own.

In your perfect knowing of the universe and through your intimate understanding of humanity and all of our weaknesses, you prepared us to finish the job. To heal the world. Jesus, you could have done it all; you could have fixed the earth once and forever and the job would have been done to perfection, completion. But what an invitation you give us to engage. Not for your lacking but for our own undeserved fulfillment. What an invitation to follow you. And what a direction you are leading us.

God, you breathed us to life. Jesus, you bled for our redemption. Spirit, you’ve moved in to help us muddle through it all.

This chapter in your holy word, Acts 1, in preparation of what the liturgy lovers call Pentecost…your followers had no idea what was coming. Would it have blown their minds to know what power had been readily promised, so eagerly gifted them? I know I have been arrogant and ignorant enough to think any good I do, any heart I touch, has anything to do with me. No one aches for me the way we all ache for you, God, whether or not we choose to call attention to it. And you knew, God creator and King, how we ache. You knew we needed your life, your death, and, now, your might.

And I still don’t know, not fully, what was coming. Holy Spirit, how little I consider the gift of you. How much I misunderstand you, forget you, as if you were little more than an inkling or a conscience whispering in my ear, pricking my heart, nudging me right instead of left. How wrong am I to misuse the eternal Spirit of God the Father who formed and adores the universe and every single thing in it.

How you came to move among and within us, the same Holy Spirit who swept over an unformed earth before time and space were set in motion. The same Spirit who fought battles for King David, who prophesied through Isaiah, who poured visions and faith and courage into the faithful who have gone before us. What power we have been given! What history — our history — living and breathing in the very center of our chests!

What would happen, I wonder, if I knew, really tried to know, the power with which you have anointed all of your followers? What would happen if I let you, Holy Spirit, lover and knower of every eternal soul, actually move me? What if I were to let God’s own Spirit lead my feet and use my hands and bleed from my heart?

Jesus, you commanded your followers to wait on the gift of the Holy Spirit. The weight of Heaven and Earth depended on it. And once given that Spirit? They shook the whole world. 

Move us and in us, Holy Spirit of Heaven, the way you moved unhindered through those first followers of Jesus Christ our souls’ redeemer. Awaken our hunger and our hearts. Plant our feet and point our hands.

Be our power, our sole power. Remind us that through you, and only you, can we shake the whole world.

This is a series of prayers for the church in hopes that we the beloved body of Christ will move and glow and pulse in this world for God’s great and wrecking glory.

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A Prayer of Introduction / Let Us All Be Hungry

God of the universe, creator and king, how funnily you work. To think the gospel, the good, the great news for the whole world would be entrusted to twelve fickle men from small, by-the-wayside towns. That you would spread out the news of your love and your interest and your attachment to us — all of us — through a handful of people whose lives were both perfectly ordinary yet drastically changed.

To say it is miraculous for something to spread so quickly and explosively like the early Christian church in a time when one had to walk dusty miles between towns and tell of healing and forgiveness and radical grace over broken bread and shared wine…is a little naive. I think I am quick to underestimate the hunger we all have for you, God, to discount the intentional creation in us to long for you.

And so I choose I see it. I choose an awareness of that poignant dissatisfaction I have gotten so good at ignoring or dressing up in shallow trappings.

We are hungry for you, God. May your Church wake up to that hunger.

This is a series of prayers for the church in hopes that we the beloved body of Christ will move and glow and pulse in this world for God’s great and wrecking glory.

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