Words Remaining

Breadcrumbs Along the Path…


December 2015


It was like any other Sunday morning, but for some reason the speaker’s sermon pierced me and tears flowed unexpectedly.  Joe’s message was about what he had learned through the recent death of his 37 year old brother, Chris.  Chris had been a young pastor, with a wife and kids, but a devastating diagnosis of 4th stage melanoma interrupted his life.

And just like that, this man who served his King, was taken into His Presence.

I’m one who loves a new year.  The clean slate fuels all kinds of optimism in me for a fresh start.  It’s like having a huge dispenser of “White Out” that automatically kicks into action at 12 am, January 1.  And let’s face it, since most of us didn’t do so well on all those resolutions last year, the opportunity for starting over is sweet.  A second chance at life.

But 37 year old’s with advanced melanoma shake the foundation of what one resolves to do with the days of a given year.

The term resolution implies using my own effort to achieve what I weigh as important.  Why not let God, not only set my priorities, but enable me to accomplish them?  It might not look like losing weight or reading more books or becoming more patient.  Or maybe it would.  The emphasis is not on the actual goal, but who is setting it and how its reached. A desire for personal improvement isn’t wrong, nor is the attempt to accomplish it.

The problem becomes when we own it.

Hannah Brencher recently used a phrase about approaching the New Year that really resonated with me – “to be less expectant of myself and more expectant of God”.

The bigger God becomes to me, the more of life I’m able to turn over to Him.  So when an ugly diagnosis or any catastrophic event comes my way, which could happen to any of us, my days have already been entrusted to Him.

I don’t want to minimize the magnitude of tragedy.  Pain and death are unwelcome parts of this life because we’re wired to survive.  But trusting the One who cradles each day for our goals, application, and empowerment, erases the seeming randomness of life and glorifies Him.

Will you join me this coming year in leaning into Him?  Will you allow God’s piercing gaze to cut away what needs to be pruned?  Will you, with me, allow Him to lift the film from our eyes to see what truly matters, so with the time He yields to us, we’ll live with Kingdom intent.

And will you allow Him to carry us across the threshold into a new year, resting in His strength and wisdom, a place where failed self improvements and devastating medical diagnoses cannot limit God’s eternal purposes?


The Mystery of Emmanuel

There is a hook to mystery that draws us into a story.  By its very definition it means something that is hidden.  And who has not searched for hidden things? Answers to problems, lost items, or solutions to who- dun-its?  A mystery is compelling.  It surrounds a subject with intrigue and captivates one’s imagination.

This year, as I navigate the days and weeks before Christmas, I want to recapture its mystery – the inconceivable truth that God became man.

God’s presence in the Old Testament was unambiguous.  Events ranging from an audible voice to hand writing on a wall brought Him close. Visions, a burning bush, and pillars of clouds and fire assured of His presence.  But after 400 years of silence, he came into our midst in a form few recognized.

God entered our world as a vulnerable and dependent baby.  He would have experienced cold and hunger. Absent was the antiseptic smell of a delivery room.  Instead, scent of animal hides and excrement surrounded him. Straw likely bristled against the divine face as animals licked tiny fingers.

Months earlier, a young girl who had known no man, accepted an angel’s message of a Holy Spirit conception for the entrance of the Savior into the world.  Does the mystery get any deeper than this?  And yet, this part is central to the story.

Scottish theologian Donald Macleod writes,

The virgin birth is posted on guard at the door of the mystery of Christmas; and none of us must think of hurrying past it. It stands on the threshold of the New Testament, blatantly supernatural, defying our rationalism, informing us that all that follows belongs to the same order as itself and that if we find it offensive there is no point in proceeding further.”

Like Mary, I ask “How can this be”?  The Christmas story itself is so simple that a child understands and readily accepts it, yet so profound that its essence should take our breaths away.

As a child, I remember looking to the starry heavens, not only for Santa skirting the clouds and rooftops, but also in wonder about that holy night so long ago.  The years of adulthood and responsibility have dulled the flame of wonder in me.  I pray that my soul would not become so secure and so wise that His plan no longer amazes.

Mystery enlarges my faith.  It takes it out of my sticky little hands that try to mold, shape and make it manageable and throws open the doors to a firestorm.  To say I just do not “get it” would be to put it mildly.  How does one grasp the tension of a baby that is fully God and fully human?  But that firestorm makes me hungry for more.  And the message of this season rests on the fact that God was in that manger.

May we never rush past this in the haste of the season.





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