Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Presents to Presence

When I was a child I had the most difficult time preparing for Christmas morning. I couldn’t fall asleep and once I did I would wake up every hour or so in anticipation of what was to come. My parents had to have had a love/hate relationship with it. They knew that somewhere around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. I would be making enough noise so as to let them know… “It’s time!!!”

We, the children, of course, were prisoners in our own room. We had strict orders not to leave until our parents would open our doors. Finally that moment would come and I would rush out the door and always stand in awe of what was before my eyes. It was a very exciting time for me. It was a feeling I loved to experience for years.

This was the day we had been waiting for all year. Those hours spent on the floor in front of the JCPenney Catalog were finally going to pay off. The presents were here… Christmas had arrived!!!

The day after Thanksgiving this year I experienced something I had never experienced before… no not a turkey blowout… BLACK FRIDAY!!! (If you lower your voice it really does sound scary) the day after we celebrate all that we are thankful for has become the day of consumeristic overindulgence where we push and shove to get more stuff. I guess so we can be more thankful [insert sarcasm meter].

In this advent season we, who call ourselves followers of Jesus, celebrate His birth. His coming to our world! As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that all of this consumer craziness has become the biggest deterrent to a true celebration. We have become focused on the presents instead of His presence.

There is great awe in Christmas. God became flesh. He came to save us from sin and death, and make us whole and yet we still can’t wait to wake up and see all the stuff at the tree in the morning. It’s interesting… when Jesus showed up as a baby it wasn’t an event that captured the attention of the entire world. Only a few were even aware that it had happened. Everyone was still going about their usual routine. However, it was at that moment that the story of our lives was beginning to be rewritten. From one of sorrow and defeat to one of joy and victory… and yet nobody was paying attention.

Has much really changed? We have something to celebrate. Something great. May this season be one where we place our focus on Immanuel, Christ with us. His presence is here… Jesus has arrived!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Come Let Us Return

"Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." Hosea 6:1-3

As I have learned all to well this week, sometimes God will tear in order to heal. He will injure to restore.

Last night I got called to play softball as a fill in for a bunch of college students who were M.I.A. on a fishing trip. First, I stopped playing softball several years ago... make that 8 to be exact. Second, I haven't run more than 30 steps in several years... make that 4...

I had no business going out and playing softball... a girly game anyway (no offense to the girly softball players). But they weren't going to have enough so I said "Yes..." Surprising myself I went 3 for 3 with 2 doubles and a single. This proves that you don't have to be athletic to be successful in softball. Anyway, after my last at bat, a stand-up double the guy after me hit a slow grounder to third... the third baseman threw the ball to first and I took off for third... the third base coach told me to get down as though there was going to be a play made on me at third so I slide... BIG MISTAKE!!! I was wearing shorts and upon this realization I tried to stop myself from sliding... BIGGER MISTAKE!!! I slid into third anyway and at the same time I dropped all my weight back on my hand/wrist. I stood up and looked down at the wonderful road rash on my ankle and shin... "Lovely!" I thought.

Then my hand started hurting... I kind of ignored it thinking I just sprained it a little bit. I went in the outfield and even managed to make a good throw with my hurting hand. Game over!!! 17-5 us!!! YES, I'm a winner again!

Heading home to the fear of the shower that would await my burning legs I pondered the idiocy of this old guy trying to play sports again after such a hiatus from them. Waking up at 5:30 this morning I noticed my hand was really hurting. I reached down to it and noticed some swelling above my hand and severe stiffness in my wrist. I squeezed the part of my hand just above my wrist and felt some Rice Krispies in there... or at least I heard them. "That's not good." I thought, but proceeded on with my day.

Now several hours into the day I know my hand is broken... but I think I have managed to place the bones back in their correct place. At least I can make a good fist right now.

As I sit here and think about the stupidity of the injury... I am led to think of other ways in which I have felt injury filled over the last few weeks. Sometimes it has felt as though God were distant. Some days I have asked myself if God would maybe not bring me back this time... but then... Hosea spoke!!! That Scripture came to me and God began to speak.

That I might press on to know Him in spite of where I was spiritually. And that I would know that as surely as the coming of the dawn... a new day... He would appear and respond in healing and restoration.

Where in our lives? In our student ministry? In our church might we need to return to the Lord? Maybe it is that all this time God has been waiting for us to return to Him in all that we are. Maybe we will experience deeper, sustained spiritual growth when we press on to know Him and press hard into Him and believe in the promis that He will respond.

Maybe we are experiencing a time of restoration and God is simply waiting for us to seek Him and then we will begin to see amazing things happen in our lives, our student ministry and our church.

Now, I think I'm gonna go see a doctor...

p.s. Don't tell my wife, she's gonna kill me. Even she knows I'm too old to be doing this stuff...