Pentecost – A Sincere Fire…

I love researching the origins of things.
One of my favorite docu-shows is ‘Mysteries At The Museum’ where they tell stories and uncover some mysterious tale from long ago that I never knew existed. I think my love for television shows like this has to do with knowledge and better understanding the world around me. There is this hunger for understanding who I am as a human being and that of this creation around me. I would imagine in some way you are the same as me in this search for truth and understanding.

No photo description available.


I recently came across the etymology of the word “Sincerely”. What’s funny is I know the origin story, but I liked the erroneous version of its origin better. I think I like it because I think it speaks to me on a spiritual level, and carries with it a deep connection of awe and wonder for me.

The story goes like this:
In the Middle Ages, painters would use wax to conceal blemishes in their artwork. It was a technique to cover up these mistakes so that the painter would not have to start over and could sell these paintings to potential buyers. No one would know what was under the surface of the wax, nor would they notice unless they were to carefully analyze the surface of the canvas.

Zest It Cold Wax Painting Medium Review - Jackson's Art Blog


Thus, when a painter would paint their masterpieces they would sign their paintings with ‘Sincerely’ at the bottom in order for the buyer to understand that the artist had created this masterpiece “without blemish”, or without the use of cover up wax. This was a guarantee of honesty, vulnerability and transparency…

Regardless if the origin of the word “Sincerely” didn’t come from these painters and artists, I find the context here to be absolutely stunning and profound. Painters did indeed use wax to cover up blemishes on their canvas and many times without owners ever knowing that they made a mistake.

This is how the Lord has whispered into my heart this week as I approached Pentecost this year. For the first time in fifteen years I am no longer an ordained minister. For the first time in my career as a pastor, I have found a sense of emptiness that had been occupied by busyness and it was all my own doing. There were times that I covered over mistakes on my canvas. Times where I could fool everyone else of my sincerity and yet there I was waxing over the obvious blemishes without ever acknowledging them to anyone, let alone God.

This isn’t some sort of deep confession of moral failure, this is an admission of pride and arrogance. I was the painter covering things up and feigning my innocence. And through it all God wanted and still wants my sincerity.

Many of us approach Pentecost, the day where God’s holy presence literally fell upon those in that upper room with a certain amount of wax covering our canvas. We cover up the mistakes and pretend that God doesn’t see them. Perhaps deep down we know that He does, but as long as we keep fooling everyone else, all is well. But you see that isn’t the way things work with God. He wants us blemishes and all. He desires our vulnerability and our honesty. He wants for us to admit to Him that we haven’t got it all worked out yet. That’s okay. He wants us to stop pretending to be some thing we are not. God longs for us to just take the wax off of our canvas’ and SINCERELY come before Him with contrition and reverence.

So let me ask you today, how sincere is your relationship with God?
How honest are you being with your walk of holiness? How much are you truly striving to live like Jesus every day? I know that there is so much to unpack here. I know that perhaps you will have to do some soul searching. Don’t wait to do it by saying “I’ll get around to it”. Don’t hesitate to come before the Father spiritually naked and without wax. He sees us completely and already knows. So if we truly want to experience Pentecost today in our lives, we MUST be sincere in our minds, hearts and lives.

The Way of Love | Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Federal Way


Something more to ponder on this day of Pentecost.
God Bless you today!

https://pastorsponderings.org/2013/11/22/catching-fire-at-pentecost/

Foster Parents & COVID19 -Unlearning Habits MAYBE…

(I have been learning a lot lately.
How to speak a new organizational language.
There are still so many abbreviations, and slang, and culture…and I only have eight to ten hours in a day to devote to it.)

Life right now is more than interesting.
Sometimes frightening.
Sometimes heartwarming.
Sometimes gut-wrenching…
especially when you hear some of the horror stories of cases our caseworkers are laboring through…things I cannot speak of for both reasons of confidentiality and because I can’t even put it into words. Questions swirl in my mind.
Questions like “how could a biological parent do such awful things to their own kids?!”

But I digress.
(Perhaps I am avoiding that subject altogether right now…maybe one day…)

Our Foster Parents are saints (well most of them anyway).
But sometimes habits are hard to break.

For example:
There are a couple of our elderly foster parents who are so used to being extremely independent and social. They love to get out of the house and spend some time shopping, but really what they enjoy doing is connecting with people they have known their whole lives. Isn’t that what small-town life is all about? Knowing that neighbor across the street. Or that friend you’ve known since high school. This is a small mostly rural community, albeit a very poor one at that. And this is the worldview and context of our dear elderly foster parents I am trying to broadly introduce you to.

Who is dying from coronavirus? More black people die in major cities


A trip to the local Walmart is an excuse to say “hey” to a neighbor, a friend or family member. It is the original social media platform for walking up to somebody and talking face to face in close proximity, because to do otherwise is “Southern” for rude…and no one desires to be rude around here especially these aforementioned foster parents.

But things have changed.

COVID19 is a pandemic.
People have died and/or continuing to die.
It targets many, especially the elderly and those with a susceptible immune system.

Stay at home orders still linger, and for good reason…
and yet we still have a couple of stubborn,
well-meaning elderly foster parents who venture out.

Why?

Because these old habits keep them grounded in life.
It is their life-line to sanity, when back at home fostering children with special needs and those with deep emotional scars can sap away that same sanity to the point of sleepless nights and paper-thin hearts.

They have been told to disconnect.
to stay home.
to become socially distant.
to “lay low” for their personal safety.
and yet, almost humorously (as humorous as times in a pandemic can get)
these face to face socially depraved saints are venturing out.
They are seen wandering the isles of the local Walmart store shopping for both food and fellowship.

Some times habits just can’t be broken, especially when those habits are physical and emotional lifelines. And so, with handbag slung on shoulders, and a need to converse where phone lines and texts cannot reach, they go out and fill their empty carts and replenish their social tanks.

African elder care Stock Photos, Royalty Free African elder care ...


Of course we know the dangers.
All the while reminding them of children back home they have agreed to foster.
Of course we express these concerns to them (countless times)…
but sometimes habits trump the risks and their cars can be found parked in the local asphalt lot adjacent to their anchor of community connection.

Something more to ponder today.
Until next time.

Look What I Discovered Today…(Amazing Grace on the Wind)

For the past two weeks I make the morning and late afternoon drive between Prattville Alabama and Selma. It is a forty six minute drive each way. The scenery will beat any urban bumper to bumper drive hands down. There are rolling pastures of green all splendidly infused with waving deep purple wild violets. They bend and bow in the wind as if in a southern Alabama greeting long lost to the world.

Driving down this two lane highway, where the speed limit is 55 miles an hour, but the raging trucks blow black billowing smoke from their diesel engines as they speed by at 75…I am unperturbed because I am attempting not to miss a single detail of this pastural marvel.

To the right there is a deep shadowy canopy of trees, all purposefully planted years and years ago as cows lazily graze beneath them. There is a bountiful buffet of grass and their bellies attest to this fact as they chew on their cud. I see all of this as I speed by at 60 miles an hour.

Further on down the next curve in the road are workers in blue coveralls and up with the sun as they attempt to raise the frames of a barn. Their labors will soon provide roof and shade to tractors and the large green harvester parked near by. There is a slow steady rhythm to their movements as they languish underneath the heavy beams, ensuring they fall into place only to hoist up another one…on and on down the line.

Lastly I reach the next hill top on the country road and find myself before a bronze historic placard. The placard prominently announces the entrance to an old country church. A United Methodist Church by the name of Ivy Creek. Its name matches the long, majestic driveway curtained on each side by trees and ivy. The old iconic white washed walls with steepled bell-tower top marks years of use and if you were to listen very carefully one can still hear the old church bell, long since removed, calling mournfully for its ancient parishioners and the ghosts of church services of yesteryear.

Perhaps many of the old oaks that line the dust gravel path contain within their own rings a time stamped record of the numerous times “amazing grace” has wafted on the wind and embedded each note and each refrain sung into the porous grains…,embedded so deeply in fact, that the sap running down on the outside of the bark could joyously proclaim the occasional “Hallelujah” to the wind as it passes by.


The sun, golden and new in the morning sky, kisses the side of the old chapel as if God himself has declared that “it is good.” And deep inside of me there is this longing to be caught up in one of those sun rays, golden and resplendent, fresh and new…I want to hear God whisper “it is good“…of me.
I breathe this simple moment in, as I stand all alone at this entrance to this church with its shadow lingering over me. This little glimpse of paradise has been grasped at for just a moment…I am filled with a deep sense of love and warmth in this new day.

And then I get back into my car all the while whispering “Amazing Grace” to the wind.

Why We Are Leaving…and Where We Are Going.

Where do I begin…
For months now I have been battling this thing inside of me.
If I’m honest this urge, this calling, this prompting, this restlessness has been there for much, much longer…for both Shanais and me.

Do you recall what happens when you run from God?
If not, just ask Jonah…

There is a deep aching sadness in the leaving…
There is a sadness in the walking away from what is known and moving into what is presently unknown.

I believe the Lord has brought the story of Abram to me over and over again while we have been in this process. The story is about a rich man named Abram. He had lots of family and friends. He had it all. He was not in want for anything. He was comfortable. And then one day God tells Abram to travel out of his known lands and to live in the unknown places. The uncomfortable, unfamiliar lands…the place where he had no friends. The place where there would be no safety.

It was a giant leap of faith.
He had to trust his Creator.
He had to have faith that God would provide the friends, the comfort, the safety. And so he and his wife Sarai went. They traveled into the unknown land with alien terrain and different customs and people. God reminded Him of His faithfulness. Abram and Sarai were both transformed in the leaving. Sure, there were roadblocks and bouts of their own personal faithlessness, and yet God remained faithful to them. Abraham became the father of many nations. Sarah the mother.

When we do not rely on our own resources and lead from our own comforts we are inclined (sometimes forced) to rely completely on the Lord’s provisions instead of our own. It can be dangerous and yet also liberating, because our resources are limited and our experiences to what is known. What we know personally. We can be comfortable in our frames of reference…and yet God’s frame of reference is so much more infinite.

Back to this restlessness…
I could rely on my own resources…and limit my faith journey.
I could remain in what I know to be comfortable…and run the risk of becoming stagnant and run the same familiar patterns but not really delving any deeper. I could remain here (and here is an amazing, place called home)…but I feel it in the core of my being that God is calling me out of this. It is a leap of faith. It is extremely scary. It is heart-aching. Yet, I will follow Him. I will trust that He knows what He is doing. I will lay all of me on the altar and allow God to use me.

Where are we going?
I didn’t set out to find this.
I wasn’t searching for this kind of work.
It’s not something I am completely familiar with.
We are moving to Southern Alabama.
I will be working in one of the poorest counties in all of Alabama.
Have I ever lived there? No.
Do I have any family there? No.
Do I have friends there? No, not yet.

The ministry? – I will be running a Christian Foster Care organization. It’s a huge leap for me. (I keep saying I and me, and what I really mean is that it is a HUGE leap for both of us – Shanais and me.) We are both stepping out of our comfort zones. We are not abandoning God’s mission in this world, but rather embracing it more deeply. I am a fourth generation Salvationist, and you don’t realize how difficult this is for me to do. And yet, I am doing this, and I have a deep sense of peace about it even though it is scary.

Of course there are questions:
Will I do this for the rest of my life? Answer: I don’t know.
Will I come back to the Army as an Officer? Answer: Maybe.
Am I walking away from my faith? Answer: absolutely not!!
My church? Answer: No.

God’s kingdom is so much larger.
God’s love encompasses so many people, both lost and found.

What can you do?
Please Pray!
Would you pray for us?
Some will not understand why we are doing this.
Some will consider it abandoning our calling…I don’t see it that way at all. Rather we are embracing it more deeply. Some might even disagree with us and the decision we have arrived at. That’s fine, we understand.

I hope that I can count on you to still be a friend and a prayer warrior.
I believe God’s love is greater than any one organization or church. He can call us from one place to another and we can still remain in His will for our lives. Some remain called to one place, others to multiple places.

This might change how you view us, but I hope not.
We are still ministers of God’s love and grace. We still call Him Lord of our lives and we still desire to serve Him.

Thank you for loving us and praying for us while in this scary transition. Thank you to the leaders who have guided us along the way…we love you and are forever in your debt!
We are simply trusting that God knows what He is doing…and there’s nothing simple about it.

God Bless You.
-Scott & Shanais Strissel.





In Order To Truly Love, We need this….

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:” -Philippians‬ ‭2:5‬ ‭

Do you remember the golden rule?
Perhaps your parents taught you this principle of treating others the way that you want to be treated.

So how’s it going with that?
Especially when someone pushes all your buttons?
When someone cuts you off in traffic.
When someone talks down to you in a condescending way…

Then this golden rule becomes so much harder doesn’t it?
It is much, much easier to treat people nicely when they treat you nicely, but when they don’t all bets are off.

Let’s add other believers to this…
Isn’t it interesting that sometimes the hardest people to love…(now get this) – are other Christians. Why is that? Aren’t we working for the same cause? Aren’t we all loving Jesus? So why is it so hard to love other Christ-followers sometimes? Could it be that we all have some sort of idea how to best serve Jesus and if some other believe has a different view then watch out. You see, we sometimes think that our way of worshipping or serving Jesus is the only way and so we protect that methodology to the point that it (not Christ) becomes sacred. And so we fight tooth and nail for our method of service and worship instead of coming together in unity and working in our diverse worship and adoration of Jesus.

How do we change our mindset?
Could it be that the walls that need to come down in our churches and in our Christian world view has to do more with the battle of our minds and preconceived notions of what honors God in our practices? Could it be any more simple that this: That we simply love…others…with no “ifs” “ands” or “buts” involved? What would the Church look like if Christians lived and loved out Philippians 2:5 in the real world?

What is the mindset of Christ?

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭‬

Jesus’ love and mindset was to disciple those around Him and He was willing, more than willing to lay down His life for those He called friend. And He calls all those who would seek Him – ‘Friend’.

Does our love for others resemble Christ’s love? Christ’s mindset?
Do we take this ‘golden rule’ to the next level in our relationships with those around us?

The Cold Hard Truth:
There will be those Christians we may not agree with.
We might find that our personalities, hobbies, likes and dislikes are vastly different…BUT…can we love them and have the same mindset as that of Christ. Can we love them regardless, or in spite of all of that? What we might find is that in the process of seeking the very mindset of Christ, in our every day life – we are given the very heart and love of Christ to love them more deeply and more genuinely.

May our relationships and the way we love others be the very mindset as that of Christ’s.

Something more to ponder today.
Blessings on you today!

Woe To The Fruit-Inspectors…

“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭2:23-24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Imagine that…
The church people…
The ones who were supposed to know better…
The ones who considered themselves holy…
The ones who went to church school and memorized the Bible…

These Pharisees got hung up on appearances.
These Pharisees that were so caught up with the outside of the cup rather than the inside…(Matthew 23:25)
These hypocrites and actors confront Jesus because His disciples were doing something that wasn’t churchy…

How often do we identify as the Pharisees?
(And maybe we don’t even realize it…)
How often have we been overly critical of other church members?
How often have we criticized visitors at church or people in church who perhaps didn’t look or act like we think they should?
They just weren’t “churchy” enough.
Perhaps we don’t say it directly to them (because we can be cowardly critics) but we utter it under our breath or to our spouses after we say our amens and we are in our vans headed to Sunday lunch.

Jesus walks with what appears to be a bunch of unruly disciples.
and they are doing something that the Pharisees didn’t like. They thought surly disciples should act better. Perhaps Jesus’ reputation was on the line…but Jesus could care less what those Pharisees thought about him or his disciples. They were knit-pickers…fruit inspectors instead of producers of fruit…

Do we know fruit inspectors in our churches? In our corps?
In our Divisions? In our Territories? Are there knit-pickers among you who have driven people away from church? Are you the knit-picker? The fruit inspector? Did God really call you to do that? Who gave you the authority? Are you God?

If we are honest we have played the fruit inspector.
We have assumed that power and authority when it really wasn’t ours to assume. We have unconsciously or consciously judged people based on their appearance and I hope we recognize it and have asked for forgiveness for it.

To the fruit inspectors in the pews who are unrepentant I say shame on you! You hypocrite. You Pharisee. You are what is wrong with the church today.

To those who have been criticized and wrongly judged because of appearances…because you were pickin’ fruit on Sunday (or whatever it may have been)…I want to say I’m sorry that you were hurt, that you were judged and that those who took it upon themselves did that to you.

What is in your heart?
Yes, there will always be “church etiquette”.
Yes, there will always be church politics.
Yes, there will always be spoken or unspoken rules of church (for better or worse).

But what matters most in what is in your heart.
Do you love Jesus?
Do you strive to live for Him?
Do you desire to love others and help others to see Jesus?

Man’s laws aren’t necessarily God’s laws.
Church sometimes puts God in a box and try to make Him conform to our desires and patterns of “what is acceptable”.
We have interpreted what God wants, and sometimes we have failed.

But Grace…
God’s grace is for everyone.
God’s grace covers our grain pick’n…and our lack of understanding of churchy politics. God’s grace sometimes turns man’s concepts and authority on its head. I’m not saying that we should celebrate anarchy in the Church, but I am saying that we sometimes place the practice of worship and what is proper (in appearance) before the act of ACTUALLY worshipping God.

So woe to the fruit-inspectors out there.
Woe to the appearance judges.
Woe to the gossipers and slanderers.
Woe to the hypocrites and outward do-gooders just to be seen.
God knows.
(That’s a lot of woes – but perhaps its needed)

He knows your heart, and I know He is not pleased.

What I must caution all of us cheering on this post is this:
Be careful that you aren’t the fruit-inspector.
It is easy to say “ah yes – those people”…and then realize we too have fallen into this trap.

Guard your heart.
Be aware of the trappings of becoming a Pharisee.
Be careful that your heart, mind, soul, body is God’s and God’s alone.

Final Thoughts.
If this resonates in you – good!
If you have been hurt by fruit-inspectors please know this – you aren’t alone and that the Church is more than those small, narrow minded few. You are loved. You are God’s child. He calls you by name. He desires for you to worry more about your heart and to disciple others, more than what you look like and how you dress.

Something more to ponder today.





Crossing the Bridge of No Return

Crossing the Rubicon
In January of 49 BC, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon river.
That doesn’t seem to be a bad thing at all…except that he crossed this little river with his devout band of the 13th legion with him. There were strict rules about disbanding army’s before entering Italy and its capital Rome. To enter this way was viewed as an act of treason. It is recorded however accurate it may be, that Julius Caesar uttered the words “alea iacta est” upon crossing the river with his troops. “The die is cast”.

It was the bridge of no return.
This would start a civil war, which would forever change the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.

Do we as leaders come to bridges of no return?
Do we make decisions that will forever change the landscape of our ministries, our families and the lives of others, including our own? Sure, we may not have the 13th legion by our side, but we have many who follow us.

The troops who did not disband and instead followed Julius Caesar into Rome did so knowing that if they were stopped their fate would be execution.

The weight of leadership is great at times.
How often do we give thought to those we lead and the impact our decisions will be upon them? Perhaps a time or two we have made decisions flippantly and without forethought and the consequence of such a decision has led to low moral or even the loss of team members. The burden of leadership is, at times, a heavy thing to carry.


Titanic Mistakes…
Bruce Ismay was the chairman of the White Starline company that was responsible for the building of the Titanic luxury cruise ship. The Titanic was to be the ultimate ship upon the seas and would be admired by all. One crucial misstep on July 12 1908 moved Ismay and the White Starline across that metaphorical bridge of no return. In an effort to make the Titanic as grandiose as possible, Ismay had the designers make the grand staircase larger. This one design change effected the entire structure of this monumental ship. Because of this adjustment, the bulkheads of the Titanic we lowered which made the flooding compartments lower and the ship was not as stable as it should have been. Also in order to reduce some expenses Ismay decided against “cluttering the deck” with 28 extra life boats on the main areas unless current old regulations demanded they do so…which they did not.

Thus the Titanic was commissioned with 28 missing lifeboats. If that were not enough, the demand of riveters and steel rivets were in high demand and would take more time to install. Since the Titanic’s commission was on a time schedule and in an effort to speed up the process some iron rivets were used instead of steel rivets. Iron is weaker than steel and so some bow plates contained the weaker iron rivets. This decision, coupled with the other decisions made that day in July 12th 1908 led to the disaster we all know today.

Had Bruce Ismay worked with the builders to consider the structure and safety of the passengers and crew first and foremost, they would have been delayed in delivering the Titanic to the public, but perhaps the Titanic would be known to the world as something positive rather than a Titanic disaster.

Questions:
What kind of mistakes do we as leaders make?
Do we treat some discussions and decisions callously or flippantly?
Is there ever a chance that the power of our authority might go to our heads, causing us to be blind to certain consequences which could lead to titanic disasters?

It is said that hindsight is 20/20…but can certain missteps we make be avoided altogether if we only take the time to hear the consult of others and consider all of the variables? Of course we cannot always fear crossing our rubicons…but it should be sobering at times to feel this mantel of leadership that we carry and to count the costs along the way. You and I have most likely served under leaders who were excellent at this and it has encouraged us to lead in such a way as well. And for every good leader we have worked with, perhaps there is always another no-so-good leader who has galvanized us to never repeat their mistakes.

What sort of rubicon bridge are you facing right now?
How do you plan on weighing all of the variables before deciding which direction to go?
Have you become blinded by your power and authority, or has it humbled you?
Do you see those who follow you as a priority or as mere subordinates that you command?

There is a time and place for making the executive decision, but as leaders we ought to understand when the die is cast and we cannot go back once that decision has been made…so tread carefully and hear the counsel of others as the bridge comes into view.

Something more to ponder today.

References:
Bustin, G (2019). How Leaders Decide. A Timeless Guide to Making Tough Choices. (Chapters 2 & 4 – References to Bruce Ismay and Julius Caesar). Source Books.

Advent Pondering #4 – “Peace”.

Do we know peace in our lives?
This is a question that I have often considered, and for that matter do we really know what peace actually is?

When we say “peace” do we mean quiet or rest?
As in, when I get off of work I will put on my pajamas and lay in bed and veg on episodes of Netflix? Is this what peace is, and if so…is that all there is to this so called peace?

Perhaps peace is like this: these moments of respite and quiet are just glimpses or small reflections of true peace on earth. It is like that walk through beautiful lush, green pasture in the spring time that leaves us whispering to ourselves, “this is so peaceful”. This might also happen as we walk on a sandy beach as the waves ebb and flow and come cascading down onto the shoreline in a cadence that settles our hearts and slows our breathing. Or it takes places when we have all of our family under one roof again and after everyone is in bed there is that stillness that settles and we feel content and at peace.

I imagine the birth of Jesus was a visceral affair. A first time Mother, a virgin mother has travel for many miles to a town of Bethlehem for a census. She is very pregnant and about to give birth…there was nothing peaceful about the specific event, and yet following the most humble of births, Mary is recorded to have composed a song. Perhaps this song was crafted years after the event, perhaps right on the spot she forges this prayer that has become forever imbued with we the reader of this holy nativity story. Mary gives glory to a faithful God. It is a whisper of contentedness, a thanksgiving after the pained labor of birth. From the moment God’s redemptive story began to unfold before her eyes at the visit of the Angel, Mary has placed her entire existence into the hands of the Almighty. Here we find Mary, in this moment of exhaustion and post labor delivery singing her praise to a God who never forgets His people.


I imagine Mary’s words spoken…and in between each breath, cadence, and phrase of sentences formed together there is this Shalom peace that binds everything together and in it all contains the love of God wrapped in swaddling cloths asleep in Mary’s arms. It is more than just a peace of walking in a tranquil place. It is more than the sweet exhale of having all of your children under one roof again…it is the very presence of God in our lungs. It is the assurance from the Creator of those precious children. It is the very Artist’s hands who sculpted those pastural scenes coming into our presence and we cannot help but breathe and exhale shalom peace.

Gideon’s Jehovah Shalom Altar…
Gideon built at altar in the place the angel visited him Ophrah. He named that place: Jehovah Shalom. Which essentially means existing peace, or He exists and there is peace.

Is there Jehovah Shalom in your life right now?
Does Jesus exist in your narrative today? Do acknowledge not just the provisions of peace but the provider of that peace…even the small glimpses in our day of peace? The amazing thing is that Jesus is here and now – present with us. His spirit – The Holy Spirit can be the peace that we breathe in and out and the binding of one word upon another in our hearts and lives. Do we know this kind of peace today in our Advent? My prayer is that we all would know the depth and width of that Jehovah Shalom today.

May God richly bless you as you encounter and consider this sacred time in our Christian calendar…but beyond mere observances, may God’s shalom peace be upon you.

Something more to ponder in this Advent season.

One Snowy Night (A Poem)

In the late evening snow
we walked hand in hand
Our foot prints
deep and purposeful
every which way
wandering
from the country lane
and into
pastures blanketed
with white
all of it made
clean, fresh
and whole again.

Our breath made
winter spirits that
danced for seconds
vapored forms weaving its way
upon the descending snow
As the dance ascended
out into the bright
colored sky.

We walked hand clutching hand
careful not to fall
but when we did
we stretched our arms
out as wide as we could go
as if to embrace each falling flake
and then we made
snow angels
and we laughed
unbound,
undone,
unafraid of what tomorrow
could bring
We lived within
that moment.

3rd Sunday of Advent Pondering: Seeking After Eternal ‘Wisdom’…

Perfect goodness can never debate about the end to be attained, and perfect wisdom cannot debate about the means most suited to achieve it.
C.S. Lewis

Oh that’s right, we’re talking about Wise men, not Wise Guys…got it.

I had always envisioned the wise men miraculously showing up just at the nick of time at the nativity of Jesus, but entering just minutes after the shepherds and other townsfolk took their leave.

It didn’t dawn on me as a young man that their journey may have taken them a very long time. Some scholars even suggest that the Magi (aka the Wise men) did not visit Jesus as a new born but rather when He was 2 years of age. Imagine that, devoting your life to the study of the stars only to discover a very, very bright star…or was it something else?

Professor David Hughes in the 1970’s surmised that perhaps the “star” that the Magi saw, wasn’t a star at all, but rather a triple planetary alignment, or ‘triple conjunction‘. This kind of phenomenon only takes place every 900 years or so. This would have been a very alarming event for ancient astronomers such as the Magi to witness. They would have felt compelled to investigate, to seek out and to discover the wonder of such a sign.

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What sort of signs and wonders do we need in order for us to seek the newborn Kings? Do we still seek after Jesus? Is there still awe and wonder involved in our search? Or, have we become jaded and perhaps deaf to His still small voice?

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The Polar Express


One of my favorite modern Christmas movies is the Polar Express. We watch it as a family once a Christmas season and it still brings a tear to my eye. There is the simplistic message of “I believe” which comes through loud and clear as the little boy closes his eyes attempting to recapture his child-like faith in Santa Claus and the true mystery of Christmas. At first he couldn’t hear the jingle of the sleigh bell, but he is determined and in an emotional scene he recaptures his childhood with the jingle of the bell.

If only belief in Jesus were that simple.
Some find it easier than others to uncover the wisdom of the season year after year…while others, because of personal history, family tragedies, a hectic work schedule (the list goes on)…find facing the Advent season again daunting and some, date I say, find it almost unbearable. But the thing is Advent isn’t just a season. Yes, we recognize Jesus’ birth, as we ought to in a religious calendar year-sort-of-way…but belief in the Messiah should not be limited to just four weeks of recognition. It needs to go deeper than that. True wisdom takes us from a place of ignorance and shame to the very foot of the Throne room of Heaven in penitent manner of constant worship.

You see, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in an airport makes you a pilot…what does make you a Christian is love and the deep need to want a relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of all life. Without this desire, we are mere seat warmers, heads to count on the stats line and a member of a social club. True faith runs deeper than an emotion, a preference to a pastor, sermon style, music style or architectural style. Regardless of ambiance, setting, and worship style, faith and love ought to drive us to our knees before the Maker of the Universe who stepped out of Heaven, assumed human form and showed us how to live and love.

Seeking after God constantly IS WISDOM.
Learning, studying, applying and living for Him is wisdom on display.
One might say, “but I’m not smart enough” or “I’m too old to learn“…this is nonsense. Gaining Heavenly wisdom takes place just as a toddler learns to first walk. The child takes one step at a time, and before you know it, they are walking and even running. So it is with Godly wisdom. We never presume to ‘know it all’, for Godly wisdom is infinite and will never be contained in the finite mind. But, we can say to ourselves and to God, “I don’t have much to offer you Lord, but what I do I have I give it all to You, use me.” From this place of penitence and humility we begin (or begin again) our search and study of the Most High. From our search and study comes worship, and from worship – adoration and love.

(In the midst of this pondering I cannot help but think of a friend and session-mate who suddenly and tragically lost his wife Miranda this week. My heart hurts for him, his family and children. I read his post on Facebook and it brought tears to my eyes to read the deep, unimaginable pain in those words, and yet he expressed in those sentences a testimony of faithfulness to God even in this horrible season. Even in this time of mourning, he testified to their love of the Lord and a deep reliance and trusting in Him. This is wisdom that the world will never comprehend and yet we have an amazing eternal promise that all of us cling to in this time of tragedy. To RC and the Duskin, and extended family we send our constant love, support and prayers in this very difficult time.)

Prayer:
Lord, teach us to love you with fresh eyes today.
Help us to seek after You with all of our might.
Thank you for this season of Advent. May we seek after your wisdom that is eternal more than the wisdom of this world that is temporal and fading. Protect us as we labor in the many fields of service this week. May Your light be seen in us and may others be drawn to You. It is in Your name we pray all of these things. -Amen.

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