Thursday, November 29, 2012

Growing Christmas

                                                     Growing Christmas

It had been twelve years since The Disaster. No one in the organization was allowed to refer to it, especially by its real name. But it couldn't be ignored. It happened. It was real. It was The Disaster, so when it needed to be referenced, that was how it was done. The Disaster, period.

Now twelve years later, the effects of it where being felt throughout the organization in a horribly fast acceleration of losses. A special council was called by the Master. Only the top twelve heads of the organization's family would attend. They were known by many names, mostly beginning with the letter "d" to alliterate with the word "dozen." They had no official name, they were just referred to as "the twelve."

They arrived at the meeting to find their places at a perfectly square table with three associates to each side. The master was seen almost magically in front of each group as one side looked above the heads of the side opposite them. Except for the light illuminating from the master's head, and an eerie glow from the participant's eyes, the meeting room was dark. The master hissed his concerns.....

"We have a problem. The Enemy's followers have started to celebrate his becoming flesh. The Disaster was bad enough but now this. Their theologians have started to use the word "incarnation." Their common idiots simply refer to his birth. They are praying, reflecting, and building worship times dedicated to it. Our intel believes with good authority that a whole season will develop around its meaning and will take the name "Christmas."  It must be stopped. This council is called to formulate a plan for the destruction of this "Christmas" horror lest the problems of The Disaster are compounded. Give me your ideas."

The side with the demons of Conquest, Imitation, and False Religion spoke first. "We will use our cloak of deception to eliminate Christmas. We will conquer lands with our deceptions and use false hope in powerful men, politics, and religion to keep their minds blinded."

"That is a good plan," The Master spoke.  "But it is not enough. The Enemy's ways can work around those defenses. Their must be more!"

"Our side has a plan," spoke Power. Power, War, and Vainglory stood up. " Our plan will keep them fighting, killing, and spending their resources to do more fighting and killing. We can even get them to fight in the Enemies name, making them believe that their God is demanding they fight. Their egos will become so large that if they think it, they will think their God put it in their minds. They will always be at war, planning war, training for war, spending for war, recovering from war, seeking the spoils of war and seeking more power to wage war better. They will become either too busy or too bitter to see or believe the Incarnation's true meaning. In time they will worship the power their government has and confuse it with true worship of the Enemy.

"Another  good plan." But we need more...."

"We have more." Into the conversation the side of Famine, Fear, and Despair now entered. "We will use the little pests fears against them. We will build on Conquest and War. We will add famine, fear, and finally hopeless despair. When they are hungry, when they are fearful of not getting food or their way, or their money, they will give up hope and be ripe for the picking. Our Enemy can promise them eternal glory but when their stomach or their egos growl with emptiness they will think His promise is empty. Their "Christmas" will be the last thing on their minds."

"Well done. But I fear these efforts are not sufficient. Our Enemy is not without powers. He meets needs. He heals diseases in His way and time.  He helps them find purpose in their pain. He walks with them in their trials. He opens heaven to them. These notions are good but inadequate..."

"But there is more." A squeaky, effeminate voice was barely heard. "Speak up, you little twerp and remind me why I even put you on this council," boomed the raspy hiss of the master." "Yes, master. Hear my plan." The voice was from a quiet, cunning, manipulative, greedy, grotesque little demon. It was a Sckillet. It was actually above a Power or even a Principality but its work was so secretive that even the other demons didn't know what it was doing. They hated him. Even the master hated him. Of course, he hated everyone and everything. But the Sckillet he especially hated. He believed, rightly so, that the Sckillet would take his throne if possible. But the master also needed it. As horrible as it was, it was very good at evil.

At that point the Sckillet placed a bright red bag on the table. He untied the end and brought out it contents. There was a box, brightly wrapped in colored paper with a bow on top. There was a replica of a little man in  a red suit and white beard. There was a model of buildings, all tied or grown together with pretty paintings and interesting names above their doors. There was a string that contained little glass bulb-light appendages that glowed and blinked. "What in Hell's name are all these trinkets?" roared the master. "These are how we defuse the enemy's little earthlings of the true meaning of His coming to be with them and, and, well, you know The Disaster. We actually let Christmas grow."

"What??? Screamed the eleven. "We must Conquer it, Starve it, Kill it!"

"And we shall by letting it grow from what it is into what it is not. As the enemy transforms their lives, we will quietly be transforming the things that point to that truth in the Incarnation and the Disaster. We will own Christmas by making it about magic not truth. It will be about shopping not serving. It will focus on twinkling lights, when they are invented, instead of the light of the world. We will take good things for the earthlings, like the invention of lights, and use them to confuse them. We will take gifts given to the Enemy by the Wise Men and use their greed to pervert the gesture to giving each other gifts. We will take the story of a jolly saint and use the wonder and imagination of kids urged on by their parents to set their hearts on one called Santa Claus and build a wonder, magical world where they are focus as he brings them gifts. Ha, ha, ha, they will spend so much time, money, energy, and effort on Christmas that their Christ will be lost in it. And then, in one day, it will be over. The greatness of the plan is it is based on fantasy, not reality. It sees the now, and loses the eternal."

The master smiled. "How long will it take?"

"Give me twenty, twenty-one centuries tops. We will own Christmas!" the Sckillet snarled.

And for the only time recorded, Hell filled with laughter.

(getting it back next week)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Love's Clues

                                                  Love's Clues

 And 'poof,' they were gone.
    Were they ever here? I seem to recall an invasion from tiny munchkins from the west, but I'm not sure. Was it a dream? Did grandkids really visit their MiMi and Grandcos or was it just an illusion? I have memories or are those memories faulty, a mind-trick played on grandparents by aching wishes? It seems to have been real but with each passing day I wonder.....

     It had to be real. It just had to be. I learned too much for it to be an illusion. Dreams and visions do not  teach with the accuracy and veracity of grandkids. I learned greatly. I learned: is possible to get a mild concussion from a pillow fight with a 4-year old.
     ... the word is pronounced "pil- low" not "piller." (durn New Mexicans)
     ... the length of time a 15-month old needs to reach the street from your garage is and will always be exactly twice as short as you calculate.
      ...15 month-olds love the strategically placed salad bars scattered around the house, formally known as ivy plants.
     ... 4 year-olds don't need 5 star meals at 4 diamond restaurants. "Macamoni and cheeze" with some angel food cake are enjoyed with more laughter and enthusiasm and provide 10 hours of energy.
    ... 15 month olds forgive and move on better than most Christians, even if you scare the juice out of them by turning on a dust buster too close to their feet.
    ...when 4 year olds help MiMi make macamoni and cheeze by pouring in the ingredients and stirring the pot, it will be the "bestest, greatest", macamoni he ever tasted.
    ...Grandcos' stink at transforming Transformers.
    ....4 year olds can be both exasperated and understanding at Grandcos' lack of transforming skills.
    ...15 month olds can't say much but can learn a few sign language signs like for "more" or "done." My 15 month old was constantly giving me the sign for "more." Grandcos never knew if she meant more food or more hair.
    ....4 year olds will love you even if you can't get passed level 1 of the Amazing Spider Man video game.
    ... a 15 month old can remind you of the sheer wonder of a leaf; the warming hug of a sunbeam on the porch; the beauty of the texture of grass; and a thousand other joys even in tiny things, maybe especially in tiny things.
    ... small ones can see things otherwise missed because they don't mind getting down and low. (we might remember that next time we pray).
    ...15 month olds are very honest. If it tastes bad they spit it out and give the sign for "more" meaning more of something else.
    .... 4 year olds and 15 month olds celebrate the ordinary and the promise of today. They haven't accumulated enough "yesterdays" to weigh their "today" down yet. Reminds me I probably shouldn't try to carry all mine either. Little ones haven't learned to fret too much over tomorrow either, there is too much of today to fill. They instinctively know that their father will take care of tomorrow. So should we all....

    Yeah, they surely were here. I learned too much for it to have been otherwise. But the memory is fading fast. Will they come back? Any hope of a return for new lessons and adventures? I don't need empirical proof, just indications, just some clues offering hope. I learned one other thing: Love always leaves a clue, a reminder, a hope...

"Yes, I Am coming soon." Rev. 22:20
Love always leaves hope. Happy Thanksgiving.........s


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fill in the Blanks

    Well, now we know, Mr. _________ has won the election for president of the United States. This has made many people very sad, many are my friends. This has made just as many happy and these are also my friends. They were friends before the election and I expect them to remain my friends afterwards. The _______ party is celebrating and the ________ party is licking its wounds and beginning to strategize about  the next election. That's a scary thought isn't it?
     Now what, men and women of faith? Do you wallow and whine because ______ didn't win and _______did? Is your response as believers based on _________ being in power or God being in control? What is the Christian response for believers of either party? Is it, should it be different? I don't think so. So what is your mindset and strategy post election? What are you going to do now? I hope the response is similar whether your guy won or lost.
     May I be so bold as to suggest some responses?
     First, discover the source of your confidence or your fears post election. Is your confidence based in ______'s ability to govern? Are your fears fueled because _______ is in power? Believe it or not, this is a theological issue (most are, few know it because we haven't taught our church members to think theologically about issues). Are you, despite ________'s victory confident that God has the ability to run His world and that He sets up the kings and rulers to achieve His ultimate purposes? Yes, some can be bad. Look at Israel's later kings and Judah's kings after Josiah. There were Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Chadians, all used by God to His purpose. So government may be good or bad, the ruler righteous or unrighteous or like most of us a combination, but God still has the ability to take history where He wants it to go. Judgement begins with the family of God (I Peter 4:17-19) so we commit ourselves to our faithful Creator and continue to do good.  Do you have confidence in that truth?
     Secondly, (these are all siblings btw) what assurance can _______ give you that _______ couldn't now that he has been elected? Could either assure you of good health? Can ______ assure you the kids will turn out all right? Does ________ get a believer the right job or is God more interested in His children's employment? Does your purpose for life now change since the outcome of the election is known? The song got it right a long time ago: Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Our assurance for life and living is not based on the ______ party or the _______ party but on the fact that God is in control. He is in control of your life and  and this nation and His world. Do you have assurance that if He is in control you can rest in His care?
    Thirdly, on whom or what do you depend? Is it possible that God is taking this nation and our lives to a place where we depend on Him and not Wall Street, Pennsylvania Ave, Downing Street, the Las Vegas strip, Sunset Blvd, or Medical Center Ave? Is it possible God so wants us to seek Him and His Kingdom first that He lets everything else crumble a bit until we see and seek Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? In a world that promotes confidence and autonomy of self how dependent are you upon God for your purpose, joy, direction, and resources for life?
     Fourthly, consider what you and I are called to do before, during, and after each election cycle. We are called to speak truth to power. The church speaks truth about salvation to power and those who hold it. We have many believers on both sides of the aisle. We need more. We look to politicians for laws and money and help in our districts. Can they depend on the churches in their districts to pray for their salvation and if they are believers, to pray for their righteous walk, their families, and God's truth to be revealed mightily to them? We speak truth to power not only about salvation but also about ethics and justice. Is our concern in the church how much money is left in our pockets or how much good it does in the world? Every law has an ethical concern and consequence, do we seek to know it and promote Christian ethics? Speak truth to power. We also speak truth to power in a certain way. Scripture says that we are to speak the truth in love. Not in meanness, not in hatred, not in disrespect but in love recognizing that God loves each person, and that includes politicians.
    Our nation has what I call an infused "lostness." Not only has "lostness" become part and parcel of our national fabric, it is so infused, that like all good infusions, you don't realize it. So what do we believers do? We live our imputed righteousness. We demonstrate the love of Christ, the hope of Christ, and the real difference Christ makes in our outlooks, our treatment of our spouses, our children and our world. That difference may never be so striking as it is now and that difference will lead to many witnessing and mission opportunities. Let our attitudes be the same as Jesus.' (Phil. 2:5)
    Finally, take a page from the the Wednesday night bible study on Psalms. Read Ps. 27, 46, 100, 121, 118, and 145-150. In all sorts of circumstances, the Psalmist voiced his praise, made his petitions, screamed his anger and in the end, trusted the sovereignty of God. I would also direct you to Matt Redman's Youtube video called 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) based on Ps. 103. Yes, it is a contemporary Christian song but it's message reminds us that we can have confidence in God's ability to run His world; we have assurance that He is in control and knows what is best; we can learn to be more dependent on His grace and provision;  and we have a great opportunity no matter what to speak the truth in love.
    Elephant, Donkey, or Lamb? How peaceful you are this day shows your choice.

(save and use this essay in four years)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Prayer for Our Nation

Dear Lord, Our Most Merciful God,
Hear our prayer.............

We need you Lord -- how true that is for all times, yet in these times which try men's souls so many have  forgotten we have them. Another election cycle is upon us and we truly thank-you for the privilege we have to choose. Help us choose wisely. We often choose because of the party, we choose with our pocketbook, we choose according to promises and personalities. Please help us choose according to your criteria as best we can discern them. We know you seek justice and fairness so help us seek justice as we choose. We know your are the Prince of Peace, help us seek peace, your peace, as we choose. We know you seek to bless, help us seek to bless others as we choose. We know you seek our hearts, help us choose men and women whose hearts are truly seeking yours.

Your word has graciously warned us that you are not mocked, whatsoever a man sows that also shall he reap.The one who sows to please his sinful nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Does this truth hold to nations as well? If so, Father, we are reaping what we have sown. We cry out for blessings yet our greed, injustice, immorality, and unfaithfulness cry out louder, "leave us alone!" and you, always respecting our "no" have done just that. Forgive us of our arrogance and lead us out of our ignorance. It sometimes feels as though you have abandoned us,  but not completely. You call by your Spirit to our spirits.  You have great men and women, great churches-large and small-still praising, seeking, preaching, and reaching out in your name. Help us listen first to your truth and your call on our lives. Help us become a people, a nation that you can bless again.

Help us, Father, after these coming elections to learn to speak with each other again. We have lost the ability to speak with one another across the political aisles respectfully largely because we no longer have respect for fellow human beings. We have forgotten that all are made in your image and have inherent value because you love them regardless of their political party. Help restore nobility and civility in our political discourse. May it begin in our homes and around our dinner tables as we pray for those we elect. May our children and neighbors hears us speak respectfully of elected officials. May the battles over policies and programs be argued vigorously but may respect be given to all men made in God's image. May our chief instrument be prayer rather than tricky and misleading emails. May our prayers outnumber out emails ten to one. Would you call for an electronic fast from time to time to seek your Face and your Will in prayer?

We know that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. We have sinned and feel so little disgrace. We have murdered millions in the womb and called it choice. We have decried abortion but too few in your church step up to adopt and care for those who didn't abort and left their care to government  
programs. We have created the ability to create great wealth and kept it for ourselves. We abandoned the sanctity of life and now the sanctity of marriage. We have turned sex, gambling, and entertainment into hundred billion dollar industries and in turn made people a commodity. And then we wonder why our nation and the world is in trouble. We cry out "help!'' and you cry out "repent!" Help us to heed your cry that you may then hear ours.

Thank-you, Father, for your continued presence and guidance. Thank-you that so many people remain faithful to your word and truly seek your will. Thank-you for the opportunities given your church in hard and stressful times to witness to your mercy, care, sovereignty and salvation. Thank-you for your faithful, unending, unlimited, unconditional love. Help us to be faithful in our response to so great a love. And if we will only let you, thank-you for your blessing the United States of America.