Saturday, November 28, 2015

First Advent Candle - Hope

Hope is a wonderful thing.  Hope sees beyond what is and looks to what could be.  Hope holds the promise of something that feels distant and yet so close.  Hope is the foundation of the human heart, for it is in Hope we see our future, which springs from our past.  And it is with that same Hope I offer you this, the first Advent candle of 2015.
I wasn't raised in a liturgical setting.  In fact, you might say I was long an anti-liturgy person.  Through the years, and due to deeper exposure to the meaning of the liturgy, I've come to embrace and enjoy them to a far greater extent.  Advent is a favorite because it brings focus on what I often call the "first hinge for the door".  It's the beginning of the human side of my Divine Brother and I don't want to take it lightly.

I could write about many aspects of this season (and I've done so in the past on this blog), but I'm choosing to keep things simple this time around.  I just want to light the four candles of Advent for what they mean and breathe in the thought of Hope that descended on Earth so long ago.

May your own journey on the Crooked Path find you awash in the Hope of a newborn baby in a shabby town two millenia ago.  For that root of Hope is so very important to what lies ahead.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Re-Post (from March 2011)

And David said, "Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, "Are you Ziba?" And he said, "I am your servant." And the king said, "Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?" Ziba said to the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet." 

Then the king called Ziba, Saul's servant, and said to him, "All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master's grandson. And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master's grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master's grandson shall always eat at my table." Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then Ziba said to the king, "According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do." So Mephibosheth ate at David's table, like one of the king's sons. And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba's house became Mephibosheth's servants. So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king's table. Now he was lame in both his feet. (2 Samuel 9:1-3 and 9-13, NASB)

He was living, from all appearances, in hiding. From an early age, he had known life on the run. He was a man out of place, a man perhaps filled with thoughts of what might have been. And those "might have been" thoughts had many variations. Not only was he the last surviving member of a royal line long since defunct, his nurse had dropped him during the first escape and both his feet were crippled as a result. If only things had been different ...

When I listened to this particular passage recently, I found I had to back up and play it again. It only spans thirteen verses, so it only played for about two and a half minutes. But the story found a spot in my mind that I just couldn't shake either that day during my drive home or in the time since. In a crystal clear reflection of the generosity of God, David asks the question, "Who can I show kindness to for the sake of me dear friend Jonathan?" The answer? A young, lame man by the name of Mephibosheth ... Jonathan's son.

The story tells of the servant (Ziba) who happened to work for Saul and Jonathan in former times. Somebody knows his history and he finds himself in front of King David. Heaven knows what might have gone through the man's mind when he was first summoned, but I've no doubt he was relieved to hear David was only after information ... and information was something Ziba had on this particular subject.

Now, turn your thoughts to Mephibosheth. We don't know much about his life, other than where he was living and how he got there. And, of course, we know that he was crippled in both his feet. By whatever means, he is brought to the very same King David as was Ziba and he is prepared to be very contrite. Then, the story takes its turn. David, a man of considerable passion and a strong love for Jonathan, tells Mephibosheth that he doesn't ever have to worry about anything for the rest of his life. He has, by royal edict, restored possessions, granted servants, and given him a seat with the princes of Israel. Mephibosheth will now and forever more take all his meals at the king's table.

How much like our gracious and loving Father this story is. God has granted me, a man of similar ailments as plagued Mephibosheth, a seat at the table of the King. And not only do I hold that honor right here and now, but I have a guarantee of a place at His table yet to come in a place that transcends all imagination. And when I get to that table, I'll find I don't have bad knees, or a weak heart, or easily-sprained ankles, or any of a dozen other physical ailments. I'll sit there (or maybe fall down) and bask in the glow of my King in a worship feast beyond all banquets I've ever known.

As I hobble down the Crooked Path, I can almost feel the infirmities lifting away. Sure, I have a place at the King's earthly table now, but I can get positively giddy just thinking about the table yet to come. My feet feel lighter and the air is somehow more refreshing than before. I have a place at the King's table ... just like Mephibosheth.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

In Search of a Miracle?

It's quite possible we're seeing a miracle in my family right now. I've got a brother who has been battling a brain tumor and, when I saw him a couple of weeks ago he was very weak and stuck in a hospital bed in his own living room.  I won't go through all the details of our last conversation, but it did leave me in tears and yet resolved to accept this rather unnatural manifestation of the natural course of life.  I drove home and was convinced I had seen him for the last time.  And that still might be the case, but then again maybe it won't be.

He's doing more than just rallying.  He's able to move around on his own and he's talking about getting strong enough to come off hospice care and resume some treatment.  There is not medical explanation for this ... it pretty much has to be a miracle as the Finger of God can be the only thing pressing that tumor back and allowing him to regain mobility and function.

Granted, I have to accept this is a temporary reprieve (we all are dying, right?) but we certainly are glad to have it.  However much longer God gives us is a gift and I think my brother recognizes this more than most of us do.  And isn't that kind of give the very definition of a miracle anyway?

So, while I'm rejoicing in that gift, I get a call that causes me to fall speechless.  Earlier this week, a friend and former co-worker called to let me know the wife of a mutual friend (and former boss) had died suddenly.  No apparent reason, no warning and no miracle.  At only 57, this mother of four boys was gone.  Her husband found her when he came home from work that day.  I'm sure there was a physical explanation ... but that hardly matters in the wake of grief my friend, his boys and their extended families are dealing with now.

So all this got me thinking about miracles and about life.  While I think it's fully appropriate to ask for miracles, I think we need to also look around us for the miraculous results of other miracles that happened long ago and yet we take for granted now.  

Think about that for a moment ... think about the greatest, most miraculous wonder of all that is common to us.  The Infinite, Holy God of the Universe created us, gave us free will, knew we would choose to "turn" (check out Paul Young's new book "Eve" if you want a perspective on that word), and chose to pursue us across Heaven and Earth with the intent to win us back.  That's miraculous beyond compare and we have evidence around us that confirms it we should see every day.

But, we want our own "miracle" and focus on that far too often while forgetting to bask in the glory of the miraculous even if it's so very simple.  And never forget that miracles on Earth - the ones we ask for - are temporary.  The miraculous I talked about is permanent.  To me, that makes it work far more.  I think maybe my brother sees that.  I know my friend's wife, standing before the Presence, understands it.

The Crooked Path is a journey, much of which we don't anticipate or plan.  I'd encourage you to be on the lookout for the miraculous even as you ask for a miracle.  In the end, I think you'll find it more satisfying even if you view it through eyes of pain and grief.