A Thousand Words— to us!

Annunciation of the Virgin Birth

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Pages of promises and prophecies were written and fulfilled in plain sight… Joy defeats fear. Hope subdues despair. Belief overcomes doubt. Life conquers death. A thousand words — to us! God had spoken many times about His love. He had been quite clear. The birth. The beating. The crucifixion. The death. The resurrection. A thousand songs gently wrapped in a single verse. Yet we were still quick to doubt, quick to fear, quick to hate. For we still had gaps in our lives left by the death of loved ones; left by years of broken promises; left by uninvited tears — and tears —the complex narrative of human fabric.

Now the very hands that had fashioned the world ached from wrestling with his mother’s discomfort. Wrestling with her apprehension. Wrestling with her body. There was fatigue and love in his voice as he spoke softly to the ribs he had used to fashion her. Still the waves of pain threatened to undo her. There was no resting now. No time for catching her breath. No time to consider her own trepidation. Mary knew more than a thousand words. As a mother, she knew the depth and power of her child’s identity. As a woman, she knew the uncomfortable circumstances of this birth. Why her first-born son would not have her husband’s name. Why she had no dreams for her own child. Why he instead had dreams for her and all humanity. She was young and inexperienced and felt alone and ill-prepared. Her tears were not those of an expecting mother. Her tears were those of a grieving widow. And when the baby heard his mother’s cry amidst the pangs of birth, he asked God the Father to lift him up so he might release her from her pain… and at that very moment his head pressed forth into the night air; burst forth to bless the world.

He had moved from his restful home in heaven into the womb of the human soul. Suddenly all walking in darkness saw the great light. All living in the land of the shadow of death witnessed the day glory dawned. He looked out at the world and his compassion enlarged the nations borders and increased their joy. The humble planned a celebration. The religious prepared a crucifixion. The yoke that burdened all mankind, the bar across their shoulders, and the rod of their oppressor was shattered.

Now He who possessed the power to heal and make whole, who rules over time and space, held his mother in his arms. And the exhaustion of Mary finally agreed to sleep. Her distress finally yielded to peace. With exhaustion and love in his voice he tenderly looked up at her peaceful resting face and lovingly whispered a thousand words — to us!

Merry Christmas!





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Can’t We Walk Instead?

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people; for unto you is born, this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” Luke 2:10, 11

The night was peaceful except for the irrepressible wail of a newborn echoing in the darkness. In the distance, there were men trembling from the cold . . . spent by years of routine. Exhaustion gave way to duty. Distress gave way to relief. Several of their grazing sheep had strayed too far. Defenseless creatures finally found by one of the shepherds. They were committed to this life of isolation. Married to this bride of silence. They were not used to the stir and excitement of the city. Their roof was the vault of heaven. Their blanket was the canopy of stars. Sameness and monotony did not diminish their gratitude for their home in the fields. Everyday there was the rustling of the wind in the grass, the plaintive cries of the sheep and an occasional distant howl of a wolf. Nothing exciting ever caused their hearts to beat faster until that night.

As anguish and agony shadowed a young delicate face, a child pressed forth from a womb into this dimension and its cry— the laughter of a newborn pierced the dark night. Suddenly a light filled the heavens as if it was noonday, which frightened them. The glory of the Lord shone bright — a resplendent sight and reassuring voice to the hosts of heaven and to all people on earth of good tidings of peace and joy. It was all Eve ever hoped for. It was all Mary ever knew. The magnificent sight mesmerized even earthly kings, but these were shepherds not wise men.  Oh, how they wished they could express in words the mystery of this night that was so precious, gripping, just past the mettle of men. Then the heavens burst into song— a great multitude in concert— a symphony of praise. Angelic voices filled the night air tenderly touching human ears and bringing peace to humble shepherds and comfort to the excited heart of a young mother and delight to the soul of her newborn child.

The shepherds stood entranced for nothing in their life experiences had prepared them for this. And they wondered in unison why God would “waste” such a moment, such a glorious announcement on simple shepherds, on such uneducated men? Yet in spite of their consternation they became willing vessels. So without haste, they made their way to Bethlehem to see if the words the angels had assigned to their hearts would manifest in their lives. But instead of a palace and a King in royal robes, they found Mary and Joseph, and a Babe lying in a manger. The sight of the newborn child had a peculiar effect on the normally silent and uncommunicative shepherds. Their tongues were immediately loosed and the stoic became supple. Enthusiastic couriers of Good News! But still they couldn’t fully understand the significance of this night as it related to the child. They didn’t understand why Kings would bow or heaven would alter its patterns of light or the angels would compose an eternal song.  And though Kings understood one must always bow down in the presence of a higher authority, humble shepherds only knew the ways of the wilderness. They only understood duty and responsibility: that standing not bowing was watching; that walking not cowering was protecting. So they innocently asked, “Can’t we walk instead?” And the most magnificent spectacle ever witnessed occurred. An angel gingerly reached out and touched the tiny hand of the child and the entire meadow revealed hordes of angels bowing to the newborn King. They looked at one another in absolute astonishment and without wasting another moment fell to the ground with parched lips kissing the earth in gratitude. Now all the years littered with the fatigue of sameness coupled with the love that had been trapped in taciturn voices tenderly whispered the name of Jesus.

Six Hands At An Open Door!

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11

It was the worse time of year for such a long journey. The weather was deep and sharp — the very womb of winter. Summer palaces on slopes gave way to sore-footed cursing men on camels. Night fires going out, a lack of shelter and muddy roads replaced palatial terraces with silken maids. There were hostile cities and unfriendly towns. There were inns charging high prices and there were dirty villages. There were times they traveled all night with voices singing in their ears. There were times when feet kicked empty wine skins and the sky hung low with regret.

They were weary pilgrims who had traveled months from a palace in Iran (ancient Persia) only to be guided by a lone star hovering over a house in Israel. They were by name: Caspar (or Gaspar) of Tarsus, Melchior of Persia, and Balthazar of Saba. They were by faith from the priestly caste of Zarathustra — Magi, Wise men, even Kings — who as part of their religion studied the stars. They were searching for the one who had removed his robe of divinity and wrapped himself in human skin. They were looking for the one whom angels worshipped, who would bring hope to the world from the placenta of a peasant. They were hoping to find the Light of the Universe, to occupy themselves with the Maestro so they would never have to simply study the piano again.

As they reached the temperate valley, amidst the snow and fog of the afternoon — the capricious monotone of a journey’s end — they stopped! Exhausted by the thought of being slapped again by the wave of broken dreams or being over-looked again in the endless race to the top of the mountain. They were afraid to trust again… tired of their mail (prayers) coming back to them with no return address. So they sat for a half hour among the violins of self-pity mingled with the memories of cracked crowns. That’s when the youngest amongst them went in all alone to see the child. He found that he was like himself, for he seemed to be of his own age and appearance. And he came out, full of wonder. Then in went the second, who was a man of middle age. But to him, the child seemed to be of his own age and appearance. And he came out quite dumbfounded. Then in went the third, who was much older in years; and to him it also happened as it had to the other two. And he came out deep in thought. When they were all together, each told the others what he had seen. And they were much amazed and resolved that they would all go in together. So, in they went, all together, and came before the child and saw him in his real likeness and of his real age. And they all reached out in unison to touch him. Six hands at an open door fell on hands and knees! They had seen birth and death, but this was different. Like death, this was hard yet easy. Like Life, this was bitter yet sweet. Then they worshiped him and offered him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And as they returned to their palaces (their kingdoms still clutching other gods) they prayed that every Soul mount the stairs and turn the handle on the door of immeasurable peace from the one who was birthed into the cold night, and then slept on the sunrise of eternal Hope and uninterrupted Possibility!

The Feeling In the Dream Was Joyous!

“The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.  While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream.” Matthew 1:18-20

His heart said yes. His feet shouted no. Indecision blew through his mind like multi-colored leaves dancing in an autumn wind. Here was the newest family on the block. Strangers to all until tomorrow! A scandal waiting to happen in the night!  Fourteen generations had passed from Abraham to King David. Fourteen generations had crossed the ancestral bridge until the Babylonian exile. Fourteen generations had reached over from Babylon until the day Christ was born. And from those numerous lines cut from a single genetic tapestry came Joseph and his fourteen-year old bride-to-be Mary.

Now in the silence and sanctity of time Joseph waited to see how his soul would respond. For despite all his fears he had surrendered to love. It had taken him years to get to this place where the heart and inner eye were opened . . . Where a man surrenders his personal strength in favor of a higher power . . . Where a man renounces his individuality for intimacy . . . Where a man understands that God heals the world two by two. Joseph had dropped his armor for harmony. Love had freed him and healed him from the tear in his holy fabric. But now the same cords that bound them together became discords (ropes) that fettered his heart and retracted the silent hooks he had placed in her. Joseph’s heart was crushed by the weight of its own anticipation. He felt as if a piece of him was being ripped away. He felt as if a limb were gone. Though he knew a separation of their bodies did not mean a separation of their souls, Joseph felt betrayed! Even still, he wanted disconnection more than he desired divorce. So he prayed the silent prayer all men pray when the longing of love no longer sets them free:

Lord, help me to restore my power!

Until then, please protect me!

This is the price of a man’s falling armor . . . that even when the darkness of the past is removed, there is still the threat of war. So God came to Joseph when his camp was at peace.

“While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream.”

And where Joseph was blocking his healing or full empowerment or the full experience of love and joy, God showed him his wounds and removed its sting and replaced it with the experience of beauty, the abundance, the power and the joy that is His wish for all mankind. In his dream, Joseph was rejoicing because he knew Mary was a vessel that would carry God’s wish to all mankind; that this burden would forever be removed from his heart; that God’s holy truths, the currents of His love and power would remain to bring light to the center of every living being; that he would forever believe in the power and faith and in the light within him; that he would forever celebrate the feeling in the dream which was joyous!

Raining Tears on His Feet!

Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. Luke 7:38

It was customary to offer water to honored guest so they could wash the dust off their feet, to prevent the world’s impurities from entering one’s household. It was also customary to greet your honored guest with a kiss and to anoint them with oil as a sign of honor and respect. Yet Simon decided to do neither. Simon is a High Priest. He is an educator, a man who has studied the ancient Hebrew text from his youth. He has also devoted himself to follow the Law and its traditions to the letter. He is highly respected by his community and revered by his contemporaries. His education had afforded him a life of possession and position. It had taught Simon how to be an intellectual but not how to be an impassioned individual; how to be a skeptic but not how to be a servant; how to be in control but not how to comfort.

So here, we have the situation of Simon, a Pharisee who welcomes Jesus into his home, who has witnessed signs and miracles; who has sensed the sensation surrounding a Savior; who is secretly one amongst the crowd; who is standing at the doorway and peering into the window of the Salvation. And that’s when Mary enters the house, blown in by the gale winds of sin like a particle of worldly dust. She is impure, uneducated, scorned and has violated every tradition Simon holds sacred. Just by being female she is a second-class citizen. Just by entering the house of a Pharisee she is moments away from a certain death. There were crowds outside saturating the seams of the wayside but there were no women allowed inside. Any daughter of Eve would have to capture their miracle discreetly— a touch of a garment! A brother’s resurrection! An overthrown stone! Mary is too ashamed to look up. She is too afraid to look around. So she instead cowers on the ground, weeping, saying nothing, honoring Jesus the only way she knows how.

The room grew silent except for her sobbing. Simon fought back his embarrassment. The men gestured their outrage. Some had slept with her. Some had bribed her. But all knew of her. She brought to Jesus the things she valued, her worldly possessions. They were the only things that gave her a desire to live until now. She had lost everyone and everything. She was treated in the city like discarded trash. Since she could remember, things, not people, had anesthetized her pain and brought a drizzle of joy. But now her drizzle of joy had turned into a rain of tears. And now the very things she thought made her attractive and desirable she gave without compunction to the Lord.

Jesus looked into her swollen eyes, her make-up smeared face of mud and perfume, into all her sorrows, all her failures, all her mistakes, and exchanged them all . . . All of her hurt for humility, all of her labels for love, all her pain for His peace. Her tears were no longer trapped by her reputation and so the dam of condemnation, which had imprisoned her heart, burst out to Him in a flood of emotion, and her tears began to flow like a river, a new life, a new journey, until they washed her hair and found his feet. She didn’t say a word to Jesus. She didn’t change her ways. She didn’t make a vow to be perfect.  She didn’t know what would happen to her life after she stood up again. The only thing she knew for certain was her love for Him . . . Her worship to Him . . . The thanksgiving in heart towards Him . . . Her testimony because of Him.

And so, Mary did what she knew to do—what she had always done. She gave herself away!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Echo of Heaven!

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Now what I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will go up to heaven for us to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may do it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may do it?” For the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may do it. Deuteronomy 30:11-14

He had fed five thousand. He had healed an only child. He had given authority to Seventy-two others to cast out demons in His name. But one was still hungry. One wasn’t satisfied with retreating demons. One didn’t stop to marvel at the bowing angels. One wasn’t content with the stars in the sky. One follower had stepped away from the crowd, personal pursuits and position to seek the King.  He had found Jesus alone praying — and with the innocence of a child asked him for His heavenly address: “Lord, teach us to pray!” So Jesus taught them . . .

“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven…”

This was not a moment for trumpets but for triumph. This was not a moment for purple robes but for purpose. This was not a moment for armies but for amnesty — the amnesty of anxious silence.

There was a glint of determination in his eye and a margin of certainty in His message. He was teaching them to peer through the fog of religiosity and the shadows of doctrines and creeds and instead stand eye-to-eye and heart to heart with Him.  He was teaching them not to set their hearts on lesser passions even if it brought the reward of miracles. He was teaching them that the wheelchair of disability was too small to hold them; that the shopping mall of self-pity was forever closed.  He was teaching them to settle for nothing less than the Father Himself.

Their minds were quiet and unresponsive while their souls attended the schoolhouse of heaven. Hours had passed and still no one spoke a single word. Nothing had changed but the spiritual chisel had transformed the clay. There were still many forms of inner and outer worship but now there was but one language.  And so . . . from that moment on . . . they understood that it may be right for them to weep, but it was no longer any need to despair; that what Jesus was commanding would no longer be hard for them to do, nor would heaven ever be far away. For this was the Echo of heaven: They had pain here. They had no pain there. They struggled here. They had no struggles there. They had hatred here. They had love there. They had tears here. They had laughter there.

Now what I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will go up to heaven for us to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may do it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may do it?”

Your miracle is not in heaven. Your destiny is not beyond the sea. It is here. It is now! So when it is cold on earth, you can take comfort in knowing that you are wrapped in the warmth of heaven. And Christ too is here to help ensure you live your life with a clear voice; that you someday become the hope you pray for — that you one day become the echo of heaven on earth!

The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

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Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Matthew 11:28-30

They were tired and weary. Worn out from effort! Burned out on religion! Claims became crosses. Belief became burden. They had failed to do the things that needed to be done. Had misused spiritual power. Had abused Kingdom privilege. Had denied heaven and invoked hell. Had stepped out of the child and stumbled into adulthood. Had stepped out of innocence into insolence — out of strength into stress. The dirt of the world mixed with their original dust. So they prayed that God would help them recover their lives, to show them how to see it differently. They prayed that they might again know the strength and power within them; that God would transform the experience of age into wisdom and knowledge and greatness!

For this reason they positioned themselves to walk past the obsessions of their youth, the meaning of owning a midlife, and their fear of aging. Yet in their hearts fear remained because they saw age before they could see the Sacred Elder. They saw the Angel of Death inching closer because they could not see the surrounding Army of God’s glory. They looked at themselves through the lens of physical transition and saw a weaker vessel because they could not see the soul’s progression or their higher assignment or the recycling of their energy or the remodulation of their cells. They could not see that simply walking with Jesus was their proof of being purchased —of accepting the abundant life, which lifted all eyes above the illusion of doubt, failure, fear and even death.

Leave not this world until you finish your assignment. Choose to live and not die. Let your Truths touch wisdom. Let your love be larger than death. Let your leaving be eternal. Let your heart find healing. Surrender your darkness to God and receive the arc of destiny. And while you walk with Christ— wait!  Wait until all fears and pain bow down to your peace. Wait until your bond breaks your burdens. Wait until hopelessness meets Hallelujah. Wait until your goals and dreams experience the unforced rhythms of grace.

Dear God,

Hold back the fears!

Hold back the tears!

Hold back my last breath!

Hold back death!

And instead . . . Open beauty!

Open love!

Open dreams!

Open doors!

Open favor!

Open real rest!

And stillness!

Open relationships!

And tender moments of Selah!

Open the sacred privilege of Amen!

And the eternal return to forever!