Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas...

... from the cutest kids in America.

I sincerely hope that you're finding love, peace, and hope this Christmas season!

Unto us a child is born (or as my daughter's children's bible says, "Our rescuer has come for us!")

See you next year.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

What I Don't Want for Christmas (And What I Really Want)

If you're close enough to me (in a relational sense) that a gift for me is on your list of things to buy, allow me to ease your holiday stress a bit. Here is a list of things NOT on my Christmas list this year:

* No gigantic red bow
* No luxury automobile to hold up the aforementioned red bow
* Nothing from Kay Jewelers (and DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER "Going to Jared")
* Nothing that has the letters "H" and "D" on it

That's the list. But wait, there's more! If you find yourself with something of a dilemma, wondering if the item you're looking to get for me is something I'm really going to like, I want you to do this:

Don't buy it.

Nope. What I'd really like for Christmas this year is for you to share your lives with me. 

Here's how it works:

1. If you don't know what to get me, get me something YOU like. Your favorite album. Or movie. Or book. Maybe not your favorite blouse or A-line skirt, but you know, something that means something TO YOU. 

2. Or better yet, make me something. A mix CD of songs you love. Write me something. Cook for me your favorite dish... I promise I will eat it. Forget the price of things; free is good, too.

3. Go green by recycling something you don't use anymore. Do you have any old tools? I could probably use them. Or instruments or firewood or whatever. (Maybe not actual recycling, though; I've got enough cardboard and milk cartons to last a while).

4. Or maybe beat the recession by giving me the gift of your time. Let's get lunch; we'll go Dutch. Or coffee. Or let's just get water. Or we'll throw the football (I haven't gotten to do that in years). Maybe we could catch a movie (we could rent one, or go to the theater, or watch whatever Meredith Baxter movie is on Lifetime). Do you play music? Let's do that. We'll record it and laugh about how awful it sounds. Board games are awesome ways to hang out or heck, we could just go for a walk. See where I'm going with this?

Now, I'm not trying to be a Scrooge and discourage you from buying me (or anyone) something if you'd like to do that. We always say that it's better to give than to receive, and I am certainly not about to tell you how to give. But I want you, Person I Care About Deeply, to know that more than anything else, I would like to get to know you a bit better. To receive the gift of a glimpse into your life. To know what's important to you, because you're important to me. 

It might actually be harder to do that than to just buy me a gift card, and you may be more comfortable with the gift card. Do that then; I mean, for crying out loud, we've made this season so stressful. I'm simply (and honestly and deeply) offering you the freedom to give as you see fit. And maybe I'm challenging you a bit, too. As I said in my last post, I'm kind of waging this internal war against the debt-inducing holiday madness, and I've seen that the best things in my life don't need batteries or extended warranties.

So this year, please don't spend hours trying to think of what to get me; just sharing your life with me is worth more than all those blasted luxury car commercials.

SIDENOTE: I just re-read this post, and I'll admit, it sounds kind of silly. Sappy, even. But so be it; I'm dead serious.

And there ain't nothing sappier than those ridiculous Kay ads.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

May It Be To Me As You Say

More than any other year in my memory, this year my entire insides are fighting to put aside all the Black Friday nonsense and arrive at a deeper level of joy and understanding of the birth of Jesus (It's like 1080p, only better because it's real and doesn't become obsolete five seconds out of the box). 

Not to say that buying people things isn't a good thing to do, just that we've turned it into something kind of ridiculous, you know?

At any rate, I want to know the real Jesus, and I want him to change my heart. I don't want to put my faith in the hands of anything (or anyone) else than the actual son of God. I'm not looking for a guru, or a spiritual advisor, or someone to teach me about being a good leader nor am I satisfied with the pasty-white outer glow of all the things people say that he is. I want the real guy or I want nothing at all.

Faith is a hard thing to have and a much harder thing to keep. And I'm more and more convinced that it's not about having some bulletproof attitude that weathers all attacks from all the "heathens" and "pagans," but is more about perseverance, humility, and dedication. There's a story in the Bible where Jacob wrestles an angel... and bests him (sidenote: I can't read that passage anymore without hearing Bono singing "Bullet the Blue Sky" in my head). Now, I've not gone toe-to-toe with any angels, but I wrestle with all kinds of doubts. You can't live an authentic life of faith without some doubts, especially when you live in a culture such as ours where believing in anything supernatural is increasingly seen as small-minded and asinine. But Jacob wrestled with the supernatural, too, so maybe I've got a shot.

All this to say that I'm trying very hard to see the truth with my own eyes. I know the Christmas story by heart because it's been everywhere since I was a kid. But do I really know the story as it is written? And does the story of Jesus' birth hold more for me than what I've known about it my whole life?

I think so, but I guess we'll see.

I will say that in reading through the first chapter of Luke this morning, I was struck by Mary's response to the angel Gabriel when he tells her that she's going to give birth to the Son of God:

 34"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

 35The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[c] the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God."

 38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

(Luke 1:34-8 NIV)

It's the last part I'm taken by right now. "I am the Lord's servant... may it be to me as you have said." If an angel showed up and told me I was going to do something like give birth to a holy child, I would be terrified (and not just because I'm a man). That's a pretty huge responsibility to drop on someone. I would be filled with all kinds of worry, anxiety, and doubt. What if I messed it up? What does this mean for my future? What the heck is going on?

And I don't know how Mary felt. But I know that her response is to accept it all - all the potential shame she'd face from being an unwed mother, all the worry about her future, all of it - and chose to simply trust that whatever God would have happen to her is the best possible thing for her.

This is not touchy-feely, live-your-best-life-now faith; this is your-life-is-forever-altered-and-it's-going-to-be-incredibly-hard faith. A you-could-die-for-this faith. This is good for me to hear. Sure, I have ideas and plans and things I'd like to do and things I wish I could do and all those kinds of thoughts, but more than that, I want to be like Mary, telling God that if he'd prefer me to be a guy with a bunch of part time jobs and a hard drive full of music fragments that may never be heard by many people, I will accept it. I don't mean to say that I shouldn't want to dream big things, only that I accept that my primary goal in my life is to know this real Jesus, to love others as he loved, and to let all else remain lower than those two on my list of priorities. God is weird; he doesn't make sense in a lot of ways. But maybe the most important thing I'll do in my life will happen at a copy shop where I do typesetting part time, all because I was willing to be where he wanted me to be.

Now, I hope to find a job that I really love. I hope to put out music that means something to someone. And I'd really like to have an old Jeep one day. Maybe I will. But let it be for me as you say, Lord. As you say.

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It's got to go somewhere, right?

I've been trying really hard in this election season to remember the things the internet has taught us: 1. Don't read the comments...