Christmas is Bigger Than Your Opinion Of It

Rewritten for the sake of…well, not letting it remain an awkward, stumbling piece of literature like it was the first time. Feeling a lot more excited about it now.

Brandon J. Adams

catIt was on a December 27th (long enough ago that I got the news over a corded phone) that my family was ending.

At least the blow waited until after the 25th, but is there really ever a “good time” for such things?

The result was a double whammy for Christmas. Not only was the month now historically connected with tragedy in my mind, but every family gathering since has screamed its ongoing incompleteness. The count in the room is always short.

Others have similar stories (and I’ve heard a lot worse). Christmas has a way of reminding you of what you’ve lost, or never had to begin with. A brief week of sanity before going back to the grind, fear, and disappointment.

So I’m the last person to tell anyone to “just get over it and celebrate”. The Bible defends our grace-given ability to approach God with our pain…

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Are You in the Wilderness This Christmas?

“If you find yourself in the wilderness this Christmas, don’t try and power through it. You need to power down and allow God to reboot you. You need physical rest and spiritual replenishment.”

The light breaks through

A man walks on a path under a colorful night sky.

Youask, what is the wilderness? Here are thecharacteristics of the wilderness. A wilderness experience usually follows a season of highs. For Jesus right afterHe was baptized (which was more accurately a coronation), He was taking His rightful place as the final and greatest king of Israel. As soon as the event was over Mark’s gospel saysHe was immediately thrown into a wilderness experience where Satan would tempt Him after 40 days of fasting. Wilderness experiences usually happen when you are at the end of your spiritual rope. It is a time of seeking God’s will and direction for your life.

In a previous post, we talked about the valley. When you are in the valley you get to know Him in a deeper way becauseyou are forced to rest on Him. We enjoy Him on the mountaintops, but getto…

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Yes, We Can Still Carol Amidst the Darkness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday I learned that I shouldn’t be singing carols as long as suffering persists in the world.

At least that’s the charge of John Pavlovitz, a Christian progressivist blogger whose post I stumbled across today, quite unintentionally, in the course of my internet wanderings (I will not link it). He says our holiday joy should take a sober and subdued form as long as poverty, disease, injustice, and war persist.

I’m still trying to decide how literal he’s being. At first, this seems like a rigid and unfair stance. Suffering will always be around. The poor will always be with us. If you’re holding out for utopia on earth, you’re in for a long wait.

Should we never again sing at Christmas, then?

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Please hold…

This is powerful.

The Lions Den

Uncle Paul calls you on the phone and tells you about his wife who was just taken ill. You get distracted, and tell him to ‘hang on a sec.’ He says: ‘take your time.’ You were 18 at the time.

70 years later, after a life of job hopping, military tours, ups, downs, family duties, hobbies, and the common affairs of life,  you find yourself in a hospital bed; hardly unable to move your right hand, you notice the phone (the one with the cord) is off the hook, and struggle to put it back, but first you put it to your ear and say ‘hello?’

Of course the voice on the other end is uncle Paul who says: ‘I’m here, I waited for you.’ Of course the phone drops immediately to the floor. And in that moment of unannounced honesty but bitter and unvarnished truth, you saw the revelation…

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6 Pieces of Advice for the Christian Joining the Military

Brandon J. Adams

CENTCOM CoCSo, you’re signing on the dotted line.

First thing I’d say is, thank you. Good decision. You’ve either got a lot of guts, a lot of devotion, or a lot of trust in God to be joining the armed forces. Or some combination of all three.

I served a four-year tour in the Air Force. It was all stateside, the only really notable aspect being that it took place in the immediate post-9/11 world. Over a decade since my separation, I still vividly remember the lessons – how they equipped me for the future and simultaneously cast a pall over my track record. I have regrets from those days that the grace of God is still chipping off.

So I humbly ask for your ear now, because I want you to do better than I did. Here is the advice I’d give for surviving military life.

1. Learn to admit…

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In Which I Nerd Out Astronomically and Theologically

orionThe constellation Orion has returned to us.

Enough of a familiar sight to basically be the herald of winter to Northern Hemisphere dwellers, the Hunter, as Orion is often called, is known for its two brightest stars: Rigel at the lower right, Betelgeuse at the upper left. They’re the sixth and eighth brightest stars in the sky respectively, with absolute magnitudes of -7.84 and -5.85 (lower is brighter on that scale).

Next time you look at Orion, do so with this fact: the brighter star, Rigel, is over 200 light-years further from Earth and not even 10% the size.

Since learning those facts, I have never looked at Orion the same way. Rigel is an object of unbelievable luminosity.

Then consider that no created light can outstrip that of its creator.

And Orion is such a small sample of his work. Earth’s atmosphere, while a blessing, also does us a disservice towards understanding the breadth of his work, because it hides most of it. The stars of Orion appear to be relatively isolated objects floating in a sea of blackness, like chips of ice on a perfect sea. They are not isolated.

Shortly after moving to a rural town several years ago to teach math, I looked up one chilly but crystal clear December evening trying to pick out Orion and…could not locate it. That’s a different kind of chill. It took several seconds of confused scanning before I spotted it – it was right there, where it should be.

But it was now surrounded by so many stars that I had never seen before, only just now appearing in the absence of city glare, that the entire constellation of Orion had initially blended into the cosmos. No longer was the night sky a sparse collection of points; it more resembled a black canvas covered with fine dust, so numerous were the stars. Even the three collinear stars of Orion’s iconic belt had been able to hide at first amongst the galaxy’s sprawling glory.

Then consider that the stars visible from Earth are only an infinitesimal fraction of God’s work.

We are so alone among the stars…yet not alone at all.

This man is only one small step towards grasping the immensity of God.

 

His Peace Must Be Chosen

jordanEver heard psalmists and David Crowder sing unabashedly of God being “everything they need” and wondered, What on earth are they talking about?

Me, too.

One of the chief comforts of Scripture when we are disappointed, discouraged, or heartbroken, is that the Christian’s highest goal is not that dream or achievement or milepost you’ve fallen short of, but knowing God. Making him your peace, your joy, your contentment, your soul’s richest food and water. He, the Bible tells us repeatedly, is the only thing that will truly ever satisfy.

But you might have noticed it doesn’t just drop in with the mail.

Where is it then, God? Where are you?

Or as a friend put it recently, “Why can’t I appropriate for myself what God has promised me?”

We know God is faithful. His side of the deal is inerrant and unfailing; there is no lie or failure with him.

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