Give the Day After to God

deadtreeAhhh, here it is…the day after.

Adulthood consists mostly of three things, I think: paying bills, keeping your mouth shut, and grappling with the day after.

With Christmas behind us, there is now a comedown. Family is gone, the tree and wrapping paper have mutated from colorful expectation to trash recycling fodder, and now we have to confront just how much the entire affair has strained our waistlines and credit cards.

If you’re don’t struggle with this “day after”, I’m certainly happy for you. Certainly, there’s some relief in escaping the pressure of busyness and getting to unwrap that “peace and quiet” present we wanted most of all. But for others of us, there is, I think, an odd letdown. A crash back to earth. If it hasn’t come already, it might still, once the last of the family has hopped in the van and left, or once New Year’s is past.

Continue reading

Christmas is Bigger Than Your Opinion Of It

catIt was during a December that my family fell apart.

I do appreciate that the blow had enough grace to wait until the 27th before coming out of nowhere, but is there really ever a “good time” for such things to happen?

Anything that’s ever harmed family tends to feel highlighted, called out, by the approach of Christmas. The season has a way of reminding you of what you’ve lost (or never had to begin with). I know what it’s like to rely on the charity and love of non-family during the holidays (for which I’m very grateful), to struggle with the emotions, to feel left out of the joy because you’re dealing with things that (it seems like) nobody else is.

So I’m the last person to tell anyone to “just get over it and celebrate”.

That’s not my approach at all. The Bible defends, even celebrates, our grace-given ability to honestly approach the throne of God with our pain, fear, and disappointment. Psalms is full of it. Jeremiah vents to God even though he knows exactly why God is inflicting his nation. Even Jesus does not try to hide his sweat and blood from his Father. He cares about our hearts. He has big shoulders. He will always listen to our tears.

BUT.

But.

Sometimes, I think, there are days when a swift kick in my own butt really is warranted.

Continue reading

It’s About the Destination, Not the Journey

journeyIt’s one of those little fluffy kerfluffles of human philosophy, one that at least has the honesty to face the reality of we’re not home yet and try to make peace with it.

“Maybe it’s about the journey, not the destination”.

I say bogus.

I say the Christian life is about the destination.

(WARNING: Scripture ahead. I know some of you experience an instinct to kinda “check out” and skip Scripture because it’s too dense, too preposition-heavy, too hard to understand, it’s something you just plain don’t like, etc. DON’T. If you’ve honored me by clicking on this post, I urge you to fight that instinct. Read through the Scriptures. There are treasures waiting.)

Continue reading

Never Assume

When I read that Robin Williams had died of suicide, a thought went through my mind that is probably shared by many.

“I had no idea”.

Perhaps at some point I’d fleetingly read that Williams was in rehab from substance abuse, but I had no idea that his addictions were an attempt to fight off depression.

I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest people-reader, and 99% of what I saw of Williams was a performance of some kind. But I have trouble connecting the manic, happy-at-all-the-wrong-times boom of “Aladdin”‘s Genie to a depressed soul. The man’s calling was to cheer people up. He was so gifted at it. He had so much admiration from people. It was hard to guess what was under the surface the whole time, that the great well of humor and compassion from which he enriched others belied a different internal reality. I so wish I’d known him; I wish I’d had a chance to build him up.

It’s a reminder to me that we must never assume.

Continue reading

The Unmoved Rock

Once upon a time, there was a man sleeping in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared.

The Lord told the man He had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might.

This the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.

Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture placing thoughts into the man’s mind such as: “You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it.” Thus giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure.

These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man even more. “Why kill myself over this?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time, giving just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.” And that he planned to do until one day he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.

“Lord,” he said, “I have laboured long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock a half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”

To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My child, when long ago I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push.”

“And now you come to me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewed and brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition, you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Yet you haven’t moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. This you have done.”

“I, my child, will now move the rock.”

– author unknown

Just Around the Next Switchback

hikers“I don’t think I’m gonna make it,” I panted.

Below us sprawled the Flathead Valley in its pristine summer beauty, seemingly close enough to touch, the houses and trees like playthings from our vantage at 7,000 feet.

But I barely noticed the view. My friend and I were sitting, gasping for breath, on Columbia Mountain on Friday with 30-pound packs – an elevation gain of 4,500 feet in 6 miles – and I was more exhausted than ever in my life. Seriously. This beat even my black belt test.

I don’t know whether it was the altitude, being out of shape, or both, but my arms were going numb, my legs shaking, and a deep pain starting in my chest. The scorching sun beat down (seriously, moon, you couldn’t eclipse three days sooner?); sweat beaded and dripped off our necks. Everything was dust (the trees having long ago gotten smaller due to altitude).

It had become switchback, switchback, five minute rest, repeat. The summit was in view, but stubbornly refused to grow closer. Was the mountain growing as we hiked?

Continue reading

Airborne on the Fourth: Why the Cynic Can Still Love America

cityThe timing of our Czech Republic mission allowed us a unique and rare experience: being at 35,000 feet over the continental United States on the evening of the Fourth of July.

As you might guess, the view was spectacular.

At first, I had guesstimated that we’d be both too early and too far north to see holiday fireworks. But as the sun set a couple hours out of Chicago, I opened the window and glanced down, and my breath caught. Pinprick flares of multicolored light against the dark land in every direction, as far as the eye could see, intensifying around a small town just to the south.

I alerted the others and we stared out with delight. I briefly wondered if we actually were over Canada and maybe they have their own Fourth fireworks just for the heck? But after consulting the onboard computers, we realized that the town to the south could only be Albany, NY. We were seeing the Fourth from the air after all!

Then we looked ahead of us and beheld a massive web of light terminating along a solid line: a coastal city. It was Boston. Where it all began. The tea party, the Boston Massacre, the first clashes at Lexington and Concord. The city obviously knew its history that night (or they were celebrating because I was leaving, I dunno). The only comparison I can draw to the view that night is Star Wars space battles: Boston was ablaze with tiny flashes of light. And as we flew over the coastline, still more fireworks: cruise ships off the coast were hosting their own professional displays. It was a sight I’ll not soon forget.

I must confess. Over the years, I’ve grown a bit cynical about the whole America deal.

Continue reading