Monday, December 26, 2016

Jesus, after Christmas

Dear Christa—

The angels and shepherds were gone. The magi had returned to their country in the east. The wild journey to Egypt was over, and Joseph and Mary settled back into the town they knew best, Nazareth.

Christmas was over.

Joseph worked and Mary raised children. Days became busy. Did it become easy to forget all the events that surrounded the first Christmas?

So, what do we do with God once Christmas is over?

Do we set Him on a shelf like any other gift? Do we pray to him morning, noon, and night with little more expectation than an old pagan idol made with human hands? What do we do with God after Christmas?

After last Christmas we purchased a cute ceramic nativity scene on clearance. The only problem with it is that baby Jesus tends to slide out of his manger. It seems like I’m always putting that one inch Jesus back in his manger bed.  I’m afraid that’s where many desire to keep God—in a manger, a little baby.

But, God is not a baby in a manger. He’s the Creator and Savior of the whole universe. How do we plan to know God better this year? I would suggest one begin in Isaiah. Isaiah describes God a way that I think is so easy to forget. It’s good for us, for me, to move from the concept of a baby to the all-powerful Creator and Designer of each moment in the universe.   

Then, maybe the real question isn’t what will we do with God after Christmas.

Maybe the real question is—

What will God do with me?

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Light of the World

December 20, 2016

Dear Christa—
The Light of the World
I will make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the earth (Is. 49:6).
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Is. 7:14).
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” which means “God with us” (Mt. 1:22).
Isaiah is a long book. It seems like I’ve been reading it a long time. Through the prophet, God spoke many encouraging and fearful remarks to the nation of Israel. For their disobedience, there would be captivity; and for God’s own glory, there would be freedom. Then, in among all these admonitions and blessings, God reveals Himself—powerful, omnipotent, Creator, Savior.
To know God is the reason we read the Bible. To see every created thing is a reminder of who God is. The wonder of a fight of birds, frost on the windowpane, shadows cast forth by naked winter trees—the image of God is in them all.
To know that He orchestrates every nation’s rise and fall, to realize that He brings forth His glory through those who know Him and those who don’t—that He loves so deeply that He would sacrifice Himself to bring redemption—
Even for us today, there are messages of hope, fulfilled through Jesus.
For many, Christmas can be a time of sadness. We all have regrets. We all have felt alone. We all have been in the dark.
Yet, Isaiah tells us about God—the God who was and is and always will be—the God who sent light to world, who sheds light in our hearts.
Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God (Is. 49:10b).
Those who hope in me will not be disappointed (Is. 49:23c).

                                                                               Happy Christmas, Christa!
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Sunday, December 11, 2016


December 9, 2016
Dear Christa—

But Mary treasured up all these things
and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

Maybe Mary had time to ponder—while nursing a baby, while grinding grain for their bread, while washing clothes.
In many ways technology has stolen the natural rhythm of life—the mundane tasks in which one would ponder.
We don’t do much pondering these days. —texting, rushing kids from one activity to the next, throwing meals on the table and clearing them off—
For many of us, the main thing we look deeply into is the “to do” list that sits ever present, nearly always at the touch of our fingertips. Really?
Sometimes, I wonder what is wrong with us? What is wrong with me?
And, all that lack of pondering can be an avenue to get all worked up. Are we as a people not angrier than we’ve ever been? I’m afraid 21st Century life has not made us a better people. For many it’s a life in which it’s easy to forget to live.
Perhaps, Luke 2:19 is for us.
Mary treasured the shepherds, the angels, Joseph, and this Child. The wonderful thing about pondering is that we don’t have to come to a conclusion. We don’t have to act on anything. We simply need to treasure—to be grateful.
What better time than now to ponder on this Child—Jesus.
Mary did not and could not know the future. I’m sure she wondered what would become of Him. What would become of them?
Christa, I hope you find time—make time—to breathe—to treasure the wonders of God’s work in you—to ponder the blessings of His hand.
God in the flesh—could that really be? I’m sure Mary had many questions, yet she gathered up these events of birth, angels, and shepherds; and she treasured them.
Should we not do the same?
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Sunday, December 4, 2016

God with Us

Dear Christa,

The prophet Isaiah speaks the voice of God as he tells the emperor Cyrus: “I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God (Is. 45:5b). I bring prosperity and create disaster; I the LORD do all these things (45:7b).

As with Cyrus so it was in the days of Caesar Augustus, certainly not a man who worshiped God. He made a decree that a census should be taken of the Roman Empire. What else would have forced Joseph and Mary to the small village of Bethlehem?

Perhaps it felt like a disaster to them; the timing surely seemed wrong. Yet, this decree that affected the whole empire moved Joseph and Mary to the very place of prophecy fulfillment. The child Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem.

Perhaps, as this year comes to a close, you have received honor, or perhaps your world is rocked by disaster.

Isaiah reminds us that God works in the lives of those who acknowledge Him and in those who don’t.

All the days before our time, right this moment, and in the epochs to follow, God is carving out His story, and the birth of Jesus is certainly one of the greatest moments in this narrative.

Remember it. Ponder it. Let it renew your soul.

And, they will call him Immanuel—which means, “God with us.” (Mt. 1:23)

Happy Christmas season, Christa. May your days be filled with awe—

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, November 28, 2016

What Kind of God--

 Dear Christa—

What kind of God creates a world with the design to sacrifice Himself to ransom His creation—who chose to create a race so bent on going its own way?

Even given a second chance to start over after the flood, little time passed before we turned away from Truth and the worship of the only Being worthy of worship. Then, when God chose Moses to lead a nation out of Egypt, their bent was to make idols of gold, to worship the creation of their own hands instead of the One who created their hands.

So easy it is to fall away. We shift like leaves blown in the wind, one direction and then the next.

Yet, “in the fullness of time,” God the Creator became the created. As moments turned to days—then years, Jesus remained the same until the day of the cross. And, angels and men beheld Him.

What kind of God becomes a man?

Most did not turn to the Truth—the truth that God alone is worthy of worship, that God alone could bring salvation, that God alone has power to create anew.

What kind of God creates a world with the design to sacrifice Himself?

A baby—in a manger—poor, weak, purposeful—

And the shepherds came to worship him.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Where are we looking?

November 9, 2016

Donald Trump is no panacea. His platform may slow the tide of Christian persecution that crouches at the door, but it cannot stop it.

He has promised to make America great. Just what does it mean to be great? Is greatness measured in world dominance? Or, could it be measured in how we individually treat and respect our family and neighbors?

Can greatness be measured in wealth, gross national product, or does greatness reach out to one without and states, “I will help you”? Do we as Christians continue our upward mobility at the expense of relationships with those we proclaim we care for? Do we see a picture so big that we forget to look down at the uplifted eyes of the small ones in our own homes?

Do we cast our vision above this Book—the very Word of God, or do we gaze within the Bible’s pages for direction that will outlast any leader, nation, or movement? For it’s in those pages we find greatness—a Greatness that transcends a material world. When individuals seek to know the Creator of the universe and beyond, then in spite of what humanity considers great, we will lift hands to worship the God of Heaven and Earth and recognize that to be great is to set aside our selfish desires and reach out to the world next door and the world abroad and declare:

“God is good all the time;
He loves you;
He conquered death for you;
He sees you;
He controls ALL things, even when we don’t understand;
He will give you strength for your daily trials and the trials of your future.”

He, and He alone, is great.

Some need to acknowledge that, and some need to rest in that.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Grass and Flowers

Dear Christa--
Grass and Flowers: thoughts on Isaiah 40:6-8
“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.”
As winter approaches, the trees shed their leaves. The grass turns brown, and the flowers have spent their last blossoms. After a beautiful, lingering fall, winter in Colorado will come like summer. We’ll awake one morning and it will be here. 
Saturday we raked leaves with the boys and let them (ages 3 and 5), jump in them before Jay sucked them up in the trash can. It is a sign that summer has ended. Winter comes. And, such is life, brief and fleeting as a leaf falling from a tree.
One man, one woman, live their days as prescribed by the Lord. Yet, as a blanket of soft winter snow, the grave eventually covers it all. It may seem futile, but it isn’t. It’s the comparison that is emphasized in these verses.
The brevity of each life, even in the culmination of all peoples, stands in stark contrast to the eternal Word of God. So, if the Word is enduring, should we not seek it out?
To know the Words of the Lord, the One who has always been and always will be—the One who has brought salvation to all peoples in all times—to hear His words should be a regular practice for us.
To hear His voice is to know Him better—to experience His love and compassion for us who are as weak and fleeting as grass and flowers. Let us give Him praise.
“But the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.”
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Thoughts on Isaiah

Dear Christa,

Thoughts on Isaiah

Thomas Paine, the Deist and great proponent of the Revolutionary War, used Hezekiah’s very words to rebuke and shame those who wanted to avoid war with England, the great world power of his day. He shames them for seeking only “peace and safety” in their day.

During Hezekiah’s reign, after envoys from Babylon sent flattering letters and gifts, Hezekiah shows them all of his treasures; he left nothing out.

When Isaiah the prophet tells him that all would be carried off to Babylon, including some of his own descendants, Hezekiah’s response was “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”

How shortsighted and self-focused to only see our own fleeting life. We might expect more from a king, yet Jesus Himself is the only true righteous King. And that thought should make us realize that our concern for those we touch today—for those who will follow behind us tomorrow—is to leave a legacy of faithfulness, which they can follow and therein take hope regardless of their struggles.

Life brings individual pain to each of us. After Hezekiah’s recovery from grave illness, he states “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish” (Is. 38:17). Perhaps, after such an ordeal, Hezekiah is too spent to seek the Lord to bring about change once again. Sometimes age brings weariness. Yet, we must pursue to the end. In the strength of God’s great mercy, we carry on.

In the overshadowing of our own Babylon, we must walk upright in prayer to the only King who controls all things from creation to Hezekiah’s life to now and the days to come.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Friday, October 7, 2016

When the Magic Blows Away

October 7, 2016
Dear Christa—

As Joy and Shane sit in a Disney hotel room, I think the magic has blown away with the hurricane. Last night Shane waited hours in line to purchase 4 food boxes that contained 3 meals to sustain them through today. As Shane waited in line, Joy wasn’t sure how much food the boxes would contain. Thinking it might just be supper last night, they had decided they’d ration out the food for the boys and fast for a day. As Joy said, “There are plenty of people around the world who go more than a day without food.”

Her comment reminded me of something a parent who’d been to Haiti (where a hundred people died in this storm) said to Jay. She told him that while there on a missions trip this summer, a little girl said to her, “You mean you get to eat every day?” It’s been a question that’s kind of haunted me since he told me about it at the beginning of the school year.

I don’t know what today will hold for our family in Orlando. (I think it will be long.) I don’t know why such a special vacation has turned out this way. But, even in the midst of the storm, there is magic all around. It’s seen in the frost on the pumpkin and snow on Pikes Peak. The strength of an omnipotent God is revealed both literally and metaphorically as He rages up a mighty sea, and calms it down again.

There is shelter; there is food; and they are together. It might turn in to a magical day after all.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Lesson of the Zucchini

September 24, 2016

Dear Christa—

As I hung out sheets this cool, clear fall day, I couldn’t help noticing the zucchini that just a month ago was decimated in the short minutes of a hail storm.

This morning I could see the plants have filled out new leaves and 3 small zucchinis are getting larger by the day, just the way zucchini does.

All of nature is designed to come back.
“Seed time and harvest,” the world renews itself.

And so does mankind.

Research shows that people have a built in ability to recover—sometimes quicker than what we’d expect—from the most devastating disasters.

Life has a way of throwing us hard balls, quick and relentless. One day this week at lunch duty, I sat with a student who’d been rear-ended on his way to a golf tournament. The car is a mess, but the guy—not so much so. We chatted about how life can change in a moment.

We anticipate a day going the same as the day before and the day before that.

In an instant, all changes. Sometimes, everything in perspective, it can be relatively small— missing a tournament, losing a car.

Then there are times it changes all things, everything we ever planned. In one moment life will never be the same. Yet, we walk on—one day and one step at a time. We trust God even when we can’t comprehend Him.

A day down the road, we realize we’ve turned a corner. We know we’ll walk on—differently, yes—but we walk on. We may walk in a new direction—often wiser and humbler than before—but we continue to grow. We push out new leaves. We bear new fruit.

It’s the lesson of the zucchini.

As I inspected the 3 little zucchinis at the base of new leaves, I said to myself:

Yep, there will be zucchini bread this winter after all.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, September 12, 2016

Serve in Joy

September 4, 2016

Dear Christa—

Last week at senior retreat in the mountains south of Buena Vista, David prayed one morning that we’d find “joy in our serving.”

Joy in serving—

Sometimes we serve because we must. Sometimes we serve because we should, and (on occasion) because we want to. But, always we should seek joy in our service. I think that comes from a perspective change.

In some ways joy is a choice. The choice isn’t something we muster up. It comes from an acknowledgment of who God is and His design.

We serve because we’re alive.

We serve because we are grateful.

Life—even the daily kind—should never be taken for granted. Life is precious. This day isn’t given to everyone, and if it is bestowed on us, we must respond in gratitude. We find joy in our labor when we notice the beauty, even amidst destruction.

While I was at retreat, a devastating hail storm struck our backyard. Yet, last evening after I’d put the last zucchini bread in the oven from zucchini I’d picked before I left, I inspected the bent and broken zucchini plants. New leaves were already opening from limp and battered stems. Even a single bloom lifts its yellow blossom to the sky. As I looked around, I noticed everything is pushing out new leaves.

Roses, petunias, everything.

If even the plants will bloom forth, shouldn’t we as well? Can we not find joy in our service this day?

Look for the beauty, no matter how small. Appreciate and give thanks that this day we have life to serve.

Find joy in your serving today.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything 

Monday, September 5, 2016

I Look Like You

 written July 27, 2016

Dear Christa—

While Mel was visiting last week, I heard Grandma say, “You’re so pretty.” Mel turned and lovingly replied, “Grandma, I look like you.”

It’s true. Young pictures of Grandma do look a lot like Melody. What a sweet thing to say to someone whose youth is long lost. Gone are the days of vitality—of raising five boys on a southwestern Colorado farm, of running a pet shop, of living in a world of outdoor facilities that many Americans had left behind.

Do we see ourselves in the youth who follow us? I, too, recall the gentleness she afforded me—a young mother and daughter-in-law, and her words of wisdom.

I haven’t always kept the advice of the women who’ve influenced me. I haven’t always kept my own advice for that matter. Yet, overall, there is a thread of consistency that runs through generation to generation. It binds us. It makes us family. It makes us friends. It makes us love, and it makes us hope.

It reminds me of the body of Christ, rejoicing with each other in the good and buoying each other up in the bad. People look at the world and wonder what it is coming to.

It is coming to be like us.

Do we impart kindness? Do we impart hatred? Do we reflect Jesus in all our thoughts and ways?

One day our children and grandchildren will turn to us and say—

I look like you.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Jesus, the Redeemer

August 8, 2016

Dear Christa—

Proverbs 1 expresses the divergent ways of the righteous and the wicked. The gospel opens up an added view beyond the Proverb writer.

Jesus is the Redeemer.

Although the natural way is for us to reap what we sow—particularly evil—Jesus can and does intervene. He spares us from our own selves. The prayers of the righteous are effectual. God in His sovereignty has chosen to use the prayers of people to effect change in the wayward.
Why is it that these things happen—that a child can be raised up how he or she should go and doesn’t do it?

Two reasons, I think:

1. Each of us needs to be tried in some measure to determine before God, man, and himself whether or not he believes. It must be settled one way or another which way he will pursue. Sometimes the choice for God doesn’t come right away. Sometimes, it doesn’t come at all. Yet, it’s a decision that must be made. It’s our purpose for being.

2. The second is like the first, but it is a matter of trust. Though the decision has been made to follow God and a life is lived so—perhaps for many years—the waywardness of others, the struggles of life, the common evil among us—all can put us to the test. When life goes south, where do we go? Are we drawn to Jesus? Or in despair do we flounder?

It, too, is a testing but it’s beyond the decision to follow Christ. That has been determined previously.

At the end of the road, at the end of agony beyond description, it comes to a matter of trust. In those times we learn much about ourselves. We recognize that much of what we thought doesn’t hold true. And, at the end of it all, we simply choose to trust—and carry on through a choice of acceptance of what we cannot understand and pressing forward in a mist that is difficult to navigate.

Proverbs 1 expresses the natural course of life. The gospel presents the redeemer—Jesus. And where there is a redeemer, there is hope—for ourselves and for the wayward among us.

So, we trust. And we pray.

As long as there is a Redeemer, there is hope.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything