Defined

The question

Cliché and worn

Like an out-of-style

What Would Jesus Do? bracelet

Dropped like a hat

Casually

In this equally-worn

Small southern town

Are you saved?

Yeah.

I got saved on…

The date so easily recalled

Like the day you earned

Your drivers license

Because

Like other rites of passage

That is what you do

When you grow up

Down here

Unlike what is brought by

The fire and brimstone

Ultimatum as written

On the inside cover of

A pocket-size Gideons’ Bible

Handed to you

On the way to recess

By suited men

Just beyond

Your public school door

I breath peace

Born by hope

A notion that

Like a loving parent

His grace is infinite

Even with the pain that I’ve caused

Lying out in full view

Before Him

He holds me close

Whispering good news

That these tears

Are not cried in vain

All That You Measure

The establishment

Whether organized religion

Pop culture

Mass media

Or government

Will never take

The narrow road

Found in humility

Through faith

A path traveled upon

Through bright heights

And shadowed valleys

But always paved with grace

And leading to a place

We’ve never been

Jesus said, “For judgement I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” -John 9:39

Focus At Christmas

I read a daily devotional by Brennan Manning called Devotions For Ragamuffins. It is indispensable to me as a source of encouragement and a lens to focus my perspective through on a daily basis. The month of December features a number of devotions focused on Christmas and the one that I read this morning really struck a chord with me because of its emphasis on what really should be more widely recognized as a central tenet of the Christmas holiday season and Christianity as a whole throughout the year:

The wailing Infant bears witness to a God whose Word is fresh and alive, who is not the defender of the old, the already settled, the well established and familiar. The God we encounter in Jesus is free from preoccupation with his own glory, free to be for us, free to be gracious, free to love and let be.

This Christmas such a God might well expect us to be creatively responsive and thus truly Christlike. Indeed, He might call us to set free captives bound by loneliness and isolation, to share our hope with prisoners of gloom and despair, to invite the unlovely to our table, to celebrate our freedom in forgetfulness about our comfort and convenience, to cry the gospel by ministering to widows and orphans, to be the Church by bringing soup to the poor, to ignore conventional expectations, to call His Son out of Egypt once more.

How we interact with and serve those who are less educated, less popular, less cultured and who have less money says a great deal about who we are as people and where our focus is. The real meaning of Christmas is found in facing those who feel like they have the least reason to celebrate.

 

First posted 12/20/08

Fringe

Perhaps with the bruises and sweat-burned vision of defeat

Comes a fork in the road that the jaded are forced to face

To one side a purely enlivened tilt toward stark truth

And to the other an abandoned farmhouse swirling on

The fringe of a black hole mentality where the poets

And the scientists hedge their bets on a rainbow of pills

With a periodic table of excuses born for

The purpose of blinding their eyes and stopping their own ears

To escape white noise blaring from their own gray matter

Pray I choose the former rather than the hollow latter

From Devotions For Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning, Pp.6

Jesus Christ is not only the center of the gospel but the whole gospel. The four evangelists never focus on another personality. Fringe people stay on the fringe, marginal men remain on the periphery. No one else is allowed to take center stage. Various individuals are introduced only to interrogate, respond, or react to Jesus. Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, Peter, Thomas, Caiphas, Pilate, and a score of others are background to the person of Jesus. He dwarfs everyone else. This is as it should be, because the New Testament is a time of salvation. When the final curtain falls, Jesus will upstage all the famous, beautiful, and powerful people who have ever lived in the course of human history. Every person will be seen as responding to Jesus. T.S. Eliot put it, “O my soul, be prepared to meet him who knows how to ask questions.” This is the proper theological understanding of the New Testament and the eschatological Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Showing That God Is Real

From Devotions For Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning, Pp.1

God’s love is based on nothing, and the fact that it is based on nothing makes us secure. Were it based on anything we do, and that “anything” were to collapse, then God’s love would crumble as well. But with the God of Jesus no such thing can possibly happen. People who realize this can live freely and to the fullest. Remember Atlas, who carries the whole world? We have Christian Atlases who mistakenly carry the burden of trying to deserve God’s love. Even the mere watching of this lifestyle is depressing. I’d like to say to Atlas: “Put that globe down and dance on it. That’s why God made it.” And to these weary Christian Atlases: “Lay down your load and build your life on God’s love.” We don’t have to earn this love; neither do we have to support it. It is a free gift. Jesus calls out:  “Come to me, all you Atlases who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.”

With this kind of freedom, if we really believe we have it, why are we so often cynical, miserable, and insensitive? I can recognize each of these tendencies in my life whether the focus of my insensitivity, cynicism, and misery is others or myself. Too often, when riding a wave of emotion or a bolt of tension, I lash out at others who I am supposed to love and respect as other children of God. Likewise, I let my own surface level interests, addictions, and fascinations get in the way of living, breathing relationships that really matter. I can either affirm or deny God’s presence, grace, and love in my life with each individual interaction that I have with others and with each decision, whether it results in victory or failure, that I make as an individual. If I don’t focus on this truth, no other aspect of my existence is going to matter. My friendships, family relationships, and overall life experience (short and long-term) will suffer if I can’t remember that I am His, that He has already won, that I have a lot to be thankful for, and that the best thing that I can do is share His grace and love with others.

Broken Christmas

It was just a couple of hours ago that I was watching “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” with my four-year-old daughter and I realized another way to answer a question that a friend asked me months ago. In reference to a quote from Brennan Manning (“To be alive is to be broken; to be broken is to stand in need of grace,”) he asked, “What does it mean to be broken?”

Part of the answer is at least hinted at by the process of Scrooge facing his past, present, and future demons and realizing he deserves nothing more than death, but, then realizing that he’s been given a second chance which he takes advantage of, humbly looking beyond himself and recognizing the needs of others.

Being broken is when we come face to face with the stark reality that we are self-centered, self-righteous, damned people. It is when we realize that all that we have that is good has been given to us and, in a knee-jerk, natural, and instinctual response, we desire nothing more than to be able to give to and serve others.

The shipwrecked at the stable are the poor in spirit who feel lost in the cosmos, adrift on an open sea, clinging with a life-and-death grip to one solitary plank. Finally they are washed ashore and make their way to the stable, stripped of the old spirit of possessiveness in regard to anything…They have been saved, rescued, delivered from the waters of death, set free for a new shot at life. At the stable in a blinding moment of truth, they make the stunning discovery that Jesus is the plank of salvation they have been clinging to without knowing it! All the time they were battered by wind and rain, buffeted by raging seas, they were being held even when they didn’t know who was holding them. Their exposure to spiritual, emotional, and physical deprivation has weaned them from themselves and made them reexamine all they once thought important. The shipwrecked come to the stable seeking not to possess, but to be possessed, wanting not peace or a religious high, but Jesus Christ.
~Brennan Manning, Devotionals for Ragamuffins, Pp.357

I wish you a broken Christmas.
I wish you a broken Christmas.
I wish you a broken Christmas,
and a broken new year.

Originally posted 12/1/07

Mirror (James 1:21-24)

Light sighted at the end of reflection
Though through ten thousand panes redirected
Retains the source despite imperfection
Like the moon’s grand mystery dissected
Failures and flaws of human condition
Symptoms of glory not yet realized
Are waning gasps of Satan’s attrition
Steadfast humility not idealized
Amidst rhetoric of self-proclaimed wise
Diminutive hope before rising tide
Study your reflection instead of the skies
Forget not who you are – Who lives inside
When near defeat access hope unreserved
Reflect His light clear in action and word