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

Prayers Of A Fool… (via the beautiful due)

This post hit me square and moved me surely. Many of my friends and family know that my dad is currently battling stage four brain cancer and that the name of our fundraising team (Angels Among Us 5K to raise funds for research at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University) is: TEAM JIM – “…one foot in front of the other…” The quote is philosophy on this journey. It has translated into my own growing love of running as I better my health and strengthen my determination for the sake of him, my wife, and my kids. But, after reading this post, I shall pray that all my runs and my work be dedicated to others. I found this blog through the blog author’s association with my favorite author Brennan Manning and I will certainly be continuing to follow its new posts.

prayers of a fool... Eric Liddell said ‘when I run I feel His pleasure.’ I’m no Liddell, in that I’m not fast, swift. But I can run far. And when I do, I feel His pleasure. Two or three times a week I head out on the lunch hour and run far. Sure, the sun’s directly overhead and lately its been 90+ degrees at noon, but I’m aware that not everyone gets to run in the shadow of Pikes Peak, so I ‘suck it up, buttercup.’ Here’s the deal. For me, running is praying. No, I’m … Read More

via the beautiful due

Breathe Through

That I might be a beggar

Content in nondescript clothes

Freed from hallow distraction

To breath through blessings and throes

In recognition that all

Life springs forth and out from you

We’ll revel in each blessing

Each storm you’ll carry me through

To acknowledge that our Father is the source of all life and holiness makes gratitude the most characteristic attitude of the child of God. The petition “Give us this day our daily bread” expresses our creaturely dependence and the acceptance of all of life as God’s gracious gift. It strikes down possessiveness and makes us conscious that we are beggars.

And yet how reluctant we are to receive the gift! We stake out our piece of turf, claim it as our own, become grasping, anxious, and care0ridden about the security of our baubles, trinkets, golf balls, and immaculate lawns. “We gather into barns, insure the barns and their contents, buy a German shepherd or hire a security guard, and try to see to it that Blacks do not build barns in the same area.” We sell ourselves to the gods of security, and power, and a sickness enters the very heart of our existence. We grow competitive rather than compassionate, make others our rivals, stepping stones to our enthronement in a palace overlooking Malibu, part of life’s expense account, enslaved in the Babylonian captivity of the modern world.

One does not find an attitude of gratitude in the slave market.

-Brennan Manning, A Glimpse Of Jesus: The Stranger To Self-Hatred, Pp. 48-49

Who Can Come To Jesus?

From A Glimpse Of Jesus: The Stranger To Self-Hatred by Brennan Manning:

It is staggering, it is mind-blowing, but it is true. Jesus takes the initiative in seeking out the ungodly, even on Sunday morning. His loving visitation ends ungodliness and makes the sinner worthy. It is difficult to understand how anyone has the right to declare limited access to the eucharistic table so that certain people cannot come to Jesus without their consent and approval. Surely there would be abuses, but abuses do not take away the reality. “In Jesus the goodness out weighed the evil that surrounded him. Sinners were always welcome, tax collectors, prostitutes and anyone else who feels left out can find company with Jesus as the forgiving savior…[N]o one was excluded; no one need feel left out.”

Nobody is worthy. But, we are all welcome.