Tuesday, April 19, 2016

It just works better that way

Today, I was walking in the fields.

Oreo, my black lab, joined me as I rambled along in dialogue with the Lord. She doesn't mind a bit of benign neglect as I amble along, as it gives her free rein (literally, no lead, no rein on her) to wander the fields.

As I climbed over the stile into the field, I spotted a stick, the perfect size for fetch. I didn't come out here to play, I came to pray. And yet, perhaps the Lord wouldn't mind a bit of both. I do a quick spot check, trying the idea on Him, and as I feel no divine objection. I snatch the stick from the ground, waving it around to catch Oreo's attention.

At first, she seems surprised. She was already exploring the myriad smells in the grass. Somewhat reluctantly she leaves her occupation and trots over to me.

I throw the stick for her. She runs after it for a few steps and then is almost immediately distracted by what must be an enticing smell for her, as she veers off to her right, leaving the stick neglected and alone on the damp grass.

I walk over and pick up the stick. Hey. Come here. Look. You love this. Are you ready? Are you ready?! As I rile her up, I believe I see a flicker of remembrance behind those eyes. I throw it again. This time she is off like a rocket she grabs the stick and joyfully returns it to my feet. Dancing around, occasionally lunging toward the stick playfully, as if to urge me to throw it again before she grabs it, carrying it away herself.

I can she she is now fully engaged and she loves it! I throw it a few more times, and she chases it down and brings it right back. Then, a funny thing happens. I pull my arm back to throw it, and she darts off full speed, but in the wrong direction. She wrongly anticipated where it was headed. As it lands off to my right, she is off to my left. She completely misses it and runs franctically back and forth trying to find it.

I mutter to myself as I stomp off to retrieve the stick. I pick it up and call her. She runs over to me again, dancing around and waiting for me to throw it.

I pull my arm back and she's off, but, again, in the wrong direction. But this time, I'm watching more carefully and I don't throw it immediately. I wait for her to turn her head back toward me, and then I release it in the opposite direction. She pivots like a cheetah and scampers back across the field and full speed toward where the stick is headed. The stick is on the ground for mere moments before she scoops it up on the run and brings it back again.

We repeat this pattern a few more times, until I notice a subtle change in her behavior. She still anticipates where the stick will be thrown, but now she is streaking away from me with her head fixed back over her shoulder.

She is eager to play. She is eager to run. But now her eye is fixed on the master.

It just works better that way.

Monday, April 18, 2016

It's been a long time...

The screen says, December 12, 2014. That can't possibly be right...I double check...I triple check...it's true.That was the last date I published anything on this blog.

I haven't written on this blog for well over a year. During that time, I have done some writing, but nothing here.

I find that particularly surprising (and a bit discouraging) as it was this blog that started me on the journey of writing. It was here that I took the first, tentative, steps toward becoming a published author. I found my voice. I tried out ideas. I received feedback.

I am not sure how much I will be blogging this year. You can have a look and see that I have never been the most consistent blogger. But, today, as I walked the fields, I had the urge to come back to the office and blog.

By the way, when did blog become a verb?

More soon...

Friday, December 12, 2014

What do you want for Christmas?

The Christmas story is not just a story about light. It is a story about light coming into darkness. As we celebrate the light, we ought not to miss the darker tones in the story; the deeper richer hues grounding this heavenly story in our earthly humanity.

A peasant girl, in a backwater village. No majestic hopes or grandiose expectations for life. 

Suddenly, a stranger breaks in to her presence, shattering her life. He greets her with words of honour, words she cannot understand. His words of explanation only deepened her confusion and consternation. His words, intended to communicate a blessing, in fact condemn her to death. How could an unmarried virgin become pregnant and not be killed to restore the honour of the family? This miraculous visitation would have to be followed by many more miracles or the story would be cut short, brutally short.

An old priest and his barren wife. Whatever hopes or expectations they had carried in their youth, now long forgotten.

Suddenly, a stranger breaks into his presence, interrupting his worship, shattering his life. The stranger greets him and brings him a startling message. His wife will have a child after all, not just any child, but a great and important prophet. The old priest in the midst of his religious ritual fails in faith and is struck dumb. His lack of faith notwithstanding the strange words of the interrupting angel come true and the miraculous baby is born.

A miraculous baby, now grown into a mesmerizing prophet. Arrested and imprisoned by an unrighteous king, his hopes and expectations lay scattered like so much soiled straw.

Suddenly, nothing…. No interruption. No angelic visitation. The passion, faith, vision, and hope that had blazed in him, attracting followers like moths, is fading. His job was to prepare the way. He had done his part. He met the One to follow. He handed over his ministry, his crowds. He decreased so that the One could increase. One day, visited by some friends, he gives voice to his fears. Maybe he got it wrong, and the one he thought was the Lamb of God was just another pretender. “Go to him! Go to him and ask him, are you the one?”

Jesus, the Lamb of God, the daughter of the virgin peasant girl, responds to the friends of his cousin John, the first miraculous baby in the Christmas story. He compassionately recognizes John’s fading, failing faith. He encourages John’s friends to share what they have witnessed, and by implication to look at the things He is doing rather than the things He isn’t. Jesus affirms the previous ministry of John, even as he recognizes the fickleness of faith and the perils of perception.

How many times? How many times are we frustrated and disappointed? Either God comes to us and does something that feels like it’s wrecking our lives, or He interrupts us with surprising words at an inconvenient time, or God doesn’t show up at all and doesn’t do the things that we ask and expect. How often are we disappointed with God?

But this God, with whom we are disappointed, delights to give good gifts to His children. We know how to give gifts to our kids. We may not cater to their every whim, but we do like to give them presents. We want to make them happy. God, delights to give himself to us, not only at Christmas, but every day. The God who enfleshed Himself that first Christmas, giving Himself in the package of a baby boy, now gives His Spirit to all who ask Him.
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