Great expectations. 

“Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’ And there was a division among them.” John 9:16

Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem, and as they walk in the streets, they stop near a man who has never been able to see. It is the Sabbath. Lots of questions…Jesus spits in the dirt and smears mud on the man’s eyes . . . tells him to wash it off in the Pool of Siloam. The blind man does so, and he receives the gift of eyesight.

This story is steeped in disbelief, doubt and misunderstanding, and the people in it are riddled with it. They are confused and doubtful, and their actions betray the disorienting fear that episodes like this can create. Their expectations of how life “ought to be” challenge their acceptance of real life before them.

But really, among the people in this story, who are the ones who can’t see? Continue reading “Great expectations. “

Promises kept. 

Solo songs celebrating the demise of the long, Dark Silence.

Fog-white greetings laughing through the fading threats of thinning ice.

Sunrises lingering now to revel and rejoice, 

Renew and restore,

Summoning the stories archived and buried carefully for future readings:

        Delivery on promises vowed at the slow closing of Autumn’s eyes.

        Spring: “It is time.”

The great sequence.

At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was a few days over the tabernacle, and according to the command of the Lord they remained in camp; then according to the command of the Lord they set out. And sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning. And when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out, or if it continued for a day and a night, when the cloud lifted they set out. Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses. Numbers 9:18-23

In our culture today, the epitome of success is the driven person who is the “go-getter” who dreams big dreams and sets out to climb every mountain to make them real. We are taught from a young age that we can do anything we put our minds to.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

“We need a plan for work and we need to work the plan.”

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”

Whole industries of motivation and coaching are built around telling us that we are the powerful, self-motivated centers of the universe. It is aspirational, captivating and sells lots of books and self-help programs, but there is (at least) one problem with this teaching:

It. Isn’t. True. Continue reading “The great sequence.”

Urgent pleas.

“The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had valiant men who carried shield and sword, and drew the bow, expert in war, 44,760, able to go to war. They waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. And when they prevailed over them, the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands, for they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him.” 1 Chronicles 5:18-20

This passage is full of crazy names: crazy names of real people long, long dead. Their homes are gone. Their families and farms, livestock are gone. All that we have of their walk on earth are a few historical records that speak to a people’s experience with ancient tools of battle: shield, sword and bow.

They were men of valor, experts in the ability to wage war. Quite an epitaph, don’t you think?

But there’s more.

Continue reading “Urgent pleas.”

Twilight wind.

Winter speaks to the haunting side of man
And knows the things that draw him up to fire:

   The brown and gray of sunless days, 
   The snow that snows, and snows and stays,
   The thousand, different, lonely ways 
   Its twilight wind can whisper. 

And those around these places bright with light
Renew themselves in mind and spirit, deep:

   With limb and sap (the snapping blaze),
   To mock the snow that snows and stays, 
   And count a thousand, different, lonely ways 
   The twilight wind can whisper. 

Winter speaks to the haunting side of man 
And knows these things. 

All things new.

“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.'” Revelation 21:5-6

There is something about the start of a new year that is transforming. New day, new month, new year, (new budget-ha!) And for me, it helps when it is sunny on New Year’s Day. We’re at the top of the calendar with 364 days to come. It’s an adventure.

But what if it isn’t sunny that day, or on January 2nd the budget still doesn’t pay the bills, or the 364 days to come are known to be already brimming with likely pain, overwhelming challenge or stinging regret? What do we do when the coming year is merely new, but not . . .  happy?  Continue reading “All things new.”

A sign for you.

“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

When I was a young boy Christmas was, in every sense of the word, magical. The sparkling snow (when we had it), the soul-lifting music, the pine-scented decorations, amazing food, the anticipation, laughter and love of my family were lights in the night getting us ready to hear again the deep message in God’s greatest announcement: Emanuel has come.

But this year, the whole story is brand new. This year among these familiar events, I found something new, and it has changed me. Continue reading “A sign for you.”

Living in Meribah.

“For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.” Psalm 95:7-9

So often, the Psalms are a real source of comfort and peace to weary travelers. We love to read them when we are discouraged or confused. Often, when we can’t find the words to express our frustration or anger, the Psalms stand as testaments to the durability of prayer and our easy access to a caring and engaged Heavenly Father. But sometimes, as in the 95th above, the Psalms can stand as a warning: a barricade to steer us away from the sharp and dangerous edge of a steep mountain.

What happened at Meribah?

Continue reading “Living in Meribah.”

Good work.

“For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 25:55

Our western culture is at war with our faith. Living in America makes serving others really difficult. We are taught from an early age that we live in the land of opportunity (and we do). As young people, most are encouraged to “follow your dreams” (and many do). Here is another one: “Reach for the stars!” While these statements are each motivating, exciting and sound really good, there is a problem, and it’s a big one: they aren’t the Gospel. Continue reading “Good work.”

Lessons in the silent meadow.

“And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.” Leviticus 25:20-22

Early in the days of Israel’s birth as a nation, God set out a system of government for them that was ordered around one, central theme: “Follow me, and I will provide for you.”

Though the text above is ancient, it is not unusual for God to call us today to tasks of obedience that test our rational minds and ask for more faith than sight. How do we react to this?
Continue reading “Lessons in the silent meadow.”