Merry Christmas to all and to all “my last post for the year!”

Who knows how many of us will look back on 2011…it usually takes a few years to get some life’s perpective on the days that have passed. All I know for now is this – I am alive by the grace and love of God…I have the people, relationships and blessings in my life because I am loved with a unfathomable love made real/incarnate in what the season defines as the “babe in Bethlehem.” I’m thankful for each person who runs into this blog…I’m getting close to 1000 posts and I have many people who drop in, read, make comments, leave and “do life” in some way with what has been graciously given to me to enjoy. So, Merry Christmas to all of you…may you be overwhelmed in your heart and soul by these miraculous moments and may you also realize that these moments are no more special than the other moments of our year…we may highlight them in a special manner yet the God who fills each moment with His presence is just as alive, just as immanent, and just as full of love and desire for you to experience the fullness of His life and Kingdom as many sense during this holiday time. And may God bless us, every one!

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Quick rant…

AdailyrantHeard on the radio this afternoon someone sharing that they can't wait for this Christmas "superstition" to pass historically…the "enlightened" ones believe that education is quickly freeing society/culture from religious superstition…this guy was predicting maybe 200 years from now, all we would have left is a holiday tree, holiday parties and a holiday season…at that point, though, what's the point? No reason to give gifts…no reason to celebrate anything…no real purpose for the holiday…what are you going to do, give gifts, take time off, throw parties for what, nothing? no good reason? no real reason? to celebrate the "existential/inherent goodness" of humanity? Look around you…I don't think so…

So, I have shared my rant…and I got some people that I know and care about make some comments.  After having a friend of mine post this, I had some more comments…here's what my friend said:  "People give gifts, take time off, throw parties for nothing all the time. Setting aside a time in December to do just that sounds awesome, Christmas is such a mashup of holidays anyway, people should be able to have it mean whatever they want it to. Celebrating the idea of existential/inherent goodness of humanity is a wonderful idea, it's out there."

Now, my turn again…you see, that was the guy's broader point…he was saying "dump all the reasons"…and just have a generic "holiday"…no reason, no season is my point. Every "holiday" has an origination point of meaning.  Think back to all the holidays we have…all of them are anchored in some commemoration or significant event in history.  The "inherent goodness" of humanity doesn't cut it for me especially in light of the reality of the world for most folks…we need something to "inspire" hope and meaning…navel gazing doesn't cut it. 

Any other comments?

And then we wonder why people don’t see a Kingdom journey exciting….

There are many things you can do in the world that are exciting…many of us contend that following Jesus, living the Kingdom of God daily, looking for the powerful/transformational presence of the Spirit is the “adventure of a lifetime.” THEN, you look at something like this and you see why in our world sometimes our words don’t match people’s experience. When we reduce the Christ following journey to sitting in pews, listening to sermons, and maybe singing a few songs, you can imagine why people who do all sorts of things for adventure (including these crazy guys) look at “the church” like it a dinosaur from past ages. Here’s a serious question, in a world where people look for adventure, how do we communicate the reality of the Kingdom adventure? How can we then live in a manner where Kingdom “excitement” and challenge is the norm NOT the exception? Just a thought or two today after watching THIS video…jeesh!

I Believe I can Fly ( flight of the frenchies). Trailer from sebastien montaz-rosset on Vimeo.

Great video for Christmas…so, Merry Christmas to you!

Sometimes videos are not only entertaining but informative…there is both entertainment and “enlightenment” in this video about the Nativity. Yet, as you would hope, it ends with the real reason why videos like this exist…that would be to draw you into the story. The details are important but not as important as the reality of the truth that sets us free – that “unto us is born this day a Savior, Christ the Lord!” Merry Christmas dear friends…

Why idolizing Tim Tebow may not be good for American Christianity…

2000310356-177x150-0-0Why idolizing Tim Tebow may not be good for American Christianity

USA Today (yep, as Jim Rome of television and radio fame exclaims, the “multi-colored fish wrap) ran a front-page article on the Tebow “phenomenon” today in the Sports section.  It is as predictable in our culture as the sun arising, the government having serious polarization issues, or gasoline prices remaining high…the culture has latched on to another American idol.   Unfortunately, it is a person of deep faith and commitment to following and loving Jesus.  Why do you say?  Am I just another religious cynic or someone who loves to feast on other Christ-followers in stealth?  Permit me to lay out a few reasons why I feel like this might not be the greatest thing for American Christianity:

1 – It solidifies the “idol” mentality and celebrity culture in the USA.  In an age that is drastically and dramatically void of real, personally substantial heroes in life, it is highly suspicious that the culture has hitched its fascination on ANOTHER celebrity.  Frankly, the western world is too caught up with celebrity…instead of focusing on issues that make a difference in people’s real lives, like relationships, foundational and life-giving values, and a worldview that breathes vitality into a person’s heart, we so easily accept the carrot of vicariously living (and envying) another person’s fame.  Real heroes are swept under the rug…people in our culture that live in the shadows sacrificially, who want to build community in communities shattered by violence or superficiality, military heroes, educators, people who wield real authority in a gentle, human-enhancing manner, and a plethora of others whose character merits attention by average people are diminished and ignored. 

2 – It solidifies the perception that a person of faith has some sort of “fast track” to material and cultural success.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many people believe, culturally speaking, that a Kingdom of God journey somehow insures you of materialistic and relational success.  There is that perception alive and well in local faith communities that if you hitch your life up to God, it is God’s job to make sure you don’t have any pain, stress, or problems in life.  Unfortunately, the idolization of another person of faith who appears (at least in the short term) to be enjoying success communicates the message to the rest of the culture of that many of us try to do combat with on a regular basis.  I was just talking today with a person who sincerely believed that prayer was some sort of “vending machine” for getting what you want from God to make sure you have a comfortable life.  When a public Christ-follower who is idolized for materialistic or, in this instance, cultural “success” (i.e. “winning”) it tends to make a mockery of that which many of us who follow Jesus know in our guts – that when you follow Jesus you not only have the opportunity to enjoy His grace and love and life in abundance but you also sign up for “the fellowship of suffering.”  By idolizing another cultural icon, a successful football quarterback, we subtly negate the real God-honoring life of NOT enjoying cultural attention and fame but rather issues like “loss, self-denial, and picking up our own cross.”

3 – This idolization may do eventual damage to a dear brother in the Lord…yes, Tim is a brother in Jesus.  I’m really enjoying watching his career unfold…he is a unique football talent who deserves a shot at winning in what has to be one of the most challenging professions in the land.  But to put him on a pedestal will only lead to one thing…a falling off of the pedestal (which eventually will happen). 

I would wish this on anybody, especially someone I care about…remember other “public” or cultural icons or idols that “fell” from the public’s graces?  Remember when Christians put Bob Dylan on the pedestal because he made a profession of faith?  Or Anne Rice, the author of many popular vampire novels?  After a bit of time, both people got tired of what they perceived was the baggage that went along with a faith under public scrutiny.  Can you imagine?  Idols like Tim and their faith are going to be publically evaluated…he will fall, like we all do.  He’ll have some bad games, eventually get cut by a team, or have some sort of glitch in his character…and the vultures will then mercilessly pounce.  And what will be ridiculed?  You got it – his relationship with God.  Trust me, it will eventually sound exactly like that Jesus went through on the cross when He heard the words, “where is your God now?”  I don’t want that to happen with Tim…

4 – It is shameless that honest Christ-followers are jumping on some cultural bandwagon.  Again, I like this guy and I don’t know him…it is fun to think about watching his on field escapades.  But to start “Tebowing” and emulating a cultural idol makes a bit of a mockery of all those followers of Jesus who are simply living their lives daily loving, serving, helping, sacrificing…all without cultural attention…all doing with their “right hand” what their left hand doesn’t know about…all secretly praying outside of the limelight.  I know how I feel when one of the preschool kids in our faith community comes up to me and says, “Robin, I want to grow up to be just like you.”  Now, I know what they mean…they like to watch me play guitar, sing songs, and play with my puppets…but to think that I would be idolized as some sort of “standard” of God-honoring living would be a blatant overstretching.  I like what John the Baptist said one day when some people asked him about his increasing fame, “He (the Messiah) must increase, I must decrease.”  I believe we as fellow followers of Jesus may need to be very careful about loving our brother in the Lord enough to encourage him and root for him without falling into the idolizing trap.

5 – By honoring an “easy” person to honor (Tim is white, successful, from a healthy family past, etc.) we do an injustice to other football players in the NFL who are just as faithful, just as passionate, just as committed to the Kingdom of God as Tim is…in fact, I’d like to believe that Tim feels that way.  We all have to admit, he’s an easy person to honor…if he had been a former felon who had a dramatic life turn around, or a lineman who didn’t get the Sports press attention like a quarterback, or a special team’s coach who didn’t have a microphone stuck in his face at every waking moment, we might not be so enamored.  But idolizing Tebow is too easy…what about giving attention to those more “unsung?”  I remember a number of years ago meeting a NHL player…no, he wasn’t a leading scorer or a player who got a lot of press.  But he loved God and loved the idea of, in some small way, bringing the Kingdom of God into play through his play…and, here’s another bit of info…this guy was a team “enforcer” at the time.  Yep, he “picked fights” and protected the other high profile players for a living…nobody publically wanted to claim him as a model of faith.  To me, he was one of my heroes…I had him sign a jersey for my boys at the time and share his love for the Lord with some of the children in our faith community NOT because he was a cultural idol but because he was doing his best to live a life of obedience and sacrifice in what has to be one of the toughest professions in sports. 

So, as you can see, I’ve got some misgivings…American Christianity is going through a lot these days. The Spirit of God is working, yes.  But post-Christendom and post-modernity (or whatever you want to call this philosophical/worldview shift that's going on) is taking its toll on people of faith…worship attendance is decreasing weekly, local churches are closing, budgets are in crisis…what used to be a reality where the "church" stood in the center of culture, now it stands on the outskirts.  I don't know whether having somebody like Tim as a hero makes many church folk feel like we are reliving the "good old days" where faith was front and center in culture or whether this is simply a "feel good story." All I know is that there are some dynamics of this "fad" that cause me to ponder the implications of cultural iconography and idol-atry.    

Now, please don’t misunderstand me please.  As I’ve said, I like Tebow.  I actually rushed home last week to take a peek at the end of the Bronco game where he led another 4th quarter miracle.  That was fun…but I still worship my God.  I don’t go out and try to “Tebow” my way through life.  I’ve spent too much time on my knees…more than I am willing to admit…usually in a state of utter brokenness and dependence upon God.  In those moments, the last thing on my mind was having a camera around.  In the meantime, I thank God for his success and pray for his humility of spirit and for the wisdom of the Body of Christ as it “lifts up” the real reason we follow Jesus, Jesus Himself.  

 

Somebody who is “hip” says that we should go OLD SCHOOL for Christmas!

Old_schoolHey, I loved this.  Not because I am totally "old school" all the time but rather because I do see and appreciate the fact that when you do the God-honoring journey of Kingdom living with a "family", you need to embrace some unique, family traditions.  Sometimes I think that traditions can be a bit "quirky" or even irrelevant…but that's not the point.  The point is that tradition sets a foundation and brings meaning to family/relational journey…and even as sometime "weird" and irrelevant as traditions may be, they solidify what it means to be a community!

Well, a blog I LOVE to read featured this today…you can check out his blog by clicking HERE but also enjoy as he ruminates on going "old school" on Christmas:

Suggestions for going "old school" on Christmas:

1. No new Christmas songs.
If it was written in the last 25 years, let’s not sing it during Christmas. I’m not even willing to make a Christmas Shoes exception for this one.

2. Break out the hymnals.
I know we’ve got some in the basement. Let’s get them out, enjoy a little of that old school hymnal smell and sing “O’ Come All Ye’ Faithful.”

3. Hang up some stained glass windows.
Where? I don’t know. I’m not in charge of logistics. My job is awesome ideas. And nothing says old school like a 3,000 pound stained glass window.

4. Two words, “Hand Bells.”
Is that one word? Maybe. Know what else is one word? Focus. I feel like you’re getting distracted by grammar. The only time of year I really want to hear some hand bells is at Christmas time. You think the angels are up in heaven celebrating the birth of sweet baby Jesus with synthesizers or drum kits? Doubtful. They’ve got hand bells. Let’s get some too.

5. Choir robes.
We don’t have a choir so this one is going to be difficult. But I’m not a tyrant. I’ll wear a choir robe. Just to “Christmas up” the whole place. My only request is that the robe has enough room for me to dance like the nuns in Sister Act 2.

6. Candles on Christmas Eve
If you’re not handing out open flames to a room full of people wearing big, fluffy, flammable winter coats in the dark, I’m not even really sure you love Christmas. Fortunately our church still does this, but just in case they were thinking about going to little flashlights or something I had to mention it.

7. At least a cameo by a live donkey.
I’d prefer the donkey was around all month, but I’m not unreasonable. I’ll settle for a cameo one Sunday during the live nativity scene. P.S. We need to have a live nativity scene.

8. At least one criticism of Santa from the pulpit.
Few things are as old school as throwing Santa under the bus. If you really want to spice it up, feel free to say something about how evil it is that people say “Happy Holidays.”

9. An old man who reads the Christmas story to kids.
Next to trying to blow out every candle in a three pew radius, my favorite part of the Christmas service is when the old guy reads the Christmas story. Did you have that at your church? He had white hair, a must, and would sit at the front of the church and all the little kids would come down to hear the story. Classic.

Aren’t you feeling more Christmasy already? Forward this to your pastor and they’ll probably get right on this list of suggestions. Except for the donkey one. Donkeys are ornery and surprisingly good at kicking. Most churches are pretty strict about letting live donkeys roam around church. Weird.

 

A great idea – ONLINE Advent Calendar and Family/Relational devotional

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Gotta love the internet!  I was buying some Advent calendars for my grandgirls in Ft. Collins a couple of weeks ago.  They came with little chocolates after each day was opened…yeah, that's a great treat!  But this ONLINE Advent Calendar comes with daily bible readings, discussion questions and stuff for relationships.  Great stuff actually!  I would check it out if I were you!  Oh by the way, I'm all over this in my life starting TODAY!