‘Tis the Season to Celebrate Your Findings

 

Throughout the gospel accounts there are people who are finding things. Some of the things found were totally unexpected. And some things were lost and then found. Jesus lets us know that there are things meant to be found. We also learn from him that heaven is tuned into the findings. Joyous celebration all around is the natural response.

Early on we read of shepherds who find “Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a feeding trough.” (Luke 2:16) And later, of wise men who find Mary and the child and of King Herod who finds out about their finding out.

We hear of a man who finds a treasure hidden in a field and a trader who finds a spectacularly valuable pearl and of fishermen who find a bountiful fishing spot. (Matt 13:44-50). With these parables Jesus relates the discovery of the mysterious kingdom of God.

We learn of Jesus finding faith in a Roman Centurion (Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10)

In John’s gospel we read of cascading finds:

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee, where he found Philip.

“Follow me,” he said to him.

Philip came from Bethsaida, the town Peter and Andrew hailed from. Philip found Nathanael.

“We’ve found him!” “The one Moses wrote about in the law!” And the prophets, too! We’ve found him! Its Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth!”

At the end of Luke’s gospel, we read a report of a most excellent find that isn’t there:

…some of the women have astonished us. They went to the tomb very early this morning, and didn’t find his body. They came back saying they’d seen a vision of angels, who said he is alive. Some of the folk with us went off to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.

The gospel of Luke chapter 15 is the party chapter. Each of the three lost and found parables relate how what has been lost and then found triggers a reason to celebrate: a lost sheep is found; a lost coin is found; a lost son is found on the horizon. Let’s look at the second parable.

“Or supposing a woman has ten drachmas and loses one of them. What will she do? Why, she’ll light a lamp, and sweep the house, and hunt carefully until she finds it! And when she finds it she’ll call her friends and neighbors in. ‘Come and have a party!’ she’ll say: celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost coin!”

Well, let me tell you: that’s how God’s angels feel when a single sinner repents.”

-Jesus in Luke 15:8-10

As we read this parable, we typically focus on the end result: the sinner’s repentance and heaven’s joy at the sinner’s response. Now take a look at the effort involved in restoring what was lost before the celebration takes place.

Notice that the woman turns on the light to see into the corners. She cleans her house and clears out the clutter. She makes every effort to reclaim what she lost. She didn’t have much to begin with (ten drachmas) and now a portion of it is lost (15 cents).

Here is what I think the parable also emphasizes: we come to a point in our lives when we realize that we have lost something of great value – our identity, the image of God, a piece of our soul. We can’t go on without it. We held on to so little for so long. So, we shed direct light on the situation. We remove all of the extraneous stuff in the way. We search like Oak Island treasure hunters burrowing deep into the dark places of our being. We make every effort to find what we lost.

Success! We find what we’ve lost in a dark corner. It was covered with dust and dirt and dog hair. We rejoice and tell others using the language of joy: “I have found it!” “I have found it!”

Remember the inside of Scrooge’s house via the 1951 black and white movie version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol ? It is grey and gloomy and tomb-like. It is lifeless and foreboding. Furniture is covered with tarps and dust covers the tarps. Scrooge seems buried alive in the house. A candle is used to move about his dark domain but it is not used to look for what he lost. That illumination comes from four night time specters.

Now, I imagine that past, present and future scenarios flash before the eyes of anyone who has lost something of value. I imagine that for the woman in the parable. In Scrooge’s account those scenarios are personified by three ghosts who are involved in the Scrooge’s rescue operation after the ghost of Marley gives account of his own final hellish state. The ghosts illuminate Scrooge’s life: his losses, his dealing with losses, his hard heart, his isolation, and his future state. All done right where he sleeps.

The scenarios the trinity of spirits impose on Scrooge help him to see what was lost– himself–in a house full of shrouded past.

Scrooge and the woman in the lost coin parable reclaim what was lost where they lived. They both had to look and look hard for what they had lost, Scrooge in his past present and future and the woman in her dwelling place. And when they find what they’ve lost they throw open the shutters, they go out into the streets, and they let the world know.

Let me entwine this post with a scarlet ribbon…

For the prodigal, for the repentant, there is rejoicing and a celebration. They had found themselves wanting. They had found what they lost – the reason to live. When it happened the Search Party was delighted.

“The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost” …and when you find him…

You love him, even though you’ve never seen him. And even though you’ve never seen him, you believe in him, and celebrate with a glorious joy that goes beyond words can say, since you are receiving the proper goal of your faith – namely, the rescue of your lives. 1 Peter 1:8-9

 “I found it!” is the language of joy. And glorious joy is the spirit of Christmas.

When All is Not Bright

 

… a personal reflection

Tampa (AFP) – Life expectancy in the United States dropped yet again as drug overdose deaths continued to climb — taking more than 70,000 lives in 2017 — and suicides rose, a US government report said Thursday.

The drug overdose rate rose 9.6 percent compared to 2016, while suicides climbed 3.7 percent, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.

-from Kerry SHERIDAN’s article US life expectancy drops again as overdoses climb

 

As confusion and losses stack up in a person’s life many, now more than ever, begin to seek a way out of their humanness wherein the pain is acutely felt. They will take drugs and medicate in hopes of stopping the screaming in their heads. It is the pain that tells us that we are alive and human.

I can relate. At one point in my life years ago I carried with me the same hurt locker. I had experienced losses caused by my own doing and losses beyond my control. Having been married and divorced, I then lost closeness with my children and years of my life. I lost a son in a tragic car accident. I lost a job when the company I was working for no longer had orders coming in. A truck rear-ended my car as I was on my way to a new job. I received a herniated disc in my neck and a concussion and many painful nerve-affected nights and tons of medical bills. That block of time was crushing. It was also confusing.

Trying to sort out the events, trying to make sense while inside the hurt locker, is well nigh impossible. I tried to mitigate the pain through medication, but the pains in my body and in my heart were overwhelming. There was screaming in my head that would not stop. Couple that pain with the need to continue making ends meet and trying to keep your head above water is…well-nigh impossible. And so, Impossible was the name on my hurt locker. I desperately wanted to remove myself from the locker and go to a place where I didn’t have to think anymore. When you are crying at your desk you know that something had to give. But it wasn’t going to be me. It had to be despair’s grip.

I came to the realization out of my relationship with the Lord that all of my presuppositions where being up ended. The first one to go was that I believed I was strong and could handle whatever came my way. In that dark hour I understood that the Lord had broken into my self-composed life and was making all things new. This all happened the weekend of Easter. And though I had heard the words of Easter proclamations all of my life, I finally understood that the Lord’s resurrection was the means for me to be resurrected to new life here and now. Nothing was impossible. The stone in front of the hurt locker had been removed. I was freed to be human once again. What I had endured became “I do exist, by the grace of God”.

 

It is easy for a Christian, I believe, to think that any bad thing that happens to them is a result of judgment for past sins. With all of the talk of heaven and hell in many churches it is easy to frame events in terms of reward or punishment, in almost Pavlovian ways. And, onlooking Christians are eager to point that out. Read the oldest book of Scripture, Job.

To be sure there are ways in which we dehumanize ourselves and come to believe that there can be no resurrection day and if it happened it would look like today. We live in a culture of dehumanization: abortion, drugs, ‘free’ sex, rife consumerism, and words, rites and traditions emptied of meaning. Christian holidays are paganized. Individual rights that are demanded cut people off from a community of shared human values. When body parts and their redaction become cause célèbre you know the culture is in trouble. When any thought of joy is replaced by the fatuous roose of commercialized store-bought happiness, then you know you are in trouble.

One can drink their reason for life to death. One can sit in isolation and loneliness on the internet arguing points of nihilistic bent. Social media is anything but social. Those who pattern their life after media come up empty and as impersonal as the data bytes that transfer the images to their screen.

To be sure, there are consequences that are derived from one’s sinful behavior. And, that is good to know. One needs to bump up against the wall of one’s own doing to know that there is cause and effect, a principle that even rationalists and atheists embrace.

To finally be sure, we must frame our understanding with redemption. That was the revelation that occurred to me. Resurrection and redemption. The impossible is beyond me and is only doable by the Son of Man Who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

The intent of this post is not to put a happy face on any one’s suffering or losses or pain. You do not see the sunny side of life inside the hurt locker. Rather, this post has been written to provide hope. And it is hope which brings about true-life expectancy – abundant life in this age and the age to come. Hope is born of resurrection and continues with redemption. Suicide says” All is lost. There is no hope if I can’t produce it with within myself”.  You can’t.  Hope is beyond you.

Here is hope: you are known by God. Consider that the announcement of the birth of the Son of Man was to lowly shepherds tending sheep in a field. The announcement they received wasn’t “We bring you tidings of great minimum wage!” No, the angelic message was…

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest,

    And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Some life-saving suggestions. When I was in high school, I walked many nights through the neighborhoods after supper with my family. I doubt that my siblings knew this. I walked because I needed to resolve all the inputs into my life: my personhood, and the mental, emotional and social goings on around me, including all that the sixties dropped on me, including the Vietnam war. I walked to find resolve to go on.

Some of us have pets. I currently have Henry, my parrolet, to keep me company. I am considering adding finches to my home. I relate to birds.  I placed a bird feeder on my patio. I’ve noticed that birds are flighty when they sense imminent danger but return when they feel safe. Birds remind me of life in the moment. They are fragile beings. They, like me, have open mouths to feed and so they return to the one who feeds them.  I had to return to the One who feeds me daily, in the moment.

 

We are right to cry “Lord have mercy!” And, we also right to cry “I must have mercy on myself and not do those things which bring judgment on me by their very nature! I have sinned, O God, have mercy upon me a sinner!”

 

A prayer:

Father of all mercy, have mercy on me. I am distressed. My heart is like wax. It melts before every fear. I am depressed. I am confused. I am not able to exist except at your pleasure. I am at the bottom of my life. Restore to me humanness. Return to me with Thy salvation. I’ve heard that my Redeemer lives. Redeem my life from destruction. Redeem me from all my transgressions. Restore my soul. Amen.

 

What Risk is This?

 

“The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”  Genesis 12:1

“Some time later God tested Abraham, He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

“Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”” Genesis 22:1-2

~~~

An angel appears to Mary and announces Mary’s pregnancy. Mary responds: “Here am I”, said Mary; “I’m the Lord’s servant-girl. Let it happen to me as you’ve said.” Luke 1: 38

~~~

God says “Go,” and Abram, not a perfect man, goes.

Imagine being told to dig up your roots, leave your familiar surroundings and that you will be told later where you are going. Now imagine going with your first-born son, your flesh and blood and a surety of God’s promise to Abraham, to the region of Moriah and being told that your son is the sacrifice to God. Abraham is told, basically, to go outside the box he had contained God in- his hopes in his pride of place and first-born. Abraham with “Here-I-am” -outside-the-box faith obeys God and God blesses Abraham. “Abraham was now very old, and the LORD had blessed him in every way.” Genesis 24:1

God says to Mary, not a perfect woman, that she will be the one to bear the Savior. She responds with her permission. Later, at Zechariah’s house, Elizabeth sees Mary and shouts at the top of her voice: “Of all women, you’re the blessed one!” One could speculate that before the angel’s news, Mary had thought her life was, well, pretty much boxed in.

 

The boxes people put God in are not big enough for God’s blessing. So, instead of stretching the box, God stretches the person so that they come to see that no box can hold all they know about God.

 

Throughout Israel’s and Christianity’s history there are many accounts of where God has said, in effect, “Go to a new place with me” and a personal risk is taken.  Abraham, Jacob, Moses, the disciples, Peter, Paul, to name just a few. You are not alone in the history of risk-taking or in the moving out of safe-spaces.

Imagine if those who were told to go and those who were led by God to go didn’t go? How would your life be different today? Or, did you think that once you arrived on earth nothing had gone on before you arrived that would have any bearing on your life? There are many today who see themselves this way. They have their “history” and their “truth”.

If you have read the Old Testament you found that the history of Israel is the story of God moving his chosen people through space-time. The Israelites moved from country to country, to slavery, to the land of “milk and honey”, to exile and back home again. They are moved to be tested, refined and blessed. They were moved so that they would realize that God is sovereign and omnipresent – there is no place you can go that God isn’t there. They are being moved so that they will realize that God is the beginning and ending of their journey. They are being told to “Go” so that they will find that God is God and that God is good.

 

Risk taking is going, moving and forgetting what is behind.

 

The pattern of risk taking, testing and blessing occurs over and over in Scripture. God says, “Go” and when people go to a new place with God they are both tested and blessed.

Risk takes us places we never thought we’d go. Risk takes us to new places within God’s space-time and to the farthest extent of God’s promises. Risk takes us to new places within God’s character. The risk-taker decides to remove himself from the comfort of his self-storage home and from the false gods he has stored in his mini self-storage so that blessing will be gained.

 

The God who created probabilistic quantum mechanics is going to take you places where you can’t determine your position or the acceleration of your movement at the same time. Because of that you begin to take your eyes off your circumstances and look at the Cosmological Constant. You are being taught that God’s outcome will be good because He is good. There is a 100 percent probability that God is good. You just need to find this out through risk-taking.

Nature has a way of saying “Go”. The wise men, experts in early astronomy and most likely from Persia, took a major risk. They traveled 800-900 miles following “a star coming out of Jacob.” Herod was not happy at all that the wise men left without detailing the location of his greatest fear — a newborn king. So, Herod slaughtered innocent children.

 

“Get up. Go to the place I will show you. The risk is all mine and I am good with that.”

“Here I am.”

Breaking News

Breaking News

By Jennifer Ann Johnson

 

Against a backdrop—indigo and star,

Luminous angels appear before men,

Ancient Wisdom they proclaim near and far,

To shepherds and sheep, to earth and heaven.

 

Luminous angels appear before men,

On a Space-Time night with Tripartite accord,

To shepherds and sheep, to earth and heaven,

“A new and living way” with rights ignored.

 

On a Space-Time night with Tripartite accord,

Emmanuel lay swaddled, veiled in flesh,

“A new and living way” with rights ignored,

In the love of the Father, mankind refreshed.

 

Emmanuel lay swaddled, veiled in flesh,

The babe’s short gasp rouses the dry bones of men,

In the love of the Father, mankind refreshed,

“I, the Lord, will breathe my life into them.”

 

The babe’s short gasp rouses the dry bones of men,

Ancient Wisdom He proclaims near and far,

“I, the Lord, will breathe my life into them,

Like your backdrop—indigo and star.”

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved

The Empty Box

 

What?! Christmas morning?! Ryan raced to the tree. Mom and dad had left the tree lights on.

“Mom and dad!”  Ryan yelled from the living room. He wasn’t going to start without them.

Mom and dad appeared in the hallway. “We’re up. Go ahead, Ryan.”

Well, it didn’t take long for Ryan to rip through the wrapping paper on each package. He got almost everything he had asked for.

After all his presents were opened and he lined them up near the couch, Ryan saw something had hadn’t noticed before. “Hey, what’s this? It’s got my name on it.”

Mom went over and looked at the package. She shook it and looked at Roy.

“Did you put this under the tree Roy?”

“Um, No. I don’t remember a package that size.”

“Well, go ahead and open it Ryan,” Mom handed Ryan the present.

Ryan tore into the wrapping paper. A plain box appeared. It was stamped “Not as Fragile as You Might Think”.

Now mom was curious. Dad came over.

Ryan lifted one of the box lids and then the other. He looked inside. His mouth formed a “Wow!”

“It’s empty, mom, dad!”

Mom looked inside too. “Where did that come from? Did your grandparents put that under the tree last night when they were here? Roy, did your dad put that there?”

Roy called grandpa who was always awake at 6:00 reading the paper.

“Dad, did you and mom put a package under the tree? Ryan opened it and its…empty.”

“Roy, you know I don’t put empty packages under the Christmas tree. Are you sure its empty? Look again.”

Roy looked this time.

“Dad, I don’t see anything.”

“Have Ryan look, too.”

“Ryan, look inside again.”

Ryan picked up the box. This time it was bigger. When he pulled the lids back he thought he heard a loud pop. “Whoa, what was that?

“I didn’t hear anything Ryan, “Mom said.

“Roy, do you think that your parents forgot to put a present in?” Ryan’s mother asked.

“Anything is possible with my dad. C’mon. Let’s eat breakfast”

Ryan then remembered Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberry sauce. It was a Christmas morning treat in the Miller house.

 

 

That night, mom had Ryan pick up his toys and bring them to his room. Ryan filled the empty box and carried it to his bedside. He sat down on his bed. And that’s when Ryan’s eyes closed. And, that’s when the dreams began.

 

 

Dreams. How do you describe them? They are whacky and yet they seem to make sense. Here’s what Ryan told his mom about one dream:

“I was floating. It was all dark. Then there was a Pop!” Ryan used his finger and popped it out of his mouth. “There was a big cloud of dust all over me. I coughed and coughed.

“Then the cloud went thuup! and it was gone! And then things started flying all around me. They looked like tiny balls bouncing everywhere. Some of balls stuck together like they didn’t want to be alone in the dark. They were hissing and crunching and…I became scared when I saw a shadow that was darker than night. But the shadow was tossed away by a hand. Then I felt better.

“Did you know mom that numbers are alive? They all dance together!

Then, mom, the together-balls became dust balls. And they became huge, like bowling balls, like bowling balls of fire. Then they exploded and there were more dust balls. And the dust balls became marbles.

And the marbles became globes with smaller globes going around them. Then there was light coming right at me. It was so bright that I had to turn around. When I did, I saw a planet right behind me. The planet had a mouth.

The planet said, “Come and see.” So, I flew toward the planet. As I did, the planet handed me geodes and fossils and rocks, all kinds of rocks. Some were like the red quartz and Jasper that you and dad gave me for my birthday. Then I saw aquariums full of fish. I saw sharks, whales and guppies and Neons and Tetras and…

I looked down into one aquarium. On the bottom of aquarium, I saw belchers. They looked like what we saw at Yellowstone last summer. They sounded like your Christmas coffee maker. “Ururururhhhh Blup!” Urururururhhhh Blup!”

I saw…I think dad calls it… a ter..rari…um… full of bugs and worms and salamanders and lizards and then a brontosaurus showed up and then a Triceratops and then,…

Then I saw a plate. On the plate was Jell-O. But then the Jell-O was two Jell-Os and then four Jell-Os. There were globs of Jell-O everywhere. Do you know what happened next, mom? The globs of Jell-O became Gummy worms.

There was a lot more that happened mom, but, I can’t remember it… Oh,… yeah,… someone poked me and said, “Ryan, Little King, Come and see.”

Then, I was inside a temple, like the one in the picture you showed me one time, mom. Inside the temple were billions and billions of tiny temples. Inside each tiny temple there was a blue light stick. Crazy, huh, mom?

 

When Ryan’s sixth Christmas came around he asked his mom and dad for a rock tumbler. Ryan had begun a rock collection during the family trip out west.

When Ryan’s seventh Christmas came around he asked his mom and dad for a microscope. Ryan’s dad was a biology teacher. He brought home slide samples of all kinds of microscopic life.

When Ryan’s eighth Christmas came around he asked his mom and dad for a telescope. Not only did he get the telescope but his parents took him to an observatory during Christmas break.

When Ryan’s ninth Christmas came around he asked his mom and dad for an atlas, a map of the world and astronomy charts. Ryan’s mom and dad also gave him a barometer, a thermometer, a hygrometer and an anemometer. They did this so that Ryan could build a weather station in their backyard.

When Ryan’s tenth Christmas came around he asked his mom and dad for a pair of binoculars and a book about birds. At that time his mother also began to teach Ryan about flora. She showed him how to press flowers into pages of a book.

When Ryan’s eleventh Christmas came around he asked his mom and dad for a mobile of the planets. He also asked for a compass and for a pencil and some drawing paper. He wanted to draw everything he saw in his head.

When Ryan’s twelfth Christmas came around he asked his mom and dad for a book about the human body and a skeleton. He also asked for a ham radio kit.

When Ryan’s thirteenth Christmas came around he asked his mom and dad for a periodic chart of the elements. He also asked for element 82 and for horseshoe magnets.

A Few of My Favorite Things 2

dad’s coffee

When Ryan’s fourteenth Christmas came around he asked his mom and dad for a spectroscope. He received a prism, a magnifying glass, a physics book and a box of watercolors. 

When Ryan’s fifteenth Christmas came around he asked his mom and dad for a Calculus book. Dad looked at him and said, “Are you sure?” Ryan replied, “I can’t function without it.” Ryan got his book.

When Ryan’s sixteenth Christmas came around he asked his mom and dad for a book about genetics and a DNA helix and a set of keys to the family car. His mom and dad gave him the book. They also gave him pipe cleaners and colored beads and instructions how to build a DNA helix model. The car keys were handed to him after his homework and chores were done.

When Ryan’s seventeenth Christmas came around he asked his mom and dad for a chemistry set. Dad said, “I’ll give you the set but do the experiments in the garage”. Ryan moved his science lab to the garage. He also began to pack for college. He filled the “empty” box with as much as it could hold.

 When Ryan’s eighteenth Christmas came around he said to his mom and dad, “Thank you for everything. You know what? The world is not badly made. I’ll see you during Spring Break.”

 

When Ryan’s eighty-fifth Christmas came around he gave his grandson the empty box as a present and said, “Here, Mikey, you won’t be bored.”

 

 

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved

 

The Gift of Giving

 

Wow!  When you see, and hear someone doing the work of the kingdom of God, you take note…

A conversation with John Montgomery, Founder and CIO Bridgeway Capital Management:

 

Reference:

Bridgeway Capital Management (BCM): OUR COMMITMENT

“BCM’s articles of incorporation state that it will donate 50% of its profits to charitable causes. Over the years, BCM has granted tens of millions of dollars and time to more than 500 different nonprofits. Bridgeway includes all of its Partners (as permanent staff members are known) in the giving program.”

 

Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)

Star Course: The King Awakens

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” [The magi]

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.”

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” The Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 2

~~~

Star course:  A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…Bright-animated-star-shining-at-night-gif

“Our starting point has to be ‘what is a star?’  The visible Universe is, to a very good approximation, made up of hydrogen and helium, the two simplest elements formed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang. After around a billion years of expansion, the Universe was cool enough for slightly denser regions in the gas clouds to start clumping together under their own gravity.  These were the seeds of the galaxies, and within them, around smaller clumps, the first stars began to form.” Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw, The Quantum Universe

Bright-animated-star-shining-at-night-gifLife Star or stellar nucleogenesis:

“Every atom of carbon in every living being was once inside a star, since the interior nuclear furnaces of the stars are the only places in the universe where this element can be made.” John Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in Quest of Truth (emphasis added)

~~~

stars

The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay

The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay…

The cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes

But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes (Well, after all, this little baby spoke the Big Bang! What could scare Him?!)

The Stars AlignBright-animated-star-shining-at-night-gif

The Star of Bethlehem or perhaps Venus or a confluence of the star Regulus with Jupiter and Venus was creations’ royal birth notice.  Astrologers of the East took notice of the star’s position.  They left on their long journey tracking the star’s brilliance to the very space and time of the king’s invasion – Mary and Bethlehem and the Roman empire (and w/o NORAD, too!)

“We, with our modern democratic and arithmetical presuppositions would so have liked and expected all men to start equal in their search for God. One has the picture of a great centripetal roads coming from all directions with well-disposed people, all meaning the same thing, and getting closer and closer together. How shockingly opposite to that is the Christian story!

 One people picked out of the whole earth; that people purged and proved again and again. Some are lost in the desert before they reach Palestine; some stay in Babylon; some becoming indifferent. The whole thing narrows and narrows, until at last it comes down to a little point, small as the point of a spear – a Jewish girl at her prayers.

 That is what the whole of human nature has harrowed down to before the Incarnation takes place. Very unlike what we expected, but, of course, not in the least unlike what seems, in general, as shown by nature, to be God’s way of working.” C.S. Lewis,” The Grand Miracle”, God in the Dock

Bright-animated-star-shining-at-night-gifStar of David nucleogenesis

“The poor baby wakes” …in a star-based body.  God had laid down his garment of resplendent shekinah glory and put on oxygen and carbon and…a baby’s swaddling clothes and…the sin of the whole world.  He did this out of love.  This king would redeem the world He loved.

Earth’s most common element, iron, created by extremely large stars with extremely hot cores would be formed by Romans into nails.    These nails would be used to crucify the invading King.

Elements_of_the_Human_Body-01

“The idea of a divine sharing in human life and triumph over death is certainly a powerful myth.  However, as a Christian I believe it is more than that, for it is enacted myth.” John Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in Quest of Truth (emphasis added)

Death star or dust to dust, carbon to carbon:

“The doctrine of the Incarnation offers theology a profound insight as it wrestles with the problem of evil and suffering.  The Christian God does not just look down with compassion on the travail of creation, viewed from the invulnerability of heaven, but in the cross of Christ we see that God is truly ‘a fellow sufferer who understands’ (in [A.N.] Whitehead’s phrase), knowing that suffering from the inside, so to speak.  This moving insight seems to me to meet the problem of suffering at the deepest level of diving response and theological insight.”… John Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in Quest of Truth

Incarnation miracle – It was in the starsBright-animated-star-shining-at-night-gif

“The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature’s total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation.

 There is no question in Christianity of arbitrary interferences just scattered about. It relates not a series of disconnected raids on Nature but the various steps of a strategically coherent invasion—an invasion which intends complete conquest and “occupation.” C.S. Lewis, Miracles

Bright-animated-star-shining-at-night-gif“Pilgrim, we’re home.”

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” The apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians 4: 4-7

The Dark Side

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”  The Gospel according to John 3:19

What Childlessness Is this?

Anomaly? Perhaps. Trend? Perhaps.

If you have read previous posts you would know that I travel to work-a Chicago Loop location-on the METRA train. After so many stops several of us gather in the vestibule, antsy to get off the train. It is in the vestibule, on a daily basis, that we share the events of our daily lives, the latest front page news, TV programs watched, political viewpoints and so on.

It came as a surprise to me the other day when I learned that three of us four ‘regulars’-a married man in his early sixties, a married man in his late forties to early fifties and a woman also in her late forties to early fifties were each without children. I am the only one of the four who has children.

 Another surprise: the three of them along with their spouses-each couple-owned two dogs. They call their pets their four legged children! I had to wonder “Why pets?” and no children, but I don’t ask such questions. Maybe it is a matter of fertility. Or, a matter of fear?

 The only clue I gathered was when another woman, a mother, joined us one day. She talked about her kids and her dog. She asked the man of sixty years if he had kids. He replied that he didn’t. “I was afraid for my wife.”

 What he meant, I could not tell you. I was left to conjecture: was he afraid for her physical health? Her mental health?

 Now, all three train companions have highly positioned jobs. One man is a CPA for a major bank. The other man is a health care manager for employees of a major area hospital. The woman is a VP of an insurance company. She travels over 60% of the time.

 So, again, conjecture. Did they choose to be childless to fulfill career paths? Or?

I can not judge their decision but I am curious as to their decision’s formulation and their lack of formula (I had to spit that up, didn’t I?). 

Like me you may have seen bumper stickers of the sort “I love my (fill in the blank pet version), it is humans I can’t stand.”

 When I see this uncivil declaration renouncing mankind I feel a little rebuffed BUT not to the extent that I would riot or loot or cancel any exam to wallow in shameless emo. I wouldn’t even call Al Sharpton or Eric Holder in to intercede for the black folks included in this public denunciation.

It now seems that anti-human humanism is society’s soup of the day philosophy. What’s important is that animals be anthropomorphized into four legged children.

If you were to listen to my three train companions you would hear that they treat these dogs as children and better. They take their beloved pooches to doggie spas and to doggie festivals where special organic dog food is sampled. I am not mentioning half the luxuries bestowed to the beasts. (“Higher taxes for the 1% will help the poor. So I needn’t go out of my way. Besides, I give when the sad dogs on TV look me in the eye.”)

 Don’t growl at me. I am not an animal hater. I have a Parrolet named Henry. 

Henry the Parrolet

Henry the Parrolet

I have had dogs, cats, chameleons… AND, I have four kids who are human (though there were times when I thought they regressed to being four-legged animals).

 The pet over children choice fits in nicely with environmentalists. They seek to stomp out the fires of human passion:“Only you can prevent human existence.”

 The ‘’greenies’ spread their irrational fears liberally (e.g., the greenie-propaganda movie “Noah”.). They invoke population control-Malthusian-metric-hockey-stick spreadsheets. They generate CO2 free angst and so bloody on.

And, why, why have kids when life is so hard and so terrible and so there is so much bad in the world and so much work to do to stop climate change (“So many CO2 offenders, so little time”) that will kill us all if we don’t give ALL of our time and ALL of our money to stop it right now and lions and tigers and bears… Let’s let fear itself give us something to fear-a dictum not worthy of you or any generation.

 Besides all of the above manmade direness there is the inconvenience of children. You have to feed them, change them, follow them, correct them when they mis-behave (Oh, yes.), take them to Wal-Mart for a Christmas picture, introduce them to the morals you flirt with now and then. And, there is just too much of yourself you would have to give up to have a child.

 “I have my studies, my books, my Facebook, my career path to the seventh floor. I have my dreams. I have my “Me, My, I” to look after. First person singular comes first.

 This is where pets (and their owner’s bumper stickers) come into view. This is where I am told “Dogs”, on the other paw, “give me their unconditional love”. Yeah, that’s right. You have heard the same thing. Dogs love. Roll the Disney movie. Throw them an organic vegan Milkbone. Walk them with a proud humane cadence. Care for them when ill or itchy. Cuddle with them on your bed…but they are not kids.

  Kids? YES have kids! I’ll tell you why but not in smothering detail. You will figure it out.

 Here is hint #1: the reason to have kids is connected to the reason for the season-the Christmas season-in case the shelf-elf didn’t remind you what time of the year it is. And hint #2, the reason will involve a new vocabulary word: “kenosis”.

Per Wikipedia, “The New Testament does not use the actual noun kénōsis but the verb form kenóō occurs five times (Ro.4:14, 1Co.1:17, 9:15, 2Co.9:3, Phil.2:7). Of these five times it is Phil 2:7, in which Jesus is said to have “emptied himself,” which is the starting point of Christian ideas of kenosis.”

The word ἐκένωσεν (ekénōsen) is used in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, chapter 2 verses 6 through 8.  It is part of an early church hymn that is quoted by Paul:

 

Who, though in God’s form, did not

Regard his equality with God

As something he ought to exploit.

 

Instead, he emptied himself,

And received the form of a slave,

Being born in the likeness of humans.

And then, having human appearance,

 

He humbled himself, and became

Obedient even to death,

Yes, even the death of the cross.

 

To insure historical usage I unearthed my Greek New Testament and also “THE ANALYTICAL GREEK LEXICON: Consisting of AN ALPHABETICAL ARRANGEMENT OF EVERY OCCURING INFLEXION OF EVERY WORD CONTAINED IN THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE with a GRAMMATICAL ANALYSIS OF EACH WORD.… I looked up the word transliterated as kenos. As used in Phil. 2:7–”to divest one’s self of ones prerogatives, abase one’s self”

 

Wow!

Jesus, Very God, divested himself of his prerogative as God and abased himself to become incarnate.

 We have heard it said that “God is love”. We have also heard that “God is eternal”. For love to be love there needs to be an object of love. For eternal God to be Love there must be an eternal object of his love. This means that within the dancing embrace of the Triune God are the eternal objects of each other’s love -the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (JWs, the Trinity is.)

 Now, imagine that the Godhead decided to include us humans in their dancing embrace of love. To do so, Jesus, as promised in prophecies of redemption, emptied himself of all his prerogatives as God (an overwhelming surprise for any orthodox Jew) and put on the vestment (the diapers) of created humanity.

 The simplest comparison that comes to my mind would be the following: There is a father who is the CEO of a multibillion dollar corporation which employs 3000+ workers. The company owns several private jets.

 The father comes home, takes off his suit coat and throws it on a chair. He takes off his tie and does the same with it.  He then gets down on the floor on all fours to play Legos with his four year-old son-all prerogatives put aside because of love for his son. His ‘position’ is laid aside to be taken up later.

 There is something about kids and about divesting one’s self of one’s prerogatives that enables one to be in a relationship and to love another. No one is saying this is easy but it is worth more than what you laid aside.

 Christmas, a celebration of the birth of Christ is also a celebration of our humanity, of kids and babies. Imagine God Very God incarnated into our evolved human form and doing so right at the fullness, the bar mitzvah of time! And, come to think of it there is no celebration of Roe v. Wade Day unless, of course, you are Wiccan.

 The cross is the nexus of man’s inhumanity to man and man’s sinfulness with a Holy God. Man’s redemption from sin was the outcome. God kept his word to redeem and He imputes his promise keeping righteousness to those, by faith, who believe.

 The resurrection of the Son of Man is a celebration of Mankind’s new humanity within the Kingdom of God.

 ~~~ 

Yesterday as I was jumping off the train onto my home station platform the METRA conductor, a large friendly black man who looks like he could play defense for the Chicago Bears said “Have a great evening everyone. Fifteen days till Christmas! ”We all smiled looking back at his glowing face.

 Christmas is the dancing embrace of God with man and man with man and man with himself.

 “What Child is This? The slack-jawed shepherds will tell you that a birth announcement proclaiming humanity’s promised Messiah had arrived via Angelic Express. They will tell you that they found the baby who would one day become King lying in a manger. How un-Godlike? Not for the God who laid aside everything to get on all fours and meet you where you are.

Let the miracle of the incarnation inform your decision to have children, whether naturally, adopted and/or fostered in your home. And then let those children become the objects of your love.

Added:

In case you are a worrier watch this video:   I can’t believe we made it.

 

My Two Youngest at Pritzker Pavilion

My Two Youngest at Pritzker Pavilion

 

How Do You Know Its Christmas?

angel-christmas-tree

How Do You Know Its Christmas?

 

How Do You Know Its Christmas?

By the hewn tree propped in the living room?

The strewn wrapping paper?

The toys underfoot?

 

How Do You Know Its Christmas?

By the twinkling angel teetering on the highest limb?

The crèche reassembled?

The ceramic baby in the manger?

 

How Do You Know Its Christmas?

By the credit card bills?

The crush of family?

Tomorrow’s returns?

 

How Do You Know Its Christmas?

 

When you unplug the Christmas tree

There is a Light which never goes out.

© Sally Paradise, 2013, All Rights Reserved

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” from the Gospel according to John

Image:

http://www.christmas-tree-decorating.com/pictures/angel-christmas-tree.shtml

Incarnation (LHC)

Incarnation (LHC)

 

God with us

Hope acquired mass

Shepherds, angels witnesses

Eternal Light through prism of flesh

Evolution His manger

God man reconciled

Christ in us.

 

 

© Sally Paradise, 2012, All Rights Reserved