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Advent: The Divine Lack pt. 2

“Who are you waiting for?”

“I don’t remember.”

“The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum.”

// Isaiah 53:1-3

 

When I was a Bible teacher I had an assignment that caused some controversy with a few students. I asked the kids to write a paper where they had to describe who Jesus was to them, what did he look like, how they got that view of him, and why it mattered.

The kids were hung up on the question, “what does he look like?”

Perhaps, I am stumped by that question too.

As I experience life, I encounter death. My granny passed away a while ago and the sad thing is, I don’t see her smile in my mind as vividly as once did. I do not hear her chuckle as loud or remember things I would have said that would elicit that response.

Maybe our lack, which exposes that what we need is what is already attained, is created because we have forgotten what God looks like.

We are ghosts haunting houses, waiting for someone we cannot remember; a spiritual Alzheimer’s.

But maybe God wanted it that way. Maybe this is the beauty of lacking memory, or attention, so that way we can be surprised now and again.

This is what advent is; a surprise. We have waited and waited but now he is here.

But we might miss him.

We want God to be so much more, to fit the mold of our dreams.

We want the romance novel or the action flick. We don’t want the forgettable.

But that is where we lack vision, where we lack imagination.

God enters our lack with his dreams. Do you see them?

 

Questions:

  1. What are you waiting for God to do in your life?
  2. What would be a sufficient response to your waiting that you want God to give?
  3. What does God look like to you?
  4. How do you know when God has blessed you, if he has shown up?
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Posted by on December 5, 2017 in Devotional

 

Advent Reflections: Divine Lack pt. 1

Advent Reflections: Divine Lack pt. 1

“The only things that you can see / Is all that you lack.”

// Tom Waits

 

“If only You would tear the heavens open and come down, so that mountains would quake at Your presence…

When You did awesome works that we did not expect, You came down, and the mountains quaked at Your presence…

From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened, no eye has seen any God except You, who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him…

For You have hidden Your face from us and made us melt because of our iniquity. Yet Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we all are the work of Your hands.

// Isaiah 64:1, 3-4, 8

 

There is a common myth that during the holidays the suicide rate jumps way up. If you were to tell people this, they would almost always say something like, “I can see it.”

 

There is something about those “sleigh bells ring-a-ling, ding, ding-ding-a-ling” that chimes in a melancholic sadness. Charlie Brown’s woes become our own as we look at our limp tree and think

“That’s me. I’m a limp tree.”

Image result for charlie brown tree

The season becomes that we don’t have that love to drink hot chocolate with by the fire, or the car with the big red bow on top, or the family that won’t fight; the list goes on.

 

We want something that brings us the warmth of a godlike embrace but don’t really want the things attached to it.

 

We get the puppy, then send it to the pound. We get the lover, then fight because there is some part of us that won’t mesh. We get the car and hate that all features are pay-by-month add-ons.

 

In his book The Divine Magician, philosopher Peter Rollins puts it beautifully,

“[T]he very thing we think will make us whole exists only to the extent that we are held back from it.”

Bodine Brick

In this passage spoken by a man named Isaiah written in the Hebrew Scriptures, we find a people who longs for what once was. They are a people who will watch their homes go up in smoke, their wives sexually abused, and their entire identity shatter.

 

So, they cry out to the only one who was there for them in the past with the hope that He will listen; asking for something that may give us a shock.

 

They do not want the new thing. They do not want the story that was marketed to them, they had that and it wrecked them.

 

No, they want the old thing. They want what they had. The things that they wished for didn’t make them whole, it only exposed the lack.

Bodine The Shades of Life in Cold

For these people Isaiah is speaking to, they are having that moment when you leave your coat in the car because you think you don’t need it and then spend the entire time in the restaurant wishing you brought your coat because you are freezing to death.

 

These people are freezing to death spiritually and eventually they will experience the coldness of death in captivity by a foreign rule.

 

There are two phrases that I want to focus on.

 

  “You, who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him”

and

 “We all are the work of Your hands”

 

In this time of advent we, “let every heart prepare him room.” We look at our lack.

 

We look to our lack to point us not to what we need to get or want or beg Santa for.

We look to our lack to find that the coat we thought we left in the car, was brought in by our dinner host and was on the back of our chair the whole time.

 

The lack exposes what we thought we need while giving us what we really needed.

 

We speak, God comes down.

 

God is the gift.

 

So, here’s the thing. We might feel like our time is up. That the happiness tank is depleted with every shiny toy, happier looking family, pretty couple, or box taped over with slick decorative paper that we do not have.

 

But you do have something, it is right next to you on the back of your chair. It is the Divine coming down to dine with you. It is the world sitting still so that you can breathe deep and chat with the greatest artist of all time while he introduces you to a whole new world.

 

Which brings me to the second phrase.

 

“We all are the work of Your hands.”

 

I’m told the best gift you can give is something you made.

 

We are made.

Every shape,

every form,

color,

vibration,

distinction

 

hand-crafted as a gift

like toys in Santa’s workshop.

 

You are the gift.

 

So, God hears you and dines with you and as you eat the Christmas ham and drink the Christmas punch he turns to you and says, “have you met…”

And this is where the lack becomes “something more, something you can’t buy from a store.”

Questions:

  1. Why do we feel like we need presents around Christmas time?
  2. How can you be a present to someone else?
  3. How do can we enjoy God as present in our lives?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2017 in Devotional

 

Losing Life After Graduating (Lk. 17:30-33)

…so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.

(Luke 17:30-33, ESV)

MBI GRAD CLAss

It has only been two days since I walked across a stage and with sweaty palms shook president Nyquist’s hand and received a degree; only two days. I am already in a depression. The aftershock of finally reaching your goal only to realize you have to keep moving.

Right now feels like at the end of a play when all the actors get on stage and take a bow. Only this time, the curtain closes right before the actors bow.

I cannot enjoy my accomplishment, I must work harder to be something, or so I think. Jesus comes into my goal-setting, anxiety ridden, brainstorming session and quietly says, “Stop.”

The Message translation of this passage say, “If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms.” The NLT puts the focus on saving, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it”

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, 1818

Preserve, save, cling to your terms, whatever the terminology, God is convicting me. As students we do this with homework assignments and tests, hoping that the report card will glisten with the coveted A+ down every column. As we get older, we still do this only it is now measured by wealth or success, popularity, occupation, etc.

I confess that I am trying to preserve my life by putting pressure on myself to find a job that I can be successful at. I am trying to save myself by thinking that getting a job is based solely on my experience, professionalism, and charm (notice how I do not see God in those right now). I am clinging to my life because I want a job on my timetable.

Lord I repent of living my life for me, for trusting in myself instead of you, and my doubt that your plan is good. Please Lord forgive me.

Questions:

  1. What does your view of God’s plan for you look like? How do you know that’s his plan?
  2. What is it that God is laying on your heart about his plans for you? How are you responding to it?
  3. What does it look like to lose your life to gain it?
 
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Posted by on May 17, 2016 in Devotional, My Personal Life

 

In Defense of Saturday (a devotional dealing with the idea of death)

“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.”

Matthew 27:45-50, ESV

Crucifixion, 1957, Roy de Maistre

Crucifixion, Roy de Maistre, 1957

 

There in the darkness where death and hell and the putrid stench of loneliness circumvent all means of hope; dimming all lights and eventually, you lose your sanity and tip-toe into the abyss filled with myriads of tears and the jackals with their angry shouts at God. You chime in with them becoming a choir of disfigurement harmonizing, “Look at me and see what you’ve done! My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

We – in our deepest darkest moments – identify with Jesus, or rather he identifies with us. But it is what happens after the shriek of Jesus that I’d like to focus on.

The bystanders at the crucifixion were like observers at a zoo hitting the glass to see if the tiger will try to bite. “Poke him and see what happens, wait! I think I see something happening!” In the misery and excitement of the whole event they are waiting for something. Elijah, the savior-prophet of the old way when everything was golden and victorious and Baal’s prophets slain.

They wait, not for God, but for someone who slay them or teach them a lesson. They wait, not for God to intervene, but for a human whom they know is not equal with God.

eljah

The Burnt Sacrifice Offered By Elijah, Plate 86 by Marc Chagall

 

We are there. We are them. We are waiting for something – longing for it even – yet denied it just like Messiah was. C.S. Lewis in his work Letters to Malcolm Chiefly on Prayer puts it as such:

“Does not every element in the Passion write large some common element in the sufferings of our [human] race? First, the prayer of anguish; not granted. Then he turns to his friends. They are asleep—as ours, or we, are so often, or so busy, or away, or preoccupied.

Then he faces the Church; the very Church that he brought into existence. It condemns him. This also is characteristic. In every Church, in every institution, there is something which sooner or later works against the very purpose for which it came into existence.

But there seems to be another chance. There is the State; in this case, the Roman state. Its pretensions are far lower than those of the Jewish church, but for that very reason it may be free from the local fanaticisms. It claims to be just on the rough, worldly level. Yes, but only so far as it is consistent with political expediency and raison d’état. One becomes a counter in a complicated game. But even now all is not lost.

There is still an appeal to the people—the poor and simple whom he had blessed, whom he had healed and fed and taught, to whom He Himself belongs. But they have become overnight (it is nothing unusual) a murderous rabble shouting for his blood.

There is, then, nothing left but God. And to God, God’s last words are “why hast thou for forsaken me?” You see how characteristic, how representative, it all is. The human situation writ large. These are among the things it means to be a man. Every rope breaks when you seize it. Every door is slammed as you reach it. To be like the fox at the end of the run; the earths all staked.”

This all seems very grim. We must acknowledge that in the Christian myth there is a Friday of death and a Saturday of eerie defeat. All hope was lost. On Sunday however, death was cheated, wrong was righted, and pain ceased. The hope was not only restored but it was reimagined!

Our imaginations are dull. We dream of Elijah and yet God gives us God on a skewer and says, “Taste and see that I am good,” “’Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'”

God reimagines the symbols, he introduces new ideas, and gives way to a new view of the future. “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

909bb6ccfa6486ab8d184cf99ff8b189

Vasiliy Myazin, Descent from the Cross I

 

I leave with this; the abyss is only an abyss if you will it to be. Your imagination will take you to the pits of hell itself, but God has a better imagination, a better story, a better life­–even a better death.

“Jesus saves the world not by being a masterpiece of comfort but by his own terminal discomfort on the cross. And he tells us to take up our cross — our own discomfort — and follow him along the same road. He never once announced that it would be his program to make discomfort disappear from the face of the earth — at least not anytime before the last day.

Instead, he gives us his assurance that he’s with us in our discomfort.

“Comfort” comes from the Latin root fort-, which means “strength.” What he really gives us, therefore, is the strength that comes from trusting that no matter what happens to us — sins, guilt, diseases, death — nothing can separate us from him.

Thus, he is the strength — not some baseless hope that it will all go away like a bad dream.”

// Robert F. Capon

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Devotional, Theology

 

Mr. B’s Spotify Playlist for Job

 

I have said in class I will not assign any work that I myself am not willing to do. The purpose of all my assignments is to engage with the Biblical text (the Holy Bible) in a way that creates understanding, relevance, and renewed perspective of the everyday (culture, music, nature) by means of practical application.

While some of the songs I chose on my playlist are not made by Christians or explicitly Christian, I believe that the believer should be able to exegete (def. expound or interpret; a text, especially scripture) anything created through the narrative of the gospel.

That narrative is creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

Here are my songs based on the reading of Job 1&2 (song 1), Job 3-6 (song 2), and Job 38-42 (song 3):

My three songs are based upon the feelings of the narrative.

The first song by Regina Spektor says,

“No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late and their kid’s not back from the party yet

No one laughs at God when their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken

No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door and they say we got some bad news, sir
No one’s laughing at God when there’s a famine or fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ’bout to choke
God can be funny
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious, ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’ve lost all they’ve got and they don’t know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize
That the last sight they’ll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one’s laughing at God when they’re saying their goodbyes

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughing at God in hospital
No one’s laughing at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God, we’re all laughing with God”

Regina Spektor has said that her songs are meant for the listener to interpret her music and add things in to create an experience for the listener.

As I listen to this song, I am reminded of the seriousness of Job’s situation and how we tend to turn his pain into a scene worthy of a children’s book and nothing more.

I chose this song based on Job’s words:

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

(Job 1:20-21 ESV)

There is a seriousness in his words but also an understanding and relationship that only one who is going through something like this can have.

Regina-Spektor

The next song I chose because there is chaos in tone yet the sound of Job’s friends can be very seductive and semi-soothing.

We long to find the blame, point out the wrongs of others, establish our own righteousness and lord it over the ones we view inferior.

In the chaos we wish to be a soothing voice. But, this song is in a different language. I chose this purposefully because Job’s friends aren’t even using the language of suffering but only wish to hear themselves.

gungor_1139x541.png

My final song is from Gungor.

“Out on the farthest edge
There in the silence
You were there

My faith was torn to shreds
Heart in the balance
But you were there

Always faithful
Always good
You still have me
You still have my heart

I thought I had seen the end
Everything broken
But you were there

I’ve wandered heaven’s gates
I’ve made my bed in hell
But you were there still

Always faithful
Always good
You still have me
You still have my heart

You have me
You have me
You have my heart completely”

God reminds Job that He is there. In fact the questions he asked Job are to establish that He has been there before it all and has controlled it and will continue to control it. This song is a reminder, a liturgy, a lament, and a praise; a fitting end to my Job playlist.

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Music

 

Job Spotify Playlist 4th period Freshmen

The assignment given to the class was to create a playlist based on their reading of Job chapters 1&2, 3-6, and 38-42

They had to choose songs based on either the mood or tone of the text itself, motivation for Job, or their reactions to the text.

These songs below are from the freshmen at Delaware Christian School:

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Music

 

Spotify Playlist for Job (Sophomores, 3rd period)

The assignment given to the class was to create a playlist based on their reading of Job chapters 1&2, 3-6, and 38-42

They had to choose songs based on either the mood or tone of the text itself, motivation for Job, or their reactions to the text.

These songs below are from the sophomores at Delaware Christian School:

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Music