Your Last Marble - 12.28.10 0800

There's a story about John (the one who wrote the gospel) that has been tattooed to my brain since the first time I heard it years ago.

When he was too old to get around by himself, people would sort of carry him around. As they passed by others he would keep saying one thing over and over. Placing his hands gently on people's heads he would say, "Love one another."

Can you picture it? An endless, repetitive motion punctuated by and endless, repetitive phrase? When I hear the story I wonder if he could say anything else.  I wonder if he mumbled it inaudibly and people just dismissed it as the ramblings of an old man. I wonder if he recognized anyone. This was the self proclaimed beloved disciple, the only one rumored to live into old age and escape martyrdom. Being so close to Jesus, possibly his closest friend, has to have had an effect.

Mostly this story makes me think hard about what I might be mumbling when Father Time has worked his magic on me. What is going to be my catch-all phrase when I only have the strength to say, and maybe even remember, just one sentence. I've heard about people visiting the more mature generations of their families and talking about how their grandparent didn't seem to be all there, or how they kept reliving a single moment of their past. Was this how it was for John?

Imagine being so ingrained with Christ's message that when you had but one marble left rolling around upstairs, the one memory you latched onto until your passing was the message of love.

I hope that'll be me.

I hope that as time passes and God refines me more and more into the image of Christ, that his message of love just saturates me. I hope that the final image I leave my friends and family with is as obviously stamped by Jesus as John's was.

 II Corinthians 12:6-10


Suck It Up - 12.25.10 0800

Every time I read Pail's epistles and try and get a feel for who the guy was, I almost always reach the same conclusion; I don't much care for him.

I'm sure he's a nice enough guy and everything, but I don't think I could spend much time with him. He always strikes me as having a bit of a pretentious, know-it-all attitude that's hard to be around. I could be flat out wrong of course. After all, I'm basing this off of some 13 letters he wrote to struggling churches, some while he was in jail, so I'm sure that'll color it up a bit. I'm just saying that, at this point, we probably wouldn't be BFF's.

But there is a passage of scripture that he wrote that makes him the most relate-able person in scripture to me.

Have you ever hit a point in your Christian walk where you thought, if I could just get a handle on this one vice I think I could really make this Christian thing work. Most of us have at least one thing that we've realized is holding us back from being totally devoted to God. Paul never said what his was. All he tells us is that he asked God three separate times to get rid of it and each time God said no. This must have been quite the struggle for Paul. He's used to being a Jew, someone who could attain perfection by upholding every jot of the Law. Now he's a Christian, trying to be an example for other Christians, and he's got this one thing that he just can't overcome.

The thorn in his side.

And God says no.

But God, won't you give us whatever we ask for? If we're faithful enough, won't you eventually answer our prayers, remove our struggles, maybe even make our lives a little easier to follow you? why would God tell Paul - the professional Christian - no to a request that would surely make him a better leader and a better example to follow?

Because his grace is sufficient.

What does that even mean?

I think it means that God saw Paul trying to be perfect, and thus missing the point. He was trying to get the point when he wasn't doing anything wrong, where there were no more obstacles to overcome or vices to deal with. And what does God say?

Suck it up.

You will have your vices. Your struggles. Your obstacles. This is life. And there is on thing to remember through it all.

My grace is sufficient.

We are gonna make mistakes. The hard part is to remember not to let it wear us down or make us feel de-valued. God's love is unconditional, he's made that clear.

Thank you Paul for trying so hard and for asking the tough questions. We may not ever be best friends, but I'm looking forward to meeting such an inspiring example of God's grace.

II Corinthians 12:6-10


The Greater Sacrifice? - 12.21.10 1730

(I wrote this for my friend's site when he was doing a Christmas Special, inviting other authors to write about Christmas)

No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends.”
–Jesus the Christ, Gospel of John

How blasphemous would it be to disagree with his statement here? 

Kind of a rhetorical question, I mean you don’t need to answer it, but I did want to say that I wasn’t sure I was completely behind him on this one. 

And what I mean is that I’m not sure that’s the greater love. 

Now, there’s no arguing that it’s love, even great love, but the greatest love? It may be for some, but it’s not for me. For me, it’s not that he died for me (though my appreciation for that knows no bounds). The greatest love is that he lived for me.
There are many I would die for. My friends, family, wife and even strangers. I could die for all of them. For some reason that is easier for me to do than live for them. I’m not sure I would give up my job for them, for example. If my brother needed a job and the opportunity to just switch with him, me unemployed and him to have a job – maybe my job – is a hard thing to swallow.

Would you do that? 

Hard to remember that Christ did.

“…but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.”   -Paul, Epistle to the Philippians

My wife brought something up the other day that really got me thinking and we talked more about it later. When we think of the sacrifice of Christ, it’s his death and resurrection that come to mind. The Cross. Calvary. Beatings. A host of images really. But with “sacrifice” there is definitely something that doesn’t usually come to mind.

Swaddling clothes. A manger. Arms. Hunger. Dependence. Actual physical form. 

Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t just include his death on the Cross to free us from sin’s slavery and its wages, it also includes the life he lived. 

His sacrifice also includes being born in the first place. 

God humbled himself. He took on the form of a servant and served his created beings. He gave up all the omni’s of knowing all, seeing all, doing all and became limited. Which one of us would do that? Would you give up your freedoms so that someone else could have them? That would be tough for me to do. But I would die for you. I would jump in front of the bullet for a stranger, friend, family or foe. But I would have a hard time living for you.

That is why the greatest love that Christ showed me was that he came down at all. For me, it would take a greater love to live for someone else than to die for them. 

He died for me. I thank him as often as I remember to for that. But lately I’ve been trying to remember to thank him also for deciding to be born in a manger, because that too is sacrifice. That too is love. That, for me, is the greater love.

Emmanuel. And I love him more for it.