End of Year

It’s stunning that this is my first post of the month, but hardly surprising on the other hand. The past six weeks or so have been a blur. Days have been full, nights have been short, and plates have been full. A number of items fell off the edges, and blogging was unfortunately, but unapologetically one of them.

Among the things receiving my attention, that might be worth your attention:

Christmas Wish List: Our church’s annual project was another significant success, raising awareness within our city of those living in poverty and blessing them in practical ways at Christmas time. Volunteers and media and givers — all were wonderful parts of the process!

Advent Blog: Our church’s annual blog efforts rolled into their fifth year this holiday season. Huge thanks to every writer and to all who tuned in to read along. I submitted a few posts there as well just to prove that my writing hadn’t completely dried up.

Beyond those, the month involved first music recitals for our girls, school concerts, Advent assemblies, Christmas Eve service, church hockey, men’s mentoring group, MOPS, along with all the usual Christmas preparations, an unusually full load in conjunction with our approved home residents, a couple rounds of various sicknesses, and a broken finger that continues to mend.

Desire to write? It’s still there.

Will to write? I’m rediscovering it.

May the next year be your best yet, friends! I’ll meet you here as faithfully as I can muster. 🙂

Thursday Thanks (26-30)

fiveEach week (I aim for Thursday), I’ll use this space to list five things (items, experiences, people, whatever) for which I’ve been recently grateful. Consider it my “blessings count”. Ann Voskamp’s famous challenge to list 1000 gifts seemed daunting — I’m committing to 500, a task which would take me two years to complete!

Monday is nowhere near Thursday, but I’ve fallen a post or two behind, so I’m doing what I can to gain on any missed opportunities for gratitude!

1) Knives
My kitchen work is limited, but among the pleasant experiences of preparing food, I might count using a high-quality knife near the top of the list. There are few things as frustrating as using a poor knife to cut, chop, or peel. But a knife that does its job excellently – that is a form of culinary contentment I can grasp.

2) Swings
This afternoon was pleasantly warm, enough so that playtime moved out into our backyard. Three girls and two swings brought all forms of laughter and giggles. It’s amazing how much fun can be had in the to-and-fro rhythm of a swing!

3) Pepperdine Bible Lectures
As I mentioned earlier, I spent last week attending this annual event about I heard much over the years. Now I know what all the fuss is about – beautiful location, encouraging crowd, and top-notch content. I will definitely plan another trip some year.

4)  Friendliness
Today a repair man came to make some changes to our cable and Internet services. This young man was highly capable at his job but even more so, he was exceptionally friendly. Such people bring a smile to my face and a prayer of gratitude to my lips.

5) Toffifee
I am not a big chocolate fan, but some time ago, my wife gave me a small box of this usually-limited-to-Christmas treat. I can’t be certain, but I may have loved her even more than usual in that moment!

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailYOUR TURN: Your input makes this post better!

  • Did any of this week’s list especially strike a chord with you?
  • What’s one thing you’re particularly grateful for this week?

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Thursday Thanks (1-5)

fiveBeginning today, I’ll use this space each Thursday to list five things (items, experiences, people, whatever) for which I’ve been recently grateful. Consider it my “blessings count”. Ann Voskamp’s famous challenge to list 1000 gifts seemed daunting — I’m committing to 500, a two-year venture here on the blog. Better get at it!

1) Muscles
Last weekend was our church hockey league’s wind-up tournament. Playing three games in a day in an annual reminder that I am twice as old as I should be to be undertaking such challenges. But the stiffness that night was one of those feelings that confirms that you’re alive, and feeling alive is always a good thing!

2) March Madness
Today marks the beginning of the high point on this sports-lover’s calendar. While I watch a lot less of it than I used to, this three-week event never fails to provide some of the drama and energy that are unique to College basketball’s tournament format.

3) Toy Trains
My daughters’ Christmas gift was a wooden train set. We’ve since added a few more pieces to the set to up the “creativity factor”. My inner child finds pleasure in working with my two oldest girls to lay out new routes, while working together to protect our handiwork against the baby’s best Godzilla impersonation.

4) Kindle
My experimental, second-hand purchase of this unnecessary item has been a success. I love the bargains that can be found on great books (in electronic formats), and I’m enjoying a particularly pleasurable read about the Holy Spirit these days.

5) Spring
It’s not here yet, but it’s flirting with us. And after weeks of way-below-zero temperatures, that is some mighty fine flirting. The citizens of the Canadian prairies are in the mood for some such flirting!

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailYOUR TURN: Your input makes this post better!

  • Did any of this week’s list especially strike a chord with you?
  • What’s one thing you’re particularly grateful for this week?

[You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email, in the upper right corner of this page.]

My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

[NOTE: I shared this post earlier this week as part of our church‘s annual Advent Blog. For more of the Glen Elm Advent Blog, head over HERE.]

Rembrandt_-_Simeon_and_Anna_Recognize_the_Lord_in_Jesus_-_WGA19102Simeon and Anna are two fascinating figures in Scripture. This elderly pair are featured briefly in Luke 2, portrayed as examples of righteousness and devoted service to God. Expectantly, they wait for His promises of salvation to land and take hold of their world.

Forty days into his life, Jesus’ parents took him to the Temple. A purification-related offering was to be made by Mary along with a dedication of their firstborn son to God. Not by coincidence, Simeon is present in the Temple that day as well. Through divine revelation, he perceives Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, a figure the Holy Spirit had promised Simeon he would behold before his death. Holding the child and blessing him, Simeon marks the moment by declaring, “My eyes have seen Your salvation.”

But what had Simeon really seen?

  • He had seen an infant who cannot hold up his head.
  • He had held a Redeemer who is dependent on a teenager’s breast for nourishment and a carpenter’s hand for protection.
  • He has lifted a peasant and soon-to-be refugee child, yet he has the audacity to declare that he has beheld God’s salvation.

Am I missing something here?

Beyond the specific Spirit-revelation received by Simeon, I believe this passage identifies one of the paradoxes of faith. By its very nature, faith is not airtight. The holes are not all filled; the gaps are not all bridged. By definition, faith requires trust. It is certainly not blind, but neither is it 20/20. Faith is an odd middle-ground, where we are given just enough, and likely no more.

And faith has always been that way.

  • Abraham was told by God to pick up his life and leave his land. For where? “A place that I will show you.” Just enough information to move his feet forward, but not enough that he might sprint to his destination, or even map out the route.
  • Moses was instructed, “Go speak to Pharaoh; I will be with you.” Every reasonable objection raised by Moses was met by God’s insistence that He would accompany His servant. No elaboration, no explanation. Moses was to move forward from the burning bush one step at a time with confidence that he did not move alone. And that was to be sufficient.
  • Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” There is no mention of tomorrow, there seems no thought of next week. We are coached to ask for a handful despite our desire to ask for a pantry full. We are urged to live contently with just enough, and not much more.
  • Early disciples left careers and communities to respond to three words from Jesus’ mouth: “Come follow me.” No job description, no benefits package. No peek at the last pages of the story. The invitation to come was to be enough for today’s response.

i-have-seen-your-salvation-1Someone said to me recently that following Jesus is not like him writing up a contract and then asking us to sign. Rather, he asks us to sign a blank sheet of paper, and then he fills in the details afterward.

And if we dare to put our name on that line, to align our lives with his…

  • Jesus will lead.
  • The Spirit will reveal.
  • And the Father will provide.

And at some point, or several, we will find our mouths very naturally forming Simeon’s words, “My eyes have seen your salvation.”

He Has Visited and Redeemed His People

[NOTE: I shared this post earlier this week as part of our church‘s annual Advent Blog. For more of the Glen Elm Advent Blog, head over HERE.]

Last Sunday, our church viewed this video together during service.

Zechariah’s story is fascinating.

zechariahBy birth, he was part of Israel’s priesthood. He and his wife Elizabeth, childless in their later years, had no doubt heard comparisons to their great once-childless ancestors Abraham and Sarah. However, it is highly unlikely that anyone expected this couple to be completely like that ancient couple by experiencing a late-life, God-gifted pregnancy. Certainly Zechariah wasn’t expecting such a thing.

Through a seemingly random process, Zechariah was selected to enter the Holy Place. Alone in that sacred space, he had a divine experience in which it was revealed that he and Elizabeth would have a son. And that son would be the forerunner to the Messiah. When Zechariah used his mouth to express doubt, God determined to close it for the next nine months or more. Zechariah was mute, a condition from which he was released only upon John’s birth.

  • What might happen within your heart or mind if a nine-month silent retreat were forced upon you?
  • What might become clear?
  • What convictions might cement themselves?
  • If the gift of words was re-given to you, how might you use it?

We read that Zechariah spoke prophetically (Luke 1:67-79), under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He began like this:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.” (ESV)

Another translation (The Voice) says it this way:

“May the Lord God of Israel be blessed indeed! For God’s intervention has begun, and He has moved to rescue us, the people of God.”

Two details from that reading impress me:

INTERVENTION: A&E has aired a fairly successful series by this title. It portrays the stories of families desperate to rescue loved ones from the darkness and destruction of addiction. Intervention is synonymous with interference of a loving sort. It is the willful thrusting of oneself into the life of another, who appears to have neither the ability nor the will to protect himself. Interventions involve helping the helpless. People of strength pull tightly alongside people in struggle. in an effort to save them.

PEOPLE OF GOD: God’s intervention has begun, we are told. Apparently, He is moving to rescue. Explicitly, He is moving to rescue us, the people of God. This sentence contains a vital reminder. Let us never believe the lie that the people of God are those who have no need of rescue. Let us never hold the deception that the people of God are those who — through clear thinking and sharp discipline, and wise choices — have governed their lives so well as to remain in the middle of the narrow way. Let it be forever known:  The people of God are most assuredly not those without need of rescue or intervention. Rather, the people of God are those who have experienced intervention. They have tasted deliverance; they have received rescue.

And that’s why every December, such folks have no trouble singing: “Joy to the world. The Lord has come.”

Kids are Funny

B Toys LogoOver the past couple years, we have purchased a few toys produced by Battat Inc.

Within each toy is a small booklet filled with quotes from children. You can submit your own real-life examples to the company HERE.

Here are a few sources of recent smiles and laughter:

“If mommies make babies, and trees make air, then what do we need daddies for?” (Allison, 4)

“Mommy, how does a bee sting of porcupine?” (Amelia, 4)

Callie, 8: “Do people eat cow tongue?”
Mom: “Yes.”
Callie: “Ewwww… It might have grass on it!”

“The baby is naked… ewwwww! Can’t you eat some parents or something so he isn’t naked?!”  (Haley, 8, upon seeing the 4D ultrasound of the baby)

“Before you say mean things about someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Now they can hear you, and you have a free pair of shoes!” (Hannah, 9)

“Don’t THINK. Just follow mommy’s directions.” (Grace, 6, in car with Grandpa who said, “I think we should turn here.”)

Ethan, 3: “Mom, are these both my grandmas?”
Mom: “This is your great grandma and this is your grandma.”
Ethan: “Oh!! This is my great grandma and this is my bad grandma! Right mom?”

“If you drilled through the earth and came out the other side, you’d be upside down. But if you drove there you’d be right side up. That’s why they have all these roads.” (Sawyer, 5)

“My friends, this is my hooker.” (Adam, 3, while holding a tow truck during show and tell)

“That’s a jellyfish. Now we need to find a peanut butter fish.” (Josephine, 3)

“Mom! Stop!! Be careful, there are boys in the Ivy!” (Robert, 6)

“Did you know my uncle Tony is driving around the country in a winning bagel?” (Sean, 5, telling a relative his uncle was going cross-country in an RV)

“Soda is not good for your body. You drink it and then you want more and more. The next thing you know, you are smoking.” (Alyssa, 5)

“Jazz is my favorite color of music!” (Keeley, 2)

“I’m going to have five children and name them Cabbage, French Toast, Table, Shower, and Chair.” (Skye, 6)

Maddie, 4: “What does it mean that it’s Election Day?”
Mom: “Today everyone picks who they want to be President and run our country.”
Maddie: “Oh. I hope they don’t pick me.”

Water is composed of two gins: Oxygin and hydrogin. Oxygin is pure gin. Hydrogin is gin and water.” (Sam, 11, in response to question on sixth-grade science quiz)

“it’s not real anymore.” (Brody, 2, referring to “outside” when his car window was rolled)

“Mommy, you’re the most beautiful woman in the whole world I ever saw before I left the house.” (Callie, 2)

“My triceratops is afraid of our dust bunnies.” (Clara, 4)

“If the day I came out of your belly is called my birthday, what is the day I went in called?” (Rio, 4)

YOUR TURN: Any favourites? Any chucklers or stunners you remember coming out of your own kids’ mouths? Your comments make this post better.

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Birthed into a Living Hope

Slide1For three years now, our church has created an Advent Blog each December.  Articles and reflections have been submitted through those years by members and friends of our congregation, on a variety of topics tied to the Advent season.  You are most welcome to join us in this annual pilgrimage toward Christmas.

Below is a piece I submitted earlier this week.

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jason Bandura works with the Glen Elm Church of  Christ.  Married to Shannon, he is Dad to three lovely daughters.  He lives on the Canadian prairies and writes occasionally HERE.]

The season of Advent is built around the experience of waiting.

Pregnant

One frequent connection is to the waiting of pregnancy, often observed graphically in Mary’s most literal waiting for the birth of Jesus. Metaphorically, Scripture feeds into this theme with its declaration that the whole of creation is groaning, as if in the birthing process (Romans 8:22).

Regarding the Advent theme of Christian hope, Peter uses similar imagery to vividly drive home its shocking nature:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

I have mixed feelings about the day of my birth. Continue reading