What's Going On Here?

There are SO MANY wonderful book review blogs out there and I can't compete with them, that is for sure. So this is not a book review blog. This is just a way for me to organize what I have read so that I can be better at matching the right book to the right person. The blog title comes from the brilliant mind of the most talented woman who ever lived, Ms. Judy Garland. The full quote is, "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else." That is what I hope to do here and in ever aspect of my life.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Eve

So when I was a pastor, the man I pastored with and I...well, some times we were accused of being...well...of being downers. 
I remember a good friend saying to us.
"So this is how it is when Ing and Tim come to work in the morning when it's cloudy outside.
Ing:  It's dark.
Tim:  Not dark enough.
Ing:  So true."
And we all laughed, because, hey, it was true!
I recall our secretary, a lovely and very non-downer of a woman saying that, even at Christmas, the happy time of year, our sermons and musings were tainted with, well, downerisms!  And that was true!, too!  We'd always take the tone in our sermons that "not everyone is feeling joy at Christmas"  and "if you are not feeling that happy joy that the everyone seems to feel this time of year".  Well you get the idea.
Now that is not to say that Tim and I didn't love Christmas and especially the whole reason for it.  Tim and I were and are absolutely in love with Jesus Christ.  We know who the Light is.  We know that He has come at Christmas and He will come again.  
So I started thinking again that this time of year is, indeed a tough time of year for a lot of people.  Right now I have a friend who is very ill and is waiting to see her Lord soon.  I have another friend waiting for an organ donation.  I have other friends who are struggling with money woes, with loved ones who have lost their way.  Christmas here on earth ain't all ho ho ho and the most wonderful time of year and all that stuff.
But the bottom line is, all will be well because of Christmas.  Because of that Light that came into the world.
Following I have something I wrote last year, not for Christmas, but I think it applies today and everyday.  
You may say I'm a downer...but not really....when I look up, when I look to that Light, I know that there isn't a darkness around that can shut it out. 
Merry Christmas, one and all.  
The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.  John 1:9  

Luke 21:20-28

'When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. 'There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see "the Son of Man coming in a cloud" with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.'

A few years ago my friend Mary told me about Sacred Space. It is a website created by Jesuits in Ireland. Every day you are invited to log on and read a portion of scripture and participate in guided prayer and mediation. Because my cellphone is permanently attached to my hand, I was excited to learn that the Jesuits are so tech-savvy they have a mobile version of the site and I was able to access via my heavy duty rugged Casio. Every night before I fall asleep I hit the site on my mobile web. Sometimes the scripture for the day doesn't seem to make any sense to me at all, but most times I glean much from my time of iprayer. On the night of Thanksgiving the scripture was the above passage from Luke's Gospel. It hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.

As read the first sentences I thought, "Man...THIS is why I am glad I'm not a full time pastor anymore! What the heck would I say about the whole "..woe to those who are pregnant and nursing..." bit. Reading on, it sounded a lot like the movie I last saw at the drive-in 2012 with the ever unemotional John Cusack. Distress, desolation, the roaring of the sea…good times. Those aren't the kinds of words that we like to hear coming from Jesus, are they?

But then…"Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."


I read that I and the faces of many loved ones appeared before me. Some of us are going through terrible distress, desolation. Some of us are right now shaken, nearly faint with fear and foreboding because of what we think may lie ahead for us or those whom we love.

Some of us are facing worries about our careers. Budget cuts have been unmerciful for many in both non-profit and profit industries. We are concerned that we won't have means to support ourselves in the year to come. Others feel unappreciated at work, or are perhaps dealing with co-workers who are difficult or a boss who is unsupportive or even a bully. Some of us are beginning a new job and are frightened about how it will be. Others are having our hearts wrenched daily as we see our children bullied at school or see them struggle with choices. There are those who are watching loved ones suffer from addiction, a broken heart or illness of the mind, body or spirit. We are waiting for test results. Medical results that will either frighten or relieve us. Academic results that will encourage or discourage.

Others of us are right in the middle of the storm. We aren't worried about what is to come, because we are right in the midst of terrible pain right now. We are struggling with illness. We are struggling with the loss of someone close to us, through death, divorce or the ending of a relationship. We have been told that hope is too much to hope for- for some of us, we are experiencing what we can only describe as well on earth.

And what are we to do?

Jesus tells us.

Stand up!

Raise your heads!

Redemption is drawing near.

In the waves and fury, in the midst of despair and desolation.

Stand up. Raise your head. Look to Jesus the Lord.

Have you ever been so ill, emotionally or physically that just to move hurts or is even impossible? That the very thought of standing or raising your head is so overwhelming. What once was so easy, standing on your feet, tilting your head, is now more akin to climbing Mt. Everest than a simple engaging of the muscles to make our body move?

I can think of times in my own life when I was paralyzed in this way. At times it was indeed physical pain that kept me from standing and raising my head. Another time it was the deep, vicious foe of depression that prevented me from moving forward, both literally and physically.

Our Lord felt this way as well. Recall our Savior's words as He hung on the cross. He was physically unable to move because of what His tormentors had done to Him and He cried out, "ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" -- My God, My God Why have You forsaken me?

Jesus the man, who felt what we felt, when He walked here on earth in human form. Jesus the man, who suffered from physical and mental anguish as is clear by His words. He understands what it is like for us to be in the midst of devastation and despair. And He knows how hard it is to do, but He assures us - in the midst of all of your suffering- Stand up. Raise your heads.

There is nothing that we are going through that can separate us from our Lord. It sure as heck doesn't feel that way sometimes. It didn't feel that way even to Jesus, the man, on the cross. Hence His words. But the reality of our lives, the reality of our life in Jesus is that no matter what this world hands us, no matter what the devil throws our way, no matter what others may do or say, nothing. None of that garbage can keep us from standing up, raising our heads and waiting for our redemption.

Raise your head.

Look to the Lord.

A few weeks ago I was working at the Sewickley Library and a little girl, about seven years old quietly came up to the Reference Desk in the Children's Department. I look at her and even though at that time she wasn't crying, I could tell right away that something was wrong. It seemed as if it took all the courage she had in her little body to speak and her words came out with a tremor. "I..I…I can't find my daddy. He said he would be downstairs on the computers. And he…he…he's not." The tears poured out of her little eyes and I could tell she was trying to hold them back, trying to stay calm. I jumped up from my seat and came around to her side of the counter and jumped in with my usual, at most times obnoxious banter, "A lost dad! Those crazy dads! We'll find him! I am sure he probably just went to the bathroom or something! Let's go find him! Silly daddy!" She smiled up at me, and held out her hand. I took it and we walked down the steps. If you know me, you can imagine my babbling, trying to move as quickly as possible down the steps without tumbling down them, trying to keep the little one preoccupied until we got sights on dad. We rounded the corner of the Circulation Desk and walked into the huge main area of the library. I looked at the rows and rows of computers for a father who might be looking for his little girl and didn't see anyone who seemed to fit the bill. My heart sank. The guy isn't here, I thought. Quickly I looked at the little girl and as soon as I saw her face, I knew all was well. She was looking beyond me, up, with a brilliant smile, with tears, of relief this time, welling up in her eyes. Her entire visage had changed. She looked like a completely different child. I turned to follow her thankful gaze and there was a daddy. Her daddy, with his arms open, his face full of love and concern. He began to bend down to her and walk toward her eventually picking her up in his arms and puling her close. She collapsed on his shoulders, crying hard now, but it wasn't a cry of anguish. "Oh daddy. I couldn't find you. Daddy. You're here." I stood to the side and watched this brief but beautiful moment unfold. "I am here, sweetheart, I would never, ever leave you. Never. I love you, sweetheart."

It was a beautiful exchange to witness and I thought of it for days after but I never thought of the theology behind it until I read this passage on Thanksgiving Day. How wonderful it was for this little child to look up and see the face of her father. How even more glorious it is for each one of us, to look up and see the face of our Father.

If you are feeling like that little girl, alone and lost. Worried about the future. Or suffering in the here and now. If you feel as though you are right there, in Luke's Gospel, confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. If so, I encourage you, in the words of Jesus the Christ to stand up, raise your head, look in the face of your Father and KNOW that your redemption is drawing near.

I promise you this is true.

How can I promise you that?


HE promises you that its true.

And HE never, ever, ever breaks a promise.

God bless, dudes. I love you.

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