The most wonderful(ly busy) time of the year

It’s times like now that I am so thankful for the ability to rest in Christ and so glad that God set the precedent for sabbath after finishing projects.

December proved to be a very busy time for our children’s ministry, and just for interns at the Stone in general. Christmas parties, service projects, family worship events, have all been happening since a few weeks ago. And now our two biggest events are finished and the actual day of Christmas is easing toward us.

There’s a deepening peace that comes with knowing the real meaning of Christmas. I’ve done no shopping, and for the most part have no idea what I’m going to get anyone at all, but as I’ve grown in my understanding of who God is, and the scandalous nature of Him becoming a man to dwell with us, I find myself less concerned with the trappings of Christmas. After all, it will come “without packages, boxes or bags” as The Grinch so famously observes. In stead, I have been trying to concern myself with the glorious coming of a long awaited savior, and what His life and death mean to me over two millennia later.

To help me with this, I have been meditating on some of my favorite carols and wanted to just post some of my favorite lines in hopes of inspiring you to think of the meaning behind this potentially stressful and often massively commercialized time of year.

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth; a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…”

“O come, o come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel; who mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Rejoice!”

“Remember Christ our savior was born on Christmas Day to save us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray; O Tidings of comfort and joy!”

“For in this weak, unarmed guise, the gates of Hell He will surprise.”

And in this time of remembrance, it’s oh too easy to forget that the battle is won. We can and should take time to rest in the finished work of Christ. If we remember that Jesus came and forget that He died for sin, we are celebrating a birth no more significant than the millions that happen each day.

I hope that you will take some time after reading this to thank Jesus for His birth and life and death, and then call up a loved one to share with them what Jesus means to you. Merry Christmas!

#read7in7 explanation and other news!

Hey wonderful people who follow my blog (or just happen to have been reading it right now) I wanted to give a quick explanation about what Read 7 in 7 is, and some changes I’m making to my personal blog(s).

7 in 7 is basically a creative challenge to create 7 pieces of art in 7 days. The literature portion of 7 in 7 is called Read 7 in 7 and it’s the one I participated in. The blogs that were written for that are labeled clearly with the #Read7in7 title. From now on, this blog will be going back to the once or twice a month updates on what God is teaching me and what He is doing in Austin that I am a part of.

HOWEVER: I going to start a new blog (found here) where I will continue the creative writing, poetry, short stories, etc. because I’ve really enjoyed forcing myself to write. It’s been really good for me, and I love telling stories with written language. If you are mostly interested in the fiction/poetry/prose I create, you may want to follow that blog instead of this one. If you are mostly interested in God’s work through me in the children of Austin, this is the blog to follow!

Thanks again for all the love and support. I’m blessed to have any readers at all, and you guys are great!

#Read7in7 day 7

The wind whispered in the night. It was warm and moist, but the breeze reminded me of cool lemonade on a hot day. There was a sweetness to it that I can’t put into words. I suppose that was at least a day ago. I remember taking a deep breath, pulling air through my nose and deep, deep into my lungs. I used to do this strange thing where I’d hold a deep breath, and then suck in a bit more, then a bit more. I would imagine a balloon expanding till it burst, and picture my lungs doing the same. I don’t know why, and I certainly wasn’t hoping to pop one of my lungs. It was just one of those silly things you do when you are young and don’t think about the consequences of actions. When my chest started to burn, I knew I’d have to exhale, that I’d lost my secret competition against my body’s natural functions. Slowly, so slowly, I let the carbon dioxide flow out of me. My mind swam as the sensation of floating invaded my oxygen deprived brain.

 

I don’t remember how I got to the balcony of the hotel room, or how I arrived in the city at all. One minute I was practicing a pointless breathing exercise that I used to play as a kid, the next I’m in a totally unfamiliar place with my feet dangling off the edge of a guardrail. Things tend to go that way for me. Flashes and glimpses of the in-between sometimes stick, but usually it’s too blurry to make sense of. It’s really hard to keep track of time when you consistently lose your sense of it, so I can’t say exactly how long this has been happening, but if I had to guess… 2 years? 3 maybe? I never know when a stretch is going to kill me. That’s just what I call them. Stretches. I don’t know how long they last, and I can’t recall what happens during them. Do I eat? Do I rest? I know I do some things, because I’ve come out of them with scrapes, bruises, and other injuries. That’s why I think one is going to kill me some day. But not today. Today I survived.

I woke up from the longest stretch I can remember. The last date I remember being sure I saw was two weeks prior to the date on the newspaper I saw in the trash. It’s nearly impossible to maintain relationships when you never know where you’ll be one moment to the next, much less how long you’ll have been away. At least I assume I’m away. Maybe I’m on autopilot. I try to phone the people who mean the most to me when I can; Mom, Dad, my siblings, but it’s so hard to remember sometimes. I usually feel like I just got off a call with one of them. I probably single handedly keep pay phone companies afloat. It’s hard to keep track of a cell when huge chucks of your life are not in your control.

#read7in7 Day 5

Practice makes perfect, they say.

Perfect practice makes perfect, a clever variation states.

How can I practice perfectly when I’m practicing to become perfect?

How can you perfectly present news that will be seen as imperfect no matter what?

Don’t shoot the messenger, unless the messenger is the message-er.

When my message will cause distress, and there is no one else

To deliver it, I am the deliverer of distress, am I not?

I desire to be delivered from delivering.

To be the bearer of bad news is bad enough without bearing

The ability to adjust the account to be borne.

I am positive I cannot positively affect the negative effects

Of what I have to say; I will effect a change in affections,

No matter how I say it. But say it I must or I must say I

Will have misled the Miss I feel called to lead. I have will

To speak… I think.

And in thinking I overthink, re-think, think twice.

In my thinking I am sinking as a sinking feeling

Sweeps me under.

Understandingly, I feel overwhelmed.

Over and under I tumble through my mind.

Do you mind my tumbling?

Will you tumble with me, and be mindful of

The one who directs my steps?

Or will we crumble when my steps direct me ever away.

But not astray.

Is there ever a way to stay when

I have promised to follow hard after You?

What will follow if I follow?

Only time will tell, they say.

#read7in7 day 4

“I will not fight you,” Gordon said through clenched teeth. His attackers laughed.

“Are you afraid?” The leader sneered. The rest of the pack began taunting him and shouting obscenities.

“The King has called me to make peace; His greatest command is to love those who wish me ill. I will not fight you.”

“Your king is dead,” he shot back, his sadistic rage boiling over. Gordon’s ears burned as blood rushed to his head. His temper flared, but he swallowed hard and tightened his hold on his staff.

Thirty-five years earlier, Gordon was a young boy, and homeless. Born in the streets, he never met his parents. The man who raised him was a liar and a thief, who took joy in the misery of others. Frequently he would remind Gordon of his orphancy just to watch him squirm. Quincy abused all the children he kept, in every way imaginable, but he was a source of food, and so the urchins and outcasts would flock to him, hopeless and haggard. If you have ever felt inescapably drawn to something you hated and knew was destroying you, you understand why Gordon never left Quincy’s band of thieves and assassins.

He used to dream of being free, but always the pangs of hunger drove him back on his knees. More than once he considered taking his own life, but somehow he could not bring himself to follow through, whether because of his fear of the unknown, or because of a deep sense of hope which could not be extinguished; or perhaps a bit of both. Then one day, he picked the pocket of the King Himself; His highness quickly caught young Gordon, who expected to be slain on the spot. Even after all these years, he could still remember the wild fear that smote his heart as the King began hauling him towards the palace. With the fervor and severity of a rabid wolf, Gordon fought the King. When they arrived, the King spoke to him kindly. Gordon could never forget His voice. Rich like chocolate, smooth like cream, sweet like honey, clear like spring water, deep as the earth itself, and refreshing as a cool breeze, His voice stilled the storms in Gordon.

“I have decided to make you my son. I want to adopt you as my own.”

And so, a new life started for the former gutter-rat. The King lavished gifts of all kinds on his child. The food, never in short supply, filled and nourished Gordon in ways he could not have even dreamed. The King began to teach the boy all His ways, and the young pupil learned to trust his Father. Unfortunately, old habits cling like sticker-burrs in wool, and the vile patterns of his old life sometimes returned. Despite his luxurious diet, he found himself sometimes craving the greasy potage that barely kept him alive before. Without thinking, he occasionally would slit a coinpurse and pilfer as previously. But again and again the King would find him, remind him of the love that bound them together, and restore him to the palace. Gordon hated that he ever returned to the ways Quincy had taught, but it increased his amazement at the King’s patience all the more.

When the King disappeared, no one felt more lost Gordon. At first he thought the King was jesting, but the benevolent monarch recorded the truth for Gordon on parchment. It reminded Gordon of all the King had taught him, and assured him that his Father was still with him, if he remembered all he had learned from the Ruler.

“There are still so many others who do not know me, and I have more than enough in my abundant wealth to rescue them all. I am going to secure a palace large enough for all the poor and needy. I need you to tell them about Me. Explain to them that I love them all, and deeply desire to make them my own. Many will hate you for this task, and will fight against it, as you once fought against me. You must not return their blows with blows. Love them and allow my love for them to show through you, for I love you. I will return for all who are Mine when the time is right.”

Over thirty years ago, Gordon first read the King’s letter. His life was not his own, he owed all that he had to the King, and could imagine few joys greater than sharing the love shown to him with others. Thinking of the journey so far calmed him and reminded him of what his purpose was. His fear and anger drained from him visibly. His knuckles regained color as he released his vice-like grip on the rod in his hands.

“There is nothing you can take from me by killing me that I would not willingly give up for the sake of the King. You think Him dead, but I assure you that He is alive and vengeance will be His. He will return, whether I live to see it or not.”

“I’m willing to test your resolve to die.” Quincy said cooly. The blade came down with a swift, cruel arc, but Gordon’s eyes did not blink, nor waver at all.

#read7in7 day 3

The salty spray stung his eyes. The schooner rose and fell with the rolling waves, but Saul no longer felt sickened by it. The crew laughed at him when he told them he had found his “sea legs.” Apparently sailors don’t really talk like that. Who knew? He felt a trifle disappointed that they would probably not shout “Land ho!” when they approached the coast.

The journey neared its end, and he was ready to have steady earth beneath his feet. More than that, he was ready to have his love in his arms. When he sailed away 18 months prior, fortune and fate were his desire, but it took little time away to reveal to him the fortune he left behind. He wrote her often, but received nothing in return. Anxiety plagued his heart. Had she stayed true to him? Would she love him more or less since his departure? He stood facing the bow, willing the wind to carry them hastily homeward.

He had trekked foreign lands in search of treasures. Over sandy dunes and through foggy vales he had gone, always seeking something of worth to claim as his prize. In the course of his time, he learned many skills. Swordplay and sailing were second nature to him now. His time spent with languages transformed them into dear friends. He could field dress a deer, and shoot his bow with more accuracy than most. He knew which herbs could suffice for medicine in a pinch, and which berries would drop a man dead. But he did not know if the woman he loved waited for him still.

In the distance the harbor’s lighthouse gleamed faintly. The sun descended behind them. Before them, home beckoned them on. Soon, the crew busied themselves with preparations to dock, and Saul returned to his cabin below deck to pray that Helen would welcome him back. After a time, he felt the slight jolt of wood against wood, and heard the sea men drop the gangplank and begin to unload. With a deep breath, he returned to the deck with his bags, searching desperately for her familiar features.

There she stood, as beautiful as ever, scouring the small ship for his face. Their eyes met, and Saul scrambled to disembark as she fought through the crowds to reach him sooner. The wooden walkway proved slippery, and he lost his footing near the base, tumbling into Helen’s arms. His weight bowled her over, and they hit the cobblestones together. Disheveled and awkward he looked up and said sheepishly, “I’ve missed you, love. I feared you would not come.”

She responded with a kiss.