Archive for December, 2008

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2000 Decembers Ago

December 18, 2008

Did it feel like a night any different
Then at least a million before
Was there any rare expectation
Like there was some kind of somethin’ in store
Did the sky have to hold back the thunder
Did the moon find new reasons to glow
Could the children somehow sense the wonder
2000 Decembers ago

Were the sheep as amazed as the shepherds
At the new star that lit up the sky
Did the willow trees whisper excitement
To the rivers and streams passing by
Did the joy ricochet off the mountains
‘Til it filled up the valleys below
Did all the world sense love abounding
2000 Decembers ago

Was anyone able to look at the stable
And not see a child but a King
I wish I could hear back over the years
As heaven and nature sing, heaven and nature sing.

Did the walls of the barn start to tremble
With a glory they could not contain
Did anyone wake with the feeling
Of peace that they could not explain
Oh the love must have been overwhelming
As it warmed everyone in its flow
For all of the earth is still telling
Of 2000 Decembers ago

Was anyone able to look at the stable
And not see a child but a king
I wish I could hear back over the years
As heaven and nature sing

Was anyone able to look at the stable
And not see a child but a King
I wish I could hear back over the years
As heaven and nature sing, heaven and nature sing, heaven and nature sing
Oh the love must have been overwhelming
2000 Decembers ago

I know there are those reading over these and wondering about where December 25th comes into this whole story. To be honest, there’s no biblical reason to place the birth of Christ in December at all, much less on the 25th, but that doesn’t change the impact of Christmas for me. You see, Beloved, Christmas isn’t about the date, but about the fundamental shift in man’s relationship with God that occurred with the birth of this child. So while this song asks about “2000 Decembers ago”… well, the “December” part of it isn’t essential to the question being asked, is it? In fact, it’s possible that it’s phrased that way in order to make the lyric fit the rhythm of the music, and could have just as easily been written “2000 years ago” or “2 millennia ago” or “20 centuries ago” or “200 decades ago”… this one was just catchy and it fit.

But I’ll be honest, I didn’t pick this song to pick on the date issue (though I didn’t want to ignore it completely). I love the idea that is proposed in this song, that recognizes the impact of the arrival of Christ and wonders, if you knew what to look for, if you knew how to look, would you have known that something exceptional had happened? The idea that creation itself announced the birth of Christ, announced the physical arrival of the Creator, is exciting to say the least.

If you’ve read my work before, you may have encountered this idea before-I’ve posited that if you could but listen with the right ears, you’d hear God’s glory being proclaimed in every gust of wind, in every bird call, in every drop of rain falling on the earth. If you could see with the right eyes, you’d see God’s fingerprints all over the earth, and see His glory being proclaimed by the stars blazing in the heavens. If our eyes were opened, if our ears could hear, if we could but understand, then our understanding of this world we live in would be very different. I believe that someday, we will have our eyes opened, and we will see… and when we see the truth, we will fall to our knees in awe and wonder.

Oh, the beautiful imagery… “Did the sky have to hold back the thunder… Did the joy ricochet off the mountains until it filled up the valleys below?” Maybe I love this song so because it speaks so beautifully of an excitement and joy and love that changed everything, so big, so massive, so far-reaching in its impact that it feels as though the earth itself had to have reflected it. I hinted at it earlier. Let me say it again, though, and listen closely this time.

In a small stable, surrounded by animals and hay, a young girl and her groom, displaced by a governmental order, welcomed a baby into their arms. But this was no ordinary baby. This was the Creator. This was the Someone who had called EXISTENCE into being… out of nothingness. This was the Creator, who formed the planet upon which his body now spun. This was the Creator who formed the stars and moon that shone down on Him now. This was the Creator who caused the mountains and valleys to exist, who called dry land from the seas, who CREATED everything. This was the Uncaused Cause. The Unmade Maker. The Unmoved Mover. The Creator put on the flesh He’d created and came to the earth He’d created to redeem the people He’d created.

World shaking doesn’t begin to describe it, Beloved. The sympathetic fallacy, that leaves us expecting rain at funerals and sunshine at weddings, demands that the earth respond to something of this magnitude. That’s what this song is asking: was all of creation as blind to what was happening in this moment as we were? Or maybe, just maybe, was this so big, SO massive, that even though it could never be explained, did the earth have an answer when God Almighty deigned to set foot upon it?

Maybe you’re wondering what this has to do with having a relationship with God. I mean, I’ve been speaking a great deal about that being the whole thrust and purpose of Christmas-so what has this to do with that? Good question.

Have you ever had your trust broken or betrayed? You’ve feared to trust again, been afraid to fall freely into the arms of another because of the way one (or many) treated you. You’ve got ample excellent reasons to doubt. Your mother abused you. Your stepfather raped you. Your mother belittled and destroyed you psychologically. Your stepfather threatened to kill you or have you killed. Your classmates mocked you or beat you. Why would anyone trust after that? Who wants a relationship with anyone when relationships are so painful?

Because the One I’m asking you to build a relationship is the One who shook the earth when He set foot upon it. Because the One I’m asking you to risk trusting is the One who created the earth you’re spinning on, and then came to that same earth for you. Because the One who is even now calling you to Him, because the One who is wooing you so tenderly to Himself was willing to come to the one He created for love of you. Because, Beloved, no matter what you’ve been told every day of your life, no matter what lies you’ve come to believe about yourself, you were born to be loved, and you have always been loved… and God proved it long before you were born, before your parents were born. He had you in mind 2000 years ago, Beloved. He came to earth to win you to Himself, even though it meant coming as a helpless baby in a dirty stable to a young virgin and her doubting groom.

I love this song, Beloved, because I’ve only begun to grasp the edges of the love of my God for me, and yet it awakens this sort of excitement and expectation in me. I write these musings, Beloved, because I cannot go through my life and see others, like me, who did not know who they were born to be, and not speak the Truth to them, the Love. I call you “Beloved” to open your eyes to who you were born to be, who you were created to be, to the purpose for which you were called-to be loved, and to love. And that’s what Christmas is to me. Fooey on Valentine’s Day… Christmas and Easter, Beloved, are Love lived out in ways we can only begin to grasp, in ways that change our lives for the better every day, that gives us peace and hope and an abiding joy even in the midst of troubles.

Oh, the love must have been overwhelming… because I am still overwhelmed by it today, and I invite you, no, I plead with you to join me. Love is the one gift you’ll never be sorry you opened.

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Hark the Herald Angels Sing

December 16, 2008

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

One of the things I’ve really wanted to touch on in my discussion of the miracle of Christmas is the idea that Christ came to restore relationship. You see, Beloved, my faith isn’t based on religious rules of what I should do or not do, on rote memorization of creeds or prayers, or on someone else’s idea of what faith means, and I don’t want yours to be, either. My faith is a living, breathing thing, a relationship that I share with a living God. When you hear people contrast religion with relationship, they’re usually thinking of religion as a cold dead thing, something that you can go through the motions with without necessarily engaging in, especially when compared with the work it takes to keep a relationship alive and healthy.

That’s why it’s such a big deal that the baby born to ordinary parents was no ordinary baby. That’s why it’s a big deal that this was the Anointed one of God, the one promised as Emmanuel, God with us. This was the one God had anointed to restore a living, vital relationship between Himself and the people He’d created. Jesus was born to be the bridge between God and Man. Jesus is the way to have the relationship with God we were created for.

Do you have any idea how big this is? Have you ever had a relationship with someone that seemed broken beyond repair? Have you ever longed, desperately, to make things right with someone, just so you could get back to the friendship or love or relationship you once had? How many times have you despaired that the damage was done, and no matter what you did now, you might repair the relationship, you might restore the friendship, but the trust was lost, and things will never be the same, and you know it. Maybe it’s your parents. You did something once, and your parents caught you, and now the trust they had in you is gone. You’ve grown up over the years, but that wound of them finding you that one time is still there-and you just know they thought about it before they co-signed the loan on your first car or house. Maybe it’s your partner. One time you said you were working late, and you weren’t, and you got caught. Or maybe it’s just as simple as falling out of touch with a dear friend you moved far from. You both said you’d work hard to keep in touch… and neither of you has worked as hard at is as either of you promised. You’re starting to wonder if you’d have anything in common anymore… or if that failed promise would hang between you, an elephant in the room.

Broken relationships hurt. They isolate and burden us with guilt and heartache. Because we’re isolated, we’re weakened- we’ve lost the strength and wisdom of the other to draw upon, or the unique perspective to see things in a different way, to solve problems in ways we wouldn’t have considered. We were made to be in relationship with others; it’s why, when God saw man alone, it was the first thing He’d created that wasn’t good. God made a companion for man, so that man could be in relationship, and have an earthly mirror for what God had created us to have in Him.

God wasn’t content to have a broken relationship between man and God. Over and over God pleaded with His people to turn to Him. Still, God knew that we could not, by ourselves, reach Him. The gap was too wide. You see, Beloved, you can’t do enough good to undo your bad, to outweigh the evil. Every good thing you do, you should have done, so it doesn’t tip the scale to “extra” good. There is no “extra” good. By yourself, all you can do is fall further. By yourself, you can just mess things up more. It’s like when your partner tries to make up with you, but manages to mangle it every step of the way… brings you flowers you’re allergic to, with a bee in them, takes you to a restaurant that has lousy service and nasty food that makes you sick… every attempt to make up falls flat and fails.

So how do you restore relationship if you can’t do it? How to come back to that place of relationship that God created you for if the gap is too wide? God had to do it. God HAD to. It can’t be you. Your arms don’t reach far enough. God can. And Beloved, that’s what Christmas is. Christmas is the Creator of the universe reaching out past the gap that none of us can bridge, coming down from where we can’t reach to be God with us, so we can. Christmas is about the restoration of relationship. Christmas, Beloved, is about healing the one relationship that needs healing most but that by yourself, you could never heal.

When the angels appeared in the skies that night, they couldn’t fathom what they were announcing- God was doing this for Man? Look at all that we do! Look at how we mess it up! Look at all the evil in the world… and God is coming to earth to restore MAN to relationship? God’s love is surely amazing: nothing else explains so amazing a gift. They came down to sing God’s glory for His great love for us.

Oh, Beloved, hear the wonder. God and sinner reconciled. Jesus, pleased with us in flesh to dwell… the miracle of God with us, of Emmanuel. Can you really let this Christmas pass you without accepting the greatest gift ever given? Can you really let Christmas go by and leave the biggest, best present wrapped and unopened, and be content with your broken heart and relationship? All He wants is to know you, and for you to know Him, to be your friend and the lover of your soul. Oh, Beloved… won’t you know this Christ?

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Morning Has Broken

December 12, 2008

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day

I’ll be honest. I’m struggling with some depression lately. I’ve been gloomy and grumpy and generally not much fun to be around, and I’m acutely aware of this fact; it’s gotten to the point that even I don’t want to be around me. Yeah, it’s that bad.

And it’s not like I don’t have plenty of reason to be depressed and gloomy and grumpy – I came home to find that one of my dearest companions in life, my cat,  had been suddenly torn from this life, and the one thing I’d always wanted to provide for him when his time came… my presence to guide him ever so lovingly and gently, ever so reassuringly into death… well, I couldn’t do that for him. I was thousands of miles away, across an ocean, not even aware he was sick. (I’m immeasurably glad that my friends and family didn’t tell me sooner). I didn’t even have the chance to properly mourn him before my health problems reared their ugly head and knocked me down, and I can’t seem to get my feet back underneath me this time, I can’t seem to get back up again this time, get back to fighting the endless battle against pain and frustration before I get knocked down again.

So yeah, I’ve got plenty of reasons to be in a gloomy, grumpy guss mood. Except, see, they’re not reasons, they’re excuses, and if I always fall back on my excuses to be in a foul mood, then when will I ever find the joy that I’ve marked my life with? If I choose to live a life marked by sorrow and sorry excuses to be a gloomy grump, then when I am supposed to find the small victories that bring the joy that lets me rise above the whelming tide of frustrations?

See, my life really isn’t any better than yours, it’s not that different than yours. I may have different struggles than you have, but in the end, you and I are both human beings, flesh and blood, our lives marked by joys and pains. In the end, you and I are really no different once you get past the circumstances of our lives and get to the meat of who we are… and so my struggles with depression, well, they could be yours. Or your struggles with depression… they could be mine.

So what am I doing in my depression? I’m choosing to believe that this now is not my forever. I’m choosing to believe that this broken body is not my identity. I’m choosing to believe that this long night I’m living in is not the end of my existence, and that tomorrow will come, and with it, the morning, and with the morning, will come hope and joy. I’m choosing to cling to the promise that there is more than just what I can see right now, and refusing to believe the lies that say that this moment is all I have. I refuse to believe the lie that this broken body is all I am – or that the world would be better off without this brokenness within it. I refuse to believe that I am beyond hope.

I can’t say that I have a cure ahead of me. In fact, I’m expecting some very not fun medical procedures to sort out the medical problems that sent me to the ER last month and back to the doctor (where her nurse fussed that I should have gone to the ER) today… and I can’t take some very simple over-the-counter medicines that would make this all easier to live with (gotta love a broken body). I can’t even claim that I’m making these choices “unmedicated”… I take an antidepressant regularly to try to control the migraines that lay me flat all too often, and it’s entirely possible that they help keep me on an evener keel than I’d be otherwise. I have no problem with medical treatments for medical problems, and depression is often just that.

But I’ve decided I’m tired of living with this gloomy me. I’m kicking her out, and I’m not inviting her back. I’ve put encouraging, uplifting music in my iTunes queue (starting with the song that started this lovely musing), and I’m opting to meditate on the promise of who my Savior says I am… instead of on the lies I’ve been hearing so far.

Would you like to hear some of those promises? Would you like to hear some of the things the Creator of the UNIVERSE has to say about you, Beloved?

You are His Child. You are LOVED, so thoroughly that nothing that is now, has ever been, or ever will be could possibly SEPARATE you from His love. God loves you SO much that even the death of His only Son wasn’t too high a price to pay to win you back. You don’t have to live in defeat, for Christ has given you the victory. And through Christ, who will give you strength, you can learn to be content (and find joy!) even in want!

I was talking with a dear friend shortly before I started this, asking her to pray for me. She asked me what I normally do when I face depression, and I told her “I tell myself that I am not the broken body I live in, that my identity is not limited to what I see, and that as hard as this is now, morning is coming… and then I hang on and wait for the morning… and then something happens, and the morning comes… so I guess I’m asking you to pray for me until I find my morning.”

How I manage to keep forgetting the amazing power of praise I will never understand, because Beloved, as I sit here, my morning is breaking (even as night falls outside), and the clouds of gloom are dispersing. Oh, Beloved, hear the hope breaking in my heart as I cry for joy the promise I’m living: “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning!” and “Because of the LORD’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; GREAT is Your faithfulness!”

Morning has broken, and mine is the sunlight! Praise with elation, praise every morning-God’s Re-Creation of the new day!!

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O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

December 11, 2008

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

I’ve included the full text of all the verses of this traditional carol/hymn, but if you’ve heard it, chances are, you’ve never heard them all, and possibly not in all the same order. It’s a very somber sounding song, but I can’t hear this song and think of a somber message; no, for me, this is a joyful message-it’s right there in the refrain, the repeated “Rejoice!”

But we’ll back up. I’ve been handling these songs as though my audience is unfamiliar with them or with the meaning underneath them, and I don’t want to stop now. So I’m just going to go over the first stanza, the one everyone who’s heard this should have heard, though the others can be found at cyberhymnal.org (warning, midi starts when you click the link, but you can turn it off at their site).

The first thing we need to address is this name, this title. “Emmanuel”. Maybe you’ve seen it “Immanuel”. Is there a difference? What does it mean? Well, as far as I can tell, there’s no difference between spelling it with an “e” or an “i”… in the original Hebrew, the vowels aren’t written down, so while in transcribing from Hebrew in the Old Testament, it’s typically written Immanuel, there’s really no reason it can’t be written the way it often is in the New Testament as Emmanuel. The word literally is a compound, taken from immanu “with us” and el “God”… so that Immanuel, Emmanuel literally means “With us God”.

That may not seem like that big a deal, but for the ancient Hebrews, this was huge. The idea that God, who created the entire world, could or would be with us, was… well, beyond breathtaking. Beyond revolutionary. Why? Because what they knew of God said that He was so holy that if they came into His presence improperly, they’d literally drop dead. The high priests who served before the Holy of Holies, who carried the sacrifice for the people’s sins in to offer it to God, did so only after making sure he was thoroughly and ritually cleaned, and only when he was wearing a garment with bells on the bottom and a rope around his ankle… because as long as he was moving in there, the bells would make noise, and the other priests knew he was still alive, and God was still pleased. But as soon as the bells stopped, the other priests knew that the high priest had fallen dead, and his body was pulled out by the rope fastened to his ankle. And this is the God who will be “with us”? The very God who told Moses that no one may see His face and live… this is the God who will be with us? Yeah, this is a big deal.

And yet, this same God had given them a prophecy, a promise that He would come to them. This prophecy was written during the Assyrian captivity, over 700 years before Christ’s birth, by the prophet Isaiah. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” So the Israelites were longing for Immanuel, for “God with us”… even with all that that might mean. They were a conquered people… having been enslaved by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persian, Greeks, and now the Romans (and that’s not even considering the more modern history of semitic persecutions). They were ready for their mighty God to come to them and ransom them, rescue them from their long captivity.

So that’s our first verse: A plea from the people for the promised messiah, the anointed Emmanuel, God with us, to come to His people and rescue and redeem them from their long captivity. Until He comes, they must remain captive, so they are eager for Him to come to them.

And now we get to the refrain, the chorus that makes this so joyful to me, despite the minor key in which it’s set. “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!” It’s the call that says “Don’t lose hope, don’t give up; the promise isn’t forgotten; it is fulfilled, and you are remembered!” You see, we see “shall” as some nebulous future… but that, I think, is a modern American idea. In the time the carol was originally written, that “shall” wasn’t “sometime in some undefined future”, but “right now, as we speak, it’s happening!” It’s an immediate future, a right now. And what we read as overly formal in “thee”… that’s a long-forgotten informal that’s been lost in our language. That’s “buddy”, or “pal”… it’s “y’all”. This whole chorus is “Buck up, y’all- Look, God’s right here!”

Ahem. Yes, I get very excited about all of this.

Beloved, this is Christmas. God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, keeping a centuries-old promise to His people, revolutionizing everything they’ve ever thought or known to come and be God with us. This is Moses’ Burning Bush, declaring I AM who I AM as He leads His people from captivity, putting on humility and mortality to be God with us, to keep a promise older than the one His people think He is keeping, this is the Anointed one of God, born a helpless baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, born to a virgin in a stable. This is world changing. This is revolutionary, on a scale you’ve never dared think about before. This is bigger than the baby. This is eternal in scope. This, beloved… this is Emmanuel.

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Noel

December 8, 2008

Humble birth
Redeeming Earth
Stable lowly
Savior holy
Angels singing
Triumph ringing
Perfect plan
Saving man
Worship now
Shepherds bow
Lord of all
In a stall
Virgin’s womb
Empty tomb
God is here
Salvation nears
Hosannahs ring
Christ is King

I wrote this 3 years ago to celebrate Christmas; a friend called it a rap, which makes me laugh. I include it here to show you that even then, my thoughts of Christmas never ended with the infant in the manger, but moved forward, to the ultimate fulfilment of God’s plan.

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Deep In Love With You

December 8, 2008

Sitting at your feet is where I want to be
I’m home when I am here with you
Ruined by your grace, enamored by your gaze,
I can’t resist the tenderness of you

I’m deep in love with you, Abba Father
I’m deep in love with you, Lord
My heart, it beats for you, Precious Jesus.
I’m deep in love with you, Lord.

Humbled and amazed that you would call my name
I never have to search again
And there’s a deep desire – It’s burning like a fire
To know you as my closest friend

I’m deep in love with you, Abba Father
I’m deep in love with you, Lord
My heart, it beats for you, Precious Jesus.
I’m deep in love with you, Lord.

I’m deep in love with you, Abba Father
I’m deep in love with you, Lord
My heart, it beats for you, Precious Jesus.
I’m deep in love with you, Lord.

Lord, You’re my redeemer
Your blood runs through my veins
My love for you is deeper
Than it was yesterday
I enter through the curtain
Pardoned by your grace
Oh you’re the lover of my soul
You’re the lover of my soul
I’m deep in love with you, Lord

I’m deep in love with you, Abba Father
I’m deep in love with you, Lord
My heart, it beats for you, Precious Jesus.
I’m deep in love with you, Lord.

I’m deep in love with you, Abba Father
I’m deep in love with you, Lord
My heart, it beats for you, Precious Jesus.
I’m deep in love with you, Lord.

I’m deep in love with you, Abba Father
I’m deep in love with you, Lord
My heart, it beats for you, Precious Jesus.
I’m deep in love with you, Lord.

I’m deep in love with you, Abba Father
I’m deep in love with you, Lord
My heart, it beats for you, Precious Jesus.
I’m deep in love with you, Lord.

I’m deep in love with you, Abba Father
I’m deep in love with you, Lord
My heart, it beats for you, Precious Jesus.
I’m deep in love with you, Lord.

My heart, it beats for you, Abba Father.
I’m deep in love with you, Lord.
My heart, it beats for you, Precious Jesus.
I’m deep in love with you, Lord.

Let me apologize first for the question marked lyrics; no one on the internet that I found had these yet; the album was just released late October/early November (right before I went to Europe, if I remember correctly)… so I was transcribing them as I listened to the song on repeat on my computer. I gave you what I understood… I’m not sure I got them right. (Those lyrics have been corrected by Gareth Jenkins. Thanks Gareth!! I was hearing “You’re golden, my Redeemer” and “I yeild through the curtain”, which didn’t quite make sense.)

I’m not worried though; the ideas that made me fall in love with this song (even though it is repetitive) are in the first verse and in that repeated verse, not the bridge. It dovetails for me into another song I’ve mused about… Casting Crowns, “Your Love Is Extravagant”. Can you see where the two would remind me of each other?

“Ruined by your grace, enamoured by your gaze, I can’t resist the tenderness of you…”
“Your love is extravagant”

“Sitting at your feet is where I want to be; I’m home when I’m here with you.”
“Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place”

“And there’s a deep desire – It’s burning like a fire – To know you as my closest friend”
“Your friendship, it is intimate”, “You considered me a friend”

“I’m deep in love with you… my heart, it beats for you,”
“Capture my heart again”

Oh, Beloved… I know this isn’t “Christmas” as you normally think of it. I know there is no Santa here, no reindeer, no elves or snow… no magi or shepherds, no virgin or angels… and yet, Beloved, this is why we have Christmas. This is why Christmas is so beautiful and alive for me. This is why I loved The Shack, because you see, Beloved, mine is not an empty religion made up of rote and ritual, but a living relationship, energized by conversation and stunning love. Stunning, I tell you. Do you remember what I said about “extravagant” love in my musing on the Casting Crowns’ song? (look at that! I linked it for you!… but I’ll give you a tidy summary anyway).

Extravagant love “spends much more than is necessary or wise”, it “goes beyond what is deserved or justifiable,” and it “exceeds the bounds of reason”. This is the love that our God pours out on us. Extravagant. Excessive. Beyond what we deserve, beyond what is justified… beyond what is justifiable. God’s Love spent EVERYTHING for us, casting off glory to take up humanity, and all for love of us. Loved that completely, that fully, that… that extravagantly, I am ruined for anything less. Nothing else could compare, and thus God’s love has left me ruined for any other lesser love to try to take His place. It’s like if the first time you ever ate meat, you had the best, most delicious, perfect cut of meat ever… everything else would pale in comparison. Burgers would be nothing… you’d forever be ruined by that ONE cut of meat that defined what meat is supposed to be (I know, really weak example, but how else do I express the idea of being ruined by something so good?)

Beloved, This is Christmas. This is the miracle Emmanuel, God with us. This is the great condescension, God Almighty, the Creator, putting on mortality and coming to earth to woo us and win us back to Himself. This is why I celebrate Christmas… not because a baby was born in a stable, but because of who that baby was. Beloved, that baby was Emmanuel. That was Love enfleshed. That was Extravagant Love, going beyond the bounds of reason or what we deserved, longing only to love us all, longing only to call us His own Beloved.

Did you know that’s why I call you “Beloved”? Because you are. You ARE. Even if you don’t know my Savior yet, even if you’re still skeptical about this Jesus I speak of, even if you doubt how my God could be Good and All-Powerful and I could still have experienced the things I did… Beloved, none of that changes the fact that Jesus came to this earth for YOU. That extravagant love spent itself for YOU. That right now, sitting on the throne of God, the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah, the Baby we celebrate at Christmas is looking down at you and LOVING YOU more than you can imagine. As I write these words, as you read them, Beloved, He is longing to ruin you with a love that will blow your mind and leave you as enamoured with Him as I am.

And you can take Him all your questions, all your doubts, all your problems. All your whys, or why nots. All of it. Beloved, all He wants is to love you, and for you to learn to love Him back… and until you open the dialogue, until you consent to relationship with Him, He can’t answer your questions, and you can never experience the life-changing love that’s being poured out on you now. I want you to celebrate Christmas with me, Beloved. Won’t you risk knowing my Christ? Isn’t extravagant love and a grace so good it “ruins” you a risk worth taking? You’ll never know unless you try.

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Book Review: The Shack by Willam P. Young

December 8, 2008

The Shack, by William P Young

(My review for Facebook)
I’m aware that there’s controversy, and as I was reading, there were a few places where I could see that someone might have problems. That said, I did not have problems with it. Simply put, this is one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life.
This book discusses the basic structure of man’s interaction with God; is it built on rules and limits and religion, on the law the demonstrates where we fall short of the ultimate goal of perfection, or is it, as the author would suggest, about a living, vital relationship with God? Is God a distant ruler aiming to strike us down for our failures, a cold and heartless judge condemning us to hell, or is it possible that God is, as John revealed in his epistle, Love, and moved by love, marked by love, in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine and that shatter our preconceptions, not only of God, but of what we are to be if we are to be called adopted sons and daughters of God?
If this book serves to call men and women into a deeper, truer relationship with their Savior, with the Lover of their Souls, with the Abba Father who loves us enough to create us knowing what it would cost… surely there is value in this book.
I know that the many tears I cried were bottled as I read, and I know that they will fertilize more rich growth in the garden God continues to cultivate in my soul. (end of Facebook review)
I want to make it clear that while there are things in this book that I can’t speak to theologically (the gender of God, for instance), I’m willing to dismiss them as creative license to accomplish the larger goal of giving the author a structure into which to write this discussion with God.
The core of the discussion? I have no problem with that. I can’t tell you how many times I cried, but I’ll tell you there was at least one time that I fell apart, sobbing, and had to wait for the tears to clear before I could continue (page 173)(I don’t want to say too much lest I spoil things for those who haven’t read the book).
God loves you. Desperately. God LONGS for a relationship with you… as I’ve seen before, “God thinks you’re to DIE for.” I know that’s hard to wrap your mind around, and if you’re asking “But what about the bad things?!”… you need to read this book.

Beloved, I’ve lived the bad things in life. I was raped repeatedly from the time I was 10 until I was 13. I was abused emotionally and physically by my mother and convinced myself that she couldn’t love me… which meant I couldn’t be loved. At all. By anyone. My father died in a car accident when I was 17. I can’t have children. I’ve got a litany of reasons to doubt God’s goodness or God’s love… but I don’t. I don’t doubt God’s love for me. I cling to it like an anchor in the storm. This book is the closest I’ve ever found to explaining how it is that I can find God still Good and Merciful and worth Loving (and all powerful) in the face of all the evil in this world (even in my life).

Seriously. This may be one of my new favorites EVER, and I hope to spend a good deal of time dissecting it and finding the places in Scripture that illustrate the soul-changing, life-filling, joy-giving power discussed in this tiny little read. If you haven’t yet, pick this one up.