Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dr. Fink Had it Right After All

Back in the 70's, when I was in college (okay, the 90's, but it feels like 30 years ago some times), I had a professor named Dr. Fink. No, really, that was his name. He taught such illustrious subjects such as Preaching 101, Homiletics, and Intro to Theology. Oh yeah, as you can see, it was a laugh riot. We all feared him with the fear only found in 18 year old boys for someone who actually expects them to work. One of his responsibilities was to try to form us into legitimate teachers and speakers. Being 18, we were pretty sure we had it down. It was his job to show us that wasn't true. It was never a pretty sight.

He also was famous for assigning unbearably long compositions for us. Invariably, someone would ask "How much do we have to write?" His standard reply was never far away. "You need to write all of it." "But how much is all of it?" some pseudo-industrious soul would inquire. Those of us in the know would cringe at the question, for we knew the pre-ordained answer. "All means all, and that's all all means." Then the Fink smile.

So, here I sit years later. I owe most of my teaching ability, what there is, to Dr. Fink. It's true. He told every single one of us we would say that some day. And for my part, he was a prophet. But I am learning a new meaning of the "all means all" mantra.

I've been studying and speaking on pieces of Brad's series on Colossians on Sunday mornings. One crucial section of chapter 3 discusses how Christ is all and is in all. That short passage is sinking deeper into my being each day. God is challenging me to wrestle with this thought. I, like every other person walking this planet, have areas of life I run to for comfort and seclusion. But they are not healthy. Actually, they're quite destructive of my soul. They are destructive in the same way that water running over rocks is destructive. They wear small grooves in my soul, that eventually become channels, leaving large portions destroyed and eroded away. But Christ won't have this. It's His soul. I turned it over to Him. And He fully expects me to take better care of it. This is what He has been telling me of late.

So, He is pushing me. I don't need the erosive habits. They haven't worked in bringing me lasting peace or happiness. They are short term bandaids, and only really succeed in causing more harm. Christ wants to see me healed. So, when I am tempted to run to these, He is reminding me that He is all. All I need. All I want. All I can handle. Jesus means all and that's all Jesus means. I really, truly don't need anything beyond Him. The "need" of other distractions is a lie, a smokescreen. He is cleaning house.

So, I guess, my question is, where are you short changing God? Where are you turning to other things to find hope, peace, and happiness that really only He is able to create? Have you got tired of looking and missing it? Maybe it's time for you to become acquainted with Fink 1:1. All means all, and that's all all means. Jesus is all. Just a thought.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Who was kissing Santa Claus?

Tonight is one of my favorite nights. Our family has no scheduled events on Thursday nights, so it's just homework, dinner, and hanging out as a family. It's nice after the early week run of youth group meetings, AWANA, and more. After dinner, Alivia was working on homework with Jill, and Annie and I were hanging out. We were listening to great Christmas tunes of the faith (Here Comes Santa Claus, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, etc.) It was a deeply moving time, to be sure. The CD made it's rotation around to "I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus", and Annie began to hum and sing along, without realizing she was doing so in a way I could hear. So, I joined in, and we warbled a crooked little tune along with the kids on the CD. Once we were done, Annie proceeded out of the kitchen, but returned again shortly. "You know, dad, that song isn't really about Santa Claus."

"Really? Who's it about then?"

"The mom is kissing the da-ad!" she replied, obviously enlightening her clueless father.

I smiled the smile of a father playing along with his little one. I loved it when she taught me things, even things I already knew. I smiled a little, smugly about it.

Then the little voice came. The one from my Father. "You do the same with me" was faintly whispered in my soul.

As the thought soaked through my mind, I realized I do. I tell God of things, informing Him of pertinent information that He might be interested in learning. I correct Him when He's wrong. I show Him enlightened views when necessary. He always listens.

But it's just me teaching my Dad something, usually about as worthwhile as who was actually kissing Santa Claus. I'm not sure why I do it. I mean, if Annie stopped to think about it, she'd realize I already know what the song is about. She doesn't think I'm stupid or ignorant. She's just so self-absorbed that she doesn't stop to think about me. She just informs me. She'll outgrow it, and realize that others do know something. Even things she doesn't know. Wisdom comes with age.

God is doing the same with me. He is so patient when I truly believe I know all that I need to. When I tell Him no, when I act on short sighted information, He stands beside me. When it all collapses because it's a house of cards built on my understanding, He stands with me in the fall. He looks at me, knowing one day I'll outgrow it. One day, wisdom will make its way deep in the hard to reach, stubborn recesses of my soul, and I will remember that Dad does know more than me. One day. I'm trusting wisdom does come with age.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I haven't been writing. I've been thinking of what to write. The ideas have bumbled around in my soul for a couple of weeks. But I haven't been writing. Too busy. Too much to do. It makes me important to be busy, you know. A world to save, parties to host, wisdom to expound for others. Busy, busy, busy. Did I mention it makes me important?

Yeah, I buy that lie for quite a while. Then I crash. This week the crash is hitting. I'm not sleeping well, and I am carrying a backpack full of residual stress. My own fault. My own creation. My own choice. Somehow, it hasn't made me important. It's just made me tired. So, today, I put it all on hold. I'm writing. It's my exercise for my soul. I'm like a lame little version of Isaiah, with a message burning in his bones. Only, my message is for no audience, and it's just the stuff God is talking to me about. So, maybe it's more of a smoldering tea candle, than a burning message. Either way, I'm writing. And, in a very strange way, feeling better by the minute.

What are you doing today? Are you busy and important? Is everyone depending on you to carry the day? It's a lie, you know. You really don't carry anything, neither do I. We follow the One who holds It All. But we don't carry it. So, stop it. Do what it is that you are meant to do. Be still. Listen. Pray. Write. Run. But don't try to carry it anymore. You and I, we're just not THAT important. But He is. And that's what carries the day.

Jesus is simple

So, I'm sitting at home last night with my girls. Annie, our six year old, is hanging out, and Jill comes up with a great idea. She convinces Annie to tell me the story of the Nativity. We huddle down on the floor, using one of our chairs as the stable. Annie carries over Mary, Joseph, the manger, baby Jesus, a couple of required sheep, an angel, and some very young, very peaceful looking shepherds, and the narrative begins. She walks me through the angel telling the shepherds some good news about a king being born. The sheep slowly and stubbornly are driven to the recliner/stable, and the shepherds "ooh" and "aah" over the baby just on cue. She tells me how excited Mary is to have a baby, and how Joseph is a good dad, and he's a carpenter. But then, things turn. In one of those rare moments of actually being fully in the moment, I ask Annie why Jesus came to such a poor family. Why be born where animals eat, in a stinky barn? Why didn't God send him to a castle with rich parents?

I watched those small, powerful gears turn in her mind. She was really thinking this one out. Finally, in a somewhat settled tone, she wondered out loud; "It was because Jesus is simple." Partially, the words themselves hit me. Partially, it was her tone. Questioning, but yet sure. I love that about a kid's faith. Jesus is simple. Not simple as in easy to understand, nor the simple that makes you question their abilities. No, she meant that Jesus is humble, not attached to power, fame, or glory. She nailed it. Jesus is simple. Oh so amazingly, beautifully simple.

If only I can be like that Jesus. To let go of my weak clutch on my hopes for fame, power, or glory. I want to be the one born to a king. I want to be the one that everyone adores. Jesus had that, and He let it go. He came, here, simply. Now, today, I have to let it go. It's not mine to hold. It belongs to Him. He deserves it, He has earned it, He is worth coming to see. It is my turn to kneel next to the manger, under the recliner/stable, and be still. To know that there is a hope, an unbearably powerful wonder born in a simple child. The one who came for me. There, in that small, smelly barn, is the good news indeed.