Rick and Monique

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Birds and Christmas

So, yesterday I'm scooping snow after yet another wintery night, wishing I was on a bike, scooter or motorcycle and I said "This Scoopin' is for the birds!" I then got into my car, slid out of the driveway and headed off into the snowy city and ran some errands, simultaneously wishing I was on a bike, scooter or motorcycle and I said "Drivin' in the snow is for the birds!" I then realized I was getting a doozy of a cold and I said "This cold is for the birds!"

But then I realized something. We scooped so we could get out of the driveway safely, so that we could do errands, so that we could do good things for people, and get enough fuel so that we could get to Sioux Falls and my parent's house in good order.

We left the house, anticipating a pleasant four hour drive.  But first we simply wanted to get a bite to eat before hitting the interstate. However, the roads were stuffed with traffic and had slowed to a crawl, and I thought that this might be easier if I were on a bike, scooter or motorcycle, but instead said "This traffic is for the birds!"  

Then I realized mid-sneeze-n-sniffle that sometimes life doesn't happen as we think it might or should.

I have the freedom to celebrate with my family one of the most amazing events in history, Christ's birth. 

The car was warm and comfortable. I felt a twinge of guilt, and that moment I understood that it wasn't so bad to do all the things that might have otherwise been left for the birds.

God bless all of you and Merry Christmas

Monday, December 22, 2008

Silent Night Holy Night?

I've heard that St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf Germany is where the song we know as "Silent Night" composed by Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr was first sung in 1818.

Silent Night--Dr. Jim Schaap wrote in his blog that Christ didn't show up with a pleasant knock on the door.  He said "Jesus intrudes into our humdrum, shocking us with his sudden presence." In the beginning was the Word and the Words were from Christ, not with a knock but with power, and whoosh in 60 million years or 6 thousand years or 6 days the world was. That's what we know about God, He draws, asserts and changes. It was the same thing the day God said it was time and Christ was born. A quiet knock? Hardly. With a rush of dragons and Angelic swords and fists in the midst of eternity Christ came.

He might have come silently, maybe he didn't cry? Maybe he came on December 25th in the midst of a perfect Middle Eastern snow. But I don't think so.

Maybe we got one night of peace before Joseph had his dream to flee to Egypt, before the wise men received their dream to take a different route, before Herod murdered a throng of children? Maybe the wail of the hungry was not heard that night? Maybe thieves remained in their lair? Maybe we got one silent night before Rome tortured the Jews and it's own people, before the Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus? Maybe we got one silent night before Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Saddam Hussein? Maybe we had a few quiet moments before Sarajevo, Darfur, Ethiopia, and Columbia? It's possible we had a moment before Columbine. Maybe there was one single night before 9/11/2001 when silence reigned. Maybe the Angels got a few z's before 11 Israeli Athletes were murdered at the world's ultimate celebration of peace, the 1972 Olympics. Before Nero and many others burned and tortured Christians, maybe time stood still for one night?

Maybe the Angels took one night off? Maybe the rocks were not crying out? Maybe all of creation does not groan and plead for the day of the Lord? Maybe that night Simeon and Anna were not fervently praying that the Messiah would come soon? Maybe the Elect gave God one night for His angels to gather in a happy sing-a-long. Or maybe not.

I'm quite sure the night was not silent, but deafening. The night was not silent, but it was most holy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What do you know of Light?

There is never another day when you will get to see the light for the first time. To be born again--not only an apt description of the moment you first see God, it's the only one. Imagine the battle taken from dark places, a struggle ensues, a push, a gasp, a wail--your body, your head misshapen. Everything about where you were seems so warm, so right and yet for some reason you feel compelled to burst forth and all the while the blood and sweat and cries of the one who gave you birth covers you from head to toe. Lux Aurumque--turn on the light in your own home and your satisfied and glad for it. You take your steps, retrieve this or that, move through your home...it's been only moments and you've forgotten the light.

But to be born again is to know that even if you had ever seen the light before, the place you were was so dark, so heavy, so...internal, as to have forgotten light existed. The relief...the joy that comes from even a sliver leaves one feeling foreign but adopted, resplendent yet dumb-founded, like hearing a language without voice and completely unfamiliar as to never gain understanding. Like being stripped naked without feeling sacrificed but completely borne. A light not only overwhelming, but absolutely stunning--stunned into silence--stunned into such an awe-filled existence as to never again express the first day you saw light.

Let me tell you something. I've a Christmas story I'll tell you each and every year until you hear my voice. You may not believe the Christmas story, I understand that. But if you hear it told, I want you to know the full story.

You already know the story in Luke 2. A Census was called and Mary and her Husband, both descendents of King David left for Bethlehem to be counted. Mary, a virgin, was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. They entered Bethlehem where the Son of God was born. Hosts of Angels visited Shepherds in the night and announced the birth. Folklore tell us that a sweet Choir of happy angels visited the Shepherds and while the Shepherds lay face down on the ground the Angels enjoyed a little sing-a-long. Fat baby angel swirling around the sky firing rubber "joy" arrows at the Shepherds.

Until you read the story told in Revelation 12. Satan, a mighty dragon waited at the doorstep of the birth so that he might kill the Christ. But God's Angels were there and they swooped Him up to Heaven while his mother fled to safety in the desert. A mighty war ensued in the heavens...a battle greater than all wars in time and space put together. Michael and his soldiers, God's Army, commanded to surround God's son at his birth and take him to his Father in Heaven. He would not be devoured by Satan under any circumstances. The one task complete, God turned towards Satan and directed His army at them. They swooped into the battlefield with such fury as to shake the heavens and God's army conquered the Devil's army with might and surety. Satan and the other angels were all hurled to earth--the place where Satan himself tried to murder the mother of the Christ. When she escaped Satan vowed to reek havoc on her offspring, namely those who are adopted children of Light...those who know God...and those who, as with His son, shall never be taken. Yet Satan vows to bring you misery and hopes to take you to such dark places where even your own fingers float into memory.

Luke 2 says that a host of angels appeared before the Shepherds and that they were very much afraid. If Angels, weapons gleaming, armed to the teeth, appeared before you, would you not fall prostrate? DO YOU HEAR ME? They asked. "Do not fear", they said, "We mean you no harm."

"Glory to God in the Highest" they said. It's like the confident cry of the United States Marines..."Hoo-rahh" they say, Semper Fi. A group of men and women so ardently in love with their country, so beholden to their task, patriotic to the bone...hoo-rahh. Take that times a million, maybe more. A race of Angels persistently, joyfully and without a second thought lift their voices in the most joyful, fierce, loyal, proud, yet humble cry of any age up until this very day. Listen...I said LISTEN--"GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE ON WHOM HIS FAVOR RESTS!" Angels, battle hardened angels, honed their skills, ripped their muscles and sharpened their tools--hoo-rahh, Glory to God in the Highest, Hoo-rahh. The greatest war of any time and space would occur..."DO YOU HEAR ME?" They would knock Satan's guts straight out his back...

And we have them "Sweetly singing oe'r the plain." No. Absurd. NO! NO! A host is an army and by all that lives and breathes an eternal war raged amongst beings whose strength we could never comprehend, acting as a language no man could even recognize as such, and even so, scripture says that they were sent to serve us.

Sweetly singing. Comical. Cute. But untrue.

Some of you might not believe the story told in Scripture. In my opinion Santa's harder to believe than the story of the birth of Christ God's Son.  But even then, should you hear the story of Christ's birth told this year, keep in mind that, at least for me, I'm glad the full Angelic power showed up that night.  Ripped, ironclad Hosts drew their most powerful weapons and witnessed God's son enter Earth. I would've fallen over too.

What do you know of light?

I'll tell the story again next year.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Aging: Prose and Perspicuity whatever that means.

We all age right?  Well, it was my Brother-in-law's 40th birthday and I wrote him a little ditty about turning 40.  I thought I might share it with you how's that sound?  I removed some of the more brother-in-law-ey stuff which means I added and subtracted a bit here and there so that now it's a poem about anyone who might be getting anywhere in age.  This ditty is my Ode To Forty but just put your age in there and see how it works?

Ode to Forty (Good Luck With That One!)

Some people like pork, some people like peas. Some people like land, some people like seas. But nobody likes Forty it’s time to say why. The one who likes forty is the one who’s brain tied. The one who likes forty is the one who just lied.

It’s like drinking the river when all you wanted was tea. It’s like shootin’ your leg off to be all you can be. It’s suckin the prunes before ridin’ the dunes. It’s like a half-cup o’coffee or trees without leaves. It’s like freezing cold winds on a white summer beach.

But wait! Wait wait! I’m starting to sway. Forty’s not bad I’m willing to say. Senility’s helpful when your spouse says “NO WAY!” Senility works when the bed must get made.

Senility rocks when having some fun, when you’re riding the coasters, maybe backwards on one. Senility works when you’re surfing the sun. Senility’s fun when you’re trying to run.

Ok I really can’t talk, I’ll be there soon. I think forty’s the best and it’s worth a short swoon. While to some Forty may feel a lot like you’ve lost it, like vegetable candy or farts in the closet. Instead forty’s the best, to that point I won’t rest! At forty you’ll test some small youngster’s strength. You’ll out think him, out talk him and debate him at length! The poor little tyke will surely not last. You’ll think harder and won’t jump your boundaries so fast.

You’ll lose your stupidity and eat your breakfast. It’s simply a shame that forty won’t last.

I can’t wait till I’m there, an envious place. Isn’t it sad now I’ve lost the forty’s race? So for me it’s boo-hoo but congrats to you. I hope forty’s to you a lot like the loo. Newspaper in hand and something to do.

I’m sure you’re the best and the top of the chart. A good mid-life stop made to look like fine art. You’re mettle’s not spent and your wisdom won’t flee. You turn on your heels a slight giggle of glee. What’s directly in front of you, a shiny green tree. And up at the tree-top your delighted to see. The doe-doe bird in the tree-top is a man of twenty.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Playful Holidays

Holidays remind us about thankfulness, about charity, about the truth of God, about community and about turkey, ham, chili and eggnog.  Well...maybe holidays aren't about all those things, some of them are adjectives of the reality. But Holidays are about something.  

I saw a mother play with her son on Friday night at a church Christmas gathering. I loved hearing the music and listening to the story of Christ's birth being told from beginning to end. And I loved that a mother would stick her tongue out at her boy in playful petulance.  He laughed and so did she.

A family that plays together.  Never does that take away from responsibility, work or earning potential. Sometimes you sweat, sometimes you argue, sometimes families endure strain.  But you can tell a successful and safe family when you watch them play.  A son's flung tongue greeted by his mother's laughter reveals safety.  I'm part of a great, playful and safe family.  More importantly, I am part of another safe but even greater, wider, joyful, and much larger family--otherwise known as the body of Christ--Read John 10. 

There's a difference between desperate faith and confident faith.  Confident faith is a communal faith.  Have you seen us play?  I get safety.  I know hope.

I found a safe lad and a safe mom Friday night.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crazy Who? What? Huh?

So...Monique says to me a couple of days ago, "Honey I need some Groceries" and gives me a list. I go get the groceries. The skies are blue, the wind is barely blowing, I'm having a good day. I go to the grocery store, a feat of some regard. I get groceries and treat myself to an Egg Nog as an award. It is the Holiday Season afterall and I start by giving a gift to myself. I walk around, try a couple samples. I'm sweating actually, not that you needed to know, but I didn't think I'd be there long enough to take off a jacket, but it's a big store and I always underestimate my soddy skills in a grocery stores. But I'm still in a good mood and I'm having a great time. I pay for the groceries. The checkout clerk is a nice lady. I tell a joke. She laughs. I laugh that she laughs because I screw up the joke. I put the groceries in the vehicle and go home, thanking God the whole way for a nice day. My wife, my dear lovely wife comes outside and says...,"So did anyone at the grocery store think you're crazy too?" What? Hmmm...??

Can You Figure Out What She's Talking About???? Hmmm....did she just call me crazy? Might've been the rosy I pulled in the driveway.