Let nothing you dismay

to give light to those

The sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace – Luke 1.78-9

These were Zechariah’s first words in months. God muted his voice when he refused to believe God’s message that he would soon be a dad. He knew he and his wife were too old.

But it proved true, John the Baptist was born, Zechariah’s voice returned, and now he was the one with the message of something unbelievably good happening soon.

For Zechariah and the people at that time, his words were a prophecy of what was to come.

For us his words remind us that what was to come HAS COME, and is true now.

The sunrise has visited and is giving light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

The sunrise is guiding our feet in the way of peace.

Right now.

Wherever darkness and shadows grip your thinking, your family, your hopes and dreams, there is a sunrise giving light.

Your feet may feel stuck in disagreement, disharmony, fighting, and war, but there is a light guiding you in the way of peace.

In the darkness you can be like Zechariah and just see the dark. Or you can look for the hint of grey and blue. The peach, vermilion, and red are nearby.

Tidings of comfort and joy. The sunrise is here.

And Christmas is the celebration of its first rising.

There was never a night or a problem that could defeat a sunrise or hope – Bernard Williams

Where do you see a sunrise today?

4 things my wife needs to remember I can’t do (and that your man can’t do either)

  
(photo from awkwardfamilyphotos.com)

As we walk out of Amor de Brazil after her birthday dinner, she says, “Why did we go there? I feel like a caveman! You need to go back and take your buddies.” She’s half-joking.

Men walking around with meat on sticks asking, “Want some?” What a great concept for a restaurant. Brenda enjoyed the surprise, sampled everything, and loved being together, but it wasn’t her thing.

I took her there because I wanted her to experience something different and I had no idea what kind of surprise she might like. So I made an executive decision.

After forty years of marriage I have accepted that there are some things I cannot do. She of course has known this all along, but she may have hopes that it can change. I know at least four things that will not change and so here’s a reminder of these Four Male Marriage Incompetencies that we have to live with.

1. I can’t read your mind

If you’re going to tell me, “I really didn’t want to eat there,” AFTER we eat there, then you can tell me before. No, the birthday dinner was not an example of this, but every other time we eat out is. Seriously, I want to know beforehand, because I want to make you happy.

I don’t know how you feel.

I don’t know what you want.

I don’t really know if you’re happy.

I should know (if I really loved you!), but if you haven’t told me, assume I’m clueless. This applies to the serious stuff, not just where to eat.

So you could: Pretend you’re married to a person with a part missing–the ‘read your mind’ part. Then assume you have to make up for that missing part by telling me how you feel and what you want.

And I should probably: Ask you and believe what you say.

2. I can’t keep up with your logic and thinking

You’re way too fast for me. This is not a compliment or a complaint. Before I understand what you just said, you move on. So I try to move on with you but my mind can’t nimbly change subjects like you, so I end up back yonder somewhere.

Then it happens again. And again. In the same conversation. In the same minute. Now I’m WAY back there. I’m so far back there I can’t even hear you anymore. That’s what that blank look is on my face. When I say, “You have to stop,” it’s not because I don’t want to listen or because I disagree. It’s because I’m tired and must rest.

This frustrates me, and leads to us bumping heads. We may not even really disagree, but since I don’t understand what you said or what you want–and then you pause and expect a response–I just do the best I can with the little I understand.

You’ve heard that men think in boxes and rooms. It’s true. Now, we definitely look for ways to connect the boxes and rooms, but for the most part we must leave one room in order to enter another. Your rooms don’t have walls. You live in all the rooms at once.

So you could: Slow down. Just talk slower. Pause. Say, “Do you understand what I’m saying?” If I say yes, say, “OK tell me what I’m saying.” That will probably bug me so you’ll have to remind me I told you to ask.

And I probably should: Lighten up. No need to get frustrated. A frustrated man is not very attractive, right? (See I DO remember what you say). And I should ask questions as you go to make sure I understand.

3. I can’t stop trying to solve your problems

It’s a man default. It goes with my manly chest and my virile head of hair (hahaha!) I know you just want to be heard, and I do want to just listen, but I can’t. I

must . . .

solve . . .

problem.

The chances of this changing are the same as the chances of you hating chocolate. This is actually good, because when you DO have a problem to talk about, here I am wired and ready.

So you could: Give me a heads-up when you just want to share your feelings. Yes, you actually have to say, “I’m not asking you to fix anything.” No, it probably still won’t work.

And I probably should: Ask you, “Do you want me to fix anything?” This is where you would sacrifice your desire to just share and be heard, and you would say, “Yes! Please fix it!” so that I might have my purpose fulfilled.

Which reminds me . . . (#4 continues after this)

Sorry for the distraction. Finally . . .

4. I can’t be Jesus for you

I’m just a man. I cannot be a source of deep inner satisfaction for you (that hurts me to say because I want to be that).

You know all those wonderful love songs about how awesome and perfect and wonderful the other person is? Those songs are about Jesus’ perfect love but the songwriters don’t know it. That love exists, but not from a man, not from me. It’s not fair to either of us for you to expect that of me, and it hurts our marriage.

So you could: Let Jesus be Jesus, and let me be me. Go to him for what only he can give, and to me for what a man can give.

And I should: Try to be more worthy of your love, even if I can’t be Jesus. Because you deserve a far better version of me than you’re getting.

What else does a wife need to remember? Are there other Male (or Female!) Marriage Incompetencies?

Stare at this picture to gain confidence in the middle of your worst day


Your confidence begins with something that happened about 2,000 years ago this week.

Before Good Friday. Before Easter.

It starts with a sentence in John 18:

When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground

Well they should fall to the ground – he’s God in a body on earth. You ought to have some kind of awesome reaction.

But he’s been God in a body on earth for years, and most people do not draw back and fall to the ground in his presence. Plus, these guys obviously do not believe this is God – they’re here to arrest him!

Look for the unlikely signs around you

And as soon as the falling to the ground is over, they get right back up and go about their arresting business, as if nothing happened. So this isn’t worship – you don’t worship one second and arrest the thing you’re worshipping the next.

It’s as if the falling down is involuntary. Like it isn’t their own reaction. Like it’s imposed on them from the outside.

This comes at a huge moment. It’s where Jesus goes from coming and going on his own to being under the total control of his opponents. No more escaping and slipping through their hands like he’s been doing for years. Now he’ll be theirs and they’re going to pour hatred and anger all over him and get rid of him. And this is the moment that’s the beginning of that.

There’s another angle on this, though. At the same time this human drama is going on, another one, a bigger one, is happening using the same events.

Look for the big picture

God has his own business he’s up to. He’s going to bring to climax all of history up to this point and demonstrate his justice and mercy and love. He’s going to pay for every sin committed by every human being who has lived or will ever live – billions and billions of people and all their sins. How heavy is that? Far heavier than the hatred and anger of the people doing the arresting. It’s a holy, awesome, righteous, mighty, unspeakable work. And this arrest is the beginning of that.

And so the official crowd of soldiers and religious leaders comes face to face with the God-man on earth who is going to accomplish this majestic, heroic deed that they don’t have a clue about. And at the moment he’s pointed out as the one who’s to do it, identifying himself using a phrase signifying his eternal deity, they all draw back and fall to the ground.

For a moment, involuntarily, they all react to who he is and what he’s about to do with his death and resurrection. It’s a supernaturally imposed reaction. Like someone or something knocks them down.

Look for the unlikely moment that shows God is still in charge

It’s the moment when God shows us he’s in control of all of this. What is coming is not just outraged hate having its way. The arrest and falling down are not opposites. It’s all part of the same thing. God is as in control of the arrest and killing as he is in the falling down reaction. The falling down proves it. It’s like God is saying:

I’m here and I could change all this as easy as I knocked all those guys down, but since I don’t then you know that even though this looks bad, it’s all me and under my authority.

He’s in the same place he’s in when other horrible things seem to take over. Right there. In the middle of your worst day.

—–

Noticed any unlikely moments recently?

The one change that would make “The Bible” series even more awesome

The change?

Cast really old actors to play the really old characters

Have Maggie Smith play Abraham’s wife Sarah in episode one. Only make her even OLDER than Violet in Downton, since that’s still younger than Sarah was when she got pregnant. Maybe Betty White would be better. THEN make her have a baby.

Same with Abraham and Moses–uber geezers.

Why?

God loves destroying stereotypes

What do we think of eighty and ninety-year-olds today (okay, with the exception of Betty White)? They’re OVER over-the-hill. Cute and sweet at best.

But when God started something BIG and NEW, he turned really OLD people into heroes. If he can do that with them and all their feebleness, imagine what he can do with you.

What stereotype about yourself or your situation would you like to see destroyed?

What everybody ought to know about risk

You call it risk because you don’t know what will happen, and what does happen could be bad. You don’t like bad.

But it could be good! That’s why you take the risk, why you face the fear and make that leap into the unknown.

It can all feel so life and death. Some play it safe. Some say, “If I die I die.”

The Lord is watching. It looks different to him than it does to you.

And he’s chuckling because he knows that in the end you’re safe in his house.

 (if you’re viewing this in email, click HERE to go to the blog to see the short video)

Have you ever taken a risk and discovered God was ‘in the house’ the whole time?

The simple mental picture that will forever change what you expect of God (and yourself)

If you’re like me, it’s easy to feel swamped, confused, like you’re walking in mud.

You dwell on your undone, unfinished stuff. You do all you can in relationships but still experience frustration and misunderstanding. You seem to always put out effort and not get results. You think something is probably wrong with you. If only you could get your act together. If only you worked harder, smarter, longer.

Maybe it’s your expectations . . .

Your expectations of what you do and what God does.

Here’s a simple mental picture that can fix that:

                                                                                                                                      Photo by RiverEdge Dental 

Aaaack!

The dentist chair

How does picturing the dentist chair clean and whiten your expectations of God and of yourself?

The dentist chair reminds you it’s a partnership, but with sharp dividing lines for the roles. Get your role mixed up with the dentist’s role and you’ll be swamped, confused, walking in mud, and mumbling to yourself about getting your act together. And your teeth will hurt.

You know the roles:

You have to show up

but someone else does the real work.

You put yourself in someone else’s hands

but you’re still deeply involved.

You’re not the one in control

but you can resist and fight and hinder the one who is.

In the dentist’s office you know you’re not the expert. You would never say, “Give me that sucky thing – I’ll do it.”

But you’re not passive, either. You don’t just flop and expect things to happen.

You keep the appointment. You cancel things to be there. You don’t run away. You do what they say. You open wide. You spit. Your whole body tenses up. You’re super-sensitive to what’s going on. You go home and learn unnatural habits like running wax string between your teeth.

Yes you’re definitely involved. There’s a cost. But it’s not enough.

What are you trying to make happen that only God can make happen?

What Lance Armstrong whispered in my ear

I don’t know exactly when I heard it. It was sometime in the last few months when our opinion of him was doing a 360. I heard it again last week when he was with Oprah.

Several times I jerked my head expecting to find him right on my shoulder whispering. I mean, it had to be him. Tell me you don’t think this was him . . .

I know your game isn’t the same as mine, but you can still be world class like me.

Just convince yourself that no one will know, that no one will get hurt, that this is just a little secret among friends. Tell yourself that others have done much worse, that in the big picture this is not so bad at all.

I discovered the power of this little deception right at the beginning, and it’s amazing how it serves everything from your thought life to secret habits to ‘emotional’ relationships to the Tour de France.

The beauty of this baby is that the longer you go, the better you do it. This enables you to keep at it even longer, until you’re 100% convinced it’s true, and you have succeeded at changing reality.

I was so good at it that I was able to threaten and punish people who told the ‘truth’ about me and I didn’t feel a bit of guilt or regret. THAT, my friend, is world class.

It was so clear I almost wanted to take notes. This is Lance Armstrong, right? Then the tone of his voice changed and he slowly whispered:

Reality . . . hits . . . hard.

And when it does–when you’re discovered and everyone knows–it’s impossible to look at yourself and how bad you are. So you don’t. You downplay it. You insist things can stay the same.

Okay, you may cheat and lie, but that doesn’t make you a cheater and liar. (Although when it’s someone else, you easily toss out the cheater and liar conclusion.)

You’re compelled to tell people they’re judgmental, legalistic, unloving, and ‘just as bad.’ You do anything to escape the pain and responsibility of guilt.

Nothing works. To come clean is as impossible as winning the Tour de France.

Because to come clean means you have to change who you think you are.

Everybody else has already changed their mind about who you are. Try doing that when it’s you! It took years to create your own reality. No way you can change back overnight.

You convinced yourself it’s only a little corner of your life, it’s not really who you are. Now your little corner IS your whole life.

That’s all Lance, right? That’s not me talking to me about what could happen if I’m not careful.

Right?

The question you never ask but should

Let’s say you have some ideas, some dreams, some plans.

Maybe for a career change. Or starting a business or ministry. Or a book idea. Or marriage. Or selling the house and taking the kids out of school and buying a boat and sailing around the world for two years.

And of course you have some doubts. You’re not sure it can happen or that it will work. You keep counting the cost. You don’t want to fail. It’s easy to picture all the details of failure and pain.

You make plans to account for failure, to give yourself the best chance of success. But no matter how well or long you plan, you know there’s no guarantee.

You hesitate because you don’t know if it will be worth it. And maybe you hesitate a bit because you feel failure will be the end of your dream. You think that dreaming with hope is better than failure and no hope.

But in all your preoccupation with risk and failure, you never ask

What if it works?

 

How great would that be?

What if it works BETTER than you’ve imagined? Would that be worth it?

How can you find out?

Is this picture talking to you about your weekend?

It is me.

Here’s what it’s saying -

All the straight crisp lines in this picture were made by man.

All the crooked blurry lines were made by God.

So why do you expect that a good day is a day under control, on time, predictable, with only a few unimposing pleasant surprises?

That’s not God’s way, that’s your way.

On the few times God makes straight lines we take pictures of them while driving down the highway. And the lines aren’t even that straight. It gets our attention because God’s straight lines happen so seldom.

Why should this weekend–heck, this whole year–be any different?

I want straight and predictable and then I complain because I get trucks, guard rails, and telephone poles.

I hope your weekend–and mine–is filled with something wavy, blurry, and once-in-a-lifetime.

~~~

(Is there a dream hiding inside you? Get the FREE ebook Fuzzy Hope: Courage and a kick to track down the dream you feel but can’t see – just subscribe below or on the form in the upper right to get the book and free blog updates)

Which peace on earth do you want most?

Peace on earth. It’s part of the message of Christmas.

I get it wrong.

When things are calm and all the pieces are in place; when I see check-marks on the to-do list; when there are no interruptions and things are going the way I planned; early in the morning in my favorite chair with my coffee and Oswald Chambers; I call that peace.

That’s not peace. That’s peacefulness.

Peace is when the bottom falls out, you’re scared, nothing is working, you can’t believe they think that about you, this day will never end, you’re not going to make it, and hell is frozen. And you aren’t freaked or angry or resentful. You feel the potential for panic, but you don’t give in to it. The storm is on the outside, the calm is on the inside.

It’s not peaceful but there’s peace.

That’s the peace of Christmas. That’s the kind of peace Jesus came to bring.

Peacefulness depends on circumstances.

Peace depends on my trust in the absolute adequacy and sufficiency of Jesus for every circumstance, problem, fear, emotion, interruption, project, and relationship.

Of course, you can have both together. But sometimes it takes lack of peacefulness to prove peace.

I hope you experience more peace than peacefulness these days.