Wishbones, Wisdom and Words on the Thanksgiving Holiday


woodstock-thanksgiving-pumpkins-pilgrimN.B: It’s not often that I have written about my passion for food, but in “chewing” on this amazing holiday and in recently studying Proverbs 9, I could not resist such a mouth-watering post (ok, I’ll stop).

Over the last few days, it’s has begun.

Turkeys have begun their yearly thaw.  Brined.  Prepped for the big oven.  The fryer.  The Weber grill.  You name it, it’s happening. 

Yellowed copies of recipes from yesteryear for Aunt Sue’s stuffing, Grandma Margarett’s cranberry relish, and Mama Jennifer’s apple pie have made their annual trek from the file to the kitchen counter, preparing those in possession of them to cook. 

Countless ingredients have been purchased, pantry items restocked, all shouting… 

It’s here. 

Yes, that’s right.  The time when all of America dons on the apron and becomes a master chef.  Thanksgiving is that time of year when our inner gourmet, whether galloping or frugal, awakens and we prepare a rich feast for a holiday that echoes the proverbial call of Solomon, where Lady Wisdom personified calls:

Confused about life, don’t know what’s going on?
   Come with me, oh come, have dinner with me!
I’ve prepared a wonderful spread—fresh-baked bread,
roast lamb, carefully selected wines
(Proverbs 9:4-6).

This is no Taco Bell holiday.

This is a holiday that rings of rich preparation.  Of rich understanding.  And as we sup tomorrow on turkeys—brined, fried or smoked—and mashed potatoes—with blue cheese, cheddar cheese or no cheese, Wisdom still calls:  

Leave your impoverished confusion and live!
    Walk up the street to a life with meaning.

This wisdom, that is more precious than rubies, better than the finest gold, is available to all who seek.  As we celebrate the Thanksgiving feast this weekend, may each of us remember the wisdom with which God so limitlessly gives to those who ask of it.     

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Lessons From Moving: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

ImageAs I posted some months ago, this year has been a year of transition for my family and I.  We’ve recently moved from being in the center of suburbia to the edge of it.  And while my proximity to the woods and mountains of southern California is a definite plus (why, yes, that is an AWESOME view out of my bedroom window–thanks for noticing), I don’t think I completely realized all that a move entailed.  Sure, there was the reservation for our U-Haul, collecting boxes to start packing, getting rid of old stuff in our old place, change of address forms with the Postal Service and then getting amazing friends to help us move on the big day (you know who you are and how rockstarish you really are!).   

But the settling in afterwards has been a bit more of a surprise.  Boxes are all gone now.  The new routine is basically set.  But what I’m realizing is how much to a town one learns over time.  In our previous home, we’d lived in the area for about fourteen years.  The nuances of our town and the surrounding towns—known.  The time it takes to go from home to a certain place—known (more or less given southern California traffic).  In this new place, all of these things—and others—are still being learned, and will continue to be so.  And my Type A is showing in that now that we have been here for six weeks, I should have it altogether and figured out, and tied nicely with a bow.  No, friends, the reality of it is that I’m still learning, and even though the surroundings in the previous home were more known, I was in that state of learning even there.

It’s been a reminder to me that all of us are on a journey—one that provides things to see and learn and adapt to along the way.  God’s desire for us is to press into these places of learning, not cower in fear, utilizing all He gives us to our fullest potential. 

The Apostle Paul put it this way to Timothy: “God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible” (2 Timothy 1:7, The Message).  Boldness that helps us push forward with bravery into the unknown, love that brings patience and margin, and sensibility that gives us reason in making the right decisions. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  It took eons, reliance on one’s fellow man and courage.  And moves don’t have to be either.  Wherever your journey has you in transition as of late, take heart, be malleable in your learning and rely on all God provides in the process.  

Parenting in the Digital Age

Readers! It’s been a long time.  Sorry for the absence.  In the midst of this summer, there’s been a lot on my mind.  Here’s the latest….

Not so long ago, I was in elementary school, where watching TV in the summer was a luxury.  My parents were cautious enough to limit our television watching to 5 hours per week (this is today’s equivalent of 1 day of television consumption, while I do realize there is much more internet consumption today as well).  TV was limited even further with a little monetary incentive.  Ten “TV coupons” were issued each week, each good for one-half hour of television watching, which could be redeemed at the end of the week for 50 cents (you could buy a lot more in the late 80s and early 90s for 50 cents than you can now).  Given that an extra $3 per week could be added to my wallet by rationing my television to two Gilligan’s Island reruns and a wonderful episode of The Price is Right with Bob Barker, I was quite frugal in my use of TV coupons, using the extra funds for an ice cream at the lake, a pack of gum, whatever.

Fast forward twenty to twenty five years and I am now raising a little munchkin myself.  My two-and-a-half year old watches streaming video on our computers, will never understand that her parents had to watch a show the afternoon or night it was on or miss it for years to come.  Yes, there was a time that Costco, Amazon or Hulu did not sell multiple series of episodes of Friends, Madmen, or Grey’s Anatomy to name some shows for adults, or Curious George or Dora the Explorer, for more age-appropriate shows related to this blog post.

No, Ellie will not understand those things because the world she is growing up in has multimedia at our fingertips, either wired to the TV or wireless through her parents’ laptops or cell phones.  Recently, as I’ve pondered this topic, I’ve observed kids with their own iPads or Kindles and they are absorbed in them, playing games or drawing virtual pictures.  While I don’t consider myself a techie, I know a thing or two about technology and still I wonder what the long-lasting effect, if any, is on our culture where we readily turn on the boob tube, fire up the laptop to check up with our “friends” on Facebook or watch hours on the television.

And still, the information available to us is amazing in what it lets us see.  Wikipedia is my constant friend for learning about things that would have taken much more effort to learn previously.  Youtube brings about humor like sneezing pandas, and recordings of Mister Rogers and vintage Sesame Street.

I think that as a parent, finding the balance for my child is what is needed.  She needs active, live play with others.  She needs rest from a busy day.  This with learning via the occasional TV program, while learning about the available technology that will be so much more common in her life than mine, is a way to do that alongside other things that stimulate her brain.

In closing, I would love to hear your comments on this topic, dear reader.  How do you see the access to nearly everything via our digital fingertips to be a positive influence in your family?  A negative influence?  And, mostly, how do they impact our ability to connect with one another and with God?  I’d be grateful for your insight.

A Life Well Lived

After announcing a quiet and private battle with cancer just earlier this week, it was announced today that philosopher-theologian Dallas Willard passed away today at 77.  Having heard Dallas a few times in my own studies of Christian spiritual formation, I’m appreciative to have rubbed shoulders with one who is so humble regarding his impact on the lives of so many and who has so fervently longed for each of us to walk hand in hand with Jesus as Savior.

Yesterday, Willard’s son-in-law Bill Heatley posted on Facebook an excerpt from The Divine Conspiracy:

“Those who live in reliance upon the word and person of Jesus, and know by experience the reality of his kingdom, are always better off ’dead,’ from the personal point of view … we live in the knowledge that, as Paul elsewhere says, ’Jesus the Anointed has abolished death and has, through the gospel, made life and immortality obvious.’ (2 Tim 1:10).”

Today, Willard brings this quote to life and does so wholeheartedly.  May we, too, long to be better off dead.

I have greatly desired to share this Passover meal with you

We just came home from our church’s Passover Seder.  Wow–what a treat to celebrate the Passover meal this evening with our friends and church family, the same meal that has been celebrated now for many millenia to usher in the Holy Week!

A few weeks ago, Ellie and I were off to Disneyland for a quick morning trip in the park.  As passholders, it’s a privilege to go to the park for just a quick trip and then back out before naptime.  We set off for Fantasyland, that part of the Magic Kingdom where height restrictions don’t exist and where we can easily find a ride or two for my little two-year-old.  During our last few visits, the Peter Pan ride had either been closed for repairs, had an extremely long line, or as it was one time we waited, the ride malfunctioned just as we were about to get on it.

This ride is one of my favorites.  You’re in a suspended-from-the-ceiling pirate ship that appears to be floating, just as in the movie, allowing you to see the sights below—a miniature London complete with Big Ben, Neverland and a few scenes from Barrie’s story Peter and Wendy.

Needless to say, I was excited to share this ride with my baby girl when we visited.  And so we waited.  As I explained what we would see on the ride, I could see my own excitement and desire in sharing these things with her, in passing on the fun of what awaited us.  There was a fleeting thought of Jesus’ words to His disciples at the Passover meal celebrated tonight:  “I have greatly desired to share this Passover meal with you” (Luke 22).  I have greatly desired to share with you, this.  And this is the picture I had as I waited for the line to go forward, thinking thoughts of “Dear one, it’s almost here.  This ride that I’ve wanted us to go on for some time now.”  So it was similarly for Jesus with His disciples.

Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says that these words of Jesus best translate as “with desire I have desired.” He writes that it is as if “our Lord’s meaning seems to be, that, having purposed to redeem a lost world by his blood, he ardently longed for the time in which he was to offer himself up. Such love did the holy Jesus bear to the human race.”

And so as we love and yearn and desire great things for others, may we have this perspective in mind.  As we enter this Easter season, may we remember that our Lord Jesus willingly—no, longingly—went to the Cross so that He could convey to us something we couldn’t have otherwise.  That is a “wonderful thought” that would lift anyone off the ground.

He is risen!

He is risen indeed!

Calm Trust in the Midst of Uncertainty

looking ahead

As I look to the future, we have some question marks on the horizon related to a new chapter that awaits us down the road.  It could mean moving, saying goodbye to what we’ve counted on for the past several years.  It could simply be a temporary relocation to the other side of town.  In any case, the mere fact that there are questions marks looming is enough to raise some levels of panic in my psyche.

And it’s here that I notice an inner need to begin to control.  To try to bring some stability to the swirling question marks of my current reality.   If you were to talk with some of those around me recently, you might find them saying I’m a bit more irritable as of late.  Whoops!  When you and I don’t have some ability of groundedness, I’m amazed at what can happen as our grasping for some small semblance of normalcy begins to unravel.  Granted, some of this desire is required– we need to know what we can count and we need to know what not to count on.  I need to be able to count on family around me and knowing friends are with me through thick and thin.  But any time we’re given these questions, it’s difficult.  It’s a hard place to be.

This was the reality of the people of Israel as they waited for exile.  They knew from prophets that it would happen.  They just didn’t know when or how.  And so it was here that Isaiah reminded them that “the Lord would be their rear guard,” and the same is for your and me today as well.  As we encounter whatever awaits near those imposing question marks of life, He is there in the midst of it.

And so, this brings about a desire to wait for Him   To wait.  And to trust.  Even though this trust is not full of calm.  No.  Calm implies a lack of excitement or disturbance.  And the mere fact that these question marks exist brings this about—what fun things could await us even with the tentativeness of the current situation? No, calm it definitely isn’t.  But in remembering that the Lord has gone before us, just as Jesus went to Galilee ahead of His disciples, I can look for His presence today.  I can seek Him out and not fear.  And so I trust, clinging to the Cross of Christ.

Merry Christmas!

manger

As each of us celebrates the birth of the Christ Child today with family and friends, I want to wish you a merry Christmas!  I’m so grateful that this newborn Jesus, who was to become our Savior-King, sympathizes with us as well.  Nineteenth-century musician Cecil Alexander said it this way in his song Once in David’s Royal City: 

For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

Jesus is not simply God come to earth, but He came wrapped in our own humble flesh, making His arrival like no other birth beforehand or afterward. In this Christmas season, I pray that you remember the wonder, joy and hope that Jesus brings, made all the more amazing because of His incarnation—His ability to compassionately recognize our struggles, feeling and sharing in the human condition.  And may this knowledge bring you great joy and confidence in the year ahead.  Peace to you and yours!

And the Government Shall Be Upon His Shoulders: A Blog for Advent

In recent weeks, conversation in our home has included words and phrases like “second term,” “fiscal cliff” and “unrepresented.”  And as we’ve entered this time of Advent, it’s been wonderful to focus on something more stable and less unsound than the raising of a debt ceiling, party lines that are supposed to be crossed instead of bickered over, and that uneasy feeling inside that Washington and Sacramento just don’t nor probably can figure it out.

Lest I make my first politically motivated blogpost on Enjoying the Surface, let me share with you this past Sunday’s church service, where the familiar passage in Isaiah 9 was read.  This is the prophet’s passage about the Messiah that would one day come to Israel and save it from evil attacks and raise up a new era of hope and restoration where “the government shall be upon His shoulders.”

What a minute. . . .  Did that passage say “the government?”  Referring to those same ones that can’t ever seem to figure it out in their own wisdom (my southern friends would say insert a “bless their hearts” here)?  “Shall be upon His shoulders”?  What did Isaiah mean here?  Would the coming-soon Messiah be a political leader that would finally end Israel’s political restlessness and restore it to what had been under King David, and then some?  Whoever this Messiah was to be, they were to be radically different than anything Israel, or the nations of the day—or the nations of our day—had ever seen.

There is new life in these words.  Words of hope.  Of longing.  Of a desire for settledness within.  Of a conviction that the desire for wholeness that each of us hold so dear was to be brought to Israel by that long-awaited Messiah.

I find as well that these words of Isaiah are also words of caution—caution about not looking to my fellow man to fix the issues of the day.  For Isaiah, the words were a call to a recently liberated people to not look to their surroundings for their long-term hope.  For us some millennia later, the message is the same.  One’s fellow man cannot provide any sense of security for the long-haul.  Rather, that security can only come from the One for Whom this Advent is all about.

And this is what is so amazing about Advent, about that first Coming of the Messiah.  For that long-term security and hope is found in that helpless Babe born in a manger.  So profound and paradoxical of a birth—the hopes and fears of all the years were met in Him that one night, says the Christmas carol.  Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the “Light of the World” and it is in Him whom we can find a hope that doesn’t go away.  May each of us seek Him in this season.

Look, Dad! The plane! The plane!

The year was 1978. The location was a mysterious island in the Pacific where visitors came to live out all sorts of fantasies at a sort of hotel. The proprietor of this hotel was a Mr. Roarke, whose assistant, Tattoo, would shout, “The plane! The plane!” upon the arrival of these guests by air. And it was here that the episode began. Visitors began to live out things they had only dreamed of—reconnecting with lost friendships, finding large hidden treasures, discovering new parts of themselves they had never realized, and the like.

Fast forward twenty-two years. The year was 2000 and I was in southern California studying at a private Christian university. My summer plans involved a mission trip to Romania and our team of eleven needed our last bit to purchase plane tickets, yet another chunk to cover our costs in-country. As a college student, I’d seen God’s provision before—tuition payments were a regular opportunity for Him to show that He was truly the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills. But this trip was important (didn’t He know that?) and an airfare purchase to Europe for roughly a dozen of us was a bit larger of a purchase than this kid had seen, or made, before. Our travel agent had found us a great deal, lower than we had budgeted for, on KLM, that wonderful Dutch airline with its Smurf-blue planes. Tickets were purchased. Sure enough, that daily Smurf-blue flight was easily spotted from the skies of my school, which happened to be right under the LAX landing path. As we prepared for our trip, the appearance of KLM Flight 601 into Los Angeles was a regular reminder of God’s provision, the fact that I was under His care and that worry was not needed as I lived in His plan.

Fast forward to 2012. This week actually. Living in the same area still, that Smurf-blue flight still makes itself known on a daily basis. And I happen to see it just when I need it most—at a time when I begin to once more doubt God’s goodness, His presence in my life, His protection over me and my family. Then, out of the blue (pun unintended), there it comes. And it’s a reminder just the same as it was before—that God is present, that He is with me, and that He is calling me to things I’ve never dreamed of. For many of the last few years, the appearance of that flight comes just when it’s needed. So, as I wondered this week about what lay ahead for my family as we approach the holidays, property tax bills, a fiscal cliff and the like, I hear my baby girl say to me, “A plane!” as we’re by the window. Could it be? Sure enough, I look up and it’s my Smurf-blue reminder of the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of God, from His care for His children and from the knowledge that I am His.

Now, the fun begins in translating this to my little one, of God’s provision for us, and how He reminds us of it in the most inconspicuous of ways.

Somebody Once Believed Jesus Had a Wife (Repost)

It’s not often that I reblog on Enjoying the Surface but fellow blogger Todd Bolen did a great job in looking more into yesterday’s news about the age-old theory that Jesus had a wife.  He writes:

The problem with today’s headline story is not the discovery of an ancient document that suggests that someone once believed that Jesus had a wife. There were many false and unbiblical teachings in ancient times, just as there are today. The problem is the media can very easily make a minor story into something sensational that appears to threaten historic Christianity. (read more).

The issue here deals with timing of these papyrus fragments.  Todd outlines this in greater detail.