Lays His Glory By

Jesus and manger.jpg

We attended a local Christmas Eve service last night – thankfully, no bats in the sanctuary –  and sang “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. Not the first time we’ve sung it, and probably won’t be the last. You know the song:

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king…

Now you have the Charlie Brown Christmas version in your head, right? Admit it.

The team last night, either on purpose or by mistake, changed the words. The third verse says:

Hail the Heav’n-born 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!”

But we sang “mild he lays his glory by” for the second verse, too. It bothered me. Not just because the words were wrong, though for the life of me I couldn’t remember the right ones. Just an old Episcopalian here, folks, singing hymns and carols for most of her natural-born life. Anyway, then it hit me in the gut.

Mild he lays his glory by…

We don’t lay our glory by in any mild fashion. No. When we run the 100-yard dash in 6 flat, everyone knows. If we sing for the queen, Instagram lights up. If we get all As, it’s the biggest news since the moon landing. We celebrate our successes, and well. And that’s not all bad.

That wasn’t Jesus’ path. He let his deity rest in human flesh. It was enough. He didn’t strive. He didn’t self-promote. No paparazzi lined up for shots of the manger or the bewildered parents. He let his life unfold into being the King of kings and Lord of lords. It was enough to be humble and join us in our humanity.

Today, I am grateful. All 4 of us are home and soon the house will be filled with family and friends. It’s weird to be home on a Wednesday to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Not going to lie. But maybe Jesus was born in the middle of the week, too, awkward for everyone in the short-term. Yet what an eternal blessing to us all.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  – Isaiah 9:6

 

Hoofing it, Part 2

 

Cocoon(source)

I went back to Dr. B. yesterday. As I opened the lobby door, it felt like a scene from the movie Cocoon. The place was wall-to-wall ancients of days. One guy sat in a wheelchair, connected to oxygen. A woman in a periwinkle coat inched her way on a wheeled walker to her seat. Ever so slowly, with tiny steps, she turned herself around and sat down.

“You made it!” said another man, thin and well into his 90s, sitting with his knees practically in his chest. His bald head shone under his baseball cap. A shorter, white-haired man checked in ahead of me. I took a deep breath. It felt like a glimpse of my future. A little frightening, to be sure.

I scooted around the lady and sat in the corner to wait. A large man in his 50s came and sat adjacent to me. The baseball-capped man addressed him.

Then a general conversation about the Seahawks ensured.

“Wish they didn’t keep Williams (name changed to protect the guilty because I didn’t catch it). He has too much baggage,” one man harrumphed.

“Well, I am glad they kept him. Even with the baggage,” said large man. So there!

Then a pause.

“What are you reading?” baseball-capped man asked large man.

Large man, also with a baseball cap (try to keep up!) showed him the cover.

The nonagenarian mumbled it to himself.

“So you’re a radio operator?” he asked.

“Yes. I’m going for another certification. Trying to learn more.”

“I was a radio operator in ’41,” said the older man. “I kept at it until ’45.”

“Oh. You were in the great conflict,” said large man, his tone indicating polite interest.

“Yes. I trained on it and then had to take an electronic test. Never learned that system, so it was difficult.”

I must confess this is where I tuned out. Dear reader, I grew up on war stories. I’ve had my fill.

At this point, wheelchair man piped up loudly.

“I want to learn how to do radio. I know there’s a group at Panorama. I live there.”

“Oh, I live there, too,” said the WWII vet. “I just haven’t been able to make it because of all my chapel activities,” he mused.

“Oh, I want to go to chapel, too,” said wheelchair man. “But I don’t know where that is, either. Someone needs to show me.”

“They have people to give tours. I can get someone for you,” said the vet.

“Oh, that would be great!” wheelchair man gushed. “I broke my leg and I’m in here for r-r-rehab.”

Pause.

“What’s your name?” wheelchair man asked the vet.

“Potter. POTTER. Lester Potter.”

“Oh, my name’s Simon. And this is Holt”, he gestured to the man pushing the wheelchair.

At this point, an assistant came out and directed her attention to Lester.

“Your wife is having a procedure done. She’ll be out in a few minutes.”

“Is it legal?” quipped Lester.

The nurse smiled. “Yes.”

Lester gave the thumbs-up sign.

Finally, they called me. I bolted out of there with all speed. I only have a 1-hour lunch, and almost half of it was gone already.

When the doctor came in, he admired my Mickey Mouse bandage. He told me the reoccurrence of pain was due to the inflammation battling the cortisone shot.

“You’ll probably need one more after this, then the inflammation will be cured.”

Cured? I liked the sound of that, though not the sound of another foot poke. I told him I went to Road Runner Sports in Kent and got new shoes and custom-molded orthotics. He wasn’t impressed.

“Those don’t really work he said,” mentioning that they correct the problem but don’t put your foot in a neutral position like custom orthotics.

“Good luck with that,” he said, rolling his eyes.

This time, the needle went I swear to my bone. I voluntarily looked up at the ceiling light, this time covered with tropical fish. Cool. I could think about scuba diving. He kept up a steady stream of banter as he plunged. I took deep breaths and stayed focused on the conversation.

He bandaged up the site and told me it wouldn’t hurt today, but would start to over the next couple days, just from the shot. I nodded. Familiar territory. Got the bruise to prove it. I did ask if I could get someone to carry me around for awhile.

“Could I get a palanquin?” I asked.

He laughed.

“I’ll write something up.”

Hey, you never know if you don’t ask.

As I left the clinic, I considered the lobby exchange between Lester and the other patients. Maybe I got it all wrong. Lester didn’t glorify his time in the service and he reached out to others. He reminded me of my dad in that way. Despite their obvious pain and failing bodies, Simon and Lester kept good attitudes. It was obvious to me they were both believers. There’s something to be said for keeping your hearts and minds on Jesus all your life. You come through life a victor even as your body disintegrates. After all, our attitude is all we can control in this life.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

 

Friday Fast Pitch

Good morning! I know I haven’t written in awhile. Let me catch you up.

  • Microsoft PACs were last week. I had a new group, with all new faces. I swam in a sea of acronyms and accents. Then I got out of the water and back to work.
  • This week, we’re down one PM (out on medical leave), and my co-worker is on vacation. I’m lone-rangering it. Not too bad, but keeping busy.
  • My foot hurts. Really bad. I’ve done something to it. Running, unfortunately, doesn’t help it. Going in to see the doctor next week. Might get in today, if there’s a cancellation.
  • We had our Easter services last week. Those of us who brought the music got blessed by the Holy Spirit and the great turnout. It felt like a huge party! Jonathon did a bang-up job designing a brand new set and lighting.
  • Ruby’s home on spring break this week. I stayed home with her on Monday. I asked if she wanted to bake something. She shook her head no. We made chicken noodle soup from scratch at her request.
  • Zac’s spring break was last week. He took care of the animals and the house while we were gone to Seattle. We watched “The Matrix”. Again. I guess it’s a favorite of his. Zac’s out of school April 27, finishing his freshman year of college. What?! New adventures await.

As spring moves on, I find myself grateful for the longer glimpses of sun and warmer temps. Jesus does heal us. Time helps, too. Life blossoms again in fresh and different ways. Let me remember to define myself by who I am in Christ first and foremost.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

I watched a Facebook video yesterday. It’s this one. Sorry I can’t get it to link any better. It’s not long. 

https://www.facebook.com/100001282700764/videos/1731994506853289/https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F100001282700764%2Fvideos%2F1731994506853289%2F&show_text=0&width=560

I teared up. Yes, Lord, where have you been? I cried inside. Why don’t you answer me when I call? On and on the laments went. “It’s not me, it’s you, God.”

Ouch.

Then…God’s response. It crushed me. And it convicted me. Where have *I* been?

Have I been spending the time necessary to maintain the relationship? I think most days I read my assigned portion of the Bible, accepting it’s enough daily bread. I get the box checked. I pray a few token prayers about the top-of-mind needs or struggles, then I’m off to feed the hairy horde and sweat before getting ready for work.  Catch ya later, God!

Obviously, it’s not enough. I’ve coasted. I’ve relied on time in corporate worship at church and fellowship with other believers to fill in the gap. That’s not getting it done. The gap remains. Yes, I pray on the way to and from work. Sometimes, I even sing. Gotta do something during that half hour, right? I pray during the day as needs arise. I thank the Lord for his blessings as they hit me and I search often to verbalize them. I’m not writing this to add one more thing to your to-do list. Believe me, that’s the last thing I want or need for myself, let alone anyone else.

Time. It’s the four-letter word that speaks volumes. If this is going to be a relationship and not religion, I can’t rely on Jesus to carry the whole thing. That’s not a give and take. That’s only me taking. In Christianese, I’ve drifted from my first love. What am I doing to deepen intimacy and strengthen our bond? Tithing is the standard, the beginning of surrendered giving. Attending church helps. Where is the “more”?

I’ve been a Christian for more than 30 years. I know I can’t earn God’s favor or save myself. Jesus died on the cross to reunite me with the Father. I’m already the apple of God’s eye (Psalm 17:8). In the past, I’ve struggled with a performance mindset. Perfection, the carrot just out of reach, drew me to chase. I know now I’ll never attain it, not in this life. So what now? How do I move forward in this new understanding?

I think what the Lord wants from me is just more abiding. I don’t know how (yet) to eke that out, but in any friendship – and Jesus calls us friends – time together enhances affinity. I want to be more like Jesus. I want to be so close we breathe in and out together. But that doesn’t happen by wishing. It takes time.

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

This is Us

We started watching it on a whim. It popped up in our Hulu feed.  I have read the hype and seen snippets of the show. I’ve avoided it. I can say, from the bottom of my heart, that I detest hype. The more PR a show/person/band/event gets, the more I want out. Call me jaded if you like. I don’t care. Too much pushy hoopla turns me off.

But this show caught me. The characters (who knew Mandy Moore had such range?) and their foibles, their regular-people struggles, and their small victories got under my skin. I found myself tearing up at nearly every episode. The story of The Big Three, which is actually a Nixon reference, made me laugh.

If you haven’t watched the series yet, I’ll give you a little background. Three children, born on the same day in 1980: Kate, Kevin, and Randall Pearson, form the nexus of the storyline. Kate and Kevin are twins. The third of the “Big Three” – original triplets – died in utero. Randall is adopted by the parents, Jack and Rebecca Pearson. I should mention the timeline jumps back and forth from 1970s-1980s and back to the present, filling in gaps in the characters’ histories. Sidenote: This is one of the few shows where the dad doesn’t come across as an inept moron. He gets to be a real loving, masculine person who speaks into his children’s lives. At least as far as we’ve watched, which is most of the first season. So if that changes in Season 2, don’t tell me!

What I love about the show is that the actors show you why they did what they did. There isn’t a lot of talking and pedantic explaining, not a lot of Agatha Christie-style denouement. You find out how Randall came into the Pearson family. The sibling dynamics come to light. The mother-daughter relationship dance between Kate and Rebecca unfolds as we flash back to Kate’s girlhood. Sometimes, we even get glimpses of Jack and Rebecca’s childhoods.

Do I agree with everything on the show? No. I don’t. Ruby watches it with us, and we talk about the characters and their actions. Not everything anyone does lines up with the best choices. Also, I remember thinking the title was too…lame. Too simple. It seemed like nobody tried. They pulled random show titles out of a ratty hat.

Why is this show’s style of portraying people important? Because people don’t jump up at birth and say, “I’m going to be a jerk to everyone I meet, just because!” We have been shaped by our experiences. In fact, we are never done being shaped, good or bad.

This-Is-Us.jpg

Really, if we’re honest, we should probably be announcing this whenever we enter a room. “Greetings! This is me. I’m a product of the attitudes, actions and circumstances of my life up until this very moment. Some may be readily apparent as you interact with me. Some may crop up later. Regardless, this is what you get. Peace!” Like WYSIWYG of old.

Only, if you’re a believer, that’s not all. Your spirit has surrendered to Jesus’ sacrifice for you. You’ve recognized your sin, and what its cost you and others. You’ve attended (hopefully) a healthy, worshiping body of Christ. You’ve rubbed shoulders with other believers. You’ve read your Bible and worshiped. The Holy Spirit has cut out some diseased bits. Jesus has healed up your patched together, duct-taped broken heart. You’ve been forgiven, and have forgiven others. Your love for Jesus has changed your perspective and given you hope for others and yourself. You find yourself washed new every morning because of His mercies. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Bonus if you’ve discovered shards of destiny, shiny under your feet, as you walk every day with Jesus.

Is “This is Us” the best show ever? No. But it makes me fall in love with people, in all our beautiful brokenness, again and again. I have hope for us – all of us. And isn’t that the point?

 

Jacques Cousteau Lives

Jacques Cousteau

Today, we went scuba diving for the first time. I may have mentioned this before, but one of my childhood heroes was Jacques Cousteau. I loved watching his documentaries on public television. The underwater ballet of graceful scuba divers, following the trail of whales or sharks or manatees, mesmerized me. Cousteau preached a message of environmental protection about this magical underworld he loved, which in turn made me love it, too.

So you can imagine how frustrated I was when I finally got the gear on and couldn’t master the simple exercises to eject water from my regulator and mask.

“You can do it,” our teacher, Jesus, told me. He’d been diving for 25 years. I hoped he was right.

All of Jesus’ instructions, from “this is your tank gauge” to “people’s lungs explode” swirled in my head. How would I ever keep all the buttons straight? And the tank on my back kept shifting from side to side every time a wave passed by. I stood up, bracing my flippers against the sea floor. We stood facing each other in 4 feet of water.

“Just relax,” Jesus urged.

Right. Cause that’s a strength.

I took a breath and tried again. Jesus pressed the button to let air out of my jacket. I sank 2 feet into the water onto my knees. I took the regulator out of my mouth and blew out small bubbles. Then I put it back in and pressed the front button to expel any extra water. Yes! Now, the snorkel mask. I put two fingers above my eyebrow line and tipped the mask. I blew out with my nose, sending any extra water there packing. Aha! I did it! Jesus signaled ‘up’ with his thumb.

“You did it!” he said. I think he was as relieved as I was.

I should mention Jonathon got these exercises on the first try. Typical.

But Jonathon didn’t like being so far under water he couldn’t surface whenever he wanted. He swam around in the shallow area face down, like me, getting used to the equipment and going a little deeper. That’s all he wanted to do. He didn’t want to go where his feet didn’t touch the sand.

“I think we’re even,” Jonathon said to me with a knowing look. He meant Haleakala, of course. That was our infamous 20th anniversary trip where we biked the volcano on Maui. The bike ride was the one thing Jonathon, bike rider aficionado from way back, lover of the Tour de France, really wanted to do. I agreed because I thought, how hard could it be? I know how to ride a bike. Boy, was I misinformed. Jonathon whipped down the switchbacks in the pouring rain and I…crashed. Crying, humiliated and soaked through, I got picked up by the “sag wagon” once we were down towards the bottom. I put on some waterproof pants and regrouped. Jonathon met up with me in a small town on the flats and we biked the rest together. I gritted my teeth the whole time and prayed a lot. I should mention I haven’t been on a bike since.

I could hardly blame him for not enjoying scuba diving. Jesus and I set out together, him holding my hand in order to keep me from getting too far away. I told him at the beginning that Jesus was a big name to live up to, yet he didn’t disappoint. As we sank into the watery depths, I mused that having Jesus by my side was a huge advantage, both literally and spiritually.

I breathed in short breaths and exhaled longer ones, like I was told. Fish of all kinds swirled around us. Jesus pointed out a king crab hiding in a cave. We got closer and it snapped its claws at us. We were in the aquarium, so to speak, on their turf now. As we passed fish, they turned up on their sides to peek at us. Of course, one has to see somehow, even without a neck.

We surfaced and the boat picked us up. I had one tank left and Jonathon would stay in the boat with Louis while Jesus and I headed out to a 40-foot area. The boat chugged out through cerulean seas. We moved further from the shore, out where even the tallest person couldn’t touch bottom.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go?” Jesus asked Jonathon.

Jonathon shook his head.

“No, this isn’t my thing,” he said, shaking his head. He sat contentedly in the boat.

“Okay, we’re gonna drift,” Jesus told me. I nodded, but had no idea what that meant.

“We’re gonna start over there.” He pointed out to an open spot. I could sense nothing to distinguish it from any other spot, but I had to trust Jesus. Again.

We loaded up again and fell off the side of the boat. Down, down, full fathoms five we went. He admonished me to swim lengthwise, not all bunched up. I stretched out, the tank bobbing against my back. I kicked my flippers and breathed. We soared over coral of purple, brown, orange and green. Some of it grew like tree branches. Some looked like large urns.

Jesus tugged my hand. He pointed to the right of us. He made a snapping jaw motion with his fingers. Barracudas, a school of 5 silver torpedos, watched us as they glided past. Eek. Just keep swimming…

Jesus lowered us to the sandy floor. He started playing in the sand. I did, too. The pinkish colored stuff was rough with shells and small stones. He motioned for me to stop. Communication underwater leaves something to be desired. He pointed out a line in the sand. He started digging. He dug up an enormous sand dollar. I’d never seen one before, not alive anyway.

We came upon some creatures that looked like large insects. Three lobsters lurked in a cave. They kept many a close eye on us. We passed parrot fish and fish of every color in the rainbow. I saw one very tiny fish bury itself in the sand, only its eyes visible, a miniature master of disguise. A sting ray soared to our right.

black durgon

Black durgon

I could have stayed down there forever, but I started to get cold. I held on a bit longer. I hoped I would warm up with some more motion. Nothing doing. I gave Jesus the ‘up’ sign. He made sure I wanted to do that. We had to pressurize ourselves, stopping at 15 feet for 3 minutes before we could get all the way to sunlight again.

We popped into the waves and light. I pushed my mask up.

“Why did you want to come up? Did you get cold?” He looked at me with concern. I could tell from his voice that he didn’t want to come up either. The peace and quiet had a hold on him, too.

“Yes,” I said. Plus I was getting tired. I had used ¾ of my tank’s air anyway.

We got back into the boat. Louis sped back to shore. I consider myself blessed to have had the one-on-one attention I got, and from Jesus, no less. I guess I did 2 dives, almost halfway to diver certification, if I choose to pursue it. Even now, I feel the pull of the sea. I just might do it.

barracuda

Barracuda

Running on Full

full tank gauge

(source)

I stepped out the back door onto the damp ground. The sky lightened as I turned left onto the main drag. Up, up the hill and then straight on until the road ends.

My legs kept up. The hitch in my right hip made a brief guest appearance, then bowed and left the stage. I realized, not for the first time, how fully integrated running and mental health are.

The sky to my left turned a mesmerizing shade of blush. I passed McDonald’s, Oil Can Henry’s, Happy Teriyaki. I ran up the slight hill to where the highway meets the road. I stopped for a moment to breathe and to think.

I haven’t been surrendered. I’ve wanted things my own way. I haven’t responded well to criticism, justifying my response due to its harsh delivery. But in the end, does it matter? Does someone else’s opinion of me change who I am in Christ? Does it negate the gifts He has given me? Do I trust God to keep me in the worst circumstances, or do I try to fix things? “God, I don’t like the direction we’re heading. Here, I’ll take the reins. I know a better way.”

No. I can’t do that.

Yes, I can pray for things to change. And I do that. I seek His wisdom and understanding all the time. I want to speak words of encouragement and kindness. I want to call out the good. But I can’t change people. That’s not my gig. I can’t manipulate scenarios and force people into my mold, good though that mold may be.

I let it all go – the misunderstandings, the bad attitudes, the ugly accusations. I breathed it all out. The air, laden with fragrant flowers, filled my lungs as I inhaled. Peace accompanied it. I put myself squarely in God’s hands,  the only truly safe place. I ran back down the hill to home.

By this we know what love is: Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. – 1 John 3:16