The Dreams of Christmas

from sugar plums to . . .

I can remember the dreams of Christmas. They started with the arrival of the Sears Roebuck catalog. Page upon page of wonderful toys stirred my imagination. I knew I couldn’t have all of them and I honed my powers of selectivity.

What one gift would I want? And as importantly, what one gift would meet with my parents’ approval? I would spend hours looking at the pictures, reading the descriptions, and trying to foretell the wonder of having that prized possession within my grasp . . . and I would dream dreams of Christmas.

As I grew a little older, I didn’t fully lose the excitement of “getting.” Let’s just be honest, I still get excited. But my desire has shifted to other things. And my dreams have changed, as well.

I remember the dreams of Christmas. Not just about toys and ties and tools and treats. I remember the dreams of Christmas trees with the smell of  evergreen and even that slightly malodorous scent of electrical magic coming from those bubble lights. I remember the dreams of candy dishes on every surface of my grandmother’s house filled with bitesize packets of sugar and chocolate that were mine for the taking. I remember the smell of my other grandmother’s “pie cabinet” and the incredible bounty of sweet goodness stored within. I remember the dreams of quiet times, lying on the living room floor amid the torn wrapping paper and bows, with family around and content swelling from every corner of the room.

I still have dreams at Christmas. But they aren’t quite the same. My subconscious bypasses the festivities and centers instead on the quiet times — the peaceful times — of being there and having family close by. I dream of having everyone present, even those who have passed on. I dream of having things to talk about, memories to recall, and visions to share.

I still dream at Christmas. Just less of sugar plums and more of why we celebrate.

Merry Christmas! May your dreams come true.



Simple Justice

Recently I was making a visit in a local jail. As I stood in line to request the visit, a young mother came in behind me. I couldn’t help but hear the discussion between her and her daughter.

Photo Credit: Saikano259

“Mom, is this the jail?” she asked.

“Yes, Honey, it is,” the mother replied, accompanied by that nervous laugh that is often heard in awkward spaces.

“Is this where Daddy is?”

“Yes, Honey.”

“Where is he?” the little girl asked, twisting around like a ballerina at the end of her mother’s hand.

“They have him in the back,” Mom said.

“Why did he have to come to jail?” the little girl asked.

Mom hesitated. Nervous laugh. “Well, because he ran a stop sign.”

“Oh,” the little one said and sighed. “Couldn’t Daddy have just told the policeman he was sorry?”

Nervous laugh.

“Sometimes it doesn’t work that way, Honey.” Mom was now bending over her daughter and as I turned away, they shared a big hug.

Sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. Sometimes consequences have to be fully realized. Sometimes justice isn’t as simple as we wish it was. Sometimes things we do can’t be brushed away with a simple apology. When people run stop signs, wreak havoc, take lives, spew hatred . . . they must be held accountable.

Simple justice is a necessary part of a fractured world, yet we can’t afford to let go of the other side. Simple mercy begins with us, in our hearts and in our personal response.

Justice is necessary to bring order and to ensure fairness. But mercy is an essential element in our desire to pursue that order and uphold that fairness. And that makes simple justice complicated.

Justice can force and enforce. Justice can put a stop to things. It is mercy that turns and reshapes troubled moments into something a little bit better.

Dealing with ISIS & All Manner of Evil

we can only start with prayer

Funny, how things that are seemingly disconnected become joined by thoughts and ideas and hopes and dreams — and even nightmares. Yesterday, as I taught a Bible class I touched on the recent tragedies in Paris and Lebanon, and a little further back, in Kenya. And one of the finest men I know asked, “How do we deal with this sort of terrorism — this evil?”

photo credit: MissioChurch

I have some ideas about that. Yet each one has problems and each one perplexes. And each one seems shallow and trivial next to the great problems we face.

And then, I received this gift. A friend of mine who I know, at this point, only through social media shared this prayer from Dr. Richard Beck, my friend and colleague at the university. I read it once. Then, went to my knees to pray it earnestly.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
we tremble before this cup,
give us the strength to drink it,
this: our prayer for our enemies.
And we confess that we are but dust,
we do not have the strength to carry this burden.
So fill us with your Holy Spirit.
May your Spirit intercede for us in this moment.
For nothing draws us to this prayer.
And we confess that we kneel before you
more out of obedience than grace.
Obedience to the one who commanded us to love our enemies
and pray for those who persecute us.
We pray for our enemies because the love of Christ compels us. Father, we pray for our enemies. We pray for ISIS.
And in doing so we face in this moment
the terrible mystery of our faith.
The stumbling block. The scandal of the cross.
Give us your Spirit, Father, so that we will not falter in this,
our great test, to carry the cross.
Give us the strength to carry the burden of this love.
We pray for our enemies. We pray for ISIS.
We pray for their repentance, their conversion and their salvation. We pray, dear Father, that you carry these words,
through your Spirit, to our enemies.
We pray that these words pierce their hearts and
trouble their souls.
Father, may your Spirit move in the hearts of our enemies to hear these words:

Dear brothers, hear the Word of the Lord.
No more. No more.
Dear brothers, repent.
Repent and believe the Good News that the
Kingdom of God is in your midst.
Dear brothers, the Kingdom of God is there
in the faces of those you kill and rape.
Dear brothers, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom you seek, is there
weeping, pleading in front of you.
Dear brothers, can you see it?
Can you see through the lies of the Evil One?
Dear brothers, my God, your God, the God of Abraham,
is a God of peace and love.
So no more, dear brothers, no more.
Do not do this terrible thing.
Repent, and believe the Good News.
We are all children of God.
We are all brothers and sisters.
For God is a God of love.

Father in Heaven, carry these words, by your Spirit  carry these words to our enemies.   Wound them with our love and yours.

Some may ask. Is this all we can do? Is this all we should do?

As painful and difficult as it is, praying for our enemies is what we must do.

Socially Medium

I have to admit that there are times that I would like to close down my social media accounts. To bend a phrase of Winston Churchill, “Never was so much bad said about so few by so many.” It is the ease and spontaneity of social media that makes it so great and so damaging — all at once. In fact, observing the rancor and the vile ideas that are often promoted, I have found myself becoming socially medium.

Photo on 7-13-14 at 7.39 AM


“Socially medium” is the online equivalent of the passive bystander — quietly observing the mayhem of a moment and then slipping unnoticed into the crowd.

I wonder how many of us are out there being socially medium.

Don’t hear this as a call to join the boisterous inanity of those who attribute evil to practically everything. And, you know who you are. Perhaps we all should be thinking about who we are and what we stand for and make sure that we are, indeed, standing.

I know. Being socially medium keeps us out of the controversy and safe from the attacks of others. But being socially medium also allows us to simply not think and never do if we let it become our standard.

A step away from being socially medium takes us to a place where we think, where we explore new ideas and perspectives, and where we become curious. Dialog builds relationships. Relationships build communities. Communities, when bonded over care and concern for others, become the birthing place of all manner of goodness.

Care to join me as I think more, explore more, and feed my curiosity?