Monday, December 20, 2010

Irresistible Revolution

Started reading this book yesterday, and I haven't been able to put it down. I think everyone needs to read this. Claiborne challenges us to simplify the gospel, living love and being "ordinary radicals." The last page of the introduction says this:

"So this is a book of stories. The things that transform us, especially us "postmoderns," are people and experiences. Political ideologies and religious doctrines just aren't very compelling, even if they're true. And stories disarm us. They make us laugh and cry. It's hard to disagree with a story, much less split a church or kill people over one. And certainly no one hurts others with the passion of those who do it in the name of God, and it's usually over ideologies and doctrines, not stories. Besides, people seem to loosen up after a good story. I think that's why Jesus told so many stories — stories about ordinary first-century Mediterranean life, stories of widows and orphans, debts and wages, workers and landlords, courts and banquets.
Nonetheless, I know this is a risky venture. Dualism has infected the church, a dualism in which folks separate the spiritual from the political or social, as if the political and social issues were of no spiritual significance, and as if God had no better vision to offer this world. These stories, whether from the streets of Philly or the hospitals of Iraq, are political, social and spiritual. The issues we will stir up can be volatile and gut-wrenching. But I think there are enough of us so discontented with the old answers and traditional camps — whether believers or activists, capitalists or socialists, Republicans or Democrats, pacifists or just-warriors — that the risk is worth it. The time has come for a new kind of conversation, a new kind of Christianity, a new kind of revolution."

Stories are powerful. People want something real. That's why I'm so passionate about telling stories... it's about connecting the world through sharing experiences.

I wonder what could happen if we all started living in this ordinary radical kind of way that Claiborne talks about in this book... I'm sure I'll be sharing more tidbits of it with you here, but if you're a reader — and even if you're not — I encourage you to read it as well! Come on, it's Christmas break. You don't have anything else to do with your free time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's the most WONDERFUL time...

It's my favorite time of the year: Christmas. I LOVE Christmas time... it's a free pass to be completely cheesy. I think I might be a distant cousin of Buddy the Elf. I love silly Christmas carols, I love tacky sweaters, I love to put on my footie pajamas and make hot chocolate and watch Christmas movies... the list goes on. But last night, at "Christmas on Campus," the true magic of Christmas hit me during some pretty awesome worship. The funny thing is, we add all of this "magic" to an already magical Christmas story (good job America). I mean, honestly, let's think about this for a second.

Mary. She's a teenager. She's not married. She's a virgin. And she's pregnant. Oh, and that bun in the oven — it's the Son of God. But it gets better! He's born in a BARN. I always thought that expression, "were you born in a barn?" was kind of funny... and anytime anyone asks me that (which seems to happen semi-often considering my lack of lady-like manners) I just say, "so what? Jesus was born in a barn." Haha. But really... I mean, picture that nativity scene you see every year, and then add all the gross stuff they don't actually include. Like poop and stinky animals and dirt. Then put the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE, as a newborn baby, wrapped in cloth, inside a manger. That's how God decided to send our savior. I love that! So ordinary... yet so extraordinary.

In Luke Chapter 2, when telling this story, there's one verse that I think people overlook a lot, but JR pointed it out in church last Wednesday night. Luke 2:19 says, in the midst of the crazy Christmas story, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." I think in the midst of all the madness, with shepherds and wisemen and angels and all that was going on, Mary knew that this was a moment — a simple, seemingly insignificant birth — that would change the world forever. Forever. And she wanted to treasure it.

I'm reading a book right now by one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning. It's called Abba's Child, and the chapter I just finished was focused on being alone with God and really learning to love ourselves when all the noise of our lives and the worldly identities we hide behind are stripped away. He tells a story about a moment when he realized that it's in this alone time with God that he can finally put to rest the noise in his life and realize that God is "the God of ordinary people. The God that grabs scalawags and ragamuffins by the scruff of the neck and raises them up to seat them with the princes and princesses of His people." And then he asks this question:

"Is this miracle enough for anybody? Or has the thunder of 'God loved the world so much' been so muffled by the roar of religious rhetoric that we are deaf to the word that God could have tender feelings for us?"

I wonder if that's what we've let Christmas become. Religious rhetoric. I wonder if we'll take a visit back to that ordinary night in Bethlehem, and stop with Mary to recognize the extraordinary moment. To treasure all of these things up and ponder them in our hearts. I wonder if we'll dare to be alone with God. I wonder if we'll dare to be ordinary. Because friends, ordinariness is extraordinariness. Sit in a room with your family this Christmas and treasure it, and ponder it in your heart as Mary did that night in the stable with Joseph a newborn baby Jesus. Because the reality is that our families are probably a little crazy. But wasn't that night in the stable in Bethlehem crazy? I think God has something to show us in these ordinary, yet crazy moments of our lives... and I hope we'll cherish them this Christmas. I hope that the ordinariness of being with the people you love far outweighs the overdone, overspent, over-Americanized Christmas we've created.

I hope we're all captivated and enthralled by simple yet extraordinary gift that a God, who loves us the MOST of all the things he created, sent to us on Christmas: his son, who would later suffer all the punishment that we would otherwise had to suffer ourselves, so that we could live in freedom. What a beautiful thing!

Today I told a friend of mine that I've really been amazed by the true magic of Christmas lately. I have kind of an infatuation with babies, and I jokingly (but kind of seriously) told her today, "You know how I feel about babies, and we get to worship one this month!" But really, what a sweet thing! To be thankful for the sweet and precious gift of baby Jesus this month. I hope we'll remember that HE is what this month is about. Without the gift of Jesus, what worth would any part of our lives have?

May your Christmas be blessed with ordinariness this year.