Jesus

Why Is Santa so Jolly?

Why Is Santa so Jolly?

My wife asked if I could write a children’s story for our kids this Christmas. I came up with the following, titled "Why Is Santa so Jolly?" To Sawyer, Vivi, Mimi, and Amelie:

Christmas is such a wonderful time of year,

Filled with decorations, singing, and cheer.

But have you ever stopped and looked at all those twinkling lights,

And wondered why does Santa come in the night?

Why does he stick presents under a tree?

A Pusher, a Shaker, a Wondrous Plan Maker

A Pusher, a Shaker, a Wondrous Plan Maker

“What’s your plan?” Perhaps my least favorite question in the world.

I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of guy, so the idea of sitting down to plan makes me cringe. It is contrary to my very nature. But there’s also another element of plan making that I dislike: the fact that life has a peculiar habit of blowing up plans in your face.

Like that time I planned a trip to Maine – the lobster capital of our great country – only to have the first shellfish allergic reaction of my life the week prior. Or that time I planned to bring the family to Chik-fil-A after church on Sunday (recurring problem). Or that time that I planned to fix the leak below our bathroom sink without turning off the water supply to the house (okay, that was just poor planning).

A Selfless Shepherd Snapping A Selfie

A Selfless Shepherd Snapping A Selfie

Abbott finished ushering the last of the sheep into the pen and snapped the door shut. With a satisfied smile, he threw his arm around the neck of one of his sheep. Pulling his smart phone out of his pocket, he extended his arm and snapped a couple of selfies. “Oh yeah…I’m b-a-a-a-a-d!” A sudden blurb of movement out of the corner of his eyes caught his attention. Phone dropping to his side, he squinted at the figure walking towards him, silhouetted against the backdrop of the blazing sun. It was Jesse’s son.

“Hey David, what’s up man?” Abbott called out with a cheerful smile.

“Hey Abbott...I need to ask you a favor.” David’s serious tone matched the concern streaked across his face.

“Uh...sure man. What’s up?” Abbott replied. Where is this going?

An Amazing Sight, an Even Better Message

An Amazing Sight, an Even Better Message

“Elek!” Abdiel whispered, shaking the dozing shepherd’s shoulder violently. Elek responded by snoring louder, a stream of drool pooling in his scraggly beard. “Elek!” Abdiel hissed louder, smacking Elek across the back of the head. “..mhama….what?” Elek sputtered. He sprung forwards, away from the oak tree he had been using as a backrest. His hand shot to the spot where Abdiel slapped him.

“What is that?” Abdiel demanded.

“What’s what?” Elek retorted, rubbing his head.

“That!”

Abdiel pointed to the cloaked figure passing through the sheep in the field, silhouetted by the backdrop of a full moon. Elek scrambled to his feet, gripping his rod. “Who goes there?” He declared into the night, spooking a couple of the nearby sheep.

The Lego Movie and Our Desire to Be "Special"

The Lego Movie and Our Desire to Be "Special"

Emmet Brickowski is just a regular guy. In fact, he’s so regular, that coworkers and neighbors struggle to piece together any distinguishing features to describe him: “Yeah, he’s kind of your average, normal, kind of guy. But you know, he’s not…he’s not like normal like us. No, he…he’s not that special.” (Barry, The Lego Movie)

“You know, he’s just sort of a…little bit of a…blank slate, I guess” (Larry the Barrista, The Lego Movie)

“We all have something that makes us something, and Emmet is…nothing.” (Randy, The Lego Movie)

But all that changes when Emmet stumbles across the “piece of resistance to the Kragle” (the top to a tube of Krazy Glue in which the z,y, and u have rubbed off). He is subsequently arrested under the tyrannous regime of President Business and is about to be melted when he is rescued by a mysterious girl named “Wyldstyle”. Emmet – utterly clueless to everything that is happening – is questioned by Wyldstyle:

Thanksgiving, a Trampoline, and a Contagious Spirit of Gratitude

Thanksgiving, a Trampoline, and a Contagious Spirit of Gratitude

This Thanksgiving, I can’t help but reflect on one of my favorite home videos – in which my son is jumping on the trampoline with his baby sister. The dialogue goes as follows: Sawyer: “Mommy, tank you for getting me a baby.”

Caroline: “Where do you think we got her?”

Sawyer (without a moment’s hesitation): “At the gwocery staw.”

Besides being insanely cute, there’s a few nuggets about the nature of thanksgiving buried in the exchange:

Jesus Wants to Hang Out with You in Heaven - He Said So Himself

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One of the many passages of Scripture that floors me when I read it is John 17:20-24. The verses are chalked full of more theological principles then I could possibly hope to address with my limited knowledge, but I would love to share how and why it speaks to me – chiefly that I can point to it as a historical moment in time that Jesus prayed for me. I find that most places throughout the Gospels, we absorb the words of Jesus through a sort of transplantation, taking what Jesus is speaking to His disciples and supplanting its applicability to ourselves – and rightly so. What I find neat in John 17, however, is the specificity with which Jesus calls out his future believers (of which I am one):

 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message." (John 17:20 NLT)

Alright, Jesus, you’ve got my attention.

So what is he praying for? That’s where it gets really interesting:

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you…” (John 17:21 NLT)

He wants us all to be one. Sounds like a nice Hallmark card, but is it feasible? How, for instance, could LSU fans and Alabama fans possibly bridge the impassable ravine of football rivalry? This is accomplished not through our own power, but through the glory of Christ working within us:

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me." (John 17:22 NLT)

So, Jesus...what do you want this to look like?

"May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:23 NLT)

Wow. Let that sink in. Jesus is calling us to experience harmonious perfection to the point that God’s infinite love will be self-evident to those that see it. Talk about a gut check.

Why does Jesus want this? Why does Jesus want us to make known to the world that he was sent so "that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life?"[1]  That’s what even more amazing about his next declaration:

"Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!” (John 17:24 NLT)

He wants this…because he wants to spend eternity sharing his glory with us in heaven.

Boom. Jesus wants to hang out with you in Heaven. It’s right there in writing. He said so himself!

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] John 3:16

 

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Note: we are an affiliate of Christian Book Distributors and may earn a small commission for any purchases made through the above link

Hurrication

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With another tropical disturbance barreling towards the Gulf of Mexico this past weekend, we packed up and headed out… to the beach. That probably seems like a strange choice, but we had the vacation planned and to be fair, at the time of the decision all the projections for the storm were aimed at the heart of New Orleans. So Thursday night we all crammed into the minivan, handed out the kids’ amazon fires (our DVD player has been rendered useless due to the countless coins shoved into the slot), and took off towards the panhandle of sunny Florida. Destination: condo in Navarre. Friday was fun. Though the ocean was too rough to enter, we still managed to squeeze in a relaxing day of playing in the sand and swimming in the pool. Anxiety levels grew that evening, however, as the projected path of Hurricane Nate crept eastward towards Mobile Bay and Pensacola.

Saturday morning we faced an uncomfortable decision. Though it looked like we would be okay in Navarre, any drastic last minute shift in the storm could put us in a bind. Rather than take the risk of losing power with three toddlers, we decided to buy cheap insurance in the form of a hotel room a little further east in Panama City – just in case. Thus commenced a weird day of watching the kids swim in freezing pool in the rain (while dealing with a pesky virus) that ultimately culminated in the five of us crammed into one bed with my son waking up and puking on my wife in the middle of the night while wind and rain pelted the window. It was a strange vacation.

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Sunday morning we headed back to Navarre – a pit stop on the way back towards New Orleans. Nate was travelling so fast that the eye of the storm was already far to our north, though remnants of high gusts and heavy rain remained on the backside (the storm’s hiney we deliriously told Sawyer, giggling in sleep deprivation). We arrived just before noon.

The sight on the beach was breathtaking – ferocious waves pounding the pier, ocean rabidly foaming at the mouth. It was picturesque scene of the unbridled power of nature. It probably wasn’t too far off from a stormy situation that Jesus’s disciples faced crossing the Sea of Galilee:

Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27 NLT)

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By Rembrandt - www.gardnermuseum.org : Home : Info : Pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6812612

“Anglican clergyman John Clowes commented that by asking the question ‘Why are you so afraid?’, Jesus was asking his disciples to explore in their own minds the cause and origin of fear, so they would realize that all fear has its roots in natural affection and thought, separate from spiritual affection and thought.”[1]

Fear is not of God:

youversion

Let’s break that down a little further.

 

Power

As if the power a storm wields isn’t hard enough to comprehend, imagine the power required to STOP one in its tracks. Oh, and that raging ocean? God can fit it in the palm of his hand:

“Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?” (Isaiah 40:12 NLT)

 

Love.

No love is greater than that which is purely unconditional.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8 NLT)

Enough said.

 

Self discipline.

In relation to the wonderful mystery of the incarnation in which he is both fully God and fully man, Jesus faced very real temptations – and emerged the vanquishing victor.

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15 NLT)

 

God is powerful. God is love. God is without blemish. And if we abide in Christ, God will work those qualities through us.

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

On a side note - I cannot wait for this hurricane season to come to an end.

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calming_the_storm#cite_note-8

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Note: we are an affiliate of Christian Book Distributors and may earn a small commission for any purchases made through the above link

 

"Tweeting" About Marriage

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We’ve got cardinals all over our backyard (the little red birds, not Catholic senior ecclesiastical leaders). While watching one of these little birds fly back and forth to the same spot in our yard, we discovered a nest wedged in between the branches of one of our hedges. Grabbing a step ladder (a short man’s favorite tool), I clambered up the steps to peer inside. Within the layers of pine straw were three quivering, little baby birds with (comparatively) large mouths hanging open. They might as well have had FRAGILE stamped across their tiny bird heads.

I lifted up each of my excited children to show them the baby birds. This soon degenerated into a screaming match of “My turn! My turn!” until we imposed a break for the mother cardinal – who was hovering around nearby, looking a little distressed.

The distractions of life sank in and we did not return to check on the baby birds until a few days later… only to find that they were gone.

As I looked up from my perch on the step ladder, my wife instantly recognized the look on my face: “I don’t want to know.” She said, turning her head. Immediately changing her mind, she looked back up at me and asked “Are they gone?”

I shook my head yes. Despite us both immediately jumping to the conclusion that they were devoured by a cat, I decided to look up when cardinals leave their nest upon a sliver of hope. The answer astonished me – just 10 days! I couldn’t believe those frail little birds could turn into something even remotely close to leaving the nest in that timeframe. In my research I also stumbled across another neat fact: cardinals mate for life.

“Pairs mate for life, and stay together year-round. Mated pairs sometimes sing together before nesting. During courtship they may also participate in a bonding behavior where the male collects food and brings it to the female, feeding her beak-to-beak. If the mating is successful, this mate-feeding may continue throughout the period of incubation.”[1]

Guys – when’s the last time you sang with your wife and fed her mouth to mouth? Clearly I’m slacking.

The little cardinal fellas help out their ladies in a couple of other areas too:

“Males sometimes bring nest material to the female, who does most of the building” and while “female generally incubates the eggs, though, rarely, the male will incubate for brief periods of time.”

Reading about the cardinals working to help each other out in this way brought Scripture to my mind – specifically God’s declaration over Adam in the Garden of Eden.

In Genesis 2:18, God looks at his creation and declares (in the KJV), It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”

Eh? Come again? A help meet? Must be that weird old English language.

In Hebrew the words are:  ‘ê·zer kə·neḡ·dōw [עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ׃ [2

Ezer – meaning “help.”[3]

Kenegdow – stemming from root neged (נֶ֫גֶד), meaning “in front of, in sight of, opposite to.”[4]

When I look at this combination of “opposite” and “help,” it helps me understand the NLT position: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’”(emphasis added).

My wife is a divinely given compliment to my incompleteness. Wow. I’d like to say that I always hold that reverence for marriage but some days it just seems like my wife and I are speaking two completely different languages.

For instance, she told me the other day, "Go to the store and buy a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, buy a dozen." I couldn’t understand why she was so mad when I came home with 12 loaves of bread.

Okay, so that was just a joke I found on the internet, but it definitely has a ring of truth about it. The question is, why? Why did God design us to be "half-finished" with such inherent differences?

I think Gary Thomas hits the nail on the head when he posed the question, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”[5] Not that marriage isn't a terrific source of happiness - it is! But there is something much more significant that comprises the driving force.

I have found that by seeking to bridge communication boundaries and striving to meet one another’s needs, we have grown in ways we simply could not have done without the incredible gift of marriage. There is also no denying that my wife has been uniquely positioned in my life to bring out the most in me, Her strengths fill in the gaps created by weaknesses, and I like to think my strengths do likewise for her.

Corny joke alert: Thank you, cardinals, for “tweeting” that reminder of the treasures stored within a biblical marriage!

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

Note: Out of curiosity, I thought I’d look up the worst example of a biblical marriage in the animal kingdom. It would be hard to top the praying mantis, considering the female bites off the male’s head during reproduction.[6]

 

[1] Northern cardinal. (2017, July 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:36, August 14, 2017

[2] http://biblehub.com/interlinear/genesis/2-18.htm

[3] http://biblehub.com/hebrew/5828.htm

[4] http://biblehub.com/hebrew/5048.htm

[5] https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/31970.Gary_L_Thomas

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantis

 

If you would like to take a closer look at the Gary Thomas book referenced in this article, you can do so by clicking on the affiliate link in the picture below. Should you choose to make a purchase, a small commission will go towards supporting the efforts of this blog. There are several other products and resources that I have found helpful in navigating the waters as a Christian and a parent. You can check these out on the Fervent Recommendations page. 

 

The Tone of a Shepherd's Voice

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Following the miracle feeding of the five thousand in Matthew 14, Jesus sends his disciples across the Sea of Galilee while he remains behind to pray. Along the way, a substantial storm develops, buffeting the boat with wind and waves. In the night, the terrified disciples spot a figure walking towards them. After Jesus announces himself, Peter challenges his Lord to confirm his identity by asking Peter to walk towards him. Jesus does so and Peter climbs out of the boat, miraculously walking on top of the waves – until he averts his gaze to the terrors of the storm and plunges into the sea. “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31).

Now stop and ask yourself – what did Jesus sound like in your head when you read that?

Did you hear, “How darest thou doubt my sovereign divinity as you traversed over the waves in a physically impossible feat that I mercifully orchestrated!”

Or do you hear something more along the lines of, “Bro… come on…you know that I got you. I’ve always got you.”

…What is the right way to read it?

You know what? I’m not sure if I can answer that question. As someone who has been diligently spending time attempting to enhance their theological knowledge, that it is a rather difficult thing for me to admit.

Think about it though. What was it like to have a conversation with God in His incarnate flesh?

After simply having Jesus over for dinner, Zacchaeus – the notorious tax collector in Jericho – vowed to sell off half his wealth to the poor and spend his life making restitutions for all his wrong doings.[1] I think that’s a pretty clear testimony for the radical power Jesus commanded as a conversationalist.

And why not? Every time a particle of speech leaves his lips, the intentional word of God is spoken. That fact makes it vitally important to hear the correct emotion in his written voice – the joy, the sadness, the seriousness, the humor[2]. Take, for instance, his employment of exaggerations and puns:

 “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24).

Translating the phrase into Aramaic – the common language that Jesus spoke – reveals an apparent word play between gnat (qamla) and camel (gamla).[3] Taking this interpretation, one finds Jesus deliberately including a pun as he grills the Pharisees and scribes for being hypocrites.

When I read the rest of his speech, it is easy for me to visualize passionate condemnation as Jesus spits out labels such as “snakes” and “brood of vipers”. The scene takes on quite a different appearance, however, if I picture the crowd doubling over in laughter when Jesus delivers his one liners with a drum beat and cymbal crash. So… which is it? Perhaps it’s some of both.

Have you ever misread the intention behind a text or an email? That door swings wide open when the subtleties of conversation via tone of voice and facial expressions are removed from the picture. I have found, however, the better that I know a person, the easier it is for me to read a message as they intended it to be read. Otherwise, I am simply reading into it what it would mean if I had written it – and that is a byproduct of my own unique personality and life experiences.

In the same way, I feel it important to analyze what I am using as the basis while constructing the tone of Jesus’s voice in my head. Is it based off actual knowledge of him, or is it a reflection of myself and past authority figures in my life?

The question beckons me to shift my focus from the knowledge of God’s works towards an understanding of His character. This does not necessitate an abandonment of the analytical mind that God gave me. It means to apply it appropriately – never letting thirst for knowledge supersede my pursuit of a more intimate relationship with God.

My prayer is for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to reveal the ring of His divine attributes - love, mercy, grace, patience, holiness, justice, righteousness, jealousy, wrath - in all of the appropriate places in the written words of His voice. The same voice that declared blessings over children, taught his disciples day in and day out, declared prophecy, and spoke miracles into existence.  The voice that spoke at parties, delved out forgiveness, scolded hypocritical religious thinking, and cried out from the cross. The voice of the “Good Shepherd” that calls his sheep by name - for whom he laid down his life.

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] Luke 19

[2] http://www.biblestudy.org/basicart/does-god-have-sense-of-humor.html

[3] Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 23:24". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/matthew-23.html. 2013.

 

An excellent book for further elaboration around the character of Jesus is "Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus " by John Eldredge. You can buy it from The Christian Book Distributors through the following affiliate link:

525706: Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus

Note that we will make a small commission that goes towards the efforts of maintaining the blog. There will be no additional charge to you. There are several other products and resources that I have found helpful in navigating the waters as a Christian and a parent on the Fervent Recommendations page.