It Ain't Over Yet

Right now, the residents in our home are feeling the predictable post-Christmas Day poop-out. The gifts are unwrapped. The Nerf guns have been warred with, the gadgets explored. The food consumed. The Christmas tree got rudely escorted off the premises this morning. The ornaments are in their boxes in the basement. It's done.

Or is it?

The consumer version is finished, no doubt. But my Daily Lectionary of Bible readings ( with a much-mimicked song--tell me that there are 12 (count 'em, twelve) days of Christmas. We've even got two Sundays of Christmas in the church calendar. I like this reckoning of time; in fact, I'm going to use it. It's always struck me as ridiculous that the ancient Christian view of Christmas has fallen captive to the consumerist shopping holiday. Don't get me wrong: I loved opening my presents and watching my family open theirs. But if all we're left with is unwrapped paper, empty boxes, leftovers, and returns, that's pretty unsatisfying, especially when the reason for this holiday is God taking flesh among us to change all history.

So, I'm going to let my liturgical calendar call the shots for the next couple weeks. It's refocusing--it puts a nice bookend on the Advent season which has led up to the Day of Christmas...and it helps with the feelings of let-down.

So until Epiphany, Merry Christmas, Day Two to you!

Time Between the Times

I'm musing on time this morning. It struck me yesterday that in this new year, I will have been graduated from college for 25 years. Ouch. Times blurs by. Watching my 15 year old outstrip me size-wise is disorienting. I don't feel middle-aged, but I guess I am.

I've just finished Larry Dossey's The Power of Premonitions (Dutton, 2009). He's the MD internist researcher who's studied the effects of prayer and spirituality on health. In this most recent book he looks at that strange phenomenon of foresight--those impressions and dreams we often have that seem to come true. Towards the end of the book he muses, with the help of astrophysicists, on the nature of time. According to them, no one's quite sure how to define "time"! Apparently, at the beginning of creation, there were more dimensions than our current four (which include time). There may have been as many as eleven, which collapsed into those four shortly after the Big Bang (or whatever event began reality as we know it). There may be, if I understand them correctly, "worm holes" which lead into different dimensions--and linear time, as we know it, may be only apparent, not ultimately real. Woah.

Whether Dossey et all are correct, I have no idea. I do know that I've had several premonitions, some of which have been powerful and accurate. It's hard to explain these and Dossey does a good job reflecting on the large amount of research done on these phenomena. One thing I do know is that our God is above and outside time as we experience it. I also suspect that Christ's resurrection and his anticipated return at the end of time to judge all humankind and then create a new heaven and earth will blow apart all our notions of time. (See the Book of Revelation--not "Revelations", please--chapters 21 and 22.) Connecting to our timeless God through faith in Jesus Christ lifts us into a timeless reality which will carry us beyond this mortal life and into life eternal--life without suffering and death. Now you really need to read some of my all-time favorite Bible verses:

Which brings me to this time between the times we call "Advent." This year's cycle ends soon and it's our annual reminder that we Christians live between the two comings of Christ and that time as we know it is boundaried by greater realities than the clock and calendar. Our link to Jesus Christ in faith, especially his new life which seeps slowly into our being daily as we walk after him, leads us into time beyond time. What does it matter if we age and die, provided we are moving closer each day to reality itself? Each day on earth is another opportunity for us to affirm his truth and power, his victory over death, and his second coming which will make all things new. Yes, time passes. Our bodies age. But there's much more to time than this. Viewed in the light of Advent, Christmas, and Easter, aging isn't the unwelcome intruder it appears to be. Temporal time is our reminder that time itself will be transformed by the arrival of Jesus. Til then we wait. Blessed Advent to you...and Merry Christmas.

The OS of Spiritual Life

Over the weekend I had a brief health scare. I'll spare you the details and let you know I'm fine. Got everything checked out. No need to worry. But it was a moment that gave me pause--on a number of levels. First, it was one more unbidden reminder of midlife: I'm mortal. In younger adulthood, I knew it conceptually; in midlife, I'm knowing it actually. Mortality's real...and much of the time it ain't purty.

Secondly, I was surprised at how quickly my anxiety escalated. That stunk. I kept reminding myself of the lordship and gracious care of Christ, but that seemed to do little to stop the runaway beating of my heart. I was confronted again not only with my mortality, but also with my essential human frailty. Ah, this mortal flesh. Wasn't it St. Francis who referred to his body affectionately as "Brother Ass"? I get that.

My brief foray into this relatively unfamiliar realm gave me renewed appreciation for those I call on in the hospital or convalescent home: their own fear and frailty, their disorientation and confusion, their feelings of helplessness and being out of control--these are all very real experiences and, as we go through life, they become more frequent. I feel new stirrings of compassion.

Lastly, as I reflect on how my faith in Christ is called to speak to fears and frailty, I recognize that it's a journey for all of us--and often a slow one. My brief experience over the weekend showed me that like my Dell computer, beneath the relatively smooth Windows operating system, with its simplicity of navigation, lies the strange, unfamiliar MS-DOS. Rough code, raw data, no user-friendly interface. My fear and vulnerability feel like DOS--usually hidden, rarely glimpsed in a quick reboot. Over this primal id lies Windows, my conscious affirmation of faith in Christ--and indeed, my deep desire to live for him. The challenge of spirituality is to integrate these two operating systems--to have Windows lay claim to DOS and have this OS operate seamlessly. To avoid crashing. To become Mac-like (I'm sorry; I couldn't resist). I'm sure my analogy breaks down, but hopefully you get the picture.

My prayers go out for all who feel afresh their frailty. Be encouraged: it is for us that God became human in Jesus Christ. It is for us that he lived among us, fragile and vulnerable, yet trusting in God and showing a sacrificial love that has the power to transform our lives, even if slowly. As we ponder his life, death, and resurrection--and gradually, by his grace, allow these truths to marinate our consciousness--we find resources to navigate all that life throws at us.

How goes it with your operating system?

Cold and Complaining!

C-c-c-cold here right now. Too cold. So cold for so long it feels like the house guest who won't leave, slowly consuming our provisions and wearing out its welcome. Cold collateral count: We've killed 14 mice in 48 hours--apparently they're coming in out of the cold--and snacking on dog food and raw sweet potatoes. And peanut butter on traps. Mmm. I'm thinking of selling pelts...

Also, I'm noticing the cold seems to be wreaking havoc on electronics. Could be coincidence, but my brake light's on in my car when the brake isn't engaged, my IPod broke, the automatic garage door opener is kaput (the spring snapped), the disposal's out...was ist los? Is 2012 coming early?!

Let's not even talk about bike-riding. I think even my toughest cycling buddies are relegated to the indoor trainer and the sweat-fest. I'll settle for 35 degrees. Please. And I thought this Californian had finally become a Colorado boy. Apparently not. Not when it's this cold.

Out of Bounds

It happened again last night on the drive home: the car ahead of me in the fast lane drove for several seconds hanging well over the yellow line into the median. I could just make out the driver's form in what looked like "texting" posture. This is happening more often it seems: many drivers tend to treat lanes like driving suggestions. And this isn't occurring late on Saturday night, either. It's all the time. I don't recall seeing this as much in years past. What's going on, do you think?

Maybe it's just Boulder. I'd be interested in whether this is occurring more where you live as well. It just seems to me that, increasingly, drivers feel free to drive wherever and however they like--without respect to their fellow motorists. It strikes me as somewhat in-your-face post-modern: the radical, individualized self determining how it will drive. You can almost hear the driver protest: "Hey, it's a free world! I haven't hurt anyone." "Yet", I'd add.

I'm grateful Colorado today begins enforcing a no-texting while driving law. This applies to everyone. Also, beginning today, drivers ages 16-17 won't be allowed to speak on cell phones when driving either. I say make it drivers of all ages! And raise the fine: $50 for first offense/$100 after that seems almost laughable. Come on, folks, put some teeth in it.

Maybe I'm just too modernist...but I say you stay in your lane and I'll stay in mine. Rules of the road--or rules elsewhere, for that matter--are meant to ensure safety and provide order. I don't think that ever becomes passe.