Tomorrow's "Mayan Apocalypse": A Call to Readiness

"But about that day and hour [the precise timing of the End] no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father...Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming...Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." --Jesus, Matthew 24:36, 42, 44

If our old friend Harold Camping was wrong about the timing of the End of the world (and he, though steeped in the Bible, seemed to miss Jesus' very obvious points, above), then could the ancient Mayans be right? Could tomorrow, December 21, be the end of the world? (Of course, the media has reassured the public that this cannot be the case, since the Long Calendar of the Mayans only indicated an ending that day, implying a cyclical new beginning the next day.) Still, perhaps we have an opportunity to engage in a little apocalyptic reflection--and consider how it might impact our lives.

Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologies all teach that the world will not roll on endlessly. Each of these monotheistic religions (at their basic level) look ahead to the end of the world and a final judgment. This couldn't be clearer to a pilgrim visiting the Old City of Jerusalem. As you look westward from the top of the Mount of Olives (the site of Jesus' ascension into heaven in The Book of Acts, Chapter 1), you're overwhelmed with tombstones in the Jewish Necropolis, the cemetery in the prime position, Jews believe, to participate in the resurrection on Judgment Day. These are stadium seats, the best seats, for the faithful as they look ahead.

Across the Kidron Valley, on the slopes of the east edge of the Temple Mount, is a Muslim burial ground. They too believe that here, in the Valley of Kidron, will come the end of the world and the resurrection of the dead. And Christians have traditionally believed the same: that though the signs of the end and specifically of Jesus' second coming, will be universally visible, Jesus will likely return to the place from which he ascended: this very same place above the Valley of Kidron in Jerusalem (see Acts 1:11).

Now we can debate the specifics of this 'til the cows come home. The point I want to make is one that seems so appropriate for Advent: the call to live in a state of readiness. Advent, for Christians, is a season where we reflect that we live "between the times"--of Christ's first coming in humility as a baby in Bethlehem and Christ's second coming in glory at the end of the world. Advent calls us to look backward in thanksgiving, wonder, and worship; it also calls us to look forward in hope, anticipation, and appropriate eschatological readiness.

Eschatta what?! It's a recognition that Jesus could come back at any moment. And, if his words are correct, we won't know the moment. For that reason, I doubt that tomorrow's the day. Because of this "reverent agnosticism" about the End's timing, we must live in readiness, on tip-toe. This doesn't mean living with anxiety or fear: no, if Jesus is our friend, Savior, and Good Shepherd, his return for believers will be great joy. My favorite verse to remind me of this is John 14:3 "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also." I love that!

So what does readiness look like? First of all, especially for the not-yet-believer (and I hope there are some reading this), it means getting to know Jesus, drawing close to him, speaking with him honestly about where you are (and are not) in your faith journey. Ideally, if you're ready, it means kneeling before him and praying a simple prayer of surrender. It could be something like this: "Jesus, I'm learning that I can't--and I don't want to try anymore to--run my life by myself. I mess it up. I grow fearful, empty, and confused. Deep down I realize I need you. I want you. Come into my life. Save me from all the things I've done that I regret. Save me from missing so many opportunities to love and do good. Be my Savior. Lead my life. I open myself to you. Amen." Praying that prayer, or something like it, if you haven't done so already, is the best way to get into a posture of readiness.

For those of us who are already Christ-followers, the best ways we can live in readiness are:

1. Keep short accounts. If there are patterns of sin or rebellion in our lives, if there are damaging habits or harbored resentments, bitterness or unforgiveness, we must confess them--first to God in Christ and then, if and as God leads, to those we may've injured. This helps us travel light through life--and be ready.

2. Seize the Day. Today's all we've got. Yesterday's gone. Tomorrow's not here yet. What opportunities does God give us to love someone today? How might we speak a word of encouragement today? Help a neighbor? Give generously of our time and money? Do it today!

3. Invest in relationships. "Love God, love people, the rest is just commentary." That's a paraphrase of ancient Jewish and Christian wisdom. Strive to create or mend or otherwise build up your relationships. Don't live in regret.

Jesus said to his followers: "Servants are fortunate if their master comes and finds them doing their job" (Matthew 24:46). We don't know when the Master will return. We have no say in that. What we do have a say in is how we will live: will it be in readiness, doing our job faithfully?

The Lessons of Two Fridays

It strikes me that Friday, December 14 and Friday, December 21 have something in common--and taken together give us an invaluable, if painful, reminder. Last Friday, December 14 a deranged 20 year-old gunman broke into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, massacring 20 first-graders, several teachers, and prior to this, his mother. He then took his own life. This horror has shocked the nation and the world; and yet it seems that incidents like these are on the rise. Gun control debates are heating up; schools are implementing stricter security measures; legislatures are looking for increased mental health screening and funding. We're desperate to do something, anything, to stop the violence. And that's a good and right impulse. But...after taking the appropriate steps, if we're able, we must also acknowledge: there is no such thing as perfect safety. The human problem behind the Sandy Hook shootings goes much deeper than gun control. Our world and we who live in it are deeply broken. To think that we can solve this problem in our own brokenness is deluded. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't institute wise measures or seek to protect the weak and innocent in our midst. It's simply to acknowledge: these are bandaids on the problem. We are not the ultimate solution to our own problems. The crisis is too deep for that.

And then there's this Friday, December 21, the supposed end of the world, according to the ancient Mayan "long calendar". While we can lump this eschatological prediction together with other mistaken prophecies of the end, we might want to pause a minute. I suspect I'm not the only one who's wondered in quiet moments, "Hmm, you never know...what if this really WAS the end of the world?" I believe there's a latent end-times anxiety in many of us. If there weren't, we wouldn't be seeing such broad coverage of this in the news. The idea that the world might end unexpectedly is so deeply-rooted in Western thought that it fuels everything from the rise of self-appointed prophets leading millenarian cults to apocalyptic box-office gold. Sure, we can say to ourselves, "I'm sure this Friday will just be one more failed prophecy." And, likely, it will be. But...let's not make the materialist mistake in believing that, on the contrary, the world will roll on forever. And let's not foolishly think that somehow we can shape, prevent, or otherwise avoid any kind of End (through environmental, militaristic, economic, pacifistic, or legislative means). That's back to the arrogant assumption that we, in our brokenness, can solve the world's brokenness. Bandaids on the wound, again. The crisis is much too deep for that.

The bottom line is we're not in control. There's in us and among us an inescapable, pervasive brokenness (what the Bible calls sin) that is too deep and too profound for us to change in our own strength. We may pass laws on gun control. We'll still have tragic shootings. We may think that history cycles on endlessly (the ancient Sumerian thought this) but even astrophysics teaches us that the world will end someday. We can either grow more anxious about these limitations of ours...or we can confess our desperate need to control our lives and world and acknowledge that even in this scary place there's an invitation: to kneel before God and recognize our dependence--and the biblical testimony to God's faithfulness. We need the words of Psalm 46, especially verse 10: "Be still, and know that I am God!" Only God--and the hope God offers in Jesus Christ and his resurrection--is big enough to handle the crises behind these two Fridays.

"What Does Christmas Have to Do with Easter?"

Hi Everybody,
At our staff devotions yesterday our new pastor/head of staff at First Presbyterian Church in Boulder read the following poem, assisted by a female reader. It addresses the above question, which may particularly be helpful for those who might attend services only at Christmas and Easter (pretty much someone like me when I was young).

I hope you'll find it as moving and helpful as we did.

Advent blessings,

"Enchantment--The Christmas Connection" by Lee Magness

Female voice:     "So God stopped time for 33 years/And he pitched a tent of flesh/Which he unfolded one night/And enfolded the next.

Male voice: "And that moment in which God tread time/Lasting from the darkness to the darkness/From the sunrise to the sunrise/Was called Jesus Christ--

F: In great pain Mary labored over God/And suddenly in merciful agony--

M: A man burst forth from the courtroom/Into the yard filled with a vicious mob--

F: And the mother knelt down/To wrap the baby in swaddling clothes--

M: And they ripped them from his body/And kneeling down, gambled them away--

F: And because there was no room in the inn/She gently laid him--

M: On the wooden beams of a cross/Where they nailed his reaching hands--

F: And the animals heard the baby/And they drew close hoping to be fed--

M: And they bleated and bawled/"Crucify him, Crucify him"

F: And the shepherds on the hillside/Came to see this thing--/Which they thought would soon be past--

M: And asked, "Are you the King of the Jews?"

F: And the wise men came to see Jesus/One brought spices, another perfumes/And a third removed his golden crown

M: And jammed its thorns into his brow--

F: And in that dark Judean night/The new-born baby cried out/Wanting protection from the cold wind--

M: "My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?"

F: And as the star stopped over the manger

M: There was a darkness over the whole land

F: And just before the baby fell asleep

M: He softly cried, "It is finished."

Both: And in that moment of ghastly glory/When Mary lay exhausted with an empty tomb/He said, "I am the resurrection and the life,"/And in the next moment He redeemed the time.

Morals Matter

Hey Folks!
Sorry I've been silent for so long--launching our eldest off to college and adjusting to three, not four plates, at the dinnertable is a major reason why. Let me throw some grist into the mill for a brief thought or two today...

We've been hit in the headlines recently with two significant falls from grace, both involving Alpha Males in their respective fields: General David Petraeus in the military/intelligence realm and Lance Armstrong in pro cycling. The consequences of their catastrophic choices have offered spectacular crashes, plummetting them from the heights of fame and power to places of public scorn and ridicule. There's a parable here, a morality play of sorts, for those willing to listen.

I suspect (and I'm only surmising) that in each case, the power of these two individuals elevated them to a rarefied realm where they were surrounded by people who largely profited from agreeing with them, rather than challenging them or confronting them. Power isolates even as it elevates. It removes us from relationships of parity and mutuality, where we can receive the hard word when needed. Along with this, power and influence often create their own world around the privileged, a world where rules are bent, twisted, and broken to suit the needs of those in power. "The ends justify the means", a Lance Armstrong might say. "Everybody's doping. This is what's needed to compete--and to win--at the top level. Besides, this success allows me great influence in the worldwide battle against cancer. That can't be wrong." And who can argue with success, right? Right?

David Petraeus might've had his own version of this self-justifying monologue: "Given the great responsibilities and the sacrifices I'm making to serve my country away from my family, I deserve this little indulgence, this little thing on the side. That can't be wrong, right? Right?"

Wrong. The moral of the story in both cases is that power and influence carry their own occupational hazards: they can isolate us, they can elevate us beyond others to a point where (even if unconsciously) we believe the rules don't apply to us. It's lonely at the top--and sometimes dangerous. If we're not grounded in deeper realities, realities well beyond our personal success and power, we're far more vulnerable to a fall. And given the height of prominence, that fall can be spectacular indeed.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the  mighty hand of God, that he may lift you up in due season," writes the Apostle Peter. Living under the reign of God and God's healthy guidelines in his Word can grant us an inner humility and self-awareness, which, when combined with close friends and colleagues who can call us to account when we're tip-toeing into dangerous territory, may save us and those we lead.

What Are You Looking For?

"'What are you looking for?'" 
--Jesus, in John 1:38

John the Baptist had the ministry of pointing. If he was a dog, of course he'd be a pointer. His job, under the guidance of God, was to sniff out messianic movements in first-century Judea, find the right one, and make sure everyone around him heard about it. John pointed to Jesus. "Look," John kept exclaiming, "here he is!" He pointed to Jesus, this unassuming, unknown, unacclaimed carpenter from backwater Galilee. "Here he is!" That was John's main message. And we know from the Fourth Gospel, that at least two of his disciples took his message to heart. They followed Jesus. I mean they literally walked after him. When Jesus became aware of their stalking presence, he turned and asked them, "What are you looking for?" That is the question they needed to be asked. That's the question we need to be asked now.

"What are you looking for?" Jesus asked those two disciples: are you looking for a military-political leader to guide occupied Israel to its former independent greatness? In other words, are you looking for a new King David? Are you looking for an exciting new rabbi with tantalizing teaching to tickle your tastebuds? What are you looking for? Is it a prophet to stun you with miracles and a fresh word from God? They seemed tongue-tied by Jesus' question. All they can stutter out in response is "Where are you staying?" A question answered by a question. Typical Jewish interaction in the first-century, but this time, not terribly profound. Jesus is kind in his response: "Come and see." Even though they can't articulate an answer to his probing question, Jesus doesn't turn them away. He invites them in for a closer look. So gracious.

What are we looking for today? Are we looking for Jesus to give us Ten Tips for Successful Living? Is it self-improvement techniques from a top-notch motivational speaker that prompts us to consider him? Or, are we looking for the ultimate affirmation, that in following Jesus, we are indeed a good girl or good boy, after all? Is it religious (or even psychological) reassurance we seek? Is it the comforting haven of religion? What are we looking for?

We need to be asked this question from time to time. It gets at the root of who we are and what we need at the deepest level. What motivates us, deep down, to follow Jesus? Why do we want to draw near to him? What do we need or expect from him? Are we even in touch with this core of who we are? These aren't questions just for the so-called "seekers" who haven't yet made a decision about Jesus. These are questions for those of us who are Christ-followers, especially those of us who've been at it a long time. We can get grooved into our holy habits (not necessarily a bad thing) and begin to lose sight of our heart's longing. What do we look for in following after Jesus?

Here's how I answered that question today in my journal: "I am looking for closeness to you, Lord Jesus. I want to know you and feel your love for me, flawed person that I am. I want your love and grace and Holy Spirit-power to so flood my life that I am truly taken on a journey of transformation into the ultimate wholeness that can only come from you."

"What are YOU looking for?" How do you respond?

The Fruit of Discipline

"Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." --Hebrews 12:11

"!!" Those were my first thoughts looking at a recent training plan from my cycling coach. (Yes, I now have a coach who's providing me with customized workouts based on my goals, which are fairly humble: to turn back time, prevent aging, and stave off midlife.) My coach is pushing me into harder workout zones, helping me notch up my functional threshold power (that elusive, theoretical number that estimates what kind of wattage you could put out for an uninterrupted hour of pain on the bike). His alchemy for structuring these workouts astounds me: he pushes me just to my breaking point and then backs off with a rest day. Each week he increases my workload, in terms of hours, intensity and duration of intervals, etc, and then allows me rest, cementing my gains and getting me ready for the next training phase. After a month of hard workouts, he builds in a week of recovery and regeneration.

This particular workout was open-ended. He wanted me to climb a canyon in a wattage range that I would find challenging for 20-30 minutes. But this sustained climb, by my estimate, under the best conditions, would take me 90-120 minutes! What the heck?! Yet, with my Teutonic genes, I submitted to his coachly authority and undertook the assignment. It nearly killed me! I blew up after about 35 minutes. Each time he pushes me like this, I face obstacles I never thought possible. And this particular one, was, in fact, impossible. But I later found out he was testing me to see what I could do in that particular week of heavy training. I learned much about my body and its limits (as well as my propensity to mutter under duress).

"No pain, no gain." We've all heard that before. To a large extent, especially considering the distinction between good pain and bad pain, this adage is true. Good pain forces us to grow and adapt. In the hands of an experienced coach who knows us and cares for us, good pain makes us stronger and better. Good pain stretches us and, with proper rest and recovery, good pain takes us to another level of performance. (Bad pain, by contrast, is the result of overdoing it without a plan or can come under the auspices of someone who doesn't know us, know what they're doing, or particularly care. Bad pain tears us down; good pain builds us up.)

I'm learning much about spiritual formation as I pursue this training on the bike. I am realizing how beneficial it can be to have a coach who cares about us and accompanies us in a challenging period of growth. I'm realizing that we can't expect to grow without being pushed--sometimes to our limit. I'm also realizing that pain, in the hands of Someone wise and thoughtful, can be used to develop us into people we never thought we could be.

My cycling coach is trained, experienced, and knowledgable. His workout plans are tailor-made for me. His communication via email is compassionate and encouraging. He often ends his notes with, "The main thing is to be sure to have fun!" That particular day, I felt like saying, "Yeah, right."

But I got through that day and that week. In fact, the very next day, with another challenging climbing assignment, I actually felt better. Nietzsche, that very non-Christian philosopher, was once reported to say, "That which doesn't kill us only makes us stronger." Without buying into his philosophy, I think he was on to something. Under God's gracious care, the discipline that life doles out, while seeming painful at the time, can often yield fruit we never thought possible. So, hang in there, people. And keep on pedaling.

Praying Amidst the Wildfires

Many of us are doing a lot of praying right now: with wildfires devastating the Fort Collins area to our north and the Colorado Springs area to our south, and yesterday's lightning-strike fire (still going) behind the Flatirons above Boulder, this is a vulnerable time. We've had record-breaking heat (over 5 days of 100+ degrees and humidity in the single digits) which has made our state a tinder box. And so, we watch and we pray. And we look for ways to be good neighbors to those in need.

On my bike ride today, my intervals took me back and forth in clear view of our Boulder fire. I'd pray each time I saw the plume of smoke and felt the kick of the west wind. It's caused me to reflect on the mystery of prayer. The Bible clearly shows us that God wants us to pray and to pray unceasingly (1Thessalonians 5:16-18, e.g.). Biblical examples abound of ardent intercession--and God's faithfulness in response. And yet prayer remains a mystery. I cannot imagine the amount of prayer going up in Colorado Springs (sometimes called the Vatican City of American evangelicalism). Surely, there's been a ton of prayer there...yet, news reports recently are nearly apocalyptic, with devastating scenes of countless homes going up in flames. Isn't prayer working?!

Again, prayer is a mystery. My working hypothesis is this: God, in his sovereign grace, invites us to join his mysterious work of redemption with our lives and with our prayers. In some cases, God will respond immediately and specifically to our prayers; in other cases, God may be using this praying process to shape and mold our hearts to fit his own: to feel his compassion, to suffer alongside the afflicted, to bend our wills to God's. Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying three times that the cup of his imminent suffering should pass, submitted to God's inscrutable will: "Not my will, but yours be done." Perhaps prayer also puts us on our knees, literally and figuratively, before God--an indispensable posture of humility and dependence. Wrestling with the mystery of prayer, we once again face the fact that we are not god; only God is God...and we are God's servants, especially in our prayers.

Two final thoughts: first, sometimes I worry that our prayers can descend into folk religion, a sort of magical praying. "God, zap down a response to this need!" "God, change me (this person, this situation) right now!" God is not a magician or a spiritual vending machine; genuine transformation often takes a lifetime. Are we willing to enter into this kind of watching and praying? Are we willing to wrestle and persevere in prayer like that? God can indeed change the weather patterns. Yet, sometimes, God does not. There may be a bigger plan at work, a deeper possibility of redemption and transformation. Only God knows.

Lastly, I've found that as I lift up the same need repeatedly in prayer, I can come to a point where it feels as if God says to me, "I've heard you. I am faithful. Trust me." Then my prayers undergo a shift: from petition (over the need), to praise (for God's faithful character). God is a loving heavenly Father, a compassionate, suffering Savior in Jesus Christ. My prayer then is: "Lord, help me--help us--to trust you and to cling to you in faith." Let's keep wrestling in prayer together. Amen.

A New Fitness Regimen

"Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."   1Timothy 4:7-8

"Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified."  1Corinthians 9:24-27

For my birthday earlier this spring, I received some money that I've used towards something new in my life: cycling training with a coach. If you've read my posts here before, you know that in addition to fine coffee, cycling is one of my life's passions. Deep, I know.

Recently, I decided to take this passion up a notch and, with this coach's help, I've been training more purposefully. It almost feels like I've begun a different sport. In the past, I'd just go out for a ride. It might be some hill-climbing, some rollers, or a flat spin on the plains. Time, weather, and how I felt usually set the agenda. Yes, I'd push it occasionally, getting out more frequently, going longer miles or hours, or pushing faster up a hill. But that was it. Now, I've got a monthly schedule devised by my coach: each day has something purposeful in it, even if it's just rest and recovery. I've got interval workouts finely tuned to set zones, intensities, and durations. I've got increasing hours on the bike, multiple climbs prescribed, things that are pushing me harder than ever. I can feel my body adapting to the training stress and as hard as it is sometimes, I like it.

Training. Discipline. Daily devotion to a consuming passion. Building a lifestyle to support new goals for living. If you've ever trained in the gym with a personal trainer, or had a coach in any sport, or a devoted teacher or mentor or therapist who's pushed you to grow, you know what it's like. You're inspired and empowered to be transformed in positive ways. That's cycling for me now. And it's a window into something else.

Cycling is indeed a worthy pastime. In fact, as I tell myself frequently, I could be into much worse! The friendships, the fitness, the fun (the coffee afterwards!)--it's all good. But this new kind of training has me thinking about spiritual disciplines. For Christians who seek to grow in Christlikeness, for those who want to be transformed from their old lives into the new, the spiritual disciplines serve as aids to growth. They put us in a place where transformation, by God's Spirit, becomes possible.

Physical training is like that: we do the disciplined workouts, which--along with rest and healthy eating--allow a mysterious adaptive process in our bodies to take place. Particularly as we rest, our bodies knit new tissues, mend tiny tears, and lay down new networks of fresh capillaries. We really do become transformed! Our heart rates slow, our body fat disappears, our blood pressure drops, and our endurance expands. Why, before we know it, we've become fit!

Spiritual growth is similar: by attending to our spiritual health, by nourishing ourselves on healthy thoughts harvested from Scripture, by aligning ourselves with lifestyles that promote the good of ourselves and others, by putting off destructive habits, we slowly conform to a new self--a self born in Jesus and awakened in his resurrection from the dead. Daily prayer teaches us an intimate fluency with God. Bible reading corrects mistaken notions of ourselves, others and the world. Faith, as we rely on it more and more, grows like a muscle. Serving others teaches us loving endurance. Most of all, obedience--putting into practice these Christ-centered lifestyles and behaviors--presents our bodies and entire selves to God that we may be reshaped--forever. It's spiritual fitness.

As the apostle Paul puts it above, "physical training is of some value." Indeed it is! But, as he goes on to write: "godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." I live in Boulder, Colorado, a place known for its physical fitness. May I--may we, wherever we live--dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of a spiritual fitness as well--both for now and forevermore.

The Odd Ring of Truth

There's something so counter-intuitive about Jesus...and especially the last week of his life on earth. I mean, if you and I were to write the story, there would be triumphalism all over the place: he'd have ridden into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday perched high on a mighty steed, a warhorse! The crowds would've coalesced around his charisma; Jerusalem's elite would've rallied to his cause; why, even the Romans would've cowered before him. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jason Statham, Daniel Craig, tough guys like these would've had nothing on Jesus.

And on this day, the Thursday of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday as we're accustomed to calling it, Jesus would've had a victory meal...and those disciples would've washed their OWN feet, and his too. No somber foreshadowing; just joyous, anticipatory celebration!

And all that stuff in the Garden of Gethsemane, are you kidding me? There would've been last minute plans for sure, logistics locked into place for the big overthrow to come: in the mighty power of God the corrupt religious leaders would be put down, the Roman occupying armies crushed. Good Friday would've been obviously good--a victorious battle, decisive, overwhelming in the power of the hosts of heaven. Easter might've come two days early.

That's how we'd write the script.

But that's not what happened. Palm Sunday showed a humble king, mounted on a donkey, his feet barely clearing the ground. That's not high and mighty. The crowds were fickle as crowds usually are. The Last Supper was full of anxiety and foreboding and yet a strange calm covered Jesus. A friend betrayed him in his moment of need--and he was so anxious in the Garden that he sweated blood and prayed for God to deliver him from the suffering to come. This "king" was arrested, then he shuffled off in chains, the ultimate perp walk. The religious leaders trumped up false charges and no one defended him. The Roman governor handed him over to be tortured. He was crowned with thorns; his throne was a rough wooden cross. He was mocked and pierced and died. He even felt God had abandoned him and he said it out loud. This is NOT how we would write the story! Then he was buried in a borrowed tomb. Bad ending.

But then, on Easter morning, the stone covering to the tomb was rolled back by an earthquake and an angel. He wasn't dead--he was alive! Uh, wait a minute...

The story of Jesus' last week, in fact, the whole story of Jesus, for that matter, has a human implausibility about it. We couldn't have made this stuff up. It's just not like us. It's counter-intuitive. For that very reason, it has an odd ring of truth to it, doesn't it? And when you see how the scared fishermen who followed Jesus rose up after the resurrection to boldly proclaim the faith, when you see how they spread the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire (talk about implausible!), and especially when you see Peter, James, John, Paul and others go to their deaths out of loyalty to their Lord--well, this just defies our imagination.

That's why it's worth pondering again--and getting inside the story yourself.

"I'm not dead yet..."

Seriously. I know my cyber-absence has concerned some (Hi Mom!), but rest assured I'm alive and well. The reason for my paucity of penmanship online...hmmm...well, busyness most certainly (fall had lots of new activities outside my immediate comfort zone--teaching our church's Men's Life, which starts at 5:45AM Tuesdays, and tutoring my Columbine Elementary first-grader were some of the top new items, both of which have been significant blessings, to me at least). Beyond busyness (which I'm sure any of us could cite) I'd add parenting a senior in high school (weekly football games--Go, Coyotes!) as well as parenting a pre-teen, both of which make me feel my middleagedness. Thankfully, I've got a great parenting partner in my wife, who's a fabulous mom.

I think, more deeply, that some of my reticence for going online has been a certain innate bashfulness. No, really. I want to have something worthwhile to say here and when I'm busy or otherwise distracted, I find it hard to dig deep, write thoughtfully, and take your time to read it. There's an inevitable self-promotion in blogging (and other social media). When my creative juices are flowing in other directions, I find it tough to justify putting just anything up here. Capisce?

Beyond that, I'm finding that given some free time, I would prefer to read, ride my bike (weather permitting), or simply be quiet. The internet beckons incessantly for our attention and now that I've got an iPad and wireless keyboard (both of which are very cool), it would be much too easy to stay immersed in digital media, which doesn't feel all that healthy, to be honest.

So, it's a new year and it's a chance to look backward with thanksgiving and forward with hope. From both vantage points I'm grateful for your readership. More soon--hopefully!