Thursday, December 22, 2011

the darkest night of the year

the sky was black, the terrain, rough, the journey, long - with no end in sight. on the backside of a two day journey, at least (perhaps longer since one was with child). there were no rest areas or 24 hour waffle houses. no Starbucks or truck stops. just the stars above and the ground below. it was the darkest night of the year, an eternity in waiting... and she knew, in the back of her mind, that things would never be the same. but did she realize in her moments of enduring pain that 'twas not only her life that would be change forever?

just as pain was about to bring forth a blessed hope so to would pain, in time, bring forth the ultimate second chance for all mankind - but that time was not for now. the world wasn't ready for that... yet.

nor was the world ready for the humbleness of what was coming... the gentleness... and lowliness.

upon arrival in the man's hometown - a simple town called Bethlehem - it appeared difficult to find a place to house him and his young bride, now nine months pregnant. it was late and the little town was quiet. no one even noticed their arrival. whom would they bother? where could they go? the trip had taken longer than expected and the estimated arrival at mid day came and went. it was now the middle of the night and the woman was in great pain, tired and weak from a long journey. uncomfortable. out of breath. the man, Joseph, had blisters on his sandled feet. ankles scratched and bloodied. his legs shivering from the cold, trembling with exhaustion from the walk. yet, not a word of complaint dripped from his lips.

in the quiet of the night his mind raced, trying to find a solution to their midnight loneliness. his family long gone from the region left him with limited options. Mary, his wife began to cry. to be pregnant sans shelter was not the way she had imagined it all. deep down she knew that tonight was the night.

Joseph's pride was crushed, his head sulked - wishing and hoping for a miracle - that some form of shelter would appear... that some kind soul would be awake and willing. little did he realize the true miracle that would soon take place. he did his best to conceal his worry worn across his face as they wandered through town. finally, on the outskirts on the east end - a half empty stable. a few cows lingered. some sheep penned up behind. a cold wind rushed across the barren night sky. clouds now hid the stars. this place was the best option.

Mary dismounted from the donkey and crawled to a gathering of hay. her discomfort was overwhelming. Joseph did his best to make her at peace. she tried to send the pain below - but it was too much to bear. She cried out 'My God, My God - where are you now!' 'Your will be done!' the man did his best to support her, his heart aching as he watched his new bride go through torment. But deep down, both tried to squelch the little doubt that would creep into heart and mind. they yearned to believe, to hope that all that had been foretold was about to happen... that a Messiah would be born from her womb. and then the pain overtook her, to the point that not a mere thought could be completed.

Despite the smells of that old barn; despite the cold chill that seeped through the cracks; despite the small fire that barely cut through the darkness, Mary endured for what seemed like hours, the livestock none the wiser to their role in what would become the greatest of stories. the sheep resting peacefully were undisturbed from the cries of agony.

and the moment finally came.

and the world would never be the same.

a sigh of relief. a comforting husband. a simple birth in the lowest of places... the first of many unexpected signs of grace. and the Savior of the world entered the world. the cord was cut, cloths wrapped around him, now nestled tightly against his mothers breast.

and their was peace. stillness. across the land.

passed out from exhaustion, Mary lay with child, resting in the hay. and in the distance a shining light followed by what sounded like exuberant celebration. somewhat surprising at this hour. it was not quite daybreak. Soon, some shepherds from a nearby pasture made their way to the stable. Joseph stoked the fire, a sort of symbolic stirring of the gift of life, the gift of light that was to be found in this newborn son - both his son and His son. Joseph looked to the sky and gave thanks. 'Here, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One. Thanks be to God. May my lips never cease to praise Your majestic name.'

as he was praying the shepherds arrived. 'Is it true? Is this for real?' History in the making, they thought. 'We've come to see the baby - the chosen one, the Messiah!' An angel had appeared to them and told them of the majesty.

it was at that time that the Christ child first showed himself to mankind - a mankind that would, in time, betray and rebel against him. But in the humbleness of his birth a message was implanted into the hearts of all that would receive it.

The one true God works in mysterious ways. Sending his son to Earth in the form of a baby - sweet, innocent, gentle, meek and mild was the only way for hope to arrive, so that it could not be manipulated and abused.

Hope for the world arrived on that dark night. and it was the last time that darkness would have dominion. from that point the true light would shine. in time, some would attempt to extinguish God's messenger of peace, hope and love - but that too was only temporary. This new light was life - for now and always for all eternity.

and the void within man's heart could now be filled - and his name was the Prince of Peace, Emmanuel. Wonderful. Counselor. who entered the world on that darkest night of the year. and our lives would never be the same...

and so the story goes...

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Book Review: Insurrection

Insurrection: To Believe Is Human, To Doubt Is DivineInsurrection: To Believe Is Human, To Doubt Is Divine by Peter Rollins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

it may take me a few days or weeks to wrap my head around Insurrection by Peter Rollins. There's a lot to digest in it or perhaps I'm just being stretched (which i will admit is a good thing).

I've read The Orthodox Heretic by Rollins and heard him speak a time or two and have always been fascinated with his art of storytelling and his fresh perspective so i found it no surprise that Insurrection drew me in from page one.

what i appreciated about this book was Rollins' ability to paint a picture of what a faith without religion looks and feels like - particularly though the lens of CRUCIFIXION and RESURRECTION.

each chapter begins with an anecdotal story (much like The Orthodox Heretic), which is Rollins' specialty. Part I deals with the Crucifixion with chapters on our rationalization of our Christian worldview, belief and doubt, religious sayings and vicarious faith. Part II deals with Resurrection with chapters on hiding from ourselves, destiny, insurrection and finishing with neither Christian nor Non-Christian.

When discussing doubt and loss (associated with the crucifixion) Rollins says:

"On the Cross, Christ is rejected by his friends, betrayed by the religious authorities, and crucified by the political leaders. We witness here, in the starkest of terms, the loss of all those structures that ground us and give us the comfort that life makes sense. More than this, Christ experiences the loss of that which grounds each of these realms - God."

Rollins suggests that forsakenness as faith exists as a central expression of one's faith, experienced in us through the Cross. "It's something that we must step into and courageously embrace."

It is through this loss, this abandonment on the Cross that Christ becomes everything we were, are or ever will be.

God is lost and found in the sorrow, in the debt.

Rollins goes on to say that our proper expression of faith is found when we cut loose from religion in the depth of our soul and experience the loss of God. Perhaps so that we may be stripped of every and all preconception, misconception, suppositions and certainties about God - thus able to see and connect with a raw form of belief. In other words - we need to rid ourselves of the 'Church as a security blanket' mentality - and embrace a faith filled with doubt, questions and disagreements. sort of an atheistic faith of sorts. stripped away. bare. exposed. real.

His stories of Mother Theresa help paint a picture of what a stripped away doubting faith looks like.

In part II (Resurrection) Rollins discusses faith, belief and practice: "our practices do not fall short of our beliefs, but are the concrete material expression of them..."

The danger for the church arises when a life of faith is reduced to a crutch - where Christ, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection becomes something we pay lip service to. (sounds all too familiar for the church in America, unfortunately).

Chapter 6 titled We Are Destiny was by far the most profound of the book. before we can understand destiny - we must proceed through a sort of spiritual death of sorts.

Just as the resurrected Christ is said to have borne the scars of the Crucifixion, so our Resurrection life will continue to bear the marks of the death we had to undergo. This new mode of living is not one in which the anxiety of death, meaninglessness, and guilt are taken away; it is one in which they are robbed of their weight and sting."

The resurrection is the embodiment of love divine. New life. rooted in God love through rebirth - victory over death... over pain... over sin... over loss... guilt, lonesomeness, etc. But each of those experiences are not extinct in love - but a part of the order of faith. We discover divine love through loving an unlovable world. God is in turn loved through the work of love itself.

God is present in said love.

Resurrection life breeds courageous freedom. This is the insurrection - an alternative vision of the world. Maintaining the status quo has no part of insurrection - what a most difficult challenge for us all.

Rollins reminds us that a better world is possible. This movement is discovered through giving up everything for God, through acts of giving up everything (including God) to the point when we become the very site of God (Resurrection life).

There is so much more for me to chew on with Insurrection. So many notes in the margins to rehash... underlined quotes to revisit as well.

I am glad i took the time to ingest this book. My hope that i'll be compelled to act upon the inspiring words within.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


stories are the heart of who we are as a people, as a society, as a culture. the blood that flows through our veins is saturated with mere words and memories of experiences, good and bad. some oft remembered, others suppressed and hidden deep within. our past, present and future is dependent on stories.

the more we suppress our stories and the stories of old, the more we become disengaged from each other and from the difficult truths of our collective pasts.

stories are a pathway to freedom, to confidence, and to a greater perspective that the world is greater than our realm. without regard, we must chew on our stories - no matter how refreshing to digest nor how difficult it may be to swallow. we must claw at it, dig deep, investigate and uncover. we must not take for granted the truth that is found in the stories of the world. for their words are they fuel that propels us beyond the mundane.

our collective story must be told and retold in order to bring about the future we've all dreamed of... a future that we never thought possible.

it all starts with stories.

what will your story be?