I'll never forget the first time I heard the Lord say, "Name this." It hadn't dawned on me yet that to name a thing was our original mandate, dating back to the beginning of man and time. Ever since Adam named the animals, if we are wise, we too have assigned specific meaning to the various things that are significant in our lives.
There have been times, when I've been on my way to participate in something that feels meaningless to me, the Holy Spirit has whispered to me to "name it" - to assign it a meaning and purpose. When I have been obedient, that very outcome, or meaning I assigned to the activity comes to pass without fail. Not because "my" words have power....no. Rather, I believe this is because I searched out the purposes and plan and heart of God, then agreed with it by faith, then named accordingly.
At the beginning of 2010, I again heard the Lord say, "Name the year." So I did. My word for 2010 was "Create". And create I did. Things and events, big and small, flowed out of my life that year, from concept to completion. The word gave me a focus, and so I taught myself new skills that are still with me today, and will always be with me. Did I accomplish everything I wanted to create? No, of course not. But I created a whole lot more than I ever would have without a focus.
Same for 2011. The word I heard in my spirit for the year 2011 was "Sow!" With the exclamation point (!). There was an urgency to it.
Sow I have. In the past year, I've planted seed in myself and others. I've sown "beside all waters", in all circumstances. I sowed in places and people I didn't expect, and not in expected places or people who expected me to. There were places in my life that didn't seem ready for seed - but I scattered it anyway. In the morning, I sowed my seed, in the evening I did not withhold my hand, because the Lord had said that there was no way for my finite brain to know whether this patch or that patch, or both alike would flourish. Have I sown everything I'd hoped to sow? Nah. But I've sowed far, far more than I ever would have without that focused effort.
I have to say - as big as the results from my 2010 focus were, the results from 2011's "Sow!" have been even greater. Let me choose my description carefully, without overstating or understating:
Life changing. That's what focusing on the one word "Sow!" was for me in 2011.
The word "sow" denotes the very beginning stages of any enterprise, be it a plant or a person. The seed first has to be planted. In 2011, I planted seeds for the future. Who knows which seed will flourish? I planted for my own health. I sowed into my own destiny first. God said to do it that way. At the same time, I began a fresh and different process of planting into others - and this will continue into 2012 and beyond.
Every year that I assign to it a name, there ends up a fulfillment of the name. The year lives up to its name. There is always a harvest at the end of it - a "gathering in" that carries over into the following year, and even into the rest of my life.
And so, as I say goodbye to 2011, still holding my tools for creation, and my bags of seed (I get to keep what I name, you see) I have prayerfully asked the Lord what the word for my life for 2012 should be...and faithfully, He has answered:
Now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense. First you sow, and then you....yeah. Cultivate. And I'm beyond excited at the prospects for the coming year. I know I will be working even harder than last year, because I will be creating the environment for the growth of what ever else sprouts from 2011. What if every bit of it sprouts? Oh. Mah. Werd. I'll be working twelve hour days. Cultivation is a bit more involved than sowing, but the rewards are...
Part of why this is for me, is I dislike the headlong, breathless rush of one thing into the next thing, with no room in between to pause and reflect. In the liturgical church, there is found within the comforting (and yes, some would say "mind numbing") continuity and ritual, a built-in opportunity to pause and prepare.
I'm not at all an advocate of liturgical church. But I do believe there are truths to be gleaned and gained from liturgy - centuries of spiritual practices cannot be glibly dismissed as having nothing to say to us.
Here is what I am getting at, and it really is as pragmatic as this: Are there any loose ends in your celebration of Christmas? Have you, like me, gotten to the evening of December 25 with something (or some things) undone?
I have. And since I love you, and since I'm wired that way, here's a bit of full disclosure:
I haven't yet watched The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
I never did truly decorate my fireplace mantel. I stacked prettily wrapped presents on it, and pretended I did it all on purpose. No, wait. Actually, Hannah arranged the presents on the mantel for me, I didn't even do that part.
Christmas cards never made it out this year. Never even bought 'em.
There are significant things I've left (as yet) unsaid - letters of encouragement to be written, verbal expressions of thanks, words of love not yet communicated. I've felt these things, oh-so-deeply, but two or three people still don't know how I feel, and this is the perfect season to let them know.
I haven't stopped to feel the quiet mystery. Not yet.
I still have a Christmas package to put in the mail.
I only made one batch of Ginger Snap cookies. And I never even iced them.
And I still have not gone back to that department store, to pray with the cashier who tearfully told me that she'd buried her grown daughter shortly after Thanksgiving. (Three times in the past month, total strangers have swung wide the door of their heart to me in ways I knew were supernatural. I need to go back to the one door I didn't walk through. And I will. I know right where to find her.)
If you are anything like me, you don't feel like this Christmas is ready to be packed away, just yet. It isn't quite "one for the history books". It feels not finished.
Maybe its as simple as you haven't sat down to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" yet. Maybe its as complicated as you haven't let someone know that you are sorry and you miss their smile.
There is still time.
In the liturgical church, the Christmas season is sort of just beginning. You have twelve more days, between sundown December 25th, and sundown January 6th, to bake cookies, reconcile relationships, watch that movie, or knit that scarf.
Let's lengthen the time we celebrate. Let's not try to cram it all in precisely between the first Sunday of Advent (late November) and December 25th.
Breathe deeply. Find the mystery of life lived at perfect peace between being okay with the girl you are, and reaching for the girl you want to be. (Hint: GRACE.)
Remember - even the days themselves are now lengthening. Ever since December 21st, you have been getting moments more daylight, followed by moments more - with each passing day, your days are lengthening.
There's yet time for the important things. There's always time for the important things. Begin your celebration of Christmas tonight. Though I am not liturgical myself (except privately) I - and centuries of church tradition - give you permission.
I've always wanted to greet people I care about in this way at Christmas time: "God rest ye merry, my friend."
For many years, I never understood that old carol, "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen". It originates all the way back to the middle ages, and was written in old English. In those days, "merry" didn't mean "happy" as it does now. In those days, "merry" meant "mighty". A great and powerful king was a "merry" king, and a great and terrible army was a "merry" army.
"Rest" didn't mean to put your feet up, nor did it mean that you took a nap. "Rest" meant, in old English, "to keep in a continual state of".
"God keep you in a continual state of might and strength, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day, to save us all from satan's power when we had gone astray.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy! Comfort and joy! Oh tidings of comfort and joy!"
This Christmas, I've been smitten over and over with the simple statement of a great heavenly host. There...filling the heavens...Jehovah Sabaoth, Lord of the Hosts, sent His great host to break centuries and centuries of silence between God and men. God could have commissioned them to say anything. These ministers of His, this great, innumerable host, are as flames of fire, carrying out His Word, down to the smallest detail. They've declared war before, down throughout human history - lots of times.
Would this be that sort of message?
God could have instructed His hosts to give only the facts: "Messiah is here."
He could have sent a message of judgement.
God dropped a bomb, to be sure. He dropped a bomb that would forever make that field in Bethlehem the greatest, most utterly meaningful, most famous "ground zero" of all time. But it was an explosion of joy.
The Grace Message was finally detonated.
A blast of mercy, engulfing the planet. Into the black of the night, into the darkness of our human spirit, came the bright light of Good News. It was tidings of comfort and joy. Jehovah Sabaoth utilized His great host, He sent the mightiest, "merriest" troops in the universe to tell us, "YEAY!" and to promptly throw a party amongst the stars, in full view of a few shepherds.
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, Peace....Goodwill....to men."
Let it sink in. Let those two words be the good news they were meant to be. Your very own tidings of comfort and joy.
Hide your kids, hide your wife. Because I am a bad, bad example.
I am completely overdosing on Red Band Peppermint Sugar Sticks. Crack Sticks, I tell ya, they are Crack! People, you canNOT eat just one. Take it from me. Don't ever eat (or smoke) the first one. It ain't worth it.
I need some 12-Step Program that hasn't been invented yet. God, grant me the serenity! Help me, Rhonda! Jesus take the wheel! I'm so jacked up on The Sticks I don't know what I will do if I ever run out of them.
Get. Out. Of. My. Dreams. Get. Into. My. Mouth.
Save yourselves, friends. Leave me. Run...run for your lives and never look back. I've fallen, and I can't get up.
Red Band Sugar Sticks done gone and made me a crack-stick-head.
Hannah and I were experimenting with my fisheye lens today...can you see the slight distortion in the center of this picture? (Can you even stand those blue eyes - unretouched, unphotoshopped! All I did was crop out some ugly background stuff, and bump up the contrast in this pic...since it is purely experimental, we let the flash do its thing. Ordinarily, I find any and every possible way to never, never, never use a flash.)
And Timothy's "fishy-face" here, was totally by chance - hilarious!
You can't tell by this shot, since it is cropped, but fisheye lenses capture 180 degree, wide-angle field of vision, with anywhere from slight to very exaggerated distortion in the center. They are fun for slightly whacky family or group portraits, great for shooting flowers in macro, and photographers more skilled than I use fisheye lenses so they can capture close-up sports/action shots while also capturing context with that 180 degree field.
Here is a silly shot, but it will give you an idea of the wide angle of this lens:
Me, in my jogging pants. Sitting on my bed. In my very messy bedroom, with guitar amps, guitar, my treadmill, all sorts of stuff that needs to be put away. Unfortunately, it has been a busy week last week, and you can see the whole mess, left to right, top to bottom...you can even see my ugly jogging pants.
It was a lovely wedding. The wedding itself was held at the bride and groom's church...a beautiful venue, beautiful saints...but I gotta say...
...Harvest Church, you rock. You did it AGAIN. Your hard work behind the scenes has pulled off yet another once-in-a-lifetime event for a young bride, and you helped make her special day magical...from directing the whole event, to photography, from decorating the entire huuuuuuge ceremony and reception space, to food, from serving the food to cleaning up afterward...Harvest Church members embodied servant-leadership. I know Emily's parents (who are part of Harvest Church) are blessed and proud to be connected with such a giving, loving church family.
I so love my church. I am so very proud of my Harvest family.
Congratulations, Jin and Emily. Thanks for allowing Tim and I to be a part of your lives, past, present, and future.