Jesus isn’t Santa.

Jesus isn't Santa

Jesus isn’t Santa.

If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you may have noticed I’ve been asking God some questions– mostly the “Why?” question to be exact. I’ve also admitted that I need help. The struggle has been real. Gut wrenching, anxiety inducing, don’t want to get out of bed….REAL. Praying has been difficult. Hope has seemed just beyond my reach. Regardless of that, I’ve continued to pray, continued to seek Hope and held on for dear life.

Thankfully, I’ve had numerous friends, who are much wiser and much more stable than I am, come alongside me acting as a practical conduit of God’s love. After talking in length to one such friend, she asked me “What lie are you believing about the character of God?”

Huh. Well, you see I went to Bible school. I have a degree in Bible AND theology. I’ve read the Bible through front cover to the maps in the back. Not just once, either. Numerous times. I don’t say that because I think I’m awesome stuff, but to make a point that I’ve made before– I KNOW a lot of stuff about God. Sometimes that head knowledge doesn’t translate correctly. Sometimes you can know all the right stuff, but be living as though that stuff isn’t true.

Like the Truth that Jesus isn’t Santa.

Sure, Jesus wears hippie sandals and a robe (usually a white one). He’s got a beard and hands calloused from a long day in the wood shop. He smells a little fishy, but the kids are ok with it and come to Him anyway. Santa on the other hand wears a furry suit and shiny black shoes. He’s got a beard too, but its white and contains cookie crumbs and milk dribbles. He’s got a labor force to do the hard work for him, but gets all the glory for making the deliveries. Kids like him, too.

Everyone knows that Santa is keeping track of who is naughty and who is nice. He’s got an alphabetized list with all of our names on it. He’s always watching us and he’s keeping score. He saw me doing 64 in a 55 this morning. He heard the words I mumbled when I opened my car door and snow fell on my seat. All that before 8:30 a.m. Suffice to say, I’ll be getting coal for Christmas.

With all that Bible knowledge I have, I know Jesus is aware of all that stuff too. He knows my thoughts (I’ve heard Santa isn’t a mind reader), which exponentially increases my naughtiness I assure you. With everything that’s been going on, well, with my entire life as the gauge I’ve been living as though Jesus IS keeping score. He’s so stinkin’ good at math and easily sees I’m not measuring up. Since I’m bad He’s keeping some gifts from me. Like a husband. Like a miracle check in the mail to pay these medical bills. Like a new car.  (Insert whatever it is you’ve been asking for and not getting)

All of that– its all warped. Jesus is very much aware of everything I do, say, and think. He isn’t some sadistic moral score keeper though. He doesn’t take pleasure in my mess ups or failures thinking its one less kid to bless. Actually, He loves to give good gifts. Not the Target clearance aisle gifts either, but the top of the line, A-grade stuff. One of my favorite things to do is find the perfect gifts for those I love and can barely contain my excitement as they open it. We’ve already determined that I’m not perfect or even a very good person, and if that’s how I feel– how much MORE does God love giving gifts. He’s just as amped up with anticipation as He says, “Hurry up! Open it! I can’t wait for you to see it!”

And His greatest gift towards me isn’t a 60k income, a new hybrid Nissan or a sexy bearded lumberjack husband. It’s Himself.

In giving Himself for me, He moved my name from the naughty list to the redeemed list. My sins are no longer counted against me, but have been assigned to Jesus. That transfer makes me wholly accepted and fully pleasing to a holy, righteous God. Not by my works (or prayers) but all because of Jesus.

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Something beautiful.

something beautiful

Why?

Why did he have to die? He was too young. Had so many dreams. He loved you, Jesus.

Why?

Why wasn’t my childhood safe? Why did I have to see those things? Experience those things?

Why?

Why are things so hard? Why does it feel like one bad thing after another?

Why?

You’ve undoubtedly asked the “Why” question many times yourself. You’ve experienced hardships. If you haven’t I’m assuming you’ve had some kind of major brain injury that has stunted your memory– in which case, you have experienced a hardship. You get my point. No one is exempt from life or the trials or heartbreak that come in shifts, or seasons or waves.

I’ve seen people I love, reeling in pain because of loss. I’ve seen many tears fall because of physical pain in their bodies. I’ve seen fists raised in frustration because of a financial burden that never seems like its going to go away.

I’m 30 now, and it hasn’t gotten easier to watch. I wouldn’t say I’ve come away with answers to the “why” question, either. Sorry to say. I wish I did. I’d package that answer up, and put it in a book and sell it to the masses. Reasonably priced and all. And I’d live comfortably off its sales.

A lack of answer does not mean a lack of hope, though.

I sat listening to a spoken word at a youth conference a few months ago. I was most struck by one line in particular– “A dry land can still rejoice and blossom like a rose*.” I’ve meditated on that thought many times since then. Sometimes making it a prayer to Jesus, asking Him to take the ruins and mess of my life and bring wholeness there. Other days its a declaration to myself that I can indeed STILL rejoice and that I do STILL blossom and grow. And sometimes its a reminder from my Savior that yes He does the miraculous. That He can cause a flower to bloom in a desert. That He can take me and make something beautiful.

With questions still looming, tears still streaming and a heart still broken I will confidently say with outstretched hands, “Jesus, please make something beautiful.”

And He will.

 

(* Spoken word written by Josiah Ball)

My life as a prodigal.

prodigal

A few days ago, I woke up before my alarm. And as I laid there, all my stresses and anxieties from the past few months awoke as well. Each one feeling like a block of concrete on my chest– one on top of the other keeping me pinned down and gasping for air.

My weary heart turned to God, in that moment, and asked, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME??”

I was angry. I am angry.

And He whispered, “So, you’ll come to me”. He reminded me of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) and how it was a desperate, weary, broken, poor man who wandered back to his father.

I was starting to see the correlation. You see, the thing that was so devastating about the son’s request was the fact that he wanted his inheritance before his dad even died. He wanted the benefits without the relationship. Just give me my due and I’ll be on my way.

The audacity of that guy, right?!?! As if his father OWED it to him. Selfish, greedy kid.

The more I thought about it though, the more familiar it seemed.

“Jesus where are my blessings? Like the husband I’ve been praying for. Or the check in the mail to cover these medical bills. Or healing for that relationship I keep asking you for.”

I stand there with my open hand demanding my blessing thinking somehow I deserve it. “YOU OWE ME, GOD. After all I’ve done for you. After all I’ve given up. After all I’ve been through.”

The audacity, right? Selfish, greedy kid.

Like a loving Father, He has blessed me in innumerable ways. In things I’ve seen and in some I haven’t recognized. I enjoy the blessings, but think somehow it was because I earned it. Or because I’ve worked so hard. Or been such a “good person”. (All of those things laughable….and untrue.) He let’s me believe it and do my own thing.

Even if that thing is wallowing in a pig pen.

And that’s where I’ve been. For months.  Covered in mud and shit. Stealing the moldy scraps of slop from the pigs. Just enough to SURVIVE. But there’s a moment when you get fed up with simply surviving. There’s a revelation that life wasn’t meant to be just gotten through. It’s this voice in your heart that says, “You were meant for more than this.”

But you’ve got to go home to dad. So, you start the long walk of shame. Along the way, you craft the most eloquent apology you can muster. It’s sprinkled with groveling and dripping with sorrow. Surely, this will guarantee some grace.

And when He sees you, He comes running to you. And before you can even get out your perfectly practiced speech you are met with kisses, open arms and a freakin’ party. It’s the kind of love that’ll stop you in your tracks. The kind of love that’ll restore a broken, hurting heart. 

I think I’m getting it.

It’s not about being independent and doing things MY way. It’s not about working harder or doing MORE. It’s not even about the right words. It’s about Him. About being with HIM. Oddly enough, this parable was shared with the Pharisees and religious teachers of the day. Some theologians will tell you, the main point was to point out to them, that God rejoices when lost things are found. And that is 100% true. But I also wonder, if Jesus was also wanting them to see that even though they could have all the head/book knowledge, all the memorization of Scripture, every law obeyed to the finest detail that it boiled down to being with the Father.

Simply put, a prodigal is anyone who has wasted their life, time and talents for anything less worthy than what they were made and intended for. And we were made to know the Father and make Him known. In the midst of the pain of this season, in all of the unanswered questions and the seemingly unanswered prayers– God’s desire is simply that I come to Him.

I’m coming home, Dad.