Thursday, December 22, 2011


In 2005 my family and I moved to Tennessee. For our two sons, it was a traumatic move from the place of their birth. The only place and people they had ever known. My oldest was just entering his senior year (very unhappy...), and my youngest was just entering the teen years.

We had to leave a wonderful German Shepherd/Rhodesian mix dog named Rusty behind. Sandy and I figured another dog would be a good thing. We were looking for a smaller dog that might survive Sandy's clean-freak fanaticism (You might say Ken's recent fake/real house illustration hit 'home').

The first ad we answered was the last Schnauzer puppy, a female runt, of a sweet lady named Joyce. It was the first litter of her dog, and she felt like she was selling her grand kids. We were not sure if she was buying us, or we were buying her dog... Somehow we both ended up satisfied, but she would be checking up on us!

That was Saturday. On Sunday, we went to the Church we had just decided to attend. Greeting us at the door was, you guessed it, Joyce. We all felt the 'click' of a cool celestial conspiracy.

We moved to Dillsburg a few months ago. On our third visit to MRC, we had just sat down, when a lady I had never seen before came bounding across the sanctuary. With this great big smile she said, “HI! I can't believe you are here! It is so good to see you!”

I grabbed Sandy's hand and was ready to swear I did not know this woman. Noticing my terrified face, Connie quickly explained that she was our next door neighbor and had seen me in the yard with our Schnauzer. Out of our huge community, with hundreds of churches, our next door neighbors 'happened' to attend MRC. Once again, in a brand new place, Sandy and I noted another celestial 'circumstance'.

Don't get me wrong, but it wasn't Joyce and Connie that were important in those events. They are both really wonderful ladies! But it was who was standing behind them, clear as could be, in those moments. Immanuel. God with us.

In both places, at both times, through both ladies, He brought peace on our earth and joy to our world.

Because of Immanuel, we have, and wish you a truly Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Virgin Nativity

Isaiah 7:11, 14 (NLT) “Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation... Make it as difficult as you want—as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.” Wow! What a challenge! Do you want confirmation about something? Ask for any sign you can imagine. But the offer is deferred. So God takes up His own challenge; Isaiah 7:14 ...the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). For thousands of years Jews have pondered the challenge avoided by Ahaz, but forced by God. A sign 'as high as heaven or as deep as hell'. A pregnant virgin? Everyone knew that was silly impossible. For thousands of years. Of course there have always been girls who could not understand how their pregnancy occurred. And yes, there have been myths about sex with gods. But never did pregnancy and virginity go together in any of these incidents. Sensible people knew. Until God stated His own sign. The sign will be a virgin birth. And until Joseph and Mary. For the first time, someone had the audacity to claim impregnation by God... and still be a virgin. Luke 1: 26-38 (NLT) In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”  29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”  34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”  35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God... 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”  38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. And from Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT) This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancĂ©, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.  20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:  23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!       She will give birth to a son,    and they will call him Immanuel,       which means ‘God is with us.’”  24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus. Oh, scoffers with sly smirks mocked believers on that one! For the last two thousand years smart people knowingly acknowledged the claim as a 'symbolic' story... or less. All believers could do was quote the Angel, “With God, all things are possible.” Right... Until the early 1940s. Thousands of years after the sign was pronounced, nearly two thousand years after the sign was fulfilled, artificial insemination was first successfully performed on a human. The possibility of a virgin bearing a child was scientifically proved. Science finally caught up with the sign. Now a sign always is less that the event it validates. But this, this was not a small sign. It was a sign 'as high as heaven, as low as hell,' pronounced by God Himself! What event on earth could be greater than a sign like that? Nothing on earth. Only Immanuel. God with us.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lovers In A Dangerous Time by Bruce Cockburn

Don't the hours grow shorter as the days go by You never get to stop and open your eyes One day you're waiting for the sky to fall The next you're dazzled by the beauty of it all When you're lovers in a dangerous time Lovers in a dangerous time These fragile bodies of touch and taste This vibrant skin -- this hair like lace Spirits open to the thrust of grace Never a breath you can afford to waste When you're lovers in a dangerous time Lovers in a dangerous time Sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight When you're lovers in a dangerous time Lovers in a dangerous time And we're lovers in a dangerous time Lovers in a dangerous time My favorite lines? “Lovers in a dangerous time” “Spirits open to the thrust of grace” “kick at the darkness until it bleeds light”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Marriage, A Love Marathon

My own opinion is that [love] is felt most completely in marriage, or some comparable attachment of long duration. Love takes time. What are called "love affairs" may afford a wide, and in retrospect, illuminating variety of emotions; not only fierce satisfactions and swooning delights, but the horrors of jealousy and the desperation of parting attend them; the hangover from one of these emotional riots may be long and dreadful. But rarely have the pleasures of love an opportunity to manifest themselves in such riots of passion. Love affairs are for emotional sprinters; the pleasures of love are for the emotional marathoners. Robertson Davies