Pastor's Blog

December 22, 2016

Luke tells us that Joseph was returning to his home town in Bethlehem to be registered for the Roman tax with Mary, when she when she delivered her baby and placed him in a feeding trough for animals, implying that Jesus was born in a stable, because there was no room in the inn.  A few years ago I made a large Christmas Star out of PVC pipe and strung it with twinkling lights.  Because it has a very long tail, it only fits in one place along the front of our house - the garage.  Now my garage is not one of those finished storage rooms with dry wall and paint and nice clean shelves.  My garage is kind of a mess. Recently I smelled a dead rat in there.  Great.  It didn’t occur to me then, but later I thought, yes, that’s exactly where the star should be - over my garage!  Jesus was not born in a hospital, or a nice clean hotel.  He was born in a garage, a smelly room behind the house where animals slept and probably rats too.  To read that Jesus was born in such a place seems like bad t...

December 15, 2016

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. – Luke 1:38
 

This is the month in which we remember the courageous faith of a young Nazarene woman, probably in her early teens, who was invited to surrender to God’s most audacious plan: the plan to surrender his divinity, take on human flesh, and redeem our world (Phil. 2: 5-11).  Last Sunday, some of you asked me to post the story I shared about another Mary, a secular academic who surrendered herself to the same Spirit that brought Jesus into Mary.  I’m speaking of Mary Poplin, Dean and Prof. of Education at Claremont Graduate School.  Mary had explored Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation, even bending spoons with her mind; but her journey to Christ began in earnest when she visited Mother Theresa in Calcutta to study her work among the poor.     

In her book, Is Reality Secular? (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014) she explains that...

December 8, 2016

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light….For unto us a Child is born….”  (Isaiah 9:2, 6)  

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire….” This time of year, even in California, we picture snow-covered lanes, filled up Christmas stockings, piles of presents under the tree, and smiling families around the fire.  Then there are the idyllic Christmas cards – the lowly shepherds gathering peacefully around a newborn baby wrapped in clean blankets, cradled by Mary with Joseph beside her.  Cattle are lowing, as angelic visitors play their harps overhead.  I confess that I love these images because there is a truth conveyed by them of God’s peace and love.  But the reality of that first Christmas was, most likely, much different.  Childbirth was dangerous and painful; shepherds were smelly, and stables unsanitary.  Christmas is untidy – though it’s not often reflected in our glowing cards and letters.  Here’s an extreme example, a “perfectly delightful Christmas note.”  See how q...

December 1, 2016

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. – Psam 126:5

Today, Uncle Dee, the last of my paternal grandmother’s 8 siblings, passed on to glory.  Dee’s mother and father were true pioneer stock, migrating from Oklahoma in a covered wagon to New Mexico during the dust bowl.  Dee was the archetypal self-reliant southwestern cowboy.  He was also something of an artist in wood, able to shape objects out of beauty from various pieces of discarded wood.  As I stare at one of those works of art, a pencil holder sitting on my office desk, my thoughts turn to the story that his son Rick told that touched our whole family.

Like his father, Rick is a cowboy by any definition.  Over the years he’s been an outfitter, rodeo rider, and outdoorsman. He’s had broken fingers, several cracked ribs, and fallen off more than a few horses only to bounce right back.  But these injuries were just the prelude to what he was about to experience.  After trying to break in a colt on...

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