#4) Joseph, part 2

Imagei have a one year old baby.
she doesn’t like to sleep in her crib.
so, she sleeps in the same bed as her mother and i.
and when she wakes up, she screams. a lot.
and i get frustrated.
sometimes i hold her.
and she fights back. screaming louder.
sometimes i just let her wail.
sometimes i try to sleep through it.

i remember the day she was born.
i stood by, helpless as my wife labored.
there was blood. and amniotic fluid.
and, as with all of my other children…there was a constant fear and a constant prayer.
i was always, always afraid something bad would happen.
either to Keri. or to my baby. or both.
i have those kinds of fears.
i couldn’t do much. doctors and nurses did most of the work.
except for ice chips.
i could do the ice chips.
and hold her hand.
and thank God when our baby was born healthy and safe.

and it made all future screaming fits from the little one worth it.

imagine what Joseph felt like on the night his son was born.
helpless. afraid.
there was blood. and screaming.
i’m sure he offered a hand to squeeze.
it’s all he could do.
i’m also sure he sighed deeply when the baby had arrived safely.
sleeping in his mother’s arms.

and later on. when Jesus wouldn’t sleep through the night.
or He woke up screaming.
and Joseph was at the end of his wit.
and nothing seemed to soothe the child.
i’m sure he thought back to that night…the night the baby was born.
and he reminded himself
that it’s all worth it.

Advertisements

#3) Joseph, part 1

Imagethis time of year, Joseph gets a lot of love. we don’t really talk much about the earthly father of Christ from January to November…but here, in the last month of the year, we remember the role Joseph played in the Christmas drama.

the fact Joseph gets the most PR at Christmas might be due to the fact that he only really appears in the Bible when Jesus is born. outside of the birth accounts, Joseph is noticeably absent from the pages of my Bible. i don’t know…but i am suspecting he might have died when Jesus was still young.

but, you will notice he very much is on the scene when Jesus makes his way in to the world. in those few short pages, we see two amazing qualities of his man.

1) his character. 

Joseph found out his fiance, Mary, was pregnant. but he also knew the baby wasn’t his. that’s a dilemma. in Matthew 1 it says that Joseph was a righteous man, faithful to the law. the law stated Mary was an adulteress and should be publicly stoned. yet, Joseph “did not want to expose her to public disgrace.” (Matthew 1:19) he would break of his engagement quietly.

extraordinary. at the time, Joseph did not know the baby Mary was carrying was from God. he only knew she was pregnant and the baby wasn’t his. instead of destroying Mary…and the baby…he wanted to shield her from further disgrace. that’s classy, man.

2) his obedience.

after Joseph finds out from the angel that the baby Mary carries is the Holy Spirit’s work, his faithfulness is put to the test.

the angel tells Joseph to take Mary home to be his wife.
his response: “[Joseph] did what the angel of the Lord commanded him…” (Matthew 1:24)

the angel appears again, after Jesus is born, and tells Joseph to flee to Egypt with Mary to save the boy’s life.
his response: “so [Joseph] got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt…” (Matthew 2:14)

once more, the angel appears and gives Joseph the green light to head back home.
his response: “so [Joseph] got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.” (Matthew 2:21)

unwavering obedience. no matter where or how or when…if God told Joseph to go, he went. no questions asked.

Joseph was the real deal. we sing lots of songs this time of year about Mary…but we need to take notice of Joseph. his character and his obedience are more than admirable. they are qualities that make the man.

tomorrow, i want to spend more time talking about Joseph. while i long to be a man of character and obedience like Joseph…it turns out the two of us have other things in common.

#2) fear

Imagethree times in the first two chapters of the gospel of Luke, we see this phrase:

“do not be afraid.”

each time this phrase is uttered, it’s by an angel who has appeared to an unsuspecting player in the Christmas drama.

the angel Gabriel approaches Zechariah in the temple to inform him a son will be born to him in his old age. Gabriel’s first words to Zechariah:

“do not be afraid.”

six months later, Gabriel makes the trip to Nazareth to inform the teenage peasant girl, who happened to be a virgin, that she would give birth to a king. Gabriel’s first words to Mary:

“do not be afraid.”

nine months after that, an angel appears to shepherds living in nearby fields, minding their own business. the angel shone with the glory of God and said these words:

“do not be afraid.”

now, you won’t see this depicted on any of the Christmas cards you receive this year…but it’s obvious from the story: the appearance of an angel invoked great fear. these were not chubby, cute angels with rosy cheeks who look like ridiculously happy toddlers in bath robes.

nope. that kind of angel doesn’t scare anyone.

the angels that appeared to Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds were the kind of angels that scared you before they even told you why they were visiting. did you notice that? these angels don’t tell you anything about unplanned pregnancies or kings being born until after they assure you: “do not be afraid.”

this is a good word to start off this Christmas season. this story reminds us that what was happening was very, very serious. this wasn’t just a feel-good cartoon. God’s plan to save the world was being set into motion. so He sent His best warrior-messengers. and these angels struck fear in to the hearts of good people.

but these angels, speaking for God, were quick to remind Zechariah, Mary, the shepherds…and now us…to not be afraid. and as they heed the command, the story unfolds.

#1) advent

Image

i’ve not written anything in this space for six months or so. therefore, like every other non-blogging blogger in the world on new year’s eve, i’ve decided to spend the next twenty-five days writing. except i’m better than those guys making resolutions: i’m getting a head start.

i often feel like Christmas has become too…”greeting card-y.” sterile. nice. there are lots of halos over chubby angels and smiling donkeys at the manger. there’s nothing wrong with any of it, per se. but i sometimes wonder if we miss the reality of Christmas when we remove all the messiness of the incarnation.

for my own benefit (and perhaps for someone who may stumble by the blog) i’d like to redeem some of the words we associate with the season. these are words we hear all december long but, like the sun setting each night, their beauty and meaning begin to slip past us with familiarity.

each day will (hopefully) feature a short post…a few thoughts on a Christmas-y word. there probably won’t be anything groundbreaking found in the coming days…probably nothing you haven’t heard before. more simply, i long for these days to serve as a reminder for you and for me of the beauty and reality of the season. 

so, let’s get started, shall we? word #1 is:

advent

today is the first sunday of advent. advent is, historically, the beginning of liturgical year. more commonly, the advent season is the four sundays leading up to Christmas where you light candles and decorate the church in purple. we read passages of the Bible and talk about hope, peace, joy, and love.

the word “advent” means “a coming, approach, arrival.” obviously, the advent season is designed to prepare* us for Christ’s arrival on earth…the arrival.

and while everything hinges on the advent of Christ…my focus today won’t be so much on the advent itself. instead (as a confessing word nerd) i noticed something else. another word*.

adventure.

the word adventure obviously has advent as its root. an adventure is, literally, “a thing about to happen.”

my simple question as we get this thing started is:

could the beginning of all adventures begin with the advent? 

(*i anticipate seeing these words later in the month.)

leading the world to Christ starts at your local Applebee’s

server

i don’t post here much anymore. only when i feel like i really have something to say.

so sue me.

as some of you know, i recently left full-time ministry and am trying to find my place in the world outside of being a full-time, professional Christian.

and for right now, that means i work as a server at our neighborhood Applebee’s. and, much to my surprise, i really love it.

last week, i had the opportunity to serve a local minister. he is well-respected in the circles i used to run in, having grown several small churches to mega-church status. i knew him, but he didn’t know me.

and, after serving him lunch…he still doesn’t know me. in fact, he didn’t even look up at me. or acknowledge me. or say anything to me.

the irony: he and his friend spent the better part of an hour at my table talking about how to lead the world to Jesus.

all i could think to myself was: “how are we going to lead anybody, let alone the world, to Jesus, if we can’t even give the guy who serves us our lunch the time of day?”

it starts in our neighborhood. or our neighborhood bar and grill.

(now, i am not mad at this man. he meant no ill will towards me at all. he wasn’t trying to make it in to my blog. he’s a good…no, a great man.)

can we all agree to keep our eyes open to the opportunities right in front of us? can we start thinking a little smaller, perhaps? can we stop overlooking the hurt and lost and broken among us every day?

4 things to KNOW instead of FEEL

4 Pillarsi’ve written quite a bit about how dangerous it is to trust what you feel. (read some here, here, here, and here). our hearts are deceptive. therefore, when faced with a choice between trusting what you feel and trusting what you know…i’m going to try and go with what i know to be true.

today, here are four things i want to know, even though they are sharply contrasting to what i feel. maybe you want to know these things too?

1) i know i need to pray.
prayer has always been a challenge for me. i think some of that stems from my role in ministry: i was always the “official pray-er” at every church and ministry event i attended. maybe i felt like i didn’t need to pray anymore?

notice what i wrote there? maybe i felt like i didn’t need to pray anymore.

i know i need to pray. i know that communication (both talking and listening) is vital to the development of any relationship. i know God wants to hear from me. i know God has a lot he would like to tell me. i know the discipline of prayer would be good for me…it would force me to slow down and quiet down.

2) i know i need to love others.
my kids. my co-workers. the guests who sit at my tables at Applebee’s. the unbeliever i really like and the Christian i don’t like at all.

no matter who it is or how i feel about them…i know i need to love. not just like. or get along with. or tolerate.

Jesus calls us to love our enemies, but i don’t feel like i have any of those. it might be just as hard to love those you feel apathetic towards. and i know i need more of the Spirit to do this well. see #1.

3) i know God is close.
it’s easy to forget how close God is when you have one arm full of hot plates of food, the other hand with a check to be dropped, two tables who need drink refills, and the expectations your managers, staff, and guests have for you to be perfect.

it’s easy to forget how close God is when you have 3 kids screaming at you and each other, 2 kids wrestling on the couch, and 1 kid waking up cranky from a nap with the worst kind of bedhead.

it’s easy to forget how close God is when your bills are past due, your friends ignore you, your dreams abandon you, and your heart is breaking.

he. just. doesn’t. feel. close.

but. i. know. better.

if anything, on my better days, i may be more aware of God’s closeness in the chaos of my full house and full restaurant than i was in ministry. at the very least, i am definitely more aware of my need for his closeness.

4) i know i’m not a big deal.
i think everyone likes being a big deal. our culture makes a big deal out of becoming a big deal.

i felt like a big deal in the previous season of my life. i was leading a growing ministry. i was sought after to speak in lots of churches and at lots of functions. i had successfully funded a book project, partnering with hundreds of people.

i felt like a big deal.

and i let my big deal-ness define  me. (but more on that another day.)

when you think you’re a big deal, you have to make decisions that help you stay a big deal. you don’t make decisions out of faithfulness or humility or for the benefits of others. you make decisions to help you maintain your rock star status.

here is what i know today: i’m not a big deal. i never have been. and that truth is incredibly liberating. it frees me to be a child of God, a husband to Keri, and a father to my gaggle of children. it allows me to be a lowly server at the neighborhood bar and grill.

i wasn’t making much of a lasting splash when i felt like i was a big deal. now that i know i am not a big deal, i receive the grace to try again and hope for a bigger splash for my family, my guests, and for the little corner of the Kingdom in which i reside.

a confession and www.mynameisbrandon.me

157507122it’s been an insane 6 months.

resignation from ministry.
temporary jobs.
moving to a new city.
new school for my kids.
new school  for me.
trying to sell a house.
deciding to rent the house.
the death of dreams.
the birth of new seasons.

the last six months have been about survival. sometimes you simply need to withdraw in order to make it. it makes me think of my cat growing up. vortex (his name…the coolest pet name ever…) had surgery once and when he came home, he immediately went to hide under my bed. no amount of coaxing or kitty treats would bring him out of hiding. he was wounded. and healing. and needing space. and when he was ready, he emerged. he wasn’t 100%, but he felt the call to re-enter.

similarly, i am ready to emerge. i am ready to write and create and share. i’ve got thoughts and ideas and stories and lessons learned.

if you’d care to keep up with the journey, here are a few things to know:

new address: you can now access this blog at: http://www.mynameisbrandon.me
(someone pilfered my old website address.)

new attitude: i used to write to build a platform. it made me feel dirty. no longer. the things i plan on writing will be more honest. i have no board of directors or elders to fire me if i say something out of line. this will be a space for me to clarify and voice my thoughts. in doing so, i think (and hope) it will benefit you, the reader. i know i am not blazing any trails. the benefit is in our journey together.

new content: i’ve made a painful realization over the last several months. so, here is my confession: my faith was dependent upon my role as a minister. i have no idea how to be a follower of Christ as a “non-professional.”

and so, much of what i write will be under the banner of my finding my sea legs. i hope this will be an encouragement to other “recovering ministers” and a help to those of you struggling to find or own your faith while still in ministry.

if you’d like to connect, there are a few ways we can do that:

you can find me on facebook here.

you can find me on twitter here.

you can subscribe to receive emails of my blog post by filling in that little box on the right side of your screen and clicking “subscribe.”

you can email me by filling this little form out.