Renovating Us Lovingly

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jason Bandura works with the Glen Elm Church of  Christ.  Married to Shannon, he is Dad to three lovely daughters.  He lives on the Canadian prairies and writes occasionally HERE.]

In Luke 1, Mary’s angel-visit is followed with a road trip. She sets out to see her relative Elizabeth, who she has learned has received a miracle of her own, becoming pregnant long after any believed possible.

In my years as an ESL teacher, I heard countless students begin sentences with these three words: “How you say…?” Poor grammar aside, the query was clear enough. What words does one use to express a given thought or name a given object? Mary’s trip likely spanned 100 miles, spread over three or four days. Surely she wondered, “How you say… I am pregnant with the Son of God?!”

My approach would have been to slope down easily into such a conversation. I would have begun talking about Elizabeth. Upon seeing her bulging belly, I could have asked questions for days about her pregnancy and her experiences and her emotions. After a comfortable stretch, I would then gently transition conversation toward my own set of experiences. (I confess that Mary’s particular story has no possible ramp for a smooth transition, but I likely would have tried this anyway!)

But God is not having it.

Upon hearing Mary’s “hello”, a womb wiggles, a junior jumps, and a priest’s wife turns prophetic. Immediately attention centers upon Jesus Christ. Not the game plan we created on the road trip!

It’s easy for me to imagine Mary conversationally meandering for a while before centering the visit upon Jesus. Embarrassingly, this is likely due to my own tendencies to meander in the affections of my heart and the devotions of my life. However, the Holy Spirit uses Elizabeth’s voice to prompt us:

  • Do not relegate Jesus to the fringe.
  • Do not minimize him.
  • Do not buckle him in the backseat.

A dart in the bullseye of a dartboardInstead, be very clear that Jesus is not merely one ingredient in your life recipe. He is front and first and foremost. Paul would argue that he is at the center of the entire cosmos (Colossians 1:16-17).

So set your eyes upon Jesus:

  • Set them squarely.
  • Set them solidly.
  • Let them not wander.
  • Let them not want.

For everything that God has for you – more than you could ask or imagine – resides in Jesus Christ. Like a meditative refrain of his name, we would be wise to sit and soak in the wonder of who he is.

magnificat_1In response to Elizabeth’s declaration, Mary is inspired to make her own. These words have become timeless, taking on the name “Magnificat”. Luke 1:46-56 breaks into noticeable halves. The first (46-50) is relatively personal; Mary is alluding to Yahweh’s unique work in her life. The second (51-56) zooms out to show a plan encompassing whole systems and societies, A mighty reversal for high and low, rich and poor, filled and empty. Many perceive these as “kingdom moves” – the renovations necessary as the Creator calibrates his world to his liking. The picture is wondrous if we imagine ourselves “moving on up” within the upheaval. However, I would argue most of us should sit with the more trouble implication that some of what we love will be tossed about by the Christ.

Few have been as helpful in clarifying the concept of the kingdom as Dallas Willard. He makes it easy to understand:

“Every last one of us has a ‘kingdom’ – or a ‘queedom’, or a ‘government’ – a realm that is uniquely our own, where our choice determines what happens. We are made to ‘have dominion’ within an appropriate realm of reality.”

And God’s kingdom is not that different:

“God’s own ‘kingdom’ or ‘rule’ is the range of his effective will, where what he wants done is done.”

This imagery brings alive the challenge of conversion. What happens when the “ways of the land” in God’s kingdom rub against the borders of my kingdom, governed by very different ways? Now we negotiate. Or debate. Or declare war.

arm wrestlingThis is why my eye lingers on Luke 1:51: “God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.” I imagine a child bragging of his father’s strength. A second child one-ups the first with bolder claims about his daddy’s muscles. The competition grows until some child silences the others with an unmatchable claim. Verse 51 strikes me as Mary preemptively ending all conversation. No one is so mighty as her Father, and his strength is most vividly seen in the very next phrase: “The proud in mind and heart, God has sent away in disarray.”

In a sense, God’s wondrous strength is seen most clearly in how he deals with the proud – those who know so much, those who have so much, those who are so much. Toward any form of pride – be it rebellious or religious – God’s response is completely predictable. He will scatter, he will break, he will undo. This has been true since Babel.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is actually God’s move of grace toward us. When personal kingdoms barricade us from entering is kingdom, he will knock something over. When the priority of self shelters us from the power of salvation, his most loving move may involve a wrecking ball. When we determine that our sense of self-guided direction will deliver us into abundant life, God will lovingly disorient us.

Along with Elizabeth, he will prompt us to center upon Jesus as directly and hastily as we can. And along with Mary, he will nudge us to praise him at how willing he is to exert his power toward battling our pride.

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Kids are Funny

B Toys LogoOver the past couple years, we have purchased a few toys produced by Battat Inc.

Within each toy is a small booklet filled with quotes from children. You can submit your own real-life examples to the company HERE.

Here are a few sources of recent smiles and laughter:

“If mommies make babies, and trees make air, then what do we need daddies for?” (Allison, 4)

“Mommy, how does a bee sting of porcupine?” (Amelia, 4)

Callie, 8: “Do people eat cow tongue?”
Mom: “Yes.”
Callie: “Ewwww… It might have grass on it!”

“The baby is naked… ewwwww! Can’t you eat some parents or something so he isn’t naked?!”  (Haley, 8, upon seeing the 4D ultrasound of the baby)

“Before you say mean things about someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Now they can hear you, and you have a free pair of shoes!” (Hannah, 9)

“Don’t THINK. Just follow mommy’s directions.” (Grace, 6, in car with Grandpa who said, “I think we should turn here.”)

Ethan, 3: “Mom, are these both my grandmas?”
Mom: “This is your great grandma and this is your grandma.”
Ethan: “Oh!! This is my great grandma and this is my bad grandma! Right mom?”

“If you drilled through the earth and came out the other side, you’d be upside down. But if you drove there you’d be right side up. That’s why they have all these roads.” (Sawyer, 5)

“My friends, this is my hooker.” (Adam, 3, while holding a tow truck during show and tell)

“That’s a jellyfish. Now we need to find a peanut butter fish.” (Josephine, 3)

“Mom! Stop!! Be careful, there are boys in the Ivy!” (Robert, 6)

“Did you know my uncle Tony is driving around the country in a winning bagel?” (Sean, 5, telling a relative his uncle was going cross-country in an RV)

“Soda is not good for your body. You drink it and then you want more and more. The next thing you know, you are smoking.” (Alyssa, 5)

“Jazz is my favorite color of music!” (Keeley, 2)

“I’m going to have five children and name them Cabbage, French Toast, Table, Shower, and Chair.” (Skye, 6)

Maddie, 4: “What does it mean that it’s Election Day?”
Mom: “Today everyone picks who they want to be President and run our country.”
Maddie: “Oh. I hope they don’t pick me.”

Water is composed of two gins: Oxygin and hydrogin. Oxygin is pure gin. Hydrogin is gin and water.” (Sam, 11, in response to question on sixth-grade science quiz)

“it’s not real anymore.” (Brody, 2, referring to “outside” when his car window was rolled)

“Mommy, you’re the most beautiful woman in the whole world I ever saw before I left the house.” (Callie, 2)

“My triceratops is afraid of our dust bunnies.” (Clara, 4)

“If the day I came out of your belly is called my birthday, what is the day I went in called?” (Rio, 4)

YOUR TURN: Any favourites? Any chucklers or stunners you remember coming out of your own kids’ mouths? Your comments make this post better.

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Birthed into a Living Hope

Slide1For three years now, our church has created an Advent Blog each December.  Articles and reflections have been submitted through those years by members and friends of our congregation, on a variety of topics tied to the Advent season.  You are most welcome to join us in this annual pilgrimage toward Christmas.

Below is a piece I submitted earlier this week.

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jason Bandura works with the Glen Elm Church of  Christ.  Married to Shannon, he is Dad to three lovely daughters.  He lives on the Canadian prairies and writes occasionally HERE.]

The season of Advent is built around the experience of waiting.

Pregnant

One frequent connection is to the waiting of pregnancy, often observed graphically in Mary’s most literal waiting for the birth of Jesus. Metaphorically, Scripture feeds into this theme with its declaration that the whole of creation is groaning, as if in the birthing process (Romans 8:22).

Regarding the Advent theme of Christian hope, Peter uses similar imagery to vividly drive home its shocking nature:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

I have mixed feelings about the day of my birth. Continue reading