Simply Christmas: Less Worry, More Hope

Here is the text from this week’s sermon at First Presbyterian Church, Bend, Oregon. The sermon texts are Isaiah 40:1-8 and Romans 8: 18-25

Today is the first Sunday of the Advent season, the season of the church year where we wait expectantly for the coming of the Christ child. The story of Mary and Joseph and their harrowing tale of parenthood gets told over and over during the next couple of months. There will be family get-togethers, holiday parties, white elephant gifts, fun, laughter, good tidings, and lots and lots of cheer…or so we’re told. During this time of year, everyone is cheery and happy celebrating the chance to get together with friends and loved ones remembering and being thankful for the year that is drawing to a close…or at least that’s what the ads say.

This season, for many, is a season that is anything but joyful. This season brings up painful memories, adds to already busy lives and ultimately becomes so overwhelming that the thought of doing it again next year seems too much.

A lot of times during this time of year I just feel…stressed. There are certainly moments during this season when I sit back and feel the wonderful spirit of God around me when I sit around a table with my friends and family remembering that BEING with people is what’s important in this or really any season.

It just seems that during this season we are worried about making sure we SEE everybody we can, even if that means not BEING with any of them. During this Advent season we are inviting you to slow down, take a breath, worry less, hope more and experience a simple Christmas.

I know that by saying that some of you are instantly stressed out.

I’m a little stressed out about thinking of simplifying Christmas.

I have a confession to make; one of the main ways that I show love is through gifts. I don’t buy things for a lot of people during the holiday season but the people I do buy for, especially my wife and now my daughter, I tend to go over board. I have a real hard time staying on budget. I’m worried that my family, those around me won’t understand how much I love them and celebrate them in my life if I don’t buy them some thing REALLY expensive.

Now when I say that out loud I realize that just doesn’t make sense. I also look back on the gifts that I have received over the years and the ones that I remember are the ones that took care, were hand made or were re-gifted. The thing that really jumps out at me are the people that were there, the stories that were told around the table and the memories that I have are of who was there not what I got.

Even with that knowledge we still worry that some how we’re not going to live up to some one else’s expectations. We worry that we’re not going to do enough or have enough or give enough. I worry…that somehow if I don’t get my child the “right” present for her learning or my wife the “right” keepsake to let her know that I love her or my parents the “right” picture of their first grandchild that Christmas won’t happen. That the one we’ve waited for, the one we’ve hoped for won’t be born to a teenage mother in a feeding trough. That somehow the birth of Christ is dependent on us.

I am thankful that I am not responsible for the coming of the Christ child.

I am thankful everyday that Jesus Christ is with us constantly, that while I am grass and I will whither and fade, God’s word will live forever and I can trust that even though I didn’t get a new Xbox, God IS with me and with you and with the world, God WILL BE with me and with you and with the world and will be my wife and child and with you and with the world long after I am gone. This is not something that I can see but it is something that I can hope for.

At this time in our country with this economy it often feels like a lot of us are withering or fading away. We feel like we can no longer do the things that we used to we can no longer provide the kind of experiences that we have become accustomed to and sometimes we feel less than, we feel lost, we worry.

The hidden opportunity in that is we can choose how we react to our changing situations. We can choose to hold on to the past, clinging to memories of what used to be or we can open ourselves to new possibilities of what can be. Instead of an iPod or the latest Call of Duty video game maybe you can write your kids a letter telling them how important they are to you.

Our story, our gospel, our history is about life, death and resurrection. We do a pretty good job of living, we are terrified of dying and I’m afraid we don’t trust in the resurrection.

I know in my life there have been times where part of me has died. I am not the same person that I was when I was younger. It was hard to grow up. It was hard to let that part of me go, but the new life that has come is far more than I could have ever imagine.

At this point in our world, in our denomination, our church, in our community many of the things we have been accustomed to are no more. Part of our society is dying, is changing. We can choose to hold on unwilling to change or see the possibilities of the hope of the resurrection. We can choose not to accept that for some there are different ways to interact with God than the way we have accustomed to. Comfort, O Comfort my people, you are forgiven.

I know change is scary especially in a time such as this; a time when we can’t see the other side. I know that the life that we lived has been from God. I know it will help us shape things to come. I hope, I trust that we can be reborn into a new and vibrant life of abundance as we wait patiently for the coming of the Savior to all.

Nazarene Scholar, Dennis Bratcher said, “I think that the true meaning of Christmas is about possibility. It is not the kind of possibility that comes from a confidence in our own skill, knowledge, ability, or a positive mental attitude. It is possibility that comes solely from the fact that God is God, and that he is the kind of God who comes into our own human existence to reveal himself and call us to himself.”

In our Bible reading from Isaiah today we reminded, “the grass withers and the flowers fade but the Word of the Lord lasts forever.” We also know that “in hope we are saved.” God looks down upon us and says, “Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

This may sound a little hokey but those simple words give me a glimmer of hope of possibility; light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t a train but provides warmth that draws me closer and closer to recognizing that God has been…is…and will be with us no matter what.

Even if we don’t get our Christmas cards sent out, if we don’t make that special meal, if we don’t go to every party, if we don’t buy our boss a gift or get your neighbors a fruit cake or you don’t get up the lights etc. etc. etc.

I actually think that the hope of this time of year is much deeper than simply doing less, simply not buying one present, simply holing yourself up in your house and saying, “I don’t have to go to parties or be with people because I’m being more simple.” The hope of this season is the hope that often seems hidden under all the noise that the season can create. The hope for this season lies in the belief that there is a God that bigger than us, bigger than our stress, bigger than our worry. The hope is in a God that is always reaching for us, holding us, guiding us; a God that came to earth in the form of a helpless infant, a God that desires to be in relationship with us, a God that promises that, ultimately in the end, it will be OK even if we can’t see it, even if it seems impossible, even if we feel like we are lost, even if we can’t see God. We trust God is there.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger before he was Pope Benedict XVI said, “Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to [people]. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.”

This Advent we trust that you will be awakened to the mystery, excitement, and hope that is the coming of the Christ child. You will be transformed by the spirit of possibility of what could be if we continue to love like Jesus. What could be if we worry less about all the extraneous tinsel of this season and open ourselves up to the hope that the Spirit of God will make Godself known to us in the coming of a poor, homeless child, a child who became a man living through the stress and worry that comes with being human, a man who spoke of hope and who lives in all of us, calling us to be open to the warm and challenging embrace of Emmanuel, God with us.

May it be so.

Blessings,

Rev. Greg Bolt

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A Time to Step Out (Matthew 14:22-33)

Here is the text from my sermon on October 17, 2010 at First Presbyterian Church in Bend, Oregon. The sermon text was Matthew 14:22-33. Here is the a link to the audio.

I really don’t like hiking. I love being outside, I love physical exercise, I love seeing all the cool things that are around us. There’s just something about walking to a place that seems boring to me. The problem is, my wife LOVES to hike! Almost every weekend she’s dreaming up somewhere we can go and hike around. Every time she says, “Do you want to hike to this neat rock formation?” or whatever and I roll me eyes and think here we go again. Because I’m a huge push over and I know the old adage “if momma ain’t happy nobody’s happy.” I agree to go. We pack up our stuff grab our daughter and sometimes our dogs and we drive to a trailhead and begin our journey. Our journeys have taken us to Stein’s Pillar, The Painted Hills, up and over Smith Rock, Steelhead falls, bird sanctuaries, Dylan Falls, Paulina Peak, the Big Obsidian Flow and that’s just stuff around here. Almost every time during our hike I look at my wife and I say, “this is AWESOME! We should do this more often.” at which point she rolls her eyes at me and smiles.

You would think after realizing home enjoyable the hiking experience can be that I would be excited each time my wife suggests it, but for some reason I can’t get it through my head. Luckily, I am blessed with a patient wife. I also take solace in the fact that according to Matthew the disciples didn’t get it, either. It seems as if they had no short-term memory or an unwillingness to recognize and appreciate the miracles that they were apart of.

Take our Bible story for today. The disciples had just collected the twelve baskets of leftovers after feeding five thousand men, besides women and children with 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Immediately Jesus makes the disciples get in a boat and sends them ahead while he dismisses the crowd and retreats to pray.

The disciples’ boat becomes battered by waves and they are stuck unable to work. Jesus at around 4 AM comes walking up to them on the water. They are terrified, I pretty sure if I saw someone walking on rough water, through the wind, especially at 4 in the morning, I would be 100% freaked out.

Jesus realizing that they are afraid seeks to calm them by saying, “Take heart, it is I do not be afraid.” And maybe just maybe Peter remembered the power of Christ to do more than we could ever ask or imagine and Peter speaks up says to Jesus, “Prove it!” which like the prophets that have come before him Jesus promptly does by inviting Peter to step out of the boat. I imagine the look on Peter’s face being one of utter shock, “Really!? You want me to walk out there?” or maybe, just maybe, Peter is excited by this proposition. Maybe his face lights up as he quickly bounds over the side of the boat and races to meet his friend and Savior?

He gets so excited that he’s been called to step out of the comfort of the boat that he races with child like glee to be with Jesus. Then as he gets to him he realizes, “wait a minute, I can’t do this, I can’t walk on water” at which point he begins to sink.

Isn’t this the way it always is? We go to a conference or we read about something in the paper or we hear a sermon and we get so fired up we can’t wait to jump in to a new adventure. We make all the contacts, fill out all the paperwork, get every thing lined up and then something doesn’t go right or it’s more work than we thought or others are not as excited as you are. It starts to feel less like passion and more like work, you start to feel overwhelmed, you feel like your drowning and then you just give up and think, well it just wasn’t meant to be. I think sometimes we forget that Jesus is standing there right next to us; we forget to ask for or accept his help even when he is trying his best to offer it. We flounder and try to swim back to the boat by ourselves when Jesus is holding us up.

It reminds me of one of the first things they teach you in life saving training for lifeguards. That the person you are trying to save will fight you. That’s why you’re taught only to get in the water as a last resort. Luckily for us, no matter how much we thrash and claw we cannot overwhelm Jesus. Jesus is ALWAYS in the water. Jesus is there asking us the question, “Why did you doubt?” I believe he is saying to Peter and to us, “Why did you doubt that I would save you? That’s what I came for.” Like the disciples I always forget that no matter what there is nothing that can separate me or you from the love of God found in Jesus Christ.

Jesus celebrates with us when it goes right and when we end up all wet, he carries us back to the boat, brings us back into the fold and we move on together.

I look around the sanctuary and I see these banners listing all of the ways that members of our community respond to their call and I am amazed. I would like to take a moment to honor and celebrate all that you have done in the name of Christ…These banners; these lists represent our feeding of the multitudes. We have fed the community, we have fed the world, we have fed each other and there were leftovers. Outside in the Commons area stretching all the way down the hall to Heritage Hall is your chance to step out, a chance for you to respond to Christ’s call to “Come!”

At every table one of the many ministries of the church has a place for you to learn about and sign up to participate in a new adventure; an opportunity to put your toe in the water; an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone.

You may be thinking, I have no time, I have no experience, I’m too old, I’m too young, they don’t need me. I know that’s often what I think, then I agree to go on a hike with my wife or walk in a marathon or mentor a troubled teen or help a friend move and every time I come away with a wonderful memory, new perspective and I’m left thinking, “why don’t I do this more often.”

We are now in a position for such a time as this to step out of our comfort zones, to not rest on our laurels and accomplishments, to celebrate what we have accomplished through the grace of God and use them as a reminder of all that we can do with Christ as our lifeguard, helping us to learn how to walk on water and when we slip feel like we are drowning, Jesus is there immediately to carry us to the boat and travel with us as we continue to move through waters of this journey of faith.

The question now is not IF you are called to step out, but WHERE you are called to step out. I invite you to walk up and down the halls of the church; the tables will be here all week. Grab information, ask questions; discern where God is leading you during this stewardship season to share your gifts and skills.

Remember God does not call the equipped God equips the called. All it will take is, as a retired Navy friend of mine says, to let go of the gunnel and step out into the ocean of possibilities that are ours through Christ who loves us.

May it be so.

Blessings,

Rev. Greg Bolt

Holy in the Ordinary…Water (Matthew 3:13-17)

Here is the text from the message from last Sunday’s message:

Water is ordinary. We drink it, we bathe in it, we wash our dishes and cars and animals in it, we feed our lawns with it, we swim in it, we play in it. Water is in abundance here. The water in this baptismal font is no different than the water that comes out of the fountain in the Commons Area…except for maybe the temperature.

But water is just water, two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.

Sure water is important, we need to drink 10 8-ounce glasses a day, we need it so our crops will grow allowing us to have food. But really water is just boring…right?

I know if I have a choice over water or something else to drink I will generally pick something else.

In today’s story we learn about Jesus being baptized at the Jordan River. I remember learning this story as a child and thinking, “I bet that river is huge!” Something like the Mississippi, the Columbia, maybe even the Willamette. Then I went to see the Jordan River…the irrigation canals that snake through our county are significantly more impressive than the Jordan, specifically the place where they believe Jesus was baptized. Of all the rivers I’ve seen it certainly seems to be one that could easily be called ordinary.  It’s barely a trickle, yet it is the place where the heavens opened up and God’s spirit descended like a dove saying, “BEHOLD! This is my son with whom I am well pleased.”

For a second, if you will allow me I would like to focus on one word in this text, a word that is not even translated in this version of the Bible. The word is a Greek word that often goes un-translated, the word is (id-oo’) it means look or behold. The Greek translation of verse 17 in Matthew is, “and BEHOLD, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my Son the beloved in whom I have found delight.”

Barbara Brown Taylor in her book “Leaving Church” says:

The parts of the Christian story that had drawn me into the Church were not believing parts but beholding parts.

“Behold, I bring you good news of great joy…”

“Behold the Lamb of God…”

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock…”

Whether the narratives starred hayseed shepherds confronted by hosts of glittering angels or desert pilgrims watching something like a dove descend upon a man in a river as a voice called him “Beloved,” Christian faith seemed to depend on beholding things that were clearly beyond belief…the beliefs never seized my heart the way the mysteries did.

There are certainly times when what we believe can cloud our judgment of what we are beholding. In this sacrament of baptism people have argued for centuries what it means, when it should be done, how it should be done, how many times it should be done…true confession…I’m one of the worst offenders. Why and how we do baptism and what it means to us when we gather around this font to celebrate the adoption of a new member into our broader family is certainly important, it should not however cloud our vision of the remarkable grace of God as we behold, this congregation as Christ’s representatives to the world saying, “Hudson, OUR Beloved, with whom we are well pleased.”

We aren’t saying this because we are pleased with his accomplishments so far, though every day of a new life is met with milestones and amazement. We aren’t saying this because of what we expect of Hudson in the future, although we are excited to share in whatever that future brings. When we respond, “We do” to the question of whether we will guide, nurture and encourage him, we say to Hudson, his parents, his grandparents that we are here with you, we love you, we support you. Every time we witness this sacrament we reaffirm our belief that every one is a child of God, with whom God is well pleased.

It is said that when, Reformer, Martin Luther would feel down, have low energy or otherwise be in a funk he would shout, “I AM BAPTIZED!” and it would instantly lift his spirits and he would have the energy to keep going. What if every time you felt down, you doubted yourself, you felt like you’d failed you said to yourself, “I AM LOVED!” First off, you’d probably scare the person next to you, aside from that it might make you feel a little better about your day. Let’s try it…on the count of three I want you to say…in any volume you are comfortable with…I AM LOVED!

Does it feel any better?

What if you said to the person on either side of you, “YOU ARE LOVED!”? Try it out.

Does it feel any better? Are your spirits a little lighter? I hope they are, I know that sometimes it takes more than someone affirming the fact that you are a Child of God with whom God is well pleased. It certainly doesn’t hurt.

The other day my mother send me a very short message on Facebook that made me feel loved, that short two line message that did not include the word love in it gave me energy and focus to accomplish the tasks of the day. In my fantasy of this story of the baptism of Jesus, Jesus comes out of the water and is immediately affirmed by His father. This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased. That affirmation gave Jesus the courage and focus to accomplish the tasks that were set before him.

We often think of baptism as an end point. A moment in your life where you have it figured out, you’ve been through the wilderness and come out the other side. You’ve got all your demons, shortcomings; your temptations sorted out and know you’re ready to commit to the church.

According to the Bible that’s a little backwards.

At this point in Matthew, all we know about Jesus is his genealogy, he was born and his family had a hard time moving all over the place. Jesus hasn’t done anything…as far as we know (I’m sure we could infer some things but all we have on paper is…he’s alive).

In my fantasy, Jesus has come to visit his cousin, John, I’m sure Jesus had heard about the things that John was doing. Jesus feels a nudge to be baptized by his cousin; maybe it’s a little stronger than a nudge. I don’t believe that Jesus knew exactly what’s going to happen. I don’t think that he had his whole life planned out. I am sure that he had some idea of who he was and whose he was, but I don’t think he’d worked out all the details. I don’t think he was following a blue print.

Jesus walks out in to the water and John protests, “WAIT a second, you should be baptizing me!” Once again Jesus goes against what we expect. Jesus knows that he needs to be baptized; he knows that he needs this outward visible sign of the seal that God has already placed on his heart. I believe he’s not quite sure what’s next but he knows this needs to be done.

Jesus is submerged in the waters of this ordinary river and when he emerges his he hears a voice, God’s voice saying “you are my son and I love you.” God does not say this because of the work that Jesus has already done, God does not say this because of the work Jesus is going to do. God says, “You are my Beloved” because God loves Jesus just as he is no strings attached. It is only after Jesus feels that love that he has the strength to venture out into the wilderness facing his temptations before he begins his ministry.

Not even Jesus had it all worked out! It was AFTER his baptism that he was tempted in the desert. Jesus’ baptism was not an end but a beginning it was just the first of many times for the world to BEHOLD the power, grace, and majesty of God Incarnate. Today we behold the power and grace of a congregation standing up and affirming another child of God saying, “YOU ARE LOVED”

Remember you are a child of God, you are God’s beloved and God is well pleased. You have been baptized by water and the Spirit and have been sent out to remind others that they are loved just as you are loved.

We know that Hudson will have peaks and valleys; we know that sometimes he will feel as if he is all alone in the wilderness. It is at those times that I pray he remembers his baptism that he remembers that HE IS LOVED! I know that some of you feel as if you are in the wilderness now, I hope that you can hear us, body of Christ shouting to you, YOU ARE LOVED! I pray that gives you the strength to keep moving through that valley, I pray that you feel the love of God through this community walking with you as you navigate this world that seems anything but holy.

I encourage you to BEHOLD the power, majesty, grace and love of God that is all around us in our ordinary lives in our wilderness. Whether it be in the smile of a young child, a ray of sun peaking through the trees as you hike through this wonderful terrain, the breathtaking mountains, the power of a thunderstorm, the joy on the faces of friends talking over a meal, or the comfort of being in the presence of your loved ones remembering that it is through this ordinary water that Christ claims you as his own that we see God descending like a dove, whispering in your ear. It is through this ordinary act that we are given witness to the most holy of truths…you are God’s Beloved with whom God is well pleased.

May it be so…

Here’s the video of the 9:00 AM service

Blessings,

Greg

Faith is Like a Child (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Here is the message that I shared on Sunday, January 17 at First Presbyterian Church- Bend, OR. The sermon scripture is 1 Peter 1:3-9

32 days ago my wife gave birth to our first child. Sophia Ann Bolt came into the world on December 16th at 12:16 AM. (this should be an effective memorization tool). Sophia is the single cutest, most adorable baby that has ever been born on this planet…if I do say so myself. Here is the evidence to prove it! I am sure that I am not the first parent that thinks their child is unbelievably beautiful and intelligent in every way nor will I be the last.

Enough gloating about the utter brilliance of my one-month-old child, what I really want to talk about today is this idea that has been burning in my head since I held my daughter only a few minutes after she was born.

Faith is like a child. Faith is like a child.

I started this week thinking about that idea that related my recent experience as a new father to my experience of recognizing that I, in fact, had faith. It was clear to me what the Holy Spirit was calling me to share, what I didn’t know was that God wasn’t done yet…

I started with the idea that when you have a child your head is swimming, you think you know what’s going on, or what to expect, you get your mind around the idea that your life is about to change radically and at best all you can do is hold on.

You read books, you take classes, you talk to experts, you start making theoretical decisions about how you are going to raise your child, you search the internet, you watch the Discovery Health channel. (just for the record I would not suggest watching any program having to do with pregnancy while you are or your partner are pregnant, it sends my worst case scenario imagination into overdrive, which isn’t a good thing)

The baby comes and then you realize the magnitude of your ignorance. This book said this, that book said that, Bob said this, Karen said that, you become sleep deprived, your reasoning skills go out the window.

Then the “help” comes.

Well meaning individuals tell you how to soothe the baby, get them to sleep, get them to eat, they’ll tell you horror stories about staying up for days on end with a screaming child. You go to the doctor, the lactation consultant, you go in for a weight check and they say, “Do you have any questions?” and you say, “No” not because you don’t have any questions but because you don’t have enough information to ask a question. I, who take pride in knowing a little bit about a lot of stuff, want to the ask the question, “What questions should I have?” I think the doctor is testing my parenting skills or that they are going to think badly about me if I don’t ask the right questions or if I ask the wrong questions. I’m frozen…with anxiety, with fear, with ignorance, with fatigue.

Sometimes in a brief moment of clarity you think of a question or you come to some realization about how you’re going to do it, OR you decide to just ask for help.

Then “help” comes again.

Well meaning people ask you how’s it going, and you tell them, “I’m frustrated, I’m tired, the baby won’t eat, won’t sleep, won’t gain weight, gains too much weight, sleeps too much, etc, etc.” You then might even tell them what your plan of action is…that’s when they you give you that look. You know the one, the “you’re not really going to do it THAT way right?” look smile included.

Before I get to far down this road, I need to be clear all the folks that have provided us information, suggestions, stories, opinions…end up being remarkably helpful, but sometimes it just adds to the feeling of being overwhelmed when we get information from SO many different sources at once. Heidi and I both know that we are incapable of raising our child without the love, support, prayers, and presence of our church communities, our families, our friends, and God. Ultimately, however, it will be up to us, Heidi, Sophia, and me, how we figure out the obstacles in our life as family, we’ll need help but in the end we have to figure out what works for us.

So thank you for that digression, and now after that let’s get back to the point.

Faith is like a child.

The point that I was going to make is when you first think about the idea of God or faith you might do some research, read some books, talk to people of faith, essentially try to figure out this whole Christianity thing. Then at some point you have an awakening, some call it being born again, some call it a burning bush. Whether that experience is one cataclysmic event or a long process, my hope is that eventually you come to an awareness that you are a child of God and that God loves you no strings attached.

(Please let me assure you that this might not be your experience AT ALL, these are the similarities that I have noticed in my own journey as a person of faith and a new dad.)

Once that faith is born, once you realize you have faith there will probably be a lot of people telling you how to live a life of faith or how not to live a life of faith or criticizing you for not living the right kind of faith, you’ll probably read some books, hopefully the Bible will be one of them, you’ll probably listen to experts, maybe even watch a little TBN (much like Discovery Health, I would not recommend this option)

People will ask if you have any questions but you won’t know enough to ask any questions. You’ll have made plans and then life will happen and that thing that Joel Osteen, Pat Robertson, Rick Warren said, the thing that I said won’t make any sense to your faith journey. Ultimately it will be up to you and God to figure out your relationship. You can’t do it alone, I can’t do it alone, we can’t do it alone; we need the community to stand by us, walk with us on this journey, and carry us when needed. When our life events don’t fit with what someone has told us about faith, or what we have come to understand about God. When all that “help” just seems overwhelming and we, when I, can’t figure out which end is up. We remember although we have not seen him, we love him; and even though we do not see him now, we believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy that defies all logic. Sometimes we can’t see what’s next.

That was my message for this week, but God only showed me the first step, then the next step was illumined. Then I heard the news, and the message changed.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” We take the next step…

We hear that a nation that was already one of the poorest nations in the world was hit by one of the worst natural disasters in history. We see pictures and hear stories of dead bodies littering the streets of Haiti and scared children looking for their parents, we hear there are hundreds of thousands left homeless in a matter of minutes tens of thousands of people have been wiped off the face of the earth in the blink of an eye. We look to God and say WHY?!

Why do those who are already weak, already broken down, already forsaken by the world have to suffer this? The pictures, the stories, the horror is too much for me to take! I can’t watch, I can’t hear, I can’t imagine the pain! GOD PLEASE GIVE THEM A BREAK! Please give me a break, give me a sign that you are still here with us, with them.

We see pictures of a 7 month old little girl being held by her neighbor dug out of the rubble after being trapped for 48 hours ALIVE. We hear about people from all walks of life donating millions of dollars for aid. We see faith communities unite, we watch as social networks are used to share news of survival with family members overseas, we hear through World Vision that all of the 52,000 children sponsored through their program are unharmed, we are reminded to hug our children, reconnect with our families, ask our neighbor how they are doing, we are reminded to pray.

We are assured that even if now for a little while we have suffered many trials, so that the genuineness of our faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

We see Jesus revealed to us through the eyes of a newborn baby, through the connection of a community of faith, through the tears of those who have lost everything, we see Jesus revealed when we don’t know what to do but we know something must be done.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said in a sermon during the Montgomery bus boycott, “we are gravely mistaken to think that Christianity protects us from the pain and agony of mortal existence. Christianity has always insisted that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear. To be a Christian, one must take up his cross, with all of its difficulties and agonizing and tragedy-packed content, and carry it until that very cross leaves its marks upon us and redeems us to that more excellent way which comes only though suffering.”King, Martin Luther, Jr.Strength to LoveFortress Press Philadelphia 1963 pg. 28

I can’t tell you what the future holds for my daughter, I can’t tell you where God will lead you on your faith journey, I can’t tell you how the devastation of Haiti will transform that country or our world, I can tell you that it will not always be pretty, there will be times when I am ready to give up on my dreams for my daughter, there will be times when I ready to give up on God and the world, it is in those times that I will need to remember that by his mercy God has given us a new birth into a live hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. A hope that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.

May it be so.

Blessings,

Greg