Been getting ready to go back to school and wanted to remind myself about grades. So here goes…

  1. Does anyone know or actually care about my grades from high school/college/seminary? Nope.
  2. When is the last time someone asked me about my grades from college or seminary? Can’t remember.
  3. What am I trying to get straight A’s for? To get a good job. But what does that mean? To work at my university of choice. But is that what I was made for, to pick my favorite university and teach?
  4. Who rules the universe? Jesus.
  5. What does obsessing over grades reveal? That I think have to save myself; that I provide (ultimately) for myself; that the future is uncertain; that Jesus may not love me like I sometimes think…and yet I don’t believe these things!
  6. Should I work hard to do well at school? Ah, yeah, sure, but don’t use the hard work excuse to fear or constantly worry about grades.
  7. more to come…

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Running to Stand Still

I usually start listening to Christmas music in October. Does that sound strange to you? When folks around me hear the music playing, their general response is that I am breaking the unwritten (but widely known) rule that the Christmas season starts the day after thanksgiving.

imageI am not nostalgic for Christmas season or Christmases past. It’s not that I only care for Christmas music, either. My main reason for listening to Christmas music as early as possible is this: as a Christian I am reminded that Christmastime always points to the reality that I am helpless to save myself. Christmas is the in-breaking of the living God into a world desperate for help, desperate for salvation, desperate for restoration, desperate for rest.

And yet, in our age I have found Christmastime to often be a hectic, almost maddening season of shopping and to-do lists longer than the hours of the day. Sound familiar? Today we are busier than ever, and with shops in our homes (on the internet), we never have to (get to?) leave the business of Christmas behind.

C.S. Lewis had a keen eye for this experience.

                “You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to ‘keep’ it (in its commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out — physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.”

 It is good to give gifts. It is another opportunity to show love to those around us and those in need. But I wonder how often we hope our gift giving is, in some (small) way, earning us something. Our frantic work around Christmas reveals something about our belief system…we must keep up with The Joneses. And in keeping up with them, we are forced to give up the time necessary to enter in to the rest that Christ’s advent ushers us into.

It has been said many times, but it bears repeating (and repeating and repeating): the gift of Christ on Christmas day is incomparable. Nothing we will ever receive, on any day of the year, in any year of our lives, compares to the eternal gift of son-ship we received on Christmas day. “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become the sons of God.”  - C.S. Lewis

Maybe, if you’re a bit like me and you’re getting ready to listen to Hark! The Herald Angels Sing for the 50th time this season (who’s counting?), you’re tempted to tune out the truths and simply skip along, trying to get all your work done so you can get that last Christmas card shipped out in time! But let’s make a deal, shall we? I’ll stop, today and every day before Christmas, and for a few minutes I’ll savor the gift that makes all other gifts worth giving. And in the rest of Christ we’ll truly enter (together) into the Christmas season, resting in the reality of our desperation and the amazing grace of Christmas day.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings

Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Merry Christmas,

Andrew Ray

We instinctively want to over-interpret our sufferings…we want answers. But as Christians we expect suffering as we follow our Savior.
Ed Welch, in his class Helping Relationships

Ocean Grove, New Jersey

Ocean Grove, New Jersey

Any person who only sticks with Christianity as long as things are going his or her way, is a stranger to the cross
Tim Keller (via treyvancamp)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:11-12, NIV84

If we knew everything in face to face ministry we’d never pray.
Ed Welch, in his class Helping Relationships

Humility doesn’t assume it knows what is going on with another person.
Ed Welch, in his class Helping Relationships

We have a Father in heaven that has such a soft touch…we barely whisper ‘help’ and He helps.
Ed Welch, in his class Helping Relationships

What happened to your joy? What a lovely question Paul asks in Galatians.
Ed Welch, in his class Helping Relationships

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who cry in their bed and those who cry out to the Lord. Read Hosea 7.
Ed Welch, in his class Helping Relationships

Humility doesn’t insist on its own agenda…it admits that we do not know all things. In this culture being strong is prized and being weak is marginal. Weakness that is willing to hear the truth is so admirable.
Ed Welch, in his class Helping Relationships

Who are we? We are creatures of allegiances. You are going to speak about the one to whom we have our allegiances. We are going to speak more and more about how attractive our King is. We are creatures of emotions. Who do you love? What do you love? What do you want? What is most important to you? Those are questions that move you towards the heart.
Ed Welch, in his class Helping Relationships