"Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you…" Psalm 40:5
- Part of Swanson family Christmas tradition is reading The Polar Express just before bed on Christmas Eve. When the kids were little, I loved seeing their starry-eyed wonder as they lost themselves in the possibilities of Christmas, and we have kept reading it because I never want them – or me – to forget that sense of wonder. It is easy to get swept up in the ills of our world, to fade into a mindset of cynicism, skepticism, and negativity, but the incarnation reminds us that anything is possible in a world God inhabits. The magi had just enough "wonder" to follow a star, believing it was a sign from God that might lead them to the hope and promise of life. They followed it because, in spite of their wealth, power, education, and social status, something was still missing. It's why our churches swell this time of year. I think people realize that all they have is not enough, so they return to the story of Christmas, hoping against hope that perhaps it is true. Are you tired of being that person who is always negative? Are you nagged by the thought that there must be something more?
- It also seems to me that it took enormous courage to follow it. Everyone could see it, and "all Judea was disturbed" by it, but only a small few actually went to see where the Messiah had arrived. There was this odd awareness that the Messiah had arrived, but hardly anyone goes to see. Why? Following the star means finding the Messiah, and finding the Messiah means yielding the Lordship of our lives – and there is something in us that flat does NOT want to do that. We don't want to follow it because we know if we did, we might have to change. How sad! Yes, God will change us, but it will always be for our good and His glory! So, what are you unwilling to change such that it keeps you from following where God is leading? God came as a child to remind us that it's as children that we must come to Him - humble, dependent, trusting – and filled with the wonder of what is possible with God. Come on, let's recapture the wonder.
- Last week, I received an unexpected email from a longtime pastoral colleague. For reasons I cannot explain, he emailed me to encourage me in my ministry at FPCO. He wrote, "My prayer for you is that you, yourself, will truly experience the breath of God personally, sense afresh the wind of His Spirit, and frolic in the joy of walking with Him." I love words, and "frolic" is a fabulous, wondrous word. It captures the essence of childlike wonder. When is the last time I – or you – "frolicked" in anything? Receiving his email in a week when I was preaching on wonder was yet another sign of God's presence in this mixed up world. And yes, I am doing my best to frolic this Advent in the joy of walking with him.
- I dined for the last time yesterday at Rossi's Pizza, an Orlando institution that will be closing its doors after decades of faithful service. Rossi's was one of the first places we went to when we moved here, and it was where we spent many hours following football and basketball games. Families gathered to laugh and share and eat while taking part in the wonder of watching their children grow. Thanks to Ron Rossi, Beth Parsons Rossi, their children Christopher Rossi, Jonathon Rossi and Alexa Rossi plus all their partners for creating an environment for so many to make cherished memories together.
- THIS WEEK'S SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE: The regular column in the New York Times called "Modern Love" ran a story on a man who had an affair with a woman that subsequently ended their marriage, but then joyfully detailed how his ex-wife became friends with the "other woman" as if that somehow made it all just fine.
- If you it takes you more than two ordinary paragraphs to say what needs to be said in an email, then walk down the hall or pick up the phone.
- I am grateful to the mother who protested the extensive photoshopping that happened in her daughter's senior yearbook. Most pictures were so altered that they barely resembled the actual person. Upon investigating, she found that students were allowed to "alter" the photos in any way they wanted, so most chose an image – a false representation of themselves. It is the natural influence of social media as people carefully craft the persona they want in public, one that is a far cry from who they really are. When we traffic in images of ourselves without considering our true hearts, we will miss the life we were made to live.
- WELCOME HOME PROJECT: The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness and the Homeless Services Network are deep into the Welcome Home Project, one we hope will house 129 of our most vulnerable homeless population. Rent and case management services are already set up and ready. What we need are APARTMENT UNITS FROM LANDLORDS. If you know of landlords or building owners who might be willing to put a few of their one-bedroom units into our pool, please let me know!
- It was a fun weekend of college football, but I lost a bet – so you will see my profile picture change to the UGA logo… ugh. Brad Staton won it fair and square, so it's going to be a long week!