31 diciembre 2008

what is the difference between salvation and gratitude?

thought one: learning to count days

time ticks off like a bomb before “good-bye.” With how many people do I have the gift of time? How many people can I call up to get their opinion, shoot them an email to say “hello,” invade their house for coffee, peanut butter, and apples, or meet them on the South Side for sublime Vietnamese?

God, so often hated for taking away “our” time, has given us time. Right now. Feliz Navidad: you have time. Happy Birthday: you’re not dead yet. Happy New Year: you have days available to be numbered. Right now, with individuals x, y, and z. They’re still around! Rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Now, if we leave our gift in the wrapping paper, sitting on the floor while we go off and “dream solitude liberty” until the present rots away, tissue paper and all, whose fault is that? A sad, solitary past is over. The future may not even ever come. But a rotted present, all alone… is nobody’s fault but my own.

That’s the whole point of books like A Christmas Carol, Revelation, or Joel… even This Present Age. We still have time. Loaned (prestado/ borrowed/ rented) it is, but we can still place our hot little hands around it and use the blessed creature. My western civ professor (may his wisdom ever grow and his humor never cease) started his course one semester admonishing us to “see the end from the beginning.” We believe history is going somewhere. What about this day? This life? This networking? This technology?

thought two: Thanksgiving, fashionably late

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and all the rest make me pause and think of all i have to thankful for...

(but i already knew all that. i do have five working senses, a half-awake heart, and an occasionally processessing mind.)

it's not a question of objects of gratitude or reasons for thanks. more than anything, times like these show me how grateful i am not. these precious sons of Zion all around, and i act like they're mere mortals. cool, fun, great company... but there's no "selah" between those descriptors.

let us try to pause, here at the death of 2008 and offer an obituary with thought and commas and adjectives and abstract nouns.

i am surrounded by persons who... are filled with the living God. in a world of emptiness, i count my nearest and dearest those so full of the Christ that they share.


people who make me laugh until my stomach hurts.


hug me because they are glad i exist. in a world of isolation, people hug me?! in a society of sneering cynics, children tell me they love me?!


people serve me. me! whose character would be better off serving. they, whose character deserves a solid eternity of rest and relaxation, serve... me?!

(what madness.)


Family on two continents who accept me, break bread with me, share their life with me, invite me into their hopes, struggles, victories... me! who was once an alien and stranger from the household of God... at home.


Reyna and Mari... mis hijas. whose "relationship" (phhhhwww. [insert rude noise] koinonia, communion, sharing, intwined life) with me i cannot even articulate.

...who respect me, yet don't allow me to take myself too seriously.
...who laugh at me and make me join in.
...who teach me- them all quiet and serving, grumpy and complaining, serious and compassionate, angry for justice... what company son mis hijas!


people who respond to God and others as if the Bible really were on to something. who live as if Christ truly conquered a consuming, dark, victorious, unconquerably death. who speak of God the way He should be spoken of: with fear and trembling, wonder, rejoicing, emotion, reason, exhuberance, beauty, allegory, preaching, poetry, essay, book, and life... as if God were really real.


and Thou, Christ. who invented all this. who love the Father the way He should be loved. who give Him perfect delight when the rest of the world neither sees Him nor looks for Him, neither understands Him nor wants to. You, whose life and death were so overwhelming (so much!) that you could make the blind see God, the lost look for Him, the senseless understand Him, the dead want Him.


Who love beauty and continuously offer it to us. Who brush up near us, so if, by some way, some chance, we, grasping for everything, might lay hold of You, the only Thing. and You, catching our clutching fingers, are only too glad to carry us, clinging, into Your Father's house, already prepared for the likes of us. You, who not content with Your own perfection, desire to perfect the incorrigible. You, who unsatisfied with Your own fullness, desire to fill the empty with good things till their cup overflows, the oil drips down, and no word comes forth from their full mouth but Alelluja. You, who will do so, simply because You will to do so, regardless of recalcitrant servants, fists full of dust.

You... whose kindnesses break our best and loneliest attempts at self-sufficiency. You, whose Word brings fire to our utterly inflamable soul. You, who make the frozen to burn. You, who consuming, consume not us, because Your compassions fail not. For the listless consumers ever wanting the new and improved, Your mercies are new every morning, and we are ashamed into thanks.


You, who might take our life and those things that can't remain to give us.. an everlasting Kingdom, an unshakable home, and a body fit for Your company, even after all matter has been emphatically and irrevocably destroyed. hope of Resurrection! hope that we shall be changed!


You, who give... Yourself.
when we're swollen by what we know or deflated because of all we don't: Yourself.
when we're hateful and catty or broken and hurt: Yourself.
when we follow the lost or mislead the seeking: Yourself.
when we disregard the truth or misspeak Your merits: Yourself.
when we "love our own selves," but the parts we ought not, when we we hate our own selves, ignoring the Alternative: You still give Yourself.

when we have sinned and done wrongly, beastly, abominably, or have sinned and done nothing, loved nothing, given nothing...

Yet You are there.
We are not alone.
in a universe of beauty, good, love, images of God,
filth, evil, hate, and reflections of hell...
You are here.
You are Emmanuel.
We are not alone.
We are not condemned to ourselves.
You are here.