“Course He Isn’t Safe. But He’s Good.”

I don’t want your god of rainbows and butterflies, your god who dances in fields and makes daisy chains and takes you on picnics, or your god who always forgives, is never angry, is always gentle, and is always super positive. I don’t want your sheep, your bright ball of light, your grandfatherly figure, and your heavenly Santa Claus.

Sorry, lovely, the God of this universe is not a kindly, old, gray-haired, hippy grandfather. Yes, He romances us. Yes, He always, 100%-of-the-time, no-matter-what forgives us. Yes, He is gentle with us, even when He breaks us.

But please, please, don’t lose sight of the sword in the folds of his robe. Don’t lose sight of the fire in His eyes. Don’t forget that, when people see Him without protection, they die. Don’t forget that His angels cause warriors to fall to the ground and fear for their life. Don’t forget that this is the God who ripped His own heart out of His chest and put it on earth for us to trample on and abuse. Don’t forget that He has sacrificed everything and daily fights for us.

There are times in my life when I need the God who romances me, who paints sunsets and plants flowers, and who puts people in my life to say a gentle word, and He is always faithful to provide that. But mostly, if I’m really honest, I need the God who will stand over my curled up, incapacitated soul and fight away the darkness with His sword.

I need the God who pushes my boundaries. I need the God who chisels away painfully at my soul, working on me and convicting me to become more like Him. I need the God who is covered to His elbows in the blood of my enemies, who fights for me while I cower behind Him, who hands me a sword and pushes me into the fray when I don’t think I’m brave enough or strong enough.

I need the God who doesn’t cut me slack, who demands perfection, who is angry with a righteous anger when I walk away or hurt Him, who lets me face the consequences of my choices, and who is always waiting to take me back. I need the God who knows me better than I know myself. I need the God who molded my face with His fingers – the fingers that built up the mountains and leveled the plains and carved out the unfathomable, deep places for the oceans.

I need the God who is strong enough to carry me when I can’t walk on my own. I need the God who never tires, never sleeps, never fails, and never gives up on me. I need the God who is as desperate for me as I am for Him and will go to whatever lengths He must to win my heart and soul.

One of my most favorite quotes of all time is from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Susan is talking with Mr. Beaver about Aslan, and she says, “Is he – quite safe?” And Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

The God I need, the God I serve, is not safe.

To be safe, He would have to be small enough to be understood. He would have to be something I could pull into tiny pieces and figure out. He would have to be small enough for me to wrap my head around. He would have to be predictable and quantifiable.

I could never worship Him, serve Him, give my life to Him, or follow Him if He were small enough to be safe.

So, please, throw away your safe God. Throw away the thing you’ve shrunk God into. Throw away your tiny, one-dimensional view of God. Throw away the PC, kind, loving, old man floating on a cloud in the sky. Remember that the Creator of the Universe and all its intricacies could never be small enough for you, the created, to truly grasp.

But always remember that He is good.

No matter how ferocious He is, no matter how angry He gets, no matter how powerful He is, no matter how strong He is, no matter how much control He has, no matter how much you run away, no matter how jealous He is for you, and no matter how much He longs for you, He will always be good. Always.

I rest in His hand, covered by the strength of His mighty right arm. I know that His unfathomable love for me is why He protects me. I know that He will always be there to bind up my wounds and carry me to safety.

Because I know the strength of my God, I know that there is nothing He cannot face, there is nothing He will shrink from, and there is nothing that can defeat Him. I know that, because He loves me as His own child, I am cherished with both the ferocity of a warrior and the gentleness of a father. I know that I am always cared for, always loved, and always safe when I rest in the palm of His hand.

I can rest knowing that I will always be protected. I have peace knowing that I will always be delivered. I have courage knowing that I will never fight alone. I have hope knowing that He will never stop fighting to make the world right again.

My Protector, my Father, my Savior, my Lord, and my God will never abandon me, never grow tired of me, never hurt me maliciously, and never forsake me. The Destroyer of my enemies is my Great Physician. The Pillar of Fire is my Calm Waters. I am never alone. I am never forsaken. I will never be abandoned. I am safe.

I’ll take that over your puny half-god any day.

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A New Year’s Blessing

A new year, a chance to begin again.

A new year, a moment of hope.

There is purity and freshness in this new year; you can make it whatever you want it to be.

The old year is gone. You don’t need to worry about it any more. You can unload its baggage here and move into a new year with a fresh face.

It’s a clean slate, a fresh start.

This year, I pray that the weak gain the strength to carry on, the broken know the beauty in their scars, the tired rest in the peace they desire, the lonely find the joy of solitude, and the cold learn the warmth of love.

I hope that hugs are given freely, people dance for joy, strangers smile at one another, kind words are spoken, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, and people share flowers instead of hate.

May you find whatever you’re looking for, learn whatever you’re missing, discover small beauties, enjoy doing good, cherish moments of greatness, and grow more into yourself.

May you love with a love that is more than love (thanks, Edgar).

May you hope with every breath inside you.

Know the joy of a sunrise, a good book, a hot cup of coffee or tea, rain on a roof, thunder storms in spring, an unexpected visitor, a secret smile, a laugh with a friend, or holding someone’s hand.

May this year bring you everything you need and some of what you want with a few laughs sprinkled in for good measure.

May you be surrounded by friends and family who love you.

May you know the love of the Father in new and wonderful ways.

This is my prayer for you this year.

Christmas

It’s a time where we remember a child in an itchy manger in a smelly stable surrounded by noisy animals being visited by complete strangers.

His poor mother, who has just given birth (not the most comfortable of things) probably looks like a mess and feels even worse. And here come a bunch of shepherds who smell like the sheep they tend telling a story of a bunch of angels and so eager for a glimpse of the child.

Graciously, she extends a welcome to them, believing the story that would have had them locked away today, and knowing, deep inside, just how special this child of hers is.

Who knows what Joseph is doing then. I always imagine that he’s proud, like a new father should be, but a little confused because he knows the child isn’t really his – that the child is, in fact, God’s Son. I imagine him being worried about Mary and the baby and a little upset because the only thing he could give her was a stable. I imagine him being a little frazzled and constantly running his hands through his hair and pacing around. I picture him trying to shelter Mary and the child from the shepherds when they first come in with their story, but then accepting them and letting them see and worship.

The story’s usually really cute and sweet, but I imagine it was a little rough around the edges back then. They were probably a little (a lot) stressed out. Mary and Joseph were probably exhausted.

I really don’t believe the Christmas carols that say that Jesus didn’t cry. Babies cry. And scream. And smell funny. And look like strange, mutant lizards.

It probably wasn’t as peaceful as we’d like it to be, but, in that moment, God became fully man and salvation was on its way. That makes it beautiful.

I wonder if Mary knew that.

Fast forward a couple of years to when the wise men show up. They come wearing funny clothes, talking in strange accents, bringing magnificent gifts, and telling an unlikely story about a star and King Herod wanting to know where the child is. Once again, she believes them and understands and welcomes them and lets them worship the Son of  God.

The kinds of people who came to see Jesus after he was born tell a lot about who he would be serving later.

The shepherds were poor. They were social outcasts. They weren’t normally accepted into people’s homes. They kept to themselves and did their own thing.

The wise men were Gentiles. In fact, they came from the East, where most of Israel’s enemies had come from throughout the years. They were pagans and, to the Jews, salvation for them was unattainable.

These were the people the Jesus was going to open doors for. These were the people he was going to bring the light of salvation to. These were the people he died for. He came for the poor, the outcast, the pagan, the Gentile, the rich, and the enemies of God. Jesus was God’s gift to the world. The whole world. No exceptions. He was the gift for all of us.

Christmas is a time to remember the child, the manger, the hope, and the gift. We should be humbled and so extremely thankful.