Archive for December, 2010


I discovered a new jogging path the other day in the “woods” of Fullerton.  What this really means is that if you squint your eyes, don’t look to the right or the left, and play nature sounds on your iPod you can almost imagine you have left suburbia.  Even so, it beats running on the sidewalk, since there is real dirt under your feet and real trees that grew there on their own, instead of being transplanted like most of southern California.

While enjoying this vague resemblance to nature I came across a tiny paddock with a stable and two horses inside.  This is not an unusual occurrence in California.  I was shocked the first time I saw what is a permissible allotment of space for farm animals.  Where I grew up you had to have at least 2 acres for a horse, and these poor animals are regularly kept in the California interpretation of that standard, which is something closer to the size of your patio.

Well, I stopped to say hello to these fine beasts and took a moment to observe their attitudes about life.  One of them was gettin’ on in years and the quarters seemed to fit him fairly well.  The other horse was an entirely different story.  He so didn’t belong there.

But what made me sad was that he wasn’t pacing or cribbing or throwing his head in a spirited appeal to get out of his prison.  He just stood there.  When I looked at him I could feel the echo of thousands of years of wild freedom coursing through his veins, like a faint voice calling from the past.  But he had long ago tuned out that voice and surrendered himself to the monotony of life in southern California.  My spirit ached to breathe life into the smoldering fire of beauty, grace, and passion that could flow from those hooves.

That horse was made for something so much bigger than what he was living.  I grieved over the extreme disparity of the two.

It grieves me even more to know that this is where a lot of people live every day.  God made you to be big, to be free, to be immense in spirit and soul, but the reality of your life is like the tiny California pasture.  I wish I could walk the world over and unlatch the gate of every paddock that confines a big person to a little world.

I will, however, offer this encouragement to you, from the depths of my experience.  God was there first, and His fingerprints do not disappear.  Whether you are in your current reality because of trauma, neglect, poor choices, or some destructive combination of all three, His fingerprint on you still remains.  No amount of toxicity or defilement can remove it, no number of locked gates or tiny pastures can make them die a permanent death.  They will endure any of the hardships this world can inflict.

Don’t lose hope.  Don’t give up on God.  Even if you must endure a season of confinement, don’t let it eat away your confidence in His design.  If you must wait, wait.  Use the time to develop something.  Work on character, spiritual authority, skill sets or relationships.  Do NOT let the fire fade from your eyes.  If you resign yourself to the disappearance of all hope of fulfillment, you will miss God when His time comes.  It’s entirely possible, if given the chance, that horse could not reconnect with the Fingerprint of his design.  Maybe he drowned out the voice one too many times and would plod right on past his chance to be free.  That would be a tragedy more grievous than his original imprisonment.  I know that allowing the voice of your design to sound in the midst of your captivity can be a pain too great to bear.  But instead of shutting it down, I encourage you to take it to Christ, who simply by existence on earth confined His immensity to a paddock so relatively small as to be microscopic.  Let His wisdom, grace, and longsuffering instruct you in walking out this tension without destruction.

May you rise, with intensity, dignity and anticipation for your time, when it comes, knowing that in the season of confinement you prepared for the moment of His glorious redemption of you.

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The Rumor Mill

Letter from Mary’s neighbor to her sister
Have I got news!!  You know my neighbor Mary, the one you met at my dinner party last spring?  Well, she got engaged to Joseph a few months back and they are due to be married soon.  But that’s not the news.  Can you believe she’s pregnant? Yes!  What do you think of that?  Remember how sweet and friendly she was?  Seemed like such a nice girl.  Just goes to show you never can tell!

Letter from Mary’s aunt to her cousin
Did I hear that Mary is pregnant?  PREGNANT??  What in the world?  And how?  Her mother is going to KILL her, after all these years she stayed out of trouble, and now?  What was that girl thinking?  I hear rumor that Joseph had been out of town, so we don’t even know if he was the father! 

Letter from Elizabeth’s servant to Mary’s cousin
You heard about Mary, right?  Well, I overheard my mistress and her talking and Mary said an angel came to her and told her she would be with child … but not by a man!  Is this bizarre or what?  Is she sick?  Has she had a nervous breakdown or something?  I am worried and wanted you to know.  Maybe she is so afraid of what will happen if the truth is found out that she is making up stories to cover it up.   

Can you imagine being in Mary’s shoes? 

We all know the story of the Virgin birth, so it is not a strange new concept to us.  But it sure would have been to anyone who knew about it in that day.  Even Joseph wasn’t too sure what to think, until an angel appeared to him and assured him that it was ok, and he was to put his reputation on the line by staying engaged to this woman who suddenly had the whole community wondering what was going on.

The rumor mill was working overtime.

Then to top it all off, the city of Bethlehem was plump full of returning natives, and a VERY pregnant Mary was forced to have her rumor shrouded child in a stable with the cows and horses for nursemaids. 

I really began to wonder what it would be like in real life for the scene that Mary and Joseph found themselves playing in.  There weren’t smart phones and text messages in those days, but word could still get around.  Then it dawned on me that the question of legitimacy could have hung over Jesus’ head his entire life.

In Hebrews it says that we have a high priest in Jesus who is able to sympathize with us because he was also subject to temptation, though he did not sin.  As I looked at this picture, I saw for the first time that Jesus could relate to the social stigma of illegitimacy.  His knowing the truth wouldn’t prevent others from fabricating stories.  People were no different then they are now.  There are many kinds of temptations and wrong reactions to pain that can stem from so foundational an issue.  And though Jesus did not sin, He still could have felt the human reaction to the brokenness of community.

He didn’t have to be born in that context.  He could have been born in the context of marriage so there would never be any question.  God knew what people would think, and how they would respond.  But His purpose was perfect, and I wonder if part of that purpose was so that our High Priest could walk with those who have experienced the stigma that surrounds an illegitimate birth.

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