Prepare Him Room: The Innkeeper’s Dilemma

Written: 12/21/15; edited 12/15/22

I don’t know about you, but…

Granted, it’s 70 freakin’ degrees and our only hope for a white Christmas lies in a water and sodium polyacrylate amalgamation (thanks, El Niño blowtorch).Then again…it’s not like Christmas hinges on what can be tangibly felt…be it an emotion, a moment, or an unfavorable teleconnection with ridging tendencies.

Of course, you know me; I could go on about the Grinch-like weather and other seasonal interferences like a mopey cotton-headed ninny muggins. But I figure:

  1.  Nobody got time for that and… 
  2. There’s way too much goodness worth discussing.

‘Cause while the weather outside is NOT frightful…with certain situations far from delightful…truth is: God has given us a place that is rightful…where all is still well and all is still bright.

But perhaps you’re like many who aren’t feeling so hot right now, fatigued from a difficult year and/or stressed by the perilous times in which we live.If so, then I encourage you: take heartfor you are not (or ever) alone…nor are you hopeless, helpless…or unworthy of receiving the kind of rest and peace this time of year has to offer.

‘Cause when we talk about Christmas, we’re not talking about some annual tradition, a candlelit spectacle, or an excuse to be off work. Rather, we’re talking about an expectant hope made possible by God who has set things right for us (Jeremiah 33:16), who remains true to His promises…all the while giving us a reason to know joy and fear not.

Thus, when we pause to consider what Christmas really means, we ultimately set ourselves up to look up…and experience a joy that merges with a peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).

Consider the innkeeper in Luke 2…a character in the birth narrative who gets a bad rap due, in part, to his lack of mention. As a kid, I had this idea that the innkeeper was this snarky, Arab Ken Jeong type who opened the door, glanced at Mary and Joseph, and blared, ‘No room for you’… only to slam the door in their face.

But as I’ve revisited the story in recent years, I’ve come to realize the innkeeper was not only fulfilling his part in the prophecy (Micah 5:2), but was also doing his best to extend joy into Mary and Joseph’s situation through hospitality.

You see…at this point in the narrative, we often underestimate the contrast between what was being felt versus what was being done.Personally, I believe the innkeeper was being true to his word (i.e. ‘there’s no room in the inn’), based on the time of the day, the time of year…plus you never lie to a pregnant woman who’s dilating on a donkey.

Yet, while it’s very brief in text, what the innkeeper does between the lines in offering his only ‘stable’ option is actually super profound.

‘Cause what he did, in purest essence…was prepare Him room (i.e. He offered the only thing he could offer in the moment, wrapped it with humble honesty…and counted it all joy).So when you think about it…the innkeeper, despite his minor role, captures what Christmas (and joy for that matter) is all about: being intentional in making room for Jesus in the midst of our chaos…and laying our burdens before the Lord so that the voids left behind can be filled with expressions of honor.

I love this short put out a few years back from The Skit Guys…

Per the above, I encourage you, my friends, to consider your Christmas contribution to Jesus this year…whether it be your time, your walls, your fears…and to seal it by preparing Him room in your hearts…all for the sake of saying, ‘Jesus, you are my joy, the answer to life…and the reason for the season.’For when you ready yourself to receive Christ, you repeat the sounding joy by also receiving the continuous outflow of His blessings and grace…which is exactly why God sent His only begotten Son in the first place.

On behalf of Lyssah & I, we want want to wish you a very…

Cover graphic creds: Subsplash

Star Yores: The Turn of the Magi

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12 (AMP)

Imagine this.

You’re a renowned scholar of your time, a respected expert in astrological sciences, and in general, a maestro of subject matter.

With a mind geared towards the aerial, your intellect hits new light: A star, one you’ve never seen before far outside your scope. Your natural inclination is to pause and ponder. Could this be a confluence of planets, a comet, perhaps a supernova kissing our celestial cul-de-sac? Or is this an illusion, a unicorn moment too good to be true?

Whatever the case, there are no analogs. Whatever you’ve seen, whatever you’ve heard…for once it’s not good enough. And thus, a fire rages within to crack the mystery. but even more so to discern this urge to do something radical, something crazy.

The fork ever widening, you roll the dice and take the risk. Seeking out this angelic beam, you’re now on a camelback quest with your comrades. Advancing into unchartered territory, you quickly realize this isn’t Kansas anymore and your directions aren’t so simple as second star from the right and straight on ’til morning. Your convenient, carpeted life…now subject to the Euphrates and a Royal Road to true royalty.

Like a pre-disciple, you’ve said goodbye to home, not entirely sure if you’ll return. Risking it all to lay it all down, the gifts you bear are years from delivery but capture the source of your faith.

You’re going west, young man…with words of gratitude close at heart yet from far from optional. For this cryptic star, the one you’ll regard as of David, had once shined on a child in manger lay. The illuminating origin of eternal freedom the same origin as that still small voice compelling you to follow confidently.

But though the trek is long and arduous, despite future uncertainty, you embrace the joy set before you as a constant rising and a call to worship. One way or another, you will complete this crusade and discover a new depth of truth you never thought possible.

A once foreign light illuminating a stable place, now an inspiration for yours to walk from.

Fast-forward to present day and you are where you are. What a ride it’s been…

Unlike many, you may believe you have something to offer outside your realm of expertise, something to contribute outside your wheelhouse of benevolence. You may have that itch inside wanting to pour out in a fresh way – your modern-day equivalent of frankincense or myrrh on standby.

However, like many, you may be waiting for a catalyst to surrender and sacrifice when in reality, the time is now to sojourn into deeper waters, to try a new course. Granted, I can only speak so far into anonymous situations. Yet, I know for me, as one who anticipates burning bushes that never come, I must be ready to render those focuses off-center and recognize the Spirit as “star power” capable of illuminating the way I’m to go.

Which brings me to my point for today: You may feel depleted and broken, perplexed and confused; you may be overwhelmed or overthinking.

Yet, regardless of your circumstances, if your 3:00 am restroom break is on the verge of turning into a brutally early wakeup call, guess what! That same star of wonder, the same star of night…is still alive and well today to guide you into whatever perfect light you need to walk in.

You see…for the magi, they lived for this. Even as they (literally) contemplated their next steps from illumination, the timely cost of multiple years and the emotional cost of social and occupational inconveniences didn’t deter them from making one of the most epic expeditions in the Roman era. Put another way, before the wise men could fathom the historical repercussions of their Messianic voyage, they had to first contest the ramifications of their surrender; hence, why as brilliant as they were, their greatest asset was not their wealth of knowledge and resources, but a corporate humility to recognize eternal prominence.

And in the hustle and bustle of the holidays upon us, that’s why I’m writing this – to implore holy inventory and discourage whatever annual defaults we’ve accepted to justify idleness and self-preservation. I can’t make sense of the pain my family and I feel right now. I can’t make sense of the pain you likewise may feel as we close out the year.

But for all I don’t know, what I do know is basic spiritual probability. Specifically, if my attention isn’t anchored to holy light, then chances are my call to mobility and a humble returning will be compromised.

Yes, I miss Juby, the times life felt more stable, even the opportunities I could have been truer to my faith. Yet, amidst the chaos, I remember that stable place 2,000 years ago and those who released their inhibitions to adore what matters most in all eternity. For all of us, may this truth be the centerpiece of any Christmas stirring as we approach 2023.

Selah.

Cover graphic creds: Wallpaper Cave

There & Back Again: The Gift and Call of Suffering

So lately, I’ve been building my library, adding books to shelves in a quest to answer a timeless question:

Why do we suffer?

Yet, as I absorb Daniel Carrington and Philip Yancey, I’m curious if we should reconsider the inquiry as, ‘How should we suffer?’

For if suffering is a kingdom, a divine call, and the resilience guide to discovering God, then surely the way we endure merits discussion.

Perhaps you’re like me looking to mature through past and present challenges and hoping to think outward as opposed to inward. Either way, as we near the home stretch of 2022, these are the musings of yours truly…the emotional evolution of one still processing the passing of his youngest.

Sweet Jubilee…oh, how I miss you.

Granted, much has started to calibrate since my last post. The returns to certain norms are imminent. There have even been times I’ve wondered why I’m not more depressed than I am.

But at the core of it all, Lys and I feel like Merry, Pippin, Sam, and Frodo returning to the shire from Mordor. Remember what Frodo said when he returned to Bag End in ‘Return of the King‘?

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on…when in your heart you begin to understand…there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend…some hurts that go too deep… that have taken hold.”

To me, this begs the question: What then can ‘untake’ that hold? How then should the heart resound, if not through soundless bites that in hardship can be the most beautiful expression of vulnerability?

Answers aside, the line resonates, a heart prick that has compelled me to relish the truth:

The author and perfector of my faith is the same author and perfector of my pain who from the beginning of time ordained it as a means for me to choose Him!

Like any day I’m alive, I’m taking hold of it as one made in His image. Like any hour I’m awake, I’m taking hold of it to press into His likeness. Just because my heart is healing, doesn’t mean I can’t partake in divine remedy, the sweetness of God’s Immanuel presence and the power of His strength piercing the darkness.

When I’m tempted to retreat, I remember the out I have to retreat into Jesus. And from there, I springboard into the dichotomy between the questions above…that the difference between “Why do we suffer” and “How should we suffer”, in purest form, is the asker of the latter knowing he is loved by God and is willing to trust in His purposes. That it is unfathomable love wrapped in mystery orchestrating the narrative of triumph and perspective rising from the depths.

Like Lys and I of late, you may feel like Frodo, called into adventures beyond your understanding, wishing the rings of adversity, be it disappointment or grief, hadn’t come to you. Yet, in those Moria moments, remember that’s when the Spirit finds and refreshes us as Gandalf did to Frodo:

So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Sure, the year of Jubilee may be over but as her name implies, the happy ever afters are only beginning. Accordingly, we celebrate our precious daughter Hebrews 12:1 style, knowing she’s not only part of a great cloud of witnesses but also co-inspiration stirring us to lay aside the weight of anguish clinging closely…

…her voice an echo to the Master urging us to run our race with endurance.

As for you, my friends, whatever your mission is, know to be overwhelmed is only human and often the evidence of doing something right. Why not then fuse some Hebrews 12:1-2 along with some Romans 8:28 and Galatians 6:9 into the questions you’re asking? Why not faint not…knowing God works all things, including our sufferings, for good and makes things new as words trustworthy and true (Revelation 21:5)? You don’t have to bear the weight of deciphering your circumstances. Rather, you can bear each other’s burdens delighting in the fact God has you going somewhere. Even if loss is incurred along the way, remember nothing can separate you from God’s love and the victory He has in store for you.

At the very least, take it from Jubilee. Her life was a gift but even more so her legacy. What keeps her Spirit alive is the same Spirit who in whispers:

  1. Reminds us He’s there because He’s been there and…
  2. Ignites us to see how discovering God through perseverance as the best way to journey through suffering.

In closing, I return to Yancey: “As we rely on God and trust His Spirit to mold us in His image, true hope takes shape within us, ‘a hope that does not disappoint.’ We can literally become better persons because of suffering. Pain, however meaningless it may seem at the time, can be transformed. Where is God when it hurts? He is in us—not in the things that hurt—helping to transform bad into good. We can safely say that God can bring good out of evil; we cannot say that God brings about the evil in hopes of producing good.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: mckellen.com

Miracle in the Making: The Jubilee Journey (Finale)

Jubilee’s goodbye letter as shared during 1:10:00-1:17:23 of today’s Celebration of Life live stream: https://youtu.be/xUD-NkRrzvk

Dear Jubilee,

For almost two weeks, I’ve been trying to find the words. There’s so much I want to say but don’t know how. So, I’ll start with the obvious.

I love you. Not more than you know, but as you now know.

Indeed, in this moment, I write to you within the ultimate paradox. Having fought with you for 13 months along with your mom and two of the world’s best NICU medical teams, I was desperate to see you experience fullness, not just of health but of life, love, and whatever joy you could possibly know within your fragile state. Now, look at you, all smitten and sassy, safe in the Father’s arms aware of that fullness in ways I can’t possibly understand. The world’s greatest former micro preemie fighter…at peace with her Creator. His breath is in your lungs as you pour out your praise.

No question, you challenged and changed many hearts from the ones entrusted to your care to ones who barely knew you. From your primaries to prayer partners across the globe, you reminded us how special each day truly is, and how much the present is a gift you can never take for granted. Packed within a year of forced rest, you compelled us to take baby steps into unchartered belief, to ride the waves far out of our depth.

Yet, through it all, we fell in love with His might and light in your fight. Christ in you, Christ in us, we learned how to be content at the end of our rope. how to fall and press into Jesus at the same time, not to mention the technical terms, the bells, and whistles of a brave, new world.

Often, there was much to take in, much beyond our ability to process. And so, we prayed. Every day. Without ceasing…that the same Spirit behind your smile, that fueled your tenacity would be known across the hall, down the aisle, from the parking lot and front desk to each emergency, operating, and visitation room. Every day. A chance to stiff-arm the ‘why’ and embrace the strive-less rhythms of grace. Every day. An opportunity.to gaze into your eyes to find God looking back at us through them.

In a way, you inspired joy in persevering through chaos and crisis. You taught us how being still in weakness is, in fact, strength. And you reminded us how surrender must also rise with hope, how to embrace those mini-Gethsemane moments throughout each day: Not my will but yours be done.

To your mother and I, your sister and brothers, we marvel at the vessel God designed you to be, the way you took in unity, prayer, and love and churned out life upon life on the other side. Granted, your days were numbered less than what we would have hoped. Still, we know in this grand mystery, there is purpose, hope, and freedom within the appointed number of days God called to your earthly tenure.

And so, I stand here with a new appreciation of the question I must ask. For it is not, ‘Why did God let you die’, but rather ‘Why did God let you live?’

Past day 1 when you had no business surviving traumatic labor at 25 weeks. Past day 80, when both your lungs collapsed. Past days 290-340 during which you coded over 15 times.

Why did God let you live?

While your family and I will have many years to discern the answers, for now, I want you to know it is well in my soul God called you to reflect childlike faith, wonder, and helplessness for 393 precious days and it is well in my heart God anointed you to inspire NICU personnel and families towards the loving arms of Jesus, to help them consider what is it that kept you going, kept fighting, and kept defying the darkest of diagnoses.

As for ending this letter, having embarked on this joyful journey like no other, I ask one more question, one I’ll be sharing with many who know and will know your story. And that is, based on the legacy of your life, ‘How is it we must never be the same again?’ To quote your great grandmother whose husband you now know, “you were a diamond loaned to us from God’s ‘stash’, a pure, bright, beautiful solitaire to show us how beautiful heaven must be.” Of course, with your former limitations and restrictions on earth, a celestial, prismatic perspective may seem farfetched. But to me and your family and friends sitting in this room today, the metaphor hits home. Like a unified tribe, we’re all witnesses to how you reflected eternity through epic resilience. From a micro-preemie plagued by chronic lung disease and pulmonary hypertension to one born again into paradise, we celebrate not only your victory and triumph over sickness and death but relish the truth that for thousands of people, your face is now a thumbnail capturing the kind of Romans 5 endurance they want to run the rest of their life with.

Creds to the Master. Tell Him we’re forever grateful for the Year of Jubilee, for having the chance to love and support you as your immediate and extended family. True, there was a lot of pain amidst the patience and perseverance during your short life. But as C.S. Lewis once said, while God whispers to us in our pleasures and speaks in our consciences, He shouts in our pain. For it is pain that insists on being attended to as His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. So, as we say goodbye in this setting, as a community who loves you, we declare the voice you now have via the Almighty as one that will heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and announce favor and grace to those who mourn. The joy of the Lord as your strength, help prepare the way for the risen Lord.

After all, the season’s changing and God is rebuilding everything. So, we will listen with humble hearts, with gladness and gratitude, to the people shouting, ‘This is Jubilee’.

With sincerest affection and adoration,

Dad

Cover photo by Cameron J. Fry

Box & 1: How to Overcome Offense When You’re Labeled

Finally! 🎶 At last! 🎶 Meteorological fall is here.

We’ve flipped a page, we’ve turned a corner…🎶 the dog days are over 🎶 … even if it’s mental placebo.

As always, so many words, so little time…I don’t even know how to fit it all in a single post. I will say for all you prayer warriors out there, Juby continues to improve one step at a time. It’s crazy to think a month ago, we almost lost her…again…but now, she’s stumping the sharpest minds Vandy has to offer. No question, your support and encouragement has been profoundly appreciated and will be rewarded with a more thorough August recap later this month.

For now, I want to talk about the box – arguably, the worst metaphysical place to be in and a dimension that takes a word (or thought) curse and places bias-based boundaries to it.

The box is nothing new. We’ve all experienced it one way or another…whether we’ve created it, extended it, believed in it, or even subjected people to it.

Relationally speaking, when we build a box, we often set the edges during first impressions, connect the lines during observed moments of strength and/or weakness, and fortify them in times of transparency. In most cases, the sum of subconscious, past experiences, and worldview drives our perception of others for better or for worse. Given most paradigms are subject to partiality, preferences, even prejudices, the biblical mandate to not exalt the thoughts of man above what God has said and ordained before the creation of the world makes sense (Isaiah 55:8-9, Romans 11:33, Ephesians 3:20-21).

Yet, as we all know, this is easier said than done…and after several difficult conversations this week, I can’t help but explore the topic.

‘Cause truth is: Not only do I feel boxed in right now, I feel convicted of my buy-in into it. Discussions rooted in burnout, confusion,and frustration yet fueled by a desire to do the right thing, to follow a Matthew 18 pathway…honestly, I don’t understand why they blow up sometimes especially when both sides involved are on the same team in more ways than one.

In recent days and weeks, I’ve heard my share of deception and bad takes…and they’ve reminded me of youthful days when I first discovered the box, the whispers and passive-aggressive jabs from high-school and collegiate peers. Of course, I also must admit, though seldom, I did the same mainly out of self-perseveration, false comfort, and at times, retaliation…all in the pathetic name of being able to sleep at night.

Whatever the case, I was just a kid then…but now as a professional adult, I’m dumbfounded to its continuation. When good people are committed to humbling you in wrong ways, leaking their insecurities through false narratives concocted just to ensure you don’t think highly of yourself…I’d be lyin’ if I said I understood the move, the angle, and the justification why anyone would think this is wise, let alone constructive.

Still, in this awareness, I recognize the humility requirement and how I must own my proneness to reciprocation. Even in my quest to understand feedback and diagnosis, to make peace, to live in harmony as far as it be with me, I must confess my imperfections.

I need Jesus just as much as someone who doesn’t yet know Him…because at the end of the day, I’m still a sinner in daily need of grace.

I don’t view myself or pursue excellence with a ‘greater than’ lens on account of faith. Rather, I submit myself to a calling of excellence rooted in faith…and commit my effort, service, and attitude accordingly. No ego, self-love or manipulation. Simply learning to be like Jesus learning the ropes of life in an evolving culture with evolving expectations.

My charges are simple:

1. Don’t put people or yourself in a box.
2. To those God has entrusted in your care, in your walks of life, make room to listen and understand.
3. Be proactive and ready to put your preconceived notions on pause.
4. Don’t go out of your way to passively subdue and/or withhold a good thing in the name of wanting to be right.
5. Communicate clearly the ‘why’ behind your ‘what’.
6. If you catch others not recognizing growth and maturity, don’t take offense. Rather take heart knowing God understands infinitely beyond the limitations of man.
7. As needed, in circumstances marked by misunderstanding, negligence, and insensitivity/ingratitude, pray God illuminates the blind spots on both sides, not just one.

By employing this list, you not only abide in humility and your true identity in Christ…but also posture your perspective to know what is of God and what isn’t.

Even if people inadvertently crack the foundation of your peace by not meeting you halfway on the road to reconciliation, don’t react, don’t manufacture a happy ending…just breathe, let go the offense, and keep going knowing you’re known.

The Father gets you, is there for you, and will never forsake you. ‘Tis all the more reason why you often hear me, ‘You got this…even when you think you don’t.’

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Civil Service World