Tweaking the Machinery

As the calendar winds down to the closing tics of the clock, it seems almost involuntarily we begin an inventory assessment of our lives – hoping to reconcile what actually occurred with what we had hope would have happened this past year. With an eye on next year, we resolve to be more intentional about balancing the disparities in our emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being accounts . . . I can already hear the incessant squeaking of the hamster wheel as it begins to spin.

Pro and con ledger columns filled with symptomatic behavior modifications is the wrong way around to reaching the outcomes we want most. Intuitively, we know there is a disquiet in our bones that we have been compensating. Sustained peace and contentment aren’t achieved through tweaking the machinery of our behaviors, or climbing on the hamster wheel of better intentions. Perhaps, there is something more systemic at work in our subconscious mind trying to get our attention – a restlessness in our spirit tugging at our sleevehamster-headscan_v1_583_1s. At the risk of going all psycho-babble, let it suffice to say, God may have a particular agenda in mind for your unsettled desire to change yourself this time of year.

So yes, you should be more intentional this coming year, but not about working from the outside in — rather be intentional about tuning into the way God is already at work on you from the inside out. There is a centering solace found in knowing we are being conformed to Christ’s image, that we are the unfinished good work already begun (Philippians 1:6). However those changes are made manifest, I say we allow ourselves to be swept up in their wake, pulling us ever into our Father’s will. May we all willingly let go of whatever besets us (Hebrews 12:1) and ever set our affections on him who loves us with an everlasting love – that we may make his kingdom known . . . just to be with him—doing what he is doing.

Here’s a song I wrote a few years back, thinkin’ ‘bout New Year’s resolutions

Hold On/ Let Go

Catch the wind in an open sail – just might take you,
God knows where you’ll go – If you let go

Lose control of the little things
Let your hands fall from the reins
They’ll fall – if you let go

If you let go
Of what you think you know

But trouble is that trouble knows
How to crush your hope and leave you cold
Even so – don’t let go

You feel your life is like a string
Being pulled by everything that falls
But don’t let go

No, don’t you let go
Of what you really know

It’s never really been about
What you understand
It’s closer than you think
It holds on to your hand

Saw my life like a runaway train
Lost in reckless desiring
So I let go – I just let go

Its faith and hope and love I seek
That offers peace of mind to me
I know – I won’t let go

O, if I had the faith
I’d let all of this go
And hold on to your love
Never let that go


So I Light My Candle

If you’re like me, you can’t remember a time when you weren’t aware of Christmas and all of its trappings – it’s so enmeshed into your baseline context you can’t even imagine its absence. This can be a comfort and problem, simultaneously. I grew up embracing my Christian faith, so the annual touchstones of Christmas and Easter have always served to reinforce both the central theological themes of my faith as well as my commitment to them. But unavoidably, to whatever degree something becomes familiar — it is equally susceptible of being taken for granted . . . so it’s all I can do to refrain from coasting on autopilot.

The rich traditions, the wonderful music, the magical visuals, even the predictable bemoaning of the commercialization – have grooved a well-worn rut in the yuletide trail that my wheels lock right into . . . leaving little room for any variation in my response. This is why I gave up observing “Christmas time” a long time ago in favor of celebrating Advent. Christmas is no doubt still the culminating event, but the discipline of Advent forces me into thinking afresh about how I am making room for Christ in my life – preparing anew to receive his presence.

Candle in snowRelationships require intentionality — Christmas is a ponderous expression of God’s intentionality in pursuing us in relationship . . . which makes for a very unique opportunity for us to become intentional about how we respond, relationally. So it’s not so much that I ignore the Christmas time fanfare, in fact I’ve learned to enjoy it anew, as a wonderful backdrop for my Advent meditation. And it is my meditation to be expectant that God will show up in a new way during this season . . . and expectant that I will be forever changed when he does.

My brother Garrison came to the Christian faith much later in life, which I believe gave him a fresh appreciation for the spiritual depths of Advent. As a very gifted singer/songwriter, his talent for personalizing his experience of faith is well demonstrated on his Christmas CD, “Songmaker’s Christmas”. I have selected a song from this project that I think best illustrates a thoughtful, meditative, and expectant response to the child who was born.

Pay particular attention to how the response evolves
with every mention of a candle . . .

For To Us A Child Will Be Born

O the nights have grown long in the deepening winter
The gray of the sky giving way to the dark
So I light a candle and wait by the window
For to us a child will be born

O the measure of winter is stately and somber
A drifting of snow at the foot of a tree
I wait at the end of my lane with a candle
For to us a child will be born

He will be called Wonderful Counselor
He will be called the Prince of Peace
Noel Noel Noel

O the longing of winter is poignant and wakeful
The silence that beds in mysterious hush
We bring our candles abiding together
For to us a child will be born

O the vigil of winter is still and untroubled
The slumbering world in linens of snow
We bear our candles in watchful procession
For to us a child will be born

He will be called Wonderful Counselor
He will be called the Prince of Peace
Noel Noel Noel