Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Frolic Sanctity of Advent

A few years ago during the Advent season my wife, Anna, and I attempted to teach our children the story of Christ’s birth through song. We would all gather, rather haphazardly, around the couch or sprawled out on the living room floor. The intention was to teach the kids one hymn each Advent week until Christmas. We truly attempted to teach them more than one hymn, but our fatal (and fantastic) flaw was that our first hymn was “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. When we tried to move on to a new hymn the children would have none of it. My feeble efforts in teaching “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” and “Away in a Manger” were met with resistant yawns. So I gave in. It was an O Come, O Come Emmanuel-athon.

Our eldest, Adison, from the moment she heard it, was determined to learn every word to the song. She soaked up every haunting note, carefully watching our mouths as we sang the words. Watching her sing it is infectious. Since then I've spotted her now and then off in a pew by herself before worship flipping through the hymnbook to find “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and then, with a studious finger-pointing technique, she traces the lines, singing softly to herself. She was seriously devoted to learning the song because her heart had it memorized the first time she heard it.

My son, Noah, on the other hand, was seriously devoted to flipping across the room while we tried to teach this hymn. He had no time for anyone mourning in lonely exile. He was ready to disperse them gloomy clouds and get to the good stuff. As we sang our way through those solemn, expectant verses, he was gearing up for the refrain, ready to unfurl a noise that would make a trumpet curse. “REEEJOICE! REEEJOICE!” Every tiny particle of that little boy’s body united as one biological choir striving towards this one purpose. “REEEJOICE! REEEJOICE!” His voice only gave credence to what the rest of his body was already saying. His face, with eyes wide and wild, screamed, “Rejoice!” His arms rocketed to the sky and his legs sprung him upwards faster than a spooked cat and together they cried, “Rejoice!” Had it not been for the ceiling, the Heavenly Host would’ve undoubtedly mistaken him for one of their own.

And so we sang. I held the hymnbook and carried the tune. My wife held onto Arwen, our third child, and carried our fourth, Willow, in her womb. Adison, like an anchor, delving the depths of the soul of the song, singing the ancient words as if it were the first time they had ever been sung. And we needed that weightiness, because the second our lips stopped moving we would’ve been hurled into the heavens—zipping through the Aurora Borealis and bypassing the Pleiades—borne on the wings of a little boy’s praise.

During that time I experienced, what Chesterton off-handedly calls, deep levity. The seriousness and gravity of the birth of God as Man dancing on the lips of children. Children who have yet to scratch the surface of the amazing implications of what it means for God to become Man, yet with a shriek and a laugh seem to understand it better and with more intimacy than the most learned theological scholar. C.S. Lewis described his Eve-like Green Lady in Perelandra as one who possessed ‘frolic sanctity’. As I think back on it, no better words could define such a moment. A family searching together the depths of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God, not through textbooks and chalk dust, but through singing, laughing, and children jumping off of couches.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Continual Feast

“he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast” -Proverbs 15:15

A continual feast. What an incredibly astounding image! It is a heavenly image. Throughout Scripture we are told of a feast that awaits us and, indeed, it will be continual. When I hear the word ‘feast’ I instantly think of family holiday gatherings and wedding receptions. The food and drink are the best at these events. The roasted (and/or smoked) meats! The best wine! The mountains of endless mashed potatoes. But I am finite so I cannot continually eat and drink. One day I will. Though for now we eat and drink and become sick, at the Continual Feast we will eat and drink and ask for thirteenths. We will put hobbits to shame. And with Jesus as our host, no doubt the wine will just keep getting better and better.

Watching my children dance at a wedding reception gives me nearly an unspeakable amount of joy. Their laughter, their spinning gowns, their ability to feel no embarrassment whatsoever (as exemplified by my son's out of sync herky-jerky step-jump slide'n-rip-the-knees dance moves). But our fallen bodies grow tired (even of watching) and so at some point we must leave. The protestation from the children, despite their exhaustion, speaks to their Christlikeness. They innately long for the Continual Feast.

Oh, if watching my children dance is but the slightest foretaste of heaven then it is a mercy that God has made me finite, for if I experienced the fullness of that joy and love and happiness now, my heart would up and burst.

One day, at the Continual Feast, my heart will be made strong enough to endure the joy, and what would make my heart burst as a fallen man would be but the first flutter in heaven.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sun butter Rice Krispies

1 cup sun butter
1/2 cup vanilla almond bark (aprox 4 squares)
1/3 cup raw honey
3-4 cups chocolate rice krispy cereal

Melt the sun butter and almond bark together, pour cereal into large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread out onto a 9x13 cake pan and put in fridge for 1-2 hours to harden.

Friday, December 6, 2013

In Defense of Santa Claus

Santa is a big issue for quite a few Christians. Many feel quite strongly that Santa Claus has no place in Christmas. Jesus is the reason for the season, so why muddle it all up with a magical gift giver? Why would you LIE to your children? Why spend so much money on toys when you could be feeding the poor? You’re just spoiling them. If your kids believe that Santa is real, then when they find out he’s not, won’t they reject Jesus in the same way?

These are the arguments I’ve bumped up against most, and I’ll be the first to say that they are legitimate. So I won’t deride the parents who decide that No Santa is the best decision for their family. If you think it is harmful to your children and will detract from Christ then who am I to say that you should or shouldn't include the jolly fat elf? I don’t think the parents who feel they should draw the line between Make Believe and Spiritual Reality ought to make an argument for their case. I think the point and their concern is clear enough. The burden is really on those of us who invite Santa Claus into our home.

So at the risk of bringing down the scorn of Church Ladies of both genders, I shall make an apology, without apology, on behalf of my decision to perpetuate the Myth of Old St. Nick under my very Christian roof.

To begin, a quote from St. Tolkien shall (like a voice that cries in the wilderness) prepare the way, "God is the Lord of angels, and of men—and of elves." That is to say, God is sovereign over all things.

I am firmly of the opinion that “Jesus is the reason for the season." So much so, that if Christ was not in Christmas, I would feel awfully different about Santa Claus landing upon the roof of my house on Christmas Eve. Santa, disconnected from Jesus, is a tyrant god. A god who wields the power of reward and punishment based on the standard of his double-checked list of Naughty and Nice. An entity with that kind of power, unchecked, is to be feared, not loved (jollity is neither here nor there; even tyrants can be jolly). Outside of Christ, what guides his motives? What is the standard exactly that one must meet to be placed on the Nice list?

Remember in Prince Caspian when Susan and Lucy encounter the wild frenzy of a party with Bacchus, the god of wine? The party was so extreme that it left them nearly unnerved. But Susan says to Lucy, "I wouldn't have felt safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we'd met them without Aslan." And Lucy agrees, “I should think not.”

Santa is safe for us when Christ is with us. If Christ is the Lord of all, then He is Lord of Santa Claus. If Christ is sovereign, then Santa is his servant. In our house, we aspire to place Santa Claus within the Narnian structure. Father Christmas only arrives when Aslan is on the move. He is a servant to the King. And so within this framework, our kids 'believe' in Santa Claus. Santa bows the knee to Jesus, just like they do.

It’s important to understand that when Santa doesn't bow the knee to Christ, we are setting up a rival to Christ. In this way, Santa becomes a tool for behavioral manipulation that is anti-gospel. But when Santa is a servant, rather than minimizing the gospel, all of his magic augments the gospel.

The toys and gifts given in our house are an expression of the overflow of the Gift given to us. There is a season for everything, so I'll not condemn the man whose household is in need of a scaled down gift giving in order to aid in realigning the spiritual health of the house (there is a time for fasting, no?), but I view giving gifts to our kids as a reflection of the overflowing and abundant grace of God. Do they really need all these toys? No. Have they deserved all these toys? The answer is often a resounding, HECK NO! Will they enjoy these toys? Absolutely! Will not their eyes bug out of their head when they see a living room full of packages for them? Is this not a small picture of the grace of God towards sinful man? So I view it as a reflection of grace and look for opportunities to come up (and they always do...even with adults) to speak about it in that way. 

The accusation that I am bold faced lying to my children is a serious one. One that should be said if I am lying. One that should be retracted if I am playing. I have not yet heard any Christian outcry against playing dress up. When my son dresses up like a knight, he believes he is a knight. He went to RenFest and was knighted in a ceremony as serious as a funeral. He acts upon his belief by doing the things a knight does. We have marks on the walls and skinned knees to prove it. When he shows me his muscles I exclaim, “Woah! They’re huge!” When he grows up, do you think he’ll look back on playing with his dad and say, “That lying jerk.”? When the Father and Son playroom dynamic is transitioned to a bigger scale, namely the international, historical, societal dynamic of Santa Claus, the Play gets bigger but the rules of play don’t change.

Consider that the vast reach of this myth so permeates our culture that a complete stranger from a foreign country can ask my child, “What did Santa bring you for Christmas?” If I tell my children, “Santa Claus doesn’t exist” I’ve broken the rules of the game. Now that could be good or bad. Perhaps it was a bad game to begin with, but the rules are broken nonetheless and the game has ended with them. The torch has not been passed on, it has been snuffed out. But if I play along with the game the whole world is in on, I am passing along the torch of a previous generation. This is a far cry from what is understood as lying to children. The accusation must fit the context. But that said, it doesn’t negate the fact that dangers exist, and that a line could still be crossed. I want to argue that I believe it is better to walk that path, confront the danger, and live to tell about it on the other side rather than to never walk the path at all.

Though you have the choice to break the rules (snuffing out the torch), it must be remembered; if you are going to play the Santa game then you must abide by the rules. How foolish would it be for me to put my little knight in real danger while at play? To tell him to slay a real foe of tooth and claw with a foam sword? In the same way, how foolish would it be for me to tell my child Santa Claus is real, when Reality offers a better story to participate in? That is, when my child is three years old the game is in full swing, but when my child is 7 the game has changed. They learn and question things in their maturity and begin to gain small glimpses behind the curtain. And this is when the game can become dangerous.

This is where the Christian outcry against Santa has some weight. To tell your child in these moments that Santa is real is to sin against them. But to tell them before they gather enough information for themselves is a danger as well. My daughter will never learn how to spell “Oklahoma” if I never let her try to figure it out on her own. And so this becomes a prime opportunity for leading your children to discover truth. In this way we walk the path together and arm our children with the weapons they will require down the road when we aren’t there. Leading them to discover the truth, to help them discern between Reality and Make Believe will serve them better spiritually than making the choice for them.

It’s under-girding your child as they learn how to swim. Not allowing them to swim means they’ll never get in the water. Letting go too soon means they could drown. This is the danger, and many Christians would rather their children watch the other kids in the pool than risk drowning, (which is their right, and it’s likely they are wise for doing so—perhaps they’ve never learned how to swim for themselves). But I want my kids to be able to run on firm ground and swim like a fish. Santa provides these opportunities in a unique and extremely fun way. In our house Santa isn’t leading our children to Spiritual destruction; he is augmenting the gospel and arming them to battle Spiritual danger. Just like in Narnia when Father Christmas hands Peter a sword.

I can say this with confidence because this is how I handled it with my eldest child. She began to really question Santa Claus last Christmas. I didn’t come right out and tell her but urged her to think and reason through it, to tell me what she thought. I’m pretty sure she knew the answer, but she held off on the hard questions until after the Christmas season. She knows the game. I’m convinced she wanted one last go of it. This year she has fully crossed over from a ‘believer’ to a ‘co-conspirator’. The game hasn’t stopped for her, just changed. The torch is still lit. The fun continues and now, without even knowing it, she is armed for war. And she will be a dreaded warrior, for she knows the true King—and mirth gleams in her eye. She shall fear no myth, for she will enjoy them, and use them against the wiles of the enemy.

So here’s to Santa Claus, that mythical, magic old elf, armorer of children and servant of the Most High God, who arrives in the train of the King to give gifts that reflect the glory, joy, and grace of His Majesty.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Primal Pumpkin Power Coffee

I've combined 2 recipes and added my own flare to make a scrumptious and  healthy fall pick me up.
1 serving

Make a strong 4 cup of trader joe's pumpkin coffee
Add 1 tbs of vanilla coconut milk creamer to 3tbs great lakes unflavored gelatin in the coffee cup first till no more lumps
Add hot coffee and stir
Add 1tsp of ghee
Add 1 tsp coconut oil
Add 2-3 tbs coconut nectar
Stir till dissolved and combined
I like a lot of creamer so I add another 1/4 creamer by warming on stove and mixing together with immersion blender till foamy.  Add slowly and stir into hot mixture

Benefits of gelatin


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Clean Eating Lactation Cookies

Adapted from Kathleen majors recipe

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup nut butter ( pb, almond)
1/2 cup organic coconut oil- softened
1/2 cup raw sugar or sucanat
1/2 cup organic brown sugar or just use 1 cup sucanat for both
2 tsp pure vanilla
4 TBS brewers yeast
1/3 cup water
1 cup milled flax seed
2 large organic range free eggs
1 3/4 cup organic whole grain old fashion oats (not instant)
2 cups chocolate chips ( I used enjoy life dairy, nut, soy free chocolate chunks from target)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl
In a large bowl combine coconut oil, sugars, vanilla, brewers yeast, flax, and water till creamy
Mix in eggs
Slowly beat in flour mixture then fold in oats and chocolate chips till combined
Place on greased baking sheet and press down slightly with a fork
Bake for 12 mins

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Gloriously Unnecessary: Stars

When Man deems, in his own estimation, that a thing is no longer practical, necessary, or convenient he will, at all costs, do his best to rid the world of it.

Evidence for this can be seen in the continual assault on the stars. Of course, no one is intentionally (as far as I can tell) trying to blot out the starry sky, but it is an assault nonetheless because Man has deemed that stars are no longer practical. What purpose do they serve for our ever increasing techno-industrialized society? We no longer need the stars for navigation; there are all manner of gadgets at our disposal for that (maps, GPS, etc). Stars are of no use as a source of light. Street lamps now light the way.

At one time the stars were heralds proclaiming the glory of God. At their haughtiest they were even considered gods. Legends are the stuff of stars. But science has demystified all of that hasn’t it? The ancients wrapped the stars in a cloak of mythology. Tales of epic proportions came from the sky. Now nerds in white coats drone on about “dead light” and balls of gas and in the name of discovery and advancement have achieved a greater evil than any primal pagan; they have stripped the sky of Awe. Though the pagan was wrong in worshipping the stars, he was more right than the scientist. At least when the pagan looked up his breath was taken away. Modern Man yawns, or squints, since he’s been raised in a land that attempts to wash away the starry host, night after night, with all of the practical, necessary, and convenient things like street lamps, billboards, and sky scrapers.  C.S. Lewis was on to something when he condemned modern man for rejecting the word “heavens” and replacing it with “space”.

But to say that an impractical thing is good doesn’t mean that the practical thing that replaced it is bad. In fact, our practical inventions like navigation systems have freed the stars from their ignoble task of “directions”. If stars are only viewed as “directions” then they are being enslaved to practicalism (rather than assaulted as an enemy as they are now; when the beast is no longer useful, put it out of its misery). I for one, prefer Mapquest over the stars. However, just because a practical invention negates the use of stars in a particular way, rendering it “unnecessary” does not mean Man should war against it (though he will). Stars are unnecessary to Modern Man, but they are gloriously unnecessary.

In this sense the stars have been liberated, set free from their task masters. They have been released from bondage and precisely because they are unnecessary to Modern Man, they are now in the greatest position to fulfill their God-given mission; to proclaim the glory of God. And now that the stars have regained their rightful place, Man’s assault on the stars is all the more telling. The attempt to blot out the heavenly bodies is really an attempt to blot out the Heavenly altogether. The stars are screaming out the beauty, the glory, and the wonder of God and in response Man is holding his ears firmly shut shouting, “I can’t hear you!” So the faint, seldom seen stars glimpsed above the city lights pronounce “Woe!” (which is still the glory of God).

I work in the city and live in the country. Each night after work around eleven o’clock, as I’m heading to my car I look up and see a dark hazy sky, tinged with yellow city lights. One or two stars have been crafty enough to shine through. As I make the journey home the sky gradually begins to expand and grow darker. And mile after mile the stars multiply and shine brighter. Somewhere at the tail-end of the suburbs, just a few miles past the electric madness of the car dealerships, I take a right and the sky explodes. The trek from urban to rural is a cosmic experience.

The Gloriously Unnecessary has just punched me in the gut and sucked the air from my lungs. I’m forced to look up. I have no choice. I’ve even pulled the car over just to look. The jungle of street lamps and illumined advertisements I just drove through cannot rightly be called ‘light’ anymore. They’re cheap knockoffs. They point me in the wrong direction. They point me to the glory of Man. The stars, though—the rightful light—have drawn me in. As they led the ancient ships in ages past they will not fail in pointing me in the right direction. They point me to the glory of God. It is in moments such as this when Man tastes that which is truly necessary.