a hope that lasts

Still 4 days later, it’s hard to focus on something else…


We could focus on the number of shopping days left, but they pale in comparison.


We could focus on solving the so-called “fiscal cliff,” but that, too — even with its almost unimaginable depth of debt — pales in comparison.


We could focus on all sorts of things; each would pale in comparison…


… except maybe…

… just maybe…

… the meaning of Christmas.


I realize to many the story is simply too old.  A baby, born in a manger, in swaddling clothes with no room in some ancient inn… what exactly are “swaddling” clothes, anyway?  Let’s face it:  the story is old.  The meaning, however, is timeless.  In the aftermath of Connecticut, when we continue to rush to justice — when we definitively aver that these horrific events must never happen again, when we find some solace in our own, at least perceived resoluteness — we need a lasting message… a truth that is timeless.  No speech nor warm wish, nor legislation, movement, or monetary investment compares to the lasting, old meaning of Christmas.


That babe — born some 2,000 years ago — is said to be the only being ever capable of fully and ultimately ushering in peace and bestowing goodwill to men.  Fascinating in the study of world religion, no other proclaimed deity has fulfilled the profound prophecies of Jesus Christ.  No other faithful figure has made the claims he’s made and been able to back them up.  For no other have the words come true.


Peace.  Goodwill to men.  Lasting.  Many have tried to find a solution, to offer healing, to keep bad stuff from happening again — seeking means, movements, and monies that would at least put a better-feeling Band-Aid on those evil, earthly events.  The motive seems somewhat pure; we don’t want to hurt anymore; we don’t want innocent others to hurt either.  But none are fully capable; none carry a lasting, effective meaning.  Hence, no movement or legislation, well-intentioned as it may be, is capable of being more than a so-called Band-Aid.


When I think of the 20 kids who died in Connecticut, I need to be reminded of something I know will work… that I know will be an authentic solution.  I think of peace.  I need to know it’s available.  I think of goodwill… to all men.  I need to be encouraged to generously offer that goodwill.  Hence, I need a lasting hope to hold on to.  Why?  Because nothing temporary makes sense.  Even though potentially good and well-intentioned, “Band-Aids” are temporary.  And while temporary may seem necessary and helpful and may appease our passions for the moment, we forget that underneath the Band-Aid only exists a deeper scar.  My desire for each of us is not to adhere what covers up the wound — but rather, what wrestles with the deeper scar.


Did we cross some sort of line on Friday?

Did society finally go too far?

Did we pass a point of accepted immorality that no longer we can stand?


And better yet, did Friday’s horrific act finally get our attention?


Ah, great discussion… one that no doubt we would each benefit from should we engage in respectful, listening-prioritized dialogue.


My sense is no new lines of morality were crossed.  Instead, arguably, our senses and souls have been heightened with a renewed awareness.


For Band-Aids?


No, for a hope that will last.


Thank God.


Thanks for the coming of Christmas.




the misplaced comma

As I was pulling out and dusting off my fairly impressive collection of Christmas music — ok, wait; that is total “impression management.”  It’s actually, almost a bold face lie.  Sorry.  I mean, yes, my collection is impressive, but the truth is (confession time, friends) that I listen to Christmas music all year round.  I know, I know… many of you wish the triumphant tunes were confined to December days only — perhaps some of you will even pause your loyal readership for a few weeks — but there’s something about singing “peace on Earth” and “goodwill toward men” that puts me in a good mood all year long.


Recently, though, as I was again humbly, vocally accompanying the recorded artist on the CD (fathom that idea), I stumbled upon an error in the way contemporary culture sings a song.  In fact, the words are still the same, but a singular punctuation mark has been moved; it profoundly changes the meaning of the song.  Yes, I uncovered the misplaced comma.


We sing “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.”


The song, however, was originally written as “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”


Notice the placement of the comma.  That comma makes all the difference in the world.  We have changed the meaning of the song.


When we sing…


God rest ye, merry gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay

Remember, Christ, our Savior

Was born on Christmas day

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy!


… sometimes I think we act as if everything around us is happy…  like we are always happy.  “God rest you, happy people.”


Well, sometimes life isn’t happy.  In fact, a lot of days a lot of us have tough stuff to handle.  Life isn’t always happy, and a solid faith doesn’t necessarily make us merry.  While we may be able to tap into an inner joy and unparalleled peace — perhaps, something related to that peace on Earth — we’re still not always happy.  Christmas time, especially, is often a painful struggle for many.


Yet when we examine the misplaced comma and return it to its rightful place — “God rest ye merry, gentlemen” — and then we acknowledge that the 15th century carol, written in a minor, melodiously dark-sounding key — we see that the writer was not simply sitting back, believing it was so easy to be happy and merry.  The writer is encouraging each of us to rest in God’s merriment — in the joy available via the creator of the world — regardless of the darkness… regardless of that minor key.


I’ve heard it said that “if Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”  There’s a part of me that believes there’s a lot of truth in that.  Look at us running around these days.  We’re working and wrapping and buying and baking.  We’re spending so much time preparing for Christmas that we’re almost avoiding the meaning.


Hence, the encouragement to rest.


No matter what.


Resting in the merry.




diminishing Christmas?

As the shopping days dwindle and the ole’ familiar carols continue to play, I’m struck by a continuous topic in some circles this time of year:  is there a war on Christmas?


As posted previously amidst these pages, the Intramuralist isn’t into identifying something as war that actually is not.  In the past year we’ve seen the rhetorical rants regarding wars on women, teachers, unions, and coal, for example.  Truthfully, friends, the war terminology seems most employed when the goal is to drum up passion for like perspective.  War is war, and in my semi-humble opinion, it should never be treated as something it is not.


There do exist movements, no less, in which people work to diminish impact and influence.  Again, these cannot logically be equated with combat.  Therefore, the question this season is not whether there exists military combat on Christmas; the question is whether there exists an intentional movement to diminish the impact and influence of the Christian holiday.


We’ve discussed, past, eye-opening examples…


… such as in 2002, when New York City schools banned nativity scenes from their December decor but allowed for Hanukkah menorahs and Muslim stars and crescents…


… or how each year retailers, such as Sears, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, or The Gap have either avoided or been accused of avoiding the use of the word “Christmas,” opting instead for “holiday” and/or the watered-down “winter.”


The examples continue this current season…


… in Newhall, California, where residents of a senior apartment complex were originally told by building staff that they had to take down their Christmas tree because of the presence of Christ’s name in the phrase, “Christmas tree”…


… in Santa Monica, where a large-scale nativity scene has been publicly erected for the last 60 years, but atheists have long worked to halt any public, religious sentiment.  After a year long battle via courts and complaints, the Santa Monica City Council finally voted to prevent any and all religious displays on public property.  (Notice the diminished impact.)


… or even overseas… where in Brussels, Belgium, they omitted their popular city Christmas tree exhibit this year.  Why?  There were concerns that the local Muslim population would find it “offensive.”


Yes, in this sensitive, seemingly uncanny age of correctness, many institutions still choose to address the Christmas controversy (not combat) by paying equal attention to other seasonal holidays.  Typically, this means ample consideration of Hanukkah for those who are Jewish and Kwanzaa for those who are African-American.  What I find unique about these celebrations is the comparison of the holidays…


Factually speaking, Hanukkah refers to 165 B.C. when Jewish rituals — which had been previously outlawed — where reinstated as the Jewish people managed to drive the Syrian army out of Jerusalem and reclaim their temple.  Hanukkah is the celebration of this victory; previous to the late 1800’s, Hanukkah was considered a minor holiday.


Kwanzaa, on the other hand, is factually more of an ethnic as opposed to religious holiday.  It was developed by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 as a way to celebrate and promote the African-American culture.


Christmas, no less, is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, in whom hundreds of prophecies were consequently fulfilled.


In other words, in this uncanny age of correctness — with of course all due respect — when we attempt to pay equal attention to all holidays, we are comparing reclaiming a temple with honor for an ethnic heritage with the birth of the savior of the world.


As said at the onset of this post, I don’t believe there is any so-called ongoing war.  I don’t.  But it certainly does seem that the excluding of acknowledgement and the equating of holidays is an attempt to diminish the impact that if true, the savior of the world would undoubtedly hold.





Thank God no matter what happens.  No matter what.


Are any of us stuck on that “thank God” part?  I often remember those historical words… that the basic reality of God is plain enough.  We just need to open our eyes and yes, there it is!  By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see:  eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being.  It’s there.  It’s all around us.  It’s real.  And it’s authentic.


What happened, though, was this:  people knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God — refusing to worship him — they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.  They have pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.  Many of us have then traded the glory of God for something lesser.


Something lesser.


And what’s lesser gets in the way of us giving thanks…


… in being intentional in our gratitude.


Hence, today I give thanks for _____________________.


And ____________________.


You fill in the blanks.  Pick something.  Pick something to give thanks for.


Today I give thanks with a grateful heart… for an abundance of blessing… both near and far… both big and little… both silly and serious…  so much of which routinely blows me away… by taking that long and thoughtful look.


Blessings to each of you.  Happy Thanksgiving!


May we each be intentional in our thanks.


Respectfully…  always,



teaching our children well

On Memorial Day weekend, the Intramuralist salutes our veterans and those in active duty.


I’d like to say the rest of us are empathetic.  I’m not sure that’s actually true.


You are brave.

You choose sacrifice.

You know loss.


When those 3 aspects are combined, most of the rest of us pale in comparison…


The bravest person I know is my 8 year old son.  Having survived a life-threatening illness as an infant — in addition to the repair of a congenital heart defect — he continues to know no bounds and uniquely encourages the multitudes, not allowing his disability to equate to a limitation.  He both humbles and amazes me.


The person I know who has most willingly chosen sacrifice is one of my dear college roommates, Sara.  Sara is a determined Air Force Academy graduate who had ample, excellent opportunities awaiting.  She and her husband have instead chosen to raise their family — and live their entire adult lives — ministering to a needy, Asian people group, void of authentic hope.  Sara’s greatest goal is to love the people there well, even though her extended family (and most modern conveniences) remain thousands of miles away.


In regard to knowing loss, let me sympathetically submit that I have sadly known many who have known gut-wrenching grief — those who have lost spouses, those who have lost children, those who have lost a friend or family member who have meant the absolute world to them.  I cannot imagine the depth of the heartache.  Yet amidst the agony, I’m uncertain whether any compare to those who have witnessed multiple peers perish beside them.  At any given moment, the thought has to go through your head, “that could have been me.”  To see that loss… to experience that loss… to actually feel that loss… I would think it would significantly impact your view of the world, your grasp of reality, and your level of gratitude.


For this Memorial Day weekend, the primary activity of the Intramuralist household is competitive baseball for our older 2 boys.  Today, in fact, in my role as an assistant coach, I watched our middle son’s team struggle through what they deemed a painful loss.  A few handled their despair somewhat less than maturely.


With my son in the car on our prolonged drive home, I asked why the drastic change of his countenance.  “I hate to lose,” he muttered.  For an 11 year old boy, I understand.  I also understand these young men don’t comprehend real loss.


“Son, perhaps it’s time to instead talk about gratitude,” I smiled subtly.


To those who are brave, who have willingly chosen sacrifice, and who know loss like no other, thank you.


Thanks for teaching us well.  A blessed Memorial Day to you… to your families, too.





(Originally published on Memorial Day weekend 2010.  My boys are now 15, 13, & 10.  P.S.  They still aren’t all that fond of loss.)

happy easter

Pick your current event:  Politics.  World development.  Incident or issue.

Choose the life circumstance:  Profession.  Family.  Kids’ sports or education.

We are typically angry with any situation we perceive to be unjust.  As blogged here recently, we have an innate need for justice…  whatever the scenario may be…

… be that in crime scenarios…

… be that with dishonest politicians…

… be that with unfaithful spouses…

… be that with unscrupulous athletes… 

… be that with cheating coaches…

… be that with those who hurt our kids…

… or hurt us.


We desire justice.


Allow me to articulate our need in a more arguably appropriate, colloquial way.  We want someone to pay.  We want someone to pay for the injustice.

“How dare this happen!  There are innocent victims!  Someone needs to pay for this!”

From trial to tragedy — from Trayvon Martin to the Colorado forest fires — when victims exist, we want someone to pay.


Hence, we come to Easter.

With respect to all religions of the world, the Intramuralist finds it absolutely fascinating that Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, the Bahá’í faith, and the New Age Movement all agree that Jesus Christ was a real person who walked this Earth.  Most all also acknowledge that Jesus was a wise man who had a special relationship with God.  In other words, the factual existence of Jesus Christ is not in question.  What we sometimes question is what Jesus said — and what he did, being the only person who violently died and then rose again.


Funny, that questioning process is kind of what we do with people who say things we don’t like.  We intentionally distance ourselves from others when we don’t like what they say, because what they point out is so hard to wrestle with — be those acquaintances, friends, or politicians that annoy us.  Let’s make no mistake about this; some of what Jesus said is incredibly difficult to wrestle with.  I don’t understand it all, and some things remain a mystery.  And so what many of us do in order to diminish the need to wrestle with potential truth, is that we question an aspect of Christ’s existence instead; it removes the individual need to wrestle.


Christ’s account is that he came here as the long awaited Messiah, the one for whom the world was waiting to “save us” from our sins.  Interestingly, a lot of us don’t think we need any “saving.”  We’re fairly self-reliant.  Pretty decent people.  But in the same breath we’ll also acknowledge that none of us is perfect, and each of us has done some pretty rotten things; we’ve thought even worse things.

That’s the difference between Jesus and you and me.  He is perfect.  He had no dishonest thought nor unscrupulous activity nor questionable behavior.  And so around this day some 2000 years ago, Jesus came to this planet and did the one thing we all keep wishing for someone to do.

He came to pay.

He came to pay for the dishonest thoughts, unscrupulous activity, and questionable behavior in you and me.


The Intramuralist believes that the reason we so crave for justice on this planet — the need we have for someone to actually pay — is because we don’t fully grasp what Jesus did for us.  We don’t fully get that a perfect person would willingly pay for the imperfect.  That’s what we are.  We are imperfect people, created by a gloriously perfect God, who desires an intimate relationship with his kids, so much that he sent his only perfect kid to show us the way to that relationship.

So on this day, with recognition of the historical record, my prayer is that each of us would wrestle not only with who Jesus is and what he said, but also with what he actually did.


He paid.  Someone had to.