When Christmas does not feel Magical

As a child, Christmas to me was pure magic. There was nothing like opening a million packages and the anticipation and joy of Christmas. As an adult, childhood seems a utopia of abundant living. What happens when Christmas does not feel magical? and joy is hard to find?

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Top: my sister and me, Bottom: my sister, me, and my cousin, Christmas of 2nd grade

I grew up and lost the magic I found as a child. Much of the joy I’d remembered was centered on opening and receiving presents – things I’d waited all year to ask for and receive – many of which I no longer remember. It would be wrong for me to deny that this is a little of the reason Christmas began to seem less mysterious and wonderful to the adult version of me. Gone was the anticipation of something I’d waited all year to receive. Gone were things asked for and hope fulfilled. Adulthood meant the death of wonder, whimsy, and fun, and in it’s place was practicality in the form of cash, gift cards, and a pair of pants.

These feelings of longing proved that the thing Christmas most was to me was receiving gifts of toys, gadgets, and books. It was also about traditions and family. The loss of my dad, granny, and PaPa changed our traditions, and family celebrations halted or were no longer the same. The more I entered the adult world, the less I believed in the magic of Christmas. The less I believed in the magic, the more I sought the reason for the season – Jesus, a God turned baby-King and Savior.

What is more magical than a God who is all-knowing, all-present, and unbound by time placing Himself into the womb of a woman named Mary and wrapping Himself into the flesh of a baby? God becoming a man is the most magical thing I can imagine, and it is not a fairy tale – it really happened.

Every year, despite my best efforts, I find myself hating Christmas. It does not seem like the most wonderful time of the year. From the death of whimsy and tradition to the loss of family at the table plus the introduction of stress, responsibility, and the weight of life, I keep trying to recreate the joy of childhood by searching for thoughtful, meaningful, or fun gifts, which becomes a new burden and stress. I am not a wizard that can say a magic spell dispelling the magic of joy into wrapping paper or trees, but I secretly hope I am.

What I think I most need is the whimsy and wonder of a child – the child born in a manger in Bethlehem. Each Christmas He comes again, and I threaten to say, “no room here,” with my stress, busyness, and responsibility.

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What would happen if I had the childish heart of Mary who simply said, “May it be to me as you have said?”

What if I noticed the light that appears brighter than all others and spent days seeking out the meaning of this light, like the wise magi of old?

What if, like the shepherds, I believed the angels declaration of great joy and began to look for Him in the simple, common, every day places – wrapped in cloths in a manger among the animals? What if I too could find him in the unlikely places of my common life? What if I were to bring praise instead of stress and busyness as my offering?

That becomes the problem – the idea that I should be happy and holy and focused on nothing but the joy of Christmas when in reality my heart is overwhelmed and empty. What does it look like to bring stress and busyness as my offering to the baby Jesus? What if, like the little drummer boy, I bring my poverty? I want to bring something greater like gold, incense, or myrrh, but what if instead of simply believing and bringing praise, I need the help of the manger-baby who knows what it is like to be empty, born among animals? What place do those who struggle to believe have in the Christmas story?

Maybe some of the magic of Christmas is that He accepts my weak and empty gifts and turns them into gold and praise upon my lips? Is this not the God we hope to worship – the God who brings beauty from ashes?

But perhaps there is some work for me to do too. I don’t often marvel in the miracle of the ordinary. I want my life to be full of grandeur and pomp and circumstance, so I miss the joy, deep abiding joy of the miracle and magic of God coming to me, coming to you.

Christmas treeWhen we got out the Christmas tree this year, my children began to decorate it. Watching the kids work happily made my heart swell with joy and happiness. Those are the moments that if I hurry, I miss.

I used to have a life philosophy, even as a Christian, that life sucked. It felt like all of life was out to get me. I was pessimistic and my hope was dead. I look around, and I see others who feel that way too. What if we were to open our heart each day with room for Him? Would we not become Abraham stars shining like that special star in Bethlehem guiding others to the baby Jesus over and over again? What glorious magic is this? God in flesh, God in man, God dwelling among us every day – eternity already here.

Daily allowing room for Jesus resurrects my hope. Even when Christmas gets busy, stressful, and threatens to snuff my light out, I return to the wonder of a God in babe and my heart wells up with praise, overflows with joy. Perhaps I don’t hate Christmas after all – only the lack of abundant living masquerading as more stuff.

The inn in my heart is open – sweet baby Jesus – won’t you fill it with joy?

Unwrapping Christmas

Blessed are the Chaos Calmers

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“Blessed are the chaos calmers for they will be the children of God.”

As a mom, I have seen my kids do a lot of things. They have broken my heart a few times in only 9 short years. Sometimes they forget I am a person, but sometimes, I have forgotten that they are people too. I forget to notice the things that are important to them. We push and pick at one another’s soft spots, until hurt oozes out and anger is tossed around or tears flow. I can get so caught up in the doing of motherhood that I forget to be about the being of a mom too. You know the mom that knows and sees the tender, hurting ache.

Sometimes, when neglected even the tiniest amount, children act out. They do things they know they should not because they need attention. In those moments, a child needs discipline, yes, but it is not the most important thing. The most important thing is a gentle hug, a holding until the weeping stops, or the thrashing softens, until they know they are truly seen and that they are not alone in whatever the ache may be. In the moment of hurt, it does no good for me to pick a side – to tell them they are wrong or even to agree that they are right. Negative words alienate, and alienation is not what they need. They need healing. They need peace. They need someone to help them calm the chaos beating within so they can be still, be known, and be able to gain control.

This year God has been teaching me about hospitality. I’ve always known I am not so good at it. My heart is one hundred times bigger in the closet at home than anywhere else. Intention without action is meaningless. I ask myself, “If love is not acted upon, is it really love?” or just a grand idea? a novel concept.

When I went to Allume in October, the theme was hospitality. I don’t know that the world needs hospitality now more than ever though that would be the popular thing to say. But the world needs love – love reaching down and out, and over and beyond, spreading out, near and far and wide until love has covered the earth in the name of Jesus. What if each and every one of us are all just longing for home?

We like to say that the United States has turned its back on God and Jesus and that our world is going straight to hell. Sometimes I say it too. When we say these things we proclaim that love has not prevailed.  But that’s not true – the Word of God says that LOVE never fails. Love prevails.

What has happened is that we have been given a gift of sight – a gift to see how we have not clung to the Truth. We see that our nation is not united in thought, in body as a “Christian” nation, or in the spirit of self-evident truths of equality. Why is this a gift?

When I thought I was a good girl, I did not know my need of the Savior – I thought my striving was enough. When I knew the depths of who I truly was and how lost in sin I could be, I knew my need, and I could truly know I am poor in spirit and thus inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Over the last few years as I’ve blogged and seen controversies develop, I see a nation that needs the Lord, that needs the tenderness that only He can give. He’s wrapped His arms, His love, His presence, and His very nature and being in me, and you if you too believe. He dwells among us, and This. Is. Monumental. We can be Jesus to the hurting who need Him so. Like those in Ferguson.

But not only are we Jesus, Jesus is every one we meet. This, too, is important to remember. If we held each person in the same esteem as we hold our beloved Savior, He would reign here on earth indeed. Whatever we do (or say) to those we think the least, we do to Him. My least of these is not the same as your idea of the least of these. Those you tend to discredit and clash and war internally with – that right there is where you need to see your “least of these.”

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You see hurting people hurt others. They don’t care if they are right or wrong or about anything else but relieving the pain. We are not talking about children acting out from a tiny amount of neglect but generations of frustration. What if you were born into a people group who often does not stand up for marriage and fatherhood, that kills one another, that struggles to find its identity apart from slavery, and racism, and discrimination? and every time your son went out you worried about what kind of trouble he would find himself in? whether he was doing the right thing or whether or not somebody acted out of fear against him or not? What if your skin did not afford you the luxury of choice? What if, instead, it bound you to a life of poverty, of hatred, of loss?

I am not black, and so I truly only speculate here as I listen and watch.

Step with me though back into time, into the days when Jesus walked in his own skin and  not in mine and yours. Those were the days when if a man divorced a woman, he made her an adulterer, and not just Jesus calling women adulterers. No, a woman would be cast out onto the streets left to fend for herself by prostitution or grappling to find a new husband via adultery. To divorce a woman was to impoverish her, to take away every thing that made her human.

How many times do we unknowingly cripple and impoverish others when they are down? It should be the very thing we dare not do.

There is no side I want to take here. I am simply deeply sad. Our nation continues to pull itself apart, and we cannot continue to speak condescendingly to one another in the matter of righteousness – it just keeps on the cycle of abuse and distrust and hatred and fear.

We Jesus followers are meant to be peace makers. We are meant to be the ones who bring unity not division. Our voices are sacred, and we must use them as such. It is true that as we reach out to those lashing out we will experience pain, we might get hurt, we might even be crucified. My kids almost always struggle before the calm, before they accept the hug they want and need.

What if love was not kept in the closet or fed as a novel idea? what it was acted upon?  What if we did not spit on Jesus with venomous words, but took up His cross and helped the world to heal? What if we were the chaos calmers marching to the beat of peace? What if hospitality stopped being about loving a stranger and simply loving Jesus?

Would we all not find our home – thy kingdom come on earth?

 

P.S. I took those photos last year in downtown Birmingham. I don’t know who wrote those hopes and dreams, but they appeared to be written by city youth.

Shared with Holley Gerth’s #CoffeeforyouHeart and Meredith Bernards’s Woman2Woman

 

Why I am not going to finish the series

So, perhaps, you may have noticed that I have not been posting the rest of the series as I said I would. Well, I went out of town for a blog conference, and I tell you, I stopped everything to get ready, to leave, and to be present at the conference. I am not giving up on the series, as I would like to finish it and give it to you in an ebook, but I will not be posting any more Image Reflections here in this space for now. :)

Actually, I want to do a better job of being your hostess in this space, so I plan to take the months of November and much of December off, and we will hopefully meet again after Christmas. I went to the blog conference thinking there were some things I wanted to change, and coming home, I just felt them solidified. There will be some changes – hopefully for the good of both you and me.

I love you, readers; you are valuable treasures.

Before I say adieu for the moment, I need to tell you about something fun. I am participating along with some other bloggers in a giveaway this week. We are each giving away one of our favorite things, and I am giving away a Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook! One person will enter all the things. Exciting, right?

favorite things

  • Kayse is giving away a collection of Martha Stewart Office items!
  • Britta is giving away a ConAir Power Facial Cleanser!
  • Jennifer is giving away a “Be Still” print!
  • Monica  is giving away a Let It Go (by Karen Ehman) Study Pack!
  • Erika is giving away a super cute coffee cozy of your choice!
  • Carey is giving away Cravings, a daily devotional for moms!
  • Kristin is giving away 2 books by Angie Smith – For Such A Time As This & Audrey Bunny!
  • Anna is giving away a candle, tea, and chocolate!
  • Bethany is giving away a Ginger & Lime Sugar Scrub & a 5ml bottle of Wild Orange Essential Oil!
  • Jamie is giving away a Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook!
  • Amanda is giving away a framed print and a $10 gift card to Starbucks!
  • Leeann is giving away a set of linen notecards!

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Should we give a child a self-image?

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I realize I am hardly blogging by the outline or by the 31 day schedule. Confession: sometimes writing can overtake real life, and I just needed to attempt to put back in order some of my life chaos. It is tempting to just quit and stop writing the series altogether because of that, but I’m still showing up. I hope these words find each of you well and that you are pondering the things of God. I hope that you will be encouraged by His good news in some way or fashion. May all who are reading these words be blessed.

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One of the most profound questions Madeleine L’Engle asks in her book, A Circle of Quiet, is “should we give a child a self-image?” She writes that one of her pupils, Yetta, in one of her short term classes, states that a child should be given a self-image, and then Madeleine herself ponders the answer and truth of this throughout the book. Her immediate reply to Yetta is,

“Hold everything, Yetta. All my little red warning flags are out. I sniff danger here. Do we want to give the child an image of himself–mirror vision? Or do we want what is real?”

This question of giving a child a self-image is contrary to what is taught in schools today. Without a doubt, educators are trying to give children self-images, and most of the time, we mindlessly agree. At some point in the book, she asks, “How do we give the child a self?”

As an adult looking back at my childhood self, I see things differently than how I perceived them at the time. I wish for things to be different. I wish that my “self” had been seen and nurtured. Since I’ve always struggled with identity, I wish someone had guided me in my strengths and weaknesses and helped me explore who I was, who I am. Yet how can the glance back be what is totally real? My perception versus others thoughts and perceptions are often not the same. It is easy to look back and place blame on a parent, and now as a parent myself, I am sensitive to the fact that much of what I am doing could at some point be seen as damaging to my child later. As a parent, I shape my child, but ultimately, in Christ, He uses every thing happening in our lives to shape us, to mold us into His image of who He wants us to be. We are His creation, and while we are the created, we are still being created.

Ultimately, Christ gives the child a self, but how can any adult be a facilitator of this giving the child a self without knowing the child? And who can ever fully know anyone else?

My daughter is half of me and half alien. :) I joke. We are very similar. There are parts of her that I so identify with, and yet, there are aspects of her that I have to dig for, like mining treasures, I seek to know her. She, being like me, is hard to know, but I must keep trying to get her “self” to rise to the surface and come out so that I can know her, understand her, love her. My love is always an incomplete love, because I am unable to fully know her. Jesus’s love for her is complete, because He knows her fully. He sees the depths and heights of her heart.

“Am I going to do a good deed? Then, of all times, – Father, into thy hands: lest the enemy should have me now.” George MacDonald

Madeleine L’Engle on the above quote: “George MacDonald implies that as long as we put ourselves in God’s hands, then maybe something good can happen, not because of us, but because He helps.”

We must shape our children asking God to use us as His tools.

“Grandma gave me herself, and so helped to give me myself. Is that what Yetta was getting at? Yetta being Yetta, I think it was. But it’s one thing to talk consciously about giving oneself away and another to do it, for it must be done completely unself-consciously; it is not a do-it-yourself activity. No computer can teach it; no computer can show a child compassion, or how to allow people to be different, to experiment, to love. Almost all the joyful things of life are outside the measure of IQ tests, are beyond the realm of provable fact. A person is needed. But if any teacher, no matter how qualified, no matter how loving goes into a classroom thinking, “I am going to give a child a self,” it can’t possibly happen. -Madeleine L’Engle, “A Circle of Quiet”

Image Anomalies

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I was in the fifth grade when I started taking piano lessons. Fifth grade was the year I started middle school, and probably the year that I started looking in all the mirrors, so piano became this amazing thing for me, as it was the only way in which I remember being encouraged creatively. Ms. Stewart was my teacher, and I remember on our first meeting, I did not think she was attractive. She was a voluptuous woman with medium build. She wore red lipstick which occasionally smeared onto her teeth, and she had longer dark brown hair that she curled. She looked like a personality if you know what I mean, but she was a nice Christian lady who dressed modestly. There was just something about her that was different from the women I was used to.

As I took piano lessons, my heart and her appearance started to change. No, her appearance did not really change. Everything about her looked the same, but I saw her as beautiful. It was because I loved her. It was the first time I realized that a heart is the not the same as the outside.

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When we went to Disney World, the younger two kids and I were sitting on a bench eating a snack, and a special needs man on a wheelchair came driving up to us and gave us Mickey Mouse stickers. He was the happiest, most beautiful person I have seen in a while. He conversed with us, and then drove away. I was hoping the kids would see him too, you know with heart eyes, not their eye-eyes. I chatted with them for a bit, but neither had found him strange or unusual – that they voiced to me anyway.

I don’t have special needs kids, but I have friends who do. Listening to their stories and watching their children has taught me about image anomalies. Those are the people who the world would not necessarily call beautiful, but that seem to understand the world the most in so many ways – like how to treat people and how to look in the mirror without shame. Now, certainly these people do not have it easier. The world is always shunning and shaming them and trying to get them to confirm to the world’s mirror.

Because I am a Matrix fan, I see these image anomalies as a “glitch in the Matrix.” The Matrix (a movie from 1999) quote says this, “ A déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.” I see these “glitches” not as a glitch but as something special God has given us to see what life could be like if we saw with our heart eyes too.

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The most beautiful man to walk the face of the earth was Jesus, yet Isaiah says this of him, “Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground. He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—he had no physical beauty to attract our attention.” The image of God had no physical beauty of which to attract our attention. Yet He is all that is beautiful.

I guess Jesus, Himself, was an image anomaly. Surely these image anomalies exist purposefully to teach us true beauty.

Take no notice of his looks or his height. He is not the one, for the Eternal One does not pay attention to what humans value. Humans only care about the external appearance, but the Eternal considers the inner character.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (the Voice)

This post is one in a 31 day series of posts called Image Reflections: asking questions of being. You can see all the posts by clicking here.

If you would like to receive all posts from this series to your inbox, you can subscribe here.

Looking in the True Mirror

I missed Monday because I was visiting my sister for my niece’s birthday. I was snuggling my 3 month old nephew and had a thought to share with you. I missed yesterday because I was exhausted, and I almost missed today because…first world problems. Good thing I had already started this one.

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As I held the baby, my daughter, Annabelle, was enamored with him. His soft skin, his total dependence, his cries for needs to be met – his image is perfect.

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As I caressed his skin, I thought about how we all want baby skin – no wrinkles, super soft, sheer perfection. In contrast, my skin is calloused. Don’t you think that’s why a baby’s skin is soft and ours is not as soft? We’ve built up a thicker layer of epidermis for our protection and endurance in this world, and then we spend the rest of our lives using creams and lotions and having procedures done to make our skin be more baby-like.

I thought about his scarlessness, and me, I have scars. I have a scar from giving birth to Annabelle. I have scars from cysts removed and fears of the c-word (though I was young and somewhat fearless). I have scars from being in the sun too much – age spots on my face which signify that I am closing in on 40 instead of 30, and I like to wish these spots away and pretend that they are not there. I have scars from burns on my arm just this past year. I have stretch marks from carrying three babies in my belly, and my belly button is stretched out, the elasticity of my skin in that area gone. As I age, I will continue to change shapes, wrinkles will be added to my face, more sun spots will freckle my skin, my hair will continue to gray. A body rarely stays the same. Even a baby has birth marks – the evidence of the trauma of entering the world, the evidence that this world scars. Our bodies are maps of who we are, who we have been, and who we are becoming. Yet often, we are ashamed of the image our body presents to the world.

We are all lumps of clay, and the Maker, He is shaping us. It feels as though we are formless when we enter, but He is aware of our form and of who we are and who we are becoming. He places in each of us certain talents and gifts, desires, and passions, and this all just as created children. Then when we come into his family as adopted children, He gives us spiritual gifts. Some of us are geniuses, some are influencers, some are inventors, and some are story-crafters. Some reach their full potential and some never do, and maybe that’s because we don’t feel awake and alive yet. Maybe we’ve not been made alive and awake yet. Are we like Alice in Wonderland dreaming a great and fantastical dream or is it real?

Looking in the True Mirror

Before the world began, there is only this idea that God was. He is “I am” – the constant, and the hint we have to who we are before the world began is that He chose us. In my mind’s eye, I feel like He had us created and with him, and then in time He sent us to earth, but honestly, perhaps He just saw us in our Today, and we were not there alongside him in Eternity before earth. He is God – not I.

But He blows His breath into us and says go, and a seed is planted in a womb, and our forms grow inside our mothers’ wombs. When He created man, He said, “It is good,” and it is not as though He did not know that we would fall and sin would enter the world, and yet, though He knew all you or I would do, He called us good.

There is this precious time in childhood when we are, and we are not ashamed. It is our Garden moment in which we are naked and need no covers. Then about grade 3, 4, or 5, we start to worry about our image. We no longer walk in who we are, but begin to walk in the image of who we want to be or who others think we should be, and the journey of self-image begins. It is when we start looking in all the mirrors. We need an image. At some point, we become the walking dead chained to all the earthly mirrors. We need a resurrection to be fully awake, fully alive so that we spend the rest of our days chasing Him with all that we are, whether you know who you are or not.

He has made You.

You are known.

His mirror says this,

O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am;
You even know the small details like when I take a seat and when I stand up again.
    Even when I am far away, You know what I’m thinking.
You observe my wanderings and my sleeping, my waking and my dreaming,
    and You know everything I do in more detail than even I know.
You know what I’m going to say long before I say it.
    It is true, Eternal One, that You know everything and everyone.
You have surrounded me on every side, behind me and before me,
    and You have placed Your hand gently on my shoulder.
It is the most amazing feeling to know how deeply You know me, inside and out;
    the realization of it is so great that I cannot comprehend it.

Can I go anywhere apart from Your Spirit?
    Is there anywhere I can go to escape Your watchful presence?

If I go up into heaven, You are there.
    If I make my bed in the realm of the dead, You are there.
If I ride on the wings of morning,
    if I make my home in the most isolated part of the ocean,
Even then You will be there to guide me;
    Your right hand will embrace me, for You are always there.
Even if I am afraid and think to myself, “There is no doubt that the darkness will swallow me,
    the light around me will soon be turned to night,”
You can see in the dark, for it is not dark to Your eyes.
    For You the night is just as bright as the day.
    Darkness and light are the same to Your eyes.

For You shaped me, inside and out.
    You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath.
I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
    You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;
    Your works are wonderful;
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.
    You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You
As I took shape in secret,
    carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb.
You see all things;
    You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb;
Every detail of my life was already written in Your book;
    You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it.
Your thoughts and plans are treasures to me, O God! I cherish each and every one of them!
    How grand in scope! How many in number!
If I could count each one of them, they would be more than all the grains of sand on earth. Their number is inconceivable!
    Even when I wake up, I am still near to You.

I wish You would destroy all the wicked, O God.
    So keep away from me, those who are thirsty for blood!
For they say such horrible things about You,
    and those who are against You abuse Your good name.
Is it not true that I hate all who hate You, Eternal One?
    Is it not true that I despise all who come against You?
Deep hatred boils within me toward them;
    I am Your friend, and they are my enemies.
Explore me, O God, and know the real me. Dig deeply and discover who I am.
    Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain.
Examine me to see if there is an evil bone in me,
    and guide me down Your path forever.

Psalm 139, The Voice

For we, His people, are works of art. Me, you – yes, great masterpieces (Eph 2:10), and as He works the lumps of clay we are, we become. He continually making, remaking, and shaping.

He calls us, saying, O, sleeper, Awake!

Like Neo from the Matrix, we do, and we learn a whole new way of living, defying constraints through His power.

 

Interesting links on image I saw this week (I’ve been seeing image in everything lately):

 

This post is one in a 31 day series of posts called Image Reflections: asking questions of being. You can see all the posts by clicking here.

If you would like to receive all posts from this series to your inbox, you can subscribe here.

Pinnable Bible Verse

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Downton Abbey quote on image

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on imagery and Pharisees

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Today I meant to delve further into the types of images we create, but I was thinking about creativity.  I will try to explain my examples from yesterday at some point later in the series. I wish I had built into my series some creative writing exercises as even though I love the subject, I am certain I am not practicing the best of my writing or maybe having as much fun as I could, so I will add it somewhere – image by imagery. :)

Taking a cue from Beth Moore, I apologize because I took an unexpected turn to talk about chiasms and alchemy, which are topics perhaps hard to read or understand if unfamiliar with the subject. Just bare with me because I will make a point.

How many of you like to read fantasy books? I don’t read one particular type of book, but what I love about the Harry Potter series and other similar series (like K. B. Hoyle’s the Gateway series) is the alchemy. What many authors of the past have done is use elements and imagery of magic and reality to create stories that capture spiritual elements in a way that intrigues readers who may not be interested in spiritual imagery or questions beforehand. One element that is often used is the idea of the serpent eating his own tail, which symbolizes infinity. Personally, I prefer a circle.

In literature and in the Bible, there is a literary device called chiastic structure. This comes from the Greek letter, chi, which looks like this: X, which is like an open-ended infinity symbol. An idea is presented A, then idea B, then B’ is presented, then A’. (Sigh: I am not a literature teacher, nor am I super knowledgeable on this, and this is a very hard concept.) A and B usually contrast one another and then come back to the beginning point of A, thus the reason it is also called a “ring structure,” like a circle. Whether a reader knows chiastic structure is being used or not does not matter; it is a very effective manner of story telling. I believe it adds a great deal to a story. I don’t know if other writers do, but I equate alchemy, the idea that you can turn base metals into gold, to chiastic structure.

There are many examples of chiastic structure in the Bible, but I believe that the whole entire Bible forms a chiasm or circle. While I have researched this, I have found others that agree with me, but what I have found on it is that someone would have to devote their entire life to proving it to be true, but no one has done that yet. While I am intrigued, I don’t think this will be my life’s pursuit either. If anyone is reading this knows of any other research, I’d love to read it, because my study has been limited.

However, assume with me for a moment that the Bible is a like a circle or infinity ring. If an infinity ring, the middle point where it crosses is where the Old Testament meets the New. This means that what is happening in the first 5 books of the Bible is contrasted with the first 4 books of the New Testament and so on and so forth.

What in the world does this have to do with image? Well for me, I think of the first false image makers to be portrayed in the Pharisees. (They were by no means the first image makers). They were all about building images that were false. In the first part of the bible, we see literal idols and images carved into actual earthly elements, and then in the New Testament, we see men who have carved images into their very hearts and souls.

The Pharisees have taken something good, God’s law, and perverted it, so that the Law no longer gives life. They believe they follow the Law to a T, so they have no idea that they are idolators. What was a literal idol in the Old Testament has become a conceptual idol in the New Testament, but a perversion nonetheless. In the Old Testament, salvation comes through the giving of the Law (not the Law itself), but in the New Testament, Jesus is the clear picture of Law and salvation. Because the Pharisees refuse to tear down the idols in their own hearts, they cannot see the true life offered through Jesus. They believe Jesus is the idol, so they tear Him down, much like the Israelites could not wait for Moses to come off the mountain so they made a golden calf. However, Jesus is truth, not a graven image. He is the greatest expression of life, and in dying He breaks death. Even as He is dying, He is making a way for their heart idols to be removed.

Sometimes today, we do to Jesus what the Pharisees did to the Law. We pervert Jesus into something He is not – perhaps the most dangerous imagery and image making of all.

What are your thoughts?

This post is one of a 31 day series, Image Reflections: asking questions of being. You can read more in this series by clicking the icon below.

JH-ButtonSMIf you would like to keep up with all the posts, be sure to subscribe here. Thank you for subscribing – if there is any way I can further serve you, please feel free to drop me a note in my inbox.

 

What are some examples of dead images in us?

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If you have not read through my post on graven images, I walked through how an image is anything that is dead and does not bring life to others, including our own pursuits.

Yesterday, I gave you an example of how I was struggling with image – the first example of a dead image. Thanks for sticking with me in my humanity. Being a person who tends to be reserved in person, I wonder if I am too real with you in writing sometimes.

What are some examples of dead images in us?

Dead images are widespread and varied, so let’s just start with some basic images that most of us can identify and relate to.

Let’s start with an 80’s move, the Breakfast Club, to help us generalize some images:

  • the brain
  • the athlete
  • the basket case
  • the princess
  • the criminal

These categorizes quickly put a face to a type of person for us. Most of the time, these categories are our image, but sometimes they are what is really real about us. Sometimes a stereotype is real and sometimes it is an image that we portray or that others falsely believe about us. Often we form tribes around our image.

When I was brainstorming for the series, I listed of the following types of image, many pertaining especially to Christians:

  1. appearance – thin, beautiful, attractive, well dressed
  2. communication – well spoken, articulate
  3. wisdom – those that rely solely on doctrine or intellect
  4. righteous – unwilling to admit our humanity
  5. holy – those who seem to have a direct line to God

and the list could go on with other types like: nerdy, cool, preppy, punk, hipster, etc.

How many of us are really as we are stereotyped?

What about Christian image?

Mainstream culture has an image of Christians. I’m not sure I would like their image, but when I think of “christian,” it is so varied and undefinable because we are a myriad of people such that I cannot settle on one particular image. However, the “christian” image should be a reflection of Christ – united in Him as a person and as a body. I cannot help but wonder how we could reflect Christ better. However, I think though we move toward Him in heart obedience, His work in us is the brilliance of Himself, so today a prayer for our image.

Lord,

We have failed you and ourselves. You said that you gave us a new command to love as You love us, and yet we as a people have not always loved you, ourselves, or others well. We have become like the Pharisees, rule followers going in lifeless motion, but Lord, we need a revival across the land and across the world. Let your Spirit so richly dwell in us that Light is cast brighter than the sun so that we shine the Son. Jesus is the image of you, the invisible God. As His ambassadors, we ask that we may be alive, full of Spirit, and full of your glory, that we may be a display of your glorious splendor. Lord, that we would see hearts moved, and the world changed. Hope given, and Love received. Let us be Lovers of You so that we can Love those you also Love. Let our false images fall away. Let us remove idols and see ourselves as you see us and grant the same to the aching world around us. I am reminded of the words of the song, “God’s not dead, He’s surely alive. He’s living on the inside, roaring like a lion.” We want others to see this in us. We want you to resurrect dead hearts – even our own. Make us Jesus lovers. Let us accept the breath You breath into us, and let us breath life into others. In Jesus’ name.

Amen

 

This post is one of a 31 day series, Image Reflections: asking questions of being. You can read more in this series by clicking the icon below.

JH-ButtonSMIf you would like to keep up with all the posts, be sure to subscribe here. Thank you for subscribing – if there is any way I can further serve you, please feel free to drop me a note in my inbox. Also, let me know if you have any questions.

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