Some things that are true

love Christmas. We’ve had the tree up at our house for a few days now.

My cube at work is decked out with Christmas lights and a two foot tall tree, and an almost matching computer wallpaper and snowy screensaver.

You might call this obsessed but I call it BUDDY THE ELF, WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE COLOR?

Holidays + off to a wedding tomorrow (or tonight, depending on when you read this) = Iwanttobemarried fever. I mean, it is like the flu… I am mostly okay with the whole being single thing but once a year or so, I come down with AllIwantforChristmasisahusbanditis, with a touch of IwishIhadsomeonetomakegooglyeyesatduringcrazyfamilygatherings (sorry I said that, family, but you know I speak the truth), followed by an epidemic of IneedchildrensoIhaveanexcusetowakeupearlyandopenpresents (did I mention I love Christmas?). BUT another thing that is true is that because of Jesus, I do not have to stake my joy in marriage and I can be confident that His grace is enough. Amen and amen.
I bought a pair of jeans the other day. They have an elastic band. And I like it. I am both amused and horrified by this. Next on the list is a pair of sensible shoes. Someone stop me before I get to the embroidered sweatshirts.
It is 33 degrees outside and I am sitting on the couch under three layers of blankets, shivering. I’m concerned that I won’t survive the actual winter. Am I really the same person who braved a blizzard for Cherry Coke earlier this year? 
This may or may not have been the highlight of my day today.

I just realized that picture looks like I murdered a pastry but it’s Cherry Cobbler Cake. My boss made it for our monthly Treat Day at work and I may or may not have had two slices. It’s what Buddy would do.

What are you doing for Christmas this year?

Rethinking singleness

Have you heard about this? The brouhaha about whether pastors should be single? I wasn’t going to give it much thought – I’m not a pastor, nor do I intend to be – but then I read this thoughtful post by Steve DeWitt. I encourage you to read the whole thing because he makes several good points, but I was edified by his paragraphs on being single well:

“… There are practicalities about marriage and ministry that advantage the married pastor in some categories. Every married pastor would affirm that a godly wife is a wonderful blessing both personally and pastorally. We should recognize and celebrate that a married pastor’s marriage is a tremendous asset in both his personal growth into holiness and the resources it generates for shepherding a flock.

But we must also recognize that a pastor’s singleness is equally valuable in different ways. Speaking from experience, singleness has its own anvil on which God shapes character and pastoral gravitas. In addition, single pastors have some tremendous gifts to share with their congregations. When I speak of my loneliness, how many hearts leap with hope identifying with my trial? When my voice quivers as I describe life lived with unmet and unfulfilled expectations, what heart can’t hear the echo? A normal red-blooded, sexual, single, Christian man battling all the normal desires yet pursing contentment in Christ is a living sermon that Jesus alone is sufficient. These strengths, combined with the greater energy and time that single pastors can pour into their churches, should lead us to conclude that singleness ought not be viewed as a negative. If Paul was serving on the search committee, I think he’d argue for it as a positive.”

I may not be a pastor, but I could resonate with the tension he describes. Being single is a blessing. I rejoice that I can be the flexible one and serve my friends by adjusting to their schedule and needs. I’m thrilled to have time to pursue the things that God has given me to love, like blogging, reading, the church and (other people’s) children. I’m relieved that none of my kitchen “experiments” are causing my family to starve – I’m grateful for this time to refine my culinary skills. 😉

However, I admit that it’s not without its pangs. I want to be married. Being single is lonely. I’m blessed by the friendships I have, but my friends and I don’t often have the opportunity to love each other by calling each other out on our sins. We encourage one another and lift each other up, but when we’re done sharing our meal, we go our separate ways. While it’s our natural state to be selfish creatures, I worry that being single makes me more selfish. I’m slower to be thoughtful of others simply because my daily life requires me to think only of myself. I’m finding it harder to be vulnerable because I’ve gotten used to taking care of myself. There’s no one to offer a hug or a listening ear at the end of a long day. I love to cook and I buy all this food only to eat it by myself. It’s weary. Marriage, on the other hand, is a beautiful picture of the Gospel – grace and love and faithfulness and hope in action. And that’s what I’m aching for – to be living out the Gospel.

But God, in His grace, is always faithful. Even in my alone-ness, He is quick to lovingly convict me of sins I can’t (or won’t) always see. God never turns down my pleas for opportunities to serve. And I’m not trying to go all mystical on you, but there have been times, some particularly low times, when I can almost feel Someone holding my hand or enveloping me in love. I don’t understand it or know how it works, but I do not doubt that “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted.”

I’m gaining, I hope, a keener insight into the truth that all things come from God. I cannot do anything to redeem myself or make myself content. I can’t force myself to be a thoughtful person, but I can pray that the Lord would stir my affections for others and have a genuine love for them. I am often unwilling to deal with my sin, so I pray for a teachable spirit that won’t ignore the Spirit’s conviction. And when I feel like my soul might shatter from the weight of being alone, I cry out to Jesus and He never fails to comfort. A godly husband, while wonderful, cannot make those claims.

This, I am learning by not being a wife.

Isn’t that the Gospel? That I can’t do it on my own and that Jesus is enough? Marriage tells a sweet story of grace – so does being single. I’m delighted and relieved and rejoicing in this – Christ is glorified in my singleness. It bears repeating:

“When I speak of my loneliness, how many hearts leap with hope identifying with my trial? When my voice quivers as I describe life lived with unmet and unfulfilled expectations, what heart can’t hear the echo? A normal red-blooded, sexual, single, Christian [wo]man battling all the normal desires yet pursing contentment in Christ is a living sermon that Jesus alone is sufficient.

Yes, only Jesus… only Jesus.

What former English majors do for fun

You guysssss. I just discovered Les Miserables. I know. I am like 20 years late to the party. I don’t know how I can love musicals so much and still managed to let this one slip through the cracks but I cannot stop watching this:

(Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks this Jean Valjean looks like Jesus?)

Or this:

(Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks this Enjolras looks like Patrick Warbuton?)

And just for funsies, this:

(No subtitles on this one – they are singing the song “Do You Hear the People Sing?” in different languages. Except at the end, they include: “Do you hear the people sing?/Say, do you hear the distant drums?/It is the future that they bring When tomorrow comes… Tomorrow comes!”)

I’m even working on the book. “Working” is an understatement here; I’m on page 32. Of 1,260. I am not making this up. Evidently, this is what former English majors do for fun. Tackle books longer than the Bible (I wish I was making that up) for no reason. Maybe my old professor would give me extra extra credit for it (and if you know Prof. N, you know this is probably not a far-fetched idea. I am pretty sure he would be delighted to assign me a 30 page paper, using no internet resources, on the study of socio-economic divides in the early 19th century France and how it relates to the bishop’s silver, our culture today and Nick Jonas.).

There are a lot of Gospel themes in the story. Agony. Sorrow. Forgiveness. Love. Oppression. Guilt. Passion. Death. Faith. War. Grace. Sin. Hope. Whew. My church is going through a sermon series on suffering right now, reflecting on pain and sacrifice and our hopeless state without the Lord. We need grace and redemption but it’s hard to fully grasp that unless we understand our own spiritual poverty. Les Miserables fits so well into that theme, bringing to the forefront something that is common to all of us – suffering and our need for redemption. It’s fascinating the way that different characters respond to grace. Most of them are scared of it. They’d rather work off their debt than accept forgiveness. Some of them would rather die. Why are we so afraid of grace? Why are we hesitant to be forgiven? What is it about being whole but vulnerable that is more frightening than staying broken and believing the lie that we’re in control?

The other thing about Les Miz (am I allowed to call it that? Is that what the cool kids say? Or do I have to read 1,260 pages first before I can be on a nickname basis?) is that it ends with a measure of hope. Jean Valjean taking in Cosette, Fantine sacrificing for her daughter, Enjolras leading the revolution, Eponine risking her life for Marius – it was all for the hope of something better up ahead. While the characters’ hopes are generally in more earthly things – better lives for their friends and families, absolution of sins or love for someone else – it is still a beautiful allusion to the hope we have in Christ.

One of the YouTube commentors (not that I was on YouTube last night, watching various performances for hours on end. Nope. Not me. Not at all. And I definitely didn’t watch them for so long that I’m now thinking in song. Not even a little bit.) put it well: Well, um, I have just been enlighten[ed] by musical awesomeness right now… Excuse me as I burn all that my childhood had me believe was a “musical.”

For. real. I don’t think I can look Julie Andrews in the eye anymore.

Do you like Les Miserables? What’s the longest book you’ve ever read?