A Simple Admission 

The Lord’s ways are not our ways.

He is good, kind, and gracious.

In His wisdom He has decreed our days

And has appointed the hour he takes us.

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Kings and Fools

​Kings and fools 

 of the Earth

 might have their day.

But King Jesus

 shall ultimately

 have final say.

Advent Ruminations: The Light Shines in the Darkness

I jotted down a few verses today as I was thinking about Jesus’ incarnation—the eternal God dwelling with sinful man. Forgive my clunkiness. Besides a few scant words in my pocket notebook, I haven’t written much during the past twelve months. Before the poem, here’s a little of what I’m ruminating on.
Every year right around the day after Thanksgiving, when most of us are still getting over pie coma, our thoughts turn towards the hustle and bustle of Christmas. And it’s often customary or, as in Christian culture, even obligatory to reflect on the “real meaning of Christmas.” While it is true that this is a cliché, I personally resist letting that get in the way of dwelling on Christ during Advent as well as the rest of the calendar year.

In his book Knowing God, J.I. Packer wrote, “The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.” As I ruminate on Christ again and again, I realize the nature of his birth, nothing short of miraculous, only sets the stage for his accomplishment on the cross. Still, his birth ought not to be skimmed over to get to the good part. The poem below is but a small result of my ruminations.

I turn to Packer again: “The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity–hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory–because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross.”

We were dwelling in darkness, mired in selfishness within,

Reaping rubbished good, tasting the bitterness of our sin.

But in the midnight of our folly, a slough of our soul’s decay,

We saw, like Zebulun and Naphtali, a great light brighter than noonday.

 

Despondent in guilt and shame, still, we delighted in doing wrong.

The light shined in the darkness, convicting and revealing we needed Christ all along.

You chose us to be yours before you laid the foundations of the world.

Your Son came to seek and save us, and upon him our sins were hurled.

 

God of gods, it is only right to emphasize that you came to the lowest of the low,

To shepherds, fishermen, tax collectors, publicans—moralistic dead people—to show

Your love in the light you sent to us to who dwelt in darkness on this Earth.

O that the God who made the Universe came down to man through a virgin birth!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sketch: 33rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

It has been a while since I’ve jumped in the blogging saddle, so here is a sketch of the Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada—home to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. If you’re a fan of folk music and you’re unfamiliar with Elko, the Gathering, or with the concept of cowboy poetry, do yourself a favor and look into it. Going on thirty-three years, the multi-venue event runs from the last weekend of January through the first week of February. On the last night of the Gathering this year, my wife, kids, and I met Don Edwards, a cowboy singer from Texas, during a meet and greet held at the Elko Convention Center. We also met Montana-based poet, Paul Zarzyski, who inscribed “Spur the Words Wild!” beneath his autograph in my Moleskine notebook.

Regaining the Awe of God’s Grace

Jesus Storybook Bible, Excerpt
Taken from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago.

 Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:40-41

I was listening to a sermon on the radio while at work the other day. It was a passionate, grace- saturated, no frills sermon. The hitch: I was indifferent towards it. As a Christian, I am amazed at how dispassionate I can be with the gospel as well as towards my remarkable King and Savior who rescued me. Some days I feel my faith is as dynamic as those “inspirational” Christian memes: two dimensional, pixelated, and subjective—requiring the recipient to apply some vague meaning to the anonymous quote. Simply put, at times, or if I’m honest, most of the time, I feel unresponsive to the core of the gospel, which I relegate to being merely theoretical.

Just writing that last sentence makes me want to bury my face.  The Gospel is more, so much more! It has an intended meaning, purpose and demands a response (in the affirmative or negative); it really has no place for middle ground, and in our culture, that is essentially a non-starter. We’d rather bemuse ourselves with kitten videos or, depending our political sway, be riled by CNN or Fox News, Diane Rehm or Glenn Beck. I think I would rather just be reawakened and re-amazed at how shocking and insulting, gory, glorious and joy-inducing Christ and the cross really is.

Shocking and insulting because my best attempts, in light of the cross, at being something or someone are at best laughably cute, but more often pitiful and self-destructive.  Hanging there on the cross, Jesus was stretched out dying with two other condemned men. In second half of Luke 23, after the trial and hearings before Pilate and Herod, being the object of those jeering and those mourning, Jesus was lifted up with those who were justly condemned, having also become the murderer Barabbas’ substitute. Slowly, I am reminded of how helpless, pitiable and awkward Jesus became for the helpless, pitiful, sin-sick and rebellious. Physically dying stark naked on a Roman gibbet while fulfilling God’s rescue plan, to borrow from Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible.

One of the doomed joined the jeering crowd who ridiculed and condescended, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” I can hear myself in that crowd and that criminal. It’s not only some spiffy figurative language when I write that; it’s a spiritual truth that all humanity is exactly like that group of scoffers. To quote Stuart Townsend:

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

Thankfully, by God’s grace, I can hear myself in the other criminal who, in his contrition, rebuked the first criminal’s pride, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation” (v. 40). This wasn’t some deep noble ability that this dying man summoned up on his own, but only the work of God apart from any assistance of man. In God’s infinite wisdom and perfection, the broken dying man continued and uttered part of the gospel message, “And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deed; but this man has done nothing wrong” (v.41; cf. Romans 5:10ff).

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

Christ and the cross is gory, glorious and joy-inducing because it is real and it changes people, and it is all done by God. Seeing my sin rightly, my impotence to save myself rightly, the cross rightly, and Christ rightly shakes me back into a right frame, one where  I can again awe at God, worshiping Him, not ascetically but practically in everyday life. My sin was put to death with Christ, and like Christ who arose, defeating death, I have risen too, being a new creature. Townsend again:

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom


 

Veldez, a blog, is layman literature which includes observations about family life, vocation, books, music, the outdoors, and life as it is. Written from the perspective of a twenty-something husband and father of five, a Christian worldview is the common thread throughout.