My favorite thing about Christmas is the waiting. It wasn’t always that way: When I was a kid, my favorite thing was opening my presents. (We didn’t do Santa, so the presents came from mom and dad.) As I grow older, though, I could sit with the waiting for what feels like forever—because I know for a certainty that the waiting will pay off. The seasonal anticipation builds to a climax that happened in history more than 2,000 years ago. Continue reading “Why My Boys Believe in Santa Claus”
We’re about three weeks from Christmas, and we haven’t put up any decorations. No garland, no lights (inside or out), no tree, no angels, no stockings. Our house looks about as festive as it did around Labor Day, which is to say that it looks exactly how it has looked on any given day since we took down last year’s decorations. Continue reading “I need Christmas more than ever before”
Several years ago, Becca and I were sitting in a restaurant booth with our good friend Bob, talking about education. Back before we had kids, our educational theory (or what we had of one, anyway) was entirely informed by Becca’s experience teaching English in middle and high school. Which is to say, we believed in the importance of public schooling—and we told Bob as much: “Public schools will never get better if good parents take good students somewhere else.”
Then Bob said something that would change our minds entirely. “Your job as parents is not to improve the public school system,” he told us. “Your job is to make sure Jack gets the best education he can.”
Bob is right, and for years that was enough. Being free from the obligation of sending Jack to a struggling public school—and the guilt of actually considering sending him somewhere else—was a welcome relief. But now that kindergarten is creeping over Jack’s horizon, I’m realizing that we can’t talk about giving Jack the best education we can without deciding what exactly makes a good education. In other words, What’s the point of education?
The other day, while discussing some not unsubstantial family problems, someone asked me, “How is it, Josh, that you turned out the way you did?”
I assumed this was meant to reflect positively on me, and replied, “Only by the grace of God.”
In retrospect, my response sounds a little trite; it’s the sort of insincere response that people often give without thinking much about what exactly they’re saying. But I meant it. I mean it. I’m not sure of much in this life, but I am sure of this: I could very easily have walked a different path to end up in a much darker place and as a far worse person. And I’m not on my current path—a path of faith and hope and grace and life—because of anything I did. No, I’m walking this path in spite of anything I did. Left to myself, left to my pain, my past, my family, my circumstances and the natural consequences of my too often foolish decisions, I would not be here. But for the grace of God.
When I pulled up to the parking lot of Engedi Church last night, I was surprised to see how many cars were there. Certainly more than I had expected for a Monday night — nearly as many as I find for a proper Sunday morning service. We had shown up at the abandoned strip mall-turned church building-turned temporary movie theater for a screening of Reparando, a documentary film about Guatemalans who are “embracing the pain of their past to repair the next generation.”
After watching the trailer, I had planned on seeing a powerful film. What I hadn’t planned on was seeing such a moving testimony about the power of the gospel to transform lives. The documentary follows the stories of Tita and Shorty, two Christian leaders who work passionately to improve their community, La Limonada (‘lemonade’). La Limonada is an asentamiento, an urban slum community that, if I remember correctly, is home to some 60,000 people. It’s the largest slum in Central America. This is a story that needs to be heard.
Earlier today, as I was having the get-to-know-you conversation with Group Tour Media’s newest editorial intern, Carly, I informed her that, in my exact words, “I’m actually pretty dull.”
She tried to tell me (though she knew me not at all), that surely I must be mistaken. Dullness, she seemed to think, is a bad thing. Many people believe this.
I’m not one of these people.
I’ve come across the concept of “already, but not yet” often enough recently that it’s stuck with me. I’m pretty sure that it has theological significance (the kingdom of God is both “already” and “not yet” here, or something like that), but I last thought of it while showing a friend my garden earlier this afternoon.
To be honest, my garden is an embarrassment. Sure, it has been yielding a fair share of crops — a zucchini the size of my thigh, for example, and grape tomatoes that are so sweet when you bite into them that they almost taste like candy — but the edges are overgrown with weeds, my corn stalks are pathetically thin, and my pepper plants have been eaten by pests of some sort or another. It was clear to me, and to my friend, that I don’t have the time to maintain a garden.
This is where the already and the not yet come into things. I already have a garden, but I’m not yet ready to take care of it properly. And it isn’t just the garden: as a general rule, I have an already/not yet understanding of most of my life.