Reading to Slow Yourself Down (Or Why Spending Time in Middle-Earth is a Spiritual Discipline)

For the last few weeks I’ve been re-reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m about halfway of the way through book 2, The Two Towers. Since I don’t read a lot of fiction, I’m enjoying the refreshing change from the books on theology and pastoral ministry that I usually read.

Still, there are two aspects of Tolkien’s writing in particular that I find challenging to get through without skimming. First, there are several places where a character in the narrative breaks into a poem or song. For example:

“Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.”

J.R.R, Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

That’s one of many stanzas. I confess, I’m not a big poetry reader.

The other aspect of Tolkien’s style that I’m often tempted to skim are his descriptions of landscapes and locations. For example, from The Fellowship of the Ring, there’s this passage:

“To the east the outflung arm of the mountains marched to a sudden end, and far lands could be descried beyond them, wide and vague. To the south the Misty Mountains receded endlessly as far as sight could reach. Less than a mile away, and a little below them, for they still stood high up on the west side of the dale, there lay a mere. It was long and oval, shaped like a great spear-head thrust deep into the northern glen; but its southern end was beyond the shadows under the sunlit sky. Yet its waters were dark: a deep blue like clear evening sky seen from a lamp-lit room. Its face was still and unruffled. About it lay a smooth sward, shelving down on all sides to its bare unbroken rim.”

J.R.R Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Both of these elements of his storytelling feature all through The Lord of the Rings.

That I am tempted to skim these bits is not a criticism of Tolkien. What it shows, rather, is my impatience. And perhaps my lack of imagination. I want to get to the action, to the more interesting and exciting parts of the tale. I’m anxious for the story to get going. This is a sign of a mind far too influenced by visual media, more likely to watch Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy than to read Tolkien’s novels. This is not necessarily a good thing.

For this reason, it occurs to me that taking the time to read Tolkien’s poetry and vivid prose means forcing myself to slow down. Deliberately paying attention to the words I would rather skim might have value beyond enjoying the book in my hands. So even if I never come to appreciate Tolkien’s poems (much less love them) as others do, actually allowing my eyes and my mind (and perhaps my heart?) to flow leisurely over them means entering a process that anchors me in the moment.

You see, my thoughts—my internal world of reflection—can be subject to anxiety and impatience. Anxiety and impatience, in turn, are not about the present. Being impatient or anxious means dragging our feelings of what might or what will happen into the present. Therefore, in the present a part of me is experiencing my desires for or the pressures of the future rather than being in the moment.

Imagine reading, say, the Bible this way. Indeed, there is a lot of poetry in the Scriptures of the Old Testament especially. Psalms, prophets, and wisdom books are largely poetic. Do I skip these books? Do I merely skim the verses in order to say that I’ve read them? Isn’t impatience of this sort an impatience with God, an unwillingness to slow down and allow his revelatory words to penetrate my consciousness more deeply? Shouldn’t I instead let these words slowly dissolve like a lozenge? Certainly God chose to reveal his truth through poems as well as prose.

Speaking of reading the Bible, the late pastor, professor, and author Eugene Peterson says this about reading and writing in his book Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading: “All serious and good writing anticipates precisely this kind of reading–ruminative and leisurely, a dalliance with words in contrast to wolfing down information.”

Sadly, there are times when I’m tempted to wolf down a book, even the Bible, as if it’s a cheeseburger and I haven’t eaten all day.

Even writing this blog post is an act of intentional and patient reflection, forcing me to slow down. I didn’t write this quickly and easily. It’s taken several days to figure out what I’ve wanted to say, of allowing the quiet, gentle yet insistent whispers at the back of my mind to work their way into the foreground of fully formed sentences and paragraphs.

You see, I think the very act of reading patiently and leisurely forms us. This is also why reading a book, an article, or a blog post that stretches my patience with the act of reading itself is valuable. Maybe because what I’m reading is hard to understand. Perhaps because it forces me to consider another point of view–at least to understand if not agree to it. It gets my brain working in ways it wouldn’t otherwise. Just as lifting weights challenges physical muscles by stretching them, so too our imaginations and our thinking require the challenge of being stretched in order to be healthy and strong.

By and large we live in an impatient world, one strewn with quickly spoken words and lacking in extended reflection. Sound bites, obviously, are not at all congruent with nuanced, careful thinking of the sort cultivated in part by the willingness to slow ourselves down to consider the words right in front of us. Slowing down to read requires attention, removing myself from distraction, sidestepping the immediate dopamine hit of seeing likes on my social media posts.

Applying this to our Bible reading means allowing the very words of God to have their way with us. It means, in one sense, reading the Bible like any other book. Now, before you cite me for heresy, let me explain. Often the chapter and verse divisions, while helpful in their own way, actually prevent us from reading the Bible well. We chop up the prose and poetry into bite-sized pieces, effectively disconnecting them from their larger context and treating them as pieces or advice or promises written directly to us. The Scriptures become a reference manual for doctrine and moral principles, not a grand story spanning all of creation and history with Christ ultimately at the centre of it all.

One interesting development in recent years that addresses this head-on are all of the reader’s edition Bibles out there now. Almost every major translation publishes a version of the Bible without headings and chapter and verse divisions. Read the narratives as narratives. Read the Psalms and prophets as poetry. Read the apocalyptic literature as . . . well, you get the picture.

Heck, you can still read the Bible a few verses at a time, but do it slowly, deliberately, prayerfully. Read it patiently. Let the psalmists capture your imagination. Let Jesus’ parables penetrate your heart. Let Paul’s exposition expand your thinking. Don’t worry about getting something out of it. If you’re a preacher, don’t worry about finding a three point sermon.

If we can learn to read the Bible with patience and prayer, without being anxious to find what we need, and feeling guilty if we don’t “feel” something or “get” something, we might just become more and more able to hear God himself speaking through his word. More than anything our reading of Scripture is about forming and directing us to the God who reveals himself in the mess and beauty of everyday life, about having our thinking so steeped in the words of the prophets and apostles that we eventually begin to experience life biblically. The Scriptures become like coloured lenses in a pair of glasses; they colour everything we see.

And as it happens, through this process we also become more patient, deliberate people all around. Reading to slow ourselves removes us from the hurried, busyness for its own sake, nature of our surrounding culture, with its constant and often unnecessary and unreasonable demands on our time and attention. Reading to slow ourselves down helps to free us from the tyranny of the urgent. Charles Hummel, in his book Tyranny of the Urgent makes this comment: “There is an insidious tendency to neglect important tasks that do not have to be done today—or even this week.” Among these important tasks, Hummel includes waiting on God: “When we fail to wait prayerfully for God’s guidance and strength, we are saying with our actions, if not with our words, that we do not need him. How much of our service is actually a “going it alone”?”

Reading to slow ourselves down ultimately means learning to wait on and listen to God through his word in a posture of prayer in dependence on the Spirit. It means learning to live a life that is not subject to the whims and worries of the moment, but instead rests in the presence of the God who has never himself been in a hurry.

Duck Dynasty, Homophobia, and Conversation in Our Culture

In a recent post, I talked about same-sex relationships, and in that post I made clear that such relationships fall outside the norm defined by the Bible. Because the specifically biblical nature of marriage was not the focus of that post, I did not attempt to provide a rationale for holding the biblical worldview. Nor is that the focus of this post, so I will not be providing such a rationale here either.

Still, this is a follow-up post of sorts.

I understand that the subject of same-sex relationships and marriage is a controversial, emotional, and divisive one for many. It’s a topic that is both moral and political. Therefore, I understand that not only will many disagree with me vehemently; I also get the fact that there are people who will stop reading this blog because of the position I hold. So be it.

But because I hold to the position I do, there is a word that gets used to characterize my position on same-sex relationships: homophobe. As a term, it also characterizes the atmosphere of the discussion. It speaks to how we have the conversations we do about topics like same-sex relationships.

Before I explain this further, I want to unpack the term ‘homophobe.’ In a literal sense, it seems to suggest that people who fall into this category are afraid of homosexuals and same-sex couples. On its face, this definition is ridiculous for suggesting that people fear homosexuals in the same way people fear heights and spiders. Uncomfortable, yes; afraid, no.

What most people obviously mean by homophobia is that those who oppose same-sex marriage and think that homosexual activity is wrong are intolerant. In other words, homophobia is a criticism not of a position but a person. At its heart, it’s an ad hominem argument. It sidesteps the reasons someone would oppose same-sex relationships and instead attacks the character of the person who holds the position. Put differently, labelling someone a homophobe is, more or less, the same thing as calling them an intolerant, hateful jerk.

The primary problem with the label “homophobe” is that it treats the debate/conversation as over. Calling someone a homophobe is the go to maneuver when a more thoughtful response is not forthcoming. It’s the conversational equivalent of “Well, I don’t know about that but . . . You’re a homophobe!” Where can such conversation possibly go when it degenerates into name-calling?

Consider the relatively recent situation involving the program Duck Dynasty. In an interview with GQ magazine, Phil Robertson made comments on homosexuality that got him effectively fired. His comments, while probably crude and without nuance, reflect the biblical worldview. For this, he got a lot of backlash. PBS made a decision that violated the principle of free speech in suspending him from the program. Phil’s comments, however appropriately expressed, forced the hand of the political and cultural left: the value of agreeing with them is higher than being able to express your beliefs freely, especially if you’re talking like a homophobe.

All of this seems to suggest that conversation is simply untenable, so large is the gap between those who support same-sex relationships and those who do not. Certainly, if supporters of same-sex relationships resort to calling those who disagree homophobes, then it seems to me they have no actual interest in intelligent discussion. They have already decided, it seems to me, that we are not worthwhile conversation partners precisely because it is their conviction that we are unreasonable simply by holding the convictions we do.

The larger issue, beyond that of this specific topic, is that this divide is unlikely to change anytime soon. It’s hard to imagine common ground. The underlying world views and assumptions are so diametrically opposed that unity is only possible if and when someone from one side effectively converts to the other side.

Sadly, it is more difficult in some respects to speak your mind on certain topics, much less have a conversation. And perhaps when this is because a person resorts to labels like homophobe as a means of tilting the cultural mood in their direction, those of us on the receiving end of such labels can respond best and most effectively by appealing to the freedom to speak we each fundamentally assume we have even when we don’t like what we hear.

Why I Am a Theologically-Conservative, Biblically-Based, Partial-Evolutionist, Intelligent-Designist, Old-Earth Creationist Christian (Or Why I Could Care Less About the Nye-Ham Debate)

Creationism Debate

That blog title might require some unpacking.

Just last week evolutionist Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) and young-earth Creationist Ken Hamm (founder of the Creation Museum and president of Answers in Genesis) engaged in a much-publicized debate. It was broadcast live on the internet. No doubt millions tuned in.

I didn’t.

I did, however, briefly scan a couple of the articles that inevitably followed.

As it happens, both Nye and Hamm remain convinced of their respective positions. And from all reports, it seems likely that the same is true of their respective supporters.

It makes you wonder. Or at least it makes me wonder.

What was the point of all the hoopla exactly? In the first place, neither Nye nor Hamm are scientists; that is, they are not experts in the fields of evolutionary biology. Neither are either of them experts in the field of biblical studies. All things considered, then, I’d much rather tune into a debate that includes folks like William Lane Craig, Alistair McGrath, John Lennox, Hugh Ross, Paul Davies, and others who participate in such conversations with thoughtful nuance and balance.

Of course, at the heart of all debates of this sort is the perennial tension between science and religion. Ever since the days of Galileo, conflict between the church and scientists has been virtually omnipresent in our culture. Most recently, the new atheists have taken the offensive, with the likes of Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris (the four horsemen of the apocalypse, as some have dubbed them) going beyond atheists from previous generations by calling religion not only delusionary but dangerous. Vitriol often replaces even-handed discussion.

One of the persistently frustrating things about these debates is how so often people get quickly labelled. “He’s a creationist.” “So and so believes in evolution.” People on both sides of the debate use these as shorthand, and as a convenient means of dismissing people as easily as their positions. If someone from the atheist camp gets wind that I believe in creation, I then get labelled a “creationist.” The problem with this is obvious. The label itself remains undefined; or, worse, it is pre-defined. What it means is decided in advance of conversation. Even if I believe that God created all the universe, this doesn’t mean I fall into the category of “creationist” as understood by my atheist opponent. My atheist friend might very well think all creationists are young earth creationists and no creationist accepts any aspect of the theory of evolution.

Even more frustrating is the labeling that goes on within the Christian community. There are those who hold to a literal six-day model of creation and there are those who read Genesis 1 more as Hebrew poetry rather than a 21st century scientific text. The more stubborn within these camps will refer to one another with such labels as “fundamentalist” and “liberal.” The whole thing gives me a headache.

I have Christian friends around whom I am careful with respect to bringing up certain topics precisely because I don’t want to be labelled. I’d prefer to enjoy the unity we have on the essentials than get into a heated argument over what might well be—at least within the hierarchy of Christian doctrines—peripheral matters.

Now don’t mistake me. I do think some of this discussion matters. For instance, the basic question as to whether or not one can reasonably believe that there is a Creator responsible for the cosmos is obviously fundamental to Christianity. And the question as to what degree the theory of evolution is as scientifically reliable and demonstrable as the established scientific orthodoxy claims it is also remains a crucial point in contemporary debate.

What I am referring to, rather, are questions like this: must orthodox Christians hold to a literal six-day model of creation? Must Christians reject the theory of evolution wholesale or are certain features of the theory, like modification within species, compatible with the biblical conviction that there is a divine Creator? Ken Hamm, for instance, would likely answer yes to the first question. I would not.

Labels, I realize, are inevitable. We have to identify ourselves somehow; and others will always choose to identify us as they see fit. Perhaps if we didn’t so often use them as conversation stoppers they wouldn’t be so bad. Instead, let’s use them as the start of the discussion. Let’s begin by defining the labels we use, either for ourselves or others. Use them as a means of truly engaging one another. Life—and how we understand its origins scientifically and theologically—is more complicated than any labels we can ever use. The problem is that labels stick. So let’s think twice—and well—before applying them.

Expectations, Faith, and Why Our Experience Of God Isn’t What We’d Like It To Be

Expectations are a part of every relationship whether we are aware of them or not. I heard a story once of a pastor giving some premarital counseling to a couple. And when he asked the husband to be what his expectations were of his fiancé, his list of expectations took his spouse to be by complete surprise. An initially calm session of premarital counseling turned ugly fast. The pastor joked about having to step in between them.

For people of faith, expectations are also a part of a relationship with God. The shape of such expectations can vary with one’s Christian tradition, initial faith experiences, theological perspective, and interpretation of Scripture. Pentecostals have very different expectations of what to experience in their relationship with God than, say, Lutherans. Those in the Pentecostal tradition may very well expect a more emotional experience during worship, whereas Lutherans may not expect to have a deeply powerful emotional experience. Yet, faith, and God, can be very real for them both.

Coming as I do from a Roman Catholic upbringing, converting later to a broadly evangelical, specifically Baptist perspective, my expectations of my experience within my relationship with God probably falls somewhere in between the Pentecostal and Lutheran. My current tradition speaks often of having a “personal relationship with Jesus.” While not necessarily unbiblical, this specific phrase does not appear in Scripture. What this phrase means no doubt varies depending on who you ask. However, before unpacking the meaning of this phrase it already gives an impression as to what one can expect. Language creates expectations.

To say that I have a “personal relationship with Jesus” suggests, rightly or wrongly, therefore, a relationship of intimacy, a connection that is closer rather than distant, immediate rather than abstract, one that includes rather than excludes my emotions. In other words, it is analogous to having an intimate connection with another human being. Put another way, it’s like saying that I have a very conversational relationship with Jesus. People sometimes say, “The Lord said to me this morning . . .” Critics may say that this makes Jesus out to be far too “buddy-buddy.”

I say all of this because whatever our expectations are in our relationship with God, sometimes our experience of this relationship changes. The passage of time, changing circumstances, and other factors can affect how I perceive my relationship with God. Whereas once I had, say, an immediate connection that “felt” close and personal, now God seems more distant. And the significance of this, at least for the purposes of this reflection, is the fact that unless I am aware of the factors that impact my experience I can potentially draw the wrong conclusion from my experience.

In other words, I may conclude that I don’t feel as close to God in the present time because something is wrong with my relationship. As they say, “If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved?” Something is amiss, therefore, in my heart. In evangelical terms, the usual means of diagnosing this issue is to say that my sin—especially unconfessed sin—is creating a barrier between myself and God. If you no longer feel close to God, it means you’ve done something wrong. “You’re living outside of God’s will,” some will say. “You gotta get right with Jesus,” others will advise. Hearing such admonitions, we can be left feeling guilty and anxious.

Let me say that this might actually be true. There are times when we wander, when we stray, when our wrongdoing and hard-heartedness keeps us from fellowship with God. Sin erects a wall, separating us from our heavenly Father. But if we are followers of Jesus, we won’t necessarily need others to make us feel guilty. The Spirit of God will already be at work in our conscience. It will be a sense of contrition, Lord willing, that draws us back to Jesus.

At its worst, though, believers in this situation will end up trying to avoid anything that might result in a deeper sense of conviction. They might avoid church. They will neglect prayer. Their Bibles will gather dust. Like Adam and Eve, they will do their best to hide from the presence of God, from anything that reminds them of both their sin and of God’s will for their lives. Evangelicals typically call this backsliding.

However, believers who experience a distance from God, but for reasons other than unconfessed sin, are not trying to avoid God. Instead, they may feel as though God is the one creating the distance. They want to pray, but the words do not come as easily as they once did. Rather than a dialogue, it feels more like a monologue. As hard as they may knock on heaven’s door, so to speak, no answer seems forthcoming. No one comes to the door, much less opens it. This change of experience runs against the grain of our expectations of God and how he relates to us.

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Or so James 4:8 tells us. And I do believe this is true. In fact, I believe it is true even if it is not true in our experience. In other words, even if we draw near to God to spend time in prayer and we have not, in our estimation, felt his presence or experienced a special assurance, he is still there, present, real, loving, and faithful.

This is why the difference between faith and feelings is so important. If I make my faith in God, my relationship with him, dependent on the feelings I expect to experience in relation to him, then I will often be disappointed. I will likely end up in a state of unbelief, because our feelings are so come and go. Faith is the assurance of things not seen, and maybe, we can add, of things not felt. Feelings can follow faith, but not always. And any faith that follows feelings risks being as ephemeral as our changing moods.

At a deeper level, there are times when our experience of our relationship with God shifts or changes because God is up to something, pushing and pulling us toward a greater maturity, of trusting in him and his word. In my experience, this sort of shift can be difficult to assess precisely because of our expectations.

Speaking more personally, over the last few years things have changed for me spiritually. I am still in the midst of this. I know that life circumstances have made drawing nearer to God a greater challenge – in terms of both the time and energy I generally have to spend on prayer and reading Scripture.

In addition, I find that it is hard to focus long when I pray. I can’t remember the last time I felt moved or touched during congregational worship. Even my experience of preaching has changed over the last while. Whether in my preparation or my delivery, preaching is not what it once was. If someone were to ask me to express it more clearly, I am not even sure I could. At least not in 20 words or less.

As a pastor I have experienced what I call “the professionalization of my faith.” Being in a vocation that includes activities that would be a part of my life even if I were not a pastor, activities that pertain to the practice of faith, has meant that over time my “personal relationship with God” has been swallowed by responsibilities of pastoring. In other words, being a pastor has made it harder to be a Christian.

For some of you my saying this might sound alarming or disquieting. People usually expect pastors to be pillars of faith, men and women who are examples of Christians who have an especially close relationship with God—otherwise, where would all those sermons, Bible studies, and pastoral insights and counsel come from? If we can’t trust that our pastors are in this position, who can we trust?

To such a concern, I can only say that I am, after all, human. And, yes, that means I am a sinful human being. But it also means that I am subject to the same weaknesses and limitations that any other person of faith may have. And as it happens, I am experiencing these weaknesses and limitations in a more pronounced fashion these days. I can also say that this is about my experience, not that of other pastors. While others sharing my vocation may also share my struggles, I do not mean for anyone to generalize from my personal experiences.

What about being a pastor has made this more difficult (or even more likely)? Hard to say, exactly, but I can give examples. For instance, since I spend a lot of time in Scripture during the week preparing for sermons, I have found it hard to read the Bible without seeing potential sermon outlines or ideas. Because of this I have found that I am less motivated to read the Bible. I have found it more difficult to hear what the text might be saying to me.

Though this is a good example of what I mean when I talk about the “professionalization of my faith,” I feel that it’s much deeper. It’s as though having to be in the role of pastor, which has often meant, for better or worse, setting aside my own spiritual needs, also means having to stifle aspects of myself and my own faith journey for the sake of those around me. Partly because of my own personality, I made a conscious choice to maintain a degree of professional distance from the people in my church. I did this to some extent out of fear, fear that if they knew the real me they would never want me as their pastor. On one level, there is a wisdom in this; on another, it was a mistake.

Add to this several years of ministry that have seemed less than fruitful, and no wonder my own relationship with God has taken a beating. What I mean is that—and I know that this is wrong, by the way—I have allowed myself to think at times that God values me (or not) depending on how I perform as a pastor. Like I said, I know that this is unbiblical theology. Still, knowing something is wrong doesn’t mean you won’t feel it is true. And this, by the way, adds to the difficulty. There is often a dissonance, a lack of continuity, between what I am going through internally and what I know to be true in Scripture and what I try and portray in public. There have been days when I was screaming on the inside and smiling on the outside.

So what do I expect of and from God in all of this? Or in my experience of God? Part of me wants to say, “I don’t know.” That’s probably accurate enough. Like a Hebrew wandering in the Sinai wilderness or like a lump of clay on the Potter’s wheel, what I hope and pray for is that God in his sovereign purpose will make clear sooner than later what he is up to in all of this. Either that, or that he will bring me out of this into something fresh and new, a wide-open space, a place where he makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.

More Light

Until I locked the door of our van with the keys in the ignition and the engine running I had been feeling quite serene. But my serenity dissipated in those milliseconds between my shutting the driver’s side door and my hearing that tell-tale click of the automatic lock.

Sometimes it only takes seconds to go from feeling like things are alright (if not perfect!) with the world to feeling like a complete idiot. So there I was standing beside my locked and running car, snow falling in thick flurries, feeling like an idiot.

To back up, locking the keys in a running vehicle was not my first mistake of the evening. Already I had left on a light in the van by mistake, draining the battery, and forcing me to call someone to come and give me a boost. We had just gotten the van running when I experienced those fateful aforementioned milliseconds.

After nearly an hour of trying with a coat-hanger to open the car-door, we agreed it wasn’t working. And even though I had parked on the street outside our house, I couldn’t go inside for any reason. All of my keys were together, hanging from my van’s ignition.

This particular adventure took place a couple of days after Christmas, during the aftermath of a snowstorm and an ice-storm. As it happens, while leaving my running vehicle to wait for help elsewhere, the neighbourhood lights came to life, illuminating what had seemed like an impenetrable darkness. At least for us, the power was back on. Lights in my house shone once again.

Made me think. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

What does that have to do with feeling like an idiot because I locked my keys in a running vehicle? Not much, I suppose. I just thought it was a funny story.

Anyway. This Messianic prophecy from Isaiah 9 has given my family the opening words to our Advent devotions for years. It’s sort of a variation of that cliché proverb, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Perhaps a more substantive version of it, one grounded in history, in the centuries-old expectations of a people who had known more than their fair share of darkness. In any event, the “dawn” in this case is the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, the one who calls himself, “the light of the world.”

The thing about darkness is that your eyes can adjust. When I put my four year old sons to bed, the room seems completely dark. After a while, though, you can discern shapes. When I was standing outside waiting for help on that snowy night, the power out on my street, all was quiet and black. The absence of light becomes an afterthought. Despite being unable to see properly through the thickness of shadow, we come to prefer darkness. What we’ve never seen, we can’t see our need to see.  

Christian apologist and literary critic C.S. Lewis once said that “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen — not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Without light, we don’t see what we’re missing. Beyond affirming that Jesus is the truth of all reality, the epistemological center of the universe, it is in knowing him that we also begin to understand everything else. Put another way, the reality of who Jesus is illuminates the rest of the world, all of creation, and all of our experiences.

That Jesus is the truth, and that, as Scripture says in Colossians 1:16, “All things have been created through him and for him,” is the anchoring reality for my entire life. Particularly when I was younger, in high school then early university, knowing what true was most important. Truth became my light; Jesus became my truth, the way and the truth and the life. 

This Christmas was one of the strangest in recent memory. Freezing rain. Snowstorms. Two weeks of church cancelled. No Christmas Eve service. No phone service. And of course no power. Which meant no light. Darkness everywhere. Except we lit candles, reminding us that even in the deepest darkness there is still the light that shines in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome. Over this holiday season, the one constant is that Jesus was the light, is the light.