Saturday, December 31, 2011


I have discovered that there are certain moments and places when I feel so “secure”, so “safe”, so “loved” that I just don’t want to lose it at all. But like everything in this world these are things to be “glimpsed” rather than fully lived. They are places of refuge in a chaotic world.
One of those places is the arms of a child. Whoever would have thought security could be found in such a small circle? I have discovered that when one of my grandchildren gives me a hug I would rather just stay there. With their arms around my neck, and their head resting on my shoulder I can find no good reason for me to move. I want time to stop right there.
It was the same way when my daughters were little. Even now as adults I find that simply knowing that I have their enduring love and trust inspires me to greater things. Two of the greatest feelings I think a parent can have is when a child simply puts her arms around your neck and holds on, and when they fall asleep in your arms. It shows that someone is willing to put their complete trust in you whether you feel worthy of that trust or not. When a child falls asleep in your arms you realize at some fundamental level that they have just placed their life in your hands. And at that same level you make a commitment to protect his or her life at the cost of your own if necessary, just because you know they trust you. This is why the betrayal of a child’s trust is so horrendous, and why the punishment for it should be just as severe.
When a child asks the big questions in life that occur to them (usually at inopportune times) they trust that we will have the answers regardless of their difficulty.
Our children do not consider whether we deserve their trust, they simply give it. They do not understand that our answers may be incorrect, and that they are based on our own limited knowledge of the creation in which we live. We are the sole source of their knowledge until they reach a point where they obtain the tools to gain it on their own.
I have to wonder if this is one of the things that Jesus was talking about when He admonished the disciples for attempting to keep the children away from Him. He asks us to be like children in order to come to Him. He is, in effect, simply saying, “Trust me.” And when He called the His most frequently used phrase was made up of two words, “Follow Me.” And they did. They left everything they knew because they suddenly knew Him better. They trusted Him for the simple fact that they recognized Him as the One Who Loves Us.
He will never victimize you.
His love for you will never be less than complete.
We begin a new year. My prayer for you right this minute and throughout your life is that you will begin again with the knowledge of His limitless love for you. That you will learn to live a new life according to His view of you rather than your own.
His image of you is perfect.
He sees you as He made you to be.
I pray that you will see the love in His eyes as He gazes at you while you fall asleep in His arms.
I pray for you, and for me, that we will learn to live His life as our own.
©2011 Dan Bode

Thursday, December 15, 2011


There were so many unknowns right from the beginning.
Mary was a young woman, unmarried and pregnant in a culture that, in many cases, stoned to death those caught in adultery. Still, even knowing and accepting this practice as a product of this same culture, her first response is not one of fear but puzzlement, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34
The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah’s birth for thousands of years. Most women wanted to have the honor of being the one to give birth to Him, but I doubt they thought He would come in this manner.
Even after time to reflect on the situation where most would agonize over it her response was one of the most beautifully heartfelt paeans of praise recorded in scripture:
The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56)
And Mary said:
"My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
"For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond slave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
"For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name. …”

Joseph, a carpenter, well liked in his community, stops to wonder how his betrothed could possibly have done this? Did he wonder how she could come up with such a story? Did he look around with suspicion at the other men in his community and wonder which of them could be the father?
And yet, after just a dream, he believes God, and in turn chooses to believe Mary. His trust in the reassurances of God led to his trust in Mary.
“And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24-25) He “kept her a virgin” implies that he believed she was a virgin still, and therefore believed what God had told him in his dream.
What a truly astounding man Joseph must have been to be chosen to raise the Son of God! I have so many questions for him!

And after all of this they are forced to undertake a journey to Bethlehem for a census. When they started their journey to Bethlehem did they see the star? Did they look at the sky in awe, or did they have their eyes constantly on the road ahead? Were they aware that it had anything to do with their child? Did they realize it was a sign for others?

The birth of Christ was the greatest Gift ever given, but for all of us, not just for Mary and Joseph. I wonder sometimes just when did they start to see this unfolding series of events as the Gift? Did they understand what it cost God to give it as they dealt with all its ramifications in their own world?
Do I?
Not a chance.

The list of the gifts of God in scripture is rather long, and generous as well if you look at them merely from the standpoint of numbers. God gives us gifts that are a part of His essence. He gives us something that is not separate from Himself. The Gifts of God are a living part of Him, and they remain alive within us.
When we give gifts they are not predicated on any sacrifice of ourselves. We spend money to buy something someone wants (hopefully). Our concept of “gifting” does not generally include giving something that is precious to us. We take something that exists somewhere and pass it along. We rarely make it our own. It is really more like a transaction than anything else.
Yet when God gives us gifts we are empowered on His behalf to make something ultimately better in this world for someone else, but in His case the gift is never separated from Him, and therefore maintains our connection to Him whenever we use it.

Perhaps it is not so much what we give, as it is that it be given willingly. When the Wise Men came they brought gifts fit for a king, but I wonder if they realized that what they offered was something He already owned?
What is precious to us is precious to Him only in the sense that we have become willing to let something go, or embrace something more fully, in order to draw nearer to Him. And so what holds value to me becomes more valuable to Him because I gave it up for Him.
My pain.
My grief.
My sins
My talents.
My joys.
My loves.
And the gifts He gives to me are tools that ultimately improve my relationship with Him.
My ultimate question in this regard is this: What is the quality of the gift I give to Him?
If it all belongs to Him anyway what is the difference?
What do you give to the One who has everything? We keep applying the human concept of gift giving to God. We can never fully understand the value of the gifts of Christ. He gave us Everything, but we can only give back what He has already sacrificed everything to give us.
The greatest gift I can give to Him is to use what He has already given me for His glory up to, and including, my life.

When I was a child I wanted to give my mother a Christmas present. I had no money of my own to buy one so I had to ask her for some. And of course she had to approve the purchase, so she knew everything about my gift to her before she received it. I remember agonizing over my choice as I stood in the hardware store aisle. I bought her a clear plastic bin with a blue lid that I presented to her as a “bread box”. I don’t think that was how it was advertised as I couldn’t read at the time, but that’s how I thought it could best be used. It sat on the kitchen counter as a bread storage bin for quite some time. She chose to use the gift for the purpose it was given. In a sense my gift to her was something she already owned by the time she received it, yet what gave it worth in her eyes was the simple fact that it came from my hand with the heart of my intentional love for her.

Christ’s birth was an intentional event. It was planned to have the impact it had on Mary and Joseph. God knew what it would do to their lives. He is not oblivious to the impact His actions or gifts have on us. It takes on even greater value when we individually realize the overwhelming love for each of us that went into the choice of that Gift.
I have to wonder if God chose the Messiah to come as a baby just because the birth of a baby will always change your life. Always. He could have had Jesus just appear as an adult, but no one really likes to wait for their gift do they? If Jesus had been accepted as the Messiah by everyone from the day of His birth I have to wonder how patient the world would have been if they knew they had to wait 30 years before He would do anything. Even though they had been waiting for thousands of years already I’d be willing to bet they would have complained about it. I’m pretty sure I would have.
We never know what impact any event will have on our future, but like Mary and Joseph, we know God can take ownership of it if we let Him. In their case God had ownership from the beginning, but they acknowledged it knowing how far beyond them true understanding was.
A true gift to someone, even in human terms, has some basis in our affection for the other person to varying degrees. This is also true of God in the gifts He gives to us.
The difference is that there is no variance in the degree of love He pours out on us. His love for us is complete, total, and unconditional. When God says He loves you there is no doubt that the one and only Maker of All Things is ready and willing to cradle you in His arms.
And when He gives you The Greatest Gift, your greatest gift in return is to simply accept it. All you have to do is say “Yes”.
I look back on my childhood concept of gifts and realize that I had very well defined standards of what qualified. It all revolved around two key concepts: “need” and “want”. If I needed it (like clothes) it didn’t qualify as a gift in my mind. A gift could only be something I wanted. God, in His Gift to us, combined these concepts so that we might “want” what we really “need”. And, like the child I often still resemble, I fall asleep eagerly awaiting Christmas morning where my most desired gift will be there under the tree, the wrapping still pristine. I will tear through the wrapping and my need will be satisfied eternally. And I will fall asleep again and wake up the next morning to the same gift, wrapped the same perfect way, and open it all over again, so that my eternal “need” will be daily fulfilled with what I really “want” and just didn’t know it.
Every day is Christmas.
Merry Christmas.
©Dan Bode 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Silent and Holy Night

It was indeed a Silent and Holy night.
There was little left to do but watch. The animals had long since fallen asleep. The small town activities had for the most part ceased, and those who still escaped the realm of dreams were oblivious to the occasion to which they were not witness. Most were merely puzzled by the Star never seen before even though it seemed to hover right over this little town of Bethlehem, a town whose very existence was based on the industry of providing sacrificial lambs for the temple in Jerusalem.
The only sounds were the moans of a young, soon-to-be mother in the final hours of a labor that had begun in the Garden so long ago. The will of her body was overcome by the need of the moment as contraction after contraction contorted her features with pain. But she had known this was out of her control from the moment she became aware of His presence.
The only other person aware of the import of this moment is the man at her side. The one on whose shoulders fall the responsibility of helping to bring into this world He who will be the Flesh of God.
All the questions that race through their minds are pushed aside as the symphony of the birthing process reaches its crescendo, and suddenly the Life of Man is Present in this world.
I find myself envious of their perspective. They were there at the beginning, and all they knew of the child at that moment was the name of His Father and His role as Savior of the world. They could take joy in the grasping hands and the baby’s laughter.
I, on the other hand, have the historical perspective as well.
I can look back at His birth, and look back at His death as well.
And there lies the difference..
I cannot see the newborn babe without the grown man on the cross.
I cannot see the grasping hands without the nails piercing His flesh.
I cannot see the smooth brow without the thorns.
What I can see is the mercy of our maker.
Some would say we deserve only His pity for what we’ve done with what he’s give us, but pity is merely mercy without action, and God can never be described as complacent.
He has always been active in His love for us, even undeserving as we are. And because of all this I will always see the whole life of Christ as the Great Substitution. Completely undeserved.
Undeserved by Christ for suffering penalties not meant for Him.
Undeserved by me for being unable to make the necessary sacrifice. It took so long for me to discover that I truly needed a Savior.
And so I sit as the world goes by around me; almost everyone once again oblivious to the occasion to which they are not witness.
So, into this Silent and Holy Night I have these three things to say:
God have mercy.
Joy to the world when you recognize your Lord.
Happy Birthday Jesus!
©Dan Bode 2002

Friday, December 2, 2011

What did the shepherds think?

What did the shepherds think?
Their part in the life of Christ did not end on the night of His birth.
How did they feel when the angels told them of Christ’s birth?
Certainly they were awestruck. They were most likely quite shocked to be chosen to receive this announcement. They were, after all, fairly low on the social scale even though they were the guardians of the main resource of the towns’ primary industry. They were perhaps not well known for their social skills. They were out in the hills by themselves for long periods of time, and human interaction seldom occurred. The appearance of angels announcing a birth would be shocking enough, but they must have wondered at the significance of their inclusion in it at all. They were, as a matter of course, avoided by the general population.
Perhaps it was later that they began to understand the significance of their role in Jesus’ life. Perhaps even years later, when Jesus’ ministry was in full swing, and if they realized that this Jesus was the same babe they once honored, when John the Baptist announced Him as the Lamb of God, maybe it was then that they began to see the implication of their presence in the stable. For the reality of their job, their vocation, one that was often passed on from father to son for generations, was to raise these lambs for sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem.
This was the industry of this little town of Bethlehem.
They were raised to be laid across the altar as atonement for the sins of the people. The perfect lamb was chosen and killed from the flocks they raised! Not since Abraham had stretched his own son Isaac across the stones had a human ever laid upon the altar, and he had been spared. Simply taking the title of The Lamb told the world who He was, for those who had ears to hear.
Did they perhaps hear of this and cover their mouths as they gasped in surprise? This babe, this Man, the Lamb?
How could this be?
And again, how did they feel when this same man who called himself the Son of God, also named Himself the Good Shepherd? Did they straighten their spines with the implication of the honor He gave them? Did they plant their shepherd’s staffs a little more firmly and let the light of pride shine in their eyes? Did they smile and think, “I knew Him! I was there when He was born!”?
Would they not also bow their heads in sorrow, and let a tear roll down a weathered cheek when they new the final destination of the unblemished lamb?

And how is it that He was both lamb and shepherd?
As the Lamb He knew He needed a caring and watchful eye on Him to insure His safety and fulfill His needs.
As a Shepherd He knew exactly what a lamb needed when He took them to the still waters, He knew how best to protect them; by laying down His life for them on the altar where they were meant to lie.
As a man He knows our needs.
As our God He knows our needs.
But all of this must have come later to the minds of the shepherds. They could not have known all that He was as they beheld Him in the manger. All they knew was the joy His birth brought the world that day, overwhelming as it was. They saw and heard a heavenly host, and found a King in lowly circumstance.
And in so many ways and so many times I am left to wonder what it must have been like to be a shepherd, kneeling before that bed of hay bringing with me the only gift I had available to me and saying,
“I am but a lowly shepherd and I have so little, but here, I have brought for you this perfect lamb….”
©Dan Bode 2004