Unto Us is an absolutely compelling Christmastime gem. Set to the backdrop of modern day scenery and haunting ‘Oh Come, Emmanuel’ cello melody, the actors portray the sheer emotions of a modern day telling of Christ’s birth. In just one minute and fifty-nine seconds, the mystery, the mayhem and the glory of Jesus’ arrival is translated onto screen.
The results are impressive; I found myself being moved to the core of my being. For those who have seen multiple nativities or screen depictions of that one Bethlehem birth, and have perhaps lost the wonder of what really happened; this little film is an absolute joy to watch. Sit back and bask in the wonder of Emmanuel’s coming. If there’s one thing you share online this Christmas, let it be this.
The song playing on the radio caught my attention. I’m a sucker for a catchy song, but this time I thought I’d inadvertently tuned to a Christian channel rather than Radio 1 and had to check the dial. My foot started tapping along in the car as I heard:
“We were caught up and lost in all of our vices…”
“Oh where do we begin, the rubble o’ our sins?”
I only heard the latter part of the song and missed the artist details, but when I got home I searched over Radio 1’s playlist and discovered the song named ‘Pompeii’. It made sense when I watched the video – the inevitability of the destruction of the ancient city, how not one individual could escape the impending doom.
The spiritual analogies are rife, and I keep listening to this song which dominates the airways as it resonates with our current culture. The video is a vivid display of the inevitability of the destructive forces of our sin. But the artist leaves us with no solution. We’re simply destined to succumb to the darkness in our eyes and souls.
But there is a solution. And it’s found in the person of Christ who’s made restitution for the darkness that seeps into our hearts and tries to take over. How amazing to know that we are not lost and we don’t have to submit to the overwhelming depravity that comes to us naturally. In Christ anyone can become a new creation and experience a transformed life. We can’t get rid of the darkness on our own, but when we let God step into our lives, He can wash us clean.
This may not be the intended message that the artist wanted to convey, but my spirit almost can’t help shouting out the solution to the burden of a dark heart that Christ wants to fill with his light. I’ve experienced that light and it’s oh so freeing. Next time you hear the song, think what about what it speaks to you.
In an era of cynicism and negativity, I find the character of Bear Grylls exceedingly refreshing. Constantly upbeat and dynamic, he encourages everyone to step beyond their small mindset and think big – to achieve what others call ‘the impossible’.
Chief Scout in the UK, enterprising, risk-taking and wholly inspiring, Bear Grylls is also a model parent. Having three sons myself, I take a keen interest in both his style and wisdom. I also share the same faith as Grylls and find his words concerning the spiritual to be genuine and heartfelt.
What better person to feature on my last blog of the year?
Here is a short Christmas message that was recorded at a London church recently. I find it worthy of repeating here – a simple and timeless message. Enjoy.
Be sure to also check out the amazing song ‘Mary Did You Know’ (a couple of posts down).
This video is an audio and visual reminder of how and why Christ stepped down into our world. What a saviour! May our hearts be open to respond to Jesus (not religion, tradition or myth) this Christmas.
Earlier today I was challenged as I recalled an anecdote that I heard many years ago in a Sunday morning service. It’s a well known story that you may have heard before regarding the importance of prioritising certain aspects of our lives. It goes like this:
One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget. As he stood in front of the group of high powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed jar and set it on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”
Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”
Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the space between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”
“No!” the class shouted.
Once again he said, “Good.” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?” One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!”
“No,” the speaker replied, “That’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.” What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life? Your children; Your loved ones; Your education; Your dreams; A worthy cause; Teaching or mentoring others; Doing things that you love; Time for yourself; Your health; Your significant other? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all. If you sweat the little stuff (the gravel, the sand) then you’ll fill your life with little things you worry about that don’t really matter, and you’ll never have the real quality time you need to spend on the big, important stuff (the big rocks). So, tonight, or in the morning, when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the ‘big rocks’ in my life? Then, put those in your jar first.”
Every so often I remember this message of ‘getting the big rocks in’ and like to take stock of whether I’m doing this. Amidst the daily flurry of activities in a family, from overseeing homework to sorting out faulty heating, along with the pressures of health concerns and a variety of appointments or deadlines, it’s easy to get swept up by the mundane and the necessary. Little thought is given to purposefully planning time with a loved one or friend, or to achieving a specific goal, and it’s easy to think “Well, there just isn’t time!”
The image of the jar stays with me. It would be so easy to fill it with gravel and water, only to find no room for any of the big rocks. Days, weeks and years can go by, where all sorts of plans, ideas or visions simply lie dormant in your heart as you see no way to pursue them. Time for fun activities may be dismissed as insignificant or unnecessary. And yet, at the end of it all, the fun memories are important. That amazing idea you had could have helped or blessed many people. Building relationships is worthy of effort.
Time is fleeting. The lyrics in the video reflect that so well, and none of us knows how long we have left. The song is almost haunting with its compelling question “What is it I’ve done with my life?”
I’d like to focus on ‘getting the big rocks in’ – in both my family life and my spiritual life – and to pull back from sweating the small stuff. All the minor issues and activities can easily lodge their way into the remaining gaps. How about you? How could you better rearrange your time to ensure that the most important features of your life are given the priority they deserve?
When I listen to the song, Shadows, by the David Crowder Band, my whole being wants to respond in affirmation with a resounding ‘Yes!’
Just as my two previously posted poems begin very differently – one focussing on light and warmth, the other on darkness of the soul – this song speaks of the way our lives are continually entwined by light and shadows.
We will all experience a measure of both throughout life. Highs and lows, joy and sorrow. It’s sheer wonder to dwell on the realisation that no matter what we’re currently going through, our lives are in His hands as we rest in the “shadow of the Cross”.
We are not abandoned or forgotten; our heavenly Father walks with us through the depths of our darkest moments and promises to lead us through those times.
Having experienced the awful loss of my Dad at the beginning of this year, I know this is true. In my darkest hour, with my precious dad in his last moments, I was aware of the immense, overwhelming love of God. In the face of desperate sadness and pain I was surrounded by tangible peace and love.
Jesus walked with me through his passing away, and words will never be able to truly convey how my soul was stilled, when it should have felt completely crushed. Yes, sadness was there – and still returns time and again as I struggle to piece together the jigsaw of my life without him. It’s not something to deny or suppress. I fully embrace my feelings, but despite them can still know I am loved, not alone; upheld by grace.
Songs like this help to express in some small way the hope and assurance we have in trusting God through both the peaks and valleys of our lives. The fear that tries to defeat us, dissipates in the presence of His all consuming love.
The music and lyrics of ‘Shadows’ are like a salve to the soul. Let the song wash over you – it’s powerful!