The story that took years of listening and fidgeting and interrupting and being still for me to understand.


Christmas hasn’t always felt this way.

Christmas hasn’t always felt like more than pretty bows and ornaments on a tree. And somehow, a story of a baby and a stable and a really big star seemed to hold it all together like tape on shimmery paper. With all the truth I can muster, I didn’t get it. For years, I wondered how a story of a stable-birth could cause such a ruckus.

But then somewhere, someone with a big voice and a big heart pulled you in close to tell you the real thing. It reminded you of that summer day when your best friend told you, “I’m having a baby,” and your heart split, stopping and soaring at the same time. Not because it was bad, but because you already missed the days of sleepovers and playing Barbies with her. Still, you listened. Though moving fast on the inside, you stood still, oh so still, to hear this story.

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It sounded a lot like a sticky situation. A snowball effect of one bad decision and the innumerable other bad decisions to follow. Ridden with hopeless wondering and nearly-ceaseless waiting, it was the kind of story that left you wide-eyed in a pile of rubbled grace and asking, “well– what now?”

The story made a lot of promises. And I don’t mean small, magnifying glass promises. These were promises proclaimed as we watched burning bushes, and stood under lightning and thunder flashes. The magnitude of these words left us to run to the cleft of the rock and cower down in all the fear and fascination our baby hearts could muster and ask again, “well– what now?”

Above all, we were filled with longing to know this Promise-Maker more. Every time He spoke those words of newness, and blessings, and descendants, and other big things we didn’t quite understand, we knew, “hey, this guy means business,” and our souls yearned to be one of His promises.

But then there was silence. We were left with promises of rising with healing on our wings and leaping as joyfully as little calves, and for 400 years, that sustained us. We wallowed and wrestled and waited, waited, waited.

And then it came. In the most specific, perfectly plotted adventure, it came. He came.  Even as we had drifted and wandered and doubted, He clung to those moments He had shared with us so many years ago, and showed up. Seriously, I couldn’t have dreamed up the details because every word this Promise Maker had spoken so many years ago came to life in the most bold, and scandalous of ways. There’s never been a better Promise-Keeper in the history of the world– that I am certain of.

As we thought of the possibility of a God limiting himself to the messiness of a manger, and the helplessness of a baby in order to continue weaving together His promises, we still didn’t get it. Even so, we fell to our knees and repeated, “Oh, glory in the highest– our God has come to save us,” because that pile of rubbled grace we once stood in began to transform directly in front of us.

We realized this was never about what we had done, but we He chose to do for us because at the end of the day, we are trying so hard to get it right and He is longing to get it right for us. He wrapped His golden self into golden paper and handed Himself over. And this time the prize is giving that plastic medal we got for winning the third-grade spelling bee a run for its money.

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One of my favorite worship outfits in Nashville is a gathering known as Kairos. As I drove down a dark highway late one night, I listened to one of the recent podcasts, and I heard the pastor say:

“It’s a hard thing when your arms go limp by your side and you realize you can’t win— that’s why the good news of Christmas is this word right here: a Savior is born for you. A Savior is born for you. God understood we were in bad need of being saved. And we can’t save ourselves. We can’t fix it ourselves. We can’t make it better ourselves. And God in His ultimate mercy knew we couldn’t get to Him–

So in His grace and love, He came to us in the most vulnerable form He could: a baby. He didn’t come as a mighty warrior. He did not come on a big stallion with a sword in his hand, because that would make us step back. He did not come as a king, because that would make us bow down. No, He came as a baby so you and me would draw us close.

Babies do that, don’t they? Someone walks in with a baby, and everybody gets up. Oh, let me see, oh this baby is beautiful, oh you wanna talk, you wanna know. So He comes as a baby so you will draw close. And this Savior was born for you.”

I heard that, and the corners of my lips turned up as I thought of the reality of such perfect promises being held together by such a messy, out-of-the-box plan. Choruses of new days, and fulfilled promises, and big, big words filled my head. And at the center stood a God who wanted so badly to love me and know me, He made the story happen by showing up. We dream about someone standing outside our window with a boom box overhead, or seeing him standing in the middle of the crowded airport with a bouquet of flowers, and it’s lovely because in this story, this God came to us with all the blessed treasures we could every pray for.

In the following Kairos’ podcast, the pastor talked a lot about staying where we are. About understanding that when you’re lost, you literally have no clue where you are—no descriptions, no clues, no anything. And in this story, instead of navigating us over a telephone call, “Oh, turn left at that stop light and fork a right there,” He showed up. He came to find us, and somehow, He did. He made a promise to be here, and He came— exactly as He had said, and not a minute later or sooner.

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So I guess what I should have started this post with is, “The end of December hasn’t always felt this way.”

There was a time when I would look at the bareness of the tree and the torn wrapping paper that covered the floor, and the empty plates scattered around the kitchen, and the boxes that held those small ornaments until next year, and I would just slump down. I would feel so incomplete, so bummed out, like it wasn’t okay to celebrate again for another 11 months or so. But these days, I consider it pure joy to share in such sweet moments with the fam and pals, and when it’s time to pack up the leftovers, it’s all right. I don’t know, I guess that somewhere in me has come to see these days as the icing on the cake of a continuous celebration.

Somewhere while chords of O Holy Night resounded and things worth pondering stored themselves in our hearts, something did change. And instead of selling this thing so short, we lived it– with heavy words and big hugs and quiet, quiet peace, we lived it.

And I know it’s cheesy. The churches plaster “Jesus is the reason for the season” and I write things like this, but this season hasn’t always felt like this. Every year it moves a little closer and I get a little closer, and it changes. For me, those changes have meant the world.

It’s like not worrying about gifts, but counting it an awesome privilege to buy a toaster for your aunt or that scarf you’ve seen in your roommate’s pictures in Japan.

It’s getting cozy with a friend and hot cocoa, reminiscing on the past year’s work, and for just a moment, forgetting the work that needs to be done today.

It’s reading the story of the candy cane on the back of a candy box, and thinking, “huh, so that’s what it means. Relevant.”

It’s driving past that 4 story, fully lit tree on Bowling Avenue and nearly stopping as you crane your neck to just catch a glimpse of it.

I believe in this story– this story that took years of listening and fidgeting and interrupting and being still for me to understand. And I believe in these traditions– giving as freely as I have received, listening because He has heard me, being led as a helpless sheep in this bigger than life circle of lovely things, living at the center of constant fascination— I get it. But I think the striking thing is I will spend the rest of my life trying to understand it more, but never will. Seriously. I will spend the rest of my life living in the middle of this story led by a star, some big promises and big words, and a lot of hay, and I will never fully grasp it.

I can hardly wait.

:: bm


The choosing and the celebrating.

Celebration: to do something special or enjoyable for an important event, occasion, holiday, etc; to praise someone or something; to say that someone or something is great or important.


Perched on top of a hill—overlooking thousands of autumn colored trees—stood the church with open doors. We made our way, and packed in a room lined with rows and aisles of auditorium seats. In front of us sat a stage, clad in various instruments and bright lights. Behind us stood the people we’d never meet, sporting the new Rend Collective tees that many of us were beginning to purchase. We were stoked to be at this concert and just a small piece of The Art of Celebration Tour.

The opening artists, Moriah Peters and Urban Rescue, began the show. Even though all of these songs were new to us, we still found meaning and truth in the lyrics, and hummed along the best we could. It takes some major guts to do what traveling musicians do, and it’s always such an experience to share in that work with those people.

Soon enough, though, the moment we were all waiting patiently for happened: Rend Collective took the stage. Filling the space between the numerous instruments on the stage, the group joined us with smiles and evident excitement to hang out with us. Some of us just politely clapped. Some of us among the crowd smiled. Some of us were too just stoked for words.

I could write about the songs they played. I could tell you about the jokes they cracked and the stories they shared, and how we listened in total curiosity to the beautiful, Irish accent. I could tell you how I’d pick up the shirt I had just bought from the merch table, just to touch it, and set it back down on the ground. I could tell you all about opening my palms by my side, and how I thought, “Man, these words sound so much better coming from a stage than they do coming from my iPod.”

I could write about those things. I could kick out a few dusty words and tell you all about these details. But honestly, I’d be doing a lot of injustice to the night as a whole. I’m a lover of the little things, but this was a night created for big things. Big pictures. Big thoughts. Big voices. Big celebration.

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We danced. And we raised our hands in worship. And we sang along to these songs, and for the love of lovelier things, we had an incredible time. And when from the stage he laid out this idea of celebration, he told us, “It’s an art form. It’s not natural. It is something we have to choose. And tonight, we’re choosing celebration– Heaven is going to be the greatest party of all time.” And in triumph we raised our hands higher.

And somewhere in the midst of this chaos— I mean, dead smack in sound the clanging of the Jingling Johnny and the beach balls three times bigger than our arm spans, bouncing throughout the room—we learned about celebration. We learned about laughing at silly stories and picking fun at our own peculiar ways of doing things. We learned about wrapping an arm around a friend, and finding the rhythm to jump in time through all the laughter.  And when the confetti went flying, we stood in awe as we watched it dance its way from the heavens, falling to the rows ahead of us. Somewhere, as we raised our childlike hands, we learned about celebration—this precious, precious art of celebration.

Something about all of these things made me feel almost restless, and I couldn’t figure out why. But then like a perfectly formed sentence, it came: “I wish everyone could see us like this.” And I was reminded in a very real way that these fruits of my life that I’m trying to grow and pick in order to make awesome cobbler and pie are not always made with total seriousness.

Because it’s not always about the no; it’s the yes too. That sweet, sweet sounding yes. And on this night, I chose to say yes to freedom that throws my arms into the skies, and worship that makes my voice louder, and joy that allows me to absolutely love celebrating this life.

If I’m so stinkin’ excited about learning how to love people better and the way written promises look on the page, why wouldn’t I jump around and want others to join me? Why wouldn’t I celebrate that? Why would I compromise lovelier things for anything less than incredible?

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Afterwards, we milled around the lobby, waiting to catch a glimpse of one who had been on stage. We took the seats at a fast food restaurant and picked Monopoly stickers off our cups and fries. We drove back to our homes and campuses, and nestled in for another day to come. And when we thought about going to sleep, we scoffed and said, “There’s so much work to be done. There’s so much celebration to be had,” and we wanted to stay and go all at once. When we yawned and saw our tired eyes in the mirror, we remembered, “But I am still a small thing. A powerful, filled-to-the-brim with passion, small thing,” and brought the blankets to our chins as we drifted off to sleep.

But even as the night relived in our heads, we learned that although it had come so quickly, the leaving was a harder thing to try and tackle. That’s the spectacular thing about celebration: there’s always a reason. As long as you have the balloons and the streamers and the confetti and this bold desire to throw your arms into the air, it doesn’t have to end.

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Out of all the thoughts I’ve had today—maybe even this week– this is the one that is worth all the gold: whatever you’re celebrating today, make it a good one. I mean, not the kind of shallow “good” people respond with when you ask how they’re doing– I mean good, good. The kind of good that transcends our understanding and pushes us off into the deeper waters. Celebrate all those things and those little prayers and promises that together weave this massive tapestry, brim-full of life and purpose. Find a reason to make your confetti-plastered heart dance with joy, and then invite everyone you know to join you. And even when they say no, keep going on with your bold, bold self and I promise you will change someone’s world.

Today, I’m celebrating being freed and absolutely overwhelmed because this story that lives in me is the kind that causes people to write books, and songs, and talk about over early morning sunrises and late night Taco Bell trips. And I want to choose to celebrate it every day for the rest of my life.

:: bm


P.S. Check out Rend Collective’s newest album, The Art of Celebration! Their eclectic sound is so unique and something worth putting in your music library. Even more than that, their desire to worship the Creator of lovelier things is challenging and world rocking and leaves my teary eyes so happy to have another day to create beautiful things in this life.