Away in a manger of grief


This Christmas was one in which I found myself limping into. Often when I’ve struggled to engage with Christmas it’s been due to ghosts of Christmas past. Things that shaped me as a child and my family over this holiday season. For many years, hard memories marred and crippled my joy. A bunch of years back I decided to do the hard work of uncovering some of those wounds and disappointments and begin to reclaim this time of year as one of thanksgiving and celebration.

However, this year there have been very current and present circumstances that have left me feeling sad and deeply grieved. I’m exhausted and unsure of where to place some of the pain. Sure, I know all the theory of casting my burdens unto Jesus. But it’s a bit awkward to emburden someone you love so deeply, on their birthday, isn’t it?

I still feel the reserve, the question and the doubt that my grief is unwelcomed. That my dramas spoil the party. Maybe it’s best to just tuck them all away out of view? Maybe that’s the type of present I’ll give to Jesus that he’ll like best?

Carefree, whole, joyous Stevie.

But then I remember the drama of this great Christmas narrative. The sheer scandal of it all. The shocking reality that Jesus willingly chose to enter into the mess, that is humanity.

Our pain wasn’t a barrier to his arrival, it was his great invitation. Humanity did not prepare him room. Humanity did not set out the banquet table nor deck the halls. No, humanity sat in sin and error pining.

Jesus saw this and it hastened his stride. Through utter vulnerability he enters this world into a manger via an unplanned pregnancy. This baby arrives with no fanfare or triumph. The one who spoke every fiber of reality into existence takes the road not just less traveled, but rather the road never traveled.

He doesn’t see my pain or strife as a barrier. He doesn’t see it as a inconvenience or a hurdle. He sees that my life and our lives, are all really just dirty stables. He sees our hearts as an unlikely manger to potentially be brought into. He sees the lack of our current circumstances, and with all his abundance reveals what Emmanuel really means .

God, fully with us.

It’s a crying shame!


“They are going to make it illegal to have a bible in the state of California!”

It’s a crying shame!

This is the most frequent response to the further unfolding situation the church in the west is finding itself in. The rhetoric is that the truth is under attack, and it’s up to us to take a stand and do something about it!

Increasingly more, the conversation in evangelical circles is one entrenched in paranoia and fear. The overwhelming narrative is that the left is advancing and taking sacred ground, ground that has been fought for and paid for with blood (soldiers blood, not messiahs*). The rhetoric has ramped up into a militant stance**of standing up for what’s right, at all costs, for the…


One of the most frequent comments I hear when it comes to things like the above headline*** is that this is proof that the enemy has deceived us. He has now completely infiltrated liberal media, Hollywood, and the democratic party. These institutions are the pawns he’s using to destroy society and the world as we know it. Because, if THEY take away the bible… then WE, lose.


Wouldn’t the more cunning deception be, that the enemy convinces US (his bride) that civil (earthly) liberties are worth going down swinging for? What if the ultimate deception is that we have been hoodwinked into believing that our greatest strength could ever, even remotely, be given from the State? There truly is a deception underway, but maybe we have blinded ourselves to who is actually having the rug pulled out from beneath them.

The bible is EXPLICITLY clear on this topic.

JESUS is SHOCKINGLY clear on this matter.

He doesn’t say:

“When you are persecuted/marginalized/oppressed, take up arms and fight HARDER.”

He says BLESSED are those who are persecuted!

It’s so simple, yet so incredibly overlooked. The sermon on the mount is surely the best sermon ever preached, while simultaneously, surely being the least applied.

He doesn’t commission us to rally/petition/vote our way into a more “christian” society, one where we are never threatened or challenged. In fact, the great commission assumes the exact opposite. He says to GO INTO ALL THE WORLD. He challenges his disciples to leave the comfort and safety of what they have enjoyed while being with him, promising them the comfort they need will never be found anywhere else apart from his spirit.

Going into the world requires a confidence that our comfort will never be fully found here, in this world. This ensures us that when the world chews us up and spits us out, we don’t get tempted into being shocked and surprised. There is nowhere to be found in all of the scripture a mandate to perpetuate our faith in the ways that are currently being fought for. Jesus promises us that we will be pushed to the margins if we truly follow him. Yet, we are allured and easily impressed with the more temporary promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The christianity of 21st century, western, evangelicalism is fatally ill. We have backed ourselves into a corner and are stuck in a vicious cycle of pointing the finger. We are perpetually caught blaming external entities for our lack of POWER, while we flail about and cling to what we feel we deserve. If we look for security in earthly institutions, we will get as much security as any earthly structure could possibly ever give us.


I am positioning myself in belief that loving my enemies, caring for the sick, serving the poor and welcoming the refugee is the most potent form of Christianity that this world needs. I can’t do this clinging to anything other than Jesus’ words in Matthew 5-7. If I go down swinging, let it be for fighting for others with less than me and constantly uprooting the adultery, murder, and hate in my own heart. What a privilege it would be to be persecuted for living out the sermon on the mount!

Maybe, the world needs to see the Church actually LIVE out the bible vs. fight for the right to OWN a bible. Maybe, the Church needs to be stripped of every earthly dependence, so that we may fully inherit every heavenly one.

It’s time for the fatally ill patient to be taken off life support. May nationalism and it’s shallow promises be left behind in the grave. I am believing that in the wake of that death, we will see a great resurrection of life in the people of the Jesus way. I am believing that my life surrendered to living out the beatitudes, the sermon on the mount and every other introspectively challenging scripture is something that NO man, system or structure could ever take away. The Bible, and history is full of people who believed this to be true.

Take the world, but give me Jesus.

Let this not be token or trite. Let it ring true in our actions and in our words. When the pressure is on, let that beautiful statement bankrupt every institution and source that boasts to be as strong as the suffering servant. Let us suffer with him, so that we may reap with him.



*Jesus shed blood, for ALL of the world. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to Americans, but it certainly means that it doesn’t have special application to Americans. The tension here is: what bloodshed has MORE weight and value?

** It’s more than ironic that the biggest proponents for guns IN schools, are often the same one’s that are furious that prayer has been taken OUT. This is simple fight fire with fire mentality. You take away our right to prayer, we fight it with our right to bear arms. The real tension here is not the ACION of prayer, but the content and objective of prayer. Why not start with the Lords prayer? Which includes: Forgive OUR trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Not: Forgive us, as we SHOOT those back who shoot at us.

*** Upon, not even careful or thorough research, turns out this is not even remotely true. The current legislation under debate mentions nothing that could eve be remotely misconstrued to reach such a conclusion.

Trees - Mosul, Iraq

Trees - Mosul, Iraq

I've now performed this song all over the world in all sorts of different venues and environments. This was by far the most impacting and rewarding place to sing and relay the hope of the Scripture from which this song came from. Isaiah 55 is such a beautiful description of the generosity from Jesus to anyone who would hear the invitation and partake in the bounty of his heart and Kingdom.

Iraq Photo Blog

As you scroll through these photos, I urge you to fully engage your heart in the stories of these beautiful people. Let that impact your view on the Middle East and let it compel you to action. Give to Partners Relief and Development now, and as often as you are capable of.

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