End Date

I just entered my start-date anniversary into my Outlook calendar here in my little corner of the back-forty on the cubicle ranch.  In the process of adding recurrences (the yearly pop-up reminder commemorating the date of my incarcera…er, arrival), there is a choice pertaining to an “end date, with one option being “No End Date.”

(*sigh*)

Sitting here,  that simple checkbox stares me in the face, seeming less an innocuous interrogative than the diabolical plot of a maniacal madman, grinning through gritted, twisted teeth, like ivory towers; once beautiful, but now crumpled under the pressure of so much clenching – the cruel taskmaster conveying with crystal clarity his subtle but unmistakable threat that there is no forseeable end to my cubicular torment.

But, in the midst of my travail (over-stated as it is), I’m reminded that there is, in fact, a grand, final end date, and that each passing day brings me closer to seeing the One who set it.

Today would be a great day Lord…maybe today

For the Glory of God

Julie is listening to Handel’s Messiah.  This transcendent  masterpiece, thought written in a brief span of time (4 days?), was birthed out of great heaviness of heart, and brokenness of spirit. As I listen to this familiar, beautiful piece, I can’t help but consider that it is a worthwhile endeavor to seek to be excellent at whatever your pursuit, even under the most difficult of circumstances, for the glory of God.

Far From Home

On a cold, dark morning, on a hard and dusty road
These faded tracks, they lead me back to a place I used to know
I’ve felt the cold wind on my face, I’ve seen the calm before the storm
Sunny skies won’t hurt my eyes, no, not anymore

I’m far from home, I’m where my feet have taken me
I think I’ve been mistaken about what I’ve left behind
The birds have flown, they’re watching high above me
They sing but they don’t love me, how could I have been so blind
I’m far from home

I’ve wandered on the highway looking for something beyond the bend
My shadow, it has led me here but I don’t know where I am
So I’ll take this old walking stick, set my weathered face toward home
I can still make out those tracks, they’re not yet overgrown

I’ve felt the cold wind on my face and I’ve seen the calm before the storm
Sunny skies won’t hurt my eyes, no, not anymore

I’m comin’ home, from where my feet have taken me
I know I’ve been mistaken about what I’ve left behind
Birds have flown, watching high above me
They sing but they don’t love me, how could I have been so blind
I’m comin’ home…I’m comin’ home

(Thoughts from Luke 15:11-32, Matt. 13:1-23)

Integrity

School’s out!  Summer’s here and the time is right for….well, swimming, summer camp, family vacations, slumber parties and in general, carefree living for the next few months or so (for the kids anyway.)

I used to live for summertime.  Truth be told, I was never really a great student as a kid, and so the thought of a 90-day “homework-release program” suited me just fine.  I was free – and not only from book reports and algebra tests, but also from the other pressures that often follow us throughout so much of our growing years.  Like a lot of young people, I was not only anything but a grade A student, but I was also never the star athlete, never first chair in band, never class president. I did, however, make the dean’s list once (ok, not the good one.) And, like so many kids trying to find their place, what I lacked in scholastic or athletic ability, I certainly did not lack in the desire to find a way to become popular…to be considered special.  For young people, there is such a danger in the temptation to compromise character in the pursuit of popularity.

Thankfully those years eventually pass into memory, and in time we become comfortable in our own skins.  But still, I have to say that I really don’t envy kids today.  As often as any time in history (if not more), young people have a desire to find and to be that which is authentic and real.  By contrast, and so similar to our own experience (if not much more), they are pounded with peer-pressure to conform.  What can a young man or woman do to survive with their integrity intact?

In the Old Testament book of Daniel (chapter 3), we meet three young men who were teenagers when they were carried off as captives to a foreign land called Babylon.  God had blessed them with health and wisdom, and consequently they were offered places of prominence as servants of that nation’s king.  However, in time, circumstances (and the king’s heart) changed and these three friends found themselves in a situation that tested what they were truly made of.  They were literally confronted with an ultimatum to get with the program (conform)…or die by being thrown into a fiery furnace. Talk about a “peer-pressure-cooker!”

Now, considering their circumstances, why not give in – and fit in?  After all, who would know?  And besides, “What happens in Babylon stays in Babylon,” right?  But “fitting in” meant casting off their character and, most importantly, denying the Lord Who had been faithful to them in so many ways.  While they clearly saw the high cost of non-conformity, they also recognized the much higher cost of compromise, and so they refused to give in…and were thrown into the furnace. But amazingly (albeit, not surprisingly,) the Lord stood with them in that place, and rewarded their commitment by delivering them.

It’s been said that integrity is best expressed by being the same person when nobody’s watching as you are when everybody’s watching.  That’s a pretty good definition, but it can still be hard to live out.  The good news is that God is always watching – He can’t take His eyes off of you, and He wants to help you walk in integrity. In many respects times may have changed, but the God Who stood with these young men of old has not – and He’ll stand with you…today!

Community

One of the things that I really enjoy about living in Fieldstone Farms is the genuine sense of community that has always been so evident.  Arriving here from Chicago on the evening of February 2nd, 2007, it wasn’t twenty-four hours before my family and I were introduced, not only to our neighbors, but also to the warm, inviting Southern Hospitality that, until then we’d only heard about.  New friends brought over cookies & the like, names and phone numbers were exchanged, and we discovered the pleasant way that those south of the Mason-Dixon line define “visiting.”

Just prior to our official relocation, I had the opportunity to spend a few days here in Franklin, settling on a job and securing our new home.  With a couple of hours to spare before my flight back to the Windy City, I’d decided to take advantage of a little down-time by walking the streets of downtown Franklin.  My Caffe Verona was still tepid when I found myself in a conversation with a gentleman who was from out of town himself.  He asked if I was from around here, and I let him know how, in a manner of speaking, I was almost from around here. He was looking for a drugstore, and so we made our way toward Gary’s, but as it had already been closed down, we just kept on walking and talking.  Nearly 20 minutes went by as two total strangers shot the breeze like old friends. Now, I’m fond of saying (only a little bit tongue-in-cheek) that where I’m from, after walking side-by-side with a total stranger for 20 minutes, you’re likely to want to make sure your wallet is still in your pocket!  But here, that kind of encounter can be pretty typical, and it was an experience that I’ll likely remember for a long time.  It was also a reminder that, for the most part, human interaction is best experienced in-person, rather than through a text or an e-mail.

It’s been said that the key to life can be found in relationships. Having passed the midway point of my three-score-and-ten, I find that I’m seeing more and more, the truth in that statement.  The more I contemplate the relationships in my life; my wife, daughter and our families, our church family, our friends, the more I come to understand that cultivating deep, lasting relationships is a good and necessary thing, even a “God-thing.”

Actually, looking back to when God created the world, He created it good. All through creation week, He would create-each passing day receiving His approval.  In time, after declaring so many things to be “good,” the Lord eventually got to pointing out something that wasn’t so good.   Significantly, the first time that God let on that something wan’t good was when He pointed out that man was alone.  God created man to enjoy relationships – and no wonder; even God Himself, though Singular in Being, enjoys fellowship within His own Triune nature.  We were made in His image, and I wonder if one way that that truth bears itself out is in our natural desire to seek out relationships.

Many years later, as outcasts in the first century, the early church came to lean heavily upon their community  as they needed to “be there” for one another.  They spent time in the Word and prayer together, and they encouraged and met each other’s needs as they arose – knit together, they were the body of Christ!

In contrast to previous generations, I recall hearing a statistic that the typical Facebooker today spends an average of 169 minutes in that online community – per visit.  It amazes me how we can spend so much time together…without actually being together!

Don’t get me wrong – I believe that online communities have found a genuinely valuable place in our time in history – I’m actually a relatively frequent twitter-er myself (@/brianbachochin) – and clearly these avenues of connection can help to bridge the various sorts of distances between us.  But when it comes to relationships, and truly “doing” community, God help us not to lose the truth in the old adage: “I guess you just had to be there.”

This article appeared in the May issue of Magnolia Magazine.

New Life

The brief conversation is not widely known, but it took place immediately following the horrific events that had occurred upon a hilltop just outside of Jerusalem.  A man named Joseph, from Arimathea had made a request of Pontius Pilate, to take possession of the body of Jesus in order that he might give Him a proper burial in a tomb that his family owned.  Pilate was surprised by the request and asked Joseph why he would ever consider using this tomb, reserved for his own family, as a burial place for this crucified Carpenter.  Joseph assured Pilate that this was ok, because after all…

…it would only be for the weekend.

Tongue-in-cheek as that little story might be, it plays off of the reality that defines this season.  Spring is a beautiful time of year when creation awakens from its slumber, bursting with the splendor of new life.  And so it’s no wonder that in the mind of God, this was to be the time of year when His Son would overcome the cold, harshness of death and rise to newness of life.  His creation would provide the perfect analogy, a similitude in nature for all to behold; a view of the natural giving us a glimpse into a much greater supernatural reality.

Like the vibrant entrance of this season of rebirth, the thought of the resurrection of Jesus instills a sense of wonder.  Much as the season’s early buds demonstrate the beauty of renewal as they spring to life, in His resurrection, Jesus reveals the possibility of our being made new (2 Cor. 5:17).  A wonderful idea to contemplate!  And unlike the seasons that, bound to their unbreakable cycle, ultimately can’t help but change, the resurrection of Christ points to a glorious life that never ends.  It reminds us that we were created for more than just a season.

For so many of us who might have grown up in a Christian tradition of one stripe or another, the story of the resurrection is a familiar one, sometimes an all too familiar one – familiar enough to lose its poignancy.  For those who may have been brought up with a different spiritual (or non-spiritual) background, the accounts of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday might simply sound like a popular Sunday School story.  But in truth, this history-altering series of events that took place in relative obscurity outside of the Golden City two-thousand years ago make all the difference.  Jesus’ resurrection from the dead changes things.  It changes everything; from the way that the grand story ends, to the way that our daily stories unfold.  It leads us to the climax of the meta-narrative that has been the undercurrent of the whole of human history.  It opens the gateway to eternity.  It tells us that the One who died and lived to tell about it stands at the threshold of forever – alive.  And because He is, He’ll see to it that one day we will too.

So enjoy the holiday, and the season.  And as you bite the ears off of a few chocolate bunnies, celebrate.  No, even better, rejoice!

For He is risen, He is risen indeed!

This article appeared in the April issue of Magnolia Magazine.