Jesus takes a holiday

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/02/15

Roo & Tug —

This is one of my favorite questions —

What do you suppose Jesus’ favorite holiday is?

It is fun to ask in a group and watch things play out.

Almost every time, someone quick hands the buzzer — Christmas! Easter!

“Naw”, I say, “don’t think so — Those are work days for Jesus. No way he’d pick those.”

The adults usually look at me with some variation of an “OK smartass” grin — but the kids are different.

“Really?”, they ask, leaning in with all sincerity.

“If it’s not Christmas or Easter, then what is it?”

That’s when I tell them it has to be the 4th of July.

: : :

After the guffaws die down, I continue.

The 4th of July is obviously Jesus’ favorite holiday — not because of the fireworks or a “God bless America” twinkle in His eyes.


The airtight proof that the 4th of July is jesus’ favorite holiday comes down to one indisputable fact —

God loves to BBQ.

The most arresting story in the entire Bible is that of the prodigal son — the boy who squanders his inheritance, is knocked to his senses while grazing in a pig trough, and turns back home.

The story up to that point is standard issue Sunday School 101, but then God throws in a twist (just to make sure we are paying attention).

He relays the reaction of the father, his response when he saw his son coming from a long way off. And his reaction was this —

He was overjoyed.

But, he was not “overjoyed” in an abstract, disembodied sort of way.

Not at all.

His joy was made manifest in this — He said, start the BBQ.

: : :

I once told that story in a small church my ex-wife and I were a part of in Cokedale, Colorado. (Yes, I was married once before mom — more on that later).

Folks in the church would measure out bits of Scripture and Story before we took weekly communion — framing that small meal we would share together with some particular rhythm of the Gospel that God had brought to bear on whoever was up there on a given week — reminding us of the practical ways God goes about hammer and tonging a people unto Himself.

Many months after my little table story, Doris Berry came up to tell me how her kids were still talking about Jesus’ favorite holiday — and how they had been convinced that it surely had to be the 4th of July.

: : :

I am some miles outside of Trinidad this morning. It is the summer of 1999 and I have a shovel in my hand.

Pastor Ed had suggested it, after I asked what I could do to help.

The message he left on July 5th said eight-year-old Stuart Berry had been killed. Hit by a car while on vacation.

My understanding is that Stuart died on the 4th of July.

: : :

I always feel helpless in times of tragedy. What do I do? What should I say?

I had a teacher once — in public high school — who would tell us things he probably shouldn’t have. But he was close to retirement and I don’t think he really cared if he got into trouble.

We were talking about what to do in times like these — and he said that the best thing he’d ever come across was to say this —

I know. I care. I am praying.

The instant he said it, I recognized the pattern — mourn with those who mourn.

Don’t try to solve. Don’t cliche it away.

Just weep with those who weep.

So when I heard about Stuart’s death, I sat down and wrote a letter to Dan, Doris and the kids.

I recounted the silly speculation — that inside story we shared about how Jesus is most at home at a BBQ — and how I imagined a place setting for a little boy at a picnic table with a checkered table cloth — where God was saying hello to my friend Stuart.

May the God of BBQ attend your sorrow.

: : :

It is funny how we do not know the effect we have on other people. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is Cliche with a capital “C” for a bunch of really good reasons.

A couple of days after helping dig Stuart’s grave at the church cemetery outside of Bon Carbo, I went to his funeral at the blue roof church in Cokedale.

I had not seen the Berry’s for many months. My first marriage ending had made my participation in that community too painful. So, the first time I had seen Doris for a long time was after the service.

The receiving line was very long. I felt really awkward.

I never know whether any of the stories I tell are a good use of time — or whether other people are just nodding along politely.

But when I got to the front of the line — I got a hug from the frailest of women.

I got a hug that felt like I was getting tackled by the starting center for the Broncos.

Doris wept and thanked me for the letter.

She said, “Thank you so much Bryan, I just read your note yesterday.”

“I was starting to forget Stuart’s face, and you reminded me what he looks like.”

: : :

I’ve got some other “that didn’t really happen, did it?” stories, that I will write down later. God has a way of kibutzing with my rational mind exactly when I need it most.

Keep an eye out for this in your own lives. I am pretty sure He is still active at coordinating Coincidences (with a capital C).

Much love —


My Mother is an engineer, My Daddy is a healer

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/02/08

Roo & Tug —

There is a common theme to the works of art that move me. One that goes back to this notion Blaise Pascal wrote about ages ago.

Man is neither angel nor beast; and the misfortune is that he who would act the angel acts the beast.

Blaise Pascal, Pensées (678). 1670

Whether it is a masterpiece like Magnolia, a song like Bruce Cockburn’s The Burden of the Angel Beast, Andrew Bird’s recurring theme of the Noble Beast, or The Choir’s rollicking list of the multiple personality disorders of our humanity in Kissers and Killers.

Peter Kreeft has a wonderful exposition on this idea of Pascal’s in his book “Christianity for Modern Pagans” where he writes —

The two fundamental human heresies, the two banes of modern philosophy, are animalism and angelism. Man has lost his place in the cosmos, the place between angel and beast.

Chesterton says, describing St. thomas’ philosophy of man, that “man is not like a balloon, floating free in the sky, nor like a mole, burrowing in the earth, but like a tree, with its roots firmly planted int he earth and its branches reaching up into the heavens.”

Some examples of “angelism”, which ignore the concrete earthy, embodied nature of man, are Platonism, Gnosticism, Pantheism and New age humanism. Some examples of “animalism”, which ignore the spiritual nature of man, are Marxism, Behaviorism, Freudianism, Darwinism, and Deweyan Pragmatism.

The two most life-changing revolutions in modern times were the scientific-industrial revolution, which taught man to live and think abstractly, like an angel; and the sexual revolution, which taught man to live and think like an animal. the first knows onlyt he head, the second knows only the hormones. Neither knows the heart.

The angelist reduces the world to a projection of the self; the animalist reduces the self to a species in the animal world. thus angelists find Pascal’s Christian man too animalistic, to earthy, to wretched; and the animalists find him too unearthkly, too idealistic, too hopeful.

Chesterton (in Orthodoxy) says:

Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness… One explanation… would be that he might be an off shape.

But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape. Outrageously tall men might feel him to be short. Very short men might feel him to be tall.

Modern philosophy has lost its sane anthropology because it has lost its cosmology. Man does not know himself because he does not know his place in the cosmos; he confuses himself with angel or animal. He is alienated, “lost in the cosmos”…

This is the main pattern I look for in life. The one I am always drawn back to. This question of right angles or curves. This idea of male or female. This notion of love or logic. This pitting of design against functionality.

And wherever the conversation starts to move beyond the words “either/or”, I stop and listen very closely.

When the answer begins to whisper the poetry of “both/and”, I stop to pitch camp for a bit.

When the question of “is it God” or “is it man” is answered with a distinct yes, well — it’s a pretty safe bet that you will find me smitten and hanging around.

Soooo, when you come across this pattern, ages from now, when your mother and I are gone — you can rest assured that we are in the room, nodding along and saying — hmmm, this here is something special.

Much, much, love —


: : : : :

“Kissers And Killers” by The Choir

You know I love you
I think you’re so good
I like the people in my neighborhood
My mother is an engineer
My daddy is a healer
And everybody gathered here
Wheelers, dealers

Lovers, depravers
Freers, enslavers
Clowns, wicked sayers
Kissers and betrayers

Bones and ladder
Somehow rhyming
Man of Sorrows hanging
Iscariot swinging
A curious polarity
Finders, weepers
Why have you forsaken me
Losers, keepers

Lovers, depravers
Freers, enslavers
Clowns, wicked sayers
Kissers and betrayers
Saviours, deniers
Prophets, impliers
Well wishers, liars
Killers, death defiers
Killers, death defiers

I light a candle
Well before dark
They tell me jesters hide out
In the park
I never was a cautious man
My brother is a broker
And everybody in the band
Jokers, fire-stokers

Lovers, depravers
Freers, enslavers
Clowns, wicked sayers
Kissers and betrayers
Saviours, deniers
Prophets, impliers
Well wishers, liars
Killers, death defiers
Killers, death defiers

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