The Christmas Story

My son, William, was a beautiful child. He was our firstborn, winsome but wise. He was an “old soul”. William was 12 when he was diagnosed with bone cancer. The Jewish faith believes that a boy becomes a man at the age of 13. If that is true, William was just on the cusp of manhood. Every discussion that was ever made about William’s treatment was addressed to him. Through numerous surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, we, his mother and father, discussed our thoughts and options, but the ultimate decisions were made by William. These decisions were brutal: do we continue to fight this demon cancer or do we prepare to let go. At age 17, William was tired of fighting but full of hope of going home to God.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Gen 1:1.

When I teach bible study with our high schoolers, I try to stretch them beyond our physical boundaries. I try to help them to see the world through God’s eyes. Our physical world began with the creation of our earth, but God -the Trinity, the Holy Family- existed before that, before the creation of the heavens, and before the creation of time itself. The creation itself is the royal, mysterious Kingdom of our holy God.

We have a big coffee table in our bible study room. It’s sturdy enough to support three actors. Three of us, the three persons of the Holy Trinity- the Holy Family- climb up on it so that we are literally above everyone else. I get to be the Father. The discussion goes something like this:

Up on the table, the Father says, “I love you two so much that I am overflowing. Are we ready to share this love and create our beautiful perfect Kingdom of God? Are we ready to expand our family? You do know that evil will enter in? But we have a plan for that. We could prevent evil from marring our Kingdom but is that fair for our creation? We will have to allow our creation to choose us over evil. That’s the only way that we can ultimately adopt our creation into our family. We are the perfect family. Our creation will come to know that, everything will be perfect in the fullness of time. “

Then the Father turns to the Spirit and says, “ Are you ready? This will be painful for you, because you will be apart from us and will have to hover over the earth to watch over this new creation. We know that this will be horrible. You will have to witness perversion and degradation. In the fullness of time, you will be able to indwell in some of the creation. You will see glimpses of beauty but your home there will be will be harsh as well. You will often be silenced and ignored.

And turning to the Son, the Father says, “Are you sure you want to do this? Are you prepared to leave me, to be away from me? You will be with the Spirit, but you will not be with me. You, The Son of God, will empty yourself to become the Son of Man. You will also see glimpses of lovely things but you will be down in the perversion and pain of a fallen, broken, inhospitable place. And that place will reject you and taunt you and hang you on a cross. But for the Spirit, you will be horribly alone. The prince of the earth will be brutal and relentless. But what joy you will bring! The creation will need a light in that darkness. And you will then come home to me. And in the fullness of time, the Holy Spirit will return to us, with your lovely bride, my beautiful daughter.”

And the Father says, “Time will be painful. But won’t it be lovely at the end of time to welcome in our family! We will be so full. We will overflow like a river, like a cup full of wine, like one heart full of love and blessing. Are we ready to create this beautiful kingdom? “

Purple is such a rich color; it is the color of royalty and of mystery. Every 29:11 Story begins and ends with a purple bead: our absolutely perfect, mysterious, royal God - the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. The purple bead represents the perfect family that has a perfect story. The Holy Family has always been. This is where our story begins, in the presence of the Holy Family discussing their future. This is also when our story begins, as Christ, The Son, speaks the creation into being.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

Returning to the top of the 29:11 Story, joining the end of the Story, each purple bead represents the coming home of the Holy Spirit back into the presence of the Father and the Son. But now, in the fullness of time, the Holy Spirit brings the bride of Christ, us, the church, into the perfect Holy Family. The Holy Family has always been and we, made in His image as sons and daughters and outside of time, have always been with Him.

“It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children... “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” Rev 21:6-9

If my husband and I could have known the future, if we had known of the suffering that our firstborn son would have to endure, would we have chosen not to have made him? What a horrible question to ponder. But I can’t imagine our world without William. That one child brought us so much joy! He affected so many even with such a brief life that was cut short by evil. He was a light in our darkness because there is a light in the darkness. There is a perfect plan and a perfect story.

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The Creation Stories

We all have stories about our lives that we want to share. We need to brag about our successes and to pour out in anguish our sorrows. I have a niece who has been broken. She got hooked on methamphetamine when two of her daughters were very young. Her mother, father, and sisters were heartbroken. She was beyond rescue. For the sake of her children they organized an intervention. It was a powerful and frightening experience. Our pleas for her to change her behavior were rejected and she was told that her children would be taken from her. That night, after she walked away from her family, she attempted suicide. Her life was saved after her brother-in-law broke into her house and she agreed to go into rehab. Julia survived but only with God's help. This young woman was lost but now is found. This summer, she, her husband who is also a recovering addict, and four of their six children spent a week with us. Julia and her family are a new creation in Christ. They have an amazing story to tell.

“Holy, Holy, Holy,…God in three persons, Blessed Trinity…” We have a God who can share in our joys and sorrows because God as the Trinity Family understands and experiences joy and sorrow. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the original family who wrote and created the original Story; their Story is why we have stories. Remember, we are made in their image. “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” Genesis 1:26.

When I lead bible studies with high school kids, I love to ask them what God’s first heartache was. Of course, they ask, “Do you mean what was the first sin?” Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Their response, always, “Adam and Eve and the apple?” Then we get to really stretch our thinking and try to see through God’s eyes.

“In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.” Here we have the first three beads on every 29:11 Story we create: purple for God, blue for the Heavens, and then, green for the Earth. But listen to the order of the creation; the Heavens were created first. The Blessed Trinity Family's first heartbreak caused by the creation’s first sin happened with the creation of the Heavens - the first holy war with some of the most beautiful of their first creations, the angels occurred:

“Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon … [and] ...war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back…and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Revelation 12:3-9

Isaiah hints at God’s heartbreak over Satan's sin: "How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high;… I will make myself like the Most High.' But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.” Isaiah 14: 12-15

Sin entered the new kingdom of the Heavens by way of betrayal in the heart of Satan, the old red dragon. What an anguish that was, and for us, still is. This is a chapter in God’s Story that has from the very beginning of time destroyed the perfect unity that the Blessed Trinity desired for us and all of their beautiful creation. Satan and his rebel angels had been hurled to the Earth so sin was soon to enter into the new kingdom of the Earth as well.

Every 29:11 Story we create contains red beads that represent the presence of sin and Satan in God’s Story. The first red Satan bead on the 29:11 Stories is located on the downward side of the 29:11 Stories that illustrates the Old Testament.This represents the first sin experienced by humanity when the kingdom of the Earth is first brought into "very good" completion. In the Garden of Eden sin enters by way of the red apple, Satan, and the serpent. It signal’s our fall into sin and away from God’s grace; it results in our being cast out from God’s presence where we were meant to dwell.

One of the most puzzling but important thing to understand about God’s Perfect Story is that sin was foreseen, foreknown, and allowed by God to happen.The Holy Family of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit knew before the creation was made that sin would enter and pervade but would in the perfection of time be defeated. The corresponding red Satan bead on the upward side that illustrates the New Testament is in the last sequence of beads that represents the Second Coming. This red bead occurs before the green new Earth, the blue new Heaven, and the last purple bead, God.This is finally the time for Satan and sin to be destroyed and thrown into the Lake of Fire. Listen carefully to how that defeat occurs:

“Now have come the salvation and the power

and the kingdom of our God,

and the authority of his Messiah.

For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,

who accuses them before our God day and night,

has been hurled down.

They triumphed over him

by the blood of the Lamb

and by the word of their testimony…” Rev. 12: 10-11

The following question is so important: how has the accuser, the old red dragon, Satan, been defeated? By the blood of the Lamb... AND by the word of their testimony. But who are “they”? “They” are us - the body of believers, the great cloud of witnesses, the bride of Christ - who have come to God one by one over time and who are waiting for the Second Coming. See how critically important we are to God? To the Blessed Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? The Family of God redeems and adopts us and allows us to actually go into battle with them against sin and Satan. As new sons and daughters of God, we must defeat the sin and temptation that resides in each of us. Only then can we share in their glory and enter into a new perfect world free of sin.

And on each 29:11 Story, in between the purple, blue, green, and red beads, are all the other colored beads, all the people and events that make up humanity’s stories that are a part of God’s Perfect Story. My niece is part of this perfect story...

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Updated: Feb 15, 2019

The 29:11 Story Blog
Adam and Eve, the Cross, the Bride

My older brother, Frank, is one of my dearest friends. But when we were young, he was a torment. He was wild. By age 21, he had totaled 3 cars and gotten expelled from college. I hated him for what he did to our family. So much heartache. The day he came home from school, my parents kicked him out of the house. He said, “What will I do? Where will I go?” My parents said, “ That’s up to you. You can no longer live here in our home because you won’t abide by our rules. We love you but you have to leave. This will be hard but you will have to make your own way.”

At weddings, my sister-in-law used to cover her daughter‘s ears when the bride vowed, “I take thee to be my wedded Husband; to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health; to love, cherish, and to OBEY, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.” She bristled at the idea that a wife was to be submissive to her husband; that a man should be head of his wife.

In the beginning of the Bible, God-the Trinity, the Holy Family-creates the last piece of the puzzle of the creation. God, the Father, desires a large family- more children- and His Son, Christ, desires a bride. The perfect family plan:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them...

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good... Gen. 1:26-31

Of course, the phrase, “in our image” is a mystery that we can’t fully understand until we stand in God’s presence. We can’t know what the image of the Trinity looks like until we get to meet Them face to face. We do know that the Hebrew word used here is Elohim which is plural for god. Strong argument for a triune God as the Holy creator before the spirituality inspired author, Moses, even understood there was a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit. The second chapter of Genesis adds detail to the story:

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. Gen. 2:18-25

The first children and also the first marriage. But listen carefully to the story. It is clear that in the beginning there were three persons in this first marriage: Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” Yes, three - man, woman, and God-the first perfect holy marriage. But it is also clear that God, the Father knows that His new creation will fall: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable helper for him."...That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

We all know the next chapter to the story. Man and woman, Adam and Eve, eat the apple, hide from God, and receive their curse:

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” To Adam he said, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Gen. 3:16-22

So the first man and woman, the first husband and wife, must leave the Father and the Holy Family. The first children must leave their family home. The first divorce in the story of the perfect holy marriage. The first broken family. Why would a loving God curse his children?

When my parents kicked my brother out of the family home, they were not cursing him, their first born son; they were trying to help him understand the consequences of his actions and his choices.

“You can come home for Wednesday and Sunday dinners.” In so offering, my parents were keeping the door to our family home open so that my brother could still be part of the family but we understood that there was a brokenness, a disappointment, and a sadness there.

The Old Testament is full of stories about couples that are broken because they forgot that God was absolutely integral to their marriage. They either failed to understand or they ceased to remember that it is God who made their union into a true Holy marriage.

Job and his wife are blessed by God with wealth. Their marriage bed brings ten beautiful children. But Job, one of our most righteous men, has every cause to doubt God. Satan, with God’s permission, has destroyed everything he has except his wife. Job’s nameless wife has but one line in her husband’s story, which, let us not forget, is also her story, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job 2:9 ... And... ”After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.” Job 3:1

Abraham and Sarah, in their old age, doubt God and his promise, and take the servant girl, Hagar, into their marriage bed. Isaac and Rebecca’s marriage bed brings twins but Isaac loves one son over the other. His wife, Rebecca, raises her favored son, Jacob, to lie and cheat his father. Jacob brings two wives, two sisters, into his marriage bed but favors one over the other. David commits every sin outlined in the Ten Commandments in his bedding Bathsheba, another man’s wife.

But there is a huge shift in the New Testament. The curse is lifted with Joseph, the carpenter, and his betrothed, the virgin, Mary. Through the angel, Gabriel, God asks permission to return to the union of man and wife, to remain the first person in a Holy marriage:

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”... When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. Matt. 1:18-25

God sent the angel Gabriel... to a virgin...Mary... “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High...The Holy Spirit will come on you, ...the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."... “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”...

Luke 1:26-38

Paul was a hard man and a confirmed bachelor. But, inspired by God, as was Abraham, he gives us our most touching glimpse into how to establish the righteous and holy union between the three person marriage- a man and a woman joined together by God, and with God, - in holy matrimony.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. ... “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Eph. 5:21-33

This is a profound mystery... and good news: there is order in our chaotic broken world. There is a plan, a perfect plan, God’s Perfect Plan. Every marriage on the earth, every family on the earth is but a poor reflection of The Holy Marriage and the Holy Family that is our God, The Holy Trinity. We are all created to be part of that divine union. We are all invited to that divine feast:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns...for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—And the angel said to me, “...Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”... Rev. 19:6-9

Every 29:11 Story has beads that represent the couples, the marriages, the families, that make up humanity’s story throughout the Bible. This is God’s Word and we are a critical part of it. Every shade of brown, cream, pink, every possible skin tone we as God’s children on this earth possess, is represented in our 29:11 Stories. Adam and Eve are, of course, the first. They follow the purple-God, blue-Heaven, green-Earth, and white-Holy Spirit beads. They begin the downward fall of God’s Story that is the Old Testament.

But the fall is arrested by the Angel Gabriel’s visits to the new couple, Joseph and Mary. In the fullness of time, the upswing of the Story will bring the creation home to the Father when, with his birth, Christ, the Son of God, submits to become the Son of Man.

On the shorter, more concise versions of The 29:11 Story, the Stories with 13 or 14 beads, Adam and Eve, and all humanity, are represented by a single brown bead on the downfall that is echoed by a single brown bead on the upward journey home to the Father. The longer detailed Story that contain 91 beads representing 91 persons and events in God’s Story, is visibly stunning. The Adam and Eve on the downfall in Genesis are two beads of brown and pink. They follow the Holy Spirit, in white, who is hovering over the new creation like a dove. But on the return home, on the upward side, the Book of Revelation, at the very end of time, at the very beginning of our new beginning outside of time, the two beads of the first children and the first marriage are now one bead. It is a beautiful bead, white and radiant, and it follows the Holy Spirit, also white -like a dove- as the new couple, humanity, the bride, and the Holy Spirit, are reunited to the Son, the bridegroom, in the perfect, holy redeemed Marriage, as they join the Father and the Holy Family.

The things that make us heartbreakingly beautiful are the things that have broken God’s heart.

We, God’s wayward children, God’s failed marriages and broken families are promised a holy union through the church. We are waiting with the Holy Spirit for a new Heaven and new Earth. The Kingdom of God will be restored. This is a profound mystery, the imperfect body of Christ will in the fullness of time become the Bride of Christ. We will be washed clean, radiant white with light and purity. The Holy Spirit will bring us home. And we with our bridegroom will be reunited with the Father. Again, the Perfect Family dwelling together in perfect unity.

My brother’s life has not been easy but it has been full. Frank, the wayward, heartbreaking son of my parents, has lived a productive life. He has been happily married for almost 40 years. He and his wife, Beth, have raised two bright dear children who grew up closely connected with both sets of grandparents. In time, the things that break our hearts may be the things that can become heartbreakingly beautiful.

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