The Need to Debrief

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. They they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned home to their country by another route.” Matt. 2:11,12) 


It has been an interesting start to 2017 if you have been affected by the recent arctic weather sweeping across the U.S. Here in Oregon we are a little out of sorts dealing with multiple “winter weather advisories” and snow that is layered upon ice which hasn’t even melted yet. It is a particular nightmare for mom’s needing their kids to get out of the house before permanent damage is done.


I have been thinking about how this particular scenario has caused many to slow down and be forced to do things a bit differently. On one hand, it doesn’t do us well when we are out of routine, or our “rhythm of life” because it seems to make us use more energy and increase our frustration. But there is a good thing about slowing down: we may have more opportunity to debrief life in a way we couldn’t before. I want to give an example of why I think that there is a need to debrief, which simply means one takes some time to stop and turn around, look back at the events taken place and allow for the mind and heart to reflect on what was learned, seen, absorbed, appreciated, not-appreciated, etc. We see it in different ways in life, like an “exit-interview” or a “satisfaction survey”. That seems to tell us that sometimes interpreting an event is as important as experiencing the event. Christmas is one of those times that we typically move on from once Dec. 26th hits. Not even the Church calendar promotes that quick of a turnaround as it observes the twelve days of Christmas (not the goofy gift giving song).


It is simply where our society is right now. It makes us think of Christmas in October practically and then you add in what we are doing in our lives individually.


Life doesn’t seem to slow down enough for us to do anything but spend a moment to appreciate a few things and then get back to the grind.


My Christmas season (the week before and week after Christmas day) was divided into three sections: A family retreat, Christmas with the Body of Christ on Sunday, and the deaths of two people I know the day after Christmas.  Each one of those from one vantage point could seem extremely different in nature. Surly they are different, but how are they connected, I thought? How might the reality of “God with us” be true in each? In what way can the Word made flesh impact these moments of life? I believe that there are answers to those questions, which is why I believe there is a healthily need for debriefing.

One of the sad things in our society may be that there is not effort anymore to debrief, and to do so in the way to make sure that what was received doesn’t get lost in the next chapter. If I have been reading a novel in which when I take a break from it awhile, I notice that I forget some characters and when I begin a new chapter, I have trouble following the story again. If there is no effort to truly let something change your life…like the reality of Jesus being born, then God incarnate can be just like the decorations that we put away after every Christmas season.


I was thinking about how some of the greatest moments might happen if we are willing to debrief. When Jesus was declared “RISEN” by the women to the other disciples there was a lot of speculation going on. Luke talks about two of the men leaving and returning to Emmaus, about seven miles away. It says that they had a time of debriefing:


“They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other Jesus himself come up and walked along with them.” Luke 24:14-15


Wow. While these men were debriefing and reflecting on what had happened, Jesus shows up! I mean, literally! I feel like this offers great promise but also I fear what I have missed over the years because I have hurried to the next thing. In the matter of these two on the road to Emmaus and the Magi from the east a specific thing was taking place that kind of forced them to think: They were traveling or returning back home after the Mega Event. In their day and age, that was a large chunk of time…unlike our abilities to be George Jetson.

 What happened to the men who came from the East to see Jesus as a baby? We may have to accept the fact that they didn’t see Jesus until a year or two after his birth, but the anticipation for them to see this One as the followed the star was quite tremendous. The prophet who was written about, this mystery for the ages, has finally arrived. Not nearly equivalent to our shopping and preparing meals for family. But the day arrived when they saw him. Here he is! Was a precious sight! And the act of worship was natural to them, to sense the Kingship of the baby


But I have been interested in their return home. What was that like? What did they talk about I wonder? I am sure that there was a bit of “debriefing”. There is no way to know but I came up with some kind of dialogue they may have had.

Things they may have thought about:

“Wasn’t that an amazing scene? I’m not sure I could really explain what we just saw.”
“Yeah, that isn’t what I thought when I was picturing a Messiah. I thought there would be a bit more fan-fair. Isn’t it crazy that it was a baby born in a stable that has caused so much attention of the Jewish people?”
“And what about Herod, he seemed to have it out for Jesus. What do you suppose is going on with that? That dream was pretty vivid that Herod would try to do harm to him.”
“You’re right. This baby must be pretty threatening to his rule. I thought Herod was a bit suspicious when we talked with him. His idea of worship was a whole lot different than ours. And he looked worried, didn’t he?”
“So what do you think will make this baby great? He doesn’t look like he belongs in royalty. Will he lead a revolt, do you think?
“I am not sure. But one thing I do know:  There was something glorious about our time with that family. I had heard about the Glory of Yahweh with the Jews…do you think that was it? I sure felt the weight of the moment!”
“I know, I am having trouble getting it out of my mind. I mean, we have been on the road for four days and we are still talking about it. It was marvelous and inspiring. We may never see anything like this again in our life time. Kind of makes you wish we can stick around and see that Jesus grow up.”


 Sometimes I wonder if we let times like that slip away in our life. Have we moved from segment to segment so quickly that we neglect the valuable times of “debriefing” or reflection? This could be on the heels of great things happening, small things, or difficult things. What have we learned, or what can we learn, and how do we make it stick? I wonder if the Magi were able to take a flight with Southwest Airlines home and be back at work in a matter of hours, that Jesus would have had as much of a lasting impact on them. Instead, they were “forced” to think about the events of the last few days as they rode home.


Have you allowed God to speak into your life as you create your weekly schedules? Have you been able to reflect on what is going on in your life and family? What about the small things (literally small like our cell phones!) that are filling your time and preventing any digesting of eternal truths? Let us sense the need to debrief as the Lord Jesus comes along side of us to make our hearts burn and we are opened up to God’s Word.


Pastor Brandon

“I have no plan B”

A man that I have recently met shared with me a prayer he had written to God that in every way was a sample of a modern day Psalm. If you are not familiar with this poetic book of the Bible and example of this is found in Ps 27:12-14:
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
It is not every day that people express a type of lament followed by a resounding praise and commitment to trust in God beside their plight. It was refreshing. It was also a challenge for obvious reasons.  How willing am I to be honest about myself but be willing to “finish” with being honest with who God is?
But it was a line in this man’s prayer that really jumped out at me with great tenacity. He said after praying what he prayed to God that “I have no plan B”. This might in some circumstances appear to be a foolish state of being. It is always smart (I suppose not in every case) to have some back up plan in case what you were trying to accomplish with the first method fails. This would fall under the “well prepared” category. You might first think of a camping trip or quitting a job as places to have that contingency plan in place in case it goes wrong. 
When it comes to our following Jesus there is something different. When you read about Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 in John he follows it up with a discourse on how he is the “Bread from Heaven” ready to sustain his people in marvelous ways. The teaching is so far out of reach for some that they walk away. Jesus turns to Peter and the Twelve and asks, “You’re not going to leave too, are you?”. Peter answered, “Lord, I have no plan B“. Of course, that is my interpretation of Peter’s response: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69). But that is essentially what he is saying. This may be difficult right now, but there is no alternative path for us. 
I believe that what Peter said in these words manifested itself loud and clear when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. It was at that point they even rejoiced when they were beaten for Jesus, “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
Too much of the time Christians live their lives with a plan B. They look to find the “will of God for their life” but keep a contingency plan, usually with what they want at the core. God is big enough, resourced enough, and trustworthy enough to be in charge of our plan A without rival. The Apostle Paul was fierce in this way, declaring, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I many finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” (Acts 20:24). It is good for us in seasons of our life to reflect on if we are truly given over to God on all matters. So I ask you, are you sold out for what God has or do you have a plan B? 
Pastor Brandon