It All Changed One Night

In Luke 2, I read that there was a census called for by Caesar Augustus.  As I read this the thought struck me that he was a part of God’s sovereignty.  Oh, he had his “own” reasons for calling for this census…he wanted money. He wanted prominence and status to know how many people were under his rule.  He wanted to know how many people “owed him”. But, the fact is that God used this non-believing, at times self-centered individual, to fulfill prophecy from Micah 5:1-2.  God’s sovereignty reigned then as it reigns now.

Then I read of Joseph.   I love Joseph.   This man was obviously a law-abiding citizen because when the census was called, he did what was expected of him and took his pledged wife with him to be registered in Bethlehem.   According to research, not everyone did.   Joseph had already “accepted” Mary to be his wife, according to Matthew 1:24, but they weren’t brought together as husband and wife until after the birth of Jesus so lawfully, she didn’t even have to go with him.  But, she went.   Joseph was not only, a law-abiding citizen but a God-fearing man.  We read in Matthew 1 that once he found out that Mary was expecting a child, he was willing to quietly end the betrothal but not have her stoned.  Then the angel intervened in a dream and gave him the news that would change his life forever.  This baby that Mary was carrying the One who would be the Savior of the world.  He would be the earthly father of the anticipated Messiah.  He would raise this child until the Child would raise him.  Joseph did what God called him to do.

Then I read of the angel and then angels who declared God’s glory.  First was the one all alone.  Then came the others to share in the news.  Isn’t this how it is with us at times.  There are times it feels like we are all alone.  No one else sees what we see.  We’ve learned something and we wonder if in sharing it with another, they will see and understand.  But, we declare it…what God has done…what He is doing.  And suddenly, we are not alone.

The rest of the angels showed up!  They were proclaiming the glory of God to the highest.  They declared the peace of God on those on “whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14).  This idea of God’s favor resting on someone is very similar to the idea of those on whom He takes delight.  This is the same idea that we find in I Samuel 15:22 where we are told the LORD delights in obedience over sacrifice.  God’s peace comes to those who are obedient to Him and delight in doing as He desires for them. 

I think the angels understood this idea.  Some time before, there had been a battle in the heavens. At that time Satan and his followers were thrown out of heaven because they would not follow God.  Those who stayed were those who understood that following God was what would bring true peace.  Now, they declared this to these normal, everyday shepherds who were in the fields.  They understood the enormity of what Jesus was doing and the peace it would bring to mankind.

As I read about the shepherds the wonder and amazement they must have felt brings a smile to my face and a depth of envy to my heart.  They left their “normal” life and went where they would not “normally” have gone…to see a newborn baby…but not just ANY baby,  They were to be the first to see the long awaited Christ-child.  I wonder what it was like for these smelly, dirty, tired men to come into this dwelling of new life.  They were the first, outside of the baby’s parents, to see this precious little One.  Do you suppose they fell on their faces?  Do you suppose they knelt?  Do you suppose they pushed at each other to get a closer look?  Do you suppose they dared to ask to hold this gift of God? 

I don’t know that I could have asked to hold Him.  Oh, I love holding babies but THIS child I would have felt too unworthy to hold.  Yet it is because of Him…He made me worthy to be held by Him.  Because of this baby I can now kneal before HIm.  The shepherds then left “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.” (Luke 2:20

And then, there is Mary.

Mary, who was called “favored” (Luke 1:30) by God. Mary, who willingly obeyed what she could not understand because she trusted the One who spoke.  Mary, who selflessly gave herself to care for the One who would care for the world.  Mary, who humbly said “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)  Mary, who “treasured” what had happened around her and “pondered” those things in her heart.

This year I saw anew the gifts God gave to those who were wiling to follow His lead. 

“Dear Lord, God, Thank-You for opening my eyes anew to the amazing, incredibly things that happened in and to our world so many nights ago.  May I never lose sight of what You did and who You gave.  May I forever treasure and ponder Your great love and Your mighty works.    May I always be willing to obey, proclaim, share, follow, glorify and to praise You.  You are the best gift I have ever received and will ever know.  Merry Christmas, Father.”

I believe…

Over the years, I have been asked often how I do it…how do I keep going in the midst of pain?  How do I keep smiling in the midst of crisis?  How do I keep my head up when the Dr. brings yet another bad report?  Okay, now before anyone begins thinking that I am putting myself on the pedastal…let’s all agree that life is tough.  Let’s agree that everyone has their battles of one kind or another.  Everyone has the days of just not wanting to get out of bed.

I just happen to be the recipient of the questions because I’m the recipient of the battles and the storms and the crushings and the breakings and the blessings and the joys.

But here’s the easy answer…

the reason I can go on…

is because I believe God.

I believe Him when He says I’m not alone (Hebrews 13:5b).

I believe Him when He says that He loved me enough to sacrifice (john 3:16).

I believe Him when He says that His grace is sufficient (II Corinthians 12:9)

I believe Him when He says He’ll take care of everything I NEED ((Philippians 4:19).

I believe Him when He says there’s a reason for all I go through (II Corinthians 1:3-6)

I believe Him when He says that someday I will be with Him in heaven (John 14).

I believe Him when He says that He has endured everything so that I would not go through the enduring alone (Hebrews 4:14-16).

I believe Him when He says that He has given me all I need to do what He called me to do because He planned it ahead of time (Ephesians 2:10)

And the list goes on.

I believe Him.  That’s it.  It has nothing to do with me and if I have something no one else does.  It has nothing to do with what I can do on my own.  It has nothing to do with anything about me.

He says He loves me.  I love Him.  I believe Him.  I trust Him.  Yes, there are days that are more difficult than others….but He’s there.  There are days I would like to trade for something easier…but He’s there.  I believe Him.

“Dear Lord God, Thank-You for being believeable.  Thank-You for being trustworthy.  Thank-You for Your great love.  May I love You more today than yesterday.”

Hope

DaffodilsIn the fall I planted several bulbs.  I LOVE bulbed plants.  All  kinds.  So, we planted…okay, so my husband planted as I “instructed” him as to where to put the bulbs.  And…we wait.  It’s a long process to wait.  These bulbs are going to be in the ground just sitting for quite some time.  Of course, I can’t really see what is going on under all of that dirt but, it doesn’t seem from the surface like anything is going on.  They should come up in the spring.

Spring.  That seems like such a long time away right now.  We still have most of winter to get through.  There has already been a slight frost.  We have had an incredible amount of rain.  We live in an area where rain and winter go hand in hand.  I saw pictures from one of my favorite places recently and “they” are already socked in with snow. And it’s only the beginning of December.

We will have rainy days and stormy days and dark days and blustery days and cool days and cold days and jacket days and coat days and long sleeve days and so on.  Through the last storm most of the trees around us lost their leaves.  The birds hid for awhile and the wildlife that frequents our yard have not been present.

Sometimes winter is hard.

Car on Snow-Covered Road

We all go through seasons of life.  And sometimes, winter is hard.  I lost hope during my winter.  Not all hope, but enough.  There are things that I have been praying “diligently” for so long.  I was seeing nothing.  Kind of like those bulbs planted deep in the earth.  I’ve seen nothing.  I’ve cried, I’ve struggled, I’ve prayed, I’ve asked, I’ve sought.  And I’ve seen nothing.

Now, my “girls” would remind me that I am always telling them not to lose hope.  Not to stop praying.  Not to give up.  Because we never know what God is doing beneath the surface where we cannot see.

But, this week, I lost hope…

temporarily, but I lost hope…I couldn’t see.  I couldn’t see what He was doing.  I couldn’t see that He was working.  I couldn’t see…but then isn’t that what trust is about…not seeing but continuing to believe.

And then, God…

Most graciously He reminded me that hope is in HIm not in the person or thing for whom/which I am praying.  Hope is in Him not the circumstances which appear to be hopeless.  Hope is in Him not the storm, not the things that overwhelm, not the emotions that can rage.   Hope is in Him…and Him alone.

Some people like storms.  They like thunder and lightning and billowing snow and drifts and ice and the sparkling white that remains after the blizzard has run its course.  Maybe I need to learn to “enjoy” the storm or if not enjoy it at least appreciate the power of God shown in it.

One day, many days from now, I’m going to look outside and see green poking through the dirt in front of my kitchen window.  All of those bulbs may not grow but some will.  I have hope.  And I will remember.

I will remember that God is the One who brings change.  I will remember that He is the One on whom hope rests.  I will remember that He is the One who brings growth and metamorphosis and development.  Thankfully, He helped me remember now.

“So, dear God, let me not lose hope unless in the losing You’re going to bring growth as that loss is exchanged with a renewed believing.  Let me let go and let You.  Let me always remember that just as You are continuing to work in and on my life, You are doing the same in others.  Just as some things take me awhile to learn, so it is with others.  Let me not ‘grow weary in doing good’ and not grow weary in praying.  May the blessings of growth and the glory of change be all to You.”

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Office Online

The Struggles of Birth

It’s Christmas season, so, of course, my thoughts, like many others, often go back to the birth of Jesus.  Mary and Joseph had already endured a long journey to get to this little manger, barn, animal scene.  We tend to romanticize the picture in order to not really think about what was happening.

The reality of it is that God/Jesus was born.  I don’t know about you but I’ve seen pictures and videos and heard multiple explanations of how birth takes place.  I’ve heard it told how the baby must fit through the birth canal and there is a struggle for life.  The more difficult a birth is, the more likely that the little one born will come “out” with a bit of a pointed head as the child has pushed and struggled through to life.

I’ve heard people say that Jesus, Himself, didn’t actually “enter” the baby’s body that was born until after the birth.  I don’t believe that.  I believe He endured every bit of life so that He would be able to truly say that He understood all that we would endure.  Jesus wore diapers, okay there weren’t Pampers then but whatever they used to cover babies…He wore.  I’ll bet He even cried when He was hungry or tired or needed changing.  He grew as a “real” baby grows because He was and is real flesh. (John 1:14)

The other thing I’ve been thinking about related to the birth of Jesus is what is true of all births.  They are a struggle.  They are natural but they are a struggle.  The Momma’s body is going to do what is necessary to push that little one out into the world.  And when the Mom can’t do it, the Dr. is going to help through another kind of struggle.

I think the birth represents the struggles of life.  Struggles are a natural part of life.  Struggles take great strength to endure.  Struggles can be long and difficult or short and not so difficult.  Sometimes the deciding factor is  how we deal with them and how soon we allow God to get invovled.  Can you imagine if the baby didn’t “want” to be born?  That child would never see or know that struggles of life, that’s true, but this babe would never know that joy of the end of the struggle or the happiness that comes from experiencing the many things that bless us in life.  As with the baby, we cannot hide from or ignore the struggle.  We each must endure the struggle in order to appreciate the joy.

God knew how difficult life would be.  We’ve heard it said many times that things are not a surprise to Him.  He is not a God who does not care about our daily struggles.  He endured all kinds of things so that we would know that He understood.  Including the struggle of birth.

Birth may represent the struggles of life but it also represents joy. Most Mommas know that when “they” put that little one into her arms for the first time the pain and the suffering is displaced and the joy at seeing that little one face to face is indescribable.  You look at this newborn and wonder what the future will hold for this child.  You wonder what will come their way and what they will seek and you hope with all of your heart that your child will seek the One who has already done so much.

This Christmas I hope to focus, yes, on those I love and the gifts that will be given to them…yes, on the time I will get to spend with family and friends…yes, maybe even on a few “sappy” Christmas movies.  Mostly though, I want to focus on the reality of the birth of Jesus and how, even from the first moment of His earthly life, He was willing to go through human life for me…for us.  Amazing love.  Amazing grace.  Amazing sacrifice.

“Lord, God, please help me not to lose sight of Your glory and righteousness in what You did on that, what we call, first Christmas night so long ago.  From the beginning, You took on the mess and smeels of mankind, in order for Your love to show clearly.  Thank-You.  May my gift to You this year be to always love You more.”