Monday, December 28, 2015

Time Share


 

In my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you I will also come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
John 14:2-3

The other day while my son and daughter were visiting us, my husband received a promotional letter in the mail. He carried it into the kitchen and asked if any of us were interested in a cruise. Of course we all said yes. Otto then went on to read us the several great options we had for trips, including a few different cruises and one trip to Hawaii. Our son Paul laughed and asked how long the time share presentations would last. He joked that out of that week in Hawaii at least one full day would be spent with the promo people. He’s probably right. As my former salesman father would be quick to tell you, there’s always a catch.

Sometimes it’s worth listening to the hour or so presentation for the gift at the end. There are times when the company is selling something you were considering buying anyway and that makes it very much worthwhile. Most times, it’s a gimmick.

Remembering that conversation this morning I thought how different God’s ways are from the world’s ways. There are cases like this, where God behaves in direct contrast to the world. In the world we become a captive audience. They’re giving us a gift so we have to listen. With God, it is always our choice. We can say yes, I want what you’re offering or no, just like any other offer. Unlike the other offers, we can walk away before we even hear it.

Think about it for a minute. What if this life is the promotional phase? As a selling point for heaven this is not a great advertisement. Yes, there is beauty and love here but there is also hurt, anger, storms, illness, devastation, fear, etc. The offer is for a life with none of that. The promoter is telling us that if we chose His plan we will not experience pain or suffering ever again. We will live lives of joy, peace, serenity and love.

Does it sound too good to be true? Wait! There’s more!

Not terribly long ago my husband, Otto and I sat through a time share presentation. It isn’t a typical time share. It’s actually a decent plan. It sounded like something we would like and the places they showed us, the plans they have are really great. Then there’s the cost. Can you say sticker shock? Truly it wasn’t that awful, just not in our budget.

Now, let’s go back to what God is offering. We are in the promo phase, which okay isn’t always a good deal. Some days it is the lovely free trip. Some days it’s the steak knives and other days, it’s awful, painful, and scary. On those days we would quickly run if the present moment were reflecting what is to come. So we sit and we listen to the terms. I’ll play salesman and lay it out for you one more time. There is no weeping, no crying, no suffering, no pain, no work. There is love, comfort, blessing, peace and life forever, just to name a few of the perks. Are you interested? It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Oh and wait, there is also the part where the Owner will be with you now, while you walk through the ups and downs of the promo package. Oh and He’ll protect you, love you and comfort you right now. You don’t have to wait until you get to the destination. Are you worried about the sticker on this one? You should be. It’s pretty steep. It’s life. This kind of promotion is very pricey. The cost is blood, sweat, tears and death. Don’t walk away! You don’t have to pay! Jesus paid. He paid it all, blood, sweat, tears, ridiculous amounts of pain and suffering. There is no catch, no loophole, no small print. There are only outstretched arms waiting for you to run into them. In case it wasn’t clear enough yet, it’s FREE.

Shall we get the paperwork? I hope you’re saying yes.









Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tidings of Great Joy


 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them and they were terrified. Luke 2:8



In writing about the birth of Jesus, Brennan Manning describes those who initially greeted the baby as “turkeys, losers and dirt-poor shepherds.” No one of notoriety stood or knelt in the stinky stable. No king, no prince, no president, no celebrity, no pastor, just simple shepherds. Simple. That seems to be the way Jesus liked it from the very beginning to today.

So, if you're a nobody in the world's eyes, rejoice! This is our day! This day, this glorious day when we celebrate the event that changed the world and is still changing the world, this is our day. Those of us who work and pray, pray and give, who live in light of the events of that amazing night, this is our day.

Manning also uses the word “shipwrecked” to describe the followers of Jesus then and now. That is so accurate. I've seen the ships of my own making, my desires, or efforts at control wreck over and over. Good! It just shows me who is truly in control.

Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Well, this is the day! This day celebrates the birth of the greatest, most awesome, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). It celebrates the birth of the One who could have not just chosen but commanded anyone and he chose first, shepherds, then a ragtag bunch of fishermen and a tax collector, and then, us. Oh glorious day! He. Chose. Us. He chose you.

There are days on the calendar that mark historical events and shine a light on people or groups of people who have done amazing things. That's great. We should remember them but this, this is the day for the rest of us, those of us whose greatest accomplishments may be to bandage a knee or lend an ear, to show up with soup to a sick friend or cook dinner for the family who just lost a loved one. This is the day for those of us who love because he first loved us.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Celebration


 

In the same way I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of angels over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:10

This verse is from the parable of the lost coin. It is sandwiched in between two other parables about loss, the lost sheep and the lost son. All three parables reference the rejoicing, the celebrating, when something lost is found. Celebrating.

It is December 22nd, and therefore, I've been concentrating on celebrations for a few days now. I've been baking, planning and wrapping. This morning the pile of wrapped gifts were a bit of a distraction to me in my quiet time. They are in my office right in front of my prayer chair and they easily cause my mind to wander.

I said to Abba, “I'll be happy when those are out of here and I'm not distracted by them.” Then I thought, oh, but then the celebration will be over. Quickly I realized that the real celebration, my relationship with my Savior will never be over. Thankfully, Abba was quick to correct me. That celebration, the one referenced over and over in Luke 15 and all through the Scripture hasn't even begun. Our paltry efforts to praise and worship, wonderful though they may be with our limited human skills, will be eclipsed by celestial choir, never ending, no distractions worship.

I am excited to give the wrapped packages to my family and friends. I'm happy that Otto and I are so blessed this year and that we are able to give gifts, feed people and do it all to celebrate Jesus. We are blessed this year as well, to be in a new church home, a place with far less flash and fancy than the one we previously attended but with far better focus, with true faith and a feeling of family.

Christmas is a huge celebration in our home and family. We have great traditions that started with my children and new ones that they are starting with their children. It's bright, lively, noisy and full of love but it palls in comparison to what we will see when we celebrate in the mansion Jesus has prepared for us. (John 14:2)

Monday, December 21, 2015

I AM


 
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites. I AM has sent me to you.” Exodus 3:14

There is a worship song that I just love. I can’t say it’s my favorite because before I could finish typing that ten others would cross my mind as “favorite.” In any case the name of the song is “Great I Am.” The lyrics say just what you would expect from the title that God is indeed the great I AM, holy, powerful, unique, awesome, in the truest sense of the word. I love that song! The bridge includes the truth that the enemy runs from God, that even the mountains tremble in His presence. All true.

Listening to the song just a few minutes ago, hearing the words repeated “the great I AM” something occurred to me. I Am, what? As Christians we don’t ask that question because we know or think we do, what that means. It’s the name of God Yahweh, the great I AM. But indulge me for a moment and think about it. God is the great I AM. If anyone else said to any of us, “Hello, I am.” There would be a pause as we waited for the rest of the sentence. “You are? Hungry? Lost? Happy?” We might try to fill in the blank from body language of facial expression. Certainly we would expect if not an actual name, at least some elaboration. “Hello, I am your new boss, worst nightmare, here to help, etc, etc.” Something has to come after the I am. Not with God.

God is everything. There was nothing before Him and will be nothing after Him. He can say “Hello I AM” because He is!

The song I referred to is huge. I love music and musically speaking it’s a wonderful song. It builds nicely. The lyrics are so good and true with music that matches the mood of the words perfectly and there is so much more. I can’t imagine a person who can hear that song and not be moved. Not just because it is so well written or, as has been my experience in many venues, so well performed. It is because of the simple and yet enormously beyond our total comprehension truth. God is the Great I AM. As the song says, there is none beside Him.

Think about God for a minute using nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives. It’s awe inspiring isn’t it? That is why the song is so effective because it beautifully states the truth that makes this life livable and the next one so inviting. We are reminded that there is nothing we could desire that God can’t give, do or be. The great I AM.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Use Your Words


 

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Matthew 2:10 KJV

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. Matthew 2:10 NIV



Words are incredibly powerful. There are many verses of Scripture that make that very clear. While in the desert during his time of being tempted Jesus responds to Satan by beginning all of his remarks with, “it is written.” (Matthew 4:1-11) How and what we write and speak says a lot about who and what we believe.

Do you suppose when the Magi saw the star, the incredibly, beautifully bright star they said, “Ouch! My eyes! Oy vey! That light's a little overwhelming.” No! My guess is that their reaction was much more like, “Oh my God!” in the truest sense of those words. “They rejoiced,” the verse says, “with exceeding great joy.” I'm a word girl and so I prefer the King James version of that verse, “with exceeding great joy.” Not a little celebration, a huge, loud thing that I can't help but believe was exceedingly contagious. After all, I am exceedingly joyful over that same star all these many, many years later.

It is my hope that simply reading that verse will lift your heart because this should be a joyous season and yet, mostly what I hear is how much the people around me have to do. There are daily, or even hourly, reports of stress levels. It seems everyone around me is stressed. But how many are joyful?

Due to a ridiculous injury, I lost an entire week this month, flat on my back, useless. Am I a tad behind? Sure. Does it stress me out? Not really. I know I'm behind but it's not a huge deal. I'll get done what I can, the way I can and that will be sufficient. God's grace will surely cover me. Rather than be stressed, I prefer to focus on the words I love so much and sing them at the top of my lungs. (Sorry neighbors.) The songs of the season, if you will, are filled with great words, joy, rejoice, Savior, holy, Emmanuel, bright, shining, love, and so forth and so on.

Go ahead, let one of those songs, one about Jesus, sing through your head. You have to smile, don't you? Rejoice! Emmanuel is coming for you! He is wonderful, holy, bright and shining and He's coming back! Alleluia! (Another great word....)

If the song didn't work. If you aren't musically inclined or overly attached to words, as I am, try this. People say that stressed is desserts spelled backward and this is also a season for a whole bunch of those. Just saying....


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Share Hope


Share Hope

Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8

While we wait for the blessed hope-- the glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13



Yesterday the headlines brought us news of another celebrity dead by his own hand. I found out about it through a text message from my daughter. My response to her was, “How incredibly sad.” It is tragic, truly. Thinking about this man who “had it all,” except, he didn’t. I was reminded of people much nearer to me who have chosen the same end and in particular of my neighbor, ironically named Faith, whose life ended the same way five years ago, just a few days off from this death.

The morning my neighbor died I was sitting in my chair enjoying my quiet time with God when I heard a loud boom. My first thought was gunshot which immediately seemed ridiculous but turned out to be true. Just behind where I was sitting a woman approximately the same age as I, took a gun and ended her life. Why? I do not know. There was plenty of speculation, the same buzz words as are being used for the celebrity, depression, addiction, stress but there was never any real answer.

When I was told that my gunshot assessment was correct I felt sad for Faith and for the husband she left behind. The next morning, back in my chair, with my Bible and my dear Lord the whole thing became very real and very intense. I didn’t know Faith well. This was not a huge personal loss. It wasn’t those emotions that overwhelmed me. It was gratitude. There we were just a privacy fence separating us and as I sat praying and praising, my neighbor put a gun to her head and ended her life. Why her and not me? When the call came on my heart I was blessed with the grace to say yes. Why didn’t she accept that grace and that call? I don’t have an answer for that.

Suicide raises questions we cannot answer, always has, always will but this I believe I can say with a fair amount of authority, there but for the grace of God, go I. No one’s life is stress free. I get aggravated by the slogan, “life is good.” No, it isn’t. Life is hard. It is amazing, wonderful, challenging, full of opportunity but it also involves loss, suffering and pain. Life is hard.

So why do some of us handle it better than others? Again, I cannot answer that in a general sense. I can say for me, it is the presence of God.

For quite awhile now I’ve been seeking God’s grace to care less for the opinion of others and seek only His approval. I’ve got a long way to go but already I feel lighter. In His infinite mercy, God has said yes to that prayer and has begun to change me. It’s fantastic. It’s hard to imagine that our celebrity ever felt that freedom. His life was lived in pursuit of people’s approval. That is as tragic as his death.

Those of us who believe are called to preach salvation. We should, that’s important but we should also offer the hope that accepting the gift of eternal salvation brings to earthly life. I know where I’m going and I know Who is taking me there. I believe that was the biggest difference between my neighbor and me. Hope. The hope of salvation, the promise of eternal life and the love that comes with it. The greatest tragedy, the one that allows and encourages suicide is a lack of that hope. That is incredibly sad.

Here, in this season of giving, perhaps the best gift we can offer to anyone is the truth that this is indeed not all there is. Whether your life is full of love, social engagements and joy or whether you struggle with loneliness, inferiority and sadness, not one of us has to be alone. There is a Savior for all of us. His name is Jesus. He came to save us from the enemy, who far too often is ourselves. If you are experiencing the joy of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the author of salvation, share that joy with someone else. You may not see it right away but it will make a difference. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:8)










Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas Everywhere


 

When they saw the star they rejoiced

with exceedingly great joy.

Luke 2:10

(This was written a year ago but is so precious I had to repost it. Abram is now almost three and has welcomed his little sister Margaret into his life. He still finds Christmas, and pretty much all of life, “amazing.” I wish more people had his attitude and his humor.)



Our heavenly Father, from whom all blessings flow (James 1:17) has blessed my husband and me with ten precious grandchildren. It might be a bit biased to say that they are the sweetest, cutest kids ever but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Just the other day our youngest grandson Abram came to see us. It was his first time at our house since the arrival of the Christmas decorations. Walking in to our living room he stopped and said, “Grammy, it’s Christmas everywhere!” His voice was filled with the awe and wonder. As he moved through the house and saw more and more decorations he repeated his sentiment again adding, “It’s amazing.” Keep in mind our little prince is not quite two years old. In those moments I was enjoying the privilege of seeing the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of a child.

Beyond my decorations, Abram is absolutely right, it’s Christmas everywhere. At church on Sunday our pastor spoke about Mary and Joseph. Most of my devotional readings are of the Advent variety, mentioning the birth of, or preparations for, Jesus. It is that most wonderful time of the year when people who aren’t terribly aware of Jesus are singing His praises and His name because those songs are playing everywhere. There are lights, baubles, songs and smells all around us that indicate a heightened sense of excitement.

Then there’s the down side. The stores are crazy. The roads are a nightmare. More people are out and about than usual. The end result of that is not a positive one. There are long lines, traffic jams and snarling voices. Why? It’s Christmas, everywhere. The problem is that in too many places it isn’t the kind of Christmas that Abram encounters at Grammy’s house. In the world the name of Jesus is playing on sound systems in many stores and malls but the spirit of Jesus is missing. Many faces display stress and many voices offer disdain. “I’ll be happy when it’s over.” It’s Christmas everywhere but in too many places there is no awe and wonder.

I am happy that it never is over. My house is dressed up, if you will, covered in bright colors and pretty lights. From today forward every visitor will be greeted by the smell of something baking and the sounds of Emmanuel. In our home we are blessed to know the true spirit of Christmas. We know that Jesus came to save us and that He is coming back. We know that’s why our house is so fancy and our hearts are so excited but if for one second we are tempted to forget, tempted to be infected by “holiday stress,” Abram will remind us. “It’s Christmas everywhere and it’s amazing.”


Friday, December 11, 2015

The Light That Shines In The Darkness

For unto us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6


I love this verse. I love to read it and sing it. I love to hear it read and sung. It's huge and so powerful. It was written long before that child, Jesus came into the world. It is a prophecy that we have all seen fulfilled.

Take a look at the second verse from the same chapter;

The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.”

Now look around, here in 2015, in the shadow of the Paris attacks, of San Bernardino, while we still mark time and recall events in reference to 9/11/2001.... What do you see? Do you see that much of our society, too much, is people walking in darkness?

What then, is the responsibility of those of us who “have seen a great light?” I'll borrow from a song for my answer. Our responsibility is to “go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere.” We need to tell the people, still living in fear of the darkness, still letting their actions, reactions and decisions be governed by that same darkness, that there is a great Light. His name is Jesus and he shall be called Wonderful, Mighty, Prince. He is the Light and the darkness can neither comprehend him or overtake him. (John 1:5)




Spiritual Giving



Calling all his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44

Lately I have read and heard a lot about grace. I have also heard about works. Oh how people love to quote James 2:17. It makes us all feel as if we have some stake, some control of our salvation. That to me, quite frankly, is laughable but it wasn’t always. For years I tried to think of ways to earn the favor of God and all I can do today is praise Him and thank Him for setting me straight on that one. So, the questions beckons, why do good works? I think I’ve learned that answer from three of my grandchildren, in particular my granddaughter Faith.

Last year our family, as a group, chose to bless the World Vision organization as a part of our Christmas giving. Everyone would contribute and everyone would choose gifts to purchase. We received the catalog and began immediately to put money aside. In an effort to really include the children, their Pop Pop and I gave them chores to do around our house and we paid them in coins. Whether the amount was less than a dollar or several dollars, they got it all in coins.

The first time we paid them I sat down with Joey, Faith and Madelyn and explained that this was their money and that what they did with it was their choice. They could put it all in their banks, all sitting on the floor in front of us, or put some in their banks and some in the envelope we had for World Vision. We talked about the children whose pictures were in the catalog and how their lives differ from ours. They asked questions and then began to sort their coins. Joey split his in half and began to put half in the envelope. Madelyn immediately chose a few coins for the envelope and a few for her bank without seeming to note which pile went where. Faith looked and looked, first at her coins and then at the catalog, back and forth for several minutes. Joey sat with half of his coins still in front of him. He and Faith began to talk about the children in the pictures as Madelyn and I sat by playing with some marbles. I saw Joey take a few more coins and put them in the envelope before putting his last few into his bank.

Faith then separated her coins into a sort of ninety/ten split. At that point I thought my then six year old granddaughter already understood tithing. Boy was I wrong! She slowly and carefully put one coin at time in the envelope, from her big pile. I couldn’t stop myself. My resolve to let them decide how to divide the money failed me. “Faithie,” I said, “you don’t have to give that much each time. You worked for that money.”

Grammy,” she replied, “I have three houses, here, my Grandma’s and my house. I have toys and clothes in all those houses and I eat all day, as many times as I want.” She gave me a sad little smile and a shrug picking up the rest of her coins and putting those in the envelope as well. “These kids kick around a ball made of garbage, they don’t have houses. They need these coins.” She told me. “I don’t.”

Wow! My heart burst with love and pride and my eyes swam with unshed tears. I hugged her close and told her what a sweet girl I thought she was. Faith knew then and knows now that she will always be taken care of because she has people who love her and can and will provide for her. Beyond that she has a heart that is already directed toward pleasing God.

We don’t need works to prove our faith. We don’t need works to earn salvation. I know how my heart swelled with love and pride when Faith put her coins in the envelope out of pure Christian love and charity. I can only begin to imagine how that kind of behavior pleases the heart of God. That is what works are for, to honor our Father.

My human heart, hard in comparison to the heart of God, wanted only to shower blessings on all three of them at that point. How could it not? I saw how they reacted to blessings. They all shared without counting the cost. I can’t think that God behaves differently. No “good work” will go to Him without returning to us, bigger and so much better. When we, like my grandchildren, give out of love and not as a means to an end, we bring glory to our Father’s name and isn’t that why we’re here?




Wednesday, December 9, 2015

His Ways


For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are my ways your ways,” declares the Lord.

Isaiah 55:8

Several years ago there was a campaign with the slogan, WWJD, what would Jesus do. At first glance that seems like a great idea. If we all stopped to think, what would Jesus do, we'd make better choices. Sure, if we could even begin to know or understand what Jesus did and how he did it. We don't. So we did what humans tend to do, we made up our own idea and based it on a small part of Jesus' personality. The WWJD campaign suggested that we be meek and mild, like Jesus, always calm and caring. Sometimes that is exactly what is called for but it negates a large part of the person of Jesus. There was no gentleness when he was flipping tables at the temple. No meekness when he called the Pharisees hypocrites, blind guides, a brood of vipers (Matthew 23:13-36). There was no meekness there because Jesus knew exactly who he was and exactly who they were. Just as he does with us.

Still, the call to act as Jesus would is not a bad idea. The problem is that we don't really know. We can do our best to follow his directions and we should, but none of us is Jesus so we will surely fall short (Romans 3:23) While he was here with us, in the flesh, even Jesus didn't act on his own.

In John 5:19 he tells us, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself, he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

So what would Jesus do? He would listen to the Father, his Father, our Father and in that the campaign of WWJD, gets it right. If we would stop and listen to our Father as Jesus did, then we would know what to do and when to do it. Too often we don't. We take our limited human view, our vision, our thoughts, far too seriously and we make them seem to fit with God's view, with God's vision. We bend his rules and his ways to fit our situation.

The last few days I've been blessed to have a little extra time on my hands. Please note that I've been “blessed” by way of injuring myself and having no option but to stay very, very still. That hardship has had the silver lining of more time to speak to and hear from, my Abba. Often I'm not sure I understand what he is saying but I hold his Word close to my heart and I wait for revelation. If the Son can do only what he sees the Father doing than surely this daughter is no different. I am merely a branch (John 15:5), a very grateful branch that has been grafted to the Vine.

My thoughts are no where near my Father's thoughts and my ways aren't any better. I need to do as Jesus did and yield to the leadership that always gets it right.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

You and You and You



But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town David a Savior had been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

The other day I was listening to a modern version of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and something stood out. In this particular version the singer sings the words, “He’s coming back for you and you and you and you….” As I listened I began to smile. I heard a very different voice, the voice of a young friend of mine who lives with a mild version of autism, among some other challenges. My little buddy fixates on certain songs or movies and repeats them over and over for a time before moving onto the next one. Right now one of the songs he loves contains the line, “You and you and you and well…..all of you!” See the connection?

While listening to the promise that Jesus, Emmanuel is indeed coming back for you and you and you, I thought of his willingness to come for us at all. We read in the Scripture that Jesus came to the Jews, to the people of Israel, but when they weren’t terribly accepting he opened his invitation to the Gentiles as well, i.e., the rest of us. Hallelujah!

He [Jesus] was born in a stable, in the cold, with no earthly celebration. There was however, great celebrating among the heavenly hosts. I had an occasion to assure a loved one the other day that heaven celebrates when one sinner repents. If heaven celebrates sinners, can you imagine the party thrown for its own precious, sinless Son? That reminds me of proud parents when their child does something, anything and the parents say, “Look, look, at him!” The angels tried to direct the spotlight and a few people got the message. That message wasn’t meant for a few, however, it was meant for many. It is an invitation given to anyone who will open his or her heart to receive it.

Jesus is coming back. I have no idea when and frankly, in my mind, it can’t be too soon. We sing O Come Emmanuel and beg him to come “and ransom captive Israel.” Captive Israel has expanded to include all of us who believe.

Jesus is coming back, for who? For you and you and you and you and well……all of you (us). We have no reason to fear, although the circumstances may look scary. Jesus is coming to take us home to the place that he has prepared for us, for all of us who accept the invitation. “O Come Emmanuel!”


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Seeing or Believing



Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

It is Advent or what is referred to in the secular world as “the Christmas season.” During this season I love to watch old movies. My favorites are mostly the ones in black and white but my husband and grandchildren make other requests. One of their favorite movies includes the line, “seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing.” It’s corny, incredibly, ridiculously corny in a way that is only tolerable in the red, gold and green of the season but in its own corny way there is a certain profundity. Think about it, “Seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing.” Does it strike a familiar chord?

Remember Thomas? He’s the disciple that had to see and feel Jesus’ wounds to believe that Jesus had in fact, risen from the dead. (John 20: 24-28) He was an, I’ll believe it when I see it, kind of guy.

Hebrews 11 is the faith Hall of Fame. In it are listed some people who believe in impossible circumstances. These are people whose situations brought to mind words like hopeless, over, impossible, Not. A. Chance. And yet, here they are listed in the Bible as people of great faith. They believed and then they saw.

How about you? Do you believe after the miracle or before?

My own life has been a minefield of challenges for the past several months. That is not to say that I have been miserable or unhappy. It is however, to say that I have become very aware of the origin of my joy, blessings and victories. There have been defeats and disappointments but in it I am fully confident that God has a plan; that he who began a good work in me will not now leave me to finish the race on my own. (Philippians 1:6) In many areas I cannot see his hand but I believe that he is orchestrating the events of my life for the best outcome even as I feel defeated or unhappy. Feelings are human and fleeting. Joy is real and comes from a never ending Source that we cannot see but whose promises we can most certainly believe.

So back to the corny line, “seeing isn’t believing.” True because where there is proof there is no need for faith, for belief and hope in what appears to be impossible. “Believing is seeing.” Again, true, because when we believe that God’s plan, purpose and will are the best we can rest and trust in him. We can “see” his hand, his blessings and his love for us and from there we can hope. We can be certain that we are in the best care possible.




Shivering
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:8-12


(note: This was written in 2005. Faith and Isabelle are now ten years old and sometimes have to be convinced that a jacket is necessary. This week the temperatures in sunny Florida have remained quite warm. We do have predictions of temps in the 60s. The girls better find those jackets!)

This morning I was singing along with one of my favorite Christmas songs, “Do You Hear What I Hear.” As I sang the words “a child shivers in the cold” I was shivering too. It is important to mention that it was 52 degrees at the time, not exactly freezing. While my formerly Yankee blood has become quite nicely accustomed to the kinder weather of the South over the past 20 years I still remember what subzero freezing is all about. I remember it with great disdain. The word shiver doesn’t accurately describe what your body does in those temperatures. It is more like your own personal earthquake. I remember stiffening every inch of my body in the false belief that stiffening would ward off the bite of the frigid air. I was sort of laughing at my new definition of cold and shivering when the image of one of my brand new granddaughters crossed my mind.

I pictured her tiny body cold and shivering. I thought of how awful my daughter would feel if there were no way to protect Faith from the elements. The night before in the shivery cold 50-degree weather Faith looked a little like an Eskimo baby as she left my house. Her cousin Isabelle had left just a few minutes before her with a tent of blankets encasing her carrier. Our baby girls are kept warm and protected but at the time of his birth our Savior was shivering in the cold, a cold that I’m guessing was a lot more like Syracuse, NY than Orange Park, FL.

We are all quite used to our creature comforts. We forget that each and every one of them is a blessing from a God who loves us enough to watch His Son shiver in the cold. We hear the cliché about being born with a silver spoon. Jesus was born with no spoon at all.

My little angels Faith and Isabelle have nurseries full of soft cozy blankets and clothes and toys that they won’t use for months to come. Mary did not have the luxury of that kind of prepping for Jesus’ birth. We do. Today Jesus doesn’t need a literal blanket but it might warm his heart to be covered up in praise. Don’t let your Savior shiver in the cold of neglect this Christmas. Praise his name every chance you get. Celebrate his birthday by offering him yourself. Wrap him in your love. You may be assured you are wrapped in his.