Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Vulnerability

Vulnerability: the capability of being wounded or hurt.

Many of us would not want to be called vulnerable.  That would be an insult to our pride!  We want to be strong and capable and protected from harm from either physical or emotional assault.  Why would anyone want to be vulnerable?  Who wants to be harmed?  We must allow ourselves to become vulnerable sometimes to let people get close to us.  There are no true connections if we are prideful.  We must trust that they will not hurt us!  That is not always the case and thus the saying, "You only hurt the ones you love."

Jesus knew from the get-go that He had to make Himself vulnerable.  Is there any other creature out there who is more vulnerable than a baby?  No!  A baby cannot feed itself or change its own diaper.  It cannot walk or talk.  Vulnerable!  Yet, Jesus humbled Himself to take off His crown and come as a baby.  Vulnerable!  How could He have protected Himself from His enemies?  He had to be protected!  God used Joseph to protect Him by telling him to take Mary and the baby to Egypt.  Mary protected Him as only a mother can.

When Jesus came to his final days, He made Himself vulnerable!  He allowed Himself to be beaten to within an inch of His life.  He allowed Himself to be mocked and scorned!  He allowed Himself to be stretched out and nailed to a cross.  Why?  So, that we could come close to Him!  Our sin separated us from God and Heaven.  We could not make ourselves vulnerable enough to be deemed worthy of Heaven or a relationship with God.  He had to make that way!  He had to allow His Son to become vulnerable so that we could draw close to Him despite our pride.

There are some who are still prideful and feel that they don't need saved.  There is nothing wrong with them.  They don't sin!  They are basically good people who try to do good to humanity.  How do you know that you have done enough or been good enough?  Is there some cosmic ticker that keeps track, adding and subtracting according to your deeds?  Why would it matter?  If there is no Heaven or Hell, why, then, would we be good?  We could just do whatever we want and treat each other like dirt and steal, lie, murder etc!  Sure, we might go to jail but in the long run?  There is just a hole in the ground where we reside until we return to dust.  Where is the hope in that?  How depressing to live that way!

We all feel the longing to be accepted, to be loved, to feel needed, to feel wanted!  That may be, to some people, simply the human condition.  But, I think that those longings are the deeply ingrained desires to have God in our lives.  In Christian speak, we have a God shaped hole that can never be filled, no matter how many ways we try.  We don't feel loved?  Then, we look for love in other humans.  We always end up heart broken!  We don't feel needed?  We fill up our schedule until we collapse from exhaustion!  We don't feel wanted?  We may turn to drugs, alcohol or other things to mask that pain!

This Christmas season, will you make yourself vulnerable?  Would allow Jesus to fill that hole that is in your heart?  Isaiah made it known that:
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.


If you have already allowed Him into your life, are you too busy?  Are you flitting to this party and that?  Are you trying to find that perfect gift?  Give the gift of yourself to your family and give the gift of rest to yourself!  Allow the Holy Spirit to renew you and make the Christmas season that best that you have ever experienced!
 

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Strange Way

If you are a believer, then you may not question God and His methods.  I am a believer and I do!  Yes, I confess: I question God sometimes! (gasp)  There is Biblical evidence of people questioning God.  He responds to them in various ways depending on the motive of the heart of the person who is doubting.  Abraham was made the father of nations.  Mary became the mother of Jesus. Zachariah was struck mute for 9 months.  The heart was what mattered. 

I question God's method for saving the world.  He is God, after all!  He could have just spoken and people would be saved.  He could have forced us to love Him and to repent.  He didn't!  What kind of love would that be, forced love?  Not love at all, I say!  Instead, He went about salvation in the strangest possible way: a baby!  A baby?  Not very fearsome or forceful, huh?  God became vulnerable and tender.   He used a baby, a teenaged, unwed mother, and a carpenter from a tiny town.  Then, enter in a census, another little town, a stable, and a feeding trough and you quite possibly have the oddest setting for any story much less a story that will bring salvation to a hurting world!  Only God could pull off that scenario!  And He did!  No one before Jesus nor anyone after Jesus has had more impact on the world than that tiny baby.  Time literally centers on Him.
This is the premise for the song "A Strange Way to Save the World".  Another song that I love at this time of year!  "Now, I'm not 1 to 2nd guess what angels have to say."  Well, yes I am!  Enjoy!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Joy

Joy to the World, the Lord is come! The theme for this week's advent is joy. I have so much joy in my life. That is not to say that my life is easy nor has it ever been. But, the one thing that I have learned in recent years that joy can be found in any situation. When I was lying in the hospital waiting to learn my fate, away from my children during Christmas, I learned to find joy in little things. Having great nurses or a visitor bringing me a cup of coffee or the carolers who sang to me on Christmas all brought me joy. When I saw my baby on the ultrasound or felt him move, joy surged through my heart. One of the things I learned during this time is that if we wait on circumstances to bring us joy, then we will be waiting forever. Life is hard and when you become a Christian, it doesn't get any easier. We must seek out each day where we can find joy. I was not happy staying in the hospital for 81 days knowing that I might live or I might die but I found joy in knowing that God does not waste one single instance in our lives. I now take joy in visiting others in the hospital when they are unsure of what is coming next. God took my bed rest and is using it to help other women. Joy, joy, joy!!!!
Mary, in her Magnificat(Luke), finds joy in her impossible situation. Here she is, young, unmarried but engaged, a virgin, poor, uneducated and pregnant. This may seem overwhelming(can you imagine having to tell your parents the news?) yet Mary was able to pen the words in Luke 1:
46And Mary said:
"My soul glorifies the Lord
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.


That is finding joy in a seemingly impossible set of circumstances. Mary knew that her strength didn't come from her but from the God who created the universe. She rejoices in knowing that she is called favored by Him. After waiting for over 400 years, God has finally spoken to Israel in a most unlikely way, through a woman and a baby! Praise God! May you find joy this season!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Breath of Heaven

One of my favorite newer Christmas songs is Breath of Heaven.  I have loved it since the 1st moment I heard it.  Amy Grant sings the song originally and I have yet to hear it sung as well by anyone else.  She wrote the song in 1992 with Chris Eaton.  The lyrics and music are haunting to hear.
The song is written from Mary's point of view.  As the mother of Jesus, she knew what she was getting herself into.  The angel, Gabriel, told her exactly what was going to take place in Luke 1.

28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.

Mary was a young, Jewish girl at this time.  She was in a binding, committed relationship with a Jewish man.  She was a virgin despite what modern wisdom wants to say.  Girls of those days would have been stoned for what seems to be very common behavior in our times.  She would have been frightened and confused.  But, she trusted God that what He said would happen would come to pass.

I like to imagine her with Joseph walking or waddling, heavy with child, toward Bethlehem.  Or maybe riding a donkey.  They had to go to fulfill the census.  She had no choice and thus  she had plenty of time with her thoughts.  There was no Facebook or Twitter to ask for prayer.  There was an endless sky lit up with stars and a traveling companion.  I imagine that she prayed, "Breath of Heaven(Holy Spirit), hold me together.  Be forever near me, Breath of Heaven.  Lighten my darkness, pour over me your holiness for you are holy, Breath of Heaven.  Should You not have chosen someone wiser or older or more worthy of this plan?  Are You sure this is what You want?  Must I walk this path alone?  Be with me now.  Be with me now.  This load I bear is to great but I offer all I am for the mercy of Your plan.  Help me be strong.  Help me be.  Help me....."

Have you ever felt like this?  Like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders?  Dealing with illness, joblessness, divorce, wayward children, aging parents, hopelessness, family problems, financial strain, etc?  Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, most likely felt that way, too.  Have you ever cried out to the Lord but in your distress didn't know what to say.....Help me be strong, help me be...help me.....  

Then, you are not alone.  We have all been there at 1 time another.  We are confused, lonely, sad, depressed, anxious, worn out, but not alone never alone.  Romans 8:26 says,
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

God, Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit lives in us and groans for us when we have no strength left to even speak.  Take comfort, My Dear One.  The Baby who lived in Mary left us a comforter when He ascended into Heaven. 

Breath of Heaven, thank You for leaving us and for going into Heaven to make our needs known in words that we cannot even express.  Help us to enjoy these weeks of Christmas!  They are a time for us to reflect on what You did and not we've done!  Thank You, Jesus!
Amen!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mary, Did You Know?

I remember holding my daughter for the first time.  She was so tiny and smushy and boy, did she have a set of pipes on her!  That girl could wail and she did for what seemed like a year but was really only a few months.  But, in the few quiet moments, when she slept, I would smell her hair and neck.  I would caress her cheeks, toes, fingers, and belly.  When her 1st Christmas came around, I remember watching her in awe and wondering if Mary ever felt that way.

When Jesus was born, did He cry and keep Mary and Joseph up all night?  Did He smile in His sleep?  Did He spit up?  What was it like to change the smelly diapers of the Savior of the world? Did He roll off the bed?  Diaper rash, sickness, and tummy aches?  Did He have these things?  I had never questioned them until I had my child at Christmas and I heard the song, "Mary, Did You Know?".

Yes, I think she did know that the sleeping child she was holding was the great I am.  She knew very well what she had to do.  When she smelled his head and cuddled him at her breast, was she overwhelmed at the thought that she is giving life to the Man who gave her life?  I remember with all my kids how I felt about nursing.  How cool is it that I can nourish them and help provide their immune systems with immunity and their little bodies with vitamins and nutrients?  I considered my ability to nurse as a great privilege that is uniquely female.  That very thought must have overwhelmed Mary.  Scripture tells us in a couple of places that Mary pondered these things in her heart.  What a relationship that she must have had praying to her Savior as He lay in her arms!  She did know!

Most mothers know that responsibility and don't take it for granted.  Mary knew.  The angel, Gabriel, had told her.  As Jesus skinned his knees and played with his friends and learned a trade, Mary watched on as a mother does, knowing that God had a mighty plan.  Luke 1 records Mary's very words to Elizabeth about God and His plan.

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”


God has a great plan for you.  God never moves away from you.  We move away from God!  We move away from God's plan.  We swerve off the path that He sets before us.  If we let Him, He will guide us back and His heavenly GPS never fails.  I recently met a young girl whose life hasn't worked out the way she had planned.  But, she is looking to God for a 2nd chance and for guidance back to her path.  This Christmas season, are you where God wants you?  Are you off the path and turned away from God?  Then, call out to Him.  He is never lost or turned around.  Maybe you are and always have followed God's plan but things seem to be trudging along at a pace that seems awfully slow.  Know that God has you exactly where you need to be!  Open your eyes and look around for opportunities to serve where you are.  There are those who are in need of encouragement all around us at all times.

1 Thessalonians 5:14&15 says, 1And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

That is what we are to do!  Merry Christmas!

Originally posted December 12, 2012

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Songs(Updated)

Seems like Christmas songs are being played earlier and earlier every year. This year I heard a radio station playing them the week before Thanksgiving, NON-STOP! That is too early. But, come the Sunday after, when we are putting up and decorating the tree, I am ready. Like most people, I have some songs that I absolutely love and some that I hate. Here is my list:
Songs that I love:
1. Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant(my all-time favorite)
2. Angels We Have Heard on High
3. I'll Be Home for Christmas Michael Buble I listened to this song while I was in the hospital for Christmas and cried and in my heart I was home.
4. White Christmas by Bing Crosby even though I have never seen one(I have now)
5. Christmas Shoes This song has begun to grate on my nerves! Move it down!

Songs I detest:
1. Santa Baby by anyone What a waste of talent!
2. Do you hear what I hear? I know I am in trouble with some of you
     We sang a version this year in choir and now it is off my list!  I like it!
3. 12 Days of Christmas too long!!!
4. Do they know it's Christmastime?
5. Happy Christmas(War is Over) by The Beatles
6. Little Drummer Boy

These last songs make my Christmas horrible and I try to avoid them like the plague. Christmas is supposed to be happy but when I hear these songs I just want to plug my ears and kill the iPod or radio!
I know that we all don't have the same taste as each other. As a matter of fact, 3 of my top five made another person's worst list and he had #5 of my worst on his best. I guess there is no accounting for taste, right? Most of us like music for the feelings that it inspires within us. Songs have a powerful way of taking us back to a memory. I think the traditions that we grow up with influence the views the most. So enjoy your Christmas songs, whatever your taste might be and allow them to get you in the spirit! Merry Christmas!

Originally posted on December 19, 2009.  Updated 12/10/2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Challenge #3

More thankfulness

67. Prayer
68. My Bible 
69. Jesus
70. Freedom
71. Truth
72. Prayers that weren't answered the way I wanted 
73. Music
74. Words
75. Christmas
76. Easter 
77. The Cross
78. Lip gloss
79. Mascara
80. Funding for my Nicaragua trip
81. My mentors
82. Being normal despite my childhood
83. Candles
84. Flowers
85. Coffee
86. Being an American
87. Tears 
88. Laughter through tears
89. Humor
90. Cuddles
91. Hugs
92. Reading the Bible to my children
93. Fall
94. History
95. Writing 
96. Good genes 
97. Watching my children accept The Lord
98. The color red
99. Being called mommy
100. BeIng called wife

This wasn't as hard as I thought but the last 2 were the most difficult. I have so much for which to be thankful.  I am glad to focus in those things instead of the what I don't haves. 
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