Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A leftover Advent devotional...
"No man has seen God at any time;
the only begotten God who is in the bosom (lap) of the Father,
He has explained Him.
"Jesus is the best picture God ever had took." 
Some people are photogenic.  I'm not one of them. I'd rather you meet me in person than view my mug on paper.  God is like that.  That's why He sent His Son to explain Himself.  Even with His Word, His prophets, His creation, God wanted to have a closer relationship harkening back to the Garden times of fellowship.
It is like when my niece was a thumb sucking toddler, and her favorite thing was to insert her thumb while rubbing someone's earlobe as a kind of security blanket.  If you didn't make yourself available, she would cry out, "Give me some skin!"  Jesus gives us some skin. 

Emanuel, means "God with us," God with skin on.
John Wesley's dying words,
"The best of all is,
God is with us."
The second verse of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"
"O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here.
Disperse the gloomy clouds of  night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
 shall come to thee
O Israel!"
12th century Latin hymn
words, John Neale, 1851
Another leftover Advent devotional...

"How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav'n.
No ear may hear His coming; but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend on us we pray.
Cast out our sin, and enter in; be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell.
Oh, come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel."
Somehow, we go from His amazing birth to the Christ being born in us, Emmanuel.
It is "Powerful enough to make your heart race.  Quiet enough to hear the beat."
Harley Earl

When I gave birth, we lived far from family.  It was in a sterile hospital setting with nurses and a doctor and with my husband there to coach me along, though most of the time it was better that he kept quiet.  It is serious business giving natural childbirth.  Shall we say, I wasn't open to many suggestions.  There is an awe, wonder, and mystery in the birthing process when finally introduced to the new little person that had been growing inside you for months, that silent communion brought to light with blinking eyes responding to your voice and touch searching for the face of love. 

"The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty.  A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery.  We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery.  Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes, because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery...We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary of our being, and avoid the mystery, as we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal.

Ascension joy--inwardly we must become very quiet to hear the soft sound of this...Joy lives in its quietness and incomprehensibility.  This joy is in fact incomprehensible for the comprehensible never makes for joy."  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German philosopher who was imprisoned for his faith, then killed as one of Hitler's last acts of hate in WWII.

Not a day went by the first two years of my firstborn's life that someone did not remark on his enormous eyes.  They were always quoting Little Red Riding Hood's, "My what big eyes you have!"  It was as if he was filled with wonder and wanted to take it all in, so much so that they seldom closed in sleep.  The wonder and the mystery are seen by childlike faith.

"I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all understanding and have the knowledge of God's mystery, that is Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."  Colossians 2:2-3

There, at the manger is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, God's mystery, that is Christ Himself.  Kneel and worship and receive as a little child.

 Cicely Mary Barker is one of my favorite illustrators.  She did many religious pictures as well as being well-known for her fairies.  Her flower fairies have been brought back to popularity recently.
December 31st
I feel like I did when I rode my Stingray down down a steep hill and the brakes didn't work very well and it got wobblier, and wobblier until I fell off. (I won't admit to how old I was.) The end of 2013 is that steep hill and I think I'm about to fall off and land in 2014. 
Thoughts to tie up the old year and to unwrap the new...
Pause & Ponder...
Pine:smell the pine and the roses...add another log on the fire
Past: reflect on the past year, and dream of the new.
Paths: Get out of your rut and follow new paths.
Enjoy the view.
Past: let go of past insults and hurt
Path: follow the narrow path in His footsteps.
Purify: be washed white as snow
in Love's pure light
Passage of Scripture: Like the child Jesus, may we also
"continue to grow and become strong,
increasing in wisdom and the grace of God...
(be) upon us."
Luke 2:40

Monday, December 30, 2013

December 30th...  

 Time to put away the tree.
Yes, I know, it's sad...

But of this we can be glad...
"...these three remain, faith, hope, and love,
and the greatest of these is love."
I Corinthians 13


We put away the decorations...
And find new places for the toys...

MUSIC:  Josh Groban, Charlotte Church, Celtic Women, Andrea Bocelli, and of course, Julie Andrews, Bing Cosby, and Handel's "Messiah." Favorite all-time song, "Greensleeves" or also known as "What Child is This?"
MOVIES: "The Nativity," "White Christmas," "Grinch," "Elf," "Ernest Saves Christmas," and several of the Hallmark movies, but the best program is the Children's Christmas play.

FOOD:  turkey and all the fixin's, ham, a nice rib roast, asparagus, artichoke dip and pepper jelly on cream cheese,, coffee punch,  turtle and Sees candy,  and the list goes on.

Her eyes remind me of our little Addie.
ACTIVITIES: reading before a fire listening to Christmas music, decorating (and seeing the passed on decorations in the children's homes), going to see other places decorated, the search for the right treasure of a gift for each one, Christmas concerts, progressive dinner & gag gift exchange & ladies fellowship, family togetherness, the delight of little children, the nip of cold.

BEST MEMORIES: Christmas trips to Colorado, the pristine snowy mountains, seeing the Northern Lights, the herds of elk and deer.  After a marathon of driving, we'd arrive at dusk singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem as we would descend into the small town of Lake City with the ethereal glow of the moon on the newly fallen snow...Can't do Christmas without music... seeing little children in their nativity costumes and blest family times.


UNFAVORITE: saying goodbye to Christmas and putting it all away for another year.  It has bolted like a spooked buck bounding away in the snow leaving its deep print on our heart.

 Anna in the temple
"And...she came up and began giving thanks to God,
and continued to speak of Him
to all those who were looking for
the redemption of Jerusalem."
Luke 2:38
We can never box up the message of Christmas.
It is something we can share all year.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

December 29th

What do we do now?

 "God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven."

 Zacharias prophecy concerning the Christ,
 "To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemy,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness
before Him all our days."
Luke 1:74

Because of His birth, we have been given a special delivery, a new birth.  Even more, we have been granted the ability to  serve Him in holiness and righteousness all our days, not "sinning everyday in thought, word, and deed." It is a gift, a grant, not earned.  Holiness has been called many things:  purity of heart, a second blessing, perfect love, a deeper work, an undivided heart, a circumcised heart, a heart of flesh-not a heart of stone, a cleansing with fire, a filling with the Spirit, a baptism of the Spirit, entire sanctification.  God did not give His Son to this world of sin to bring about lukewarm offerings, ineffectual service.  The baby in the manger did not come into the world with sunglasses on that would shade him from our sin so that He might not see it.  Oh, He saw it alright, while hanging on a cross.  Just because He came as a baby, He was not a weakling, an ineffectual Savior. His dirty rags of swaddling clothes, our dirty rags of self-righteousness have been changed for white robes, wedding clothes of purity.


After being born again, we are not to stay babies.  As we grow in the Christian life, we come to see the self-centeredness of our lives, a war within (Romans 7, "wretched man that I am...").  There comes a time of surrender to His complete Lordship over our lives, purity of heart, an undivided heart, and entire sanctification which means a cleansing for service (Romans 8 "Thanks be to God...")  for God's people, there was an Old Covenant, then a New Covenant.  First there was a wandering in the wilderness, then a cross over into the Promised Land to find rest for their souls.  There is a second work of grace to be accepted by faith to go deeper with God, the rest of faith, a deep settled peace in the soul that no longer wars against God.

Christian Perfection is not perfection of our humanness, only perfect love from an undivided heart.  Old timers called it "sweetness of the soul."  Marriage is the picture God has painted as an example of this kind of love.  A wandering eye does not a good marriage make, but there is no better picture of perfect love than a good marriage "keeping yourself only unto him/her so long as you both shall live."  That is more than not looking elsewhere, it is also of keeping yourself by the giving of yourself to each other.  There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, but it is possible to have a wonderful marriage where each one lays down their life for the other above themselves in surrender, even through brokenness of past hurts to forgive, fully committed to each other.  We have broken our vows to God, all have sinned, yet He still offers us His complete love.  Complete.  Love.  He asks no less.  There can be no wandering eye spiritually.  He wants our whole heart, not just a part.  Just as intimacy in a marriage makes them one, intimacy with Christ is an inward work of grace that no going through the motions of Christianity can fake.
"Colossians 3:11, Ephesians 1:4 Jeremiah 31:33, Deuteronomy 36:

Saturday, December 28, 2013

December 28th

Christmas was generous.  The gifts were opened.  The game table sat unused.  In the quiet aftermath of Christmas, my youngest spent his evening playing with the empty boxes.  He was devising and cutting out cardboard guns from pistols to assault rifles that amazingly had removable ammunition clips.  I had to make him stop to go to bed very late.  This morning he rose and began cutting out his cardboard armor not even pausing to eat a yummy breakfast, so intent he was on playing with the empty boxes.

Maybe that's what I'll get him next Christmas, empty cardboard boxes.  As for me, I am grateful for the creative urge that took over his thinking as he stood before me lost in imaging a way to create a helmet regardless that there were plastic helmets strewn at his feet.   He takes after His Father: he wants to create something.  Because of his slight disabilities, he had trouble expressing all his ideas.  They wouldn't form into words as the inspiration swam in his head.  He gave up trying to explain what his hands were ceaselessly flowing over his head to express, those creative hands that revealed his ideas with a cardboard finished form.  Imagination.  Creativity.  Inspiration.  These are wonderful gifts that can't be bought in a store.


Look at the creative hand of God.
"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who sets its measurements, since you know?
Or who stretched the line on it?
On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who enclosed the sea with doors,
When, bursting forth,
it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment,
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it,
And I set a bolt and doors,
And I said 'Thus far you shall come,
but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop'?
I will tell you a little secret as an artist:
a true artist is never satisfied with their work,
because it is never enough.
Compared to His perfect creation,
it is a poor reflection of His glory,
yet it holds a sliver of the joy of sharing
in His creative image.

Friday, December 27, 2013

December 27th 
Christmas Joy!
Light that spills out.

"Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us,
To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace."
Luke 1:78:-79

A former foster child, now grown and on his own, who had beat leukemia as an adolescent without a family to support him, beat the odds, a young man in his last days training to be a chef had no plans for Christmas morning.  What if I hadn't asked?  What if I didn't extend the invitation?  It was too late to give him a present; just a presence is all he needed.  He joined the family, nearly thirty of us, the chaos of belonging on Christmas morning.  He made our Christmas celebration complete.

A candle burning makes beauty as it gives its light away.
The invitation from Christ comes in such a prompting, to belong to His family.  First, we realize our utter aloneness and that we have no other plan.  He gave the greatest gift and offered us His Presence, and then we may join His vast family, His extended family that reaches through all the ages, brothers and sisters in Christ.  Christ does ask.  He does invite.  He waits to see if we respond and there is great joy when we do, even angels rejoicing in heaven, as if another birth on earth to sing about.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

December 26th Missing Christmas already...

 The dregs of Christmas such as ripped wrapping paper, a refrigerator stuffed with leftovers, toys already left in the corner, are nothing compared to the snatches of memory of a child's face of glee, the happy drive to see the lights, the gathering of family, the singing of carols, the thoughts of the Christmas program that beckoned even the shyest one to don a costume to stand before a manger fulfilling the Scripture, "even a child shall lead them."


The Children's Church room looks like a storm of the century hit with angel costumes, wings, halos, mixed with shepherd's wraps, and Mary's cape and glitter, and glue, foam crafts already torn asunder, and broken candy canes all stirred together by twenty excited whirlwind kids.  Yet, even a little girl who missed the program found an angel costume to wear for an evening meeting.  You can never be too late to worship at the manger.  It is a happy thought that there is a nursery full of future angels, shepherds, wise men, and Mary and Joseph to be!  There are even pregnant Mary and Joseph couples who might present a baby Jesus in next year's program. 








Like a feast that took all day to prepare only to be consumed in minutes,
so is the celebration of Christmas which we enjoyed all Advent long,
now to pack away until next year with a sigh.  
 At least my artificial tree won't cry dead needles all the way out the door.
But a few ornaments might break, like my aching heart, as I  remove them from their branches.
Oh, achy-breakie heart, you can keep Christmas all year long
by letting Christ fill your heart, not with just outward symbols of celebration,
but with an inward burning, a bursting to worship.
Even Mary & Joseph left the stable to go to the temple.
"For my eyes have seen Thy salvation...
A light of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Thy people Israel."
"His name was then called Jesus,
the name given by the angel
before He was conceived in the womb."
Luke 2:30-32, 21.