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What it Means That Jesus Entered a World that was Not Calm and Bright

Truthfully, I find the lyrics of “Silent Night” a bit misleading. All is not calm or bright on this earth. It never has been.

The world in which Jesus entered was characterized by greed, lust for power, sexual deviation, oppression of marginalized people, violence, murder……One need only scan through scripture to recognize the destruction of all that God had created and declared as “good.”

Yet, God chose to enter into it.

Who would choose to intentionally encounter chaos? darkness? death?

The moment Jesus was born may have harbored some silent moments but most likely was surrounded by the noises of an imperfect world trying to find its way. Animals communicating their needs in a chorus of incomprehensible words. Friends, midwives, children, moving about and murmuring about the new life which had arrived. The roaring of human voices as they crowded the streets during this required census registration.

And, yes, most likely, yelling, shouting resounding from disagreements, drunken rhetoric, and weepingBrokenness didn’t disappear because Jesus arrived.

Jesus arrived in the midst of it.

His cry served as fanfare inaugurating the beginning of a new  kingdom. One that speaks peace into the loud sounds of longing that characterize the earthly one.

In reading the history of “Silent Night,” I discovered the lyrics are based on a poem which was inspired by a vision of the author. One night, as he stood upon a hill in his Austrian village, he gazed upon the snow covered scene below. As the lights poked through the darkness, and the town stood relatively still, he was reminded of a poem he had written. It was based on reflections on the moment the shepherds were interrupted by angelic messengers announcing Christ’s birth.

What he witnessed was a taste of Heaven.

Truthfully, the calm which we seek isn’t rooted outside. It’s rooted within.  It’s possible when we embrace Jesus and his upside down kingdom…  In the midst of noise, pain, and chaos.

1-2 The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.

3-5 Everything was created through him;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
    the darkness couldn’t put it out. (John 1:1-5)

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Holding on to a Generational Deep Hope in our Brokenness

The wounds cut deep; both physically and figuratively.

Fourteen Decembers ago, I fell down the stairs. People sometimes talk about traumatic events as experienced through a surreal slow motion reality at the time. That would perfectly describe how it played out for me.

Having come back late from a church meeting, I longed for rest. Having just snuggled into my cozy layers of protection for my body , I was awakened by the high pitched voice of my toddler from the top of the stairs son beckoning me. Our bedroom was in the basement in the not completely renovated lower level (read that as concrete stairs), I was concerned about his possible fall. In my half asleep state, I climbed up to grab him and bring him down.

However, as I held him in my arms and attempted to take the trek back down, I realized quickly that something went wrong. Fear erupted as I felt my foot hit air when it should have made an immediate connection with cold cement. In what seemed like a few minutes (but was likely  a few seconds), I scrambled to make sense of what was happening and how to resolve it. Fearing that my son would hit the cement floor, I turned my body to soften the hit.

Fortunately, he did not sustain injury. I did.

My  broken shoulder commenced a nine month journey into waiting-for physical and emotional restoration. Truthfully, it was painful at times. Waiting for something for which you long but in which you have little control is hard.

It turns out, I also realized that my spirit was in need of attention. I’m not good at waiting. Trusting in God’s character rather than grabbing toward my tendency to a always be in control challenged me.

As I reflected on my experience that happened during Advent, the connections were not lost on me.

Waiting. Longing. Envisioning.

The Israelites knew a bit about these things. The hope of a Messiah. A King. A Deliverer, A Restorer was held up generations deep. God’s promises were embraced as the prophecies were repeated. Hope dangled in front of them as they witnessed God’s presence reminding them that they were never forgotten; through word and action.

But lifetimes went by. Unexpected twists and turns to the vision they held in their minds threatened to detour them toward discouragement.

When will fulfillment take place?

Waiting for something for which you long but in which you have little control is hard. It reminds us of our humanity; broken in body, mind, and spirit. True restoration can only originate from Heaven.

So we hold on to hope-one that is generational deep.

Waiting. Longing. Envisioning.

My shoulder is not completely healed. I lost cartilage that can never be replaced. The amount of movement is limited. I can’t do a backstroke very well but I can live with that. Jesus meets me in my brokenness yet I know that these moments are blips on the journey. Experiencing the fulfillment promised in Jesus will take a lifetime.  Actually more than that.

“Know this with all your heart, with everything in you, that not one detail has failed of all the good things God, your God, promised you. It has all happened. Nothing’s left undone—not so much as a word.”  Joshua 23:14

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a Disney Song Teaches Us About Our Value

 

Sometimes scripture speaks to us in the most unexpected moments.

Last year, I found myself mesmerized by Maddie Poppe’s folksy version of  Jungle Book’s “Bare Necessities” on American Idol.  https://youtu.be/U8kzof7bb2Y I confess, my love for it resulted in a few replays on youtube.  As I sang along …..

“Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
That’s why a bear can rest at ease
With just the bare necessities of life
With just the bare necessities of life”

It hit me: Hadn’t I heard this message before?

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”   Luke 12:23-25

I have no idea if the scriptural context influenced the writing of the lyrics to the song. Yet, the truth that lies within both births awareness of provision, freedom from human striving, and contentment.

In addition, Baloo happily exhorts his companion Mowgli to share in the feast found in the food sources that have been gifted them in their landscape.

It’s a simple message: find amazement and solace in our needs being met. 

“And don’t spend your time lookin’ around
For something you want that can’t be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin’ about it
I’ll tell you something true
The bare necessities of life will come to you”
But here’s the rub: embracing it demands trust in our Creator. 

“For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, strive for his[f] kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke 12:30-31.

God’s got this. Do you believe it?

 

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Do Others See Our “Oneness?”

People are watching.

Truthfully, they always have.

The account of the early church in Acts witnesses to the increase in people who wanted in.

Yes, there was persecution and counter cultural living but there was also the awareness of watching something amazing happen: transformation. People looked out for each other’s well being; physically, emotionally, spiritually. They saw people connected in an other worldly way. Divisions were confronted and worked through, people listened to each other, and earthly labels were set aside.  They took seriously the cause of Christ and knew they needed each other to spread the news and demonstrate by example. People could not join fast enough.

What do people see now?

Social media and other technology venues have increased our platform for sharing who we follow and the way we are transformed. But what do others see? Is it a movement worth joining? Do we portray a likeness to who we follow?

 You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

The same “oneness” that God desired be illuminated by the Israelites to show others “I am God.”

The same “oneness” that Jesus stated would show others who were his disciples.

There is something about that concept of unity that speaks loudly. Perhaps it’s because it gives witness to divine infusion.

The beauty of the church is the diversity within it: different, ethnic backgrounds, genders, political leanings, ages, personalities. But together we are traveling the same road and in the same direction.

Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. How can we do better?

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How Jesus Speaks into My Repeated Short Term Memory

Why is it so hard to remember?

The disciples entered the boat.  After finding themselves in the midst of the crowds drawn to him,  they finally get Jesus to themselves.

But then it happens. Someone notices something. It’s what’s missing that is recognized. No one brought lunch for the journey.

But the disciples forgot to pack a lunch. Except for a single loaf of bread, there wasn’t a crumb in the boat. 

Meanwhile, the disciples were finding fault with each other because they had forgotten to bring bread. 

And the arguing commences. Someone dropped the ball.  Now what? Hungry stomachs fuel angry spirits.

And then….Jesus.

Jesus overheard and said, “Why are you fussing because you forgot bread? (

Remembering the lunch isn’t the problem.

Remembering who is the Bread of Life is.

Did they forget Jesus was in the boat?

Don’t you see the point of all this? Don’t you get it at all? Remember the five loaves I broke for the five thousand? How many baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”

They said, “Twelve.”

“And the seven loaves for the four thousand—how many bags full of leftovers did you get?”

“Seven.”

 He said, “Do you still not get it?”

I see myself in that boat. How many times does Jesus need to remind me that I have witnessed him multiplying loaves and fishes?

Yet, I forget.

Anne Vos Kamp in “The Broken Way” calls it “soul amnesia.”

Despite, witnessing the divine intersecting earth,  I am back to my human perspective of troubleshooting. One that often involves fear and sometimes blame.

Did I forget Jesus is in my boat?

Thankfully, his patience never ends. Despite my repeated short term memory. Nor does his desire to meet my needs.

Sometimes I need to hear the reminder. “Do you still not get it?”

This post is based on the text from Mark 8:14-21)

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The Moment God Spoke to Me Through a “Burning Bush”

Often, we find ourselves standing on Holy Ground when we least expect it.

Friday I led a workshop for parents who are exploring new territory. As you know, parenting does not come with a handbook. Hills and potholes appear out of nowhere and we are left confused, exhausted, and strategizing how to be better prepared. When your children struggle with chronic health needs, navigating parenting becomes even more challenging. Because of our family’s experiences with mental health issues, God grew a burden in my heart for other families in similar situations.

Once we started digging ourselves out of the trenches, I felt God nudging me to educate, ,encourage and empower others. But how?

Visions began to unfold. Whispers from the Holy Spirit spoke into my heart. And I put them on the back burner of my mind.

Until one day. God spoke in the midst of my weekend routines; my familiar paths.

“God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

“Can you do a workshop for our women’s conference?” asked my friend. Of course I wanted to do it. But I wasn’t prepared. I had nothing put together. Was this a holy moment?

When you are confronted by God’s voice in a burning bush, you can’t escape. Especially, when you take off your sandals.

Later, I watched the fire radiate from God’s voice speaking into the vision that had been put on my heart. A workshop was birthed.  A new calling commenced.

The first time I presented that workshop, i walked in with trembling knees. Would anyone come? Did God really call me to this place?  The room; packed with women hungry for hope, became a sacred space.  I pinched myself in that moment.  It was real.

What is God speaking into your life? Have you taken off your sandals yet?

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Who Knows? Perhaps You Have Come to This Place For Such a Time as This

12 When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, 13 Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:12-14)

Her brain spun. Her heart raced as she reflected on the decision that lay waiting. How did she get here?

She was a young woman. An orphan. A jew. A niece. But, most importantly, God’s daughter; consecrated and ordained for divine purposes.

God thrust her into an unexpected place. 

She knew of the fate of her predecessor: Queen Vashti: Disposable due to her voice. Resistance results in death.

How did she get here?

God thrust her into an unexpected place.

The implications of her choices were not lost on Esther. Courage didn’t end well for Queen Vashti. It might not end well for her. Either way.

What does she have to lose? Her life-either way.

But bigger than that-being used to carry out God’s purposes. That’s big.

“I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die.”  Esther 4:16.

Courage thrust from inside. Liberation resulted outside.

Because Esther knew how she got there. And that determined her choice.

Ann Vos Kamp writes, “We could all be the ones outside the gate….The reason you are inside the gate for such a time as this-is to risk your life for those outside the gate.” (The Broken Way)

Where is God calling you to “such a time as this?”

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