Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year ~ New Path

“’We had better try a way back southwards along the line of the cliff, I think,’ said Sam.  ‘We might find some nook there, or even a cave or something.’
“’I suppose so,’ said Frodo. ‘I’m tired, and I don’t think I can scramble among stones much longer tonight – though I grudge the delay.  I wish there was a clear path in front of us:  then I’d go on until my legs gave way.’”    ~The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien

The word “new” has a pleasant ring to it;
an appeal that tends to draw us to a fresh outlook,
to stir a creative approach,
to inspire unique change. 
If something is new,
it has not been used,
it is clean,
and is still in its original packaging.

The word “new” also represents
the realm of the unknown,
lack of experience,
paths untrodden,
corners not yet turned,
words not yet spoken,
crises not yet encountered,
love not yet expressed…

It is easy to assume that
if only a glimpse of the future,
if only a grasp of the imminent,
if only a taste of what is forthcoming
could be mine,
to better savor the joy of hope,

…Then what?
control would be in my hands?
expectations would be clarified?
fear would diminish?
pain would be avoided?
love would be sure?

A new year,
a new day,
a new path belongs to 
the Author of newness...
 “You will make known to me the path of life; 
in Your presence is fullness of joy; 
in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”  
~Psalm 16:11

“Your word is a lamp to my feet 
and a light to my path.  
I have sworn and I will confirm it, 
that I will keep Your righteous ordinances.  
I am exceedingly afflicted; 
revive me, O Lord, 
according to Your word.”  
~Psalm 119:105-107

"And He who sits on the throne said, 
'Behold, I am making all things new.'”  
~Revelation 21:5

Winter for Us

For some, winter weather means shoveling,
or defines rifle season as done;
for some it means cold
and their bones feel old
and they long for the warmth of the sun.

But for us, winter weather means skiing,
it inspires every hill needs a sled,
it means we can take
our ice skates to the lake
and wear extra thick blankets in bed.

For some, winter solstice is gloomy,
so dark and depressingly brown;
the Dairy Queen closes,
and blowing of noses
stirs business for doctors in town.

But for us, solstice brings celebration,
and a lovely new year on the wing;
dormant trees shun the cold
as they carefully hold
in their bossoms the lifeline of spring!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Bone Yard of Joy

Satan cannot touch my salvation… it is as secure as God is faithful and true to His Word.  But my joy is up for grabs, and attempting to take it from me seems to be Satan’s favorite way to spend time.

So what are my options?
A)  Hide it.  Place my joy under lock and key, then throw away the key so my joy can never be taken from me.
B)  Defend it.  Dress it in thick plated steel so that whenever I take it with me, it is impenetrable.
C)  Surrender it.  Give it up whenever I feel threatened or likely to lose it anyway.
D)  Ignore it.  Assume that it will come and go as it pleases, independent of my desire for it.
E)  An entirely different option.

I choose…. ummm…..  “E”!

Picture this:  
A man carries a puppy into a gigantic yard filled with bones.  He puts the puppy down on the ground and allows him to have as many bones as he can carry.

At first, the puppy leaps and wiggles and barks, pouncing on one bone, then another bone, then another, trying to chew on the biggest one in sight… until a few seconds later when he sees a bigger meatier bone nearby.  

Suddenly, the puppy begins to dig with great energy; every instinct tells him he must bury a bone to be sure there is one there later when he needs it.  He growls at a flickering shadow as the breeze gently blows through the trees, and decides to carry his prize bone off to a safer location, where he is distracted by yet another bone.

The man smiles as he watches the little waggy-tailed doggie romp here and there, attempting to drag two bones at once or to carry one twice his own size. 

The man understands that the puppy will soon become weary, lay down on a grassy spot in the shade, and focus on the one bone which rests between his paws, finally content in knowing that plenty of bones will still be there whenever he is ready for another one because the man will provide them for him.

“You will make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence is fullness of joy;
 in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”  ~ Psalm 16:11

“…the joy of the Lord is your strength.”   ~Neh 8:10

“These things I have spoken to you
so that My joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be made full.”  ~John 15:11

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
and to make you stand in the presence of His glory
blameless with great joy…”  ~Jude 24

Monday, December 27, 2010

Left Behind

   Once, several years ago, I lost my four year old son at the waterpark.  It was the longest twenty minutes of my life!
   While my friend watched over the other children, I ran here and there, calling his name, asking strangers if they had seen my little boy.  Soon, there were dozens of people looking around in the food court, among the people standing in lines, in the pools of water... calling the name they heard me calling.
   There he sat, up on the counter of a kiosk, telling jokes and laughing with a big teddy bear of a security guard.  With tears streaming down my face, I ran to my son as he smiled and shouted, "Hi Mommy!"

..."Now so it was that after three days
they found Him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
both listening to them and asking them questions. 
And all who heard Him
were astonished at His understanding and answers.

"So when they saw Him,
they were amazed; and His mother said to Him,
'Son, why have You done this to us? 
Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.'

"And He said to them,
'Why is it that you sought Me? 
Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?' 
But they did not understand
the statement which He spoke to them."
                         ~Luke 2:41-50

Apparently, His Father knew where he was all the while! 

Now that the celebration of Christmas is done for another year, be careful not to leave Jesus behind.  He has promised never to leave us. 

But more importantly, never assume that our relationship with Jesus is within our control.  Jesus remains in the presence of His all-knowing, sovereign Father.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Day After Christmas

The final flurry of coats and scarves,
of donning warm mittens and shoes,
of gathering dishes
and offering wishes,
of exiting by ones and twos,

Of swirling, whirling outside air
rushing in through the opened door,
of shivering shrugs
and last minute hugs,
then waving good-bye once more.

The final moments of Christmas Day
depart with the click of the latch;
with a yawn, our kids look
to their brain candy book
for a few tranquil chapters to snatch.

A sensation, mildly bittersweet,
emerges to dance in my brain;
every song Christmas brings
of the wee King of Kings
go the way of the candy cane.

The final flow of glad tidings ebb
in exchange for steadier currents;
for after the party,
my life is made hearty
by running the race with endurance.

The small things of life create patience,
the drab parts of life are quite real;
reflecting God’s glory
is still mandatory,
whether or not I feel zeal.

God’s own human Son set the standard,
though not much is written, it’s true;
in His first thirty years,
through His joy and His tears,
He obeyed and had faith as He grew.
“And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature,
and in favor with God and men.”  ~Luke 2:52

Saturday, December 25, 2010

100% Chance

It just occurred to me
while preparing potatoes for Christmas dinner;
Joseph and Mary didn't have to wonder or guess 
if they were having a boy or a girl.

They knew it would be a boy
... because God said so.

Just so,
we can trust 
in all of His promises.
...because God said so.

Breath of God

The breath of God
spoke all of creation into being,
breathed life into man; was good.

His breath spoke to men
in the flames of a bush,
through angels and men of old,
as on the wings of a dove.

The breath of God
anointed kings,
parted the sea,
caused the sun to stand still.

His breath provoked men
to move mightily,
to convey His curse,
His warning, His blessing.

The breath of God
established His covenant;
promises of hope, of forgiveness,
of the coming Messiah.

The breath of God
breathed silently…

silently…  without words…  nothing...

Men cried out to Him,
longed for His breath,
yearned for His comfort,
languish, doubting, wondering.

Men walked without knowing,
listened without hearing,
some taught their children, in faith,
the ancient promises.

Men waited… for four hundred years…


“Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.  But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias…’”   ~Luke 1:12,13

“…the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph… and he said to her, ‘Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you.”  ~Luke 1:26-28

“…an angel appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’”  ~Matthew 1:20

“Therefore the Lord Himself 
will give you a sign:  
Behold a virgin will be with child 
and bear a son, 
and she will call His name 
Immanuel.”  ... God with us!
~Isaiah 7:14  (700 years before Jesus was born)

God is true to His Word.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Matthew & Luke

All scripture is inspired by God
and profitable for teaching,
for reproof,
for correction,
for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God may be adequate,
equipped for every good work.”   ~II Timothy 3:16,17

Two men recorded the events that took place
concerning the birth of God’s Son, the Messiah.   

What an amazing honor and privilege
to be chosen by God to write His Story…
such a intense responsibility
to remain true to His Word. 

So, who were these men
who were moved by the Holy Spirit
to pen the Word of God? 

~ name means “gift of the Lord” (also called Levi)
~ one of the 12 apostles
~ was a tax collector
~ left his work to follow Jesus (Matt. 9:9-13)
~ wrote in Greek, mainly targeting Greek-speaking Jews
~ alluded to OT quotations more than any other NT author, many of them prophecies
~ wrote systematically with concern for detail
~ emphasis on Jesus as the Messiah

~ author of both Luke & Acts,
~ written to Theophilus, who was wealthy and held a high position, possibly a publisher
~ was a physician
~ Gentile by birth
~ well educated in Greek culture
~ close companion to Paul (Philemon 24)
~ investigated eyewitness accounts to compose historical detail (Luke 1:1-4)
~ emphasis on Gentile Christians and preaching the Gospel to the world

From a human perspective,
it seems these men’s backgrounds,
social standings,
and circles of friends
were as different as apples and oranges. 
They both understood
their audience included both Jews and Gentiles,
but their passions for specific cultures
offered different perspectives
of the same message.

I am thankful
for the obedience of these two men of God,
for their sensitivity to the Holy Spirit,
and for the God-breathed message of Good News
conveyed by the grasp of their hands
to our hearts.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

She said, "Yes!"

"Love is patient,       love is kind
and is not jealous;     love does not brag
and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own, is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things,

hopes all things,
endures all things.  Love never fails."
~I Corinthians 13

"God is love..."  ~I John 4:16

Congratulations on your Engagement...
We love you, James & Jessa!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Remember...

I remember…
waking often in the night
feeling our baby move inside me;
kicks, flutters,

I remember…
pacing, trying to walk off
the aching in my back,
hoping my leg would not give out.

I remember…
even strangers,
asking when my baby was due,
some with a countenance reflecting
tender reminiscence,
others with wistful longing.

I remember…
the pangs of labor,
gauging the length of time
between one wrenching spasm
and the next,
for what seemed like an eternity.

I remember…
breathing through the intensity
of each tremor,
anticipating the next
with foreboding,
yet focusing only on the moment.

I remember…
desperately crying out to my husband,
“I can’t do this anymore!”
as he patiently held my hand
and offered his strength to me.

I remember…
hearing our child’s first tiny cry,
feeling the release of tears
flow unhindered down my face,
seeing my husband
laughing and crying
with joy.

I remember…
holding our little one,
looking into eyes that returned my gaze,
pondering, whispering, speaking
our child’s name,  
the name which was already chosen.

I remember…
wondering what this child’s future would hold,
yet content to trust
without knowing.

I remember…
praising God
for His gift of mercy to me,
for new life,
for family,
for the future.

I remember…
the gentle murmuring voices
of those surrounding me,
waxing and waning
from my awareness;
my weariness overwhelmed
by joy.

“Mary treasured all these things, 
pondering them in her heart.”  ~Luke 2:19

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We Missed It

Well, I missed it.  I really planned on getting up to see it.  
To think that a total lunar eclipse on winter solstice 
occurs once every 372 years, 
and while I slept like a rock, 
this spectacular marvel of creation carried on without me. 

At 3:25 a.m., I jumped out of bed, 
threw my winter coat and scarf over my pajamas, 
stepped into my boots, 
and dashed out the door and into the snowy yard 
to find a beautiful full moon in a cloudless starry sky.  

Standing there in the breathtaking wintery mountain quiet, 
my wonderment was eclipsed by disappointment.  
I missed it.

Could it be that the inn keeper in Bethlehem 
felt regret upon realizing he had 
turned away the King of Kings?  

Or did he simply awaken the next day to 
business as usual, 
oblivious of the spectacular marvel 
which took place in his own back yard?  

Hannah & Mary

“Then Hannah prayed and said,

‘My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord,
my mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,
because I rejoice in Your salvation.

There is no one holy like the Lord,
indeed, there is no one besides You,
nor is there any rock like our God.

Boast no more so very proudly.
Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and with Him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are shattered,
but the feeble gird on strength.

Those who were full hire themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry cease to hunger.
Even the barren gives birth to seven,
but she who has many children languishes.

The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and rich;
He brings low, He also exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with nobles,
and inherit a seat of honor;
for the pillars of the earth are the Lords,
and He set the world on them.

He keeps the feet of His godly ones,
but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness;
for not by might shall a man prevail.

Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered;
against them He will thunder in the heavens,
the Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
and He will give strength to His king,
and will exalt the horn of His anointed.’ ”
   ~I Samuel 2:1-10

“And Mary said,

‘My soul exalts the Lord,
and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has had regard
for the humble state of His bondslave;
for behold, from this time on
all generations will count me blessed.

For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
and holy is His name,
and His mercy is upon generation after generation
toward those who fear Him.

He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud
in the thoughts of their heart.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
and has exalted who were humble. 

He has filled the hungry with good things;
and sent away the rich empty-handed.
He has given help to Israel His servant,
in remembrance of His mercy,
as He spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and his descendants forever.’ ”
   ~Luke 1:46-55

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Man of Sorrows

While preparing to sing a song for our church’s Christmas Eve Service, I felt the need to ask God to help me feel the deeper meaning of the words that I was preparing to sing, that I may more completely convey its message.

The song, written by my daughter, speaks of Rachel weeping for her children who are no more, refusing to be comforted (Matthew 2:18 and Jeremiah 31:15).

God answered my prayer. 

The path of my awareness converged suddenly and intensely with His, as if my very soul was a piece of cloth dipped into the dye of His tears…

   …sharing tears with a grocery store clerk who recently lost her husband

   …sharing tears with a dear friend who felt lonely and unable to be near her children

   …groping for words to encourage a friend who is caring for her mother as she yields to cancer

   …stunned to silence by a news article reporting someone I knew in town who took his own life

   …trying to find words to encourage a friend feeling the pressure of loneliness while approaching some major decisions

   …feeling helpless and being uncertain how to help loved ones make a significant life change

   …observing several elderly people in a rest home move in slow motion, their bodies functioning with difficulty

   …listening with bewilderment as intelligent men discuss their atheistic world view as if with authority

   …reading, with a heavy heart, an e-mail from a friend who is struggling to celebrate Christmas with her son in the wake of her husband’s death

Until I felt just this small portion of the weight of His sorrow, I may have simply spoken words as I prayed for each of them.  But there are no words…

Mothers were left weeping in excruciating grief as their little ones were torn from their arms and systematically murdered in order to reassure King Herod that his throne would not be usurped.  Yet God plucked His Own Little One from the very midst of this most horrific accomplishment of evil and prepared the Way of Life.

Unspeakable sorrow… overwhelmed by inexpressible hope.

Contrast of death and life, of grief and rejoicing, of despair and anticipation is so powerfully vivid.

Hope in the midst of despair;
solid immovable Hope;
Hope which cannot be dominated… 
this Hope “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) 

Is this not the Christmas message?

“He was despised and forsaken of men, 
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief...
                           ~ Isaiah 53:3

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


…in an elevator, in line at the store, for a package, to take your turn in a game, for the start signal to run a race, for the light to turn green, for an elderly lady to cross the street, for the nurse, by a loved one’s bedside in the hospital, for permission, for work, for a paycheck, for quitting time, for the right man, for the right woman, for children to catch up on a walk, up for the teen who borrowed the car, for weather to change, for the snowplow, for rain, for sun, for harvest, for news, for a baby’s arrival, for an answer, for results from a test, for a ride, in security lines, for the plane, for takeoff, for help,  ……life is filled with waiting!

Waiting involves three components:

Within the constraints of time, there exist past, present, and future, which cannot occur simultaneously… and so I wait.

The ability to be in only one place at any one given time means that I am unable to be in several places at once… and so I wait.

Having only the knowledge that is available to me, and within that measure, only using that which I understand, much of the information, awareness, or skill belonging to others is outside my grasp… and so I wait.

Why does waiting stir such emotion?  Why is it so hard to wait?

Expectations… those brutal, heartless warriors that dress in the chain mail of presumption, bear the shield of justification, and brandish the sword of control.  Expectations do not rest; they move forward, demand response, grow stronger with every kneejerk reaction, and leave a trail with smatterings of opinion, of anxiety, of complaint, of disillusion, of regret, of pseudo-success.

Self-imposed expectations exceed the speed limit, run red lights, and have a pocket full of excuses ready in case of confrontation.

When depending upon a source of hope that is flawed, manipulative, or overbearing, any promises made lay insecure on shaky ground, and fear of losing what seems like hope is a constant companion… actually redefining hope as wishful thinking.


Waiting expectantly is an active form of waiting.  It forces me to see beyond the way things are and to look toward predetermined hope established upon the foundation of unbreakable promise.  Inconvenience, difficulty, even suffering can play important motivational roles in the act of waiting. 

A dependable source of hope provides direction, courage, and rest because truth never changes.  In extreme situations, when all pretense of hope falls away, truth is the only secure hope worth the waiting.

So, rather than shaping hope to remain within my own limitations, rather than coloring hope with shades of acceptability, rather than visualizing hope through my bifocals, there is a better way…

Look to the Source of Hope; that is Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. 
     He Is…
…not limited by time
…not constrained by mass, volume or weight
…the Creator, Sustainer and Keeper of all knowledge and understanding.

What does Wait-Watching feel like?  If it is active, what do I do?

An active form of waiting on the Source of hope involves…
  Focus (on God’s Word and His promises)
    Anticipation (of the hope He has defined with joy,)
      Communication (through prayer and quiet listening stillness before Him)
        Identifying (my inadequacies and coming to terms that Jesus is enough)
          Relinquishing Control (to God mentally, verbally, physically, spiritually)
            Trusting with Complete Dependence (that God has the whole picture)

…and so I wait.
“There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; 
and this man was righteous and devout, 
looking for the consolation of Israel; 
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit 
that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ…”  
~Luke 2:25:32

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage.  
Yes, wait for the Lord"  
~Psalm 27:14