Sunday, December 29, 2013


It's over.  Christmas 2013 that is.  Those last cards that never got sent now seem obsolete, good intentions squelched by the passing of Dec. 25.  Stores are on to Valentine's Day, jingle and trappings of Christmas half price . . .  no longer valuable. 

And Jesus has fled to Egypt waiting for an evil king to die.  Waiting in obscurity.

Those who heard the shepherds run through town and mountain proclaiming Jesus' birth, what did they think?  Okay, if your story is true, where is He now?   Rumors fade while life rushes on.

But it was no hearsay.  The Messiah had indeed, come.

Later, with King Herod dead, the threat to Jesus' life was gone . . . for the moment.

 "This is your chance, Jesus!  Show yourself to the world.  Let them know who you are," is what we would have urged had we been there.

But Jesus remained silent, choosing Nazareth, a speck of a town, only a pinprick on the map, to be his home.  Patient through childhood, He waited, identifying with our weakness . . . 30 years of growing in common normality.  Thirty years!  Scarcely no one saw and no one heard.   Even fewer believed.

If we had been in Jesus' shoes, would we have done the same?  I think not.  Our craving for limelight, this obsession with ourselves, continues to push toward the foreground.  We would have announced our status through social network, or what have you, and made certain to procure a worldwide following.

I speak of myself, ashamed at how easily I make life all about me, rather than the glory of God. 

My earnest desire for the new year, is that He, Jesus, might increase and I decrease. (John 3:30)

There is something to say for the dailies, for growing up, for unseen responsibilities carried out in the background.   Simple obedience.  Why should I care who knows, so long as before God I live as He requires . . . "to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God."  (Micah 6:8)


 The servant is not above His Master. 


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Baby's Breath

I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously, hurling worry and strife, horse and rider, into the sea.

He has made a clear path through the mess we call Christmas.

Taking hold of faith, storms of overwhelm are pushed back and held at bay.

For many waters cannot quench love.  (Song of Sol. 8:7)

Wrappings, glitz, and noise stripped away, we are left with a baby, Jesus made flesh.  He remains through all our years, generations past and future, the hope of mankind.

Walls of water cannot crush, for He upholds with His righteous right hand.  Who is like Him?  Majestic in holiness, awesome in power, working wonders?  There is no one.

And all this by the breath of His mouth . . . Yahweh.  The Breath of Heaven which holds us together through fitful waters . . . baby's breath.

Children slumber in the room by the tree.  The house is dark and quiet . . . except. . . for breathing.  All I hear is consistent inhale and exhale, like . . . Yahweh.

Only the breath of God's Spirit can make His Word come so alive and meet me at the point of my need at Christmas.  Who would have thought Israel crossing the Red Sea would turn my heart toward the child in a manger?

Surely, it is God who leads His redeemed people on dry paths.  His mighty power guides us to His sacred home, our place of refuge.

My prayer is that you too, may find your rest in Him.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Feeling the Crunch

Like a woman in labor, Christmas comes.  Ready or not, it descends and about now a mother feels it is all up to her to make it happen.   She wants it to be special, eventful, and yes, especially meaningful.  But she is worn and the expectations she herself created are not going to come about. 

The waters rush upon her, a frantic storm.  Is there a way through?  A call to be still and "watch the LORD rescue you today...the LORD Himself will fight for you."  (Ex. 14:13-14)  Yet also, a time to "get moving!  Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea."  (Ex.14:15-16)  These contractions demand all the strength she can muster, work between the still. 

God makes a way where there seems to be no way. . . a path of dry land through the sea. . . a place of privacy in a stable.  Walls of water mount on either side.  Last minute gifts, cards, housecleaning, food preparation, laundry, conflict . . . these walls threaten to crush the spirit that is Christmas. 

But at the breaking of dawn, triumph is born and those waters rush back to their rightful place.  The people of Israel are hushed, in awe at God's mighty wonders. 

The first Christmas came with a woman in labor.  Why should it be any less today?  The coming of Christmas still requires a mother's labor of love for her family. 

But what of Joseph?  He is often overlooked, deemed unimportant to the scene.  Yet, God knows Mary needs him.  The Great Provider supplies stability.  So our men give all that is within to cast a wife's anxiety onto God, the anchor for their soul.  They too expend themselves that Christmas might arrive. 

Come, Lord Jesus, our hearts are desperate for You!  At just the right time, You reach down and grab hold, never letting go.  We cling to You, aching for Your presence . . . meaning in the midst of all this mess we have made.

His strength, never given ahead of time, but just in time.  Such a generous God.  When the burdens grow greater, He gives and gives and gives again.  Christmas come.  Fill our hearts with the glow of the Christ child.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

From Siberia

At noon, I was ready for this day to be done.  But there were still nine more hours of responsibility to be accomplished.  The radio, clouting joy to the world and sing silver bells, rang out mockery.  When you're having one of those 'no good very bad days', how do you cope?

Tedious assembly of Siberian dumplings was not my idea of fun, but they were required for a cultural project due this week.  Grrrr!  What was the teacher thinking?  An assignment, that demanded parental assistance, without which, would result in a poor grade.  I found myself resisting the assignment, the teacher, and the entire week of school.

The Christmas tree skirt suctioned into the vacuum cleaner could have been comical and likewise the tea knocked off the table by the rolling pin and splattered all over the carpeted kitchen floor.  But I was not in the mood for funny.

When I was two weeks overdue with my firstborn, someone told me, "This too will pass."  I'm often reminded of that little phrase and encouraged by it.  But sometimes it takes more than cute little phrases to get me through a day.  

This is where I cling to the Word of God.  Those quiet moments before the Lord can be cut short in this rushed season, but I still treasure them dearly.  God never fails to encourage my heart.

Reading through Exodus, the staff of Moses intrigues me.  I thought of shepherds, keeping watch on the hills by night.  Shepherds with their rod and staff. 

Moses threw down his staff before Pharoah and it turned into a snake.  But then God commanded Moses to grab it.  Really?  Grab an out of control, dangerous viper?   Yes, exactly.

Moses obeyed and that snake once again became the staff in his hand.

As circumstances mount, they threaten to lash out and bite.  At times I feel forced by them, trapped in a corner with no way out.  But rather than resist, God would have me run toward them, accept them . . . even embrace them.  And as I do, these same circumstances become the staff in my hand rather than the viper at my feet. 

I decided to embrace the school project.  Mom and daughter had a great time.  Why make Christmas cookies when you can make Siberian dumplings?  They were a roaring success.

Folktale set in Russia, written by Summer

Siberian Dumplings Completed
Joseph and Mary never planned to have her baby in a barn.  But I don't see Joseph stamping his feet, wondering where on earth was God's provision.  How could Christmas come without a proper house to be born in?  No, even they must accept the unacceptable, leaning hard into faith, embracing that stable as home for the night.

Why should I do any less? 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Angels Puzzled

Eeeww!  Don't sit there!  Watch it!  Oop!  You just sat in a cow pie!  Whew, that smells!  Nasty!

This is how I grabbed the attention of 25 elementary students.  There was no real muck, only pretend.  Yet, they actually looked to check.

We have this idea in our minds of adorable manger scenes, rustic in hay and quaint barns.  But any real farmer knows that the barnyard is not always clean, nor does it smell pleasant.  Jesus left the splendor and glory of heaven to come to . . . this? 

If only the mud and manure were all Jesus had to endure!  But that barnyard atmosphere was symbolic of the unholy nature of our humanity, our waywardness.  Jesus, brilliant in perfection, was willing to be made flesh and dwell among us.

God did not save us from a distance.  No, He came near, even so close as to touch our yuck.  This came home to me as I studied the life of Esther this past year.   She too would touch the untouchable.  King Xerxes was used material.  To become his queen meant that Esther share him with hundreds of others.  In order to save her people, she had to touch filth.

Esther gave up her dream of a one-woman man, a man who would sweep her off her feet with eyes only for her.  She gave up her community of friends and family.  She surrendered the hope of children.  The harem was degrading, an appalling way for anyone to live, let alone for a godly, innocent, Jewish young woman.

This causes me to overflow in complete gratitude for what Jesus endured.  Suddenly, His death on the cross becomes very real to me.  He laid aside his dignity, cut off from descendants.  He was degraded and humiliated, falsely accused and made fun of . . . that I might draw near.

No wonder angels baffle over our great salvation.  This is joy to the world.  Our Lord has come!  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


You know the saying, 'three steps forward, two steps back.'  But it doesn't have to be that way, because I was not made to live in defeat.  No, victory is there for the taking, providing I'm willing to step into the battle.

This week I've been fighting fierce.



And with all this fighting I was given a clear picture of how life happens.  Once again, our beloved football team, the Broncos, provided the illustration.  In their most recent game against Tennessee, they drove down the field towards the goal line, even taking some risky moves, but were at last rewarded with the touchdown.  Hard work and a job well done.

However, when Tennessee received the ball back, they ran it all the way to the other end of the field for an immediate touchdown.  Oh, so sad.  Really?  What happened to our defense?  

Sometimes I treat life that way.  I work and work, beating my body and making it my slave, only to have it be for nothing.  In a moment of weakness, all that effort slips away.

I used to think that surrender to the Lord meant I sat passively by while He did the work through me.  Now I realize that though I am dependent on the Lord, I still have a part to play that is very aggressive.  This life I live is a war and I must fight both offensively and defensively.

But the amazing thing is, all God requires of me is faithful obedience.  Plain and simple.  Obedience breaks down the wall of unbelief and passivity.  It is the point at which I enter into God's rest.  My circumstances do not have to rule over me.

As I reported for jury duty, I was determined to bless.  I would not murmur and complain.  I would speak words of life.  I embraced the assignment and told God that this time He could trust me.  It seems backwards.  We are the ones who are supposed to trust God, right?  But when He turns up the dial on fiery trials, can He trust us to respond correctly?  These are tests. 

I had learned from my mistakes of the past where I sought to convince the court to cut me loose, excuses that might merit my absence.  I joined the other jury candidates in complaining.  But not this time.  I would pass this test. 

God commands me to give thanks in all circumstances. . . even jury duty at Christmas.  Would I believe it not an accident that I was summoned?  Would I trust that if called to stay God would give me wisdom to make the right decisions?  Thankfulness and trust were the obedience God required of me here. 

I realized that this was my fight.  I must battle for the grateful heart, the trusting heart.  It is all a surrender to God's way over my own desires.  And in that obedience I score the touchdown.   If I play the game right, the end zone brings a peace that passes all understanding. 

The trial was canceled and so I did not have to serve.  Once again I am overwhelmed with the mercy of God, using this experience to confirm that surrender to His way is what wins the fight.  I must be alert always, because I am not as strong as I think I am.  The moment I let down my guard, my own selfish tendencies take over.

Yet, in Christ, I can do all things, for it is He who gives me strength.  And with that, I do not have to just 'get through' this Christmas season.  I can embrace obedience to God and thrive in it . . . even worship. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013


She asked me if I saw them, the popsicle sticks.

"Oh dear," I bemoaned, "I threw them away."

Yes, they were laying on my computer desk, all drawn and colored into handsome little men and women.  Painstakingly detailed.

I often sneak some of my children's work into the trash when they are not looking.  I just can't keep it all.  These projects are old and forgotten, things they never ask about.  But horror of horrors, this was recent, left for me to admire and treasure.

In my frantic rush to declutter the house, I mindlessly threw them away.  

I am so glad God never considers our lives as clutter!  He wastes nothing.  No experience, no long lost trial, is ever thrown away.   Forgiven, yes.  Erased by God, yes.  But the maturity gained from the experience grows us into beauty, etched on our lives in silhouettes.  (Providing we do not kick and scream against the chisel.)  All is used to form us into who we are today, His work of art.

I cannot wait to see the finished product, that moment when God stands back and sets us on display.  Right now we are still a work in progress.  When at last we receive our new bodies, all this beauty will shine out from within.  It will illuminate like a lantern.  And the patterns seen bright and clear will be full of variety, for the journey God has taken each of us is uniquely ours.

We are not the same people we were yesterday.  Praise the Lord for that!

We're getting ready for glory...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Behind the Veil

It is only the third day of December and already voices scream clear, "Don't get caught up in the rush of the season!  Remember what it's all about!"  While the statements are true, they seem counterproductive. 

Shouting has never turned my heart towards worship.  Continually reminding me to slow down expects that I am stressed before I have a chance to be otherwise.  Enough already!  Away with the nagging and on with tidings of great joy. 

What is this joy?  It is the mystery behind the veil . . . God shrouded in majesty.

Yesterday, I hit the hills for some rejuvenation.  And it was glorious indeed!  No rushed thoughts of Christmas, only reveling in the presence of the Lord, enjoying His creation.

Every once in awhile, I do a hike like this.  A walk where I don't care about getting a workout, accomplishing a goal, or keeping to a specific time frame.  Instead, I simply look and wonder at the Man who is God. . .


Meekness and majesty
Manhood and deity

 In perfect harmony
The Man who is God

Lord of eternity 

Dwells in humanity

Kneels in humility
And washes our feet.

Wisdom unsearchable
God the invisible

Love indestructible
In frailty appears

Lord of infinity
Stooping so tenderly

Lifts our humanity
To the heights of His throne.

Oh what a mystery
Meekness and majesty

 Bow down and worship

For this is your God.
 (song lyrics by Graham Kendrick)  

Thanks for joining me in worship of our Creator.  I hope it provided a respite to the season.  Though the skies have been overcast for days, our hearts do not have to be. 

And after the hills, I hit the shops where a little of that worship carried over to pleasantries with shoppers and clerks.  Lines?  Yes.  Mayhem?  Yes.  Tired?  Yes.  But so at rest in my soul that the clanging noises out there could not penetrate the peace in here.  And that is the beauty of worship.