Monday, December 31, 2012

Sing Praise!

On the sixth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me
six reasons to sing praise!
 
 
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and
bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
(Isaiah 55:10-12 NIV)
 
 
1. Snow: We're going to have a white
New Year's Eve!
 
 
2. Bread: Making homemade bagels, a snow day tradition!
 
 
 
3. Word: Going to hide God's word in my heart in 2013 using the 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart app and Kindle e-book!
 
Screenshot
100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart by Robert J. Morgan
Photo credit:
B&H Publishing Group
 

 
4. Joy: Christmas is forever!
 
 
 
5. Desire: Word of the year! Thanks to Melanie from Only a Breath for designing my free button! Check out her Bible reading printables and other fun stuff on her blog. I look forward to following her in 2013 for creative and spiritual encouragement!
 
 
 
 
 
desire fulfilled is a tree of life
(Proverbs 13:12b)
 
 
6. Peace: Forgiven!
 
 



Sunday, December 30, 2012

True Love

 
 
 
On the fourth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me,
four calls to love.


Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and
with all your soul and
with all your mind and
with all your strength.
(Mark 12:30 NIV)
 
 
On the fifth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me,
five golden rules.

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
(1 John 3:11 NIV)

 

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
(1 John 3:23-24 NIV)


Dear friends, let us love one another , for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
(1 John 4:7 NIV)


Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another , God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:11-12 NIV)


Love your neighbor as yourself.
(Mark 12:31 NIV)
 

Linking up with:
 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Three French Words

On the third day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me
three French words: Joie de vivre!
 
  
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
(Psalm 16:11 NLT)
 
 
Today finds me curled up on the couch, nursing a cold. Not feeling much joie de vivre. The common cold doesn't provide much joy of living. But joy doesn't always means happiness or health. I accepted my cold (which I am thankful came now, instead of last weekend). I settled into reading and then watching some films that I had on my Christmas wish list.
 
I watched The Nativity, which I hadn't viewed in a long time. The setting and narrative action gives the sense of being there. The writer of the screenplay opens with Herod's edict to kill all children under the age of two. A horrific portrait of power mongering fueled by pride and paranoia.
 
This tragedy is juxtaposed with scenes leading up to the birth of Jesus. The action takes place with hints of the gospel parables. Vineyards, wind blowing the leaves, figs and grapes and wheat harvest. Chaff blowing in the wind.
 
And the people of the story. Elizabeth and Zechariah stunned by the joy of a son in their old age. Mary scared, but willing to believe the impossible. Joseph who wavers with his own fears, but believes the good news of the angel.
 
"A son will be born to her, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21 NLT)
 
 
This is the real joy. The joy of God's salvation. This is cause for joie de vivre!
 
 


Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Candidates

On the second day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me,
words wrapped in books, silently sitting beside me
 like two turtledoves of peace.


Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
(Proverbs 3:3 ESV)
 
 
As I gleaned my shelf for a devotional, I also gathered the various books on writing that I have collected over the years. I stacked them on the couch along with a few other books that are on my "reading" list.
 
I like looking at the stack and thinking I may really read some of these books this year. I will read bits and pieces, and I almost always read the introductions. Some of the best inspiration comes to me from reading the preface or the introduction of a book.
 
My desire to include, A Pen and a Path, on the list, started that way. The author, Sarah Stockton, compares writing to building a nest:
 
"Just as the bird builds a nest with grass and twigs and mud as a container for new life, so the woman creates with words a container to hold and sustain her own life. Asking God to be present as she writes, she weaves her dreams, her intentions, her fears, her sorrows, and her greatest joys into a home for her overflowing spirit. The raw materials of her life become a nest, and the nest becomes both a container for her life so far, and a place from which to continue the journey forward."
 
 
 
I consider this stack of books my potential coaches and cheerleaders to keep me at the craft. I am looking to stretch my writing abilities, to explore new territories beyond journaling and blogging. I want to try my hand at fiction or memoir. I look forward to calling myself a novelist or freelance writer. Just some dreams woven with intention.
 
Below are my candidates: 
 
The Art of Fiction by John Garner
Leaving a Trace by Alexandra Johnson
The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray
A Pen and A Path by Sarah Stockton
Freelance Writing by Marcia Yudkin
Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg
Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach
One Year to a Writing Life By Susan M. Tiberghien
The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright
 
 
Some I will chat with by browsing their contents, others I will get into deep conversation with by reading from cover to cover. And hopefully one or two will become my mentors, who give me exercises to improve my writing. 
 
Linking up with:
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Twelve Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me
solitude like a partridge in a pear tree.

Often this time of year, I am looking for something new. Like a new devotional or a new Bible that will inspire me to read it everyday. Sometimes I want a new journal or some new music to serenade me into the new year.

I started this day with two lovely coffee dates. One to catch up with a friend from town and the other to visit with a friend here from out of town. Little did they know that they fulfilled my desire for something new.

One gave me a Josh Wilson CD in a sweet little gift bag, with these words:


 
The other gave me a journal with a card wishing me JOY!
 
 
This evening, I shopped my bookshelves for a devotional for 2013. A couple years ago, I bought The One Year Coffee with God devotional by Sarah Arthur. In it, she mentions a prayer guide that follows the liturgical year called A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants. I came across it in my book hunt in the basement. The readings for this week were under the title: All Things New. Oh, how I love a theme.
 
All things new, this is the cry of my heart, especially the day after the feast of Christmas. What's next? How will I occupy myself for the next twelve days? In the morning I made a lofty goal of reading twelve books, one a day. Ha! Instead, I'm just going to read, whatever the Spirit leads. I did read Psalm 65 today. Yum! Nourishing words of hope and joy!
 
The psalmist observes: "You crown the year with  your bounty . . ." (Psalm 65:11 ESV), a great summary of this year and hope for the next. Year after year Jehovah provides. I will make my plans, goals and resolutions, only to waver after a burst of enthusiasm. I have been here before, and yet again God will crown my feeble efforts with His grace.
 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Arrive: To Reach a Destination

Little town of Bethlehem, we have arrived at last to witness the wonder of a babe born in a stable within your vicinity. A child king born into the poverty of our world. The hope of humble Mary and faithful Joseph.

We listened in awe as the angels proclaimed the glad tidings of good news for all. We followed the shepherds to discover the babe wrapped against the cold of the night. They left rejoicing, full of abounding love.

Did they remember the words of the prophet, Micah? Did they know that their Messiah was to be a shepherd like them, a Good Shepherd, like the shepherd of the psalm? The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.



But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.


Therefore He shall give them up,
Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth;
Then the remnant of His brethren
Shall return to the children of Israel.
And He shall stand and feed His flock
In the strength of the LORD,
In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God;
And they shall abide,
For now He shall be great
To the ends of the earth;

And this One shall be peace.
(Micah 5:2-5 NKJV)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Unseen

Advent{ures}: Let's Go to Bethlehem


Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 ESV)

On this evening we remember our dear Savior's birth. With candlelight, carols and children's pageants, we turn our hearts back in time to a dark night in the little town of Bethlehem.

Tonight, in the simple sanctuary, we sang carols, repeated the sounding joy and read the Nicene creed together after watching the children playing angels, shepherds and the holy family as encounted by an Irish girl named Brigid.

Many centuries after Christ's birth,Brigid was a shepherdess, so legend claims, who had a vision of herself in Bethlehem. She was working for the famed innkeeper who had no room. She offered her tattered blue cloak to comfort the shivering mother and child. When she awakens her cloak has been transformed into a new cloak, deep blue decorated with a myriad of golden stars.

A simple fable, but a moving story of a young girl who longs to be a part of the story, the pageantry of the nativity.

The opening lines of the Nicene creed moved me to tears tonight:

"We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen..."

The unseen beckons. I try to imagine what I have never known. I want to see what human eyes cannot. I long to hear the voices of a thousand angels. I desire a heart that perceives the deeper truths of grace and mercy in fresh ways.

If the unseen God sees me, I am ruined. Yet He does see me, and He loves me still.

And like the child Brigid, I thank God for keeping me safe from the wolves of this world. And like humble Mary and faithful Joseph, I wait for the unseen One to burst into my life. And I will ponder and treasure this wonderment that God, the maker of all, made his way into our world wrapped up in the form of a human baby.

May the last two verses of the familiar anthem of the little town, be our lullaby tonight:

Where children pure and happy pray to the bless├Ęd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.


O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to 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;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!


(O Little Town of Bethlehem! words by Phillip Brooks)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Love: To Hold Dear; Cherish

Advent{ures}: Let's Go To Bethlehem 
 
 

 
 
This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
1 John 4:10 NLT


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Friday, December 21, 2012

Let Us Kneel

Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
(Psalm 95:6-7 NIV)

 

Every time I try to read through Job’s story I get distracted about the time his first friend starts talking. I get lost in the explanations. So, I skim the next 30 or so chapters until I get to the part where Elihu speaks up. He's a young man who had kept silent while Job and his three friends debated the philosophical and moral dilemma of being. Elihu is angry because each of the other speakers have misrepresented the situation.

 
Job listens. God listens. Elihu rages a storm of words, and when he is finished, God speaks.

 
It says that God  speaks out of the storm. I wonder if while Elihu rants that thunder rumbles in the distance coming closer as he articulates his point. Or did the narrator just mean Elihu’s words were like a storm? Either way it makes for great drama. I like to think it continues to storm while God speaks to Job, lightening with torrential rain.

God asks the questioner questions. Point after point, rhetorically pummeling Job, who has been accusing and calling God to account. God, his Maker, recounts the intricacies of his creative process. I wonder whether Job was standing while Elihu made his speech. Did he fall on his knees when God spoke?

 
We do know that when God finishes speaking, Job really has nothing more to say. He puts his hand over his mouth. And after a few moments, he admits that he really didn’t know what he was talking about after all.

 
I imagine Job replying with tears streaming down his face, bowing his head in wonder:

"I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You ask, 'Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?' It is I. And I was talking about things I did not understand, things far too wonderful for me.

"You said, 'Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.'

 "I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance." (Job 42:2-6 NLT)

 
Job no longer sits in dust mourning, now he sits comforted. Godly sorrow leads to repentance ushering in a salvation drenched joy. Relief. Release. No regrets. Ah, a happy ending.
 
 

 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Land of Uz

 
"Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God."
 (Matthew 5:8 ESV)
 
 

When I read the opening words of Job’s story, I hear a faint echo of “Once Upon a Time . . .”

“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1 ESV)

The narrative continues with exposition, revealing the details of Job’s family, possessions, stature in the community and daily routines, including his religious practices.

And then the scene shifts with cinematic flair, we are ushered into a heavenly scene. The curtain is pulled back and the audience is given information that informs the reader, but as far as we know is withheld from the characters in the unfolding drama. It’s as if the author (ultimately God) knew that the impending misery would be too hard for the reader to bear. We needed a glimpse backstage to see how this tragedy unfolds under the sovereign care of the Creator.

That scene fades. In the next scene, we observe Job going about his usual business. Then wave after wave of tragic news arrives through servant messengers. Job tears his robes, shaves his head and he worships. He mourns, yet he does not sin.

Satan, the behind the scenes agent of misery and death, approaches Job’s Creator again. Satan’s intent is to see Job curse God. God says, my Job, he’s up to the test. Send the physical pain, but spare his life.
 
Satan takes his cue and gladly strikes Job with “loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” (Job 2:7 ESV) Job sits down in his misery and starts scraping at the sores with a piece of broken pottery. His wife comes to console him, “Curse God and die.” Job answers with integrity, “Foolish woman! Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:9-10 ESV) Again Job maintains his cool. He does not sin with his words.

Three friends from surrounding villages hear of Job’s calamity, and come to comfort him. They sit in silence with him for seven days and seven nights. Job laments. He curses the day of his birth: “Behold, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry enter it.” (Job 3:7 ESV).
 
What a contrast to the birth we recall in Bethlehem, but that’s for later. Joy will come in the morning, even as a child is born unto us in Bethlehem.
 
Although the word, joy, is recorded in the book of Job several times in the NIV, most of the time Job mentions it sarcastically or his friends misapply the concept. It’s not until Job meets his Maker, that a deeper joy, marked by humility and wonder enters the scene.

(Come back tomorrow, and we’ll see how the story ends. Will they live happily ever after? How will joy be restored?)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fireworks in December!

Advent{ures}: Let's Go to Bethlehem

Light is sown for the righteous,
and gladness for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous;
and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
(Psalm 97:11-12 KJV)



 
 

Today, I am at that place in the journey where I need to get my bearings. I started out on these Advent{ures} headed toward Bethlehem. I gathered my companions (my Bible and the Advent devotions) and I studied the history and famous people of Bethlehem. Each week I lit the candle of remembrance.

Peace. Hope. Joy.

I traded joy for a brief lament with Job in the land of Uz. More on that visit tomorrow, but today I needed to pause.

My mind wandered back to a Friday night earlier in the month. The night my mom, my sister and I took the children to see the Way of Lights at Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois.

It was a balmy, clear night. We arrived with oohs and ahhs.

Look at the lights! There's one of the wise men! There's another one! Will we get to ride a camel?

I drove slowly through the lighted scenes of Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem and angels proclaiming glad tidings and rivers and fountains and finally the holy family in the creche with the star above.

We park. Go inside where carolers sing, a thousand villages sell gifts and children create pins to commemorate their visit. We see a life size nativity set made of a million legos that rivals the million lights that make up the evening. A few cookies and punch and back to the van. The crankiness sets in. Will we stop at the petting zoo or just go home?

The lights of the way wend through the landscape, we see Mary and Joseph with their donkey again and point at the pasture of angels ahead, when the youngest passenger asks, "Aunt Kel, are we going to stop at the petting zoo?"

I pause. I notice a parking spot nearby, I turn in, we consult. Yes, we will all go to the petting zoo, but no camel rides tonight. We feed and pet the animals: alpaca, goats, sheep with four horns, leaping sheep and the softest baby camels that want to kiss your ears greet us, along with a stately yak. We are glad we visited. We wander back to the van, it's almost time for the lights to go to bed for the night.

Just as we decided to leave, we heard a squeal and we witnessed lights bursting upon the night sky! My heart leapt! More oohs and ahhs than we ever imagined. Stunned by God's surprise joys. Fireworks in December!

Fireworks in December happens only once during the Way of Lights season, and we just happened to be there that night. This past summer due to drought our fireworks in July had been cancelled. Fireworks in December filled me with delight. To think that God knew how much I missed the fireworks that He brought them to us in December. (Awe fills my heart even now, if we had hurried home or gave into the crankiness, we would have missed the gift of celebration.)

Fireworks in December! What a wonder filled way to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who grants us the best freedom of all! The freedom to be loved and love. The joy of forgiveness. The hope of a better future. The peace of His presence.

Woohoo! Applause! You out did yourself, God! Hallelujah! Thank You! This is me, jumping up and down in Your presence, God! I love you, O Lord, my strength!







Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rejoice: To Welcome Again



















We are here in the presence of God,
    Stripped of pride
    and a false sense of importance.

God has called us to be still and quiet,
     To sense the comfort of his Spirit
     and the satisfaction of his presence.

O fellow pilgrims,
let us put our hope in the Lord
     Both now and forevermore. Amen.

Psalm 131, paraphrased (found in Sing to the Lord hymnal)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Silence: Absence of Mention


When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.  Job 2:11-13 NIV
 

Silence. No words. No explanations. No answers. Just troubles multiplied upon troubles. Nothing to be said. Nothing to be heard. For seven days and seven nights. For four hundred years. For nine months. Joy comes in the mourning.

Sometimes the journey takes a twist. Irony enters the story. The liturgy of this week invites us to rejoice. To rejoice with Elizabeth and Zechariah who went from barrenness to fruitfulness. To remember Mary's Magnificat. To hear the angels bring glad tidings of great joy.

Really? Now? Rejoice?

I need definition and meaning. The dictionary offers delight as a meaning for joy. It falls hollow. Further down under antonyms, rejoice juxtaposes with lament.

Lament feels better. Feels like the right word. First, Jeremiah comes to mind as the great lamenter. He expressed his grief through prophetic and poetic language. And then I think of Job, whose name is one letter short of joy. And whose life joys were destroyed by death.

Yet, joy surfaces in the language of lament. Strange.

As we journey closer to Bethlehem, I plan to take a side trip to the land of Uz, to better understand how joy can even be mentioned in the midst of devastation. Dare you join me?




Sunday, December 16, 2012

Consider It Pure JOY!

 
 

 
 
Come now, let us argue this out," says the LORD. "No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool. (Isaiah 1:18 NLT)




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Friday, December 14, 2012

Peace: To Become Quiet

Advent{ures}: Let's Go to Bethlehem


For the LORD your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song.
(Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)
 
 
 
 

Anxiety attacks. Worries weary. Stress increases.

Pause for peace. Peace embraces. Peace calms. Peace blesses.

This peace makes no human sense.

Peace be with you. Jesus promises. Immanuel comforts. Mercy refreshes.

When Jesus enters the room, the disquieting thoughts flee. Heads turn. Do you see Him in the face of a newborn? Or hear Him in the chortle of a toddler? Or notice him in the momentary sparkle of a teenager’s eyes?

Will you pass Him as you hurry from store to store? Will you smile or scowl? Will you see Him sitting at the window of a nursing home, lost in memory? Will emotion overwhelm you when that loved one enters your mind?

When will peace appear? In our moments of quiet doubt? In our moments of loud fears shouting, “Why bother?” Or in the deep joy of knowing everything matters?

Peace will come, always showing up, when we least expect. Peace dispels all fear. It only takes a moment to light a candle in the dark. To sing a happy song.

When Peace enters the room, our eyes meet. All is well once again.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Signs of Peace

Advent{ures}: Let's Go to Bethlehem

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
(Isaiah 7:14 NKJV)
 



What comfort there is in calling out "Immanuel." God with us!
 
The sign of a virgin with child, bearing a son is the Advent promise. God is the God of wonders and signs. He wants to give us reassurance.
 
Today, our friend,  Lynn D. Morrissey, shares a vignette from her storehouse of God stories that poignantly shows how God surprises us with signs of His care, His presence and His unfailing love.


The Christmas Gift
 
“Where, o death, is your victory? Where, o death is your sting? But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
— 1 Corinthians 15: 55, 57

 

In the still of winter, death’s darkness enveloped me.  Birdless, leafless trees and my father’s incurable kidney disease testified to death’s stark reality. I was consumed with worry, unable to experience God’s peace and to trust His provision for my father.

 

As I dropped Daddy off at the dialysis center for the third time during Christmas week, I was struck by the poignancy of a naked little tree, bravely defying winter’s onslaught. It was a painful reminder of my father’s frailty and failing health.

 

Then suddenly, as if dropped from heaven, a beautiful red-breasted robin alighted on one of its branches, adorning it like a ruby Christmas ornament. In the bleak winter season, I was amazed to see this little harbinger of spring. I praised God for this unexpected Christmas gift of hope, and for the precious gift of time—another day with my father.

 

Most of all, I praised God for His most lavish Christmas gift, His precious Son, born into this world of sin and death. He would die for humankind on a naked tree and rise victoriously from a wintery tomb. He would defy death and usher in new life, the springtime of eternity.

 

Instantly, I stopped worrying. God flooded my heart with peace and the knowledge that no matter what happened to Daddy, he would live eternally with Him.


(Lynn D. Morrissey, Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved)


 
 
 
Lynn D. Morrissey, is a Certified Journal Facilitator (CJF), founder of Heartsight Journaling, a ministry for reflective journal-writing, author of Love Letters to God: Deeper Intimacy through Written Prayer and other books, contributor to numerous bestsellers, an AWSA and CLASS speaker, and professional soloist. She and her beloved husband, Michael, have been married since 1975 and have a college-age daughter, Sheridan. They live in St. Louis, Missouri.

You may contact Lynn at words@brick.net.



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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Peace of Mind

Advent{ures}: Let's Go to Bethlehem
 

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you,
whose thoughts are fixed on you!
(Isaiah 26:3 NLT)

The prophets who told us this was coming asked a lot of questions about this gift of life God was preparing. The Messiah’s Spirit let them in on some of it—that the Messiah would experience suffering, followed by glory. They clamored to know who and when. All they were told was that they were serving you, you who by orders from heaven have now heard for yourselves—through the Holy Spirit—the Message of those prophecies fulfilled. Do you realize how fortunate you are? Angels would have given anything to be in on this!

So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.” (1 Peter 1: 10-16 The Message)

 
 
Did you ever notice that most of Yahweh's prophets led strange and difficult lives? Their lives were distinctive, set apart from others. Holiness marked their lives, and at times their lives were literal object lessons.

Think of Hosea who is asked to take a harlot for a wife, in order to reveal to the Israelites how prone they were to straying from God and chasing after other gods. Or Elijah, Elisha and Ezekiel who lived as wandering prophets, confronting kings and wayward people who either scoffed, derided or attacked them. Or weeping Jeremiah.

And after four hundred years of silence, there’s John, the cousin of Jesus, who lived in the wilderness eating honey and locust. So as to literally be the “voice of one calling from the wilderness.”

Yahweh’s prophets spoke some of the most beautiful and convicting poetic oracles known to man. Isaiah comes to mind. Even though the first 39 chapters are full of impending judgment, points of light break through the darkness.

Here are some verses to ponder:
 
Come, O house of Jacob,
Let us walk in the light of the LORD.
(Isaiah 2:5 NIV)

 
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light ;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
(Isaiah 9:2 NIV)

The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the LORD will be your everlasting light ,
and your God will be your glory.

Your sun will never set again,
and your moon will wane no more;
the LORD will be your everlasting light ,
and your days of sorrow will end.
(Isaiah 60:19-20 NIV)

{See also Isaiah 10:17, 45:7, 50:10, 53:11, 58:8, 60:1}

 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ready: Prepared for Action

Advent{ures}: Let's Go to Bethlehem
 

Be ready for whatever comes, dressed for action and with your lamps lit, like servants who are waiting for their master to come back from a wedding feast. When he comes and knocks, they will open the door for him at once.  How happy are those servants whose master finds them awake and ready when he returns! I tell you, he will take off his coat, have them sit down, and will wait on them. How happy they are if he finds them ready, even if he should come at midnight or even later!  And you can be sure that if the owner of a house knew the time when the thief would come, he would not let the thief break into his house. And you, too, must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him. (Luke 12:35-40 Good News Translation)
 
Preparing for Christmas is easy. Just do what I do every year; rely on traditions and expectations of the family and culture around me. Readying myself for Christ’s return is difficult. To be honest, most days, I’m not aware that His coming is imminent. My life is consumed by the present. I must confess the whole idea of being ready causes me to panic. Will I be ready?

I feel like Jesus is saying, “Ready or not, here I come.” Will His return be like hide and seek? Will Jesus find me hiding from Him or hiding in Him?



Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
(Psalm 32:6-7 NIV)
 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Prepare: To Get Ready

Advent{ures}: Let's Go to Bethlehem
 
In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.

(Psalm 94:19 NKJV)

 
 
 



Fifteen days ‘til Christmas. Does this fact cause elation or anxiety? Will I be ready for the celebrating, the family gatherings and the gift giving?

How does preparing cultivate peace? What comfort can I find in the practice of getting ready? And my mind turns to the invitation to take a spiritual journey to Bethlehem. Do I have the right provisions? What should I take with me? What mental action should I take to prepare myself for the arrival of yet another Christmas remembrance? Why am I observing these days? What if, I didn’t? Would peace mark my days or would I be full of flurry and activity and subsequent worry?

So many questions invade my Monday musings. I am reminded in the quiet of the morning that carving out stillness matters. It offers me moments of silence that nourish a greater need. More than the need for getting the perfect gift or to create a peaceful atmosphere, I need time with the Righteous One. He alone is the one who answers my quest, who creates a hunger and thirst in me that only He can quench.

I recall from the writings of Isaiah that a voice calls out, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” This use of prepare has a nuance of turning, a facing towards. Underneath the words is a cry for repentance. Turn towards the way of the Lord. A resounding chorus of my ways are not your ways, or my thoughts your thoughts.

Turn your thoughts to Me. I have prepared a place of rest for you. I came as a babe, I am here in the Spirit and I am coming again. Soon. So get ready. Prepare a meal for us to share. Prepare for battle because the days ahead are treacherous. Prepare to meet your Maker. Prepare to be jolted out of complacency and into action.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!