For me and mine, December’s call is Christmas. The month when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. The month when we try to reclaim the simplicity of the manger from all the hoopla of Transformers and discounted promotions and glossy packages. We pull our decorations from the attic and I watch as Little Drummer Boy, Bug and Baby Girl explore their wonder in a fresh way. There will be some things LDB and Bug remember from other years. There probably won’t be much that Baby Girl remembers. But, we will begin fresh memories with these traditions and the “things” that fuel them.
The “call” in this month’s desktop wallpaper is an ancient one…
“Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Spoken on a smelly hillside among wooly beasts, it was birthed from a brilliant display of angelic light. Light that pierced the night with fear, then amazement, then wonder, then motivation. “Let us now go.” I’ve always taken comfort in the fact that this first revelation of the Christ Child’s birth was delivered to men who were quite comfortable in the setting where he was born. No, a barn wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice for giving birth. It’s a far cry from the sterile environment where my own children drew their first breaths. But, I believe that though the busy-ness of Bethlehem may have necessitated this unexpected birthing suite, in God’s providence, it was His first choice. And the setting somehow elevated the miracle beyond the improbable to the far-reaching. The shepherd band had no qualms about seeking a Savior in a stable. Perhaps they would have hesitated, had their destination been a palace of gold and jewels. But, in the darkness, with the scent of animals on their clothing and the weariness of the night watch at their backs, they issued December’s call. They wanted to see the thing the angels had described. This blessed event heralded by magnificent beings in a place that was so familiar to them.
His birth was kind-hearted. Kind in that he aligned Himself with the lowly from that first moment in this sphere. With the ill-scented. With the uneducated. With the working class. With the disheveled and unkept. With the beasts of this life. What better place for a Savior?Soul + Spirit | Comment (0)
“and they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. then the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘where are you?’“ (psalm 3:8-9)
Isn’t this one of the saddest scenes in all of history? But, it seems to be an eternal picture of man’s relationship with God. Because of sin, whether it is pride, self-centeredness, self-sufficiency, misplaced priorities or old-fashioned disobedience, we continually seek to hide ourselves from God.
How sobering to think of that moment when Adam realized that God knew their fellowship had been broken, and that his hiding was utterly useless. It must have been a tremendous blow for him to hear the question, “where are you?” and to realize that he was stuck in the swamp of sin instead of walking in the garden in the cool of the day with his Creator. Yet, how like man to seek an inadequate refuge among the trees–the place where he made his choice clear, the place where he sought a substitute satisfaction for the hole only God can fill–as if that place of self-deception could somehow measure up to the selfless wisdom of the Almighty.
I can imagine what it was like in Eden before Adam and Eve sinned. They were one with one another and one with God. There was no conflitct there, no divided loyalties, no distractions. It is clear to me from the story of creation that God looked on them with purely adoring eyes. No labor was involved in love. Fellowship was without a price. After sin, His love required a labor, a sorrow, and fellowship had a hefty price tag. If God had not been God, He might have said, “forget it!” But, in that moment, when the object of his affection ran to hide, God put Calvary on his calendar for 33 A.D. Then, He set about finding His people. In Luke 15, Jesus spoke about the joy a shepherd has in reclaiming his lost sheep. Where once His joy was simply in our existence, now it comes to fruition in the act of finding, when our fellowship is restored.
I see in my life a lot of hiding from God, a fruitless tendency. This blog, like my on-and-off journal, although a wonderful outlet for sharing my thoughts and focusing my attention, offers the perfect amount of self-censorship required to give me the luxury of skirting some heart issues. Then, God reminds me that hiding is my nature. It’s what I do, as a human. And, though my time among the trees is never out of his ever-present vision, it must be my choice and conscious decision to be found.
You see, if I spend time with Him out of duty, then I am really only hiding. I am trusting in my religion for my fellowship with God. Jesus said in Luke 15:7, that “there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.”
If I spend time with Him because other Christians I know do, then I am really only hiding. I am trusting in my status for my fellowship with God. Paul wrote in Colossians 3 that there is no distinction among believers, but “Christ is all and in all.”
If I spend time with Him to keep up appearances, then I am really only hiding. I am trusting in temporary and fleeting popularity for my fellowship with God. But, Jesus said in Matthew 23, “woe to you, scribes and pharisees, you hypocrites, for you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.”
Every moment of my life, especially the time I choose to spend with God, involves a decision not to hide. He searches for me. He often whispers in my ear, “where are you?” But, only I can choose to be found. Only I can choose to respond to His question. Only I can abandon the futility of life among the trees. Only I can embrace His inevitable presence.
“Oh Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up. You understand my thought from afar. Where can I go from your Spirit? Or, where can I flee from your presence? Even the darkness is not dark to you, and the night is as bright as the day.” (psalm 139:1-2, 7, 12)Filed under Soul + Spirit | Comment (0)
Years ago I began a practice of reading through the psalms and pulling out one key attribute or concept about God from each upon which to meditate. Through difficult circumstances, that off-and-on habit has repeatedly reminded me of the faithfulness and goodness of the Creator. This post is compiled from notes and previous writings from those lessons, and will perhaps be the first of others to follow.
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and it’s leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (psalm 1:1-3)
It’s fascinating and captivating. The sensation is hard to comprehend. Effortless.
Delight. A heavenly intoxication. A bewitching banquet of the soul. A spontaneous pouring of emotion. Delight is an old friend of love. But, it has none of the labor found in true agape, the kind of labor found at Calvary. No, delight was in the garden when God first gazed on his beloved bride. It was absolutely focused, unimpeded, free and priceless. Love stood still in that glorious moment of communion. God delighted in His beloved, as He still does. Just as I imagine Eden was, delight always captures my attention. Like the first yellow leaves in October, an unexpected smile from Hub or watching my little gifts sleep. Delight is the surprise of life.
When I delight in my husband or my children, I spend time thinking about them. I try to discover their wants and needs. I dream about ways to meet those needs and more. When this unexpected emotion grips me, I enjoy stopping to look at them. I watch them intently, savoring each little quirk. I smile suddenly or laugh out loud at something Little Drummer Boy did last week, or Squiggle or Baby Girl. What would life be like if I allowed God to spark this same kind of delight for Him in my soul?
The psalmist wrote that a happy man is one who delights in the law of the Lord. Law? Delight? It doesn’t seem to match. When I think of law, my mental picture is certainly not effortless. Law has a regimented, unforgiving and burdensome connotation, quite unlike the heavenly intoxication described above. How could someone feel such pleasure and excitement about the law? The haze clears when we listen to the words of Jesus:
“Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest… for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (matthew 11:28-30)
Weary. Heavy-laden. Now, there’s my normal mental picture of law, but Jesus describes his “yoke” otherwise. Rest. A law that makes life less burdensome, that even enhances it. Could this be the delight the psalmist described?
How utterly amazing life would be if I delighted in God’s word like I delight in so many other things. I would rejoice in the simple, but unbelievable presence of the Creator in me. What miracles I miss because I simply don’t stop and pay attention. Because I don’t watch and see who He is and how He makes Himself known in the simple, the commonplace.
Delight is a very basic, un-thought-out emotion. It is childlike. It doesn’t require theology of psychology or any other -ology. It just is. God’s design is that I delight in Him, free from the yoke of the world’s cares and priorities. I’m always convicted by this verse:
“I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve with his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2 corinthians 11:3)
I don’t want to be deceived out of the Eden of delight God makes available to me by focusing on the wrong things. I fear, as Paul did, that in the hullabaloo of “good things” surrounding me, I have moved away from that simple, pure delight of daily knowing Christ as my Savior. A life based on delighting in the law of the Lord is free–free from personal agenda, free from quests for knowledge, free from jumping through hoops, and all the other well-intentioned, but misguided reasons we do what we do. I am ashamed to say that often my delight in the Lord is squelched by the desire to work, the drive to care for my family, the need to wash dishes, put clothes away, brown hamburger meat, make grocery lists. Sadder still, the delight is squeezed aside by the evening talk show host, the late night blog post or the book I can’t put down (one about holy living or loving God, of course). I often here the Savior whispering behind me, “Haley, Haley, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only a few things are necessary, really only one.” (luke 10:41-42)
In that story, Mary, the sometimes dreamy lover of the Lord had chosen the one thing in the world the Christ deemed as necessary. She was kneeling before Jesus, hanging on His every word. Her mind and body were captivated. She was drunk with the presence of the Lord, intoxicated. Burdens that were once packed meticulously on her back thrown aside, or left in the sink, and the yoke of a friendship embraced. Her eyes sparkled with delight at Her King. Her King. I’m sure she would have gotten around to the dishes and the bread at some point, but she saw the remarkable urgency of a moment not to be missed.
I live in north Mississippi, and we don’t often experience the hurricane force winds and high tides the more well-known coastal areas do. Nor, do we brace for their impact as so many do. But, my husband grew up on the Mississippi Coast and showed me some of it’s wonder. Although dramatically changed by the devastation of Katrina, I was always amazed by the large trees that weathered so many storms. Even in dry weather they stood bent toward the sea. Their trunks changed directions under the pressure of storms and waves, but their roots remained firmly planted in the soil. This miracle is a perfect example of the tree described in psalm 1. A delight in the Lord produces an unwavering stability. Storms of loneliness threaten to break. Waves up despair mount up to flood. Winds of sorrow or confusion permeate the air. But, a life spent in utter amazement and delight of the Master will not be uprooted. For if the storms of water and atmosphere obey Him, surely the floods of heartache and disappointment will too. For those who delight in the emancipating, intoxicating law of the Lord, we may feel the bruise and bend of depression, loneliness or fear, but we will not be broken or uprooted.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good, how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” (psalm 34:8)Filed under Soul + Spirit | Comment (0)
If you read my Part 1 of Where Resolutions Come From, you know that the theme word of the year resolve is a new concept I’m eager to explore. It encouraged me to get beyond a list of to-dos and focus on how I want to be a year from now. As Slightly Cosmopolitan put it’s something “that reminds you what’s most important and what’s at the heart of all your other goals.”
Hmmm. And, what about those other goals? Enter the 252 approach I mentioned in part 1.
“and Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and men.” (luke 2:52)
It may seem like a small and insignificant footnote to the greater truths of Scripture, but somehow I think the verse is powerful. It has something to teach me about what’s important. I was reminded again of its power a few weeks ago when reading the blog of Paul Young, author of the New York Times best-seller The Shack (anxious to read this one.) He wrote a post about the nature of significance beginning with a statement from his book: “if anything matters… everything matters.” His point was that significance is derived from being, not doing [woo hoo, theme word]. Trying to gain significance from doing is inevitably fruitless. But, when we live based on the significance we have because we are human beings created in God’s image, our “doing” becomes an out-flow and response to that relationship with Him. Therefore, everything becomes significant.
That’s a shift in thinking! The laundry drying in the background and the 50 times I’ll likely wash those same clothes this year are significant. Washing the dishes in my sink, and the 350 times I’ll likely wash them again this year are significant. The lightbulb is getting brighter, but how does that relate to resolutions and 252?
The time between 252 and the launch of Jesus’ ministry at His baptism was approximately 30 years. Other than an overnight Temple experience, we don’t know anything about what he “did” during that time. Yet, Mr. Young reminded me of this:
Jesus spent 30 years ‘doing’ nothing (as the world would understand it), but the first thing we hear about him out of his Father’s mouth is how pleased Father is of His boy. Did Jesus become significant because of the next three years? Nope. He was already significant.
Whatever Jesus did during those 30 years, it was a sinless pleasure to God, and it prepared Him for the greatest accomplishment mankind has ever known. And, all that God saw fit to tell us about that period was that he grew in four areas–four areas of focus that must be pretty important in becoming the well-rounded, God-pleasing, best versions of ourselves:
Jesus grew mentally. (watchful thinking, decision-making skills, application of knowledge)
Jesus grew physically. (in strength, in stamina, maintaining the body efficiency and economy that God made)
3) Favor with God
Jesus grew spiritually. (embracing the ways of God and the permanence of his Word, loving the loves of God, acting on the priorities of God)
4) Favor with Men
Jesus grew relationally. (building favor with others, building up others, respecting others, loving others honestly and selflessly)
Even in the daily-ness of life, I can see that almost everything I “do” has some sort of impact (positively or negatively) in at least one of those four areas. And, each area affects my “being” the God-pleasure I was designed to be. This year, I’ll be looking for ways to allow my theme word to manifest itself in each of those four areas. Thanks for sharing the journey with me and stay tuned.Filed under Day + Day, Soul + Spirit | Comments (3)
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon… And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou has prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (Luke 2:25-32)
to measure up to satisfy; to bring to an end,
For hundreds of years prophets foretold
that a Savior would come to save our souls.
He would be a king, mighty and strong.
Glory and power to Him would belong.
The government would rest on Him,
and He would deliver us all from sin.
In His kingdom sorrow would cease,
an everlasting Father, the prince of peace.
Today I’ve seen him, though just a babe,
the One, the Messiah who’s come to save.
My heart leaped within me when I saw the child,
the One I’ve been waiting for all my life.
Of all the accomplishments, my work, my faith,
my life’s greatest hope has been realized today.
And whatever hence my life may yield,
thank you that I could see your promise fulfilled.