The Weary World Rejoices

 

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“The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…..” O Holy Night (circa 1847)

Maybe this morning you are reaching for the hope of that “new and glorious morn” the song speaks about. Maybe for you it is nothing but a song lyric, or a hope so distant you can barely see it through the weight of your present circumstances. The world Jesus came into was certainly weary, no different than today. I see just how weary as I pass the homeless each day, making camps wherever they can out in the cold. I even see it in the eyes of shoppers who get to go back to their warm houses after the mall. I see it in the gratefulness of the elderly whom I deliver meals to each day.

I slogged and shivered my way down to the river this morning juggling cups and a spare tank of propane for the heater. I settled in my chair and my breath puffed out warm into the cold air and I promptly spilled hot coffee all over my robe. I barely felt it. My morning prayer routine here is a bit different. Used to be, I took about 5 steps out the front door into my little shop. Here it’s a little walk and I bump into several things getting ready in the motorhome before I head out the door. The neighbor cat greets me at the end of the step. We have started feeding she and her brother since he is seldom home.

Walking along, I was pondering several things. There are many things I don’t know the answer to. I don’t know why I thought I would feel perfectly settled here, since I don’t feel any more settled here than I did in Arizona. I thought I would be able to make things better for my folks, but it turns out I can’t fix the fact that they are growing older. I can’t make them young again and able to do all the things they did before.

I also don’t know why it is that I am smack dap in the middle of all this beauty and it doesn’t seem to penetrate my heart. Nature has always been somewhat of a cure for me, and the fact that it’s not the healing balm it usually is has me unsettled. But here’s the thing about God, Christmas, Advent and the hope that it brings. I don’t need to know all the answers. I really don’t need to know any answers except Christ and Him crucified.

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2

So, turns out I can’t fix broken situations or people, or even myself, but I can hope and trust in the One who can. This is what real faith is. It means that someday I will know the answers to these questions if God in His own good time reveals them to me. And if He doesn’t, that’s okay too. I hope in the One who does know all the answers. Who wasn’t afraid to come down in the weakest form imaginable, and start out knowing nothing. That’s enough for me.

We all have our seasons, the important thing is to keep walking through them with our eyes and our hearts lifted up toward Heaven. Peace be with you all.  I will leave you with another bit of comfort I read down by the river today:

“When the Time Is Right: December 7

There are times when we simply do not know what to do, or where to go, next. Sometimes these periods are brief, sometimes lingering. We can get through these times. We can rely on our program and the disciplines of recovery. We can cope by using our faith, other people, and our resources. Accept uncertainty. We do not always have to know what to do or where to go next. We do not always have clear direction. Refusing to accept the inaction and limbo makes things worse. It is okay to temporarily be without direction. Say “I don’t know,” and be comfortable with that. We do not have to try to force wisdom, knowledge, or clarity when there is none. While waiting for direction, we do not have to put our life on hold. Let go of anxiety and enjoy life. Relax. Do something fun. Enjoy the love and beauty in your life. Accomplish small tasks. They may have nothing to do with solving the problem, or finding direction, but this is what we can do in the interim. Clarity will come. The next step will present itself. Indecision, inactivity, and lack of direction will not last forever. Today, I will accept my circumstances even if I lack direction and insight. I will remember to do things that make myself and others feel good during those times. I will trust that clarity will come of its own accord.” Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go.

Going Deep

 

Let your light so shine....

Usually that refers to a football move, but each Advent that rolls around I think of it. When everything starts to turn crazy and drivers honk and jockey for parking spaces and people turn ungracious my thought is to “go deeper.” Jesus was born into a world filled with pushing and shoving and strife. He was also born into a world with a deep chasm between the ruling Superpowers in Rome and the common people just trying to get by.

Yesterday morning I sat huddled with my first cup of coffee, and gazed blearily at my phone for a connection, a signal of life out there. The little candle flickered from where it sat on the Motor-home console (we call it the fireplace).

Lately I have been feeling like part of my creative soul has been snuffed out. The words that used to flow freely have fled and I have missed them. Earlier I had fallen asleep and dreamed of buried things. I awoke feeling smothered.

As I rested there in the pre-dawn hour, I heard a ping from my phone and saw a friends post and as I read the words, tears came along with them. You can read it here.

Do you ever feel as if God answers prayer through someone else’s words? I felt as if someone had just leaned toward me in church, holding out their advent candle to light mine.

I wasn’t happy about the sorrow in his message, but I did identify with it. No, it was the hope he held out. The light that came along with it. His words reached across several states and touched a chord in me. “He feels it too.” And just at the precise moment I needed to hear it. Jesus said that only an adulterous generation needs a sign, but He also knew a sign was necessary. “Behold, a virgin will conceive…….”

This to me is the hope of Advent. That somewhere in the cloisters of our hearts there is the reality of deep peace. That is the reason Jesus came. Reconciliation and the promise of peace. The Holy Spirit resides in each of us as believers, but I believe it is possible to stifle Him with the residual refuse in our minds and hearts.

Advent is cutting through all that and clinging to the miracle. Throw the trash out! Lay it at the curb, better yet the cross! God is doing a work in each one of us. He has taught me this year that prayer is not the prescription that insures circumstances in my day will all fall together perfectly. In fact, sometimes the days where I have prayed most earnestly I have had the worst days on record.

The more important thing is that prayer has a bigger effect on the long term. It goes beyond the surface where we can’t always see, digging trenches in our hearts that change us for eternity. God doesn’t wait around to answer our prayer so that events conspire to work out for our benefit, but rather, He hears our every prayer even before we pray it. Even the ones as small as a breath.

When Jesus came, He was the universal “I understand and hear you” answer for all time, for all of us. He came almost unnoticed into this world yet Heaven couldn’t keep from a birth accouncement puncuated by miracles. This Christmas I pray we can set aside the stress and clamor of the world in the quiet moments and remember the miracle.

Let every heart prepare Him room, for He made room for us.

“And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:26,27

Advent: The Best Gift

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“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 

This morning we were surprised by rain yet again. I heard it as I huddled in the candlelight of my increasingly cramped closet. Bags of unwrapped presents are stuffed in corners here and there, but I was snug there in the light of my little tabletop tree. I marveled at the wonderful gift I have had, the past three days off work have been peaceful and stress free. I still have two more left.

Outside, there is a world full of war and by the look of the people in the mall yesterday and the day before, a world full of stress, and expectation, and some debt to go along with it. There is strife and rushing to meet a deadline…..deadlines for decisions, deadlines at work, deadlines to meet Christmas.

But here in this quiet place, I cup my coffee in my hands and I thank Jesus for always bringing me joy in the morning, whatever doubts and worry might visit me in the wee hours of the dark. He always brings me fresh hope. The same hope that was born in that stable so long ago.

He came quietly into the night and settled into our world almost unnoticed, kind of like this little snowflake. There are so many, you see. It’s easy to plow through them when they are all stuck together, but when they separate you notice the hand of the grand Artist at work. The brushstrokes of His genius are everywhere.

But they came embodied all in one little human that night in the stable.

He’s all grown up and back at Home now.

But still giving me all the Hope I need still my time on this earth is finished and He calls me home.

Outside there is a lot going on.

Here not much, just a little hollowed out place He can call His own. Just for a little while longer, I will watch my candle flicker and wait.

A few of my favorite things......

Advent: Who or what is overshadowing you this Christmas?

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Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.…Luke 1:34,35

So the question remains: Who or what is overshadowing you this Christmas? Have you made way for the Holy Spirit, believing like Mary that God can overshadow your circumstances whatever they are? Are you willing to partner up with God and create a miracle, even in the midst of an ordinary life?

This Advent as in all others, I go back to those supernatural events that happened, and I marvel and wonder right along with Mary. When you think about it, what happened to Mary is what happens to all of us when we become believers. We step out in faith even though we aren’t sure how it’s all gonna work, we know somehow that God will pull it off.

And that is the hope and reality of what Christmas is, that against the dark backdrop of our lives God came in the flesh to flip the switch on the light that no man or circumstance has the power to snuff out.

Too much of my year has been spent in doubt and uncertainty and fear. Too many times I have failed to remember what a Big God I serve. I have forgotten that God has taken up residence in my own temple of this body. In light of that, what event in life could ever eclipse that Light? Thankfully, He knows how weak I am and loves me anyway. Each day I am bowled over by His incredible mercy.

Yesterday morning, the events of the past few weeks finally caught up with me and I had a bit of an insane moment. My Mom falling while I was there and then having Elaine’s Mom die while I was away and knowing she had to deal with that alone, and then being afraid my Mom would fall again or further injure that arm culminated in me attempting to sing all four parts of Handel’s Messiah on my morning commute.

If I had a video of it, it would have gone viral, I am sure. I proceeded to butcher all four parts and screech my way through the Christmas portion. And it was done in love because I have had a passion for that piece of music ever since I can remember.

By the Hallelujah chorus (when the audience traditionally and appropriately stands to its feet) I was in tears.

I was thinking about how the night before I had watched 20/20 and they showed footage of how Isis had gone into these Christian towns and torn down the crosses. I saw the statues topple and the churches desecrated and the Bibles blackened and it sickened me, but then as I listened to the music, I got another vision. That of Christ coming in the clouds.

The first time He came in the weakest, most vulnerable form possible. He died the same way, but He arose victorious and with power. He will come back the same way. And though Mary had to deal with the sorrow of losing her son, she also saw His victory in the end.

And the victory belongs to us all…….and nothing and no one in this life has the power to dim that great hope. Not even death or taxes.

Death has been swallowed up in victory for one more year……….

 

Advent Idea: A Prayer Closet

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“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.  And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Matthew 6:6,7

This morning I had to hastily arrange a different place to pray because “someone” has a secret project going on in the shop. First I tried my bedroom…..that didn’t work, it was too open. Then I tried another place in the living room and it didn’t feel right either. E said, “Why don’t you go in your closet?” Well, my closet had become a disaster zone since all the Christmas stuff had come out of hiding. But, as I traipsed from room to room feeling kind of disoriented I pushed open the door and entertained the possibility of my bedroom closet.

First, I got a chair out of what used to be Joyce’s room at the Care Home thinking that might work. I had forgotten they had a dog at the place for a while and there were smells, lots of them  on that chair. Briggs the cat wandered in the wouldn’t leave, those smells on that chair were just too intriguing. Remove chair. Sit on floor.

It was actually kind of cozy in there. I could still hear faint outside noises which I find an agreeable backdrop…..keeps me in touch with what’s going on outside. And when I took this picture I had to smile……the baby doll on the shelf in the background reminded me of the baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Actually, it’s my very own baby blanket that my Mom wanted me to have. It’s the one they wrapped me in on the way out of the hospital. All 3 pounds of me. The doll is a Thumbelina. Those of us in the older range of middle-age will remember who she is. I just Googled her, she still comes up!

Anyway, here is the final result. It works……..

I find that any space will do as long as it provides an atmosphere of peace and quiet where you know you will not be distracted or interrupted.

I have been plagued by distraction and unease lately. I sense a big change coming in my life and my soul is not at rest, so I knew this morning it was expedient that I find a place to pour out my anxiety to the Lord. I realized that on some level I didn’t even want to pray because I didn’t necessarily want to hear what the Lord might place on my heart.

And you know what? That is the time you need prayer the most.

Run to Him friends. He will satisfy your every need and quiet every fear.

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Advent: Looking toward the Light

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“The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me],
I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1 AMP 

In the deep dark of morning I was reflecting on the events of the past week trying to fall back asleep when I realized my usual method was failing me. I couldn’t get past the first line of the 23rd Psalm. I think that was exactly what God intended.

Sometimes He doesn’t mean for us to jump ahead when He knows that all we need is right there in the first line……”With God, I have all I need.” Stop. Done. Nothing more to say.

It’s been a season of highs and lows this Advent. How do you keep looking towards the Light when circumstances threaten to snuff out the “Merry and Bright” aspects of the season we celebrate? This has been our challenge this year. On the upside, I got to help put on a wonderful party for my niece, it was her 13th, a big one. Everything and everyone worked, even the Christmas lights, both front and back.

Everyone had a great time, adults and kids alike and the highlight of the night was when one of the floats from the Christmas parade pulled up out front complete with music, animation and hundreds of tiny lights. It was arranged through my brother’s friend and it was wonderful to see everyone coming out of their houses to enjoy it.

The downside was that Elaine’s Mom took a turn for the worse before I left and passed away the week I was away. You can never prepare for that. Death might be swallowed up in victory in Christ, but when it comes to call, we are reminded all over again how wrong it is, how unnatural. How it was never meant to be. My heart hurt for her from miles away and I could do nothing but pray.

Then, as we were all recovering from the Birthday party, my Mom fell outside of CVS Pharmacy. I wasn’t with her but thankfully a friend happened to be there, that part I know was Divine intervention. He drove her home. The following days before I left I was able to go with her to the Doctor for wound care.

And the question we ask over and over again in times like this is, what does His coming mean to us in the here and now moments of life?

The answer still lays in the Manger, and in the fields where the Shepherds were watching their flocks, it thunders from the brilliant sky which was suddenly and miraculously lit up by myriads of Angels.

Over and over again, this is the message we live out:

Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men, with whom He is pleased.” 

We hold on to the One who will never disappoint even when everyone else may, even those we love most. In any and every circumstance this life throws at us, we can have hope in the One who will never disappoint.

That is what we cling to this season and every day. By faith we hold up our heads and continue to put one foot in front of the other. It’s why every morning and every evening I flip the switch that lights up the tree and I plug in every strand of garland that hangs.

Those lights represent a hope, or rather a Who, that can never be extinguished.

Because He came and lives today, we can too.

Advent: Peace in the Chaos

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Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:30,31

December 1st is here and it arrived with everyone breathless and scurrying. This morning my heater gave out in the shop so my prayer time was shortened. I know it shouldn’t have been but I am a fair-weather pray-er and it was 50 degrees out there. My blood is thin, accustomed as it is to the sun and warmer temps. So the tree was in the living room all decked out in lights but no ornaments. Elaine has been frantically going from work to the Carehome since her Mom fell and broke her hip. There was simply no time. So this morning I drug all the boxes in and set to work. I had a deadline to meet since her brother was coming and I wanted to be available if I was needed.

At around the 4th time going through both the Easter and Christmas portions of Handel’s Messiah, it was finished, bedecked in all it’s glory. I had fun doing it. I felt pretty good considering I slept fitfully as usual and awoke at my usual time of 2:00 am. When I saw Elaine briefly later at noon she said, “Why didn’t you come in my room, we could have had coffee and talked.” Seems we were both awake at the same time.

Sometimes, Advent comes whether we are ready or not. But ready or not, it’s always a blessing.

And this road we’ve been on has been so long. Ever since her Mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s to now, it’s been about 10 years. I think of everything that has happened since and it’s staggering that Elaine’s been able to do it all and work too.

It’s late and I really need to go to bed. My brain feels like scrambled eggs. And my dear niece is turning 13 tomorrow and soon I will see her.

And it’s life and death and the cycle of it all……And He is here and if not for Him in the midst of everything, where in the world would any of us be?