The Best Gift You Can Give

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They watched from a small distance as kids and parents alike ran up with gifts…..little wrapped packages and decorative bags with fancy bows, plates of homeade cookies; all to show their appreciation for what she does for them everyday,  but mostly for who she is to them.

She’s not just the person who drives their school bus, she’s also  their friend. Oh, she makes them mind the rules of the bus, but she also makes it fun. She’s the one who will listen to what they say when it seems everyone else is too busy or doesn’t care.

She makes every ride to school an adventure, some days they’re an airplane, some days a cruise ship, some days she lets them choose. She will tell you all about the rewards and challenges of working with kids of all ages on a daily basis. Sometimes it just about wrenches her heart in two to see what hardships some of “the least of these” go through in their young lives.

He stepped forward first, the boy in the shadows. As one of several foster kids, his life has not been easy. He held up a colored string, on the end of which he had tied a tiny puff ball, the kind you might use to make a craft project. He said, “Miss Elaine, ths is all I have to give you.” It was all she could not to burst into tears right there.

Then the next two gifts, a multi-colored eraser with a slightly used corner and a little pink bouncy ball, the kind you get from the 25 cent machine in the grocery stores. She said, “My Mom says we don’t have any money.” Oh the burdens these kids carry. She hears them all on the way to and from school. Sometimes she wishes she didn’t.

Another child came and presenter her with a bag, in it were two candles. Well, turns out there were supposed to be three but he held onto the third one all day. At the end of the day, he presented her with it. It smelled like sugar cookies. He might have thought of keeping it himself and maybe his conscience made him give it up. Maybe it was his sister who caught him.

These kids teach us what we sometimes forget, that the best thing you can give is sometimes all you have. Jesus is impressed with that. Just like that day in the temple when He saw the widow drop those two lowly coins in the offering box. He looked at His disciples aghast and astounded by her faith and generousity.

Those three humble gifts that are now prominantly placed where they will never be forgotten. In the stable, by the infant King. I hope I will always remember it when I go to place my “excess” in the offering. And most importantly that I remember the most important lesson of all, that He doesn’t need or want my money, He wants my heart.

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What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Christina Rossetti

The Elusive Elf

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Usually it’s the red and green sprinkles I can no longer find on the shelves. Of course, I could buy them early when I actually see them everywhere but that would be too easy. Instead I ransack my shelves at the last-minute and usually turned up every pastel color in the universe, but nary a red or green in sight. It’s my own fault.

This year it was that pesky “Elf on the Shelf.” A few weeks before Christmas he peered at me from every shelf in every store, peeking down mischievously from the box he was nestled in. Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s, Costco, Kohl’s. And I saw him on other people’s Facebook walls. He was everywhere. Of course, I wasn’t looking for him……then.

Then, the other night, Elaine said she wished she would have got one for the kids on her bus. “Well,” I said, up for the adventure, “We’ll just pop into Walgreen’s on the way to the gym and pick one up.” No problem. We made a sweep through the store in our workout wear expecting to pick one up and dash out the door. But nary an elf did we find.

“Let’s try Wal-Mart,” she said. “Surely they couldn’t be out.”

A few sweeps through that store took a while longer. Earlier in the week she had made the mistake of mentioning it to the kids on her bus and each day since they had boarded the bus with their eyes peeled in eager anticipation of finding it. How could she disappoint them now?

The closest thing we found at Wal-Mart was a hard plastic version which was not satisfactory. At this point we were almost ready to find a knockoff version that looked similar. Or maybe a red sock with a face drawn on it. I did however, find some red and green sprinkles which I picked up and put back on the shelf. I wasn’t looking for those, after all.

By this time, going to the gym was out of the question. We were on a quest to find the Elf. Earlier that day we had been to Costco and they had the whole Elf kit, the one that came with the book and the puzzle. But we didn’t want the whole kit, we just wanted that wee little stuffed figurine. After we struck out at Wal-Mart, we decided to cast our net a bit wider and go next door to Kohl’s.

But nary an Elf could be found. He remained absent. I began to feel like he was laughing at us from the top of whatever shelf he might be hiding on. He was now known to us as the “elusive Elf not found on any shelf.” I was beginning to hear a rhyme in my head that ran like a Dr. Seuss book.

We ran here and we ran there, but so far he wasn’t anywhere. Not on the shelf not on the chair. Not anywhere.

As we drove out of the parking lot I said, “We are going to Costco aren’t we?”

“You bet.” She said.

We bought the whole kit and caboodle, the book, puzzle, game and of course the Elf himself. And I got some walnuts which I was too cheap to buy earlier in the day.

And I am happy to say it was well worth it. The first little girl on the bus shrieked as she saw him in his hiding place where he rode part of the route strapped to the top of the first aid kit. It was all great fun. Anytime you make a child happy it’s a good day.

Sometimes it really is the little things to them that mean the most. Knowing someone cares enough to have a little fun along with them makes all the difference in their world. Make a kid smile today, you’ll be glad you did.

For such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

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Merry Christmas, (and the cat’s in heat.)

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There’s a Rose in Bethlehem
With a beauty quite divine
Perfect in this world of sin
On this silent holy night

There’s a fragrance much like hope
That it sends upon the wind
Reaching out to every soul
From a lowly manger’s crib

Oh, Rose of Bethlehem
How lovely, pure, and sweet
Born to glorify the Father
Born to wear the thorns for me……..

Rose of Bethlehem, Lowell Alexander

It was a cold and foggy morning as we drove my brother’s dog Tyler to the groomers’ and I was thrilled. We don’t get much fog in Arizona and I miss it. I dashed out of the car to snap a couple of pictures as we pulled out. I thought of these song lyrics as I saw this rosebud bravely clinging to life in the cold damp air. All along the drive, they were in various stages of bloom. Kind of like us. When all seems hopeless, faith dares us to dream. We press on when despair threatens to press in and overtake us like the fog that surrounded us that day. But there’s a thing about fog that I love. It only allows us to see what’s right in front of us, and that’s more than enough.

Everything in the background ceases to exist and for a moment, ceases to matter. Kind of like when we keep our eyes focused on Jesus. We know the problems are still there, but they are only ghostly shapes off in the distance. When He comes into focus, fears fade away and all we see is the beauty of His light. He says, “Look into my eyes, my child and tell me if you need to fear any of this…….I am here, and I have promised to never leave you.”

It was a good trip back home. It was productive and I was happy to be able to help out, giving my Mom a temporary break as “chief cook and bottle washer” in the kitchen and also helping my Dad out in the yard. There were the daily after school trips to “In and Out” burger with my niece, (fries and a vanilla shake). On one such trip, a conversation ensued that prompted my Mom to tell Dad that “she could still divorce him at 85.” He laughed.

As I unpacked I noticed a sticker I brought home from there. It was clinging to the sleeve where Lauryn put it, laughing. She loves to put them on everyone else but doesn’t want any on herself. I didn’t have the heart to take it off.

My first night there, my brother had arranged a Birthday surprise for Lauryn. One of the biggest floats at the Festival of Lights parade was to stop in front of the house. At first, she wanted no part of it, characteristic of autism. They want to know the plan in advance, way in advance. We practically stood on our heads to get her to understand it wasn’t a whole parade, just one float.

By the time it came in all its glory, she was on the brink of meltdown mode, but that dispelled as soon as she saw it. It was like Disneyland on a semi; music playing and lights ablaze, I think we all turned into little kids. When she came outside, her eyes lit up and she jumped up and down in excitement, waving and saying, “Thank you, thank you!!!” It was priceless.

There were several trips to Wal-Mart and many more to the local S-Mart where my Mom knows all the checkers, and general discussions about the new Super Wal-Mart, which my Mom and Aunt both stated they will “not set foot in” because they are “just too big.” There was a Christmas concert at the church, which was outstanding. (Thank you Diane for picking us up, you are a blessing to our family.)

One night, driving around looking at lights my Mom and I got swept up in the Zion Reformed parking lot light tour display where they gave us an accompanying CD and handed out homemade cookies and hot chocolate complete with live nativity with a real donkey and the actual meaning of the 12 days of Christmas. As we drove around we noticed someone had placed a lighted wreath in each window of the parsonage. There was a soft glow coming through the stained glass windows and the church bells were tolling. It was impressive.

At the end, we got a lawn sign which said, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” If anyone had a doubt about the meaning of Christmas when they started the tour, it was left in a crumpled heap in the parking lot.

I spoiled all the animals too, as always. They ate well, just as mine do. Anytime they want. At some point during the trip we noticed that my namesake, Nori the cat, was acting more boisterous than normal. At one point she jumped on Mima’s back. (Queen Mother cat of the household). At around day 5 she had worked herself into a fever pitch, making everyone else in the household crazy. Turns out she was in heat. Or was. She had an appointment today to fix that problem for good.

As always, it was hard to leave, but also good to come home. Right now, every Christmas light in the house is on. Every tree, every wreath, every swag of garland, and with every flip of the switch, I am reminded of the Hope that entered the world via the manger. Of a God that looked down to see a hurting world and did something about it.

The Rose of Bethlehem still blooms in our hearts and our lives through Jesus, the Light of the world. Through Him, we can face tomorrow with hope.

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Resting in the Unrest

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 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
 I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13:1-6

I have been trying to write this post for a week now but time has been scarce. For some reason, it seems to march on even faster once December comes. We seek the quiet moments and they seem few and far between, and sometimes you just have to insist on them. This morning I fired up my heater in the shop and lit my little tree and I reveled in that magic moment when dawn just begins to color the earth. I thanked God for the knowledge that He hears me from His place of unapproachable light. He longs to hear our words, friends. As the candle flickered in the lantern on top of the roll around tool box, I keenly felt His presence.

Then I thought, celebrating Christmas really does set the tone for the rest of the year. And it’s not the gifts or the rushing around. It’s certainly not the road rage. It’s those unexpected moments that drop down when we least expect it. It’s your eyes welling up with tears when you listened to a Christmas song for the umpteenth time but this time you really felt it.

It’s going to a High School play watching kids act out “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s seeing that one kid beam with joy when he sees you there, knowing you’d come because you gave your word. How grateful I am to have a best friend who keeps promises to kids. It was well worth skipping the gym to go along because I ended up blessed. God loves to break us out of our little routines sometimes in order to give us something better.

Christmas is looking for those moments, having the faith that God will show up when He’s meant to. Even when things seem bleak and uncertain. For the world is just about as chaotic as it’s ever been, and I don’t think anyone would argue with that. The world needs Jesus now just as much as the first time He came. I think of the heartache and suffering just in my own little circle of friends and family.

Elaine’s Mom stands in the bathroom of the Alzheimer’s care-home and asks where the bathroom is and she asks, how long Lord?

Another friend had a bad fall. She’s been the caretaker of her husband for many years and now she is laid up. She asks how long, Lord? I could go on and on, but I won’t. I know you probably ask the same question. Feel the Psalmists words, they just might echo your own…..

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalms 13:1,2

But look at how he ends the Psalm…….read the verse at the top again. That’s the answer my friends. That’s the victory and hope that we have as believers. We know that He will indeed show up, as He has every time in the past. Hope is the brilliant backdrop of our lives. When we look back at all our times of deliverance, our hearts overflow with gratitude, even in the midst of tears.

At Christmas, we wait in expectation for God to show up among the living, breathing hours of our days. And remembering that He already did, and continues to show up day after day. Year after year. Look for those moments, my friends. Collect them like snowflakes on your sleeve, each one is different, each one is a miracle.

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What’s it like up there?

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Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5

What’s it like up there God? Down here as we are so affixed to the earth, held here trapped by gravity and time. This morning as I sat listening to the heater in the shop tick amidst the backdrop of freeway traffic I found my thoughts drifting toward Heaven. So much of this world seems dirty and rude and noisy, marred by the effects of sin and yet………parts just take my breath away. Those are the things that still hold a glimmer of what it must have been like when all things were new. The Bible says set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. So sometimes in my quiet moments like this morning, that’s what I do.

My mind wandered out beyond the borders of this earth, into the blackness of deep space. I looked back at the earth, aware of what I am leaving and it fills me with sadness, and yet something propels me forward. The excitement of what I am about to see. I am stunned by the brightness of the stars. Faster and faster I go, leaving the press of time behind. I see a distant light which is brighter than anything I have ever seen before but only because I finally have the eyes to see it.

It’s a place I recognize as home. I have glimpsed its borders sometimes between sleeping and waking. It’s a place unlike Narnia where it’s always winter but never Christmas. In this place it’s always Christmas and when it does snow, it’s like diamonds that settle on the green leaves yet it’s never ever cold.

All I want to do is stay here forever.

I see Jesus at the right hand of the Father who is impossible light. I am aware that I have never seen colors like this, never even knew they existed. I was lost but now am found.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory. At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

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They met with Herod, they worshipped Jesus

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On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11

The three wise men met with Herod, but they worshipped Jesus when they finally saw Him. You meet with dignitaries, you meet with the President, the Queen……your boss. You worship the Lord when you recognize Him for who He is. And when the wise men saw  Him they knew.

They knew what they saw was truth, was real…….was worthy of worship.

Jesus birth was heralded with signs in the Heavens, a choir of angels, and stunned Shepherds………and if you think that was spectacular, just wait until He comes back.

I realize the birth of Christ does not fall on December 25th, and I know that some of the things we do to celebrate His birth are mixed in with other things that may not have anything to do with Jesus.

But God has called it all good, and when we worship with right heart motive God smiles.

And I am not stopping with Christmas, I plan to continue all year long.

I used to be really let down when Christmas was over, but I have learned to enjoy the quiet time right after the rush is through. To sit down and reflect on everything that just happened and to prayerfully contemplate on whatever God has for me in the New Year.

So tonight, I plan to calm down a little and light up every string in the house and sit by the tree……maybe drive around and view some lights.

To savor every moment.

The Lord has come……let earth receive her King again and again.

images from: http://www.freebibleimages.org some rights reserved

Christmas adds burden, Christ relieves them

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It’s as I am taking her clothes out of the dryer that it hits me. How sad it still is.

It’s been a year since Elaine‘s Mom went into Assisted Living. She still comes to visit through her clothes which I lift out of the dryer one after another along with my thoughts. I see her name, Joyce, printed on the inside of the neckline. That’s what you do once you go there. Things sometimes get lost. Clothes get mixed up like the identities, the individuals that reside there.

Will there be a time when I have my name written on my clothes? That’s a tough question that I would rather not answer.

I hope Jesus comes first.

Her Granddaughter offered to decorate her room for Christmas and she said, “I don’t believe in Christmas.” The Granddaughter recoiled……both shocked and saddened. E. was not surprised. The question remains: When do you stop trying to bring color into someone’s world when gray is where they are most comfortable? Celebrations and decorations make her ill at ease, she asks things like, “Who put those there?”

But bringing color is what we try to do because we think it will help.

Yet sometimes the best kind of helping means we meet them in their world, where they live.

I have just been writing a memory for my Dad and it makes me feel like the keeper of the flame, because keeping those memories alive for another is to stand in a place of honor. The thought flows through my mind like a ghost……..how would it be to have your memory wiped clean? No memory of last year, or even 10 minutes before?

As I lift the clothes out, I remember how hard it was when she was here. So hard. And she is happier there. Her version of happy anyway. So E. continues to meet her in her world. She brings her Snickers because she likes those more than anything. She does what needs doing and she brings hope to the nurses and residents there.

You might think there is not much hope residing there, but hope sometimes comes when and where you least expect it. As E. stopped to talk to the lady who knits, she noticed lots of hats. The lady said, “I am knitting these for the kids…..the kids who have cancer. Is there any way you could see that they get there? To the sick children?”

E. said, her mind racing about when but knowing somehow she would find a way. “Yes, I will make sure they get there. And I will see if I can get a picture to bring back.”

Her face lit up. She is one who wants to bring color to others. Even though she can’t take them herself. Even there she carries hope.

Today, as I rush around and feel the stress of Christmas I remember that though Christmas and all that comes with the celebration of it might carry a weight, it’s only one I put on myself. For Christ never adds a burden, He only relieves it.

I suddenly remember why it is I am doing all this. I turn off the Christmas songs and turn up the praise songs. And I kneel on the dirty floor I still haven’t cleaned. And suddenly I am very happy I am making these cookies. I watch as they puff up in the oven. The stars, the angels, the bells, and the boot. I think of how Lauryn and I will decorate them when I see her. I smile.

I may or may not get to the floor. But somehow it no longer matters.

Born to give us second birth

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Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

I wrestle with my flesh on many occasions throughout the day…….when I work it’s usually during my commute. From the time we’re born, we enter this battle, this war. The body wants to sit on the couch and not trudge down to the treadmill, or it’s too cold to walk. I can usually think up one excuse after another. The spirit wants to fill itself up with everything under the sun, except for what God wants.

He knew we could never fulfill His perfect requirements of Holiness. But there is One who could. And did.

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:1-8

Many people are rushing out to buy lottery tickets right now. I can’t say I blame them. I am tempted to myself. Despite the fact that the Bible says not to chase after riches, something in me thinks that my life would be much better and less stressful if I could pay everything off and do the same for my family. To be able to leave the stress of my job far behind. But the truth is, what I value most in my life is something money can’t ever buy.

I already have the best gift……the only gift that matters in this life, because that gift has bought me eternal life with Him in the next. While this life is passing away like a vapor, that life stretches ahead further than my eye can see.

What more could I possibly want than what God has already given me? Nothing.

I am rich beyond counting, beyond measuring. Because He was born for my sacrifice. Yours, mine……ours. He is my riches. My only desire. It’s why He was born. It’s what I celebrate each and every day.

Long after Christmas is all packed away.

 

 

 

Holding out Hope for Christmas

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I never really understood it until I heard it explained out loud. As I heard them struggling to articulate it, that feeling of wanting to escape every Christmas, something about the way they explained it made sense. It clicked into place for me and I suddenly understood.

I realized that all my life, I hadn’t been sensitive enough to that. I remembered how each year my Dad would say that all he ever wanted to do at Christmas is go up to a quiet little cabin in the snow and decorate a little Christmas tree with pinecones and little red balls and nothing else. We all kind of made fun of him for that. It’s not what we wanted.

That little cabin held out hope for him. It was a way of wishing away all the bad Christmases he had as a child.The ones that always started out pretty good,until the drinking started. After that it turned into a screaming match between his parents. It was slamming doors and chaos and throwing things. And always, someone walking out the door. Hope dashed.

To far too many people, Christmas is a time that evokes very powerful emotions and feelings that they don’t want to bring back. And to be honest, even though I only have happy memories of Christmas, sometimes I want to cower in a corner at the madness it’s become.

It’s like the other day I set out to get gas and a few other items I had on my list. I went all the way to the service station and it was crazy. People were parked every direction and it was packed. And maybe it’s because this year I have made a concerted effort to be calm and slow down to not join in.

Something in me switched off and I just couldn’t do it.

I took a deep breath, turned the car around and headed back to my quiet corner of the world. I went to my little car wash and took my time drying off the car, chatting with the gentleman next to me. Then I took a little scenic drive and on the way home I got gas. My spirit lifted and my heartbeat slowed. I felt myself relax.

I set up the manger scene, and then I went inside to get a few things online. I thought about all the rushing around that was taking place at that very minute. Out in the world.

It was into this chaotic world of dysfunction that Jesus was born. And His earthly parents didn’t have it easy either. Joseph had his perfectly ordered world turned upside down when Mary presented him with the news that she was pregnant. And Mary……she couldn’t hide her condition. I am sure everywhere she went, there were whispers of scandal.

And then she had to have her baby far away from her Mom and sisters, cousins and friends. In a cold stable.

But I think that is precisely why Christmas can hold so much hope for all of us.

I guess you could say that Mary and Joseph’s situation is ours too, for it’s in the middle of all that dysfunction and misery that God shows up. The light of Christ shines all that brighter amidst the backdrop of hopelessness.

That’s the great hope I hold out today. And I want you to know…….

If you are grieving this year, or desperately craving peace. If you are trying to bury pain or battling loneliness, either by yourself or in a crowd. If you are trying to outrun old memories that never seem to go away. If tears are falling. If you are spinning plates in the air trying to get things done, things you will forget about by New Year’s?

Just trust me on this.

Jesus is your answer. Always. He is our hope. Our Christmas.

Mine looked a bit different this year. The lights didn’t go up, but the manger scene did. The house is decorated to the hilt and I enjoyed every minute of it. I got to help some people out who needed it and went to hear the Phoenix Symphony perform Handel’s Messiah. We went to a wonderful High School Christmas play because one of E’s kids asked if she’d be there. What a blessing it was to see those kids perform.

I have slowed down and enjoyed every minute.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

Recalculating……..

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He whispered, “Remember the miracle.” And just then, I did.

Sometimes, well, all the time, God has to remind me to slow down. My mind leaps ahead to places He never intended it to go and jumps way too far ahead of everything else. I have to recalculate. It’s like when your GPS tells you to go a certain way, but you don’t want to go that way, so you go a different direction and then that voice: “Recalculating, recalculating, recalculating……..” Until it decides, “Hey I guess they really are going to go that way.”

This especially happens to me as it gets closer to Christmas, sometime around the 11th of December. I realize I haven’t checked nearly enough off that list I have in my head. And suddenly, my mind has veered off the path and careening wildly down a slippery slope. Someone somewhere hit a panic button and I find myself in stressful, chaotic, turbulent mode instead of where I was a week ago in quiet, calm, advent reflective mode.

So today, I am recalculating.

I will seek first the Kingdom. I will remember what He whispered about the miracle. Because we tend to forget so quickly.

Thank you, Lord for slowing me down again. Join me in pause mode, here.

I am getting small today again folks.

Take a moment to pray and thank Him for everything He is and everything He has done in your life……just yesterday.

“For a long time I have kept silent,
I have been quiet and held myself back.
But now, like a woman in childbirth,
I cry out, I gasp and pant.
I will lay waste the mountains and hills
and dry up all their vegetation;
I will turn rivers into islands
and dry up the pools.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.

But those who trust in idols: (my words in bold)

(money, possessions, tasks, perfectionism, electronic gadgets, knowledge, power, education, self-reliance)
who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’
will be turned back in utter shame.

Isaiah 42: 14-17

Image from creative commons images, some rights reserved by Gabrielle Ludlow