Sunday, December 29, 2013

Let us resolve...

                  Forgiveness is the fragrance of an iris upon the heel that crushed it.                
                                                                                                Mark Twain

The countdown to a new year has begun, and it offers an opportunity to reflect on the year that is soon a part of our past.  It was a year of celebrations for me, for the most part.  I decided to use four questions for reflection, and perhaps these will be useful to you as well.

         Have I submitted?

         I started the year with an ongoing struggle to find a church home.  It has not been an easy journey.  For years I found worship to be meaningful and relevant in the Protestant community, but life got in the way, and I wandered to the Catholic church.  There were many things I learned in that setting, but at the end of the day, there were too many conflicts within myself that I could not reconcile, and I returned to a nondenominational church in my neighborhood.  I have found a church home that gives me just enough "uncomfortability" to know and understand that God can continue to mold me and shape me into the believer He wants me to be, yet a firm foundation in beliefs that are assuredly in agreement with who He is.  It has required me to submit to His authority, rather than using my own GPS, but this waystation of the cross is where I belong.

       Have I emptied myself?

       Learning to live in my own skin has not been easy for me.  I squirm and balk at being told what to do, how to do it, when, and why.  Yet I think God's encouragement to me has been to trust Him, and I have not had to try so hard to do that.  I think that's what happens when you learn that He is who He says He is.  I seek His will often, not always, and must empty my own longings and urges in order to be filled with His longings and plans for me.  He has filled my life to overflowing, and I am grateful.

      Have I prayed?

      An attitude of gratitude is hard to sustain when life gets in the way, when sin gets in the way, when I get in the way, but with each day, I have a brand new chance to get it right.  Praying puts me in the right posture, the right frame of mind, to see and seek His face.  Spending time in His word does that as well. Sometimes my prayers are pretty sloppy one-word tomes, but I know that He listens and cares nonetheless.  I love to listen to my grandchildren pray, and they have taught me a lot in their simple conversations with our Saviour.  They have an unshakeable understanding that when they pray, they are actually talking to God, and I get humbled every time they say, "Amen."  Oh that my faith would stay simple, child-like, unspoiled, unfettered.

     Have I served?

     I seek those opportunities...not wanting to be useless, irrelevant, archaic.  I know that I miss and dismiss many moments when I could point someone to who He is instead of who I am...I am working on that.

    So 2014 is nearly upon us...and so is the opportunity to forgive.  What I love about Mark Twain's quote is the fact that it makes clear that forgiveness frees us from unspeakable burdens.  The scent of the iris, when stepped on, remains on the heel of the one who misstepped.  It gives me hope...that those whom I have hurt can forgive me, and that forgiveness will free us from carrying that grief into a new year. My prayer for each of you whom I love...

   Dear Father,  We look to you and thank you with full hearts, for You are the one who rules, sovereign and supreme.  May we look to you for light and find a clear path.  May we look to you for shelter, and find protection in your word.  May we look to you for provision, confident that our every need will be met according to your will.  May we look to you for wisdom, as the world is so full of shadows and your truth is obscured.  May we pray for and with each other, and on behalf of those who are helpless and forlorn.  May we keep our minds, hearts, and every sense focused on you,  mindful of your extravagant grace.  Amen.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The First Noel

Parking lots are filled to overflowing…
Noisy shoppers hustle lines to jockey for position…
Misshapen cookies are baked, sprinkled, devoured…
It is Christmas.

Carols on the radio remind me of the first Noel…

My random ponderings make me wonder what a Noel is…

I can not find a meaning for the word Noel in the dictionary.  I mean, I know we think of Noel as synonymous with Christmas, but its’ Latin roots say the word actually means birthday. It was a French surname long before it became associated with Christmas day.  That’s fine with me…it just makes me think of that city, that manger, that mother, that child.

Mary and Joseph were on a mission…get to Bethlehem in time.  I think of the terrain of the Middle East, and realize it could not have been an easy journey.  Painful, back-breaking steps for a mother in the final days of pregnancy, perhaps even early labor.

Turned away from comfort at the inn, offered merely the same protection given to livestock in a rustic desert dwelling.

Sometime in mid December...December 25th has become the declared date but scholars persist in debating the exact day, hour, moment...when a sovereign, omnipotent God brought a helpless babe into the world, our world. 

Jesus was born to a mother whom he desperately needed.  She birthed her Immanuel, nurtured him, fed him, cared for him.  He needed her.  This is the first time I’ve thought of Jesus as being needy.  Mary and her husband, Joseph, charged with meeting all of the needs of the Prince of Peace,  King of Kings, Lord of Lords.  That’s kind of overwhelming to me.  The world, you and me, Mary and Joseph…we were given this gift in the form of a helpless infant.    

The story of Jesus’s birth awakens every sense in me…I can picture the stable, and a weary couple trying to find a place to rest.  I can smell the wet straw, the animal sweat, the earthy scent of a stable floor.  I can hear the silence of the night, a canopy of stars shining overhead, soundless and bright.  I can taste the salt of Mary’s tears as she must have wept, in worry and then in painful gratitude as Jesus was born.  And I can hold Him…I can imagine the feel of Jesus, wrapped in rough cloth and pressed tight against my chest, resting in my arms.  Any mother who has known childbirth knows what it is like to hold an infant seconds after birth.  Nothing matches a mother's love. And is a babe who will one day surrender His life for his mother, for my mother, for your mother, for me...

How precious is that scene to me…that first Christmas, the first Noel.

The baby who needed his mother will become the Saviour of the world.  

But for now, let us be still.  Let us imagine the manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laying down his sweet head.  Let us wonder about the stars in the sky as they looked down where he lay...let us behold the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.  

Let us hold Him, let us love Him...

Oh come, let us adore Him.