AWAY… FROM ALL HEAVEN’S GLORY

IN A MANGERIMG_5536

Israel is a land of few trees and plentiful rocks. Stables were usually in caves or under rock ledges and the mangers were of stone like the picture of the replica above.  The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem covers an ancient cave stall. The mangers were found wherever animals were kept or fed.

The following poem is one I wrote for my Christmas card this year.

Have a blessed Christmas!

In a Manger

My creator and Lord in a manger,

So I’d no longer be a stranger.

He leashed His infinite power,

From the sacrifice, He didn’t cower.

Because He loves me.

He really loves ME!

The King of Glory

Came to rewrite my story.

He redeemed His creation

Made me part of His holy nation. 

I owe Him my all!

How will I answer His call?

ANGELS Rejoice

1[1]Angels Rejoice

Angels from the realms of glory, Wing your flight o’er all the earth, Ye who sang creation’s story, Now proclaim Messiah’s birth: Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the new-born king. shepherds in the field abiding, Watching o’er your flocks by night, God with man is now residing, Yonder shines the Infant Light.

“I love you! I love you!” the angels chorus rings out. I’ve come to you.  I am here. Come and worship. The kingdom of our God has come to the earth. See how much I love you. I gave up all of heaven and all the power to come to you. To rescue you.

Close  your eyes for a minute and imagine the scene. You’re just a shepherd. Nobody is much lower on the social scale. You’re huddling around the campfire trying to stay warm and awake to keep predators away from the sheep. Suddenly, there’s bright daylight all around, and you’re jerked awake. You blink and look at the other shepherds. They’re as confused as you. You look at the bright light, but it isn’t just a light. There are so many angels in the light and you hear them singing. Then the most magnificent being you’ve ever seen emerges from the group and you’re the most afraid that you’ve ever been. The angel speaks and says, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good tidings that will cause great joy for all people…A savior is born to you today in Bethlehem. He is the Messiah.” After he tells you how to find the baby, the great multitude of heavenly host begins praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” The music is like nothing you’ve ever heard. It’s sweeter and clearer and it sends prickles down your spine. 

Can you hear the chorus today? Are you rejoicing that He loves you so much. The King of Glory accepted all the restrictions of a baby’s body and life, just for you. Just so you could spend eternity with Him. Think about it and join the angels in their rejoicing. Taken from Luke 2:8-14

Life is in the Blood

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1 John 4:9 This is how God showed His love among us. He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.

There was a story on the internet about a doctor who was treating an eight year old twin. She needed a blood transfusion, but the hospital couldn’t find any of her type. The situation was desperate, so the doctor asked her twin brother if he would donate his blood. He thought for a minute and then nodded his head. He got up, solemnly hugged each of his parents, told them goodbye, and walked out with the doctor. The doctor didn’t realize anything was amiss until after the blood was drawn and the little boy asked, “When will I die?” He thought he was sacrificing his life for his sister. This is love at its highest.

God’s love is sacrificial. The whole Christmas story is about sacrifice. Jesus loves me enough to give up all the majesty and glory of heaven to come into this world to die for me. He loves me! He loves ME! He really, really loves me!  It’s a thought I have a hard time comprehending because…

I MIGHT, under just the right circumstances, give up my life for someone else, but I can’t imagine ever deciding to give up my child or grandchild’s life for someone else. Yet that’s exactly what our heavenly Father did. He. Loves. Me. He loves me THAT much! Can you even begin to wrap your mind around a love so strong? Amazing isn’t a strong enough word for it. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1:4 

Love that strong is the most awesome thing I’ve ever known! While I wanted nothing to do with Him, He still sent His Son specifically to die for me. He who did not spare his own Son…Romans 8:32

  This Christmas season, meditate on how your life would be different if the Father hadn’t loved you enough to send Jesus to save you. This will be more real if you’ll journal some of your thoughts.

 

Saplings and Stethoscopes

Saplings and Stethoscopes 

It’s a natural human inclination to take the small parts of our lives for granted. It’s something I’ve been working on because one key to peace is experiencing those small moments. For example, when our oldest child was about four years old, my husband was just starting his own veterinary clinic. Because he worked 80-90 hours a week, he got home after the kids were in bed and left before they got up. To make up for some of this, he sometimes took one of them on a large animal call if he knew the farmer and the situation would be safer than usual (large animal work is never safe). 

On this day, he took the oldest, nicknamed Seabie, on a call. Catching the cow distracted the adults for a while. When they remembered Seabie, he had rummaged through the black bag that carried all my husband’s medicine and small instruments. Seabie found the stethoscope and had the ear pieces inserted in his ears and the other end pressed against the trunk of a sapling. 

The farmer asked him what he was doing.

Seabie replied, “Listening.”

“What do you hear?”

Seabie replied in a serious deadpan imitation of his father, “Well, the trunk is OK, but the leaves are a little bit shaky.”

Those were hard years and many times, the lighter side blessings were ignored. Small stories like this add warmth and texture to our days and illustrate how the small things make them fun and worth living. If I had paid more attention to these kinds of moments and less to the hard parts, those days would have been much better. Too many times, I ignored things like this and forgot to give thanks. 

I would like to challenge you to do life differently for the rest of this Thanksgiving season; don’t miss the small things during your days. In a small notebook you keep with you, or on your phone, record some keywords to help you remember the incidents as they happen. Any blessing from something a child said or did, a dream, an almost accident that didn’t happen at the last second, beautiful leaves that inspire awe, etc. should be recorded. 

At night, write the full incident in your journal or a thanksgiving file on your computer. In years to come, they will be a true treasure house of all the blessings the Lord has sent your way and a reminder of how good God is to you in all the seasons of your life. 

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Multiplying Meat

Multiplying Meat

Do not be anxious about anything, but in EVERY situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:23 

Prayer and thanksgiving are necessary for a joyful Christian life. Being able to come into the presence of the awesome creator of the universe is an astounding privilege. Let me give you an example.

I was on the planning committee for a meeting and volunteered to oversee the buffet table. Part of the job was to pick up the food from the caterer an hour before the event. When we arrived, the restaurant couldn’t find any record of our order. Just before we both panicked, they located it, but it was another 10 minutes before the order came out. The kitchen sent out an invoice and not a bill with the order, so the lady at the cash register had to find a manager to figure the bill. When we finally made it to the car and back to the venue, it was ten minutes before the event. As we were hurriedly setting out the food, the chairman frowned and asked for the bill. We were short one of two trays of meat. It was time to serve and too late to call the restaurant and try to get it straightened out. Some committee members and I prayed silently for the meat to be sufficient.

The event started on time, but as the line formed and people kept coming in, I started to get uneasy, so I continued to pray. As I worked, I couldn’t help noticing how much everyone was putting on their plates. They put a LOT of food, especially meat, on their plates, so I renewed my prayers. About half way through the line, I started to notice the tray didn’t seem to be emptying as fast as I thought it should considering the number of people and the size of their servings! This bolstered my faith enough that I began praying with more consistency for the Lord to multiply the meat still on the tray. It was going down, but just not enough for what I saw being taken away. When all the guests had been through the line, there was enough for the committee members who hadn’t eaten yet to have a serving. At the end, there was no meat left, but neither did anyone go without even though we had half the meat recommended per person. 

I believe the Lord made that meat last. I watched too closely the amount taken as opposed to the amount there to believe anything else. I think the reason we don’t see more things like this, is we don’t stretch and exercise our “Prayer muscles”. We just don’t believe the Lord is interested in the more mundane areas of our lives.  Let’s resolve this Thanksgiving season to involve God in all areas of our lives, not just when it of critical personal importance or for a loved one. Praying at all times for all things demonstrates your gratitude for the gift of prayer. 

Also, remember that using what we’ve been given is the ultimate “thank-you” to the giver.

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Persistence

Following Jesus Requires Persistence

Herbs still have a special place in my gardener’s heart. I love to grow them both for their medicinal qualities and their taste in teas. 

One of my favorite activities is growing perennial herbs. The thing I like best about these herbs is no matter how many times I cut them back, they just keep sprouting again and producing lush leaves for another cutting. My current favorite is lemon balm. Here in north Georgia, it is so persistent I can make 4 or 5 cuttings every summer. When it first starts to put on side shoots for flowers, I cut the plants back to the ground and dry the leaves for tea. New growth appears in a few weeks, and a few weeks after that, it’s harvest time again. 

This is a lot like our lives. The Lord seems to give us a new idea and we try our best to bring it to reality, but so often when it looks like we’ll finally get it to work and bear fruit, something happens to end that cycle. We feel like we’ve been cut off at the root and wonder if we really were following the Lord, or if we misunderstood His will. Do we have as much perseverance as lemon balm when we know we are following Jesus? The lemon balm is so tough it can grow under trees, survive droughts, and has few pests that bother it. Mine has persevered and kept on producing in spite of every adversity it’s met. Are we that determined when we are following Jesus?

The Bible says in Ephesians 6:18, “…Be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” 

We are to pray and not give up: follow close to know His will. James 1:4 says, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” That’s our goal: to keep praying, following, and persevering until God does his work in us and we are complete, lacking nothing and ready to bear fruit. Never give up. Keep following Jesus.

It’s our choice whether we keep looking for new ways the Holy Spirit is bringing fruitful growth to our lives, or if we give up and quit following. What is your choice going to be?

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Following Jesus

Fear of following even a trusted leader into uncharted territory is universal among animals, even ducklings. A video on the internet showed a mother duck and her large clutch of unfledged ducklings. The mother duck waddled to the middle of an arched bridge and jumped into a pond. She quacked for her ducklings. Nothing happened. She called again and one brave duckling jumped off with his tiny, unfeathered wings barely able to slow his fall. He landed with a plop and swam to his mother. Soon the other ducklings plunged off in twos and threes until only the most timid duckling was left on the bridge. It ran from one end of the bridge to the other without finding a place to jump. The mother kept calling until the duckling jumped.

 Following Jesus is no easy matter, either, even if calling oneself a “Christ Follower” is becoming the new way to say, “I’m a Christian.” Fear of the unknown can be very real and even paralyzing when we start giving up control of our lives to simply follow where Jesus leads. However, this kind of deliberately giving up control is necessary to find the peace and comfort God promises us. Exactly what does it look like to follow this way? I’d like to propose that it can look like many different things. 

All the ducklings obeyed in different ways. Obedience means trusting the Lord and doing what He says even when it looks like you’re jumping into a void. If you know you’re in God’s will, it means staying the course even when everything goes wrong and the results look disastrous. We’re born with different levels of boldness, but if we’re following Jesus, God expects us to step out on faith when He calls. 

To obey is better than sacrifice. 1 Samuel 15:22 

What kind of “duckling” are you? Are you one of the brave few who step off the bridge at the Holy Spirit’s first call, the majority who need a partner for courage even after the step is proven safe, or the recalcitrant one who only steps off when all other avenues have been exhausted? Resolve today to have a daring faith when the Lord calls you to leave your comfort zone. Follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21b

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Story of the Lily

At an adult education class, I found lilies are hard for me to draw. I erased many wrong lines and flipped to several new pages for a fresh start before I was satisfied. However, the next week the teacher handed us one sheet of black paper and a white pencil. It was our only piece of paper and the white marks wouldn’t erase. Once I made a line, it was permanent. This was a much harder project. For me, it was almost impossible. It’s too much like life where our words and actions are permanent. 

Along with everyone else, I proceeded with much more care than the week before. However, it didn’t take long before there were lines on the page I didn’t want where I drew them. There was no remedy. I just had to keep trying, make adjustments, or try to hide them with more lines. It was a frustrating and harrowing morning, but I ended with a finished drawing. I wasn’t proud of it, but I took the mess home and filed it away hoping to never see it again.

Later, during a quiet time, the Lord had me studying lilies in Matthew 6:28 and I wrote a poem about them. When it was complete, I remembered the picture I’d drawn on the white paper, so I searched for it and used it to illustrat the poem. I also found the less perfect lily on the black paper. It fascinated me. It wasn’t good, but neither was it the disaster I remembered. God’s still small voice said, “That’s how your life is. When I saved you, it was black and dark, but I’ve worked to make it into a thing of beauty. It isn’t there yet, but look how far it’s come.” I now use this drawing as a reminder He’s still working on me. Since I stepped back and stopped trying to grow by my own efforts, my progress has been much faster. It’s only when I forget and try to help that progress slows.

I framed the black picture. It sits on my desk to remind me every day how far the Lord has brought me and how far I have left to go. It is both encouragement and inducement. That’s why I’ve made it the symbol for this web page and blog. We’re all emerging from the darkness and into the light. If our interaction on this site can speed our cooperation with Him, our progress toward the beauty coming from being more like Him, then it will fulfill its purpose.

I hope to post a blog every week. There will be a place for interaction. I don’t have all the answers by any means, but maybe together, we can help each other grow more into the light of God’s peace and rest. Follow this blog so we can help each other grow into the beauty of His peace and rest and build beauty from our ashes.