Clocks, Calendars and The Christmas Story

Have you ever sat for a moment and considered what it means for God, a divine being existing outside of time, to constrain His will to within a manmade calendar?

What it means for that same God, to whom a day is a thousand years and a thousand years a day, to use humans, who get irritated when it takes more than 30 seconds to download an App?

We believe God is sovereign. That means we believe he has supreme or ultimate power. Jeremiah says in chapter 32 verse 17:

“Ah Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

And this is what he says of himself in verse 27:

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind.  Is anything too hard for me?”

The sovereign author of all life. The sovereign orchestrator of THE grand plan that is the beginning of the universe until this moment.

He used a young virgin girl, of a specific ethnic origin, living in an occupied country. He used a simple, devout carpenter living and working in a specific village at an exact moment in history. He used the child of 2 octogenarians to prepare the way. He used a power hungry and insecure king. I can go on…

He uses me.

He uses you.

BUT what does it mean for us?

I would suggest that I t means the same thing for us that it meant for them.

It means surprise, and fear and jammed up dreams.

It means hope deferred and then realized.

It means interference and sacrifice and dismay.

It means gratitude and submission.

It means moments of overwhelming wonder and intense joy.

And, it means A LOT of waiting.

We throw around phrases like “He’s never early, He’s never late, He’s always on time” and “God’s got this” like we have a clue. We say we trust Him and His ways are perfect and then:

The immigration process gets confusing and takes an unexpected turn.

We realize that we are in the wrong program at college and wasting time and money.

Our spouse or child stops attending church.

We get a highly infectious illness 2 weeks before we are totravel home for the holidays.

We lose our job.

Our child gets sick and can’t go away to university like she’d planned while undergoing painful treatment.

And what do we do? We can feel and forget what we have believed to be true about God.

OR

We can feel and REMEMBER.

We remember that NO immigration officer, NO government official, NO employer, NO doctor and NO diagnosis can hold back or thwart God’s beautiful, grand, redemptive plan.

Because this eternal God who is OUTSIDE of time constrains His will to WITHIN a human calendar. And these painful ‘place holders’ in life serve the divine purpose to position us where we must be, when we must be there and with whom we must be. And His purposes are fulfilled.

This brings us back to the Christmas story. At several points in the account of the birth of Christ it is emphasized that things happened when they did, where they did and in whom they did to FULFILL the word of the Lord.

Because we know the end of the story we can sometimes minimize the pain, disillusionment and sacrifice involved in the Christmas story:

Resisting the cultural norm and remaining true to one another despite apparent betrayal seemed insane and was HARD.

Travelling to another town, when you are about to give birth, to satisfy a ridiculous government requirement was HARD.

Fleeing to a foreign country to escape a crazy king and staying there for years was scary, and inconvenient and HARD.

Giving birth at over 80’s years of age after giving up hope of ever becoming pregnant was HARD.

We imagine that our lot is somehow different.

That, somehow, everything they experienced was worth it because they were involved in bringing God close.

But then again, so are we.

So do what you have to do. Fill out the forms and send the emails and make the appointments and take the medicine and update your CV and. …Pray…and...Wait. ……and...Believe….

Because God is present, He remembers and He will fulfill His purposes in and through you and NOTHING will prevent Him from doing so.

Packing up Your Dream

Within the faith circles I’ve been raised there is, often, this implied message that if one has received a promise in scripture (Jesus heals our diseases) then if one is to do or say anything that appears to suggest that one believes the promise may not come to pass one is FAITHLESS. In some ways it paralyzed my faith. I was so concerned about appearing faithless that I would, in certain situations, often feel guilty or, worse still, give no expression to my faith at all.
An example of this occurred almost exactly one year ago. Our daughters’ temperature spiked several days after her last round of chemotherapy. It had never done that before. And all the information we had specifically stated that if it did we were to present to the Emergency Room (ER). We were all scared. And felt disoriented.

To be honest we were starting to shift into celebration mode. No more chemo. She would receive a clean bill of health. Jesus is our Healer. Then this. The specialist we called after hours told us to pack an overnight bag, as she would be admitted probably for several days. Our daughter did NOT want pack the bag as an act of faith that Jesus would heal her. I did want to pack the bag and felt utterly faithless.

I will return to this story in a moment.

Some time later I read the story of Abraham, Isaac, 2 servants, a bundle of firewood and a ram in a thicket and experienced, for lack of a better word, a revelation.
Perhaps in sharing it I will encourage some in their particular journey.

“”Abraham…take your son…whom you love….Sacrifice him … as a burnt offering on a mountain”…Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey….He said,….”Stay here with the donkey…We will worship and then we will come back to you”….. Abraham built an altar….He bound his son and laid him on the altar……the Lord called out to him….”Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son…”” ~Genesis 22:2-12

What if the greatest act of faith we can demonstrate is to pack up our promise or dream? What if the dearest thing to us seems to be requested of us? Our child? Our spouse? Our career? Our health? Our freedom?
Will we grasp that person or thing tightly to ourselves or hold it loosely? Will we trust God in the midst of a set of circumstances that seem to be the opposite of the dream or promise we hold so dear?

I’m not sure Abraham trusted that God would keep his son alive but I AM sure he trusted that God would keep His promise (to make his descendants into a nation). And so he packed ‘his bags’ so to speak. And climbed a mountain. And built the fire. And bound his son. And raised the knife.

I thought, again, of packing the bag for the hospital admission. It felt faithless. But it wasn’t. We prepared for a journey the Lord appeared to be calling us on.

Now back to the story.

They drew blood as soon as we got to the ER. They discovered supremely low infection-fighting cells  (WBC) and obvious infection (the fever) which meant a night in ER, as there was no bed for her.
No sleep.
Many tears.
They drew more blood as they prepared to admit her 9 hours after arriving at the hospital.
We prayed for a miracle.
They moved her upstairs as an inpatient.
We prayed for a miracle.
Everyone we spoke to explained that it would be days before her WBC count bounced back and during that time she would remain hospitalized.
No miracle.
We asked what would be required for her to go home that day. They said it would be impossible as her WBC count would have to rise and her fever disappear. Hours went by while we waited to be seen by the doctor. I frequently checked with the nursing station to see if the most recent blood work had come back.
No miracle.
I left the hospital without my daughter so I could nap before an evening shift.
No miracle.

Then - I heard them at the door of our home. My husband and my daughter. The blood work had come back and ‘some how’ the WBC was better than it had been in weeks. Her fever was gone. The resident could see no reason to keep her so they discharged her!
And just like that they “packed up their firewood and came back down the mountain”.

In that moment I saw that packing the overnight bag and obediently driving to the hospital was not faithless. It, in fact, provided a beautiful backdrop for a miracle of God.

Sometimes faith is hanging on – I agree.

But sometimes, sister, faith is letting go.

Would you be willing to pack up your dream?

“Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.”
~James 2:21-23

Being Brave: Part 6

This week I witnessed the rawest kind of bravery. 

So often we as women believe that if others actually discovered how fragile or confused or flawed we were they would reject us for sure. 

Sadly we come to believe this about Jesus as well which could not be further from the truth.

It is in the moment of admission that bravery shines.

When a woman whispers, through tears, all of what she fears, loaths and grapples with - there the Spirit meets a willing vessel.

Ironically, it is at the "end" of ones rope that one drops into the lap of the One who loves them first and won't ever leave or forsake them.

Being Brave: Part 5

"Unworthy"

That one word can paralyse the most practised church going woman.

The problem, I think, is that it is true. The scriptures tell me that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". 

Romans 3:23

BUT it's not exactly capitol T - True. Because of what Christ has done on the Cross I am justified and His righteousness is my righteousness. I am in right standing with God!

1 Peter 3:18

A brave woman acknowledges that apart from Christ she is nothing BUT in Christ she is more than a conqueror.

Romans 8:37

A brave woman exercises what Beth Moore calls 'audacious' faith and reaches out to Jesus again. No matter what others say, no matter what the tests report, no matter what the bank account balance is and no matter what her kids do or don't do.

Mark 5:30-34

So, in the words of Jesus, let me repeat: Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace...

Being Brave: Part 4

Who knew WAITING well would require such a thing as bravery?

Psalm 27:14 "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord"

During this Advent season I sense God fairly shouting at us women to wait well. Or at least He is asking me to.

But perhaps you are waiting for something:

A spouse's heart to soften

A child to turn back to the faith

A loved one to be healed

Direction in a major life decision

Financial provision for something

Work

A chance to stop working

Where in ministry God would have you

The list is endless but the call is the same. WAIT WELL

May I challenge you to take advantage of the Advent season this year. Educate yourself as to what each week signifies and spend specific moments contemplating what it would have been like to wait 4000 years for a Messiah. To wait to give birth to Immanuel (God with us). 

God IS at work behind the scenes in your life. Trust Him. Wait well.

Psalm 27:14 "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord"

Being Brave: Part 3

The Kick Off Breakfast has come and gone and it was wonderful. It was warm and welcoming and effectively launched the "new" year at Woodvale WM.

After the talk I had many, many women come to me and say things like, "I was number 1 or 2 or 3.." or "When you got to the 6th medal I just about lost it". I knew God had a message for the ladies and I'm glad it was received well.

I thought I would post a summary of the 'Medals of Bravery" I awarded this morning:

Medal 1  Purposeful Bravery [1Samuel]

Medal 2  Hidden Bravery [Judges 6]

Medal 3  Painful Bravery [Matthew 9:18-22]

Medal 4  Postional Bravery [Esther]

Medal 5  Anticipatory Bravery [The Gospels]

Medal 6  Grace Bravery [Luke 7]

Be encouraged. You are not alone. We are surrounded by those who are enduring courageously and actively facing whatever has come their way.

Share a summary of your story of bravery on the "Your Turn" page.

Being Brave: Part 2

Good morning!

One of the reasons I would encourage everyone to lead a Bible study or share in front of a group at some point in their lives is because the process of preparation is SO rewarding and enlightening!

Do you know what I discovered yesterday while preparing the talk for the WM Breakfast?

I learned that the word 'brave' has it's roots in middle Europe - probably Spain. It is believed to be derived from the Spanish word 'BRAVO'. And that words' direct translation is - FEROCIOUS.

I think that awesome!!

Every time you or I do something that is difficult or scarey or mundane because it is the right and best thing to do we are being brave. We are FEROCIOUS.

Every time we choose to change our thinking when we know it is wrong or poison and will lead to destructive actions or words we are being brave. We are FEROCIOUS.

Being brave is about enduring or persevering in the face of unpleasantness.

Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Let's be 'ferocious' today!!

Being Brave: Part 1

Good morning ladies!

This morning during my devotional readings I came across the following verse:

 

““Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.” ~ Jesus

‭‭John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NET‬‬

 

Whenever I read an encouragement like this I ask myself why it had to be shared.

It seems to me that Jesus knew that we would encounter situations (both internal and external) in life that would leave us feeling distressed and/or afraid. Otherwise why would he have needed to say anything?

 

Elsewhere in scripture we find this counsel:

 

“My child, pay attention to my words; listen attentively to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight, guard them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and healing to one’s entire body. Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it are the sources of life.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭4:20-23‬ ‭NET‬‬

 

If I combine the wisdom in these two passages I come up with the following:

In my life I will encounter distressing, frightening situations where the very essence of who I am (my heart) is vulnerable. BUT as a follower of Christ I am the recipient of a promise straight from the lips of the one who gave everything for me and overcame everything for me.

I can choose to trade the feelings of uncertainty, fear and disillusionment that will most likely lead to words and actions I regret. 

I can trade them out for peace. And courage.

And not just any old peace. Not the kind that numbs. Not like wine or an affair or an eruption of angry words or losing myself in work or volunteering. This kind of peace is what the world offers. 

Jesus offers something better and fuller and eternal.

I want that kind of peace and courage.

SO I must be vigilant and set a guard on my heart. Developing an awareness (with the Spirit's help) of the first signs that the most central part of me is under attack. And I must be ruthless in defending it.

It may mean giving up a habit, changing my lifestyle or seeking counsel on how to change my thinking. It may mean confession and repentance. But I must do it.

This "Jesus peace and Jesus courage" is what I want. It's been offered to me by the One who is completely trustworthy. 

Why wouldn't I make the trade?