For unto us a child is born...Isaiah 9:6
As we enjoy these days of Christmas we should take some time to focus our thoughts and prayers on God’s gift of perfect love; His Son. Love is, after all the only reason God could possibly have for lavishing such a sinful people with such an extraordinary gift.
I read a little snippet from a story the other day about our world having more conveniences but less time; more degrees but less sense; deeper profits but shallower relationships; more medicine but less healthiness and tall men with short character. I understand how someone could read that little story and think it summed up all the woes of the world. After reading it, I realized that the farther our culture separates from God and His love, the more out of balance things get. It seems easier to expect the world around us to change rather than put our priorities in order and ask God for the grace and mercy to make changes in our own life. If each of us had an overwhelming desire to love and serve Him first and ourselves second, the world would change in an instant.
Many things have come along over the years that have changed the world. Henry Ford’s Model-T weighed 1,450 pounds and it changed the way the world moved. The first washing machine weighed over 250 pounds and it made cleaning things easier. The first computer weighed nearly one ton and it gave the world access to more knowledge and communication. As valuable, helpful and convenient as these and other modern changes are, they haven’t always changed our life for the better. In fact sometimes changes in our world just muddy up the water and clutter our focus. Bigger, faster and more convenient isn’t always better. Sometimes all these changes lead us away from the love, peace and joy God sent His Son to this earth to bring us.
The most significant change for the people of God’s earth weighed only seven pounds and arrived in the most humble surrounding imaginable. There was no million dollar marketing scheme to prepare us for His arrival. There was no multi-million dollar Super Bowl commercial to get us all hyped up about His coming. There was simply a seven pound miracle that came to change EVERYTHING! If we would embrace it and all the Christ Child brought us, we could move through our days with hearts overflowing with joy. We would travel through life here on earth more easily than the first passengers in a Model-T. If we opened ourselves to God’s mercy and forgiveness, we would be washed whiter than any garment to pass through even the most efficient washing machine. If we would share the love that little seven pound wonder came to bring us, we would speak and act with more wisdom and knowledge than any computer could generate. Maybe, if we would slow down this Christmas to absorb the absolute Wonder and Awe of the coming of Christ, we would begin to find our balance and see that God sent His Son to earth to change us significantly.
A seed to plant: Take time this Christmas to gaze at the Christ Child in the manger and ask God to help you see what changes are needed to draw closer to Him. It’s ok to start small, after all the biggest change ever only weighed seven pounds.
Blessings on your day!
Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, the rough ways made smooth and the flesh shall see the salvation of God. Luke 3:5-6
My mom was the queen of one liner! She could always wrap up a situation in one sentence that just left you with no ammunition to argue. Whenever I would get all wound up about something that really wasn’t much of a big deal she would put her hands on my shoulders, look into my eyes and say “Sheri, don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill!” That was her way of helping me put things into perspective. I didn’t always like it but she was always right!
The season of Advent is all about preparation and this line from Luke’s Gospel inspires me to ask myself two questions. The first, what am I preparing for this Advent? Am I more concerned with preparing for a holiday or the birth of a King? The second question is what does “prepare” really look like? It’s an action-packed verb, isn’t it?
The prophet Isaiah’s words from Luke’s Gospel really answered those two questions for me. We are preparing for the one who will level out the peaks and valleys of our days. We’re preparing for the one who will straighten out all the winding messes our sinfulness gets us into. We’re preparing for the one who will smooth out all of our bumps and bruises with his amazing comfort and peace. We aren’t preparing for a party or a feast; we’re preparing for our salvation.
The great news is this preparation requires the opposite of action-packed frenzy. The preparation needed on our part this Advent is stillness, quietness, and a sincere invitation. God is sending his son to do all the work; our task is to simply pause and await the arrival of the Infant King who will come into our life and do all the things Isaiah promised he would do. Our job is to be still and stop making mountains out of mole hills and accept the gift of level, steady, straight and abounding love of the Father. God of love, show me how to be still and await patiently the coming of your Son. God of time, I ask you to manage my schedule so I can answer your invitation to spend peaceful time preparing and thanking you for the gift of your Son and the salvation he offers me.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer asking God what places, situations, or circumstances in your life need smoothing, straightening, and leveling?
Blessings on your day!
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:8
I was cleaning out my book bag recently and found some treasures smashed up in the bottom of the bag. One of them was a certificate I received for participating in a teacher workshop a while back. I found it odd that I got a certificate for doing nothing but sitting in a chair for six hours. I suppose I could look at it as a celebration of new knowledge and I should be grateful for new ideas. If I put it in a frame and hung it on a wall maybe it would make me feel smarter and more important…nah…I doubt it. Do you ever feel like sometimes we make a big deal out something that’s really nothing much at all? I will admit from time to time I think I’m smarter than I really am and in those instances, life and a needed dose of humility usually swoop in and put me back in my place. The truth is; no matter how many certificates or degrees I accumulate there will still be heaps and heaps of stuff I don’t understand.
Last week a truly beautiful woman of faith, strength, grace and joy entered into Eternal Life after a battle with cancer. She weathered the hopes, disappointments, pains and frightening reality of the disease in a style that left those of us who knew and loved her inspired and strengthened in our faith. Marla left behind three young sons, a devoted husband and a huge family who will be forever changed by the lessons her fight taught them. She faced each day of her battle with trust and surrender, offering God all of her fear and anxiety. All of that surrender and trust left her with such a peace. It wasn’t Marla’s peace, it was Gods…He had given it to her as a magnificent gift to fill in the gaps between His will and what the human mind and heart simply couldn’t understand. She shared that peace and all of us were allowed to witness something beautiful, something inspirational, something Godly…complete and joyful acceptance of the Father’s will. She was an incredible Daughter of God both in her life and in her death. As I tearfully pondered her death I came across this verse from Philippians and it made me realize my understanding and approval aren’t necessary for God to love, guide, protect and bless his children. As for my friend Marla, she’s being blessed in a more splendid fashion than I can even fathom and that brings my heart peace.
It doesn’t matter how smart we get, how many certificates we accumulate or how far technology advances, there will always be things we just don’t understand; things that just don’t make any sense. Things like violence, poverty, dishonesty, deceit, and 45 year old women leaving this world far too early. Those are the places God so desperately wants us to let him swoop in and heal. He wants to remind us that his peace is the remedy for our desperation, our sadness, our sorrow and our struggle. The more we lean on him instead of our own understanding and knowledge, the more he will surround us with his peace. I suppose it’s time to stop trying so hard to understand and try harder to be still and wallow in his peace.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the things you don’t understand that trouble your heart. Now, fold up the paper and lift it up to the Father begging him to replace those things with his peace and guard your heart.
Blessings on your day!
Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
If you were to give yourself a score between 1 and 10; 10 being awesome, how would you score yourself at waiting? Are you patient, still and peaceful as you wait or are you fidgety, anxious and impatient? What would you think if I told you I was going to give you a free trip to sit in a waiting room? I’m not sure how many would find that much of a trip at all but maybe it could be if we took a different look at waiting and the things that can happen to us while we wait.
One December many years ago I remember sitting in waiting rooms at Mayo Clinic with Mom for an entire week. I am reminded of a simple blessing of all that waiting each year when I put up our Nativity set. As we waited and waited, I began to visit with people who were also waiting and there was one particular couple from Wisconsin that made the waiting so much better. Throughout the week he would whittle little pieces of wood and she would card wool from the sheep they raised. On the last day we were at the clinic they told Dad and me they would be praying for us and they handed each of us a set of nativity animals made from the wood he had carved and whittled and the wool she had carded. Each year as I unpack them I pray for that couple and remember the gift of their talent and their friendship and prayers during a time of frustrated waiting. They were our Mayo clinic blessing; a waiting blessing.
I think we’re all waiting for something. What are you waiting for? Maybe you’re waiting for a new job, or a headache to go away. Perhaps your wait is more serious like waiting for a baby, for test results, a lost love to return or for a diagnosis. Perhaps you’re waiting for someone to get car keys so you don’t have so much carpooling to do or for a little one to finally sleep through the night or master the art of potty training. Many are waiting for a blanket of sadness, grief or loneliness to be lifted from their heavy heart. We spend months just waiting for something to start and something to stop so something else can start. The honest truth is, many of us are simply waiting on God to organize our life just the way we’ve been planning it; just waiting for him to do his job the way we’d like it. Since we spend so much time waiting, the kind of waiter we are matters.
The prophet Isaiah promised that those who waited on the Lord would have their strength renewed. I could use a little of that! The fruit of waiting patiently is peace. That peace gives way to humility and docility. What if we invited God into our waiting? What if we offered him the seat right next to us? Through that attitude of humility and docility that comes with peace, we might begin to realize that the job we’ve been waiting for might not be ours at all; maybe it’s the perfect job for someone else. What if that person we’ve been waiting to love us is meant to love somebody else because God has someone chosen that will love us far more than the person we had in mind ever could. What if healing meant making our soul healthier than our body so we could enjoy eternity with Jesus instead of spending more years on earth? What if we became so good at waiting we grew in humility to such a point we rejoiced when others got something and we forgot we were even waiting in the first place? What if we realized all of the waiting we do has a great purpose; one we usually can’t see. Not to worry, God can see it and someday we’ll figure it out and realize when we patiently wait for him to bring everything to complete perfection, we are blessed with something so much better than we even hoped for!
Isaiah said that we would not grow weary or faint. How can that be? Worrying and waiting is exhausting, everybody knows that. Well, here’s a news flash, waiting is supposed to be an inactive thing so we shouldn’t be worn out. If we are waiting right we are in peace, letting time pass with contentment knowing God has it all under control. Instead we get worn out because we fight and squirm and wrestle with God’s plan confident he’s forgotten, or misunderstood our needs. When I get like that I hear my mother’s voice say, “Now Sheri Ann, just settle down miss, settle down!” Good advice as always mom! Advent seems to be a great time to practice our waiting! Ready…set…wait!
A Seed To Plant: What are you waiting for? Make a list and ask God to take your worries and “waiting for’s” and exchange them for peace and patience.
Blessings on your day!
A voice cries out: in the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Isaiah 40:3
There are a lot of words I like to hear. There are words that can turn a bad day into a great day in a flash and words that can bring comfort or hope to a hurting, sad soul. There are words that just make you feel happy, loved and safe. Then there are the words we don’t like so much. You know those pesky little words that mean we have changes to make, work to do or truth to face. The readings during the season of Advent are full of those words. Words like; prepare, wait, repent and forgive are so deeply connected with the meaning and purpose of Advent but if you’re anything like me, you read past them and get on with the shopping, baking and holiday fun.
In this zillion miles an hour world we live in, waiting isn’t something we do well because we can get just about everything on demand and express delivered to our hot little hands. Instant is better isn’t it? When I think about instant my mind floods with thoughts of projects I’ve tried to complete as quickly as possible; cakes I’ve tried to cool instantly so I could get them frosted only to have the frosting melt and slide off into a sugary mess or graduation party decorations and pictures I tried to put up in a quick rush that all fell down over night because I didn’t take the time to do the job well. I can think of situations and mistakes I’ve tried to forget rather than process properly and prayerfully while considering the truth of my actions and repent. I think of forgiveness issued by my words but not really felt in my heart. All of those things leave me feeling empty inside because they weren’t really done the right way...the Advent way…the Lord’s way.
As we journey through Advent it would be a great idea to pause and take stock of the words offered by the likes of Isaiah the Prophet and John the Baptist. They were pretty smart guys who were intensely in love with the God we claim to love and serve. They didn’t run around spitting out these words we aren’t too fond of to make themselves popular. They shared these words because they are precisely the things we need to do in order to draw closer to the Father who loves us. They are the words that allow us to truly ready ourselves for the coming of something completely amazing that often gets taken for granted or lost in the wrapping paper and tinsel. Imagine the preparation that would take place if Pope Francis or our favorite sports, music or movie star were coming to our home for a visit. It would be a frenzy of activity and preparation. Stop for a second and imagine what your to-do list would include as you got ready for that event and consider the amount of focus you world devote to your special guest.
Each Advent we begin a New Liturgical year with a time of preparation for the most amazing guest imaginable. He’s not a guest that will come into our home for an hour, a day or a meal; he wants to come into our heart and dwell there for all eternity. Are we ready for that? If the answer is “no” or “not quite” then the good news is, we have some time to get ready. Take a long prayerful look at the words prepare, wait, repent and forgive and ask the Lord to show you how to turn the words into actions that will truly prepare us for the birth of Jesus.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of those Advent words and pray with it this week slowly and carefully this week to see where He leads you on the journey to His Son.
Blessings on your day!
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples…Isaiah 25:6
It seems like several of the daily Scripture readings so far this Advent have made mention of mountains. I’ve been tumbling that in my head and when I walked through the living room and heard a commercial with Julie Andrew’s voice singing Climb Every Mountain I knew I’d better sit down and give all this mountain stuff some prayerful thought.
I grabbed a cup of coffee and asked God to make sense of the whole mountain thing for me and to be honest I just couldn’t get settled in. I was restless and had too much on my mind to really focus on prayer so I asked God to show me what it was all about. Still, I couldn’t settle myself for productive prayer because there were just too many tasks on my mind. I asked him to show me and invite me back to stillness when he thought I was ready. I did a few things from my to-do list. No, wait… I have to be honest; I picked the three or four quickest and easiest things on my list so I could feel superficially successful and productive. I even did something that wasn’t on my list then quickly wrote it down just so I could cross it off…in my head I heard the voice of my friend Kim say, “What a weird-o!” It made me laugh out loud! After I finished laughing I decided to get to the task I LEAST wanted to do. I grabbed my book bag and set out to grade papers and update the grading website. As I reached into my bag to pull out the papers that needed attention I laughed out loud again because what I slammed down on the counter was a MOUNTAIN of papers. Now, please don’t call my principal and have me fired for delinquent grading! Feeling completely overwhelmed, I decided maybe I should do the second least favorite job on my list; sort my “speaker shelf” (let’s be honest…shelves) in the office. Again, I was facing a MOUNTAIN of files books and materials. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry I walked out of the office through the living room and paused to see what Dave was watching on TV and no lie, it was a show about MOUNTAIN climbing. It became abundantly clear! I needed to climb my mountains.
Advent is the Church season that calls us to pause and prepare. We need to force ourselves to still our hearts and ponder the magnificence that will be upon us in a few short weeks. I think that’s where the mountain thing comes in. Each of those tasks I was trying to avoid seemed like a mountain that would require huge time, stillness and discipline. Entering grades and sorting files are not activities that can be done while watching TV or chatting with friends or doing anything fun so I suppose that makes them perfect Advent task; tasks that require stillness and focus. God is so smart isn’t he!
It’s time to wrap up this post because I have to shift from Joyful Words to my own little mountain of stuff. Before I dive in, I’ll make another cup of coffee and ask God to accept my paper mountain climb as a loving offering to him. I’ll ask him to help me use the time to think prayerful thoughts and ponder the beautiful plan he had for our salvation as I patiently and lovingly tackle the mountain set before me! One last thought…what’s your mountain made of? Laundry? Homework? Cleaning? Email replies? Whatever it’s made of, remember Isaiah’s words; On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all his people. Phew!
A Seed To Plant: Pick a mountain, ask God to help you climb it prayerfully and with your mind focused on the miracle of salvation that started with a beautiful baby boy!
Blessings on your day!
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