Five Minute Friday: tender

On 5 Minute Friday, I have the pleasure of linking up with Gypsy Mama and all the other fabulous 5MF bloggers!  The idea is to just write for five minutes straight….no editing, no over-thinking.  Just type it out as it falls out of your head.

This week’s topic:  Tender

When you’re done here, be sure to head over the Lisa Jo’s page and have a read over some other 5MF contributions!

START!

Broken hearts in the hands of a tender God.  A God who is strong.  A God who is a warrior.  A God who is soft comfort.  A God who will fight for healing.

Oh God, I pray that you would mend wounds today.  That you would cover tender places with your healing balm.

For those who have physical needs, God you have the power to heal.  How I pray You would.

For those whose hearts are sad, whose emotions are a mess, whose spirits are downcast…for all those tender places on the inside, God you have the quiet calm to bring forth peace.  How I pray You would.

For those who have become hardened by brokenness, those who have built walls around themselves to shut everyone else out, those who have turned their face from you, God you are the only thing that can break down the walls, make their hard hearts tender in your hands.  How I pray You would.

For all the places that have become bitter and broken, hardened and callous, resentful and closed off, lost or fallen, Father I pray for your tender hand to move.  To restore.  To cleanse.  To heal.  To resurrect what was lost.

How I pray You would.  How I believe You will.

STOP….

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The Christmas Tree Do-over

This, friends, is the most beautiful Christmas tree I think I have ever seen.

 

Truly it is.

No, it’s nothing fancy.  It doesn’t have big fancy ornaments…in fact there are several on this tree that are handmade.  Like this one of my son’s hand that was traced and covered in felt to look like a little reindeer.  Precious.

And then there’s this one…a cute little bird house painted by sweet little boy hands.

And then of course there’s the Joy ornament that has been known to say Yoj from time to time.

And then there’s this one that was hand-painted by a dear friend’s mom. 

And my latest addition is this beautiful camel, a gift from a sweet Bible study friend…

For sure all those things make this tree more than special to me, but there’s something else about this tree you need to know.  See this is not the first tree we had this year.  We had a completely different tree standing in our den earlier today.  A real tree.  Water in the base.  Needles all over the floor.  The works.

See, I’ve had a bit of a cold for over a week now.  I’m much better than I was, that’s for sure, but I still have an icky cough and runny nose.  The Hubby wanted me to go to the doctor today, but I said no.  What’s the use when all he’s going to tell me is that I have a cold and give me a list of over-the-counter stuff to go by and pick up from the CVS?  Well, Hubby wasn’t satisfied with that so he checked with the doctor himself and gave him a list of my symptoms.  The doctor gave the Hubby a list of OTC meds for me to try but apparently knowing that I have allergy problems, my sweet doctor asked whether or not we had a real Christmas tree.  Yes, we do, Hubby replies.  Well that might be part of the problem, says the doc.  The tree could be bothering my allergies and causing my cold to linger on.

Y’all, the next thing I know, that sweet man of mine had taken all the ornaments off that Christmas tree in about five minutes flat, lights off and the star off the top and had that thing out the front door before I even had a chance to argue, all the  while the oldest boy is vacuuming needles off the floor.  The Hubby sent me off to have coffee with friends and by the time I got back home, there was a new artificial tree sitting in the den with lights on, ornaments all on, and the star on the top.  Is that not the most darlin’ thing you’ve ever heard?

What makes my new tree the most beautiful I’ve ever seen is this…it’s there because he cares for me.  Because he is concerned for my well-being.  Because he loves me.

This is my beloved, this my friend,

O daughters of Jerusalem.

Song of Solomon 5:16

I am so very blessed.

What is one of your most special Christmas moments?

Wise men still seek Him

I’m not much on Christian cliché bumper sticker sayings, but this one is actually one that I really like a lot…

Wise men still seek Him

Because they do.

I was reading through some articles that I had downloaded about Christmas from the Biblical Archeology website last night and there’s a great deal of information about the wise men, or Magi as they are often called.

The Bible says that the Magi came from the east, but specifically where in the east is not said.  The Magi were a priestly caste of philosophers, astronomers, dream interpreters and such.  (Thinking back to the book of Daniel, although certainly a Godly man, Daniel would have been considered a “wise man.”)  From the best I can understand, the Magi were smart, well-educated, familiar with science and medicine and very knowledgable about the stars and other heavenly things.  They must have also been familiar with Jewish prophecies (Numbers 24:17) to have known that the star they saw had anything to do with the King of the Jews.  (I can’t help but wonder if that was somehow the result of Daniel’s influence?)

Another interesting little side note that I read in one of the articles by Dale C. Allison, Jr. was specifically regarding the star.  Allison believes that the star in Matthew 2 wasn’t a star at all, but in fact was an angel…a heavenly being that shone brightly and served as a guide for the Magi to find the Christ Child.  Of course either way – star or angel – this cosmic being was most certainly put in place by the One who was Creator of it all.

But one of the neatest things I read in one of the articles by Robin M. Jensen was about what the wise men did after they found Jesus and had given Him gifts and worshipped Him.  In the Biblical narrative, we read that the Magi are told in a dream about Herod’s ill intent and that they should go back home by another route.  Jensen writes of Tertullian who argues that the Magi’s dream of returning home another way is more than just about them going back east by way of avoiding Jerusalem – that it was also God’s call for them to turn their backs on idolatry and paganism (the way they’d been traveling) and take a new route of continuing to seek out the God of the Universe.

I’ve never even thought about that before.

I can only imagine though that the scholarly men (however many of them there were) surely must have known that there was something different about this whole thing.  This wasn’t just another star.  This wasn’t just an average ordinary baby.  No, this was truly the fulfillment of prophecy right before their very eyes.  This child to whom they brought gifts – one of kingship, one of divinity, and one of mortality – was the Messiah.

Did they go with the intention of worshipping yet another of many gods only to come face to face with One True God?  Did they walk away changed – cleansed of their pagan ways and with a burning desire to know more about this Jewish God who turns out to be not just for the Jews, but for all?  I like to think so.

And my prayer for you and for me this Christmas is that as we are drawn back to the Babe in the manger, as we lay our eyes on this infant Child for what may be the first time or another of many times, that what we see there – the Love of God made flesh – will cause us to lay down our idols and all the things that have clouded our vision of Jesus.  That this Christmas, we will go back home another way, allowing the holiness of Emmanuel to cleanse us of our infirmities and fears and anything else that separates us from Him.

I pray that we will be wise men who follow the star that leads to Hope.

And that we will be changed…

Five Minute Friday: connected

Today is Friday (as far as I know – having a hard time keeping up with what day it is here lately), and that means it’s time for Five Minute Friday!

On 5 Minute Friday, I have the pleasure of linking up with Gypsy Mama and all the other fabulous 5MF bloggers!  The idea is to just write for five minutes straight….no editing, no back-tracking, no tweaking.

This week’s topic:  Connected

When you’re done here, be sure to head over the Lisa Jo’s page and have a read over some other 5MF contributions!

START!

Funny that today’s topic is connected because I’ve been putting a few things together in my head this week that I haven’t thought of before.

It’s the coolest thing to me how God’s Word is so intertwined within itself.  Cool really isn’t the right word, I guess though.  Because it’s way more than cool.  It’s mind-boggling really when you think about it.

I’ve of course been thinking lately about the Christmas story in Luke.  The angel came and visited Mary to tell her what was to come.  About Jesus and who He was.  And then Mary told Joseph…and so it was.

Isn’t it interested though that when the fall of mankind happened, it was Eve that the serpent came to first?  She was the first to taste of the fruit.  She was the one who went and told Adam to taste of the fruit.

It’s amazing to me how God connects things together in His word.  He truly is the Redeemer of things.  He reversed the curse brought forth by the fall of man and by the same process.  He undid what Eve was told with what Mary was told.

And the fruit taken from the tree of life that brought forth death and thereby brought disconnection between man and God was reversed…

The First Fruit of the Lord God when put on the tree that brought forth death…brought forth Life…and connected us back to our Creator.

Amazing God is He.

STOP….

Just like that.

Still hanging around in Luke 1.  As I was reading and pondering through Zechariah’s response to the angel Gabriel that I posted yesterday, my eyes couldn’t help but drift across the page to see Mary’s response to Gabriel.

Both Mary and Zechariah were presented with what to them seemed impossible.  Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were both on up in their years, and had yet to conceive a child.  But there was Gabriel standing there telling Zechariah to prepare for a child that was to come.  Told him this kid would be amazing.  Even told him what to name the boy.  And although Zechariah’s heart was probably doing flip-flops, his mind just could not…would not…fathom such a thing.

 Zechariah asked the angel,

“How can I be sure of this?

I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 

Luke 1:18

You can almost feel the pain and the hope all stirred up together in his question.  Tangible bitterness manifesting as doubt…a deep need for certainty.

Mary on the other hand hadn’t experienced an endlessly empty womb.  She hadn’t known the desperation of wanting to hold her tiny infant in her arms and the heartbreak of yet another year that passes without a child of her own.  Mary was really just a child herself at the time.

So Gabriel shows up and paints this amazing picture for Mary of this son that she will bear…that he will be the Son of the Most High, that his kingdom will be great, that he will reign forever.  And Mary’s response is:

“How will this be,”

Mary asked the angel,

“since I am a virgin?” 

Luke 1:34

Now just a side note here, but one thing that cracks me up a little about this exchange between Mary and Gabriel is that when Gabriel arrives and says to her “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” the Bible says that Mary was troubled by this and wondered what kind of a greeting this was.

Kind of an uh-oh moment for her, I guess.  I mean, when the Lord sends an angel and tells you that you are highly favored, would the knee-jerk response be to wonder what in the world God was getting ready to ask us to do?

Anyway, I think the difference between Mary’s and Zechariah’s responses has everything to do with heart behind them.  Zechariah’s heart had been saddened by the lack of a child and so he’d probably allowed bitterness to take root there and I can imagine that somewhere deep down inside he may have even begun to doubt God’s promise.

I think Mary’s response was less about doubt and more about an innocent wonder at how God was going to pull this off.  Not so much a lack of belief, but more of a child-like question of “why?” only this was instead “how?”

So she goes from fear and confusion as to how it is that she got to be highly favored, and now that the angel has given her the news, she’s thinking to herself, okay now wait a second.  How is God going to do this since I’ve never been with a man?  And just as simply as she asks, Gabriel simply answers:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Luke 1:35

Just like that.

And just like that Mary says…well, okay.

Not, alright now how exactly is that going to work?  What do you mean by “the Spirit coming upon me?”  Could you give me a little more info there, Gabe?

 Just simply, okay.  May it be to me as you have said.

And as incredible as the angel’s explanation is, Mary had her answer and that was that.  Although she may not have completely understood the answer, she accepted it and was willing to let God handle the particulars.

We won’t always understand everything God asks us to do.   In fact, there will probably be lots of times where He asks us to do something so incredible, so totally out of our norm that at the moment makes little sense to us.  And it’s in the those times that we have to receive our answer in faith and trust that in God’s plan and in His time, everything will fall into place.

Because it will…

splinters

Since it’s almost Christmas, I thought I’d read from Luke 1 this morning. My pastor had preached about Zechariah this past week and what had happened to him in the temple, so I thought I’d go back and read from there.

Zechariah was a priest and as it happened, his turn to lead the worship came up. His duty as High Priest that day was to go into the temple…way into the temple…and light incense in the inner courts as well as offer the atonement for the people that day. The Bible also mentions here that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were older, but didn’t have any children because Elizabeth was barren. As my pastor pointed out, to be childless for them was an awful thing. It was as if to say that the promises of God would stop for them because there were no children for them to pass that heritage on to. Not to mention Elizabeth’s feelings she must have had of unfulfillment, of not coming into her own as a woman because she had been unable to bear children.  But anyhow, that’s another story.

So here we have Zechariah in the temple doing his priestly duties when all of a sudden he turns and sees an angel standing right there.  And the angel proceeds to tell him that he and Elizabeth will have a child.  And Zechariah’s response to the angel is basically “how can I know this is so?”  And I have to think that Zechariah must have been so shocked at the sight of the angel that he just let what was in his mind fly without thinking about it.  I mean, seriously?  How can this be so?  Well I mean there is an ANGEL standing there telling you this and you don’t get blown away by just that one fact?  But then the angel tells you what you’ve been wanting to hear for who knows how long now and you ask “how could this be so?”  Man, what a foot-in-mouth moment.  Because see here’s what I think.

I think Zechariah was so caught off guard by the angel’s appearance that he didn’t have a chance to edit what he said before he said it.  Because he said for sure what was in his heart.  He spoke right out of the pain that he’d been suffering at not being called Daddy by anybody.  He spoke right out of the anger that he felt at seeing his precious wife agonize over never having felt the soft kick of an infant in her womb.  He spoke right out of the bitterness that he had probably tried many times to stuff back down when yet another couple announced the birth of a child.

There’s so much honesty in what he says.  How will I know?  I can imagine that immediately his heart leapt at the angel’s words, but then almost as quickly he reigned himself back in.  Words thoughtlessly uttered by a man who couldn’t bear to allow himself to hope.

In that moment, his pain and fear caused him to close his eyes to what was right in front of him.  And brokenness will do that to you sometimes.

I can only imagine all the things that Zechariah was thinking as he moved about inside the Inner Courts of the Holy Place.

Maybe he was thinking if he’d been chosen to do this High Priest thing sooner, he could have done it well enough to have pleased God and maybe then God would have answered his prayer.  Or maybe he was thinking about the son he would never have to be able to past the priesthood responsibilities onto.  Maybe he was concentrating so much on getting what he was doing right, that he wasn’t thinking about any of that at all.  Maybe that’s why the angel’s words were such a surprise.

Maybe he had come to a place of acceptance of his childless state and the angel just rolled up in there and ripped that wound right back open.

God does that sometimes.  We think we’ve arrived at a place of acceptance of something.  We decide that we will resign ourselves to being what we are instead of what we thought God had called us to be.

We settle.

And then we stop praying for the desire of our heart.

Because it’s just too hard.  It hurts too much to ask and ask and ask only to be disappointed over and over again.  It’s easier to just put that thing away and forget about it than to keep taking the beating over and over when we feel like God is ignoring our prayer.

And when we make that decision on our own to just suck it up and live with it, we move into a place of false acceptance and whether we realize it not, that splinter that we allowed to remain in the wound as it healed is still there.  The wound looks healed.  The scab may even be gone.  You may not even be able to tell it’s there just by looking because it’s in there so deep.  But the splinter is still in there and when we bump it just right, it still causes pain because it was never dealt with properly.  Because WE decided how to handle it, not God.

See I don’t think God would have wanted Zechariah to harbor that splinter.  And if it hadn’t have been in God’s plan for he and Elizabeth to have children, God would have healed that broken place in Zechariah’s heart before allowing that wound to heal over.  God had not yet filled that empty hole with healing or with a child, which tells me that He never meant for Zechariah to stop praying about it. He never meant for Zechariah to lose faith.

*insert Journey song here…Don’t stop be-lieeeev- in’ hold onto that fee-ee-ee-leh-eh-en…*

Okay so maybe the Journey song was too much, but you get the point.

If God hasn’t told you no, then the answer isn’t no.  And you can’t assume because He hasn’t given you a yes by actually answering your prayers yet, that His intention isn’t still to answer them.  Because His yes’s are yes’s and His no’s are no’s.  God’s not a trickster.  He doesn’t play games with your heart.  Your heart is precious to Him.  More than you know.  And He isn’t deaf.  He hears your pleas.  He isn’t blind.  He sees your tears.

So my question for you is, do you have a splinter somewhere that you’ve allowed to heal over?  Do you have something that you’ve decided God has said no to, when He really only just hasn’t said yes yet?

Allowing God to probe those wounds that haven’t healed properly can be a pretty painful endeavor.  It really causes us to have to put all our trust in Him to go back and reopen places that we’ve learned to deal with or have managed to close ourselves off from.  But I assure you that He’s worthy of that trust.

He’s a good Doctor.  He heals all wounds…and He heals them well, clean and splinter-free.

It was a holy night…

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining

It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks and new and cloudless morn

Fall on your knees, o hear the angel voices

O night divine, o night when Christ was born

O night, o holy night, o night divine…

Christ is the Lord, o praise His name forever!

His power and glory evermore proclaim!

His power and glory evermore proclaim!

O Holy Night

Joseph and Mary: A Love Story?

I would like to begin this blog with a disclaimer:  I am a HOPELESS romantic.  I read entirely too many romance novels in my early adult life and therefore my idea of life and love may be terribly skewed.  My poor husband.  Good thing he’s a bit of a romantic himself or else he’d be in trouble! ha!!  So  anyway, forgive me if I tend to add a bit of romance/love to the mix but I can’t hardly help it. 

Okay, let me make one thing clear first.  This is my speculation according to what I’ve read, what the Bible says, and what I believe.  It’s not that I think that scripture doesn’t say enough…on the contrary.  Scripture tells us everything we need to know.  But I also think that the Scriptures were meant to be dug into and so if we can put flesh on these people’s bones and give them some humanity, they really seem to come alive off the pages.  (Incidentally, Beth Moore is really good at that – if you’ve never read any of her books, I would highly recommend her.)

Now, it is assumed that Mary was probably around 12 or 13 years old because during that time in history, that was about the age that young women would be betrothed to be married.  Being betrothed was sort of like being engaged, only it was as binding as actually being married.  During this time, the bride would continue to stay with her family while the bridegroom built a home for her, which was often an addition onto his family’s home.  Now in the movie my son and I watched the other night, it depicted Mary as not wanting to marry Joseph…that her dad betrothed her to Joseph because of financial necessity.  I’m not sure I really agree with that.  See, I remember how I was at 13 and boys were the bees knees.  That would have been about the time the “do you love me? check yes or no” notes would start going around the classroom and the girls would be writing their new “married” names on the pages of their notebooks.  Although Mary would have been considered almost a woman at 13, she was still 13 and I can’t help but think that she could have had starry-eyed dreams of love.

And Joseph.  I’m willing to bet that his betrothal to Mary wasn’t at all about finances.  I believe with all my heart that Joseph loved Mary and wanted her to be his wife.   (Parents would usually arranged marriages then, but it wasn’t uncommon for the young man to suggest a bride.)  And anyhow, I just can’t imagine God bringing two people together who would bring the Messiah into the world, have them marry and not have any love for each other.  I couldn’t find where it said specifically how long they’d been betrothed, but betrothals usually lasted for about year.  So, Mary and Joseph at this point could have been “a couple” for several months, and living in the same village, could have known each other for a while before the betrothal.  The Bible tells us in Luke that after the angel tells Mary of the Child she will bear, that she left pretty quickly…maybe the very next day?…and went to see Elizabeth and was there for about three months.  Now you know the old saying – “absence makes the heart grow fonder” – so I can imagine for every brick laid in the home he was building for Mary, that Joseph’s anticipation of her return grew.  What would she think of the house I built?  Would she like it?  Does she miss me?  Has her love for me grown cold in this time she’s been gone?  And I wonder too about Mary.  What could she have been thinking?  Will Joseph believe me when I tell him about the angel?  Will he still want to be my husband?  Will he still love me?  Will he think I’m fat in this dress?  Okay, well maybe not that last bit.

So in all his anticipation of Mary’s return, can you imagine how heartbroken Joseph would have been when faced with the reality that she was pregnant and the child certainly wasn’t his?  I would guess his emotions were running rampant…anger that she would betray him, humiliation at possibly having thought that she loved him, anguish that she would so flippantly toss his love aside for another.  He may have even been disgusted when she told him the story of the angel and wondered to himself if she thought he was that much of a fool to believe such a story.  The Bible says Joseph wasn’t willing to disgrace her publicly, that he would just divorce her quietly – that is until the angel of the Lord came for a visit (Matt. 1:19-25).  Can you imagine Joseph’s relief when the angel told him that everything Mary said was true?  That she really hadn’t been unfaithful?  That she hadn’t given her heart to another?  And then can you imagine the knot in his stomach when he realized that she’d been telling the truth…and he hadn’t believed her.  I’ll bet he couldn’t get his yarmulke on fast enough.  I can imagine him in an all out sprint to her house, pounding on the door, calling her name.  And when she appeared at the door, I can hear him rambling, out of breath, about the angel in his dream, asking for Mary’s forgiveness for not having believed her and praying to himself that she’d still agree to be his wife.  Can you feel the energy between the two of them as they realize that God had ordained this marriage, that God had an amazing purpose for them?  I like to think that at that moment, their hearts were bound together as one.  At that moment, the two individuals became one unit as they embarked on the journey of a lifetime.

Joseph: Husband of the Year

My oldest son and I watched the movie The Nativity Story a couple of nights ago.  I can’t really attest to the accuracy of the movie – particularly because it portrayed the Magi as having been at the stable/cave at the same time as the shepherds and it is more commonly believed now that the Magi didn’t actually arrive until Jesus was a little older.

But at any rate, it did get me thinking a lot about Joseph.  The Bible doesn’t have a whole lot to say about Joseph.  In fact, he all but disappears after the incident when Jesus was 12 and was found by his parents teaching in the temple (Luke 2:42-52).  And actually, we don’t that hear much about Mary either after then until the time of the crucifixion.

But back to Joseph.  Given the lack of information we have, we could make all sorts of assumptions about Joseph.  In the Catholic church, it is believed that Mary and Joseph never had “relations” and she remained a virgin throughout her entire life.  Along with this assumption is that the siblings of Jesus that the Bible refers to were either Joseph’s children from a previous marriage or else they weren’t really siblings but rather were cousins or just “brothers and sisters” in the faith.  It is thought by some in this case that if these siblings were from a previous marriage, then it was possible that Joseph was quite a bit older than Mary (so I guess then that would explain the lack of sex/children between M and J?).  Personally, I think the idea that Mary remained a virgin her entire life is questionable and you know, either way it doesn’t take away from the miracle of the birth of Jesus in any way.   And if she and Joseph had 20 other kids besides Jesus, it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that God chose her out of all the women in history to be the mother of Christ.

But again, back to Joseph.  So I never put a lot of thought into Joseph before.  I mean, yes he was a great man – obviously there must have been something to him for God to have chosen him to be the earthly father of Jesus.  And inasmuch as God chose Mary, He chose Joseph too.  Never really considered that before.  I know, I know…duh.  But it wasn’t like out of all the eligible bachelors in Nazareth that God just lucked up that it was Joseph that Mary wound up with.  God wouldn’t have left that one to chance.  He handpicked Joseph.  God saw into Joseph’s heart, just as He did with Mary, and knew that this man would be upright and obedient before the Lord. 

So anyhow, Mary’s pregnant and Joseph knew it wasn’t by him…at most he could have had her stoned for adultery and at the least, she and her family would have been disgraced by her “sin.”  But Joseph really was a good and decent man.  He planed to divorce Mary quietly.  God, however, had other plans and He made those plans known to Joseph in a dream.  So Joseph tosses the divorce idea and takes Mary as his wife.  You can read all about that in the first chapter of Matthew.

So in thinking a minute about Joseph’s character, he most assuredly was a man of grace.  To just let that thing go like that.  To not demand retribution for what he at first deemed to be Mary’s unfaithfulness to him.  (Remember, his decision to divorce her quietly was before he’d heard from God.  His immediate response was grace.)  And too, you have to think now that not only did people most certainly taunt Mary and call her all sorts of names behind her back (well, and probably to her face) but I image that many people who were close to Joseph probably thought he was nuts for marrying what they believed was an adulteress.  They probably talked about him behind his back too.  Maybe they called him weak or foolish.  Maybe they said he wasn’t a real man since he didn’t even stand up for his rights.  One can only speculate, but I would guess this was the toughest yet most blessed decision he ever made in his life.

There’s lots more to say about Joseph so I’ll save the rest and do some more tomorrow, but just one more thing about Joseph.  We are blessed to know the whole story…we know who that Child was that Mary carried in her womb.  We know about the calling God placed on her life.  And she knew it too.  She knew in her heart she had nothing to be ashamed of.  And you know, even if somehow it had been demanded that she be stoned for her infidelity, God would have protected her.  She carried The Christ inside of her.  But isn’t it sweet just the same that God sent a man who would cover her, be her husband, and care for her so that she would not bear the shame of being pregnant, unmarried and alone?  I think that’s pretty awesome. 

No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame… – Psalm 25:3

To be continued…