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Little things

It’s the little things that can do me in sometimes.

The mini items on my daily to-do list. The niggling pain in my knees. Losing my keys again (or phone or purse). The small and inconsequential that builds and can become a mountain.

I recall the huge events in my life, the impact they had, how they changed me and life as I knew it. But the daily small can chip away like the persistent dripping on rock. Imperceptible until a depression in stone appears. And I see the shift.

Making the bed, preparing breakfast, doing endless mounds of laundry, shopping for groceries, paying bills, sweeping Maisie’s hair from the floor, running errands, filling the tank with gas. The mundane of an everyday existence can put me on overload.

Then I remember the small things that have greatly impacted.

  • A young woman who happened to come to a Bible study I was leading, how she has become a daughter of my heart.
  • A chance drawing of a name paired with mine, a home-school mamma who agreed to pray with me early mornings and has been my prayer partner for over a decade.
  • A doctor who moved his practice but kept Sweet William as his patient despite the incongruity of it, how he has been an instrument of healing.
  • The neighbors who bought the house next door, after renters came and went, and are like family to us now.
  • The appearance on a computer screen of a little tan and white dog with a flop ear, looking like she needed a home, her presence giving us laughter and love.

The small occurrences in our lives make big impacts, changing our story, making it a rich tapestry. We don’t see it at the time, how dailiness is weaving colors and design. Even the dark threads that we would rather leave out give depth and beauty to a life’s overall glory.

The story of Christmas is full of small things: an engaged couple; a long journey; houses and inns full to the brim; a rough feeding trough; an old man at Jerusalem’s temple looking for someone he hadn’t met.

Put together the small create a miracle. Prophecies are fulfilled.  Life as we know it changes forever.

There are miracles around us, wonders we are yet to see. Because some things take awhile. TIme reveals the potential of the events of a life, how they build upon each other to create a work of art. A life well lived.

Christmas can become full to the brim. One thing stacked upon another, filling the days too full to enjoy. Pause and take a breath to notice the small, the ways of wonder in and through it all. This day, this hour, this moment is packed with potential to change your life and those you love.

Christmas grace.

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The prayer

I do enjoy the re-reading of a good book. This morning, it is the account in Luke of a couple of old folks with whom I can identify. The words are anciently familiar, yet they are fresh like a sip of pure spring water on a parched tongue.

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I opened the Book to the story of Zachariah, the aged priest, who just so happened to be chosen on this particular day for a special assignment. He entered the Holy Place of the temple to offer incense on an altar that represented prayer and petition to God. The people were praying outside while the priest prayed inside.

As he offered up prayers, the smokey fragrance of incense encircling him, I wonder if Zacharia thought of that one prayer he had prayed again and again through his many years? That one prayer for blessing, for a child, a son from his loins?

Yet here he stood, an old man whose wife was equally well along in years, childless the two of them. Because Elizabeth was barren.

God’s timing for answering prayers are so often out of sync with what I envision.

The angel’s appearance was awesome, causing fear, but his announcement must have been confusing to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”

Which prayer was that? You mean the one I stopped praying years ago? The one I stopped expecting to be answered because I’m old now? The prayer that would have been on a timetable more suitable for me? That prayer?

Zachariah and I, we have things in common.

The prayers I am grappling with sometimes grip my heart with their urgency. I cry out to my Father, my eyes filling with tears, longing for an answer. And please, can it be today?

How many times have I read that God’s ways are not my ways, that His time is not my time? And yet, I want Him to do it according to my prescription and on my schedule.

Faithful Zachariah and Elizabeth had lived blameless lives, following the commands God gave to His people. Surely their prayers would have been answered. Undoubtedly their desire for a child would not have gone unheeded.

After so many years they must have become resigned. Head shakes and whispers behind their backs would have been hurtful. People can wonder when trouble beats us up and we are not being blessed in the conventional sort of way.

And yet, on this day in an old man’s life, the angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, was on a mission to proclaim wonderful news to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”

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Praying Hands by Albrecht Dürer

God declares in His word that my requests, petitions, prayers are heard. He answers when He gets good and ready, in His own sweet time, because He alone knows when all the pieces are in place.

So, my fellow traveler, don’t let discouragement weigh you down. Don’t give in to doubt and unbelief. Throw off the lie that you are forgotten and forsaken. Keep believing God. Keep bowing the knee. Keep trusting in a faithful God who hears your every plea and preserves your tears in a bottle.

Believe that your prayer has been heard. In the fullness of time, and according to the perfect plan of God who does all things well, there will be an answer.

And it will be spectacular.

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Revised and reposted from December 2018

Breathe

It’s been a full-plate kind of week, me reminding myself to breathe. We’ve had places to go and people to see, things to do and plans to finish. I’ve been up and down the stairs of our house too many times to count.

My morning devotion reminds me I am blessed. Blessed to be a blessing.  I know this in my head. Sometimes my heart forgets.

In the season of holiday frenzy, we tend to pour out, giving gifts of time and energy, until we are depleted and empty of soul.

“You must feel the fullness of your own pitcher before you trust the pouring out of yourself,” says Ann Voskamp.

Running on fumes, I call it. Sweet William reminds me to fill the gas tank in the little black Honda before it gets to a quarter tank. It’s not good for the engine, he says.

Running on fumes is not good for me either. I need to refill, refuel, reignite with the passion of love that is true Christmas.

I cannot face the day well if I have not first faced my Savior. He came to bless me with His presence.

Immanuel, God with us.

And His presence is the present I most need, the gift I want more,  the one thing I cannot live without.

In the still dark of early dawn, I quietly rest and inhale Him who is life. I absorb the Holy Word and breathe in His truth. His peace, beyond all understanding, fills my lungs. Before the day’s agenda unfolds, I am assured that I am adored and redeemed, chosen and called. I am blessed beyond counting. Blessed to be a blessing.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  — John 20:21-22

The Creator breathed into Adam’s lungs and he became a living soul. Jesus breathed on the disciples and said “Receive.” The Holy Spirit, the very breath of God, has come to me, to be with me, to live in me, to give me power to serve and be a blessing.

I remind myself to breathe.

Christmas grace.

 

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Seeking for Him

In the stillness of the early morning, I turned on the lights where my ceramic carolers sit on the piano. I made them for my mother one year for Christmas. The small village that nestles behind the carolers were a gift from my son when he was a teenager. The vignette holds memories as I watch the lights twinkle.

I read today’s devotional to Sweet William. God came searching for Adam and Eve, calling “Where are you?” while they hid away, afraid of Him who came to walk in the garden for fellowship.

All the time I was seeking, He was seekIng for me. The song title stirs a melody in my mind. I’ve known His seeking.

In a season of looking for just the right gift, for browsing the internet for a better price, for looking to see if I can add another something to the calendar, Jesus is seeking.

“Where are you?”

Where is  my mind on a frantic day of appointments and meetings? Where is my heart when I’m flooded with thoughts and emotions? Where is the center of my Christmas plans, the focus that points me clearly to what is true?

Where am I today?

I know where I want to be. At His feet, like Mary of Bethany, listening to the words that give life. Soaking in a love that is like no other. Worshipping His majesty. Amazed that grace came looking for me.

Where are you today?

Christmas grace.

 

2013 Christmas (5)

Sunday grace

It seems like only yesterday though it has been closer to 50 years ago.

I reached to take Sweet  William’s arm, and as I did his muscle flexed. I could feel the strength in it, in him, and I knew I was protected.

I felt the same way growing up with my dad, who was a carpenter by trade. The muscles in his arms were big and powerful from swinging a hammer all day long. With my dad close by, I was  not afraid.

Isaiah prophesied of a coming rescuer,

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (53:1)

When Mary went to the home of Zachariah and Elizabeth, she and her elderly relative had a moment of praise and she said,

“He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;”

The arm of God represents His strength.  His power and might come to the aid of His people by the representation of His strong arm.

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And in a small village called Nazareth the might of Creator God was nestled in the tender womb of a young girl. At five weeks of her pregnancy, there was evidence of arm buds. Sinew and muscle slowly formed around a tiny bone, and by mid-point of the pregnancy, baby could move his arm to suck his thumb.

The strong arm of God came to rescue us in an astounding way. Who could have expected this?

God wrapped in flesh, blood flowing through a human body. He made Himself like us so He could redeem us by an outstretched arm on a wooden cross.

The arm of the Lord was revealed to us, His love the most powerful strength of all.

There is no other like that. He is Savior Christ the Lord.

Sunday grace.

 

 

Christmas grace

Over lunch this week, we sat side by side. In between bites of pork loin and vegetables, we chatted, our conversation never faltering. It was like a tennis game, each of us taking our turn talking and listening.

It is the way of women.

As I meditate upon Mary’s visit to Elizabeth her relative, so many questions circle in my mind. I want more details. What is left untold is left to the imagination.

Mary hurried to the town in the hill country of Judea? What was her hurry? I have my thoughts. People didn’t believe her story of an angel’s visitation, of the Holy Spirit coming upon her, of a pregnancy before she and Joseph were husband and wife. But perhaps Elizabeth would. She was the recipient of her own miracle.

The long journey on foot would have been weary for young Mary. Perhaps she sighed with relief when the house finally came into view. Longing for some refreshment and a place to rest, she knocked on the door.

Elizabeth greeted her and then the joy happened all around them. The presence of the Holy Spirit surrounded the young and the aged and the babes in their wombs. The atmosphere was electric, and their faith in a God who works wonders united in explosive praise.

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” — Luke 1:45, NIV

When we believe, we are blessed. When we believe, we honor the God who promised. When we believe, we encourage one another. When we believe, the Holy Spirit is powerful in us.

What are you believing for this day? Does it seem impossible? Have you been waiting long?

“Who has believed and confidently trusted in, relied on, and adhered to our message of salvation? And to whom, if not us, has the arm and infinite power of the Lord been revealed?” — Isaiah 53:1, Amplified Bible

Sometimes we need to gather together and believe with each other. Let faith arise. Let God be exalted Encourage one another with words of confidence and trust in a Mighty Savior.

“My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” — Luke 1:46, 47, KJV

Sunday grace.

 

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Christmas grace

I remember becoming engaged. The excitement of it. Showing off the ring. Gathering my trousseau. Conversations with my mother that only women understand. The look on Sweet William’s face.

It was a time of anticipation, and my dream of becoming a wife and then later a mother was coming true. And that is what I had wanted since I was a little girl playing with my dolls and setting up my pretend house.

Did Mary feel the same?

Matthew 1:13 tell us Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph.

Her situation was similar yet different. In first century A.D. marriages were arranged by the parents. Mary didn’t get to “fall in love” or “find her soul mate.”  A contract was drawn up and covenant confirmed by both families. It was done.

Marriage was the hoped for dream of a young Jewish woman, to have a husband to take care of her and provide a home for her. And they would pray for children. Mary would expect to bear a child.

Neither Mary nor I had any idea what the future would bring.

None of us ever do. We dream, make plans, follow through with our promises, and begin walking out the life we hoped for, the perfect little white cottage with the picket fence and a life of happiness.

The unfolding of our days never plays out exactly like that.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways, “

God’s plan is so much loftier, elevated, immense, huge. It is deeper than we can fathom. It is wider than our minds can comprehend

Mary expected a normal Jewish life, the way she had seen it lived out in her mother, her aunts, and the women of her community.

But God had grander things in His infinite mind. Plans that would take Mary on a journey she never could have imagined. Plans that would embrace a world in need of a Savior.

God’s plans for me have been surprising, unexpected, even unwelcome by my limited viewpoint. While I hoped for a flower-strewn pathway, the road has often been rough and rocky, an uphill climb, a test of endurance.

I am comforted by the promises made to Mary by the angel Gabriel.

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. . . . 
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

Like Mary, God tells me not to be afraid. He says I am loved and cherished. He promises the Holy Spirit will be with me and in me, to comfort, guide, and teach. I have assurance that nothing is impossible with God and that He is faithful to His promises.

Can I respond to the mystery of the unknown like Mary did?

“Behold,I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

I want to. I bow my face before a Holy God in surrender to His will and His plan for the rest of my wild and wonderful life.

And this is my assurance and consolation, that we will walk together.

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