Amazing Grace!

Holly and I went to the Christmas Program at Victory Christian Center last night. Some of her classmates at VBI were in the performance — so we settled in to enjoy..and enjoy we did! Several moments in the production sparked rabbit trails in my mind…

When the angel announced to Mary that she would bear Jesus, she was also informed that Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy. I wonder if, when Mary told her parents what had happened, she also told them of Elizabeth’s miraculous news. (Can you imagine what was going through Mary’s parents’ minds? They undoubtedly had mixed emotions about it all — but hearing that Elizabeth, too, was expecting probably shook them even more!)

Then, when Mary arrived and Elizabeth immediately responded with the confirmation of baby John leaping with joy in her womb as well as prophetic words over Mary, what a refreshing and healing moment that must have been for Mary! Here was the ONE PERSON in the entire world who really understood what she was going through — who knew, without having to be convinced by any effort on Mary’s part, what an awesome moment this was for Mary! Mary’s mom probably couldn’t rejoice with Mary — she was likely too bewildered to know how to respond….but Elizabeth, she was the “God friend” for Mary! (to coin a phrase from Tammy) Elizabeth could share Mary’s joy, excitement, nervousness, wonder, and amazement! Who else would believe such a thing? Who else would be able to listen to all the things that were going through Mary’s heart and mind, and NOT be critical or jealous?

Elizabeth was so delighted for Mary that she had no other inclination than to humble herself before the mother of the LORD. How sweet that moment must have been! Elizabeth obviously taught that same delighted humility to John because his words seem to portray gratitude for being allowed the opportunity to prepare the way of the LORD. (That’s some excellent parenting, huh?)

As I watched Elizabeth welcome Mary with such joy, I imagined Elizabeth to be someone like my friend Lavon, the Queen of Hugs! Lavon is probably the most welcoming person I’ve ever met. If Elizabeth was anything like Lavon, Mary must have hungered for that embrace of total love and acceptance all the way to Elizabeth’s home! To be welcomed with such joyous abandon must have wiped away all the hurt of unkind tongues that Mary had experienced up to that time. There is such healing in a moment like that!

I think, too, of how Joseph must have suffered much from the sting of gossip — with people wondering why he followed through with the marriage, or if he, too, had broken the vows. Did people no longer do business with him? Did they make comments that he shouldn’t even be in the synagogue with that kind of “sin” in his life?

I think nearly everyone knows what it feels like to be gossiped about, or to have their loved ones gossiped about. It hurts. As much as we try to set it aside, it still makes us wonder why.

YET…

God is such a Wonderful Defender! As I imagine the shepherds rushing to the manger to share with Joseph what they had seen and heard from the angelic host, how Mary must have wept with joy! Over and over again, for every hurt, God supplied a glorious display of His Seal of Approval! For every judgmental tongue in the past, God brought out another exuberant shepherd proclaiming Christ and bringing others in to see the King of Kings!

I just gotta say HOW FUN IS THAT? Doesn’t it just make you want to run up to the throne of God and give Him a big hug! Way to go, God! Way to go!

First things First, please

watch-your-tongue.jpgZephaniah 1:6 caught my attention this morning:   ….those who have not sought the LORD nor inquired for, inquired of, and required the LORD [as their first necessity].

Ask the LORD first!  Seek the LORD first!  He is the Ultimate Necessity!

A situation came up years and years ago when people did not inquire of the LORD first, but instead, inquired of myself and my brothers.  My parents were divorcing and the dirt mongers were eager for a good story.  The most blatantly annoying comment was, “I just want to know how to pray — can you tell me what happened?”

Gee, how about praying:  Lord, bless this family as it goes through these challenges.  Father, bring healing and restoration into their hearts and minds — may this draw them closer to You!  May Your Name be mighty and powerful all the days of their lives, and may they give You glory for bringing them through, in the Name of Jesus.
That was pretty easy, huh?

I often find myself looking around at other believers who are struggling with the storms of life, and I pray that their ears will be shut to what is truly just gossip cloaked in  false Christianity.  I pray that wagging tongues will not be able to reach in and scar their hearts…that those who have a hunger to hear the “dirt” will suddenly become disgusted by the reality of what they are craving and that they will instead want to rush to Abba to make things right.

I have a handful of very trustworthy prayer warriors that I call upon from time to time.  The best thing about each of them is that they point the way back to Jesus.  With one friend in particular, our goal is to spend at least one day praying about the situation before we bring it to the table for discussion.  Then, once the issue is shared, we pray again and ask for wisdom in how to proceed.   We’ve all seen the damage that gossip causes and we know that it takes wisdom to know when to share and when to shut up.  🙂

Another friend’s motto is, “God is my/your defender!” Which is a good thing to remember when under attack and the desire to set the record straight is especially strong!    And another says, “Okay, let’s just agree to be mad about this for the next half hour or so — and then we’ll pray about it, calm down, and move on.”   That one always makes me smile….I just need a half hour of Epic Volcanic Eruption to blow off all the steam and then I’m ready to clean up the mess for a fresh start.

In whatever way we cope, it needs to start with prayer.  When we see or hear of controversies or challenges in the lives of others, we need to take it to Jesus before we take it anywhere else.  He is the best Filter of what is Truth and what is just malarky and manipulation.  (and No, “malarky” is not a homeschooler word —  I heard it from my kinfolk in Arkansas and liked it.  Sums it up pretty well.)

This entry is kinda heavy  so let me end it with the “happy feet” verses from Zephaniah:
The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who Saves]!  He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exault over you with singing!

Anybody else hear music playing?

Gotta love Him!

Disappointment with God

That is the title of one of my favorite books.  It is written by Philip Yancey.

After my nephew drowned in a neighbor’s swimming pool, I had a lot of questions.  God didn’t seem to be Who I’d always been taught He was.   The more questions I asked, the more frustrated I became.

I got very tired of hearing people say, “There’s a reason for everything!”  “Well, they just need to have another baby as soon as possible.”  “God needed another little angel in Heaven.”  “God needed another little flower in His garden.”

I wanted to scream, “There is NO good reason for this child to die.  Having another child will NOT replace this one!” and “My God planned ahead — He doesn’t have to kill babies to fulfill His angel quota (like that concept is even scriptural) or His flower quota!”  But of course, I did not want to hurt the feelings of the people who were trying so hard to bring comfort to me….

I ran across the book, Disappointment with God, at a Christian book store.  The title intrigued me.  And yes, you can bet I got a funny look when I headed up to the checkout.  Is it okay for Christians to be disappointed with God?  gasp!  The thought!

That book helped me walk through a very challenging time in my journey with Christ.  While my questions were not answered, I understood the thought line of Much Afraid in Hinds’ Feet On High Places, where she says that even if her Beloved has played her for a fool and He’s really not that awesome and powerful and amazing, even so, she’ll still love Him and appreciate how much better her life has become since she’s become acquainted with Him. 

Coming to terms with unanswered questions is that paradigm shift that brings about a greater intimacy with God than one could ever imagine.  That leap of faith is fully and completely delightful, amazing, and empowering.

Now it’s my husband’s turn.  Due to a recent farm accident, he had to have a portion of a finger removed.  His personality is such that he does not do well with any kind of ‘deformity’ or ‘abnormality.’  He wonders where God was when the accident took place, why his ever-cautious and thoughtful approach to working on machinery was not enough when teamed with God’s divine protection.     

I won’t answer him with cliches.

I do not know why it happened.  I do not know what God’s ultimate plan and purpose is regarding this injury.  What I do know is that God is still good.  He is still loving.  He is still merciful.  He is still our shield and our defender.  He is the same God who got us through much more horrendous circumstances….

and He will get us through this.