In the dark of night, the sky gives no hints that the sun will rise again. And yet we look with expectancy for another day to come. We remember the reliable regularity of a sun that rises in the sky every day of our lives.
In the earliest moments of dawn, the darkness must give way to the unstoppable light that fills the heavens. Advent comes to the weary pilgrims, crossing the crushing expanse of night like the promise of coming dawn. It reminds those with crushed dreams and broken hearts that the Son has come, is coming, and will come again.
I have known darkness that clouds and fills the lungs with smothering despair. And by God’s unspeakable grace, I have seen the light of a day that I thought might never come again. This Advent I remember, and I rest in the utter faithfulness of my Creator. (Written by Doug Floyd)
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” Is. 9:6
The phrase struck my heart. I was reading in Ezekiel where the Lord was going through the birth and life of Israel and how Israel started out as an abandoned newborn baby. The Message translation says, “No one cared a fig for you. … You were thrown out in a vacant lot and left there, dirty and unwashed- a newborn nobody wanted.”
“And then I came by.”
How many times in life have you felt like that abandoned child- helpless and nowhere to turn? And what a striking thought to think that the Lord notices us. He noticed a whole country and he notices us individually. The Lord didn’t abandon Israel but said “Live” and grew her up and stayed tethered to her throughout a history that included blessed times and times of great discipline. But He never abandoned them. He ultimately sent Jesus to reconnect with His people and connect with us all. And Jesus always took notice of those who cried out to Him while He walked this earth.
What does Jesus say to us today? “Do not let your hearts be troubled … surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”**
Throughout the New Testament Jesus assures us that He’s always with us, that He knows there’s times we will have trouble and trials and feel that we’ve been forgotten and all alone, but He tells us over and over again that He’s with us and He reminds us that, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.“***
Feeling beaten, distraught, abandoned, lonely, failed again, or fearful?
Remember: Our Lord is the God who sees and when we cry out His answer is always, “and then I came by.”
*Ezekiel 16:6, **Jn. 14:1, Mth. 28:29, ***John 16:33
The little Hobbit Merry was captivated by the kindness of Theoden, King of Rohan, in whose company he ended up in while the rest of the Fellowship was splintered into different parts of the grand epic story.
‘As a father you shall be to me,’ said Merry. ‘For a little while,’ said Théoden. *
In The Lord of the Rings, a book of over 1000 pages, this phrase may not seem earth shaking but it really struck home with me as I thought about Father’s Day the past few days. Fathers are such a critical part of society and they come in many shapes, forms and sizes. When I think of my own father, my husband Larry, my brothers, friends, brothers in Christ, pastors, teachers, and mentors in my life, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to those who have taken the time to invest in my life’s journey.
“As a father you shall be to me… for a little while” Over the years, there has been a multitude of kids (and adults) that have passed through our doors at home and at our business.
Larry has not just been the father of our three, Tiffany, Travis and Tori but also a caring soul to so many others. One of Tiffany’s friends posted on FB the other day that his very first job was in our warehouse sorting books. I couldn’t possibly count how many friend’s we’ve had pass through our office doors. Another friend of Trav’s recently spoke at Larry’s Rotary club and shared fond memories of Larry as a coach. He has officiated several weddings of our kid’s friends and will do another this Fall. These are just a small handful of ways that I have watched him impact the community around us. I am thankful to our Father above who has blessed us with a way that we could help others along on their journey and for Larry who was always willing to find a way to help students, colleagues, and others along the way. He has no doubt been a ‘father’ to them for a little while. The blessing goes both ways – we have been so blessed with many friendships and love throughout our life here on this earth.
I just want to say thank you to Larry and to the many others who have been willing to extend themselves and become “fathers for a little while”. You are reflecting the love of God and trying to make a difference for good in the lives of others and that matters so much.
Happy Father’s Day!
*(The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 2)
Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
That question has been asked since the days of Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis.
I was troubled this morning by a story on the news of a young 10 year-old who had crossed the border with a group from Mexico into the USA and then was abandoned and all alone. Heartbreaking. And there are thousands of children crammed together in buildings near the border that are overwhelming the government and those who are trying to help. And please, before you start blasting about whose fault it is or which political party is to blame, STOP. These are children. And they are on their own in a strange country and no one they know to turn t
My question is, is there anything the ‘Church’, can do to help these children? Is this an opportunity for us all to be “good Samaritans” in a big way? (Luke 10:25-37) We all have heard the story: a traveler who is stripped of clothing, beaten, and left half dead alongside the road and is knowingly ignored by a priest and a Levite. Finally, a Samaritan happens upon the traveler. Although Samaritans and Jews despised each other, the Samaritan helps the injured man. Jesus asks which of the three travelers was a good neighbor and of course the crowd said the one who had mercy on him. Jesus replied, “Go and do likewise.” (Vs. 37)
Can we go and do likewise? This is not a problem where we can just throw money. Is there any way families might be able to take in one child to care for until all this is sorted out? (They can be fingerprinted, photographed and located if their original family is found.) Or can churches sponsor a child or some children? (Like the Bridge program.) In the meantime, they would have a church, family or individual who is personally looking out for them. I know there are churches with thousands of members in Texas and across the areas close to the borders. Could they not figure out a way to help? Could it be something churches could be involved with across the nation? I think bringing a child into your home, church and heart would be a greater blessing that can be fathomed.
We can all sit around and say it’s too much work, too much red tape or too big a problem, or not my problem, but if we all come together in prayer, I believe the Lord will open a door and a way for us to take care of the “widows and orphans” as admonished in James 1:27
I, myself, don’t know anyone with a platform big enough to get the ball rolling but thought if I put this out there someone more knowledgeable will take up the call. Please join me in prayer about this. What an opportunity for the Church, the Body of Christ, to share the love and mission of Christ to those who are so alone.
Thank you for listening.
I saved a Bluebird.
I heard rustling in our wood stove insert. I was not sure what it was for a while – a mouse, snake, or bird?? But, I am not the bravest when it comes to varmints, or any small creature that moves quickly. It was too dark to see anything through the small glass window and whatever it was would be covered in ashes. When I told my husband, he said it was most likely a bird that fell into the chimney. He said it will not live if it couldn’t figure out how to get back up there, but that if we opened the insert door it would fly all over the living room and house, scattering ashes all over the place. That was not a pleasant thought. I listened a while longer and decided I would take my chances and opened the door. When I did, it didn’t fly out and without thinking too much I just picked it up and I carried it outside. It laid very still on it’s back in the palm of my hand. Needless to say I was so surprised. I wiped some of the ashes off of it and it was a beautiful little bluebird. I sat it down on a bench and it promptly flew off. So, I saved a bluebird. Not the most earthshaking event in the history of humanity but in light of being mainly homebound for most of this year, it was a moment of purpose.
Most days I am busy taking care of my family and house, checking on friends and others in need, praying and reading and puttering around the home. But it seems life has gotten a lot smaller and it doesn’t look like it will change for a while. But I don’t want to just exist and I don’t want my life to “finish out my days with a moan” as Psalm 90:9b says. I want to have purpose and passion and right now my purpose and passion is to spend as much time as I can before the Lord, learning more about Him, praising Him for His many blessings and being light and enjoying the family He has blessed me with. I know that I can pray! I can fill those Golden Bowls that are the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8). I can offer words of encouragement to those around me. And I can worship the Lord right in my home and sing praises to His Holy Name!
Yes, there are days that “I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof” (Ps. 102:7), but I REMEMBER all the Lord has done for me, and His people throughout the ages, and I rejoice that I know the God who cares! Take heart you children of the King. He is still God and He has not forgotten us. “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)
“He was one who lived expectantly, on the lookout …” Mark 15:42-45 MSG
I love that: “one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the kingdom of God.” I think that was difference between Joseph of Arimathea and the other members of the Jewish Council. He was LOOKING for God and expecting that He would be at work! This was very different than the rest of the members of the Council and the majority of the Pharisees and Sadducees who were just as well versed in their Jewish history and the workings of the Lord. It seems that it had become just historical knowledge and they were not really looking for the “Alive God”– the “God is With Us” God.
Things are not so different today. We have churches full of people who ‘know’ about God but really don’t expect Him to do much. God is Alive! He never sleeps or slumbers! He tells us to seek Him and we will find Him! I believe God is at work all around us! We just need to look with expectant eyes, just like Joseph of Arimathea! I want to always live expectantly, looking to see God at work all around me and throughout the kingdom of God.
What is He doing today in your life?
Mark 15:42-45 Late in the afternoon, since it was the Day of Preparation (that is, Sabbath eve), Joseph of Arimathea, a highly respected member of the Jewish Council, came. He was one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the kingdom of God. Working up his courage, he went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate questioned whether he could be dead that soon and called for the captain to verify that he was really dead. Assured by the captain, he gave Joseph the corpse. Mark 15:46-47 Having already purchased a linen shroud, Joseph took him down, wrapped him in the shroud, placed him in a tomb that had been cut into the rock, and rolled a large stone across the opening. Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James, watched the burial.
The clamor is great as we move into the New Year. The Covid 19 Pandemic is running rampant even as vaccines are being distributed, and the unrest in our society is almost at match point. What can we do?
There is a little verse in II Chronicles 20:12 “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” God reminds Jehoshaphat that the battle is His. The battle is still His today. This battle is foremost a battle of principalities. I believe we need to be careful where we fix our eyes now more than ever. I believe we are under extreme warfare as described in Ephesians 6:12 – against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms and our greatest weapon is prayer. I believe we need to be on guard against wolves in sheep’s clothing and remember as Matthew 24:24 warns us, that even the very elect can be deceived. I believe that when we start condemning other brothers and sisters based on words and worldly beliefs and not on biblical principles, we are in deep trouble, for it is not our job to convict and condemn others, but to lead them to Christ and mentor the new believers; but if we spend our time seeking other things we lose sight of why we are here and what our focus is – which is Jesus Christ and revealing Him to others.
Matthew 24:12 warns us that lawlessness will increase and that the love of many will grow cold – is that us? Or will we remain in Christ’s love and reach out in that love to show people that there is a better way. There are many who believe we are nearing the end-times, if that is the case, my question is what is our focus? Is it engaging in social media arguments that are not changing anyone’s mind or are we ministering to the hurting, the sick, the lost that live within our own households, and neighborhoods, and cities?
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (16:33 NIV)
Take hope, look up, fix your eyes on Jesus and know that you are never alone. I am again reminded of Ephesians 6 which tells us to put on the full armor of God and in The Message says: “God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. (…17-18)”
n Christ’s love, Valerie
Again, I pray: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.I
I love that the Christmas Season begins after a day of Thanksgiving. What better way to prepare our hearts for the welcoming of the Christ Child who has come to earth to make a way for humanity to be restored. “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; His love endures forever.” (107:1)
This year has brought the world much unrest, divisiveness, trials and tribulation. In truth, that has been the story of man since the beginning. The Hope of Christmas is the only answer. Jesus came that we might have life, and life more abundantly. It doesn’t mean we will not have heartache or heartbreak, sickness, misery, discouragement, disappointment and separation from loved ones. What it means is that He will be with us through it all. What it means is we are never alone. What it means is this is not all there is.
In reading through the Psalms this year, it has been encouraging to see the anguish and yet the thanksgiving in the midst of life uncertainties in ages past. There is encouragement and hope knowing the same God who was with David, and so many others in times past, is the same God who watches over us and walks with us today. Psalms reminds us: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) and “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
Take hope, look up, fix your eyes on Jesus and know that you are never alone. I am reminded of Ephesians 6 which tells us to put on the full armor of God and in The Message says: “God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”
Celebrate the Hope of Christmas! “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11) “She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21)
Take Hope in this Season of Christmas and remember the promises of God.
Some days a great sadness overcomes me – this is what I do….
“Because we listen for the shout, we miss the whisper.”– Max Lucado
Our world is shouting. People are crying out in pain over injustice. People are frustrated over contradictory information on the pandemic. People are polarized over everything from lifestyle choices to political leanings. What can we do? One thing I know for sure is that we can listen. We can listen to the Lord and follow His leading. And we can listen to each other. We all have different callings, different passions and different means of reaching out and helping others. Some of us are on the front lines, interacting with the hurting and the lost. Some do it with a phone call, FaceTime, Zoom, a letter or email or drive by. For others it’s dropping off a meal or cookies to a neighbor, and for others, they are called to pray. (Of course we can all pray and should.)
These are turbulent times. And in turbulent times we need to quiet our hearts and minds and hear the whisper of the Lord. Remember Elijah and how afraid he was after his escape from Jezebel? The Lord told him to stand on the mountain and the Lord passed by- but it was not in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire that He spoke, it was a “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12).
Are we listening?
James 1:19 reminds us: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Are we listening during these times or are we just shouting? Are we listening to those who are hurt and angry; and frustrated, feeling like there is no way out of their situation or are we caught up in the hurt and anger or even frozen in denial? This world needs Jesus. It needs to see His love and compassion for the masses. The world needs to see a people of God who are empathetic and who are trying to understand and willing to listen. Remember these words? “For God so loved the world….”
I am also reminded of Hebrews 12:14 “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
It’s hard to live in a world where opinions are running rampant and justice is corrupt on so many levels. But we have to remember that we are children of the King and live our lives accordingly. We are to live in peace and to not become bitter when people are unkind and antagonistic. None of this should be surprising to a child of God. Jesus said we would face tribulation and be hated for His namesake.
In the midst of this current pandemic and civil unrest, we need to be the voice of understanding, caring, reason and love. And most of all we need to be people of prayer, praying that the Lord would draw the hurting and lost to Him.