Tag Archives: angels
“Why is it easier to make Christmas cookies than to make our hearts ready for Christ?”~Ann Voskamp
Even being retired, I find I still set myself up to be way too busy before Christmas. Decorating. Christmas crafts. Present seeking. Writing Christmas cards (cards that I started right after Thanksgiving and still am not finished – mostly because I am such a procrastinator) Stockings to finish. Stories to read. Traditions to uphold.
And yet – – –
These are not the things that prepare my heart to love. In fact – they are the furthest thing from it. These traditions. These crazy things we love to do in this life – have nothing to do with the tiny baby we claim to honor with them. They are things. Things that have nothing to do with the tiny baby that was born in a stinky, dirty stable.
It is in our nature to want to be the “wise kings” in life. We want to ride in on our camels or donkeys or fancy horses and chariots. Our embroidered robes flashing our importance. Our jeweled crowns reflecting our wisdom’s rich rewards.
And yet – – –
I think I am yearning to be something more this year. More than a flask’s aroma of earthly wisdom. A chest filled with rich foods or embroidered cloth. A writ of fancy words. A tree covered in beautiful lights and delicate memories. Or – well crafted stables with perfectly molded people.
This year – I just want to be a shepherdess. His shepherdess. A shepherdess out in His field. A shepherdess watching over His sheep. A shepherdess who hopes deep in my heart that I might find that one lost sheep who always seems to wonder off on the darkest, stormiest of nights. A shepherdess alone in His field with His sheep singing His songs.
This year – I want to be a shepherdess. A shepherd girl who has ears to hear and eyes to see the impossible. Angels singing songs. Angels bringing messages. Messages that prepare a heart for love. Love beyond all understanding.
I want to be that kind of shepherdess. One who brings my dirty, smelly self from long days and nights willingly spent in the field that my Father created. Fields that I – mostly – muddied up by my own vain, foolish attempts to change them or where I lost lambs that He had given to my keeping.
That’s who I want to be. A shepherdess whose heart is full of love.
Shepherds brought nothing but their hearts to that small, stinking stable. Shepherds believed beyond the power of reason. Shepherds who couldn’t leave their flocks, so they drove them to that same stable where they will bring their pure lambs for the Passover festival. Shepherds who had prepared their hearts long before the angels came.
A place where they saw a perfect Lamb. A Lamb to be judged. A Lamb to be separated out. A Lamb to be sacrificed.
That is who I am striving to be as I walk in my Father’s field of life this night A shepherdess in the field of the Lamb who shed His blood for His Father’s people – for His Father’s world. A simple shepherdess who is preparing her heart.
“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.” Voltaire [google images]
In NC there is this giant store of antiques called Granddaddy’s Antique Mall. If you take your time, you can spend hours in there. Today, I was on a mission. I had seen these metal angels with little bells attached to their wings. They were handcrafted and I knew i wanted to use for Christmas this year. So I snatched up the three that were there and was on my way out pretty quickly – until I went down one aisle too many.
My eye caught a small pulse of light off of something on the floor or close to the floor. I turned and saw a small mirror leaning against a chest of drawers. It was one of those mirrors that advertised a business during the 1940-50’s. There was a post war picture of a family in church singing out of a hymn book. Below that picture was a message: “Go to church”.
And – no surprise here – the bells on the angels dinged.
I plopped my money on the counter and slunk out to the car. God has a way of focusing me on His messages these days when I am trying to ignore them. Here is my horrible admission – I have not been leading by example lately. Going to an actual church as not been on my radar since we moved in January..
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been listening and watching services from a far. It is the one great thing about technology. I can catch the same sermon I would have heard on Sunday by Monday night. I can watch a service from Crossroads of Mansfield, OH, live. I can catch my favorite TV pastors with a click of the Roku. In fact – every night, I click on one of my favorites preachers/rabbis and fall asleep listening to some God-filled talk and praise (or not fall asleep because I get caught up in learning something new).
“Something happens in corporate worship that does not happen in private worship.”~Max Lucado (p67)
Double whammy! When God wants to wake me up, He usually hits me multiple times – in many different ways. Pass a church and something draws my eye to it, so I begin to wonder about the people in it – are they are a church of Laodicea or a 1st century church? As you can tell by what I am writing, my devotions hit it again. Not to mention posts on FB by old friends decorating my childhood church in OH as they hung the greens for Advent.
God is very good at giving me nudges when I am drifting instead of paying attention on the path that He has given me to walk. It is easy for me to praise God. Seems like I do it quite often these days. Stuck in a line – I start praying for those around me. Hear from the kidlets, and I’m immediately in praise mode after we hang up. Exercising – planting – driving down the road – I find myself talking and worshiping without even thinking about it.
Going to church to worship with others? Not so much.
The angels gave a song of praise when Yeshua was born in that tiny stable. They joined their voices together in a mighty choir and worshiped God choosing to be born on earth. Harmonizing a blessing over all people of good will that a gift had been given – a gift of grace – a gift of such great love that it brought the shepherds to their knees.
So too, do I need to come to my own knees in communal worship. Imperfect people joining in imperfect praise. Caroling into the dark night, the very carols that my extended family circled round me in traditional praise of a long ago night.
“Through Yeshua let us offer sacrifices of praise always to God, which is the fruit of the lips giving thanks to his name.”~Heb 13:15
The new house truly became a home this week. It expanded, took a deep breath, and with a few drops of love scattered around each inch of it like flowers in a garden, our home smiled for the first time.
Funny, how old habits, knowledge, and wisdom resurface when needed (such as cutting enough potatoes to feed all those extra mouths yakkinng and laughing in your ear while indulging in a hug or two and singing a song with a Grand). Things that you thought you had thrown to the back of the closet because they wasn’t needed anymore. Day-to-day activities that need to ebb and flow when there are more than two of you in the same home for a period of time.
“Then he taught me, and he said to me,
“Take hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands, and you will live.”~ Prov 4:4
I know I’ve written about this before, but I guess talking about forgotten knowledge brought it back to my mind. The Talmud teaches that when we are starting our journey on this plane, Our Father sends an angel to teach us everything that we need to know, and when they are done, they push their finger to our lips and blow it to the back of our “closet”. That little indentation over your top lip – the philtrum – is the physical imprint of your angel’s finger.
The question – why teach us only to make us forget it?
Jewish sages believe that while it is hidden from our physical mind it is still at the back of our closet. Seeking wisdom when we need it reconnects us with the Father who didn’t want to send us without Truth to guide us through this journey. It helps us – begin new journeys again – to smile again – to become ‘made new’.
1942 Ration: “Wherefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold they became new..”~2 Cor 5:17
After yielding to sin, after once being bogged down in the mire of life, is it possible to get out and be clean once more? Can we, once having conformed to the ways of this sorry world, break loose and be remolded to fit the higher plan that we know God has for us? Can we really forget ourselves and our short comings and live nobly in our own and God’s sight?
“Paul says, “yes, Do not let yourselves be fitted into the scheme of this age, but be cast in a higher form. This you can do by having a ‘new mind’. That is the secret of new life. When we are transformed through belief in Jesus Christ as LORD and Saviour, we are on the way to the ‘Land of Beginning Again’.
“And be not fashioned according to this world, but be ye transformed by the reviewing of your mind.”~Rm 12:2
“READ: Romans 12:1-3
“PRAYER: O thou Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world, wash me and me me clean. [Here let us humbly confess those things that keep us from being our best selves.] Establish within me a new sense of thy boundless love and give me more power for living. In thy name I pray. Amen.”
Pieces with jagged edges that no longer fit together .
Unbelievably, we sometimes forget how broken we are. We are that good at wearing masks – donning the armor. We argue that life happens. That we can just “suck” it up. Stike the brave warrior pose – march forward into battle once again. Worse things happen every day to other people.
Ugliness exists on our small mudball called Terra. There are many victims. Humans. Animals. Our World.
“Restore us, LORD God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.” Ps 80:19
The good news is that there is Someone who will hug us so tightly that all the broken pieces are miraculously re-created as one.
Not pieced together in slapstack fashion
But made whole. Perfect. Without seams.
No missing pieces.
When Moshe climbed Mt. Sinai and returned to his people, he found them worshipping a golden calf. His humaness rose angrily, and he threw the tablets so that they broke upon the sin in front of him. Later, he returned to the mountain and brought down new tablets. However…the wisdom of Jehovah-Jireh prevailed. He had always had a plan. He knew exactly what was needed to return His children to their envisioned wholness.
Before the tablet shattered.
Before righteous confronted evil.
Before a third of the angels fell.
Before the Garden was locked.
When this stronghold of evil was demolished…after the anger subsided…after the tears of remorse, Moshe laid the broken pieces together with the new tablets. Brokenness and wholeness coesxisting – side-by-side – in the heart of the most holy spot on earth – The Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Promise.
“And I will give you shepherds according to my heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jer 3:15
We weren’t created to be broken – in body – in spirit – in mind. We were created whole. Slowly, over the years a guide book was assembled to remind the people.
Godly leaders arose to remind the people how far they had come. A shepherdess carrying water to thirsty sheep. A young shepherd protecting his sheep with a three small stones. A 30 year old shepherd that sought His lost sheep, cradled them in his arms and healed their brokeness.
“Amen, I say to you, no one who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will enter it.” And he took them up in his arms and he laid his hand upon them and he blessed them.” Mark 10:15-16
I lost a friend Sunday night. Three days after receiving his second kidney transplant and telling his wife: “I love you”, he was called Home. I know there was plenty of rejoicing in Heaven yesterday…just as I know there will be lots of sadness expressed in my hometown over the next few days. Losing a teacher/preacher man is like that. It is just plain hard to say good-bye to one of the “good” guys – even when we know from Jewish tradition that good never ends – and all of Heaven is rejoicing and throwing a fantastic “Welcome Home” party in his honor.
I’ve led a blessed life that has allowed me to encounter a few teacher/preacher men and women. People who managed to stand on their faith everyday, no matter the circumstances swirling around them – no matter the confrontations that they had to endure because of their testimony. Reaching out and being able to teach others about the Love that surrounds us all – even when facing everyday challenges – is what sets a teacher/preacher apart from many others. They daily walk in the Light as He is in the Light, and they reflect His Love to all that are blessed enough to join them on that walk.
‘On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.’” — Leviticus 23:40
Tomorrow at sundown, the Jewish festival of Sukkot begins. It will also be the second blood moon that has fallen on a Jewish holiday this year. It is a time of great joy. A time to live in a temporary shelter so that they remember what it was like on the journey to the Promise Land and seek to create the trust that should live within them for Jehovah-Jireh. The New Year has just begun (Yom Kippur/Rosh Hashanah), and now it is time for each person to dedicate themselves and their lives to the One True God. They gather four species of plants that Sages say represent the body, wave them in all four directions of the world, and stand on their faith, letting David’s ancient words sing for all the world to hear. For a short moment in time, they become teacher/preachers and people are blessed by their words and actions.
“With every bone in my body, I will praise Him,” Ps 36:1
Words can be curses or blessings. The 9th commandment points this out rather succinctly. Most of us learned it: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Ex 20:13. Needless to say, most of us think of that this means just don’t lie about something someone else has done or not done. However, Jewish tradition applies this commandment to all sins that are done in the form of speech. Making fun of someone? Gossiping? Swearing falsely about anything? Leading someone away from the Light with your words? It is a basic reminder that we are to use our words as a blessing instead of a curse. A reminder to be a teacher/preacher with everything we say.
My friend was one of those people. His words were a blessing and a gift to our world. We will miss you, my friend, but I also know that your journey with the angels has just begun.
“In the circle of successful living, prayer is the hub that holds the wheel together. Without our contact with God, we are nothing. With it, we are little lower than angels, crowned with glory and honor.” Conrad Hilton in his autobiography, Be My Guest.”
This quote was one of the first things I read this morning. I was surprised. I had no idea that that Conrad Hilton (think Hilton Hotels) had written an autobiography, or better yet, that he was a prayer warrior. Believe me, if I had known he had written an autobiography, I would have been using parts of it to teach my students every year as we worked on our autobiography unit. I often use quotes or portions of books when I teach: Ben Franklin – Fredrick Douglas – Eli Weisel – Roald Dahl – Maya Angelou – Taylor Caldwell – various presidents (yes, even President Obama for those of you who are wondering) and, not to mention, pop culture idols (Michael Oher, I Beat the Odds). Nothing like using the words of successful people to motivate students. So Conrad Hilton, I will be adding one more book to my bucket list as soon as I finish this.
I know I have said this before, but I still miss teaching. I liked teaching about writing – which is weird because my first year of teaching – I remember skipping all the writing portions of the English book. It made me uncomfortable. They didn’t teach me how to grade writing in my course work during college…then again…maybe I just wasn’t listening that day. I wasn’t the greatest student (I think I mentioned that a few times in class – if any of my former students are reading this). Eventually, it became one of my favorite things to teach…especially when we were talking about VOICE. Every writer has a voice and watching students develop their voice was always fun.
“Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.” Deut 4:12
Moses is wrapping things up in Deuteronomy. He wants to make sure that this tribe of people that he has been in charge of for the past 50 years, remembers what is important when they get to the Promised Land. He knows they depend on him, and he knows that he won’t be with them as they enter this beautiful new land. In a sense, Moses is writing his autobiography, just like we write our autobiography every day. Maybe we don’t physically put a pen to paper and write, but it is recorded in the Book of Life and God hears our voice. The good news is He is always speaking to us. “It just – some of them [us] don’t hear so well,”as Racetrack said in Newsies (I think I remembered that quote right). In the Bible though, David heard His voice real well:
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!” Ps 29:3-9
God spoke all things into being. He sent His WORD to save us. He left a book for us to read His words. And if we are listening, He still speaks to us. If we turn off the T.V. – turn off the computer – put down the book, the phone, the gaming device, and maybe we can find some time to be still. Can you hear the silence? Let that slide by and listen to His voice today. When we are in contact with God, writing our autobiography with Our Father’s Forgiveness, Grace and Love, the inflection changes in our voice – just like it changed the consistency and confidence of Conrad Hilton’s voice.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Ps 91:1
I love Sundays. I Love the lazy pace of the day. I LOVE going to church, feeling the Holy Spirit move throughout the building…or listening to a 10 piece band (led by an older trumpet player who knows how to make his instrument sing) that plays “How Great Thou Art” which brings people to their feet…letting a praise choir remind me why running to Jesus is so vital…best yet…learning something new in the WORD.
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Ps 91:4
Today it seemed as if God was moving in many churches. I lost count of how many of my FB friends commented on their church experience today and the blessings that they felt after going there. I know that tears pushed past my lashes in church a couple of times. His Love, His mercy, His grace were pouring out over our heads, and all we had to do was be thankful.
“If you make the Most High your dwelling, even the LORD, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come new your tent, For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” 91:9-13
We tend to take those verses literally: tent meaning home. But according to Jewish traditions: tent means our connection to God. Go back and substitute that image as you read: “…no disaster will come near your connection to the LORD”. Bad things happen in our world. A much loved child dies way too early; 800 missile strikes have reigned down on Israel in the past two weeks; car crashes that break fragile bodies; spousal abuse, child trafficking, etc. Yet, if we trust our Father, live in His WORD, nothing will break that connection…N-O-T-H-I-N-G!
“‘Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” Ps 91:14-15
My daily Bible is getting a little dog-eared. I bought it in ’09 after most of my Bibles burned in our house fire…in fact, after a change of clothes – it was the first thing I bought. Chapter markers are falling off, pages are bent, colorful post-it markers protrude at odd intervals, old church bulletins hang out here and there, while tons of dates, notes and underlining decorate almost every page. Today when our preacher said to turn to Ps 91, I wondered what notes I could possibly squeeze in the margin…BUT I MANAGED.
I love Sundays – but most of all – I LOVE the LORD.