Tag Archives: Mary

CHRISTMAS JOY (4 Days and Counting)

When it is the last day before Christmas break in a small Christian school, there is joy everywhere. Parents pop in. Presents magically appear on desks. Hugs wrapped around on the outside squiggle their way in and wrap themselves around the heart as well. Carols bounce off the walls while the story of a baby in the manger is told in a variety of ways, keeping the kids laughing and dancing and prancing and joyfully praising (and snowballs flying).

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”~Lk 2:10

What a day to put in the treasure chest of memories and rejoice over and over whenever I pull it out and hold it again. Emotions fade away, but that core of truth always remains. In the same way great joy came that night so long ago, and I am sure the shepherds pulled that memory out from time to time to marvel over the core of what they saw and heard. Turing it in front of them. Questioning their sanity. Wondering at the blessing.

👼Do not be afraid.
👼Good news.
👼Great joy.
👼People of good will.
👼Baby in a manger.

Yup. Heard the angels. Heard the words. Saw the baby. Saw the parents. Scratched the head – maybe the beard. Blinked the eyes a few times. Went home to sleep. Couldn’t sleep. Counted sheep. Told the family. Family made some snide comments, but hugs got passed all the way around. Went back to bed after prayers had been said. After all, what does one do after a glorious impossible miracle?

Lucky for us. Luke wrote that glorious impossible miracle down. I often wonder if Luke asked Mother Mary about baby Yeshua? Or did he know one of the shepherds? One of the kings? Seems to me, lots of miracles took place just so we could continue to read about it 2000+ years later.

Glorious impossible miracles that just keep multiplying.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”~1 Pt 1:8-9

When the students come to our small library, we have story time, pick out new books, and usually make a bookmark. Not sure how bookmarks became a thing, but now the kids ask what will be on the bookmarks before they even come to library. So this week, I made bookmarks for them. They giggled. They laughed. They wanted more than one.

After all – 
🎅Santa is coming to town.
Jesus is coming to town.
🎄Seeing them together brings joy to girls and boys – of all ages.
👼Good news.
👼Great joy
👼To all people of good will.

As the angels sing of Glorious Joy we get to see the Glorious Impossible “as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be…”

Four days and counting – – – wheeeeeeeeee….. 

   [Greg Olsen artwork]

Advent Peace #4: Stories of Peace

“Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”~Mitch Albom

Christmas is the time for stories. Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. Frosty the Snowman’s corn cob pipe. Santa Claus coming to town. Amahl’s miracle. Mary’s canticle.

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart..”~Lk 2:19

It is her story that wraps around the centuries and brings them into focus through 2 short chapters in Matthew and Luke. When I was little I could almost see Matthew and Luke making their way to Mary’s tiny home in the dark of night. Like us, even though they knew He was with His Father, they wanted that human connection – to touch a woman that had loved Him as much as they did – a joyous memory to carry with them when the world threatened to break them in everyway – a memory to pass on to the children of their children’s children.

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”~Deut 4:9

Tonight, giggles still circle over our home. Christmas decoration from the bounty of our woods. A little pine. A little ivy. A few berries. Red glitter paint. Stories that the neighbor kids and I shared as old hands worked to show younger hands how to wrap words and nature together.

Tonight, I am treasuring and pondering many thoughts. The short creative non-fiction that my friends share everyday on FB, or the longer blogs that former students share their wisdom in ways that brings tears to my eyes. Two dogs that tell stories with their eyes every hour of the day.

But mostly – tonight I am thankful for the story of a young girl who treasured up all things that were necessary to bring peace to people of good will. Words that overide the snarky political memes and comments. Softens the bad news for those who are ill and weary. Lifts the pieces of hearts broken apart by choices. Brings forgiveness to those who weep in loneliness. Lights the way in the dark of night with its peace-filled song.

Stories of Christmas.

Stories of a Mother.

Stories to be taught to our children that they might teach their children and their children’s children and their children’s children………

Stories of the Peace of Advent. [google image]

Because of Christmas #7: Signs Instruct Direction

“Called by a sign. Instructed by scripture. And directed by God.”~Max Lucado (p78)
 
Signs are a big part of everyday life. Road signs. Door signs. Business signs. Bodily signs. Price signs. Emotional signs. We are programmed – culturally, physically, spiritually – to respond to signs. Come to think of it – animals, plants, oceans, even the dust of the earth respond to the stimulus of a “sign”.
 
“Called by a sign.” When Mary was visited by an angel, she had a sign. When Joseph had a dream…when the angels sang in the dark of night…when the wisemen saw the star in the East..when Herod was visited by the wisemen…when…
 
Signs are everywhere but sometimes we don’t know how to respond to them. A stop sign – run it or obey it? A wild fire – evacuate or hose down the house? Tummy hurt – stay home to rest or go to work and pass it around? Lie to our best friend – or tell the truth?
 
“Scripture instructs.” Usually, we rely on advice from those who have battled through similar things after they saw a sign. After many years of disastrous choices on my own, I finally figured out that is exactly why Scripture is so important to our lives. It is the touchstone to my spiritual ancestors who struggled the same way I struggle when I see a sign. It is a witness to their disastrous choices as well as their good choices.
 
Mary and Joseph each knew the scriptures – “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel….“Is 7:14 The wisemen, being strangers did not know the scriptures. They stopped to ask for directions and the Jewish rabbis sent them on to Bethlehem. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”~Micah 5:2
 
“God directs.” When I am wise enough to blend signs and scripture together, God’s direction is a whole lot clearer. Sometimes, I’m still making the choice in the dark of night, but it is that bright morning star that rises in the darkest part of the morning that helps direct my path until I can see clearly..
 
The holy-days are approaching quickly. Many in NC are still out of their homes from Hurricane Matthew, many more are out of their homes due to wildfires. It is a time to pray for others and offer thanks for signs that offer warnings – scripture that offers advice – and a loving Father that is always right beside us – in the easy times – in the struggling times – directing us to the path He carved out of a timeless wilderness just as He carved our names in the palm of His hand. [google images]

ABSOLUTELY

945925_589268661094942_510126471_nI absolutely – positively love going to our church. I totally – completely love singing old hymns or praise songs in a come-unity that is so large that no one can hear me sing – just me giving back (one of the gifts He gave me) to My Father. I happily – amazingly love jumping from book to book – verse to verse- in Our Father’s guide book – trying to keep up with a pastor who seems to store the whole book in his bald head and talks faster than any ol’ country boy I’ve ever heard.

“And he did not doubt The Promise of God as if his faith were lacking, but he was strengthened in faith and he gave praise to God.” Rm 4:20

Blue. Red. Black. Purple. Green. My relatively new Bible has gotten pretty marked up in the past few years. After the house fire took away my old Bibles and my mom’s Bible, I had to get a few new ones. (Luckily, my father’s Masonic Bible was spared) But – there is always that one special translation that becomes a favorite. One that sleeps close to me when the hubby is gone (mostly because I love reading in bed until my eyes can no longer stay open, and I wake up hours later to turn out the light). One that seems to speak in God’s voice more than the others do. Its tissuepaper pages are torn – creased – marked. Dates crowd the margins around verses that speak loudly to me while underlined phrases – boxed in words – and silly doodles weave in and out of the small spaces that remain. More notes on notebook paper are pasted into my journal —- just incase I need to look something up later.

“Therefore, take heart, men, for I believe God, that it is so according to what was spoken to me.” Acts 27:25

Every story – every parable – points us to having faith. A faith so strong that we begin to understand that no matter what happens, God keeps His promises. A faith that allows us to see beyond all logic and reason to see the hope of His promises. It may happen immediately – it may happen decades later, but God keeps His promises, or if you think in Hebrew or Jewish tradition – he keeps His b’rits. The fantastically – wonderfully cool thing is – – – – God works to build faith in our lives through every situation that we experience. Every terrific- awful – funny – sad – hateful – beloved situation that develops in our lives.

“For it is by faith that we walk and not by sight.” 2 Cor 5:7

At the end of this night, my heart absolutely identifies with Mary, Martha’s sister. I can easily visualize myself sitting at Jesus’s feet, listening to Him teach, yearning to absorb every syllable of His stories into my finite mind until finally – safely, I fall asleep, wrapped in the comforter of His voice. That is the peace of faith – a faith in God the Father – God the Son and God the Holy Spirit – a faith beyond all understanding. A peace byond all logical thought. A peace that is just  absolutely “knowing”.(Lk 10:38-42)

[images:The Lamb’s Chapel]

 

542655_491297807558695_1424990365_n

DEEP UNTO DEEP

deep-calleth-unto-deepThere is a deep holiness about Ash Wednesday. Harmonic deep waters that flow under me and takes me into a world of which I know little, but one of which I yearn to know so much more. Looking up I see a narrow gate that stands between me and there. I merely have to walk up the hill and walk through. Deep calls unto deep~Ps 42:7.

“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.” John 2;1

Yeshua chose to walk up that hill. From that pivotal moment in Cana when his mother looked at Him and said, “They have no more wine”. He knew. Deep called unto deep. He hesitated. Human flesh rebelling. Logical, lineal thinking running interference to sacred, spiritual wisdom. “Woman, why do you involve me?My hour has not yet come.” Deep called unto deep again. Her eyes locked with her child’s. A love prayer floating between them. Seconds? Minutes? Eternity? God time superceded man time. Yeshua nodded, as His eyes lifted to the night skies, and He took a deep breath. Rabbi Yeshua turned back to His mother and Love emanated between them. She nodded as she spoke aloud to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Deep called unto deep.

Life becomes exceedingly complicated when deep comes to deep. Ash Wednesday reminds me of how truly complicated life can be. Deep continuing to call unto deep. The steep path Rabbi Yeshua chose to travel became even rockier and steeper. A dark shadow fell upon the miracle healer, the sought after rabbi, the hunted curse of the priestly Sanhedrin. Did He talk to His mother? His disciples? The birds of the field? His Father? I smile because I know the answer, ‘Of course He talked to His Father’. Deep calls unto deep.

As I draw an ashy finger upon my forehead and breathe in the essence of frankinscence from my oils, I tremble. I watch the news and see those who stand firm in their faith. Through the swing of the sword, slash of the knife, the heat of the fire……they stand. And I? I tremble. The shadow stands over our world tonight just as it did when Rabbi Yeshua looked down the road towards Jerusalem. Deep is calling unto deep. Can I stand like Him or the 1 or the 21 or the 45? Can you? Can our country? The path is getting rockier…steeper…scarier. The gate appears narrower than it did before at the top of the mount.

Ash Wednesday…Deep calls unto deep. And I tremble.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”.~1 Cor 15:58

[Google images]

4 of 7: HOPE

idioms3 of 7: HOPE. Today I started my day with an idiom within a joke. “Have you heard about the cat who ate some cheese, breathed into a mouse hole, and waited with baited breath?” Don’t cha love idioms? They never mean what they say, but they express a sentiment so well. And….the our English language is full of them, No wonder immigrants pull their hair out trying to learn English.

Like usual, my mind took off on a tangent as I started thinking about all the idioms or axioms that surround the word HOPE. Needless to say, the first one that came to mind was a quote that I had used many times in the classroom: “HOPE for the best, prepare for the worst” Alexander Norton in the 1600’s. From there – it went downhill (see how often we use idioms???)…

axiomsThe Cleveland Browns are beyond HOPE….
If my paycheck doesn’t grow, we are out of HOPE
We are down to our last HOPE
Selling HOPE
Beyond HOPE….

Most of the time, ‘HOPE springs eternal’ in our country. People see the depressing news, eat their supper, take their kids to their sports practices or games, escape into TV land, lay their heads on a pillow and HOPE that tomorrow is better.than today. We get it naturally since our country was founded on Christian values (and yes, I know there are people who disagree with that statement, but I’ve done my own research and disagree with them).

“Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.” Lk 1:30

An old Greek axiom states: “If it were not for HOPE, the heart would break.” HOPE is that light in the darkness. Mary heard the angel speak, felt the changes within her. I know she must have had some pretty dark days – especially when she told Joseph what was transpiring. HOPE was the light she clung to as she walked this path virtually alone. God was with her. Angels were with her. But physically, she was walking a faith path…scared and alone. Luke never mentions her parents, Anna and Joachim No close friends are mentioned. Only Elizabeth who was also walking a faith path of her own. No wonder Mary went on a journey to visit her for a few weeks. Her heart was probably close to breaking.

Advent has a way of bringing the spiritual realm a little closer to the physical. It is our touchstone to a time when God and His Son made this amazing plan to build a new road into our world – a road with a bridge between our two dimensions A road that eventually – if we choose to walk on it – will lead us to grace, salvation, and “,,,Thy kingdom come…”  A road of HOPE.light-hope_00332387

The Resilient Soul

goodnightre·sil·ience
riˈzilyəns
noun
1.
the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
“nylon is excellent in wearability and resilience”
2.
the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
“the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions”

Last night, just before I yawned through my last couple of words with Our Father, the word… “resilience”… darted in front of my eyes. I hate when He does that. The word danced around in my head, conjured up several images, thoughts, stories and completely destroyed the yawn complacency that had overtaken my mind.yawn

Really?

Now?

Sleep should never be disturbed by a word dancing around in your head. Worse – it has continued its merry romp between my neurons since then. My parents’ generation were certainly resilient. Growing up during the Great Depression, WWII, Korea, Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, Riots…their middle name must of been “Resilient”. Then again – maybe that is the middle name for every generation.

Adam and Eve foreclosed/locked out of their home yet being resilient enough to build a new one together. David … Ruth… Jonah… Joseph… Mary Magdalene…Peter… The WORD is jammed packed with examples of resilience being displayed in God’s people.

“If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit.” — Leviticus 26:3–4

The literal translation of the first sentence is : “If you walk in MY decrees…” What a promise that is. If you follow the WORD, everything that follows will be blessings. Best yet…if you fall smack on your face…screw up in the worst way possible…God gave us our own version of resilience: GRACE.

Apparently, teaching God’s grace is intrinsic within our psyche because we teach our children to say “Sorry” when they break a window, break a heart, break a promise. . The neat thing is – when we trip and fall, we can do the same thing. All we have to do is whisper the same word…”sorry”, and Grace washes it away. While there are consequences to our choices, through it all – resilience takes over. We bounce back into shape. We recover from our difficulty, as we begin to walk in His decrees…

Rain and Sun work together to bless the fields we plant…seeds bloom…crops grow strong… trees bring forth fruit…and at the end of the day, our bodies tired and achy from a day’s work, we try to stifle that last yawn, and crack one eye open hoping that Our Father doesn’t toss another word at us that will keep us awake a little longer than we want to be.

I think I am definitely ready for that last yawn tonight.zzzz

 

Easter Thoughtsong

Palm Sunday:  Long ago, songs and praises were offered to a young man riding into the holy city onl the back of a donkey. It is only appropriate that my Hebrew devotional today centered on the differences between Psalms and songs….hmmm…I didn’t even know there was a difference – but in Hebrew tradition there is quite a difference: “The Hebrew word for song is shira (which is also a popular girl’s name), but like all biblical words, there is a deeper significance as well. Shir doesn’t only mean song; it signifies a connection and, interestingly enough, is the same word for both a domesticated animal and a leash. With this understanding, shirah means a song connecting the singer with God above.

Psalm, or mizmor, on the other hand, has nearly the opposite connotation. Mizmor comes from the Hebrew word zamoor which means to cut or prune as in Leviticus (25:4), during the Sabbatical year, “Do not prune (tizmor) your vineyard.”

The message here is that before offering a psalm to the Lord, we must first cut out any inappropriate forces or desires that may interfere with our devotion.

The challenge for us then becomes to live each day as the psalmist suggests — by offering “a song” and “a psalm,” connecting ourselves to God, while cutting away those things that keep us from Him.”

When the crowd sang Our Lord’s praises on that long ago day, I guess they forgot to prune away the things that remained in their way – keeping them from knowing Him and Our Father.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us” —Psalm 67:1

MAUNDY THURSDAY:   Long ago in a far away land, a man knelt and washed the feet of his friends. Later, his best friend, John, sat to his right. The man looked up and offered the seat at his left to another friend; his name was Judas. His birth place had been in a stable – his last meal in a guest room and he gave “thanks” as he shared his cup of wine.

Did you know that in early Jewish weddings the young man would say to his bride: “This cup is a new covenant in my blood which I offer to you.” When she takes his cup, she drinks from the cup as a sign of her acceptance.

Do all those references that you have heard in the Bible about blood and the church being the “bride of Christ” begin to make sense? Slowly, it started to make sense to me.

Eucharisteo in Greek means Thanksgiving. The root word of eucharisteo is charis or “grace.” The Greek word chara, is also there which means “joy.” He gave thanks for being chosen as the Passover lamb on Sunday. He gave thanks for the cup of wine-filled wrath that he was being asked to drink from.

“The height of joy isn’t simply to be blessed — but to become the blessing.

The height of joy isn’t to have blessings actualized — but to become the actual blessing.

Not to be blessed with stuff — but to become the blessing in service.” Anne Voscamp

That is what Jesus did on a night long ago in a far away land.

GOOD FRIDAY:   In the early morning hours of a long ago today, He was alone in a garden. Most people would think that is ironic, since all of this started in a lost garden. But as always, He was following where His Father led Him. Passover. This God/Man knelt in the darkness of a full moon and felt the garden breezes stir His hair. This garden, where the fruit was pressed and bounty extracted, was where He, too, was pressed, so that the bounty could be extracted.

Tears of blood, desertion of friends, betrayal by another, family??? Alone. Born in a stable…alone in a garden…from beginning to end – He had no place to lay His head. The God/Man warred within one body to the ultimate choice – His choice…His Father’s choice…the choice of grace.

What followed – the unendurable – was fore-told by the prophets – disfigured beyond belief as He took on the sins of all eternity . The choice had been made – the gift given – the waiting had begun.

Holy Saturday: Waiting is never easy. Time slows – eyelids droop – pieces of song drift through – tears fall… People are people. Despite a few executions, a sky darkening storm and minor earthquake, life went on in the holy city.

Soldiers patrolled the area. Pilate listened to more petitions. The Sanhedrin tried to figure out how to repair a broken altar or mend the curtains that hid the Holiest of Holies. And I’m sure, the main populace of the holy city worked at cleaning up after the natural disasters. That’s what we do – right?

However, there were some that were lost on that day long ago. Tears mingled with pain and produced confusion. Did they huddle together, hidden from the authorities – just in case, someone wanted more blood?? Or did they mourn in silence, seeking the places that they had last seen Him? Was it over? What now?

I like to think that they went to find His mother. Somehow, I like to think she knew more than they. The Bible doesn’t say much about His mother, Mary, but what is there has always fascinated me. She didn’t scream and run when an angel visited her in darkest hour before the dawn. She didn’t blink when Joseph hesitated. She asked for miracles before any had been accomplished. She stood at the foot of the cross and wept at the sight of her baby boy. Could I have done any of those things?

When they came, I see her holding His prayer shawl and —- waiting. She knew her son was no longer in pain and even better – she knew there was more to His story. Did she know exactly what was to come? Did she understand the parable of the temple before the disciples? I don’t know; I do know that she was still the woman who had answered: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word… My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.” If she answered this once upon a time…then she was probably: fasting…preparing…praying…waiting…

Waiting…for the sun of a new day… a Son with a new covenant….waiting.

EASTER SUNDAY:  In the early hours of the third day, His mother waited.  In a room full of people, she was alone with her thoughts…her prayers…her faith.  At some point, when her eyes became too heavy, her head fell upon the arm that rested on the small window sill  and the light of the full moon covered her head like a blanket as His well-worn prayer shawl covered her shoulders.  It was then the music awakened her.  Familiar – words without words – music.  The waiting was over.

She rose easily to her feet and picked her way through those sleeping on the floor around her.  She smiled.  They had come offering comfort, but had found instead, comfort.  Her strength…wisdom had served as their ballast over the turbulent, stormy days.   Disciples – their families – all crowded into the house of a gracious benefactor.  Dawn was not far away and Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James would soon be rising.  His mother opened the door and joined her two angelic companions.  Friends that had traveled this road with her since the beginning.   Together, they made their way to her son’s tomb.

Of all the things that she had held tight to her heart, today would be the holiest. The Roman soldiers slept by the tomb; their spears and swords useless against the music that gave them peaceful dreams and offered a miracle to the waiting world.

Darkness banished.  Power unleashed.  A tomb unsealed.  “Behold, my daughter,” the music sang as Mary, His earthly mother, sank to her knees on holy ground.

He stood…released…renewed…reborn…radiant within the light of His heavenly father.  “Mother.”

Can you imagine?  Can you hear the music?  Do you feel the joy?

The wrath was gone.  The rough places made straight.  A tiny human baby had been forged under the purifying fire of temptation and sin and was now refined into the most precious gift Our Father could give his children – Grace.

A way back.

Home.

I can’t begin to imagine what mother and son talked about that first Easter morning, but I’m sure they did.  How she must have ached to touch and smooth His hair back from His face. But it was not time…He had not yet ascended to His Father. As she welcomed Him into the world from her body, so she ushered Him back into the world with her faith.  A different form…a different path…a different world because Christ had  overcomed the world…overcomed sin…overcomed death.

Easter lives.  Cloaked with power from on high. we are waiting again.  The birth pangs are increasing.  Wars and rumors of wars roil around us.  And… when He returns?  The gates of the garden will be unlocked and we will walk – once again – with Our Father and know Him … face-to-face…Grace filled…Grace blessed.

(Luke 24)