Tag Archives: Max Lucado

Advent 2016 #2/7: The Dare

“The manger dares us to believe the best is yet to be. And it could all begin today.”~Max Lucado (p141)

“Double dare you.”

“Dare to believe…”

“Dare to dream.”

“Dare to believe…”

“Dare not wait.”

“Dare to believe…”

If you were Mary would you “dare to believe” that the same loving Abba who sent an angel to speak to you; who asked you to endure gossip, hatred, banishment, even the threat of stoning, would ask of you to give birth in a smelly stable?

“Dare to believe..”

If you were Joseph, would you “dare to believe” that the same Jehovah-Jireh who sent an angel in a dream to call this child His own, would provide such a place for His son to be born?

“Dare to believe…”

If you were the shepherds would you “dare to believe” that a holy child of God was lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and parents who looked like you?

“Dare to believe…”

If you were wise men would you “dare to believe” that this is child lying in the manger was truly worthy of your fine gifts?

It is as if God went out of His way to “dare them to believe”. He didn’t want them to believe this was His son based on their physical senses or the reality of their everyday lives. Instead – He gave them signs in the heavens and dared them to have faith when they got there.

“Dare to believe…”

Elohim is still doing that. He is giving us signs in the WORD, the heavens and through His prophets, but He also continues to ask us to have faith when we get there if it doesn’t look like we think it should. Our physical senses may be offended – the world view of our reality may shout at us that we are idiots – but it is through our faith dare that we will see beyond the manger and see the Son of the Most High cooing a blessing.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and she wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”~Lk 2:7

It is my HOPE in this first week of Advent that we all “Dare to Believe”.

Because of Christmas #12: Stuff

I keep promising myself that I will get rid of more stuff. Then I pick it up to put it in the give away/sell it pile, and I think of all the times I have worn it – or the sentiments attached to it – or uses for it – or future uses for it. And just like that – I cave. Who does that? Who knew you could have way too much stuff after you have downsized 3 times – – – but there you go. ME!

Maybe it IS me. Maybe it’s not so much the “stuff” – but me. There’s a part of me that loves stuff and loves to buy stuff – especially Christmas stuff. As I walk around our quirky home tonight, I look at our little trees spread around the house. There are 3, and I love the simplicity of how they look at this minute. Copper wire tiny lights. A lit snowman that was my nightlight when I was a child. An angel or two. Three totally different creches.

But wait – there’s more. The Christmas houses have found their home in the kitchen. There is a couple pine garlands that still are waiting in the boxes that I want to hang. But after that??? I may just call it good and stuff the “stuff”.

“God became one of us so we could become one with Him.”~Max Lucado (p135)

God didn’t do “stuff” when He sent his son to earth. I think He probably went a step below being a minimalist when it came to His son’s birth. A stable? If I was quoting my Grands, I would add the word, “Seriously?” (Lately, they attach that word to many sentences.)

God choose not to do the “stuff”. He wanted it to be about His son becoming one with us. Maybe that is where I am at this year. I, too, want it to be about His son. Yet a part of me knows that as we begin to celebrate this first Advent of Christ, it is exciting to know we are living in the times of the Second Advent of Christ. And I just have this feeling that this time, God is going to do “STUFF”!`

Hmmm….there you go…a reason to keep doing “stuff”. Join with me and sing, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly…”

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.”~1 Thes 4:16 [google images]

Because of Christmas #11: HopeTree

“You, me, and the Christmas tree. Picked purchased, and pruned. Trust God’s work.”~Max Lucado (p127)
 
Advent begins tomorrow. The annunciation was only the beginning – – – the beginning of hope. The trees of the garden have been locked away for so long because of our poor choices. Is it any wonder that salvation came wrapped – in so many ways – in the cloak of a tree?
 
“Who Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having been dead to sins, we might live to righteousness…” ~1Peter 2:24a
 
Hope.
 
It is the reason we cry during those sappy Christmas movies. The reason we want to pull the tree out of the attic before Thanksgiving. The reason we can halfway stand the pain when a loved one leaves this temporal plane. The reason that everyone feels like singing “O Christmas Tree” even if they can’t carry a tune in a a tree-holding bucket.
 
A Tree of Hope.
 
Today, I managed to get one of my Christmas trees in place. Now don’t get too excited. My trees are of the 3 foot variety, and they sit in Rubbermaid containers most of the year. There are no ornaments on it tonight. There are no presents beneath it’s branches. For tonight, my Grandma Mac’s creche sits beneath it and my version of the annunciation angel and heavenly lights are its only decoration. It won’t stay that way, but for tonight, it is perfect and I am content.
 
“And having looked up, he [the blind man]was saying, “I see the men, for I see them as trees walking.” ~Mk 8:24
 
Sometimes – we see ourselves as that mighty oak tree in the middle of a field. Strong. Resilient. But often -we become too hard, Grow too tall, Don’t sink our roots deep enough. Allowing the swirling winds of this world to whip us this way and that. Letting the storms of life rip our leaves, fruit and sometimes – even the limbs off our trunk. It is only after we recognize the new Tree of Life -you know – the one that the Father sent to save us from ourselves – that our “blind” eyes are finally opened. In His light we can become the sapling that we were always meant to be so that we might bare more hope-filled fruit for those around us.
 
Because of Christmas – we have the Hope Tree. 
[google image]

Because of Christmas #9: Perhaps Today

Usually – by this time of the day, an idea has been circling around in my brain for hours. A hint. Additional input filtered through the synapses. A few tweaks here and there and the outline has taken shape enough that I feel like I know what I’m supposed to write about for the day.

Not so today.

There’s simply been too many ideas circulating in my brain. Everytime I think I’ve found a focus, something else spears its way into my sphere, and I’m off track again.

Thanksgiving Day………Family Foibles………Christmas………Simeon….

So many choices and no inner nudges that are highlighting one thing and yet – this huge knocking in my head that I am missing something. Something huge. Something obvious. Something that is right in front of my face, and I’m missing it.

Hmmm…..a few days ago, I wrote “Signs Instruct Direction”, so I think I need to go look at things that I wrote down because they caught my attention throughout the day.

“Wise is the saint like Simeon.”~Max Lucado (p102)

If I had the faith of Simeon, I wouldn’t be biting my nails and wondering what the next paragraph is going to look like. Simeon knew. He was waiting. He had complete confidence in one fact – he would see the Messiah in his lifetime. God had promised. God fulfills all His promises.

What is it like to have such a faith? To wake up everyday and think to himrself: אולי היום ……. perhaps today …. Did he have the words posted in his notes on scripture? Did he talk about it with other rabbis as they debated the scriptures and Jewish wisdom? Or – did his gut just ache, so deep inside him that he knew beyond human knowledge that “perhaps today”…. “perhaps today”…he would see the One he longed to see the most?

The advent of the Messiah into the world. God’s plan of salvation.

I remember lying under a huge maple tree in my front yard long, long ago. The light filtered through the leaves, and there was a promise whispered in the wind. A promise I didn’t understand but absorbed like breath itself. Unlike Simeon, however, my faith faltered and tumbled into dark recesses of my crazy choices for long periods of time. But occasionally – when my spiritual ears would be tickled to listen – I would remember, breathe deeply and think: perhaps today. Then I would stand outside, hold my breath until I felt His breath, and breathe deeply in that God promise to me and remember – God keeps all promises.

My faith is stronger in these latter days. However, because the faith is stronger, the waiting is harder – I am impatient. Have always been impatient. In fact, it is one of those things, God has challenged me to work on – PATIENCE. Errrrrrr……I have to admit, the more challenges He gives me, the more I’m looking forward to a point when time is not linear.

So today (in linear time lingo), I took a lesson from Max Lucado. i wrote the words: “Perhaps Today” in large letters. I added some artistic flairs here and there so it will daily draw my eye in my war room. Everyday I want to be reminded of Simeon’s faith in his Abba’s promise. He knew that Jehovah-Jireh would provide the fulfillment of the promise at the perfect time. And that day as he held the Messiah in his arms, he spoke to the blessing:

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”~Lk 2:29-32

As this day of giving thanks pushes to its own fulfillment, I think I will take one more last trip outside with the dogs. I will hold my breath, open my ears and breathe deeply. When I feel His holy breath deep within me and I am waiting with expectation, I will say…perhaps today……….perhaps today………….perhaps today……….   [google images]

Because of Christmas #8: Humble Pie

It as not been a good year for Humbles. There’s been a drought of kindness in the meager water supply. Not to mention, the much needed love fertilizer was held up in production due to an ineffective leadership that had not taken good care of the factory or its workers. If only a Thanksgiving a miracle would occur. But alas, the last sarcastic hail and hate tornadoes decimated the field to only a remnant. There might be no Humble pie tomorrow at the table.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”~Prov 11:2

In its glory, an abundant crop of Humbles is hard to describe. Their fruits are an array of iridescent colors, and when conditions are right, the tree of the Humble seems to dance in the light of the grace-full Son. Harvested, the fruits’ smell seeps free of its flesh and permeates the very air around it with such sweetness that it blesses every Thanksgiving homestead for an entire year.

“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”~1 Peter 5:5

Herod didn’t like Humble Pie. Didn’t eat it. Didn’t grow the fruit. In fact, he burned the fields where the trees grew. He even closed his curtains against the light of the Son. He knew he was right. He pursed is lips and refused to listen to anyone’s opinion except his own. He ignored the signs. He avoided the manna that he could have gathered. Worse – he wouldn’t drink from the well that would never run dry. His perversions were well documented, and he missed the grace of Humbles blooming in his fields forever.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,”~Phil 2:3

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Not just a day to watch football. Not just a day to eat food. Not just a day to spend with family. Not just a day to debate issues. Not just a day to shop for material things. Not just day off work. Not just a day.

“And everything that you perform in word and in works, do in the name of our Lord Yeshua The Messiah and give thanks by him to God The Father.”~Col 3:17

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A day to find one of the remnant Humbles. There are a few trees left. Seek it out. Harvest it within your field. Make a pie and offer it as a blessing to those who share your table, that your loving Father might bless your year in the name of the Son who eternally brings grace to a never empty table.

 

“To the humble, God gifts great treasures.”~Max Lucado (p88)

Blessings!Be! and a Blessed Thanksgiving for all. [google images]

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]

Because of Christmas #6: Worship

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”.
 
Zap.
 
Message delivered.
 
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 bells are still ringing in my soul tonight. Got the message. I’m on it – I hope – maybe…errr…the spirit is willing – the body – not so much. [google image]

Because of Christmas #5: Open Door

The Grands had a great week being spoiled by Grandparents – 3 days with the paternal ones and one day with the maternal side. As we all know – grandparents don’t have to play by any rules when they are babysitting, so the daughter called me twice yesterday from New Orleans, hoping to convince me that a decent bedtime would be a great idea.

I laughed. What parent doesn’t have similar conversations with Grandparents? What parent wants to take the tired, cranky, sugar-high children home to rules and routine?

Since I do try to abide by the parental unit rules – occasionally, I opened the closet door, pulled out the teacher box, and we got busy. We made turkeys for Thursday, tucked Grands in bed in by 10 (only a couple hours late), read Sunday funnies together, made the first Christmas ornaments of the season, read a couple Christmas books, opened the door for the neighborhood kids to join us for a couple crazy hours of noisy, dress-up, romps in piles of leaves and wild woods; then shoved everyone out the door into the parents’ arms in record time – just before I collapsed in the hot tub to soak the swollen knee and healing toe.

The Grands are pretty good about cleaning up after themselves, but they missed a book that was sticking out from under the bed in “their” room. It was a Little Golden book – one of mine. A well loved one from the looks of it. Front and back hard cover missing. Pages bent, torn and creased. Pictures as familiar as my own parents’ faces. Songs that I can still sing from memory. The Little Golden Book of Hymns smiled up at me, and I opened the door of yesterday’s treasures.

Leafing through the pages, I made my way to the piano. The fingers remembered the hymns almost without looking as images flashed across the brain at warp speed – endless hours at home – at scary recitals – at the even scarier church services. This little book opened the door to my Godmother’s voice – who was also my neighbor, piano teacher and organist for my childhood church and eventual wedding.

Treasured books open doors to all the treasures we have buried inside of us – that old book smell – the voices of loved ones – activities long forgotten, the resonance of a chord printed on a page, a tear or two splashed upon the piano keys.

“Behold, I stand at the door and I shall knock. If a man listens to my voice and will open the door, I also shall come in and I shall have supper with him, and he with me.”~Rev 3:20

Sometimes we screw up. We don’t open those heavy doors or the doors tucked in corners, the rusty doors that squeak a little too loudly, or the doors where poor strangers may be standing. The inn-keeper in Bethlehem didn’t open up his business for a stranded couple, but he did open the door to the stable. I hate to think how long I avoided opening the door to the shepherd who knocked so often just because I was afraid to see His face when He looked at my dirty face and feet.

“Jesus comes not with a list of things for you to do but with a list of things He has already done and will do. Jesus lifts burdens; He doesn’t add to them”~Max Lucado (p.54)

It is good to remember during this Christmas season that it is never too late to open the door to the season – the door to the reason behind the season – the door that leads to a feast beyond compare because we will never hunger again. [google images]

Because of Christmas #4 – Up-ending

Nothing can up-end your day like being up-ended from tripping over the wheel of a Grand’s bike. You know – you’re moving the bike and the wheel that you thought was going straight somehow hits a stone and jerks a different way – right as you are stepping forward. Suffice it to say, sharp, pointy, rather-large limestoney gravel is not the most pleasant landing for a knee and a couple hands that bore the brunt of that ‘oh-my-gosh-London Bridge-is-falling-down’ moment.
 
Worse – Hubby is pulling in the drive with his motorcycle. (How do I spell ’embarrassed’?)
 
It is bad enough to be clumsy and alone – quite another to be clumsy in front of someone. Of course – old knees do not bed easily, and they were yelling, rather obscenely by this point, and the mind was quickly taking inventory and telling everyone to “shut-up”. Even with Hubby trying his hardest to help me up, the mind was informing the various parts involved that while they were all viable, they need to proceed with caution. One soft mat for the knees later, I was able to shut up and over-rule the internal debate among the body parts and stand up-right once again.
 
Good news – nothing broke and merely a skinned knee to show for it – even my hands are fine. Sure, the knees are a little whiny, but some things just don’t take to aging the way I do. So I pamper them with ice and act like I care ,so they will mellow out a little. Hopefully by tomorrow, we will be back to the normal complaints.
 
“When everything shakes, God remains unshaken”~Max Lucado (p44)
 
It is funny how when the world shakes, time becomes non-existent and that inner peace takes over. I’m not sure how it works, but with me – it always does. It is as if a part of me knows that God is consistent and -no matter what happens – ‘all is well with my soul’.
 
“The LORD is in His holy temple. The LORD is on His throne in Heaven.”~Ps 11:4
 
Tonight, i got to hear one of my Grands sing her first duet with a youth choir. I know her voice well, and it was as if she were singing a solo for me. I got to hear her twice since she sang it during warm-ups and then sang it in the concert. Both times, I swear I could hear Mama Mick’s voice in my ear, “Isn’t that something, Mike? That’s our great-granddaughter,” as their laughter blended with the notes around me..
 
Today my world was shaken a tiny bit, but Adonai remained firmly on his throne. He didn’t move as I up-ended in our driveway, or that the high 60’s of this morning dropped to the 50’s, or that a bicycle tire turned one way and I turned another. A Father who chose to be born as a tiny infant in a stable so that I could see His face, still chooses to be with me on a late fall day in NC even as I hit the dirt.
 
God is good – all the time. It is Because of Christmas, that up-endings become right-endings, and I am so thankful and blessed to be His child. [google images]

Because of Christmas #2: His Face

There is a an rabbinical adage that says that a person should always carry two pieces of paper with them. It should be written on one of them: “You are as dust and ashes.” (Job 30:19). On the other should be written: “For you the universe was created.” (Gen 1).

I’ve been thinking about this saying for a couple of days now. I like the dichotomy between these two perspectives. I like picturing myself with two pieces of paper – one in each hand. My one hand has a red sticky note that says Elohim made us out of some of the smallest ugliest parts under our feet. On my other hand is a blue sticky note that says we are the center of His universe.
I understand the wisdom of this saying. There are times we are really ugly and make awful decisions. However – there are also times when when our decisions help us soar beyond our wildest dreams – as if the universe lay at our feet. If we can keep our two hands within our sight, we will see the whole of who we are instead of being blinded by one hand or the other.
I kept thinking of that Rabbinical saying today as I read chapter 2 in “Because of Bethlehem”. I don’t know when this adage came into Jewish tradition. Perhaps Rabbi Yeshua repeated it to is own disciples – sans the sticky notes of my visualization. What I do know is that in one timeless moment Elohim reached in among the dusty ashes once more and gave shape to His own face, body and being.
“For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”~Is 9:6-7
Max Lucado summed it up pretty well in one sentence: “He took on your face in the hope that you would see His.” (p20). The more I thought about these two things, the more I saw myself – sitting in my childhood church. My hands folded in prayer – sitting between my mother and father. Heads bowed – hands together. The sticky notes of who I am – no longer color separated but white beyond description.
That’s what Grace does when we see who we are through His eyes – His child for whom the universe was created. [google image]
babyprayinghands