Thursday, December 20, 2012

Favored- Part Five


Hey, dear friends,
     Below you will find the final post of the year. As I write this large snowflakes are falling outside and pine branches are bowed with heavy snow. A white Christmas is a shoe-in. I wanted to take a moment to wish you and yours a blessed and merry Christmas. Rejoice in our Savior's birth. Fall on your knees in thanksgiving for the life He led. And, bow your head in praise for the sacrifice of love He made on that splinter-filled cross. Our world is not at peace. Our country is in mourning, yet because of that divine birth, spirit-filled life, His holy death and finally the empty, hollow tomb, we, who believe, have hope. My prayer for you is that you live that Hope everyday. Embrace it. Make it yours. Allow it to transform you into a light, a city set on a hill, a beacon for the hurting to run toward. Merry Christmas and God bless you...

The actual birth came swiftly.  Before Mary and Joseph knew it, they were both staring into the tiny face of a squirming God.  Lying on his mother's belly, the infant found his thumb while trying to focus his eyes upon his mother.  Joseph began the ritual of wiping the infant down with salt and cautiously swaddling him in the clean cloth.

             Many of Mary’s questions were answered at once--he was just a baby; no bright flashes of Gabriel; and yes, she could not deny the presence of God all about her.  She knew that if she could but scratch the air only slightly, God would be visible just on the other side.

            The new mother glanced between her newborn and her speechless husband.  Which was more precious to her now?  How quickly love expanded to include a child.  The three of them bonded instantly and irreversibly became a family.  That was just as much a miracle as the conception thought Mary. 

            Tears began streaming down her cheeks spilling upon the infant's round head.  Mary lay back on her bed of hay while cradling her son in her arms.  Joseph wrapped them both in a blanket and stepped outside into the night air in relief.

            Mary looked into the scrunched face of her baby.  His cheeks were as the soft moss on the banks of a stream.  His fingers smelled like new grass in spring.   God had indeed favored her with such sweetness.  Yet, Mary dared not fool herself--the price of favor was also usually bought with sorrow.  But she would not think of that now.  She was tired.  The infant was drifting to sleep.  The mother pulled her son near to her face and whispered,  "While you are in my care, you will be safe, my love.  My soul exalts you and my spirit has rejoiced in God, my Savior.  My little one, I will give you the best part of me forever.  Whatever you call me to do, I will do.  Wherever you call me to go, I will go. ” 

            Sleep came swiftly to mother and child.

            While the heavens dance, twirled and cheered, God smiled.  Hope was born on this day, and the God of all creation proclaimed it good--very, very good.

                           The Beginning.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas in Newtown

As I sit in the early morning light looking at the tree lights and the garland on the banisters, I am filled with a contentment I don't deserve. Today, funerals begin in Newtown. I've heard several interviewed from there that Christmas has left Newtown. However, I'm praying that now more than ever those dear folks feel the true love and spirit of Christmas as they mourn and lament their losses. The baby that was born those many centuries ago is now mourning with them and walking among them. He is in every home, every darkened living room, around every Christmas tree whose lights have been turned off. His arms are sagging from fatigue as He continually embraces and holds up broken hearts. His spirit will not leave the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary. As those folks work hard to straighten classrooms and erase the horror that took place there, that baby who grew into a Savior, now bends his knee in every nook and cranny as if He were still in the darkness of Gethsemane.
Dear ones, embrace all that is good. Pray for those broken hearts on the hour. Pray for our country as we all mourn the loss of innocence. Pray for the turning of hearts, the yearning for goodness, the longing for a faith that is true and steadfast.

Pray. Pray. Pray.
Now more than ever, it is appropriate and healing to remember the babe and the birth of our Hope…

FAVORED- Part Four
For months, Mary pondered all these thoughts in her heart.  And Joseph?  What must he be thinking right now thought Mary?  Moving about her, Joseph could not have been more attentive or loving. Yet his shaking hands told her, he too, was bewildered by it all.  Moving silently about her, he’d deliberately touch her hand or arm whenever he could.  He constantly rearranged the straw about her in whatever way she wished.  She must be making him crazy, she thought.  During the pains, at time she called for him to comfort and then the next minute, she’d be irritated and order him not to touch her.
The salt, extra cloth and little water pot she brought with her were lying close at hand.
            “Now, Joseph, when the baby comes, you must wipe him down with the salt and wrap him quickly in the cloth,” Mary instructed through gritted teeth.  The pain was now constant.
“I cut the cord first, though, right?” asked the nervous husband.
Mary just looked at him and rolled her eyes.  How many times did had they gone over this in the last hour? 
A few minutes later their foreheads touched and for a brief second they were able to shut it all out.  It was the two of them, just Mary and Joseph.  But the pain did not allow them much time as it grew fierce and demanding.
Mary concentrated and squeezed Joseph’s hand.  How many hours had they laid awake at night sharing their thoughts--preparing themselves for this very moment?  Mary now knew that nothing could prepare anyone for this…

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Favored- Part Three


“Now in it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all were proceeding to register for the census everyone to his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.”   ~Luke 2: 1-6

“Hold me up, hold me up!” urged Mary.

            Joseph rushed to his wife’s side and did as he was told.  What he feared most had happened.  This baby was going to be born without aid of mid-wife or his mother-in-law.  A prayer was never far from his lips.

            Mary held her breath and waited for the pain to subside.  The straw-filled stable floor beneath her was becoming more than she could bear.  It itched.  It was hot.  It was sticking to her. The child within her would wait no longer.  Mary had felt the pangs of labor all day during their journey.  At times, riding upon the small donkey was excruciating and she’d chose to walk.  When walking no longer was possible, with Joseph’s help, she’d return to the moist, swayback of the animal and once again endure the jostling ride.

            Mary longed for the comforting touch of her mother, but knew that this way was best.   The census gave them an excuse to leave home.  The timing couldn’t have been better.  Except for her cousin, Elizabeth, no one knew of the secret of this child’s miraculous conception.  It’s incredibility and un-believability caused Mary to wonder constantly about what kind of birth to expect.  Because of her uncertainty, she wanted no one from her family to witness it.   Would the angel, Gabriel, attend?  Would God, himself, show His face and catch the child in His own arms?  Would the sky burst open when the baby drew in his first breath?  What would the Son of God look like?

                                            TO BE CONTINUED...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Favored- Part Two...



            Mary got out of her bed and stood in the middle of the room.  She looked straight into the face of the angel.  His words pulsated through her veins like a bulging stream after a storm.  Gabriel’s words were not lost.  She grasped their meaning.  Her betrothed, Joseph, would not be this child’s father.

            “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” she asked.

            “Gabriel looked down upon the girl.  She did not shake.  She did not flinch.  She stood facing him-- solid as a soldier given a command. 

Comprehending.  Understanding.  Never had he been face-to-face with such faith.  It made him feel as if it should be she with the wings.

            Gabriel lowered his eyes in reverence and explained, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.”

            Mary stood still, almost unable to breath.  She had been chosen.  God had looked upon her with preference.  She would give birth to the one who would de-throne David.  She would mother the Messiah.

            Again, Gabriel felt the confidence of the girl.  She penetrated his being and comforted his own spirit.  No wonder she was the one.

            “Your cousin, Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age,” he said to assure her; even though he knew it was not necessary.  “She who is called barren is now in her sixth month.  You see, nothing will be impossible with God.”

            Mary never doubted.  She smiled at the thought of Elizabeth, her beloved Elizabeth.  Childless and humiliated for years--now carrying a child ordained by God.

            To Gabriel’s surprise the girl knelt down and said, “Behold, the bond slave of the Lord.  Be it done to me according to your word.”

            The Messenger fought the urge to touch her.  Her unquestioning faith filled him up.  Now that he has been in her presence, the charge she is given almost brings him to his knees.  How plausible it sounded in the heavens! But now, looking upon this tiny woman--the one who would balance all inside her womb, Gabriel was overwhelmed by The Plan of the Most Holy.  Nagging in his soul was caution--lurking behind every doubt would be the Fallen One.

            He longed to stay, to never leave her side.  He wanted to protect her with all his might, to stand guard and not allow danger to even shadow her.  But he knew he must leave.  His assignment, for now, was done.

              For a second longer, he beheld the favored one in his sight.  Never had he seen anyone so radiant and so accepting of her destiny.  Never would he encounter it again.
            And, then he was gone.

            Mary waited alone.  She did not have to wait long.

                                               TO BE CONTINUED...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Favored- Part One


LuLu wanted me to tell her THE story. You know the one about the baby, the manager, the miracle, the angels and so forth. This is the time of year when that story sees a lot of light. It’s a grand story, a true story, and a story that is told around the world. There is so much more to this story than gets told, of course, but here’s my version, at least the first part of it. The next few blogs we’ll complete it. Pedal along with us as we return to the time when Hope was born…

            Gabriel hid among the clouds and waited for the signal.  His abundant wingspan was cloaked by the moon’s shadow.   Waiting was the hardest part.  He knew what he must do.  The importance of his mission awed and humbled him all at the same time.  The Holy of Holies had waited centuries for this moment.  Now with the flash of a star, he would put into motion the beginning of Glory.  But first he must wait for the all clear.  The Fallen One must not be allowed to interfere tonight.  Even if he tried, he’d lose.  But the Father wanted this moment sacred.  No mocking.  No tantrums.  That is how it must begin.

            Mary could not sleep.  The night was too dark.  The quiet was too quiet.  She got up and went to her window.  The moon was almost completely obscured by clouds.  No stars could be seen.

            Suddenly an opening formed and a star shot across the sky.  For a brief moment an illuminated path could be seen in the clouds.

            “How beautiful,” whispered Mary.  Her grandfather had told her about stars that that lit the night with fire, but this was the first she’d ever seen.  It must be a sign that all is well, she thought.   Content with that, the young girl went back to bed.  Just as she straightened her blanket, she heard a voice from the corner of her room, “Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you.”

            Suddenly all about her became as brilliant as if lit by the sun itself.  Standing before her was the most handsome being she’d ever seen.  Glowing, pulsating, not moving but constantly moving.  His grand wings circumference the chamber corralling the brilliance so that it could not leave the room.  Gone from her sight were her window, her nightstand, and her oil lamp.  Just her, the bed and Gabriel.

            How she knew his name, she didn’t know.  But he nodded to her and comforted her with a smile.

            “ Favored,” she asked?

            “Do not be afraid, Mary.  For, yes, you have found favor with God.”

            Mary was troubled.  In her maturing wisdom, she knew that being ‘favored by God’ was not always a good thing personally.  Whirling before her were her fathers Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph.  Hard lives.  Holy leaders.

            Gabriel continued his declaration, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”


Monday, December 3, 2012



Long before I met LuLu I wrote a book. Twelve years later, I’m still very proud of that work. I remember once traveling to York, Nebraska and taking a pit stop at one of those gas stations/restaurants/gift shops. In the wee hours of the morning as I’m making my way toward the ladies room, I walked past a display and did a double take. Right there in the middle of store was my book. It was a nice moment. If it’s okay, I’d like to share a few paragraphs with you….

Have you ever been called by God to do something really hard?  Like forgive someone when you didn’t want to.  Love someone you didn’t like.  Smile when you’d rather stick your tongue out?

You see-- being chosen by God usually means tough stuff is ahead.  It usually mean you’re going to have to take a few hits, endure some pain, and get your hands dirty.  Being favored by God means you’ll eventually have to follow him to the river, through the valley, across the desert and finally to the hill.  In other words, being favored by God is a privilege that will most likely break your heart.

On the other hand, being favored by God should bring you to your knees in thanksgiving, have you skipping along the roof tops with joy, and dancing in the streets with the most delicious abandonment.

Yeah, you’ll be tired, dirty, sweaty, and achy, but when you sit down at night your heart will be busting to sing.  It will be dipped in a sweetness that can only happen when one has walked directly behind Jesus--footprint for footprint.

Being called means you’ll love a betrayer.  Forgive an adulteress.  Feed the hungry.  Clothe the poor, and have only one pair of sandals.  But it also means that at the end of the day you’ll eat a hot dinner prepared by the Christ, himself. And if need be, he’ll even spoon feed you and wipe your chin.

God only calls the great ones.  Great by his standards--not ours.  He’s partial to grandmothers, mothers, daughters, cousins, aunts, housewives, widows, seamstresses, queens, slave girls, and shepherd’s wives.

A pliable heart and willing spirit seems to be the only qualifications.  Even then, God has a way of softening the hardest of hearts and coaxing the most stubborn spirit to His way of thinking.

Being favored by God will hurt.  But in the end, heaven’s gate will open when it sees you approach, angels will applaud your entry, and God will call you by name.

Hang in there, the best is yet to be.